There were four leprous men – The Gemara in Sota, R. Sol. Jarchi, and others, say that these four lepers were Gehazi and his three sons.
At the entering in of the gate – They were not permitted to mingle in civil society.
2Ki 7:4 If we say we will enter into the city,…. Contrary to the law which forbid them:
then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; not being able to obtain food to preserve life:
and if we sit here, we die also; having nothing to eat to support nature:
now therefore let us come, and fall unto the host of the Syrians; put ourselves into their hands, and lie at their mercy:
if they save us alive, we shall live; if they do not put us to death, but give us bread to eat, our lives will be preserved:
and if they kill us, we shall but die; which we must inevitably do, whether we stay here, or go into the city.
The twilight – The evening twilight (see 2Ki_7:9).
The uttermost part of the camp – The extreme boundary of the camp toward the city, not its furthest or most distant portion. Compare 2Ki_7:8.
It is a matter of no importance whether we say that the miracle by which God now performed deliverance for Samaria consisted in a mere illusion of the sense of hearing (compare 2Ki_6:19-20); or whether there was any objective reality in the sound (compare the marginal references).
The king of Israel hath hired – The swords of mercenaries had been employed by the nations bordering on Palestine as early as the time of David 2Sa_10:6; 1Ch_19:6-7. Hence, the supposition of the Syrians was far from improbable.
The kings of the Hittites – The Hittites, who are found first in the south Gen_23:7, then in the center of Judea Jos_11:3, seem to have retired northward after the occupation of Palestine by the Israelites. They are found among the Syrian enemies of the Egyptians in the monuments of the 19th dynasty (about 1300 B.C.), and appear at that time to have inhabited the valley of the Upper Orontes. In the early Assyrian monuments they form a great confederacy, as the most powerful people of northern Syria, dwelling on both banks of the Euphrates, while at the same time there is a second confederacy of their race further to the south, which seems to inhabit the anti-Lebanon between Hamath and Damascus. These southern Hittites are in the time of Benhadad and Hazael a powerful people, especially strong in chariots; and generally assist the Syrians against the Assyrians. The Syrians seem now to have imagined that these southern Hittites had been hired by Jehoram.
The kings of the Egyptians – This is a remarkable expression, since Egypt elsewhere throughout Scripture appears always as a centralised monarchy under a single ruler. The probability is that the principal Pharaoh had a prince or princes associated with him on the throne, a practice not uncommon in Egypt. The period, which is that of the 22nd dynasty, is an obscure one, on which the monuments throw but little light.
2Ki 7:7 Fled – None of them had so much sense as to send scouts to discover the supposed enemy, much less, courage enough to face them. God can when he pleases, dispirit the boldest, and make the stoutest heart to tremble. They that will not fear God, he can make them fear at the shaking of a leaf. Perhaps Gehazi was one of these lepers, which might occasion his being taken notice of by the king, 2Ki_8:4.
2Ki 7:8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent,…. The first they came to:
and did eat and drink; which was the first thing they did, being hungry, and almost starved:
and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; in a place without the camp, where they thought it would be safe, and where they could come at it again:
and came again and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it; this, Josephus says (z), they did four times. (z) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4.) sect. 5.
Jamison, Fausset, and Brown
these lepers … did eat and drink — After they had appeased their hunger and secreted as many valuables as they could carry, their consciences smote them for concealing the discovery and they hastened to publish it in the city.
2Ki 7:9 Then they said one to another, we do not well,…. This is not right, to take this booty to ourselves; it is not doing justice to our brethren, and it may not prove well to ourselves in the issue:
this day is a day of good tidings; to be delivered from the enemy, and have such plenty of provisions thrown into their hands; it would be joyful tidings to the inhabitants of the city, did they know it:
and we hold our peace; and do not publish this good tidings, that others may share the benefit of it:
if we tarry till the morning light; when it will in course be discovered:
some mischief will come upon us; either from the Syrians, who they might fear would return by that time, or some of them lurking about would fall upon them and destroy them; or the king of Israel, when he came to know it, would be so incensed as to inflict some punishment on them; or they might expect some evil from the immediate hand of God:
now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household; acquaint some of his servants with what had happened.
His servants – i. e., “high officers of the household,” not mere domestics.
I will shew you what the Syrians have done – Jehoram sees in the deserted camp a stratagem like that connected with the taking of Ai Josh. 8:3-19. The suspicion was a very natural one, since the Israelites knew of no reason why the Syrians should have raised the siege.
The king arose in the night – This king had made a noble defense; he seems to have shared in all the sufferings of the besieged, and to have been ever at his post. Even in vile Ahab there were some good things!
They know that we be hungry – This was a very natural conclusion; the Syrians by the closest blockade could not induce them to give up the city, but knowing that they were in a starving condition, they might make use of such a stratagem as that imagined by the king, in order to get possession of the city.
And one of his servants answered – This is a very difficult verse, and the great variety of explanations given of it cast but little light on the subject. I am inclined to believe, with Dr. Kennicott, that there is an interpolation here which puzzles, if not destroys, the sense. “Several instances,” says he, “have been given of words improperly repeated by Jewish transcribers, who have been careless enough to make such mistakes, and yet cautious not to alter or erase, for fear of discovery. This verse furnishes another instance in a careless repetition of seven Hebrew words, thus: – הנשארים אשר נשארו בה הנם ככל ההמון ישראל אשר נשארו בה הנם ככל המון ישראל אשר תמי
The exact English of this verse is this: And the servant said, Let them take now five of the remaining horses, which remain in it; behold they are as all the multitude of Israel, which [remain in it; behold they are as all the multitude of Israel which] are consumed; and let us send and see.
“Whoever considers that the second set of these seven words is neither in the Septuagint nor Syriac versions, and that those translators who suppose these words to be genuine alter them to make them look like sense, will probably allow them to have been at first an improper repetition; consequently to be now an interpolation strangely continued in the Hebrew text.” They are wanting in more than forty of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS. In some others they are left without points; in others they have been written in, and afterwards blotted out; and in others four, in others five, of the seven words are omitted. De Rossi concludes thus: Nec verba haec legunt Lxx., Vulg., Syrus simplex, Syrus Heptaplaris Parisiensis, Targum. They stand on little authority, and the text should be read, omitting the words enclosed by brackets, as above.
They are consumed – The words אשר תמו asher tamu should be translated, which are perfect; i.e., fit for service. The rest of the horses were either dead of the famine, killed for the subsistence of the besieged, or so weak as not to be able to perform such a journey.
Behold … – The Septuagint and a large number of the Hebrew MSS. omit the clause, “behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it.” But the text followed by our translators, which is that of the best maunscripts, is intelligible and needs no alteration. It is merely a prolix way of stating that the horsemen will incur no greater danger by going to reconnoitre than the rest of their countrymen by remaining in the city, since the whole multitude is perishing.
2Ki 7:15 And they went after them unto Jordan,…. Not finding them in the camp, and knowing the rout they would take to their own land, they went as far as Jordan, over which they must pass:
and, lo, all the way was full of garments and vessels which the Syrians had cast away in their haste; in their fright and flight, such of their clothes as hindered them in running; and their armour, as Josephus (c) seems rightly to understand the word used, these they threw away for quicker dispatch:
and the messengers returned and told the king: that it was as the lepers said, and what they themselves had seen.
(c) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4. sect. 5.)
The Syrians had fled probably by the great road which led from Samaria to Damascus through Geba, En-gannim, Beth-shean, and Aphek. It crosses the Jordan at the Jisr Mejamia, about thirty-five miles northeast of Samaria.
Keil and Delitzsch
When the returning messengers reported this, the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians, and this was followed by the consequent cheapness of provisions predicted by Elisha. As the people streamed out, the unbelieving aide-de-camp, whom the king had ordered to take the oversight at the gate (הִפְקִיד, to deliver the oversight) for the purpose of preserving order in the crowding of the starving multitude, was trodden down by the people, so that he died, whereby this prediction of Elisha was fulfilled. The exact fulfilment of this prediction appeared so memorable to the historian, that he repeats this prophecy in 2Ki_7:18-20 along with the event which occasioned it, and refers again to its fulfilment.