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This chapter gives an account of some advice Elisha had formerly given to the Shunammite woman, and of the success of it, ( 2 Kings 8:1-6) and of the sickness of the king of Syria, who sent to Elisha, then being at Damascus, by Hazael, to know whether he should recover; by whom a message was returned, and Hazael was told by the prophet he should be king of Syria, and exercise great cruelty in Israel, ( 2 Kings 8:7-15) and of the bad reign of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, over Judah, ( 2 Kings 8:16-24) and of the reign of his son Ahaziah, ( 2 Kings 8:25-29).
Ver. 1 . Then spoke Elisha unto the woman (whose son he had restored to life) , etc.] His hostess at Shunem, ( 2 Kings 4:8-17) the following he said to her, not after the famine in Samaria, but before it, as some circumstances show: saying, arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn ; with the greatest safety to her person and property, and with the least danger to her moral and religious character: for the Lord hath called for a famine, and it shall also come upon the land seven years : which Jarchi says was the famine that was in the days of Joel; it was, undoubtedly, on account of the idolatry of Israel, and was double the time of that in the days of Elijah.
Ver. 2 . And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God , etc.] Whose words she had reason to believe; she having a son given to her according to his word, and this restored to life, when dead, through his intercession: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines ; which was not far from her native place, and where there was plenty of food, and she could have as free an exercise of her religion as in the idolatrous kingdom of Israel.
Ver. 3 . And it came to pass, at the seven years end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines , etc.] Either hearing that the famine was over, or believing that it was, the time being expired the prophet fixed for it: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house, and for her land ; which her nearest relations in her absence had seized upon, as heirs to them; or those in whose hands she had intrusted them refused, upon her return, to deliver them to her; or the king’s officers had seized upon them for him, as forfeited to the crown by her going out of the land without leave; and now she needed a friend to speak for her to the king, which, in time past, she had no occasion for, and thought she never should, (see Kings 4:13).
Ver. 4 . And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God , etc.] Elisha’s servant, just at the same time the woman made her application to him; so that this was before he was dismissed from the service of the prophet, and consequently before the affair of Naaman’s cure, and so before the siege of Samaria: saying, tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done ; the miracles he wrought, as the dividing of the waters of Jordan, and healing those near Jericho; the affair of procuring water for the armies of the three kings in Edom he needed not to relate, since Jehoram was an eyewitness thereof; the next was the multiplying the widow’s cruse of oil, when he in course came to those that were done for the Shunammite woman.
Ver. 5 . And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life , etc.] Which was the Shunammite’s son: that, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life cried to the king for her house, and for her land ; came and presented her petition to the king at that very instant: and Gehazi said, my lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life ; the very person I am speaking of.
Ver. 6 . And when the king asked the woman, she told him , etc.] The whole affair; how that she had a son according to the word of Elisha, when she had been barren, and her husband old; that this child was struck with sickness, and died; and that the prophet, through his prayers, restored it to life: so the king appointed unto her a certain officer ; the word signifies an “eunuch”: him he ordered to attend upon her, and assist her, and see to it that she was put into the possession of her house and land: saying, restore all that was her’s, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she left the land, even till now ; not only her house and land, but all the rent, profits, and dues arising from thence during the time of her absence: the Jews except the rent of her house.
Ver. 7 . And Elisha came to Damascus , etc.] On what account, and when, is not certain, whether to convert Gehazi, as say the Jews f102 ; or to confirm Naaman in the true religion he professed, for which he might be dismissed from his office, since another man was made general of the Syrian army; or on account of the famine; or rather it may be to anoint, or, however, to declare that Hazael would be king of Syria; (see 1 Kings 19:15), and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick ; at the time he came thither, where his palace was, and now a Mahometan temple; a very extraordinary building, according to Benjamin the Jew f103 : and it was told him, saying, the man of God is come hither ; the famous prophet in Israel, Elisha, through whom Naaman his general had been cured of his leprosy, of whom he had heard so much.
Ver. 8 . And the king said to Hazael , etc.] The captain general of his army: take a present in thine hand, and go and meet the man of God , who, perhaps, was not as yet come into the city, only into the region of Damascus: or rather “with thee”; so the Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions; and which Noldius approves of, since a burden of forty camels, ( Kings 8:9) could not be carried in the hand: and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, shall I recover of this disease ? he did not desire him to pray the Lord that he might recover, only was curious to know whether he should or not, (see 2 Kings 1:2).
Ver. 9 . So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him , etc.] As was usual when a prophet or seer was consulted, (see 1 Samuel 9:7) even of every good thing of Damascus ; which was a very fruitful place, and had abundance of gardens and orchards in it, which yielded excellent fruit, and of such it is probable the present consisted, and which was large: even forty camels’ burden : which, as they are strong creatures, will bear a great deal. Abarbinel thinks, bread, flesh, and wine, and fowls, were in the present, but not gold, silver, and raiment, which the prophet had refused to take of Naaman; the Jews have a fable, that there was a precious stone in it, worth all the good things of Damascus: 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 ? he calls him his son, in veneration of the prophet as a father, as such men were called.
Ver. 10 . And Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, thou mayest certainly recover , etc.] That is, of the disease; and there was not only a probability that he might recover of it, it not being a mortal one, but a certainty that he should not die of it, as he did not, but die a violent death, which the prophet predicts in the next clause; though some take these words not as a command, what he should say, but as a prediction of what he would say; that he would go and tell him he should certainly recover, because he would not discourage him, though the prophet assures him in the next clause that he should die: there is a various reading of these words; we follow the marginal reading, but the textual reading is, “say, thou shall not certainly recover”, or “in living live”; which agrees with what follows: howbeit or “for” the Lord hath showed me, that he shall surely die ; though not of that sickness, nor a natural death, but a violent one, and that by the hand of this his servant, though he does not express it.
Ver. 11 . And he settled his countenance steadfastly , etc.] Refrained himself as much as possible, that he might not weep, as some Jewish writers interpret it; or, as others, he turned his face on one side, and covered it with his hands, that Hazael might not see him weep; or rather he set his face on Hazael, and looked at him so wistly: until he was ashamed ; that is, Hazael; the prophet looked him out of countenance: and the man of God wept ; at the thought of what calamities the man before him, he looked on, would be the cause of in Israel, as the following words show.
Ver. 12 . And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord ? etc.] Imagining it was for the death of Benhadad he had predicted, for which he could see no reason; of the title, “my lord”, (see 1 Kings 18:7) and he answered, because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel ; which he foresaw by a spirit of prophecy; and Israel being his own people, he sympathized in their calamities before they came: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire ; which should be taken by him, (see 2 Kings 10:32) and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword ; in battle: and wilt dash their children ; against rocks and stones, or stone walls, or upon the ground, floor, or pavement, as was usual in war f105 , (see <19D709> Psalm 137:9), and rip up their women with child : which was the height of barbarity and cruelty. Ben Gersom and Ben Melech interpret this of breaking down the walls of fortified cities, built strong, like hills and mountains; but this is supposed in the first clause.
Ver. 13 . And Hazael said, but what, [is] thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ? etc.] What dost thou take me to be, a vile, impudent, fierce, and cruel creature, as a dog, to be guilty of so great inhumanity and barbarity as this? or what is thy servant? a dog, a mean abject creature, of no power and authority, incapable of doing such great things spoken of? to which sense not only what is predicted of him, said to be great, inclines, but what follows: and Elisha answered, the Lord hath showed me that thou shall be king over Syria ; and that thou shalt have power enough to do this; this declaration, according to Ben Gersom, was the anointing of him, predicted ( 1 Kings 19:15).
Ver. 14 . So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master , etc.] Benhadad king of Syria: who said to him, what said Elisha to thee ? concerning his recovery, which was the thing uppermost in his mind, and he was eagerly desirous to know how it would be: and he answered, he told me that thou shouldest surely recover ; which was false; for he only said that he “might”, and not that he should; and he concealed what he also declared, that though he might recover of his disease, yet that he should surely die in another way.
Ver. 15 . And it came to pass on the morrow , etc.] In such haste was Hazael to be king, as the prophet said he would be: that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died ; not that Benhadad took or ordered such a cloth to be dipped and laid on his own face, to allay the violent heat in him; but Hazael did this, and perhaps under such a pretence; but his real design was to strike in the heat, or suffocate him; for such a thick cloth, one of the bedclothes, made of goats’ hair, as is supposed, being dipped in water, would suck in a great deal; and being laid on his face, would press hard, and he not able to throw it off, it would let in much water into his mouth and nostrils, and suffocate him, without leaving any marks of violence, which might render his death suspicious: and Hazael reigned in his stead ; having an interest in the army, of which he was general, and perhaps had done some exploits which had recommended him to the regard of the people.
Ver. 16 . And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel , etc.] Who began his reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, ( <120301> Kings 3:1). Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah ; as he continued to be two years more; for this must be in the twenty third year of his reign, and he reigned twenty five years, ( 1 Kings 22:42). Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign ; according to Dr. Lightfoot f106 , there were three beginnings of his reign; “first”, when his father went with Ahab to Ramothgilead, when be was left viceroy, and afterwards his father reassumed the kingdom; the “second” time was, when Jehoshaphat went with the kings of Israel and Edom against Moab; and this is the time here respected, which was in the fifth of Joram king of Israel; and the “third” time was, at the death of his father; but knew his father was living.
