2Ki 6:1-7. Elisha Causes Iron to Swim.
1. the place where we dwell with thee -- Margin, |sit before thee.| The one points to a common residence -- the other to a common place of meeting. The tenor of the narrative shows the humble condition of Elisha's pupils. The place was either Beth-el or Jericho, probably the latter. The ministry and miracles of Elisha brought great accessions to his schools.
2. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan -- whose wooded banks would furnish plenty of timber.
5. it was borrowed -- literally, |begged.| The scholar's distress arose from the consideration that it had been presented to him; and that, owing to his poverty, he could not procure another.
6. cut down a stick, and cast it in thither -- Although this means was used, it had no natural adaptation to make the iron swim. Besides, the Jordan is at Jericho so deep and rapid that there were one thousand chances to one against the stick falling into the hole of the axe-head. All attempts to account for the recovery of the lost implement on such a theory must be rejected.
the iron did swim -- only by the miraculous exertion of Elisha's power.
2Ki 6:8-17. Discloses the King of Syria's Counsel.
8-12. the king of Syria warred against Israel -- This seems to have been a sort of guerrilla warfare, carried on by predatory inroads on different parts of the country. Elisha apprised King Jehoram of the secret purpose of the enemy; so, by adopting precautionary measures, he was always enabled to anticipate and defeat their attacks. The frequency of his disappointments having led the Syrian king to suspect some of his servants of carrying on a treacherous correspondence with the enemy, he was informed about Elisha, whose apprehension he forthwith determined to effect. This resolution was, of course, grounded on the belief that however great the knowledge of Elisha might be, if seized and kept a prisoner, he could no longer give information to the king of Israel.
13. Dothan -- or, |Dothaim,| a little north of Samaria (see on Ge 37:17).
15. his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? -- When the Syrian detachment surrounded the place by night, for the apprehension of the prophet, his servant was paralyzed with fear. This was a new servant, who had only been with him since Gehazi's dismissal and consequently had little or no experience of his master's powers. His faith was easily shaken by so unexpected an alarm.
17. Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see -- The invisible guard of angels that encompass and defend us (Ps 34:7). The opening of the eyes, which Elisha prayed for, were those of the Spirit, not of the body -- the eye of faith sees the reality of the divine presence and protection where all is vacancy or darkness to the ordinary eye. The horses and chariots were symbols of the divine power (see on 2Ki 2:12); and their fiery nature denoted their supernatural origin; for fire, the most ethereal of earthly elements, is the most appropriate symbol of the Godhead [Keil].
2Ki 6:18-23. His Army Smitten with Blindness.
18. Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness -- not a total and material blindness, for then they could not have followed him, but a mental hallucination (see Ge 19:11) so that they did not perceive or recognize him to be the object of their search.
19-23. This is not the way, neither is this the city -- This statement is so far true that, as he had now left the place of his residence, they would not have got him by that road. But the ambiguity of his language was purposely framed to deceive them; and yet the deception must be viewed in the light of a stratagem, which has always been deemed lawful in war.
he led them to Samaria -- When they were arrived in the midst of the capital, their eyes, at Elisha's request, were opened, and they then became aware of their defenseless condition, for Jehoram had received private premonition of their arrival. The king, so far from being allowed to slay the enemies who were thus unconsciously put in his power, was recommended to entertain them with liberal hospitality and then dismiss them to their own country. This was humane advice; it was contrary to the usage of war to put war captives to death in cold blood, even when taken by the point of the sword, much more those whom the miraculous power and providence of God had unexpectedly placed at his disposal. In such circumstances, kind and hospitable treatment was every way more becoming in itself, and would be productive of the best effects. It would redound to the credit of the true religion, which inspired such an excellent spirit into its professors; and it would not only prevent the future opposition of the Syrians but make them stand in awe of a people who, they had seen, were so remarkably protected by a prophet of the Lord. The latter clause of 2Ki 6:23 shows that these salutary effects were fully realized. A moral conquest had been gained over the Syrians.
2Ki 6:24-33. Ben-hadad Besieges Samaria.
24. Ben-hadad ... besieged Samaria -- This was the predicted accomplishment of the result of Ahab's foolish and misplaced kindness (1Ki 20:42).
25. an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver -- Though the ass was deemed unclean food, necessity might warrant their violation of a positive law when mothers, in their extremity, were found violating the law of nature. The head was the worst part of the animal. Eighty pieces of silver, equal to £5 5s.
the fourth part of a cab -- A cab was the smallest dry measure. The proportion here stated was nearly half a pint for 12s.6d.
dove's dung -- is thought by Bochart to be a kind of pulse or pea, common in Judea, and still kept in the storehouses of Cairo and Damascus, and other places, for the use of it by pilgrim-caravans; by Linnæus, and other botanists, it is said to be the root or white bulb of the plant Ornithogalum umbellatum, Star of Beth-lehem. The sacred historian does not say that the articles here named were regularly sold at the rates described, but only that instances were known of such high prices being given.
26. as the king was passing -- to look at the defenses, or to give some necessary orders for manning the walls.
29. we boiled my son, and did eat him -- (See on De 28:53).
30. had sackcloth within upon his flesh -- The horrid recital of this domestic tragedy led the king soon after to rend his garment, in consequence of which it was discovered that he wore a penitential shirt of haircloth. It is more than doubtful, however, if he was truly humbled on account of his own and the nation's sins; otherwise he would not have vowed vengeance on the prophet's life. The true explanation seems to be, that Elisha having counselled him not to surrender, with the promise, on condition of deep humiliation, of being delivered, and he having assumed the signs of contrition without receiving the expected relief, regarded Elisha who had proved false and faithless as the cause of all the protracted distress.
32. But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him -- The latter clause of 2Ki 6:33, which contains the king's impatient exclamation, enables us to account for the impetuous order he issued for the beheading of Elisha. Though Jehoram was a wicked king and most of his courtiers would resemble their master, many had been won over, through the prophet's influence, to the true religion. A meeting, probably a prayer-meeting, of those was held in the house where he lodged, for he had none of his own (1Ki 19:20, 21); and them he not only apprised of the king's design against himself, but disclosed to them the proof of a premeditated deliverance.