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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 8

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. The woman, whose son he had restored The wealthy woman of Shunem. See 2 Kings 4:8-27. This narrative shows other ways, besides the ones already recorded, in which Elisha proved a blessing to this woman. He advises her to go and sojourn in a foreign land during the coming famine, and after her return the influence of his former miracles for her is instrumental in the recovery of her lost possessions.

The Lord hath called for a famine “Famines do not come by chance, but they are messengers whom the Lord calls, and whom he sends to call his people to repentance.” Wordsworth.

Seven years A famine terrible by reason of its long continuance; just twice the duration of the drought foretold by Elijah in the days of Ahab. 1 Kings 17:1. Compare Luke 4:25. This famine was quite probably identical with the dearth mentioned 2 Kings 4:38.

Verse 3

3. To cry unto the king for her house During her long absence others had taken possession of her house and land, but whether it had been seized by public authority or otherwise does not appear. See Thomson’s note below. From 2 Kings 8:5 we learn that this woman’s son, whom Elisha had restored to life, accompanied her on this occasion.

Verse 4

4. The king talked with Gehazi Many of the best expositors suppose this conversation took place before Gehazi became leprous, and therefore before the cleansing of Naaman. This is very probable, for it is not likely that the king would talk much with a leper, and we have already observed that the chronology of Jehoram’s reign is uncertain and obscure. See note at the beginning of chap. 3. But it must not be denied that this talk with Gehazi might have occurred after the latter became leprous. Though a leper, and no longer in the service of his old master, he might still have been known and spoken of as the servant of the man of God, and the king’s insatiable curiosity to learn the private history of Elisha might have led him to hold a conversation with a leper. The supposition of some divines, that Gehazi repented and had his curse of leprosy revoked, is an unfounded conjecture, destitute of the least shadow of support in Scripture, and in direct opposition to Elisha’s solemn sentence, “The leprosy shall cleave unto thee and unto thy seed forever.” 2 Kings 5:27.

Verse 6

6. Restore all that was hers Her estate was of no small value, for, according to 2 Kings 4:8. she was a great, that is, a wealthy and influential person at Shunem.

All the fruits of the field All the produce that her land had yielded for the seven years, whether it were more or less. She was thus reimbursed according to the yield of the land.

On the above narrative Dr. Thomson has the following: “It is still common for even petty sheiks to confiscate the property of any person who is exiled for a time, or who moves away temporarily from his district. Especially is this true of widows and orphans, and the Shunammite was now a widow. And small is the chance to such of having their property restored, unless they can secure the mediation of some one more influential than themselves. The conversation between the king and Gehazi about his master is also in perfect keeping with the habits of Eastern princes; and the appearance of the widow and her son so opportunely, would have precisely the same effect now that it had then. The thing happened just as recorded.

It is too natural to be an invention or fabrication.”

Verse 7


7. Elisha came to Damascus To fulfil the word of the Lord spoken long before to Elijah. See 1 Kings 19:15, and note there.

Verse 8

8. Inquire of the Lord by him It is noticeable that this heathen king sends in his sickness to inquire, not of his own gods, but of the prophet of Jehovah. This was doubtless owing to his knowledge of what Elisha had done for Naaman, the captain of his host. In the days of his health and prosperity he had not heeded the lesson of Naaman’s cure, but in the hour of sickness he consults the same wonderful physician.

Verse 9

9. Forty camels’ burden “There is often in these countries,” observes Harmer, “a great deal of pomp and parade in presenting gifts, and that not only when they are presented to princes, or governors of provinces, but where they are of a more private nature. ‘Through ostentation,’ says one writer, ‘they never fail to load upon four or five horses what might easily be carried by one.’ In like manner as to jewels, trinkets, and other things of value, they place in fifteen dishes what a single plate would very well hold.” Accordingly, we must not understand that this present for Elisha, though doubtless very large and valuable, and worthy of the king, was so great that it required forty camels to carry it, but must understand it in the light of this Oriental custom of making on such occasions as great a display as possible.

Shall I recover Literally, Shall I live?

Verse 10

10. Thou mayest certainly recover The Hebrew text, in accordance with a majority of Hebrew MSS., reads thus: Go, say, thou certainly shalt not live; or more literally, living thou shalt not live. Instead of לא , not, the Keri has לו , to him, and this reading our English translators, as well as the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Chaldee versions, have followed. The external evidence would seem to favour this latter reading, but the internal is certainly against it. In the very next sentence Elisha says, The Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die. The howbeit of the English version is in the Hebrew simply the copulative ו , and. The translation, thou mayest certainly recover, (that is, as some explain, it is possible for thee to recover from thy sickness, this disease shall not cause thy death,) is only a lame effort to escape the obvious inconsistency and contradiction that exists in the reading adopted by most of the versions. How unnatural and inexplicable that Elisha should order Hazael to go, and, in a matter of so solemn moment as death, deceive his king by uttering a positive falsehood! It is much more natural to suppose that Hazael, informed that he is destined to be king, went and deceived Ben-hadad by misconstruing Elisha’s words. See on 2 Kings 8:14. We therefore adopt the reading of the Hebrew text, and translate Elisha’s words thus: Go, say, Thou surely shalt not live. And Jehovah has shown me that he shall surely die. These words were doubtless uttered with much emotion, and this fact sufficiently explains the change from the second to the third person in the two sentences, and the insertion of the copulative and.

Verse 11

11. He settled his countenance steadfastly Literally, He made his countenance stand, and fixed it. That is, Elisha composed himself and fastened upon Hazael a deep, steadfast, searching gaze that seemed to read him through and through.

Until he was ashamed Until Hazael was ashamed. The prophet continued that steadfast, searching gaze, until Hazael blushed with embarrassment, not knowing what to say.

Man of God wept Here was another manifestation of Elisha’s emotion, greater even than that with which he had answered the question of Hazael.

Verse 12

12. I know the evil that thou wilt do All that long and steadfast gaze had been a fathoming of Hazael’s heart, and a kenning of his future life and destiny. It had already been foretold in the word of the Lord to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:17. The burning of Israelitish fortresses, and the other cruelties here named, which Hazael would perpetrate, all doubtless came to pass in the wars which this usurper carried on with Israel. See 2 Kings 8:28-29; 2 Kings 10:32-33; 2 Kings 12:17-18; 2 Kings 13:3-7; 2 Kings 13:22; and 2 Chronicles 24:23-24. Hazael reigned more than forty years, and seems generally to have had the advantage over the Israelites, and greatly oppressed them.

Verse 13

13. But what, is thy servant a dog There are two explanations of this verse. One makes it the language of horror; the other, that of delight and exulting surprise. The former is the one conveyed by the English version, and most generally adopted. Hazael expresses his horror and indignation at the thought that he should be such a mean dog as to perpetrate such wickedness as Elisha specified. And yet, according to this view, this showing of horror, and pretending to loathe such deeds of crime, might have been feigned and hypocritical. The other interpretation, less natural, supposes that if Hazael was horrified at the thought of such wickedness, he would not call it a great thing, and urges that a dog is an epithet of contempt, not of cruelty. Assuming that Hazael was delighted with the prospect of a crown, it makes him say, What is thy servant, the dog, that he should do this great thing! We prefer the former view, which makes Hazael repudiate the very thought of doing such base deeds. He would be at such a moment as likely to apply to himself a term of contempt as one of cruelty, and it must not be overlooked that Elisha had not yet informed him he would be king of Syria.

Thou shalt be king over Syria Until the prophet uttered these winds Hazael did not know his destiny, and therefore did not understand how he could perpetrate such deeds as Elisha mentioned. This thought excludes the view that Hazael’s words above were an exclamation of delighted surprise at the unexpected prospect of the throne. The command to Elijah a command now binding on Elisha was to anoint Hazael king over Syria, (1 Kings 19:15,) and this anointing was probably done by Elisha on this occasion though the fact is not recorded.

Verse 14

14. He told me… thou shouldest surely recover This, as we have seen above, is the exact opposite of what Elisha said, made so by the omission of the single word לא , not. Hazael thus deceived Ben-hadad, expecting, probably, to put him off his guard. He who had murder in his heart, and whom Elisha’s words had inspired to a boundless ambition, was none too good to lie.

Verse 15

15. He took Hazael, not, as some have thought, Ben-hadad, applied the cloth.

A thick cloth Probably a bed quilt, with which he suffocated the king; and this method of assassination would leave no marks of violence upon the dead. Thus Kitto: “The coverlets used in the East, where blankets are unknown, being thickly quilted with wool or cotton, become of great weight when soaked in water; and it thus became the fittest instrument for such a purpose that could be found about an Eastern bed; while the use of wet bedclothes in fever would prevent any suspicion arising from the coverlet being found saturated with moisture. It is an Eastern practice, in some kinds of fever, to wet the bedding, and it is in such cases often done with good effect; while in other kinds of fever such an application would be dangerous, if not fatal.”

Hazael reigned in his stead Ben-hadad perhaps died childless, and so Hazael’s accession to his throne may have been the more easily and quietly brought about.

Verse 16


16. Joram… Jehoram These names are used interchangeably, the one being merely a contraction of the other. Ahab and Jehoshaphat had each a son Jehoram, and these sons became brothers-in-law by the marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son with Ahab’s daughter. 2 Kings 8:18. See the note on 1 Kings 22:42; and on the chronology of this reign the note on 2 Kings 1:17.

Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah This confirms the supposition made in note on 2 Kings 1:17, that Jehoram began to reign during his father’s lifetime. Some MSS. and versions omit these words; but the weight of evidence is in favour of retaining them. This Jehoram’s reign is more fully described in 2 Chronicles 21:0.

Verse 18

18. For Introducing the reason or special cause why Jehoram walked in the way of the kings of Israel.

The daughter of Ahab was his wife Her name was Athaliah. Compare 2 Kings 8:26. This marriage was probably arranged and brought about by the parents of the parties, but it was the source of untold woes to the kingdom of Judah. It was the cause of Jehoram’s walking in the ways of the kings of Israel, just as Ahab’s marriage with Jezebel was instrumental in introducing Phenician idolatry into the northern kingdom. A comparison of ages given in 2 Kings 8:17; 2 Kings 8:26 shows that this marriage was consummated at an early age, for Joram’s youngest son, Ahaziah, was born when he was only eighteen years old, and he had other sons. See 2 Chronicles 21:17.

Verse 20

20. Edom revolted This was a determined and successful effort on the part of the Edomites to break away from the thraldom which had oppressed them ever since the days of David. See note on 1 Kings 22:47.

Verse 21

21. Zair This some have thought identical with Zoar, others a corruption of Seir, and others an erroneous reading of שׂריו , his princes, which is found in the parallel passage. 2 Chronicles 21:9. But these are all conjectures. It was doubtless the name of a place in the borders of Edom, which is now unknown.

Smote the Edomites which compassed him about He was victorious in this particular night engagement, but he failed to subdue the rebellion or subjugate the country.

And the captains of the chariots The captains of the enemies’ chariots; from which it appears that on this occasion the Edomites, as well as the Hebrews, fought with chariots.

The people fled into their tents That is, the Jewish people, the warriors of Joram. The whole passage is obscure from its brevity, but the general meaning is: Joram went with a great host, particularly strong in war-chariots, to subdue the revolt of the Edomites. Having arrived in their country, he is suddenly surrounded by the enemy, and makes a night attack upon them; smites many of them, especially the captains of their chariots, and succeeds in breaking through their ranks, when his whole army give over the battle and run away to their homes. The Edomites thus threw off the yoke of Judah, and fulfilled the ancient prophecy of Isaac. Genesis 27:40.

Verse 22

22. Edom revolted… unto this day Some sixty years later the Edomites were again subdued by Amaziah king of Judah, (chap. 2 Kings 14:7,) so that this record would seem to have been made before the reign of Amaziah. Or it may be, that the subjection of Edom to Amaziah and to his successor Azariah (2 Kings 14:21-22) was regarded as so temporary and partial as not to amount to a real crushing out of the revolt under Jehoram, for soon after, in the days of Ahaz, the Edomites made inroads upon Judah, (2 Chronicles 28:17,) and when the Chaldeans overthrew the Jewish state, and carried the Jews into captivity, the Edomites assisted in the conquest. Obadiah 1:11.

Libnah A city in the southwestern part of the Holy Land, whose inhabitants Joshua once utterly destroyed. See Joshua 10:29-30. Its site is now unknown. The slight notice of this revolt of Libnah indicates that it was of comparatively little importance, but its success shows the weakness of Jehoram’s reign.

Verse 24

24. Joram slept with his fathers He died of a horrible disease, and was buried unwept and unhonoured. Compare the account in 2 Chronicles 21:0.

Verse 25

AHAZIAH’S REIGN, 2 Kings 8:25-29.

25. Ahaziah the son of Jehoram His youngest son, called also Jehoahaz (2 Chronicles 21:27) and Azariah, (2 Kings 23:6.) All the older sons of Jehoram were carried off by the Philistines and Arabians.

Verse 26

26. Two and twenty years old Not forty and two, as 2 Chronicles 22:2, by some corruption, reads. His father died in his fortieth year, (2 Kings 8:17,) so that he must have begotten his youngest son when he was eighteen years old. This fact shows the early marriage of Joram and Athaliah. Compare note on 2 Kings 8:18.

Reigned one year His reign and life were brought to an untimely end by his being involved with the house of Ahab. See 2 Kings 9:16; 2Ki 9:23 ; 2 Kings 9:27-29.

The daughter of Omri She was the granddaughter of Omri, as is seen from 2 Kings 8:18; but the word “daughter” is often thus used in the more general sense of female descendant.

Genesis 28:8; Judges 11:40; 2 Samuel 1:20. The name of Omri seems to be mentioned rather than that of Ahab to remind the reader once more of the origin of this wicked dynasty, which is soon to be cut off.

Verse 27

27. He walked in the way of the house of Ahab “For,” says 2 Chronicles 22:3, “his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.” The same wicked woman led both his father and himself into ruin.

He was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab He, like his father, had married a wife of the daughters of Omri, so that he “was connected with the house of Ahab by a double tie of mother and wife.” Wordsworth.

Verse 28

28. Went with Joram His uncle.

To the war against Hazael Here already we meet with that Hazael who treated with such contempt and apparent abhorrence the thought that he should commit sore evils against Israel, (2 Kings 8:13,) engaged in war with that people. This battle was at Ramoth-gilead, the old spot so much contested between the kings of Israel and Syria. 1 Kings 22:3. At this time it was retaken from the Syrians by Joram’s forces, and held in spite of all Hazael’s efforts to recover it. 2 Kings 9:14.

The Syrians wounded Joram While besieging Ramoth-gilead, according to Josephus, he was struck by an arrow from one of the Syrian archers.

Verse 29

29. Joram went back to be healed Not, however, until after he had taken possession of Ramoth, which he left in charge of Jehu.

Ramah The same with Ramoth-gilead.

Ahaziah… went down to see Joram… in Jezreel He was led there by a punitive arrangement of Divine Providence to meet his doom. Compare 2 Kings 9:27, and 2 Chronicles 22:7.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-kings-8.html. 1874-1909.
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