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Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lcc/ 2-kings-6.html. 1857-84.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
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B.—The healing of Naaman, punishment of Gehazi, and recovery of a lost axe
2 Kings 5:1 to 2 Kings 6:7
1Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable [honored], because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper. 2And the Syrians had gone out by companies [in marauding bands], and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with 4the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one [he, i.e., Naaman] went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. 5And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. [,] 6And he brought the letter [omit the letter] to the king of Israel [the letter], saying [which was to this effect]: Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. 7And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore, [Nay! only] consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.
8And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know [learn] that there is a prophet in Israel. 9So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. 10And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 11But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover 12the leper [heal the leprosy]. Are not Abana11 and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. 13And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, 14Wash, and be clean? Then he went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
15And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing [token of gratitude from—omit of] of thy servant. 16But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. 17And Naaman said, Shall there not then [If not, then let there], I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? [,] for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord.12 18In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, [;] that [omit that] when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: [;] when I bow down myself13 in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. 19And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way [some distance].
20But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. 21So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? 22And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even [just] now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. 23And Naaman said, Be content, [pleased to—omit,] take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. 24And when he came to the tower [hill] he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. 25But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? 26And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and maid servants? 27The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed forever. And he went from his presence a leper as white as snow.
2 Kings 6:1 And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. 2Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. 3And one said, 4Be content [pleased], I pray thee, and [to] go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. 5But as one was felling a beam, the axe-head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. 6And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and [made] the iron did [to—omit did] swim. 7Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 5:1. Now Naaman captain of the host, &c. The וְ with which the narrative begins, is used as in 1 Kings 1:1, and does not mark the incident as having occurred immediately after the preceding. We cannot decide certainly whether it belongs to the time of Jehoram or to that of the house of Jehu. In any case it refers to a time when the relations between Syria and Israel were not hostile. That Naaman was the man who fatally wounded Ahab is a mere guess of the rabbis, and it is not strengthened at all by the statement of Josephus: παῖς δέ τις βασιλικὸς τοῦ ’Αδάδου, ’́Αμανος ὅνομα. Naaman is called a great man in so far as he occupied a high position in the service of the king. The statement: by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria, i.e., victory, does not compel us to translate גִּבּוֹר חַיִל as Thenius does, by “a man of great physical strength;” the expression marks his military ability. Keil takes it as second predicate: “The man was a general though a leper,” meaning that, although in Israel lepers were excluded from all human society, in Syria a leper could fill even a high civil office. This is certainly unfounded, for lepers were everywhere physically incapable of performing important duties. מְצֹרָע is evidently used by contrast, whether the omission of the וְ connective sharpens the contrast (Thenius) or not. He was a mighty military chief, but, on account of his disease, he could not fulfill his duties. “It is significant that he who had helped to gain the victory over Israel, is represented as a leper, who must seek help in Israel, and who finds it there” (Thenius). [By whom the Lord had given deliverance. In consistency with the standing conception of the Hebrews that Jehovah was the God of all the earth, it is represented as a dispensation of His providence that Naaman had won victories for Syria, cf. 2 Kings 19:25-26.—W. G. S.] אַחֲלֵי 2 Kings 5:3, as in Psalms 119:5, utinam. The word אָסַף i.e., collect, take up, receive, designates the reception into the society of men which followed upon deliverance from leprosy (Numbers 12:14).
2 Kings 5:5. And the king of Syria said, &c. We see, from the king’s readiness, how anxious he was for the restoration of Naaman. The treasures which the latter took with him were very valuable; we cannot, however, estimate their value accurately. According to Keil 10 talents of silver are about 25,000 thalers ($18,000), and 6000 shekels of gold (= 2 talents) are about 50,000 thalers ($36,000); according to Thenius the value would be 20,000 thalers and 60,000 thalers ($14,400 and $43,200). On the ten changes of raiment, cf. εἵματα ἐξημοιβά (Odyss. 8:249). Winer: “An Oriental is still fond of frequent changes of apparel (Genesis 40:14; 1 Samuel 28:8; 2 Samuel 12:20), especially of grand dresses at marriages and other celebrations (Niebuhr, Reise, i. 182).” The royal letter is abbreviated in 2 Kings 5:6, for it could not begin with “Now when.” Only the main passage is given here. The letter was simply a note of introduction, and we cannot infer from the words: That thou mayest recover him of his leprosy, that the king of Israel was then in a relation of dependence to the Syrian king. The king “probably thought of the prophet, of whom he had heard so great things, as the chief of a sort of magi … or as the Israelitish high-priest, who could probably be induced to undertake, on behalf of a foreigner, those ceremonies and functions of his office from which so great results were to be expected, only by the intercession of the king” (Menken). The king of Israel, however, so far misunderstood the intention of the letter as to suppose that he himself was expected to perform the cure; he thought that this demand was only a pretext, in order to bring about a quarrel with him. He was thereby so frightened and saddened that he rent his clothes (2 Kings 2:12; 1 Kings 21:27). The meaning of the words in 2 Kings 5:7 is: he demands of me something which God alone can do, so that it is clear that he is only seeking a quarrel. To kill and to make alive is the province of that Divinity alone who is elevated far above the world (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6); leprosy was regarded as the equivalent of death (Numbers 12:12); to deliver from it was to make alive. It is not probable that the king spoke the words: Wherefore, consider, in the solemn audience in which the letter was delivered to him (Thenius): he uttered this suspicion only in the circle of his most intimate attendants.
2 Kings 5:8. And it was so when Elisha the man of God, &c. If the arrival of the celebrated Syrian with his retinue caused a sensation, still more did the fact that the king rent his clothes; the news of it came speedily to the prophet, who was then in Samaria (2 Kings 5:3), and not in Jericho (Krummacher). The king, in his fright, either did not think of Elisha, or he did not believe at all that there was any one who could help in such a case. Elisha therefore sends to him to remind him that there is a prophet in Israel, i.e., that the God who can kill and make alive, the God of Israel, in spite of the apostasy of king and people, yet makes Himself known, in His saving might, through His servants the prophets.—The house of Elisha, before the door of which Naaman stood (2 Kings 5:9), was certainly not a palace, but rather a poor hovel, so that the “great man” did not go in, but waited for the prophet to come out to him, and receive him in a manner befitting his rank. This, however, the prophet did not do, but sent a message to him to instruct him what he should do. The idea that he did this before Naaman reached his house (Köster) contradicts the words of the text. The reason why Elisha did not come out was not that he was wanting in politeness, or that he was influenced by priestly pride, or that he feared the leprosy, or avoided intercourse with a leper in obedience to the Law (Knobel), but: “He wanted to show to Naaman once for all that this princely magnificence, this splendor of earthly honor and wealth, did not affect him at all, and that there was not the least cause in all this why Naaman should be helped. Furthermore, he wished to prevent the foreigner from thinking that the help came from the prophet, and that he had the healing power in himself, and also to prevent him or any other from ascribing the cure to the application of any external means: for the Syrians knew as well as the Israelites that the Jordan could not heal leprosy.… Naaman was to understand that he was healed by the grace and power of Almighty God, at the prayer of the prophet” (Menken).—Thy flesh shall come again to thee, &c. In leprosy raw flesh appears and running sores are formed, so that the diseased person dies at last of emaciation and dropsy (Winer, R.-W.-B. i. s. 115); the cure, therefore, consists in the restoration of flesh.
2 Kings 5:11. But Naaman was wroth, &c. “Not because he did not meet with becoming honor and attention, but because none of the religious ceremonies which he had expected were performed” (Menken). He himself tells what he had expected: Elisha’s brief answer sounds to him like scorn. The river Abana (2 Kings 5:12), or, as the keri has it, Amana, is the Χρυσοῤῥόας of the Greeks, now called Barada or Barady. It rises in Antilebanon, and flows through Damascus itself in seven arms (Winer, R.-W.-B. ii. s. 194). Pharpar, i.e., the swift, is hardly the little river Fidscheh, which flows into the Barada, but the larger, independent stream Avadsch, south of Damascus (see Thenius and Keil on the passage). Both rivers, as mountain streams, have clean fresh water, and Damascus is celebrated to-day for its pure and healthy water; “whereas the Jordan is ‘a deep, sluggish, discolored stream’ (Robinson, ii. 255, ed. of 1841), so that we understand how Naaman could consider the rivers of his native country better” (Keil). The address: My father (2 Kings 5:13), is at once familiar and respectful, as in 2 Kings 6:21, and 1 Samuel 24:11; the attendants addressed him with mild words and sought to soothe him. Thenius’ conjecture that אָבִי is corrupted from אִם, if, is utterly unnecessary. דָּבָר … דִּבֶּר is a conditional sentence without אִם and the object precedes for emphasis (Keil).—אַף כִּי as in 2 Samuel 4:11.—וַיֶּרֶד 2 Kings 5:14, means he journeyed down, i.e., from Samaria to the valley of the Jordan.
2 Kings 5:15. And he returned to, &c. That which Elisha had aimed at by his direction in 2 Kings 5:10, namely, not merely the cure of the leprosy, but Naaman’s conversion by means of it to the one true God, the God of Israel, was gained, as Naaman himself acknowledges: Behold, now I know, &c. At the same time he desires to show his gratitude to the man of whom God had made use, and he begs him earnestly to accept a gift (בְּרָכָה as in Genesis 33:11; 1 Samuel 25:27; 1 Samuel 30:26). Although Elisha on other occasions accepted gifts for himself, or at least for the body of prophet-disciples (cf. 2 Kings 4:42), yet in this case he steadily refused (2 Kings 5:16), not certainly from haughty self-assertion in his dealings with the great Syrian, but to show him that the prophet of the God of Israel observed a different conduct from the heathen priests, who allowed themselves to be richly rewarded for their deceitful services; especially, however, in order to establish in the mind of the healed man the conviction that the God of Israel alone, out of free grace and pity, had helped him, and that he owed to that God sincere and lasting gratitude. The refusal of Elisha must have made a deep impression not only upon Naaman, but also upon his entire retinue. As Theodoret observes, there lay at the bottom of this refusal the feeling that our Lord demanded of His disciples: “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
2 Kings 5:17. And Naaman said: If not, let there, then, &c. וָלֹא = καὶ εἰ μή, as the Sept. have, not: ut vis (Vulg.), nor: “And oh!” (Ewald). It was not Naaman’s object, in his request that he might take a load of earth with him, to “sacrifice to Jehovah on this outspread earth, as it were in the Holy Land itself” (Thenius), but he wished to build an altar of it. Altars were often made of earth; the altar of burnt-offering even, according to the Mosaic Law, was to be of earth (Exodus 20:24; Symbol. des Mos. Kult. i. s. 491). It is almost universally supposed that Naaman was subject to the “polytheistic superstition,” that each country had its own deity, who could be worshipped properly only in it, or on an altar built of its soil (so the latest commentators: Thenius, Keil, Von Gerlach, &c). But if Naaman had cherished the delusion that every land had its own God, that is to say, that there were other gods by the side of and besides the God of Israel, even though they were not so mighty as He, he would have been in contradiction with his own words in 2 Kings 5:15 : I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel, and he would not yet have grasped the main point, nor recognized that truth which forms the distinction of the Israelitish religion from all others, viz., that Jehovah alone is God, and that there is no other beside Him (Deuteronomy 4:35; Deuteronomy 32:39, &c). Moreover, the prophet could have passed over this delusion least of all without combating it, not to say anything of his replying to it: “Go in peace.” He must, at the very least, have called the Syrian’s attention to this error. Peter Martyr explains the desire to take away a load of earth quite correctly: hoc signo suam contestatur fidem erga deum, Israelis, et eâ terrâ, tanquam symbolo, voluit ejus admoneri. Not because he ascribed to this earth an especial magical power, but because Israel was the land in which the only true God had revealed and vindicated himself to His people, and now finally to him, did he wish to erect an altar of this earth, which should be, in the midst of a heathen country, a sign and monument of the God of Israel, and a memorial of the prophet of that God. This was why he did not take the load of earth, as he might have done, from any indifferent spot, but begged it of the man through whom he had been brought to a knowledge of the one true God. His request was, therefore, the result of a strong and joyful faith rather than of a heathen delusion. if, in a similar manner, according to the narrative of Benjamin of Tudela, cited by Thenius on this passage, the synagogue at Nahardea in Persia was built only of earth and stone which had been brought from Jerusalem, it was so built by the strict monotheistic Jews, certainly not from “polytheistic superstition,” but for the same reasons for which Naaman wished to build his altar of sacrifice out of Israelitish earth. [See bracketed note at the end of Histor. § 1.]
2 Kings 5:18. In this thing the Lord pardon, &c. Rimmon is doubtless a designation of the highest Syrian divinity, abbreviated from Hadad-Rimmon (Movers). See above, Exeg. on 1 Kings 15:18. It is of little importance for us whether the name is derived from רָמַם (רוּם) i.e., to be high, so that it is equivalent to עֶלְיוֹן (Psalms 9:2; Psalms 21:7), or from רִמּוֹן pomegranate (the well-known symbol of the reproductive power).—The expression: And he leaneth on my hand, designates a service, which appertained to a high official (adjutant) of the king, on occasions when the latter bowed down or arose, or performed any similar ceremony. This service was also executed at the court of the Israelitish kings (2 Kings 7:2; 2 Kings 7:17). The urgency of the request is marked by the repetition of the words: when I bow down. The meaning of the request is: when I, in the execution of any duty, accompany my king to the temple of Rimmon, and bow down when he bows down, then may that be pardoned me, and may I not be regarded as worshipping that divinity. I will not serve, from this time on, any God but Jehovah. Theodoret: εἰσιὼν ἐγὼ τὸν�· συγγνώμης τυχεῖν ἱκετεύων, ὅτι δὴ διὰ τὴν βασιλικὴν�. The word הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה, which is used of prostration before men as well as before God, and so in itself does not signify a purely religious act, cannot here be understood of an act of worship, for, if it could, Naaman would say in 2 Kings 5:18 the very opposite of what he had promised in 2 Kings 5:17, and Elisha could not have responded to the request that he might worship Rimmon besides Jehovah with the blessing: “Go in peace.” Some have very unjustly found, in the request that he might take away a load of earth, and also in the prayer that he might be forgiven for prostration in the house of Rimmon, signs that his faith was still wavering, undecided, and weak. It rather shows that he had a tender conscience, which desired to avoid an appearance of denying Jehovah, and which was forced to speak out its scruples and have them quieted. Such scruples would not have occurred to one who was wavering between service of God and service of the gods.—According to Keil, Elisha meant by the words: Go in peace, 2 Kings 5:19, to wish for the Syrian, on his departure, the blessing of God, “without approving or disapproving the religious conviction which he had expressed:” or, according to Von Gerlach, “without entering into the special questions involved.” But the prophet could not return a reply to a request which proceeded from conscientious scruples, such as the new convert here presented, nor give a reply which was at once yes and no, or neither the one nor the other. Naaman was to proceed on his journey “in peace,” not in doubt or restless uncertainty. If his request had been incompatible with a knowledge of the true God, the prophet would have been forced to show him that it was so; he could not have dismissed him with an ordinary, indifferent “formula of farewell.” That he omitted the correction and dismissed him in peace, shows beyond question that he acceded to the request.
2 Kings 5:19 sq. So he departed from him a little way, &c. Literally: a length of country, as in Genesis 35:16, without definite measure. It cannot have been very far (a parasang, according to the Syrian Version, or three and a half English miles, according to Michaelis). If it had been so far Gehazi could not have overtaken the horses (2 Kings 5:9).—This Syrian, 2 Kings 5:20, Vulg.: Syro isti, i.e., this foreigner, from whom he would have had a double right to take some reward. The oath: As the Lord liveth, stands in contrast with that of Elisha, 2 Kings 5:16. Blinded by his avarice, Gehazi considers it right before God to take pay, just as Elisha, in his fidelity, considers it right before God to accept nothing.—Descent from a vehicle (2 Kings 5:21) is, in the East, a sign of respect from the inferior to the superior (Winer. R.-W.-B. i. s. 501); Naaman honored the prophet in his servant. “From Gehazi’s hasty pursuit he infers that something unfortunate for the prophet has occurred” (Thenius), and asks, therefore, Rectene sunt omnia? (Vulg.) In reply to Gehazi’s assertion (2 Kings 5:22), he urges him to accept two talents, one for each prophet-disciple, and he causes the money to be borne before Gehazi in two sacks, as a mark of his eager willingness. Whether חֲרִטִים means open-worked, basket-like sacks, with handles (Thenius), or not, can hardly be determined from the word.—הֲעֹפֶל (2 Kings 5:24) is not a proper name (Luther), but the hill which stood before the house of Elisha, not before the house of anybody else, an acquaintance, for instance (Clericus).
2 Kings 5:25-26. And Elisha said unto him, &c. The words of Elisha: לֹא־לִבִּי הָלַךְ, stand in evident contrast with the words of Gehazi: לֹא־הָלַךְ עַבְדְּךָ, and mean: Thou sayest that thou didst not go anywhither; neither did I go away any-whither, i.e., I was not absent when Naaman descended from the chariot to come to meet thee. Instead of “I,” the prophet says לִבִּי, my heart (1Sa 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; Jeremiah 17:10, &c.), because he was not present there, as Gehazi was, bodily and visibly, but in spirit, invisibly (1 Corinthians 5:3). Vulgata: Nonne cor meum in prœsenti erat quando, &c. Thenius: “Did I not go hence in spirit, and was I not present there?” It is not necessary to take it as a question, however, as is usually done. The question begins with הַעֵת. Ewald takes “my heart” to mean “my favorite, so that Elisha here rather refers with a severe pleasantry to his most intimate follower, who could so far transgress against his master, although he was his favorite pupil.” It is incredible that the prophet could have introduced the hard punishment of Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27) with a jesting, scornful question. [This rendering of Ewald: “Had not my dear pupil gone forth when some one (i.e., Naaman) turned back from his chariot to meet thee,” makes better sense than any other. It is not so much a jest as it is a sarcastic stripping bare of the falsehood, and it is not at all inconsistent with the revulsion of indignation and severity which prompts the condemnation which follows. Against this explanation, however, is the fact that this meaning for לִבִּי cannot be proved. Ewald refers to the Song of Solomon to justify the explanation, but without citing particular passages, and the context is so different in the two cases that the usage could not be established by its occurrence in that book.—W. G. S.] The explanation of Böttcher is equally inadmissible: “I, according to my convictions, could not have prevailed upon my heart … to go.” After 2 Kings 5:16 Elisha no longer needed to assert this. It was already clear. Maurer’s explanation: Non abierat, i.e., evanuerat (Psalms 78:39), animus meus, h. e., vis divinandi me nequaquam defecerat, falls, because הָלַךְ would have to be taken in a very different sense from what it has in 2 Kings 5:25, and because the clear reference to Gehazi’s words would then be lost. [The explanation of Thenius, practically that of the E. V., is the best. The strain put upon the words to make them mean, “I did not go away from the interview between thee and Naaman,” i.e., “I was present at it,” is apparent.—W. G. S.]—Is it a time, &c., i.e., “In any other case better than in this, mightest thou have yielded to thy desire for gold and goods” (Thenius). Gehazi had not received olive-trees, &c., but he meant to buy them with the money. [The form in which the Vulgate translates the verse is not literally faithful to the original, but it brings out with great distinctness the antithesis between the objects Gehazi had in view, and which, indeed, he had gained, and the other results which must follow: “Thou hast indeed received money wherewith thou mayest buy garments, and olive-yards, and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and men-servants, and maid-servants; but, also, the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed forever.”] A leper as white as snow (2 Kings 5:27), cf. the same expression, Exodus 4:6; Numbers 12:10, where a similar sudden attack of this disease takes place. According to Michaelis this takes place often under great terror or great affliction. The skin around the diseased spots is chalk-white (Winer, R.-W.-B., i. s. 114). Upon the words: Unto thee and unto thy seed (posterity) forever, Menken says: “It is the full, strong expression of excited, deep, yet holy and just feeling, which dare not and will not lay its words upon delicate scales, and which, to express the fulness of its abhorrence or its admiration, of its curse or its blessing, seizes upon a formula of the vulgar dialects of the country, even though it may not apply, in syllable and letter, to the case in hand.”
2 Kings 6:1. And the sons of the prophets said, &c. This story is to be connected with the two in 2 Kings 4:38-44, and is a supplement to them. Thenius supposes that it stands here “in order to show that what is said here in 2 Kings 6:1 did not take place until long after.” The connection into which Cassel brings it with chap. 5. is very forced, viz.: that the needy community of the prophets forms a contrast to the rich and mighty military commander; or, that, in spite of Gehazi’s fall, the number of prophet-disciples had increased so much, that a new house was necessary for them. Theodoret’s connection is at least more natural: He (Gehazi) sought riches and became a leper; the company of prophet-disciples, on the contrary, loved the greatest poverty. It is hardly possible that the place which had become too small was in Gilgal (2 Kings 2:1; 2 Kings 4:38), for this lay at a considerable distance from the valley of the Jordan; the same is true of Bethel. It is more likely to have been Jericho. The words: Where we dwell with thee (see on 2 Kings 4:38), show that the need was of a larger place of assembly, since the number of prophet-disciples had increased, and amounted at this time to certainly over a hundred (2 Kings 4:43). There is no reason to find a reference to dwellings which were to be built for all, as has been done in the interest of monasteries. They wished to go to the Jordan (2 Kings 6:2), because “its bank is thickly grown with bushes and trees” (willows, poplars, and tamarisks. Hitzig on Jeremiah 12:5), so that the building material was conveniently at hand. By the following words they mean: if each one cuts a beam, the work will soon be accomplished. They beg the prophet to go with them, not that he may direct the work—he was no architect—but because they wish to have him in their midst, and promise themselves, from his presence, blessing and success for their labor.
2 Kings 6:5. But as one was felling a beam, &c. It has been inferred from הָאֶחָד, which also occurs in the 3d verse, that it was the same one who is there referred to, but without reason. According to Hitzig and Thenius the אֶת before הַבַּרְזֶל introduces the new, definite subject. According to Keil, it serves to subordinate the noun to the sentence: “As for the iron, it fell into the water.” In the lament lies also a request for help, which is strengthened by וְהוּא שָׁאוּל. The person in question had “begged” for the axe, probably because he was too poor to buy one; hence the loss grieved him more than it would have done if it had come into his possession by gift. Luther’s translation [and that of the E. V.], “borrowed,” is correct in sense, though not exactly the corresponding word. The Vulgate has: et hoc ipsum mutuo acceperam.—The words וַיָּצֶף הַבַּרְזֶל are translated by Luther, following the Sept.: “The iron swam,” and hence the story, 2 Kings 6:1-6, is commonly entitled “The swimming iron.” Thenius and Keil translate: “And he caused the iron to swim.” But צוּף does not mean “swim,” like שָׂחָה (Isaiah 25:11), but: overflow (Lamentations 3:54): “Waters flowed over mine head;” in the hifil: to cause to overflow; Deuteronomy 11:4 : “He made the water of the Red Sea to overflow them.” The word does not occur out of these two places, in which it is impossible to translate it by swim and cause to swim. Cf. also צוּף, honeycomb (Psalms 19:10), from the idea of overflowing. Just as Jehovah brought the water over the horses and chariots, so that they were under it, Elisha here brought the axe over the water, so that it was no longer concealed by it. The Sept. translate: καὶ ἐπεπόλασε τὸ σίδηρον, i.e., and the iron arose—appeared upon the surface. Hesychius explains ἐπιπολάσαντες by ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος περιφερόμενοι. If ἐπιπολάζειν meant swim, it could not, at the same time, have the meaning: to be haughty, to exalt one’s self impudently (Plut. Symp. ii. 1, 12). Hence Theodoret, on the passage, says correctly: ὁ προφήτης�. ξύλον γὰρ ἐμβαλών, παρεσκεύασεν ἐπιπολάσαι τὸ σιδήριον. [The translation “swim,” meaning simply “float,” is perfectly allowable for either the Hebrew word or the Greek one, by which the Sept. render it.—W. G. S.] The miracle was not, therefore, “that the wood which was thrown in sank, while the iron swam upon the surface” (Philippson), but, that the prophet, by throwing in the wood, caused the iron to come to the surface, where the young man could get it. Following many of the rabbis, Vatablus and others, including Thenius, have adopted the opinion that Elisha pierced the hole in the axe with the stick, and so raised it out of the water. Of this the text says nothing, it only states that he did bring up the axe, not, however, how he did it; wherefore, it can only be regarded as a guess when Von Gerlach says: “He thrust the stick into the water, so that it passed beneath the iron and raised it to the surface.”
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. The first of the two preceding narratives, which fills the whole 5th chapter, is one of the most important in the life and prophetical labor of Elisha, and this is marked, in fact, by the fulness of detail with which it is narrated. Menken, in his excellent homilies upon this chapter (see his Schriften v. s. 77–117), says of it with justice: “This is a charming testimony to the living God!—a worthy part of the history of those revelations and manifestations of the living God, which, in their connection and continuation through many centuries, and in their tendency toward one goal and object, were designed to plant upon earth the knowledge and the worship of the true God! But it offers besides to our consideration a rich store of reflections, in which neither heart nor understanding can refuse a willing participation.” There is hardly a single Old Testament story in which the character of the Old Testament economy of salvation is mirrored in any such way; it is a truly prophetical story, that is, an historical prophecy. On the one side it shows the wonderful providence and mode of salvation of God, His saving power and grace, as well as His holy severity, and His retributive justice; on the other, closely interwoven with this, it shows human thought and desire, suffering and action, as well in good as in evil: it is the scheme of salvation epitomized. However, when Krummacher says: “We should rather expect to find it upon a page of the Gospel than seek it in an Old Testament book,” and affirms: “The baptism of the New Testament meets us here already in a type which is full of life,” he confounds the economies of the two Testaments. In spite of all its typical force, the story is specifically an Old Testament one. The main point, the proof of the whole, and therefore the thing which is not to be lost sight of, is, that a foreigner, a heathen, who, moreover, belongs to the people by which Israel at that time was most threatened; a mighty commander, by whose instrumentality Jehovah had given victory to the Syrians, finds help from the “prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 6:8), and comes to a knowledge of the one true God, the God of Israel. This is the point, too, which our Lord lays stress upon (Luke 4:25-27) when He, in order to shame and warn His countrymen who were scoffing at Him, refers to the widow of Sarepta, the foreigner, to whom Elijah was sent, and then to Naaman the Syrian, whom Elisha healed. The conjunction of the two is by no means accidental: both these great prophets of action testified, during the time of apostasy in Israel, each of them by an act of assistance towards a foreigner, that Jehovah, with His might and grace, was not confined to Israel; that He takes pity upon the heathen also, and leads them to knowledge, that His great name may be praised among all nations. What the later prophets preached by word, Elijah and Elisha prophesied by acts. As “widows and orphans” were succored by both (see above on 2 Kings 4:1 sq.), so foreigners are helped by both. The story of Naaman, therefore, occupies an essential place in the history of the prophetical work of Elisha; without it one of the chief points of the prophetical calling would be wanting in this work.
[We must endeavor to analyze this story more closely, and to gain a more definite conception of the course of the incidents. Naaman undoubtedly had the religious ideas which were universal throughout ancient heathendom. He regarded the gods of Syria, which he had been educated to worship, as real gods. None of them, or of their priests or prophets, had or could cure him of leprosy. He heard by chance the fame of Elisha, as one who wrought wonders in the name of the God of Israel. No heathen would maintain that his national divinities were the only true gods. Sennacherib declared that he was conquering Judah by the command of Jehovah, whom he recognized as the god of that country. The heathen colonists whom the king of Syria brought to populate Samaria, attributed the ravages of the wild beasts to the fact that the worship of the god of the country was not provided for. It was the notion of the heathen that each country had its god, so that Syrians worshipped Syrian gods, and Hebrews the Hebrew god. To the heathen this seemed perfectly natural and correct. On the other hand, the Hebrews declared that Jehovah was the one only true God of all the earth, and that the gods of the heathen were nullities (vanity, E. V.) Naaman did not violate the principles of his religious education when he went to Elisha; Ahaziah, when he sent to Ekron (chap. 1), did. Naaman came with a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, and he came with gifts, and in pomp—all according to heathen ideas of the means of inducing the thaumaturge to exercise his power. He was to be armed with the influence of authority and rank; he was to appear as a great man, for whom it was well worth while for the wonder-worker to do whatever he possibly could, and he brought the material means which his experience among wizards, diviners, soothsayers, and priests, had taught him to regard as indispensable. The king of Israel was terrified at the demand; but the prophet intervened. We are surprised at this feature. If Naaman’s errand was really to Elisha, the literal words of the letter would not have been a demand that the king should heal him (2 Kings 5:6), but that he should command his subject, the prophet, to exercise his powers on the Syrian’s behalf. Thus the king would have simply referred Naaman to Elisha for the latter to do what he could. The story is evidently so much abbreviated at this point that its smoothness is impaired. Naaman comes in all his pomp to the door of Elisha. He receives the prophet’s command, and his words in 2 Kings 5:11-12 bear witness again to wide and deep heathen conceptions. In 2 Kings 5:11 he describes graphically the mode of performance of the heathen thaumaturge. “I thought, he will stand” (take up a ceremonious and solemn attitude) “and call upon the name of his God” (repeat a formula of incantation), “and strike his hand upon the place” (with a solemn gesture) “and remove the leprosy.” Had he come all that journey to be told to bathe? Could water cure leprosy? If it could, was there not the pure water of Abana and Pharpar, better far than the sluggish and muddy water of Jordan? His pomp and state were thrown away: the man of God did not even come to look at them. His high credentials were wasted; the means of cure prescribed for him might have been prescribed for the poorest outcast in Israel. The deep and permanent truth of this feature, and also of the prophet’s refusal to accept money, is apparent. The difference between the Jehovah-religion and the heathen religions is sharply portrayed by the contrast in each point, between Naaman’s expectations on the one hand, and the prophet’s words and actions on the other. The Syrian’s servants suggested to him the sensible reflection that he ought not to despise the prophet’s command. He went, bathed, and was cleansed. He then returned to reward the prophet, but found that the prophet did not give his help as a thing to be paid for. The Syrian was not to think that the prophet had used a power which was his own, and which might be paid for, whereby the obligation would be discharged. The service came from God; it was a free act of grace; a special blessing upon this one, and he a foreigner, while many Israelitish lepers remained uncleansed (Luke 4:27). The prophet and his God were not at the service of any one who came and could pay a certain price; they wrought only where and when there was good reason, and, when they did so, the recipient of grace lay under an obligation which he never could discharge. In regard to Naaman’s words: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel,” a careful scrutiny shows that the proposition is not strictly accurate, for the God of Israel is and was not only in Israel, but in all the earth. The true proposition would be: The God of Israel is the only true God, and He reigns over all the earth. In the very form of his confession Naaman shows that his mind was still under the bias of the heathen idea of local deities, so that he says that there is no God anywhere else in the world but in Israel. No other had been able to heal him; but Jehovah had done so by apparently very insignificant means, hence he esteemed Jehovah true, and esteemed the others very lightly or not at all. It should be noticed also that the conception which he seems to have reached was that which was held by very many of the Jews, viz.: that Israel alone had any God, and that the rest of the world was godless; their own gods were nullities, and Jehovah did not care for them, so that they had no God at all. He determined to devote himself to the worship of Jehovah for the rest of his days. He therefore very naturally, in accordance with the same idea of local or territorial divinities, asked for earth from Palestine to build an altar for the worship of Jehovah. He also made one further request. His duty at his master’s court (although it is difficult to understand how a leper could have had that office) was to attend his master, and support him when he went to worship in the temple of the Syrian God, Rimmon. The idea that Naaman was “converted” to the worship of Jehovah in such a sense that he went over to the Hebrew idea of the other gods, is without foundation. It is a modern idea, which has no place in this connection. Naaman did not feel bound at all to keep away from the temple of Rimmon, as an early Christian would have kept away from an idol-temple. His last request to the prophet is, that, when he goes into this temple in the course of his official duty, it shall not be regarded as a violation of his vow to pay all his worship, for the future, to Jehovah, to the neglect of all other gods. To this the prophet answers: “Go in peace,” i.e., your sincere performance of your vow shall be recognized, and. this conduct shall not be interpreted as a violation of it.—W. G. S.]
