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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2 Kings 8

Verses 1-15

4. Jehoram’s evil reign in Israel 2:1-8:15

Jehoram reigned 12 years in Israel (852-841 B.C.). His reign overlapped with Jehoshaphat and Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram’s coregency (853-848 B.C.) as well as Jehoram of Judah’s sole reign (848-841 B.C.). During these 12 years Elisha, whose name means "my God is salvation," was very active in Israel. In keeping with his theological purpose, the writer of Kings again emphasized incidents of spiritual significance that took place at this time (cf. 1 Kings 17-19, the Elijah narrative). [Note: See Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 352, for the chronological sequence of events in the Elisha narrative (2:1-8:15) and their dates.]

"Testimony against evil, and consequent suffering, mark the history of Elijah. Power, and grace in using it for others, mark that of Elisha. Both are seen in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose shadows, of course, they were. In one aspect of His history on earth, we see the suffering, driven, persecuted Witness; the world hating Him, because He testified that its works were evil; in another we see the powerful, gracious, ready friend of others, all that had sorrows or necessities getting healing and blessing from Him." [Note: J. G. B., Short Meditations on Elisha, p. 6.]

Verses 1-6

God’s ability to control timing to bring blessing on the faithful 8:1-6

Several details in this incident hinge on timing that God supernaturally controlled to bring blessing on the Shunamite woman, as God had promised. God directed her away from the famine before it came on Israel for the nation’s apostasy (2 Kings 8:1; cf. Deuteronomy 11:16-17; Deuteronomy 28:38-40; 1 Kings 18:2; et al.). The timing of the length of the famine showed it was an act of God (2 Kings 8:1; cf. 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:25; 2 Kings 7:4). Evidently the woman had sold her property before she left Israel and now wished to buy back her family inheritance. This was a right that the Mosaic Law protected (Leviticus 25:23-28; Numbers 36:7; cf. 1 Kings 21:3). Another view is that the woman had left her property and "the crown" had taken it over. In such a situation the state held the land until the legal owner reclaimed it (Exodus 21:2; Exodus 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 15:1-2). [Note: Jones, 2:440.] Her position was similar to that of Naomi in the Book of Ruth. She had fled a famine, lost her male supporter, and was at the mercy of the political system. [Note: A. Graeme Auld, I and II Kings, p. 178.] Jehoram was responsible to enforce the Law, and he did so in this case. What God used to move him to grant the woman’s request was the story that Gehazi happened (!) to tell him about this woman (2 Kings 8:5). This event evidently happened before Gehazi became a leper. God blessed the woman for her obedience to God’s instructions that came to her through Elisha (2 Kings 8:1). He not only restored her house and land but also the produce of her land (its fertility; 2 Kings 8:6). Thus the Israelites saw that Yahweh is the lord of time who brings blessing on the faithful.

"Elisha wields as much political influence as any biblical prophet." [Note: House, p. 281.]

Verses 7-15

Elisha’s preparation of God’s instrument of judgment on Israel 8:7-15

Hazael was the governor of Damascus. [Note: J. A. Brinkman, "Additional Texts from the Reigns of Shalmaneser III and Shamshi-Adad V," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 32 (1973):43-44.] The Gentile King of Aram had more interest in inquiring of Yahweh than Jehoram’s predecessor did (2 Kings 8:8; cf. 2 Kings 1:2). It was customary in the Near East to make a great show of giving gifts. It was also common to have one camel carry only one gift to make the present appear even greater. [Note: Keil, p. 334.]

Ben-Hadad would have recovered (2 Kings 8:10) if Hazael had not murdered him (2 Kings 8:15). Elisha probably knew Hazael would murder him. The prophet fixed his gaze steadily on Hazael, perhaps hoping to embarrass him out of doing the deed (2 Kings 8:11). Hazael evidently became ashamed because he felt Elisha could read his mind (2 Kings 8:11). Hazael would be God’s instrument of judgment on Israel (2 Kings 8:12; cf. 1 Kings 19:15). He referred to himself humbly as a mere dog incapable of such a feat (2 Kings 8:13). Hazael did come from lowly stock. On one Assyrian record Shalmaneser referred to him as "the son of a nobody." [Note: D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1:246.]

Like Saul, David, and Solomon, Hazael learned that he would be king by special revelation from the Lord (2 Kings 8:13). Whether this announcement accompanied Elisha’s anointing by Elijah (1 Kings 19:15), or whether that took place at another time, we do not know. Rather than waiting for God to place him on Aram’s throne at the proper time, as David so admirably did, Hazael murdered Ben-Hadad. He did so in a manner that made it look as though the king had died of natural causes (2 Kings 8:15).

Ben-Hadad II died in 841 B.C. and Hazael ruled from 841-801 B.C. during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, and Jehoahaz of Israel, and Ahaziah, Athaliah, and Joash of Judah.

