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25 And he went from thence to mount Carmel ; | but not like his father, and like his mother; for he and from thence he returned to Samaria. put away the image of 'Baal that his father had made.
3 Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin: he departed not therefrom.
4 And Mesha king of Moab was a sheep-master, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.
We are now called to attend the public affairs of Israel, in which we shall find Elisha concerned. Here is, I. The general character of Jehoram king of Israel, 1-3. II. A war with Moab, in which Jehoram and his allies were engaged, v. 4-8. III. The straits which the confederate army were reduced to in their
expedition against Moab, and their consulting of Elisha in that distress, with
the answer of peace he gave them, v. 9-19. IV. The glorious issue of this
campaign, (v. 20-25,) and the barbarous method the king of Moab took to
oblige the confederate army to retire, v. 26, 27. The house of Ahab is doomed to destruction; and though in this chapter we have both its character and its condition better than before, yet the threatened ruin is not far off.
NOW Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and` reigned twelve
2 And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; a c. 1. 17. statue. b 1 Kings 16. 32. c 1 Kings 12. 28-32. likely, being come to the town of his approach) went out to meet him, not with their hosannas, as they ought to have done, but with their scoffs; they gathered about him, and mocked him, as if he had been a fool, or one fit to make sport with: among other things that they used to jeer the prophets with, they had this particular taunt for him, Go up thou bald-head; Go up thou bald-head. It is a wicked thing to reproach any for their natural infirmities or deformities; it is adding affliction to the afflicted; and if they are as God made them, the reproach reflects upon him. But this was such a thing as scarcely deserved to be called a blemish, and would never have been turned to his reproach, if they had had any thing else to reproach him with. It was his character as a prophet, that they designed to abuse. The honour God had crowned him with, should have been sufficient to cover his bald head, and protect him from their scoffs. They bade him go up, perhaps reflecting on the assumption of Elijah: "Thy master," they say, "is gone up; why dost not thou go up after him? Where is the fiery chariot? When shall we be rid of thee too?" These children said as they were taught; they had learned of their idolatrous parents to call foul names, and give bad language, especially to prophets. Perhaps their parents did, at the same time, send them out, and set them on, that, if possible, they might keep the prophet out of their town.
2. A specimen of that ruin which came upon Israel, at last, for misusing God's prophets, and of which this was intended to give them fair warning. Elisha heard their taunts, a good while, with patience; but, at length, the fire of holy zeal for God was kindled in his breast by the continued provocation, and he turned and looked upon them, to try if a grave and severe look would put them out of countenance, and oblige them to retire; to see if he could discern in their faces any marks of ingenuousness: but they were not ashamed, neither could they blush; and therefore he cursed them in the name of the Lord, both imprecated and denounced the following judgment, not in personal revenge for the indignity done to himself, but as the mouth of divine justice to punish the dishonour done to God. His summons was immediately obeyed: two she-bears (bears perhaps robbed of their whelps) came out of an adjacent wood, | and presently killed 42 children, v. 24. Now in this, (1.) The prophet must be justified, for he did it by divine impulse. Had the curse come from any bad principle, God would not have said Amen to it. We may think it had been better to have called for two rods for the correction of these children, than two bears for the destruction of them. But Elisha knew, by the Spirit, the bad character of these children, what a generation of vipers they were, and what mischievous enemies they would be to God's prophets, if they should live to be men, who began so early to be abusive to them. He intended hereby to punish the parents, and to make them afraid of God's judgments. (2.) God must be glorified, as a righteous God that hates sin, and will reckon for it, even in little children. Let the hideous shrieks and groans of this wicked wretched brood make our flesh tremble for fear of God. Let little children be afraid of speaking wicked words, for God notices what they say. Let them not mock at any for their defects in mind or body, but pity them rather; especially let them know that it is at their peril, if they jeer God's people or ministers, and scoff at any for well doing. Let parents that would have comfort in their childrea, train them up well, and do their utmost betimes to drive out the foolishness that is bound up in their hearts; for, (as Bishop Hall says,) "In vain do we look for good of those children whose education we have neglected; and in vain do we grieve or those miscarriages which our care might have prevented."
Elisha comes to Bethel, and fears not the revenges of the bereaved parents; God, who bade him do what he did, he knew would bear him out. Thence he goes to mount Carmel, (v. 25,) where, it is probable, there was a religious house fit for retirement and contemplation. Thence he returned to Samaria, where, being a public place, this father of the prophets might be most serviceable. Bishop Hall observes here, "That he can never be a profitable seer, who is either always or never alone."
NOTES TO CHAPTER III.
V. 1-5. Jehoram, the son of Ahab, and brother of Ahaziah, is here upon the throne of Israel; and though he was but a bad man, yet two things are here recorded of him.
5 But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
6 And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel.
7 And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king
d 2 Sam. 8. 2. Ps. 108. 9, 10. e Is. 16. 1. ƒ c. 1. 1. 8. 20.
