« PreviousContinue »
Accordingly they did as they were bidder, when he that was sent by the king to kill Elisha came; but Jorain repented of bis wrath against the prophet, and for fear he that was commanded to kill him should have done it before he came, he made haste to hinder bis slanghter, and to save the prophet : and when he came to him he accused him that he did not pray to God for their deliverance from the miseries they now lay under, but saw them so sadly destroyed by them. Hereupon Elisha promised, that the very next day, at the very same hour in which the king came to bim, they should have great plenty of food, and that two seahs of barley should be sold in the inarker for a shekel, and a seab of fine four should be sold for a shekel. This prediction made Jorain, and those that were present very joyful, for they did not scruple believing what the prophet said, on account of the experience they had of the truth of his former predictions; and the expectation of plenty made the want they were in that day, with the uneasiuess that accompanied it, appear a light thing to them: but the captain of the third band, who was a friend of the king's, and on whose hand the king leaned, said, “ Thou talkest of “ incredible things, O) prophet! for as it is impossible for God " to pour down torrenis of barley, or fine four, out of hea
ven, so is it impossible that what thou sayest should conje " to pass.” To which the propbet made this reply, “ Thou " shalt see these things come to pass, but thou shalt not be in “ the least a partaker of them."
5. Now what Elisha had thus foretold, came to pass in the manner following: There was a * jaw at Samaria that those that had the leprosy, and whose bodies were not cleansed from it, should abide without the city; and there were four men that on this account abode before the gates, while nobody gave them any food, by reason of the extremity of the famine: and as they were prohibited from entering into the city by the law, and they considered that if they were permitted to enter, they should miserably perish by the famine, as also, that if they stayed where they were, they should suffer in the same manner, they resolved to deliver themselves up to the enemy, that in case they should spare them, they should live, but if they should be killed, that would be an easy death. So when they had confirmed this their resolution, they came by night to the enemies camp. Now God had begun to affright and disturb the Syrians, and to bring the noise of chariots and armour to their ears, as though an army were com
* This law of the Jews, for the exclusion of lepers out of the camp in the wil. derness, and out of cities in Judea, is a known one, Lev. xiii. 46. and Num. V.
ing upon them, and had made them suspect that it was coming nearer and nearer to them. In short, they were in such a. dread of this army, that they left their tents, and ran together to Benbadad, and said, That “ Joram the king of Israel “ had hired for auxiliaries, both the king of Egypt and the “ king of the islands, and led them against them, for they “ heard the noise of them as they were coming.” And Ben. hadad believed what they said, (for there came the same noise to bis ears as well as it did to theirs,) so they fell into a mighty disorder and tumult, and left their horses and beasts in their camp, with immense riches also, and betook themselves to flight: And those lepers who had departed from Samaria, and were gone to the camp of the Syrians, of whom we made mention a little before, when they were in the camp, saw nothing but great quietness and silence, accordingly they entered into it, and went hastily into one of their tents, and when they saw nobody there, they eat and drank, and carried garments, and a great quantity of gold, and hid it out of the camp; after which they went into another tent, and carried off what was in it, as they did at the former, and this did they four several times, without the least interruption from any body: So they gathered thereby that the enemies were departed; whereupon they reproached themselves that they did not inform Joram and the citizens of it. So they came to the walls of Samaria, and called aloud to the watchmen, and told them in what state the enemies were, as did these tell the king's guards, by whose means Joram came to know of it; who then sent for his friends, and the captains of his host, and said to them, That “ he suspected that this departure of the
king of Syria was by way of ambush and treachery, and " that out of despair of ruining you by famine, when you
imagine them to be fled away, you may come out of the “ city to spoil their camp, and he may then fall upon you on a sudden, and
you, and take the city without " fighting; whence it is that I exhort you to guard the city
carefully, and by no means to go out of it, or proudly to despise your enemies, as though they were really gone
away.” And when a certain person said, That “ he did “ very well and wisely to admit such a suspicion, but that “ be still advised him to send a couple of horsemen to search “ all the country, as far as Jordan, that if they were seized " by an ambush of the enemy, they might be a security to
your army, that they may not go out as if they suspected “ nothing, nor undergo the like misfortune; and, (said he,) “ those horsemen may be numbered among those that have “ died by the famine, supposing they be caught and destroy
“ ed by the enemy." So the king was pleased with this opinion, and sent such as might search out the truth, who performed their journey over a road that was without any enemies, but found it full of provisions, and of weapons, that they had therefore thrown away, and left behind them, in order to their being light and expeditious in their fight. When the king heard this, he sent out the multitude to take the spoils of the camp; which gains of theirs was noi of things of small value, but they took a great quantity of gold, and a great quantity of silver, and focks of all kinds of cattle. They also possessed themselves of (so many] ten thousand measures of wheat and barley, as they never in the least dreamed of; and were not only freed from their former miseries, but had such plenty, that two seahs of barley were bought for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, according to the prophecy of Elisha. Now a seah is equal to an Italian modius and an half
. The captain of the third band was the only man that received no benefit by this plenty; for as he was appointed by the king to oversee the gate, that he might prevent the too great crowd of the multitude, and they might not endanger one another to perish, by treading on one another in the press, he suffered bimself in that very way, and died in that very manner, as Elisha had foretold such his death, when he alone of them all disbelieved what he said concerning that plenty of provisions which they should soon have.
