Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 3:11

But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?" And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, "Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Armies;   Elisha;   Moabites;   Prophets;   Shaphat;   Thompson Chain Reference - Enquiring of God;   Holy Spirit;   Inquiring of God;   Inspiration;   Jehoshaphat;   Prophecy;   Prophets;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Diet of the Jews, the;   Hands, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Eating, Mode of;   Mesha;   Minister;   Washing;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Elisha;   Moab;   War;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Elijah;   Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Elisha;   Hand;   Jehoram;   Jehoshaphat;   Moabite Stone;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Banquets;   Dibon;   Elijah;   Judah, Kingdom of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Inquire of God;   King, Kingship;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Kir-Hareseth;   Mesha;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Edom, Edomites;   Elisha;   Hand;   Jehoshaphat;   Medeba;   Mesha;   Shaphat;   Water;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Bason;   Purification (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Joram, Jehoram;   Mesha ;   Moab, Moabites ;   Shaphat ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Kirharaseth;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Armor;   Arms;   Elisha;   Jehoshaphat;   Mesha;   Moab;   Samaria;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Eli'sha;   Sha'phat;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Hand;   Minister;   Urim and Thummim;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Army;   Basin;   Elijah;   Elisha;   Jehoram;   Shaphat;   War;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Banquets;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Elisha;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Is there not here a prophet of the Lord - The kings of Judah still acknowledged the true God, and him only.

Poured water on the hands of Elijah - That is, was his constant and confidential servant.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-kings-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A prophet of the Lord - i. e. of Yahweh. It was necessary to inquire thus definitely, as there were still plenty of prophets who were only prophets of Baal 2 Kings 3:13.

Here is Elisha - Jehoram appears to have been ignorant of his presence with the host, and one of his “servants,” or officers, answered Jehoshaphat‘s inquiry.

Which poured water - An act signifying ministration or attendance (compare John 13:5 ff).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-kings-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Kings 3:11

Elisha . . . which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

Contrast between Elijah and Elisha

The resemblances between Elijah and Elisha are occasionally so great, that it is scarcely surprising the one prophet is confused with the other. They both lived in one country and in one age. They were both the messengers of God to kings. They both wrought miracles, and even the same class of miracles, multiplying the widow’s off, and raising from the dead a mother’s only child. Last of all, the life-work of both was to withstand and witness against idolatry, and restore the worship of the true God in the land of Israel. And yet to the careful reader there is no contrast in the Bible more striking or complete. What John was to Peter, Mary to Martha, Melanchthon to Luther, that was Elisha the Prophet of Peace to Elijah the Desert Prophet--the Prophet of Fire. The one is John the Baptist, the other is the gentler John--the Evangelist, the disciple of love--who, leaning on his Master’s bosom, caught and breathed a kindred spirit. In place of the long shaggy locks that had marked the awful Elijah, the head of the new and youthful prophet was shorn and smooth. Instead of the sheepskin mantle, he wore the attire of the period. In his hand he carried a walking staff. His whole gait was that of the ordinary citizen. Elisha was no lonely man dwelling in the grot of Cherith or the solitudes of the wilderness. He had his own house in Samaria. He was known in far Damascus. Indeed the whole contrast between Elijah and Elisha is so significant and instructive as to be well worth following from point to point.

1. Elijah simply drops upon the scene. There is no warning, no period of pupilage or preparation. Of his previous history nothing whatever is known. Like Melchisedec he has neither “beginning of days nor end of life.” We meet Elisha, on the other hand, for the first time in his father’s fields, in “the meadow of the dance,” at Abel-meholah. Shaphat is a man of means, for he has twelve ploughs at work; a man of piety also, for he has refused to do homage at the shrine of Baal. In particular, he has trained his son to know Israel’s God.

2. During the whole of his public life--about twelve years at the most--Elijah to a large extent lived out of the world, or at least far above it, in stern sublimity. Elisha, on the other hand, is intimately mixed up with all the political movements and events of his day. Three kings seek him as their counsellor. Jehu is crowned at his bidding. Ben-hadad consults him in war. Joash attends at his death-bed. Whenever Elijah is seen in connection with kings and courts, it is always as their enemy--Ahab, Jezebel, Ahaziah. When Elisha is seen in the same connection, it is always as their friend--“My father, my father,” is their uniform and reverent mode of address.

3. The miracles wrought by the two prophets form another interesting point of contrast between Elijah and Elisha. It is noticeable that Elisha wrought twice as many miracles as Elijah did, suggesting the inference that the parting request had been complied with to the letter: “And Elisha said, I pray thee let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” On his introduction to work, Elijah begins with a miracle--the emblem of so much of his future career--a miracle of judgment: “There shall not be dew nor rain these years,” referring to the drought, “but according to My word.” Elisha begins with a miracle--the emblem also of so much of his future career--but it is a miracle of mercy: “There shall not be from thence,” speaking of the bitter waters of Jericho sweetened, “any more death or barren land.” The miracles of Elisha, in fact, remind us very much of the miracles of Christ--miracles of beneficence. The very grave of Elisha wrought a miracle that reads very like a miracle of Christ, for “when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet.”

4. As another point in the contrast between Elijah and Elisha, it cannot be out of a place to say that of Elisha, like Joshua the son of Nun, not a single infirmity or failing is recorded. This cannot be said of Elijah, for he fled into the wilderness and lay down under the juniper tree to escape a woman’s vengeance, and in despair to die. The humbler Elisha may do the greater work. There is every reason to believe that in reclaiming Israel from idolatry, by the conversion of individual men and women, the “still small voice” of Elisha, conjoined with his healing acts and social intercourse, accomplished wider and more permanent changes than the fire and storm and national upheaval caused by Elijah. Nor is this to be wondered at. The ministry of Elisha in Israel lasted nearly five times longer than the ministry of Elijah. The rough and pioneer work had already been done.

5. The translation of the one, the ordinary death by dissolution of the other. In conclusion, the whole career of Elisha supplies us with some serious and useful practical lessons. His special feature of character was this--holiness. He was “a holy man of God.” What a sublimity there is in this simple language! What honour or title is ever to be compared with it? Abraham was “the friend of God,” David was “the man after God’s own heart,” Daniel was “the man greatly beloved,” Elisha is “the man of God.” All social distinctions that count so much with men sink here into insignificance. Whatever else we are honourably known to be, let us seek to “be holy even as God is holy.” Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.” (H. J. Howat.)

The present ministry

A young man, who a few years ago was a student of Harvard College, became noted for his quiet offices of kindness, religious and otherwise, among the younger students. Without patronage, he seemed to adopt the role of eider brother to many a boy who, but for him, would have gone wrong and reaped the consequences. Some one asked a question one day, and drew out the secret. He had confided to his pastor his determination to “enter the ministry” as soon as he had graduated. “why not enter it now?” said the wise counsellor. “You will be all the better minister for ministering as you go along.”

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Kings 3:11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-kings-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But Jehoshaphat said, is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?.... This the good king should have done before be set out, but had neglected it; however, it was not too late:

and one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said; who might be one that feared the Lord, and was intimate with Elisha, or however had knowledge of him, as appears by what follows:

here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah; or ministered to him, as the Targum; was his menial servant, waited on him, and assisted him when he washed his handsF7See the like phrase of the business of a servant in Homer, Iliad. 3. ver. 270, & Iliad. 9. ver. 174. Odyss. 1. ver. 147. & Odyss. 3. ver. 388. & Odyss. 4. ver. 258,261. & passim. ; some Jewish writers understand it of his pouring water on the hand of Elijah at Carmel, when the altar and trench were filled with it, and when a miracle was wrought, as they fancy, and the fingers of Elijah became as fountains of water.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

But Jehoshaphat said, [Is there] not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here [is] Elisha the son of Shaphat, which f poured water on the hands of Elijah.

(f) That is, who was his servant.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-kings-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

which poured water on the hands of Elijah — that is, was his servant - this being one of the common offices of a servant. The phrase is used here as synonymous with “a true and eminent prophet,” who will reveal God‘s will to us.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

Is there not, … — This he should have asked before, when they first undertook the expedition, as he did in a like case, 1 Kings 22:5, and for that neglect he now suffers; but better late than never: his affliction brings him to the remembrance of his former sin, and present duty.

Poured water — Who was his servant; this being one office of a servant: and this office was the more necessary among the Israelites, because of the frequent washings which their law required. Probably it was by a special direction from God, that Elisha followed them, unasked, unobserved. Thus does God prevent us with the blessings of his goodness; and provide for those who provide not for themselves.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-kings-3.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Kings 3:11 But Jehoshaphat said, [Is there] not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here [is] Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

Ver. 11. Is there not here a prophet of the Lord?] Jehoram in this distress doth only quarrel and complain; but good Jehoshaphat bethinketh himself, though late first, of a prophet. Had this been done time enough, these straits had been avoided; but Nunquam sero, si serio.

Who poured water.] Was his household servant.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Kings 3:11. Which poured water on the hands of Elijah This is a fine eastern expression, signifying to serve or minister to. Houbigant renders it, who gave water to the hands of Elijah.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-kings-3.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Is there not here a prophet? this he should have asked before, when they first undertook the expedition, as he did in a like case, 1 Kings 22:5, and for that neglect he now suffers; but better late than never. His affliction brings him to the remembrance of his former sin and present duty.

Which poured water on the hands of Elijah, i.e. who was his servant; this being one office of a servant; and this office was the more necessary among the Israelites, because of the frequent washings which their law required.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-kings-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

11.A prophet of the Lord — Observe the different disposition of the two kings. Jehoram despairs; Jehoshaphat inquires of Jehovah. The idolatries of his father and mother had utterly unsettled the religion of Jehoram, but Jehoshaphat still cleaves to the God of Israel.

Here is Elisha — It seems that this prophet had accompanied or followed the host, and though not in the camp, was near at hand. He had probably been instructed by the Lord to follow the host, so as to be ready to make known Jehovah’s will and power.

Poured water on the hands of Elijah — An Oriental expression denoting the usual office and work of a servant. After a meal in which knives and forks are not used “washing the hands and mouth is indispensable, and the ibriek and tusht — their pitcher and ewer — are always brought, and the servant, with a napkin over his shoulder, pours water on your hands. If there is no servant, they perform this office for each other. Great men have those about them whose special business is to pour water on the hands.” — Thomson.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-3.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Elias, a proverbial expression to denote that he waited upon him, though the prophet's rough manner of living would require but little attendance. So John the Baptist speaks of untying our Saviour's shoes, Matthew iii. (Calmet) --- Providence had sent Eliseus to attend the army (Haydock) contrary to his custom. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-kings-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Is there not here . . . ? A similar question asked before by Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:7).

poured water, &c. Put by Figure of speech Metonymy (of Adjunct), App-6, for being an attendant.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

Which poured water on the hands of Elijah - i:e., was his servant-this being one of the common offices of a servant; for the custom is not to plunge one's hands into a basin, but to hold them out, so that a servant may pour water on the hands of his master. One who is the servant of a holy Prayer of Manasseh 1:1 :e., a priest or dervish, is, on this account, highly esteemed (Joseph Wolff's 'Missionary Labours,' p. 493).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(11) But (and) Jehoshaphat . . . by him?—The same question is asked by Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:7.

By him.—Heb., from with him (mç’ôthô for mç’ittô, both here and in the parallel place—a mark of the same hand). Jehoshaphat is for “seeking Jehovah” through a prophet, in contrast with Jehoram, who at once despairs. (Comp. Amos 5:4; Amos 5:8; and Note on 1 Chronicles 13:3; 2 Chronicles 15:2.)

One of the king of Israel’s servants.—One of the king’s staff, who, like Obadiah (1 Kings 18:3), was perhaps a friend of the prophets of Jehovah.

Here is Elisha.—The prophet must have followed the army of his own accord, or rather, as Keil suggests, under a Divine impulse, in order that, when the hour of trial came, he might point Jehoram to Jehovah as the only true God.

Which poured water on the hands of Elijah.—Was the personal attendant of that greatest of prophets. The phrase alludes to the well-known Oriental custom of the servant pouring water from a ewer on his master’s hands to wash them.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
Is there not here
1 Kings 22:7; Psalms 74:9; Amos 3:7
that we may
1,3; Joshua 9:14; Judges 20:8-11,18,23,26-28; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 14:10,14; 15:13
poured water
That is, was his constant and confidential servant. Mr. Hanway, speaking of a Persian supper, says, "Supper being now brought in, a servant presented a basin of water, and a napkin hung over his shoulders; he went to every one in the company, and poured water on their hands to wash."
Genesis 18:4; Joshua 1:1; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 22:26,27; John 13:4,5,13,14; 1 Timothy 5:10; Philippians 2:22
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 22:5 - Inquire;  2 Kings 4:12 - servant;  2 Kings 6:15 - servant;  2 Kings 8:8 - inquire;  2 Kings 22:13 - inquire;  2 Chronicles 18:6 - Is there not;  Proverbs 27:18 - so;  Jeremiah 21:2 - Inquire;  Jeremiah 37:17 - Is there;  Acts 13:5 - their

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:11". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-3.html.