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2 Kings 7:1. A measure— The word סאה saah which we render a measure, implies a quantity equal to six cabs, and contained, according to some, six quarts; according to others, a peck, or a peck and two quarts of our measure. The shekel was much about our three shillings, and though to have a peck of fine flour for three shillings at other times would not have been so cheap; yet, according to the present situation of things, it was wonderfully so. See Le Clerc.
2 Kings 7:3. There were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate— The Jews are of opinion, that these four lepers were Gehazi and three of his sons. Leprous persons were not permitted to converse with other men, and by the law of Moses, while the Israelites lived in tents, were to be excluded the camp, Numb. ch. 2 Kings 5:2-3. But when they came to inhabit cities, it may be questioned whether they treated them with such rigour, since in chap. 2Ki 8:4 we find Gehazi holding discourse with the king, though certainly he might do this by talking to him at a proper distance. Lepers, indeed, were carefully avoided, because their distemper in these hot countries was thought contagious; but in the case before us these four seem to have been excluded, not so much on account of their distemper, as because they were useless hands; they could neither fight nor work in communion with others. They were only fruges consumere nati, and were therefore no proper persons in a siege. See Calmet.
2 Kings 7:9. We do not well, &c.— It is an infallible sign of great calamity to a nation, when the people have not a true delight in the public concernments; when there is not such a sympathy of affections, as that subjects rejoice at the prosperity of their princes. When the sins are national which draw down God's judgments upon us, the sadness and repentance of a few will do but little good; it must be a general sorrow and recognition which will avail. The same order must be observed in the reception of public blessings; and no blessings are more public, or of more public consequence, than good success to kings in their just undertakings, and therefore the joy and delight must be universal; and if that acknowledgement be wanting, God is defrauded of his due. He does not more love an humble and a broken heart under affliction, than he does a grateful and thankful heart upon his blessings and deliverance. Seasonable joy is as proper a sacrifice to the Almighty as tears and sighs can be; and the suppressing of the one is as bad as the not pouring out of the other. We do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning-light, some mischief will come upon us; now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household, was the cheerful consultation and conclusion of these poor men, who first discover that the king and city are free from the army of the Syrians, when they might perhaps have spent their time more to their own particular advantage by a discreet reservation, and not yet communicating this argument of public joy: but they knew that they would not then have done well, and that it would have been little better than sacrilege to defraud those of the present notice to whom God bequeathed the benefit: and they who have the notice of such great deliverances, and do not enlarge their hearts with a proportionable joy and acknowledgement, defraud God of what he expects from them: he loves a cheerful as well as a broken heart.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Despair covered every face with blackness, and the king gives up all for lost; but when we are most reduced, God will make bare his holy arm.
1. Elisha foretells the suddenly approaching plenty, in consequence of the siege being raised: welcome news to famished Israelites!
2. He denounces the doom of the unbelieving lord, who refused to credit his prediction. He was a great courtier, on whose arm, for state, his master now leaned; and, because it was impossible with men, he foolishly deems it impossible with God. Note; Unbelief is among the greatest sins, and most fatal to the soul.
2nd, God will be found true, and all who distrust him be proved liars.
1. According to his word, the siege is raised, and by his own power a dreadful panic is sent among the hosts of Syria. A terrible sound of horses and chariots is heard, and, fear magnifying their danger, they conclude that the Egyptians and Hittites are hired to fall upon them, and that nothing but instant flight can secure their lives. They immediately quit the camp, and each man with the utmost precipitation runs for his life. Note; (1.) God's terrors can make the stoutest tremble. (2.) The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth.
2. The discovery of the flight is made by four lepers, who carry tidings of it into the city. Famishing in their secluded hut without the gate, neither daring to enter the city, nor hoping for any relief thence; since die they must, if they abode where they were, they resolve to go to the Syrian camp, hoping that compassion might engage them to relieve them: at the worst, they can but die. They immediately go; and how great their astonishment to find the camp deserted, and all the tents and every thing in them remaining. Hunger first called for relief; and when that was satisfied, they began to load themselves with the richest plunder, till by and by, recollecting how unkind this was to their brethren, to neglect acquainting them with the good news, and how dangerous it might be to themselves if they should be found to have concealed the glad tidings merely to enrich themselves, they haste back to the city, and acquaint the centinel with the state of the Syrian camp; and instantly the news is carried to the king. Note; (1.) Every sinner is in these lepers' case; if they continue where they are, they must perish. There is but one door of hope; the compassion of that God whom they have made their enemy; and happy is it, when self-despair drives us to him. (2.) The mercies that we ourselves have experienced, we must publish for the comfort and edification of our brethren.
2 Kings 7:13. Behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel, &c.— It will not happen otherwise to them than to all the multitude of Israel, which now remains, or to all the multitude of Israel, which now perishes: that is to say, "Whatever happens to them, they will be in the same condition with us; for if they survive, we shall survive, but if they perish, we shall perish also." Houbigant.
2 Kings 7:15. And, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, &c.— Saladine's army, which was defeated by Baldwin IV. near Gaza, being in like manner vigorously pursued till night came on, and as far as a certain standing water surrounded with reeds twelve miles off, were continually cut off in great numbers. To fly therefore with greater expedition, they threw away their arms and clothes, and abandoned their baggage, and by this means some of those who were strongest, and had swift horses, escaped; the rest were killed or taken. Those who had escaped as far as the above-mentioned fenny place, if they had any thing of weight still remaining, such as coats of mail, or greaves of iron, threw them among the reeds, or still farther into the water itself, that they might move quicker, and that the armour, being concealed in the water, might neither be of any after-service to the Christians, nor be kept by them as trophies of their victory. But in vain; for those who closely pursued them, diligently searched the place that night and the following day, and with proper instruments quickly found what they had concealed in it; and we have been informed, says the author of the Gesta Dei, by people of credit who were eye-witnesses, that a hundred coats of mail were drawn out of that place in one day, besides iron boots, and things which, though of less weight, were both useful and valuable. The historian then mentions how miserable these naked fugitives were harassed with incessant rains and unusually cold weather, which began the next day and continued ten days together. The Syrians, struck with a panic, left in like manner, in the road to Jordan, many of their garments, and of their vessels or arms, as I suppose that word means, just as Saladine's army did; for the original word here כלים kelim is known to signify arms as well as vessels; and the rest, perhaps, were thrown into the river. The horses and asses which were left in the camp, according to the seventh verse, were doubtless the beasts of burden used by them for the carriage of their tents and provisions, which their terror made them leave behind; and as the troops of the Syrians seem to have been horsemen, (see chap. 2 Kings 6:15.) it is no wonder that they made no use of these heavier moving animals in their flight, but left them. Observations, p. 353.
2 Kings 7:16. The people went out and spoiled the tents of the Syrians— Thus did the Lord work a double miracle for his people; at once delivering them from the Syrians, and giving them an unexpected and sufficient supply for their necessities; fulfilling exactly the predictions of his prophet, and thus giving the highest authority to his mission.
Note; (1.) Not a tittle of God's word shall ever fail. O that we had but faith to trust him! (2.) Supported by past experience, let us never despair, but patiently wait the salvation of God!
2 Kings 7:20. And so it fell out unto him— The unbelieving lord suffers the doom denounced upon him. He was appointed to command at the gate which led to the camp, in order to prevent tumults; but the people were so eager to get to the spoil, and satisfy their hunger, that they paid no regard to authority; but, each man pressing forward, the crowd was so great, that whilst he interposed to keep order, he was trodden to death in the gate. Note; (1.) The wicked favourites of bad kings have often fallen the victims of popular rage. (2.) God's threatenings shall be as assuredly fulfilled as his promises. He who hath said, He that believeth shall be saved, hath as unalterably determined, that Whoso believeth not, shall be damned. (3.)
Human greatness or glory is no protection from the arm of the holy God. The greatest men are worms of dust before him: he treads on princes as mortar, and brings contempt on all the honourable of the earth.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany