Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. 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
2. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan--whose wooded banks would
furnish plenty of timber.
5. it was borrowed--literally, "begged." The scholar's distress arose
from the consideration that it had been presented to him; and that,
owing to his poverty, he could not procure another.
6. cut down a stick, and cast it in thither--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 one thousand
chances to one against the stick falling into the hole of the axe-head.
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
8-12. the king of Syria warred against Israel--This seems to have been
a sort of guerrilla warfare, carried on by predatory inroads on
different parts of the country. Elisha apprised King Jehoram of the
secret purpose 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.
13. Dothan--or, "Dothaim," a little north of Samaria
15. his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?--When
the Syrian detachment surrounded 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 him since Gehazi's dismissal
and consequently had little or no experience of his master's powers.
His faith was easily shaken by so unexpected an alarm.
17. Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he
may see--The invisible guard of angels that encompass and defend us
The opening of the eyes, which Elisha prayed for, were those of the
Spirit, not of 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
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].
18. 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
so that they did not perceive or recognize him to be the object of
19-23. This is not the way, neither is this the city--This 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 humane advice; it was
contrary to the usage of war to put war captives to death in cold
blood, even when taken by 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
shows that these salutary effects were fully realized. A moral conquest
had been gained over the Syrians.
24. Ben-hadad . . . besieged Samaria--This was the predicted
accomplishment of the result of Ahab's foolish and misplaced kindness
25. an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver--Though the
ass was deemed unclean food, necessity might warrant their violation of
a positive law when mothers, in their extremity, were found violating
the law of nature. The head was the worst part of the animal. Eighty
pieces of silver, equal to £5 5s.
the fourth part of a cab--A cab was the smallest dry measure.
The proportion here stated was nearly half a pint for 12s.
dove's dung--is thought by BOCHART
to be a kind of pulse or pea, common
in Judea, and still kept in the storehouses of Cairo and Damascus, and
other places, for the use of it by pilgrim-caravans; by
other botanists, it is said to be the root or white bulb of the plant
Ornithogalum umbellatum, Star of Beth-lehem. The sacred historian does
not say that the articles here named were regularly sold at the rates
described, but only that instances were known of such high prices being
26. as the king was passing--to look at the defenses, or to give some
necessary orders for manning the walls.
29. we boiled my son, and did eat
30. had sackcloth within 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. 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 counselled 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.
32. But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him--The
latter clause of
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 the house where he lodged, for he had none of his own
(1Ki 19:20, 21);
and them he not only apprised of the king's design against himself, but
disclosed to them the proof of a premeditated deliverance.