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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 8

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3113. B.C. 891.

Elisha’s advice to the Shunammite, 2 Kings 8:1 , 2 Kings 8:2 . The king restores her land, 2 Kings 8:3-6 . Elisha’s prophecy to Hazael, and the death of Ben-hadad, 2 Kings 8:7-15 . The reign of Jehoram, 2 Kings 8:16-24 . Succeeded by Ahaziah, 2 Kings 8:25-29 .

Verse 1

2 Kings 8:1. Then spake Elisha There is nothing in the Hebrew for this particle of time, then. It is literally, And Elisha spake, or, as Houbigant renders it, had spoken. So 2 Kings 8:2, The woman had arisen, and done, &c. He conjectures, from 2 Kings 8:4, that this event happened before Gehazi was struck with the leprosy: this, however, is by no means certain. On the other hand, most commentators seem to be of opinion that it took place in the order in which it is recorded in the history, after the events related in the former chapter, and some think several years after. Unto the woman whose son he had restored to life Manifesting his gratitude for her former kindness, by taking special care for her preservation. Go thou, and sojourn, &c. In any convenient place out of the land of Israel. For the Lord hath called for a famine Hath appointed to bring a famine upon the country, or a great scarcity of provisions. The manner of speaking intimates that all afflictions are sent by God, and come at his call. Seven years A double time to the former famine under Elijah, which was but just, because they were still incorrigible under all the judgments of God, and under the powerful ministry of Elisha, who confirmed his doctrine by so many astonishing miracles.

Verse 2

2 Kings 8:2. The woman arose, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines Which, though bordering upon Israel, was free from the famine: by which it appeared, that the special hand of God was in that calamity, and that it was a judgment from him upon the Israelites for their idolatry, and abuse of the means of grace, which they now enjoyed in such abundance through Elisha and many other prophets.

Verse 3

2 Kings 8:3. She went to cry unto the king for her house and land Which, having been forsaken by her, were possessed by her kindred or others, who probably had obtained a grant of them from the king, and now intended to keep possession of them.

Verse 4

2 Kings 8:4 . The king talked with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God Or, who had been his servant formerly. The law did not forbid conversing with lepers at a due distance, but only the dwelling with them. Thus Naaman conversed with Elisha’s family at a distance; and the lepers called to our Lord, as he went along the highway.

Verses 5-6

2 Kings 8:5-6. As he was telling the king, &c., the woman cried to the king, &c. By the order of Providence she came to present her petition, and brought her son with her, in that very instant of time when Gehazi was telling the story of Elisha’s restoring him to life, that the king might be more fully satisfied of the truth of what he related from her own mouth, and that it might make the deeper impression upon him. Providence ought to be carefully observed, and devoutly acknowledged, in ordering the circumstances of events; for sometimes, as here, those that are minute of themselves, prove of great consequence. And when the king asked the woman, she told him That is, she confirmed what Gehazi had said. Thus did God even force him to believe, what he might have had some colour to question, if he had only had Gehazi’s word for it. So the king appointed, saying, Restore all that was hers Not only her house and land, but all the profits that had been made of them, and brought into his treasury. This was a high act of justice, and an argument of some goodness left in a bad man.

Verse 7

2 Kings 8:7. Elisha came to Damascus Either to the city so called, or rather, as it seems from 2 Kings 8:9, to the kingdom of Damascus; as Samaria, which properly was the name of a city, sometimes means the kingdom of which that city was the capital. Some have thought that Elisha went thither to avoid the famine; but it is more probable that he was sent by God, on the errand following. Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, was sick For neither honour, wealth, nor power will secure men from the common diseases and disasters of human life: palaces and thrones lie as open to the arrests of death as the meanest cottage. It was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither Which doubtless had rarely, if ever, been the case before; and his having cured Naaman had raised a great opinion of his power with God in that country.

Verse 8

2 Kings 8:8. The king said, Go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord, &c. In his health he bowed down in the house of Rimmon, but now he sends to inquire of the God of Israel. It is not long since he sent a great force to seize and treat Elisha as an enemy; yet now he courts and inquires of him as a prophet: thus affliction brings those to God, who, in their prosperity, made light of him: it opens men’s eyes, and rectifies their mistakes: and among other instances of the change it produces in their minds, this is one, and not the least considerable, that it often gives them other thoughts of God’s ministers, and teaches them to value those whom they before hated and despised. Affliction, however, has not this good effect upon all: it only blinds and hardens some. We lately saw even a king of Israel sending, in his sickness, to inquire of the god of Ekron, as if there had been no God in Israel. How does the conduct of this heathen, in similar circumstances, reprove and condemn the idolatrous and incorrigible Israelite! Thus does God sometimes fetch that honour to himself from strangers, which is denied him, and alienated from him, by his own professing people.

Verse 9

2 Kings 8:9. And took a present with him, forty camels’ burden By this noble present, consisting of every good thing of Damascus, the king testified his affection to the prophet, bid him welcome to Damascus, and provided for his sustenance while he was there, and the sustenance of those that were with him: for some have inferred, from the king’s sending him so very large a quantity of provisions, beyond measure too much for a single person, that Elisha, besides his servant, had several of the sons of the prophets with him. It is probable he accepted this present; for if he had refused it, it is likely his refusal would have been noticed.

Verse 10

2 Kings 8:10. Say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit, &c. Here is no contradiction: for the first words contain an answer to Ben- hadad’s question, Shall I recover? To which the answer is, Thou mayest, notwithstanding thy disease, which is not mortal. The latter words contain the prophet’s addition to that answer, which is, that he should die, not by the power of his disease, but by some other cause. But it must be observed, that this is according, not to the Hebrew text, but the marginal reading of the Jewish rabbins, who have substituted the pronoun לו , lo, to him, for the adverb לא , lo, not. In the text it is, Go say, Thou shalt not recover; or, as Dr. Waterland renders it, Thou shalt certainly not live; for the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. Dr. Kennicott is clearly of opinion that this is the true reading and sense of the passage. See his first Dissert., p. 163. Houbigant, however, prefers our translation, and thinks that the words contain a silent reproof from Elisha, who well knew that a courtier, like Hazael, would certainly flatter his king: he therefore understands the meaning to be, “Go thou, and, courtier-like, say to him, Thou wilt certainly recover; howbeit, the Lord hath, shown me very much the contrary; he will surely die, and die by thy traitorous hand.”

Verse 11

2 Kings 8:11. He settled his countenance steadfastly Elisha fixed his eyes on Hazael, and looked upon him so earnestly, so long, and with such a settled countenance, that Hazael was ashamed, as apprehending that the prophet discerned or suspected something of an evil and shameful nature in him. The Hebrew words, however, rendered till he was ashamed, are ambiguous, and may be indifferently referred either to the prophet or to Hazael: but they seem more properly to belong to the latter, because it follows by way of distinction, The man of God wept.

Verse 12

2 Kings 8:12. I know the evil thou wilt do unto the children of Israel It was not in Hazael’s countenance that Elisha read what he would do; but God did at this time reveal it to him, and gave him such a clear and full view of it, that it greatly affected him. The sins of Israel provoked God to give them up into the hands of their cruel enemies: yet Elisha wept to think that ever Israelites should be so abused as he foresaw they would be by Hazael. For though he foretold, he did not desire, the woful day. Their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, &c. See what havoc and destruction war makes! what destruction sin makes! and how the nature of man is changed by the fall, and stripped even of humanity itself! Wilt dash their children That dashing young children against the stones was one piece of barbarous cruelty which the people of the East were apt to run into, in the prosecution of their wars, is plainly intimated Psalms 137:8-9. Nor was this inhuman practice out of use among nations pretending to more politeness; for, according to the remains of ancient fame, the Grecians, when they became masters of Troy, were so cruel as to throw Astyanax, Hector’s son, a child in his mother’s arms, headlong from one of the towers of the city. The ripping up of women with child is the highest degree of brutal cruelty; but there is reason to believe that Hazael, in his war with the Gileadites, (2 Kings 10:32-33,) verified this part of the prophet’s prediction concerning him; for, what Amos, complaining of his cruelty to this people, calls thrashing Gilead with thrashing instruments of iron, both the Seventy and Arabic versions read, He sawed the pregnant women with iron saws. Le Clerc and Calmet.

Verse 13

2 Kings 8:13. Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog? &c. The expression is used in Scripture to signify vile and unworthy, as in 2 Samuel 3:8; 2 Samuel 9:8; and fierce, barbarous, and inhuman, Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:20; Psalms 59:6. That he should do this great thing So he terms it, as being, 1st, A thing that supposed great power, and not to be done but by a crowned head: as if he had said, It must be some mighty potentate that must prevail thus against Israel, and therefore not I. Accordingly, the Hebrew may be rendered, What! thy servant, a dog! that he should do this great thing! 2d, An act of great barbarity, which could not be done but by a person lost to all honour and virtue. This is the sense in which Hazael’s words have been generally understood; and it seems evidently the true sense. He felt, at this time, no inclination to be so barbarous and cruel as the foregoing words of Elisha implied, and he wondered that the prophet should suppose him capable of ever acting in such a manner. Is thy servant a dog, to rend, and tear, and devour? Unless I were a dog I could not do it. He was evidently startled at the mention of the cruelties which the prophet foretold he should perpetrate, and thought it impossible he should ever be guilty of them. Thus we are very apt to think ourselves sufficiently secure against the commission of those sins which yet we are afterward overcome by, and practise. The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria And then, when thou shalt have the power, thou wilt have the will to commit these enormities and barbarities, and actually wilt commit them. Those who are little and low in the world, cannot imagine how strong the temptations of power and prosperity are, to which if they ever arrive, they will find how deceitful their hearts were, and how much more corrupt than they suspected.

