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long been accustomed to, than to enter on a new scene, merely for the gratification of ambitious views, which, when indulged, are generally found insatiable.
This transaction is supposed to have happened a short time after the deliverance of the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom, from the Moabites.
The sons of the prophets were assembled at Gilgal, in order to receive instructions from Elisha.
There is nothing in the nature of meal to correct the poisonous quality of any other vegetable substance; the recovery of the pottage therefore was miraculous, and so was the multiplying of the loaves.
The sons of the prophets proposed to build for them. selves a very humble edifice, being possessed of no riches to pay either for materials or workmen, therefore each man agreed to contribute his labour in cutting trees, and forming them into beams and planks; nay, so great was their poverty, that some of them, we find, could not even purchase proper tools, but borrowed of their neighbours. The loss of an axe to those who can easily procure such an instrument appears very trifling: but when we consider, that no tree can be felled without tools, that it is not improbable the owner of the axe, which was dropped into the water, might get his own livelihood and provide for a family by cutting timber; that the young man who borrowed it was by the loss rendered useless to his society, and could not claim an apartment without assisting in the building; and, above all, that his reputation was at stake, and even the honour of GoD concerned, that disgrace should not be brought on religion by an appearance of fraud, in one who professed to be in a particular manner devoted to his service: when we consider all this, we cannot wonder that Elisha should think his disciple's distress deserving of his intercession.
We may consider this incident as a proof that God will assist and reward those who are honest and industrious, not by miracles indeed, for they have ceased, but frequently by the most unexpected means.
BEN-HADAD'S MESSAGE TO ELISHA.
From 2 Kings, Chap. viii.
AND Elisha came to Damascus, and Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick, and it was told him, saying, The man of Gon is come hither.
And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go meet the man of GOD, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Ben-hadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?
And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover; howbeit, the LORD hath shewed me that he shall surely die.
And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of GOD wept.
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women.
And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.
So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? and he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Hazael took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on the king's face, so that he died. And Hazael reigned in his stead.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
We are not told for what purpose Elisha went to Damascus, but may conclude it was by divine appointment. It appears strange, that Ben-hadad, who had hitherto been so inveterate against Elisha, should wish to consult him in his illness; but the honour and respect he paid the prophet at this time shew, that he was convinced his late defeat was an act of omnipotent power, and his illness another judgment from the same Almighty hand; and, it is likely, he imagined the prophet could inform him what would be the event of his disease.
Hazael, who was sent with the present to Elisha, is supposed to have succeeded Naaman in the command of the army. He was the person whom Elijah had received command to anoint king of Syria; but for some reason, with which we are not acquainted, he did not do so; nor does it appear to have been done by Elisha.
The prophet knew, by divine inspiration, not only that Hazael would be sovereign of Syria, and in course of time bring miseries upon Israel; but he seems to have been acquainted also with the means by which he would ascend the throne; for when he had informed Hazael, that Ben-hadad might recover, but would surely die, he fixed his eye stedfastly on him, till Hazael, confounded with the thoughts that his treacherous designs against his king were known to the prophet, was asham
ed; and Elisha, shocked with the view which the LORD gave him of the future calamities that would fall upon. Israel, wept, which occasioned Hazael to enquire the meaning of the extraordinary emotion: It is because I know (replied the holy man) the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel!
Hazael was not only offended at the prophet's suggestions, but surprised that he should think him such a monster: for though he might intend to prevent his king's recovery, he did not then suppose that he should ever be capable of committing such horrid barbarities as can only be practised by those who have lost every principle of humanity. Elisha then informed him, this wickedness would be the consequence of his being king of Syria. Happy would it have been for Hazael, as well as for Israel, if this prediction had induced him to examine his own heart, and endeavour to nip in the bud that fatal ambition which already tempted him to lift his murderous hand against his sovereign! But we find he informed Ben-hadad that Elisha said, he should certainly recover, and then seized the first opportunity of putting him to death, in so private a manner, that it was never even suspected by the Syrians; for they would scarcely have raised to the throne one whom they knew to be the assassin of a monarch, worthy, in their opinion, to be worshipped as a deity after his death.
In this passage of sacred history, we have two remarkable instances of the influence which affliction and prosperity have on the mind. Ben-hadad, who when he supposed himself able to command the prophet of the LORD, and conquer all nations, treated Elisha with insult, oppression, and contempt; reduced now to the bed of languishment, found himself a poor helpless
creature; and (recollecting, we may suppose, the cure of Naaman) humbled himself, to court the favour of the prophet by valuable presents, in hopes that he might be induced to restore him also, or at least to acquaint him with his fate; but as Ben-hadad did not discover any signs of repentance and conversion, he had no right to expect comfort or intercession from the man of GOD; and the time was now come when he was to receive the reward of his own arrogance and impiety, by fall. ing a victim to the ambition of another.
Hazael, whilst he was a subject, seems to have been generally esteemed: for we learn, that he was honour ed with the confidence of his prince; and it appears that he was a favourite of the people, since he was, without opposition, chosen to be king of Syria. From whence we may conclude, his conduct had been just and upright: and a sense of rectitude remained strongly impressed on his mind, even when Elisha warned him of the danger of aspiring to the throne: but it is plain he did not know himself, for when he became possessed of power he verified the predictions of the prophet in every particular.
This history teaches us, that it is very dangerous to indulge ambitious views, since none can possibly foresee the guilt they may incur in the execution of them. It instructs us also to be contented in that station wherein God has placed us, since we have reason to suppose it is the most proper for us. We are likewise admonished to commit our ways unto the LORD, and intreat him to assist us by his grace in the government of our passions, since they are too apt to lead us into danger and sin*.
* See a Sermon on this subject by Dr. Blair.