The history of the Shunammite, which was in part given before, is prosecuted yet further in this chapter. Her land is restored to her. Here is also a short relation concerning Hazael, the Syrian. This chapter also contains an account of Jehoram's wicked reign, and of Ahaziah his successor in the kingdom.
It should seem that this famine soon succeeded the siege of the enemy, which the foregoing chapter relates. A fruitful land the Lord makes barren for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. Psalms 107:34. That this famine was peculiar to Israel, seems evident from the prophet's commanding the Shunammite to seek for sustenance elsewhere. But Reader! how delightful is it to see the Lord providing for his secret ones when he brings his judgments upon others. Never doth the Lord more strikingly manifest himself than when he hides them.
The history of this Shunammite, in having her land restored to her, is very interesting. But the spiritual improvement to be made of the passage is much more so. You and I, Reader, have left our settlement, lands, and property, for there is truly nothing valuable in the whole of them, when a leanness of soul is induced, and a famine of all spiritual blessings comes upon us by reason of the fall. But when Jesus our Goel, our kinsman-Redeemer, hath raised up the tabernacle of David which was fallen down, and made our dwelling place a Bethlehem, an house of bread for his people, then like this woman we may cry to our king for the restoration of our inheritance in and by Jesus. There is somewhat very striking in this passage respecting Gehazi, and his conference with the king at the moment the Shunammite came to claim her land. So, Reader, we may discover in numberless instances in common life, how the Lord, in his providence, overrules times and events to the promotion of his own glory and his people's comfort. But is there not another sweet thought arising from it also? Was the king of Israel so intent to listen to Gehazi's account of the deeds of Elisha; and shall we not be earnest to enquire after the wonders of Jesus?
It is not very easy to ascertain at what time it was that Elisha paid this visit to Damascus. The Lord had commanded Elijah about 21 years before this period: See 1 Kings 19:15. (that is, supposing, this visit of Elisha was as is here introduced, after the two years of famine before related) to go to the wilderness of Damascus, and anoint Hazael king of Syria; but when Elisha went to Damascus, or what the occasion of his visit there was for, is not easy to conjecture. But passing this by, there is one sweet spiritual improvement ariseth out of it, which is this. Even in those distant ages before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the visits of God's faithful servants to the Gentile and Heathen portended the full salvation being one day preached to them. And though our dear Lord told the poor woman of Canaan that he was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet we find that he graciously included both Jew and Gentile in one fold, and told that very woman that such was her faith, that everything should be as she herself desired. Matthew 15:22-28. When we consider in what was related before (see 2 Kings 6:8-14.) how Benhadad intended to have seized the prophet, it is somewhat singular that Elisha should venture his person in Damascus. And it is no less strange that the mind of Benhadad should have been so changed from hatred to reverence. But these things are all plain to be understood, when we trace the hand of the Lord in it. God giveth his servants boldness, like a lion, and the same God turneth the hearts of his children's enemies to be at peace with them, when such things answer the sovereign purpose of his holy will. The answer which Elisha made to Hazael's question, whether the king his master should recover, seems at first reading ambiguous. He said, thou mayest certainly recover; howbeit ye shall surely die. But the sense seems to be very plainly this; the disorder under which thy master labours is not in itself mortal; of that disease he might certainly recover. But he shall surely die of a violent death. For thou wilt be his executioner. This the following verses prove.
I hardly know a passage in history, even if simply considered as an history, more strikingly interesting to the feelings than this interview, as here related between Hazael and the prophet. Figure to yourself the astonishment of the ambassador of Damascus when the man of God prophesied to him of his future greatness, and the bloody deeds of his life which would follow. Behold on the other hand the aged servant of the Lord looking so fixedly upon the countenance of Hazael, until the tears burst in a flood before him to give vent to his distress of soul. But while we meditate on the passage simply as an interesting history, let us look at it with more awakened earnestness, as a solemn record in the word of God, and then we shall discover if so be the Holy Ghost gives us a gracious apprehension of its important contents, that it opens to our view higher objects for instruction. Hazael is but the representative of human nature, universally speaking. All men like him may shudder at crimes in the cool hour of distance which in the after season of heated passion, and all things corresponding to accomplish, they may without remorse perform. Reader! do you know this? Do you believe it? Hath the Holy Ghost by his divine teachings led you on so far in the knowledge of yourself, as to be brought to this complete conviction of sin? If you are, precious to your soul will be the knowledge of, and the rejoicing in, the Lord Jesus! but if not, depend upon it you possess but at the best a poor apprehension of your own dreadfully ruined and lost state; and of the vast and infinite value of that complete deliverance from sin which is found only in the Lord Jesus. The cruelty of Hazael, seems to have commenced from the moment of this interview, as the devil entered into the heart of Judas from the time in which Jesus gave him the sop, as a token of his being the traitor. John 13:26-27. His return to his master opened with a lie. His next step was to stifle him in his bed. And his bloody deeds to Israel, as Elisha had foretold, we are informed of in the after part of his history. See 2 Kings 13:22. Reader! pause over such a character, if it be only to look up with reverence, and all the warmth of affection and thankfulness, in the contemplation of the blessed effects of distinguishing grace: Who hath made thee to differ from another? Is an enquiry which every child of God should be unceasingly putting to his own soul. 1 Corinthians 4:7.
