Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.Ch. 2 Kings 8:1-6. The land of the Shunammite is restored to her by the king’s order for the sake of Elisha’s miracles (Not in Chronicles)
1. Then spake Elisha] R.V. Now Elisha had spoken. It is clear from verse 3 that Elisha’s advice was given at least seven years before the event narrated in these verses. Hence the necessity for the change of tense. It is probable that the accounts of Elisha’s work and influence are not related in their chronological order. The famine here spoken of was most likely the same to which allusion is made in 2 Kings 4:38, and perhaps the conference of the king with Gehazi mentioned in verse 4 took place before the latter was smitten with leprosy. It is not however absolutely certain that Jehoram might not have an interview with Gehazi, though leprous. Bp Hall says of them: ‘I begin to think some goodness in both these. Had there not been some goodness in Jehoram, he had not taken pleasure to hear, even from a leprous mouth, the miraculous acts and praises of God’s prophet: had there not been some goodness in Gehazi, he had not, after so fearful an infliction of judgement, thus ingenuously recounted the praises of his severe master’.
the woman, whose son he had restored] i.e. the Shunammite whose story is told in 2 Kings 4:8-37.
sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn] Why such advice should be given to a woman, who from the history appears to have been in better circumstances than others, it is not easy to decide. As the husband is nowhere mentioned in this appeal to Jehoram, it may be that he, being already old when the son was restored to life, had in the meantime died. Then she may have fallen into some distress, and have been unable to dwell on the lands which her husband had cultivated.
the Lord hath called for a famine] Similarly the Lord is said to call for the sword against a land, Jeremiah 25:29; Ezekiel 38:21.
and it shall also come] Elisha, as the seer, foretells the duration of the dearth, as he had done the termination of the siege, and the consequent abundance in Samaria (2 Kings 7:1). In both cases his words are directly referred to Jehovah.
And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.2. sojourned in the land of the Philistines] As in Jacob’s time, the patriarch with his family was sent into Egypt, an idolatrous land, because of the famine, so the pious Shunammite, for her life’s support, goes forth among the Philistines, and stays there seven years.
And it came to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.3. she went forth to cry unto the king] She had reached Shunem, and found her land in other hands. It may be that some encroaching neighbour had entered on the untenanted property, or it may have been seized for the king as being deserted of its owner. In either case the king is the person to be appealed to, and to the court she makes her way.
And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done.4. the king talked [R.V. was talking] with Gehazi] For a brief conference we find Naaman coming to the court of Israel and probably obtaining an interview with the king or some of those in immediate attendance on him. So if Jehoram were desirous to know everything about Elisha, he might for a short time converse with Gehazi. The interview appears to have been in some public place, perhaps at the gate of the city, where kings sat to hear appeals and administer justice. The Shunammite finds them together. ‘The words of Gehazi, the thoughts of the king, the desires of the Shunammite, all drawn together, by the wise providence of God into the centre of one moment, that His oppressed servant might receive a speedy justice’ (Bp Hall).
And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.5. had restored a dead body to life] R.V. to life him that was dead. This would be among the greatest of the great works of Elisha, and Jehoram’s interest would consequently be at its height.
And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now.6. she told him] i.e. confirmed the narrative which Gehazi had given, and at the same time took advantage of the king’s interest in Elisha, to press her plea for the restitution of her land.
Restore all that was hers] It would seem from this as if the king himself had been put in possession of the land. Hence he could order all the seven years, produce to be given back to her either in kind or in money from the royal stores.
And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither.7–15. Elisha visits Damascus. Benhadad, being sick, sends Hazael to enquire of Elisha. Benhadad is murdered by Hazael (Not in Chronicles)
7. And Elisha came to Damascus] Probably here ‘Damascus’ is used not for the city, but for the district. For Hazael (verse 9) has a journey to make to meet the prophet, and is sent from the royal city by the sick king with his enquiry. We need not suppose that Elisha went to fulfil the command which had been given to Elijah (1 Kings 19:15) to anoint Hazael king over Syria. For he does not anoint him, but merely says ‘The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria’. Elisha appears to have been in no peril when he went into Syria, for the sick king’s message is of the most peaceable kind, and the presents which Hazael brought with him are an indication of the honour in which the prophet was held. This may be accounted for by the cure of Naaman, and by the release of the Syrian soldiers whom the prophet had brought into Samaria (2 Kings 6:22-23).
The man of God is come hither] Benhadad had experienced in many ways the power of the God of Israel, and though Rimmon was the god of Damascus, yet, in common with other idolaters, the king thinks that it may be possible for him, through the prophet, to obtain help from the Israelites’ God. Josephus (Ant. IX. 4. 6) represents Benhadad as having sickened from despondency after his late flight from Samaria, and because the God of Israel was hostile to him.
