|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:38-44 There was a famine of bread, but not of hearing the word of God, for Elisha had the sons of the prophets sitting before him, to hear his wisdom. Elisha made hurtful food to become safe and wholesome. If a mess of pottage be all our dinner, remember that this great prophet had no better for himself and his guests. The table often becomes a snare, and that which should be for our welfare, proves a trap: this is a good reason why we should not feed ourselves without fear. When we are receiving the supports and comforts of life, we must keep up an expectation of death, and a fear of sin. We must acknowledge God's goodness in making our food wholesome and nourishing; I am the Lord that healeth thee. Elisha also made a little food go a great way. Having freely received, he freely gave. God has promised his church, that he will abundantly bless her provision, and satisfy her poor with bread, Ps 132:15; whom he feeds, he fills; and what he blesses, comes to much. Christ's feeding his hearers was a miracle far beyond this, but both teach us that those who wait upon God in the way of duty, may hope to be supplied by Divine Providence.
Verse 39. - And one went out into the field to gather herbs. One of the sons of the prophets, probably, went out into the neighboring country, and looked about for any wild fruits or vegetables that he could see anywhere. And found a wild vine. Not a wild grape vine (Vitis labrusea), the fruit of which would have been harmless, but some cucurbitaceous plant, with tendrils, and a growth like that of the vine. And gathered thereof wild gourds. The exact kind of gourd is uncertain. Recent critics have mostly come to the conclusion that the vegetable intended is the Cucumis agrestis or Ecbalium elaterium, the "squirting cucumber" of English naturalists. This is a kind of gourd, the fruit of which is egg-shaped, has a bitter taste, and bursts when ripe at a slight touch, squirting out sap and seeds. The main ground for this conclusion is etymologieal, פַקֻּעֹת being derived from פקע, "to crack" or "split." Another theory, and one which has the ancient versions in its favor, identifies the "gourd" in question with the fruit of the colocynth, which is a gourd-like plant that creeps along the ground, and has a round yellow fruit of the size of a large orange. This fruit is exceedingly bitter, produces colic, and affects the nerves. His lap full; as many as he could carry in the sinus, or large fold, of his beged, or shawl. And came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not; i.e. the sons of the prophets, who stood by and saw them shred into the pot, did not recognize them, or did not know that they were unwholesome.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And one went out into the fields to gather herbs,.... To put into the pottage, the gardens affording none in this time of dearth; or, however, being scarce, were at too great a price for the sons of the prophets to purchase them; and therefore one of them went out into the field to gather what common herbs he could:
and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full; thought to be the same with coloquintida, the leaves of which are very like to a vine, of a very bitter taste, and a very violent purgative, which, if not remedied, will produce ulcerations in the bowels, and issue in death; some think the white brier or white vine is meant, the colour of whose berries is very inviting to look at, but very bitter and ungrateful, and it vehemently purges (b); the Arabs call a sort of mushroom that is white and soft by this name (c), but cannot be meant here, because it has no likeness to a wild vine:
and came and shred them into the pot of pottage; cut or chopped them small, and put them into the pot:
for they knew them not; what they were, the nature and virtue of them, being unskilful in botany.
(b) Vid. Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 3. p. 605, 859. (c) Golius, col. 1817.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
39. went out into the field to gather herbs—Wild herbs are very extensively used by the people in the East, even by those who possess their own vegetable gardens. The fields are daily searched for mallow, asparagus, and other wild plants.
wild vine—literally, "the vine of the field," supposed to be the colocynth, a cucumber, which, in its leaves, tendrils, and fruit, bears a strong resemblance to the wild vine. The "gourds," or fruit, are of the color and size of an orange bitter to the taste, causing colic, and exciting the nerves, eaten freely they would occasion such a derangement of the stomach and bowels as to be followed by death. The meal which Elisha poured into the pot was a symbolic sign that the noxious quality of the herbs was removed.
lap full—The hyke, or large cloak, is thrown loosely over the left shoulder and fastened under the right arm, so as to form a lap or apron.
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