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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
2 Kings 8



Verse 1

The famine here recorded, and the conversation of the monarch with Gehazi, must have been anterior to the events related in Ezekiel 36:29; Romans 4:17).

Verse 2

The country of the Philistines - the rich low grain-growing plain along the seacoast of Judah - was always a land of plenty compared with the highlands of Palestine. Moreover, if food failed there, it was easily imported by sea from the neighboring Egypt.

Verse 3

During the Shunammite‘s absence in Philistia, her dwelling and her grain-fields had been appropriated by some one who refused to restore them. She therefore determined to appeal to the king. Such direct appeals are common in Oriental countries. Compare 2 Kings 6:26; 2 Samuel 14:4; 1 Kings 3:16.

Verse 6

A certain officer - literally, “a certain eunuch” (margin). Eunuchs were now in common use at the Samaritan court (compare 2 Kings 9:32). They are ascribed to the court of David in Chronicles 1 Chronicles 28:1; and we may conjecture that they were maintained by Solomon. But otherwise we do not find them in the kingdom of Judah until the time of Hezekiah Isaiah 56:3-4.

Verse 7

The hour had come for carrying out the command given by God to Elijah (marginal reference “e”), and by him probably passed on to his successor. Elisha, careless of his own safety, quitted the land of Israel, and proceeded into the enemy‘s country, thus putting into the power of the Syrian king that life which he had lately sought so eagerly 2 Kings 6:13-19.

The man of God - The Damascenes had perhaps known Elisha by this title from the time of his curing Naaman. Or the phrase may be used as equivalent to “prophet,” which is the title commonly given to Elisha by the Syrians. See 2 Kings 6:12. Compare 2 Kings 5:13.

Verse 8

Hazael was no doubt a high officer of the court. The names of Hazael and Benhadad occur in the Assyrian inscription on the Black Obelisk now in the British Museum. Both are mentioned as kings of Damascus, who contended with a certain Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, and suffered defeat at his hands. In one of the battles between this king and Benhadad, “Allah of Jezreel” is mentioned among the allies of the latter. This same Shalmaneser took tribute from Jehu. This is the point at which the Assyrian records first come in direct contact with those of the Jews.

Verse 9

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.

Verse 10

Translate - “Go, say unto him, Thou shalt certainly live: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall certainly die.” i. e.,” Say to him, what thou hast already determined to say, what a courtier is sure to say (compare 1 Kings 22:15), but know that the fact will be otherwise.”

Verse 11

That is, “And he (Elisha) settled his conntenance, and set it (toward Hazael), until he (Hazael) was ashamed.” Elisha fixed on Hazael a long and meaning look, until the latter‘s eyes fell before his, and his cheek flushed. Elisha, it would seem, had detected the guilty thought that was in Hazael‘s heart, and Hazael perceived that he had detected it. Hence the “shame.”

Verse 12

The evil that thou wilt do - The intention is not to tax Hazael with special cruelty, but only to enumerate the ordinary horrors of war, as it was conducted among the Oriental nations of the time. Compare the marginal references.

Verse 13

But what, is thy servant a dog? - This is a mistranslation, and conveys to the English reader a sense quite different from that of the original. Hazael‘s speech runs thus - “But what is thy servant, this dog, that he should do this great thing?” He does not shrink from Elisha‘s words, or mean to say that he would be a dog, could he act so cruelly as Elisha predicts he will. On the contrary, Elisha‘s prediction has raised his hopes, and his only doubt is whether so much good fortune (“this great thing”) can be in store for one so mean. “Dog” here, as generally (though not always) in Scripture, has the sense of “mean,” “low,” “contemptible.”

Verse 14

Hazael omitted the clause by which Elisha had shown how those words were to be understood. He thus deceived his master, while he could flatter himself that he had not uttered a lie.

Verse 15

A thick cloth - Probably, a cloth or mat placed between the head and the upper part of the bedstead, which in Egypt and Assyria was often so shaped that pillows (in our sense) were unnecessary.

The objection that Elisha is involved in the guilt of having suggested the deed, has no real force or value. Hazael was no more obliged to murder Benhadad because a prophet announced to him that he would one day be king of Syria, than David was obliged to murder Saul because another prophet anointed him king in Saul‘s room 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

Verses 16-19

The passage is parenthetic, resuming the history of the kingdom of Judah from 1 Kings 22:50.

