Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:1
The famine here recorded, and the conversation of the monarch with Gehazi, must have been anterior to the events related in 2 Kings 5 since we may be sure that a king of Israel would not have entered into familiar conversation with a confirmed leper. The writer of Kings probably col ected the miracles of Elisha from various sources, and did not always arrange them chronologically. Here the link of connection is to be found in the nature of the miracle. As Elisha on one occasion prophesied plenty, so on another he had prophesied a famine.
Called for a famine - A frequent expression (compare the marginal references). God's "calling for" anything is the same as His producing it (see Eze 36:29; Rom 4:17).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:2
The country of the Philistines - the rich low grain-growing plain along the seacoast of Judah - was always a land of plenty compared with the highlands of Palestine. Moreover, if food failed there, it was easily imported by sea from the neighboring Egypt.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:3
During the Shunammite's absence in Philistia, her dwelling and her grain-fields had been appropriated by some one who refused to restore them. She therefore determined to appeal to the king. Such direct appeals are common in Oriental countries. Compare Kg2 6:26; Sa2 14:4; Kg1 3:16.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:6
A certain officer - literally, "a certain eunuch" (margin). Eunuchs were now in common use at the Samaritan court (compare Kg2 9:32). They are ascribed to the court of David in Chronicles Ch1 28:1; and we may conjecture that they were maintained by Solomon. But otherwise we do not find them in the kingdom of Judah until the time of Hezekiah Isa 56:3-4.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:7
The hour had come for carrying out the command given by God to Elijah (marginal reference "e"), and by him probably passed on to his successor. Elisha, careless of his own safety, quitted the land of Israel, and proceeded into the enemy's country, thus putting into the power of the Syrian king that life which he had lately sought so eagerly Kg2 6:13-19.
The man of God - The Damascenes had perhaps known Elisha by this title from the time of his curing Naaman. Or the phrase may be used as equivalent to "prophet," which is the title commonly given to Elisha by the Syrians. See Kg2 6:12. Compare Kg2 5:13.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:8
Hazael was no doubt a high officer of the court. The names of Hazael and Benhadad occur in the Assyrian inscription on the Black Obelisk now in the British Museum. Both are mentioned as kings of Damascus, who contended with a certain Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, and suffered defeat at his hands. In one of the battles between this king and Benhadad, "Allah of Jezreel" is mentioned among the allies of the latter. This same Shalmaneser took tribute from Jehu. This is the point at which the Assyrian records first come in direct contact with those of the Jews.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:9
Every good thing of Damascus - Probably, besides rich robes and precious metals, the luscious wine of Helbon, which was the drink of the Persian kings, the soft white wool of the anti-Libanus Eze 27:18, damask coverings of couches Amo 3:12, and numerous manufactured articles of luxury, which the Syrian capital imported from Tyre, Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon. Forty camels were laden with it, and this goodly caravan paraded the streets of the town, conveying to the prophet the splendid gift designed for him. Eastern ostentation induces donors to make the greatest possible show of their gifts, and each camel would probably bear only one or two articles.
Thy son Ben-hadad - A phrase indicative of the greatest respect, no doubt used at the command of Benhadad in order to dispose the prophet favorably toward him. Compare Kg2 6:21.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:10
Translate - "Go, say unto him, Thou shalt certainly live: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall certainly die." i. e.," Say to him, what thou hast already determined to say, what a courtier is sure to say (compare Kg1 22:15), but know that the fact will be otherwise."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:11
That is, "And he (Elisha) settled his conntenance, and set it (toward Hazael), until he (Hazael) was ashamed." Elisha fixed on Hazael a long and meaning look, until the latter's eyes fell before his, and his cheek flushed. Elisha, it would seem, had detected the guilty thought that was in Hazael's heart, and Hazael perceived that he had detected it. Hence the "shame."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:12
The evil that thou wilt do - The intention is not to tax Hazael with special cruelty, but only to enumerate the ordinary horrors of war, as it was conducted among the Oriental nations of the time. Compare the marginal references.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:13
But what, is thy servant a dog? - This is a mistranslation, and conveys to the English reader a sense quite different from that of the original. Hazael's speech runs thus - "But what is thy servant, this dog, that he should do this great thing?" He does not shrink from Elisha's words, or mean to say that he would be a dog, could he act so cruelly as Elisha predicts he will. On the contrary, Elisha's prediction has raised his hopes, and his only doubt is whether so much good fortune ("this great thing") can be in store for one so mean. "Dog" here, as generally (though not always) in Scripture, has the sense of "mean," "low," "contemptible."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:14
Hazael omitted the clause by which Elisha had shown how those words were to be understood. He thus deceived his master, while he could flatter himself that he had not uttered a lie.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:15
A thick cloth - Probably, a cloth or mat placed between the head and the upper part of the bedstead, which in Egypt and Assyria was often so shaped that pillows (in our sense) were unnecessary.
The objection that Elisha is involved in the guilt of having suggested the deed, has no real force or value. Hazael was no more obliged to murder Benhadad because a prophet announced to him that he would one day be king of Syria, than David was obliged to murder Saul because another prophet anointed him king in Saul's room Sa1 16:1-13.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:16
The passage is parenthetic, resuming the history of the kingdom of Judah from Kg1 22:50.
The opening words are - "In the fifth year of Joram, son of Ahab, king of Israel, and of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah;" but they contradict all the other chronological notices of Jehoshaphat Kg1 22:42, Kg1 22:51; Kg2 3:1; Ch2 20:31, which give him a reign of at least twenty-three years. Hence, some have supposed that the words "Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah," are accidentally repeated. Those, however, who regard them and Kg2 1:17 as sound, suppose that Jehoshaphat gave his son the royal title in his 16th year, while he advanced him to a real association in the empire seven years later, in his 23rd year. Two years afterward, Jehoshatphat died, and Jehoram became sole king.
The "eight years" are counted from his association in the kingdom. They terminate in the twelfth year of Johoram of Israel.
Jehoshaphat's alliance, political and social, with Ahab and Ahab's family had not been allowed to affect the purity of his faith. Jehoram his son, influenced by his wife, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, "walked in the way of the kings of Israel;" he allowed, i. e., the introduction of the Baal-worship into Judaea.
Among the worst of Jehoram's evil doings must be reckoned the cruel murder of his six brothers Ch2 21:4, whom he killed to obtain their wealth.
The natural consequence of Jehoram's apostasy would have been the destruction of his house, and the transfer of the throne of Judah to another family. Compare the punishments of Jeroboam Kg1 14:10, Baasha Kg1 16:2-4, and Ahab Kg1 21:20-22. But the promises to David (marginal references) prevented this removal of the dynasty; and so Jehoram was punished in other ways Kg2 8:22; Ch2 21:12-19.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:20
Edom, which had been reduced by David Sa2 8:14; Kg1 11:15-16, but had apparently revolted from Solomon Kg1 11:14, was again subjected to Judah in the reign of Jehoshaphat 2 Kings 3:8-26. The Edomites had, however, retained their native kings, and with them the spirit of independence. They now rose in revolt, and fulfilled the prophecy Gen 27:40, remaining from henceforth a separate and independent people (Jer 25:21; Jer 27:3; Amo 1:11, etc.). Kings of Edom, who seem to be independent monarchs, are often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:21
Zair - Perhaps Seir, the famous mountain of Edom Gen 14:6.
The people - i. e., The Edomites. Yet, notwithstanding his success, Joram was forced to withdraw from the country, and to leave the natives to enjoy that independence Kg2 8:22, which continued until the time of John Hyrcanus, who once more reduced them.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:22
Libnah revolted - Libnah being toward the southwest of Palestine Jos 15:42, its revolt cannot well have had any direct connection with that of Edom. It had been the capital of a small Canaanite state under a separate king before its conquest by Joshua Jos 10:30; Jos 12:15, and may perhaps always have retained a considerable Canaanite population. Or its loss may have been connected with the attacks made by the Philistines on Jehoram's territories Ch2 21:16-17.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:24
On the death of Jehoram, see Ch2 21:12-19. His son is also called Jehoahaz (margin) by a transposition of the two elements of the name.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:26
Such names as Athaliah, Jehoram, and Ahaziah, indicate that the Baal-worshipping kings of Israel did not openly renounce the service of Yahweh. Athaliah is "the time for Yahweh;" Ahaziah "the possession of Yahweh;" Jehoram, or Joram, "exalted by Yahweh."
The daughter of Omri - "Son" and "daughter" were used by the Jews of any descendants (compare Mat 1:1). The whole race were "the children of Israel." Athaliah was the grand-daughter of Omri (see the margin). Her being called "the daughter of Omri" implies that an idea of special greatness was regarded as attaching to him, so that his name prevailed over that of Ahab. Indications of this ideal greatness are found in the Assyrian inscriptions, where the early name for Samaria is Beth-Omri, and where even Jehu has the title of "the son of Omri."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:28
This war of the two kings against Hazael seems to have had for its object the recovery of Ramoth-gilead, which Ahab and Jehoshaphat had vainly attempted fourteen years earlier 1 Kings 22:3-36. Joram probably thought that the accession of a new and usurping monarch presented a favorable opportunity for a renewal of the war. It may also have happened that Hazael was engaged at the time upon his northern frontier with repelling one of those Assyrian attacks which seem by the inscriptions to have fallen upon him in quick succession during his earlier years. At any rate, the war appears to have been successful. Ramoth-gilead was recovered Kg2 9:14, and remained probably thenceforth in the hands of the Israelites.
The Syrians wounded Joram - According to Josephus, Joram was struck by an arrow in the course of the siege, but remained until the place was taken. He then withdrew to Jezreel Kg1 18:45; Kg1 21:1, leaving his army under Jehu within the walls of the town.