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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 1

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1




(1) Then.—And.

Moab rebelled against Israel.—David reduced Moab to vassalage (2 Samuel 8:2; comp. 2 Kings 23:20). After that event, Scripture is silent as to the fortunes of Moab. It probably took occasion of the troubles which ensued upon the death of Solomon, to throw off the yoke of Israel. The famous Moabite stone suplements the sacred history by recording the war of liberation which Mesha, king of Moab, successfully waged against the successors of Ahab. The inscription opens thus: “I am Mesha, son of Chemosh-gad, king of Moab the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father. And I made this bamah (“high place,” “pillar”) for Chemosh in Korha, a bamah of salvation, for he saved me from all the assailants, and let me see my desire upon mine enemies . . . Omri, king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son (i.e., Ahab) succeeded him, and he, toe, said, ‘I will oppress Moab.’ In mỵ days he said (it), but I saw my desire upon him and his house, and Israel perished utterly for ever. And Omri occupied the land of Medeba, and dwelt therein, and (they oppressed Moab he and) his son forty years. And Chemosh looked (?) on it (i.e., Moab) in my days.” From this unique and unhappily much injured record it appears that Omri had reduced Moab again to subjection, and that Ahab, who, like his father, was a strong sovereign, had maintained his hold upon the country. The death of Ahab and the sickness of Ahaziah would be Moab’s opportunity. The revolt of Moab is mentioned here parenthetically. The subject is continued in 2 Kings 3:4-27. (See the Notes there.)

(2–16) A new and (according to Ewald and Thenius) later fragment of the history of Elijah.

Verse 2

(2) Through a lattice.—Rather, the lattice, i.e., the latticed window of the chamber on the palace roof, looking into the court below. The word rendered “through” (bĕ‘ad) implies that Ahaziah was leaning out over the window-sill. (Comp. 2 Kings 9:30; Psalms 14:2.) He perhaps fell into a gallery underneath, as the palace would be several storeys high, and he was not killed by his fall. The word sĕbâkhâh means “net” in Job 18:8, and decorative “network” in metal in 1 Kings 7:18; 2 Chronicles 4:12. The Rabbis explain it here as a sort of skylight to the chamber beneath the upper chamber, or a spiral stairway; both improbable.

He sent messengers.—By Jezebeľs advice. (S Ephrem.)

Baal-zebub.—Here only in the Old Testament. “Lord of Flies” is generally compared with the Greek Ζϵὺς ὰπομυῖος, or μυίαγρος, the “fly-averting Zeus” of the Eleans (Paus., viii. 26, 4), and it is no doubt true that flies are an extraordinary pest in the East. But when we remember that “myiomancy,” or divination by watching the movements of flies, is an ancient Babylonian practice, we can hardly doubt that this is the true significance of the title “Baal-zebub.” In the Assyrian deluge tablet the gods are said to have gathered over Izdubar’s sacrifice “like flies” (kîma zumbie). The later Jewish spelling (Βεελζεβοὺλ) probably contains an allusive reference to the Talmudic woras zébel (“dung”), zibbûl (“dunging”).

Ekron.Akir (Joshua 13:3). Of the five Philistine cities it lay farthest north, and so nearest to Samaria.

Recover.—Literally, live from, or after.

Disease.Sickness, viz., that occasioned by his fall. The LXX. adds, “and they went to inquire of him.”

Verse 3

(3) But the angel . . . said.—Rather, Now the angel . . . had said.The angel” is right. (Comp. 2 Kings 19:35.) Reuss strangely renders: “Mais une révélation de l’Eternel parla;” and adds the note, “Et non pas un ange” (!).

Arise, go up.—Samaria lay on a hill, and the prophet was to meet the messengers at the gates.

King of Samaria.—Not Israel, a mark of Judæan feeling.

And say.—Literally, speak. LXX., Vulgate, and Arabic add “saying,” but comp. 1 Kings 21:5-6.

Is it not because.—Omit “not.” So 2 Kings 1:6.

Ye go.—Are going.

A God in Israel.—Comp. Micah 4:5 : “For all peoples will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever.”

Verse 4

(4) Now therefore.—For this act of faithlessness, and to prove by the event that there is a God in Israel, whose oracle is unerring. (Comp. 1 Kings 18:24, seq.)

Thus saith.—Or, hath said. After these words the prophetic announcement comes in rather abruptly. Perhaps the verse has been abridged by the compiler, and in the original account from which he drew, the words of 2 Kings 1:6 may have followed here, “Go, return to the king . . . Ekron.”

And Eijah departed.—On the Lord’s errand. The LXX. adds, “and said unto them,” or “told them,” which is perhaps due to a copyist’s eye having wandered to the words “unto him,” or “unto them,” in next verse (Thenius).

Verse 5

(5) Turned back unto him.—Unto Ahaziah, as the Syriac and Vulgate actually read. Literally, And the messengers returned unto him, and he said, &c. Though Elijah was unknown to the envoys, such a menacing interposition would certainly be regarded as’ a Divine warning, which it was perilous to disregard.

Why are ye now turned back?Why have ye returned? with emphasis on the “Why.”

Verse 6

(6) Thou sendest.Art sending. Elijah had said, ye are going, in his question to the messengers (2 Kings 1:3). (See Note on 2 Kings 1:4.) Bähr is wrong in supposing the servants anxious to shift the prophet’s blame from themselves to their lord, or that Elijah had addressed them as accomplices in the king’s guilt. They had no choice but to obey the royal mandate.

Verse 7

(7) He said.—Spake. (See Note on 2 Kings 1:3.)

What manner of man?—See margin. The word mishpat here denotes the external characteristics and visible peculiarities by which a man is distinguished (shâphat) from his fellows. (Comp. our expressions “sort,” “fashion,” “style,” and the Vulgate, “Cujus figuræ et habitus est vir ille?” LXX., ἡ κρίσις. Syriac, “appearance,” “look.” Targum, νόμος.)

Verse 8

(8) Answered.—Said unto.

An hairy man.—Literally, a lord of hair. This might refer to length of hair and beard (so LXX., δασὺς, “hirsute,” “shaggy”); or to a hairy cloak or mantle. The second alternative is right, because a hairy mantle was a mark of the prophetic office from Elijah downwards. (Comp. Zechariah 13:4, “a rough garment;” and Matthew 3:4, where it is said of John Baptist—the second Elias—that “he was clad in camel’s hair,” and had “a leather girdle about his loins.”) The girdle, as Thenius remarks, would not be mentioned alone. The common dress of the Bedawis is a sheep or goat’s skin with the hair left on.

Girt with a girdle of leather.—Such as only the poorest would wear. The girdle was ordinarily of linen or cotton, and often costly. The prophet’s dress was a sign of contempt for earthly display, and of sorrow for the national sins and their consequences, which it was his function to proclaim. (Comp. Isaiah 20:2.)

Verse 9

(9) Then the king sent.—Heb., And he sent. With hostile intentions, as is proved by his sending soldiers, and by the words of the angel in 2 Kings 1:15. (Comp. 1 Kings 18:8; 1 Kings 22:26, seq.)

He sat.Was sitting. The LXX. has “Elias was sitting,” which is probably original.

A captain of fifty.—The army of Israel was organised by thousands, hundreds, and fifties, each of which had its “captain” (sar). (Comp. Numbers 31:14; Numbers 31:48; 1 Samuel 8:12.)

On the top of an hill.—Rather, the hill, i.e., above Samaria. Others think, Carmel, from 1 Kings 18:42; 2 Kings 2:25.

He spake.—LXX., “the captain of fifty spake.”

Thou man of God.—Heb., man of the god, i.e., the true God. (So in 2 Kings 1:11; 2 Kings 1:13, infra.)

The king.—In the Hebrew emphatic, as if to say, the king’s power is irresistible, even by a man of God. The true God was thus insulted in the person of His prophet.

Come down.—Or, Pray come down—in a tone of ironical politeness (rçdâh‚ precative).

Verse 10

(10) And Elijah answered and said.—So Syriac and LXX. Heb., and spake.

If.—Heb., And if a man of the god I (truly be). This “and” closely connects the prophet’s reply with the captain’s demand. All the versions except the LXX. omit it, with some Hebrew MSS.


Let fire come down from heaven.—A phrase found only here and in 2 Chronicles 7:1. Ewald considers this a mark of the later origin of this tradition about Elijah. The words “come down” are at any rate appropriate, as repeating the captain’s bidding to the prophet.

Consume.Eat, or devour. (Comp. 1 Kings 18:38.) Here, as there, Jehovah is represented as vindicating His own cause by the means most adequate to the necessities of the time, viz., a manifest miracle.

Verse 11

(11) Again also he sent.—Although he had heard what had befallen his former envoys.

