2 Kings 4:39
And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.
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(39) Herbs.—A rare word. (See Isaiah 26:19.) The Targum renders “greens.” The LXX. retains the Hebrew word; the Syriac and Arabic render “mallows.” Thenius thinks that αριωθ, the reading of the LXX., points to another word derived from a different root, and meaning “to pluck,” so that the word would denote legumina.

A wild vine.—Vulg., “quasi vitem silvestrem,” i.e., a running plant, like a vine.

Wild gourds.—In 1Kings 6:18 a related word is used to describe one of the decorations of the Temple (“knops”).

Wild gourds, or cucumbers (cucumeres agrestes, or asinini), are oval in shape, and taste bitter. Their Hebrew name (paqqû‘ôth) is expressive of the fact that when ripe they are apt to burst upon being touched. If eaten they act as a violent purgative. They were mistaken on the present occasion for edible gourds, a favourite food of the people (Numbers 11:5). The Vulg. renders “colocynth,” or coloquintida, a plant of the same family, bearing large orange-like fruits, which are very bitter, and cause colic (cucumis colocynthi, L.). Keil supposes this to be the “wild vine” intended.

They knew them not.—And so did not stop the young man from his shredding.

2 Kings 4:39-41. And found a wild vine — This is generally supposed to have been the coloquintida plant, which has a leaf something like that of the vine, but is so very bitter, that some have called it “the gall of the whole earth:” it purges vehemently, and is a sort of poison if not qualified and taken in a moderate quantity. For they knew them not — Neither he that gathered them, nor they that shred them, knew what they were, but took them to be the leaves of a wild vine. They cried out, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot — That is, some deadly thing. This they concluded from its being so bitter and distasteful. He said, Bring meal and cast it into the pot — Together with the pottage, which they had taken out of it. And there was no harm in the pot — Which alteration was not from any virtue in the meal, but from the power of God.

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.A wild vine - Not a real wild vine, the fruit of which, if not very palatable, is harmless; but some climbing plant with tendrils. The plant was probably either the Ecbalium elaterium, or "squirting cucumber," the fruit of which, egg-shaped, and of a very bitter taste, bursts at the slightest touch, when it is ripe, and squirts out sap and seed grains; or the Colocynthis, which belongs to the family of cucumbers, has a vine-shaped leaf, and bears a fruit as large as an orange, very bitter, from which is prepared the drug sold as colocynth. This latter plant grows abundantly in Palestine.

His lap full - literally, "his shawl full." The prophet brought the fruit home in his "shawl" or "outer garment."

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.

A wild vine; a plant called coloquintida, whose gourds or leaves resemble the leaves of a vine, and are very bitter and pernicious to the eater.

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.

And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a {t} wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.

(t) Which the apothecaries call colloquintida, and is most vehement and dangerous in purging.

39. And one went out] As the needful services were performed by the members of the college among themselves, it was no doubt one of them who went into the field to gather such herbs as he could find.

a wild vine] i.e. some wild plant with vine-like tendrils, named here ‘vine’ for want of knowledge of its true name. The colocynth has tendrils after the fashion of the wild bryony in our hedgerows.

wild gourds] The Hebrew word is explained as meaning ‘wild cucumber’, an egg-shaped fruit with very bitter taste. But the prickly fruit of this plant could hardly be thought fit for pottage. Others think that the ‘colocynth’ is meant, and this was the opinion of the LXX., which renders by τολυπὴ ἀγρία, ‘wild pumpkin’. This fruit might be mistaken for a melon.

for they knew them not] Nobody among the brotherhood had sufficient skill of plants to stop their comrade, and tell him the noxious nature of the herb he had brought home.

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. 2 Kings 4:39One (of these pupils) then went to the field to gather vegetables (ארת, olera: for the different explanations of this word see Celsii Hierobot. i. 459ff., and Ges. Thes. p. 56), and found שׂדה גּפן, i.e., not wild vines, but wild creepers (Luther), field-creepers resembling vines; and having gathered his lap full of wild cucumbers, took them home and cut them into the vegetable pot. because they did not know them. פּקּעת is rendered in the ancient versions colocynths (lxx πολυπὴ ἀγρία, i.e., according to Suid., Colocynthis), whereas Gesenius (Thes. p. 1122), Winer, and others, follow Celsius (l.c. i. 393ff.), have decided in favour of wild cucumbers, a fruit resembling an acorn, or, according to Oken, a green fleshy fruit of almost a finger's length and an inch thick, which crack with a loud noise, when quite ripe, and very gentle pressure, spirting out both juice and seeds, and have a very bitter taste. The reason for this decision is, that the peculiarity mentioned answers to the etymon פּקע, to split, in Syr. and Chald. to crack. Nevertheless the rendering given by the old translators is apparently the more correct of the two; for the colocynths also belong to the genus of the cucumbers, creep upon the ground, and are a round yellow fruit of the size of a large orange, and moreover are extremely bitter, producing colic, and affecting the nerves. The form of this fruit is far more suitable for oval architectural ornaments (פּקעים, 1 Kings 6:18; 1 Kings 7:24) than that of the wild cucumber.
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