2 Kings 8

CHAPTER VIII

Account of the sojourning of the Shunammite in the land of the

Philistines, during the seven years famine, 1, 2.

She returns, and solicits the king to let her have back her

land; which, with its fruits, he orders to be restored to her,

3-6.

Elisha comes to Damascus, and finds Ben-hadad sick; who sends

his servant Hazael to the prophet to inquire whether he shall

recover, 7-9.

Elisha predicts his death, tells Hazael that he shall be king,

and shows him the atrocities he will commit, 10-14.

Hazael returns, stifles his master with a wet cloth, and reigns

in his stead, 15.

Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, becomes king over Judah; his bad

reign, 16-19.

Edom and Libnah revolt, 20-22.

Jehoram dies, and his son Ahaziah reigns in his stead, 23, 24.

His bad reign, 23-24.

He joins with Joram, son of Ahab, against Hazael; Joram is

wounded by the Syrians, and goes to Jezreel to be healed,

28, 29.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

Verse 1. Then spake Elisha] As this is the relation of an event

far past, the words should be translated, "But Elisha had spoken

unto the woman whose son he had restored unto life; and the woman

had arisen, and acted according to the saying of the man of God,

and had gone with her family, and had sojourned in the land of the

Philistines seven years." What is mentioned in these two verses

happened several years before the time specified in the third

verse. See the observations at the end of the preceding chapter.

See Clarke on 2Ki 7:17.

Verse 4. The king talked with Gehazi] This is supposed to have

happened before the cleansing of Naaman, for is it likely that the

king would hold conversation with a leprous man; or that, knowing

Gehazi had been dismissed with the highest disgrace from the

prophet's service, he could hold any conversation with him

concerning his late master, relative to whom he could not expect

him to give either a true or impartial account?

Some think that this conversation might have taken place after

Gehazi became leprous; the king having an insatiable curiosity to

know the private history of a man who had done such astonishing

things: and from whom could he get this information, except from

the prophet's own confidential servant? It agrees better with the

chronology to consider what is here related as having taken place

after the cure of Naaman. As to the circumstance of Gehazi's

disease, he might overlook that, and converse with him, keeping at

a reasonable distance, as nothing but actual contact could defile.

Verse 5. This is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha

restored to life.] This was a very providential occurrence in

behalf of the Shunammite. The relation given by Gehazi was now

corroborated by the woman herself; the king was duly affected, and

gave immediate orders for the restoration of her land.

Verse 7. Elisha came to Damascus] That he might lead Gehazi to

repentance; according to Jarchi and some others.

Verse 8. Take a present in thine hand] But what an immense

present was this-forty camels' burden of every good thing of

Damascus! The prophet would need to have a very large

establishment at Damascus to dispose of so much property.

Verse 10. Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath

showed me that he shall surely die.] That is, God has not

determined thy death, nor will it be a necessary consequence of

the disease by which thou art now afflicted; but this wicked man

will abuse the power and trust thou hast reposed in him, and take

away thy life. Even when God has not designed nor appointed the

death of a person, he may nevertheless die, though not without the

permission of God. This is a farther proof of the doctrine of

contingent events: he might live for all his sickness, but thou

wilt put an end to his life.

Verse 11. He settled his countenance steadfastly] Of whom does

the author speak? Of Hazael, or of Elisha? Several apply this

action to the prophet: he had a murderer before him and he saw the

bloody acts he was about to commit, and was greatly distressed;

but he endeavoured to conceal his feelings: at last his face

reddened with anguish, his feelings overcame him, and he burst out

and wept.

The Septuagint, as it stands in the Complutensian and Antwerp

Polyglots, makes the text very plain: καιεστηαζαηλκαταπρωσοπον

αυτουκαιπαρεθηκενενωπιοναυτουδωραεωςησχυνετοκαι

εκλαυσενοανθρωποςτουθεου, And Hazael stood before his face,

and he presented before him gifts till he was ashamed; and the man

of God wept.

The Codex Vaticanus, and the Codex Alexandrinus, are nearly as

the Hebrew. The Aldine edition agrees in some respects with the

Complutensian; but all the versions follow the Hebrew.

Verse 12. I know the evil that thou wilt do] We may see

something of the accomplishment of this prediction,

2Ki 10:32, 33; 13:3, 7.

Verse 13. But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this

great things] I believe this verse to be wrongly interpreted by

the general run of commentators. It is generally understood that

Hazael was struck with horror at the prediction; that these

cruelties were most alien from his mind; that he then felt

distressed and offended at the imputation of such evils to him;

and yet, so little did he know his own heart, that when he got

power, and had opportunity, he did the whole with a willing heart

and a ready hand. On the contrary, I think he was delighted at the

prospect; and his question rather implies a doubt whether a person

so inconsiderable as he is shall ever have it in his power to do

such great, not such evil things; for, in his sight, they had no

turpitude. The Hebrew text stands thus:

ki mah abdecha hakkeleb, ki yaaseh haddabar

haggadol hazzeh? "But, what! thy servant, this dog! that he should

do this great work!" Or, "Can such a poor, worthless fellow, such

a dead dog, [οκυωνοτεθνηκως, Sept.,] perform such mighty

actions? thou fillest me with surprise." And that this is the true

sense, his immediate murder of his master on his return fully

proves. "Our common version of these words of Hazael," as Mr.

Patten observes, "has stood in the front of many a fine

declamation utterly wide of his real sentiment. His exclamation

was not the result of horror; his expression has no tincture of

it; but of the unexpected glimpse of a crown! The prophet's answer

is plainly calculated to satisfy the astonishment he had excited.

A dog bears not, in Scripture, the character of a cruel, but of a

despicable animal; nor does he who is shocked with its barbarity

call it a GREAT deed."-David Vindicated.

Verse 15. A thick cloth] The versions, in general, understand

this of a hairy or woollen cloth.

So that he died] He was smothered, or suffocated.

Verse 16. In the fifth year of Joram] This verse, as it stands

in the present Hebrew text, may be thus read: "And in the fifth

year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, [and of Jehoshaphat,

king of Judah,] reigned Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah."

The three Hebrew words, , and of Jehoshaphat king

of Judah, greatly disturb the chronology in this place. It is

certain that Jehoshaphat reigned twenty-five years, and that

Jehoram his son reigned but eight; 1Ki 22:42; 2Ki 8:17;

2Ch 20:31; 21:5. So that he could not have reigned during his

father's life without being king twenty years, and eight years!

These words are wanting in three of Kennicott's and De Rossi's

MSS. in the Complutensian and Aldine editions of the Septuagint,

in the Peshito Syriac, in the Parisian Heptapler Syriac, the

Arabic, and in many copies of the Vulgate, collated by Dr.

Kennicott and De Rossi, both printed and manuscript; to

which may be added two MSS. in my own library, one of the

fourteenth, the other of the eleventh century, and in what I judge

to be the Editio Princeps of the Vulgate. And it is worthy of

remark that in this latter work, after the fifteenth verse, ending

with Quo mortuo regnavit Azahel pro eo, the following words are in

a smaller character, Anno quinto Joram filii Achab regis Israhel,

regnavit Joram filius Josaphat rex Juda. Triginta, &c. We have

already seen that it is supposed that Jehoshaphat associated his

son with him in the kingdom; and that the fifth year in this place

only regards Joram king of Israel, and not Jehoshaphat king of

Judah. See Clarke on 2Ki 1:17.

Verse 17. He reigned eight years in Jerusalem.] Beginning with

the fifth year of Joram, king of Israel. He reigned three years

with Jehoshaphat his father, and five years alone; i.e., from A.M.

3112 to 3119, according to Archbishop Usher.

Verse 18. The daughter of Ahab was his wife] This was the

infamous Athaliah; and through this marriage Jehoshaphat and Ahab

were confederates; and this friendship was continued after Ahab's

death.

Verse 19. To give him alway a light] To give him a successor in

his own family.

Verse 21. Joram went over to Zair] This is the same as Seir, a

chief city of Idumea. So Isa 21:11:

The burden of Dumah (Idumea.) He calleth to me out of Seir.

Smote the Edomites] It appears that the Israelites were

surrounded by the Idumeans; and that in the night Joram and his

men cut their way through them, and so got every man to his tent,

for they were not able to make any farther head against these

enemies; and therefore it is said, that Edom revolted from under

the hand of Judah unto this day.

Verse 23. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles]

Several remarkable particulars relative to Joram may be found in 2

Chron. 21.

Verse 26. Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to

reign] In 2Ch 22:2, it is said,

forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; this

is a heavy difficulty, to remove which several expedients have

been used. It is most evident that, if we follow the reading in

Chronicles, it makes the son two years older than his own

father! for his father began to reign when he was thirty-two

years old, and reigned eight years, and so died, being forty years

old; see 2Ki 8:17. Dr.

Lightfoot says, "The original meaneth thus: Ahaziah was the son

of two and forty years; namely, of the house of Omri, of whose

seed he was by the mother's side; and he walked in the ways of

that house, and came to ruin at the same time with it. This the

text directs us to look after, when it calleth his mother the

daughter of Omri, who was indeed the daughter of Ahab. Now,

these forty-two years are easily reckoned by any that will count

back in the Chronicle to the second of Omri. Such another

reckoning there is about Jechoniah, or Jehoiachin, 2Ki 24:8:

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign. But,

2Ch 36:9,

Jehoiachin was the son of the eight years; that is, the

beginning of his reign fell in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar,

and of Judah's first captivity."-Works, vol. i., p. 87.

After all, here is a most manifest contradiction, that cannot be

removed but by having recourse to violent modes of solution. I am

satisfied the reading in 2Ch 22:2, is a

mistake; and that we should read there, as here, twenty-two

instead of forty-two years; see the note there. And may we not say

with Calmet, Which is most dangerous, to acknowledge that

transcribers have made some mistakes in copying the sacred

books, or to acknowledge that there are contradictions in them,

and then to have recourse to solutions that can yield no

satisfaction to any unprejudiced mind? I add, that no mode of

solution yet found out has succeeded in removing the difficulty;

and of all the MSS. which have been collated, and they amount to

several hundred, not one confirms the reading of twenty-two

years. And to it all the ancient versions are equally unfriendly.

Verse 28. The Syrians wounded Joram] Ahaziah went with Joram to

endeavour to wrest Ramoth-gilead out of the hands of the Syrians,

which belonged to Israel and Judah. Ahab had endeavoured to do

this before, and was slain there; see 1Ki 22:3, &c., and the

notes there.

Verse 29. Went back to be healed in Jezreel] And there he

continued till Jehu conspired against and slew him there. And thus

the blood of the innocents, which had been shed by Ahab and his

wife Jezebel, was visited on them in the total extinction of their

family. See the following chapters, where the bloody tale of

Jehu's conspiracy is told at large.

I HAVE already had to remark on the chronological difficulties

which occur in the historical books; difficulties for which

copyists alone are responsible. To remove them by the plan of

reconciliation, is in many cases impracticable; to conjectural

criticism we must have recourse. And is there a single ancient

author of any kind, but particularly those who have written on

matters of history and chronology, whose works have been

transmitted to us free of similar errors, owing to the negligence

of transcribers?

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