2 Kings 7
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Kings 7:1, 2, with 2 Kings 7:12-20
Elisha interrupts the king's evil design by a prediction of plenty in Samaria. His mention of a fixed time doubtless induced the king to wait until he should see if the prophecy was fulfilled. "Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." It was a bold statement to make, for there was no human likelihood of its fulfillment. If the next day had proved Elisha to be a deceiver, no doubt he would have been torn limb from limb by the infuriated and hungry populace. But Elisha makes not the state-inert on his own authority, but uses the words, "Thus saith the Lord." One of the king's principal courtiers, on whose arm he leaned, could not conceal his scorn and incredulity. "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" Observe, his statement is not "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, this thing might be." He doesn't even admit that. It is a question expressing entire impossibility. "Even if the Lord would open windows in heaven, is it at all likely that such a thing as this would happen?" But what seemed impossible to him was possible with God. The prophet warned him that he would suffer for his unbelief. "Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof." As it was predicted, so it came to pass. During the night, the Lord caused the Syrian army to hear a great noise, like the noise of horses and chariots and a mighty host, and they fled in terror, leaving their camp with all their possessions and provisions behind them. Four lepers, going out of the city in the evening twilight, discovered the deserted camp. They brought back the news to the beleaguered city. At first, a stratagem was feared; but by-and-by in wild eagerness for food and plunder, the famished citizens rushed forth. The unhappy lord, who had doubted the prophet's message and the promise of God himself, was trodden upon at the gate and died. From this striking and tragic story we may learn -

I. UNBELIEF MAY HAVE REASON, APPARENTLY, ON ITS SIDE. This courtier might have given many plausible reasons for doubting the prophet's message.

1. He might have disputed the prophet's right to speak in the name of God at all. He might have said, "How do I know that this man is speaking the truth?" though even there Elisha had already given pretty tangible proof of his credibility and trustworthiness. The faithful minister of Christ need not mind the sneers of men, provided God has owned his work, and set his heavenly seal upon his ministry.

2. Or he might have said, "The thing is utterly incredible. It is utterly impossible. Where is flour to come from in such plenty as to supply this whole city of Samaria? There has been a besieging army around our walls for many days. They have desolated and plundered the country round about. Where is the food to come from, even if there was any one to bring it to us? And we know of no friendly army that is coming to raise the siege or cut its way through the serried ranks of the Syrians." All these would have been very natural thoughts to pass through that courtier's mind. No doubt they were the very reasons, or some of them, which led him to disbelieve Elisha's message. Probably, if he had stated his reasons to the people, he would have got a hundred to agree with him for every one who believed Elisha. No doubt they all looked upon Elisha as a fanatic and an enthusiast. They, to all appearance, had common sense, had reason on their side. And yet it turned out to be one of those many cases in which "God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty." Unbelief can be very plausible. Unbelief nearly always appears to have reason on its side. There is not a doctrine of the Bible against which the most plausible arguments might not, and have not, been advanced. Even Scripture itself can be quoted in support of unbelief and sin. "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." Good arguments are not necessarily a proof of the truth or justice of a case. This needs to be remembered in an age when many arguments are urged against the truth of Christianity. What plausible reasons have been urged against the main truths of the Christian religion! Take the Deity of Christ, for example. How plausible are the arguments which human reason can bring forward against the doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ! And yet of what value are such arguments when placed side by side with our Lord's statement, "I and my Father are one;" with the statement of the Apostle John, "The Word was with God, and the Word was God;" or with the statement of the Apostle Paul, that "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily?" In the same way the most plausible arguments can be, and are being, brought against the atoning nature of Christ's death, although we have the clear statements of God's Word that "he bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and Christ's own statement that he laid down his life for the sheep. Over and over again it has been asserted that the Gospel miracles are incredible. Over and over again the most plausible arguments have been brought against future punishment, although we have the clear and emphatic statements of our Lord Jesus Christ himself on the subject. Unbelief may have reason, apparently, on its side.

II. OUR REASON IS NO TEST OF POSSIBILITY. Our ideas are no test as to what is possible or impossible. Our minds are limited in their range. How often in the march of scientific discovery and invention it has happened that things, which seemed impossible in one century were proved to be possible in the next! It is not yet three hundred years since Galileo was condemned to imprisonment by the Inquisition for asserting that the earth moved round the sun. Even our own Sir Isaac Newton, little more than two hundred years ago - the man who discovered the force of gravitation, and invented the first reflecting telescope - was assailed with such abuse on propounding his discoveries, that he actually determined on suppressing the third book of the 'Principia,' which contains the theory of comets. And what shall we say of the invention of the steam-engine by James Watt, scarcely a hundred years ago - an invention which has revolutionized our manufactures, and made possible a speed of locomotion by land and sea that would have been ridiculed as impossible only a few years ago? Every discovery of science, every invention in the useful arts, has at first been scorned as an impossible dream, then laughed at as impracticable, and finally accepted when it became impossible to deny the truth of the one or the usefulness of the other. The impossibilities of today turn out to be the possibilities of tomorrow. It is well to remember this, that, because we are unable to conceive of something taking place, it does not therefore follow that it is impossible. The fact is, that when we say anything is "impossible," we just mean that we cannot conceive it. But, as has already been shown, this is no reason why a doctrine or statement may not be true, or why a certain occurrence may not take place. We may have never known anything of the kind to occur before; but that is no proof that a thing is impossible, though in the minds of many people it is the only argument. What has never occurred before may occur yet. There are discoveries in science still undreamed of in our advanced philosophy. There are inventions yet to be conceived which, if today we could hear of them, we might pronounce the wild ravings of a fanatic. There are infinite resources in the hand of him who rules the world. Who are we, that we should limit God? Who are we, that we should set bounds to his power? Who are we, that we should set bounds to his justice on the one hand, or to his mercy on the other? Must we not bow in deep humility before all the problems that affect his dealings with men, and say, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Must we not reverently accept whatever he has been pleased to reveal in his own Word of his Divine purposes and plans, no matter what our reason may say?

III. THE DANGEROUS CHARACTER OF UNBELIEF. We have seen how unreasonable this courtier's unbelief was. Not only so, but it was injurious. So unbelief in a professing Christian is injurious to himself and to others. It hinders his own usefulness. It hinders the progress of the gospel. It hinders the success of Christian work. It is the Achan in the camp, the canker of Christian life and power, the chilling blight of the Christian Church. What an age of deadness in the Church of Christ in England, Scotland, and Ireland, was the eighteenth century, the age of moderatism, the age of indifference and rationalism! What an absence of missionary enterprise! What an absence of evangelistic effort! As Churches and as individuals, we should pray to be delivered from unbelief, and to be filled with living, working, all-conquering faith. Mr. Spurgeon says, in his remarks on this passage, that if we are hindering God's work by our unbelief, it may happen to us as it happened to this nobleman, that God may see fit to take us out of the way. He says that he has remarked, "that when any truly good man has stood in God's way, God has made short work with him. He has taken him home, or he has laid him aside by sickness. If you will not help and will hinder, you will be put aside, and perhaps your own usefulness will be cut short." If you have not faith enough in the power of the gospel, if you have not faith enough in the promises of God, if you have not faith enough in the power of prayer, then be in earnest in asking for more faith - such faith as will stand firm in the day of temptation, of trial, of conflict, of opposition. Never say to yourself about any Christian work, "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might such a thing be?" An affectionate word to the unbeliever, to the sinner. Unbelief is dangerous. Christ speaks of unbelief as a sin. He says of the Holy Spirit that "he will convince the world of sin, because they believed not on me." Men may call it a hard doctrine, but there it is. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God." Is there anything hard in that? The offer of salvation is made to every one. It is so plain that there can be no mistake about it. If there had been any other way, any other Savior, men might plead uncertainty. But they are plainly told, "neither is there salvation in any other." Those who believed not the warnings in the days of Noah, perished. Their day of grace was long, but they neglected it. So with the Israelites whose bones lay whitening in the wilderness. "They entered not in because of unbelief." Oh, how terrible that unbelieving courtier's doom: "Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof!" - C.H.I.

Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow, etc. Here are two objects not only to be looked at, but to be studied.

I. A DIVINE TEACHER. "Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." Elisha was inspired and commanded by the Almighty God to make a proclamation to a starving population. The famine was still prevailing. The shadow of death darkened the sky, and his freezing breath was in the air, and men were shivering on the confines of the grave. Thus, when things seemed to be at their worst, Elisha appears as a messenger of mercy from Heaven, declaring that on the next morning there would be an abundance of provision obtainable in the gate of Samaria. Two circumstances connected with this promise will apply to the gospel.

1. It was a communication exactly suited to the condition of those to whom it was addressed. People were starving, and the one great necessity was food, and here it is promised. Mankind are morally lost; what they want is spiritual restoration, and the gospel proclaims it.

2. It was a communication made on the authority of the Eternal. "Thus saith the Lord." That the gospel is a Divine message is a truth too firmly established even to justify debate. By the gospel, of course, I do not mean all the tracts of which the book we call the Bible is composed, but the Divine biography of Christ as recorded by his four biographers.

II. A HAUGHTY SCEPTIC. "Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" Here is one of the most contemptible of all classes of men - a courtier, a sycophant in relation to his king, a haughty despot in regard to all beneath him. When he heard the prophet's deliverance, he, forsooth, was too great a man, and thought himself, no doubt, too great a philosopher, to believe it. It was the man's self-importance that begat his incredulity, and this, perhaps, is the parent of all skepticism and unbelief. - D.T.

The spirit of despair had taken possession of Jehoram. It was at this point that Elisha interposed with his promise of deliverance.

I. PREDICTED DELIVERANCE. Elisha made what must have seemed an incredible announcement.

1. The city was at that moment suffering the extremest horrors of famine. By the same hour on the morrow food would exist in plenty.

2. Such food as was then obtainable was of the coarsest, most loathsome, and most revolting nature. By tomorrow they would be dieting on fine flour and barley in abundance.

3. Their disgusting food was only to be had at famine prices. Tomorrow a measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel.

4. Today they were fast beleaguered. Tomorrow flour and barley would be sold in the open gates of Samaria. After this, is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14). If men will not seek him, God leaves them to feel the extremity of their own helplessness before he interposes. Then he shows himself "plenteous" in mercy (Psalm 103:8). Who can doubt that, if king and city had sought God earlier with sincere hearts, the deliverance would have come sooner? Thus by his own forwardness does the sinner stand in the way of his own good.

II. RATIONALISTIC DOUBT. The spirit of incredulity, which must have been in many minds when Elisha made this surprising announcement, found expression in the utterance of the captain on whose hand the king leaned, "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?"

1. The author of this skeptical scoff was a person in high rank. The atmosphere of a court, and the position of a courtier, are not favorable to the development of piety. They are more apt to develop, as here, a worldly, skeptical, cynical spirit, with small faith in God, virtue, and truth. Piety is to be looked for rather in the cottages than in the palaces of a people, though there are notable exceptions. "Not many mighty," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:26).

2. The language is that of scornful incredulity. It is the speech of a rationalist. Judged by the standards of sense and of natural reason, the sudden access of plenty which Elisha predicted was impossible. If the Lord opened windows m heaven, it might be looked for, but not otherwise. And who expected help from that quarter? Thus the worldly wise lord reasoned, sneering at Elisha's word as the imagination of a heated brain. He is the type of all rationalists. Interpositions from heaven are the last things they are disposed to believe in; and in any case they will not believe God's Word unless they can see how it is to be fulfilled, and on what natural principles the unusual event is to be explained. As in the present case there was no possibility of help from within the city, and no prospect of the Syrians leaving when the city was just about to fall within their power, and no evidence that food in such abundance could be obtained at a day's notice even if they did leave, Elisha's promise could only be assigned to the category of delusion. The spirit of faith is the opposite of this. It takes God at his word, and leaves him to find out the means of accomplishing his own predictions.

III. THE PUNISHMENT OF UNBELIEF. Elisha entered into no argument. He left his word to be proved or disproved by the arbitrament of time. But he told the great lord who - so much wiser than Elisha - had scoffed at its fulfillment, what the penalty of his unbelief would be. He would see the promised plenty indeed, but he would not eat of it. Is not this the fate of every unbeliever? God's word stands sure; it comes to pass in due time; but the intellectualist, the scoffer, the doubter, the man who was too wise to believe, finds himself shut out from participation in the blessing. - J.O.

And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate, etc. Here we have -

I. MEN INVOLVED IN THE MOST WRETCHED CONDITION. "There were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate." Of all the diseases which afflict mankind none is more painful, loathsome, and disastrous than leprosy. It was the scourge of the Hebrew race. Moses minutely describes the appearance of this malady, and gives clear and forcible rules to govern the medical treatment of it. Fat and blood and other particles of diet, which excite or aggravate constitutional tendencies to diseases of the skin, were strictly forbidden to the Jews. There are many points of analogy between leprosy and sin.

II. Men in the most wretched condition FORMING A RESOLUTION. "They said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." Emaciated and wretched as might have been their bodily condition, their moral nature had sufficient stamina left to make a resolution. Mind is often more active in physical disease than in physical health. Pain whips all the faculties into action, marshals all the forces of the soul. Truly wonderful is the power of the human will. Let no man justify mental indolence and moral inertia by pleading his bodily troubles. But how often this is done! How often do you hear men say, "We can do nothing because of the circumstances in which we are placed"! The "cannot" of such is their "will not," and the "will not" is their own choice.

III. MEN ACTING OUT THE RESOLUTION formed in the most wretched condition. These four poor starving leprous men not only formed a resolution, but they worked it out. "And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians." In giving practical effect to their resolution, two results followed.

1. Difficulties vanished. Their great dread was of the Syrians, but as they approached the Syrian camp, "Behold, there was no man there." Wherefore had they fled? Here is the answer: "For the Lord hath made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host. And they said one to another, Lo, the King of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they rose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life." By what force were these Syrians scared away? Not the force of the rough elements of nature, or the force of armies, but the force of terrible ideas - ideas that made them hear the noise of the rattling chariots and the tramping steeds of war, that had no existence. But these ideas, albeit, were ideas from God. "The Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise." God often frightens wicked men by ideas. "God can," says Matthew Henry, "when he pleases, dispirit the boldest and most brave, and make the stoutest heart to tremble. Those that will not fear God, he can make to fear at the shaking of a leaf." Before a strong resolution, apprehended difficulties frequently vanish into air. Where there's a will there's a way, even though it be over rugged mountains and surging floods. A man's "I will" has a power in it mighty as the forces of nature, ay, mightier, for it can subordinate them. "If thou hast faith as a grain of mustard seed, thou shalt say to this mountain, Be thou removed," etc.

2. The object was realized. What these poor starving leprous men deeply needed and sought was provisions to appease the cravings of hunger and to reinvigorate their waning life. And they got them. "And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it," etc. Thus they gained even more than they sought; they not only gained food, but wealth.

CONCLUSION. Learn here the wonderful moral force of the human mind. It possesses a power to make resolutions under the most trying external conditions, and the power to work them out successfully. The fiat "I'll try" has wrought wonders in human history, is working wonders now, and so it ever can. Well does Dr. Tulloch say, "Everything yields before the strong and earnest will. It grows by exercise. It excites confidence in others, while it takes to itself the lead. Difficulties before which mere cleverness fails, and which leave the irresolute prostrate and helpless, vanish before it. They not only do not impede its progress, but it often makes of them step-ping-stones to a higher and more enduring triumph." - D.T.

"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform." Speculation might have exhausted itself in vain in conjecturing how Elisha's prediction was to be accomplished. Nevertheless, the wonder was performed by a series of events as simple as it was unlooked for.


1. The lepers at the gate. We are first introduced to four lepers at the entering in of the gate. They were outside, and had hitherto subsisted by food handed out or thrown to them from within. But now the famine in the city made such assistance impossible, and the four men were dying of hunger. Poor, pitiable objects, the last persons to whom any one would have thought of looking for a glimpse of hope on the situation within the walls. Yet these despised lepers were to be, in a sense, the saviors of the city. We cannot but reflect on the humble and seemingly unlikely instruments God often chooses to accomplish his ends. He puts the "treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). As if to abase human pride, he purposely selects instrumentalities which the wisdom of man would scorn.

2. Dire alternatives. Brought face to face with death, the poor lepers are forced to the earnest consideration of their position. What could they do? If they stay where they are they must die, and if they enter the city they must die. There remains the alternative, only to be contemplated as a last resource, of going over to the camp of the enemy. This has been put off as long as possible; but it appears now to be the only course which affords them any chance of life. Suppose the Syrians kill them, they are no worse off than before; if the Syrians take pity on them and save them alive, they shall live. The chance of life may be faint, but it is the only one left, and better than none. When men are in earnest, a very slight probability suffices them to act upon. They discover the truth of Butler's axiom that "probability is the guide of life." Did these men not act rationally in allowing even a slight probability to turn the balance of their action? How should it be otherwise when we deal with spiritual things? A man is in doubt as to the existence of God, as to the reality of a future life, etc. It may seem to him that the evidence for these truths amounts to no more than probability. He perhaps makes this an excuse for dismissing the consideration of them from his mind. But ought he not to give weight to this probability in action? In another way the doubter may take a leaf from the lepers' book. If he remains where he is, he perishes, for atheism can hold out to him no other hope. But if, on the ground even of a slight balance of probability, he acts on the lines of Christ's religion, he can be no worse than he is, while, if that religion is true (we speak only from his standpoint), he obtains eternal advantage. Or is the doubter one who does not question the truth of the gospel, but only questions his own right to appropriate its provisions? Let such a one imitate Esther, who, with the words on her lips, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16), went in to Ahasuerus. Let him cast himself on Christ, and leave himself there. He will find, like Esther, that he does not perish.

3. The Divine will and the human will. In these consultations among themselves, the lepers were moved only by the consideration of their own misery. They neither knew of Elisha's prediction, nor had any thought of aiding to fulfill it. Yet all the while they were working out God's secret counsel. They were, while seeking their own ends, the unconscious instruments of a higher will than their own. Thus are we all. Man's passions, ambitions, wants, follies, sins even, are subordinated in providence to the fulfilling of all-wise, comprehensive purposes, of which the immediate actors have no glimpse. "The counsel of the Lord standeth forever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11).


1. An astonishing discovery. At nightfall, in pursuance of their purpose, the lepers betook themselves to the camp of the Syrians. It was the evening of the day on which Elisha had made his promise. Of the hope then held out they were ignorant, but they were to be the first to make the discovery that deliverance had been wrought. It would be with fear and trembling that they approached the well-appointed tents, and the very silence that everywhere prevailed would strike them at first with new awe. But now an astonishing state of things revealed itself. The camp was there - that camp so lately astir with military life - but not a soul was to be seen in it. Absolute stillness reigned throughout the tents; or, if sounds were heard, they were only those of the horses and asses which were left without masters. Thus near may our salvation be to us, and we know it not.

2. The flight of the Syrians. The explanation of the state of things which the lepers discovered is given in vers. 6, 7. The Syrians themselves may in later years have told the story, or it may have been got from Elisha, whose prophetic gift gave him the knowledge of what had taken place. The Syrians, it appears, had heard strange noises - sounds as of chariots and horses and of a great host; and, smitten with sudden panic, believing that the Hittites or Egyptians had brought help to the Israelites, they at once abandoned everything and fled. The panic was of supernatural intensity, as the sounds were of supernatural origin. The mind of man, no less than external natural conditions, is in the hand of God. He can smite with "madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart" (Deuteronomy 28:28); can make men the sport of their own imaginations and delusions. Such penalties are threatened against the wicked.

3. Dividing the spoil. The first impulse of the lepers, when they discovered that the camp was literally empty, was to supply their own wants. We can fancy them rubbing their eyes, and wondering if what they beheld was not all a dream. There around them, as if in some region of enchantment, were food and drink in abundance, with gold, silver, raiment, and valuables of every kind. They were stunned with their good fortune, and wandered about from tent to tent, eating and drinking, and carrying oat the good things they saw, to hide them. We can compare with the surprise of these lepers the joy of the soul on its first discovery of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). How infinite, grand, and varied the provision found in him, the riches of salvation, the supply for spiritual wants, the treasures for the enrichment and beautification of the soul! and how wondrously and unexpectedly these burst upon the view when God "reveals his Son" in us (Galatians 1:16). At first the absorbing concern is for one's self - the engrossing thought is to appropriate what is necessary for our own life. But this stage, as in the case of the lepers, soon passes by, and gives place to another less selfish.


1. Self-rebuke. Four leprous men alone in that great camp, and a city near at hand perishing of hunger: it was a strange situation. The lepers themselves began to feel they were not acting rightly in delaying to carry the news of this astonishing plenty to their famine-stricken brethren. "We do not well," they said: "this is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace." Does not every mind feel that their words were just? Would it not have been selfishness unspeakable had they continued to think only of themselves, and delayed to carry the good tidings to their friends in the city? Acting thus selfishly, might they not justly fear that some "mischief" would come upon them? And did they not at length do right in saying, "Now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household"? The application is obvious to our own duty as those who possess the saving knowledge of the true God, and of Jesus Christ his Son. "We do not well," if we withhold it from those who are perishing for lack of this knowledge (Hosea 4:6). How many are in this condition! The whole heathen world, and ignorant multitudes are around us. "It is a day of good tidings:" shall we not make these good tidings known? "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). "Shall we whose souls are lighted," etc.?

2. Bearing good news. The lepers delayed no more, but hastened to the gate of the city, and told their wonderful story to the porter, who told it to others, who carried it to the king's house. Thus, from one to another, the news spread. It was not reckoned any drawback to it that they were lepers who brought it. - J.O.

Then they said one to another, We do not well, etc. These verses record the conference which these four lepers had with one another after they had succeeded in working out their resolution to go unto the "host of the Syrians;" and in this conference we discover -

I. THE RIGHT. "They said one to another, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace." The silver and the gold which they had discovered they had hidden away; and now, perhaps, conscience told them it was not right. It is not right for us to conceal the good we have discovered, or to appropriate it entirely to our own use; let us communicate it. The distribution of good is right. Every man should be "ready to communicate." The monopoly of material good is a huge wrong, and the crying sin of the age. Legislation will have to deal with this social abomination sooner or later; it is crushing the millions to the dust. Monopolies must be broken up; the wants of society and the claims of eternal justice demand it. What is truly "glad tidings" to us we should proclaim to others. The rays of joy that fall over our own lives we should not retain, but reflect.

II. THE PRUDENT. Whether these poor men felt it was right to communicate to others the tidings of the good they had received or not, they certainly felt it was prudent. "If we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household." Accordingly they acted. "So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were. And he called to the porters; and they told it to the king's house within." Not to do the right thing must cause some "mischief" - mischief not only to the body, but to the soul as well, to the entire man. There is no prudence apart from rectitude. What is wrong in moral principle is mischievous in conduct. He who is in the right, however outvoted by his age, is always in the majority, for he has that vote which carries all material universes and spiritual hierarchies with it. Right is infallible utilitarianism. - D.T.

And the king arose in the night, etc. These verses suggest a few thoughts concerning the help that sometimes comes to distressed men from without. The best help that a man can get in any case is from within - from a right working of his own faculties, independence on his Maker. Still, help from without is often most valuable. There are three kinds of human helpers without.

1. Those that help men by their will. These are men, the chosen of the race, who lay themselves out for philanthropic service.

2. Those that help men against their will. It often turns out, as in the case of Joseph's brethren, that our enemies really serve us.

3. Those that help men irrespective of their will. We are helped in many ways by those who know and care nothing about us. We come into possession of their knowledge, inventions, property. The property of the men of the last age is ours today. Such is the kind of help which the Syrians now rendered the Israelites, and we offer three remarks concerning this help.

I. IT WAS NEEDED. The men of Samaria were in the utmost distress, and the king arose in the night and sent forth two of his servants (ver. 12) in pursuit of the Syrians to see what had happened. As they approached the spot they found that the Syrians had departed, but had left their property behind. "And the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste." Thus in the height of their distress they found relief. It is often so in passing through life; often so in individual as well as in social life. In the greatest extremity help appears. When the cloud is darkest a beam of light breaks on it.

II. IT WAS UNDESERVED. Did these Samaritans deserve help? By no means. They were nearly all idolatrous and worthless people. They merited condign punishment, everlasting ruin. This is true of all men as sinners. Whatever help we receive is utterly undeserved. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed."

III. IT WAS UNEXPECTED. They went forth longing for food, but quite uncertain whether they would find any. They found that the enemy had fled, and in their haste had left provisions behind. "So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel." Are not all men, in the providence of God, constantly receiving unexpected favors? The choicest blessings come when least expected. - D.T.

The tidings brought by the lepers were so astounding that it was natural there should at first be some hesitation in acting on them.

I. THE KING'S SUSPICIONS. Jehoram was roused in the night-time, but his mood was distrustful and desponding. He was convinced that the Syrians were but playing him a trick. Their apparent retreat was a piece of strategy to get the Israelites out into the plain. Then they would fall on them and destroy them. "I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us," etc.

1. Distrust of man. The suspicious disposition of the king accords with his general character. It has been noticed that Jehoram presents himself throughout the history as a man of moody, changeful, unreliable nature. "When the prophet leads the enemy into his hands without a blow, he becomes violent, and is eager to slaughter them all; then, however, he allows himself to be soothed, gives them entertainment, and permits them to depart in safety. At the siege of Samaria, the great distress of the city touches his heart. He puts on garments which are significant of grief and repentance, but then allows himself to be so overpowered by anger, that, instead of seeking the cause of the prevailing misery in his own apostasy and that of the nation, he swears to put to death, without delay, the man whom he had once addressed as 'father.' Yet this anger also is of short duration. He does not hear the promise of deliverance with scorn, as his officer does, but with hope and confidence. Then, again, when the promised deliverance is announced as actually present, he once more becomes doubtful and mistrustful, and his servants have to encourage him and push him on to a decision" (Bahr). It is shown by the present instance how a suspicious, distrustful disposition often outwits itself. One could not have blamed Jehoram for being cautious; but his habit of mind led him to go beyond caution, and to conclude for certain that the news brought was false, and that the Syrians were attempting a deception. Had he been left to himself, he would have rested in that conclusion, and inquired no further. Yet he was wrong, and the Syrians had actually fled. An excess of skepticism thus frequently leads those who indulge it astray. Jehoram was so accustomed to diplomacy, to intrigue, to strategy, that he thought of no other explanation of the facts related to him. By his moody unbelief he nearly missed the blessing.

2. Distrust of God. There was more than distrust of man in Jehoram's suspicions; there was likewise distrust of God. Had his attitude to God's promise, as conveyed through Elisha, been one of faith, he would at once have recognized that this which was told him was its fulfillment. He would have remembered Elisha's word; he would have perceived how precisely this report fitted into it; he would at least, before dismissing the lepers' story, have felt it his duty to consult Elisha, and ask him for his guidance. It was his unbelief which gave the dark tinge to his reflections. Are we not often guilty of similar distrust? We offer prayers, and, when the answer comes, we are astonished, and can hardly believe (Acts 12:15, 16). Our unbelief darkens God's providence to us, and prevents us from seeing his gracious hand.


