behold, the messenger came down unto him; sent by the king:
and he said; either the messenger in the king's name, or rather the king, who was at his heels, and came to the door before the messenger was let in, who was detained; and therefore it is most probable the king went in first; for that was the intention of Elisha in holding the messenger, not to save his own life, but that the king, who was following, might hear what he had to say; and whom he advised to wait for the Lord, and his appearance, for deliverance: in answer to which he said:
behold, this evil is of the Lord, what should I wait for the Lord any longer? this calamity is from him, and he is determined upon the ruin of my people, and there is no hope; this he said as despairing, and so resolving to hold out the siege no longer.
INTRODUCTION TO 2 Kings 7
This chapter begins with a prophecy of great plenty in Samaria on the morrow, and of the death of an unbelieving lord, 2 Kings 7:1, relates the case of four lepers, who that night went into the Syrian camp, which was deserted, occasioned by the noise of chariots, horses, and a host, which they fancied they heard, 2 Kings 7:3, the report which the lepers made to the king's household of this affair, and the method the king's servants took to know the truth of it, 2 Kings 7:10 which, when confirmed, the people went out and spoiled the tents of the Syrians, whereby the prophecy of plenty was fulfilled, 2 Kings 7:16, and the unbelieving lord having post at the gate of the city assigned him, was trod to death, and so the prediction concerning him had its accomplishment also, 2 Kings 7:17.
thus saith the Lord, tomorrow, about this time; which very probably was the forenoon:
shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel; "a seah", the measure here spoken of, or "saturn", according to some (r), was a gallon and an half; but Bishop Cumberland (s) makes it two wine gallons and an half; and a shekel, according to his accurate computation, was two shillings and four pence farthing, and near the eighth part of one (t):
and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria; where the market was kept; the same sort of measure and of money is here used as before; and we learn from hence that a measure of wheat was equal to two of barley.
(r) Godwin, ut supra. (Moses & Aaron, B. 6. c. 9.) (s) Of Scripture Weights and Measures, c. 3. p. 86. (t) lb. c. 4. p. 104, 105.
answered the man of God; the prophet of the Lord, as the Targum:
and said, behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? it is impossible it should be, if he was to open the windows of heaven as at the flood, and let down showers of wheat and barley, in like manner as he rained manna in the wilderness:
and he said; the prophet in reply to him:
behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof; wheat and barley sold at the above price, but should not taste of it, as a punishment of his unbelief.
(u) In voce (w) Heb. Hist. l. 2. c. 4.
and they said one to another, why sit we here until we die? being ready to perish with hunger.
(x) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 47. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 107. 2.
then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; not being able to obtain food to preserve life:
and if we sit here, we die also; having nothing to eat to support nature:
now therefore let us come, and fall unto the host of the Syrians; put ourselves into their hands, and lie at their mercy:
if they save us alive, we shall live; if they do not put us to death, but give us bread to eat, our lives will be preserved:
and if they kill us, we shall but die; which we must inevitably do, whether we stay here, or go into the city.
and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria; not the further part of it, but the edge or border of it nearest to them:
behold, there was no man there; no sentinel or guard, which they expected, and to whom they would have surrendered themselves.
and they said one to another, lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites; one of the nations of the Canaanites, and may be here put for the whole of those that remained, and who lived upon the borders of the land of Israel; though Josephus (y) has it, the kings of the isles; that is, of Chittim, see Jeremiah 2:10.
and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us; Egypt being now divided into petty kingdoms; or else the governors of the several nomes or districts of it are here meant: for the king of Israel to hire these kings was very unlikely in his present circumstances; but those unreasonable things, in their panic, their imaginations suggested to them.
(y) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4.) sect. 5.
and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses; such was their fright, that they could not stay to loose their cattle, with which they might have made greater speed, but ran away on foot: and they left
even the camp as it was; took nothing away with them, either money or provisions:
and fled for their life; which they imagined to be in great danger.
and did eat and drink; which was the first thing they did, being hungry, and almost starved:
and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; in a place without the camp, where they thought it would be safe, and where they could come at it again:
and came again and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it; this, Josephus says (z), they did four times.
(z) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4.) sect. 5.
this day is a day of good tidings; to be delivered from the enemy, and have such plenty of provisions thrown into their hands; it would be joyful tidings to the inhabitants of the city, did they know it:
and we hold our peace; and do not publish this good tidings, that others may share the benefit of it:
if we tarry till the morning light; when it will in course be discovered:
some mischief will come upon us; either from the Syrians, who they might fear would return by that time, or some of them lurking about would fall upon them and destroy them; or the king of Israel, when he came to know it, would be so incensed as to inflict some punishment on them; or they might expect some evil from the immediate hand of God:
now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household; acquaint some of his servants with what had happened.
and they told them; the porter, and the watchmen with him:
we came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man; not one to be seen or heard:
but horses tied, and asses tied; to their mangers; the latter, as well as the former, were used for war, not only to carry burdens, but to fight upon, as Aelianus (a) relates of some people; and especially when there was a want of horses, as Strabo (b); and both observe that this creature was sacrificed to Mars:
and the tents as they were; none of them struck, nor anything taken out of them.
(a) De Animal. l. 12. c. 34. (b) Geograph. l. 15. p. 500.
and they told it to the king's house within; to some of his domestic servants within the palace, and they reported it to the king.
and he said unto his servants, I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us; taking it to be a stratagem of theirs to decoy them:
they know that we be hungry; and would be glad to come out of the city to get some food:
therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field; to make us believe that they have broke up the siege, and have deserted the camp, and are gone, when they only lie in ambush:
saying, when they come out of the city; which they supposed they would do through hunger:
we shall catch them alive; take them captive at once:
and get into the city; being open to let them out, and receive them on their return.
behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it; behold, I say, they are even as the multitude of Israel that are consumed; signifying, there was a like consumption among the horses as among the people, and they that remained were starving as they were; so that should those horses, and the men, fall into the hands of the Syrians, and perish, it would be no great matter; the loss would not be much, since they must perish if they continue in the city: according to the Vulgate Latin version, these five horses were all that were left:
and let us send and see; whether the report of the lepers is true or not.
and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, go and see; whether they are fled or not.
and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels which the Syrians had cast away in their haste; in their fright and flight, such of their clothes as hindered them in running; and their armour, as Josephus (c) seems rightly to understand the word used, these they threw away for quicker dispatch:
and the messengers returned and told the king: that it was as the lepers said, and what they themselves had seen.
(c) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4. sect. 5.)
so that a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, &c.
according to the word of the Lord; by Elisha, 2 Kings 7:1.
and the people trod upon him in the gate; being eager to get out for food; and he endeavouring to keep order among them, they pressed upon him, and threw him down, and trampled him under foot; or he was placed here to regulate the market, that everyone might be supplied in course, but through the people's pressing to get provisions, he was overborne, and trod upon:
and died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him; so that he saw the plenty, but partook not of it, as he said, see 2 Kings 7:2.
and he said; that is, Elisha, as in the same place.