II Kings 6

 

 

       FURTHER MIRACLES WROUGHT BY ELISHA (vs. 1-33)

 

 The historian relates first a private miracle wrought by Elisha in the vicinity of

Jericho, for the benefit of one of the “sons of the prophets” (vs. 1-8). He then

tells us briefly of a series of public miracles which brought Elisha into much

note and prominence. War, it appears, had again broken out in a pronounced

form between Israel and Syria, Syria being the aggressor. The Syrian monarch

prepared traps for his adversary, encamping in places where he hoped to take

him at a disadvantage. But Elisha frustrated these plans, by addressing warnings

to the King of Israel, and pointing out to him the various positions occupied

(vs. 8-12), which he consequently avoided. When this came to the ears of

the King of Syria, he made an attempt to obtain possession of Elisha’s person

- an attempt which failed signally (vs. 13-23), owing to the miraculous powers

of the prophet. Benhadad, some time after this, made a great expedition into

the land of Israel, penetrating to the capital, and laying siege to it. The

circumstances of the siege, and the escape of the city when at the last gasp, are

related partly in the present chapter (vs. 24-33), partly in the next.

 

 

 

                A Private Miracle Wrought by Elisha (vs. 1-7)

 

1  “And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place

where we dwell with thee — literally, before thee — is too strait for us.”

The scene of this miracle is probably the vicinity of Jericho, since both Gilgal and

Bethel were remote from the Jordan. The “school of the prophets” at Jericho,

whereof we heard in ch.2:5, 19, had increased so much, that the buildings which

hitherto had accommodated it were no longer sufficient. A larger dwelling, or set

of dwellings, was thought to be necessary; but the scholars would make no change

without the sanction of their master. When he comes on one of his circuits, they

make appeal to him.

 

2  “Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan,” -  Jericho was situated at

some little distance from the Jordan, on the banks of a small stream, which

ran into it. Along the course of the Jordan trees and shrubs were abundant,

chiefly willows, poplars, and tamarisks (see Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 4:8. § 3;

Strabo, 16:2. § 41). It would seem that the Jordan thickets were unappropriated,

and that any one might cut timber in them. (Dear Reader, this is like the Pulpit

Commentary from which this is taken.  I have used it under the leadership of the

Holy Spirit since 1962 and it, like this timber resource, is/was public domain – CY –

2011)  - “and take thence every man a beam,” - The meaning is, “Let us all

 join in the work, each cutting beams and carrying them; and the work will soon be

accomplished.”-  “and let us make us a place there,”  - They propose to build

the new dwelling on the banks of Jordan, to save the trouble of conveying the

materials any long distance – “where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.”

 Elisha, i.e., approved the proposal, gave it his sanction and encouragement.

 

3  “And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants.”

One of the number was not satisfied with the prophet’s mere approval of the

enterprise, but wished for his actual presence, probably as securing a blessing

upon the work. “And he answered, I will go.” 

 

4  So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan” - i.e. to the river

bank — they cut down wood.”  They set to work, each felling his tree, and

fashioning it into a rough beam.

 

5   But as one was felling a beam i.e. a tree, to make it into a beam — the

axe head; literally, the iron. We see from Deuteronomy 19:5 that the Hebrews

made their axe-heads of iron as early as the time of Moses. They probably learned

to smelt and work iron in Egypt“fell into the water:” - The tree must have been

one that grew close to the river’s edge. As the man hewed away at the stem a little

above the root, the axe-head flew from the haft, into which it was insecurely fitted,

and fell into the water.  The slipping of an axe-head was a very common

occurrence (Ibid.), and ordinarily was of little consequence, since it was easily

restored to its place. But now the head had disappeared – “and he cried, and said,

Alas, master! for it was borrowed; rather, and it was a borrowed one. The

words are part of the man’s address to Elisha. He means to say, “It is no

common misfortune; it is not as if it had been my own axe. I had borrowed

it, and now what shall I say to the owner?” There is no direct request for

help, but the tone of the complaint constitutes a sort of silent appeal.

 

6  “And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place.

And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.”

Critics try to explain this miracle by natural actions of Elisha but any attempt to

explain it away does violence to the text; and we can be sure that the occurrence

would not have been recorded had it not been a miracle. The sacred writers

were not concerned to put on record mere acts of manual dexterity.

 

7  “Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took

it.” Elisha does not take the axe-head out of the water himself, but requires the

scholar to do it, in order to test his faith. He must show that he Believes the miracle,

and regards the iron as really floating on the top of the water, not as merely

appearing  to do so.

 

 

 

                        PUBLIC MIRACLES OF ELISHA (vs. 8-23)

 

8  Then the King of Syria warred against Israel,” -  It may seem strange that,

so soon after sending an embassy to the court of Samaria, and asking a favor

(ch.5:5-6), Benhadad should resume hostilities, especially as the favor had been

obtained (Ibid. v.14); but the normal relations between the two countries were

those of enmity and a few years would suffice to dim the memory of what had

happened. The gratitude of kings is proverbially short-lived – “and took counsel

with his servants i.e., his chief officers — saying, In such and such a place

shall be my camp.” or, my encampment.

 

9  And the man of God i.e. Elisha, who at the time was “the man of God

sent unto the King of Israel — Jehoram, undoubtedly (see v. 32) — “saying,

Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come

down.”  Elisha did not suffer his hostile feeling towards Jehoram personally

(ch. 3:13; 5:8; 6:32) to interfere with his patriotism. When disaster threatened his

country, he felt it incumbent on him to warn even an ungodly king.

 

10  “And the King of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told

him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.”

 - that is - repeatedly; at least three several times did Jehoram avoid disaster

by taking heed to the warning of Elisha.

 

11  “Therefore 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 us is for the king of Israel?”  Benhadad not unnaturally suspected

treachery among his own subjects. How otherwise could the King of Israel become,

over and over again, aware of his intentions? Some one or other of his officers must,

he thought, betray his plans to the enemy. Cannot the others point out the traitor?

 

12  “And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king:” -  literally, Nay,

my lord, the king — meaning, “Think not so; it is not as thou supposest; there

is no traitor in thy camp or in thy court; we are all true men. The explanation of

the circumstances that surprise thee is quite different.” – “but Elisha, the

prophet that is in Israel — compare “the man of God” (v. 9); so much

above the others, that he is spoken of as if there were no other — telleth

the King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.” -

literally, in the secret place of thy bedchamber. How the Syrian lord knew

this, or whether he merely made a shrewd guess, we cannot say. Elisha’s

miraculous gifts had, no doubt, become widely known to the Syrians through the

cure of Naaman’s leprosy; and the lord, who may possibly have been Naaman

himself, concluded that a man who could cure a leper could also read a king’s

secret thoughts without difficulty.

 

13  “And he i.e. Benhadad — said, Go and spy where he is, that I may

send and fetch him.” -  i.e. “Send out spies to learn where Elisha is at present

residing, that I may dispatch a force to the place, and get him into my power.”

The object was simply to put a stop to Elisha’s betrayal of his own plans to

Jehoram – “And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.” The spies

were sent, and brought back word that, at the time, Elisha was residing in Dothan.

Dothan, the place where Joseph was sold by his brethren to the Ishmaelites

(Genesis 37:17), lay evidently not very far from Shechem (Ibid. v.14), and is placed

by Eusebius about twelve miles north of Samaria.

 

14  “Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host:” –

 rather, and a strong force. The expression, dbeK; lyij", is used by the

historical writers with a good deal of vagueness, sometimes of a really great

army, sometimes merely of a large retinue (I Kings 10:2) or of a moderate force

(ch. 18:17). We must assign it its meaning according to the context – “and they

came by night, and compassed the city about.”  A night march was made, to

take the prophet by surprise, and the city was encompassed, that it might be

impossible for him to escape.

 

15  “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early,”

— he had, perhaps, heard the arrival of the Syrian forces during the night,

and “rose early” to reconnoiter — “and gone forth, behold, an host

compassed the city both with horses and chariots.” -  rather, an host

compassed the city, and horses, and chariots. A force of footmen, a force

of horsemen, and a chariot force, are intended. “And his servant said unto him,

Alas, my master! how shall we do?”  Though the servant could not know that it

was Elisha’s person which was especially sought, yet he was naturally alarmed at

seeing the city invested by a hostile force, and anticipated either death or capture,

which last would involve the being sold as a slave. Hence his “Alas!” and his piteous

cry, “How shall we do?” Can we, i.e. in any way, save ourselves?

 

16  “And he i.e. Elisha — answered, Fear not: for they that be with us

are more than they that be with them.”  Elisha did not need to see the forces

arrayed on his side. He knew that God and God’s strength was “with him,” and

cared not who, or how many, might be against him (compare Psalm 3:6, “I will not

be afraid for ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me

 round about;” and Psalm 27:3, “Though an host should encamp against me,

 my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be

confident”). His confidence reminds us of that shown by Hezekiah (II Chronicles

32:7) on the invasion of Sennacherib.  (Reader, I wonder how many of God’s

host He would send to defend you or me?  Would He bother?  Are we worth

salvaging?  We know we are because Jesus Christ came to die for you and I!

He could have had twelve legions of angels to rescue Him from the capture

by Herod’s authorities [Matthew 12:53] – Around the Lord and His hosts,

ALL ARE AS DEAD MEN {John 18:6} – CY – 2011)

 

17  “And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he

may see.”  If the prophet’s servant was to be reassured, he must be made to see

that help was at hand; he would not have found rest or peace in the mere assurance

that God was nigh, and would keep his prophet from harm. His mental state required

something like a material manifestation; and hence Elisha prays that he may be

permitted to behold the angelic host, which everywhere throughout creation is

employed at all times in doing the will of God, and accomplishing His ends

(compare Genesis 28:12; 32:2; Psalm 34:7; 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11).

The prayer is granted.  “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.”  As the earthly force, which had alarmed Elisha’s servant,

was a force mainly of horses and chariots, so the heavenly force revealed to his

eyes was made to bear the same appearance. But the heavenly chariots and

 horses were “of fire” — glowed, i.e. with a strange unearthly brightness

(see the comment on ch. 2:11).

 

 

          The Spiritual World and the Power to Discern It (vs. 16-17)

 

The little episode of the alarm felt by Elisha’s servant, and the manner in which

Elisha removed it, teaches us principally three things.

 

  • THE REALITY, AND PERPETUAL PRESENCE, AROUND US

AND ABOUT US, OF THE SPIRIT-WORLD. The existence of an

Order of spirits intermediate between God and man, who are closely

Connected with man, and play an important part in the Divine

government of the world wherein we live, is an essential part of the

scheme of things set before us in the Scriptures. “The doctrine of

angels,” as it has been called, is this: “That there lives in the presence

of God a vast assembly, myriads upon myriads of spiritual beings

(Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10), higher than we, but infinitely removed

from God, mighty in strength, doers of His word, who ceaselessly

bless and praise God, wise also, to whom be gives charge to guard his

own in all their ways, ascending and descending to and from heaven

and earth (Genesis 28:12-13; John 1:51), and who variously minister

to men, most often invisibly. All these beings are interested in us and

in our well-being. When our earth was created,  ‘all the sons of God

burst forth into jubilee’ (Job 38:7) in prospect of our birth, who were

to be their care here, their fellow-citizens hereafter in bliss. At

the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, they were present in myriads.

When God vouchsafed His presence on Mount Zion, and the holy

place became a new Sinai, ‘twice ten thousand angels, yea, thousands

many times repeated’ (Psalm 68:17) were there. They are present with

God, witnessing the trials of our race (Job 1:6; 2:1; 1 Kings 22:19).

Their love for man is indicated by the charge given to them when they

are set to destroy the guilty in Jerusalem, ‘Let not your eye spare,

neither have pity’ (Ezekiel 9:5), as though they would have pity, only

that they must needs be of the same mind with God. There is a

distinction, or gradation of ranks, among the members of the heavenly

host — Cherubim, seraphim, archangels, principalities, powers.  It is

irrational to explain away as embellishment or poetic imagery a

representation of the actual condition of things in God’s universe,

which is so frequent, so all-pervading, so harmonious, and, it may

be added, so consistent with what we should have naturally expected

apart from revelation.

 

  • THE PERPETUAL REALIZATION OF THIS PRESENCE BY

THOSE POSSESSED OF FAITH. There is no reason to believe that

Elisha saw the angels that compassed him round, with his bodily eyes.

But he knew that they were there. He was sure that God would not

desert him in his peril, and had such a confident faith in “the doctrine

of angels,” that it was as if he could see them. And so it was with

David. “The angel of the Lord,” he says, “encampeth round about

them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7). So with

Hezekiah, who, when Sennacherib invaded his land, “spake

comfortably to the people, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not

afraid nor dismayed for the King of Assyria, nor for all the multitude

that is with him: for there be more with us than with him (II Chronicles

32:7).  Paul realized the continual angelic presence when he declared,

“We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to

men” (I Corinthians 4:9). The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews

realized it when he told the Jewish converts, “Ye are come unto Mount

Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and

to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).  The angels

have a large share in all the later judgments that shall befall the earth,

and are dispensers of the blessings and of the wrath of God (Revelation

7:1-20:3). If the doctrine has been at any time obscured, it has been

when faith wavered, and there was a tendency to confine the

supernatural within the narrowest possible limits

 

  • THE POSSIBILITY OF A MANIFESTATION OF THE PRESENCE

IN QUESTION TO THE BODILY SENSES OF THOSE WHOSE

FAITH IS TOO WEAK TO APPREHEND IT. Elisha’s servant

            did not see a vision. It was not his mind only that was impressed. His

bodily eyes beheld an appearance as of chariots and horses of fire

(v. 17), which was based on the objective reality of the actual

presence of an angelic host upon the hill whereon Dothan was situated.

The prophet prayed that his eyes should be opened, and his, prayer was

granted. “The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.”

(v. 17)  - Physicists are probably right in saying that what is absolutely

immaterial cannot be seen by the optic nerve. But we are nowhere told

that angels are absolutely immaterial. It is the belief of many

philosophers that all finite spirits are attached to bodies of some kind

or other — bodies more or less volatile and ethereal. We can readily

conceive that the optic nerve may, by an increase of its sensitiveness,

be made to see these; and in this way we may account, not only for

the wonderful sight beheld on this occasion by Elisha’s servant, but

for the many other appearances of angels to men and women recorded

in Scripture (Genesis 3:1; 19:1-15; 32:24-30; Judges 6:11-22; II Samuel

24:16-17; I Kings 19:5-7; Isaiah 6:6; Daniel 6:22; 9:21; 10:16-21;

Zechariah 1:11-19; 4:1, Luke 1:11-19, 26-38; 2:9-13; John 20:12; Acts

5:19; 8:26; 12:7-10; Revelation, passim). Miraculously, power is given

to the optic nerve, which it does not ordinarily possess, and it is enabled

to see beings actually present, who under ordinary circumstances are

invisible to it.

 

  • EYES CLOSED BECAUSE OF JUDICIAL BLINDNESS

 

ü      The young mans eyes were closed.  How many like him are blind to

the power of God, to the providences of God! How many are quick

to see anything that concerns their temporal advantage, but slow to

see that which concerns their immortal souls! How many see no

beauty in Christ!

 

ü      The Syrianseyes were closed.  There is such a thing as spiritual

 judicial blindness.  “Seeing they shall see, but not perceive;

hearing they shall hear, but shall not understand” (Matthew 13:14).

It is a spiritual law which has its analogies in the natural

world. If we neglect to use any of our bodily powers, the power

itself is soon lost (atrophy). Similarly, mental or spiritual powers, if

neglected, will soon become useless. Let us be careful that we use

the privileges and opportunities and talents which God has given

us, lest they be taken from us altogether. “To him that hath shall be

given,” that is, to him that hath made a good use of his talents; “and

from him that hath not” — from him that has so neglected his

talents that they are practically not his -  “shall be taken away even

that which he hath,”  (Matthew 25:29).

 

18  “And when they came down to him, 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. 19  And 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 he led them to Samaria.”

It could only be through the miraculous delusion for which Elisha had prayed,

and which had been sent, that the Syrians believed the first comer in an enemy’s

country, followed him to the capital without hesitation, and allowed him to bring

them inside ‘the walls. But for the delusion, they would have suspected, made

inquiries of others, and retreated hastily, as soon as the walls and towers of

Samaria broke on their sight.  (Reader, if you think this is something, think of

what is happening to unbelievers today who are exposed to a lie and then are

delusional to THE LIE that is inflicting the people of the earth in the

last days! (II Corinthians 4;4; II Thessalonians 2:10-12)

 

20  “And 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.”  Their delusion was dispelled — they returned to their proper senses,

and, seeing the size and strength of the town, recognized the fact that they were in

Samaria, their enemy’s capital, and so were helpless.

 

21  “And the King of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father,”

 In his joy at the deliverance of so large a force of the enemy into his hands,

Jehoram forgets the coldness and estrangement which have hitherto characterized

the relations between himself and the prophet (ch. 3:11-14; 5:8), and salutes him

by the honorable title of “father,” which implied respect, deference, submission.

Compare the use of the same expression by Joash (ch.13:14), and the

employment of the correlative term “son” (ch. 8:9) by Benhadad -  “shall I

smite them? Shall I smite them?” The repetition marks extreme eagerness,

while the interrogative form shows a certain amount of hesitation. It is certain

that the Israelites were in the habit of putting to death their prisoners of war,

not only when they were captured with arms in their hands, but even when they

surrendered themselves. When a city or country was conquered, the whole male

population of full age was commonly put to death (Numbers 31:7; I Samuel 15:8;

I Kings 11:15; I Chronicles 20:3). When a third part was spared, it was from

some consideration of relationship (II Samuel 8:2). The Law distinctly allowed, if it

did not even enjoin, the practice (Deuteronomy 20:13). Jehoram, therefore, no

doubt, put his prisoners of war to death under ordinary circumstances. But he

hesitates now. He feels that the case is an extraordinary one, and that the prophet,

who has made the capture, is entitled to be consulted on the subject. Hence his

question.

 

22  “And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them:” - The prophet

has no doubt. His prohibition is absolute. These prisoners, at any rate, are

not to be slain. “The object of the miracle would have been frustrated, if the Syrians

had been slain. For the intention was to show the Syrians that they had to do with

a prophet of the true God, against whom no human power could be of any avail,

that they might learn to fear the Almighty God. There was also, perhaps, a further

political object. By sparing the prisoners and treating them with kindness, it might

be possible to touch the heart of the King of Syria, and dispose him towards peace -

“wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword

and with thy bow?”  Therefore thou shalt not smite them – “Set bread and

water before them,” -  “Bread” and “water” stand for meat and drink

generally. Elisha bids Jehoram entertain the captive Syrians hospitably, and then

send them back to Benhadad – “that they may eat and drink, and go to

their master.”

 

23  “And he prepared great provision for them:” -  Jehoram followed the

directions of the prophet, carrying them out, not in the letter merely, but in the spirit.

He entertained the captives at a grand banquet (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 9:4. § 3),

and then gave them leave to depart – “and when they had eaten and drunk,

he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria

came no more into the land of Israel.”  The Syrian raids, which had hitherto

been frequent, perhaps almost continuous (ch. 5:2), now ceased for a time, and

the kingdom of Israel had a respite. Some suppose that the raids were discontinued

simply  because the Syrians had found out that they could not accomplish

anything by these expeditions, but rather brought themselves into circumstances of

great peril.  But the nexus of the clause, “So the bands,” etc., rather implies that

the cessation was the consequence of Jehoram’s sparing and entertaining the

captives.

 

 

   ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THE ACTION OF BENHADAD

 

                  Wicked men vainly attempt to outwit God.

 

Benhadad, after the miracle wrought upon his favorite Naaman, had abundant

reason to know that Israel was the people of God, and enjoyed special Divine

protection and superintendence. Had he been truly wise, he would have laid

aside his hostile designs against the nation, and have made it his endeavor to

cultivate friendly relations with them, and, if possible, secure their alliance.

But true wisdom is a plant of rare growth, while its counterfeit, cunning, is a

weed that grows rankly at all times and everywhere. Benhadad resolved to

have recourse to craft against the Israelites, and thought perhaps that, while

the protection of their God would not fail them in a pitched battle, he might

be able in petty engagements, by means of ambushes and surprises, to snatch an

occasional victory. But his plan failed egregiously. God enabled his prophet to

foresee where each ambush would be placed; and each time he warned Jehoram

of the snare, which was thereupon easily avoided. Craft and cunning were of

no avail against the wisdom which is from on high (I Corinthians 3:19) — the

Divine foreknowledge, of which the prophet was made in some measure

partaker.  Benhadad then bethought him of a new device. He would capture

the prophet, and thenceforward his plans would be undetected, and the

success which he had expected from them would follow. How simple and easy

it must have seemed! The prophet moved about from city to city, teaching

the faithful, and was now in one place, now in another. What could be

easier than to make inquiry, and learn where he was residing at any

particular time, and then to make a sudden inroad, surround the place,

occupy it, and obtain possession of his person? Such seizures of individuals

have been planned many hundreds of times, and have generally been

successful. Had Benhadad had only human enemies to deal with, there can

be little doubt that his plans would have prospered. He would have

outwitted the prophet, and would have got him into his power; but it was

necessary that he should also outwit God. Here was a difficulty which had

not presented itself to his mind, and which yet surely ought to have done

so. What had frustrated his efforts previously? Not human strength; not

human wisdom or sagacity; but Divine omniscience. God had enabled

Elisha to show the King of Israel the words which he spake in the secrecy

of his bedchamber. Why should He not grant him a foreknowledge of the

new design? Or why should He not enable the prophet in some other way to

frustrate it? There are ten thousand ways in which God can bring the

counsels of men to no effect, whenever He pleases. Benhadad ought to have

known that it was God, not merely the prophet, against whom he was

contending, and that it would be impossible to outwit the Source of

wisdom, the Giver of all knowledge and understanding. But men in all ages

have thought (and vainly thought) to hoodwink and outwit God.

 

  • The first dwellers upon the earth after the Flood were divinely

commanded to spread themselves over its face and “replenish” it

(Genesis 9:1). They disliked the idea, and thought to frustrate God’s

design by building themselves a city and a tower as a focus of union

(Ibid. ch. 11:4). But God “came down,” and confounded their language;

and so “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the

earth” (Ibid. v. 8).

 

  • Isaac sought to outwit God, and frustrate his preference of Jacob over

Esau (Genesis 25:23), by giving his special blessing to his firstborn; but

God blinded him, and caused him to be himself outwitted by Rebekah

And Jacob, so that he gave the blessing where he had not intended to

give it (Ibid. 27:27-29).

 

  • Pharaoh King of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, thought to frustrate

God’s designs respecting His people by a long series of delays and

impediments, and finally by shutting them up into a corner of the land,

whence apparently they had no escape unless by an absolute surrender;

but God gave them a way of escape across the Red Sea, which removed

them wholly from Pharaoh’s control.

 

  • Jonah thought to outwit God, when commanded to warn the Ninevites,

by flying from Asia to the remotest corner of Europe, and there hiding

himself; but God counteracted his schemes and made them of no avail.

 

  • Herod the Great thought to outwit God, to preserve his kingdom, and to

make the advent of Christ upon earth unavailing, by a general massacre

of all the young children to be found in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16); but

the warning given by God to Joseph and Mary confounded his counsels,

and made the massacre futile.

 

  • Men have, in all periods of the world’s history, endeavored to hoodwink

God by professing to serve Him, while they offered him a formal, outward,

and ceremonial observance, instead of giving him the true worship of the

heart. But God has not been deceived; He “is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7);

He readily discerns the counterfeit from the genuine, and rejects with

abhorrence all feigned and hypocritical religiousness. Every attempt of

man to cheat his Maker recoils on his own head. “The foolishness of God is

 wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men”

(I Corinthians 1:25).  We cannot deceive Him. “All things are naked and

 opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13).

 

           

     The Siege of Samaria by Benhadad (vs. 24-ch. 7:20)

 

24  “And it came to pass after this,” — probably some considerable time

after, when the memory of Jehoram’s kind act had passed away —“that

Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host,” -  A contrast is intended

between the inroads of small bodies of plunderers and the invasion of the territory

by the monarch himself at the head of his entire force -  “and went up” -However

Samaria was approached from Syria, there must always have been a final ascent,

either from the Jordan valley or from the Plain of Esdraelon“and besieged

Samaria.”  Josephus says that Jehoram was afraid to meet Benhadad in the open

field, since his forces were no match for those of the Syrian king, and therefore at

once shut himself up within his capital, without risking a battle. The walls of

Samaria were very strong.

 

25  “And there was a great famine in Samaria:” -  It was Benhadad’s design

to capture the place, not by battering down its walls with military engines, but by

blockading it, and cutting off all its supplies, as Josephus tells us (l.s.c.) – “and,

behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces

of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of

silver.”  The ass, being an unclean animal (Leviticus 11:4), would not be eaten

at all except in the last extremity, and the head was the worst and so the cheapest

part; yet it sold for “eighty pieces” (rather, shekels) of silver. “Dove’s dung” is

thought by some to be the name of a plant; but it is better to understand the term

literally. Both animal and human excrement have been eaten in sieges (Josephus, ‘

Bell. Jud.,’ 5:13. § 7;  when a city was in the last extremity.

 

26  “And as the King of Israel was passing by upon the wall,” - The wall of

Babylon is said to have been so broad at the top that a fourhorse chariot could turn

round on it (Herod., 1:179). All ancient cities had walls upon which a great part of

the garrison stood, and from which they shot their arrows and worked their engines

against the assailants. From time to time the commandant of the place — the king

himself, in this instance — would mount upon the wall to visit the posts, and inspect

the state of the garrison, or observe the movements of the enemy – “there cried

a woman unto him” - Houses sometimes abutted on the wall of a town (see

Joshua 2:15; I Samuel 19:12), and women sometimes took part in their defense

(Judges 9:53), so that in visiting the posts a commandant might be brought into

contact with women – “saying, Help, my lord, O king;.” - rather, save, i.e.

“preserve me from perishing of hunger.”

 

27  “And he said, If the Lord do not help thee,” -  This is probably the true

meaning. The king is not so brutal as to “curse” the woman neither does he take

upon himself to tell her that God will not save her. He merely refers her to God,

as alone competent to do what she asks - “whence shall I help thee? Dost

thou suppose that I can save thee? “out of the barnfloor, or out of the

winepress? Do you suppose that I have stores of food at my disposal? An

overflowing barn floor, where abundant corn is garnered, or a winepress full of

the juice of the grape? I have nothing of the kind; my stores are as much exhausted

as those of the meanest of my subjects. I cannot save thee.

 

28  “And the king said unto her, What aileth thee?”  Probably, as the woman

explained to the king that she did not appear before him to beg food, but to claim

his interposition as judge, in a case in which she considered herself to be wronged.

Such an appeal the king was bound to hear; and he therefore asks, “What aileth

thee?” i.e. “What is thy ground of complaint?” Then she tells her story.  “And she

answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him

today, and we will eat my son tomorrow. Compare the prophecy in

Deuteronomy 28:56-57, “The tender and delicate woman among you, which

would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for

delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil towards the husband of her

bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young

one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she

 shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege

 and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates”

 There is historical testimony that the prophecy was three times fulfilled”

 

  • in Samaria on the present occasion;
  • in Jerusalem during the last siege by Nebuchadnezzar (Lamentations 4:10);
  • in Jerusalem during the last siege by Titus (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ 6:3. § 4).

 

In modern sieges surrender is made before the population is driven to such straits.

 

29   “So we boiled my son” - (Lamentations 4:10, “The hands of the pitiful

woman have sodden their own children”) – “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.” Some have supposed that the woman concealed her child in

order to consume it alone; but it is more probable that, when the time came for

carrying out her agreement, she found that she could not give it up, and hid it in

order to save it.  See here the evil result of forsaking God. To such extremities

they had brought themselves by their own sins. They had forsaken the living

God, and now their false gods were not able to help them in the day of

their calamity. It is an evil day in a man’s history when he turns his back

upon God’s Word, upon God’s commandments, upon God’s Son. As it often

happens, their calamities had hardened their hearts and blinded their eyes.

 

Concerning our need for daily bread and the pursuit thereof:  Hunger is

one of the most commanding of appetites. “In every land and in every age

the first and most interesting question the majority of men have to practically

solve is, ‘How are we to get bread?’ Man’s social, moral, and spiritual welfare

turns to an incalculable extent on that question.  Throughout all history, sacred

and profane, this great want has been swaying and molding as a first power

the nations of men. Hence the significance of the petition in the center of the

Lord’s prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6;9-13).  It may

seem at first sight a comparatively small petition, overshadowed and dwarfed

by the great, spiritual petitions both before and after it; but he who knew what

was in man, knew what a powerful influence the question of daily bread had

upon his whole life and welfare; and when we ourselves consider what a power

it is in the world, we see something of the reason and wisdom  for placing such

a petition in the center of a model of prayer!

 

31  “And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that

he rent his clothes;” -  In horror and consternation at the terrible state of things

revealed by the woman’s story – “and he passed by upon the wall, and the

people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.”

Jehoram had secretly assumed the penitential garment, not a mere sign of woe, but

a constant chastisement of the flesh. He wore sackcloth next his skin, no one

suspecting it, until, in the exasperation of his feelings at the woman’s tale, he rent

his robe, and exposed to view the sackcloth which underlay it. We are scarcely

entitled to deny him any true penitential feeling, though no doubt he was far from

possessing a chastened or humble spirit. Poor weak humanity has at one and the

same time good and evil impulses, praiseworthy and culpable feelings, thoughts

which come from the Holy Spirit of God, and thoughts which are inspired by the

evil one.

 

31  “Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the

son of Shaphat shall stand on him — i.e. “continue on him” — this day.”  The

form of oath was a common one (compare Ruth 1:17; I Samuel 3:17; 25:22;

II Samuel 19:13; I Kings 2:23; 19:2). It was an imprecation of evil on one’s self,

if one did, or if one failed to do, a certain thing. Why Jehoram should have

considered Elisha as responsible for all the horrors of the siege is not apparent;

but perhaps he supposed that it was in Elisha’s power to work a miracle of any

kind at any moment that he liked. If so, he misunderstood the nature of the

miraculous gift. In threatening to behead Elisha, he is not making himself an

executor of the Law, which nowhere sanctioned that mode of punishment, but

assuming the arbitrary power of the other Oriental monarchs of his time, who

regarded themselves as absolute masters of the lives and liberties of their

subjects. Beheading was common in Egypt, in Babylonia, and in Assyria.

 

32  “But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king

sent a man from before him:”  It is best to translate, Now Elisha was sitting

in his house, and the elders were sitting with him, when the king sent a man

from before him. Elisha had a house in Samaria, where he ordinarily resided, and

from which he made his circuits. He happened to be sitting there, and the elders of

the city to be sitting with him, when Jehoram sent “a man from before him,” i.e.

one of the court officials, to put him to death. The “elders” had probably assembled

at Elisha’s house to consult with him on the critical situation of affairs, and (if possible)

obtain from him some miraculous assistance – “but ere the messenger came to

him; he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent

to take away mine head?”  -  Elisha was supernaturally warned of what was

about to take place — that an executioner was coming almost immediately

to take away his life, and that the king himself would arrive shortly after. He calls

the king “this son of a murderer,” or rather “this son of the murderer,” with

reference to Ahab, the great murderer of the time, who had sanctioned all Jezebel’s

cruelties in the general massacre of the prophets of Jehovah (I Kings 18:13), the

judicial murder of Naboth (Ibid. 21:9-13), the attempt to kill Elijah (Ibid. 19:2) —

and had, by a fierce and long continued persecution, reduced the worshippers of

Jehovah in Israel to the scanty number of seven thousand (Ibid. v.18). Jehoram had

now shown that he inherited the bloodthirsty disposition of his father, and had justly

earned the epithet which Elisha bestowed on him. “Look, when the messenger

cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door  is not the sound of his

master’s feet behind him?”  Elisha adds this as a reason why the elders should

stop the messenger. He could not in a general way have expected them to resist the

 king’s will as declared by his representative; but he might reasonably ask a short

respite, if the king was just about to arrive at the house, to confirm the order that he

had given, or to revoke it.  Resistance to lawful authority, when it commands

unlawful acts, is an important part of a Christian man’s duty, and ought to be

inculcated just as much as obedience to lawful authority when it commands

lawful acts.

 

33  And while he yet talked with them,” i.e., while Elisha yet talked with the

elders, endeavoring probably to persuade them to stop the messenger — “behold,

the messenger came down unto him: and he said,” -  The narrative is very

compressed and elliptical. Some suppose words to have fallen out (as wyrja

Ëlmjw after wyla); but this is unnecessary.  The reader is expected to supply

missing links, and to understand that all happened as Elisha had predicted and

enjoined — that the messenger came, that the elders stopped him, and that the

king shortly arrived. The king was, of course, admitted, and, being admitted, took

the word, and said, “Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what — rather, why —

should I wait for the Lord any longer?”  Jehoram had, apparently, to some

extent repented of his hasty message, and had hurried after his messenger, to

give Elisha one further chance of life. We must understand that they had been in

communication previously on the subject of the siege, and that Elisha had

encouraged the king to “wait for” an interposition of Jehovah. The king

now urges that the time for waiting is over; matters are at the last gasp;

“this evil” this terrible suffering which can no longer be endured — “is of

the Lord,” has come from Him, is continued by Him, and is not relieved.

What use is there in his “waiting” any longer? Why should he not break

with Jehovah, behead the lying prophet, and surrender the town? What has

Elisha to say in reply?

 

Did not Jehoram serve God for selfish reasons? Service of God which springs

from this principle is not true service. It is disguised self-interest. It has no real

spring of love, devotion, or worship. The spirit is kindred with that of the fetish

worshipper, who prays to his gods for rain, and beats them if he does not get it.

But why blame Jehoram, as if he were specially impious? Does not the same

spirit show itself in multitudes among ourselves? While the sun shines on them

they are willing enough to be religious. If adversity comes, there is unbelief,

murmuring, impatience, rebellion at the Divine ordering. “Shall we receive

good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). It is not

enough to acknowledge that evil is from the Lord, we must humble ourselves

under His hand, submit to Him, own the justice of His dealings, and seek to

profit by His chastisements. We must not faint, or grow unbelieving, but be

assured that, in protracting the hour of deliverance, God is but waiting to

make the deliverance more signal and glorious (Hebrews 12:5-11).

 

HOW SAD TO CURSE GOD AND DIE JUST WHEN DELIVERANCE

IS NEAR!

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES ON JEHORAM’S HALF-HEARTED REPENTANCE

 

A single incident of the siege, a horrible one certainly, but yet not without a parallel in

other sieges and in shipwrecks, shattered the whole fabric of Jehoram’s repentance and

his resolution, turned him against the prophet and against Jehovah, caused him to

threaten the prophet’s life, and to make up his mind that he would follow his own

course, and not wait for the Lord any longer (v. 33). He thus revealed the true state

of his heart and soul, showed his spiritual unsoundness, revealed himself as one

whose character was rotten at the core, who had never turned to Jehovah in

sincerity and truth. What wonder, then, that God had not granted the deliverance

promised to true faith and true penitence, that a half-repentance had not availed with

Him? So it had been with Ahab (I Kings 21:27; 22:34); so it would always be with

all those who, after Jehoram’s example, should be half-hearted in religion, should

at once “fear the Lord, and serve their own gods” (ch. 17:33) — own for masters

both God and mammon (Luke 16:13).  A half-repentance is useless. Nothing

avails but to turn to God with all the heart and all the soul and all the strength.

God hates waverers (James 1:6-8).To such He says, “I know thy works, that thou

art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art

lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth

 (Revelation 3:15-16).

 

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