When evil people begin to oppress God’s people, it’s tempting to think, Where is God? Doesn’t He see what’s going on? Why doesn’t He do something? But as the story of Hazael demonstrates, God is never shocked or taken by surprise by anyone—and even wicked people can only do what God has already determined that they may do.
Hazael was the king of Aram. Though it might be hard to understand why, God had handpicked Hazael from the very beginning to be king of Aram (1 Kings 19:15), even though He already knew that Hazael would inflict terrible suffering on His people. Hazael was one of Ben-Hadad’s officials and had been sent to inquire of Elisha whether the king would recover from an illness. Elisha informed Hazael that he would become king and would do terrible things to the people of Israel.
Soon after Hazael returned to the king with Elisha’s message, Hazael suffocated his master and took over the kingship (2 Kings 8:7–15), periodically oppressing Israel for the next forty-five years. Hazael eventually captured all of Israel’s territory east of the Jordan River (2 Kings 10:32–33), and even Judah’s capital city of Jerusalem would have been attacked by Hazael had he not been paid a large sum to withdraw (2 King 12:17–18).
How could all of this happen? The Bible makes it clear: God Himself allowed Hazael to do this in order to discipline His people for their sins (2 Kings 10:32; 13:1–3). Even in the midst of this punishment, however, God was in control, ensuring that the actions did not exceed what God had decided should happen (2 Kings 13:4–5, 23).
Soon after Hazael died, the people of Israel were able to recover much of the territory they had lost to Aram (2 Kings 13:24–25).