2 Kings 7:12-20
And the king arose in the night, and said to his servants, I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us…
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.
II. VERIFICATION OF THE FLIGHT.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.
WEB: The king arose in the night, and said to his servants, "I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, 'When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive, and get into the city.'"