Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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4 KINGS - Chapter 4

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4 Kings iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Prophets. Josephus ([Antiquities?] ix. 4.) intimates that this man was Abdias; (3 Kings xviii. 13.) and the Rabbins pretend that Joram was the creditor. But these traditions are destitute of proof; and we know not that Abdias was a prophet. (Calmet) --- Serve him, not as slaves, for the Hebrews were not thus to be sold, except they had commited some crime. (Salien, the year before Christ 913.) See Leviticus xxv. 39. --- But the condition of mercenaries was perhaps little different; (Haydock) and we find that people were sold for debt, Exodus xxi. 7., and Isaias l. 1. The same practice seems to have continued till our Saviour's time, Matthew xviii. 25. Children were regarded as part of a person's property. The Romans, Athenians, and other nations, claimed the same right over them. (Halicar. ii. p. 96.; Plutarch, in Solon et Lucullus.) The custom of selling children continued for a long time in our [British] islands.

Ver. 2. Anoint me, for delicacy or health, Matthew vi. 17. (Menochius) --- To abstain from this unction, in the East, was a great mortification, 2 Kings xiv. 2., and Deuteronomy xxviii. 40. Sanctius supposes, that the woman intended the oil to anoint her body for interment, Matthew xxvi. 12. Hebrew asuc, occurs no where else, and my signify a pot, or "skin of oil." The woman had nothing else. The original does not say what she intended to do with it. (Calmet) --- She might use it for food: (3 Kings xvii. 12.) but the Septuagint agree with the Vulgate. (Haydock)

Ver. 6. Stood. The grace of God ceases to flow, when the soul is full of vanity. (St. Bernard) --- Charity does not increase, when it bestows nothing. (St. Augustine, ser. 206. de Temp.)

Ver. 8. Sunam, the birth-place of the beautiful virgin Abisag, (3 Kings i. 3.) at the foot of Thabor, (Calmet) and not above a mile from Carmel, ver. 23. (Tirinus) --- Great woman, "renowned for piety" (Arabic) and riches, ver. 13. (Tirinus) (Menochius) --- "Fearing sins." (Chaldean) This was true greatness! (Haydock) --- Eliseus often passed by her house, when he went to visit the colleges [of prophets] at Bethel, Jericho, &c. (Menochius)

Ver. 10. Chamber. Hebrew adds, "on the wall," (Haydock) or surrounded "with walls," at the top of the house, where strangers usually lodged. (Calmet) --- After being entertained the first day with the family, they might retire, and live, as if they were at home; some presents being sent to them daily, at least among the Greeks of rank. (Vitruv. vi. 10.) --- The apartment of Eliseus might be separate from the house, that he might be less distracted in his meditations. (Menochius) (Vatable) --- Candlestick, on which many lamps, or even wood, might burn, Exodus xxv. 27. (Calmet)

Ver. 13. He said, or "he had said;" (Junius and Piscator) so that we may include this and the following verse within a parenthesis, as alluding to what had passed before; (Calmet) unless the woman, out of modesty, did not come into the chamber of the prophet, who addressed her by an interpreter, (Menochius) or servant. (Haydock) --- Army. Eliseus had acquired great influence with Joram, in the war with Moab. (Calmet) --- The ancient canons exhort bishops to present the petitions of the poor to the prince. (Grotius) --- People. I have nothing to fear, (Haydock) and am not in want. (Tirinus) --- I have no quarrel with any person. (Calmet) --- I am of too mean a condition to have any thing to do at court. (Abulensis)

Ver. 14. No son. The desire of one was very natural, particularly to people in good circumstances (Menochius) and of the Hebrew nation. (Haydock)

Ver. 16. Womb. Hebrew, "At this season, according to the time of life, (Haydock; or of a woman with child, Menochius) thou shalt embrace a son" in thy arms. (Haydock) See Genesis xviii. 10. (Calmet) --- If is added by St. Jerome, agreeably to an usual form of speaking. (Menochius) --- The prophet assures the woman, that she will not only live, but also bear a son, and nurse him. --- Lie, deceive, (ver. 28; Haydock) or flatter me with vain hopes. (Calmet) She might think that the prophet was not actually inspired. (Menochius) --- Through joy, she could hardly believe. See Luke xxiv. 41. (Haydock)

Ver. 19. Carry. This interpretation suits with the occasion, and is conformable to the Septuagint and Chaldean. (Menochius) --- Literally, "conduct him," but he was sick and little. (Haydock)

Ver. 21. Bed, esteeming it as a relic, (Haydock) or wishing to excite the man of God to pray for her child, and to conceal its death from her husband. (Menochius)

Ver. 23. Moon, a day of devotion, (Numbers x. 10.; Calmet) or probably of obligation, like the sabbath, on which no long journey could be undertaken, (Tirinus; ver. 8.) unless for the sake of piety, (Exodus xxvi. 8.) as Sunam is a place six or seven leagues, (Calmet) or eight hours' walk from Carmel. (Adrichomius) (Menochius) --- Piety was not so far decayed in Israel but many fervent souls still went to hear the prophets. (Calmet) It seems this woman had often made such journeys. (Menochius) --- Go. Hebrew, "peace." Protestants, "it shall be well:" let me depart. She is unwilling to reveal the reason of her journey; but her husband was so well convinced of her virtue, that he placed no obstacle in her way. Perhaps he might partly guess what was the matter, as he had sent the child home sick, and saw his wife so desirous to visit the prophet. (Haydock)

Ver. 24. And do. Hebrew, "unless I bid thee." Some translate, "urge me not to get up, unless," &c. (Chaldean; Arabic, &c.) They suppose that she went on foot, and that the ass was designed for Eliseus. (Vatable)

Ver. 26. Well. She declines mentioning what she wanted to the servant, in order that she might speak to the prophet in person. (Menochius) --- She might also rationally hope that the child was well in another world. (Haydock)

Ver. 27. Her. Being aware of the extreme circumspection and modesty of his master. --- Told me. Hence it appears that the prophets were not inspired at all times, 2 Kings vii. 3, "that they might be sensible that what they had was a gift of God." (St. Gregory, hom. in 11 Ezech.)

Ver. 28. A son. Better had it been for me not to have become a mother, than to be so soon delivered of my child. (Menochius)

Ver. 29. Salute him not. He that is sent to raise to life the sinner spiritually dead, must not suffer himself to be called off, or diverted from his enterprise, by the salutations or ceremonies of the world. (Challoner) --- So must the preachers of the gospel diligently fulfil their important office, Luke x. 4. (St. Gregory, hom. 17.) Urbanity is not reprehended; but no human transaction ought to impede what is divine. (St. Ambrose, ibid.[Luke x. 4.?]) In ancient comedies, slaves are always represented in a hurry. The Jews will not salute any person when they are going to their synagogues, for fear of being distracted in their devotions. (Calmet) --- Eliseus requires the utmost expedition, that the favour might be the greater, Qui cito dat, bis dat. (Menochius) --- He would also prevent his servant from telling any one what he was about, that he might not be touched with vanity, and thus hinder the miracle, which some think was nevertheless the case. (R. Salomon) (Theodoret, q. 17.) (Tirinus)

Ver. 31. The child is not risen. By the staff of Eliseus is represented the rod of Moses, or the old law, which was incapable of restoring life to mankind, then dead by sin. It was necessary that Christ himself should come in our flesh, to restore us to life again. In this, Eliseus, as a figure of Christ, behoved to go in person to restore the dead child to life. (Challoner) --- St. Augustine (contra Faust. xii. 35.) shews that many like things recorded in the Old Testament are figures of the New. (Worthington) --- Many of the fathers observe, that this miracle was intended to shew the necessity of the Incarnation to redeem lost man. The staff did not therefore restore life. Some lay the blame on Giezi; others on the woman, who required the prophet to come in person; and others suppose that Eliseus followed herein his own spirit. But all this is destitute of proof. (Calmet) --- He might alter his mind (Tirinus) at the request of the woman, and to imitate Elias; (3 Kings xvii. 21.) all by God's direction. (Haydock) --- He had before trusted that God would perform the miracle by means of the staff, as he did formerly by the rod of Moses, or by the mantle of Elias. (Menochius)

Ver. 34. Warm. Arabic adds, "by his breath," as when God breathed a soul into Adam. (Theodoret, q. 18.) --- Some Greek interpreters have, "he breathed upon him," &c.

Ver. 35. Upon him. Septuagint, "he breathed," &c. (Calmet) --- Other copies, (Alexandrian and Vatican) "he bent down upon the child seven times, and the child opened his eyes." --- Gaped. Protestants, "sneezed;" (Haydock) in which interpretation, Junius, Montanus, &c., agree. Arabic, "he turned his eyes about seven times." Others, "he trembled," (Calmet) or sighed; (ver. 19.) and sneezing is accounted good for alleviating the pain. Sternutamenta capitis gravedinem emendant. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxviii. 6.) (Calmet)

Ver. 37. Ground. To honour the saint, who had done her such a kindness. (Menochius)

Ver. 38. Galgal, where he had been often before. --- Dwelt. Hebrew, "sat," like disciples attending to the instructions of their master, Acts xxii. 3. (Calmet) --- To one, &c. Hebrew and Septuagint, "to his servant," Giezi. (Menochius) --- Eliseus provided for the temporal as well as for the spiritual wants of his followers. (Haydock) --- The famine had been sent by God, to punish the idolatry of the people, chap. viii. 1. (Menochius)

Ver. 39. Wild herbs. Hebrew oroth. Septuagint arioth, may denote any thing that could be "gathered." --- Gourds: colocynthides. They resembled cucumbers; but were so bitter, that they were styled, "the gall of the earth." Vallesius, (Phil. c. 36.) who observes, that a small quantity may cause death, (c. 37.) and that the remedy used by the prophet was supernatural; though Lemnius (c. 7.) asserts, that the mixture of barley-flour would take away the bitterness. (Tirinus) --- It has, in effect, that tendency; but the hand of God must still be acknowledged. (Calmet)

Ver. 40. Death, poison, &c. Matthiole accounts this fruit poisonous.

Ver. 42. Baalsalisa, 15 miles south of Diospolis, and to the north of Jerusalem. (Calmet) --- His scrip. Hebrew bctsiklono. Protestants, "in the husk thereof." Carmel, means a greenish ear of corn, (Haydock) which might be rubbed in the hand, and so eaten. (Calmet)

Ver. 43. Men. The disciples of Christ found the like difficulty, John vi. 9. (Menochius) --- God multiplied the provisions for these 100 men, (Calmet) living in the community at Galgal. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Miracles of Eliseus. He raiseth a dead child to life.

1 Now a certain woman of the wives of the prophets, *cried to Eliseus, saying: Thy servant, my husband, is dead, and thou knowest that thy servant was one that feared God, and behold the creditor is come to take away my two sons to serve him.

2 And Eliseus said to her: What wilt thou have me to do for thee? Tell me, what hast thou in thy house? And she answered: I, thy handmaid, have nothing in my house but a little oil, to anoint me.

3 And he said to her: Go, borrow of all thy neighbours empty vessels, not a few.

4 And go in, and shut thy door, when thou art within, and thy sons: and pour out thereof into all those vessels: and when they are full, take them away.

5 So the woman went, and shut the door upon her, and upon her sons: they brought her the vessels, and she poured in.

6 And when the vessels were full, she said to her son: Bring me yet a vessel. And he answered: I have no more. And the oil stood.

7 And she came, and told the man of God. And he said: Go, sell the oil, and pay thy creditor: and thou and thy sons live of the rest.

8 And there was a day when Eliseus passed by Sunam: now there was a great woman there, who detained him to eat bread: and as he passed often that way, he turned into her house to eat bread.

9 And she said to her husband: I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who often passeth by us.

10 Let us, therefore, make him a little chamber, and put a little bed in it for him, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick, that when he cometh to us he may abide there.

