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2 Kings 6:6. He cut down a stick, and cast it in thither. &c.— The calling in this stick could no more contribute to the performance of the present miracle, than the garment of Elijah to the division of the Jordan, or the clay put by our Lord upon the eyes of the blind man to the recovery of his sight. These inadequate means were employed upon these occasions only to set forth more fully the reality and greatness of the miracles. See Sturvius Colleg. Exper. p. 23 and Scheuchzer.
REFLECTIONS.—Under Elisha's care, the school of the prophets at Gilgal flourished; and such a resort was there to attend him, that the place was too small to contain them. Note; It is a good symptom both of a true prophet and a gracious people, when diligence to preach, and attention to hear, enlarges the auditory.
1. They propose building another seminary near the banks of Jordan; and with Elisha's consent, and under his eye, they would without delay begin the work. As they were poor, they must be their own builders; and, though prophets sons, disdained not the mean employment to which their poverty reduced them, Note; (1.) The greatest of heaven's blessings are usually bestowed on those who eat bread with the sweat of their brow. (2.) A minister of God must be content, if need be, to minister to his necessities by the labour of his own hands.
2. An accident happened to one of them, as they felled the timber, which gave them the greater uneasiness because the axe was borrowed, and perhaps he was unable to repay the loss, though small. Note; (1.) What is kindly lent us, we should be doubly careful of. (2.) They who are affluent, conceive not how great an affliction a seemingly inconsiderable loss is to those who are indigent.
3. Elisha pitied and relieved him, at the expence of a miracle. On throwing in a piece of wood at the place where it fell, he caused the iron to swim, and restored it to the thankful owner. Note; (1.) When we can make the poor mourner rejoice by a small relief, shall we refuse him the happiness which costs us so little? (2.) The heart most irrecoverably sunk, to human view, in the floods of ungodliness, and of earthly cares or pleasures, is not beyond the power of divine grace.
2 Kings 6:8. Shall be my camp— I will lie in wait. Houbigant. And so at the end of the ninth verse, instead of thither the Syrians are come down, he reads, there the Syrians lie in wait. Not once nor twice, at the end of the tenth verse, signifies frequently: and at the end of the eleventh, instead of which of us is for the king of Israel? Houbigant reads, who betrays us to the king of Israel?
2 Kings 6:12. Elisha the prophet—telleth, &c.— It is not to be doubted but that Naaman, upon his return from Samaria, spread the fame of Elisha so much in the court of Syria, that some of the great men there might have the curiosity to make a further inquiry concerning him; and being informed by several of his miraculous works, they might thence conclude that he could tell the greatest secrets, as well as perform the wonders related of him, and that therefore in all probability he was the person who gave the king of Israel intelligence of all the schemes which had been contrived to ensnare him.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here,
1. A new invasion of Israel: on what occasion is not said. Note; The enemies of God's Israel will not suffer them long to rest in peace.
2. Elisha, by his prophetic spirit, acquainted the king of Israel with all the ambuscades and motions of the Syrians, by which they were constantly disappointed in their designs. Note; (1.) God knows how to frustrate the wisest counsels of the crafty against his church and people. (2.) When God by his prophets gives us warning, it is our wisdom to hear and prepare for the day of evil; lest, if we continue secure in our sins, death surprise us, and we perish through our folly.
3. The king of Syria suspected a traitor in his council; but one of his servants wisely apprises him of the discoverer of his secrets; Elisha's spirit visited his most retired chamber. Note; There is no place hid from the searching eye of God; even the secrets of all hearts to him are naked and open.
2 Kings 6:17. The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, &c.— It is probable that this young man had been but a little while with his master; no longer than since Gehazi's dismission; and therefore, perhaps, had not seen any great experiments of his power to work miracles; or if he had, the great and imminent danger he thought his master in, might well be supposed to raise his fear, and shake his faith; and therefore some miracle was necessary for the removal of the one, and the confirmation of the other. Angels, whether they be purely spiritual, or clothed with some material vehicle, it is allowed, cannot be seen by mortal eyes; and therefore, as Elisha himself, without a peculiar vouchsafement of God, could not discern the heavenly host which at this time encamped about him; so he requests of God, that for the causes above mentioned his servant might be indulged with that privilege; and it seems likely that from such historical facts as these, which have descended by tradition, that notion among the Greeks, of a certain mist which intercepts the sight of their gods from the ken of human eyes, might at first borrow its origin. See Iliad, v. ver. 127. and AEneid, ii. ver. 604.
2 Kings 6:19. This is not the way, &c.— Elisha says this without being asked; for if the Syrians had asked him whether this was the way to the city of Dothan, his answer certainly would have been a falsehood; from which his words are clear; this is not the way, neither is this the city; because the prophet does not say the way to Dothan, nor the city of Dothan; but uses a feint or stratagem which has always been allowed in war against enemies whom he afterwards treated humanely. We are not to imagine that the blindness wherewith the Lord smote there men was so total that they quite lost the use of their eyes; but only that it was such a dimness and confusion in their sight, as hindered them from distinguishing one object from another: the city of Dothan, for instance, from the city of Samaria. See a similar case, Genesis 19:11. This is no more than what happens to several men in their liquor, that though their eyes be open, and can perceive the several objects which surround them, yet they cannot discern wherein they differ: and if we may suppose that the Syrian army was under the same Αορασια, as the Greeks happily term it, we need no more wonder that they readily accepted a guide who offered his service, than that a drunkard, after having lost his way, and found himself bewildered, should be thankful to any hand which should undertake to conduct him safe home. See Houbigant and Scheuchzer.
2 Kings 6:22. Wouldest thou smite those, &c.?— Wouldest thou smite them as if thou hadst taken them, &c.? Houbigant. Elisha here urges, that it would not only be more merciful, but more prudent and politic, to spare and treat them kindly; for thus, upon their return, they would become so many preachers, as it were, of the power and greatness of the God of Israel; and, probably, not only desist themselves, but dissuade others likewise, from opposing a people who had so invincible a protector.
REFLECTIONS.—Till Elisha was secured, the king of Syria despairs of success; and therefore, to effect this,
1. He sends an armed force to surround Dothan by night, where he understood the prophet was: a foolish attempt! Could he who revealed his designs against the king be ignorant of this upon himself?
2. Elisha's servant in the morning runs to his master in a great fright, to acquaint him with the danger, as if now they were all undone and lost. Note; Weak believers are intimidated by the approach of danger; and, because they feel their own impotence, are ready to despair of God's power and grace.
3. Elisha quickly subdues his fears. One comfortable word of encouragement points him to a safe protector; and, that his weak faith might be helped by sight, at Elisha's prayer the servant's eyes are opened, and he beheld the angelic host, appearing like chariots and horses of fire round the city. Note; (1.) Whoever are our foes, if God be for us, we have strength and numbers on our side. (2.) To encourage the fearful, to support the weak, and comfort the feeble-minded, is the office of every faithful minister. (3.) They who have the eye of faith opened, behold cherubic legions as their guard, and the King of Glory at their head. (4.) We have need to pray continually for ourselves and others, that the eyes of our minds may be daily more and more enlightened.
4. He who prayed for the opening of the eyes of his servants, succeeds as effectually for the closing the eyes of his enemies. Bewildered in their apprehensions, they no longer knew either the place or the prophet, but gave themselves up to him as their guide, he promising to conduct them to the man they sought: and when he had brought them into Samaria, as men awakened from a dream, they beheld their danger when there was no possibility of their escape. Note; (1.) It is just in God to give up those to the blindness of their own hearts, who choose not the knowledge of the truth, that they may be saved. (2.) How terrible will be the sinner's disappointment, when led captive by the devil at his will; buoyed up with foolish hopes of heaven, he marches confidently on, till death awakens him from his lethargy, and he is astonished to find himself in hell.
5. Elisha, merciful as mighty, dismisses them in peace, after the most hospitable entertainment. The king of Israel is eager to improve the advantage by destroying his enemies, but Elisha restrains him. Had they been prisoners of war, they were entitled to mercy; how much more when not his arm, but God's providence, had brought them into his power? rather let him conquer them by his clemency and generosity, and, as they were now laid at his feet for mercy, entertain them nobly, and dismiss them peaceably. The king readily complies, and they return as much astonished at their generous treatment, as convinced of the impossibility of crushing those whom God so protected. Returning, they made no more attempts to seize the prophet; or perhaps these bands, when a new attack was meditated, refuse to serve any more against the people of Israel. Note; (1.) Not only are we enjoined to forgive our enemies, but to do good to those who hate us. Hard the task, but almighty grace is sufficient for it! (2.) They who will not be overcome with kindness and love, are desperately hardened indeed.
