2 Kings 2:19
And the men of the city said to Elisha, Behold, I pray you, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
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(19-25) Elisha, as prophet, heals the waters of Jericho, and curses the scorners of Beth-el.

(19) The men of the city.—Not “the sons of the prophets,” but the citizens make this trial of the prophet’s miraculous powers.

The situation of this (Heb., the) city is pleasant (Heb., good).—Jericho, “the city of palms” (Deuteronomy 34:3), had a fine position, “rising like an oasis from a broad plain of sand.”

The water is naught.—Heb., bad. “Naught” i.e., “naughty.”

And the ground barren.2Kings 2:21 (“from thence”) shows that the waters, not the soil, were the cause of the evil complained of. “The ground,” or rather, the land is here put for its inhabitants, including the lower animals; and what is said is either “the country bears dead births,” or, “the country has many miscarriages” (pi’el may be either factitive or intensive). (Comp. Exodus 23:26; Malachi 3:11.) The use of different waters is said to have good and bad effects upon the functions of conception and parturition (not “a popular superstition,” as Reuss suggests). “The ground is barren,” or unfruitful, is therefore an incorrect translation.

2 Kings 2:19. The water is naught, and the ground barren — Either it was so originally, at least as to that part of the city where the college of the prophets was; or it became so from the curse of God inflicted upon it, either when Joshua first took the city, or when Hiel rebuilt it: however, upon the prophet’s care it became exceeding fruitful, and therefore is commended for its fertility by later writers. Thus the ministers of the gospel should endeavour to make every place they come to some way or other the better for them; labouring to sweeten bitter spirits, and to make barren souls fruitful by a due application of God’s word.2:19-25 Observe the miracle of healing the waters. Prophets should make every place to which they come better for them, endeavouring to sweeten bitter spirits, and to make barren souls fruitful, by the word of God, which is like the salt cast into the water by Elisha. It was an apt emblem of the effect produced by the grace of God on the sinful heart of man. Whole families, towns, and cities, sometimes have a new appearance through the preaching of the gospel; wickedness and evil have been changed into fruitfulness in the works of righteousness, which are, through Christ, to the praise and glory of God. Here is a curse on the youths of Bethel, enough to destroy them; it was not a curse causeless, for it was Elisha's character, as God's prophet, that they abused. They bade him go up, reflecting on the taking up of Elijah into heaven. The prophet acted by Divine impulse. If the Holy Spirit had not directed Elisha's solemn curse, the providence of God would not have followed it with judgment. The Lord must be glorified as a righteous God who hates sin, and will reckon for it. Let young persons be afraid of speaking wicked words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for defects in mind or body; especially it is at their peril, if they scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in their children, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts. And what will be the anguish of those parents, at the day of judgment, who witness the everlasting condemnation of their offspring, occasioned by their own bad example, carelessness, or wicked teaching!The water is naught - i. e. "bad."

And the ground barren - Translate "and the land apt to miscarry." The stream was thought to be the cause of untimely births, abortions, and the like, among the cattle, perhaps also among the people, that drank of it.

2Ki 2:19-25. Elisha Heals the Waters. Either it was so orignally, at least as to that part of the city where the college of the prophets was, for it is not necessary to understand this of the whole territory; or it became so from the curse of God inflicted upon it, either when Joshua first took it, or afterwards when Hiel rebuilt it. Howsoever, upon the prophet’s care, it grew exceeding fruitful, and therefore is commended for its fertility by later writers. And the men of the city said unto Elisha,.... The inhabitants of Jericho, perceiving him to be a prophet, and endowed with a power of working miracles:

behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth; in a plain, surrounded with gardens and orchards, with vineyards, oliveyards, and groves of palm trees, and other odoriferous ones:

but the water is naught, and the ground barren; that is, that part of it where this water was, or ran, for from thence it became barren; or "caused to miscarry", as the word signifies (q); not only trees cast their fruit, which it watered, but women became abortive that drank of it, as Josephus says (r), and so cattle. Abarbinel thinks it was so from the times of Joshua, being cursed by him; but, if so, it would not have been inhabited again; rather this was owing to a new curse, upon its being rebuilt; though this might affect only a small part of the ground, not the whole, as before observed.

