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The Flight of the Syrian Army
v. 1. Then, while the king of Israel and the elders of the city were in the house of the prophet, Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord, tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour, a little more than eight quarts of the finest wheatflour, be sold for a shekel (about 64 cents), and two measures of barley, almost seventeen quarts, for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria, where the public market was usually held.
v. 2. Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned, one of his retinue, an adjutant, answered the man of God and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, causing barley and flour to rain down from the sky, might this thing be? This was not merely reasonable doubt, but open, bitter scorn, the scoffing and jesting of unbelief. And he, Elisha, said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, namely, the promised cheapness and plenty, but shalt not eat thereof, he would be punished for his unbelief. The manner in which this was brought about is next related.
v. 3. And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate, just outside the city wall, for they were not permitted to have their dwelling in the city, Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:3. And they, since they no longer received any food from the people in the city, said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
v. 4. If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is In the city, hunger stared them in the face there as well, and we shall die there; and if we sit still here, we die also. Now, therefore, come and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians, deserting to the enemy in this extremity; if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
v. 5. And they rose up in the twilight, in the dusk of evening, when they could no longer be seen from the city, to go unto the camp of the Syrians; and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, the place of the outposts nearest the city, behold, there was no man there, the entire camp was deserted.
v. 6. For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host; for so the soldiers explained to themselves the continuous and increasing rushing and roaring in the air, their ears being deceived through the power of God. And they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, whose forces might be expected from the north, and the kings of the Egyptians, who would come upon them from the south, to come upon us. It was a panic brought about by the direct interference of God.
v. 7. Wherefore they arose, with one frightened impulse, and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their asses, even the camp as it was, their terror being so great and so unreasonable that they abandoned everything, and fled for their life.
v. 8. And when these lepers, those spoken of above, came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent and did eat and drink, for they found food in abundance, and carried thence silver and gold and raiment, and went and hid it, as their legitimate plunder; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it, for the ease with which the deserted camp could be plundered stimulated their covetousness.
v. 9. Then they said one to another, their conscience reminding them of the duty which they owed their fellow-citizens, We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, which they were bound to communicate to the people of Samaria as soon as possible, and we hold our peace; if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us, they would be sure to be found out and suffer punishment, and justly so. Now, therefore, come that we may go and tell the king's household, make a report to the palace of the king.
v. 10. So they came and called unto the porter, the watchman of the guard, of the city, the man stationed at the gate; and they told them, all the watchmen who hurried up at their call, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, no person to be seen or heard, but horses tied and asses tied, and the tents as they were.
v. 11. And he called the porters, all the members of the guard; and they told it to the king's house within, they made the report required in such cases. There is nothing impossible with the Lord; He is able to help when men are at their wits' end and have given up all hope.
The Great Plenty in Samaria
v. 12. And the king, having received the astounding news, arose in the night and said unto his servants, his attendants, the members of his council, I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us; he suspected a ruse. They know that we be hungry, therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, for it would then be an easy matter to surprise and to overwhelm the defenders of the city, weakened as they were by hunger, and get into the city.
v. 13. And one of his servants, a member of his council, answered and said, Let some take, I pray thee, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city, (behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it; behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed, that is, the scouts would either return safe to the city and share the fate of the others by suffering death by famine, or they would fall into the hands of the enemies and be slain, in which case they would be no worse off than those who had already fallen,) and let us send and see.
v. 14. They took therefore two chariot horses, two chariots with the necessary horses and probably a single horseman. And the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see.
v. 15. And they went after them unto Jordan, for it was an easy matter to follow the path of their flight ; and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, personal belongings of the fleeing soldiers, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.
v. 16. And the people, who had undoubtedly awaited the return of the scouts with the greatest eagerness, went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians, loading themselves with booty. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord, v. 1.
v. 17. And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned, his adjutant, to have the charge of the gate, to maintain order and prevent accidents; and the people, overexcited as they were and unwilling to listen to his commands, trode upon him in the gate, roughly bearing him down and crushing him to death. And he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.
v. 18. And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel shall be tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria,
v. 19. and that lord answered the man of God and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
v. 20. And so it fell out unto him; for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died. The circumstantial repetition of this sad event serves to impress its lesson; for God will not be mocked, as many a blasphemer has found out to his sorrow, often, unfortunately, when it was too late.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany