II Kings 7

 

 

    THE SIEGE OF SAMARIA (Con’t): THE DELIVERANCE (vs. 1-20)

 

The separation of verses 1 and 2  from the preceding narrative is most unfortunate.

They are an integral part of it, and form its climax. In answer to the king’s attempt

upon his life, and hasty speech in which he has threatened to renounce Jehovah,

Elisha is commissioned to proclaim that the siege is on the point of terminating, the

famine about to be within twenty-four hours succeeded by a time of plenty. There

is thus no reason for the king’s despair or anger.

 

1  Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord,” - This was a very solemn

exordium, well calculated to arrest attention. It must be remembered that the

prophet’s life was trembling in the balance. The executioner was present; the king

had not revoked his order; the elders would probably have suffered the king to

work his will. All depended on Elisha, by half a dozen words, changing the king’s

mind. He therefore announces a Divine oracle (compare II Chronicles 13:4; 15:2;

20:20; and for the exact expression, see Isaiah 1:10; 28:14; Jeremiah 2:4; 7:2) –

“Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure

literally, a seah of fine flour be sold for a shekel,” -  The seah was

probably about equal to a peck and a half English, the shekel of the time to

about half a crown. Thus no extraordinary cheapness is promised, but only an

enormous fall in prices from the rate current at the moment (ch. 6:25). Such a

fall implied, almost necessarily, the discontinuance of the siege. Jehoram appears

to have accepted the prophet’s solemn asseveration, and on the strength of it to

have spared his life, at any rate till the result should be seen -  “and two

measures — literally, seahsof barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.”

 The gates, or rather gateways, of Oriental towns were spacious places, where

business of various kinds was transacted. One at Nineveh had an area of above

two thousand five hundred square feet. Kings often held their courts of justice in

the city gates. On this occasion one of the gates of Samaria seems to have been

used as a corn-market (vs. 17-20).

 

2  Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned” -  rather, the lord, or the

 captain, as the word vylv is commonly translated. (For the habit of kings to

lean on the hand of an attendant, see ch. 5:18.) - “answered the man of God,

and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this

thing be?”  The king makes no reply; he waits for the result. But the officer

on whose arm he leans is not so reticent. Utterly incredulous, he expresses

his incredulity in a scoffing way: (Reader, beware of scoffers in the

21st century – they will take you and leave you further away from God

than you want to go – CY – 2011) - “Could this possibly be, even if God were

to ‘make windows in heaven,’ as He did at the time of the Flood (Genesis 7:11),

and pour through them, instead of rain, as then, a continual shower of fine meal and

corn?”  Disbelief is expressed, not only in the prophetic veracity of Elisha,

but in the power of God. Hence Elisha’s stern reply. “And he said, Behold,

thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.”  At once a threat

and a warning. If the thing was to be, and the lord to see it and yet not profit by it,

the only reasonable conclusion was that his death was imminent. He was thus warned,

and given time to “set his house in order,” and to repent and make his peace with

the Almighty. Whether he took advantage of the warning, or even understood it, we

are not told.

 

If men will not seek Him, God leaves them to feel the extremity of their own

helplessness before He interposes. Then He shows Himself “plenteous” in mercy”

 (Psalm 10:8). Who can doubt that, if king and city had sought God earlier with

sincere hearts, the deliverance would have come sooner? Thus by his own

forwardness does the sinner stand in the way of his own good.

 

 

 

                        The Fulfillment of Elisha’s Prophecy (vs. 3-16)

 

The mode in which Elisha’s prophecy of relief and deliverance was fulfilled is now

set forth. Four lepers, excluded from the city, and on the point of perishing of hunger,

felt that they could be no worse off, and might better their condition, if they deserted

to the Syrians. They therefore drew off from the city at nightfall, and made for the

Syrian camp. On arriving, they found it deserted. The entire host, seized with a

sudden panic, had fled, about the time that they began their journey. The lepers’

first thought was to enrich themselves by plunder, but after a while it occurred to

them that, unless they hastened to carry the good news to Samaria, inquiry would

be made, their proceedings would be found out, and they would be severely

punished. So they returned to the capitol, and reported what they had discovered.

