And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man does send to me to recover a man of his leprosy? why consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)He rent his clothes.—As if he had heard blasphemy. (Comp. Matthew 26:65.)
Am I God, to kill and to make alive?—Deuteronomy 32:39, “I kill, and I make alive;” 1Samuel 2:6, “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive.” Leprosy was a kind of living death. (Comp. Numbers 12:12, Heb., “Let her not become as the dead, who, when he cometh forth of his mother’s womb, hath half his flesh consumed.”)
Wherefore.—Heb., For only know (i.e., notice), and see. Plural verbs are used, because the king is addressing his grandees, in whose presence the letter would be delivered and read.
He seeketh a quarrel.—This form of the verb (hithpael) occurs here only. (Comp. the noun, Judges 14:4.) Jehoram was hardly in a position to renew the war, after the severe defeat of his father (1Kings 22:30, seq.).2 Kings 5:7. The king of Israel rent his clothes — Either as one in great affliction and trouble, or because he looked upon it as blasphemy, to ascribe that power to him which belonged to God alone. Am I God, to kill and make alive? — He expresses himself thus, because the leprosy is a kind or degree of death, Numbers 12:12; and he thought it as impossible to cure it as to raise the dead. Every body can kill; but when a person is killed, to make him alive again is the work only of the Almighty. See how he seeketh a quarrel against me — For not doing what he requires, which he knows to be impossible for me to do. Though he had seen what miracles Elisha had done, yet he either had forgot them, or thought this to be beyond his power. Or, it may be, he was loath to see still further demonstration of his power with God, and therefore did not send to him on this occasion.2 Samuel 13:19; Ezra 9:3; 2 Chronicles 34:27; Jeremiah 36:22.
Consider, I pray you - Jehoram speaks to his chief officers, and bids them mark the animus of the Syrian monarch. Compare the conduct of Ahab 1 Kings 20:7.He rent his clothes; either in detestation of his blasphemy, in giving God’s perfections to him; or rather, for grief arising from a suspicion and fear that the Syrian made this only a pretence for the war which he designed against him.
I God, to kill and to make alive? he expresseth it thus, because leprosy is a kind or degree of death, Numbers 12:12, and he thought it as impossible to cure it as to raise the dead.
See how he seeketh a quarrel against me, for not doing what he requires, which he knows impossible for me to do.
and said, am I God, to kill and to make alive; or have the power of life and death, which only belongs to the Supreme Being:
that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy; for a leper was reckoned as one dead, his disease incurable, his flesh upon him being mortified by it, see Numbers 12:12 and therefore not supposed to be in the power of man, only of God, to cure; and therefore, in Israel, none had anything to do with the leper but the priest, in the name of God:
wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me; to pick a quarrel with him, in order to go to war with him as he supposed. This seems to have been spoken to his lords and courtiers about him.And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. that he rent his clothes] Sometimes the act was a sign of grief as in 2 Kings 2:12 above and Genesis 37:29; sometimes as here, of horror and alarm. Cf. also 2 Kings 18:36; Ezra 9:3; Jeremiah 36:24.
to kill and to make alive] The disease of leprosy was incurable, and so the request that it should be cured was such as the author of life alone could grant. Cf. for the language Deuteronomy 32:39, ‘I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me, I kill and I make alive’. So also in Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:6). This is a power that belongs to God only.
doth send unto me] The knowledge of Elisha’s mighty acts must have been less before the mind of the king than of his subjects, or he would not have failed to see that the request might be granted by God through his prophet. ‘Himself with the two other kings had been eyewitnesses of what Elisha could do, yet now the calves of Dan and Bethel have so often taken up his heart that there is no room for the memory of Elisha. Whom he sued to in his extremity, now his prosperity hath forgotten. Carnal hearts when need drives them can think of God and his prophet: when their turn is served, can as utterly forget them as if they were not’ (Bp Hall).
he seeketh a quarrel against me] The verb, in this form and sense, only occurs here, but the cognate noun in the sense of ‘an occasion of quarrel’ is found Jdg 14:4. Hence the R.V. has put ‘occasion’ on the margin. It is only the one who feels his superiority that ventures on seeking a quarrel, and from the timid words of Jehoram we may conclude that he thought the Syrians more than a match for him; as was only natural, since they had defeated his father at Ramoth-Gilead not long before. He dreaded a renewal of such a conflict.Verse 7. - And it came to pass, when the King of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes. In horror and alarm (comp. 2 Samuel 13:19; 2 Chronicles 34:27; Ezra 9:3; Jeremiah 36:24). He concluded that once more (see 1 Kings 20:7) the Syrian monarch was determined to find a ground of quarrel, and had therefore sent to him an impossible request. And said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive? To "kill" and to "make alive" were familiar expressions in the mouth of the Israelites to designate omnipotence (see Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). Recovering from leprosy was equivalent to making alive, for a leprous person was "as one dead" (Numbers 12:12) according to Hebrew notions. That this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy. The king evidently does not bethink himself of Elisha, of whose great miracle of raising the dead to life (2 Kings 4:35-36) he may not up to this time have heard. Elisha's early miracles were mostly wrought with a certain amount of secrecy. Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. The king misjudged Benhadad, but not without some grounds of reason, if he was ignorant of Elisha's miraculous gifts. Benhadad, when seeking a ground of quarrel with Ahab, had made extravagant requests (see 1 Kings 20:3-6). 2 Kings 5:1. Naaman, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian king, who was a very great man before his lord, i.e., who held a high place in the service of his king and was greatly distinguished (פּנים נשׂא, cf. Isaiah 3:3; Isaiah 9:14), because God had given the Syrians salvation (victory) through him, was as a warrior afflicted with leprosy. The ו has not dropped out before מצרע, nor has the copula been omitted for the purpose of sharpening the antithesis (Thenius), for the appeal to Ewald, 354, a., proves nothing, since the passages quoted there are of a totally different kind; but חיל גּבּור is a second predicate: the man was as a brave warrior leprous. There is an allusion here to the difference between the Syrians and the Israelites in their views of leprosy. Whereas in Israel lepers were excluded from human society (see at Leviticus 13 and 14), in Syria a man afflicted with leprosy could hold a very high state-office in the closest association with the king.
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