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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Kings 8

 

 

Verse 1

ELISHA AGAIN AIDED THE SHUNAMMITE; THE ASSASSINATION OF BENHADAD BY HAZAEL; AND THE WICKED REIGNS OF JORAM AND AHAZIAH OF JUDAH;

THE SEQUEL TO THE STORY OF THE SHUNAMMITE

"Now Elisha had spoken unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thy household wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for Jehovah hath called for a famine; and it shall come upon the land seven years. And the woman arose, and did according to the word of the man of God; and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. And it came to pass, at the seven years' end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done. And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored to life him that was dead, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now."

The big problem in this paragraph is the mention of Gehazi. Unless he had providentially been healed of his leprosy, this episode would necessarily have had to happen PRIOR TO the healing of Naaman, because it would be quite unlikely that the king of Israel would be talking freely with a leper. This problem has resulted in different opinions of scholars regarding which king restored the Shunammite's properties. Hammond believed it was Jehoram,[1] and Martin wrote that it was Jehu.[2] (See our introduction regarding the uncertainties regarding the chronologies in 2Kings.) The very fact of the sacred author's omitting the information that men seek regarding such questions underscores their lack of importance. It really does not make any difference which king it was. The big point of the narrative is that of the Shunammite's trust of the prophet's word and her reward in doing so.

"She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines" (2 Kings 8:2). The coastal plain of Palestine was usually spared from droughts that came to Israel, and even when it was not spared, supplies were readily available by sea from Egypt and the Nile Delta. Of course, during the woman's seven years' absence, her properties were appropriated by someone else, hence, her appeal to the king. Also, it would appear that during her sojourn in Philistia her husband had died.

"The king was talking with Gehazi ... and as he was telling the king ... behold, the woman ... cried to the king" (2 Kings 8:4,5). Nothing is more wonderful than the timing of the providences of God. "Note the coincidence. God times incidents with precision; `things work together' (Romans 8:28); they interweave."[3] Another example is found in the reading to the king of Persia of the honors due Mordecai just before his asking Haman what should be done for the man whom the king delighted to honor (Esther 6:1-14).

"The king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers" (2 Kings 8:6). "The primary meaning of the word officer here is eunuch, and the secondary meaning is court minister."[4] "Eunuch is the preferred meaning here for propriety's sake when a man accompanied a lady."[5] The introduction of eunuchs into the social structure of the royal families of Israel was due to their shameful harems. David possessed eunuchs (1 Chronicles 28:1), and presumably Solomon also; and afterward "Eunuchs were common in the Samarian court of Israel; but there is no record of them in the kingdom of Judah until the times of Hezekiah (Isaiah 56:3-4)."[6]

"What happened here shows that Elisha's previous offer to speak to the king for the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:13) had not been an idle one."[7]


Verse 7

ELISHA IN DAMASCUS; THE KING INQUIRED OF HIM

"And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither. And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thy hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of Jehovah by him, saying, Shall I recover of this sickness? 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, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover from this sickness?"

That Elisha was honorably received in Damascus at that time might have been due to his fame that resulted from the healing of Naaman. Certainly, something had changed from that situation in which Benhadad sought to capture him (2 Kings 6:13ff). "Not only in Israel, but also in the neighboring nations, Elisha was well known and respected as God's man."[8]

"And the king said unto Hazael" (2 Kings 8:8). This character should not be confused with the father of Benhadad, who was called the son of Hazael (2 Kings 13:3). This Hazael was the "son of a nobody,"[9] who murdered Benhadad and seized his throne.

"Hazael ... took a present with him ... forty camels' burden ... Shall I recover of this sickness?" (2 Kings 8:9). "One camel's burden is six hundred pounds";[10] but, "This affair must be judged according to Oriental custom of making a grand display with the sending of presents, employing as many men or beasts of burden as possible to carry them, each one of them carrying only a single article."[11]

"Shall I recover of this sickness?" That the king of Syria would bring such a question before Elisha is a strong indication that the Gentiles, generally, throughout that whole era, were aware of the True God's existence and of the worthlessness of the pagan deities of the peoples.

The exact date of this event is not known; however, "The inscriptions of Shalmanezer III, record his victory over Benhadad in 846 B.C. and another victory over Hazael, whom he described as `a nobody who seized the throne,' in the year 842 B.C. This would have been during the reign of Jehoram in Judah, about three years before Jehu seized the throne of Israel."[12]

A number of scholars suppose that Elisha anointed Hazael king over Syria on this trip, but there is nothing here to support such a view. God had commanded Elijah at Horeb to anoint Hazael (1 Kings 19:15); and there are two ways of understanding what happened: (1) Either Elijah went to Damascus and anointed him without any Scriptural record of it being recorded, or (2) Elijah transferred the obligation to Elisha who anointed him without any record of it being placed in the Bible. LaSor assumed that, "Elisha's doing so was the purpose of this visit."[13] Honeycutt also wrote that, "The anointings, both of Hazael and of Jehu, were fulfilled by Elisha."[14] The Lord has not revealed to us everything that happened, because such information, if we had it, would be of no value. The purpose of the sacred author was that of revealing the manner of God's triumph over paganism.


Verse 10

ELISHA'S ANSWER TO BENHADAD THROUGH HAZAEL

"And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him. Thou shalt surely recover; howbeit Jehovah hath showed me that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance stedfastly upon him, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepeth my Lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what is thy servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, Jehovah hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria."

We find some of the comments scholars have made about this reply of Elisha to the question of Benhadad very disgusting. Snaith declared that, "The purpose of the oracle (the prophecy) was to lure Benhadad into false confidence," and that, "Elisha at once took steps to insure the death of Benhadad."[15] "Some even attribute Hazael's foul crime to Elisha's instigation."[16] Such opinions are wrong and sinful.

Harold Stigers gives us the proper understanding of what is written here. "Thou mayest certainly recover (2 Kings 8:10). This means, Go, say to the king, as you have already intended to do, `Thou shalt surely live'; however, the Lord has shown me that he shall surely die (by your hand)."[17]

The very thing overlooked by those who miss the true interpretation here is, that Elisha did NOT say that, "Jehovah says the king will recover," because the Lord did not say that, nor did Elisha declare that God did say it. He merely told Hazael, the cruel assassin who stood in front of him, "Go ahead and assure him of his recovery as you have already decided to do, but God has revealed to me that HE WILL DIE." Those who speak of the prophet's "apparent lie" in this passage have simply failed to read what is written.

The prophet gave only one answer to Benhadad through Hazael, namely, that he would die, but Hazael concealed that answer from Benhadad, and then went ahead and lied to him about his recovery just exactly as Elisha had said he would do. The proof of this is evident in the shame of Hazael as he could not stand before the withering gaze of God's prophet. "Elisha's fixed gaze upon Hazael surely revealed to Hazael that his guilty purpose of usurping Benhadad's throne was certainly known to Elisha."[18]

Hazael lied to his lord, promising him recovery, when Elisha had plainly told him, "Thus saith the Lord, he shall surely DIE." The promise of recovery was never a part of what the Lord said through Elisha. That lie originated entirely in the evil heart of Hazael, as detected and exposed by Elisha.

"I know the evil that thou wilt do to the children of Israel" (2 Kings 8:12). The terrible crimes mentioned here, which Elisha stated that Hazael would commit, were in no sense offensive to that evil usurper. Hazael even referred to them as "a great thing" (2 Kings 8:13).

"What is thy servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing" (2 Kings 8:13). "Hazael here should not have maligned the more noble brute than himself (the dog), suggesting that any creature except man was capable of such villainy."[19] This remark by Hazael should not be misunderstood. He was merely saying that he was only a SLAVE of Benhadad and that he had no power to do such things as Elisha had mentioned. Then Elisha plainly told him of the Divine prophecy of his accession to the throne of Syria.

The horrible atrocities which Elisha here prophesied would mark Hazael's actions against Israel are very similar to those terrible deeds mentioned by Amos in the first two chapters of his prophecy. Such deeds were characteristic of the warfare of all nations in that era; and we might add that, even today, there is no such thing as a "kind" war.


Verse 14

HAZAEL RETURNED TO THE KING; LIED TO HIM; AND ASSASSINATED HIM THE NEXT DAY

"Then he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said unto him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou wouldest surely recover. And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took the coverlet, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead."

"He took the coverlet ... and spread it on his face, so that he died" (2 Kings 8:15). "The noun translated `coverlet' is otherwise unknown";[20] and the opinions of scholars that it was "a mosquito net"[21] or maybe "a pillow"[22] are of no consequence. Whatever it was, it was an effective instrument by which Hazael suffocated Benhadad, the king of Syria.


Verse 16

TWO DIFFERENT JEHORAM'S REIGNING IN BOTH JUDAH AND ISRAEL

"And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife; and he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah. Howbeit Jehovah would not destroy Judah, for David his servant's sake, as he promised to give unto him a lamp for his children alway."

"It was the religious solidarity of the Judean kings with the apostasy of Northern Israel"[23] that led to the inclusion of the record of their reigns just here. The lamp of truth burned very dimly in Israel at this time, in both kingdoms. Only by God's direct intervention was it kept burning. That intervention was planned in this chapter and executed in 2 Kings 9.

"Joram ... Jehoram" (2 Kings 8:16). "These names are the same, Joram being merely an abbreviation of the other."[24] The Jehoram of Israel was generally referred to as Joram. Only a very brief record of the reign of Jehoram in Judah is given here, but there is a much fuller account of all his wickedness in 2 Chronicles 21.

"It is confusing that these two Jehorams reigned simultaneously in Israel and Judah for about three years."[25]

"For he had the daughter of Ahab to wife" (2 Kings 8:18). This evil woman, of course, was the daughter of Jezebel. "That disastrous political marriage which Jehoshaphat unwisely allowed,"[26] was the instrument by which Satan almost removed faith in Jehovah from the chosen people. Athaliah, here called the daughter of Ahab (and Jezebel) is also called "the granddaughter of Omri" (2 Kings 8:26 RSV), and "the daughter of Omri" (2 Kings 8:26 KJV). The words "son" and "daughter" are used nine different ways in the Bible, and one of the meanings is "descendant of" (Matthew 1:1). Snaith mentioned these variations, referring to "daughter of Omri" as incorrect;[27] but, of course, in the light of Biblical usage throughout the Holy Scriptures, all of these designations are absolutely correct!

"He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah" (2 Kings 8:18). Of course, when we discuss 2 Chronicles 21, we shall understand more fully the implications of this. "One of the worst of Jehoram's terrible sins was his ruthless murder of his six brothers merely for the purpose of seizing their wealth (2 Chronicles 21:4)."[28]

To be sure, the gross wickedness of Jehoram would have resulted in the total destruction of him and his dynasty, "If the Lord had not promised to preserve a shoot to the royal family for David's sake."[29] The nature of this promise to David is revealed in 2 Samuel 7:13-16, in which the Lord said, "If thy children forsake my Law, and walk not in my statutes, I will visit their offenses with the rod, and their sin with scourges, but I will not utterly take away, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant I will not break." In this very chapter, we shall see evidences of the rod, and of the scourges. Also, see 2 Chronicles 21:12-19.


Verse 20

A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF JORAM (JEHORAM) IN JUDAH

"In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves. Then Joram passed over to Zair, and all his chariots with him: and he rose up by night and smote the Edomites that compassed him about, and the captains of the chariots; and the people fled to their tents. So Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day. Then did Libnah revolt at the same time. 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? And Joram slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead."

The Edomites had been subjected by David and remained under the dominion of Solomon, from whom they revolted for a time when the kingdom divided. However, they again came under the dominion of Judah during the reign of Jehoshaphat, but this revolt against Joram resulted in their independence. "They remained from henceforth a separate and independent nation; and the kings of Edom are often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions."[30]

"The text of 2 Kings 8:21 here is confused";[31] but what seems to be reported here is a disastrous route of Joram's army and his being surrounded by the Edomite troops. "Jehoram with his chariots was able to break through the surrounding Edomites and escape with his life, leaving the rest of his army to escape as best they could."[32]

"This military disaster which stopped just short of being complete ... was followed by the loss of Libnah a city to the southwest of Judah, probably in the area of the Philistines."[33]


Verse 25

SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE LIQUIDATION OF AHAB'S HOUSE

"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. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Athaliah the daughter of Omri king of Israel. And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, as did the house of Ahab, for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against Hazael the king of Syria at Ramoth Gilead: and the Syrians wounded Joram. And king Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick."

"The reign of Ahaziah was very brief, lasting only about a year in 841 B.C."[34] The purpose of this paragraph is that of bringing to one place the final posterity of Ahab for the execution of God's judgment upon that wicked monarch and the prophecy that his dynasty would end.

This could not have been viewed as an ordinary accomplishment, because the house of Ahab was now on the thrones of BOTH Israel and Judah, but God used Joram's illness in Jezreel to bring Ahaziah from Jerusalem, thus bringing together both branches of Ahab's house and enabling the termination of both of them at once!

Appropriately, the final settlement of God's account with the house of Ahab would take place at Jezreel, at that very vineyard of Naboth, where through Ahab's murder of that righteous man, the dogs licked his blood, and, in the next chapter, we shall see how the dogs indeed licked the blood of Ahab in the person of his grandson Ahaziah in the very same place. None of God's prophecies ever failed!

Regarding that war in which the two kings had jointly opposed Hazael at Ramoth-Gilead, "It was apparently successful. It was recovered by Israel (2 Kings 9:14) and remained thenceforth in the hands of Israel."[35]

Josephus gives us a little more complete information on what took place in that battle. "Joram was struck by an arrow in the course of the siege, but remained until the place surrendered. He then withdrew to Jezreel, leaving his army under Jehu within the walls of the town."[36]

Thus, the stage was set perfectly for the liquidation of the house of Ahab. His total posterity were gathered together at Jezreel, and Jehu who was destined to be the executioner of God's purpose was left in charge of the military force that was needed to accomplish it.

To all intents and purposes, the Syrians killed Joram the king of Israel, although, of course, they only wounded him. "His convalescence at Jezreel became the occasion for the visit of Ahaziah thus providing the occasion when Jehu's bloody purge terminated the dynasty of Ahab."[37]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-kings-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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