Verse 14

2 Kings 8:14. He told me that thou shouldest surely recover This was abominably false. He told him he should die, 2 Kings 8:10; but Hazael unfairly and unfaithfully concealed that, either because he was loath to put the king out of humour with bad news, or because he thought he should thereby the more easily put in execution the design which he had already formed against his life, finding he was to be his successor, and which he was eager to see accomplished. Elisha’s prediction might give Satan an occasion of suggesting this villany to his mind; but, as Mr. Scott justly observes, “it was not the cause of his crime, and forms no excuse for it. Had he been of David’s disposition, he would have waited in the path of duty till the Lord had performed his word in that manner which pleased him.” Thus he soon began to manifest the rapaciousness and cruelty of the dog, of which he desired to be thought incapable.

Verse 15

2 Kings 8:15 . And spread it on his face Pretending, it may be, to cool his immoderate heat with it, but applying it so closely that he choked him therewith; the king being weak, and unable to help himself, or perhaps asleep. By this artifice he prevented his crying out, and his death would appear to be natural, there being no signs of violence upon his body. Such a bubble is the life of the greatest men, and so exposed are princes to treachery and outrage. We found this haughty monarch ( 1Ki 20:1-10 ) the terror of the mighty in the land of the living; but now he goes down slain into the pit, with his iniquity upon his bones, Ezekiel 32:25. And Hazael reigned in his stead Being, it is likely, in great favour, both with the people and the soldiery, and not suspected of the murder of Ben- hadad; and he leaving no son to succeed him in the government.

Verse 16

2 Kings 8:16. Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat began to reign Jehoram was first made king or viceroy by his father, divers years before this time, at his expedition to Ramoth-gilead, which dominion of his ended at his father’s return. But now Jehoshaphat, being not far from his death, and having divers sons, and fearing some competition among them, makes Jehoram king the second time, as David did Solomon upon the like occasion. See note on chap. 2 Kings 1:17.

Verse 18

2 Kings 8:18. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel That is, after his father’s death. For the daughter of Ahab Namely, Athaliah, 2 Kings 8:26; was his wife By whom he was seduced from the religion of his pious father and grandfather. This unequal marriage, though Jehoshaphat possibly designed it as a means of uniting the two kingdoms under one head, is here and elsewhere noted, as the cause both of the great wickedness of his posterity, and of those sore calamities which befell them. No good could be reasonably expected from such a union. Those that are ill matched are already half ruined.

Verse 19

2 Kings 8:19. To give him always a light A son and successor, until the coming of the Messiah: for so long, and not longer, this succession might seem necessary for the making good of God’s promise and covenant made with David. But when the Messiah was once come, there was no more need of any succession, and the sceptre might and did without any inconvenience depart from Judah, and from all the succeeding branches of David’s family, because the Messiah was to hold the kingdom for ever in his own person, though not in so gross a way as the carnal Jews imagined.

Verse 20

2 Kings 8:20 . In his days Edom revolted After they had been subject to Judah one hundred and fifty years, ever since the time of David, who subdued that country. This was a great dishonour to him. Hereby, however, the prophecy of Isaac ( Gen 27:40 ) was fulfilled.

Verse 21

2 Kings 8:21. Joram went over to Zair This word is written differently from Seir, and therefore, it seems, does not signify any part of the country of Edom, but some city near to it. And smote the Edomites which compassed him about The Edomites were not wanting in their own defence, but had surrounded him with an army; through which he broke in the night, and routed them. And the people fled, &c. The common soldiers of the Edomites herein following the example of their captains. Yet Edom revolted Notwithstanding this victory, Joram could not recover his dominion over this country; probably because he was recalled by the revolt of some of his own subjects, who had taken the occasion of his absence to rebel, and he feared that others would follow their example if they had the like opportunity. So that Edom continued a kingdom under its own king. Unto this day When this record was written. Indeed, they were not brought again under the power of the Jews till after their return from the captivity of Babylon. Then Libnah revolted A considerable city in Judah belonging to the priests. For the reason why they revolted, see 2 Chronicles 21:10-11. It is probable they returned to their obedience, because those words, unto this day, which are added to the former clause, are omitted here.

Verses 26-27

2 Kings 8:26-27. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign How this agrees with 2 Chronicles 22:2, see on that place. The daughter of Omri That is, his grand-daughter, 2 Kings 8:18. He walked in the way of the house of Ahab He not only worshipped the calves, but also Baal. For he was son-in-law of the house of Ahab And so was corrupted in his religion by his connection with that idolatrous and wicked family. He was the proper son of Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and the grandson-in-law of Ahab, his father Joram being properly Ahab’s son-in- law.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-kings-8.html. 1857.
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