2 Kings 6:24. It came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad, &c.— It has been often observed, that injuries are more gloriously overcome by benefits, than requited by pertinacious and mutual hatred; but the sense of benefits does not last long in bad natures. No sooner do we read of the kind treatment which the Syrians received, than it immediately follows, that the king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria: which, seeming not to agree with what is said in the preceding verse, that the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel, some suppose, that the Syrians quite retreated for this time, and laid aside all thoughts of war, though afterwards they altered their minds, and broke out again into hostilities. Others, however, suppose the meaning to be, that the bands of the Syrians made no more incursions and inroads, but that they were resolved to fall upon the Israelites at once, with a regular and formed army; and so Josephus understands it, Antiq. lib. ix. c. 2.
2 Kings 6:25. An ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, &c.— If we reckon these pieces of silver at fifteen pence a-piece, they come to five pounds sterling: a great price for that which had on it so little meat, and that too unclean, according to the law, Leviticus 11:26. In times of famine, however, and extreme necessity, the Jews themselves were absolved from the observation of the law; nor are there wanting instances in history, where other people, upon the same occasion, have been reduced to the like distress; if what Plutarch tells us, in the Life of Artaxerxes, be true, viz. that in that prince's war with the Caducii, an ass's head could scarcely be purchased at the price of sixty drachms; i.e. two pounds five shillings of our money. A cab, according to the Jews, contained as much as the shells of twenty-four eggs would hold. The word יונים חרי chire yonim, rendered dove's dung, as Bochart has fully proved, signifies vetches or pulse: and accordingly some late traveller tells us, that at Grand Cairo and Damascus there are magazines where they constantly fry this kind of grain, which those who go on pilgrimage buy, and take with them as part of the provision for their journey. The Arabs to this day call this kind of pulse or vetches by the name of dove's dung. See Bochart, Hieroz. p. ii. lib. i. c. 7.
2 Kings 6:29. So we boiled my son, &c.— This shocking anecdote is a terrible effect of the divine vengeance, which Moses had long before told the Israelites would fall upon them, if they rebelled against God. The same evil happened to them at two other times besides this; at the siege of Jerusalem, under Nebuchadnezzar; see Ezek. ch. 2Ki 5:10 and at that under Titus; see Joseph. Bell. Jud. lib. vii. c. 8.
2 Kings 6:32. But Elisha sat in his house— Some suppose, that by the house of Elisha, is meant the school, where the sons of the prophets met to be instructed; and by the elders, his chief scholars, who, under his instruction, applied themselves to the study of divine things. But as we frequently read in Ezekiel, of the elders of Israel sitting before the prophet to hear him, ch. 2Ki 8:1 2Ki 14:1 we cannot see why the elders in this place likewise, may not denote some good and godly men, who bore office either in the court, camp, or city; as seems probable from the prophet's desiring their help and protection: for though Jehoram himself was a wicked man, and most of his officers might be forward enough to imitate him, yet we are not to doubt but that there were some of them, whom Elisha's holy life and glorious miracles, together with the sundry benefits which the public reaped from his ministry, had won over to God, and to the true religion; and those were here sitting with him, either to receive comfort and counsel from him in this distressing time, or to solicit him to use his power with God for their relief: which accordingly he did, and in compliance with their request, not out of any fear of the king's threats, from which, he was well assured, God would not fail to deliver him, he pronounced the joyful news which follows in the beginning of the next chapter.
2 Kings 6:33. And he said, Behold this evil is of the Lord, &c.— He said, that is, according to some, the messenger; though Houbigant rather thinks that it was the king himself; for it appears both from the preceding verse, and from 2Ki 6:17 of the next chapter, that the king came to Elisha; and as Elisha had ordered the messenger not to enter, it is the less probable that these were his words. From the expression, what should I wait for the Lord, we may collect that Elisha had said, wait for the Lord, or something to that purpose.
Note; (1.) In the distresses of our souls, if God be not our friend, vain is the help of man. (2.) None know the sufferings which await them before they die; we need pray that God would prepare us for what he has prepared for us.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany