2 Kings 8:1-29
THE SEQUEL OF THE STORY OF THE SHUNAMMITE. THE KILLING OF BENHADAD BY HAZAEL; AND THE WICKED REIGNS OF JEHORAM AND AHAZIAH IN JUDAH.
2 Kings 8:1-15
Elisha is still the protagonistes of the historical drama. The writer brings together in the present section two more occasions of a public character in which he was concerned, and in which kings also bore a part. One of the occasions is domestic, and shows the interest which Jehoram took in the miracles of the prophet, and in those who were the objects of them (2 Kings 8:1-6). The other belongs to Syrian, rather than to Israelite, history, and proves that the influence of Elisha was not confined to Palestine (2 Kings 8:7-15).
2 Kings 8:1-6
The sequel of the story of the Shunammite.
2 Kings 8:1
Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life. There is no "then" in the original, of which the simplest rendering would be, "And Elisha spake unto the woman," etc. The true sense is, perhaps, best brought out by the Revised Version, which gives the following: Now Elisha had spoken unto the woman, etc. The reference is to a time long anterior to the siege of Samaria. Saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the Lord hath called for a famine. A famine is mentioned in 2 Kings 4:38, which must belong to the reign of Jehoram, and which is probably identified with that here spoken of. Elisha, on its approach, recommended the Shunammite, though she was a woman of substance (2 Kings 4:8), to quit her home and remove to some other residence, where she mighty, escape the pressure of the calamity He left it to her to choose the place of her temporary abode. The phrase, "God hath called for a famine," means no more and no less than "God has determined that there shall be a famine." With God to speak the word is to bring about the event. And it shall also come upon the land seven years. Seven years was the actual duration of the great famine, which Joseph foretold in Egypt (Genesis 41:27), and was the ideally perfect period for a severe famine (2 Chronicles 24:13). Many of the best meteorologists are inclined to regard the term of "seven years" as a cyclic period in connection with weather changes.
2 Kings 8:2
And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God. It is a satisfaction to find that there was yet faith in Israel. There were still those to whom the prophet was the mouthpiece of God, who waited on his words, and accepted them as Divine commands whereto they were ready to render immediate and entire obedience. It is conjectured by some that the woman had become a widow, and fallen into comparative poverty; but the narrative gives no indication of this. Even opulent persons have to migrate in times of severe dearth. And she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the philistines. Philistia was a great grain country ( 15:5), and, though not altogether exempt from famine, was less exposed to it than either Judaea or Samaria. The soil was exceedingly fertile, and the vapors from the Mediterranean descended upon it in clews and showers, when their beneficial influence was not felt further inland. The Shunammite may have had other reasons for fixing her residence in the Philistine country; but probably she was chiefly determined in her choice by its proximity and its productiveness. Seven years. As long, i.e; as the famine lasted (see the last clause of 2 Kings 8:1).
2 Kings 8:3
And it earns to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines. She stayed no longer than she could help. Her own land, where she could have the ministrations of a "man of God" (2 Kings 4:23), was dear to her; and no sooner had the famine abated than she returned to it. And she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land. During her prolonged absence, some grasping neighbor had seized on the unoccupied house and the uncultivated estate adjoining it, and now refused to restore them to the rightful owner. Widows were especially liable to such treatment on the part of greedy oppressors, since they were, comparatively speaking, weak and defenseless (see Isaiah 10:2; Matthew 23:14). Under such circumstances the injured party would naturally, in an Oriental country, make appeal to the king.
2 Kings 8:4
And the king talked with Gehazi; rather, now the king was talking with Gehazi, as in the Revised Version. The king, i.e; happened to be talking with Gehazi at the moment when the woman came into his presence and "cried" to him. It has been reasonably concluded from this, that chronological order is not observed in the portion of the narrative which treats of Elisha and his doings, since a king of Israel would scarcely be in familiar conversation with a leper (Keil). It may be added that Gehazi can scarcely have continued to be the servant of Elisha, as he evidently now was, after his leprosy. He must have dwelt "without the gate." The servant of the man of God. That a king should converse with a servant is, no doubt, somewhat unusual; but, as Bahr notes, there is nothing in the circumstance that need astonish us. It is natural enough that, having been himself a witness of so many of the prophet's marvelous acts done in public, Jehoram should become curious concerning those other marvelous acts which he had performed in private, among his personal friends and associates, with respect to which many turnouts must have got abroad; and should wish to obtain an account of them from a source on which he could rely. If he had this desire, he could scarcely apply to the prophet himself, with whom he was at no time on familiar terms, and who would shrink from enlarging on his own miraculous powers. "To whom, then, could he apply with more propriety for this information than to the prophet's familiar servant"—an eye-witness of most of them, and one who would have no reason for reticence? Oriental ideas would not be shocked by the king's sending for any subject from whom he desired information, and questioning him. Saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done. Miracles are often called "great things" ( גְדֹלוֹת ) in the Old Testament, but generally in connection with God as the doer of them (see Job 5:9; Job 9:10; Job 37:5; Psalms 71:19; Psalms 106:21, etc.).
2 Kings 8:5
And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he—i.e. Elisha—had restored a dead Body to life. This was undoubtedly the greatest of all Elisha's miracles, and Gehazi naturally enlarged upon it. As an eye-witness (2 Kings 4:29-36), he could give all the details. That, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. The coincidence can scarcely have been accidental. Divine providence so ordered matters that, just when the king's interest in the woman was most warm, she should appear before him to urge her claim. At another time, Jehoram would, it is probable, have been but slightly moved by her complaint. Under the peculiar circumstances, he was deeply moved, and at once granted the woman the redress for which she asked. And Gehazi said, Wry lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. The Shunammite was accompanied by her son, now a boy of at least tea or eleven years old—the actual object of Elisha's miracle. The king's interest in the woman would be still more roused by this circumstance.
2 Kings 8:6
And when the king asked the woman, she told him; rather, and the king made inquiry of the woman, and she answered him. The extent of the inquiries is not indicated. They may have included questions concerning the miracle, as well as questions concerning the woman's claim to the land and house, and the evidence which she could produce of proprietorship. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer—literally, a certain eunuch, or chamberlain—an officer of the court, who was in his confidence, and would give effect to his directions saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now. The order was, that not only was the Shunammite to receive back her house and estate, but that she was also to have "the mesne profits" i.e. the full value of all that the land had produced beyond the expense of cultivation during the seven yearn of her absence. English law lays down the same rule in cases of unlawful possession for which there is no valid excuse.
2 Kings 8:7-15
Elisha's visit to Damascus, and its consequences. It has been usual to connect this visit of Elisha's to Damascus with the commission given to Elijah many years previously, to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria (1 Kings 19:16). But it is certainly worthy of remark that neither is Elijah authorized to devolve his corn-mission on another, nor is he said to have done so, nor is there any statement in the present narrative or elsewhere that Elisha anointed Hazael. It is therefore quite possible that Elisha's journey was wholly unconnected with the command given to Elijah. It may, as Ewald imagines, have been the consequence of disorders and dangers in Samaria, growing out of the divergence of views between Jehoram and the queen-mother Jezebel, who still retained considerable influence over the government; and Elisha may have taken his journey, not so much for the sake of a visit, as of a prolonged sojourn. That he attracted the attention both of Benhadad and of his successor Hazael is not surprising.
2 Kings 8:7
And Elisha came to Damascus. It was a bold step, whatever the circumstances that led to it. Not very long previously the Syrian king had made extraordinary efforts to capture Elisha, intending either to kin him or to keep him confined as a prisoner (2 Kings 6:18-19). Elisha had subsequently helped to baffle his plans of conquest, and might be thought to have caused the disgraceful retreat of the Syrian army from the walls of Samaria, which he had certainly prophesied (2 Kings 7:1). But Elisha was not afraid. He was probably commissioned to take his journey, whether its purpose was the anointing of Hazael or no. And Benhadad the King of Syria was sick. Ewald supposes that this "sickness" was the result of the disgrace and discredit into which he had fallen since his ignominious retreat, without assignable reason, from before the walls of Samaria; but Ben-hadad must have been of an age When the infirmities of nature press in upon a man, and when illness has to be expected. He was a contemporary of Ahab (1 Kings 20:1), who had now been dead ten or twelve years. And it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither. Elisha seems to have attempted no concealment of his presence. No sooner was he arrived than his coming was reported to Benhadad. The Syrians had by this time learnt to give him the name by which he was commonly known (2 Kings 4:7, 2 Kings 4:21, 2 Kings 4:40; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Kings 6:6, 2 Kings 6:10; 2 Kings 7:2, 2 Kings 7:18) in Israel.
