1 Kings 19:15
And the LORD said to him, Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when you come, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
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(15) Go, return.—The charge conveys indirectly a double rebuke. His cry of disappointment, “Lord . . . I am not better than my fathers,” implying that he stood out beyond all others, to meet the stern requirements of the time, is met by the charge to delegate the task of vengeance for God to others; the complaint, “I, even I alone, am left,” by the revelation of the faithful remnant—the seven thousand who had not bowed to Baal—unknown to him, perhaps to one another, but known and loved by God.

1 Kings 19:15-16. Go, return on thy way — The way by which thou camest; for the way from Horeb to Damascus was, in part, the same with that by which he had come. Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria — It seems, the word anoint must here be taken figuratively for appoint, or declare, which was done by Elisha, 2 Kings 8:12; for the word is often used of them who were never anointed with oil: Elijah, however, might anoint him, though it be not related; or, as some think, when he understood what scourges he and Jehu would be to Israel, and what destruction they would bring upon them, he perhaps earnestly entreated God, and obtained his request, that the execution of the command should be deferred to another time. And Jehu the son of Nimshi — That is, his grandson; for he was the son of Jehoshaphat, 2 Kings 9:2. And Elisha shalt thou anoint — Whom he constituted prophet by casting his mantle over him. This was intended as a prediction, that by these persons God would punish the degenerate Israelites, plead his own cause among them, and avenge the quarrel of his covenant. 19:14-18 God repeated the question, What doest thou here? Then he complained of his discouragement; and whither should God's prophets go with their complaints of that kind, but to their Master? The Lord gave him an answer. He declares that the wicked house of Ahab shall be rooted out, that the people of Israel shall be punished for their sins; and he shows that Elijah was not left alone as he had supposed, and also that a helper should at once be raised up for him. Thus all his complaints are answered and provided for. God's faithful ones are often his hidden ones, Ps 83:3, and the visible church is scarcely to be seen: the wheat is lost in chaff, and the gold in dross, till the sifting, refining, separating day comes. The Lord knows them that are his, though we do not; he sees in secret. When we come to heaven we shall miss many whom we thought to have met there; we shall meet many whom we little thought to have met there. God's love often proves larger than man's charity, and far more extended.The answer is not a justification of the ways of God, nor a direct reproof of the prophet's weakness and despondency, nor an explanation or application of what Elijah had seen. For the present, he is simply directed back into the path of practical duty. His mission is not yet over, there is still work for him to do. He receives special injunctions with respect to Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha; and he is comforted with a revelation well adapted to rouse him from his despondency: there are seven thousand who will sympathize with him in his trials, and who need his care and attention.

The wilderness of Damascus - Probably the district north of the prophet's own country, between Bashan and Damascus itself, and which was known in later times as Iturea and Gaulanitis. Here the prophet might be secure from Jezebel, while he could readily communicate with both Israel and Damascus, and execute the commissions with which he was entrusted.

When thou comest, anoint - Rather, "and thou shalt go and anoint," Elijah performed one only of the three commissions given to him. He appears to have been left free to choose the time for executing his commissions, and it would seem that he thought the proper occasion had not arisen either for the first or the second before his own translation. But he took care to communicate the divine commands to his successor, who performed them at the fitting moment (marginal references).

1Ki 19:4-18. He Is Comforted by an Angel.

4-18. went a day's journey into the wilderness—on the way from Beer-sheba to Horeb—a wide expanse of sand hills, covered with the retem (not juniper, but broom shrubs), whose tall and spreading branches, with their white leaves, afford a very cheering and refreshing shade. His gracious God did not lose sight of His fugitive servant, but watched over him, and, miraculously ministering to his wants, enabled him, in a better but not wholly right frame of mind, by virtue of that supernatural supply, to complete his contemplated journey. In the solitude of Sinai, God appeared to instruct him. "What doest thou here, Elijah?" was a searching question addressed to one who had been called to so arduous and urgent a mission as his. By an awful exhibition of divine power, he was made aware of the divine speaker who addressed him; his attention was arrested, his petulance was silenced, his heart was touched, and he was bid without delay return to the land of Israel, and prosecute the Lord's work there. To convince him that an idolatrous nation will not be unpunished, He commissions him to anoint three persons who were destined in Providence to avenge God's controversy with the people of Israel. Anointing is used synonymously with appointment (Jud 9:8), and is applied to all named, although Jehu alone had the consecrated oil poured over his head. They were all three destined to be eminent instruments in achieving the destruction of idolaters, though in different ways. But of the three commissions, Elijah personally executed only one; namely, the call of Elisha to be his assistant and successor [1Ki 19:19], and by him the other two were accomplished (2Ki 8:7-13; 9:1-10). Having thus satisfied the fiery zeal of the erring but sincere and pious prophet, the Lord proceeded to correct the erroneous impression under which Elijah had been laboring, of his being the sole adherent of the true religion in the land; for God, who seeth in secret, and knew all that were His, knew that there were seven thousand persons who had not done homage (literally, "kissed the hand") to Baal.