1. That he removed his father's idols. He did evil in many things, but not like his father Ahab, or his mother Jezebel, v. 2. Bad he was, but not so bad, so overmuch wicked, as Solomon speaks, Ec. 7. 17. Perhaps Jehoshaphat, though by his alliance with the house of Ahab he made his own family worse, did something toward making Ahab's better. Jehoram saw his father and brother cut off for worshipping Baal, and wisely took warning by God's judgments on them, and put away the image of Baal, resolving to worship the God of Israel only, and consult nene but his prophets. So far was well, yet it did not prevent the destruction of Ahab's family, nay, that destruction came in his days, and fell immediately upon him, (ch. 9. 24;) though he was one of the best of the family, for then the measure of its iniquity was full. Jehoram's reformation was next to none: for, (1.) He only put away the image of Baal which his father had made, and this, probably, in compliment to Jehoshaphat, who otherwise would not have come into confederacy with him, any more than with this brother, 1 Kings 22. 49. But he did not destroy the worship of Baal among the people, for Jehu found it prevalent, ch. 10. 19. It was well to reform his family, but it was not enough; he ought to have used his power for the reforming of his kingdom. (2.) When he put away the image of Baal, he maintained the worship of the calves, that politic sin of Jeroboam, v. 3. He departed not therefrom, because that was the state engine by which the division between the two tribes was supported. Those do not truly nor acceptably repent or reform, who only part with the sins that they lose by, but continue their affection to the sins that they get by. (3.) He only put away the image of Baal, he did not break it in pieces, as he ought to have done. He laid it aside for the present, yet not knowing but he might have occasion for it another time; and Jezebel, for reasons of state, was content to worship her Baal in private.
2. That he did what he could, to recover his brother's losses. As he had something more of the religion of an Israelite than his father, so he had something more of the spirit of a king than his brother. Moab rebelled against Israel immediately upon the death of his father, ch. 1. 1. And we do not find that Ahaziah made any attempt to chastise or reduce them, but tamely let go his interest in them rather than entertain the cares, undergo the fatigues, and run the hazards, of a war with them. His folly and pusillanimity herein, and his indifference to the public good, were the more aggravated, because the tribute which the king of Moab paid, was a very considerable branch of the revenue of the crown of Israel. An hundred thousand ambs, and an hundred thousand wethers, v. 4. The riches of kings then lay more in cattle than coin, and they thought it not below them to know the state of their flocks and herds themselves, because, as Solomon observes, the crown doth not endure to every generation, Prov. 27. 23, 24. Taxes were then paid, not so much in money, as in the commodities of the country, which was an ease to the subject, whether it were an advantage to the prince or no. The revolt of Moab was a great loss to Israel, yet Ahaziah sat still in sloth and ease. But an upper chamber in his house proved as fatal to him, as the high places of the field could have been, (ch. 1. 2;) and the breaking of his lattice let into his throne a man of a more active genius, that will not lose the dominion of Moab, without making, at least, one push for its preservation.
V. 6-19. Jehoram has no sooner got the sceptre into his hand, than he takes the sword into his hand, to reduce Moab. Crowns bring such cares and perils to the heads that wear them; no sooner in honour than in war. Now here we have,
I. The concerting of this expedition between Jehoram king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Jehoram levied an army, (v. 6,) and such an opinion he had of the godly king of Judah, that, 1. He courted him to be his confederate: Wilt thou go with me against Moab? And he gained him. Jehoshaphat said, I will go up, I am as thou art, v. 7. Judah and Israel, though unhappily divided from each other, yet can unite against Moab, a common enemy. Jehoshaphat upbraids them not with their revolt from the house of David, nor makes it an article of their alliance, that they should return to their allegiance, though he had good reason to insist upon it, but treats with Israel as a sister kingdom. Those are no friends to their own peace and strength, who can never find in their hearts to forgive and forget an old injury, and unite with those that have formerly broken
Kings 22. at their feet, Ex. 11. 8. John 13. 5, 14. 1 Tim. 5. 10. k Ez. 14. 3.
What have I to do with thee? Get 'thee to the
III. Jehoshaphat's good motion to ask counsel of God in this exigence, v. 11. The place they were now in, could not but remind them of the wonders which their fathers told them of, the waters fetched out of the rock for Israel's seasonable supply. The thought of this, we may suppose, encouraged Jehoshaphat to ask, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, like unto Moses? He was the more concerned, because it was by his advice that they fetched this compass through the wilderness, v. 8. It was well that Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord now, but it had been much better if he had done it sooner, before he engaged in this war, or steered this course; so the distress might have been prevented. Good men are sometimes remiss and forgetful, and neglect their duty, till necessity and affliction drive them to it. IV. Elisha recommended as a proper person for them to consult with, v. 11. And here we may wonder, 1. That Elisha should follow the camp, especially in such a tedious march as this, as a volunteer, unasked, unobserved, and in no post of honour at all; not in the office of priest of the war, (Deut. 20. 2,) or president of the council of war, but in such obscurity, that none of the kings knew they had such a jewel in the treasures of their camp, nor so good a friend in their retinue. We may suppose it was by special direction from heaven, that Elisha attended the war, as the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen here of. Thus does God go before his people with the blessing of his goodness, and provide his oracles for those that provide them not for themselves. It would often be bad with us, if God did not take more care of us, both for soul and body, than we for ourselves. 2. That a servant of the king of Israel knew of his being there, when the king himself did not. Probably it was such a servant as Obadiah was to his father Ahab, one that
15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
16 And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches:
17 For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.
18 And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
19 And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mart every good piece of land with stones.
A1 Kings 22. 7. i Luke 22. 27. Judg. 10. 14. Prov. 1. 28. Jer. in upon their rights. Quod initio non valuit, tractu temporis invalescit-That which was originally destitute of authority, in the progress of time, acquires it. 2. He consulted him as his confidant, v.8. He took advice of Jehoshaphat, who had more wisdom and experience than himself, which way they should make their descent upon the country of Moab; and he advised that they should not march against them the nearest way, over Jordan, but go round through the wilderness of Edom, that they might take the king of Edom (who was tributary to him) and his forces along with them: if two be better than one, much more will not a threefold cord be easily broken. Jehoshaphat had like to have paid dear for his joining with Ahab, yet he joins with his son, and this expedition also had like to have been fatal to him. There is nothing got by being yoked with unbelievers. II. The great straits that the army of the confederates was reduced to in this expedition. Before they saw the face of an enemy, they were all in danger of perishing for want of water, v. 9. This ought to have been considered before they ventured" a march through the wilderness, the same wilderness, (or very near it,) where their ancestors wanted water, Num. 20. 2. God suffers his people, by their own improvidence, to bring themselves into distress, that the wisdom, power, and goodness of his providence may be glorified in their relief. What is more cheap and common than water? It is drink to every beast of the field; (Ps. 104. 11,) yet the want of it will soon humble and ruin kings and armies. The king of Israel sadly laments the present distress, and the imminent danger it put them in, of falling into the hands of their enemies the Moabites, to whom, when weakened by thirst, they would be an easy prey, v. 10. It was he that had called these kings together, yet he charges it upon Providence, and reflects upon that as unkind; The Lord has called them together. Thus the foolishness of man perverteth his way, and then his heart fretteth against the Lord,' Prov. 19. 3.
m 1 Kings 18. 19. 1 Kings 17. 1. c. 5. 16. o Pa. 15. 4. g Ez. 1. 3. 3. 14. 8. 1. c. 4. 3. & Deut. 20. 19, 20. feared the Lord; to such a one Elisha made himself known, not to the kings. The account he gives of him is, that it was he that poured water on the hands of Elijah, that is, he was his servant, and, particularly, attended him when he washed his hands. He that will be great, let him learn to minister: he that will rise high, let him begin low.
V. The application which the kings made to Elisha. They went down to him fo his quarters, v. 12. Jehoshaphat had such an esteem for a prophet with whom the word of the Lord was, that he would condescend to visit him in his own person, and not send for him up to him. The other two were moved by the straits they were in, to make their court to the prophet. He that humbled himself, was thus exalted, and looked great, when three kings came to knock at his door, and beg his assistance; see Rev. 3. 9.
VI. The entertainment which Elisha gave them.
p 1 Sam. 1 grieve.
1. He was very plain with the wicked king of Israel; (v. 13,) What have I to do with thee? How canst thou expect an answer of peace from me? Get thee to the prophets of thy father and mother, whom thou hast countenanced and maintained in thy prosperity, and let them help thee now in thy distress." Elisha was not imposed upon, as Jehoshaphat was, by his partial and hypocritical reformation; he knew that though he had put away the image of Baal, Baal's prophets were still dear to him, and perhaps some of them were now in his camp. Go, said he, go to them. Get you to the gods whom ye have served, Judg. 10. 14. The world and the flesh have ruled you, let them help you: why should God be inquired of by you? Ez. 14. 3. Elisha tells him to his face, in a holy indignation at his wickedness, that he could scarcely find in his heart to look toward him, or to see him, v. 14. Jehoram is to be respected as a prince, but as a wicked man, he is a vile person, and is to be contemned, Ps. 15. 4. Elisha, as a subject, will honour him, but, as a prophet, he will make him to know his iniquity. For them that had such an extraordinary commission, it was fit (though not for a comnion person) to say to a king, Thou art wicked, Job 34. 18. Jehoram has so much self-command as to take it patiently; he cares not now for hearing of the prophets of Baal, but is an humble suitor to the God of Israel and his prophet, representing the present case as very deplorable, and humbly recommends it to the prophet's compassionate consideration. In effect, he owns himself unworthy, but let not the other kings be ruined for his sake. 2. He showed a great respect to the godly king of Judah, regarded his presence, and, for his sake, would inquire of the Lord for them all. It is good being with those that have God's favour and his prophet's love. Wicked people often fare the better for the friendship and society of those that are godly.
3. He composed himself to receive instructions from God: his mind was somewhat ruffled and disturbed at the sight of Jehoran; though he was not put into a sinful heat or passion, nor had spoken unadvisedly, yet his zeal, for the present, indisposed him for prayer and the operations of the spirit, which require a mind very calm and sedate. He therefore called for a musician, (v. 15,) a devout musician, one accustomed to play upon his harp, and sing psalms to it. To hear God's praises sweetly sung, as David had appointed, would cheer bis spirits, and settle his mind, and help to put him into a right frame, both to speak to him, and to hear from him. We find a company of prophets prophesying with a psaltery and a tabret before them, 1 Sam. 10. 5. Those that desire communion with God, must keep their spirits quiet and serene. Elisha being refreshed, and having the tumult of his spirits laid by this divine music, the hand of the Lord came upon him, and his visit did him more honour than that of three kings.
20 And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat-offering 'was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom; and the country was filled with water.
21 And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they *gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.
22 And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:
23 And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.
24 And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
25 And they beat down "the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only "in Kir-haraseth
left they the stones thereof; howbeit, the slingers NOW there of the prophets unto Elisha, say
cried certain woman of the wives
went about it, and smote it.
4. God, by him, gave them assurance that the issue of the present distress would be comfortable and glorious.
(1.) They should speedily be supplied with water, v. 16, 17. To try their faith and obedience, he bids them make the valley full of ditches to receive the water. They that expect God's blessings, must prepare room for them, dig the pools for the rain to fill, as they did in the valley of Baca, and so made even that a well, Ps. 84. 6. To raise their wonder, he tells them they should have water enough, and yet there should be neither wind nor rain. Elijah, by prayer, obtained water out of the clouds, but Elisha fetches it nobody knows whence. The spring of these waters shall be as secret as the head of the Nile. God is not tied to second causes. Ordinarily, it is by a plentiful rain, that God confirms his inheritance, (Ps. 68. 9,) but here it is done without rain, at least, without rain in that place. Some of the fountains of the great deep, it is likely, were broken up on this occasion; and, to increase the miracle, that valley only (as it should seem) was filled with water, and no other place had any share of it.
(2.) That supply should be an earnest of victory, v. 18, “This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord; you shall not only be saved from perishing, but shall return in triumph." As God gives freely to the unworthy, so he gives richly, like himself, more than we are able to ask or think. His grants outdo our requests and expectations. They that sincerely seek for the dew of God's grace, shall have it, and by it be made more than conquerors. It is promised that they should be masters of the rebellious country, and they are permitted to lay it waste and ruin it, v. 19. The law forbade them to fell fruit trees to be employed in their sieges, (Deut. 20. 19,) but not when it was intended, in justice, for the starving of a country that had forfeited its fruits by denying tribute to whom tribute is due.
V. 20-27. We have here the divine gift of both those things which God had promised by Elisha; water and victory; and the former not only a pledge of the latter, but a means of it. God, who created, and commands, all the waters both above and beneath the firmament, sent them an abundance of water on a sudden, which did them double service.
26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.
I. It relieved their armies, which were ready to perish, v. 20. And, which was very observable, this relief came just at the time of the offering of the morning sacrifice upon the altar at Jerusalem, a certain time, and universally known; that time Elisha chose for his hour of prayer, (it is likely looking toward the temple, for so they were to do in their prayers, when they were going out to battle, and encamped at a distance, 1 Kings 8. 41,) in token of his communion with the temple service, and his expectation of success, by virtue of the great Sacrifice. We now cannot pitch upon any hour more acceptable than another, because our High Priest is always appearing for us, to present and plead his sacrifice. That time God chose for the hour of mercy, to put an honour upon the daily sacrifice which had been despised. God answered Daniel's prayer just at the time of the evening sacrifice, (Dan. 9. 21,) for he will glorify his own institutions.
II. It deceived their enemies, who were ready to triumph, into their destruction. Notice is brought to the Moabites of the advances of the confederate army; to oppose which, all that were able to put on armour, were raised, and posted upon the frontiers, where they are ready to give them a warm reception, (v. 21,) promising themselves, that it would be easy dealing with an army fatigued by so long a march through the ness of Edom. But see here,
27 Then he took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burntoffering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.
