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23. And he prepared great provision for them : and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the 1 bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
12 Kings 5:2. even put to death those whom thou hast captured with bow and spear, how canst thou slay these? Others make it an assertion instead of a question. Smite your prisoners of war if you will, but not these, for they were not captured by your sword or bow. Set bread and water before them. Heap coals of fire on their heads; slay their enmity by sparing them. Only when he had them in his power could he do this eftectually; otherwise it would have been attributed to fear.
23. He prepared great provision for them. “He entertained them,” i.e., " at a great feast." "He did not merely follow the letter of the prophet's direction, but understood its spirit, and acted accordingly. - Cook. So the bands of Syria came no more, etc. The plundering bands which had been in the habit of ravaging the territory (2 Kings 5: 2) ceased their incursions for a time, in consequence either of the miracle, or of the kind treatment which Elisha had recommended. - Cook.
PRACTICAL. 1. A true man of God often wields a power in the nation greater than that of its king. 2. God helps rulers in their work to encourage them to do still better.
3. The prophets of peace, of sunshine, of life, do good as real and great, though not so marked, as the prophets of storm and fre.
4. If God be for us, who can be against us?
5. God knows every secret thought and feeling and hope of the heart; a fact that is a warning and terror to the wicked, but a joy and comfort to God's own people.
6. The lack of faith and insight is a cause of fear.
7. God's people are surrounded by countless defenders. They that are for the Christian are always more and greater than those who are against him.
8. There is great power and comfort in knowing that other and better beings are around us. Our work and our warfare are but a part of a mighty work and warfare ever going on.
9. All the multitudinous forces of the universe are with God's people, and against his enemies.
10. If we do not often engage our thoughts respecting angels and their service towards the earthly church, it is not because the Scriptures are too silent respecting them. “A multitude of writers in the Scriptures — fifteen at least — have described these glorious beings with the most perfect harmony and without a single discordant idea." -- Dwight's Theology.
II. The invisible world is close around us.
14. They whose faith is strong ought tenderly to consider and compassionate those who are weak and of a timorous spirit, and to do what they can to strengthen their hands (ver. 16).
15. The victories of peace are greater and more glorious than the victories of war. 16. It is far better to change an enemy into a friend than to destroy an enemy.
17. “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. As this is the first lesson of the Quarter, give the scholars a clear and vivid idea of THE CONDITION OF THE Two KINGDOMS.
REVIEW briefly the history and miracles of Elisha. NOTE the time and place of these marvellous works.
The SUBJECT of this lesson is, THE DEFENDERS OF God's PEOPLE.
II. DEFENDED BY God's PROPHET (vers. 9-12). The lesson from this is that God reads the secret thoughts of men. Have the scholars look up the texts in the Bible which prove and illustrate this. The two different effects of this fact. (1) Comfort to the Christian; (a) God knows his secret longings, even when he cannot express them; (6) God understands his motives when others misrepresent him; (c) God knows just how to lead and comfort him.
Illustration. Many years ago Rev. H. W. Beecher was mobbed. The mob thought he was in a certain house, and threw stones and eggs at its windows and doors. But all this time, Mr. Beecher was in another house near by, looking at the attack, and feeling perfectly safe because he was not there. So we watch the attacks of infidels and opposers. They often attack caricatures of the Bible truths and not the truths themselves, and we can look calmly on, because we are not where the blows fall. – P.
(2) Terror to the sinner: (a) his secret sins are known; (6) he is judged by the motive, and not by the outward act alone; (c) he can hide nothing from God, and therefore God can hinder his secret plans.
III. THE ASSAULT UPON ELISHA (vers. 13, 14).
IV. THE MULTITUDE OF HIS DEFENDERS. The Christian is surrounded by unseen defenders. (1) God (Ps. 46:1); (2) Christ (Matt. 28: 20); (3) the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17); (4) angels (Heb. 1:14); (5) the secret forces of nature (Rom. 8: 28).
Illustration. As around the virgin and child Jesus, in Raphael's Sistine Madonna, the air is filled full of angels' faces, so ever around the Christian are there invisible angels of God for his defence and help, — ministering spirits who minister to those that shall be heirs of salvation.
Illustration. A good man dreamed he had died and had gone up to the gates of heaven. Before admission, he was, however, bidden to tarry awhile in the picture-room. He looked from scene to scene upon the canvas there, and all appeared familiar to him. At last he recognized them as from his own life, and in each presentation he was in peril of some kind, but angels, sent of God, were guarding or directing him. The disclosure thus made put all his life into a new light. God's messengers had cared for him all the way through. His heart was at once raised in gratitude to his divine protector, and then he was ushered into the city. - S. S. Times.
Illustration. The unseen forces of nature, many and mighty, which yet God has promised shall work good to those that love him. We are surrounded by these forces, magnetism, heat, light, chemical affinities, attraction of gravitation, all under the control of God.
V. THE PEACEFUL VICTORY. Dwell especially on conquering enemies by changing them into friends (Rom. 12: 20, 21).
LESSON II. – Oct. II. THE FAMINE IN SAMARIA. — 2 KINGS 7:1-17. GOLDEN TEXT. – The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. - LUKE 18: 27.
TIME. — About B.c. 891. The date of these events may be fixed, with great probability, to the fifth year of Jehoram's reign, on the assumption that his last seven years coincided with the seven years' famine foretold by Elisha, probably as another visitation for the king's apostasy. -- Smith.
PLACE. – Samária, the capital of Israel.
RULERS. — Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (B.C. 892–885); Jehoram, son of Ahab, king of Israel (B.C. 896-884); Benhadad II., king of Syria. The famous Moabite Stone and Black Obelisk belong to about this date.
INTRODUCTION. After a defeat so remarkable, succeeded by such an act of clemency as recorded in our last lesson, we would suppose that the king of Syria would allow at least some years to pass away before he renewed his warfare against Israel. But when two neighboring nations have been at war with each other, and come to look upon each other almost as natural enemies, it takes but small offence to renew their conflicts. At this period, Israel and Syria were rival kingdoms, easily embroiled with each other; and the barbarous style of their warfare exasperated both parties so as to separate them more widely. Yet the records of cruelty all belong to the Syrians, who repay badly the generous conduct already mentioned on the part of Jehoram (comp. 2 Kings 6: 22, 23; and 8: 12; 10: 32). — Lowrie. Thus, after a brief period of peace, the war was again renewed; not, perhaps, by the small incursions mentioned at the close of the last lesson, but by war on a large scale.
1. Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, 1 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.
1 Vers. 18, 19.
EXPLANATORY. I. The Siege of Samaria. — Benhadad, the king of Syria, soon colleeted another great army, and came up from Damascus, with the evident intention of subjugating the whole country. Being resistless in the field, he soon shut up the king of Israel, with his army, in Samaria the capital, and besieged the city. This was the fourth time that he had attacked the king of Israel with great force (1 Kings 20: 1, 26; 22: 29-31), and the second time that he had besieged Samaria (1 Kings 20:1). — Todd. The attempt was made, as was common in ancient warfare, to reduce the city by starvation. The ancient engines of war were often utterly powerless against well-fortified places, and a siege was a tedious affair. Of course the length of time necessary to reduce a garrison by famine would depend upon the supplies that had been laid in in preparation for such a time. — Lowrie. In this case the attack seems to have been unexpected, and the inhabitants of the city but poorly provided with food; and the city was so closely invested that it was impossible for any one to pass into or out of it; so that in a short time the inhabitants were reduced to the very verge of starvation (2 Kings 6: 24).
II. The Famine in the City. - To show the extremities to which the people were reduced from scarcity of food, it is stated that "an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of doves' dung for five pieces of silver.” If shekels be meant, the ass's head must have fetched nearly ten pounds of our money ($44), and half a pint of “doves' dung” about twelve shillings and sixpence ($2.75). The ass was an unclean animal, and its flesh therefore was not allowed to be eaten; but necessity knows no law. The head of the ass is, besides, the worst part to eat. — Keil. And even more than this, — women were found eating their own children (2 Kings 6:25-29). In Plutarch's Life of Artaxerxes, an instance occurs of the Persian army being reduced to such distress that they had to eat their beasts of burden; and even that kind of food became so scarce that an ass's head would be sold for sixty silver drachmä ($9.30). We are assured, on the authority of a highly credible historian, that during the famine which afflicted Egypt in the year 1200, the poorer people in the city of Old Cairo “were driven to devour dogs, the carcasses of animals and men, yea, even the dried excrements of both." There is, perhaps, no description of a famine on record which supplies so many details which tend to illustrate those which are given in the passage of Scripture now before us. — Kitto.
III. Elisha and the Siege. – One day the king of Israel, shocked and maddened by the discovery that women were eating their infant children, suddenly determined to take the life of Elisha the prophet, whose home was in the city. Probably his anger was on account of Elisha's having encouraged him to prolong resistance, by holding out hopes which thus far had proved delusive, or because he had not used his supernatural powers for the relief of the city. The prophet, however, anticipated his purpose, and ordered his door to be closed, and the messenger sent to kill him to be arrested on the threshold. - Todd. King Jehoram, having followed his messenger to see that his command was executed, made bitter complaint to Elisha that the evil was sent by God, and there was no use in holding out any longer, for relief would never come from Elisha's God (2 Kings 6: 30–33). This long and deadly duration of the siege must have tried Elisha's faith as well as that of the king and people. And he seems to have been holding a meeting with the elders, in his house, for prayer to God for relief. The famine was doubtless a punishment for the sins of the people, and must continue till it had done its work. - P.
IV. Elisha Prophesies Immediate Relief. – Vers. 1, 2. 1. Then Elisha said. In reply to the complaint of the king. The answer had come to Elisha from God, and he now makes it known. Thus saith the Lord. Jehovah. The coming of the relief was no guess of Elisha, but a revelation from God. To morrow about this time. The relief was to be immediate as well as abundant. A measure of fine flour. Literally, “ a seah of fine flour.” The seah was the third part of an ephah. It was probably equal to about a peck and a half English. - Cook. Be sold for a shekel. The original word comes from shakal, to weigh, from which is derived by transposition of letters the English “scale," an instrument of weighing. It is so called from the fact that the value of money
2. Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, ? if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
3. And there were four leprous men 3 at the entering in of the gate : and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die ?
4. If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there : and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians : if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
5. And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians : and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.
6. For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians 4 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.
1 Vers. 17, 19, 20. 2 Mal. 3: 10. 9 Lev. 13:46. 12 Sam. 5:24. 2 Kings 19:7. Job 15:21. 5 1 Kings 10:29.
was anciently reckoned by weight, for which reason the word “shekel ” is at once the name of a weight and of a coin – Bush. The coined shekel weighed 240 grains of silver and was worth about 55 cents of our money. -- Schaff. Two measures of barley. Or “two seahs of barley.” About three pecks English. - Cook. These were still high prices, but in comparison with the famine prices then ruling, were incredibly cheap. — Keil. In the gate of Samaria. That is, the place where the market was usually held. — Lange. Nearly every public transaction took place at or near the city gates. — Thomson.
2. " Then a lord. Rather, the captain (as in i Kings 9: 22), or aide-de-camp. – Keil. He was a chief officer of the king. On whose hand the king leaned. When an Eastern king walks, or stands abroad in the open air, he always supports himself on the arm of the highest courtier present. - 7., F. and B. Answered. The answer contained both mockery and unbelief. Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, etc. An allusion to the story of the flood in Gen. 7:11 ff. The word here, as there, means “sluices” rather than “windows." The “lord” means to say: “ If Jehovah were to open sluices in heaven, and pour down corn as he poured down rain in the time of the Deluge, even then could there be such abundance as thou speakest of?” — Cook. Behold, thou shalt see it, etc. He should be convinced of the truth of Elisha's prophecy, but because of his mocking unbelief he should not enjoy the promised blessing.
