And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.
Verse 1. - 2 Kings 7:20. - FURTHER MIRACLES WROUGHT BY ELISHA. The historian relates first a (comparatively) private miracle wrought by Elisha in the vicinity of Jericho, for the benefit of one of the "sons of the prophets" (vers. 1-8). He then tells us briVerse 1. - And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee - literally, before thee - is too strait for us. The scene of this miracle is probably the vicinity of Jericho, since both Gilgal and Bethel were remote from the Jordan. The "school of the prophets" at Jericho, whereof we heard in 2 Kings 2:5, 19, had increased so much, that the buildings which hitherto had accommodated it were no longer sufficient. A larger dwelling, or set of dwelling, was thought to be necessary; but the scholars would make no change without the sanction of their master. When he comes on one of his circuits, they make appeal to him.
Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.
Verse 2. - Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan. Jericho was situated at some little distance from the Jordan, on the banks of a small stream, which ran into it. Along the course of the Jordan trees and shrubs were abundant, chiefly willows, poplars, and tamarisks (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4:08. § 3; Strabo, 16:2. § 41). It would seem that the Jordan thickets were unappropriated, and that any one might cut timber in them. And take thence every man a beam. The meaning is, "Let us all join in the work, each cutting beams and carrying them; and the work will soon be accomplished." And let us make us a place there. They propose to build the new dwelling on the banks of Jordan, to save the trouble of conveying the materials any long distance. Where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. Elisha, i.e., approved the proposal, gave it his sanction and encouragement.
And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.
Verse 3. - And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. One of the number was not satisfied with the prophet's mere approval of the enterprise, but wished for his actual presence, probably as securing a blessing upon the work. And he answered, I will go. Elisha approved the man's idea, as springing from piety and faith in God. He, therefore, raised no difficulty, but at once, in the simplest manner, acceded to the request. There is a remarkable directness, simplicity, and absence of fuss in all that Elisha says and does.
So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
Verse 4. - So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan - i.e. to the river-bank - they cut down wood. They set to work, each felling his tree, and fashioning it into a rough beam.
But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
Verse 5. - But as one was felling a beam - i.e. a tree, to make it into a beam - the axe-head; literally, the iron. We see from Deuteronomy 19:5 that the Hebrews made their axe-heads of iron as early as the time of Moses. They probably learnt to smelt and work iron in Egypt. Fell into the water. The tree must have been one that grew close to the river's edge. As the man hewed away at the stem a little above the root, the axe-head flew from the haft, into which it was insecurely fitted, and fell into the water. The slipping of an axe-head was a very common occurrence (Deuteronomy 19:5), and ordinarily was of little consequence, since it was easily restored to its place. But now the head had disappeared. And he cried, and said, Alas, master! - rather, Alas, my master! or, Alas, my lord! - for it was borrowed; rather, and it was a borrowed one. The words are part of the man's address to Elisha. He means to say, "It is no common misfortune; it is not as if it had been my own axe. I had borrowed it, and now what shall I say to the owner?" There is no direct request for help, but the tone of the complaint constitutes a sort of silent appeal.
And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
Verse 6. - And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Two natural explanations of this miracle have been attempted:
(1) that Elisha passed a piece of wood underneath the axe-head, which he could see lying at the bottom of the river, and then lifted it up to the surface (Von Gerlach);
(2) that he thrust a stick or bar of wood through the hole in the axe-head, made to receive the haft, and so pulled it out (Thenins). But both explanations do violence to the text; and we may be sure that, had either been true, the occurrence would not have been recorded. The sacred writers are not concerned to put on record mere acts of manual dexterity.
Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.
Verse 7. - Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it. Elisha does not take the axe-head out of the water himself, but requires the scholar to do it, in order to test his faith. He must show that he Believes the miracle, and regards the iron as really floating on the top of the water, not as merely appearing to dose.
Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp.
