King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Kings 6

The sons of the prophets enlarge their habitations, Iron made to swim. (1-7) Elisha discloses the counsels of the Syrians. (8-12) Syrians sent to seize Elisha. (13-23) Samaria besieged, A famine, The king sends to slay Elisha. (24-33)

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The sons of the prophets enlarge their habitations, Iron made to swim

1 And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.

2 Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.

3 And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.

4 So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.

5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.

6 And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.

7 Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.

Elisha discloses the counsels of the Syrians

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?

12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.

Syrians sent to seize Elisha

13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.

15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

18 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

19 And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.

20 And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

21 And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?

22 And he answered, 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.

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 bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.

Samaria besieged, A famine, The king sends to slay Elisha

24 And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.

25 And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.

26 And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king.

27 And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress?

28 And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto 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 did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.

30 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.

31 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.

32 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 mine 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?

33 And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer?

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Timber. Heb. and Sept. “a beam.” Salien supposes that these prophets resided at Galgal. M.

Ver. 5. Borrowed. He was grieved because he could not repair the loss. W.

Ver. 6. Swam. So; Demersam fluvio relevavit virga securim. (Tert. c. 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. Tert. c. Jud├Žos xiii. C. — 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 hat been his (God’s) counsellor?“ Rom. 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. M. — The causes of this war are not known; but an ambitious prince always finds pretexts to cover his injustice. C.

Ver. 10. Twice, but very frequently: so that the Syrian feared some treachery. H.

Ver. 12. Chamber. It is difficult therefore for the saints in heaven to hear our prayers? though they have not such long ears as Calvin ridicules. H.

Ver. 13. Take him. Foolish attempt! as if the prophet could not foresee his own danger. Salien. — Dothan or Dothain, (Gen. xxxvii. 17.) twelve miles north of Samaria. (Eus. C.) Andrichomius says, in the tribe of Zabulon. M.

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. H.

Ver. 15. Servant, Giezi; as his leprosy is placed too soon. Salien. M.

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, A.C. Christ 907. Jacob beheld such camps of angels, (Gen. xxxii. 1, 2.) and our Saviour speaks of the legions which he could have brought forward, Mat. xxvi. 53. C.

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 object 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. Sot 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. Ch. — Stratagems in war are lawful. S. Chrys, &c. Grot. Jur. iii. 1. 17. The words of the prophet might be merely ironical. — Blindness, Sept. aorasia, “not seeing” certain objects, while they could perceive others; as was the case of the men who sought Lot’s door at Sodom; (Gen. xix. 11. C.) 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 is above was at Dothan. Salien. H. — The reprobate will thus acknowledge their error, when it is too late, at the last day.

Ver. 22. For thou. Heb. “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? C. — Sicut bellanti & resistenti violentia redditur: ita victo vel capto misericorida jam debetur. S. Aug. ep. 1. ad Bonif. Grot. — And water, all necessary provisions. W. — These men were suffered to live that they might relate the wonders of God. Theod. q. 20.

Ver. 23. Meats. So the apostle orders us to treat our enemies, Rom. xii. 20. — The robbers, these soldiers, who were dismissed. H. — No more, (ultra) or, “no farther.” (H.) during this war, or in small troops; but, a little later, Benadad came with all his forces to besiege Samaria. T. — 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, C. viii. 1. The continuance of the siege added fresh horrors. — Pieces is not expressed in Heb.: a sicle is understood. H. — Lyran supposes that the whole ass was sold for about 38 crowns, (H.) 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 denari. Plin. viii. 57. V. Max. vii. 6, 3. — Cabe. Sufficient measure of corn for a man’s daily sustenance. M. — The fourth part would be about a gill. H. — Dung. Bochart maintains that “chick-peas” are designated. The Arab. 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 Schol. 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, (Grot.) 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? C. — Houbigant understands a sort of peas is meant. H. — The Hebrews called them kali when they were parched; and such food was very common. 2 K. xvii. 28. Bellon. ii. 53, and 99. C.

Ver. 27. Save (salvat.) Many ancient MSS. read salvet, conformably to the Heb. and Sept. as if the king cursed the woman: “Let not the Lord save thee,” Joseph. ix. 4. Others place the stops differently: “He said, no: the Lord save thee.” C. — He is the author of life. M.

Ver. 29. Eat him. Strange cruelty! foretold Deut. xxviii. 53, and again verified at Jerusalem. Ezec. v. 10.

Ver. 30. Passed by, without punishing such a horrid crime, as he esteemed his own sins the occasion of it. M. — Flesh. Behold the advantage to be derived from afflictions! They make the most hardened enter into sentiments of humility and penance. C. — 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, (H.) 3 K. 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. H. — The king supposed that he 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. C. — The prophet might have answered Joram in the words of Elias, 3 K. xviii. 18. M. — Probably he had dissuaded the king from making peace. T.

Ver. 32. Murderer. Achab had slain Naboth, and Jezabel had destroyed the prophets. C.

Ver. 33. And he, Joram, (M. &c.) after (H.) his messenger. E. Pisc. — What, &c. All is desperate; (C.) our miseries cannot increase. M. — I have nothing now to fear or to hope for. Salien.