1. The servants counsel. The servants on this, as on other occasions, showed themselves wiser than their lord (Exodus 10:7; 2 Kings 5:13). One of them gave him sound advice. The report they had received was, surely, at least worth inquiring into. Let him send some of the chariot-horses that remained (they were very few, and, like the remnant of the people of Israel, wasted with starvation, so that, at the worst, no greater evil could befall them than already existed), and let the charioteers bring word of the true state of the case. How many rash criticisms, hasty condemnations, unwise delays, would be avoided, if men would but act upon the principle "go and see"! The practical instincts are often sounder in the common people than in their lordly superiors.

2. The king's messengers. The king did as his servant suggested, and the chariots, two in number, were sent forth. The camp was found deserted, as the lepers had said, but, to make sure, the messengers continued their tour of inspection along the road leading to Jordan. The evidences of hasty flight were indubitable. "All the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste." There was now no further doubt, so "the messengers returned, and told the king." They had seen, and believed: how much better had the king trusted the word of the Lord, and believed, though he had not seen (John 20:29)! When men are fleeing for their lives, they willingly leave all behind them. It should moderate our sense of the value of earthly treasures when we see how, in an emergency, they are so little recked of. A day will come when the proudest and haughtiest would gladly part with all they have for a single smile from thee face of him who sits upon the great white throne (Revelation 6:15, 16; Revelation 20:11).

3. God's word fulfilled. Thus it came about that, in a manner wholly unprecedented and unlooked for, the prediction of Elisha was fulfilled. The starving people found themselves set free from their besiegers, and, crowding out to the deserted tents, regaled themselves on the abundance of provision the Syrians had left. The store of the Syrian host was at their disposal, and a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel. "Wisdom is justified of her children" (Matthew 11:19). Those are always found right at last who repose implicit trust in God's Word. Worldly men may laugh at them; rationalists will mock them; the astute in this world's affairs will count them hare-brained and foolish; but the event justifies them. The principle of verification holds as true in religion as in science. What we now accept in faith will ultimately be verified by sight. The difference between religion and science is that the latter refuses to act till it has received the verification (though even this is subject to qualification); the former trusts God, acts, and awaits the verification.

III. FATE OF THE MOCKER. There remained to be fulfilled the word which Elisha had spoken, that, though the king's officer who had scoffed at the promise should see the predicted plenty, he would not eat thereof. This word also was verified in a remarkable, but seemingly accidental, way. This officer was appointed to superintend the sale of provisions in the gateway, but the pressure of the frantic crowd was so great that he was trodden underfoot and died. How simply, yet how accurately, was the prophet's forecast fulfilled!

1. The incident is another evidence that even seeming "accidents" do not lie outside the providence of God.

2. It teaches men the folly and danger of mocking at God's Word.

3. It shows the certainty of God's threatenings being fulfilled.

4. It illustrates the end of the ungodly - seeing the fulfillment of God's promises of mercy, but not permitted to enjoy. - J.O.

And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate, etc. We have here an instance of two things.

I. GOD'S PROMISE REALIZED. In the first verse of this chapter Elisha had said, "Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel." The morrow had come, and here is the fine flour and the barley being sold in the gate of Samaria. Here is the Divine promise fulfilled to the letter. God is ever faithful who hath promised. If a being makes a promise, and it is not fulfilled, it must be for one of three reasons - either because he was insincere when he made the promise, or subsequently changed his mind, or met with unforeseen difficulties which he had not the power to surmount. None of these can be applied to the all-truthful, unchangeable, all-seeing, and almighty God.

II. GOD'S TRUTH VINDICATED. The haughty courtier said to the prophet yesterday, when he was told that a measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel, "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" As if he had said, "Do not presume to impose on me, a man of my intelligence and importance. The intellectual rabble may believe in you, but I cannot." Whereupon the prophet replied, "Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof." And so it came to pass. Here are the flour and the barley, and there lies dead the haughty skeptic. "And so it fell out unto him: for the people trod upon him in the gate, and he died." Truth has ever vindicated itself, and will ever do so. Men's unbelief in facts does not either destroy or weaken facts; the facts remain. Though all the world deny the existence of a God, moral obligation, and future retribution, the facts remain. - D.T.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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