2 Kings 8
The passages of story recorded in this chapter oblige us to look back.
I. We read before of a Shunammite woman that was a kind benefactor to
Elisha; now here we are told how she fared the better for it,
afterwards, in the advice Elisha gave her, and the favour the king
showed her for his sake,
2 Kings 8:1-6.
II. We read before of the designation of Hazael to be king of Syria
(1 Kings 19:15),
and here we have an account of his elevation to that throne and the way
he forced for himself to it, by killing his master,
2 Kings 8:7-15.
III. We read before of Jehoram's reigning over Judah in the room of his
(1 Kings 22:50),
now here we have a short and sad history of his short and wicked reign
(2 Kings 8:16-24),
and the beginning of the history of the reign of his son Ahaziah,
2 Kings 8:25-29.
|A Famine in Israel; the Shunammite's Possessions Restored.
||B. C. 886.|
1 Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored
to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and
sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called
for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.
2 And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of
God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land
of the Philistines seven years.
3 And it came to pass at the seven years' end, that the woman
returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth
to cry unto the king for her house and for her land.
4 And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of
God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that
Elisha hath done.
5 And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had
restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son
he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for
her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman,
and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.
6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king
appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that
was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that
she left the land, even until now.
Here we have,
I. The wickedness of Israel punished with a long famine, one of God's
sore judgments often threatened in the law. Canaan, that
fruitful land, was turned into barrenness, for the iniquity
of those that dwelt therein. The famine in Samaria was soon
relieved by the raising of that siege, but neither that judgment nor
that mercy had a due influence upon them, and therefore the Lord
called for another famine; for when he judgeth he will overcome. If
less judgments do not prevail to bring men to repentance, he will send
greater and longer; they are at his beck, and will come when he calls
for them. He does, by his ministers, call for reformation and
obedience, and, if those calls be not regarded, we may expect he will
call for some plague or other, for he will be heard. This famine
continued seven years, as long again as that in Elijah's time; for if
men will walk contrary to him, he will heat the furnace yet hotter.
II. The kindness of the good Shunammite to the prophet rewarded by the
care that was taken of her in that famine; she was not indeed fed by
miracle, as the widow of Sarepta was, but,
1. She had notice given her of this famine before it came, that she
might provide accordingly, and was directed to remove to some other
country; any where but in Israel she would find plenty. It was a great
advantage to Egypt in Joseph's time that they had notice of the famine
before it came, so it was to this Shunammite; others would be forced to
remove at last, after they had long borne the grievances of the famine,
and had wasted their substance, and could not settle elsewhere upon
such good terms as she might that went early, before the crowd, and
took her stock with her unbroken. It is our happiness to foresee an
evil, and our wisdom, when we foresee an evil, and our wisdom, when we
foresee it, to hide ourselves.
2. Providence gave her a comfortable settlement in the land of the
Philistines, who, though subdued by David, yet were not wholly
rooted out. It seems the famine was peculiar to the land of Israel, and
other countries that joined close to them had plenty at the same time,
which plainly showed the immediate hand of God in it (as in the plagues
of Egypt, when they distinguished between the Israelites and the
Egyptians) and that the sins of Israel, against whom this judgment was
directly levelled, were more provoking to God than the sins of their
neighbours, because of their profession of relation to God. You only
have I known, therefore will I punish you,
Other countries had rain when they had none, were free from locusts and
caterpillars when they were eaten up with them; for some think this was
the famine spoken of,
It is strange that when there was plenty in the neighbouring countries
there were not those that made it their business to import corn into
the land of Israel, which might have prevented the inhabitants from
removing; but, as they were befooled with their idolatries, so they
were infatuated even in the matters of their civil interest.
III. Her petition to the king at her return, favoured by the
seasonableness of her application to him.
1. When the famine was over she returned out of the land of the
Philistines; that was no proper place for an Israelite to dwell any
longer than there was a necessity for so doing, for there she could not
keep her new moons and her sabbaths as she used to do in her own
country, among the schools of the prophets,
2 Kings 4:23.
2. At her return she found herself kept out of the possession of her
own estate, it being either confiscated to the exchequer, seized by the
lord, or usurped in her absence by some of the neighbours; or perhaps
the person she had entrusted with the management of it proved false,
and would neither resign it to her nor come to an account with her for
the profits: so hard is it to find a person that one can put a
confidence in in a time of trouble,
3. She made her application to the king himself for redress; for, it
seems (be it observed to his praise), he was easy of access, and did
himself take cognizance of the complaint of his injured subjects. Time
was when she dwelt so securely among her own people that she had no
occasion to be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the
(2 Kings 4:13);
but now her own familiar friends, in whom she trusted, proved so unjust
and unkind that she was glad to appeal to the king against them. Such
uncertainty there is in the creature that that may fail us which we
most depend upon and that befriend us which we think we shall never
4. She found the king talking with Gehazi about Elisha's miracles,
2 Kings 8:4.
It was his shame that he needed now to be informed concerning them,
when he might have acquainted himself with them as they were done from
Elisha himself, if he had not been willing to shut his eyes against the
convincing evidence of his mission; yet it was his praise that he was
now better disposed, and would rather talk with a leper that was
capable of giving a good account of them than continue ignorant of
them. The law did not forbid all conversation with lepers, but only
dwelling with them. There being then no priests in Israel, perhaps the
king, or some one appointed by him, had the inspection of lepers, and
passed the judgment upon them, which might bring him acquainted with
5. This happy coincidence befriended both Gehazi's narrative and her
petition. Providence is to be acknowledged in ordering the
circumstances of events, for sometimes those that are minute in
themselves prove of great consequence, as this did, for,
(1.) It made the king ready to believe Gehazi's narrative when it was
thus confirmed by the persons most nearly concerned: "This is the
woman, and this her son; let them speak for themselves,"
2 Kings 8:5.
Thus did God even force him to believe what he might have had some
colour to question if he had only had Gehazi's word for it, because he
was branded for a liar, witness his leprosy.
(2.) It made him ready to grant her request; for who would not be ready
to favour one whom heaven had thus favoured, and to support a life
which was given once and again by miracle? In consideration of this the
king gave orders that her land should be restored to her and all the
profits that were made of it in her absence. If it was to himself that
the land and profits had escheated, it was generous and kind to make so
full a restitution; he would not (as Pharaoh did in Joseph's time)
enrich the crown by the calamities of his subjects. If it was by some
other person that her property was invaded, it was an act of justice in
the king, and part of the duty of his place, to give her redress,
It is not enough for those in authority that they do no wrong
themselves, but they must support the right of those that are
|Hazael's Barbarity Predicted.
||B. C. 885.|
7 And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria
was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come
8 And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand,
and go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him,
saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
9 So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even
of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden, and came
and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria
hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
10 And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest
certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath showed me that he shall
11 And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was
ashamed: and the man of God wept.
12 And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered,
Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of
Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young
men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children,
and rip up their women with child.
13 And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he
should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The LORD hath
showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.
14 So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said
to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me
that thou shouldest surely recover.
15 And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick
cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so
that he died: and Hazael reigned in his stead.
I. We may enquire what brought Elisha to Damascus, the chief city of
Syria. Was he sent to any but the lost sheep of the house of
Israel? It seems he was. Perhaps he went to pay a visit to Naaman
his convert, and to confirm him in his choice of the true religion,
which was the more needful now because, it should seem, he was not out
of his place (for Hazael is supposed to be captain of that host);
either he resigned it or was turned out of it, because he would not
bow, or not bow heartily, in the house of Rimmon. Some think he went to
Damascus upon account of the famine, or rather he went thither in
obedience to the orders God gave Elijah,
1 Kings 19:15,
"Go to Damascus to anoint Hazael, thou, or thy successor."
II. We may observe that Ben-hadad, a great king, rich and mighty, lay
sick. No honour, wealth, or power, will secure men from the common
diseases and disasters of human life; palaces and thrones lie as open
to the arrests of sickness and death as the meanest cottage.
III. We may wonder that the king of Syria, in his sickness, should make
Elisha his oracle.
1. Notice was soon brought him that the man of God (for by that
title he was well known in Syria since he cured Naaman) had come to
2 Kings 8:7.
"Never in better time," says Ben-hadad. "Go, and enquire of the Lord
by him." In his health he bowed in the house of Rimmon, but
now that he is sick he distrusts his idol, and sends to enquire of the
God of Israel. Affliction brings those to God who in their prosperity
had made light of him; sometimes sickness opens men's eyes and
rectifies their mistakes. This is the more observable,
(1.) Because it was not long since a king of Israel had, in his
sickness, sent to enquire of the god of Ekron
(2 Kings 1:2),
as if there had been no God in Israel. Note, God sometimes fetches to
himself that honour from strangers which is denied him and alienated
from him by his own professing people.
(2.) Because it was not long since this Ben-hadad had sent a great
force to treat Elisha as an enemy
(2 Kings 6:14),
yet now he courts him as a prophet. Note, Among other instances of the
change of men's minds by sickness and affliction, this is one, that it
often gives them other thoughts of God's ministers, and teaches them to
value the counsels and prayers of those whom they had hated and
2. To put an honour upon the prophet,
(1.) He sends to him, and does not send for him, as if,
with the centurion, he thought himself not worthy that the man of God
should come under his roof.
(2.) He sends to him by Hazael, his prime-minister of state, and not by
a common messenger. It is no disparagement to the greatest of men to
attend the prophets of the Lord. Hazael must go and meet him at a place
where he had appointed a meeting with his friends.
(3.) He sends him a noble present, of every good thing of
Damascus, as much as loaded forty camels
(2 Kings 8:9),
testifying hereby his affection to the prophet, bidding him welcome to
Damascus, and providing for his sustenance while he sojourned there.
It is probable that Elisha accepted it (why should he not?), though he
(4.) He orders Hazael to call him his son Ben-hadad, conforming
to the language of Israel, who called the prophets fathers.
(5.) He puts an honour upon him as one acquainted with the secrets of
heaven, when he enquires of him, Shall I recover? It is natural
to us to desire to know things to come in time, while things to come in
eternity are little thought of or enquired after.
IV. What passed between Hazael and Elisha is especially remarkable.
1. Elisha answered his enquiry concerning the king, that he might
recover, the disease was not mortal, but that he should die another way
(2 Kings 8:10),
not a natural but a violent death. There are many ways out of the
world, and sometimes, while men think to avoid one, they fall by
2. He looked Hazael in the face with an unusual concern, till he made
Hazael blush and himself weep,
2 Kings 8:11.
The man of God could outface the man of war. It was not in Hazael's
countenance that Elisha read what he would do, but God did, at this
time, reveal it to him, and it fetched tears from his eyes. The more
foresight men have the more grief they are liable to.
3. When Hazael asked him why he wept he told him what a great deal of
mischief he foresaw he would do to the Israel of God
(2 Kings 8:12),
what desolations he would make of their strong-holds, and barbarous
destruction of their men, women, and children. The sins of Israel
provoked God to give them up into the hands of their cruel enemies, yet
Elisha wept to think that ever Israelites should be thus abused; for,
though he foretold, he did not desire the woeful day. See what havock
war makes, what havock sin makes, and how the nature of man is changed
by the fall, and stripped even of humanity itself.
4. Hazael was greatly surprised at this prediction
(2 Kings 8:13):
What, says he, Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this
great thing? This great thing he looks upon to be,
(1.) An act of great power, not to be done but by a crowned head. "It
must be some mighty potentate that can think to prevail thus against
Israel, and therefore not I." Many are raised to that dominion which
they never thought of and it often proves to their own hurt,
(2.) An act of great barbarity, which could not be done but by one lost
to all honour and virtue: "Therefore," says he, "it is what I shall
never find in my heart to be guilty of: Is thy servant a dog, to
rend, and tear, and devour? Unless I were a dog, I could not do it."
[1.] What a bad opinion he had of the sin; he looked upon it to be
great wickedness, fitter for a brute, for a beast of prey, to do than a
man. Note, It is possible for a wicked man, under the convictions and
restraints of natural conscience, to express great abhorrence of a sin,
and yet afterwards to be well reconciled to it.
[2.] What a good opinion he had of himself, how much better than he
deserved; he thought it impossible he should do such barbarous things
as the prophet foresaw. Note, We are apt to think ourselves
sufficiently armed against those sins which yet we are afterwards
overcome by, as Peter,
5. In answer to this Elisha only told him he should be king over
Syria; then he would have power to do it, and then he would find in
his heart to do it. Honours change men's tempers and manners,
and seldom for the better: "Thou knowest not what thou wilt do when
thou comest to be king, but I tell thee this thou wilt do." Those that
are little and low in the world cannot imagine how strong the
temptations of power and prosperity are, and, if ever they arrive at
them, they will find how deceitful their hearts were and how much worse
than they suspected.
V. What mischief Hazael did to his master hereupon. If he took any
occasion to do it from what Elisha had said the fault was in him, not
in the word.
1. He basely cheated his master, and belied the prophet
(2 Kings 8:14):
He told me thou shouldst certainly recover. This was abominably
false; he told him he should die
(2 Kings 8:10),
but he unfairly and unfaithfully concealed that, either because he was
loth to put the king out of humour with bad news or because hereby he
might the more effectually carry on that bloody design which he
conceived when he was told he should be his successor. The devil ruins
men by telling them they shall certainly recover and do well, so
rocking them asleep in security, than which nothing is more fatal. This
was an injury to the king, who lost the benefit of this warning to
prepare for death, and an injury to Elisha, who would be counted a
2. He barbarously murdered his master, and so made good the prophet's
2 Kings 8:15.
He dipped a thick cloth in cold water, and spread it upon his face,
under pretence of cooling and refreshing him, but so that it stopped
his breath, and stifled him presently, he being weak (and not able to
help himself) or perhaps asleep: such a bubble is the life of the
greatest of men, and so much exposed are princes to violence. Hazael,
who was Ben-hadad's confidant, was his murderer, and some think, was
not suspected, nor did the truth ever come out but by the pen of this
inspired historian. We found this haughty monarch
(1 Kings 20:1-43)
the terror of the mighty in the land of the living, but he
goes down slain to the pit with his iniquity upon his
|The Reign of Jehoram.
||B. C. 884.|
16 And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of
Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son
of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign.
17 Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign; and
he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.
18 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the
house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife: and he did
evil in the sight of the LORD.
19 Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant's
sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his
20 In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and
made a king over themselves.
21 So Joram went over to Zair, and all the chariots with him:
and he rose by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him
about, and the captains of the chariots: and the people fled into
22 Yet Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this
day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time.
23 And the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did,
are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings
24 And Joram slept with his fathers, and was buried with his
fathers in the city of David: and Ahaziah his son reigned in his
We have here a brief account of the life and reign of Jehoram (or
Joram), one of the worst of the kings of Judah, but the son and
successor of Jehoshaphat, one of the best. Note,
1. Parents cannot give grace to their children. Many that have
themselves been godly have had the grief and shame of seeing those that
came forth out of their bowels wicked and vile. Let not the families
that are thus afflicted think it strange.
2. If the children of good parents prove wicked, commonly they are
worse than others. The unclean spirit brings in seven others more
wicked than himself,
3. A nation is sometimes justly punished with the miseries of a bad
reign for not improving the blessings and advantages of a good one.
Concerning this Jehoram observe,
I. The general idea here given of his wickedness
(2 Kings 8:18):
He did as the house of Ahab, and worse he could not do. His
character is taken from the bad example he followed, for men are
according to the company they converse with and the copies they write
after. No mistake is more fatal to young people than a mistake in the
choice of those whom they would recommend themselves to and take their
measures from, and whose good opinion they value themselves by. Jehoram
chose the house of Ahab for his pattern rather than his father's house,
and this choice was his ruin. We have a particular account of his
(2 Chronicles 21:1-30),
murder, idolatry, persecution, everything that was bad.
II. The occasions of his wickedness. His father was a very good man,
and no doubt took care to have him taught the good knowledge of the
1. It is certain he did ill to marry him to the daughter of Ahab; no
good could come of an alliance with an idolatrous family, but all
mischief with such a daughter of such a mother as Athaliah the daughter
of Jezebel. The degeneracy of the old world took rise from the unequal
yoking of professors with profane. Those that are ill-matched are
2. I doubt he did not do well to make him king in his own life-time. It
is said here
(2 Kings 8:16)
that he began to reign, Jehoshaphat being then king; hereby he
gratified his pride (than which nothing is more pernicious to young
people), indulged him in his ambition, in hopes to reform him by
humouring him, and so brought a curse upon his family, as Eli did,
whose sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not.
Jehoshaphat had made this wicked son of his viceroy once when he went
with Ahab to Ramoth-Gilead, from which Jehoshaphat's seventeenth year
(1 Kings 22:51)
is made Jehoram's second
(2 Kings 1:17),
but afterwards, in his twenty-second year, he made him partner in his
government, and thence Joram's eight years are to be dated, three years
before his father's death. It has been hurtful to many young men to
come too soon to their estates. Samuel got nothing by making his
III. The rebukes of Providence which he was under for his wickedness.
1. The Edomites revolted, who had been under the government of the
kings of Judah ever since David's time, about 150 years,
2 Kings 8:20.
He attempted to reduce them, and gave them a defeat
(2 Kings 8:21),
but he could not improve the advantage he had got, so as to recover his
dominion over them: Yet Edom revolted
(2 Kings 8:22),
and the Edomites were, after this, bitter enemies to the Jews, as
appears by the prophecy of
Now Isaac's prophecy was fulfilled, that this Esau the elder should
serve Jacob the younger; yet, in process of time, he should break
that yoke from off his neck,
2. Libnah revolted. This was a city in Judah, in the heart of his
country, a priests' city; the inhabitants of this city shook off his
government because he had forsaken God, and would have compelled
them to do so too,
2 Chronicles 21:10,11.
In order that they might preserve their religion they set up for a free
state. Perhaps other cities did the same.
3. His reign was short. God cut him off in the midst of his days, when
he was but forty years old, and had reigned but eight years. Bloody
and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.
IV. The gracious care of Providence for the keeping up of the kingdom
of Judah, and the house of David, notwithstanding the apostasies and
calamities of Jehoram's reign
(2 Kings 8:19):
Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah. He could easily have done
it; he might justly have done it; it would have been no loss to him to
have done it; yet he would not do it, for David's sake, not for the
sake of any merit of his which could challenge this favour to his
family as a debt, but for the sake of a promise made to him that he
should always have a lamp (that is, a succession of kings from one
generation to another, by which his name should be kept bright and
illustrious, as a lamp is kept burning by a constant fresh supply of
oil), that his family should never be extinct till it terminated in the
Messiah, that Son of David on whom was to be hung all the glory of
his Father's house and in whose everlasting kingdom that promise to
David is fulfilled
I have ordained a lamp for my anointed.
V. The conclusion of this impious and inglorious reign,
2 Kings 8:23,24.
Nothing peculiar is here said of him; but we are told
(2 Chronicles 21:19,20)
that he died of sore diseases and died without being
|The Reign of Ahaziah.
||B. C. 884.|
25 In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel
did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign.
26 Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to
reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother's
name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.
27 And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil
in the sight of the LORD, as did the house of Ahab: for he
was the son in law of the house of Ahab.
28 And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against
Hazael king of Syria in Ramoth-gilead; and the Syrians wounded
29 And king Joram went back to be healed in Jezreel of the
wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought
against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king
of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel,
because he was sick.
As among common persons there are some that we call little men,
who make no figure, are little regarded, as less valued, so among kings
there are some whom, in comparison with others, we may call little
kings. This Ahaziah was one of these; he looks mean in the history,
and in God's account vile, because wicked. It is too plain an evidence
of the affinity between Jehoshaphat and Ahab that they had the same
names in their families at the same time, in which, we may suppose,
they designed to compliment one another. Ahab had two sons, Ahaziah and
Jehoram, who reigned successively; Jehoshaphat had a son and grandson
names Jehoshaphat had a son and grandson names Jehoram and Ahaziah,
who, in like manner, reigned successively. Names indeed do not make
natures, but it was a bad omen to Jehoshaphat's family to borrow names
from Ahab's; or, if he lent the names to that wretched family, he could
not communicate with them the devotion of their significations,
Ahaziah--Taking hold of the Lord, and Jehoram--The Lord
exalted. Ahaziah king of Israel had reigned but two years, Ahaziah
king of Judah reigned but one. We are here told that his relation to
Ahab's family was the occasion,
1. Of his wickedness
(2 Kings 8:27):
He walked in the way of the house of Ahab, that idolatrous
bloody house; for his mother was Ahab's daughter
(2 Kings 8:26),
so that he sucked in wickedness with his milk. Partus sequitur
ventrem--The child may be expected to resemble the mother. When men
choose wives for themselves they must remember they are choosing
mothers for their children, and are concerned to choose accordingly.
2. Of his fall. Joram, his mother's brother, courted him to join with
him for the recovery of Ramoth-Gilead, an attempt fatal to Ahab; so it
was to Joram his son, for in that expedition he was wounded
(2 Kings 8:28),
and returned to Jezreel to be cured, leaving his army there in
possession of the place. Ahaziah likewise returned, but went to
Jezreel to see how Jehoram did,
2 Kings 8:29.
Providence so ordered it, that he who had been debauched by the house
of Ahab might be cut off with them, when the measure of their iniquity
was full, as we shall find in the next chapter. Those who partake with
sinners in their sins must expect to partake with them in their