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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.
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.
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.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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. 2 Kings 2:15).
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