I would have the Reader remark with me on the character here given of pious Jehoshaphat's son, how dreadful it must have been to such a father to have so degenerate a son. Grace is not hereditary. Jehoshaphat could not give it to Joram. And it is to be feared, by what we read in the history, short as it is, that the good man did not take the likeliest means to obtain it. For he made, or suffered to be made, a dreadful alliance for him with Ahab's daughter. And add to this, he gave up the kingdom to him before his death, thereby feeding his pride and vanity. Reader! have you never remarked (I have), how frequently pious parents, from consulting natural feelings more than gracious ones, awfully indulge their children to their hurt, and thereby give displeasure to the Lord. What an awful reproof was that of God to Eli, 1 Samuel 2:27, etc.
I pray the Reader not hastily to pass over this sweet verse. Judah must not, cannot indeed, be destroyed for Jesus's sake. Our Lord sprang out of Judah. So that there is a blessing in it, and he that looketh on saith, destroy it not. Oh! precious, precious consideration! Isaiah 65:8-9.
The revolt of Edom demands our particular notice, because it was a confirmation of the dying patriarch Isaac's prophecy to his son Esau, who was the origin of Edom. Isaac had told his favorite son Esau, that the time should come when he should break Jacob's yoke from off his neck. And here we see it fulfilled after a servitude of more than 150 years from the days of David. Genesis 27:39-40.
Nothing further remarkable appears in the lives of these impious men but that they lived, transgressed, and died. Indeed, in the parallel history in the book of the Chronicles, we are told that this monarch died not much unlike the traitor Judas, for his bowels gushed out. And as he had lived most probably without being beloved, so he died unlamented. 2 Chronicles 21:18-19.
I bring all these verses within one point of view, as they only relate to us the short, but wicked reign, of another of Judah's kings. And I only detain the Reader with a single observation upon this man's history, that it was in mercy not suffered to be lengthened out to any great period. It was but a year. And oh! the sad thought to sinners when the year of grace is over, and all the years of iniquity, be they ever so many, consumed; what a dreadful barter have they made, if, though gaining the whole world, they have lost their own soul!
READER! let us pause over our review of this chapter, for many are the gospel instructions we may take home to our own hearts under the Holy Ghost's gracious teachings. In the restoration of the Shunammite's land, let us recollect with holy joy that our Jesus hath effectually secured our inheritance, notwithstanding there hath been for many a seven year a famine and poverty indeed in our souls. Jesus our king will restore the whole, and infinitely more than we lost, by the apostacy of our first Father, Yes! thou dearest Lord, thou hast accomplished the redemption of all our mortgaged possession, and it is thou which will finally put us into the enjoyment of them again; thou art indeed thyself our inheritance, our portion, our joy forever.
In the account of Hazael, Reader, let us not overlook the general character of all men by the fall. That you and I perpetrate not such crimes, is not from any difference in nature, but wholly from the preventing and restraining grace of our God. Oh! blessed Jesus, teach me by such views how to appreciate thy great salvation more and more, and with the greatest thankfulness of soul, give thee all the glory, that I am kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. And Reader, let the view which the Holy Ghost hath here given us in the character of Hazael, when by a change from an humble station to the highest, the seeds of iniquity were thus ripened, and brought forward to the production of its deadly fruit, Oh! let it teach us how much wiser and more gracious the Lord is than we are ourselves, in choosing the lowest stations for his people, to keep them from evil. Yes! dearest Lord, I thank thee for the very place thy wisdom hath appointed me. I know it must be the best because thou hast ordained it. Thy love, as well as thy wisdom, was in it. Bring me therefore, Lord, according to thy promise, as a poor, blind, ignorant creature, in a way that I knew not; leave me not to my own understanding, but give me grace to be always committing my ways unto the Lord, and to acknowledge thine hand in all; for thou hast said thou wilt direct my paths.
One thought more, Reader, before we quit this chapter, in that precious account which is given us concerning Judah, that the Lord would not destroy Judah for David's sake. Oh! the blessed thought! oh! the soul-reviving consideration, amidst all the discouragements of sin, and the feats of unbelief! Judah's Lord still lives, still reigns, and the efficacy of his blood and righteousness is of everlasting duration. Learn, my soul, henceforth to live out of thyself upon this covenant God in Christ. In him is all thy fullness and sufficiency. And in so improving and using Christ, according to God the Father's gift and design concerning him, all happiness and security must be found. In thy name, blessed Jesus, would I rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness may my soul be exalted.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany