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kings are not called gods for nothing; they do both sentence and execute for the Almighty.
Doubtless now the poor Shunamite thought of the courteous proffer of Elisha, and, inissing a friend at the court, is glad to be the presenter of her own petition.
How happily doth God contrive all events for the good of his! This supplicant shall fall upon that instant for her suit, when the king shall be talking with Gehazi, when Gehazi shall be talking of her to the king; the words of Gehazi, the thoughts of the king, the desires of the Shunamite, shall be all drawn together, by the wise providence of God, into the centre of one moment, that his oppressed servant might receive a speedy justice. O the infinite wisdom, power, mercy of our God, that insensibly orders all our ways, as to his own holy purposes, so to our best advantage !
What doth Jehoram the king talking with Gehazi the leper ? that very presence was an eyesore.
But if the cohabitation with the infectious were forbidden, yet not the conference; certainly I begin to think of some goodness in both these. Had, there not been some goodness in Jehoram, he had not taken pleasure to hear, even from a leprous mouth, the miraculous acts and praises of God's prophet. Had there not been some goodness in Gehazi, he had not, after so fearful an infliction of judgment, thus ingenuously recounted the praises of bis severe master. He, that told that dear-bought lie to the prophet, tells now all truths of the prophet to the king. Perhaps his leprosy had made him clean; if so, happy was it for him, that his forehead was white with the disease, if his soul became hereupon white with repentance : but we may well know that the desire, or report, of historical truths, doth not always argue grace. Still Jehoram, after the inquiry of the prophet's miracles, continues his idolatry. He, that was curious to hearken after the wonders of Elisha, is not careful to follow his doctrine: therefore are Gehazi and the Shunamite met before him, that he may be convicted, who will not be reformed. Why was it else, that the presence of the persons should thus unexpectedly make good the relation, if God had not meant the inexcusableness of Jehoram, while he must needs say within himself, Thus potent is the prophet of that God, whom I obey not. Were not Elisha's the true God, how could he work such wonders ? and, if he be the true God, why is he not mine? But what-shall I change Ahab's God for Jehoshaphat's ? No, I cannot deny the miracles, I will not admit of the author : let Elisha be powerful, I will be constant. O wretched Jehorain, how much better had it been for thee never to have seen the face of Gehazi, and the son of the Shunamite, than to go away unmoved with the vengeance of leprosy in the one, with the merciful resuscitation of the other! Therefore is thy judgment fearfully aggravated, because thou wouldst not yield to what thou couldst not oppose. Had not Ahab's obdurateness been propagated to his son, so powerful demonstrations of divine power could not have been uneffectual. Wicked hearts are so much worse, by how much God is better: this anvil is the harder by being continually beaten upon, whether with judgments or mercy,
Yet this good use will God have made of this report, and this presence, that the poor Shunamite shall have justice. That son, whose life was restored, shall have his inheritance revived: his estate shall fare the better for Elisha's miracles. How much more will our merciful God second his own blessings, when the favours of unjust men are therefore drawn to us, because we have been the subject of divine beneficence!
It was a large and full award, that this occurrence drew from the king;
“Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she left the land, even until now.” Not the present possession only is given her, but the arrearages.
Nothing hinders, but that outward justice may stand with gross idolatry. The widow inay thank Elisha for this : his miracle wrought still, and puts this new life in her dead estate; his absence did that for the preservation of life, which his presence did for the restoring it from death. She that was so ready to expostulate with the man of God, upon the loss of her son, might, perhaps, have been as ready to impute the loss of her estate to his advice. Now, that for his sake she is enriched with her own, how doth she bless God for so happy a guest? When we have forgotten our own good turns, God remembers and crowns them. Let us do good to all while we have time, but especially to the household of faith.
Could Israel have been sensible of their own condition, it was no small unhappiness to lose the presence of Elisha. Whether for the idolatries, or for the famine of Israel, the prophet is gone into Syria, no doubt Naaman welcomed him
thither, and now would force upon him thanks for his cure, which the man of God would not receive at home.
How famous is he now grown that was taken from the team! His name is not confined to his own nation; foreign countries take notice of it, and kings are glad to listen after him, and woo him with presents. Benhadad, the king of Syria, whose counsels he had detected, rejoiceth to hear of his presence; and now, as having forgotten that he had sent a whole host to besiege the prophet in Dothan, sends an honourable messenger to him, laden with the burden of forty camels, to consult with this oracle concerning his sickness and recovery.
This Syrian, belike in his distress, dares not trust to his own gods; but, having had good proof of the power of the God of Israel, both in Naaman's cure, and in the miraculous defeats of his greatest forces, is glad to send to that servant of God whom he had persecuted. Wicked men are not the same in health, and in sickness; their affliction is worthy of the thanks, if they be well-minded, not themselves. · Doubtless the errand of Benhadad was not only to inquire of the issue of his disease, but to require the prayers of the prophet for a good issue. Even the worst man doth so love himself
, that he can be content to make a beneficial use of those instruments whose goodness he hateth.
