James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.2 Kings 3:1-5:27
ELISHA’S MINISTRY BEGINS
MANEUVERING AN ARMY (2 Kings 3)
The incident about Mesha (2 Kings 3:4-5) is interesting from the point of view of Biblical criticism. This is the only time he is mentioned in Sacred Writ and his name does not appear in profane history. For this cause objectors to the Bible have demanded proof of his existence at the time named. Also, was Moab noted for its wool? Was it tributary to Israel at this period? Did this rebellion occur? etc.
It was impossible to answer these questions outside of the Bible until about forty years ago when the “Moabite Stone” was discovered, on which an inscription by Mesha recorded all these facts.
What earlier alliance does this between Judah and Israel recall (2 Kings 3:7)? What earlier situation does Jehoshaphat’s inquiry recall (2 Kings 3:11)? Note the outward respect, at least, which the three kings pay to Jehovah’s prophet (2 Kings 3:12).
Why Elisha calls for the minstrel (2 Kings 3:15) is not clear, except as a way of quieting his mind in the midst of turbulent scenes of battle, and so preparing him in the physical sense to listen to God’s voice. In our own experience we see the value of worshipful hymns as we approach the throne of grace.
How water came “by the way of Edom” (2 Kings 3:20), may be explained by a shower or cloudburst. The water was reddened by flowing through the red earth of Edom, an effect heightened by the red light of the morning sun (2 Kings 3:22).
The act of the king of Moab (2 Kings 3:27) was not exceptional, but his thought in presenting the sacrifice upon the wall was probably that the besiegers beholding it might fear the heathen divinity to whom it was offered. He would now be appeased, presumptively in favor of his subjects, and it would go hard with their opponents. The meaning of “indignation against Israel” is obscure. Some understand it as indignation the Israelites themselves felt at this act so abominable in their sight, and which made them prefer to renounce further possession of Moab than to pursue the conflict. Or it may mean that God’s wrath fell upon them for returning home with their work of judgment half done.
MINISTERING TO INDIVIDUALS (2 Kings 4)
Notice the contrast between a poor woman (2 Kings 4:1-7) and a rich one in the verses following. Both have needs which only God can supply, and He is as ready to show His power in the one case as in the other, and His prophet makes no distinction between them in his ministry.
In the story of the Shumanite notice that out of modesty and respect, when the prophet calls her (2 Kings 4:15), “she stood in the door. .... It is well” (2 Kings 4:23; 2 Kings 4:26) is not to be understood as prevaricating, but as wishing to be let alone for the present.
The prophet’s staff (2 Kings 4:29) was the badge of prophetic office. Recall Moses’ rod which was the symbol of divine power. It seems an error for Elisha to have dispatched his servant on this commission, but prophets are not infallible except where they speak or write by inspiration of God. (Compare Nathan in 2 Samuel 7.) In his desire to hasten matters, hoping the child was not quite dead, he hurries his servant hence; but he has to learn that he cannot delegate God’s grace and power according to his own will.
How does Elisha’s action (2 Kings 4:33-35) compare with Elijah’s under similar circumstances? The miracle that follows corresponds closely with that in 2 Kings 2:19-22, and may be understood in the same way. The concluding miracles of the chapter suggest Christ’s multiplication of the loaves and fishes; but the difference is that here there was no multiplication, but the men were satisfied with the little each received. It was a miracle wrought on the men rather than the food.
MAGNIFYING HIS OFFICE (2 Kings 5)
That is a noticeable phrase in 2 Kings 5:1, “by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria,” which shows that the inspired annalist regards Jehovah as the God of the whole earth without whose providence even the heathen nations gained no victories.
Observe God using “the weak things of the world” in the case of the little maid (2 Kings 5:2), whose testimony influences the general, and the kings of Syria and Israel, to say nothing of the prophet, and is handed down as a force for righteousness and truth for thirty centuries!
Both kings misunderstood the situation, however, he of Israel being without excuse. It is this that gives Elisha the opportunity to magnify his office (2 Kings 5:8), which he does again in the case of Naaman (2 Kings 5:10). The Syrian’s greatness made no difference, he must be healed like any other leper, solely by the power and grace of God. The prophet’s humility and disinterestedness are established by his reply in 2 Kings 5:15-16.
Naaman’s request for earth (2 Kings 5:17) was not superstition but reverence. His request in 2 Kings 5:18 indicates a tender conscience rather than a compromising spirit, or the prophet could hardly have bidden him “go in peace.”
1. Give the story of Mesha and its value as evidence of the truth of the Bible.
2. What three kings were in this combination against Moab?
3. Why, probably, was the king’s son offered on the wall of the city?
4. What lessons may be drawn from Elisha’s treatment of the two women?
5. What lesson was Elisha to learn from Gehazi’s failure?
6. How does the miracle of the food differ from that in the gospels?
7. How does Elisha magnify his office in the case of Naaman?
8. In what two ways is Naaman’s conversion established?