2 Kings 8:8
And the king said unto Hazael. It is implied that Hazael was in attendance on Benhadad in his sick-room, either permanently as a chamberlain, or occasionally as a minister. According to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.4. § 6), he was "the most faithful of the king's domestics" ( ὁ πιστότατος τῶν οἱκετῶν). We cannot presume from 2 Kings 8:12 that he had as yet distinguished himself as a warrior. Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God. It was usual, both among the heathen and among the Israelites, for those who consulted a prophet to bring him a present (see 1 Samuel 9:7; 1 Kings 14:3). Hence, mainly, the great wealth of the Delphic and other oracles. Naaman (2 Kings 5:5) had brought with him a rich present when he went to consult Elisha in Samaria. And inquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease! The miracles of Elisha had had at any rate this effect—they had convinced the Syrians that Jehovah was a great and powerful God, and made them regard Elisha himself as a true prophet. Their faith in their own superstitions must have been at least partially shaken by these convictions. It was by these and similar weakenings of established errors that the world was gradually educated, and the way prepared for the introduction of Christianity. There was very early among the Syrians a flourishing Christian Church.
2 Kings 8:9
So Hazael went to meet him—i.e. Elisha—and took a present with him; literally, in his hand; but we must not pros this expression "In his hand" means "under his control." The present was far too large to be carried by an individual. It consisted even of every good thing of Damascus; i.e. of gold and silver and costly raiment, of the luscious wine of Helbon, which was the drink of the Persian kings (Strab; 15.3. § 22), of the soft white wool of the Antilibanus (Ezekiel 27:18), of damask coverings of couches (Amos 3:12), perhaps of Damascus blades, and of various manufactured articles, the products of Tyro, Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon, which her extensive land trade was always bringing to the Syrian capital. Forty camels' burden. Not as much as forty camels could carry, but a gift of such a size that it was actually placed on the backs of forty camels, which paraded the town, and conveyed in a long procession to the prophet's house the king's magnificent offering. Orientals are guilty of extreme ostentation with respect to the presents that they make. As Chardin says, "Fifty persons often carry what a single one could have very well borne". The practice is illustrated by the bas-reliefs of Nineveh and Persepolis, which furnish proofs of its antiquity. One present-bearer carries a few pomegranates; another, a bunch of grapes; a third, a string of locusts; a fourth, two small ointment-pots; a fifth, a branch of an olive tree, and the like (Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' second series, pls. 8, 9, etc.). It is not unlikely that a single camel could have carried the whole. And earns and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad King of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying—Benhadad seeks to propitiate Elisha by calling himself his son, thus indicating the respect he feels for him—Shall I recover of this disease? Nothing was more common in the ancient world than the consultation of an oracle or a prophet in cases of disease or other bodily affliction. Two questions were commonly asked, "Shall I recover?" and "How may I recover?" So Pheron of Egypt is said to have consulted an oracle with respect to his blindness (Herod; 2.111), and Battus of Cyrene to have done the same with respect to his stammering (ibid; 4.155). It was seldom that a clear and direct answer was given.
2 Kings 8:10
And Elisha said unto him; Go, say unto him; Thou mayest certainly recover. The existing Masoretic text ( צָיִה תִצְיָה אֱמָר־לא) is untranslatable, since emar-lo cannot mean, "say not," on account of the order of the words; and lo cannot he joined with khayiah thikhyah, first on account of the makkeph whick attaches it to emar, and secondly because the emphatic infinitive is in itself affirmative, and does not admit of a negative prefix. The emendation in the Hebrew margin ( לוֹ for לא), accepted by all the versions, and by almost all commentators, is thus certain. Our translators are therefore, so far, in the right; but they were not entitled to tone down the strong affirmative, khayih thikhyah, "living thou shalt live," or "thou shalt surely live," into the weak potential, "thou mayest certainly recover." What Elisha says to Hazael is, "Go, say unto him, Thou shalt surely live;" i.e. "Go, say unto him, what thou hast already made up thy mind to say, what a courtier is sure to say, Thou shalt recover." Howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. If Hazael had reported the whole answer to Benhadad, he would have told no lie, and thus Elisha is not responsible for his lie.
2 Kings 8:11
And he settled his countenance steadfastly—literally, and he settled his countenance and set it; i.e. Elisha fixed on Hazael a long and meaning look—until he—i.e. Hazael—was ashamed; i.e. until Hazael felt embarrassed, and his eyes fell It may be gathered that the ambitious courtier had already formed a murderous design against his master, and understood by the peculiar gaze which the prophet fixed upon him that his design was penetrated. And the man of God wept. There flashed on the prophet's mind all the long series of calamities which Israel would suffer at the hands of Syria during Hazael's reign, and he could not but weep at the thought of them (see the next verse).
2 Kings 8:12
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? While inwardly contemplating an act of audacious wickedness in defiance of the prophet's implied rebuke, Hazael preserves towards him outwardly an attitude of extreme deference and respect. "My lord" was the phrase with which slaves addressed their masters, and subjects their monarchs (see 2 Kings 5:3; 2 Kings 6:12, etc.). And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. The prophet does not intend to tax Hazael with any special cruelty, tie only means to say, "Thou wilt wage long and bloody wars with Israel, in which will occur all those customary horrors that make war so terrible—the burning of cities, the slaughter of the flower of the youth, the violent death of children, and even the massacre of women in a state of pregnancy. These horrors belonged, more or less, to all Oriental wars, and are touched on in Psalms 137:9; 2 Kings 15:16; Isaiah 13:16, Isaiah 13:18; Hosea 10:14; Nahum 3:10; Amos 1:13, etc. The wars of Hazael with the Israelites are mentioned in 2 Kings 10:32, 2 Kings 10:33; 2 Kings 13:3-7; and Amos 1:3, Amos 1:4.
2 Kings 8:13
And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? This rendering is generally allowed to Be incorrect. The true sense, which is well represented in the Septuagint ( τίς ἐστιν ὁ δοῦλός σου ὁ κύων ὁ τεθνηκὼς οτι ποιήσει τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο;), is—"But what is thy servant, this dog, that he should do so great a thing?" Hazael does not accuse Elisha of making him out a dog in the future, but calls himself a dog in the present. "Dog" is a word of extreme contempt—"the most contemptuous epithet of abuse" (Winer), as appears, among other places, from 1 Samuel 24:14 and 2 Samuel 16:9. Hazael means to say—How is it possible that he, occupying, as he does, so poor and humble a position as that of a mere courtier or domestic ( οἰκετής, Josephus), should ever wage war with Israel, and do the "great things" which Elisha has predicted of him? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. Elisha explains how it would be possible. Hazael would not continue in his poor and humble condition. Jehovah has revealed it to him that the mere courtier will shortly mount the Syrian throne.
2 Kings 8:14
So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover. This, as already observed, was giving half Elisha's answer, and suppressing the other half. The suppressio veri is a suggestio falsi; and the suppression was Hazael's act, not Elisha's. Had Hazael repeated the whole of Elisha's answer, "Say unto him, Thou shalt surely recover; howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die;"—Benhadad might have been puzzled, but he would not have been deceived.
2 Kings 8:15
And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth. Macber is a cloth of a coarse texture—a mat, or piece of carpeting. It has here the article prefixed to it (ham-macber), which implies that there was but one in the sick-room. We may conjecture that it was a mat used as a sort of pillow, and interposed between the head-rest (so common in Egypt and Assyria) and the head (compare the c'bir of 1 Samuel 19:13). And dipped it in water. The water would fill up the interstices through which air might otherwise have been drawn, and hasten the suffocation. A death of the same kind is recorded in the Persian history entitled 'Kholasat el Akhbar,' which contains the following passage: "The malik ordered that they should place a carpet on Abdallah's mouth, so that his life was cut off." And spread it on his face, so that he died. It has been supposed by some commentators, as Luther, Schultz, Geddes, Boothroyd, that Benhadad put the wet macber on his own face for refreshment, and accidentally suffocated himself; but this is very unlikely, and it is certainly not the natural sense of the words. As "Hazael" is the subject of "departed" and "came" and "answered" in 2 Kings 8:14, so it is the natural subject of "took" and "dipped" and "spread" in 2 Kings 8:15. 2 Kings 8:11 also would be unintelligible if Hazael entertained no murderous intentions. Why Ewald introduces a "bath-servant," unmentioned in the text, to murder Benhadad for no assignable reason, it is difficult to conjecture. And Hazael reigned in his stead. The direct succession of Hazael to Benhadad is confirmed by the inscription on the Black Obelisk, where he appears as King of Damascus (line 97) a few years only after Benhadad (Bin-idri) had been mentioned as king.
2 Kings 8:16-24
THE WICKED REIGN OF JEHORAM IN JUDAH. At this point the writer, who has been concerned with the history of the kingdom of Israel hitherto in the present book, takes up the story of the kingdom of Judah from 1 Kings 22:50, and proceeds to give a very brief account of the reign of Jehoshaphat's eldest son, Jehoram, or (by contraction) Joram. His narrative has to be supplemented from 2 Chronicles 21:1-20; which contains many facts not mentioned by the writer of Kings.
2 Kings 8:16
And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab King of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then King of Judah; literally, and of Jehoshaphat King of Judah. The words are wanting in three Hebrew manuscripts, in some editions of the Septuagint, in the Peshito Syriac, in the Parisian Heptaplar Syriac, in the Arabic Version, and in many copies of the Vulgate. They cannot possibly have the sense assigned to them in our version, and are most probably a gloss which has crept into the text from the margin. Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat King of Judah began to reign. Jehoram's reign was sometimes counted from the seventeenth year of his father, when he was given the royal title, sometimes from his father's twenty-third year, when he was associated, and sometimes from his father's death in his twenty-fifth year, when he became sole king (see the comment on 2 Kings 1:17 and 2 Kings 3:1).
2 Kings 8:17
Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. The eight years seem to be counted from his association in the kingdom by his father in his twenty-third year. He reigned as sole king only six years.
2 Kings 8:18
And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; i.e. he introduced into Judah the Baal and Astarte worship, which Ahab had introduced into Israel from Phoenicia. The "house of Ahab" maintained and spread the Baal-worship, wherever it had influence. Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, championed it in Israel (1 Kings 22:53); Jehoram, his brother, allowed its continuance (2 Kings 10:18-28); Jehoram of Judah was induced by his wife, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, to countenance it in Judaea; Athaliah, when she usurped the throne upon the death of her son Ahaziah, made it the state religion in that country. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." The alliance of the two separated kingdoms, concluded between Jehoshaphat and Ahab (1 Kings 22:2-4), had no tangible result beyond the introduction into Judah of the licentious and debasing superstition which had previously overspread the sister country. For the daughter of Ahab was his wife. In 2 Kings 8:26 Athaliah, the wife of Jehoram, is called "the daughter of Omri;" but by "daughter" in that place must be meant "descendant" or "granddaughter." Athaliah has been well called "a second Jezebel." And he did evil in the sight of the Lord. The wicked actions of Jehoram are recorded at some length in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 21:2-4,2 Chronicles 21:11-13). Shortly after his accession he put to death his six brothers—Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Ahaziah (?), Michael, and Shephatiah—in order to "strengthen himself." At the same time, he caused many of the "princes of Israel" to be executed. Soon afterwards he "made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication" (i.e. to become idolaters), "and compelled Judah thereto." That the idolatry, which he introduced, was the Baal-worship is clear, both from the present passage and from 2 Chronicles 21:13.
2 Kings 8:19
Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah for David his servant's sake. The natural punishment of apostasy was rejection by God, and on rejection would, as a matter of course, follow destruction and ruin. God had declared by Moses, "If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and statutes, which I command thee this day; all these curses shall come upon thee The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee till thou perish. And thy heaven which is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is underneath thee shall be iron …. The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten of thine enemies; thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and thou shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth …. Thou shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee" (Deuteronomy 28:15-37). The apostasy of Jeheram, and of the nation under him, was calculated to bring about the immediate fulfillment of all these threats, and would have done so but for a restraining cause. God had made promises to David, and to his seed after him (2 Samuel 7:13-16; Psalms 89:29-37, etc.), which would be unfulfilled if Judah's candlestick were at once removed. He had declared, "If thy children forsake my Law, and walk not in my statutes … I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take away, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips; I have sworn once by my holiness that I will not fail David." If he had now swept away the Jewish kingdom, he would have dealt more hardly with these who clave to David than with those that broke off from him. He would not have shown the "faithfulness" or the "mercy" which he had promised, tie would have forgotten "the loving-kindnesses which he aware unto David in his truth" (Psalms 89:49). Therefore he would not—he could not—as yet "destroy Judah," with which, in point of fact, he bore for above three centuries longer, until at last the cup of their iniquities was full, and "there was no remedy." As he promised him to give him always a light, and to his children. There is no "and" in the original. Translate—As he promised him to give him always a light in respect of his children, and compare, for the promise of "a light" (1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 15:4; and Psalms 132:17).