6. Hereupon, when Benhadad, the king of Syria, had escaped to Damascus, and understood that it was God himself that cast all bis army into this fear and disorder, and that it did not arise from the invasion of enemies, he was mightily cast down at his having God so greatly for his enemy, and fell into a distemper. Now it happened that Elisha the prophet, at that time, was gone out of his own country to Damascus, of which Benhadad was informed, he sent Hazael, the most faithful of all bis servants, to meet him, and to carry him presents, and bade him enquire of him about his distemper, and whether he should escape the danger that it threatened. So Hazael came to Elisha with forty camels, that carried the best and most precious fruits that the country of Damascus afforded, as well as those which the king's palace supplied. He saluted him kindly, and said, That “ he was sent to him by
king Benbadad, and brought presents with him, in order
to enquire concerning his distemper, whether he should re“ cover from it or not?" Whereupon the prophet bid him tell the king no melancholy news, but still he said he would die. So the king's servant was troubled to hear it; and Elisha wept also, and his tears ran down plenteously at his foresight of what miseries his people would undergo after the death of Benhadad. And when Hazael asked him, what was the occasion of this confusion he was in?, he said, That “ he wept out " of his commiseration for the multitude of the Israelites, “ and what terrible miseries they will suffer by thee; for thou “ wilt 'slay the strongest of them, and will burn their strong
est cities, and will destroy their children, and dash them
against the stones, and will rip up their women with child." And when Hazael said, “ How can it be that I should have
power enough to do such things ?" the prophet replied, " That God had informed him that he should be king of Sye “ ria.” So when Hazael was come to Benhadad, he told him good news concerning his distemper; * but on the next day he spread a wet cloth, in the nature of a net, over him, and strangled him, and took his dominion. He was an active man, and had the good will of the Syrians, and of the people of Damascus, to a great degree; by whom both Benhadad himself, and Hazael, who ruled after him, are honoured to this day as gods, by reason of their benefactions, and their building them temples, by which they adorned the city of the Damascens. They also every day do with great pomp pay their worshipt to these kings, and value themselves upon their antiquity, nor do they know that these kings are much later than they imagine, and that they are not yet eleven hun. dred years old. Now when Joram, the king of Israel, heard that Benhadad was dead, he recovered out of the terror and dread he had been in on his account, and was very glad to
live in peace.
* Since Elijah did not live to anoint Hazael king of Syria.himself, as he was empowered to do, 1 Kings xix. 15. it was most probably now done, in his name, by his servant and successor Elisha: Nor does it seem to me otherwise, but that Benhadad immediately recovered of his disease, as the prophet foretold; and that Hazael, upon his being anointed to succeed him, though he ought to have staid till he died by the course of nature, or some otber way of divine punishment, as did David for many years in the like case, was too impatient, and the very next day smothered or strangled him, in order to come directly to the succession.
+ What Mr. Le Clerc pretends here, that it is more probable that Hazael and his son were worshipped by the Syrians, and people of Damascus, till the days of Josephus, then Benhadad and Hazael, because under Benhadad they had greatly suffered, and because it is almost incredible, that both a king, and that king's murderer, should be worshipped by the same Syrians, is of little force against those records, out of which Josephus drew this history, especially when it is likely that they thought Benhadad died of the distemper he laboured un. der, and not by Hazael's treachery. Besides, the reason that Josephus gives for this adoration, that these two kings had been great benefactors to the inha. bitants of Damascus, and had built them temples, is too remote from the politi. cal suspicions of Le Clerc; nor ought such weak suspicions to be deemed of any force against authentic testimonies of antiquity.
Concerning the wickedness of Jehoram, king of Jerusalem.
His defeat and death. § 1. Now Jehoram, the king of Jerusalem, for we have said before that he had the same name with the king of Israel, as soon as he had taken the government upon him, betook himself to the slaughter of his brethren, and his father's friends, who were governors under him, and thence made a beginning, and a demonstration of his wickedness; nor was he at all better than those kings of Israel who at first transgressed against the laws of their country, and of the Hebrews, and against God's worship: And it was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, whom he had married, who taught him to be a bad man in other respects, and also to worship foreigu gods. Now God would not quite root out this family, because of the promise he had made to David. However, Jehoram did not leave off the introduction of new sorts of customs to the propagation of impiety, and to the ruin of the customs of his own country. And when the Edomites about that time had revolted from him, and slain their former king, who was in subjection to his father, and had set up one of their own choosing, Jehoram fell upon the land of Edom, with the horsemen that were about him, and the chariots, by night, and destroyed those that lay near to his own kingdom, but did not proceed farther. However, this expedition did him no service, for they all revolted from him, with those that dwelt in the country of Libnah. He was indeed so mad, as to compel the people to go up to the high places of the mountains, and worship foreign gods.
2. As he was doing this, and had entirely cast his own country laws out of his mind, there was brought him an epistle* from Elijah the prophet, which declared that “God would “ execute great judgments upon him, because he had not “ imitated his own fathers, but had followed the wicked cour
ses of the kings of Israel; and had compelled the tribe of “ Judah, and the citizens of Jerusalem, to leave the holy " worship of their own God, and to worship idols, as Ahab
* This epistle, in some copies of Josephus, is said to come to Joram from Elijah, with this addition, for he was yet upon earth, which could not be true of Elijah, who, as all agree, was gone from the earth about four years before, and could only be true of Elisha : nor perhaps is there any more mystery here, than that the name of Elijah has very anciently crept into the text instead of Elisha, by the copiers, there being nothing in any copy of that epistle peculiar to Elijah. VOL. II.