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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Kings 8

Verse 1

2 Kings 8:1. Then spake Elisha, &c.— Elisha had said, &c. So 2 Kings 8:2. And the woman had arisen, and done, &c. Houbigant: who conjectures from the 4th verse, that this event happened before Gehazi was stricken with leprosy.

Verse 10

2 Kings 8:10. Go say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover, &c.— Go say, Thou shalt certainly not live, &c. See Kennicott's first Dissert. p. 163.; but Houbigant thinks that ours is the just translation, and that the words contain a silent reproof from Elisha, who well knew that a courtier like Hazael would certainly flatter his king; and therefore the meaning, according to this interpretation, is, "Go THOU, and, courtier-like, say to him, you will certainly recover; howbeit, the Lord hath shewn me very much the contrary; he will surely die, and die by your traitorous hand." See 2Ki 8:15 and Waterland's Script. Vind. part 2: p. 122.

Verse 11

2 Kings 8:11. And he settled his countenance "He [Hazael] keeping his countenance, continued with the same look for some time, while the man of God wept." Hazael pretended surprise at the answer of Elisha, desirous to conceal from him the satisfaction which he had in the intelligence of his king's death. Houbigant.

Verse 12

2 Kings 8:12. And will dash their children, &c.— 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 quite 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, ch. 2Ki 10:32-33 verified this part of the prophet's prediction concerning him; for what Amos, complaining of his cruelty to this people, calls threshing Gilead with threshing-instruments of iron, both the LXX and Arabic versions read, He sawed the big-bellied women with iron saws. Le Clerc and Calmet.

Verse 13

2 Kings 8:13. Hazael said, But what, &c.— When the prophet with tears foretold to Hazael what calamities he should hereafter bring upon Israel, his ambition instantly took fire, and he cried out with transport, "What! thy servant! a dog! that he should do the great [word] deed!" This is the literal translation of the passage. That of our Bible has stood in the front of many a fine declamation utterly wide of the real sentiment of Hazael. His exclamation was not the result of horror; his expression has no tincture of it, but of the unexpected glimpse of a crown. The prophet's answer is plainly calculated to satisfy the astonishment that he had excited: a dog bears not in Scripture the character of a cruel, but of a despicable animal; nor does he who is shocked with barbarity call it a GREAT deed. We may also observe, that it is evident from this transaction, that Hazael was now entirely ignorant of his designation to the throne of Syria, and consequently could not have been anointed by Elijah, 1 Kings 19:15. We must therefore take the command, in a figurative sense, to denote no more than God's purpose or determination that Hazael should succeed to the throne of Syria, to execute the designs of his providence upon the people of Israel, as Cyrus for the same reason is called the Lord's anointed; Isa 45:1 though he was never properly anointed by God: or, if we take it in a literal sense, we must suppose some reason why Elijah waved the execution of that command, which probably might be his foresight of the many calamities that Hazael, when advanced to the crown, would bring upon Israel.

Verse 15

2 Kings 8:15. He took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water He did this that no signs of violence might appear upon him; for had the murder been in the least suspected, Hazael could not so easily have acceded to the throne; because, according to the account of Josephus, Ben-hadad was a man of such reputation among the people of Syria and Damascus, that, as his memory was celebrated among them with divine honours, his death, no doubt, had it been known to have been violent, would have been fully revenged upon the murderers. History makes mention of other princes who have died in the same manner. The emperor Tiberius, according to Suetonius, was in his last sickness choked in his bed by a pillow crammed into his mouth, or, as Tacitus has it, was smothered under a vast load of bed-clothes; and king Demetrius, the son of Philip, as well as the emperor Frederick II. was hurried out of the world in the same way. See Calmet, and Joseph. Antiq. lib. ix. c. 2.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. The advice of Elisha to his kind hostess at Shunem. He warned her to remove betimes to some neighbouring country, because of the approaching famine; and, Philistia being near, she there fixed her abode. Note; (1.) Men's sins provoke God's judgments, and his own unfaithful Israel shall feel the scourge heavier than even their idolatrous neighbours. (2.) The prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.

2. As soon as the famine was over, she hasted home, and, to her grief, either found her land seized by the officers for the crown, as forfeited for her leaving the kingdom; or the person entrusted with it refused to give up possession. For want of a friend with the king, which once she thought she should never need, see chap. 2Ki 4:13 she is constrained to apply to him herself for redress; and so providence graciously ordered it, that at this very instant he was discoursing with Gehazi, Elisha's servant, about his miracles, and this very woman and her son were the subject, who now opportunely appear to confirm his narrative. Gehazi's being still Elisha's servant shews that this event preceded the cure of Naaman, and the siege of Samaria. Note; (1.) A strange coincidence of events, exactly suited to accomplish our desires, proves often to a demonstration the finger of an overruling Governor. (2.) God can raise us up friends, in our difficulties, where we least expected them.

3. The king, having heard from the woman herself the confirmation of Gehazi's report, orders an officer to put her in possession of her estate, and see that every farthing of the profits of it, from the day when she left it, be faithfully accounted for. Note; (1.) If the ears of kings are open to the cries of the oppressed, how much more will the King of kings hear their prayers and help them. (2.) The glory of a government is the righteous and impartial administration of justice.

2nd, What brought Elisha to Damascus is uncertain; what he did there, we are informed.
1. He is consulted by Ben-hadad concerning the event of his sickness. The king of Syria was no sooner apprized of his being there, than the report of his former miracles weighed more with him than all his idol gods, and he places greater confidence in the prophet of the Lord, than in all the priests of Damascus. With great respect he addresses him, sends his prime minister to be his messenger, and orders a magnificent present, as a token of his regard. Note; (1.) Sickness and death pay no compliments to crowned heads. (2.) Many on their death-beds send to God's ministers, who, all their lives long, paid little or no regard to them. (3.) The sinner that lieth sick is usually more solicitous to know, Shall I recover? than to inquire, What shall I do to be saved?

Verse 19

2 Kings 8:19. To give him alway a light, and to his children That he should always have a light in his children. Houbigant.

Verse 26

2 Kings 8:26. Athaliah, the daughter of Omri Houbigant reads it, The daughter of Ahab, the son of Omri.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. An account of the wicked reign of Jehoram king of Judah, who, during his father's life, was associated with him to govern. Utterly unlike the good Jehoshaphat, he cleaved to the sins of the house of Ahab; and having taken his daughter to wife, she poisoned his heart with her idolatries. Note; (1.) Good men, to their grief, have often very wicked children. (2.) A wicked wife is among the greatest of God's plagues. (3.) Nothing can be so dangerous to young men as bad connections. Much more easily will they imbibe the principles and practices of a wicked Ahab, than of a pious Jehoshaphat.

2nd, Ahaziah succeeded his father, and walked, like him, in the wicked ways of Ahab's family. What else could be expected from the son of Jezebel's daughter, and the example of a father so abandoned? At the request of Joram his uncle, he went to battle with him to Ramoth-gilead, where Joram was wounded, and, having taken the place, was carried to Jezreel to be healed. Thither Ahaziah went to visit him, and met, as we shall find, the death he deserved. Note; (1.) When the sinner's body is wounded, how solicitous is he to be healed, whilst the more dangerous wounds of his soul, neglected, stink and are corrupt through his foolishness! (2.) Friendship with the wicked is the path of death.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-kings-8.html. 1801-1803.