Ver. 17 . Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign , etc.] The second time, in the lifetime of his father: and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem ; which ended in the twelfth year of Joram king of Israel, ( 2 Kings 8:25).
Ver. 18 . And he walked in the way of the king’s of Israel, as did the house of Ahab , etc.] Imitated them in idolatry: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife ; whose name was Athaliah, ( Kings 8:26), and by her he was drawn into idolatrous practices; of such bad consequence are marriages with idolaters; it is very much that so good a king as Jehoshaphat his father was should contract such an affinity; he suffered for it in more instances than one: and he did evil in the sight of the Lord ; was guilty of idolatry, than which nothing was more displeasing to the Lord; for he made high places, and compelled his subjects to commit idolatry, ( 2 Chronicles 21:11).
Ver. 19 . Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah for David his servant’s sake , etc.] Not for his merits, but for the mercy he assured him of: as he promised him to give to him always a light, [and] to his children ; or a kingdom, as the Targum; therefore he would not utterly destroy the tribe, nor suffer the sceptre or government to depart from it till the Messiah came, (see <19D211> Psalm 132:11,17).
Ver. 20 . In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah , etc.] Who had been tributary to Judah ever since the times of David, for the space of one hundred and fifty years: and made a king over themselves ; for though they are said to have kings, those were only deputy kings, as in ( 1 Kings 22:47) and now the prediction of Isaac began to be accomplished, ( Genesis 27:40).
Ver. 21 . So Joram went over to Zair , etc.] A city in Edom, the same with the Zaara of Ptolemy f107 ; some take it to be the same with Seir, the mountain or country of that name: and all the chariots with him ; all the chariots of war he had: and he rose by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him about ; who came out of their cities in great numbers, and surrounded him, he having entered into their country in an hostile way, to subdue them: and the captains of the chariots : which belonged to the Edomites; those he smote, ( 2 Chronicles 21:9) and the people fled into their tents ; the army being routed.
Ver. 22 . Yet Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day , etc.] Joram not pursuing the enemy, and taking the advantage of the victory, but returning to his own land, the reason of which follows: then Libnah revolted at the same time ; a considerable city in his own kingdom, a Levitical one; this revolt was occasioned, perhaps, by his idolatrous practices, and which he compelled his subjects to; of this city, (see Joshua 10:29 21:13).
Ver. 23 . 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 ?] Not in the canonical book of Chronicles, though some of his acts are recorded there, (see 2 Chronicles 21:1) but in the annals of the kings of Judah, written by persons appointed for that purpose.
Ver. 24 . And Joram slept with his fathers , etc.] Died as they did: and was buried with his fathers in the city of David ; but not in the sepulchres of the kings, and without any funeral pomp, and without any mourning and lamentation for him, he being not beloved, and his life not at all desirable, ( 2 Chronicles 21:19,20), and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead ; of whom more is said in the following verses.
Ver. 25 . 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 .] He is called Jehoahaz, and said to be the youngest son of Jehoram, ( 2 Chronicles 21:17).
Ver. 26 . Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign , etc.] In ( 2 Chronicles 22:2) he is said to be forty two years of age; for the solution of that difficulty (see Gill on “ 2 Chronicles 22:2”): and he reigned one year in Jerusalem ; which was the whole of his reign: and his mother’s name was Athaliah the daughter of Omri king of Israel ; that is, his granddaughter; for she was the daughter of Ahab the son of Omri, ( 2 Kings 8:18), it was usual for grandchildren to be called children, sons and daughters, and perhaps she might be educated in the family of Omri.
Ver. 27 . 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 , etc.] Worshipping the calves, and Baal also: for he was the son in law of the house of Ahab ; he was the son of Jehoram, who was son-in-law to Ahab, having married his daughter, which accounts for his being guilty of the same idolatrous practices.
Ver. 28 . And he went with Joram the son of Ahab , etc.] His mother’s brother, and so his uncle: to the war against Hazael king of Syria in Ramothgilead ; which he went to recover out of the hands of the king of Syria, as his father Ahab had attempted in his time; in which he was assisted by Jehoshaphat, as now Joram was by a grandson of his: and the Syrians wounded Joram ; as they did his father Ahab at the same place, though his wound was not mortal, as his father’s was.
Ver. 29 And King Joram went back , etc.] From Ramoth, having taken it, and left his army there: to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah ; the same with Ramothgilead: when he fought against Hazael king of Syria ; for Benhadad being dead, he was now king in his room, ( 2 Kings 8:15) and Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick ; of the wounds which he had received, which might occasion a feverish disorder; and so it was brought about in Providence that Ahaziah should here meet with the destruction appointed for him, of which in the following chapter. (see Chronicles 22:7).