2 Kings 8:16

The opening words are - “In the fifth year of Joram, son of Ahab, king of Israel, and of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah;” but they contradict all the other chronological notices of Jehoshaphat 1 Kings 22:42, 1 Kings 22:51; 2 Kings 3:1; 2 Chronicles 20:31, which give him a reign of at least twenty-three years. Hence, some have supposed that the words “Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah,” are accidentally repeated. Those, however, who regard them and 2 Kings 1:17 as sound, suppose that Jehoshaphat gave his son the royal title in his 16th year, while he advanced him to a real association in the empire seven years later, in his 23rd year. Two years afterward, Jehoshatphat died, and Jehoram became sole king.

2 Kings 8:17

The “eight years” are counted from his association in the kingdom. They terminate in the twelfth year of Johoram of Israel.

2 Kings 8:18

Jehoshaphat‘s alliance, political and social, with Ahab and Ahab‘s family had not been allowed to affect the purity of his faith. Jehoram his son, influenced by his wife, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, “walked in the way of the kings of Israel;” he allowed, i. e., the introduction of the Baal-worship into Judaea.

Among the worst of Jehoram‘s evil doings must be reckoned the cruel murder of his six brothers 2 Chronicles 21:4, whom he killed to obtain their wealth.

2 Kings 8:19

The natural consequence of Jehoram‘s apostasy would have been the destruction of his house, and the transfer of the throne of Judah to another family. Compare the punishments of Jeroboam 1 Kings 14:10, Baasha 1 Kings 16:2-4, and Ahab 1 Kings 21:20-22. But the promises to David (marginal references) prevented this removal of the dynasty; and so Jehoram was punished in other ways 2 Kings 8:22; 2 Chronicles 21:12-19.


Verse 20

Edom, which had been reduced by David 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:15-16, but had apparently revolted from Solomon 1 Kings 11:14, was again subjected to Judah in the reign of Jehoshaphat Genesis 27:40, remaining from henceforth a separate and independent people (Jeremiah 25:21; Jeremiah 27:3; Amos 1:11, etc.). Kings of Edom, who seem to be independent monarchs, are often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions.

Verse 21

Zair - Perhaps Seir, the famous mountain of Edom Genesis 14:6.

The people - i. e., The Edomites. Yet, notwithstanding his success, Joram was forced to withdraw from the country, and to leave the natives to enjoy that independence 2 Kings 8:22, which continued until the time of John Hyrcanus, who once more reduced them.

Verse 22

Libnah revolted - Libnah being toward the southwest of Palestine Joshua 15:42, its revolt cannot well have had any direct connection with that of Edom. It had been the capital of a small Canaanite state under a separate king before its conquest by Joshua Joshua 10:30; Joshua 12:15, and may perhaps always have retained a considerable Canaanite population. Or its loss may have been connected with the attacks made by the Philistines on Jehoram‘s territories 2 Chronicles 21:16-17.

Verse 24

On the death of Jehoram, see 2 Chronicles 21:12-19. His son is also called Jehoahaz (margin) by a transposition of the two elements of the name.

Verse 26

Such names as Athaliah, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, indicate that the Baal-worshipping kings of Israel did not openly renounce the service of Yahweh. Athaliah is “the time for Yahweh;” Ahaziah “the possession of Yahweh;” Jehoram, or Joram, “exalted by Yahweh.”

The daughter of Omri - “Son” and “daughter” were used by the Jews of any descendants (compare Matthew 1:1). The whole race were “the children of Israel.” Athaliah was the grand-daughter of Omri (see the margin). Her being called “the daughter of Omri” implies that an idea of special greatness was regarded as attaching to him, so that his name prevailed over that of Ahab. Indications of this ideal greatness are found in the Assyrian inscriptions, where the early name for Samaria is Beth-Omri, and where even Jehu has the title of “the son of Omri.”

Verse 28

This war of the two kings against Hazael seems to have had for its object the recovery of Ramoth-gilead, which Ahab and Jehoshaphat had vainly attempted fourteen years earlier 2 Kings 9:14, and remained probably thenceforth in the hands of the Israelites.

The Syrians wounded Joram - According to Josephus, Joram was struck by an arrow in the course of the siege, but remained until the place was taken. He then withdrew to Jezreel 1 Kings 18:45; 1 Kings 21:1, leaving his army under Jehu within the walls of the town.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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