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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

2 Kings 6

2 Kings 4:1 to 2 Kings 6:23 . Stories about Elisha as a Wonder-Worker.— The miracles of Elisha fill a considerable part of the early chapters of 2 K. They are mostly beneficent in character, and this prophet was evidently more in touch with the people than his stern predecessor. There is no reason to confine these tales to the reign of Jehoram, because the death of that king is recorded later in the book. The king of Israel is not mentioned by name, and was evidently on good terms with the prophet, which could hardly be expected of Jehoram. Probably some of the occurrences, especially in the Syrian wars, belong to the age of Jehu’ s dynasty. The biography of Elisha in 2 K. consists of 2 Kings 2:1-25, 2 Kings 4:1 to 2 Kings 6:23, 2 Kings 8:1-15, 2 Kings 13:14-21. In 2 Kings 6:24 to 2 Kings 7:20 and 2 Kings 9:1 to 2 Kings 10:31 Elisha is the leading prophet, but the source seems to be mainly some chronicle of the northern kingdom.

Verses 1-33

2 Kings 6:1-23 . An Axehead Swims. Elisha and the Syrians at Dothan.— In several minor miracles Elisha is always represented as working them not by his word, but by some expedient. Thus he heals the miscarrying waters by salt, and the pot by meal, and recovers the axehead by casting a stick into the water.

The prophet appears in the second narrative as the moving spirit in the Syrian war. Whenever the king of Syria devised an ambush ( 2 Kings 6:8, with a slight alteration of reading), Elisha revealed the secret. Elisha was at Dothan ( 2 Kings 6:13), a city standing on a hill about 10 miles N. of Samaria, on the caravan road from Egypt to Damascus ( Genesis 37:17, p. 30). Elisha was defended, as we are finely told, by horses and chariots of fire ( 2 Kings 6:17). His blinded adversaries were led to Samaria, and Elisha ordered them not to be destroyed, but to be treated with kindness. Throughout the long war between Syria and Israel similar acts of chivalrous courtesy are manifested ( cf. Ahab’ s sparing Ben-hadad as “ his brother,” 1 Kings 20, and Naaman the Syrian’ s conduct throughout 2 Kings 6:5).

Verses 24-33

2 Kings 6:24 to 2 Kings 7:20 . The Siege of Samaria.— The date and source of this episode need discussion. The name of the king of Syria, as in 1 Kings 20, was Ben-hadad; the king of Israel is not named at all. Two Benhadads are possible, the king in 1 Kings 20 who was defeated by Ahab, and the son and successor of Hazael ( 2 Kings 13:24). If the first is meant, then Jehoram was king of Israel; if not, Jehoash, the grandson of Jehu. Elisha was called in the days of Ahab, and lived under Ahab and his two sons Ahaziah and Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash, dying under the last-named king. It is true that Elisha called the king “ this son of a murderer,” which may be applicable to a son of Ahab; but “ son of” may be used as the common periphrasis, and the phrase simply mean “ murderer.” On the other hand, the scene seems better suited to the later stages of the Syrian war, and the king, despite his threat to kill Elisha, when distraught with misery at the tale of the two women, does not seem to have been on bad terms with the prophet. The event may therefore be placed late in Elisha’ s life (p. 69). The source is also uncertain. Elisha plays a conspicuous part, and therefore it may well belong to his biography. On the other hand, it bears some affinity to 1 Kings 20, 22, and may be from the same source— viz. a history or chronicle of the northern kingdom. The famine may have been in part caused by the scarcity mentioned in 2 Kings 8:1.

The famine was so severe that an ass’ s head was sold for eighty pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a kab ( i.e. less than a pint) of dove’ s dung for five ( 2 Kings 6:25) . A yet more terrible example was shown in the case of the two women ( 2 Kings 6:28 f.). The head of an ass, which would not be eaten in ordinary circumstances ( Judges 6:4 *), fetched an immense sum. What “ dove’ s dung” means it is impossible to say; it may be some common vegetable. Josephus ( Wars, vi. 3) relates that in the last siege of Jerusalem a woman devoured her own child. The king stood (not passed by) on the wall, and when he rent his clothes in horror, the people saw that he was secretly wearing, as Thomas Becket did, a garb of penitence ( 2 Kings 6:30). He attributed all the calamity to Elisha ( 2 Kings 6:31), probably for not having delivered him as on previous occasions (see 2 Kings 6:9). The words in Heb. for “ messenger” and “ king” are very similar, and perhaps it is not necessary to suppose that anyone came but the king, 2 Kings 6:32 having been amplified. Instead of fulfilling his oath to kill Elisha, the king gave way to despair ( 2 Kings 6:33). Elisha, however, foretold that provisions would soon be cheap, and four lepers at the city gate went into the Syrian camp, and found that the enemy had fled in a panic, believing that the king of Israel had hired Hittites and Egyptians to attack them ( 2 Kings 7:6). It seems unlikely that the Egyptians would at this time have combined with the Northern Hittites, whose home was in Asia Minor, and it is suggested that not Egyptians (Mizrim) but Muzrites should be read (see 1 Kings 10:28). The Muzrites (from Cappadocia, see Cent.B) were among the allies of Israel and Syria against Assyria in 854 B.C.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.