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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
2 Kings 8

 

 

Verses 1-29

ELISHA AND THE SYRIAN INVASION

THE STRATAGEM AT DOTHAN (2 Kings 6:8-23)

The incident in 2 Kings 6:1-7 seems an interpolation; and some think it belongs at 2 Kings 4:38 in connection with the two miracles, having a somewhat similar occasion. “Swim” (2 Kings 6:6) is in the Hebrew the same as “float,” and the idea seems to be that by throwing the stick into the water the iron was caused to come to the surface where the young man could get it.

It is difficult to say when the event of 2 Kings 6:8 occurred, but it is assumed in the reign of Jehoram, with which we have been dealing since Elisha’s ministry began. At a time when the Syrians were intending to encamp at a particular spot, and attack the Israelites as they passed by, the prophet gave warning to Jehoram, which enabled the latter to station troops in the threatened position and frustrate their plans (2 Kings 6:8-10).

This disconcerted the Syrian king, and, learning the truth of the matter, he tried to get hold of Elisha (2 Kings 6:11-14).

The “servant” of 2 Kings 6:15 is not Gehazi. To “open the eyes” (2 Kings 6:17) meant to give that soul-vision which the bodily members can never behold. The horses and chariots of fire were the symbols of Jehovah’s presence and might. “Blindness” (2 Kings 6:18) is not absolute loss of sight, but an inability to recognize the prophet.

Elisha’s words (2 Kings 6:19) are not an untruth, as his real residence was Samaria; and in the end he led them to himself, not to harm them, but repay evil with good (2 Kings 6:21-23). His inquiry of the king (2 Kings 6:22) presents difficulty, but probably means “could’st thou be justified in slaying with sword and bow these whom thou hast taken captive?” (See Deuteronomy 20:10-13.)

THE FAMINE IN SAMARIA (2 Kings 6:24 to 2 Kings 7:20)

An interval of some time must be considered since the close of 2 Kings 6:23. The famine caused by the siege was intense as gathered by the price paid for the meanest food (2 Kings 6:25). “Dove’s dung” is understood by some as an insignificant species of pease resembling it.

The king’s putting the blame on the prophet (2 Kings 6:30-31) recalls what episode in Elijah’s time? Had Elisha advised against the surrender of the city, or did the king think he might have put an end to the distress in some other way? 2 Kings 6:33 suggests that the king, who had doubtless followed his messengers, had repented of his threat against Elisha, but nevertheless had lost hope in Jehovah.

This brings forth the new promise of 2 Kings 8:1-2. The remainder of the chapter presents no difficulties, but we should note the fulfilled prediction (2 Kings 6:19-20).

THE END OF BEN-HADAD’S REIGN (2 Kings 8:1-15)

The event referred to (2 Kings 8:1-6) doubtless took place sometime before this, as the records of Elisha’s ministry are not arranged chronologically. Compare 2 Kings 4:38 for the period. Gehazi’s appearance (2 Kings 8:4-5) further strengthens the thought that it was before his offense and punishment by leprosy.

The event that follows is tragical indeed (2 Kings 8:7-15). Hazael, though not related to Ben-hadad, had been the divine choice as his successor (1 Kings 19:15). When Elisha says the king may recover, yet he shall surely die, he is telling the exact truth, as 2 Kings 8:15 portrays. Had Hazael not murdered him he would have lived. It was Elisha who looked at Hazael until the latter was ashamed, as he might well have been (2 Kings 8:11).

QUESTIONS

1. Give in your words the story leading up to the event at Dothan.

2. How would you harmonize the prophet’s words to the Syrian soldiers?

3. What striking prediction is fulfilled in this lesson?

4. What allusion in 4:38 leads to the supposition that the opening of this lesson refers to that period?

5. How would you harmonize Elisha’s words about Ben-hadad?


Verses 25-28

THE OVER-ZEALOUS JEHU

PRELIMINARY EVENTS (2 Kings 8:25-29)

The last lesson should have spoken of the chronological difficulties in the history of the kings of this period. (Compare especially 8:16 with 1:17.) But all our space will permit is to say that all such difficulties are satisfactorily solved, without doing violence to the text, in “The Romance of Chronology,” by Anstey; who in turn quotes Dr. John Lightfoot, of the seventeenth Century, Beecher’s Dated Events of the Old Testament, and The Companion Bible, published by the Oxford Press.

The story of blood and awful judgment from God begins at 8:25, where Ahaziah succeeds Jehoram as king of Israel. This is not the earlier Ahaziah

of Israel (l Kings 22:51) any more than the two Jorams or Jehorams were the same persons, of whom we studied in the last lesson. He is called Jehoahaz in 2 Chronicles 21:17, and in 22:2, he is said to have been forty-two when he began to reign. This is an intentional variation intended to teach a divine truth. On its face it makes him two years older than his father, but it should read, “a son of forty-two years was Ahaziah when he began to reign .... and his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri.”

The Holy Spirit will not have him for a son of David. He is an imp of the house of wicked Omri, and as such a son of forty-two years, which was exactly the age of that dynasty. (Compare to Psalms 109:13-15.) Note, too, that this interpretation is confirmed by Matthew (Matthew 1:8), who omits him from the Kings of Judah, saying that Jehoram his father begat Uzziah, his great, great grandson, the fourth in the direct line of descent. (Compare Exodus 20:5.) Like his father, he was a wicked man (2 Kings 9:16-18), and the fruit of his grandfather Jehoshaphat’s compromising attitude towards Israel. (Compare 2 Kings 9:18.) The reference to his mother (2 Kings 8:26) is not contradictory, as “daughter’’ may sometimes be rendered “granddaughter” in translating the Hebrew. He was closely affiliated with his uncle, king of Israel (2 Kings 8:28-29) and this led ultimately to his unnatural death in the next chapter.

JEHU ANOINTED AND PROCLAIMED KING (2 Kings 9:1-13)

Elijah received the commission from God to anoint Jehu (1 Kings 19:16), but he was fulfilling it in his successor, as the latter was doing so in the representative of the school of the prophets whom he sent on the divine errand (2 Kings 9:1-2). Jehu’s father is not the Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22:4).

This Jehu is a military commander in Israel, perhaps next to the king and, as the sequel shows, a bold and popular one. He is now in the company of his fellow captains near the scene of battle where Joram left them when he went to Jezreel wounded. These captains recognize the validity of his anointing and by laying their garments on the steps for him to mount on, do him obeisance as they sound the trumpets of proclamation (2 Kings 9:11-13).

HIS CONSPIRACY AGAINST JORAM (2 Kings 9:14-16)

The army is not informed of what is transpiring (2 Kings 9:15), but Jehu and a few followers advance upon Jezreel and the king (2 Kings 9:16). The latter thinks he is bringing news of the battle after he had left (2 Kings 9:17-21), but he is soon undeceived (2 Kings 9:22-23). “The whoredoms of thy mother” (Jezebel) doubtless meant her idolatry with Baal. “The Lord laid this burden upon him” (2 Kings 9:25), means “the Lord uttered this prophecy against him” (see 1 Kings 21). Be not deceived by the thought that Jehu is doing all this out of zeal for God, as the sequel shows that zeal for Jehu was the stronger motive.

THE MURDER OF AHAZIAH AND JEZEBEL (2 Kings 9:27-37)

2 Chronicles 22:8 gives other details of Ahaziah’s death which, for want of light, are difficult to reconcile with the record, and which therefore must be passed over. Another difficulty is the discrepancy as to the date when he began to reign, whether it was the eleventh year to Joram (1 Kings 9:29) or the twelfth as stated previously (2 Kings 8:25); but the explanation may be that he reigned with his father for one year before the latter’s death. (The probable reason for this is in 2 Chronicles 21:20.) For the significance of Jezebel’s challenge to Jehu (2 Kings 9:31) see 1 Kings 16:9, which details previous actions of Zimri, one of Jehu’s officials.

THE SLAUGHTER OF THE FAMILIES OF AHAB AND AHAZIAH (2 Kings 10:1-14)

The “seventy sons” of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1) mean doubtless his grandsons and all who might have any pretense to the throne. Jehu asks the men in authority at the capital (Samaria) and the summer palace (Jezreel) to place any of these on the throne, and rally to his support if they chose (2 Kings 10:2-3); but they are afraid to do so, and instead surrender to Jehu (2 Kings 10:4-5). Then he bids them go further (2 Kings 10:6-7); and subsequently uses their deed as an argument before the people that the leaders are on his side, and that the word of the Lord is fulfilled in his accession (2 Kings 10:8-10). The slaughter of the relatives of Ahaziah follows (2 Kings 10:12-14).

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PROPHETS OF BAAL (2 Kings 10:15-28)

Of Jehonadab we read in Jeremiah 34. He seems to have been an honorable man in Israel, a worshipper of the true God, whose presence with Jehu contributed to the latter’s influence with the people (2 Kings 10:15-16). This part of our story shows that, although Baal’s worship received a serious setback in the days of Elijah, yet it had been restored to practically its former power in the kingdom (2 Kings 10:18-28).

Jehu’s real character is shown in 2 Kings 10:29, in the face of which one is astonished to read 2 Kings 10:30. But God was dealing with him as one who was hired for what he did. Had his heart been right with God his kingdom might have been established for generations, but as it was he could not complain.

God now begins His final work in Israel (2 Kings 10:32-33). The time is coming when the axe will fall at the root of the tree and the whole nation be carried away for its iniquity; but intimations of this are sent to warn and, if possible, bring them to repentance.

QUESTIONS

1. can the chronological difficulties be solved in the history of the Kings of Judah?

2. How would you explain the difficulty as to the age of Ahaziah?

3. What kings of similar names are met with in Israel and Judah?

4. What have you learned of Jehu’s history?

5. What are the circumstances under which he is proclaimed king?

6. What prophecies are fulfilled in this lesson?

7. What are some of the difficulties found in it?

8. What record has Jehonadab in Jeremiah?

9. How is Jehu’s real character revealed?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 8:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/2-kings-8.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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