V. The Method in which the Prophecy was fulfilled. -- Vers. 3-11. 3. There were four leprous men. Men with the leprosy. At the entering in of the gate. At the gateway, separated from human society, according to the law in Lev. 13: 46; Num. 5: 3, probably in a building erected for the purpose (comp. chap. 15:5), just as at the present day the lepers at Jerusalem have their huts by the side of the Zion gate. — Keil. Why sit we here until we die? No one any longer brought them food from the city, and they were not permitted to enter it.
4. Let us fall unto the host of the Syrians. That is, let us fall into their power; go over to them. If they save us alive. Giving food for pity's sake. They could not be worse off than they were, and they had some chance of doing better.
5. They rose up in the twilight. They waited till the sun had gone down, and it was so dark that no one would see their desertion. The evening twilight is intended (see ver. 9). — Cook. The uttermost part of the camp. The extreme boundary of the camp towards the city, not its furthest or most distant portion (comp. ver. 8). — Cook.
6. The Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise ... even the noise of a great host. The besiegers thought they heard the march of hostile armies from the north and south, and were seized with such panic terror that they fled in the greatest haste, leaving behind them their baggage, and their beasts of draught and burden. It is impossible to decide whether the noise which they heard had any objective reality, say a miraculous buzzing in the air, or whether it was merely a deception of the senses produced
7. Wherefore they l 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.
8. And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.
9. Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace : if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us : now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household.
10. So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were.
1 Ps. 48: 4-6. Prov. 28:1.
in their ears by God; and this is a matter of no importance, since in either case it was produced miraculously by God. - Keil. The kings of the Hittites. From the north. They derive their name from their ancestor Heth, the second son of Canaan, who was grandson of Noah. The Hittites, who are found in early times far to the south in the country about Hebron (Gen. 23:7), and who afterwards inhabited the central table-land of Judea (Josh. 11:3), seem to have retired northwards after the occupation of Palestine by the Israelites. In the early Assyrian monuments they appear as the most powerful people of northern Syria, dwelling on both banks of the Euphrates in the country along its course from Bir to Balis. They are in the time of Benhadad and Hazael a powerful people, especially strong in chariots, and generally assist the Syrians against the Assyrians (Ancient Monarchies, vol. ii., pp. 361-363). --- Cook. The Egyptians. From the south. The sound seemed to the Syrians to come from both directions.
The rationalists have endeavored to account for it by natural causes, such asunusual sounds, heard on the mountains, or in the depths of the valleys, produced by winds or approaching tempests; but this comes very much to the same thing. The great wonder or miracle is in the spiritual effect produced. We might regard it as an event produced solely by physical causes, were it not for what is expressly told us in ver. 6. It was the supernatural using the natural as its means. The strangeness is in the terrible nature of its results. We may, in truth, reason the other way, and regard as supernatural events of a similar kind many facts which have not been so characterized in history. The scriptural event furnishes one of the cases in which the corner of the curtain is lifted, and we are let into the secret of its ultimate causation. But in how many others this may have been the case we do not know, as we have no right to deny that Deity is often present, baffling the councils of men in a way for which no human philosophy of history can account, and often veryifying the maxim, “ Whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.” — Tayler Lewis.
7. And left their tents, and their horses, etc. Darius Hystaspes did the same when he retreated from Scythia (Herod. iv., 165). The object of the Syrians was probably the same that actuated him, namely, “that their noise might be heard,” and the flight of the army might consequently not be suspected. And fled for their life. It was a genuine panic. The whole of a great host is thrown into bewildering, unreasoning confusion.
8. Came to the uttermost part. The verge of the camp nearest the city. They went, etc. When these lepers (these pointing back to vers. 3 et seq.) came into the camp which the Syrians had left, they first of all satisfied their own hunger with the provisions which they found in the tents, and then took different valuables and concealed them. — Keil.
9. We do not well. Their consciences were soon aroused, so that they said: “We are not doing right; for it is the duty of citizens to make known things relating to public safety." — Grotius. Some mischief will come upon us. Rather, “ Punishment will fall upon us." The lepers began to think that if they kept this important matter secret during the whole night for their own private advantage, when the morning came they would be found out, accused, and punished. — Cook. Or that some divine judgment would fall upon them. 10. They . . . called unto the porter of the city. The guard. The word has a