2 Kings 8:20
In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah. Edom had been conquered by Joab in the time of David, and had been treated with great severity, all the males, or at any rate all those of full age, having been put to death (1 Kings 11:15, 1 Kings 11:16). On the death of David, Edom seems to have revolted under a prince named Hadad, and to have re-established its independence. It had been again sub-jeered by the time of Jehoshaphat, who appointed a governor over it (1 Kings 22:47), and treated it as a portion of his own territories (2 Kings 3:8). Now the yoke was finally thrown off, as had been prophesied (Genesis 27:40). Edom became once more a separate kingdom, and was especially hostile to Judah. In the reign of Ahaz the Edomites "smote Judah" and carried away many captives (2 Chronicles 28:17). When the Chaldaeans attacked and besieged Jerusalem, they cried, "Down with it, down with it, even to the ground!" (Psalms 137:7). They looked on with joy at the capture of the holy city (Obadiah 1:12), and "stood in the crossway, to cut off such as escaped" (Obadiah 1:14). After the return from the Captivity, they were still Judah's enemies, and am especially denounced as such by the Prophet Malachi (Malachi 1:3-5). In the Maccabee wars, we find them always on the Syrian side (1 Mac. 4:29, 61; 5:3; 6:31; 2 Macc. 10:15, etc.), doing their best to rivet the hateful yoke of the heathen on their suffering brethren. As Idumaeans, the Herodian family must have been specially hateful to the Jews. And made a king over themselves. The king mentioned in 2 Kings 3:9, 2 Kings 3:26 was probably a mere vassal king under Jehoshaphat.
2 Kings 8:21
So Joram went over to Zair. Naturally, Joram did not allow Edom to become independent without an attempt to reduce it. He invaded the country in full force, taking up a position at a place called Zair, which is not otherwise known. Zair ( צָעִיר ) can scarcely be Zoar ( צוֹעַר), which, wherever it was, was certainly not in Edom; and it is hardly likely to be a corruption of "Seir" ( צָעִיר ), since the utterly unknown צעיר would scarcely be put by a copyist in the place of the well-known שׂעיר. Moreover, if Mount Seir were intended, it would probably have had the prefix הַר, as in 1 Chronicles 4:42 ; 2 Chronicles 20:10, 2 Chronicles 20:22, 2 Chronicles 20:23; Ezekiel 35:2, Ezekiel 35:3, Ezekiel 35:7, Ezekiel 35:15. "Seir" alone is poetical rather than historical, especially in the language of the later books of the Old Testament. And all the chariots with him; or, all his chariots (Revised Version). The article has the force of the possessive pronoun. And he rose by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him about. Josephus understands the writer to mean that Joram made his invasion by night, and smote the Edomites on all sides ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.5. § 1); but it seems better to suppose, with most modern commentators, that the meaning is the following: Soon after Joram invaded the country, he found himself surrounded and blocked in by the Edomite troops, and could only save himself by a night attack, which was so far successful that he broke through the enemy's lines and escaped; his army, however, was so alarmed at the danger it had run, that it at once dispersed and returned home. And the captains of the chariots; i.e. the captains of the Edomite chariots. They too were "smitten," having probably taken the chief part in trying to prevent the escape. And the people fled into their tents; i.e. dispersed to their homes. Compare the cry of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:16), "To your tents, O Israel!"
2 Kings 8:22
Yet Edom revolted; rather, and Edom revolted; or, so Edom revolted. Joram's attempt having failed, the independence of the country was established. From under the hand of Judah unto this day. The successes of Amaziah and Azariah against Edom (2 Kings 14:7, 2 Kings 14:22) did not amount to reconquests. Edom continued a separate country, not subject to Judaea, and frequently at war with it, until the time of John Hyrcanus, by whom it was subjugated. "Unto this day" means, at the most, until the time when the Books of Kings took their present shape, which was before the return from the Captivity. Then Libnah revolted at the same time. Libnah was situated on the borders of Philistia, in the Shefelah, or low country, but towards its eastern edge. Its exact position is uncertain; but it is now generally thought to be identical with the modern Tel-es-Safi, between Gath and Ekron, about long. 34° 50' E Int. 31° 38' N. It had been an independent city, with a king of its own, in the early Canaanite time (Joshua 10:30; Joshua 12:15), but had been assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:42), and had hitherto remained, so far as appears, contented with its position. Its people can scarcely have had any sympathy with the Edomites, and its revolt at this time can have had no close connection with the Edomite rebellion. Libnah's sympathies would be with Philistia, and the occasion of the revolt may have been the invasion of Judaea by the Philistines in the reign of Jehoram, of which the author of Chronicles speaks (2 Chronicles 21:16), and in which Jehoram's sons were carried off.
2 Kings 8:23
And the rest of the sets of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? Some of these acts are recorded in our present Second Book of Chronicles; e.g. his execution of his brothers and of many nobles (2 Chronicles 21:4); his erection of high places (2 Chronicles 21:11); his persecution of the followers of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 21:11); his reception of a writing from Elisha, which, however, had no effect upon his conduct (2 Chronicles 21:12-15); his war with the Philistines (2 Chronicles 21:16) and with the Arabs (2 Chronicles 21:16); his loss of all his sons but one during his lifetime; his long illness, and his painful death (2 Chronicles 21:18, 2 Chronicles 21:19). But the 'Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah' was a work on a larger scale than the extant Book of Chronicles, and probably went into much greater detail.
2 Kings 8:24
And Joram slept with his fathers. Joram died after an illness, that lasted two years, of an incurable disease of his bowels. "No burning" was made for him, and there was no regret at his death. And was buried with his fathers in the city of David; i.e. in the portion of Jerusalem which David built; but, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.5. § 3) and the author of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 21:20), not in the sepulchers of the kings. And Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead. Ahaziah is called "Jehoahaz" in 2 Chronicles 21:17, by an inversion of the two elements of his name, and "Azariah" in 2 Chronicles 22:6, apparently by a slip of the pen.
2 Kings 8:25-29
THE WICKED REIGN OF AHAZIAH IN JUDAH. The writer continues the history of Judah through another reign—a very short one-almost to its close. He describes the wickedness of Ahaziah, for the most part, in general terms, attributes it to his connection with the "house of Ahab," and notes his alliance with Joram of Israel against the Syrians, and his visit to his brother monarch at Samaria, which led on to his death.
2 Kings 8:25
In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab King of Israel. In 2 Kings 9:29 the year of Ahaziah's accession is said to have been Joram's eleventh year. It is conjectured that he began to reign as viceroy to his father during his severe illness in Joram's eleventh year, and became sole king at his father's death in the year following. Did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram King of Judah begin to reign; i.e. begin to be full king.
2 Kings 8:26
Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign. The writer of Chronicles says, "two and forty" (2 Chronicles 22:2), which is absolutely impossible, since his father was but forty when he died. Even "two and twenty" is a more advanced age than we should have expected, since Ahaziah was the youngest of Jehoram's sons (2 Chronicles 21:17); he must therefore have been born in his father's nineteenth year. Yet he had several elder brothers (2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1)! To explain this, we have to remember
2 Kings 8:27
And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab. Compare what is said of Ahaziah of Israel in 1 Kings 22:52, 1 Kings 22:53, and of Jehoram of Judah in the present chapter (1 Kings 22:18). What is specially intended is that Ahaziah kept up the Baal-worship introduced by his father into Judah. And did evil in the sight of the Lord, as did the house of Ahab: for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab; literally, for he was related by marriage to the house of Ahab. צתן is any relation by marriage, not "son-in-law" in particular (see Exodus 3:1, and the comment on the place).
2 Kings 8:28
And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against Hazael King of Syria in Ramoth-Gilead. Some translate, and Joram himself went; but this is a very rare use of אָת, and one which would be unnatural in this place—for why "Joram himself," when "Joram" alone would have been quite sufficient?—and still more unnatural in 2 Chronicles 22:5, where the same phrase occurs. It is best, therefore, to follow our translators, who are in accord both with the Septuagint and with the Vulgate. Ahaziah followed the example of his grandfather Jehoshaphat, who had accompanied Ahab to Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22:29 ), to fight against the Syrians in the time of Benhadad. That the city was still disputed shows the importance which it possessed in the eyes of both parties. And the Syrians wounded Joram. It appears that Hazael, soon after his accession, with the ardor of a young prince anxious to distinguish himself, made an expedition against Ramoth-Gilead, which had been recovered by the Israelites between the death of Ahab and the time of which the historian is now treating. Joram went to the relief of the town with a large force, and, being received within the walls, maintained a gallant defense (2 Kings 9:14), in the course of which he was wounded severely, though not fatally. Thereupon he and his brother king quitted the town and returned to their respective capitals, leaving a strong garrison in Ramoth-Gilead under Jehu and some other captains. Joram needed rest and careful nursing on account of his wounds, and Ahaziah would naturally withdraw with him; since he could not serve under a mere general.
2 Kings 8:29
And King Joram went back to be healed in Jezreel. Jezreel was more accessible from Ramoth-Gilead than Samaria. It lay in the plain, and could be reached without traveling over any rough or mountainous country. It was also the usual place to which the court retired for rest and refreshment-the Versailles or Windsor of Samaria, as it has been called. Of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael wing of Syria. "Ramah" is another name for "Ramoth-Gilead" or "Ramoth in Gilead," which is the full name of the place. The word means "high," "elevated," and is cognate to Aram. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram King of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel. Ahaziah would probably take the route by way of Jericho, the Jordan valley, and the Wata el Jalud, and would consequently begin his journey by the rapid descent from Jerusalem to Jericho. Because he was sick; i.e. unwell, wounded.
2 Kings 8:1-6
All things work together for good to them that love God.
The piety of the Shunammite had been sufficiently shown in the previous record left us of her (2 Kings 4:8-37). The sequel of her story indicates how, in a wonderful way, events and circumstances seemingly fortuitous and unconnected work together for the advantage and happiness of one who lives virtuously, and seeks in all things to serve God and advance the cause of religion. "The series of incidents," it has been well said, "forms a marvelous web of Divine dispensations" (Bahr).
I. THE FAME. This lies at the root of the whole. If God had not ordained a famine upon the land—"called for it," and brought it about—none of the other incidents would have been possible. The woman would not have lost her property, would have had no occasion to "cry" to the king, and would have come into no personal contact either with him or with Gehazi.
II. THE PROPHET'S WARNING. The prophet, when so terrible a calamity as a seven years' famine impended over the land, might well have given all his thoughts to the general sufferings of the people, and have forgotten individuals. But God's providence determines otherwise. Elisha bethinks himself of the Shunammite, albeit she is but a unit in the vast mass of suffering humanity, and warns her of the coming evil, bidding her quit the land and sojourn elsewhere. This advice, which she follows, is the second link in the chain.
III. THE COINCIDENCE OF THE KING'S DESIRE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ELISHA WITH THE RETURN OF THE WOMAN TO HER OWN LAND. It was, humanly speaking, a pure accident that the curiosity of the king with respect to Elisha happened to be aroused just as the famine was over, and the woman, having returned from Philistia into the land of Israel, found her estate occupied by another. It was another accident that she bethought herself of appealing to the king, instead of having recourse to any other remedy.
IV. THE COINCIDENCE OF GEHAZI BEING SPEAKING OF HER CASE EXACTLY AS SHE MADE HER APPEARANCE. Gehazi had scores of miracles to relate, and might have been discoursing of any one of them; but events were so ordered that it was of her child's resurrection that he was telling the king, and not of any other miracle, when she came into the royal presence. This coincidence it was which so interested the king in her, that he at once gave the order for restoring her estate to her.
We may learn from the entire narrative,
2 Kings 8:7-9
The power of calamity to bend the spirit of the proud.
Benhadad had hitherto been an enemy of Jehovah and his prophets. He had sought Elisha's life (2 Kings 6:13-20), and, when baffled in his design to seize his person, had made a bold attempt to crush and destroy the whole Israelite nation. But now God had laid his hand upon him; he was prostrated on a sick-bed; and lo! all was altered. The mighty monarch, so lately glorying in his strength, and, in his own opinion, infinitely above any soi-disant prophet, is brought down so low that, on hearing of Elisha's having come voluntarily to his capital, instead of seizing him, he sends him a humble embassy. Hazael, a high officer of the court, is bidden to "take a present in his hand, and go meet the man of God, and inquire of Jehovah by him—Will the king recover from his disease?" The present is a rich one, made by Oriental ostentation to appear even grander than it is in reality. Forty camels bear their burden to the prophet's door, and bring him "every good thing of Damascus," without let or stint. The great king calls himself Elisha's son—"Thy son Benhadad has sent me to thee" (