Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Timber. Hebrew and Septuagint, “a beam.” Salien supposes that these prophets resided at Galgal. (Menochius)
Ver. 5. Borrowed. He was grieved because he could not repair the loss. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. Swam. So; Demersam fluvio relevavit virga securim. (Tertullian, contra Marc.) The Fathers here remark a figure of the cross of Jesus Christ; the virtue of which, in baptism, reclaims the hardened sinner from the ways of vanity. (Tertullian, contra Judæos xiii.) (Calmet) — Those who would explain the reason of every miracle, may here inform the infidel why recourse was had to a supernatural interference, in a matter apparently of such a trifling nature. They ask why God should cause the eyes of various pictures in Italy to move on a late occasion; and because they cannot assign a satisfactory reason, they boldly assert that all was an imposture. But this mode of argumentation is very delusive, if not impious. “Who hath been his (God’s) counsellor?” (Romans xi. 34.) All that we have to do is to believe, when the proofs are of such a nature as to require our rational assent.
Ver. 8. And such, which the king would mention. (Menochius) — The causes of this war are not known; but an ambitious prince always finds pretexts to cover his injustice. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Twice, but very frequently: so that the Syrian feared some treachery. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Chamber. Is it difficult therefore for the saints in heaven to hear our prayers? though they have not such long ears as Calvin ridicules. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Take him. Foolish attempt! as if the prophet could not foresee his own danger. (Salien) — Dothan or Dothain, (Genesis xxxvii. 17.) twelve miles north of Samaria. (Eusebius; Calmet) Adrichomius says, in the tribe of Zabulon. (Menochius)
Ver. 14. Of an, or, “of the army.” To take one man was judged of such consequence; and Benadad feared lest the Israelites should rise up in his defence. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Servant, Giezi; as his leprosy is placed too soon. (Salien) (Menochius)
Ver. 17. Of fire. The angels assumed such a glorious and terrible appearance. One of them would have sufficed to destroy all the army of Syria; and thus the servant might be convinced how vain were all attempts against God’s servants, Psalm cxliv. 19. (Salien, the year before Christ 907.) Jacob beheld such camps of angels, (Genesis xxxii. 1, 2.) and our Saviour speaks of the legions which he could have brought forward, Matthew xxvi. 53. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Blindness. The blindness here spoken of was of a particular kind, which hindered them from seeing the objects that were really before them; and represented other different objects to their imagination; so that they no longer perceived the city of Dothan, nor were able to know the person of Eliseus; but were easily led by him, whom they took to be another man, to Samaria. So that he truly told them; this is not the way, neither is this the city, &c., because he spoke with relation to the way, and to the city which was represented to them. (Challoner) — Stratagems in war are lawful. (St. Chrysostom, &c.) (Grotius, Jur. iii. 1, 17.) The words of the prophet might be merely ironical. — Blindness, Septuagint aorasia, “not seeing” certain objects, while they could perceive others; as was the case of the men who sought Lot’s door at Sodom; (Genesis xix. 11.; Calmet) and the eyes of the disciples were held, that they might not know our Saviour. Eliseus had left his house, going towards Samaria to meet the soldiers; and when they asked him where the prophet dwelt, he answered truly, This, &c. For he was then near the royal city, and his abode was at Dothan. (Salien) (Haydock) — The reprobate will thus acknowledge their error, when it is too late, at the last day.
Ver. 22. For thou. Hebrew, “Dost thou kill, &c.?” If those who have surrendered themselves in battle be often spared, though they might be slain by the strict laws of war, how much less ought these men to be treated with such severity? (Calmet) — Sicut bellanti & resistenti violentia redditur: ita victo vel capto misericorida jam debetur. (St. Augustine, ep. 1. ad Bonif.) (Grotius) — And water, all necessary provisions. (Worthington) — These men were suffered to live that they might relate the wonders of God. (Theodoret, q. 20.)
