2 Kings 8:9
So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Your son Benhadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) A present with himi.e., in money. (Comp. 2Kings 5:5, and see the margin here.)

Even of every good thing.—Rather, and every kind of good thing; in addition to the present of money. Damascus was a great centre of traffic between Eastern and Western Asia. (Comp. Ezekiel 27:18; Amos 3:12.) Damask silk was originally imported from Damascus, and the Damascene sword-blades were famous in mediæval Europe.

Forty camels’ burden.—To be understood of an actual train of forty camels, carrying the presents of Ben-hadad. The Orientals are fond of making the most of a gift in this way. Chardin remarks, that “fifty persons often carry what a single one could very well carry” (Voyage, 3:21).

Came.—Or, went in, i.e., into the house where Elisha was.

Thy son Ben-hadad.—Comp. 2Kings 13:14; 2Kings 5:13; 2Kings 4:12; 2Kings 6:21. “Father” was a respectful mode of addressing the prophet.

2 Kings

THE STORY OF HAZAEL

2 Kings 8:9 - 2 Kings 8:15
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This is a strange, wild story. That Damascene monarchy burst into sudden power, warlike and commercial-for the two things went together in those days. As is usually the case, Hazael the successful soldier becomes ambitious. His sword seems to be the real sceptre, and he will have the dominion. Many years before this Elijah had anointed him to be king over Syria. That had wrought upon him and stirred ambition in him. Elijah’s other appointments, coeval with his own, had already taken effect, Jehu was king of Israel, Elisha was prophet, and he only had not attained the dignity to which he had been designated.

He comes now with his message from the king of Damascus to Elisha. No doubt he had been often contrasting his own vigour with the decrepit, nominal king, and many a time had thought of the anointing, and had nursed ambitious hopes, which gradually turned to dark resolves.

He hoped, no doubt, that Ben-hadad was mortally sick, and it must have been a cruel, crushing disappointment when he heard that there was nothing deadly in the illness. Another hope was gone from him. The throne seemed further off than ever. I suppose that, at that instant, there sprang in his heart the resolve that he would kill Ben-hadad. The recoil of disappointment spurred Hazael to the resolution which he then and there took. It had been gathering form, no doubt, through some years, but now it became definite and settled. While his face glowed with the new determination, and his lips clenched themselves in the firmness of his purpose, the even voice of the prophet went on, ‘howbeit he shall certainly die,’ and the eye of the man of God searched him till he turned away ashamed because aware that his inmost heart was read.

Then there followed the prophet’s weeping, and the solemn announcement of what Hazael would do when he had climbed to the throne. He shrank in real horror from the thought of such enormity of sin. ‘Is thy servant a dog that he should do such a thing?’ Elisha sternly answers: ‘The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.’ The certainty is that in his character occasion will develop evil. The certainty is that a course begun by such crime will be of a piece, and consistent with itself.

This conversation with Elisha seems to have accelerated Hazael’s purpose, as if the prediction were to his mind a justification of his means of fulfilling it.

How like Macbeth he is!-the successful soldier, stirred by supernatural monitions of a greatness which he should achieve, and at last a murderer.

This narrative opens to us some of the solemn, dark places of human life, of men’s hearts, of God’s ways. Let us look at some of the lessons which lie here.

I. Man’s responsibility for the sin which God foresees.

It seems as if the prophet’s words had much to do in exciting the ambitious desires which led to the crime. Hazael’s purpose of executing the deed is clearly known to the prophet. His ascending the throne is part of the divine purpose. He could find excuses for his guilt, and fling the responsibility for firing his ambition on the divine messenger. It may be asked-What sort of God is this who works on the mind of a man by exciting promises, and having done so, and having it fixed in His purposes that the man is to do the crime, yet treats it when done as guilt?

But now, whatever you may say, or whatever excuses Hazael might have found for himself, here is just in its most naked form that which is true about all sin. God foresees it all. God puts men into circumstances where they will fall, God presents to them things which they will make temptations. God takes the consequences of their wrongdoing and works them into His great scheme. That is undeniable on one side, and on the other it is as undeniable that God’s foreseeing leaves men free. God’s putting men into circumstances where they fall is not His tempting them. God’s non-prevention of sin is not permission to sin. God’s overruling the consequences of sin is not His condoning of sin as part of the scheme of His providence.

Man is free. Man is responsible. God hates sin. God foresees and permits sin.

It is all a terrible mystery, but the facts are as undeniable as the mystery of their co-existence is inscrutable.

II. The slumbering possibilities of sin.

Hazael indignantly protests against the thought that he should do such a thing. There is conscience left in him yet. His example suggests how little any of us know what it is in us to be or to do. We are all of us a mystery to ourselves. Slumbering powers lie in us. We are like quiescent volcanoes.