Verse 8-2 Kings 7:20. - PUBLIC MIRACLES or ELISHA (resumed). Verse 8. - Then the King of Syria warred against Israel. It may seem strange that, so soon after sending an embassy to the court of Samaria, and asking a favor (2 Kings 5:5, 6), Benhadad should resume hostilities, especially as the favor had been obtained (2 Kings 5:14); but the normal relations between the two countries were those of enmity (2 Kings 5:2), and a few years would suffice to dim the memory of what had happened. The gratitude of kings is proverbially short-lived. And took counsel with his servants - i.e., his chief officers - saying, In such and such a place (comp. 1 Samuel 21:2) shall be my camp; or, my encampment. תַּחְחֲנֹח appears to be "a noun in the form of the infinitive." It does not occur elsewhere.
And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.
Verse 9. - And the man of God - i.e. Elisha, who at the time was "the man of God "(κατ ἐξοήν) - sent unto the King of Israel - Jehoram, undoubtedly (see ver. 32) - saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. Some translate, "Beware that thou neglect not such a place, for thither the Syrians are coming down;" but our version is probably correct, and is approved by Bahr and Thenius. Elisha did not suffer his hostile feeling towards Jehoram personally (2 Kings 3:13; 2 Kings 5:8; 2 Kings 6:32) to interfere with his patriotism. When disaster threatened his country, he felt it incumbent on him to warn even an ungodly king.
And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.
Verse 10. - And the King of Israel sent to the place. Recent commentators (Keil, Thenius, Bahr) mostly suppose this to mean that Jehoram sent troops to the place pointed out by the prophet, and anticipated the Syrians by occupying it. But it agrees better with the prophet's injunction, "Beware that thou pass not such a place," to suppose that he merely sent out scouts to see if the place were occupied or no, and finding, in each case, Elisha's warning true, he avoided the locality. Which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice; i.e. repeatedly; at least three several times, perhaps more.
Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?
Verse 11. - Therefore the heart of the King of Syria was sore troubled for this thing. Keil says, "The King of the Syrians was enraged at this;" but סָעַר exactly expresses "trouble," "disturbance," not "rage," being used of the tossing of the sea, in Jonah 1:11. And he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel? Benhadad not unnaturally suspected treachery among his own subjects. How otherwise could the King of Israel become, over and over again, aware of his intentions? Some one or other of his officers must, he thought, betray his plans to the enemy. Cannot the others point out the traitor?
And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
Verse 12. - And one of his servants said - i.e. one of those interrogated, answered - None, my lord, O king; literally, Nay, my lord, the king - meaning, "Think not so; it is not as thou supposest; there is no traitor in thy camp or in thy court; we are all true men. The explanation of the circumstances that surprise thee is quite different." But Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel - compare "the man of God" (ver. 9); so much above the others, that he is spoken of as if there were no other - telleth the King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber; literally, in the secret place of thy bedchamber. How the Syrian lord knew this, or whether he merely made a shrewd guess, we cannot say. Elisha's miraculous gifts had, no doubt, become widely known to the Syrians through the cure of Naaman's leprosy; and the lord, who may possibly have been Naaman himself, concluded that a man who could cure s leper could also read a king's secret thoughts without difficulty.
And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
Verse 13. - And he - i.e. Benhadad - said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him; i.e. "Send out spies to learn where Elisha is at present residing, that I may dispatch a force to the place, and get him into my power." The object was scarcely "to find out, through Elisha, what the King of Israel and other princes were plotting against him in their secret counsels" (Cassel), but simply to put a stop to Elisha's betrayal of his own plans to Jobs-ram. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. The spies were sent, and brought back word that, at the time, Elisha was residing in Dothan. Dothan, the place where Joseph was sold by his brethren to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:17), lay evidently not very far from Shechem (Genesis 37:14), and is placed by Eusebius about twelve miles north of Samaria. In the Book of Judith (4:6; 7:3) it is mentioned among the cities bordering the southern edge of the Plain of Esdraelon. Modern travelers (Van de Velde, Robinson) have reasonably identified it with the present Dothan, a tel, or hill, of a marked character, covered with ruins, and from the foot of which arises a copious spring, to the south-west of Jenin, between that place and Jeba, a little to the left of the great road leading from Beisan (Scythopolis) to Egypt.
Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
Verse 14. - Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host; rather, and a strong force. The expression, חַיִל כָּבֵד, is used by the historical writers with a good deal of vagueness-sometimes of a really great army, sometimes merely of a large retinue (1 Kings 10:2) or of a moderate force (2 Kings 18:17). We must assign it its meaning according to the context. And they came by night, and compassed the city about. A night march was made, to take the prophet by surprise, and the city was encompassed, that it might be impossible for him to escape.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
Verse 15. - And when the servant of the man of God was risen early - he had, perhaps, heard the arrival of the Syrian forces during the night, and "rose early" to reconnoiter - and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots; rather, an host compassed the city, and horses, and chariots. A force of footmen, a force of horsemen, and a chariot force, are intended (cutup. ver. 14). And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? Though the servant could not know that it was Elisha's person which was especially sought, yet he was naturally alarmed at seeing the city invested by a hostile force, and anticipated either death or capture, which last would involve the being sold as a slave. Hence his "Alas!" and his piteous cry, "How shall we do?" Can we, i.e. in any way, save ourselves?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
Verse 16. - And he - i.e. Elisha - answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. Elisha did not need to see the forces arrayed on his side. He knew that God and God's strength was "with him," and cared not who, or how many, might be against him (cutup. Psalm 3:6, "I will not be afraid for ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about;" and Psalm 27:3, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident"). His confidence reminds us of that shown by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:7) on the invasion of Sennacherib.
And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
Verse 17. - And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. If the prophet's servant was to be reassured, he must be made to see that help was at hand; he would not have found rest or peace in the mere assurance that God was nigh, and would keep his prophet from harm. His mental state required something like a material manifestation; and hence Elisha prays that he may be permitted to behold the angelic host, which everywhere throughout creation is employed at all times in doing the will of God, and accomplishing his ends (comp. Genesis 28:12; Genesis 32:2; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10, etc.). The prayer is granted. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. As the earthly force, which had alarmed Elisha's servant, was a force mainly of horses and chariots, so the heavenly force revealed to his eyes was made to bear the same appearance. But the heavenly chariots and horses were "of fire" - glowed, i.e. with a strange unearthly brightness (see the comment on 2 Kings 2:11).
And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
Verse 18. - And when they came down to him. Keil and others suppose this to mean that the Syrians "came down" to Elisha; hut, if they were in the plain that surrounds the hill whereon Dothan was built, as appears from ver. 15, they would have had to ascend in order to reach Elisha, not to descend. We must, therefore, with F. Meyer, Thenius, and Bahr, translate, "When they [Elisha and his servant] came down to them [the Syrians]" - either changing אֵלָיו into אֲלַיהֶם, as Thenius does, or understanding אֵלָיו to refer to the "host" (חַיִל) of the Syrians. Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. Not literal blindness, or they could not have followed Elisha's lead, and marched a distance of twelve miles to Samaria; but a state of confusion and Bewilderment, in which" seeing they saw, but did not perceive" (compare the "blindness" of the men of Sodom, in Genesis 19:11). And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.
Verse 19. - And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city. This was clearly "an untruthful statement" (Keil), if not in the letter, yet in the intent. Elisha meant the Syrians to understand him to say, "This is not the way which ye ought to have taken if ye wanted to capture the Prophet Elisha, and this is not the city (Dothan) where you were told that he was to be found." And so the Syrians understood him. In the morality of the time, and, indeed, in the morality of all times up to the present, it has been held to be justifiable to deceive a public enemy. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. It could only be through the miraculous delusion for which Elisha had prayed, and which had been sent, that the Syrians believed the first comer in an enemy's country, followed him to the capital without hesitation, and allowed him to bring them inside 'the walls. But for the delusion, they would have suspected, made inquiries of others, and retreated hastily, as soon as the walls and towers of Samaria broke on their sight.
