James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.2 Kings 6:1-8:29
ELISHA AND THE SYRIAN INVASION
THE STRATAGEM AT DOTHAN (2 Kings 6:8-23)
The incident in 2 Kings 6:1-7 seems an interpolation; and some think it belongs at 2 Kings 4:38 in connection with the two miracles, having a somewhat similar occasion. “Swim” (2 Kings 6:6) is in the Hebrew the same as “float,” and the idea seems to be that by throwing the stick into the water the iron was caused to come to the surface where the young man could get it.
It is difficult to say when the event of 2 Kings 6:8 occurred, but it is assumed in the reign of Jehoram, with which we have been dealing since Elisha’s ministry began. At a time when the Syrians were intending to encamp at a particular spot, and attack the Israelites as they passed by, the prophet gave warning to Jehoram, which enabled the latter to station troops in the threatened position and frustrate their plans (2 Kings 6:8-10).
This disconcerted the Syrian king, and, learning the truth of the matter, he tried to get hold of Elisha (2 Kings 6:11-14).
The “servant” of 2 Kings 6:15 is not Gehazi. To “open the eyes” (2 Kings 6:17) meant to give that soul-vision which the bodily members can never behold. The horses and chariots of fire were the symbols of Jehovah’s presence and might. “Blindness” (2 Kings 6:18) is not absolute loss of sight, but an inability to recognize the prophet.
Elisha’s words (2 Kings 6:19) are not an untruth, as his real residence was Samaria; and in the end he led them to himself, not to harm them, but repay evil with good (2 Kings 6:21-23). His inquiry of the king (2 Kings 6:22) presents difficulty, but probably means “could’st thou be justified in slaying with sword and bow these whom thou hast taken captive?” (See Deuteronomy 20:10-13.)
THE FAMINE IN SAMARIA (2 Kings 6:24 to 2 Kings 7:20)
An interval of some time must be considered since the close of 2 Kings 6:23. The famine caused by the siege was intense as gathered by the price paid for the meanest food (2 Kings 6:25). “Dove’s dung” is understood by some as an insignificant species of pease resembling it.
The king’s putting the blame on the prophet (2 Kings 6:30-31) recalls what episode in Elijah’s time? Had Elisha advised against the surrender of the city, or did the king think he might have put an end to the distress in some other way? 2 Kings 6:33 suggests that the king, who had doubtless followed his messengers, had repented of his threat against Elisha, but nevertheless had lost hope in Jehovah.
This brings forth the new promise of 2 Kings 8:1-2. The remainder of the chapter presents no difficulties, but we should note the fulfilled prediction (2 Kings 6:19-20).
THE END OF BEN-HADAD’S REIGN (2 Kings 8:1-15)
The event referred to (2 Kings 8:1-6) doubtless took place sometime before this, as the records of Elisha’s ministry are not arranged chronologically. Compare 2 Kings 4:38 for the period. Gehazi’s appearance (2 Kings 8:4-5) further strengthens the thought that it was before his offense and punishment by leprosy.
The event that follows is tragical indeed (2 Kings 8:7-15). Hazael, though not related to Ben-hadad, had been the divine choice as his successor (1 Kings 19:15). When Elisha says the king may recover, yet he shall surely die, he is telling the exact truth, as 2 Kings 8:15 portrays. Had Hazael not murdered him he would have lived. It was Elisha who looked at Hazael until the latter was ashamed, as he might well have been (2 Kings 8:11).
1. Give in your words the story leading up to the event at Dothan.
2. How would you harmonize the prophet’s words to the Syrian soldiers?
3. What striking prediction is fulfilled in this lesson?
4. What allusion in 4:38 leads to the supposition that the opening of this lesson refers to that period?
5. How would you harmonize Elisha’s words about Ben-hadad?