Return on thy way, by which thou camest; for so in part lay the way from Horeb to Damascus.

Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: anoint; either, first, Figuratively, i.e. appoint or declare him king; which was done, 2 Kings 8:12; for this word is oft used of them who were never anointed with oil, Psalm 45:7 Isaiah 45:1 41:1 Zechariah 4:14 Daniel 9:24. Or, secondly, Properly; which might be done, though it be not related. Again, anoint, either by thyself, or by another; for so he anointed Jehu by Elisha, 2 Kings 9:1,6. And the Lord said unto him, go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus,.... He is bid to go back the way he came, through the wilderness of Arabia, which was part of his way to Damascus, near to which was another wilderness, which took its name from thence; though Fortunatus Schacchus (x) thinks no other is meant by this phrase than returning to his former course and custom of preach the law of God, and reclaiming men from the error of their ways:

and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; it is nowhere related that Elijah did go to Damascus, and anoint Hazael, though it may be he did; however he acquainted Elisha with it, and he declared it to Hazael, that he should be king of Syria, and which perhaps is all that is meant by anointing; that is, that he should be made king, and which was declared by both these prophets, see 2 Kings 8:13.

(x) Elaeochrism. Myrothec. l. 1. c. 39. col. 198.

And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
15. Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus] It seems from what follows that the margin of the R.V. gives the truer sense, viz. ‘by the wilderness to Damascus.’ Elijah was to go back through the wilderness, the way by which he had come to Horeb, and we see that he came first to Abel-meholah, which was on the west of the Jordan, not far from Bethshean (see note above on 1 Kings 4:12). Thus he was sent by God’s encouragement, and with His protection, through the land of Israel from which he had fled.

anoint Hazael to be king over Syria] So far as the Scripture record goes we have no notice that Elijah performed this command in its literal sense, Hazael being subsequently informed by Elisha (2 Kings 8:13) that the Lord had made known that he should become king over Israel, though even then he was not anointed. We must interpret the meaning of the command in accordance with the prophet’s action, judging that he understood what was intended by the words. The word ‘anoint’ is used concerning Jehu and Elisha as well as Hazael; and we know that Elijah did not anoint Elisha, though he could easily have done so, but only made known, by the act of casting his prophetic mantle upon him, that he was called to that office. In the same way then we may understand the rest of the divine order. Elijah was to receive assurance for himself, and to make known that assurance to others, as he found occasion, that God was still ruling Israel both from without and from within, and would call to the throne of Syria one who should execute His judgements upon His rebellious people, and to the throne of Israel one who should destroy Baal and his worship out of the land. We shall not err, it seems, if we suppose that the knowledge, which Elisha had (2 Kings 8:13) when he says ‘The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria,’ was derived from Elijah’s communication, as also the instruction which led him, at a future day (2 Kings 9:1-2), to send one of the sons of the prophets to Ramoth-Gilead to anoint Jehu. Hence ‘anoint’ in the text becomes equivalent to ‘point them out as the anointed ones.’

On Hazael’s wars at a subsequent time with Israel and Judah, see 2 Kings 8:28-29. He subsequently invaded the territory of Israel and especially overran the district East of Jordan (2 Kings 10:32-33), and held Israel in subjection ‘all the days of Jehoahaz’ (2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:22). Through him, we are told, ‘the Lord began to cut Israel short’ (2 Kings 10:32), and there are many indications that this king was for Israel, the rod of God’s anger, a divinely appointed minister of His judgements.

For ‘anoint’ the R.V. reads thou shalt anoint, a change required by the Hebrew which is not an imperative.Verse 15. - And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way [Heb. to thy way, as in Genesis 19:2; Genesis 32:2; Numbers 24:25, etc.] to the wilderness of Damacus [The construct case with ה local. Keil refers to Deuteronomy 4:41; Joshua 12:1; and Ewald 216 b. This cannot mean "through the desert to Damascus," for he could not possibly go any other way, nor yet "to the desert (through which he had just come) to Damascus," for he was then in the heart of the desert. He was to find a hiding place - we find the king of Damascus at war with Ahab, ch. 20. - or possibly a sphere for work, - he would be near Hazael - in the rugged desert which stretches south and east of the Syrian capital. (See Stanley, "Sinai and Palestine," p. 410; Porter's "Five Years in Damascus," vol. 2. p. 254 sqq.) Here, too, the prophet would be at no great distance from his own country. See on 1 Kings 17:3]: and Wheel thou comest, anoint [Heb. and thou shalt come and anoint. LXX. καὶ ἥξεις καὶ χρίσεις. The A.V. increases the difficulty. In the Hebrew the time of the anointing is indefinite. This commission has long been a crux interpretum. For neither Hazael, nor Jehu, nor Elisha, so far as we have any record, was ever anointed by Elijah. Elisha was called by him to the prophetic office. Hazael, it is barely possible, may have been anointed secretly, like David (1 Samuel 16:2, 13), but all that we gather from Scripture is, that he was called in an indirect way, and certainly not anointed, by Elisha (2 Kings 8:12-15). Jehu was certainly anointed, but it was neither by Elisha nor Elijah (2 Kings 9:1, 6), but by one of the sons of the prophets. All we can say, consequently, is that the command was obeyed in the spirit, and no doubt in the best possible time and way. There may have been good reasons, of which we know nothing, why Elijah should devolve the appointment of the two kings upon his successor, and we can readily understand that the word "anoint" was, as in Judges 9:8, Isaiah 61:1, never meant to be construed literally. For in the first place, we have no record elsewhere of the anointing of any prophet; and secondly, it is remarkable that when Elijah might so easily have anointed Elisha, he did nothing of the kind. It is clear, therefore, that he understood the word to mean "appoint." And the root idea of anointing, it must be remembered, was the setting apart for the service of God (Exodus 29:6). Hence it was (Bahr) that vessels (Exodus 30:26 sqq.), and even stones (Genesis 28:18), were anointed. And when we find that these three persons were set apart sooner or later, and in different ways, to fulfil the high purposes of God, that ought to suffice us. The author of this history clearly found no difficulty in reconciling this account and that of 2 Kings 8:9. It has also been objected to this charge (Rawlinson) that it is no "explanation or application of the preceding parable." But this is precisely what it appears to have been intended to be. The prophet is here taught by word much the same lesson that had been conveyed by signs, in the preceding vision. No doubt there are additional particulars - the vision dealt only with principles, the charge descends to details and prescribes duties - but still the great lesson that souls are to be won, that God's kingdom is to be advanced, not by wrath and vengeance, by fire and sword, but by meekness and gentleness, through the reason and the conscience, is proclaimed. Hazael and Jehu, each was God's instrument to punish; each was like the sweeping siena or the devouring fire, each was an engine of destruction; but by neither of these were the hearts Of men turned to the Lord. It was the sword of Elisha, the sword of his mouth (cf. Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:16), should constrain men to hide their faces and humble themselves before God] Hazael [the seer of God. This name, viewed in connection with Elijah's vision of God, is noticeable] to be king over Syria: Appearance of God at Horeb. - 1 Kings 19:9. When Elijah arrived at Horeb, he went into the cave (the definite article in המּערה, with the obvious connection between the appearance of God, which follows here, and that described in Exodus 33:12., points back to the cleft in the rock, נקרת הצּוּר) in which Moses had stood while the glory of Jehovah passed by (see at Exodus 33:22), and there he passed the night. And behold the word of the Lord came to him (in the night): "What doest thou here, Elijah?" This question did not involve a reproof, as though Elijah had nothing to do there, but was simply intended to lead him to give utterance to the thoughts and feelings of his heart.
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