(q) "orbans", Montanus, Vatablus; "facit abortum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (r) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 3.

And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
19–22. Elisha heals the noxious water at Jericho (Not in Chronicles)

19. And the men of the city] These are the ordinary inhabitants. From the sons of the prophets they would gather that Elisha was now gifted with the spirit and power of Elijah. The situation of Jericho, near the passage of the Jordan, was such as to attract a considerable population after it was rebuilt, and for the sake of the prosperity which came to them in other ways they were content to dwell in such an unwholesome place. Now however they saw a hope of benefit and with this thought they came to Elisha. ‘It is good making use of a prophet while we have him’ (Bp Hall).

I [R.V. we] pray thee] The Hebrew is a mere interjection. The change in the English is justified because the petitioners were numerous.

the situation of this city is pleasant] Jericho was a part of that country which, in Genesis 13:10, is compared to ‘the garden of the Lord’.

the water is naught] This word is of frequent occurrence in the English of the 16th century in the sense of ‘bad’. So too ‘naughty’. Cf. Jeremiah 24:2, ‘naughty figs’. And for ‘naught’ cf. Shakes. As You Like It, I. 2. 68, ‘The mustard was naught’. Much Ado, v. I. 157, ‘If I do not carve most curiously, say my knife’s naught’.

and the ground barren] R.V. and the land miscarrieth. The R.V. is explained in a margin ‘casteth her fruit’. The evil effect was clearly in consequence of the hurtful water, for the healing of the spring is to bring a remedy for the other evils. It seems therefore that the water was such as caused the trees to shed their fruit prematurely and the cattle which fed on the herbage which it watered to cast their young untimely, and it may be that the mischief extended also to the human beings who drank thereof.Verses 19-25. - The historian passes to the record of some of Elisha's minor miracles, belonging to the time whereof he is writing, and helping to explain the position of dignity and respect which he is found to occupy in the next chapter (vers. 11-14). The miracles showed his twofold power, both to confer benefits and to punish. Verse 19. - And the men of the city - i.e. the inhabitants of Jericho; probably the civic authorities, having heard of the recent miracle - said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth. According to the unanimous voice of travelers, the situation of Jericho (now Eriha) is charming. Lying on a broad plain which is traversed by an abundant river, at the point where one of the main wadys debouched from the Judaean upland upon the low country, shaded by groves of palm trees (Deuteronomy 34:3) and fig-mulberries (Luke 19:4), the air scented with aromatic shrubs, opobalsam, myroba-lanum, and the like, facing the Orient sun, and commanding a wide prospect both across and also up and down the Ghor, with the mountains of Moab in the distance, Jericho was, no doubt, even before the miracle of Elisha, a "pleasant" place. But - there was one drawback - the water is naught, and the ground barren. Bitter and brackish springs, of which there are many in the Jordan valley, gushed forth from the foot of the mountains, and formed rivulets, which ran across the plain towards the Jordan, not diffusing health and fertility, but rather disease and barrenness. Untimely births, abortions, and the like prevailed among the cattle which were fed in the neighborhood, perhaps even among the inhabitants of the locality, and were attributed to the bitter springs, which made the land "miscarrying" (ἀτεκνουμένη, LXX.). It was the prayer of the men of Jericho that Elisha would remove this inconvenience. He then took up Elijah's prophet's mantle, which had fallen from him when he was snatched away, and returned to the Jordan. The prophet's mantle of the master fell to Elisha the disciple, as a pledge to himself that his request was fulfilled, and as a visible sign to others that he was his divinely appointed successor, and that the spirit of Elijah rested upon him (2 Kings 2:15).
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