And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?8. the king said unto Hazael] Josephus says Hazael was the most trusted of Benhadad’s household. He was evidently one of his chief ministers, and must have been in some prominent position at the time when God’s message came to Elijah to anoint him as future king.
in thine hand] The Hebrew expression for ‘with thee’. So in the next verse the literal ‘in his hand’ (see margin) is rendered ‘with him’. The Oriental notion of sending a present is to make it seem as grand as possible, by committing each portion to a separate servant, or placing it on a separate beast of burden.
inquire of the Lord] It was not for information only that Benhadad sent, but with the hope that for such a gorgeous present the prophet might intercede with the God of Israel for his recovery.
So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?9. even of every good thing of Damascus] Cf. the present which Jacob sent by his sons when they were going down into Egypt to buy food (Genesis 43:11), ‘Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present &c.’
forty camels’ burden] The number of camels was for display. We are not to suppose that each was fully laden. Nor need we think that Elisha who had refused Naaman’s present would be more ready to accept Benhadad’s.
stood before him] It must have been well known where Elisha was to be found. There was no concealment in his visit. An array of forty camels would only be brought to a definite spot.
Thy son Ben-hadad] The term indicates the humility of the petitioner. So Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7) when he sent for help to Tiglath-pileser, said ‘I am thy servant and thy son’. In like manner Jehoram called Elisha ‘my father’, above in 2 Kings 6:21.
And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die.10. Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly [R.V. shalt surely] recover] This is not the translation of the Hebrew text (Kethib) but of the marginal reading [Keri]. The variation is between לא the negative and לו the pronoun and preposition. The text would be rendered ‘Go say; Thou shalt not recover’. This does not suit with what follows, ‘Howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die’. We should expect ‘For the Lord &c.’ The meaning of the prophet’s words is, ‘Go and carry him such a message as a courtier is likely to carry, a message of good promise, for this I know you are likely to do, yet the Lord has made known to me that he will die’. The R.V. has given the translation of the Kethib on the margin, but as that is so little in harmony with the context, has translated the Keri in the text, though this is contrary to the usual rule of the Revisers.
Another way of explaining the language of Elisha has been adopted by some. It is pointed out that the king’s question was ‘Shall I recover of this disease?’ Elisha, forewarned of the events that were coming, gives as answer to that enquiry ‘Thou shalt surely recover’, meaning thereby that the disease would not kill Benhadad, but suppresses that other source whence danger and death threatened, viz., the murderous hands of Hazael, which he knew would soon slay his master. This seems very unlike the manner of a prophet of the Lord. The explanation previously given is therefore to be preferred. Bp Hall takes the later explanation, ‘The Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die, by another means, though not by the disease’.
And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.11. And he settled his countenance stedfastly] The R.V. adds ‘upon him’ in italics. This no doubt is the sense. Elisha fixed a stedfast gaze on the messenger. ‘The seer of God descries more in Hazael than he could see in himself: he fixes his eyes therefore stedfastly in the Syrian’s face, as one that in those lines read the bloody story of his life. Hazael blushes, Elisha weeps. The intention (i.e. the stedfast gaze) of those eyes did not so much amaze Hazael as the tears. As yet he was not guilty to himself of any wrong that might strain out this juice of sorrow’ (Bp Hall).
until he was ashamed] i.e. until Hazael blushed with embarrassment at the searching look.
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.12. and wilt dash their children] R.V. and wilt dash in pieces their little ones. We have no details of Hazael’s cruelty in the future, but hints of it are found. In 2 Kings 10:32 it is said ‘Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel’, and in 2 Kings 13:3 we read ‘the Lord delivered Israel into the hand of Hazael’, and in verse 22 of that chapter ‘Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz’. The special instances of cruelty mentioned in this verse were those perpetrated among all the Eastern nations of Hazael’s time, and examples are to be found in several places in Scripture. Cf. Isaiah 13:15-16; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16; Nahum 3:10.
And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.13. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?] R.V. And Hazael said, But what is thy servant, which is but a dog, that he should do this great thing? Hazael has felt the keenness of the prophet’s glance, and finds that his thoughts are known, and his inmost designs laid bare. But still he keeps up a semblance of humility and calls himself a dog, a title of greatest contempt in the eyes of Orientals. Cf. for this use of the word 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Samuel 16:9.
