Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:1
Elisha's Influence Helps the Shunammite to the Possession of her House and Field. - Kg2 8:1, Kg2 8:2. By the advice of Elisha, the woman whose son the prophet had restored to life (Kg2 4:33) had gone with her family into the land of the Philistines during a seven years' famine, and had remained there seven years. The two verses are rendered by most commentators in the pluperfect, and that with perfect correctness, for they are circumstantial clauses, and ותּקם is merely a continuation of דּבּר, the two together preparing the way for, and introducing the following event. The object is not to relate a prophecy of Elisha of the seven years' famine, but what afterwards occurred, namely, how king Joram was induced by the account of Elisha's miraculous works to have the property of the Shunammite restored to her upon her application. The seven years' famine occurred in the middle of Joram's reign, and the event related here took place before the curing of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5), as is evident from the fact that Gehazi talked with the king (Kg2 8:4), and therefore had not yet been punished with leprosy. But it cannot have originally stood between Kg2 4:37 and Kg2 4:38, as Thenius supposes, because the incidents related in Kg2 4:38-44 belong to the time of this famine (cf. Kg2 4:38), and therefore precede the occurrence mentioned here. By the words, "the Lord called the famine, and it came seven years" (sc., lasting that time), the famine is described as a divine judgment for the idolatry of the nation.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:3
When the woman returned to her home at the end of the seven years, she went to the king to cry, i.e., to invoke his help, with regard to her house and her field, of which, as is evident from the context, another had taken possession during her absence.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:4
And just at that time the king was asking Gehazi to relate to him the great things that Elisha had done; and among these he was giving an account of the restoration of the Shunammite's son to life.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:5
While he was relating this, the woman herself came into invoke the help of the king to recover her property, and was pointed out to the king by Gehazi as the very woman of whom he was speaking, which caused the king to be so interested in her favour, that after hearing her complaint he sent a chamberlain with her (saris as in Kg1 22:9), with instructions to procure for her not only the whole of her property, but the produce of the land during her absence. - For עזבה without mappiq, see Ewald, 247, d.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:7
Elisha Predicts to Hazael at Damascus the Possession of the Throne. - Kg2 8:7. Elisha then came to Damascus at the instigation of the Spirit of God, to carry out the commission which Elijah had received at Horeb with regard to Hazael (Kg1 19:15). Benhadad king of Syria was sick at that time, and when Elisha's arrival was announced to him, sent Hazael with a considerable present to the man of God, to inquire of Jehovah through him concerning his illness. The form of the name חזהאל (here and Kg2 8:15) is etymologically correct; but afterwards it is always written without .ה דם וכל־טוּב ("and that all kinds of good of Damascus") follows with a more precise description of the minchah - "a burden of forty camels." The present consisted of produce or wares of the rich commercial city of Damascus, and was no doubt very considerable; at the same time, it was not so large that forty camels were required to carry it. The affair must be judged according to the Oriental custom, of making a grand display with the sending of presents, and employing as many men or beasts of burden as possible to carry them, every one carrying only a single article (cf. Harmar, Beobb. ii. p. 29, iii. p. 43, and Rosenmller, A. u. N. Morgenl. iii. p. 17).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:10
According to the Chethb חיה לא, Elisha's answer was, "Thou wilt not live, and (for) Jehovah has shown me that he will die;" according to the Keri חיה לו, "tell him: Thou wilt live, but Jehovah," etc. Most of the commentators follow the ancient versions, and the Masoretes, who reckon our לא among the fifteen passages of the O.T. in which it stands for the pronoun לו (vid., Hilleri Arcan. Keri, p. 62f.), and some of the codices, and decide in favour of the Keri. (1) because the conjecture that לו was altered into לא in order that Elisha might not be made to utter an untruth, is a very natural one; and (2) on account of the extreme rarity with which a negative stands before the inf. abs. with the finite verb following. But there is not much force in either argument. The rarity of the position of לא before the inf. abs. followed by a finite verb, in connection with the omission of the pronoun לו after אמר, might be the very reason why לא was taken as a pronoun; and the confirmation of this opinion might be found in the fact that Hazael brought back this answer to the king: "Thou wilt live" (Kg2 8:14). The reading in the text לא (non) is favoured by the circumstance that it is the more difficult of the two, partly because of the unusual position of the negative, and partly because of the contradiction to Kg2 8:14. But the לא is found in the same position in other passages (Gen 3:4; Psa 49:8, and Amo 9:8), where the emphasis lies upon the negation; and the contradiction to Kg2 8:14 may be explained very simply, from the fact that Hazael did not tell his king the truth, because he wanted to put him to death and usurp the throne. We therefore prefer the reading in the text, since it is not in harmony with the character of the prophets to utter an untruth; and the explanation, "thou wilt not die of thine illness, but come to a violent death," puts into the words a meaning which they do not possess. For even if Benhadad did not die of his illness, he did not recover from it.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:11
Elisha then fixed Hazael for a long time with his eye, and wept. וגו ויּעמד literally, he made his face stand fast, and directed it (upon Hazael) to shaming. עד־בּשׁ as in Jdg 3:25; not in a shameless manner (Thenius), but till Hazael was embarrassed by it.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:12
When Hazael asked him the cause of his weeping, Elisha replied: "I know the evil which thou wilt do to the sons of Israel: their fortresses wilt thou set on fire (בּאשׁ שׁלּח, see at Jdg 1:8), their youths wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children to pieces, and cut asunder their women with child" (בּקּע, split, cut open the womb). This cruel conduct towards Israel which is here predicted of Hazael, was only a special elaboration of the brief statement made by the Lord to Elijah concerning Hazael (Kg1 19:17). The fulfilment of this prediction is indicated generally in Kg2 10:32-33, and Kg2 13:3.; and we may infer with certainty from Hos 10:14 and Hos 14:1, that Hazael really practised the cruelties mentioned.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:13
But when Hazael replied in feigned humility, What is thy servant, the dog (i.e., so base a fellow: for כּלב see at Sa1 24:15), that he should do such great things? Elisha said to him, "Jehovah has shown thee to me as king over Aram;" whereupon Hazael returned to his lord, brought him the pretended answer of Elisha that he would live (recover), and the next day suffocated him with a cloth dipped in water. מכבּר, from כּבר, to plait or twist, literally, anything twisted; not, however, a net for gnats or flies (Joseph., J. D. Mich., etc.), but a twisted thick cloth, which when dipped in water became so thick, that when it was spread over the face of the sick man it was sufficient to suffocate him.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:16
Reign of Joram of Judah (cf. 2 Chron 21:2-20). - Joram became king in the fifth year of Joram of Israel, while Jehoshaphat his father was (still) king, the latter handing over the government to him two years before his death (see at Kg2 1:17), and reigned eight years, namely, two years to the death of Jehoshaphat and six years afterwards.
(Note: The words יהוּדה מלך ויהושׁפט have been improperly omitted by the Arabic and Syriac, and by Luther, Dathe, and De Wette from their translations; whilst Schulz, Maurer, Thenius, and others pronounce it a gloss. The genuineness of the words is attested by the lxx (the Edit. Complut. being alone in omitting them) and by the Chaldee: and the rejection of them is just as arbitrary as the interpolation of מת, which is proposed by Kimchi and Ewald ("when Jehoshaphat was dead"). Compare J. Meyer, annotatt. ad Seder Olam, p. 916f.)
The Chethb שׁנה שׁמנה is not to be altered, since the rule that the numbers two to ten take the noun in the plural is not without exception (cf. Ewald, 287, i.).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:18
Joram had married a daughter of Ahab, namely Athaliah (Kg2 8:26), and walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, transplanting the worship of Baal into his kingdom. Immediately after the death of Jehoshaphat he murdered his brothers, apparently with no other object than to obtain possession of the treasures which his father had left them (Ch2 21:2-4). This wickedness of Joram would have been followed by the destruction of Judah, had not the Lord preserved a shoot to the royal house for David's sake. For ניר לו לתת see Kg1 11:36. The following word לבניו serves as an explanation of ניר לו, "a light with regard to his sons," i.e., by the fact that he kept sons (descendants) upon the throne.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:20
Nevertheless the divine chastisement was not omitted. The ungodliness of Joram was punished partly by the revolt of the Edomites and of the city of Libnah from his rule, and partly by a horrible sickness of which he died (Ch2 21:12-15). Edom, which had hitherto had only a vicegerent with the title of king (see Kg2 3:9 and Kg1 22:48), threw off the authority of Judah, and appointed its own king, under whom it acquired independence, as the attempt of Joram to bring it back again under his control completely failed. The account of this attempt in Kg2 8:21 and Ch2 21:9 is very obscure. "Joram went over to Zair, and all his chariots of war with him; and it came to pass that he rose up by night and smote the Edomites round about, and indeed the captains of the war-chariots, and the people fled (i.e., the Judaean men of war, not the Edomites) to their tents." It is evident from this, that Joram had advanced to Zair in Idumaea; but there he appears to have been surrounded and shut in, so that in the night he fought his way through, and had reason to be glad that he had escaped utter destruction, since his army fled to their homes. צעירה is an unknown place in Idumaea, which Movers, Hitzig, and Ewald take to be Zoar, but without considering that Zoar was in the land of Moab, not in Edom. The Chronicles have instead שׂריו עם, "with his captains," from a mere conjecture; whilst Thenius regards צעירה as altered by mistake from שׂעירה ("to Seir"), which is very improbable in the case of so well-known a name as שׂעיר. הסּביב is a later mode of writing for הסּובב, probably occasioned by the frequently occurring word סביב. "To this day," i.e., to the time when the original sources of our books were composed. For the Edomites were subjugated again by Amaziah and Uzziah (Kg2 14:7 and Kg2 14:22), though under Ahaz they made incursions into Judah again (Ch2 28:17). - At that time Libnah also revolted. This was a royal city of the early Canaanites, and at a later period it was still a considerable fortress (Kg2 19:8). It is probably to be sought for in the ruins of Arak el Menshiyeh, two hours to the west of Beit-Jibrin (see the Comm. on Jos 10:29). This city probably revolted from Judah on the occurrence of an invasion of the land by the Philistines, when the sons of Joram were carried off, with the exception of the youngest, Jehoahaz (Ahaziah: Ch2 21:16-17).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:23
According to Ch2 21:18., Joram died of a terrible disease, in which his bowels fell out, and was buried in the city of David, though not in the family sepulchre of the kings.
(Note: "The building of Carthage, Dido, her husband Sichaeus, her brother Pygmalion king of Tyre (scelere ante alios immanior omnes), all coincide with the reign of Joram. This synchronism of the history of Tyre is not without significance here. The Tyrian, Israelitish, and Judaean histories are closely connected at this time. Jezebel, a Tyrian princess, was Ahab's wife, and again her daughter Athaliah was the wife of Joram, and after his death the murderess of the heirs of the kingdom, and sole occupant of the throne. Tyre, through these marriages, introduced its own spirit and great calamity into both the Israelitish kingdoms." - J. D. Michaelis on Kg2 8:24.)
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:25
Reign of Ahaziah of Judah (cf. Ch2 22:1-6). - Ahaziah, the youngest son of Joram, ascended the throne in the twenty-second year of his age. The statement in Ch2 22:2, that he was forty-two years old when he became king, rests upon a copyist's error, namely, a confusion of כ twenty with מ forty. Now, since his father became king at the age of thirty-two, and reigned eight years, Ahaziah must have been born in the nineteenth year of his age. Consequently it may appear strange that Ahaziah had brothers still older than himself (Ch2 21:17); but as early marriages are common in the East, and the royal princes had generally concubines along with their wife of the first rank, as is expressly stated of Joram in Ch2 21:17, he might have had some sons in his nineteenth year. His mother was called Athaliah, and was a daughter of the idolatrous Jezebel. In Kg2 8:26 and Ch2 22:2 she is called the daughter, i.e., grand-daughter, of Omri; for, according to Kg2 8:18, she was a daughter of Ahab. Omri, the grand-father, is mentioned in Kg2 8:26 as the founder of the dynasty which brought so much trouble upon Israel and Judah through its idolatry.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:27
Ahaziah, like his father, reigned in the spirit of Ahab, because he allowed his mother to act as his adviser (Ch2 22:3-4).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 8:28
Ahaziah went with Joram of Israel, his mother's brother, to the war with the Syrians at Ramoth. The contest for this city, which had already cost Ahab his life (1 Kings), was to furnish the occasion, according to the overruling providence of God, for the extermination of the whole of Omri's family. Being wounded in the battle with the Syrians, Joram king of Israel returned to Jezreel to be healed of his wounds. His nephew Ahaziah visited him there, and there he met with his death at the same time as Joram at the hands of Jehu, who had conspired against Joram (see Kg2 9:14. and Ch2 22:7-9). Whether the war with Hazael at Ramoth was for the recapture of this city, which had been taken by the Syrians, or simply for holding it against the Syrians, it is impossible to determine. All that we can gather from Kg2 9:14 is, that at that time Ramoth was in the possession of the Israelites, whether it had come into their possession again after the disgraceful rout of the Syrians before Samaria (2 Kings 7), or whether, perhaps, it was not recovered till this war. For ארמּים without the article see Ewald, 277, c.
בּרמה = בּלעד בּרמת, Kg2 8:28; see at Kg1 22:4.