(Exalted by Jehovah)
2 Kings 1:17; 3:1-27; 6:8—7:20; 9:1-26
Contemporary Prophet, Elisha.
“The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.”—Proverbs 12:7
“Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. And he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother”—in contrast with his late brother Ahaziah, see 1 Kings 22:52—“for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.” There is no discrepancy between “the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat,” here, and “the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat,” as in 2 Kings 1:17. Jehoshaphat made his son joint-king a number of years before his death, (see 2 Kings 8:16,
marg.) which readily accounts for the seeming contradictions in the above noted passages.
“Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.” “And Mesha king of Moab was a sheep master, and rendered unto the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and a hundred thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel” (2 Kings 3:4, 5). The defeat of the allied forces of Israel and Judah at Ramoth-Gilead, probably, emboldened him to take this step. Moab had been tributary to Israel ever since their subjugation by David, more than two hundred years before (see 2 Sam. 8:2). On the division of the kingdom, they appear to have paid their accustomed tribute to Jeroboam, as his kingdom embraced the two and a half tribes east of Jordan, whose territory extended to the kingdom of Moab. This revolt of Mesha is mentioned on the Moabite, or Dibon, stone. (See also Isa. 16:1.) The loss of this enormous annual income must have been keenly felt by Israel, and the attempt to secure its resumption occasioned this unhappy war in which Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, again guiltily allied himself to Jehoram.
“And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time [of Mesha’s rebellion—see Ahaziah], and numbered all Israel. And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.” It is a sadly compromising declaration to come from the lips of a king of the house and lineage of David. But it was the result of his joining affinity with the house of Ahab by his son Jehoram’s marriage to the infamous Athaliah. So not only do “evil communications corrupt good manners,” but that delicate sense of truthful consistency, so evidently lacking in Jehoshaphat here.
“And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom. So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom.” This “king of Edom” was not a native Edomite, but a deputy (1 Kings 22:47) appointed, probably, by Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 8:20), and formed a party to the expedition in the capacity of a vassal, rather than as an independent prince. “And they fetched a compass of seven days’ journey: and there was no water for the host and for the cattle that followed them. And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” When such a man of God as Jehoshaphat identifies himself with such a man as the king of Israel, distress must needs come upon them, that victory may be recognized as an act of God’s sovereign grace, and not a spark of honor left to the follower of Jeroboam’s calves.
“But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him?” Elisha is here, said one of the king of Israel’s servants. “And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom went down to him.” Even wicked men will cry to God in the hour of their calamity, yet without change of heart. But Elisha had as little respect for or fear of Jehoram, as Elijah his master had had for his idolatrous predecessors. “And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab. And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.”
Then, as the minstrel played, “the hand of the Lord came upon him,” and he ordered the valley to be filled with ditches, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain: yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: He will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.” And so, “It came to pass, in the morning, when the meatoffering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.”
This sudden and abundant water supply was, probably, as has been suggested, caused by heavy rains on the eastern mountains of Edom, so far away that no signs of the storm were visible to the invaders. In any case it was God’s doing, whatever the physical forces used by Him to bring it about. Faith never gives itself concern about the scientific explanation of such occurrences. God could have created the water, had He so ordained. And “He giveth not account of any of His matters,” either to adoring, wondering faith, or caviling, questioning unbelief. A starving man need not concern himself as to how, or where, the food set before him was obtained by his benefactor. It is his to eat, and be thankful. And any to whose ears the report of this benevolence comes, should, also, not be occupied with questions concerning the manner or means by which the philanthropist was enabled to do the beggar this kindness. Their business should be to admire and laud the spirit of disinterested love and mercy that prompted the deed of generosity.
“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.” When the morning dawned they saw the water, as the sun shone upon it, in the ditches, and it appeared to their eyes red as blood. “And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another; now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.” They probably supposed that the Edomites had turned mutinous at the last, and in their effort to free* themselves of Hebrew domination, had caused the mutual destruction of the confederate armies. But alas, for them and their over-sanguine conclusion. When they approached the Israelitish camp, “The Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites so that they fled before them.” Their defeat was thorough and crushing, as it was unexpected. Israel seems now to have exceeded in unmerciful persuit and pressure upon the king of Moab, who, in desperation, “took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indigna- tion against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”
This was Jehoshaphat’s second act of affinity with the ungodly, and like the first, it ended in failure, or was entirely barren of results. If even sinners wish success in their undertakings they should be careful not to admit into their partnership God’s children, for God’s hand may be upon His own for discipline, and ill fortune will attend them. Neither Ahab, nor Jehoram gained anything by having the godly Jehoshaphat as their ally—so jealous is God of His people’s associations.
How strange, yet sadly true it is, that the history of a country is largely the history of its
wars. The maxim holds good, not only of the land of Israel, but of its kings especially. Omit the records of their warfare, and there would be little to say of any of them. How it all tells of man’s fall and ruin, and of God’s righteous government.
The second important incident recorded of Jehoram’s life is in connection with the invasion of his territory by the king of Syria. “Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.” The prophet seems to look upon Jehoram here with somewhat less disfavor than
when on the expedition against the Moabites. (See also 2 Kings 3:13.) He seems to have been pursued by the king of Syria, and there may have been some change in his conduct too, which Elisha would be quick to take note of, and encourage in every possible way—so gracious is God in His governmental dealings with the sons of men.