And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
Verse 20. - And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. Their delusion was disputed - they returned to their proper senses, and, seeing the size and strength of the town, recognized the fact that they were in Samaria, their enemy's capital, and so were helpless.
And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?
Verse 21. - And the King of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father. In his joy at the deliverance of so large a force of the enemy into his hands, Jehoram forgets the coldness and estrangement which have hitherto characterized the relations between himself and the prophet (2 Kings 3:11-14; 2 Kings 5:8), and salutes him by the honorable title of "father," which implied respect, deference, submission. Compare the use of the same expression by Joash (2 Kings 13:14), and the employment of the correlative term "son" (2 Kings 8:9) by Berthadad. Shall I smite them? shall I smite them? The repetition marks extreme eagerness, while the interrogative form shows a certain amount of hesitation. It is certain that the Israelites were in the habit of putting to death their prisoners of war, not only when they were captured with arms in their hands, but even when they surrendered themselves. When a city or country was conquered, the whole male population of full age was commonly put to death (Numbers 31:7; 1 Samuel 15:8; 1 Kings 11:15; 1 Chronicles 20:3, etc.). When a third part was spared, it was from some consideration of relationship (2 Samuel 8:2). The Law distinctly allowed, if it did not even enjoin, the practice (Deuteronomy 20:13). Jehoram, therefore, no doubt, put his prisoners of war to death under ordinary circumstances. But he hesitates now. He feels that the case is an extraordinary one, and that the prophet, who has made the capture, is entitled to be consulted on the subject. Hence his question.
And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
Verse 22. - And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them. The prophet has no doubt. His prohibition is absolute. These prisoners, at any rate, are not to be slain. "The object of the miracle," as Keil says, "would have been frustrated, if the Syrians had been slain. For the intention was to show the Syrians that they had to do with a prophet of the true God, against whom no human power could be of any avail, that they might learn to fear the Almighty God" ('Commentary on 2 Kings,' p. 3.27, Eng. trans.). There was also, perhaps, a further political object. By sparing the prisoners and treating them with kindness, it might be possible to touch the heart of the King of Syria, and dispose him towards peace. Wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? rather, Wouldest thou be smiting those, etc.? i.e. "Wouldest thou, in smiting these persons, be smiting those whom thou hadst made prisoners in war, so as to be able to justify thy conduct by Deuteronomy 20:13? No; thou wouldest not. Therefore thou shalt not smite them." Set bread and water before them. "Bread" and "water" stand for meat and drink generally. Elisha bids Jehoram entertain the captive Syrians hospitably, and then send them back to Benhadad. That they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
Verse 23. - And he prepared great provision for them. Jehoram followed the directions of the prophet, carrying them out, not in the letter merely, but in the spirit. He entertained the captives at a grand banquet (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 9:4. § 3), and then gave them leave to depart. And when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel. The Syrian raids, which had hitherto been frequent, perhaps almost continuous (2 Kings 5:2), now ceased for a time, and the kingdom of Israel had a respite. Bahr supposes that the raids were discontinued simply "because the Syrians had found out that they could not accomplish anything by these expeditions, but rather brought themselves into circumstances of great peril" ('Commentary on Kings,' vol. it. p. 69). But the nexus of the clause, "So the bands," etc., rather implies that the cessation was the consequence of Jehoram's sparing and entertaining the captives.
And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.
Verse 24. - 2 Kings 7:20. - The siege of Samaria by Benhadad. Verse 24. - And it came to pass after this - probably some considerable time after, when the memory of Jehoram's kind act had passed away - that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host. A contrast is intended between the inroads of small bodies of plunderers and the invasion of the territory by the monarch himself at the head of his entire force. And went up. However Samaria was approached from Syria, there must always have been a final ascent, either from the Jordan valley or from the Plain of Esdraelon. And besieged Samaria. Josephus says that Jehoram was afraid to meet Benhadad in the open field, since his forces were no match for those of the Syrian king, and therefore at once shut himself up within his capital, without risking a battle. The walls of Samaria were very strong.
And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver.
Verse 25. - And there was a great famine in Samaria. It was Benhadad's design to capture the place, not by battering down its walls with military engines, but by blockading it, and cutting off all its supplies, as Josephus tells us (l.s.c.). And, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver. The ass, being an unclean animal (Leviticus 11:4), would not be eaten at all except in the last extremity, and the head was the worst and so the cheapest part; yet it sold for "eighty pieces" (rather, shekels) of silver, or about £5 of our money; as in the Cadusian famine mentioned by Plutarch ('Wit. Artaxerx.,' § 24), where an ass's head was sold for sixty drachmas (about forty shillings). "Dove's dung" is thought by some to be the name of a plant; but it is better to understand the term literally. Both animal and human excrement have been eaten in sieges (Josephus, ' Bell. Jud.,' 5:13. § 7; Cels., 'Hierobot.,' 2. p. 233), when a city was in the last extremity.
And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king.
Verse 26. - And as the King of Israel was passing by upon the wall. The wall of Babylon is said to have been so broad at the top that a four-horse chariot could turn round on it (Herod., 1:179). All ancient cities had walls upon which a great part of the garrison stood, and from which they shot their arrows and worked their engines against the assailants. From time to time the commandant of the place - the king himself, in this instance - would mount upon the wall to visit the posts, and inspect the state of the garrison, or observe the movements of the enemy. There cried a woman unto him. Houses sometimes abutted on the wall of a town (see Joshua 2:15; 1 Samuel 19:12, etc.), and women sometimes took part in their defense (Judges 9:53), so that in visiting the posts a commandant might be brought into contact with women. Saying, Help, my lord, O king; rather, save, i.e. "preserve me from perishing of hunger."
And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress?
Verse 27. - And he said, If the Lord do not help thee. This is probably the true mean-tug. The king is not so brutal as to "curse" the woman (ἐπηράσατο αὐτή τὸν Θεόν, Josephus, ' Ant. Jud.,' 9:4. § 4); neither does he take upon himself to tell her that God will not save her (Maurer). He merely refers her to God, as alone competent to do what she asks. Whence shall I help thee? Whence, i.e., dost thou suppose that I can save thee? Out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? Dost thou suppose that I have stores of food at my disposal? An overflowing barnfloor, where abundant corn is garnered, or a winepress full of the juice of the grape? I have nothing of the kind; my stores are as much exhausted as those of the meanest of my subjects. I cannot save thee.
And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow.
Verse 28. - And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? Probably, as Bahr suggests, the woman explained to the king that she did not appear before him to beg food, but to claim his interposition as judge, in a case in which she considered herself to be wronged. Such an appeal the king was bound to hear; and he therefore asks," What aileth thee?" i.e. "What is thy ground of complaint?" Then she tells her story. And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow. Compare the prophecy in Deuteronomy, "The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil towards the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates" (Deuteronomy 28:56, 57). There is historical testimony that the prophecy was three times fulfilled; viz.
(1) in Samaria on the present occasion;
(2) in Jerusalem during the last siege by Nebuchadnezzar (Lamentations 4:10); and
(3) in Jerusalem during the last siege by Titus (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 6:03. § 4). In modern sieges surrender is made before the population is driven to such straits.
So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.
Verse 29. - So we boiled my son (setup. Lamentations 4:10, "The hands of the pitiful woman have sodden their own children"), and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son. Some have supposed that the woman concealed her child in order to consume it alone; but it is more probable that, when the time came for carrying out her agreement, she found that she could not give it up, and hid it in order to save it.
And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.
Verse 30. - And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes. In horror and consternation at the terrible state of things revealed by the woman's story (comp. 2 Kings 5:7). And he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked. It is better to translate, with our Revisers, (Now he yeas passing by upon the wall;) and the people looked; or, and, as he was passing by upon the wall, the people looked. And, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh. Jehoram had secretly assumed the penitential garment, not a mere sign of woe, but a constant chastisement of the flesh. He wore sackcloth next his skin, no one suspecting it, until, in the exasperation of his feelings at the woman's tale, he rent his robe, and exposed to view the sackcloth which underlay it. We are scarcely entitled to deny him any true penitential feeling, though no doubt he was far from possessing a chastened or humble spirit. Poor weak humanity has at one and the same time good and evil impulses, praiseworthy and culpable feelings, thoughts which come from the Holy Spirit of God, and thoughts which are inspired by the evil one.
Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.
Verse 31. - Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him - i.e. "continue on him" - this day. The form of oath was a common one (comp. Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Samuel 25:22; 2 Samuel 19:13; 1 Kings 2:23; 1 Kings 19:2, etc.). It was an imprecation of evil on one's self, if one did, or if one failed to do, a certain thing. Why Jehoram should have considered Elisha as responsible for all the horrors of the siege is not apparent; but perhaps he supposed that it was in Elisha's power to work a miracle of any kind at any moment that he liked. If so, he misunderstood the nature of the miraculous gift. In threatening to behead Elisha, he is not making himself an executor of the Law, which nowhere sanctioned that mode of punishment, but assuming the arbitrary power of the other Oriental monarchs of his time, who regarded themselves as absolute masters of the lives and liberties of their subjects. Beheading was common in Egypt, in Babylonia, and in Assyria.
But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?
Verse 32. - But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him. It is best to translate, Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him, when the king sent a man from before him. Elisha had a house in Samaria, where he ordinarily resided, and from which he made his circuits. He happened to be sitting there, and the elders of the city to be sitting with him, when Jehoram sent "a man from before him," i.e. one of the court officials, to put him to death. The "elders" had probably assembled at Elisha's house to consult with him on the critical situation of affairs, and (if possible) obtain from him some miraculous assistance. But ere the messenger came to him; he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head; Elisha was supernaturally warned of what was about to take place - that an executioner was coming almost immediately to take away his life, and that the king himself would arrive shortly after. He calls the king "this son of a murderer," or rather "this son of the murderer," with reference to Ahab, the great murderer of the time, who had sanctioned all Jezebel's cruelties-the general massacre of the prophets of Jehovah (1 Kings 18:13), the judicial murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21:9-13), the attempt to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:2) - and had, by a fierce and long continued persecution, reduced the worshippers of Jehovah in Israel to the scanty number of seven thousand (1 Kings 19:18). Jehoram had now shown that he inherited the bloodthirsty disposition of his father, and had justly earned the epithet which Elisha bestowed on him. Look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Keil renders the last clause, "force him back at the door;" the LXX. "press upon him in the doorway" - παραθλίψατε αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ θύρᾳ ( τηεψ were not to allow him to enter the apartment. Is not the sound of his master's feet behind him? Elisha adds this as a reason why the elders should stop the messenger. He could not in a general way have expected them to resist the king's will as declared by his representative; but he might reasonably ask a short respite, if the king was just about to arrive at the house, to confirm the order that he had given, or to revoke it.
And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer?
Verse 33. - And while he yet talked with them - i.e., while Elisha yet talked with the elders, endeavoring probably to persuade them to stop the messenger - behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said. The narrative is very compressed and elliptical. Some suppose words to have fallen out (as וחמלך אחריו after אליו); but this is unnecessary. The reader is expected to supply missing links, and to understand that all happened as Elisha had predicted and enjoined - that the messenger came, that the elders stopped him, and that the king shortly arrived. The king was, of course, admitted, and, being admitted, took the word, and said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what - rather, why - should I wait for the Lord any longer? Jehoram had, apparently, to some extent repented of his hasty message, and had hurried after his messenger, to give Elisha one further chance of life. We must understand that they had been in communication previously on the subject of the siege, and that Elisha had encouraged the king to "wait for" an interposition of Jehovah. The king now urges that the time for waiting is over; matters are at the last gasp; "this evil" this terrible suffering which can no longer be endured - "is of the Lord," has come from him, is continued by him, and is not relieved. What use is there in his "waiting" any longer? Why should he not break with Jehovah, behead the lying prophet, and surrender the town? What has Elisha to say in reply?