2 Kings 6

CHAPTER VI

The sons of the prophets wish to enlarge their dwelling-place,

and go to the banks of Jordan to cut down wood, when one of

them drops his axe into the water, which Elisha causes to

swim. 1-7.

Elisha, understanding all the secret designs of the king of

Syria against Israel, informs the king of Israel of them,

8-10.

The king of Syria, finding that Elisha had thus penetrated his

secrets and frustrated his attempts, sends a great host to

Dothan, to take the prophet; the Lord strikes them with

blindness; and Elisha leads the whole host to Samaria, and

delivers them up to the king of Israel, 11-19.

The Lord opens their eyes, and they see their danger, 20.

But the king of Israel is prevented from destroying them; and,

at the order of the prophet, gives them meat and drink, and

dismisses them to their master, 21-23.

Ben-hadad besieges Samaria, and reduces the city to great

distress, of which several instances are given, 24-30.

The king of Israel vows the destruction of Elisha, and sends

to have him beheaded, 31-33.

NOTES ON CHAP. VI

Verse 1. The place-is too strait for us.] Notwithstanding the

general profligacy of Israel, the schools of the prophets

increased. This was no doubt owing to the influence of Elisha.

Verse 2. Every man a beam] They made a sort of log-houses with

their own hands.

Verse 5. Alas, master! for it was borrowed.]

ahah adonia, vehu shaul! Ah! ah, my master; and it has been

sought. It has fallen in, and I have sought it in vain. Or, it was

borrowed, and therefore I am the more afflicted for its loss; and

Jarchi adds, I have nothing wherewith to repay it.

Verse 6. He cut down a stick] This had no natural tendency to

raise the iron; it was only a sign or ceremony which the prophet

chose to use on the occasion.

The iron did swim.] This was a real miracle; for the gravity of

the metal must have for ever kept it at the bottom of the water,

Verse 8. The king of Syria warred against Israel] This was

probably the same Ben-hadad who is mentioned 2Ki 6:24. What was

the real or pretended cause of this war we cannot tell; but we may

say, in numberless war cases, as Calmet says in this: "An

ambitious and restless prince always finds a sufficiency of

reasons to colour his enterprises."

In such and such a place] The Syrian king had observed, from the

disposition of the Israelitish army, in what direction it was

about to make its movements; and therefore laid ambuscades where

he might surprise it to the greatest advantage.

Verse 9. Beware that thou pass not such a place] Elisha must

have had this information by immediate revelation from heaven.

Verse 10. Sent to the place] To see if it were so. But the

Vulgate gives it quite a different turn: Misit rex Israel ad

locum, et praeoccupavit eum. The king of Israel sent previously to

the place, and took possession of it; and thus the Syrians were

disappointed. This is very likely, though it is not expressed in

the Hebrew text. The prophet knew the Syrians marked such a place;

he told the king of Israel, and he hastened and sent a party of

troops to pre-occupy it; and thus the Syrians found that their

designs had been detected.

Verse 13. Behold, he is in Dothan.] This is supposed to be the

same place as that mentioned in Ge 37:17. It lay about twelve

miles from Samaria.

Verse 14. He sent thither horses] It is strange he did not think

that he who could penetrate his secrets with respect to the

Israelitish army, could inform himself of all his machinations

against his own life.

Verse 16. For they that be with us are more, &c.] What

astonishing intercourse had this man with heaven! It seems the

whole heavenly host had it in commission to help him.

Verse 17. Lord-open his eyes] Where is heaven? Is it not above,

beneath, around us? And were our eyes open as were those of the

prophet's servant, we should see the heavenly host in all

directions. The horses and chariots of fire were there, before the

eyes of Elisha's servant were opened.

Verse 18. Smite this people-with blindness] Confound their sight

so that they may not know what they see, and so mistake one place

for another.

Verse 19. I will bring you to the man whom ye seek.] And he did

so; he was their guide to Samaria, and showed himself to them

fully in that city.

Verse 20. Open the eyes of these men] Take away their confusion

of vision, that they may discern things as they are, and

distinguish where they are.

Verse 21. My father, shall I smite] This was dastardly; the

utmost he could have done with these men, when thus brought into

his hand, was to make them prisoners of war.

Verse 22. Whom thou hast taken captive] Those who in open battle

either lay down their arms, or are surrounded, and have their

retreat cut off, are entitled to their lives, much more those who

are thus providentially put into thy hand, without having been in

actual hostility against thee. Give them meat and drink, and send

them home to their master, and let them thus know that thou

fearest him not, and art incapable of doing an ungenerous or

unmanly action.

Verse 23. He prepared great provision for them] These, on the

return to their master, could tell him strange things about the

power of the God of Israel, and the magnanimity of its king.

So the bands of Syria came no more] Marauding parties were no

more permitted by the Syrian king to make inroads upon Israel. And

it is very likely that for some considerable time after this,

there was no war between these two nations. What is mentioned in

the next verse was more than a year afterwards.

Verse 25. And, behold, they besieged it] They had closed it in

on every side, and reduced it to the greatest necessity.

An ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver] I suppose

we are to take the ass's head literally; and if the head sold for

so much, what must other parts sell for which were much to be

preferred? The famine must be great that could oblige them to eat

any part of an animal that was proscribed by the law; and it must

be still greater that could oblige them to purchase so mean a part

of this unclean animal at so high a price. The piece of silver

was probably the drachm, worth about seven pence three farthings

of our money; the whole amounting to about two pounds nine

shillings.

And the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung] The cab was about a

quart or three pints. Dove's dung, chiriyonim.

Whether this means pigeon's dung literally, or a kind of pulse,

has been variously disputed by learned men. After having written

much upon the subject, illustrated with quotations from east,

west, north, and south, I choose to spare my reader the trouble of

wading through them, and shall content myself with asserting that

it is probable a sort of pease are meant, which the Arabs to this

day call by this name. "The garvancos, cicer, or chick pea," says

Dr. Shaw, "has been taken for the pigeon's dung, mentioned in the

siege of Samaria; and as the cicer is pointed at one end, and

acquires an ash colour in parching, the first of which

circumstances answers to the figure, the second to the usual

colour of dove's dung, the supposition is by no means to be

disregarded."

I should not omit saying that dove's dung is of great value in

the East, for its power in producing cucumbers, melons, &c., which

has induced many learned men to take the words literally. Bochart

has exhausted this subject, and concludes that a kind of pulse is

meant. Most learned men are of his opinion.

Verse 27. If the Lord do not help thee] Some read this as an

imprecation, May God save thee not! how can I save thee?

Verse 29. So we boiled my son] This is horrible; but for the

sake of humanity we must allow that the children died through

hunger, and then became food for their starved, desperate parents.

She hath hid her son.] He was already dead, says Jarchi; and she

hid him, that she might eat him alone.

This very evil Moses had foretold should come upon them if they

forsook God; see De 28:53, 57. The same evil came upon this

wretched people when besieged by Nebuchadnezzar; see Eze 5:10.

And also when Titus besieged Jerusalem; see Josephus, De Bell.

Judaic. lib. vi., cap. 3, and Clarke's notes on "Mt 24:19".

Verse 30. He had sackcloth within upon his flesh.] The king was

in deep mourning for the distresses of the people.

Verse 31. If the head of Elisha-shall stand on him] Either he

attributed these calamities to the prophet, or else he thought he

could remove them, and yet would not. The miserable king was

driven to desperation.

Verse 32. This son of a murderer] Jehoram, the son of Ahab and

Jezebel. But Ahab is called a murderer because of the murder of

Naboth.

Shut the door] He was obliged to make use of this method for his

personal safety, as the king was highly incensed.

The sound of his master's feet behind him?] That is, King

Jehoram is following his messenger, that he may see him take off

my head.

Verse 33. Behold, this evil is of the Lord] It is difficult to

know whether it be the prophet, the messenger, or the king, that

says these words. It might be the answer of the prophet from

within to the messenger who was without, and who sought for

admission, and gave his reason; to whom Elisha might have replied:

"I am not the cause of these calamities; they are from the Lord; I

have been praying for their removal; but why should I pray to the

Lord any longer, for the time of your deliverance is at hand?" And

then Elisha said,-see the following chapter, where the removal of

the calamity is foretold in the most explicit manner; and indeed

the chapter is unhappily divided from this. The seventh chapter

should have begun with 2Ki 6:24 of this chapter, as, by the

present division, the story is unnaturally interrupted.

How natural is it for men to lay the cause of their suffering on

any thing or person but themselves! Ahab's iniquity was sufficient

to have brought down God's displeasure on a whole nation; and yet

he takes no blame to himself, but lays all on the prophet, who was

the only salt that preserved the whole nation from corruption. How

few take their sins to themselves! and till they do this, they

cannot be true penitents; nor can they expect God's wrath to be

averted till they feel themselves the chief of sinners.

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