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[87] Hereupon, when Benhadad, the king of Syria, had escaped to Damascus, and understood that it was God himself that cast all his army into this fear and disorder, and that it did not arise from the invasion of enemies, he was mightily cast down at his having God so greatly for his enemy, and fell into a distemper. Now it happened that Elisha the prophet, at that time, was gone out of his own country to Damascus, of which Berthadad was informed: he sent Hazael, the most faithful of all his servants, to meet him, and to carry him presents, and bade him inquire of him about his distemper, and whether he should escape the danger that it threatened. So Hazael came to Elisha with forty camels, that carried the best and most precious fruits that the country of Damascus afforded, as well as those which the king's palace supplied. He saluted him kindly, and said that he was sent to him by king Berthadad, and brought presents with him, in order to inquire concerning his distemper, whether he should recover from it or not. Whereupon the prophet bid him tell the king no melancholy news; but still he said he would die. So the king's servant was troubled to hear it; and Elisha wept also, and his tears ran down plenteously at his foresight of what miseries his people would undergo after the death of Berthadad. And when Hazael asked him what was the occasion of this confusion he was in, he said that he wept out of his commiseration for the multitude of the Israelites, and what terrible miseries they will suffer by thee; "for thou wilt slay the strongest of them, and wilt burn their strongest cities, and wilt destroy their children, and dash them against the stones, and wilt rip up their women with child." And when Hazael said, "How can it be that I should have power enough to do such things ?" the prophet replied, that God had informed him that he should be king of Syria. So when Hazael was come to Benhadad, he told him good news concerning his distemper 1 but on the next day he spread a wet cloth, in the nature of a net, over him, and strangled him, and took his dominion. He was an active man, and had the good-will of the Syrians, and of the people of Damascus, to a great degree; by whom both Benhadad himself, and Hazael, who ruled after him, are honored to this day as gods, by reason of their benefactions, and their building them temples by which they adorned the city of the Damascenes. They also every day do with great pomp pay their worship to these kings, 2 and value themselves upon their antiquity; nor do they know that these kings are much later than they imagine, and that they are not yet eleven hundred years old. Now when Joram, the king of Israel, heard that Berthadad was dead, he recovered out of the terror and dread he had been in on his account, and was very glad to live in peace.


1 Since Elijah did not live to anoint Hazael king of Syria himself, as he was empowered to do, 1 Kings 19:15, it was most probably now done, in his name, by his servant and successor Elisha. Nor does it seem to me otherwise but that Benhadad immediately recovered of his disease, as the prophet foretold; and that Hazael, upon his being anointed to succeed him though he ought to have staid till he died by the course of nature, or some other way of Divine punishment, as did David for many years in the like case, was too impatient, and the very next day smothered or strangled him, in order to come directly to the succession.

2 What Mr. Le Clerc pretends here, that it is more probable that Hazael and his son were worshipped by the Syrians and people of Damascus till the days of Josephus, than Benhadad and Hazael, because under Benhadad they had greatly suffered, and because it is almost incredible that both a king and that king's murderer should be worshipped by the same Syrians, is of little force against those records, out of which Josephus drew this history, especially when it is likely that they thought Benhadad died of the distemper he labored under, and not by Hazael's treachery. Besides, the reason that Josephus gives for this adoration, that these two kings had been great benefactors to the inhabitants of Damascus, and had built them temples, is too remote from the political suspicions of Le Clerc; nor ought such weak suspicions to be deemed of any force against authentic testimonies of antiquity.


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