2. The healing of Naaman did not take place at a mere word, but was like all miraculous deeds of the prophet, attached to some corresponding external means, but to such an one that to it, in itself, no healing power could be ascribed. This power must first be conferred upon it by the prophet, so that the cure must necessarily be recognized as an act of God, whose instrument and minister the prophet was. The external means, a sevenfold bath in Jordan, was a very significant one. Evidently the prophet had in mind what the Law prescribed for the purification of a leper. Such an one was to “bathe himself in water” (Leviticus 14:8-9), and throughout the entire ceremony of purification, “sevenfoldness” is the rule (Leviticus 14:7; Leviticus 14:16; Leviticus 14:27; cf. Leviticus 14:51; Symbol. des Mos. Kult., i. s. 196, and ii. s. 508, 518). The conduct of Elisha was, therefore, in general analogous to the ordinance in the Law, and, in so far, it referred back to the God of Israel, who had given the Law. Naaman had to bathe in the Jordan because that is the chief river of the promised land, which flows through the long and narrow country, so that it is called simply the land of the Jordan (Psalms 42:6). As Canaan was the land of Israel, so the Jordan was the river of Israel. Moreover, it had great importance for the history of Israel. From the “passage of the chosen people” through this water, which is compared directly with the passage through the Red Sea (Psalms 114:3; Psalms 114:5), “dated the existence of the theocracy in Palestine” (Winer, R.-W.-B. i. s. 620). The Jordan was witness, and, in a certain degree, pledge and warrant of the might and grace of God, which were revealed in Israel. It was the water, in and at which Jehovah had manifested himself as the almighty, helping, and saving God of Israel. The fact of being healed and purified by bathing in this water, was designed to draw the mind of the heathen to the truth, that it is the God of Israel who alone can help and save, and that He it was who had helped him; that he therefore owed gratitude to this God alone, and not to the prophet who was only His servant. We have, then, in this case another proof that the miracles of the prophet were symbolic acts, and it is remarkable that the immediate significance of Elisha’s transaction with Naaman, although it lies upon its face and is so easily to be recognized, has been hitherto almost entirely overlooked. The naturalistic method of explanation is at a loss to account for this miracle. According to Knobel (Prophet. ii. p. 92–97): “Elisha had the reputation of a good physician among the Syrians as well as among the Israelites… The bath, taken in obedience to the command of a man of God, was blessed with an extraordinary efficacy. That this, however, was not the entire curative process employed by Elisha is certain (?), though it is not possible to find out what else he did to Naaman.” To relegate the entire story to the domain of myth or legend, on account of the miracle, is the least admissible course to pursue. This story bears in itself the impress of historical genuineness, if ever one did, by virtue of its simplicity, its moderate statements, its numerous characteristic details, and its purely objective representation. To invent such a story is impossible; and it can occur to no one who understands the matter that Naaman is a mythical person. The remark of Köster (Die Prophet. s. 89): “The whole story is meant to show that miracles were always intended to extend the worship of Jehovah,” is unsatisfactory, because this was evidently not the case in many miracles, and especially in all the rest which are recorded of Elisha (cf. chap. 4). [The most important and most instructive feature of the story seems to be overlooked by our author. It was not the water either of Jordan or of Abana which could heal, it was the obedience of this haughty general to a mandate which seemed to him frivolous and absurd. In the gospels faith is the first requisite in similar cases of healing, and so it was here also—faith and obedience. Naaman came with his mind all made up as to how he was to be healed, and he turned away in anger and disgust from the course which the prophet prescribed. Yet, when he turned back, even with a lame and half-doubting faith, and a half-unwilling obedience, he was healed. This is the permanent truth which is involved in the story. Naaman was a type of the rationalist whose philosophy provides him with a priori dogmas by which he measures everything which is proposed to his faith. He turns away in contempt where faith would heal him. That is the truth which the story serves to enforce.—W. G. S.]
3. In the acknowledgment with which Naaman returns to the prophet after being healed, the story reaches its climax: all the ways in which God led this man tended to this end. With the words: “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel,” he renounces the fundamental error of heathenism on the one hand, viz.: that every nation had its own god, and on the other hand he acknowledges that there is only one God on earth, and that He reveals himself in Israel. He does not, therefore, exchange one national god for another, but declares that Jehovah is the first and the last, and that there is no God beside Him (Isaiah 44:6), that the whole earth belongs to Him (Exodus 19:5), and that this God has chosen the people of Israel for the salvation of all nations, and revealed himself to them. This is the kernel of Naaman’s confession, that he does not merely turn from Polytheism to Monotheism, but recognizes the God who has revealed himself to Israel as the one living God. Therefore, also, this land, which God promised and gave to his people, is for him a holy land (cf. Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41; Psalms 37:9; Psalms 37:29; Proverbs 2:21 sq.). Therefore he wishes to take earth from this country that he may sacrifice thereon to its God. Such a confession from the mouth of a heathen would be incomprehensible, especially from one who had the disposition which Naaman showed before he was healed (2 Kings 5:11-12), if something extraordinary and miraculous had not taken place. For unfaithful, wavering Israel, which had had a far wider experience of the might and glory of its God than Naaman, this confession was a source of shame, of warning, and of reproof.
4. Naaman’s request (2 Kings 5:18) and Elisha’s reply (2 Kings 5:19) have been made the text of extended theological treatises (cf. Buddeus’ Hist. Eccles. ii. p. 360 sq.). For instance: it has been inferred that, under certain circumstances, it is permitted to participate in the ceremonies of a religion one recognizes as erroneous. Among Roman Catholics the passage has been used to justify the conduct of missionaries who permitted the newly-converted heathen to continue to observe pagan ceremonies; among Protestants, as Starke says, “Some have drawn the conclusion that an attendant of a prince or king might accompany him to Mass, and do him service there, if he was in the service of the prince before the latter was converted to a false worship of God. Such a case was that of John of Saxony, whom the Emperor Charles V. asked to carry the sword in procession as Grand Marshal of the empire, when the emperor went in solemn state to Mass.” The passage does not, however, give a general rule for all times and all places, because the case of Naaman belongs entirely to the Old Testament, and could not now occur. If Naaman ought not to have continued to exercise his office about the person of his king any longer, then he must have given up, not only his influential position, but also his fatherland and his nationality, and must have become an Israelite, and that too at a time when there was so much apostasy in Israel itself. The entire object of his being healed, viz., that he, in the midst of a heathen nation, which was hostile to Israel, might be a witness and an actual confessor of the God of Israel, and might carry His name into another country, would have been frustrated. Elisha, who had this object before all else in view, does not, therefore, raise any objections to his request: he invokes upon him “peace” at his departure; and, “since he perceives that Naaman’s purposes are pure, he leaves him to the direction of God, as the one who will guide his conscience” (Jo. Lange). Cassel (Elisha, s. 89) not improperly draws attention here to the difference between the conduct of Naaman and that of Themistocles in a similar case. The latter found it necessary to appear before the Persian king, and there prostrate himself before him, according to the Persian custom. As he, however, considered this unworthy of a Greek, he had recourse to the stratagem of allowing his ring to fall, and then, as he picked it up, he bowed before the throne, and so thought that he had given satisfaction both to his conscience and to the king. “Naaman did not wish to act thus. He was not willing to deceive or act the hypocrite, for he knew that his God could see through the stratagem, and would not permit himself to be deceived, although men might think that they had concealed their hearts.” [There is no reason whatever to suppose that Naaman knew all that; and the heinousness of this stratagem of Themistocles was very different from that of an hypocritical act of worship. Why should we imagine that Naaman, after he was cleansed of leprosy, had the clear conceptions, the pure piety, and the delicate conscience of a modern Christian? Furthermore, it seems that, if the words of the author above are pressed, he will be made to say that any one may engage in hypocritical acts of worship, if he can, by so doing, remain in a position where he can make proselytes! The object of the miracle was not to make a proselyte of Naaman (see above, bracketed note at the end of § 1). The Israelites, at this period, made no effort whatever to gain proselytes. The opportunity offered to glorify the God of Israel before a heathen of rank, and it was done. He naturally turned, as a consequence, to the worship of Jehovah, as superior to all other gods. In the addition to § 1, it is stated what Naaman meant by this request, and what the significance of the prophet’s answer was.—W. G. S.]
5. Gehazi’s transgression and its punishment are to be estimated principally from the historical-theocratical, and not alone from the moral standpoint. His act was not a product of mere vulgar avarice, which shrinks back from no falsehood. By it he made his master, all of whose intercourse with him ought to have exercised a purifying influence upon him, a liar, and his oath (2 Kings 5:16) an empty phrase. He did not leave Naaman with the undimmed conviction that all the grace he had experienced had come to him gratis, and that “there was a prophet in Israel.” He did not fear to stain the work which God had done upon a heathen for the glory of His name, and thereby he denied the Holy One, whose might he had just seen manifested upon Naaman. The words which Peter used of Ananias were true of him: “Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God” (Acts 5:4). His act was a betrayal of the prophet, of Naaman, and of Jehovah. “A thousand deceits and dishonesties might have been committed, by all of which not one of the dear and holy interests would have been injured, which in this case were in danger, and which, by this act, were criminally and faithlessly betrayed” (Menken). Hence it incurred so severe a punishment, which was not arbitrarily or indifferently chosen, but which proceeded out of the transgression, and corresponded to it. The leprosy of Naaman (2 Kings 5:27) became the leprosy of Gehazi; as Naaman was a living monument of the saving might and grace of Jehovah, so Gehazi was a monument of the retributive justice of the Holy One in Israel; a living warning and threat for the entire people. By his conversion Naaman was taken up into God’s community of redemption in Israel; by his unfaithfulness and denial of this God, Gehazi brings down upon himself the punishment which excludes him from the society of the prophet-disciples, and of the entire covenant people. Finally, as Naaman’s cure and conversion was a physical prophecy that God will have pity upon the heathen also, and will receive them into His covenant of grace, so Gehazi’s leprosy prophesied the rejection of the people of Israel who should abandon the covenant of grace, and persevere in apostasy (Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 21:43).
6. The second narrative (2 Kings 6:1-7) relates the last of the acts of Elisha which concern individuals. It is distinguished from the two mentioned above, which likewise took place in the circle of the prophet-disciples (2 Kings 4:38-44), by the circumstance that here help is given in need to one person, not, as there, to the entire society. The number of the prophet-disciples had become so great, that the construction of another building had become necessary. Here now was to be shown how each separate individual of the company might be consoled by the help of Jehovah even in the slightest need. The loss of the axe, even though it had been “begged for,” was very slight in itself; but for a poor man, who did not even possess the necessary implements for cutting wood, a greater one than it would be for a rich man, if all his treasures should fall into the water. As before God there is no respect of persons, prince or beggar being all one, so there is also before Him no independent value in things; what is small and insignificant for one person, being great and important for another. The lilies of the field, which bloom to-day and to-morrow are cast into the oven, are as glorious before God as Solomon in all his glory (Matthew 6:28-30). His might and goodness are revealed in the smallest detail as well as in the greatest combination. He helps in what are apparently the smallest interests of the individual, as well as in the greatest affairs of entire nations, and He rules with His grace especially over those who keep His covenant, and turn to him in all the necessities of life. That is the great truth which this little story proclaims, and just for the sake of this truth, it was “thought worthy to be inserted in the history of the theocracy” (Hess). The restoration of the axe, whereby aid was given to the prophet-disciple in his need, strengthened all the others in the faith that the God in whose honor they were erecting the building was with them, and would accompany their work with His blessing; they worked now only the more zealously and gladly.
7. The swimming iron, which is the title ordinarily given to this narrative, is an entirely incorrect designation of it. It has the literal meaning of the text against it, and it misleads to the opinion that the only point of the story is, that Elisha also made iron swim upon water like wood. What significance, however, would such a miracle have under these circumstances? It would not have any proper force, either for the prophet-disciple himself, or for the construction of the building, and would be nothing more than a feat of the divine omnipotence, without either moral or religious foundation, and at most only a thing to excite astonishment. This object has indeed been suggested: “the prophet-disciples were to learn here, that God had not only made the forces which have sway in nature, but, also, that He directs them continually; that He makes that easy which is hard, when we only pray him to do so in a just cause” (Von Schlüsser). In that case, however, every connection with the building of the house would be wanting, and one does not see why so general a truth should be made known to the prophet-disciples precisely on the occasion of the loss of an axe, which its owner had begged for or borrowed. The same objection applies with still more force to the opinion that the miracle of the floating iron proclaimed the following: “A light thing raises a heavy thing from the deep … The world’s history shows that in the miraculous providence of God, that which is heavy is raised by that which is light.… Iron is the symbol of sin; wood, however, serves for peace, reconciliation, sacrifice.… He who died upon the wood made all sin powerless; raised it up out of the deep where it lay buried, in history and in the individual man” (Cassel, Elisa, s. 100–106). This allegorical explanation, which is, to begin with, arbitrary and unfounded, overlooks, from the outset, the fact that it is not a question here of a piece of heavy metal, iron in general, but rather of a definite implement, which was necessary for cutting timber, of an axe which had been lost, and of the poor man who had lost it, after begging for it, and for whom it was to be recovered. In this misfortune the prophet helped him, and this is the main point; not the fact that the iron floated. According to the naturalistic explanation Elisha “pierced the hole in the axe with the pointed stick, and so lifted it up” (Knobel, Der Proph. ii. s. 98); and Köster (Die Proph. s. 90) says: “It was very correctly asserted, even by the Jewish expositors, that this was no miracle. (Buddeus, p. 364, opposes, and maintains the miracle, but cannot tell what was the use of the sharpened stick.) The axe had flown from the handle; Elisha pierced a stick into the aperture of it, and brought it up. The edifying application of it was, that presence of mind becomes a prophet, and is valuable even in the slight affairs of every-day life.” But the text says nothing about what would here be the main point, viz.: the sharpening of the stick. קָצַב (ver 6) does not mean to point, to sharpen, but only to chop off (Gesenius). Besides, it is clear that the narrative is not intended to tell of some ordinary incident, which any one could do in every-day life without especial “presence of mind,” but of an act which only a prophet, by virtue of the spirit of Jehovah, could do. That he made use for this purpose of an external physical means is true not only here, but also in the case of all his miraculous deeds (cf. 1 Kings 17:0, Hist. § 5).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 5:1-19. The Story of Naaman. (a) His Illness (2 Kings 5:1-8); (b) his cure (2 Kings 5:9-14); (c) his conversion (2 Kings 5:15-19).
2 Kings 5:1-8. Bender: Naaman; a consideration (a) of the discipline of suffering under which he was; (b) of the star of hope which arose for him in his misfortune; (c) of the path in which he was led by this hope.
2 Kings 5:1. Menken: Everywhere where there is, or seems to be, something great and fortunate, there is also a slight discordant “but,” which, like a false note in a melody, mars the perfectness of the good-fortune. A worm gnaws at everything pertaining to this world; and everything here below carries the germs of death in itself.… We ought to consider all human suffering and misery worthy of consideration, wherever we find it. It is found everywhere; it dwells in the palace and in the hovel; it is interwoven with the life of prince and beggar; and it is inseparable from all worldly happiness. This is to the end that we may perceive and be convinced that there is nothing earthly with which a man should be contented, and in which he can find true rest and the ever-enduring peace of the soul, and therefore that the poor and lowly have no reason to envy the rich and great. That which makes us happy in truth and for eternity does not depend upon rank or upon wealth.—Calwer Bibel: God treated this heathen in the way in which He is accustomed to treat His children. Just as He is wont to give to them, together with everything joyful which He grants them, also something incidental to restrain their pride, that they may remain humble, and may learn to seek God, so that He may still further glorify himself in them, so He visited this great military chief, whom He had so magnified in other respects, with a disease, which should make him humble, and teach him to seek further grace. That which seems to us and to all the world to be the greatest misfortune, and which is mourned as such, is often, according to God’s wise counsel, the way to our highest good-fortune and welfare. The Lord says: “What I do thou knowest not now” &c. (John 13:7; Hebrews 12:11).
2 Kings 5:2-3. Krummacher: The Foreign Slave-Girl, (a) The momentous purchase; (b) the development of the seed of true religion in a heathen land; (c) the earnest ray of hope in the dark night of sorrow. The Little Girl from the Land of Israel, (a) Her heavy lot (such an one as that of Joseph and Daniel.—Menken: Torn from her friends, led away from her people and her fatherland, sold in a foreign country, slave of a heathen, she was a stranger to the joys of youth and the pleasure of life, and sadness and sorrow overclouded her life. How often may she, seized by yearning for the land of her childhood and youth, by longing for father and mother, have cried out to God. She could endure all this because she had learned in early youth to know the God whose eye overlooks all countries, and who holds His hand over all who heartily depend on Him. How necessary it is that parents should early make their children acquainted with the living God and His holy Word, that they may learn to yield themselves to His ways, and may have a light and staff in the dark valley); (b) her good advice. (It came from a heart which was full of sympathy for the trouble of her master, and which did not, like so many, serve with mere eye-service to please men. It was like a sun arising in a dark night, and it was the first movement towards Naaman’s salvation in body and soul, and towards the glorification of the living God among the heathen. How great things the little maid brought about without knowing it. God often makes use of the most insignificant instruments (1 Corinthians 1:28) for building up His kingdom and for spreading abroad His name. The least important person in the household becomes a living proof of the all-controlling, loving care and providence of God, and of the declaration, Isaiah 55:9.)
2 Kings 5:4. Cramer: One ought not to despise the counsel of even insignificant persons, for God can accomplish great things even by means of these.—Cassel: When the great and mighty are so bowed down that they do not know where else to get help, they listen even to a child. Nay: such are we all. When the waves reach to our heads we begin to listen to anything; no advice is too contemptible for us; no person too insignificant for us to be willing to listen.