He answered.—LXX., “went up” (way-ya’al for way-ya’an), as in 2 Kings 1:9; 2 Kings 1:13.

And said.—Heb., spake. Yet some MSS., and Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, as Authorised Version.

Thus hath the king said.—Or, commanded (’âmar).

Come down quickly.—“Impudentior fuit hic . . . priore; tum quia audito ejus supplicio non resipuit, tum quia auxit impudentiam addendo ‘Festina’” (a Lapide). (But see Note on 2 Kings 1:12.)

Verse 12

(12) Said (spake) unto them.—LXX. and Syriac, “unto him,” which seems original.

The fire of God.—“The” is not in the Hebrew. The LXX., Vulgate, Arabic, and Targum, with some MSS., omit “of God.” The phrase occurs in the sense of lightning (Job 1:16).

Consumed him and his fifty.—According to Thenius, the story of the destruction of the captains And their companies emphasises (1) the authority properly belonging to the prophet; (2) the help and protection which Jehovah bestows on His prophets. The captains and their men are simply conceived as instruments of a will opposing itself to Jehovah, and are accordingly annihilated. These considerations, he thinks, render irrelevant all questions about the moral justice of their fate, and comparative degrees of guilt. (Comp. 2 Kings 2:23, seq., 2 Kings 6:17.)

Verse 13

(13) A captain of the third fifty.—Literally, a captain of a third fifty. But 2 Kings 1:11, “another captain of fifty,” and the phrase which follows here, “the third captain of fifty,” indicate the right reading, “a third captain of fifty.” (So LXX. and Vulg.)

Fell.—Margin. (Comp. Isaiah 46:1, “Bel boweth down.”)

Besought him.—Begged favour, grace, or compossion of him (Genesis 42:21; Hosea 12:5).

These fifty thy servants.—Or, these thy servants, fifty (men), laying stress on the number of lives.

Be precious in thy sight.—Comp. Psalms 72:14; 1 Samuel 26:21.

Verse 14

(14) Burnt.Eat, or devoured (2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12).

The two captains of the former fifties.—Rather, the former two captains of fifties.

Therefore let my life now.—And now (i.e., this time) let my life. Some MSS., and LXX., Vulg., and Arabic add the precative “now,” that is, “I pray,” as in 2 Kings 1:13 (“I pray thee” = na’).

Verse 15

(15) Said.—So LXX. (εἶπεν). Heb., spake. Vulgate and Arabic add “saying.” (See Note on 2 Kings 1:3.)

Go down.—From the mountain top into the city.

With him.—’Othô, later form for ’ittô, which some MSS. read here.

Be not afraid of himi.e., the captain. The former two, as being the willing tools of the king, might have shown their zeal by instantly slaying the prophet. (Comp. the case of the knights who murdered St. Thomas of Canterbury.)

Verse 16

(16) And he said.—Heb., spake. The LXX. adds, “and Elijah said.”

Is it not because.—Omit “not.” The question is here parenthetic, the connection of the main sentence being, “Forasmuch as thou hast sent . . . therefore thou shalt not come down,” &c.

Off.From, as in 2 Kings 1:4; 2 Kings 1:6. The words of the oracle are thrice repeated verbally.

“Here, just as in other cases,” says Bähr, “Elijah reappears suddenly and disappears again, and no one knows whence he comes or whither he goes.” The peculiar form of the story suggests that it was derived in the first instance from oral tradition rather than from a written source.

Verse 17

(17) And Jehoram.—LXX. (Alex.), Syriac, and Vulgate add “his brother,” an expression which has fallen out of the Hebrew text, owing to its resemblance to the next (tahtâw, “in his stead”). (Comp. 2 Kings 3:1, “son of Ahab.”)

In the second year of Jehoram.—Vat. LXX., “in the eighteenth year,” which is probably right. (Comp. 1 Kings 22:52, “Ahaziah . . . reigned over Israel in . . . the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat . . . and he reigned two years.” Either, therefore, our present Heb. text is corrupt, or the compiler followed a different source in this place.) Thenius proposes the reading, “in the twenty-second year of Jehoshaphat,” in place of “in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat.”

Verses 17-18

(17, 18) Concluding remarks added by the compiler.

Verse 18

(18) The acts.Dibrê, i.e., history.

Which he did.—Some MSS. and the Syriac read “and all that he did,” which seems correct.

The book of the chronicles of the kings.—See Introduction, and 1 Kings 14:19.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-kings-1.html. 1905.
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