1. How easily they were drawn into their own delusions; observe the steps of their self-deceit. (1.) They saw the water in the valley where the army of Israel encamped, and conceited it was blood, (v. 22,) because they knew it was a dry valley, and (there having been no rain) could not imagine it should be
Great service Elisha had done, in the foregoing chapter, for the three kings; to his prayers and prophecies they owed their lives and triumphs. One would have expected that the next chapter should have told us what honours and what dignities were conferred on Elisha for this: that he should immediately have been preferred at court, and made prime minister of state; that Jehoshaphat should have taken him home with him, and advanced him in his kingdom. No, the wise man delivered the army, but no man remembered the wise man, Ec. 9. 15. Or, if he had preferment offered him, he declined it: he preferred the honour of doing good in the schools of the prophets before that of being great in the courts of princes. God magnified him, and that sufficed him; magnified him indeed, for we have him here employed in working no less than five miracles. 1. He multiplied the poor widow's oil, v. 1-7. II. He obtained for the good Shunamite the blessing of a son in her old age, v. 8-17. III. He raised that child to life, when it was dead, v. 18-37. IV. He healed the deadly pottage, v. 38-41, V. He fed a hundred men with twenty small loaves, v. 42-44.
until he left the stones thereof in Kir-haraseth. w In. 16.7, 11. Mic. 6. 7. y Am. 2. 1. z Is. 37. 37. a 1 Kings 20. 35.
(1.) He attempted that which was bold and brave. He got together 700 choice men, and with them sallied out upon the intrenchments of the king of Edom, who, being but a mercenary in this expedition, would not, he hoped, make any great resistance if he were vigorously attacked, and so he might make his escape that way. But it would not do; even the king of Edom proved too hard for him, and obliged him to retire, v. 26.
(2.) This failing, he did that which was brutish and barbarous; he took his own son, his eldest son, that was to succeed him, than whom nothing could be more dear to himself, and his people, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall, v. 27. He designed by this, [1.] To obtain the favour of Chemosh his god, which, being a devil, delighted in blood and murder, and the destruction of mankind. The dearer any thing was to them, the more acceptable those idolaters thought it must needs be, if offered in sacrifice to their gods, and therefore burned their children in the fire to their honour. [2.] To terrify the be siegers, and oblige them to retire. Therefore he did it upon the wall, in their sight, that they might see what desperate courses he resolved to take rather then surrender, and how dear he would sell his city and life. He intended hereby to render them odious, and to exasperate and enrage his own subjects against them. This effect it had; there was great indignation against Israel for driving him to this extremity. Whereupon, they raised the siege, and returned. Tender and generous spirits would not do that, though just, which will drive any man wilder-distracted, or make him desperate.
water. The sun shone upon it, and, probably, the sky was red and lowering, a presage of foul weather that day, (Matt. 16. 3,) and so it proved to them. But this making the water look red, their own fancies, which made them willing to believe what made for them, suggested, This is blood; God permitting them thus to impose upon themselves. (2.) If their camp was thus full of blood, they conclude, "Certainly the kings have fallen out, (as confederates of different interests are apt to do,) and they have slain one another, (v. 23,) for what else should slay them?" And, (3.) "If the armies have slain one another, we have nothing to do but to divide the prey. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. These were the gradual suggestions of some sanguine spirits among them, that thought themselves wiser and happier in their conjectures than their neighbours; and the rest, being desirous it should be so, were forward to believe it was Quod volumus facile credimus-What we wish, we readily believe. Thus they that are to be destroyed, are first deceived, (Rev. 20. 8;) and none are so effectually deceived as those that deceive themselves.
2. How fatally they thereby ran upon their own destruction. They rushed carelessly into the camp of Israel, to plunder it, but were undeceived, when it was too late. The Israelites, animated by the assurances Elisha had given them of victory, fell upon them with the utmost fury, routed them, and pursued them into their own country, (v. 24,) which they laid waste; (v. 25,) destroyed the cities, marred the ground, stopped up the wells, felled the timber, and left only the royal city standing; in the walls of which they made great breaches with their battering engines. This they got by rebelling against Israel. Who ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered?
In the close of the chapter, we are told what the king of Moab did, when he found himself reduced to the last extremity by the besiegers, and that his capital city was likely to fall into their hands.
NOTES TO CHAPTER IV.
V. 1-7. Elisha's miracles were for use, not for show: this here was so; an act of real charity: Christ's were so; not only great wonders, but great favours, to them for whom they were wrought. God magnifies his goodness with his power.
pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.
5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her, and she poured out.
6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel: and he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.
7 Then she came and told the man of God: and he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy 'debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.
8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to
ing, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.
2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me: what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house save a pot of oil.
3 Then he said, Go,d borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; "borrow not a few.
4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt b Lev. 25. 39. Matt. 18. 25. c 1 Kings 17. 12. d c. 3. 16. Rom. 4. 17.
e Mark 6. 37-44. 8. 5-9. John 2. 7-9. Eph. 3. 20. tor, creditor. There was a day.
what we have, is, to use it; to him that so hath, shall be given. It is not hoarding the talents, but trading with them, that doubles them. (2.) It must be poured out by herself. not by Elisha, or some of the sons of the prophets, to intimate that it is after our careful and diligent endeavours, that we may expect the blessing of God to enrich us, both for this world and the other. What we have, will increase best in our own hand.
I. Elisha readily receives a poor widow's complaint. She was a prophet's widow; to whom therefore should she apply herself, but to him that was a father to the sons of the prophets, and concerned himself in the welfare of their families? It seems, the prophets had wives, as well as the priests, though prophecy went not by entail, as the priesthood did. Marriage is honour able in all, and not inconsistent with the most sacred professions. Now, by the complaint of this poor woman, (v. 1,) we are 2. She did it accordingly. She did not tell the prophet he given to understand, 1. That her husband, being one of the sons designed to make a fool of her, but, firmly believing the divine of the prophets, was well known to Elisha. Ministers of emi-power and goodness, and in pure obedience to the prophet, she nent gifts and stations should make themselves familiar with borrowed vessels large and many of her neighbours, and poured those that are every way their inferiors, and know their charac-out her oil into them; one of her sons was employed to bring ter and state. 2. That he had the reputation of a godly man. her empty vessels, and the other carefully to set aside those that Elisha knew him to be one that feared the Lord, else he had were full, while they were all amazed to find their pot, like a been unworthy of the honour, and unfit for the work, of a prophet. fountain of living water, always flowing, and yet always full; He was one that kept his integrity in a time of general apostacy; they see not the spring that supplies it, but believe it to be in one of the 7000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. 3. That Him in whom all our springs are. Job's metaphor is now he was dead, though a good man, a good minister. The pro- verified in the letter; (Job 29. 6,) The rock poured me out rivers phets do they live for ever? They that were clothed with the of oil. Perhaps this was in the tribe of Asher, part of whose Spirit of prophecy, were not thereby armed against the stroke blessing it was, that he should dip his foot in oil, Deut. 33. 24. of death. 4. That he died poor, and in debt more than he was 3. The oil continued flowing as long as she had any empty worth. He did not contract his debts by prodigality, and luxury, vessels to receive it; when every vessel was full, the oil stayed, and riotous living, for he was one that feared the Lord, and (v. 6,) for it was not fit that this precious liquor should run over, therefore durst not allow himself in such courses: nay, religion and be as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered obliges men not to live above what they have, nor to spend up again. Note, We are never straitened in God, and in his more than what God gives them, no not in expenses otherwise power and bounty, and the riches of his grace; all our straitlawful; for thereby, of necessity, they must disable themselves,ness is in ourselves. It is our faith that fails, not his promise. at last, to give every one his own, and so prove guilty of a con- He gives above what we ask: were there more vessels, there tinued act of injustice all along; yet it may be the lot of those is enough in God to fill them; enough for all, enough for each. that fear God to be in debt, and insolvent, through afflictive Was not this pot of oil exhausted, as long as there were any providences, losses by sea, or bad debts, or their own impru-vessels to be filled from it? And shall we fear lest the golden dence, for the children of light are not always wise for this oil which flows from the very root and fatness of the good olive, world. Perhaps this prophet was impoverished by persecution: should fail as long as there are any lamps to be supplied from when Jezebel ruled, prophets had much ado to live, and espe- it, Zech. 4. 12. cially if they had families. 5. That the creditors were very severe to her. Two sons she had to be the support of her widowed state, and their labour is reckoned assets in her hand; that must go therefore, and they must be bondmen for seven years, (Ex. 21. 2,) to work out this debt. Those that leave their families under a load of debt disproportionable to their estates, know not what trouble they entail. In this distress, the poor widow goes to Elisha, in dependence upon the promise, that the seed of the righteous shall not be forsaken. The generation of the upright may expect help from God's providence, and countenance from his prophets.
II. He effectually relieves this poor widow's distress, and puts her in a way both to pay her debt, and to maintain herself and her family. He did not say, Be warmed, be filled; but gave her real help. He did not give her some small matter for her present provision, but set her up in the world to sell oil, and put a stock into her hand to begin with. This was done by miracle, but it is an indication to us what is the best method of charity, and the greatest kindness one can do to poor people, which is, if possible, to help them into a way of improving what little they have, by their own industry and ingenuity.
4. The prophet directed her what to do with the oil she had, v. 7. She must not keep it for her own use, to make her face to shine. Those whom Providence has made poor, must be content with poor accommodations for themselves-that is knowing how to want; and must not think, when they get a little of that which is better than ordinary, to feed their own luxury: no; (1.) She must sell the oil to those that were rich, and could afford to bestow it on themselves. We may suppose, being produced by miracle, it was the best of its kind, (like the wine, John 2. 10,) so that she might have both a good price, and a quick market, for it. Probably, the merchants bought it to export, for oil was one of the commodities that Israel traded in, Ez. 27. 17. (2.) She must pay her debt with the money she received for her oil. Though her creditors were too rigorous with her, yet they must not therefore lose their debt. Her first care, now that she has wherewithal, must be to discharge that, even before she makes any provision for her children. It is one of the fundamental laws of our religion, that we render to all their due, pay every just debt, give every one his own, though we leave ever so little for ourselves; and this, not of constraint, but willingly and without grudging; not only for wrath, to avoid being sued, but also for conscience' sake. They that bear an honest mind, cannot with pleasure eat their daily bread, unless it be their own bread. (3.) The rest must not be laid up, but she and her children must live upon it, not upon the oil, but upon the money received from it, with which they must put themselves into a capacity of getting an honest livelihood. No doubt, she did as the man of God directed; and hence, [1.] Let those that are poor and in distress, be encouraged to trust God for supply in the way of duty: Verily, thou shalt be fed, though not feasted. It is true, we cannot now expect miracles, yet we may expect mercies, if we wait on God, and seek to him. Let widows particularly, and prophets' widows in a special manner, depend upon him to preserve them and their fatherless children alive, for to them he will be a Husband, a Father.  Let those whom God has blessed with plenty, use it for the glory of God, and under the direction of his word: let them do justly with it, as the widow did, and serve God cheerfully in the use of it; and, as Elisha, be ready to do good to those that need them, be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.
1. He directed her what to do; considered her case; What shall I do for thee? The sons of the prophets were poor, and it would signify little to make a collection for her among them: but the God of the holy prophets is able to supply all her need; and if she has a little committed to her management, her need must be supplied by his blessing and increasing that little. Elisha therefore inquires what she had to make money of, and finds she had nothing to sell but one pot of oil, v. 2. If she had had any plate or furniture, he would have bidden her part with it, to enable her to be just to her creditors. We cannot reckon that really, nor comfortably, our own, which is not so when all our debts are paid. If she had not had this pot of oil, the divine power could have supplied her; but having this, it will work upon this, and so teach us to make the best of what we have. The prophet, knowing her to have credit among her neighbours, bids her borrow of them empty vessels, (v. 3,) for, it seems, she had sold her own, toward the satisfying of her creditors. He directs her to shut the door upon her and her sons, while she filled all those vessels out of that one. She must shut the door, to prevent interruptions from the creditors and others while it was in the doing, that they might not seem proudly to boast of this miraculous supply, and that they might have opportunity for prayer and praise to God upon this extraordinary occasion. Observe, (1.) The oil was to be multiplied in the pouring, as the other widow's meal in the spending. The way to increase
V. 8-17. The giving of a son to such as were old, and had been long childless, was an ancient instance of the divine power and favour, in the case of Abraham, and Isaac, and Manoah, and Elkanah: we find it here among the wonders wrought by Elisha. This was wrought in recompense for the kind entertainment which a good woman gave him, as the promise of a son was
Shunem, where was a great woman: and she *constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that, as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. 11 And it fell on a day that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
given to Abraham when he entertained angels. Observe here,
I. The kindness of the Shunammite woman to Elisha. Things are bad enough in Israel, yet not so bad, but that God's prophet finds friends, wherever he goes. Shunem was a city in the tribe of Issachar, that lay in the road between Samaria and Carmel, a road that Elisha often travelled, as we find ch. 2. 25, There lived a great woman, who kept a good house, and was very hospitable, her husband having a good estate, and his heart safely trusting in her, and in her discreet management, Prov. 31. 11. So famous a man as Elisha, could not pass or repass unobserved. Probably he had been accustomed to take some private obscure lodgings in the town; but this pious matron, having notice once of his being there, pressed him with great importunity, and, with much difficulty, constrained him to dine with her, v. 8. He was modest, and loath to be troublesome; humble, and affected not to associate with those of the first rank; so that it was not without some difficulty, that he was first drawn into an acquaintance there: but afterward, whenever he came that way in his circuit, he constantly called there. So well pleased was she with her guest, and so desirous of his company, that she will not only bid him welcome to her table, but provide a lodging-room for him in her house, that he might make the longer stay, not doubting but her house would be blessed for his sake, and all under her roof edified by his pious instructions and example; a good design, yet she will not do it without acquainting her husband, will neither lay out his money, nor invite strangers to his house, without his consent asked and obtained, v. 9, 10. She suggests to him, 1. That the stranger she would invite, was a holy man of God, who therefore would do good to their family, and God would recompense the kindness done to him; perhaps, she had heard how well paid the widow of Sarepta was for entertaining Elijah. 2. That the kindness she intended him, would be no great charge to them; she would build him only a little chamber: perhaps, she had no spare room in the house, or none private and retired enough for him, who spent much of his time in contemplation, and cared not for being disturbed with the noise of the family. The furniture shall be very plain; no costly hangings, no stands, no couches, no looking-glasses; but a bed, and a table, a stool, and a candlestick; all that was needful for his convenience, not only for his repose, but for his study, his reading and writing. Elisha seems highly pleased with these accommodations, for he turned in and lay there, (v. 11,) and, as it should seem, his man in the same chamber, for he was far from taking state.
14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do 'not lie unto thine handmaid.
17 And the woman conceived," and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head! And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.
20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.
21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.
piness to dwell among our own people, that love and respect us, and to whom we are in a capacity of doing good; and a greater happiness to be content to do so, to be easy, and to know when we are well off; why should those that live comfortably among their own people, covet to live delicately in kings' palaces? It would be well with many, if they did but know when they are well off. Some years after this, we find this Shunammite had occasion to be spoken for to the king, though now she needed it not, ch. 8. 3, 4. Those that dwell among their own people, must not think their mountain stands so strong as that it cannot be moved; they may be driven as this good woman was, to sojourn among strangers; our continuing city is above. 2. He did use his interest for her in the court of heaven, which was far better. Elisha consulted with his servant what kindness he should do for her, such a freedom did this great prophet admit even his servant to: Gelazi tells him she is childless, has a great estate, but no son to leave it to, and was past hopes of having any, her husband being old; if Elisha can obtain this favour from God for her, it will be the removal of that which, at present, was her only grievance. Those are the most welcome kindnesses, which are most suited to our necessities. He sent for her immediately; she very humbly and respectfully stood in the door, (v. 15,) according to her accustomed modesty, and then he assured her that within a year she should bring forth a son, v. 16. She had received this prophet in the name of a prophet, and now she had not a courtier's reward, in being spoken for to the king, but a prophet's reward, a signal mercy given by prophets, and in answer to prayer: the promise was a surprise to her, and she begs she may not be flattered by it; Nay, my lord, thou art a man of God, and therefore, I hope, speakest seriously, and dost not jest with me, nor lie unto thine handmaid." The event, within the time limited, confirmed the truth of the promise; she bare a son at the season that Elisha spake of, v. 17. God built up her house, in reward of her kindness in building the prophet a chamber. We may well imagine what joy this brought to the family; Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear.
V. 18-37. We may well suppose, after the birth of this son, that the prophet was doubly welcome to the good Shunammite: he had thought himself indebted to her, but from henceforth, as long as she lives, she will think herself in his debt, and that she can never do too much for him. We may also suppose that the child was very dear to the prophet, as the son of his prayers, and very dear to the parents, as the son of their old age. But here is,
II. Elisha's gratitude for this kindness; being exceedingly pleased with the quietness of his apartment, and the friendliness of his entertainment, he began to consider with himself what recompense he should make her. They that receive courtesies, should study to return them; it ill becomes men of God to be ungrateful, or to sponge upon those that are generous.
I. The sudden death of the child, though so much a darling; he is so far past the perils of infancy, that he is able to go to the field to his father, who, no doubt, is pleased with his engaging talk, and his joy of his son is greater than the joy of his harvest; but either the cold or the heat of the open field overcame the child, that was bred tenderly, and he complains to his 1. He offers to use his interest for her in the king's court, father that his head aches, v. 19. Whither should we go with v. 13, Thou hast been careful for us with all this care; thus does our complaints, but to our heavenly Father? Thither the Spirit he magnify the kindness he received, as those that are humble, of adoption brings believers with all their grievances, all their are accustomed to do, though, in the purse of one so rich, and desires, teaching them to cry, with groanings that cannot be utin the breast of one so free, it was as nothing; now what shall tered, “My head, my head; my heart, my heart." The father be done for thee? As the liberal devises liberal things, so the sends him to his mother's arms, his mother's lap, little suspectgrateful devises grateful things. "Wouldest thou be spoken for ing any danger in his indisposition, but hoping he will drop to the king, or the captain of the host, for an office for thine asleep in his mother's bosom, and awake well; but it proves husband, civil or military? Hast thou any complaint to make, fatal, he sleeps the sleep of death, (v. 20 ;) well in the morning, any petition to present, any suit at law depending, that needs and dead by noon; all the mother's care and tenderness cannot the countenance of the higher powers? Wherein can I serve keep him alive: a child of promise, a child of prayer, and thee?" It seems, Elisha had got such an interest by his late given in love, yet taken away. Little children lie open to the services, that though he chose not to prefer himself by it, yet arrests of sickness and death. But how admirably does the he was capable of preferring his friends; a good man can take prudent pious mother guard her lips, under this surprising afflicas much pleasure in serving others, as in raising himself. But tion! Not one peevish indecent word comes from her; she has she needs not any good offices of this kind to be done for her, a strong belief that the child will be raised to life again: like a I dwell (says she) among mine own people, that is, "We are genuine daughter of Abraham's faith, as well as loins, she well off as we are, and do not aim at preferment." It is a hap-accounts that God is able to raise him from the dead, for thence VOL. I.-111 ( 881 )