Ver. 23. Meats. So the apostle orders us to treat our enemies, Romans xii. 20. — The robbers, these soldiers, who were dismissed. (Haydock) — No more, (ultra) or, “no farther,” (Haydock) during this war, or in small troops; but, a little later, Benadad came with all his forces to besiege Samaria. (Tirinus) — He was enraged at Eliseus and Joram, as if they despised his power. (Salien)
Ver. 25. In Samaria. It had raged in all the country above three years, (Salien) and continued other four, chap. viii. 1. The continuance of the siege added fresh horrors. — Pieces is not expressed in Hebrew: a sicle is understood. (Haydock) — Lyranus supposes that the whole ass was sold for about 38 crowns, (Haydock) or 130 livres; as we say commonly, “so much a head.” But interpreters generally assert that the price of the head alone is given; which shews more forcibly the greatness of the famine. On other occasions the animal could not be eaten by the Jews. Artaxerxes was forced to kill his beasts of burden; and an ass’s head was then sold for 60 drachms, or 25 livres. When Hannibal besieged Casilinum, a mouse (or rat) was sold for above 70, or for 200 denarii. (Pliny, [Natural History?] viii. 57.) (V. Max. vii. 6, 3.) — Cabe. Sufficient measure of corn for a man’s daily sustenance. (Menochius) — The fourth part would be about a gill. (Haydock) — Dung. Bochart maintains that “chick-peas” are designated. The Arabic usnen and kali, “pigeon or sparrows’ dung,” are real eatables. Those who suppose that the Samaritans bought the dung of pigeons to use as salt or for food, or to burn, or to manure the earth, &c., produce not satisfactory reasons; no more than the Rabbins, who pretend that the corn which they had picked up was taken from their crop. (Tr. Megil. 3., and the Scholastic History.) Junius and Fuller would translate “belly,” which is refuted by Bochart. (Anim. T. ii. B. i. 7.) Very disgusting things have often been used through extreme hunger, (Grotius) and some sort of birds’ dung is said to fatten oxen and swine. (Varro 38.; Pliny xvii. 9.) — But what nutriment can there be in that of pigeons, that people should go to buy it? (Calmet) — Houbigant understands a sort of peas to be meant. (Haydock) — The Hebrews called them kali when they were parched; and such food was very common, 2 Kings xvii. 28. (Bellon. ii. 53, and 99.) (Calmet)
Ver. 27. Save (salvat.) Many ancient manuscripts read salvet, conformably to the Hebrew and Septuagint, as if the king cursed the woman: “Let not the Lord save thee,” Josephus [Antiquities?] ix. 4. Others place the stops differently: “He said, no: the Lord save thee.” (Calmet) — He is the author of life. (Menochius)
Ver. 29. Eat him. Strange cruelty! foretold [in] Deuteronomy xxviii. 53, and again verified at Jerusalem, Ezechiel v. 10.
Ver. 30. Passed by, without punishing such a horrid crime, as he esteemed his own sins the occasion of it. (Menochius) — Flesh. Behold the advantage to be derived from afflictions! They make the most hardened enter into sentiments of humility and penance. (Calmet) — Abulensis thinks that God was pleased to cause the siege to be raised, to reward this act; as a similar one of Joram’s father had merited a delay and mitigation of punishment, (Haydock) 3 Kings xxi. 27. (Salien)
Ver. 31. Day. This was said in a fit of sudden passion, which may give us reason to conclude that the repentance was insincere, or of short duration. (Haydock) — The king supposed that Eliseus could remedy the evil: but God was not moved by his prayers to grant such a favour, till all were convinced that human aid was fruitless. (Calmet) — The prophet might have answered Joram in the words of Elias, 3 Kings xviii. 18. (Menochius) — Probably he had dissuaded the king from making peace. (Tirinus)
Ver. 32. Murderer. Achab had slain Naboth, and Jezabel had destroyed the prophets. (Calmet)
Ver. 33. And he, Joram, (Menochius, &c.) after (Haydock) his messenger. (Estius) (Piscator) — What, &c. All is desperate; (Calmet) our miseries cannot increase. (Menochius) — I have nothing now to fear or to hope for. (Salien)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Eliseus maketh iron to swim upon the water: he leadeth the Syrians, that were sent to apprehend him, into Samaria, where their eyes being opened, they are courteously entertained. The Syrians besiege Samaria: the famine there causeth a woman to eat her own child. Upon which the king commandeth Eliseus to be put to death.
1 And the sons of the prophets said to Eliseus: *Behold, the place where we dwell with thee is too straight for us.
2 Let us go as far as the Jordan, and take out of the wood every man a piece of timber, that we may build us there a place to dwell in. And he said: Go.
3 And one of them said: But come thou also with thy servants. He answered: I will come.
4 So he went with them. And when they were come to the Jordan, they cut down wood.
5 And it happened, as one was felling some timber, that the head of the ax fell into the water: and he cried out, and said: Alas, alas, alas, my lord, for this same was borrowed.
6 And the man of God said: Where did it fall? and he shewed him the place: Then he cut off a piece of wood, and cast it in thither: and the iron swam.
7 And he said: Take it up. And he put out his hand, and took it.
8 And the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying: In such and such a place, let us lay an ambush.
9 And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying: Beware that thou pass not to such a place: for the Syrians are there in ambush.
10 And the king of Israel, sent to the place which the man of God had told him, and prevented him, and looked well to himself there not once nor twice.
11 And the heart of the king of Syria, was troubled for this thing. And calling together his servants, he said: Why do you not tell me who it is that betrays me to the king of Israel?
12 And one of his servants said: No one, my lord, O king: but Eliseus, the prophet, that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel all the words, that thou speakest in thy privy chamber.
13 And he said to them: Go, and see where he is: that I may send and take him. And they told him: saying: Behold he is in Dothan.
14 *Therefore, he sent thither horses, and chariots, and the strength of an army: and they came by night, and beset the city.
15 And the servant of the man of God, rising early, went out, and saw an army round about the city, and horses and chariots: and he told him, saying: Alas, alas, alas, my lord, what shall we do?
16 But he answered: Fear not: for there are more with us than with them.
17 And Eliseus prayed, and said: Lord, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses, and chariots of fire round about Eliseus.
18 And the enemies came down to him: but Eliseus prayed to the Lord, saying: Strike, I beseech thee, this people with blindness: and the Lord struck them with blindness, according to the word of Eliseus.
19 And Eliseus said to them: This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will shew you the man whom you seek. So he led them into Samaria.
20 And when they were come into Samaria, Eliseus said: Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw themselves to be in the midst of Samaria.
21 And the king of Israel said to Eliseus, when he saw them: My father, shall I kill them?
22 And he said: Thou shalt not kill them: for thou didst not take them with thy sword, or thy bow, that thou mayst kill them: but set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
23 And a great provision of meats was set before them, and they ate and drank; and he let them go: and they went away to their master: and the robbers of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
24 *And it came to pass, after these things, that Benadad, king of Syria, gathered together all his army, and went up, and besieged Samaria.
25 And there was a great famine in Samaria: and so long did the siege continue, till the head of an ass was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cabe of pigeon’s dung, for five pieces of silver.
26 And as the king of Israel was passing by the wall, a certain woman cried out to him, saying: Save me, my lord, O king.
27 And he said: If the Lord doth not save thee: how can I save thee? out of the barn-floor, or out of the wine-press? And the king said to her: What aileth thee? And she answered:
28 This woman said to me: Give thy son, that we may eat him to-day, and we will eat my son to-morrow.
29 So we boiled my son, and eat him. And I said to her on the next day: Give thy son, that we may eat him. And she hath hid her son.
30 When the king heard this, he rent his garments, and passed by upon the wall. And all the people saw the hair-cloth which he wore within next to his flesh.
31 And the king said: May God do so and so to me, and may he add more, if the head of Eliseus, the son of Saphat, shall stand on him this day.
32 But Eliseus sat in his house, and the ancients sat with him. So he sent a man before: and before that messenger came, he said to the ancients: Do you know that this son of a murderer hath sent to cut off my head? Look then when the messenger shall come, shut the door, and suffer him not to come in: for behold the sound of his master’s feet is behind him.
33 While he was yet speaking to them, the messenger appeared, who was coming to him. And he said: Behold, so great an evil is from the Lord: what shall I look for more from the Lord?
1: Year of the World 3115.
14: Year of the World 3116.
24: Year of the World 3117.