11 Now, there was a certain day, when he came, and turned into the chamber, and rested there.

12 And he said to Giezi, his servant: Call this Sunamitess. And when he had called her, and she stood before him,

13 He said to his servant: Say to her: Behold, thou hast diligently served us in all things; what wilt thou have me to do for thee? Hast thou any business, and wilt thou, that I speak to the king, or to the general of the army? And she answered: I dwell in the midst of my own people.

14 And he said: What will she then that I do for her? And Giezi said: Do not ask, for she hath no son, and her husband is old.

15 Then he bid him call her. And when she was called, and stood before the door,

16 He said to her: At this time, and this same hour, if life be in company, thou shalt have a son in thy womb. But she answered: Do not, I beseech thee, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie to thy handmaid.

17 And the woman conceived, and brought forth a son in the time, *and at the same hour that Eliseus had said.

18 And the child grew. And on a certain day, when he went out to his father to the reapers,

19 He said to his father: My head acheth, my head acheth. But he said to his servant: Take him and carry him to his mother.

20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, she sat him on her knees, until noon, and then he died.

21 And she went up, and laid him upon the bed of the man of God, and shut the door: and going out,

22 She called her husband, and said: Send with me, I beseech thee, one of thy servants, and an ass, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.

23 And he said to her: Why dost thou go to him? to-day is neither new moon nor sabbath. She answered: I will go.

24 And she saddled an ass, and commanded her servant: Drive, and make haste, make no stay in going: And do that which I bid thee.

25 So she went forward, and came to the man of God, to Mount Carmel: and when the mall of God saw her coming towards, he said to Giezi, his servant: Behold that Sunamitess.

26 Go, therefore, to meet her, and say to her: Is all well with thee, and with thy husband, and with thy son? And she answered: Well.

27 And when she came to the man of God, to the mount, she caught hold on his feet: and Giezi came to remove her. And the man of God said: Let her alone, for her soul is in anguish, and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.

28 And she said to him: Did I ask a son of my lord? did I not say to thee: Do not deceive me?

29 Then he said to Giezi: Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thy hand, and go. If any man meet thee, salute him not: and if any man salute thee, answer him not: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

30 But the mother of the child said: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. He arose, therefore, and followed her.

31 But Giezi was gone before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child, and there was no voice nor sense: and he returned to meet him, and told him, saying: The child is not risen.

32 Eliseus, therefore, went into the house, and behold the child lay dead on his bed:

33 And going in, he shut the door upon him, and upon the child, and prayed to the Lord.

34 And he went up, and lay upon the child: and he put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he bowed himself upon him, and the child's flesh grew warm.

35 Then he returned and walked in the house, once to and fro: and he went up, and lay upon him: and the child gaped seven times, and opened his eyes.

36 And he called Giezi, and said to him: Call this Sunamitess. And she being called, went in to him: and he said: Take up thy son.

37 She came and fell at his feet, and worshipped upon the ground: and took up her son, and went out.

38 And Eliseus returned to Galgal, and there was a famine in the land, and the sons of the prophets dwelt before him: And he said to one of his servants: Set on the great pot, and boil pottage for the sons of the prophets.

39 And one went out into the field to gather wild herbs: and he found something like a wild vine, and gathered of it wild gourds of the field, and filled his mantle, and coming back, he shred them into the pot of pottage; for he knew not what it was.

40 And they poured it out for their companions to eat: and when they had tasted of the pottage, they cried out, saying: Death is in the pot, O man of God. And they could not eat thereof.

41 But he said: Bring some meal. And when they had brought it, he cast it into the pot, and said: Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was now no bitterness in the pot.

42 And a certain man came from Baalsalisa, bringing to the man of God, bread of the first-fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and new corn in his scrip. And he said: Give to the people, that they may eat.

43 And his servant answered him: How much is this, that I should set it before a hundred men? He said again: Give to the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord: They shall eat, and there shall be left.

44 So he set it before them: and they ate, and there was left, according to the word of the Lord.



1: Year of the World 3109, Year before Christ 895.

17: Year of the World 3110.