Hazael, the chief peer of Syria, is designed to this message: the wealth of his present strives with the humility of his carriage and speech : “ Thy son, Benhadad, king of Syria, hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease?” Not long since, Jehoram, king of Israel, had said to Elisha, “ My father, shall I smite them?” and now Benhadad, king of Syria, says, " My father, shall I recover?” Lo, how this poor
Meholathite hath kings to his sons ! How great is the honour of God's prophets with Pagans, with princes! Who can be but confounded to see evangelical prophets despised by the meanest Christians ?
It is more than a single answer that the prophet returns to this message; one answer he gives to Benhadad that sent it, another he gives to Hazael that brings it: that to Benhadad is, “Thou mayest surely recover;" that to Hazael, “The Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.” What shall we say then? Is there a lie, or an equivocation in the holy mouth of the prophet? God forbid. It is one thing, what shall be the nature and issue of the disease; another thing,
what may outwardly befall the person of Benhadad: the question is moved of the former, whereto the answer is direct, The disease is not mortal; but, withal, an intimation is given to the bearer of an event beyond the reach of his demand, which he may know, but neither needs not, or may not return: “ The Lord hati shewed me that he shall surely die,” by another means, though not by the disease.
The seer of God descries more in Hazael, than he could see in himself; he fixes his eyes therefore stedfastly in the Syrian's face, as one that in those lines read the bloody story of his life.
Hazael blushes, Elisha weeps : the intention of those eyes did not so much amaze Hazael, as the tears; as yet he was not guilty to himself of any wrong that might strain out this juice of sorrow: “Why weepeth my Lord ?”
The prophet fears not to foretell Hazael all the villapies which he should once do to Israel; how he should fire their forts, and kill their young men, and rip the mothers, and dash their .children. I marvel not now at the tears of those eyes, which foresaw this miserable vastation of the inheritance of God; the very mention whereof is abhorred of the future author; “ What, is thy servant a dog, that I should do this great thing?” they are savage cruelties whereof thou speakest ; it were more fit for me to weep, that thou shouldst repute me so brutish: I should no less condemn myself for a beast, if I could suspect my own degeneration so far. Wicked men are carried into those heights of impiety, which they could not, in their good mood, have possibly believed; nature is subject to favourable opinions of itself, and will rather mistrust a prophet of God than her own good disposition. How many, froin honest beginnings, have risen to incredible licentiousness; whose lives are now such, that it were as hard for a man to believe they had ever been good, as to have persuaded them once, they should prove so desperately ill !
To give some overture unto Hazael of the opportunity of this ensuing mischief, the prophet foretells him, from God, that he shall be the king of Syria.
He that shews the event, doth not appoint the means Far was it from the spirit of God's prophet to set or encourage a treason : while he said therefore, “Thou shalt be king of Syria,” he said not, Go home, and kill thy master. The wicked ambition of Hazael draws this damnable conclusion
out of holy premises; and now, having fed the hopes of his sovereign with the expectation of recovery, the next day he smothers bis master. The impotent desire of rule brooks no delay. Had not Hazael been gracelessly cruel, after he had received this prediction of the seer, he should have patiently waited for the crown of Syria, till lawful means had set it upon his head; now he will, by a close execution, make way to the throne: a wet cloth hath stopt the mouth of his sick sovereign, no noise is heard, the carcass is fair; who can complain of any thing but the disease?
O Hazael, thou shalt not thus easily stop the mouth of thine own conscience; that shall call thee traitor, even in thy chair of state, and shall check all thy royal triumphs with, “Thou hast founded thy throne in blood !” I am deceived, if this wet cloth shall not wipe thy lips in thy jolliest feasts, and make thy best morsels unsavoury. Sovereignty is painful upon the fairest terms; but, upon treachery and murder, tormenting. Woeful is the case of that man, whose public cares are aggravated with private guiltiness; and happy is he that can enjoy a little with the peace of an honest heart.
Jehu with Jehoram and Jesebel.
Yer Hazael began his cruelty with loss. Ramoth-gilead is won from him; Jehoram the son hath recovered that, which Ahab his father attempted in vain. That city was dear bought of Israel, it cost the life of Ahab, the blood of Jehoram; those wounds were healed with victory; the king tends his health at Jezreel, while the captains were enjoying, and seconding their success at Ramoth.
Old Elisha hath neither cottage nor foot of land, yet, sitting in an obscure corner, he gives order for kingdoms; not by way of authority, (this usurpation had been no less proud than unjust) but by way of message from the God of kings; even a mean herald may go on a great errand. The prophets of the gospel have nothing to do but with spiritual kingdoms ; to beat down the kingdoms of sin and Satan, to translate souls to the kingdom of heaven.
He, that renewed the life of the Shunamite's son, must stoop