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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Kings 8

Verses 1-6

Second Kings - Chapter 8 AND Second Chronicles - Chapters 21,22

More about the Shunammite Woman – 2 Kings 8:1-6

This incident seems somewhat out of place here, but of course it is where the Lord wanted it to be. The Shunammite woman is evidently the one mentioned here, although it is not specifically said so. She is the only one the Bible records having a son restored to life by Elisha. She appears to have been a widow at this time, and this is not so surprising, for her husband was elderly when the child was born (2 Kings 4:14). The presence of Gehazi here relating to the king the stories of Elisha’s miracles indicates that the incident is placed here out of chronological order, for it must surely have been before his contracting of Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:27). On the other hand it makes even more uncommonly strange that the king, having heard these stories of Elisha, did not immediately think of the prophet when Naaman presented himself to him for cleansing (2 Kings 5:7).

The occasion of the incident was the return of the woman and her family (son and servants) from a seven years’ sojourn in Philistia. She had gone there when Elisha warned her of the approaching famine and the need to remove herself to a place where she could find sustenance. She had returned now to Israel and had come to the king seeking recovery of her lands she had left when she went to Philistia.

The Lord had this good woman and her welfare in His care and proved it at this time. It was no astonishing coincidence that Gehazi had just concluded the account of Elisha’s restoration of the boy to life that she appeared at that very moment. It was astonishing to Gehazi and to the king. The servant looked up, and there they stood. Excitedly he announced to the king that this is the woman and this her son of whom he spoke. The king inquired of her and learned it was true. So impressed was the king that he immediately appointed an officer to see that her land was restored and that she be paid the value of its produce during her absence (cf. Lu 6:38).

Verses 7-15

Benhadad’s End - 8:7-15

This incident finds Elisha in the Syrian capital of Damascus, It appears that he was there to carry out the command to Elijah from the Lord when he ran away from Jezebel to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:15). From the account there it seems the Lord told Elijah to anoint Hazael on his return from Horeb. There is no indication in the Scriptures that he did this, but that he proceeded at once to Abel-meholah and anointed Elisha to succeed him. From the episode related here, then, it seems the task of anointing Hazael was left to Elisha, contrary to the Lord’s command to Elijah.

Though it is not said that Elisha anointed Hazael, he does announce to him that the Lord has revealed that Hazael shall soon be king of Syria. It is probable that this is his purpose for being in the Syrian city. He found Ben-hadad, the old king, on his sick bed. Ben­hadad had likely grown old. He had fought his wars with Ahab and his sons for many years (1Kings chapters 20,22; I1Kings chapters 5,6,7). He, hearing that the famous man of God from Israel had come to his city, sent his counselor, Hazael, with a very rich present for the prophet, consisting of all forty camels could carry. He wished to know whether he would recover from his illness:

Ben-hadad was not sick with a terminal illness, and Elisha told Hazael that the king had the physical stamina to recover, but that the Lord had shown him Ben-hadad would surely die. He then glowered at Hazael, until the man was embarrassed, and Elisha began to weep. When Hazael inquired why the prophet wept Elisha said it was because of all the evil that Hazael would wreak on the people of Israel. He would destroy their strong cities with fire, slay their young men by the sword, murder the little children, and rip open the pregnant women.

Hazael exclaimed, "is thy servant a dog, to do this great thing?" The English version does not seem to convey to the mind exactly what Hazael meant by these words. He did consider. this Elisha told him mighty deeds, but he was not calling himself a dog for doing them. His meaning was that according to his present status he was as lowly as a dog, and that these things the prophet predicted were of too grand a scale for him. So Elisha frankly told him the Lord had shown him Hazael would be king of Syria.

On his return to Ben-hadad Hazael gave only a partial report of Elisha’s message. He told the king the prophet said Ben-hadad should surely recover. Then on the next day Hazael proceeded to bring to pass Elisha’s prediction. He soaked a thick cloth in water and put it over the face of the weak king and smothered him to death. Soon thereafter Hazael was made king of Syria, probably without the people knowing he had assassinated the old king.

Verses 18-19

Judah’s Wicked Jehoram Commentary on 2 Kings 8:18-19 AND 2 Chronicles 21:1-7

The scene shifts back to Judah, where at last the good king Jehoshaphat came to his death. It was a sore day for Judah when the good man died, for in keeping with his paradoxical behavior he had chosen the worst of his sons to succeed him. Jehoram, king of Judah, was one of the most loathsome men ever to sit upon a throne. Indeed Jehoram seems to have been unstable before his father’s death. Twice it seems he began a co-regency with his father, and for some unknown reason it was discontinued (cf. 2 Kings 8:16; 2 Kings 1:17; 2 Kings 3:1).

Jehoshaphat had sought to be fair to all his sons, giving riches of gold, silver, and precious things to all, and to make useful men of them by giving them rule over some of the larger cities of the kingdom. Six of them are named in verse 2, who must have been notable young princes at the time of their father’s decease. Nevertheless, it seems Jehoram resented the honors his father bestowed on his brothers. It also seems that the people did not care for Jehoram and preferred one of the brothers. Therefore when Jehoram had consolidated his kingdom power he murdered these brothers and many of those who supported them.

Jehoram became king in the fifth year of Joram (also called Jehoram), king of Israel, when he was thirty-two years of age. He reigned only eight years, the Lord cutting off the evil man at an early age. He was a true son of Ahab, though he was actually the son of Jehoshaphat and only the son-in-law of AHab Jehoram’s marriage to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab (and possibly of Jezebel), was the product of Jehoshaphat’s foolish covenant with Ahab, by which he was so often persuaded to join in the wars and other ventures of the ungodly kings of Israel.

Jehoram was an evil man in the eyes of the Lord, but even when he adopted the walk and religion of Ahab’s family God would not destroy Judah because of His covenant promise with David (see II Samuel, chapter 7; 1Kings chapter 2). He had promised to give him a light always in the city of Jerusalem.

Verses 20-24

Commentary on 2 Kings 8:20-24 AND 2 Chronicles 21:8-11

Although the Lord allowed Jehoram (also written Joram) to continue on the throne of Judah because of the covenant with David, He did send chastisement on the land. First of all the country of Edom, the descendants of Esau, south of the Dead Sea, rebelled against Jehoram. This country had been subject and had paid tribute to the king in Jerusalem since the days of David, when it was conquered by Joab and Abishai (2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Chronicles 18:11-13).

Joram gathered his army and chariots and went to reconquer Edom. Zair (or Zior), a short distance north of Hebron, was his staging ground. But the Edomites were in earnest about throwing off the yoke of Judah and maintaining their own king. They proved it by surprising Jor­am in camp, surrounding him and his chariots and entrapping him in his own country. He was only able to escape by springing his own surprise, and doing an unheard of thing (usually) for the. times. He attacked the en­circling Edomites during the night and broke out of the trap. The men of Judah once out of the trap fled to their own tents and Joram was com­pelled to give up the war. So Edomwvas lost to Judah for the rest of her history, and an ancient prophecy was fulfilled. Nearly nine centuries be­fore this, an angry Esau had plead with his father to give him a blessing, though the favored blessing had been bestowed on his younger brother, Jacob. Isaac, his father, had finally responded by granting him a secon­dary blessing, ending with, "By thy’ sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck (Genesis 27:40). God’s promises may seem long coming, but they will come (Habakkuk 2:3).

The city of Libnah also revolted against Joram. This was one of the old Canaanite cities conquered by Joshua in the original conquest of the land. Libnah had been under Israelite control for centuries and was one of the Levitical cities established by Moses. The outcome of the revolt of Libnah is not recorded, and it is likely that it did not succeed for long, for it was back in the kingdom, evidently, during the days of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:8). It shows the deep feeling of the people of Judah against Jehoram.

Jehoram did all in his power, it seems, to establish idolatry as the religion of his kingdom. He introduced the sex-oriented religions of the heathen and erected temples of fornication in all the mountains of Judah. He did not even allow freedom of choice, but compelled the people to worship according to these lewd practices.

2 Chronicles 21:12

The loss of Edom and the city of Libnah was just the least of Jehoram’s trouble. He hardened his neck against the Lord and destroyed himself (Proverbs 29:1). Yet the Lord often uses spectacular methods in attempt to bring men to their senses. This He did with Jehoram. A dire warning and prediction came from Elijah, who had been translated to heaven several years previously. It was as though the Lord had posted Jehoram a letter right out of heaven. While it is not positively impossible this could have happened, there is no reason to believe that the letter was not composed before the translation of the prophet according to divine revelation. Either way it should have a tremendous impact on the wicked king.

The writing from Elijah first reminded Jehoram of the good examples in his predecessors, his fathers, he had ignored. David, Asa, and Jehoshaphat are specifically mentioned. God’s blessings in their reigns were enough to cause Jehoram to see how he ought to live his life. Instead, however, he had adopted the negative example of the house of Ahab and insisted that Judah partake of that spiritual fornication also. As the capstone of all Jehoram had committed fratricide, executing his six brothers, all of whom were better than himself, said the Lord. These men evidently protested the apostasy of Jehoram, along with their friends, who were also slain.

Because of these excesses Jehoram’s troubles were to extend to every part of him, his kingdom, his family, and his person. It would consist of a plague which would take away wives, children, and property. Jehoram would contract an awful disease, which would be compounded by other illnesses, and would eventually result in rupture of his very intestines until he died because of it.

The Philistines attacked the kingdom when Jehoram’s sins had weakened it beyond physical help. Then a force of Arabians from deep in the desert, adjacent to Ethiopia, came up against Jerusalem, breached the wall, and pillaged the palace. They took his wives and his sons, only one son escaping, the youngest. He is called Jehoahaz here, Ahaziah in other places. The names are the same, the "Jeho" prefix of the one, in the Hebrew, being the equivalent of the "-iah" suffix of the other, and the "Ahaz" appearing in both.

The terrible bowel disease also now attacked the king, his rupture becoming gradually worse until his intestines actually fell out, and he died. The people were relieved at Jehoram’s death, for there was no love manifested for him. The customary burning of sweet odors for him was not carried out. He had reigned only eight years and was only forty years of age. Sin soon runs its terrible course in the rebel against God. The case of Nabal is a good example of this (I Samuel, chapter 25). Jehoram was buried in the city of David, but was denied a sepulchre among the kings, his predecessors.

Verses 25-29

Commentary on 2 Kings 8:25-29 AND 2 Chronicles 22:1-6

In comparison of the two accounts, Kings and Chronicles, to the throne, obvious errors are discovered. These are likely due to careless scribes sometime in the ancient past in their copying of the inspired originals. It is found (2 Kings 8:17; 2 Chronicles 21:5; 2 Chronicles 21:20) that Jehoram became king at the age-of thirty-two, reigned eight years, and died, making him forty years old at death. However, the Chronicles account gives Ahaziah’s age at accession to the throne as forty-two, and that he was the youngest son of Jehoram. The Kings account gives his age as twenty-two, a more acceptable age, though it would mean that Jehoram’s youngest son was born when he was a mere youth of eighteen years himself. It is to be remembered that the Arabian invaders had killed all the older sons of Jehoram when they broke into the city of Jerusalem. A possible reconciliation of this difficulty would be that Ahaziah was indeed twenty­two years of age (for he was an adult, old enough to accompany his uncle, Joram of Israel, to battle at Ramoth-gilead, and that he was the youngest and sole survivor of those legitimate sons of Jehoram considered eligible to succeed his father.

Ahaziah’s reign lasted only a year and was cut off because he continued in the ways of his father, which were the ways of his mother’s family. His mother was the daughter of Ahab, or of the family of Omri, who was actually her grandfather and her name was Athaliah. Athaliah counselled her son in the idolatrous ways of Baal, and he also received the counsel of his maternal kindred from the northern kingdom. These probably expected to reunite the two kingdoms in the dynasty of Omri. The reference to Ahaziah as "son in law of the house of Ahab" means that legally he was a son of that wicked dynasty. The hand of Satan is clearly apparent here to frustrate the Davidic covenant, whereby the Messiah would be born of David’s line, by polluting that line with the blood of Ahab and Jezebel and making it more Ahabic than Davidic (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Ahaziah’s destruction came about by his continuance of the wicked alliance with the house of AHab Accordingly he accompanied his uncle to battle at Ramoth-gilead, where grandfather and father, Ahab, had lost his life trying to recapture the city from the Syrians. It was still held by the enemy, and the Syrians were now led by their new king, Hazael, the murderer of old Ben-hadad (see 1Kings chap. 22; 2 Kings 8:7-15). But again the allied armies were unsuccessful, and Joram came away severely wounded. He had to return to Jezreel to recover from his wounds, leaving the siege in the hands of his captains Jehu and Bidkar. Ahaziah also left the siege and came to Jezreel to keep company with Joram during his recuperation.

This lengthy study contains several good points of emphasis: 1) There is no coincidence, or luck with the Lord; 2) God’s knowledge of men’s wicked plans will not deter them from carrying them out; 3) good men make foolish choices without consulting the .Lord; 4) the debauchery of a people leads to their physical and spiritual weakness; 5) men invite utter ruin by hardened rebellion against God’s known will; 6) to follow wicked counsel is to perish by that counsel (Exodus 23:2).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-8.html. 1985.