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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
The division between the chapters is most awkward here. Elisha, in this verse, replies to the king's challenge in 2 Kings 6:33 - that his God, Yahweh, will give deliverance in the space of a day. On the morrow, by the same time in the day, the famine will have ceased, and food will be even cheaper than usual.
A measure of fine flour - literally, "a seah of fine flour;" about a peck and a half.
For a shekel - About 2 shillings 8 12 d.
Two measures of burley - Or, "two seahs of barley;" about three pecks.
In the gate - The "gates," or "gateways," of Eastern towns are favorite places for the despatch of various kinds of business. It would seem that at Samaria one of the gates was used for the grain market.
2Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
A lord - Rather, "the captain," as in Exodus 14:7; 1 Kings 9:22; etc. The term itself, שׁלישׁ shâlı̂ysh (derived from שׁלושׁ shâlôsh, "three,") may be compared with the Latin "tribunus."
Windows - Rather, "sluices" (compare Genesis 7:11). The "lord" means to say "If Yahweh were to open sluices in heaven, and pour down grain as He poured down rain in the time of the Deluge, even then could there be such abudnance as thou speakest of?"
3And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
The position of the lepers is in accordance with the Law of Moses (marginal references); and shows that the Law was still observed to some extent in the kingdom of Israel.
4If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
5And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.
The twilight - The evening twilight (see 2 Kings 7:9).
The uttermost part of the camp - The extreme boundary of the camp toward the city, not its furthest or most distant portion. Compare 2 Kings 7:8.
6For 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: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.
It is a matter of no importance whether we say that the miracle by which God now performed deliverance for Samaria consisted in a mere illusion of the sense of hearing (compare 2 Kings 6:19-20); or whether there was any objective reality in the sound (compare the marginal references).
The king of Israel hath hired - The swords of mercenaries had been employed by the nations bordering on Palestine as early as the time of David 2 Samuel 10:6; 1 Chronicles 19:6-7. Hence, the supposition of the Syrians was far from improbable.
The kings of the Hittites - The Hittites, who are found first in the south Genesis 23:7, then in the center of Judea Joshua 11:3, seem to have retired northward after the occupation of Palestine by the Israelites. They are found among the Syrian enemies of the Egyptians in the monuments of the 19th dynasty (about 1300 B.C.), and appear at that time to have inhabited the valley of the Upper Orontes. In the early Assyrian monuments they form a great confederacy, as the most powerful people of northern Syria, dwelling on both banks of the Euphrates, while at the same time there is a second confederacy of their race further to the south, which seems to inhabit the anti-Lebanon between Hamath and Damascus. These southern Hittites are in the time of Benhadad and Hazael a powerful people, especially strong in chariots; and generally assist the Syrians against the Assyrians. The Syrians seem now to have imagined that these southern Hittites had been hired by Jehoram.
The kings of the Egyptians - This is a remarkable expression, since Egypt elsewhere throughout Scripture appears always as a centralised monarchy under a single ruler. The probability is that the principal Pharaoh had a prince or princes associated with him on the throne, a practice not uncommon in Egypt. The period, which is that of the 22nd dynasty, is an obscure one, on which the monuments throw but little light.
7Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.
8And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.
9Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household.
The lepers began to think that if they kept this important matter secret during the whole night for their own private advantage, when the morning came they would be found out, accused, and punished (see margin).
10So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.
They called unto the porter ... and told them - The word "porter" is used like our "guard" and the meaning here is, not that the lepers called to any particular individual, but that they roused the body of men who were keeping guard at one of the gates.
11And he called the porters; and they told it to the king's house within.
12And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.
His servants - i. e., "high officers of the household," not mere domestics.
I will shew you what the Syrians have done - Jehoram sees in the deserted camp a stratagem like that connected with the taking of Ai Joshua 8:3-19. The suspicion was a very natural one, since the Israelites knew of no reason why the Syrians should have raised the siege.
13And 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, (behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it: behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed:) and let us send and see.
Behold ... - The Septuagint and a large number of the Hebrew MSS. omit the clause, "behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it." But the text followed by our translators, which is that of the best maunscripts, is intelligible and needs no alteration. It is merely a prolix way of stating that the horsemen will incur no greater danger by going to reconnoitre than the rest of their countrymen by remaining in the city, since the whole multitude is perishing.
14They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see.
Two chariot horses - Translate, "two horse-chariots." They dispatched i. e. two war-chariots, with their proper complement of horses and men, to see whether the retreat was a reality or only a feint. The "horses" sent would be four or six, since chariots were drawn by either two or three horses.
15And they went after them unto Jordan: and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king.
The Syrians had fled probably by the great road which led from Samaria to Damascus through Geba, En-gannim, Beth-shean, and Aphek. It crosses the Jordan at the Jisr Mejamia, about thirty-five miles northeast of Samaria.
16And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.
17And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.
18And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be to morrow about this time in the gate of Samaria:
19And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
20And so it fell out unto him: for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died.