2 Kings 7:3 ESV
Matthew Henry's Commentary
2 Kings 7:3-11
We are here told,
I. How the siege of Samaria was raised in the evening, at the edge of night (2 Kgs. 7:6, 7), not by might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, striking terror upon the spirits of the besiegers. Here was not a sword drawn against them, not a drop of blood shed, it was not by thunder or hailstones that they were discomfited, nor were they slain, as Sennacherib’s army before Jerusalem, by a destroying angel; but, 1. The Lord made them to hear a noise of chariots and horses. The Syrians that besieged Dothan had their sight imposed upon, 2 Kgs. 6:18. These had their hearing imposed upon. For God knows how to work upon every sense, pursuant to his own counsels as he makes the hearing ear and the seeing eye, so he makes the deaf and the blind, Exod. 4:11. Whether the noise was really made in the air by the ministry of angels, or whether it was only a sound in their ears, is not certain; which soever it was, it was from God, who both brings the wind out of his treasures, and forms the spirit of man within him. The sight of horses and chariots had encouraged the prophet’s servant, 2 Kgs. 6:17. The noise of horses and chariots terrified the hosts of Syria. For notices from the invisible world are either very comfortable or very dreadful, according as men are at peace with God or at war with him. 2. Hearing this noise, they concluded the king of Israel had certainly procured assistance from some foreign power: He has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians. There was, for aught we know but one king of Egypt, and what kings there were of the Hittites nobody can imagine; but, as they were imposed upon by that dreadful sound in their ears, so they imposed upon themselves by the interpretation they made of it. Had they supposed the king of Judah to have come with his forces, there would have been more of probability in their apprehensions than to dream of the kings of the Hittites and the Egyptians. If the fancies of any of them raised this spectre, yet their reasons might soon have laid it: how could the king of Israel, who was closely besieged, hold intelligence with those distant princes? What had he to hire them with? It was impossible but some notice would come, before, of the motions of so great a host; but there were they in great fear where no fear was. 3. Hereupon they all fled with incredible precipitation, as for their lives, left their camp as it was: even their horses, that might have hastened their flight, they could not stay to take with them, 2 Kgs. 7:7. None of them had so much sense as to send out scouts to discover the supposed enemy, much less courage enough to face the enemy, though fatigued with a long march. The wicked flee when none pursues. God can, when he pleases, dispirit the boldest and most brave, and make the stoutest heart to tremble. Those that will not fear God he can make to fear at the shaking of a leaf.
II. How the Syrians’ flight was discovered by four leprous men. Samaria was delivered, and did not know it. The watchmen on the walls were not aware of the retreat of the enemy, so silently did they steal away. But Providence employed four lepers to be the intelligencers, who had their lodging without the gate, being excluded from the city, as ceremonially unclean: the Jews say they were Gehazi and his three sons; perhaps Gehazi might be one of them, which might cause him to be taken notice of afterwards by the king, 2 Kgs. 8:4. See here, 1. How these lepers reasoned themselves into a resolution to make a visit in the night to the camp of the Syrians, 2 Kgs. 7:3, 4. They were ready to perish for hunger; none passed through the gate to relieve them. Should they go into the city, there was nothing to be had there, they mist die in the streets; should they sit still, they must pine to death in their cottage. They therefore determine to go over to the enemy, and throw themselves upon their mercy: if they killed them, better die by the sword than by famine, one death than a thousand; but perhaps they would save them alive, as objects of compassion. Common prudence will put us upon that method which may better our condition, but cannot make it worse. The prodigal son resolves to return to his father, whose displeasure he had reason to fear, rather than perish with hunger in the far country. These lepers conclude, “If they kill us, we shall but die;” and happy they who, in another sense, can thus speak of dying. “We shall but die, that is the worst of it, not die and be damned, not be hurt of the second death.” According to this resolution, they went, in the beginning of the night, to the camp of the Syrians, and, to their great surprise, found it wholly deserted, not a man to be seen or heard in it, 2 Kgs. 7:5. Providence ordered it, that these lepers came as soon as ever the Syrians had fled, for they fled in the twilight, the evening twilight (2 Kgs. 7:7), and in the twilight the lepers came (2 Kgs. 7:5), and so no time was lost. 2. How they reasoned themselves into a resolution to bring tidings of this to the city. They feasted in the first tent they came to (2 Kgs. 7:8) and then began to think of enriching themselves with the plunder; but they corrected themselves (2 Kgs. 7:9): “We do not well to conceal these good tidings from the community we are members of, under colour of being avenged upon them for excluding us from their society; it was the law that did it, not they, and therefore let us bring them the news. Though it awake them from sleep, it will be life from the dead to them.” Their own consciences told them that some mischief would befal them if they acted separately, and sought themselves only. Selfish narrow-spirited people cannot expect to prosper; the most comfortable advantage is that which our brethren share with us in. According to this resolution, they returned to the gate, and acquainted the sentinel with what they had discovered (2 Kgs. 7:10), who straightway brought the intelligence to court (2 Kgs. 7:11), and it was not the less acceptable for being first brought by lepers.