On learning how Jehoram obtained the information by which he was enabled to repeatedly escape the ambushments set for him, the king of Syria sent to apprehend the revealer of his military secrets. In answer to His servant’s prayer, the Lord smote the Syrians with blindness, and the man they were bent on arresting led them into the very midst of their enemy’s capital. “And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? “But, in New Testament spirit, he answers,” Thou shalt not smite them; wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master.” The Syrians had heard before that “the kings of the house of Israel” were “merciful kings” (1 Kings 20:31); they were now given a demonstration of the mercy of Israel’s God through His prophet’s intervention. And it was not without some effect, nor at once forgotten, for we read, “So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.” Such is the power of grace, over hardened, heathen soldiers, even.
“And it came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and
besieged Samaria.” This does not in any way contradict what is stated in the preceding verse (2 Kings 6:23, 24). Josephus says, “So he [Ben-hadad] determined to make no more
secret attempts upon the king of Israel” (Ant. ix. 4, §4). He afterwards made open war upon him, by legitimate methods; no more by marauding bodies and ambushments.
Alas, Israel’s heart was hardened, so that, in the famine accompanying the siege, instead of turning to Jehovah, some of the inhabitants in their terrible extremity turned to the horrible deed of eating even their own offspring! See Lev. 26:26-29; Deut. 28:52, 53; which was finally fulfilled under the Romans.
“And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barn-floor, or out of the winepress? And the king said unto her, What aileth thee?” And then he has told into his ears the terrible tale of women deliberately agreeing to boil and eat their own children! “And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh. Then he said, God
do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.” He had sackcloth on his flesh, but murder in his heart. Alas, what power of Satan over man’s heart and mind is manifested in this! The heart of the king rises in bitter passion against God, and His prophet will serve to vent the rage of his unrepentant, unsubdued heart. It is not the only occasion in history where rulers have put the blame of national calamities upon God; and how often men’s hearts rise against God, rather than humble themselves in repentance, under the pains of what they cannot change or overcome. (See Rev. 16:10, 11)
The king therefore sent an executioner to make good his hasty threat. His motive in following after his executioner is not clear. Was it to see the accomplishment of his murderous design, or regret at his reckless order?
“But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away my head? Look, when the messenger cometh? shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him ? And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he (the king) said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord, what [why, N. Tr.] should I wait for the Lord any longer?” He had professedly been waiting upon the God of Elisha, and now when deliverance seems as far off as ever, throws it all up, as much as saying, It is useless to look to the Lord for deliverance; and the unbelief and passion of his heart break out.
But human extremity is the divine opportunity; and when the unbelieving king breaks out in fretful despair, the faith of God’s prophet shines out, proclaiming full relief and abundance on the morrow. “Then 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.” And as the man of God foretold, so it came to pass. A miraculous noise from the Lord frightened the besieging army, supposing it to be a mighty host’s arrival. “For 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. Wherefore 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.” Lepers, in the night, bring the welcome news to the king, who delays the deliverance by his unbelief, sending even to the Jordan, a score of miles away, for proofs of the report. Thus was Samaria relieved.
As for Syria, the dynasty of the first two Benhadads was soon after ended with the strangling of the king on his sick-bed by his prime minister Hazael, who reigned in his stead. News of this revolution, probably, encouraged Jehoram to attempt the recovery of Ramoth-Gilead, which his father, fourteen years before, had attacked in vain, with fatal consequences to himself. “And he [Jehoram, king of Judah] went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against Hazael king of Syria in Ramoth-Gilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram. And king Joram went back to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah [or Ramoth], when he fought against Hazael king of Syria.”
How he was shortly after slain by Jehu his commander-in-chief, will be dwelt upon in the review of that king’s life. (See Jehu; also Jehoram king of Judah.) The dynasty of Omri (the most powerful of the nine that ruled over Israel) ended with his life. His character was neither strong, nor very marked in anything. He appears to have had leanings toward the worship of Jehovah; but as a patron, rather than in heart-subjection to Him as the one true God of heaven and earth. He evidently looked upon Elisha’s miracles as matters of speculation, in idle curiosity inquiring of the prophet’s disgraced servant Gehazi. “And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done.” These marvellous signs of Jehovah were to him material for entertainment, merely, as the miracles of Elisha’s great Antitype were to Herod. (See Mark 6:14, 20; Luke 9:9; 23:8.) He was the counselor of Jehoram king of Judah, to his destruction (2 Chron. 22:4, 5); and such was his unpopularity with his subjects that Jehu had but little difficulty in effecting a revolution, and supplanting him upon the throne after his murder.
He appears to have been, in spiritual matters, one of those undecided, neutral characters, who puzzle most observers, and who never seem to know themselves just where they stand, or belong. He put away the Baal statue, made by his father Ahab, but never become a real believer in Jehovah. The reading of the inspired record of his life leaves the impression on one’s mind that he was, in all matters of faith, both skeptical and superstitious. God, who knew him and his ways perfectly, has caused it to be recorded of him, “He wrought evil in the sight of the Lord.” As such, we and all posterity know him. And as such he shall be manifested in the coming day, when “great,” as well as “small,” shall stand before the throne to be judged, “every man, according to his works.”