2 Kings 5:4-7. Naaman’s Journey to Samaria. (a) The equipment for it. (The king gives him a letter of introduction: he departs with great pomp, with horses and chariots, and he takes with him rich treasures for gifts. Provided with all this, he has a firm hope of attaining his object. Rank, might, and wealth, those are the things in which a man hopes who has not yet learned to know the living God; but the Scripture says: “Put not your trust,” &c., Psalms 146:3; Psalms 146:5; Psalms 118:9; and: “A horse is a vain thing,” &c, Psalms 33:17; and: “We brought nothing into,” &c, 1 Timothy 6:7.) (b) The Reception in Samaria. (The king is terrified because he has a bad conscience, Job 15:21; Wis 17:11. Such a man always finds more in a letter than it says. Those who do not trust God do not trust one another. In his terror he is at a loss what to do. The king of Israel does not know what the little maid knew (2 Kings 5:3). In matters of the kingdom of God the humble and lowly have often more experience than the great, Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28. Naaman was to be made to feel this, Sir 51:10; Psalms 88:5, in order that he might come to Him from whom alone help can come, Psalms 3:8; Psalms 68:20).
2 Kings 5:6. Great men, who are accustomed to find every one ready to do their will, often believe, in their blindness, that they can command that to be done which only God can do.
2 Kings 5:7. What good does it do to believe in a God who can kill and make alive, if one does not fear Him and bow before Him; does not seek Him, and therefore does not find Him? (James 2:19).
2 Kings 5:8-14. The Healing of Naaman. (a) The conduct of the prophet (2Ki 5:8; 2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 5:14); (b) Naaman’s behavior under it (2 Kings 5:9; 2 Kings 5:11-13).
2 Kings 5:8. Cramer: When faithful servants of God see that the unbelief of the godless redounds to God’s dishonor, they hasten to oppose it. God spoke and made known His mercy by the prophets in Israel many times and in many ways. Last of all, He revealed Himself by His Son, who is the “brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:1-3). He speaks to all who have to console the sorrowing or counsel the despairing: Let them come to me that they may learn that a Saviour has come into the world, who restores the sorrowful and heavy-laden, and in whom they can find rest for their souls.—Cassel: In Israel a prophet is never wanting; He lives who goes ever with us; He lives who has washed all wounds in His blood; though all the world should fall in ruins, my Saviour and my prophet lives.
2 Kings 5:9-10. Horses and chariots, external grandeur and display, must often be employed to conceal internal misery from the eyes of the world, and to impose upon it. A genuine man of God does not, however, allow himself to be deceived, or to be bribed by pomp and display, but he speaks out whatever God commands, whether it pleases the world or not. In human affairs the word of the Apostle applies: “Be kindly affectioned one to another,” &c., Romans 12:10. In divine matters, however, when the recognition of truth, and the honor of God, and the glory of His name, are at stake, a servant of God ought not to be governed by the rules of worldly politeness, but only to be guided by that which will contribute to the salvation of souls. It often requires far more self-denial to resist the great than to yield to them; not all is priestly pride which seems to the world to be such. That which Naaman believed to be contempt and rudeness really proceeded, in the case of Elisha, from genuine love to him, and humility and obedience to God.
2 Kings 5:11 sq. Menken: This man, convinced of the inadequacy of all human and earthly means to relieve his misfortune, seeks divine help, and when he finds it, and it is before him, so that he only needs to reach out his hands and take it, he is dissatisfied, and complains of the divine help, on account of its peculiar form and character: he turns away from it with anger as from something worthless. And why? Simply on account of his prejudice; because he had made up his mind that what was divine must take place in another way, that its form of acting and helping must be different. He did not stop and ask himself whether he had reason and right for his expectation, nor whether the peculiarity of speech, action, and relief, which displeased him, was unbecoming to what was divine. Trusting to his prejudice without scruple or investigation as to its justice, as it were to an oracle, i.e., trusting to himself as possessing an infallible insight, he departs. How faithful and true the old picture is! How fresh and new it is, as if men of to-day had sat for it! Ask thousands, who are devoted to human pursuits with enthusiasm and zeal, and who leave what is holy and divine in contemptuous neglect, why they do so, and they will be able to give but this one answer: I thought that the divine must speak, and act, and will, and work, in a different way from this; I cannot reconcile it with my opinion; if I should accept this I should have to throw away my opinion, and that of the public and the time.—Observe this now well, and do not think it of little importance. This “I thought!” is the most mighty of all mighty things on earth, and even if it is not the most ruinous of all ruinous things, it is yet certainly the most unfortunate of all unfortunate ones. This “I thought” brought sin and misery and death into the world, and it prevents redemption from sin and death in the case of thousands. These thousands, if they perish in their opinion, will begin the next life with “I thought!”—Calwer Bibel: How common it is for men to prescribe to God the ways of His providence and the modes of His assistance! Just in order to break this self-will, and to awaken and test our faith and our patience, God must act contrary to our prejudice.—Richter: How many a one asks in unbelief: how can water do so great things? Water does not indeed do it, but the word of God, which is in and with the water.—The Means by which Naaman was made whole. (a) Their apparent insignificance: (b) their real significance (see Histor. §§ 1 and 2).—Menken: Blessed is he who is not offended because of me, said once He, in whom and through whom the divine appeared to men in its purest and most glorious form, and in its deepest and directest sense. Thereby He showed conclusively that the divine has a peculiarity on account of which it is and must be opposed to the perverse sense of sinful men. Therefore we call that man blessed who can believe the divine, and to whom the humble form in which it appears here below is no cause of mistake, and whom the simplicity in which it is dressed for the sake of truth, and the humility with which it is clad for the sake of love, offends so little that he admires and honors and loves it all the more exactly on this account.—Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20-29.—Naaman became angry on account of the message which the prophet sent to him. So now also the message of salvation is received with anger because it opposes the opinion and the pride of the natural man, who is not willing to admit that he is a poor sinner, and diseased, and in need of salvation (James 1:21). That which is offered as a means of life and peace, becomes thus all the greater cause of destruction.—Luther: The world wants to earn heaven from God, although He proclaims through the world: I will be your God; I will give it to you out of free grace, and I will make you blessed without a price. [Naaman as a Type of the Rationalist. The a priori notions which men form, which become prejudices in their minds, and by which they measure things. They invent a God in their own minds and go to the Bible to see if they find the same God there; if not, they reject Him. They form a priori notions of Christ, of the Bible, of religion, and the way in which religion ought to be presented to them, of prayer, of Providence, of the sacraments, &c. If these are not satisfied they turn away angry. If the diseases of their souls cannot be healed as they have made up their minds that they ought to be healed, then they will not have them healed at all. See Histor 1 and 3, with translator’s additions.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 5:13. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation;” “it is not in word but in power” (Luke 17:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20).—Menken: Thousands, who are sad and heavy-laden under the consciousness of the spiritual misery of sin and death … would be glad if the Word would order them to the utmost end of the earth, and would command them to make the pilgrimage without shoes under their feet, or covering upon their heads, and to give all their goods to the poor, and to brand and torture their bodies with chastisements, because that would correspond to their sensual feeling, and to their preconceived opinion; but they cannot reconcile themselves to the gospel of the grace of God, that He sent His Son into the world as a propitiation for sin (1 John 4:10).—Servants and subordinates cannot better prove their love and fidelity to their masters than by dissuading them from angry and violent steps by friendly and humble words—not by falling in with and encouraging their temper. (Proverbs 15:1).
2 Kings 5:14. Krummacher: It is a great thing, when a man is willing from his heart to submit himself to the ordinances which God has established for his salvation.—Bender: The divine means of grace of the Church are for us what the Jordan was for Naaman. We are called to profit by them by the Holy Ghost, who will therein enlighten us by His gifts, and sanctify and strengthen us in the faith. As Naaman was healed gratis of his leprosy, which threatened him with death, so that his flesh became like that of a little child, so are we, through the compassion of God, which was revealed in Christ, purified from sin and saved through the “washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” so that we may be first-fruits of His creatures, and, as such, heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:5 sq.; James 1:18).
2 Kings 5:14-19. Bender: The Healing of Naaman. (a) The act of God; (b) Naaman’s confession; (c) his gratitude; (d) his especial request.
2 Kings 5:15. He who has come to faith in the living God, who revealed himself to Israel by His prophets, and to us by His Son, feels an impulsion to confess this faith with joy before men. Without faith there is no confession, and without confession there is no faith (Psalms 116:10; Romans 10:10).—J. Lange: That knowledge of God which is won by experience of the purification of the heart, and which is enjoyed in the sweet and quiet peace of the soul, is the only real, genuine, and saving knowledge.—Starke: Nothing is impossible for faith. It can make of a proud and boastful soldier a pious and humble servant of God (Mark 9:23). Naaman gave with joy, and God loveth a cheerful giver. He gave not only because he had been healed, but because he had come to a knowledge of the true God. After God we owe gratitude to none so much as to those who have brought us to a knowledge of God and a recognition of the truth.
2 Kings 5:16. Menken: Godly and holy men, who have devoted their lives to the service and witness of the divine truth among men, have always had two peculiarities, which bad men have never been able to imitate: freedom from all love of gain, and, in neglect of the praise and honor of the world, a pure looking-up to the Father, “who seeth in secret” (Acts 8:18-20).—Starke: True Godliness knows when to open the hand and when to close it (Sir. 4:36).—A servant of God must always firmly ward off whatever might cast the least evil appearance upon the purity and fidelity of his service to his master.
2 Kings 5:17-19. Naaman’s Two Requests, as testimonies to his firm and decided faith (see Historical, §§ 1, 4). (a) The altar built of the soil of Israel in a foreign land was an indicator of the way to Israel and to Israel’s God; a physical confession which required strong courage, for it might call down persecution, disgrace, and death. So now it is an act of faith when a messenger of the faith sets up the cross in the midst of a mighty heathen people. How deeply does Naaman shame the Christians who, even among Christians and in Christian countries, do not dare to confess Christ by word and deed, (b) The prayer for indulgence came from a fine and tender conscience, which makes an earnest thing of its faith; to which all hypocrisy is loathsome; which is not willing to lean both ways, but demands confidence and certainty as to whether what it does and what it leaves undone are right in the sight of God, and whether it is maintaining the grace it has won. How rare are those in our times who, in matters of religion, are equally scrupulous!
2 Kings 5:17. Cassel: As Naaman was the type of the converted heathen world, and he carried the soil of Palestine to Aram, so did the heathen carry over into their own lands, together with Christianity, the doctrine, life, disposition, and spirit, which had flourished in the Holy Land, and thereby they established for themselves a new home. … When we hear here and there in Christian lands the names Bethany, Bethlehem, Zion, &c, what are they but holy places transferred, in their spirit, from their original location into our life and thought and feeling. In thy religious observances the main point is not the correctness and truth of thy knowledge, or of the doctrine which thou professest, but the truth and purity of thine own character. What one may do under his circumstances without violating his conscience, the conscience of another, under other circumstances, will forbid him to do. We have no right to judge him: to the Lord each one stands or falls (Romans 14:1-7).—Menken: The higher a man stands in the world, and the more important he has made his position, the more is he bound.
2 Kings 5:19. When a man has been heartily converted, and earnestly strives to enter in at the straight gate, we ought not to make harder for him what is already hard, and we ought not to make demands of him which, according to the circumstances in which God has placed him, he cannot fulfill, but look to the main point and not the incidental or external things, leaving him with prayer to the gracious guidance of God, who will complete the work of grace which He has begun in him. God makes the sincere to succeed.—Menken: One does not know what to admire most in Elisha’s mild and simple answer, the clear and correct insight into a genuine heart experience, which, whatever may surround and obscure the main point, still seizes this quickly and clearly; or the holy moderation which, even in the case where it is its prerogative to urge, limit, bind, loose, or burden, still restrains itself; or the pure humanity of disposition, which can so thoroughly sympathize, so completely put itself in the position and at the stand-point of the other. The knowledge of the living God, and the experience of His saving grace, is the fountain of all peace, with which alone a man can go gladly on his way.
2 Kings 5:19-27 (cf. Histor. § 5). Bender: Gehazi, the False Prophet-Disciple, (a) His disposition; (b) his procedure; (c) his punishment.—Krummacher: Gehazi. (a) Gehazi’s heart; (b) Gehazi’s crime; (c) the judgment which fell upon him.
2 Kings 5:20. Let not desire overcome thee. How mighty are the evil inborn lusts of the human heart! Even in the case of those who have for years enjoyed the society of the noblest and most pious men, who have heard and read the word of God daily, and who have had the example of holy conduct daily before their eyes, lusts arise, take possession of them, and carry them captive (James 1:13-15; Matthew 15:19). Therefore, “Be sober, be vigilant,” &c. (1 Peter 5:8).—The avaricious and covetous are always envious; they are discontented when others neglect chances to become rich, or renounce that which they would be glad to have.—Calwer Bibel: Gehazi speaks contemptuously of Naaman because he is a Syrian and not an Israelite, although he was far better than Gehazi. So also now-a-days, unwise Christians and Jews contemn one another.… It is plain from his unnecessary oath what kind of a man Gehazi was. Those who swear unnecessarily judge themselves. Covetousness is the root of all evil: where there is covetousness and avarice there is also falsehood and deceit, vulgarity and rudeness, and cunning theft and bold theft.
2 Kings 5:22. Bender: Gehazi was Elisha’s servant. Ye servants, how do you conduct yourselves toward your masters? Are ye open, sincere, honest, obedient, as the apostle says Ephesians 6:5-6? Is the property and good name of your masters as dear to you as your own property and your own honor, or do ye take advantage of them where ye can? “My master has sent me”—so says many an unfaithful servant, who cares for silver and gold, raiment, fields, vineyards, and gardens, but not for the honor of his master—who cares more for the wool than for the sheep. Hypocrites do more harm to the cause of God than the godless (2 Timothy 3:5).
2 Kings 5:23. He who himself thinketh no evil and is sincere, does not suspect cunning and deceit in others. Good-hearted, noble men, to whom it is more blessed to give than to receive, are easily deceived, and they follow the inclination of their hearts, instead of examining carefully to whom they are giving their benefactions.
2 Kings 5:24. That which we must conceal brings no blessing.
2 Kings 5:25. “Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” Happy are they of whom there is no need to ask this question; who can give an account without falsehood of all the paths in which they have walked, and of all the places in which they have been.—Menken: This question should have been to Gehazi like the wind-gusts before a storm, which warn the traveler to seek a refuge-where the coming storms and floods cannot reach him.—This is the curse which rests upon a lie, that the man seeks to escape from it by new lies, and so involves himself more and more in the net of him of whom the master says: “When he speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own” (John 8:44).
2 Kings 5:26. If God himself arms His prophets with the gift to be witnesses of hidden sin, and to bring it to the light, how much more will He, before whose judgment-seat we shall all have to appear, bring that to light which now lies hidden in darkness, and reveal the secret counsels of the heart?
2 Kings 5:27. Menken: How did the raiment of Damascus appear to the leper, or the pieces of silver to the wretched outcast? How often must he have desired to buy back again with all his treasures one day of his healthful poverty? Then, too, the lost peace of God. Alas! Most incomprehensible, most depraved, most indestructible and terrible of all deceits, deceit of riches, who fears thee, as we all should fear thee? God have pity upon us all, and help us all, that no one may set his hopes upon uncertain riches, but upon the living God, who gives us all richly to enjoy all His blessings. And yet again: “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare” (1 Timothy 6:9-12).—The story of Naaman and Gehazi is a prophecy of the salvation of the heathen who seek help and grace, and of the rejection of Israel, if it destroys and rejects salvation (Isaiah 5:25 sq.). [The leprosy of riches. Gold is tainted—strength required to use it aright; right pursuit of wealth; absorbing pursuit of it; curse which cleaves to it when it is ill-gotten or ill-used; this curse crops out most frequently in the children. A father absorbed in pursuit of wealth, and mother absorbed in fashion, will bring up corrupt and neglected children. Parents love gold, and fashion, and display, children will hold these the chief things in life. Thou hast gotten thee gold, but leprosy shall cleave to thee and to thy seed forever.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 6:1-7 (cf. Histor. § 6 and 7). (a) Sketch of the Community-life of the Prophet-disciples, (a) Their number does not diminish in spite of all contempt and persecution, but increases (2 Kings 6:1); (b) they undertake nothing without their master (2 Kings 6:2-3); (c) they help and encourage one another in their work (2 Kings 6:4); (d) they experience the divine help and blessing (2 Kings 6:5-7).
2 Kings 6:1. It is a good state of things when a community can say: “Behold the place,” &c. How many Churches have room and to spare, and might accommodate twice as many hearers, while the room in the buildings devoted to the lusts of the eye and the flesh, and to the pride of life, is too small.
2 Kings 6:2. Pfaff. Bibel: Each one should contribute his share to multiply churches and schools as the population increases.
2 Kings 6:5. Starke: Pious people are more careful of what is borrowed than of their own property.
2 Kings 6:5-7. Würt. Summ.: We have here an instance where God is touched by even the least misfortune which visits his children. He will not let himself be hindered by natural laws from helping his servants in their need, … that they may not despair in adversity, but trust in God, and be only the more diligent in prayer.—Krummacher: It often happens that the Lord takes from us some possession, or appears to do so, only with the purpose of returning it after a longer or shorter time in some unexpected way, that it may thus come to us as a gift of divine love, and a pledge of His grace.
2 Kings 6:8; 2 Kings 6:8.—[The first clause expresses a circumstance of the main action, best rendered by the absolute participial construction. The king of Syria, being at war with Israel, held a council of his officers, and decided, in such and such, &c.—Ew. Lehrb. § 16l, a, explains תּחנות as a noun in the form of the infinitive, das Sich lagern. Hence the form of the suff.
2 Kings 5:12; 2 Kings 5:12.—[Keri, Amana. See Exeget.
2 Kings 5:17; 2 Kings 5:17.—[The Sept. join the first two words of the next verse with this one, τῷ ῥήματι τούτῳ, because of this thing.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 5:18; 2 Kings 5:18.—Thenius proposes to change the last י in בהשׁתחויתי to ו, and it certainly does seem better to do so. This is the reading of the Sept. (ἐν τῷ προσκυνεῖν αὐτόν), and of the Vulg. (adorante eo).—Bähr.
C.—Elisha’s conduct during the Syrian invasion and the siege of Samaria
2 Kings 6:8 to 2 Kings 7:20
8Then the king of Syria warred against [was at war with1] Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. 9And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.2 10And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God [had] told him and warned him of, and saved [protected3] himself there, not once nor twice [i.e., a great manytimes]. 11Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us4 is for the king of Israel? 12And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
13And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. 14Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. 15And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master, how shall we do? 16And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. 18And when they came down to him, [i.e., the Syrian, for, the Syrian army—Bähr] Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
19And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But [And] he led them to Samaria. 20And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? 22And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldst thou smite [if thou shouldst do that, wouldst thou be smiting] those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. 23And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the [marauding] bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
24And it came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria. 25And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for [worth] fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung 26[was worth—omit for] for five pieces of silver. And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. 27And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? 28And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to-day, and we will eat my son to-morrow. 29So we boiled my son and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.
30And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh. 31Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day. (32But Elisha sat [was sitting] in his house, and the elders sat [were sitting] with him; [.]) And the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he [Elisha] said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at [hold him back by means of] the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him? 33And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer [what hope shall I still place in the Lord]?
Chap. 7. 1Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for [be worth] a shekel, and two measures of barley for [be worth] a shekel, in the gate of Samaria. 2Then a lord [an officer, or adjutant] on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven might this thing be? [Verily! Jehovah is going to make windows in heaven! even then could this come to pass?] And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
3And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? 4If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall [away] unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die. 5And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part [outskirts, viz., those nearest the city] of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there. 6For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. 7Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life. 8And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it. 9Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief [penalty] will come [fall] upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household. 10So they came and called unto the porter [guard] of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice [sound] of man [a human being], but horses tied, and asses tied, 11and the tents as they were. And he [one] called the porters [guards]; and they told it to the king’s house within [reported it inside of the king’s house].
12And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field,5 saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city. 13And one of his servants answered and said, Let some take, I pray thee, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city, (behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it: behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed [dead6];) and let us send and see. 14They took therefore two chariot horses [two chariot-equipages]; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians [towards the Syrian camp], saying, Go and see. 15And they went after them unto Jordan: and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels [utensils], which the Syrians had cast away in their haste 16[hasty flight7]. And the messengers returned, and told the king. And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for [became worth] a shekel, and two measures of barley for [omit for] a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.
17And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake [as he said] when the king came down to him. 18And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be to-morrow about this time in the gate of Samaria: 19And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof. 20And so it fell out unto him: for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 6:8. Then the king of Syria, &c. According to Ewald, the story (2 Kings 6:8-23) belongs to the time of Jehoahaz (chap 13:1–9). However, the passage immediately following begins, 2 Kings 6:24, with the words, “And it came to pass after this,” so that it also would fall in a later time; but, by the words in 2 Kings 6:26, “king of Israel,” and by Elisha’s epithet “son of a murderer,” 2 Kings 6:32, as Ewald himself admits, we must understand Jehoram, and not either Jehoahaz or any other king of the house of Jehu.—אֶל is used as in 2 Chronicles 20:21 : He brought to them the deliberation [i.e., made them parties to it]. פְּלֹנִי as in Ruth 4:1; 1 Samuel 21:3. “My encamping,” i.e., the encampment of my army. The word תַּחֲנוֹת, occurs only here. It is a derivative from חָנַה, to sit down, to encamp (Genesis 26:17; Exodus 13:20; Exodus 17:1). Ewald proposes to read תַּנְחֹתוּ, and to translate: “shall ye form an ambuscade,” because 2 Kings 6:9 says: “for there the Syrians are נְחִתִּים; but נָחַת nowhere has the meaning “to lay an ambuscade,” or “to lie in wait,” but: “to go down” or “sink down” (see Gesen. s. v.), so that it coincides very well with the meaning of חָנַה. The conjecture is therefore unnecessary. The proposal of Thenius to change תַּחֲנוֹתִי into תֵּחָֽבְאוּ, and to translate: “Ye shall conceal yourselves at such and such a place,” is still less admissible. The Vulgate has in 2 Kings 6:8 : ponamus insidias, and in 2 Kings 6:9, quia ibi Syri in insidiis sunt. The Sept. have in 2 Kings 6:8 : παρεμβαλῶ; 2 Kings 6:9 : ὅτι ἐκεῖ Συρία ἐνεδρεύουσι. This is correct, however, rather according to the sense than the words, inasmuch as the army, which had encamped behind the mountains, might certainly be said to be lying in ambush. In 2 Kings 6:9, Clericus, De Wette, and Keil translate the words of Elisha: “Beware lest thou neglect this place,” i.e., leave it unoccupied, “for there it is the wish of the Syrians to make an incursion;” but עָבַר, which means to pass over, never has the meaning to neglect; certainly not that of: to leave unoccupied. Moreover, this signification does not fit well with הִזְהִירוֹ 2 Kings 6:10, to which Keil incorrectly denies the meaning: to warn (cf. Ezekiel 33:3; Ezekiel 4:5; Ecclesiastes 4:13). At a time when the Syrians were intending to encamp at a particular spot, and to attack the Israelites when they should pass by, the prophet gave warning to the king: the latter anticipated them, stationed troops in the threatened position, and so frustrated their plan.
2 Kings 6:11. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled, &c. סָעַר means more than: to lose courage (Luther). It is used of the tossing, stormy sea (Jonah 1:11). Clericus wants to read מַלְשֶׁנוּ (Cf. Proverbs 30:10) instead of מִשֶּׁלָּנוּ, because the Vulg. translates: quis proditor mei sit apud regem Israel, and the Sept.: προδίδωσί με. It may be, however, that both only translated according to the sense. At any rate it is not necessary to alter the text. From 2 Kings 6:12 we see that Elisha’s reputation at that time extended even to Syria. The old expositors thought indeed that the servant who answered the king was Naaman, or one of his companions. The king learned the dwelling of Elisha by spies. Dothan (Genesis 37:17) lay five or six hours’ journey north of Samaria, upon a hill (2 Kings 6:17), at a narrow pass in the mountains (Judges 4:5; Judges 7:3; Judges 8:3), in the district of the present Jinin (Van de Velde, Reise, i. s. 273).—The king of Syria wished to get Elisha into his power, not “that he might hold him,” and find out through him “what the king of Israel and other princes were plotting against him in their secret councils” (Cassel), but in order that, for the future, his military plans against Israel might not become known to the king of Israel through Elisha. The phrase חַיִל כָּבֵד, 2 Kings 6:14, cannot here be translated: “a great army” (De Wette, and others), as is clear from 2 Kings 6:22-23, but it is used exactly as in 1 Kings 10:2. The horses and chariots were accompanied by a large body of infantry.
2 Kings 6:15. The servant of the man of God, &c. Not Gehazi, who would be mentioned by name, as in all other places (2 Kings 4:12; 2 Kings 4:25; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Kings 8:4); moreover, the expression מְשָׁרֵת is never used of him. Perhaps it was one of the prophet-disciples who had accompanied Elisha to Dothan. That which Elisha says in 2 Kings 6:16 is essentially the same as is read Numbers 14:9; 2 Chronicles 32:7; Psalms 3:6; Psalms 27:3. He saw already the divine, protecting power, and begged God to allow his attendant also to see it, that he might undertake the journey back to Samaria with him, through the hostile army, fearless and consoled. “The opening of the eyes signifies elevation into an ecstatic state in which the soul sees things which the bodily eye never can see” (Keil, ed. of 1845), Numbers 22:31; The horses and chariots which Elisha and the servant see (2 Kings 6:17), stand over-against the horses and chariots of the Syrians (2 Kings 6:15), and they are designated by אֵשׁ, the form of appearance of Jehovah (see above, p. 14), as from God, so that they are symbols of the might of Jehovah, which surpasses all human, earthly might, and is unconquerable. We have not to think of literal chariots and horses of fire here, any more than in 2 Kings 2:11. Usually, Genesis 32:2 is compared, but there express mention is made of angels, who are not to be identified directly with the horses and chariots of a vision.—The Syrians are usually understood as subject of וַיֵּרְדוּ אֵלָיו in 2 Kings 6:18, but in that case we must suppose that they were on a hill from which they descended when they saw Elisha and his companion go out from the city. Keil adopts this supposition, for he says: “Dothan stands upon a hill, which stands by itself on the plain, but it is surrounded or shut in on the east side by a ridge which runs out into the plain (cf. Van de Velde, l. c., s. 273). The Syrians who had been sent out against Elisha had taken up a position on this ridge, and from there they marched down against the city of Dothan, which lay upon the hill, while Elisha, by going out of the city, escaped from them.” This idea is contradicted, however, by the assertion, in 2 Kings 6:14, that the Syrians “surrounded the city” in the night. They enclosed it, therefore, and did not simply take up a position on the east side upon a hill, which was, besides, separated from it by the plain. Furthermore, according to 2 Kings 6:17, it was not the ridge upon which the Syrians are said to have stood, but the hill upon which Dothan was, which was full of horses and chariots of fire, round about Elisha, under whose mighty protection he and his servant went out of the city and down the hill. The Syrian army surrounded the hill at its base, so that escape seemed impossible; the heavenly army, however, surrounded the city at the top of the hill, and so stood opposed to the Syrian. This is clearly the meaning of the passage. In the immediately following words (2 Kings 6:18): “and they went down,” the reference can only be to Elisha and his companion, who are the subjects of the words immediately preceding. If the words are not taken as referring to them, then there is no statement that they left the city, and there is a gap in the narrative. Accordingly אֵלָיו must be taken as referring to the Syrian army. The Syriac version and Josephus take it so (’Ελισσαῖος … παρελθὼν εἰς μέσους τοὺς ἐχθρούς). There is no need of assuming that אֲלֵיהֶם stood in the text originally in the place of אֵלָיו, as Thenius does, for אֲרָם is often used in the singular for the Syrian army (2 Kings 6:9; 1 Kings 22:35), and is construed with the verb in the singular (1 Samuel 10:14-15; Isaiah 7:2).—And he smote them with blindness, i.e., they were put into a state in which, although they had their sight, yet they did not see him (Elisha), i.e., did not recognize him. Jarchi: They saw, but did not know (יודע) what they saw. Cf. Genesis 19:11 (Luke 24:16; Isaiah 6:10).—On 2 Kings 6:19 Keil says: “Elisha’s untrue declaration: ‘This is not the way,’ must be judged like every other military stratagem, by means of which the enemy are deceived;” but, as Thenius well replies: “There is no untruth in the words of Elisha; for his home was not in Dothan, where he was only residing temporarily, but in Samaria; and the words ‘to the man’ may well mean: to his house.” Josephus understood the passage correctly; he says: “Elisha asked them whom they had come to seek. When they answered: “The prophet Elisha,” παραδώσειν ὑπέσχετο, εἰ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ἐν ᾖ τυγχάνει ὢν (i.e., where he is to be found), ἀκολουθήσειαν αὐτῷ. He certainly used a form of speech which the Syrians might understand otherwise than as he meant it, but he did not pretend in the least to be anything else than what he was. That they did not know him was a divine dispensation, not the result of an untruth uttered by him. How could the “man of God,” after repeated prayers to Jehovah, straightway permit himself a falsehood, and try, by this means, to save himself from danger? If he saw, as his companion did, horses and chariots of fire round about him, and if he was thus assured of the divine protection, then he needed for his deliverance neither a falsehood nor a stratagem. The Syrians wanted to take him captive; instead of that he, by the help of God, captured them all; not, however, as is usually the case in such a ruse, to their harm or ruin, but, after he has shown them that they could not capture him, “the prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 6:12), he takes them under his protection, repays evil with good (2 Kings 6:22), and shows them by this very means the man whom they are seeking.
2 Kings 6:21. And the king of Israel.… when he saw them, &c. The address: “My father,” does not presuppose any filial relationship, but is rather a mere title (Clericus: sic honoris causa dicitur). Even Benhadad is called “thy (Elisha’s) son,” by Hazael (2 Kings 8:9). The prophet-disciples called their master “father,” and this because it was the ordinary title of the chief of the prophets, somewhat as the same word is occasionally used now-a-days. The repetition of אַכֶּה expresses the eager desire to smite them. Elisha’s words (2 Kings 6:22): האשׁר &c., are taken by many expositors as a question [as in the E. V.], the idea being: if thou dost not even put to death those whom thou hast captured with bow and spear, how canst thou slay these? (Thenius, Keil). Such a question, however, would be very extraordinary; for if Jehoram was not accustomed to put to death even those who had been made captive in battle, why should he ask whether he should kill these, who had fallen into his hands without a combat? It seems more probable, on the contrary, that he was accustomed to put captives to death, in accordance with the prevalent war-usage of the time (Deuteronomy 20:13), and he raises the question, in the present extraordinary case, only out of consideration for the prophet, and because he does not trust his own judgment in the unprecedented circumstances. The Vulgate gives the sense correctly: non percuties; neque enim cepisti eos gladio et arcu tuo, ut percutias. The objection that ה, the article, could not have patach before א cannot be held to be decisive against this interpretation; the Massoretes themselves took ה as the article (Gesen. Lex. s. v. ה; De Wette). [I take ה to be the interrogative (Ewald, § 104, b), but agree with the above interpretation. “If thou shouldst put these to death, would it be a case of slaying prisoners of war?” i.e., couldst thou justify it by Deuteronomy 20:13?—W. G. S.] No one doubts that כָּרָה כֵּרָה, in 2 Kings 6:23, signifies the preparation of a meal. The only disagreement is as to the connection of this signification with the fundamental meaning of the root. According to Thenius the root is כּוּר, which, with its derivatives, always refers to something round; hence, כֵּרָה the circle of guests. According to Keil, כָּרָה, to dig, gradually acquired the meaning: to prepare, make ready, so that it ought here to be rendered: paravit apparatum magnum. According to Dietrich (in Gesen. Lex. s. v.), the cognate dialects lead to the idea of bringing together or uniting, which, he thinks, is the fundamental idea in a banquet. Cf. cœna from κοινή.—The result of Elisha’s act was that, from this time on, the raids of the Syrians ceased, not indeed because the magnanimity of the Israelites shamed them, but because they had found out that they could not accomplish anything by these expeditions, but rather brought themselves into circumstances of great peril.
2 Kings 6:24. And it came to pass after this, &c. Josephus correctly states the connection between the passage which begins with 2 Kings 6:24, and what precedes, as follows: κρύφα μὲν οὐκέτι διέγνω τῷ τῶν ’Ισραηλιτῶν ἐπιχειρεῖν βασιλεῖ, τὸν ’Ελισαῖον δεδοικώς· φανερῶς δὲ πολεμεῖν ἕκρινε, τῷ πλήθει τῆς στρατιᾶς καὶ τῇ δυνάμει νομίζων περιέσεσθαι τῶν πολεμίων. Nevertheless, an interval of some years must be supposed to have elapsed between the two incidents. Ben-Hadad is not an appellative, like Pharaoh; it is the same king who is mentioned in 1 Kings 20:1. In order to show the depth of the distress from the famine, the writer states the price of things which are not ordinarily articles of food. The worst part of an animal, which, at best, was unclean, the head of an ass, sold for 80 shekels, according to Bertheau and Keil, 35 thalers ($25.20), according to Thenius 53 thalers, 20 sgr. ($38.64). In like manner, in a famine among the Cadusians, Plutarch (Artaxerxes, 24.) tells that the head of an ass was scarcely to be bought for 60 drachmæ, whereas, ordinarily, the entire animal only cost 25 or 30 drachmæ). The price of a mouse rose to 200 denarii in Casalinum, when it was besieged by Hannibal (Pliny, Hist. Nat. viii. 57; Valer. Max., vii. 6).—There is no doubt that חרייונים, i.e., חָרֵי יוֹנִים, means “dove’s dung,” and not “dove’s food” (Berleb. and Calw. Bibel); the only question is, whether this is to be taken literally, or whether it is a designation of a very insignificant species of pease. Bochart maintains the latter (Hieroz. ii. 44), and he appeals to the fact that קַב is really a measure of grain: so also Clericus, Dathe, Michaelis, and others. The Arabs call the herba alcali “sparrow’s dung.” Celsius (Hierobot. ii. p. 30), on the contrary, maintains the literal meaning, which is supported by the keri דִּבְיוֹנִים, fluxus, profluvium columbarum (דִּיב from the Chald. דּוּב, to flow), a euphemism for the chetib. So also Ewald and Thenius; the latter says: “If snipe’s dung is eaten as a luxury, necessity may well make dove’s dung (2 Kings 18:27; Joseph. Bella. Jud. v. 13, 7) acceptable.” Gesenius and Keil do not decide. We incline to the interpretation which makes it a kind of vegetable. Supposing even that dung was collected for food, as was the case, according to Josephus, at the destruction of Jerusalem, why should dove’s dung be especially used? There is, moreover, no instance of dove’s dung having been used as food, and sold at so high a price. The meanest form of vegetable seems to be here put in contrast with the meanest form of flesh. The vegetable probably took its name from the similarity of color (white) and form, as in the case of the German Teufelsdreck (assafœtida). Cab is the smallest Hebrew dry-measure; according to Bertheau, it is equivalent to 27.58 cubic inches (Paris), and, according to Bunsen, to 56.355. Five shekels are equal to 2 thlr. 2 sgr. ($1.49, Keil), or 3 thlr. 10 sgr. ($2.40, Thenius).
2 Kings 6:26. And as the King of Israel was passing by, &c. The wall of the city was very thick; the garrison of the city stood upon it; the king went thither in order to visit the posts, or to observe the movements of the enemy.—If the Lord do not help thee, whence, &c. אַל is taken here, by many, in its ordinary signification, ne: May the Lord not help thee! i.e., perdat te Jehovah (Clericus). If this is correct, the king invokes a curse upon her (Josephus: ὀργισθεὶς ἐπηράσατο αὺτῇ τὸν θεόν). The following words, however, “Whence,” &c., do not coincide with this interpretation. The same is the case if we translate, with Maurer, vereor, ut Deus te servet. Keil’s translation: No! let Jehovah help thee! (i.e., do not ask me, let, &c.) is still more inadmissible, for אַל must not be separated from יוֹשִׁעֵךְ, with which it is connected by a makkeph. It evidently stands here for אִם לֹא (Ew. § 355, b), and the meaning is: “On the general supposition that there is no help for her: ‘If God does not help thee, how can I?’ ” (Thenius). Cassel’s interpretation of the words as a “rebellious invocation of God,” is entirely mistaken: “Let God help thee: why does not the Eternal, whom ye have in Israel, and who has always revealed himself here, help thee? Where is He, then, that he may help us?” They are rather words of despair.—Out of the barn-floor or out of the wine-press? as much as to say: with corn or with wine? (Genesis 27:28; Genesis 27:37); not, corn and oil, for יֶקֶב is wine-press (Proverbs 3:10). [The distress has reached a point where God’s interposition alone can provide food. If He does not interpose, how can I satisfy thy hunger? from the threshing-floor or the wine-press—the only human resources in case of hunger? Thou knowest that these are exhausted, and that the limits of my power of relief have been passed. Address thyself, therefore, to God. If He does not help thee, much less can I. The difficulty of the passage is one that is common enough. There is an unexpressed promise, viz., the circumstances of the case, which are vividly present to the mind of both hearer and speaker, and an unexpressed conclusion, viz., the proper inference to be drawn, or the proper conduct to be pursued, in the promises. The first speaker has drawn a false inference from the facts, and the question aims to lead him to a correct judgment. Hence אַל is used, very nearly in the sense of אם לֹא.—W. G. S.] When the woman had, probably, replied to the king that she did not demand food of him, but appealed to him as judge, he asked her: What aileth thee? Thereupon she relates the horrible incident, in which the existing misery had attained its height. The other woman had hidden her child, not in order to consume it alone, but in order to save it. Her act reminds us of 1 Kings 3:26.
2 Kings 6:30. He rent his clothes, &c., as a sign of horror and of grief. As he stood upon the wall, and therefore could be seen by all, the people observed that he had sackcloth next his body, like Ahab, 1 Kings 21:27, under the royal garment, which he tore open. Sackcloth was usually worn next the skin (Isaiah 20:2-3), only the prophets and preachers of repentance appear to have worn it over the under-garment, because in their case it was an official dress, and so needed to be seen (Winer, R.-W.-B. ii. s. 352). The sentence: He passed by upon the wall, is not, according to Thenius, to be connected with what follows, but, as the athnach shows, with what goes before. Jehoram did not wear sackcloth in order to make a show before the people, for they could not see it before he tore the cloak which was above it; neither did he wear it out of genuine penitent feeling, for, in that case, he could not have sworn, with sackcloth upon his body, to put to death the prophet, whom he had called “Father,” and to whom he was under such deep obligations. He wished, by means of this external action, to turn aside the wrath of God; “He thought that he had done enough, by this external self-chastisement, to satisfy God, and he wished now, in a genuine heathen disposition, to be revenged upon Elisha, since he learned from this story that the famine had not ceased” (Von Gerlach). It is not necessary to understand that Elisha had distinctly demanded that he should put on the garment of penitence (Ewald); perhaps the prophet had only exhorted generally to penitence, and the king, in order to put an end to the distress, had put on sackcloth. He become enraged at the prophet, partly because he believed himself deceived by him, if he, as we may suppose, had given the advice not to surrender the city [“If it had not been for him (Elisha), he (the king) would long before have surrendered the city on conditions,” Ewald], but to rely upon the help of Jehovah, and partly because he thought that the prophet might have put an end to the distress if he had chosen, and thereby might have prevented the horrible crime of the women. The oath reminds one of that of Jezebel against Elijah (1 Kings 19:2).
2 Kings 6:32. But Elisha sat in his house, &c. The narrative in 2 Kings 6:30-33 seems to be somewhat condensed, and to require to be supplemented. This, however, can be done with tolerable certainty from the context. The sentence: Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him, is a parenthesis; the following, and he, namely, the king (not Elisha, as Köster and Cassel suppose), sent, &c., joins directly on to 2 Kings 6:31. הַזְּקֵנִים can only refer to the magistrates of the city, not to the prophets or prophet-disciples (Josephus). They had not been sent in order to report to Elisha how far matters had come in the city (Cassel), but had betaken themselves to the prophet, since no one any longer could give counsel, in the great distress, in order to take his advice, and to beg for his assistance. While they were thus assembled the king sent a man, מִלְּפָנָיו, not, before him (Luther and others), but, from his presence, i.e., one of those men who stood before him, and, as servants, waited for his commands (1 Kings 10:8; Daniel 1:4-5), just as we see in Genesis 41:46. This man was to behead Elisha, in fulfilment of the oath which the king had sworn in his excitement. Perceiving in spirit what was being done (as in 2 Kings 5:26), the prophet says to the elders: See ye, i.e., do ye know, &c. He applies to Jehoram the significant epithet: son of a murderer; as by descent, so also in disposition, is he a son of Ahab, the murderer of the prophets, and of the innocent Naboth, (1 Kings 21:19); filius patrizat. With the words: Is not the sound, &c, Elisha straightway announces that the king will follow upon the heels of the messenger (cf. 1 Kings 14:6), and he calls upon the elders not to let in the messenger until the king himself comes.
2 Kings 6:33. And while he yet talked with them, &c. The first question is, what is the subject of וַיֹּאמֶר? If we take הַמַּלְאָךְ to be the subject, then we must suppose, as Thenius, Cassel, and others do, that the messenger speaks the words: “This evil is of the Lord,” &c, as the mouthpiece of the king, since they certainly are the words of the latter. This, however, is, in the first place, very forced, because he must have expressed it by saying: The king commands me to say to you, &c, but it is imperatively excluded by the consideration that the king, according to 2 Kings 7:17, was present, and so the messenger could not speak in his name, in his presence. Ewald, taking account of 7:17, wishes to read הַמֶּלֶךְ for הַמַּלְאָךְ, but then the affirmation that the messenger, whom the elders were to restrain until the arrival of the king, really came, would be wanting from the text. The simplest course seems to be to supply הַמֶּלֶךְ as the subject of וַיֹּאמֶר (there is an athnach after אֵלָיו) and to supplement the text here by what is stated in 7:17. The sense would then be: And the king, who had followed close upon his messenger, said, &c. Why did the king follow his servant? Certainly not “in order to see what was the result of his command” (Ewald); nor, “in order to be assured that his commands had been executed” (Eisenlohr); but, on the contrary, “in order to restrain the execution of a command which he had giver, in an excess of rage” (Keil). Even Josephus says: “Jehoram repented of the wrath against the prophet, which had overcome him, and, as he feared lest the messenger might have already executed his commands, he hastened to prevent it, if possible.”—Behold, this evil is of the Lord, &c, i.e., Jehovah has brought it to this pass that mothers slay and eat their own children; what further shall I then hope for or expect from Him? By these words, “he means to show the prophet that he no longer refuses to recognize the chastising hand of God in the prevailing distress, and then he desires to learn from him whether the divine wrath will not be turned aside, and whether the distressed city may not hope for aid” (Krummacher). To these verba hominis pene desperantis (Vatablus), Elisha replies in 2 Kings 7:1, with a promise of immediate and extraordinary deliverance. The interpretation: The distress is so great that no help can any longer be hoped for, so that nothing remains but to surrender the city; thou, however, who hast prophesied falsely, and hast vainly promised help, and therefore art to blame for the calamity, thou shouldst justly suffer death (Seb. Smith, and similarly Thenius), is entirely mistaken. If this were the sense, Elisha’s solemn promise would seem to have been forced from him by the threat of death, whereas it rather serves to shame the king, who had doubted of Jehovah, and is, therefore, an answer fully worthy of the prophet. Jehoram had already given up his plan of murder when he followed his messenger. [His despair is, to a certain extent, intended as an excuse for his murderous project. It is as if he had said: God sends me only calamity upon calamity. Is it strange that my faith deserts me, and that I can no longer hope or believe that God will ultimately help? This despair produced the blind and senseless rage against thee. I have recovered from that madness, but how can I hope longer? This hope seems only to delay the catastrophe, and to make it worse the longer it is deferred. The prophet answers the despair by a new, definite, and confident prediction.—W. G. S.]
Chap. 7. 2 Kings 7:1. Hear ye the word of the Lord, &c. The solemnity and distinctness with which the prophet addresses the king, the elders, and the others who are present, must not be overlooked.—On סְאָה see note on 1 Kings 18:32.—In the gate of Samaria, i.e., the place where the market was usually held (Winer, R.-W.-B. ii. s. 616). On הַשָּׁלִישׁ and the following form of speech see note on 1 Kings 9:22, and 2 Kings 5:18. Instead of לַמֶּלֶךְ, all the versions read הַמֶּלֶךְ, which, according to 2 Kings 7:17 and 2 Kings 5:18, is the correct reading; the dative gives no sense.—The words of the “lord” in 2 Kings 7:2 are the scoff and jest of unbelief; Jehovah will indeed open windows in heaven, and cause it to rain barley and meal! will that come to pass? Thenius connects the two sentences thus: “Supposing even that the Lord should make windows in heaven, will this (viz., the promised cheapness and plenty) even then come to pass?” This interpretation finds in the words only doubt, and not bitter scorn, but, from the threat with which Elisha answers, it seems that the latter must be included. “Windows in heaven” may be an allusion to Genesis 7:11.
2 Kings 7:3. Four leprous men, cf. Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2 sq. No one any longer brought them food from the city, and they were not permitted to enter it. In order to escape death from hunger, they proposed to go over to the camp of the enemy at dusk, when they would not be seen from the city. That בַנֶּשֶׁף (2 Kings 7:5) does not mean “early in the morning” (Luther), is clear from 2 Kings 7:9; 2 Kings 7:12.—קוֹל, in 2 Kings 7:6, can only be understood of a continuous and increasing rushing and roaring in the air, by which the Syrians were deceived. There are instances, even now-a-days, that people in certain mountainous regions regard a rushing and roaring sound, such as is sometimes heard there, as a sign of a coming war.—On the kings of the Hittites, see note on 1 Kings 10:29. The slight remains of the nations of the Hittites having been subjugated by Solomon (1 Kings 9:20), we have to understand that reference is made here not, as Thenius thinks, to “an independent remnant of this people, living near their ancient home (Genesis 15:20; Numbers 13:29), towards the river of Egypt,” but, to an independent Canaanitish tribe, which had withdrawn into the northern part of Palestine. “ ‘The kings of the Egyptians’ must not be understood too literally; they are only involuntarily mentioned for the sake of the balance of the phrases” (Thenius). Both expressions are only meant to convey, in general terms, the idea that people from the north and from the south are on the march to the assistance of the Israelites, so that danger threatens the Syrians upon all sides. [It is worth while to notice also the graphic force which is given to the story by quoting what purport to be the exact speeches of all the parties. We are told just what Elisha said, and what the officer said, and what the lepers said, and finally what the Syrians said, as if the speeches had been recorded at the time they were uttered. But how could any one tell what the Syrians said in their encampment at night? Evidently the writer puts himself in the place of the Syrians, and imagines what their interpretation of any sudden alarm would be. Instead of stating this in the flat and colorless form in which a modern historian would state it: The Syrians thought that some one was coming to help the Israelites—he gives the speech in what purport to be the exact words. The mention of the king of the Hittites is very strange. No such nation as the Hittites any longer existed, and the kings of Egypt did not interfere in Asiatic affairs throughout this entire period. Yet we should expect that the Hebrew writer would ascribe to the Syrians such fears as they would be likely to have under the circumstances.—W. G. S.] On אֶל־נַפְשָׁם see note on 1 Kings 19:3.
2 Kings 7:9. Then they said one to another, &c. After they had satisfied their hunger and loaded themselves with booty, it occurred to them that officium civium est, ea indicare, quae ad salutem publicam pertinent (Grotius). They were justly anxious lest they might be punished if they should longer conceal the joyful intelligence from the king and the city.—In 2 Kings 7:10, Thenius wishes to read, with all the oriental versions, שֹׁעֲרֵי, watchmen, instead of שֹׁעֵר, because לָחֶם follows. Maurer and Keil take the singular collectively for the body of persons who were charged with the guard of the city.—The subject of וַיִּקְרָא, 2 Kings 7:11, is not the speaker among the lepers, but the soldier on guard. He could not leave his post, so he called to the other soldiers who were within the gate, and they then gave news of the occurrence to the guards in the palace. The attendants of the mistrustful king (2 Kings 7:12) give him very sensible advice, the sum of which is, “However it may turn out, nothing worse can happen to the troops we send out than has already happened to many others, or than will yet happen to the rest” (Berleb. Bibel). “Five” is here as it is in Isaiah 30:17; 1 Corinthians 14:19; Leviticus 26:8, a general designation of a small number. The origin of this use of language is probably that five, as the half of ten, is opposed to this number, which expresses perfection and completeness, to denote the imperfect and incomplete: so that it means a few horses. According to 2 Kings 7:14 (two chariots) there were not five, but four. Two chariots, or equipages, were sent, in order, we may suppose, that if one were captured, the other might quickly bring the news.
2 Kings 7:16 sq. And the people went out, &c. We may well imagine with what eagerness. The king had given to his adjutant (2 Kings 7:2) command to maintain order, but the people trod him down in the gate. He was not “crushed in the crowd,” as Ewald states, but trodden under foot (רָמַם Isaiah 41:25). This can hardly have taken place unintentionally, for why should it have happened just to him? Probably the eager and famished people would not listen to his commands, and bore down his attempts to control them. The repetition of the prophet’s prediction (2 Kings 7:1-2) in 2 Kings 7:18-19, shows what weight the narrative lays upon its fulfilment. It is meant to be, as it were, “a finger of warning to unbelief” (Calwer Bibel), and designates this fulfilment as the object and the main point of the entire narrative.
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. With the story of these two incidents now, we pass, in this résumé of the prophetical acts of Elisha (see above, Historical on chap. 4), to those which bear upon the political circumstances and fortunes of the nation and of its king. First come those which are connected with its foreign affairs. The especial danger from without was from the Syrians. Benhadad was the chief and bitterest enemy, who was evidently determined to subjugate Israel. He did not succeed in this; he only served as a rod of chastisement to bring back the king and the people from their apostasy to their God. Jehovah rescued them again and again from his hand; not by the hand of the king, nor by mighty armies, nor by great generals, but by the “man of God,” the prophet, in order that all might perceive that salvation from the might of the sworn foe was not a work of human strength or wisdom, but was due to Him alone, the God of Israel, to testify of whom was Elisha’s calling. The two incidents belong together, for one of them shows how his secret plans and cunning plots, and the other, how his open assaults, with the employment of the entire force at his disposal, were brought to naught by the intervention of the prophet. If anything could have done it, these extraordinary proofs of the might, the faithfulness, and the long-suffering of Jehovah, ought to have brought Jehoram to a recognition of his fault, and to reformation (2 Kings 3:3). This is the point of view from which both narratives must be considered.
2. In the first incident, Elisha appears in the distinct character of a seer, רֹאֶה, which was the older name for a נָבִיא (1 Samuel 9:9). He “sees” the place where the Syrians have determined to encamp, not once, only, but as often as they formed a plan, and, when they came to take him captive, he saw the heavenly protecting powers, and, at his prayer, the eyes of his attendant were opened, so that he, too, saw them, whereas the enemy were struck with blindness. This gift of secret sight, while one is in clear possession of all the faculties of consciousness, is similar to that of prophecy. Both are effects of the spirit of Jehovah, which non semper tangit corda prophetarum, nee de omnibus (Syra), nec datur illis per modum habitus, sic ut est in artifice (Sanctius). The prophet only sees what others do not see when Jehovah grants it to him, and his sight does not apply to all things whatsoever, nor to all events, as its legitimate objects, but only to those things which pertain directly or indirectly to the relation to Jehovah and to the guidance of the people of Israel as a nation, or as individuals. [Moreover, it is not in the power of the prophet, by any physical and ever-available means, to bring about this state of the soul at will]. This sight is therefore something entirely different from so-called clairvoyance, which has nothing in common with divine revelation. It may be asked why Elisha, who saw the places where the Syrians would encamp, and would attack Israel, did not also foresee their coming to Dothan, and the danger which threatened him of being captured by them. Cassel (Elisa, s. 116) is of the opinion that “he must have known it; yet he remained at Dothan and awaited the hostile emissaries: he knew that there were more with him than all the enemies together could muster.” This opinion, however, has no foundation in the text. On the contrary, it is clearly declared that the arrival of the Syrians was not observed until the morning, and that it was totally unexpected. If Elisha had known beforehand, by a divine revelation, that they were coming, he would have regarded it as a direction to escape from the threatening danger, and not to remain any longer in Dothan, as Elijah once fled from Jezreel (1 Kings 19:3), and Joseph from Bethlehem (Matthew 2:14). The great danger which suddenly came upon him, without his knowledge or fault, was a trial of faith for him and for his attendant. While the latter fell into anxiety and terror on account of it, Elisha showed himself a true “man of God” in that he trusted firmly in his Lord and God, and spoke courageously to his companion: “Fear not.” In this firm faith he experienced the truth of what is written in Psalms 34:1; Psalms 91:11.
3. The conduct of Elisha towards the band of Syrians, which had been sent out against him, is not, as might at first appear, a mere pendant to the similar incident in Elijah’s history (2 Kings 1:9-16). It cannot even be compared with it, for the persons and the circumstances are of an entirely different character. The emissaries, who were sent to take Elijah captive, were sent out by a king of Israel, who despised the God of Israel, and sought succor from the Fly-god of the Philistines. They were also themselves Israelites who, being of a like disposition with their king, mocked the prophet of Jehovah. Under these circumstances an act of kindness and forgiveness on the part of the prophet, whose high calling it was to pronounce, by word and deed, the judgment of God upon all apostasy, would have been a renunciation of his calling (see above, p. 6). Benhadad, on the other hand, was a heathen, who did not know the living God of Israel. His troops were blind instruments of his will, who did not know what they were doing, and did not scoff at the God of Israel, or at his prophet. Besides, Elisha’s act was not merely a piece of good-nature and magnanimity, it was rather a prophetical act, in the strict sense of the words, which had no other aim than to glorify the God of Israel. Not for his own sake did Elisha pray Jehovah to smite the Syrians with blindness, but in order that he might lead them to Samaria. The thanks for their surrender into the hands of the king were due, not to him, but to Jehovah. Jehoram was to learn once more to recognize the faithfulness and might of Jehovah, and to be convinced that there was a prophet in Israel (2 Kings 5:8), from the fact that these dangerous enemies were delivered into his hands without a blow. On the other hand, Benhadad and the Syrians were to learn that they could not accomplish anything, with all their cunning plots, against the “prophet that is in Israel” (2 Kings 6:12), and much less, against Him whose servant and witness this prophet was. From this time on, therefore, they ceased their raids, as is expressly stated in 2 Kings 6:23. The release, entertainment, and dismissal of the troops was a deep mortification to them. The slaughter of the captives, on the contrary, would have frustrated the purpose of the prophet’s act.
4. The miraculous features of this story some have attempted to explain, that is, to do away with, in various ways. Knobel (Der Proph. der Hebr., ii. ss. 93, 98 sq.) remarks upon the incident as follows: “Inasmuch as Elisha had extended his journeys as far as Syria (2 Kings 8:7), he had gained information of the plans of the Syrians against Israel. This information, as a good patriot, he did not fail to make known to his king. He led the Syrians, who do not appear to have known either him or the locality, to Samaria. The inability to recognize the person as Elisha, or the place as Dothan, was, inasmuch as the safety of a man of God was at stake, caused by God; all the more, seeing that it appeared to be extraordinary and miraculous that they should not see that which was directly before their eyes. The cessation of this inability was then an opening of their eyes by God. Sudden insight into things which have long been before the eyes and yet have not been perceived, the Hebrews regarded as being directly given by God.… The horses and chariots of fire in the narrative are a purely mythical feature.” This explanation is almost more difficult to explain than the narrative itself. Nothing is said anywhere about frequent journeys of Elisha to Syria. Only one such journey is mentioned, and that later (2 Kings 8:7). He could only have gained knowledge of Benhadad’s plans from his immediate and most familiar circle of attendants. These attendants, however, reject any hypothesis of treachery, and cannot explain Elisha’s knowledge in any way except on the ground that he is a “prophet,” i.e., himself sees the things which are plotted in the king’s bed-chamber. So far from conspiring with Elisha, these servants of Benhadad find out his place of abode, and so bring about the attempt to capture him. Then, when a company is sent to Dothan, and really arrives there, they must have known where the place was, and that they were there and not elsewhere. Furthermore, how could, not a single individual, but a whole company, allow themselves to be deceived by a man who was unknown to them, and to be led away five hours’ journey without getting “insight into that which was directly before their eyes?” The fiery horses and chariots, finally, are a symbolic but not a mythical feature (see above, p. 14). Ewald’s explanation is much more probable than this rationalistic interpretation. According to him, Elisha proved himself “the most faithful counsellor, and the most reliable defence of the king and people, by pursuing the plans of the Arameans with the sharpest eye, and by frustrating them often single-handed, by means of his sure foresight and tireless watchfulness. The memory of this activity is preserved in 2 Kings 6:8 sq., where we have a vigorous sketch of it, as it had taken form in the popular imagination.” If, however, the prophet’s second-sight, which is the central point of the entire story, is a product only of the popular imagination which, at a later time, wrought upon the story, then we no longer have history before us, and the “man of God,” who is especially presented to us as seer and prophet, sinks down into a wise and prudent statesman. It would then be an enigma how he could have “sure forebodings” of the presence of the enemy at this or that place, and could give them out as certain facts. According to Köster, the gift of sight, which was imparted to the companion of Elisha, at the prayer of the latter, is only a “beautiful representation of the idea that the eye of faith sees the sure protection of God where, to the vulgar eye, all is dark.” In like manner Thenius says: “It is a glorious thought, that the veil of earthly nature is here lifted for a moment, for a child of earth, that he may cast a look upon the workings of the divine Providence.” But here we have not an idea, be it ever so beautiful, clothed in history, but an historical fact. The prayer of Elisha does not mean: Give him faith in the sovereignty of divine Providence; or: Strengthen this faith in him; but: Give him power to see that which, in the ordinary course of things, it is not permitted to a man to see. His companion then sees, not the thought-image of his own brain, but that which Jehovah allows him to see in symbolic form. In like manner it was a dispensation of Providence that the Syrians did not see, in spite of their open eyes. [The author vindicates the literal historical accuracy of the record, but his opponents bring out its practical importance. Let us suppose that, as a matter of historical fact, on a certain day, a certain man, under certain, circumstances, looked up and saw in the air “chariots and horses of fire,” or something else, for which “chariots and horses of fire” is a symbolic expression. The practical religious importance of the incident lies in the fact that he was thereby convinced that God protects His own. The prophet’s object in his prayer could be none other than that he might be thus confirmed in the faith, and the edification of the story depends upon these two deductions: God protects His servants; and, to the eye of faith, this protection is evident, when earthly eyes see it not.—W. G. S.]
5. The narrative of the second incident gives us information of the great famine in Samaria during the siege by the Syrians. It is impossible not to perceive the intention of showing, in the description of this siege, how the threats in Leviticus 26:26-29, and Deuteronomy 28:51-53, against transgressions of the covenant, were here fulfilled; for the separate incidents, which are here referred to, correspond literally to those threats. The famine, such as had hardly ever before been experienced, and especially the abominable crimes which it occasioned, referred back to those threats, so that they forced the people to observe the violation of the covenant, and the great guilt of king and people, and, in so far, were the strongest possible warning to return to the God whom they had abandoned. As for the abomination wrought by the two women, nothing like it occurs anywhere but in the history of Israel; at least, no one has yet been able to cite any incident of the kind from profane history. According to Lamentations 2:20; Lamentations 4:10 (cf. Jeremiah 19:9; Ezech. 5:10), something similar seems to have occurred during the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:0; Jeremiah 39:0); and Josephus (Bell. Jud., vi. 34) relates that, at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, a noble lady slew her child and ate a part of it, an action which filled even the Romans with horror, and caused Titus to declare that he would not permit “that the sun should shine upon a city on earth in which mothers nourished themselves with such food.” That such abominations were perpetrated precisely among that people which had been thought worthy to be the bearer of the revelation and knowledge of the one living God, only proves that if such a people once falls away from its God, it sinks deeper than another which does not know Him, but adores dumb idols.
6. The deliverance of Samaria, like that of the three kings in the war with the Moabites, did not take place by a miracle, in the accurate sense of the word, but it belongs, nevertheless, as that does, in the rank of the events which bear witness to the special divine governance of Israel (see above, p. 36). Josephus’ opinion that God raised a great tumult in the ears of the Syrians (ἤρχετο ὁ θεὸς κτύπον ἁρμάτων καὶ ὅπλων ταῖς�) does not agree with the text, which distinctly mentions a real and strong roaring. Still less is קוֹל to be rendered by “rumor” (Knobel: “The Syrians raised the siege suddenly, because they heard a rumor that the Egyptians and Hittites were on the march against them”). The threefold repetition of the word, which, moreover, never means rumor, is against this interpretation. As for the prediction of deliverance, by Elisha, that can never be explained on naturalistic grounds. Knobel leaves it undecided “whether Elisha, who probably had intrigues with the Syrians, succeeded in starting such a report among them, or whether, in reality, an hostile army was advancing upon the Syrians, of which fact Elisha had information.” The first hypothesis falls to the ground when we consider that it was no “rumor” at all, but a rushing and roaring noise, which the Syrians heard. The alternative is just as unfounded, for all the external communications of the city were cut off, and the approaching army, of which, however, history makes no mention, must have been so near already that the noise of its march would be heard, not only in the Syrian camp, but also in Samaria; or, can we conceive that Elisha might have ordered up an Egyptian and Hittite army, over night, and that this might have marched at once? Ewald’s notion that the prophet’s promise of deliverance only shows the “lofty confidence” with which he met “the despairing complaints” of the king, is equally unsatisfactory. It would have been more than foolhardy in the prophet to proclaim, as the word of Jehovah, before the king, his attendants, and the elders, something which he, after all, only guessed, and which was contrary to all probability. If his guess had not been realized, what would have become of him, and how would he have been disgraced in his character of prophet? What is more, he not only promised deliverance, but also foretold to him who scoffed at his promise: “Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof,” and the threat was fulfilled. The promise and the threat of the prophet form together the central point of the story; they are not mere incidental details, as is clear from the express repetition at the close. The truth of the occurrence, which no one doubts, stands or falls with both together. The object of the story is, to show that there is a prophet in Israel (2 Kings 5:8), so that it appears, to say the least, very insipid to hold, with Köster, that “the moral of the story is: God can save by the most unexpected means, but the unbeliever has no share in such salvation.” [2 Kings 5:8 cannot, with any justice, be cited as bearing upon the significance of this story. Its lesson is one much more nearly touching the “historical development of the plan of redemption” than chap. 5. It was important that all should know that there were prophets of God in Israel, only to the end that they might believe what follows from this fact, viz., that God has a plan for the redemption of the world in which the Israelitish nation plays a prominent part: that He, therefore, is especially present among them by His prophets, and that their history and fortunes, their calamities and chastisements, their mercies and deliverances, are interpositions of God for the furtherance of His plan. The point of the incident before us is, that God would interpose to arrest a national calamity at the very crisis of its fulfilment, for the instruction, warning, and conversion of His people.—W. G. S.]
7. King Jehoram presents himself, in both narratives, just as he was described above (p. 34). He does not persecute the prophet; he rather listens to his counsel, and addresses him as “father” (2 Kings 6:9; 2 Kings 6:21); but he never places himself decidedly on his side. “He stands an example of those who often permit themselves to be led, in their worldly affairs, by holy men, who admire them from a distance, who suspect the presence of a higher strength in them, but still hold them aloof and persist in their own ways” (Von Gerlach). When the prophet leads the enemy into his hands without a blow, he becomes violent, and is eager to slaughter them all; then, however, he allows himself to be soothed, gives them entertainment, and permits them to depart in safety. At the siege of Samaria, the great distress of the city touches his heart. He puts on garments which are significant of grief and repentance, but then allows himself to be so overpowered by anger that, instead of seeking the cause of the prevailing misery in his own apostasy and that of the nation, he swears to put to death, without delay, the man [who had endeavored to fix his attention upon the true cause of the calamity, and] whom he had once addressed as “father.” Yet this anger is also of short duration. He repents of his oath, and hastens to prevent the murder, and asks Elisha, trembling and despairing, if there is no further hope. He does not hear the promise of deliverance with scorn, as his officer does, but with hope and confidence. Then again, when the promised deliverance is announced as actually present, he once more becomes doubtful and mistrustful, and his servants have to encourage him, and push him on to a decision. Thus, at one moment elated, at another depressed, now good-natured and now hard and cruel, now angry and again despairing, now trustful and again distrustful, he never rises above a character of indecision, changeableness, and contrasted dispositions. He was indeed better than his father Ahab, but he was still a true son of this father (see 1 Kings 18:0, Hist. § 6). In one thing only he was firm: “He cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom” (2 Kings 3:3). Since, not to mention so many other proofs of the divine power, patience, and faithfulness, even the deliverance of Samaria from the greatest peril did not avail to bring him into other courses, judgment now came upon him and his dynasty, and the threat of the Law was fulfilled: “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5). He was the fourth member of the dynasty of Omri, or, as it is commonly called, from the principal sovereign of the family, the house of Ahab. With him, that dynasty ended (2 Kings 9:10).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 6:8-23. The Lord is Hiding-place and Shield (Psalms 119:114). (a) He brings to nought the plots of the crafty, so that they cannot accomplish them (Job 5:12), 2 Kings 6:8-14. (b) “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalms 34:7), 2 Kings 6:15-19. (c) “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken” (Psalms 9:15; Psalms 35:7), 2 Kings 6:20-23.
2 Kings 6:8-17. Krummacher: Hints of the Course of Things in Zion. (a) The revealed plot; (b) the military expedition against one man; (c) the peaceful abode; (d) the cry of alarm; (e) the unveiled protection from above.
2 Kings 6:8. Cramer: The heart of man plots its courses, but the Lord alone permits them to prosper. “A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30).—Let them undertake the enterprise as cunningly as they can, God leads to another end than that they seek (Isaiah 8:10).—“In such and such a place shall be my camp” (Proverbs 27:1; James 4:13-16).
2 Kings 6:9. Osiander: It is no treason to bring crafty and malicious plots to the light. It is a sacred duty (Acts 23:16). Beware of going into places where thou wilt be in jeopardy of soul and body. Be on thy guard when the enemy advances, and “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13 sq.).
2 Kings 6:10. No one has ever regretted that he followed the advice of a man of God; on the contrary, many have thus been saved from ruin.
2 Kings 6:11. Starke: When God brings to naught the plots of the crafty, they become enraged, and, instead of recognizing the hand of God and humbling themselves, they lay the blame upon other men, and become more malicious and obstinate.—He who does not understand the ways of God, thinks that he sees human treason in what is really God’s dispensation. Woe to the ruler who cannot trust his nearest attendants (Psalms 101:6-7).
2 Kings 6:12. A heathen, in a foreign land, confesses, in regard to Elisha, something which no one in Israel had yet admitted to be true. The same thing also happened when the greatest of all prophets appeared (Matthew 8:10; Matthew 13:57).—Krummacher: Tremble with fear, ye obstinate sinners, because all is bare and discovered before His eyes, and shudder at the thought that the veil, behind which ye carry on your works, does not exist for Him! All which ye plot in your secret corners to-day, ye will find to-morrow inscribed upon His book, and however secretly and cunningly ye spin your web, not a single thread of it shall escape His eye!
2 Kings 6:13. How mad it is to fight against, or to attempt to crush, a cause in which the agency of a higher power is visible (Isaiah 14:27; Acts 5:38-39).
2 Kings 6:14. Benhadad sends out an entire army against one, out finds but the truth of the words in Psalms 33:18 sq.
2 Kings 6:14-23. Elisha during Distress and Danger, (a) (Although enclosed by an entire army, he does not fear or tremble, like his companion, but speaks to him words of encouragement and confidence. This is the effect of a firm faith, which is the substance, &c., Hebrews 11:1. Faith takes away all fear, and gives true and joyful courage, Psalms 23:4; Psa 91:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:8. David speaks with this faith, Psalms 3:5-6; Psalms 27:1-3; and Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:7; and Luther: Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär, und wollt, &c.) (b) His prayer, 2 Kings 6:17-18. (“Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes!” So should every true servant of God pray for every soul that is entrusted to him. We all need to use this prayer daily: Lord, open my eyes! for it is the greatest misfortune if one cannot see the fight, even by day (Ephesians 1:18). Elisha, however, also prays: “Lord, smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness,” for his own protection, and for their salvation, for they were to learn that He is a God who can save marvellously from the greatest distress, and that no craft or skill avails against Him. It is not permitted us to pray for harm to our enemies; but we may pray that God will make them powerless, and show them His might.) (c) His victory, 2 Kings 6:19-23. (Those who wish to capture him, he captures; but his victory is no victory of revenge. He causes the captives to be entertained kindly, and allowed to depart in safety, that they may learn that the God, whose prophet Elisha is, is not only a mighty, but also a merciful and gracious God. God is not so much glorified by anything else as by returning good for evil. “For so is the will of God,” &c, Peter 2:15; cf. Romans 12:20. He won the highest victory who said upon the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”)
2 Kings 6:15. Our fortune also may change over night; then, how shall we bear it?—Starke: Our feeble flesh cannot do otherwise than despair, when distress comes suddenly upon us, especially if we are young and inexperienced; for experience brings hope (Romans 5:4).
2 Kings 6:16-17. Cramer: If we had spiritual eyes, so that we could see the protecting forces of loving, holy angels, it would be impossible for us to fear devils or wicked men (Psalms 104:4; Hebrews 1:14).
2 Kings 6:17-18. Berleb. Bibel: In the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is hidden from the world, blind men every day receive their sight, and men who see are smitten with blindness.
2 Kings 6:18. The Lord smites with blindness those who light against Him, not in order that they may remain blind, but in order that they may truly see, after they shall have observed how far they have strayed, and shall have recognized the error of their way (Acts 9:8 sq.; John 9:39).
2 Kings 6:19. It is not a sin to withhold the truth from any one until the proper time for making it known, but, in many cases, it is even the duty of wisdom and love (John 13:7; Matthew 10:16). “Follow me!” is the call of the only one who can lead us where we shall find that which we are, consciously or unconsciously, seeking, for He is the light of the world, &c. (John 8:12).
2 Kings 6:20. A time will come for all who are spiritually blind, when their eyes will be opened, and they will learn that they have been walking in the paths of error.—Krummacher: Ye dream of some unknown kind of an Elysium, and ye shall awake at last among those of whom it shall be said: “Bind them hand and foot, and cast them into outer darkness.”
2 Kings 6:21-23. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). God does not give our enemies into our hands in order that we may revenge ourselves upon them, but in order that we may show ourselves to be children of Him who dealeth not with us according to our sins, neither rewardeth us according to our iniquities. He who receives forgiveness from God, must also show forgiveness to others; that is the gratitude which God requires of us, and which we owe to Him.
2 Kings 6:23. Starke: True love to one’s enemies is never fruitless (1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 24:17-18).
2 Kings 6:24-31. Samaria during the Siege, (a) The great scarcity; (b) the two women; (c) the king.
2 Kings 6:24. Evil men wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13). As Benhadad accomplished nothing by his raids, he made an attack with his entire force. A perverse and stubborn man cannot endure to be frustrated, and when he is, instead of leading him to submissiveness as it ought, it only hurts his pride, and makes him more irritated.
2 Kings 6:25. General public calamities are not mere natural events, but visitations of God on account of public guilt. Cf. Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 3:12-13.—Krummacher: Of all the judgments of God in this world, none is more terrible than famine. It is a scourge which draws blood.… It often happens that God takes this scourge in hand when, in spite of manifold warnings, His name is forgotten in the land, and apostasy, rebellion, and unbelief are prevalent.
2 Kings 6:26-29. Necessity leads to prayer, wherever there is a spark of the fear of God remaining; but where that fear is wanting, “necessity knows no law” becomes the watchword. The crime of the two women is a proof that, where men fall away from God, they may sink down among the ravenous beasts. Separate sores, which form upon the body, are signs that the body is diseased, and the blood poisoned. Shocking crimes of individuals are proofs that the community is morally rotten.
2 Kings 6:26. Starke: Earthly might can help and protect us against the injustice of men, but not against the judgments of God.
2 Kings 6:27. How many a one speaks thus who might help if he only earnestly tried. When the prayer: Help me! is addressed to thee, do not refer the suppliant to God for consolation while any means of help, which are in thine own hands, remain untried (1 John 3:17; James 2:15-16).
2 Kings 6:30-31. Calw. Bibel: See here a faithful picture of the wrongheadedness of man in misfortune. In the first place, we halfway make up our minds to repent, in the hope of deliverance; but if this is not obtained at once, and in the wished-for way, we burst out in rage either against our fellow men, or against God himself. Observe, moreover, the great ingratitude of men. Jehoram had already, several times, experienced the marvellous interference of God; once it fails, however, and he is enraged. The garment of penitence upon the body is of no avail, if an impenitent heart beats beneath it. Anger and rage and plots of murder cannot spring from the heart which is truly penitent. It is the most dangerous superstition to imagine that we can make satisfaction for our sins, can become reconciled to God, and turn aside His wrath, by external performances, the wearing of sackcloth, fasting, self-chastisement, the repetition of prayers, &c. (Psalms 51:16-17). The world is horrified, indeed, at the results of sin; but not at sin itself. Instead of confessing: “We have sinned” (Daniel 9:5), Jehoram swears that the man of God shall die (2 Corinthians 7:10).—Starke: Whenever God’s judgments fall upon a people, the teachers and preachers must bear the blame (1 Kings 18:17; Amos 7:10).
2 Kings 6:32 to 2 Kings 7:2. Elisha’s Declarations in his own House. (a) To the assembled elders; (b) to the despairing king; (c) to the scoffing officer.
2 Kings 6:32. The Lord preserves the souls of His saints; he will save them from the hands of the godless (Psalms 97:10). He sends friends at the right moment, who serve us as a defence against wickedness and unrighteous persecution.—Krummacher: It is pleasant to be with brethren in a time of calamity. One feels in union a power against all calamities which threaten him.…. Moreover, especial promises attach to such a union. Where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord, there is He in the midst of them.—Cramer: Although the saints of God are unterrified at the possibility of martyrdom, yet they are not permitted to cast themselves into the flames, but may properly make use of all ordinary and just means to preserve themselves for the good of the church of God (Philippians 1:22).
2 Kings 6:33, cf. Proverbs 21:1. The wrath of the king changes to timidity and hesitation. The heart of the natural man is a rebellious, but, at the same time, wavering thing. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord (Jeremiah 17:7; Jeremiah 17:9; Psalms 37:17).—2 Kings 7:1. We must still answer “Hear the word of the Lord” to those who, in littleness of faith and in despair, cry out, what more shall I wait for from the Lord? A bruised reed shall he not break, &c. (Matthew 12:20). “To-morrow, at this time.” When the need is greatest, God is nearest. If God often unexpectedly helps even apostates out of great need, how much more will He do this for His own, who call to Him day and night. He has roads for every journey; He does not lack for means.
2 Kings 7:2. The Sin of Unbelief and its Punishment. The children of this world consider their unbelief to be wisdom and enlightenment, and they seek to put that which is a consolation and an object of reverence to others, in a ridiculous light. The Lord will not leave such wickedness unpunished. It is only too often the case that high-born, and apparently well-bred men, at court, take pleasure in mockeries of the word of God and of its declarations, without reflecting that they thereby bear testimony to their own inner rudeness, vulgarity, and want of breeding. It is a bad sign of the character of a prince, where scoffers form the most intimate circle of his retinue (Psalms 1:1-4). Unbelief is folly, because it robs itself of the blessing which is the portion of faith.
2 Kings 7:3-16. The Miraculous Deliverance of Samaria. It declares loudly (a) what is written in Daniel 2:20 : “Wisdom and might are His.” (He knows how, without chariots or horses, without arms or army, merely by His terror, to put an enemy to flight, Exodus 23:27; to feed the hungry, and set the captives at liberty, Psalms 147:7, in order that all may confess: “Who is so great a God,” &c., Psalms 77:13-14; and: “Let not the wise man glory,” &c., Jeremiah 9:23-24); (b) cf. Psalms 103:8 : If ever a deliverance was undeserved, then this was, that all might admit: “It is of the Lord’s mercies,” &c. (Lamentations 3:22; Romans 2:4-5).
2 Kings 7:3-10. The Lepers outside the City. (a) Their conversation (2 Kings 7:3-4); (b) their visit to the Syrian camp (2 Kings 7:5; 2 Kings 7:8); (c) their message to the king (2 Kings 7:9-10).
2 Kings 7:3-4. Krummacher: How often the same disposition meets us in the dwellings of the poor; instead of a joyful and believing looking up to heaven, a faithless looking for help from human hands; instead of submission to God, a dull discontent—a despair which quarrels with the eternal.… Thence comes the frequent neglect of the household, and decay of the family. And then what language is this: “If they kill us, we shall only die,” as if the grave was the end of men, and the great Beyond were only a dream; or as if it were a matter of course that the pain of death atones for the sins of a wasted life, and must rightfully purchase their pardon, and a reception into heavenly blessedness. Our life lies in the hand of God, who sets its limit, which we may not anticipate. Circumstances may, indeed, arise in which a man wishes for death; it makes a great difference, however, whether this wish comes from weariness of life, or whether we say, with St. Paul: “I long to depart and be with Christ.” Only when Christ has become our life, is death a gain.
2 Kings 7:5-7. Starke: The Almighty laughs at the planning of the proud, and brings their schemes to a disgraceful end (Psalms 2:1 sq.; Daniel 4:33-34).—Würtemb. Summ.: It is only necessary that in the darkness a wind should blow, or that water should splash in free course, or that an echo should resound from the mountains, or that the wind should rustle the dry leaves, to terrify the godless, so that they flee as if pursued by a sword, and fall, though no one pursues them (Leviticus 26:36). Therefore, we should cling fast to God in the persecution of our enemies, should trust Him, and earnestly cry to Him for help; He has a thousand ways to help us.
2 Kings 7:6. Krummacher: It happens to the unconverted man, as it did here to the Syrians. God causes him to hear the rumbling of His anger, the roaring of the death-floods, the thunder of His law, and the trumpet-sounds of the judgmentday. Then he flees from the doomed camp, in which he has dwelt hitherto, and hurls away the dead-weight of his own wisdom, justice, and strength.
2 Kings 7:8-9. Würt. Summ.: Many a one gets chances to acquire property dishonestly, to enjoy luxury and debauchery, to gratify fleshly lusts, and to commit other sins, and, if he is secure from human eye, he does not trouble himself about the all-seeing eye of God; but his crime is discovered at last in his own conscience, and, by God’s judgment, it is revealed and punished. Conscience can, indeed, be benumbed for a time; but it will not rest forever; it awakes at last, and stings all the more the longer it has been still. He who conceals what he has found, is not better than a thief.—Pfaffsche Bibel: It is a good action to warn others of wickedness, and to hold them back from sin, still more to encourage them to virtue (Hebrews 10:24).
2 Kings 7:10. Lepers, i.e., outcast and despised men, were destined, according to God’s Providence, to announce to the threatened city, in the crisis of its danger, the great and wonderful act of God. God is wont to use slight and contemptible instruments for his great works, that He may, by the foolish things of the world, confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). Fishermen and publicans brought to a lost world the best Good News, the gospel, which is a power to make all blessed who believe in it.
2 Kings 7:12-15. Doubt and distrust of God’s promises are deeply inrooted in the human heart. Where it is most necessary to be prudent, there the heart of man is sure and free from care (Psalms 53:5), and where there is nothing to fear, there it is anxious. Instead of confessing with joy: Lord, I am unworthy of the least of all thy mercies, when the promised help is offered, it does not trust even yet, until it can see with the eyes and grasp with the hands.
2 Kings 7:16. Calw. Bibel: Learn from this that He can lead us, as in a dream, through the gates of death, and, in an instant, set us free.—Würt. Summ.: It is easy for our Lord and God to bring days of plenty close upon days of famine and want. Therefore, we should not despair, but trust in God, and await His blessing in hope and patience, until He “open the windows of heaven” (Malachi 3:10).—Starke: God’s word fails not; not a word of His ever fell upon the earth in vain; every one is fulfilled to the uttermost, both promise and threat.
2 Kings 7:17-20. The judgment upon the king’s officer proclaims aloud: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 13:13).—Krummacher: His corpse became a bloody seal upon the words of Jehovah, and of His prophet.—Berleb. Bibel: In the last days also, when the abundance of the divine grace shall be poured out, like a stream, in the midst of the greatest misery, many despisers of the glorious promises of God will see the beginning thereof, but will not attain to the enjoyment of it; they will be thrust aside by marvellous judgments.
2 Kings 6:9; 2 Kings 6:9.—[On נְחִתִּים Ges. Thes. s. v. says: “Whoever gave this word its punctuation seems to have derived it from the root חתת (cf. Job 21:13), but the force of descent, going down, is necessary and indubitable.” Sept. κέκρυπται; Vulg. in insidiis sunt. The H.- W.-B. makes it an adj. from נחת, but Ew. casts doubt upon the form, and says it could as well be a part. niphal from חַת, § 187, 6.
2 Kings 6:10; 2 Kings 6:10.—[“He protected himself,” i.e., he occupied the threatened point, and so frustrated the attack. Every time that the Syrians came they found that the Israelites had anticipated them at the point where they proposed to attack.
Ver 11.—[Ewald, Lehrb. § 181, b, and note 2, rejects the form מִשֶּׁלָּנוּ as an incorrect reading. He takes מִכֻּלָּנוּ (as in 2 Kings 9:5) to be the true reading. It is clear, however, that in 9:5 Jehu includes himself among those, one of whom the answer is to designate, while the king of Syria asks, “Who of those who belong to us?” naturally enough excluding himself from the number of those who fall under suspicion of treachery. The meaning of the two forms is quite distinct, and each belongs to the place in which it is used. Ewald’s theory of the use of the abbreviated form of אשר must bend to this instance; the instance cannot be thus done away with, in the interest of the theory.
2 Kings 7:12; 2 Kings 7:12.—[The ה in the chetib is that of the article, which, in the later books, is sometimes found even after a preposition. Ew. § 244, a.
2 Kings 7:13; 2 Kings 7:13.—[That is to say: They go to the fate which has already befallen all the people who are gone, and which sooner or later, awaits all who remain.—W. G. S.] We agree with Thenius that the keri המון is to be preferred, because the word occurs immediately afterward without the article.—Bähr. [Ew. explains the article in the chetib as retained in the later or less accurate usage, especially where the article has emphatic force. § 290, d.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 7:15; 2 Kings 7:15.—Keil: The chetib בְּהֵחָפְזָם is the only possible correct form, for חפז has the meaning, to flee with haste, only in the niphal. Cf. 1 Samuel 23:26; Psalms 48:5.—Bähr.