Verses 12–20

Here we have,

I. The king’s jealousy of a stratagem in the Syrian’s retreat, 2 Kgs. 7:12. He feared that they had withdrawn into an ambush, to draw out the besieged, that they might fall on them with more advantage. He knew he had no reason to expect that God should appear thus wonderfully for him, having forfeited his favour by his unbelief and impatience. He knew no reason the Syrians had to fly, for it does not appear that he or any of this attendants heard the noise of the chariots which the Syrians were frightened at. Let not those who, like him, are unstable in all their ways, think to receive any thing from God; nay, a guilty conscience fears the worst and makes men suspicious.

II. The course they took for their satisfaction, and to prevent their falling into a snare. They sent out spies to see what had become of the Syrians, and found they had all fled indeed, commanders as well a common soldiers. They could track them by the garments which they threw off, and left by the way, for their greater expedition, 2 Kgs. 7:15. He that gave this advice seems to have been very sensible of the deplorable condition the people were in (2 Kgs. 7:13); for speaking of the horses, many of which were dead and the rest ready to perish for hunger, he says, and repeats it, “They are as all the multitude of Israel. Israel used to glory in their multitude, but now they are diminished and brought low.” He advised to send five horsemen, but, it should seem, there were only two horses fit to be sent, and those chariot-horses, 2 Kgs. 7:14. Now the Lord repented himself concerning his servants, when he saw that their strength was gone, Deut. 32:36.

III. The plenty that was in Samaria, from the plunder of the camp of the Syrians, 2 Kgs. 7:16. Had the Syrians been governed by the modern policies of war, when they could not take their baggage and their tents with them they would rather have burnt them (as it is common to do with the forage of a country) than let them fall into their enemies’ hands; but God determined that the besieging of Samaria, which was intended for its ruin, should turn to its advantage, and that Israel should now be enriched with the spoil of the Syrians as of old with that of the Egyptians. Here see, 1. The wealth of the sinner laid up for the just (Job 27:16, 17) and the spoilers spoiled, Isa. 33:1. 2. The wants of Israel supplied in a way that they little thought of, which should encourage us to depend upon the power and goodness of God in our greatest straits. 3. The word of Elisha fulfilled to a tittle: A measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel; those that spoiled the camp had not only enough to supply themselves with, but an overplus to sell at an easy rate for the benefit of others, and so even those that tarried at home did divide the spoil, Ps. 68:12; Isa. 33:23. God’s promise may be safely relied on, for no word of his shall fall to the ground.

IV. The death of the unbelieving courtier, that questioned the truth of Elisha’s word. Divine threatenings will as surely be accomplished as divine promises. He that believeth not shall be damned stands as firm as He that believeth shall be saved. This lord, 1. Was preferred by the king to the charge of the gate (2 Kgs. 7:17), to keep the peace, and to see that there was no tumult or disorder in dividing and disposing of the spoil. So much trust did the king repose in him, in his prudence and gravity, and so much did he delight to honour him. He that will be great, let him serve the public. 2. Was trodden to death by the people in the gate, either by accident, the crowd being exceedingly great, and he in the thickest of it, or perhaps designedly, because he abused his power, and was imperious in restraining the people from satisfying their hunger. However it was, God’s justice was glorified, and the word of Elisha was fulfilled. He saw the plenty, for the silencing and shaming of his unbelief, corn cheap without opening windows in heaven, and therein saw his own folly in prescribing to God; but he did not eat of the plenty he saw. When he was about to fill his belly God cast the fury of his wrath upon him (Job 20:23) and it came between the cup and the lip. Justly are those thus tantalized with the world’s promises that think themselves tantalized with the promises of God. If believing shall not be seeing, seeing shall not be enjoying. This matter is repeated, and the event very particularly compared with the prediction (2 Kgs. 7:18-20), that we might take special notice of it, and might learn, (1.) How deeply God resents out distrust of him, of his power, providence, and promise. When Israel said, Can God furnish a table? the Lord heard it and was wroth. Infinite wisdom will not be limited by our folly. God never promises the end without knowing where to provide the means. (2.) How uncertain life and the enjoyments of it are. Honour and power cannot secure men from sudden and inglorious deaths. He whom the king leaned upon the people trod upon; he who fancied himself the stay and support of the government was trampled under foot as the mire in the streets. Thus hath the pride of men’s glory been often stained. (3.) How certain God’s threatenings are, and how sure to alight on the guilty and obnoxious heads. Let all men fear before the great God, who treads upon princes as mortar and is terrible to the kings of the earth.