So much in us lies dormant, needing occasion for its development, like seeds that may sleep for centuries. That is true in regard to both the good and the bad in us. Life reveals us to ourselves. We learn to know ourselves by our actions, better than by mental self-inspection.

All sin is one in essence, and may pass into diverse forms according to circumstances. Of course characters differ, but the root of sin is in us all. We are largely good because not tempted, as a house may well stand firm when there are no floods. By the nature of the case, thorough self-knowledge is impossible.

Sin has the power of blinding us to its presence. It comes in a cloud as the old gods were fabled to do. The lungs get accustomed to a vitiated atmosphere, and scarcely are conscious of oppression till they cease to play.

All this should teach us-

Lessons of wary walking and humility. We are good because we have not been tried.

Lessons of charity and brotherly kindness. Every thief in the hulks, every prostitute on the streets, is our brother and sister, and they prove their fraternity by their sin. ‘Whatever man has done man may do.’ ‘Nihil humanum alienum a me puto.’ ‘Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.’

III. The fatal necessity by which sin repeats itself in aggravated forms.

See how Hazael is drifted into his worst crimes. His first one leads on by fell necessity to others. A man who has done no sin is conceivable, but a man who has done only one is impossible. Did you ever see a dam bursting or breaking down? Through a little crack comes one drop: will it stop there-the gap or the trickle? No! The drop has widened the crack, it has softened the earth around, it has cleared away some impediments. So another and another follow ever more rapidly, until the water pours out in a flood and the retaining embankment is swept away.

No sin ‘is dead, being alone.’ The demon brings seven other devils worse than himself. The reason for that aggravation is plain.

There is, first, habit.

There is, second, growing inclination.

There is, third, weakened restraint.

There is, fourth, a craving for excitement to still conscience.

There is, fifth, the necessity of the man’s position.

There is, sixth, the strange love of consistency which tones all life down or up to one tint, as near as may be. There comes at last despair.

But not merely does every sin tend to repeat itself and to draw others after it. It tends to repeat itself in aggravated forms. There is growth, the law of increase as well as of perpetuity. The seed produces ‘some sixty and some an hundredfold.’

And so the slaughtered soldiers and desolated homesteads of Israel were the sequel of the cloth on Ben-hadad’s face. The secret of much enormous crime is the kind of relief from conscience which is found in committing a yet greater sin. The Furies drive with whips of scorpions, and the poor wretch goes plunging and kicking deeper and deeper in the mire, further and farther from the path. So you can never say: ‘I will only do this one wrong thing.’

We see here how powerless against sin are all restraints. The prophecy did not prevent Hazael from his sins. The clear sense that they were sins did not prevent him. The horror-struck shudder of conscience did not prevent him. It was soon gagged.

Hear, then, the conclusion of the whole matter. Christ reveals us to ourselves. Christ breaks the chain of sin, makes a new beginning, cuts off the entail, reverses the irreversible, erases the indelible, cancels the irrevocable, forgives all the faultful past, and by the power of His love in the soul, works a mightier miracle than changing the Ethiopian’s skin; teaches them that are accustomed to evil to do well, and though sins be as scarlet, makes them white as snow. He gives us a cleansed past and a bright future, and out of all our sins and wasted years makes pardoned sinners and glorified, perfected saints.2 Kings 8:9. And took a present with him, forty camels’ burden — By this noble present, consisting of every good thing of Damascus, the king testified his affection to the prophet, bid him welcome to Damascus, and provided for his sustenance while he was there, and the sustenance of those that were with him: for some have inferred, from the king’s sending him so very large a quantity of provisions, beyond measure too much for a single person, that Elisha, besides his servant, had several of the sons of the prophets with him. It is probable he accepted this present; for if he had refused it, it is likely his refusal would have been noticed.8:7-15 Among other changes of men's minds by affliction, it often gives other thoughts of God's ministers, and teaches to value the counsels and prayers of those whom they have hated and despised. It was not in Hazael's countenance that Elisha read what he would do, but God revealed it to him, and it fetched tears from his eyes: the more foresight men have, the more grief they are liable to. It is possible for a man, under the convictions and restraints of natural conscience, to express great abhorrence of a sin, yet afterwards to be reconciled to it. Those that are little and low in the world, cannot imagine how strong the temptations of power and prosperity are, which, if ever they arrive at, they will find how deceitful their hearts are, how much worse than they suspected. The devil ruins men, by saying they shall certainly recover and do well, so rocking them asleep in security. Hazael's false account was an injury to the king, who lost the benefit of the prophet's warning to prepare for death, and an injury to Elisha, who would be counted a false prophet. It is not certain that Hazael murdered his master, or if he caused his death it may have been without any design. But he was a dissembler, and afterwards proved a persecutor to Israel.Every good thing of Damascus - Probably, besides rich robes and precious metals, the luscious wine of Helbon, which was the drink of the Persian kings, the soft white wool of the anti-Libanus Ezekiel 27:18, damask coverings of couches Amos 3:12, and numerous manufactured articles of luxury, which the Syrian capital imported from Tyre, Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon. Forty camels were laden with it, and this goodly caravan paraded the streets of the town, conveying to the prophet the splendid gift designed for him. Eastern ostentation induces donors to make the greatest possible show of their gifts, and each camel would probably bear only one or two articles.

Thy son Ben-hadad - A phrase indicative of the greatest respect, no doubt used at the command of Benhadad in order to dispose the prophet favorably toward him. Compare 2 Kings 6:21.

9. forty camels' burden—The present, consisting of the rarest and most valuable produce of the land, would be liberal and magnificent. But it must not be supposed it was actually so large as to require forty camels to carry it. The Orientals are fond of display, and would, ostentatiously, lay upon forty beasts what might very easily have been borne by four.

Thy son Ben-hadad—so called from the established usage of designating the prophet "father." This was the same Syrian monarch who had formerly persecuted him (see 2Ki 6:13, 14).

Forty camels’ burden. Hazael carried the more noble present, hoping, as his master did, to get some interest in the prophet and advantage to himself by it. Whether the prophet received it or not, is not here mentioned; but it is most probable he did not, from his former practice, 2Ki 5 and because the reasons which then swayed him were still of the same force.

Song of Solomon Ben-hadad: he who before persecuted him as an enemy, 2 Kings 6:13,14, now in his extremity honours him like a father. So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him,.... 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.

So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every {e} good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden, 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?

(e) Of all the chiefest and precious things of the country.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. even of every good thing of Damascus] Cf. the present which Jacob sent by his sons when they were going down into Egypt to buy food (Genesis 43:11), ‘Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present &c.’

forty camels’ burden] The number of camels was for display. We are not to suppose that each was fully laden. Nor need we think that Elisha who had refused Naaman’s present would be more ready to accept Benhadad’s.

stood before him] It must have been well known where Elisha was to be found. There was no concealment in his visit. An array of forty camels would only be brought to a definite spot.

Thy son Ben-hadad] The term indicates the humility of the petitioner. So Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7) when he sent for help to Tiglath-pileser, said ‘I am thy servant and thy son’. In like manner Jehoram called Elisha ‘my father’, above in 2 Kings 6:21.Verse 9. - So Hazael went to meet him -i.e. Elisha - and took a present with him; literally, in his hand; but we must not pros this expression "In his hand" means "under his control." The present was far too large to be carried by an individual. It consisted even of every good thing of Damascus; i.e. of gold and silver and costly raiment, of the luscious wine of Helbon, which was the drink of the Persian kings (Strab., 15:3. § 22), of the soft white wool of the Antilibanus (Ezekiel 27:18), of damask coverings of couches (Amos 3:12), perhaps of Damascus blades, and of various manufactured articles, the products of Tyro, Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon, which her extensive land trade was always bringing to the Syrian capital. Forty camels' burden. Not as much as forty camels could carry, but a gift of such a size that it was actually placed on the backs of forty camels, which paraded the town, and conveyed in a long procession to the prophet's house the king's magnificent offering. Orientals are guilty of extreme ostentation with respect to the presents that they make. As Chardin says, "Fifty persons often carry what a single one could have very well borne" ('Voyage en Perse,' vol. 3. p. 217). The practice is illustrated by the bas-reliefs of Nineveh and Persepolis, which furnish proofs of its antiquity. One present-bearer carries a few pomegranates; another, a bunch of grapes; a third, a string of locusts; a fourth, two small ointment-pots; a fifth, a branch of an olive tree, and the like (Layard, 'Monuments of Nineveh,' second series, pls. 8, 9, etc.). It is not unlikely that a single camel could have carried the whole. And earns and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad King of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying - Benhadad seeks to propitiate Elisha by calling himself his son, thus indicating the respect he feels for him (comp. 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14) - Shall I recover of this disease? Nothing was more common in the ancient world than the consultation of an oracle or a prophet in cases of disease or other bodily affliction. Two questions were commonly asked, "Shall I recover?" and "How may I recover?" So Pheron of Egypt is said to have consulted an oracle with respect to his blindness (Herod., 2:111), and Battus of Cyrene to have done the same with respect to his stammering (ibid., 4:155). It was seldom that a clear and direct answer was given. When the woman returned to her home at the end of the seven years, she went to the king to cry, i.e., to invoke his help, with regard to her house and her field, of which, as is evident from the context, another had taken possession during her absence.
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