Kings of Aram in 2 Kings [Note: Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 509.]
KingsDatesReferences
Ben-Hadad II860-841 B.C.1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6:24; 2 Kings 8:7; 2 Kings 8:9; 2 Kings 8:14
Hazael841-801 B.C.1 Kings 19:15; 1 Kings 19:17: 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9:14-15; 2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 12:17-18; 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:22; 2 Kings 13:24-25
Ben-Hadad III801-773 B.C.2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:24-25
Rezin773-732 B.C.2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:5-6; 2 Kings 16:9 (cf. Isaiah 7:1; Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 8:6; Isaiah 9:11)

The episodes in this Elisha narrative (2 Kings 2:1 to 2 Kings 8:15) give us many insights into Jehoram and his reign over Israel. Like Ahab and Ahaziah before him, he had little regard for Yahweh. Consequently he did not enjoy much blessing from God personally, and Israel experienced severe discipline in the form of famines, invasions by foreign neighbors, and lack of influence. Nevertheless there were a few in Israel who remained faithful to the Lord, including the prophets (about 7,000 individuals in all; 1 Kings 19:18).

The meanings of the miracles Elisha performed that I have suggested rest on standard principles of historical grammatical interpretation. I have sought to understand what the original readers of Kings would have seen these miracles as signifying. The meanings of the words in the text, the relationship of the miracle to its context, and the meaning of symbols that biblical and extrabiblical references reveal are key interpretive factors. Commentators differ, of course, in their understandings of these matters as well as the interpretive problems. However, on the basis of the study I have done, the views expressed above seem to me to be what these miracles signified when they occurred. Some evangelical expositors have seen Elisha’s miracles as typifying Jesus Christ and His ministry. [Note: E.g., Arno C. Gaebelien, The Annotated Bible, 1:307-26.] There are many similarities.

Verses 16-24

5. Jehoram’s evil reign in Judah 8:16-24

Jehoshaphat appointed his son Jehoram coregent the year Jehoshaphat went off to join forces with Ahab in battle at Ramoth-gilead (853 B.C.). For the next five years Jehoram served with his father. In 848 B.C. he began ruling alone and did so for the next eight years (until 841 B.C.). His reign overlapped the reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram (whom the NASB called Joram from now on) in Israel. It is possible that the writing prophet Obadiah ministered and wrote the Bible book that bears his name during Jehoram’s reign. [Note: Walter L. Baker, "Obadiah," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 1453-54.]

Rather than following the godly example of his father, Jehoram chose to pursue idolatry and infidelity to Yahweh like his wife Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. If it had not been for His promise to David (2 Samuel 7:12-15), God would have cut off Jehoram’s line for his wickedness (2 Kings 8:19). Instead, he disciplined him and Judah by allowing Edom and Libnah to revolt against Judah successfully. Edom had come under Judah’s control during Jehoshaphat’s administration (2 Chronicles 20:1-29; cf. 1 Kings 22:47). Zair is another name for Seir or Edom. Chariots did not save Jehoram from defeat (2 Kings 8:21). Libnah was a town near the border between Judah and Philistia that seems to have revolted when the Philistines invaded Judah (2 Chronicles 21:16-17). Judah became weaker under Jehoram because of his wickedness. The king himself died a painful death (2 Chronicles 21:18-19).

Verses 25-29

Ahaziah’s wickedness 8:25-29

Ahaziah of Judah continued the policies and preferences of his great-grandfather Omri that his grandfather Ahab and his uncle Joram had perpetuated (2 Kings 8:27). Israel and Judah were at this time still allies. The battle of Ramoth-gilead in which Ahaziah fought took place 12 years after the one in which Ahab and Jehoshaphat engaged the Arameans and in which Ahab died (1 Kings 22:3; 1 Kings 22:29). In the second battle of Ramoth-gilead the Israelite king Joram was wounded. He returned to his winter capital to convalesce (2 Kings 8:29). Ahaziah then visited his uncle, the Israelite king, there (2 Kings 8:29).

Verses 25-29

6. Ahaziah’s evil reign in Judah 8:25-9:29

There were two King Ahaziahs as there were two King Jehorams, one of each in each kingdom. Both Ahaziahs reigned only one year each, but their administrations did not overlap. The administrations of the two Jehorams did overlap. Ahaziah of Israel reigned 11 years earlier than Ahaziah of Judah. In Judah, Jehoram (853-841 B.C) preceded Ahaziah (841 B.C.), but in Israel Ahaziah (853-852 B.C.) preceded Jehoram (852-841 B.C.).

YearSouthern (Judean) KingNorthern (Israelite) King
853Ahaziah
852
851
850
849
848Jehoram
847
846J(eh)oram
845
844
843
842
841
Ahaziah
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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-kings-8.html. 2012.