Jehoram, on receiving the news, feared that the Syrians had prepared a trap for

him, and declined to move. He consented, however, to send out scouts to

reconnoiter. The scouts found evident proof that the entire army had actually fled

and was gone, whereupon there was a general raid upon the camp and its stores,

which were so abundant that Elisha’s prophecy was fulfilled ere the day ended.

 

With God nothing is impossible. Nothing is even hard. He has a thousand

resources. The Samaritans were called upon to do nothing – they had but to

stand still, and see the salvation of God” (Exodus 14:13)

 

 

 

3  And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate:” - or, at

the entrance to the gate-house. Lepers were forbidden by the Law to reside within

cities (Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:3). They were thrust out when the disease

developed itself, and forced to dwell without the walls. No doubt their friends within

the city ordinarily supplied them with food; and hence they congregated about the

city gates  Their calamities have in no way brought the lepers near to God, or

induced them to cast their care upon Him, but have hardened and brutalized them.

and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?”  In

the extreme scarcity, it is probable that no food was brought to them, the inmates of

the city having barely enough wherewith to sustain themselves (ch. 6:25). Thus they

were on the point of perishing.

 

4  If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and

we shall die there:” -  The lepers were certainly not at liberty to enter the city

when they pleased; but perhaps they might have managed, in one way or another,

to return within the walls. They ask themselves, however, What will he the use of it?

The famine is inside the town no less than outside. If they entered the city, by hook

or by crook, it would only be to “die there”-  “and if we sit still here, we die

also.” -  rather, if we remain here, or, if we dwell here. Lepers, excluded from

a city, are in the habit of building themselves huts near the gateways. If the leprous

men remained where they were, death stared them in the face equally. “Now

therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians:” - Let us, i.e.,

 fall away from our own side, desert them, and go over to the enemy (compare

ch. 25:11; Jeremiah 37:13-14; 39:9; 52:15) -  “if they save us alive, we

shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” -  i.e. we cannot be worse

off than we are, even if they kill us; while it may be that they will be more merciful,

and let us live.

 

5  And they rose up in the twilight,” -  Most certainly in the evening twilight,

as soon as the sun was down (see v. 9). Had they set off in the daytime, the

garrison would have shot at them from the walls -  “to go unto the camp of the

Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part — i.e. the most

advanced part, that which was nearest to Samariaof the camp of Syria,

behold, there was no man there.”  The camp was empty, deserted. Not a

soul was anywhere to be seen.

 

6  For 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:” – lwOq,,

voice, is used for noises of any kind (see Exodus 20:18; Psalm 42:7; 93:4;

Jeremiah 47:3; Ezekiel 1:24; 3:13; Joel 2:5; Nahum 3:2), though generally for

those in which the human voice preponderated. A noise like that of chariots

and of horses and of a great host (lwOdg; liyaj") was borne in upon the ears

of the Syrians about nightfall of the day on which Jehoram had determined to put

Elisha to death; and, as they expected no reinforcements, they naturally concluded

that succor had arrived to help their enemy. How the noise was produced it

is impossible to say. Natrural causes are insufficient; and the writer

evidently regards the event as miraculous: “The Lord had made the host of

the Syrians to hear a noise,” - The Syrians thought they heard the actual

arrival of a vast army -  “and they said one to another, Lo, the King of

Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites,” - The Assyrian

records of the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. make it evident, not only that the

Hittites still existed at that date, but that they were among the most powerful

enemies of the Ninevite kings, being located in Northern Syria, about

Carchemish (Jerabus) and the adjacent country. It is also apparent that they

did not form a centralized monarchy, but were governed by a number of chiefs,

or “kings” - It was no very improbable supposition on the part of the Syrians

that Jehoram had called in the aid of the Hittite confederacy, and that they had

marched an army to his assistance -  “and the kings of the Egyptians.”

 The plural, kings of the Egyptians is not to be pressed. It is probably occasioned

only by the parallel expression, ‘kings of the Hittites.’ But Egyptian history

shows us that about this date Egypt was becoming disintegrated, and that

two or three distinct dynasties were sometimes ruling at the same time, in

different parts of the country — one at Bubastis another at Thebes, a third

at Tanis, occasionally a fourth at Memphis. The writer thus shows a knowledge

of the internal condition of Egypt which we should not have expected. To come

upon us; i.e. to fall upon us from the north and from the south at the same time.

In their panic, the Syrians did not stop to weigh probabilities, or to think how

unlikely it was that such a simultaneous attack could have been arranged between

powers so remote one from the other.  (God was involved here, probably along

the lines of the prophecy of the end times when the world will be congregated

 against the Israelis as  seems to be developing now – CY  - 2011 – see

Ezekiel 38:4-7 [notice the nations involved] – vs.14-23; all of chapter 39 - I would

like to refer the reader to Ezekiel – Study of God’s Use of the Word Know – this

web site – {God tells the world at least 62 times that when He works in the end

times all peoples shall know who is doing it} – CY)

 

7  Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight,” -  At the very time when the

lepers were drawing off from the gate of Samaria to fall away to them (see v. 5) –

and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it

was,” -  Partly, perhaps, in mere panic; partly to induce a belief on the part of the

enemy that they had not quitted their camp. So Darius Hystaspis, when he began

his retreat from Scythia (Herodotus, 4:135), left his camp standing, and the camp

fires lighted, and the asses tethered (see v. 10), that the Scythians, seeing the tents

and hearing the noise of the animals, might be fully persuaded that his troops were

still in the same place. Asses were the chief baggage-animals in many ancient

armies“and fled for their life.”  Thinking that, if they waited till dawn, the

Israelite allies, Hittites and Egyptians, would exterminate them.

 

8  And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp,” –

The narrative, begun in v. 3, is here taken up from the point where it was broken

off in v. 5, and the phrase there used is repeated, to mark the connection – “they

went into one tent, and did eat and drink,” -  The first necessity was to satisfy

the cravings of their appetite, as they were well-nigh starving. Then their

covetousness was excited by the riches exposed to view in the tent – “and carried

thence silver, and gold, and raiment,” -  Oriental armies carried with them vast

quantities of the precious metals, in the shape of gold and silver vases, goblets,

dishes, as well as in collars, chains, furniture, and trappings. Herodotus says

(ix. 80)  that, when the camp of Mardonius at Plataea fell into the hands of the

Greeks, there were found in it “many tents richly adorned with furniture of gold

and silver, many couches covered with plates of the same, and many golden

bowls, goblets, and other drinking-vessels. On the carriages were bags

containing gold and silver kettles; and the bodies of the slain furnished

bracelets and chains, and scimitars with golden ornaments — not to

mention embroidered apparel, of which no one made any account.” The

camp of the Syrians would scarcely have been so richly provided; but still it

contained, no doubt, a large amount of very valuable plunder – “and went

and hid it;” -  The lepers had no right to the pick of the spoil. It belonged to

the nation, and it was probably the king’s right to apportion it. The lepers

had to conceal what they appropriated, lest it should he taken from them -

and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence

also, and went and hid it.”  Plundering thus probably, not two tents only,

but several. At last, either covetousness was satiated or conscience awoke.

 

9  Then they said one to another, We do not well:” -  It was a tardy recognition

of what their duty required of them. Their fellow-countrymen in the city of Samaria

were perishing of hunger, mothers eating their children, and the like, while they

employed hour after hour in collecting and hiding away their booty. They ought,

as soon as they had satisfied their hunger, to have hurried back to the city and

spread the good news.  (And is this not the situation in the world today?  Billions

starving for the Word of God and we who are saved, either hoarding it or

sitting on it??? CY  - 2011) – “this day is a day of good tidings, and we

hold our peace:” - i.e. we keep silence, and do not proclaim them, as we ought.

if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us;” –

rather, punishment will fall on us; we shall suffer for what we have done —

 a very reasonable supposition -  “now therefore come, that we may go

and tell the king’s household.” The “king’s household” means the court,

the medium through which the king was ordinarily approached.

 

10  So they came and called unto the porter of the city:” -  i.e. to

the guard of the gate nearest them. The word d["cO, “porter,” or “gateman,”

is used collectively – “and they told them, saying, We came to the camp

of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man,

but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.”  The horses

and asses within a camp were always “tied,” or tethered, as we see from the

monumental representations of Egyptian camps, and also learn from historians

(Herodotus, 4:135). It is somewhat surprising that the horses were left behind,

as they would have expedited the flight had they been saddled and mounted.

But this was, perhaps, overlooked in the panic.

 

11 “And he called the porters; and they told it to the king’s house within.”

12  And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now

show 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,” -  Jehoram, knowing of no reason for the flight of the Syrians,

suspected a not uncommon stratagem. He supposed that the enemy had

merely gone a little way from their camp, and placed themselves in ambush,

ready to take advantage of any rash movement which the Israelites might

make. His supposition was not unreasonable – “saying, When they come

out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.”  A

double advantage might be expected to follow — those who quitted the

town to plunder the camp would be surrounded and made prisoners, while

the town itself, left without defenders, would be captured. Compare the

capture of Ai in Joshua 8:3-19, when the chief part of the garrison had

been enticed out of it.

 

13  And 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,” - One of

Jehoram’sservants,”i.e. of the officers attached to his person, suggested

that a small body of horses should be sent out to reconnoiter. The besieged

had still some horses  left, though apparently not many. Note the phrase,

five of the horses that  remain.” The majority had died of want, or been

killed to furnish food to the garrison - (behold, they are as all the

multitude of Israel that are left in it — i.e. in Samariabehold, I say,

they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed); -

i.e. they will run no more risk than the other troops who remain in the city,

for these, too, “are consumed,” i.e. are on the point of perishing. Supposing

that they fall into the enemy’s hands, it will go no harder with them than with

the “multitude” which is on the point of starvation – “and let us send and

see.”  We can do nothing until we know whether the siege is really raised, or

whether the pretended withdrawal is a mere ruse. We must send and have

this matter made clear.

 

14  They took therefore two chariot horses;” - literally, two chariots of

horses; i.e. two chariots, with the accustomed number of horses, which

(with the Israelites) was two, though with the Assyrians and Egyptians it

was frequently three. The employment of chariots instead of horsemen is

remarkable, and seems to indicate that with the Israelites, as with the

Egyptians, the chariot force was regarded as superior to the cavalry for

practical purposes -  “and the king sent after the host of the Syrians,

saying, Go and see.”  The advice of the king’s “servant” was taken; a

couple of chariots were sent out to reconnoiter.

 

15  And they went after them unto Jordan:”   The charioteers, finding the

camp really empty, discovering no ambush, and coming upon abundant signs

of a hasty and perturbed flight, followed upon the track of the fugitives until

they reached the Jordan, probably in the vicinity of Bethshah, which lay on

the ordinary route between Samaria and Damascus.  Convinced by what they

saw that the Syrians had really withdrawn into their own country, they

pursued no further, but returned to Samaria  - “and, lo, all the way was full

of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste.”

Cloaks, shawls, shields, and even swords and spears, would be cast away as

impedimenta — hindrances to a rapid flight. These strewed the line of the

retreating army’s march. “And the messengers returned, and told the king.”

They gave a full and complete account of what they had seen.

 

16  And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians.” - The

whole population of Samaria, with one accord, quitted the town, and flung

themselves upon the spoil — the rich garments, the gold and silver vessels,

the horses and asses, of which mention had been made previously (Vs. 8-10).

At the same time, no doubt, they feasted on the abundant dainties which

they found in the tents. Having satisfied their immediate wants, they

proceeded to lay in a store of corn for future use, and crowded tumultuously

into the gate, where the corn found in the camp was being sold. ‘So a

measure of fine flour; rather, and a measure, etc. — was sold for a shekel,

and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the

Lord” -  (v. 1).

 

17  And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have

the charge of the gate:” - Anticipating disorder, unless special care were

taken, through the probable eagerness of the people to purchase the corn

which was offered to them at so moderate a rate, Jehoram appointed the

officer on whose arm he had leant when he visited the house of Elisha

(v. 2), to have the charge of the gate, and preside over the sale.  Probably

there was no thought of the post being one of danger -  “and the people

trod upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said,

who spake when the king came down to him.”  The writer’s intention

is to lay special stress on the fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy; and to

emphasize the punishment that follows on a lack of faith, a warning to

unbelievers.”

 

18  And 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 tomorrow about this time in the gate of

Samaria.” The otiose repetition of almost the whole of v. 1 can only be

explained as a mode of emphasizing, and so impressing upon the reader

two main points:

 

  • Elisha’s prophetic powers; and
  • the dreadful consequences that follow on scornful rejection of a

message from God.

 

19  And 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.  20 And so it fell out unto him:” - i.e. the prophecy

was exactly fulfilled. The lord, being appointed to keep order in the gate where the

corn was sold, “saw with his eyes” (ver. 2) the wonderful fall of prices

within the short space of twenty-four hours, which Elisha had prophesied;

hut “did not eat thereof” — did not, in his own person, obtain any benefit

from the sudden plenty, since he perished before he could profit by it. For

the people trod upon him in the gate, and he died (see the comment on

ver. 17).

 

 

   Additional Comment on the Sin of the Scoffer and Its Punishment

 

Unbelief may be involuntary, and so neither incur guilt nor deserve punishment. Paul

obtained mercy” notwithstanding his bitter persecution of the, early Christians,

because he did it ignorantly in unbelief” (I Timothy 1:13). Modem skeptics are,

no doubt, in many cases unable to believe, their eyes being blinded through their

education, through ingrained prejudice or invincible ignorance. Interpositions from

heaven are the last things they are disposed to believe in; and in any case they will

not believe God’s Word unless they can see how it is to be fulfilled, and on what

natural principles the unusual event is to be explained. As in the present case there

was no possibility of help from within the city, and no prospect of the Syrians leaving

when the city was just about to fall within their power, and no evidence that food in

such abundance could be obtained at a day’s notice even if they did leave, Elisha’s

promise could only be assigned to the category of delusion. The spirit of faith is the

opposite of this. It takes God at His word, and leaves Him to find out the

means of accomplishing His own predictions. But to scoff at  religion must

be at all times a voluntary act; and it is an act, which Holy Scripture views as

in the highest degree blamable. In the instance here recorded, where  Elisha,

rising up in all the majesty of God’s prophet, and addressing himself to  king,

nobles, and elders, solemnly required them to “hear the word of Jehovah,”

 and then proclaimed with a voice of authority the raising of the siege and the

speedy conversion of the existing scarcity into abundance, it indicated extreme

effrontery and contempt for holy things, to take the word, when the king

himself was silent, and utter a scoff, questioning the power as well as the

truthfulness of God. The “lord” was clearly puffed up (and to me seems

stereotypical of those – CY – 2011) - with a high opinion  of his own

 wisdom, enlightenment, and knowledge of the world and its ways, and

perceiving no probability of the change prophesied, of which there was indeed

at the time no sign, thought himself entitled, not only to disbelieve the

 announcement, but to pour contempt upon it. It is 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. They

think it a proof of their own cleverness and superiority to superstitious terrors,

to mock and ridicule what they know to be reverenced by others. For the

most part God allows them to escape punishment in this world, but now and

then He signally vindicates His honor in the sight of all, by a manifest

 judgment upon the scoffers. An Elymas the sorcerer is struck blind

(Acts 13:11) suddenly, an Arius perishes in the dead of night, or an Israelite

lord suffers the penalty due to his rash words by being “trampled underfoot.”

 God can at any time “arise to judgment,” and “reward the proud after

 their deserving.” Let men see to it that they provoke Him not by “speaking

unadvisedly with their lips.” If they cannot receive His Word and hold fast His

truth, let them at least “keep still silence,” refrain themselves, and not draw

down His vengeance upon them by profane scoffs and idle jesting.

God’s word stands sure; it comes to pass in due time; but the intellectualist,

the scoffer, the doubter, the man who was too wise to believe, finds himself

shut out from participation in the blessing.  “There shall be weeping

and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and

Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you your-

selves thrust out.  And they shall come from the east, and from the

west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in

the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 13:28-29)

 

 

 

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