2 Kings 8:15
And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) He tooki.e., Hazael, the nearest subject. Ewald objects that if Hazael were meant, his name would not occur where it does at the end of the verse. But the objection does not hold, for in relating who succeeded to the throne, it was natural to give the name of the new king. Further, a considerable pause must be understood at “he died.” The Judæan editor of Kings then appropriately concludes: “So Hazael reigned in his stead.” The mention of the name significantly reminds us that Elisha had designated Hazael as the future king. Besides, after the words “and he died,” it would have been more ambiguous than usual to add, “and he reigned in his stead.”

A thick cloth.—Rather, the quilt, or coverlet. So the LXX., Vulg., Targum, and Arabic. The Syriac renders “curtain;” and, accordingly, Gesenius and others translate, “mosquito net.” The Hebrew term (makbēr) means, etymologically, something plaited or interwoven. It is not found elsewhere, but a word of the same root occurs in 1Samuel 19:13. It is clear from the context that the makbēr must have been something which when soaked in water, and laid on the face, would prevent respiration.

Josephus says Hazael strangled his master with a mosquito net. But this and other explanations, such as that of Ewald, do not suit the words of the text. The old commentator, Clericus, may be right when he states Hazaeľs motive to have been ut hominem facilius suffocaret, ne vi interemptus videretur. And, perhaps, as Thenius supposes, the crown was offered to Hazael as a successful warrior. (Comp. 2Kings 10:32, seq.) When Duncker (Hist. of Antiq., 1:413) ventures to state that Elisha incited Hazael to the murder of Ben-hadad, and afterwards renewed the war against Israel, not without encouragement from the prophet as a persistent enemy of Jehoram and his dynasty, he simply betrays an utter incapacity for understanding the character and function of Hebrew prophecy. The writer of Kings, at all events, did not intend to represent Elisha as a deceiver of foreign sovereigns and a traitor to his own; and this narrative is the only surviving record of the events described.

Hazael reigned in his stead.—On the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser II. (B.C. 860-825), now in the British Museum, we read: “In my 18th regnal year for the 16th time I crossed the Euphrates. Haza’ilu of the land of Damascus came on to the battle: 1,121 of his chariots, 470 of his horsemen, with his stores, I took from him.” And again: “In my 21st year for the 21st time I crossed the Euphrates: to the cities of Haza’ilu of the land of Damascus I marched, whose towns I took. Tribute of the land of the Tyrians, Sidonians, Giblites, I received.”

2 Kings 8:15. And spread it on his face — Pretending, it may be, to cool his immoderate heat with it, but applying it so closely that he choked him therewith; the king being weak, and unable to help himself, or perhaps asleep. By this artifice he prevented his crying out, and his death would appear to be natural, there being no signs of violence upon his body. Such a bubble is the life of the greatest men, and so exposed are princes to treachery and outrage. We found this haughty monarch (1 Kings 20:1-10) the terror of the mighty in the land of the living; but now he goes down slain into the pit, with his iniquity upon his bones, Ezekiel 32:25. And Hazael reigned in his stead — Being, it is likely, in great favour, both with the people and the soldiery, and not suspected of the murder of Ben- hadad; and he leaving no son to succeed him in the government.8:7-15 Among other changes of men's minds by affliction, it often gives other thoughts of God's ministers, and teaches to value the counsels and prayers of those whom they have hated and despised. It was not in Hazael's countenance that Elisha read what he would do, but God revealed it to him, and it fetched tears from his eyes: the more foresight men have, the more grief they are liable to. It is possible for a man, under the convictions and restraints of natural conscience, to express great abhorrence of a sin, yet afterwards to be reconciled to it. Those that are little and low in the world, cannot imagine how strong the temptations of power and prosperity are, which, if ever they arrive at, they will find how deceitful their hearts are, how much worse than they suspected. The devil ruins men, by saying they shall certainly recover and do well, so rocking them asleep in security. Hazael's false account was an injury to the king, who lost the benefit of the prophet's warning to prepare for death, and an injury to Elisha, who would be counted a false prophet. It is not certain that Hazael murdered his master, or if he caused his death it may have been without any design. But he was a dissembler, and afterwards proved a persecutor to Israel.A thick cloth - Probably, a cloth or mat placed between the head and the upper part of the bedstead, which in Egypt and Assyria was often so shaped that pillows (in our sense) were unnecessary.

The objection that Elisha is involved in the guilt of having suggested the deed, has no real force or value. Hazael was no more obliged to murder Benhadad because a prophet announced to him that he would one day be king of Syria, than David was obliged to murder Saul because another prophet anointed him king in Saul's room 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

15. took a thick cloth, &c.—a coverlet. In the East, this article of bedding is generally a thick quilt of wool or cotton, so that, with its great weight, when steeped in water, it would be a fit instrument for accomplishing the murderous purpose, without leaving any marks of violence. It has been supposed by many doubtful that Hazael purposely murdered the king. But it is common for Eastern people to sleep with their faces covered with a mosquito net; and, in some cases of fever, they dampen the bedclothes. Hazael, aware of those chilling remedies being usually resorted to, might have, with an honest intention, spread a refreshing cover over him. The rapid occurrence of the king's death and immediate burial were favorable to his instant elevation to the throne. Spread it on his face; pretending, it may be, to cool his immoderate heat with it; but applying it so closely, that he choked him therewith; by which artifice his death seemed to be natural, there being no signs of a violent death upon his body. And this he the more boldly attempted, because the prophet’s prediction made him confident of the success.

Hazael reigned in his stead; having the favour of the people, and of the men of war. And it came to pass on the morrow,.... In such haste was Hazael to be king, as the prophet said he would be:

that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died; not that Benhadad took or ordered such a cloth to be dipped and laid on his own face, to allay the violent heat in him; but Hazael did this, and perhaps under such a pretence; but his real design was to strike in the heat, or suffocate him; for such a thick cloth, one of the bedclothes, made of goats' hair, as is supposed, being dipped in water, would suck in a great deal; and being laid on his face, would press hard, and he not able to throw it off, it would let in much water into his mouth and nostrils, and suffocate him, without leaving any marks of violence, which might render his death suspicious:

and Hazael reigned in his stead; having an interest in the army, of which he was general, and perhaps had done some exploits which had recommended him to the regard of the people.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and {h} spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.

(h) Under pretence to refresh or ease him, he suffocated him with his cloak.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. on the morrow] He would not tarry. The means he employed was probably the coverlet of the bed, which, soaked and laid over the sick man’s face, would effectually stop his breath. The noun rendered ‘thick cloth’ [R.V. the coverlet] is only found here, but it is connected with a verb which signifies ‘to weave’. Hence it was some woven stuff. ‘Coverlet’ is the rendering sanctioned by the LXX. which has τὸ στρῶμα. Death so caused would give very little sign of violence, and might in those early times be readily referred to the disease of which the king was sick. The Targum interprets the word of the mosquito-curtains round the bed, but these would be unsuitable for such a purpose. Josephus explains it of some network (δίκτυον) with which he says Hazael strangled his master. This also is not the notion of the text.Verse 15. - And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth. Macber is a cloth of a coarse texture - a mat, or piece of carpeting. It has here the article prefixed to it (ham-macber), which implies that there was but one in the sick-room. We may conjecture that it was a mat used as a sort of pillow, and interposed between the head-rest (so common in Egypt and Assyria) and the head (compare the c'bir of 1 Samuel 19:13). And dipped it in water. The water would fill up the interstices through which air might otherwise have been drawn, and hasten the suffocation. A death of the same kind is recorded in the Persian history entitled 'Kholasat el Akhbar,' which contains (p. 162) the following passage: "The malik ordered that they should place a carpet on Abdallah's mouth, so that his life was cut off." And spread it on his face, so that he died. It has been supposed by some commentators, as Luther, Schultz, Geddes, Boothroyd, that Benhadad put the wet macber on his own face for refreshment, and accidentally suffocated himself; but this is very unlikely, and it is certainly not the natural sense of the words. As "Hazael" is the subject of "departed" and "came" and "answered" in ver. 14, so it is the natural subject of "took" and "dipped" and "spread" in ver. 15. Ver. 11 also would be unintelligible if Hazael entertained no murderous intentions. Why Ewald ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 93, Eng. trans.) introduces a "bath-servant," unmentioned in the text, to murder Benhadad for no assignable reason, it is difficult to conjecture. And Hazael reigned in his stead. The direct succession of Hazael to Benhadad is confirmed by the inscription on the Black Obelisk, where he appears as King of Damascus (line 97) a few years only after Benhadad (Bin-idri) had been mentioned as king. Elisha Predicts to Hazael at Damascus the Possession of the Throne. - 2 Kings 8:7. Elisha then came to Damascus at the instigation of the Spirit of God, to carry out the commission which Elijah had received at Horeb with regard to Hazael (1 Kings 19:15). Benhadad king of Syria was sick at that time, and when Elisha's arrival was announced to him, sent Hazael with a considerable present to the man of God, to inquire of Jehovah through him concerning his illness. The form of the name חזהאל (here and 2 Kings 8:15) is etymologically correct; but afterwards it is always written without .ה דם וכל־טוּב ("and that all kinds of good of Damascus") follows with a more precise description of the minchah - "a burden of forty camels." The present consisted of produce or wares of the rich commercial city of Damascus, and was no doubt very considerable; at the same time, it was not so large that forty camels were required to carry it. The affair must be judged according to the Oriental custom, of making a grand display with the sending of presents, and employing as many men or beasts of burden as possible to carry them, every one carrying only a single article (cf. Harmar, Beobb. ii. p. 29, iii. p. 43, and Rosenmller, A. u. N. Morgenl. iii. p. 17).
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