Our study of the life and times of the prophet Elisha, the successor to Elijah, continues with today’s study of 2 Kings 6 and 7. Though the miracles performed by Elisha were not as public as those of Elijah, his ministry in Israel was powerful, and God’s anointing on His servant was undeniable. This is the first of two devotionals for today.
A Floating Iron Axe Head (6:1-7)
Our study of 2 Kings 6 opens with a company of prophets who petitioned Elisha to move the “sons of the prophets” to a new location near the Jordan River. The prophet blessed the relocation, and the men began cutting down wood to construct a new dwelling (6:4). In the process of the work, an axe head that had been borrowed, came off its handle and fell into the water (6:5). Because iron was rare, and expensive in ancient times, the loss of the axe head was a regrettable loss (6:5). Elisha asked where the axe head had been lost, and then took a stick and tossed it onto the water, and “the iron did swim” (6:6). Following the prophet’s command, the servant “put out his hand, and took it” (6”7).
Elisha’s Revelation of Syria’s Plot to Conquer Israel (6:8-12)
The Syrian king became flustered, and was outraged when he realized someone was preempting his plans for an ambush, and warning the king of Israel. Outraged, the king of Syria suspected there was a traitor in the midst, until “one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (6:12).
Elisha Foils a Syrian Attempt to Kidnap Him (6:13-23)
The king of Syria sent a large number of soldiers on a mission to surround Dothan, and to abduct Elisha (6:13-14). When Elisha’s servant realized the city was surrounded, he asked, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” (6:15).
Calling upon the LORD, Elisha answered the fears of his servant, and prayed “I pray thee, open his [his servant’s]eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (6:17). The servant realized an unseen heavenly host had surround Samaria, and were ready to come to the defense of the city of Samaria.
Rather than pray for the Syrians to be destroyed, Elisha prayed that the enemy would be struck with blindness (6:18). Blind and helpless, Elisha assured the Syrians saying, “follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek” (speaking of himself, 6:19). Blind and helpless, the prophet led the Syrian soldiers some twelve miles, and into “the midst of Samaria,” the capital city of Israel. Arriving in Samaria, Elisha prayed, and the LORD lifted the blindness of the Syrians (6:20). Imagine their terror when they realized they had been guided into the midst of their enemy (6:20b).
The king of Israel questioned Elisha excitedly, “My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?” (6:21); however, the prophet cautioned the king and suggested the Syrians were his prisoners, and he should provide them bread and water (6:22). When the king of Israel had nourished his enemies, he sent them away. Is it any wonder that “Syria came no more into the land of Israel?” (6:23)
Samaria: Plagued by a Siege, Famine, and Foolish King (6:24-33)
Some years passed when Ben-hadad (literally, “son of Hadad”) the Syrian king, laid siege to Samaria, Israel’s capital city (6:24). With the city cut off by the siege, the citizens of Samaria soon exhausted their food supplies, and were reduced to buying and selling “an ass’s head” (an unclean beast), and eating the dung or waste of doves (6:25).
In the midst of the famine, the king of Israel was one day seen walking upon the walls of the city, when a woman called to him saying, “This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. 29So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son” (6:28-29).
Hearing the desperation, the king in a public act of sorrow, “rent his clothes…and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh” (6:30). Yet, the words spoken by the king were not words of humility or contrition, but words of pride and defiance. Daring not to attack the God of Israel directly, the king threatened Elisha with beheading, saying, “God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day” (6:31).
The king of Israel sent a messenger to search for Elisha, who found him with the elders of the city (6:32). Elisha, sparing no words concerning the evil character of the king, assailed his messenger, saying, “See ye how this son of a murderer [for the king was the son of Ahab] hath sent to take away mine head?” (6:32). The servant of the king answered Elisha’s rebuke, threatening the prophet saying, “Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (6:33)
Closing thoughts – Rather than sincere humility and brokenness before the LORD, the king of Israel blamed that nation’s afflictions on God’s prophet, and wished to kill him. The king’s messengers, bearing the evil spirit of his king, despised the LORD, and scoffed at the suggestion He would provide for Samaria.
We will see in the next chapter, 2 Kings 7, that God will answers Israel’s cry, and drive the Syrians out of Israel. The famine will end, and the messenger who scorned the LORD will be punished, and die.
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith