2 Kings 7 Bible Commentary

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible

(Read all of 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.

Verse 1. Then Elisha said, hear the word of the Lord,.... This he said to the king and those that were with him:

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.

Verse 2. Then a lord, on whose hand the king leaned,.... Not figuratively, in whom the king confided, but literally, on whose hand he rested, and by whom he was supported, being a form and matter of state, while he and Elisha were talking together, or on whom he leaned as he came to him; this was a principal lord, the third to the king, as his title seems to denote; the word by which the Septuagint renders it is by Suidas {u} interpreted of such that held three spears in the hand together; and this was an honourable post, for a king to lean on him; such state was used by the king of Syria, 2 Kings 5:18 and by the kings and queens of Persia; so Gorionides {w} says of Esther, that on the third day; she put on her beautiful garments and glorious ornaments, and took two of her maidens with her, and put her right hand on one of them, and leaned upon her in a royal manner, or as was the manner of kings: the same

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 tristatai. {w} Heb. Hist. l. 2. c. 4.

Verse 3. And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate,.... Of the city of Samaria; lepers, according to the law, being obliged to be without the city and camp, Leviticus 13:46 these might have a dwelling assigned them near the gate; or they might get as near to it as they could, partly to obtain relief from the city, and partly for fear of the Syrians; these, the Jews say {x}, were Gehazi and his three sons, see 2 Kings 5:27

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.

Verse 4. If we say we will enter into the city,.... Contrary to the law which forbid them:

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.

Verse 5. And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians,...., The dusk of the evening, or the evening twilight, as appears from 2 Kings 7:9,

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.

Verse 6. For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host,.... Or of many armies, as the Targum; either in the air by the ministry of angels; or the Lord so wrought upon their imagination, that they fancied they heard such noises; or he caused such noises in their ears:

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.

Verse 7. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight,.... Or in the dark, as the Targum; when the twilight was going off; so that the lepers came very quickly after they were gone, 2 Kings 7:5

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.

Verse 8. And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent,.... The first they came to:

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.

Verse 9. Then they said one to another, we do not well,.... This is not right, to take this booty to ourselves; it is not doing justice to our brethren, and it may not prove well to ourselves in the issue:

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.

Verse 10. So they came and called to the porter of the city,.... The chief of those that had the care of the gate of it; for there were more than one, as follows:

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.

Verse 11. And he called the porters,.... The porter of the city called to the porters of the king's palace:

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.

Verse 12. And the king arose in the night,.... Upon the report made to him:

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.

Verse 13. And one of his servants answered and said, let some take, I pray thee, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city,.... Not having died through the famine as the rest:

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.

Verse 14. They took therefore two chariot horses,.... Not five, but two only, and those the best, that drew in the king's chariot perhaps, and so were better fed, and fitter for this expedition:

and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, go and see; whether they are fled or not.

Verse 15. And they went after them unto Jordan,.... Not finding them in the camp, and knowing the rout they would take to their own land, they went as far as Jordan, over which they must pass:

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.)

Verse 16. And the people went out and spoiled the tents of the Syrians,.... Of their riches, and of their provisions; of which there was such a plenty, not only for present use, but for sale,

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.

Verse 17. And the king appointed the lord, on whose hand he leaned, to have the charge of the gate,.... Not to keep out the enemy, of which there was no danger; but to prevent disorders and tumults among the people, and that they might go out in an orderly and regular manner:

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.

Verse 18. And it came to pass, as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying,.... As in 2 Kings 7:1, and what he said to the king there, and to the lord, in 2 Kings 7:2, are repeated in this and the next verse, that it might be observed how exactly the prophecies were fulfilled.

Verse 19. And that lord answered the man of God, and said,.... As in 2 Kings 7:2

and he said; that is, Elisha, as in the same place.

Verse 20. And so it fell out unto him,.... As the prophet predicted:

for the people trod upon him in the gate, and he died; See Gill on "2Ki 7:17."