So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover.14. So [R.V. Then] he departed from Elisha] The last words of the prophet had shewn him that his whole aim was clear in Elisha’s sight, and his character thoroughly read. He had been treated as a man who would give a soft answer whatever the real message might be, and now he is sent away with the knowledge that the Lord sees all his policy. But he was a determined spirit, and the words of the prophet did not act as a check, but set him on a bolder course of villainy. He first acts the part that had been imputed to him, and with a lying tongue says ‘He told me thou shouldest surely recover’. After that he cannot wait for time to bring about what God had said would be, but by a short road comes to the throne after smothering his master.
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.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.
And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign.16–24. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. His wars with Edom and Libnah (2 Chronicles 21:1-20)
16. In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab] On the difficulties connected with the chronology of this period, see above on 2 Kings 1:17. On the strength of the words in this verse ‘Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah’ it is supposed that Jehoram king of Judah was co-regent with his father. But, as is noted on the margin of R.V., some ancient authorities omit the sentence which makes father and son to be reigning together. The chief difficulty is introduced by the words of 2 Kings 1:17, which make Joram the son of Ahab commence his reign in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat of Judah. That statement contradicts the present verse, and the explanation given on 2 Kings 1:17 though generally accepted gives rise to many questions. Especially it is objected that in no other instance is a son found reigning along with his father. Then Jehoshaphat was a vigorous monarch and zealous for the service of Jehovah, and was not likely to take as his coadjutor a prince of so weak a character, and of such different religious feeling as Jehoram. Still no more satisfactory solution has been suggested.
Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.17. when he began to reign] The narrative of the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 21:2-4) tells how at the commencement of his reign Jehoram slew his seven brothers as well as some of the princes of Israel. Thus he proved himself of a like character with Athaliah, whom he married.
And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife: and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.18. as did the house of Ahab] Jehoshaphat’s friendship and alliance with Ahab’s house brought the ways of Israel into the kingdom of Judah.
the daughter of Ahab] i.e. Athaliah, who, after the death of Ahaziah (2 Kings 11:1), slew all the seed royal of Judah, with the exception of Joash, Ahaziah’s son, whom his aunt Jehosheba rescued.
Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant's sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his children.19. Yet [R.V. Howbeit] the Lord would not destroy] The R.V. has adopted the rendering of Chronicles, where the original is the same as here.
as he promised him to give him alway a lights, and to his children] R.V. as he promised him to give unto him a lamp for his children alway. The italic ‘and’ in A.V. shews that there is no conjunction in the Hebrew. Hence the change in R.V. But in 2 Chronicles 21:7 the ‘and’ is expressed, and probably should be here. In 2 Samuel 21:17 David is called ‘the lamp of Israel’. For the promise to David and his seed see 2 Samuel 7:12-16, and for the expression ‘to give him a lamp’ see 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 15:4, in which last passage the A.V. renders the noun ‘lamp’, which for consistency the R.V. has adopted in all the parallel places.
In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves.20. Edom revolted] In Solomon’s time, Hadad (1 Kings 11:14) recovered the kingdom of Edom, which had been overthrown by David (2 Samuel 8:14). But by the time of Jehoshaphat the Edomites were again subject to Judah (1 Kings 22:47) and appear to have continued so until the time of the revolution here mentioned.
made a king over themselves] i.e. They deposed the deputy of Judah, and made one of their own royal family king, or chose a king of their own.
So Joram went over to Zair, and all the chariots with him: and he rose by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him about, and the captains of the chariots: and the people fled into their tents.21. So Joram went [R.V. Then Joram passed] over to Zair] The name Zair is only found here. In the parallel passage of 2 Chronicles 21. we find ‘with his princes’ instead of ‘to Zair’, and as there is some similarity of sound between the two Hebrew forms, it has been thought by some that there is a mistake in Kings from some misreading of the scribe. Others have suggested that ‘Zair’ is for ‘Zoar’, through which place troops marching from Judæa into Edom would have to pass. Others with much more probability have taken Zair (צעיר), to be a miswriting for Seir (שׂעיר) the name of the mountain ridge which extends southward from the Dead Sea through the desert. It is true ‘Seir’ is not named elsewhere by the writer of Kings, but there seems to be no occasion where he might be expected to mention it.
and he rose [R.V. inserts up] by night and smote the Edomites which compassed him about] Joram appears to have been surrounded by the Edomite forces, and for some time to have had the worst of the contest. It was only by a sudden sally in the night time that he forced his way out, and escaped. The captains of the Edomite chariots, mentioned here, most likely formed the outer circle of the enclosing force, and through them Joram passed last.
and the people fled into [R.V. to] their tents] ‘The people’ are the army of Joram, which after escaping from their encircling enemy made the best of their way home, feeling that Edom was too strong for them.
Yet Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time.22. Yet [R.V. so] Edom revolted] The conjunction is changed to conform to the rendering in 2 Chronicles 21. As the army of Joram was defeated, the Edomites secured their independence, and that continued till the date of the record from which the compiler of the Kings drew his information. So he copies faithfully ‘unto this day’.
Then Libnah revolted] R.V. did Libnah revolt. The change is in conformity with Chronicles, because of the similarity of the Hebrew. Libnah was situate in the lowland between the mountains of Judah and the Mediterranean coast. It was a strong city with a king when the Israelites took it under Joshua (Joshua 10:29-39). It is mentioned afterwards (2 Kings 19:8) as besieged by Sennacherib. The narrative of the Chronicler adds as the reason of the revolt ‘because he [Joram] had forsaken the Lord the God of his fathers’. The revolt of Libnah does not seem to be connected in any way with that of Edom. The time was opportune and both Edomites and Libnites availed themselves of it.
And the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?23. the rest of the acts of Joram] In Chronicles we are told of the high places which he made in the mountains of Judah, and how he compelled the people to worship there. In consequence of this a writing is said to have come to him from Elijah the prophet rebuking him for his evil doing, and telling of the painful disease by which he should die. We read there also of revolts against Joram by the Philistines and the Arabians, and that by the latter all the king’s family were cut off except his youngest son. Moreover that when he died the people made no burning for him, as had been done at the death of his ancestors, and that ‘he departed without being desired’, i.e. none missed him or lamented for him when he died. Also that though buried in the city of David, his body was not put into the sepulchres of the kings. This last statement is no contradiction of what is contained in verse 24 of this chapter.
And Joram slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.
In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign.25–29. Reign of Ahaziah king of Judah. His war against Hazael king of Syria. Joram king of Israel helps Ahaziah and is wounded (2 Chronicles 22:1-6)
25. Joram … Jehoram] To prevent confusion it will be convenient to adopt the orthography of this verse for these names, Joram king of Israel, and Jehoram king of Judah. They are but different forms of the same name, and given in the Bible narrative indiscriminately to each.
Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.26. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah] In 2 Chronicles 22:2 his age is given as forty-two. This cannot be correct, but is due to a misreading of the Hebrew letters which were used as numerals. Jehoram, the father of Ahaziah, was thirty-two years old (see verse 17) when he began to reign and he reigned eight years. If Ahaziah was two and twenty at his father’s death, he was born when Jehoram was eighteen. This is not uncommon in the East. Indeed we find from 2 Chronicles 22:1 that Jehoram had other children older than Ahaziah, but they were slain by the Arabian invaders.
Athaliah, the daughter of Omri] Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and so the grand-daughter of Omri. For this manner of speech cf. verse 20 of the next chapter, where Jehu is called the son of Nimshi, though he has been twice spoken of in previous verses (2, 14) as the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi.
And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, as did the house of Ahab: for he was the son in law of the house of Ahab.27. he walked in the way of the house of Ahab] The Chronicler adds ‘for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly’.
and did evil] R.V. that which was evil. The usual change, which will not again be noticed.
And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against Hazael king of Syria in Ramothgilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram.28. to the war against Hazael] Hazael was already beginning to fulfil the forecast of Elisha. Ramoth-gilead belonged to Israel (1 Kings 22:3) but now, as in Ahab’s reign, it was being seized by the Syrians. Joram, Ahab’s son, had ill-fortune like that of his father in the Syrian war, though as is evident from the next chapter he kept possession of Ramoth and left his officers there.
And king Joram went back to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick.29. And king Joram went back [R.V. returned] to be healed in Jezreel] The verb is changed to conform to the translation in Chronicles. Jezreel was one of the capital cities of the northern kingdom, where was a royal palace, and where all attendance could be procured.
Ramah] This is put for Ramoth-gilead, both here and in the parallel passage in Chronicles, but nowhere else. Ramah is a singular noun meaning ‘high land’ and Ramoth is the plural of it, and Ramah is used for the name of two or three other places, one in the tribe of Benjamin and one in the hill country of Ephraim, all no doubt distinguished by their elevated situation. The land of Gilead was all mountainous, and the town of Ramoth was perhaps built on more than one hill though the engagement where Joram was wounded may have taken place on one special height.
Ahaziah … went down to see Joram] After the battle Ahaziah at first returned, probably with his portion of the allied army, to Jerusalem. But the friendship between the two royal houses was so close that he presently went northward to Jezreel to pay a visit to his wounded ally and kinsman. The Chronicler says ‘the destruction of Ahaziah was of God by coming to Joram.’