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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 4

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The creditor is come ... - The Law of Moses, like the Athenian and the Roman law, recognized servitude for debt, and allowed that pledging of the debtor’s person, which, in a rude state of society, is regarded as the safest and the most natural security (see the marginal reference). In the present case it would seem that, so long as the debtor lived, the creditor had not enforced his right over his sons, but now on his death he claimed their services, to which he was by law entitled.

Verse 2

A pot of oil - Or, “an anointing of oil” - so much oil, i. e., as would serve me for one anointing of my person. The word used occurs only in this passage.

Verse 8

And it fell on a day - The original of the expression here used, which occurs three times in the present narrative 2 Kings 4:11, 2 Kings 4:18, is also found in Job 1:6, Job 1:13; Job 2:1. The character of the expression perhaps supports the view that the author of Kings has collected from various sources his account of the miracles of Elisha, and has kept in each case the words of the original writer.

A great woman - That is, “a rich woman.” Compare 1 Samuel 25:2; 2 Samuel 19:32.

Verse 10

A little chamber on the wall - The room probably projected like a balcony beyond the lower apartments - an arrangement common in the East.

A stool - Rather, “a chair.” The “chair” and “table,” unusual in the sleeping-rooms of the East, indicate that the prophet was expected to use his apartment for study and retirement, not only as a sleeping-chamber.

Verse 13

Thou hast been careful for us - For the prophet and his servant, who must have been lodged as well as his master.

I dwell among mine own people - The woman declines Elisha’s offer. She has no wrong to complain of, no quarrel with any neighbor, in respect of which she might need the help of one in power. She “dwells among her own people” - her friends, and dependents, with whom she lives peaceably.

Verse 16

Do not lie - Compare a similar incredulity in Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:12; Luke 1:20. The expression, “do not lie,” which is harsh to us, accords with the plain, straightforward simplicity of ancient speech. It would not mean more than “deceive” (compare the marginal reference).

Verse 19

The child’s malady was a sunstroke. The inhabitants of Palestine suffered from this (Psalms 121:6; Isaiah 49:10; Judith 8:3).

Verse 22

Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men and one of the asses - All the “young men” and all the “asses” were in the harvest field, the young men cutting and binding the sheaves, and placing them upon carts or wains, the donkeys drawing these vehicles fully laden, to the threshing-floor. Compare Amos 2:13.

Verse 23

Her husband did not connect the illness with his wife’s demand, but thought she wished to attend one of the prophet’s devotional services. It is evident that such services were now held with something like regularity on Carmel for the benefit of the faithfull in those parts.

New moon - By the Law the first day of each month was to be kept holy. Offerings were appointed for such occasions Numbers 28:11-15, and they were among the days on which the silver trumpets were to be blown Numbers 10:10; Psalms 81:3. Hence, “new moons” are frequently joined with “sabbaths” (see Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11; 1 Chronicles 23:31).

It shall be well - Rather, as in the margin, “Peace.” i. e., “Be quiet - trouble me not with inquiries - only let me do as I wish.”

Verse 24

Slack not thy riding - Translate, “delay me not in my riding, except I bid thee.” The servant went on foot with the donkey to urge it forward, as is the ordinary custom in the East.

Verse 25

The distance was about sixteen or seventeen miles.

Verse 27

She caught him by the feet - To lay hold of the knees or feet has always been thought in the East to add force to supplication, and is practiced even at the present day. Compare Matthew 18:29; John 11:32.

Verse 28

Great grief shrinks from putting itself into words. The Shunammite cannot bring herself to say, “My son is dead;” but by reproaching the prophet with having “deceived” her, she sufficiently indicates her loss.

Verse 29

Salute him not - Compare the marginal reference. Salutation is the forerunner of conversation and one bent on speed would avoid every temptation to loiter.

Lay my staff upon the face of the child - Perhaps to assuage the grief of the mother, by letting her feel that something was being done for her child.

Verse 31

There was neither voice nor hearing - Compare 1 Kings 18:29.

The child is not awakened - See 2 Kings 4:20. The euphemism by which death is spoken of as a sleep was already familiar to the Jews (see 1 Kings 1:21 note).

Verse 33

Prayed - Prayer was the only remedy in such a case as this (compare the marginal reference and James 5:16), though it did not exclude the use of other means 2 Kings 4:34.

Verse 34

Be stretched himself - Or, “prostrated himself.” The word is a different one from that used of Elijah, and expresses closer contact with the body. Warmth may have been actually communicated from the living body to the dead one; and Elisha’s persistence Hebrews 11:35, may have been a condition of the child’s return to life.

Verse 36

Take up thy son - Compare Elijah’s action (marginal reference “t”) and our Blessed Lord’s Luke 7:15.

Verse 38

There was a dearth in the land - Rather, “The famine was in the land.” The seven years’ dearth of which Elisha had prophesied (marginal reference) had begun.

The sons of the prophets - See 1 Kings 20:35 note. They were sitting before him as scholars before their master, hearing his instructions.

Verse 39

A wild vine - Not a real wild vine, the fruit of which, if not very palatable, is harmless; but some climbing plant with tendrils. The plant was probably either the Ecbalium elaterium, or “squirting cucumber,” the fruit of which, egg-shaped, and of a very bitter taste, bursts at the slightest touch, when it is ripe, and squirts out sap and seed grains; or the Colocynthis, which belongs to the family of cucumbers, has a vine-shaped leaf, and bears a fruit as large as an orange, very bitter, from which is prepared the drug sold as colocynth. This latter plant grows abundantly in Palestine.

His lap full - literally, “his shawl full.” The prophet brought the fruit home in his “shawl” or “outer garment.”

Verse 41

Then bring meal - The natural properties of meal would but slightly diminish either the bitterness or the unwholesomeness of a drink containing colocynth. It is evident, therefore, that the conversion of the food from a pernicious and unsavory mess into palatable and wholesome nourishment was by miracle.

Verse 42

Baal-shalisha - Fifteen Roman miles north of Lydda, in the Sharon plain to the west of the highlands of Ephraim. It was, apparently, the chief city of the “land of Shalisha” (marginal reference).

Bread of the first fruits - It appears by this that the Levitical priests having withdrawn from the land of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 11:13-14), pious Israelites transferred to the prophets, whom God raised up, the offerings required by the Law to be given to the priests Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4.

In the husk thereof - “In his bag.” The word does not occur elsewhere in Scripture.

Verse 43

This miracle was a faint foreshadowing of our Lord’s far more marvelous feeding of thousands with even scantier materials. The resemblance is not only in the broad fact, but in various minute particulars, such as the distribution through the hands of others; the material, bread; the surprised question of the servant; and the evidence of superfluity in the fragments that were left (see the marginal references). As Elijah was a type of the Baptist, so Elisha was in many respects a type of our Blessed Lord. In his peaceful, non-ascetic life, in his mild and gentle character, in his constant circuits, in his many miracles of mercy, in the healing virtue which abode in his bodily frame 2 Kings 13:21, he resembled, more than any other prophet, the Messiah, of whom all prophets were more or less shadows and figures.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-kings-4.html. 1870.
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