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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
2 Kings 6

 

 

Verse 1

And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.

The place where we dwell with thee - margin, 'sit before thee.' The one points to a common residence, the other to a common place of meeting. The tenor of the narrative shows the humble condition of Elisha's pupils. The place was either Beth-el or Jericho-probably the latter. The ministry and miracles of Elisha brought great accessions to his schools.


Verse 2

Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.

Let us go ... unto Jordan - whose wooded banks would furnish plenty of timber.


Verse 3-4

And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 5

But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.

It was borrowed - literally, begged. The scholar's distress arose from the consideration that the axe had been lent to him; and that owing to his poverty he could not procure another.


Verse 6

And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.

Cut down a stick, and cast it in there . Although this means was used, it had no natural adaptation to make the iron swim. Besides, the Jordan is at Jericho so deep and rapid that there were a thousand chances to one against the stick falling into the hole of the axehead. All attempts to account for the recovery of the lost implement on such a theory must be rejected. "The iron did swim" - only by the miraculous exertion of Elisha's power.


Verse 7

Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp.

The king of Syria warred against Israel. This seems to have been a sort of guerilla warfare, carried on by predatory inroads on different parts of the country. Elisha apprised king Jehoram of the secret purposes of the enemy, so, by adopting precautionary measures, he was always enabled to anticipate and defeat their attacks. The frequency of his disappointments having led the Syrian king to suspect some of his servants of carrying on a treacherous correspondence with the enemy, he was informed about Elisha, whose apprehension he forthwith determined to effect. This resolution was, of course, grounded on the belief that however great the knowledge of Elisha might be, if seized and kept a prisoner, he could no longer give information to the king of Israel.


Verses 9-12

And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 13

And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

Dothan - or Dothaim; a little north of Samaria (see the notes at Genesis 37:17).


Verse 14

Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 15

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

His servant said ... Alas, my master! how shall we do? On the Syrian detachment surrounding the place by night, for the apprehension of the prophet, his servant was paralyzed with fear. This was a new servant, who had only been with hint since Gehazi's dismissal, and, consequently, had little or no experience of his masters powers. His faith was easily shaken by so unexpected an alarm.


Verse 16

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 17

And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Elisha prayed ... that he may see - the invisible guard of angels that encompass and defend us (Psalms 34:7). The opening of the eyes, which Elisha prayed for, referred to the spirit, not to the body. The eye of faith sees the reality of the divine presence and protection where all is vacancy or darkness to the ordinary eye. The horses and chariots were symbols of the divine power (see the notes at 2 Kings 2:12); and their fiery nature denoted their supernatural origin; for fire, the most ethereal of earthly elements, is the most appropriate symbol of the Godhead (Keil).


Verse 18

And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness - not a total and material blindness-for then they could not have followed him-but a mental hallucination (see the notes at Genesis 19:11), that they did not perceive or recognize him to be the object of their search. The Syriac and Arabic versions convey the impression that their sight was obscured by a dense fog or haze.


Verse 19

And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.

This is not the way, neither is this the city. This is considered by some as a falsehood or equivocation, like the falsehood of Abraham to Abimelech and Pharaoh, of Isaac to Pharaoh, of Rebekah and Jacob to Isaac, and many of the patriarchs. But the statement is so far true, that, as he had now left the place of his residence, they would not have got him by that road. But the ambiguity of his language was purposely framed to deceive them; and yet the deception must be viewed in the light of a stratagem, which has always been deemed lawful in war.

He led them to Samaria. When they were arrived in the midst of the capital, their eyes, at Elisha's request, were opened, and they then became aware of their defenseless condition, for Jehoram had received private premonition of their arrival. The king, so far from being allowed to slay the enemies who were thus unconsciously put in his power, was recommended to entertain them with liberal hospitality, and then dismiss them to their own country. This was a humane advice; it was contrary to the usage of war to put war-captives to death in cold blood, even when taken at the point of the sword, much more those whom the miraculous power and providence of God had unexpectedly placed at his disposal. In such circumstances, kind and hospitable treatment was every way more becoming in itself, and would be productive of the best effects. It would redound to the credit of the true religion, which inspired such an excellent spirit into its professors; and it would not only prevent the future opposition of the Syrians, but make them stand in awe of a people who, they had seen, were so remarkably protected by a prophet of the Lord. The latter clause of 2 Kings 6:23 shows that these salutary effects were fully realized. A moral conquest had been gained over the Syrians.


Verses 20-23

And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 24

And it came to pass after this, that Ben-ha'dad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.

Ben-hadad ... besieged Samaria. This was the predicted accomplishment of the result of Ahab's foolish and misplaced kindness (1 Kings 20:42).


Verse 25

And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver.

An ass' head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver. Though the donkey was deemed unclean food, necessity might warrant their violation of a positive law when mothers, in their extremity, were found violating the laws of nature. The head was the worst part of the animal. Eighty pieces of silver, equal to œ5, 5s.

The fourth part of a cab. A cab was the smallest dry measure. The proportion here stated was nearly half a pint for 12 shillings, 6d. "Dove's dung" is thought by Bochart to be a kind of pulse or pea, common in Judaea, and still kept in the storehouses of Cairo and Damascus, and other places, for the use of it by pilgrim caravans. By Linnoeus and other botanists it is said to be the root or white bulb of the plant Orithogalum umbellatum, Star of Bethlehem. The sacred historian does not say that the articles here named were not regularly sold at the rates described, but only that instances were known of such high prices being given.


Verse 26

And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king.

As the king ... was passing - to look at the defenses, or to give some necessary orders for manning the walls.


Verse 27-28

And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress?

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 29

So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.

We boiled my son, and did eat him - (see the notes at Deuteronomy 28:53.)


Verse 30

And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.

Had sackcloth ... upon his flesh. The horrid recital of this domestic tragedy led the king soon after to rend his garment, in consequence of which it was discovered that he wore a penitential shirt of haircloth. Mourners (2 Samuel 3:31) and the prophets (Matt. 3:24 ) wore sackcloth-a large square piece of coarse cloth, wrapped round the person and fastened at the waist by a girdle. The common practice was to wear the sackcloth over the underdress-the more closely fitting tunic; and accordingly the words signifying putting on or off the sackcloth are the same which are used to gird or to loosen any external article of dress. This rough material was sometimes worn next the skin, and as it is affirmed here of the king of Israel, the fact seems to betoken the depth of his mental distress. It is more than doubtful, however, if he was truly humbled on account of his own and the nation's sins, otherwise he would not have vowed vengeance on the prophet's life. The true explanation seems to be, that Elisha having counseled him not to surrender, with the promise, on condition of deep humiliation, of being delivered, and he having assumed the signs of contrition without receiving the expected relief, regarded Elisha, who had proved false and faithless, as the cause of all the protracted distress.


Verse 31

Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 32

But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?

But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him. The latter clause of 2 Kings 6:33, which contains the king's impatient exclamation, enables us to account for the impetuous order he issued for the beheading of Elisha. Though Jehoram was a wicked king, and most of his courtiers would resemble their master, many had been won over, through the prophet's influence, to the true religion. A meeting, probably a prayer-meeting, of those was held in his house, probably the school of the prophets (2 Kings 6:1-2), and them he not only apprised of the king's design against himself, but disclosed to them the proof of a premeditated deliverance.

Shut the door, and hold him fast at the door - because the messenger would be sent immediately by the king, who would revoke the rash and inconsiderate order.


Verse 33

And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD what should I wait for the LORD any longer?

While he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger. [The Septuagint has: angelos (Greek #32), as if they understood a second messenger had come, bearing the utterance with which the chapter ends.] That utterance is apparently a response to an exhortation of the prophet to wait the Lord's way and time of deliverance; and the import of the king's answer is, that while he could not but acknowledge this evil, so heavily scourging the land, was from the Lord, he thought the condition of the kingdom was beyond remedy desperate, since mothers were appeasing the pangs of hunger with the flesh of their own children.

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-6.html. 1871-8.

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Sunday, January 26th, 2020
the Third Sunday after Epiphany
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