Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

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We continue our study of the life and times of the prophet Elisha, the successor to Elijah, with today’s assignment in 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. The fact of God’s anointing and power on Elisha was undeniable.

2 Kings 6

Elijah Made an Iron Axe Head Float (2 Kings 6:1-7)

2 Kings 6 opens with a company of prophets petitioning Elisha to move the “sons of the prophets” to a less confining location near the Jordan River (2 Kings 6:1-2). The prophet blessed the relocation, and coming to the Jordan, men began to “cut down wood” so that a new house might be constructed (2 Kings 6:4). In the process of the work, an axe head came off its handle, and fell into the water (2 Kings 6:5). Because iron was rare and expensive in ancient times, the loss of the axe head was regrettable, especially one that was borrowed (2 Kings 6:5).

Elisha asked, “Where fell it?” (2 Kings 6:6a) When he was shown the place the axe head was lost, he took a stick and tossed it onto the water, and “the iron did swim” (2 Kings 6:6). Following the prophet’s command, the servant “put out his hand, and took it” (2 Kings 6:7).

"The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Elisha Revealed Syria’s Plot to Ambush Israel (2 Kings 6:8-12)

Elisha’s fame continued to grow in the region. The king of Syria was outraged when he realized his plan to ambush Israel’s king was thwarted. The king thought there was a traitor in his court until he was told by a servant, “Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:12).

Elisha Foiled a Syrian Plot to Kidnap Him (2 Kings 6:13-23)

The event recorded in 2 Kings 6:13-23 is remarkable and should encourage the most faint-hearted saints of God.  

The king of Syria believed Elisha, God’s prophet, stood in the way of his conquest of Israel. Thus, the Syrian king sent many men and chariots to lay siege to Dothan at night (2 Kings 6:13-14). When Elisha’s servant awoke the following day, he realized the city was surrounded and asked, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha’s answer revealed his faith in the LORD, for he told his servant, “Fear not: for they that bewith us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).

Then, calling upon the LORD, Elisha answered his servant’s fears 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” (2 Kings 6:17). The servant realized an unseen heavenly host surrounded Dothan and were ready to come to the defense of the city.

Rather than pray for the Syrians to be destroyed, Elisha prayed for the enemy to be struck with blindness (2 Kings 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, 2 Kings 6:19). The prophet led the Syrian soldiers some twelve miles into “the midst of Samaria,” the capital city of Israel. Elisha then prayed, and the LORD lifted the blindness of the Syrians (2 Kings 6:20). Imagine their terror when they realized they were amid their enemy (2 Kings 6:20b).

Jehoram, the king of Israel, questioned Elisha, “My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?” (2 Kings 6:21) The prophet, however, cautioned the king and suggested the Syrians were his prisoners and that he should provide them bread and water (2 Kings 6:22). When the king of Israel had nourished his enemies, he sent them away. Perhaps because of the kindness they were shown that day, several years must have passed during which “Syria came no more into the land of Israel?” (2 Kings 6:23)

They were reduced to buying and selling “an ass’s head."

Samaria: Plagued by a Siege, Famine, and Foolish King (2 Kings 6:24-33) 

Years passed when Ben-hadad (literally, “son of Hadad”), the Syrian king, led his army and laid siege to Samaria, Israel’s capital city (2 Kings 6:24). Cut off by the siege, the citizens of Samaria exhausted their food supplies. They were reduced to buying and selling “an ass’s head” (an unclean beast) for meat and eating the dung or waste of doves (2 Kings 6:25).

During the famine, Jehoram, the king of Israel, walked upon the city walls when a woman called to him and said, “Help, my lord, O king” (2 Kings 6:26). The king of Israel questioned the woman, “What aileth thee?” (2 Kings 6:28) The woman answered him, “This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow. 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” (2 Kings 6:28-29).

Jehoram, having heard the desperate plight of his people, “rent his clothes…and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh” (2 Kings 6:30). Yet, the words of the king were not words of humility or repentance, but proud, defiant words. Though he dared not attack the God of Israel directly, he instead threatened Elisha with beheading and said, “God do so and more also to me if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day” (2 Kings 6:31).

The king of Israel then sent a messenger to search for Elisha, and he was found sitting with the city’s elders in his house (2 Kings 6:32). The LORD revealed the threats of the wicked king to Elisha, and he spared no words concerning the evil character of the king.

Elisha assailed the king’s messenger and said to the elders, “See ye how this son of a murderer [for the king was the son of Ahab] hath sent to take away mine head?” (2 Kings 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?” (2 Kings 6:33)

The Good Fortune of Four Starving Lepers (2 Kings 7:3-11)

2 Kings 7

Note – There is a chapter break in our Bible; however, 2 Kings 7 continues the scene in Elisha’s house, where he was confronted not only by the king’s messenger (6:32) but also by the king himself, for Elisha said, “is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him” (6:32-33).

Elisha then answered the king’s messenger with a promise that on the next day, the LORD would provide so abundantly that flour and barley would be inexpensive and available to all Samaria (2 Kings 7:1). One elder of the city, described as “a lord on whose hand the king leaned,” questioned Elisha, saying, “Behold, if the Lordwould make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (2 Kings 7:2) Elisha answered the faithless man, and foretold not only would the LORD provide, but he would not live to partake of it (2 Kings 7:2).


The Good Fortune of Four Starving Lepers (2 Kings 7:3-11)

Leprosy was a terrible scourge in ancient times. Lepers understood the meaning of “social distance,” for they suffered the sorrow and loneliness of being societal outcasts.

Four lepers were noted as sitting outside the gate of Samaria (2 Kings 7:3). Those four miserable souls “said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3) Therefore, they determined to go to the Syrian encampment and hope someone might show them compassion. They reasoned, “Let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:4).

The lepers arrived at the Syrian camp late that evening. They found it abandoned (2 Kings 7:5), for the LORD stirred the soldiers of Syria with the sounds of a great army and the noise of chariots (2 Kings 7:6a). The Syrians supposed the king of Israel must have hired mercenaries from the Hittites and Egyptian kings. Fearing the worst, the Syrians left everything, including “their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (2 Kings 7:7). 

The lepers, overwhelmed at their good fortune, entered a tent, gorged themselves with food, and then hoarded the silver, gold, and raiment, hiding it for themselves (2 Kings 7:8). They entered a second tent. They began to do the same until their consciences were pricked, and they remembered those starving in Samaria. They did not feel guilty about hoarding, but they feared some evil might befall them if they failed to tell others (2 Kings 7:9).


The Good Tidings of Four Lepers (2 Kings 7:10-20)

The lepers departed and came to the guard of the gate of Samaria and told him the good fortune had befallen Israel and how the Syrians had abandoned the siege and left all their possessions for spoil (2 Kings 7:10-11). Israel’s king, however, feared the Syrians were lying in ambush, waiting to draw the people out of the city and take possession of it (2 Kings 7:12).

A king’s servant then suggested a small group be sent to scout the countryside and locate the Syrian army (2 Kings 7:13-14). Agreeing to the proposal, the king sent “two chariot horses” (2 Kings 7:14), who found garments and vessels of the Syrians strewn along the way to the Jordan River (2 Kings 7:15). Returning to the city, the messengers assured the king the Syrians had fled Israel, and cast aside all their provisions in their flight (2 Kings 7:15b). Hearing the news, and realizing spoils of food, abundance of silver, and gold were left by the Syrians, the starving citizens of Samaria rushed out of the city, “and spoiled the tents of the Syrians” (2 Kings 7:16).


Closing thoughts

So, it came to pass what Elisha foretold. Flour and barley were sold in the city gates for the price he stated. The man who scoffed that the LORD would provide in abundance was trampled underfoot by the people (2 Kings 7:17). Though he saw the provision of the LORD, he did not eat of it as Elisha had prophesied (2 Kings 7:2, 20).

What a tragic ending to a glorious story of God’s care and provision for His people. The man who questioned the LORD’s prophet lived to see everything prophesied. However, his faithlessness offended the LORD, and he died seeing the promise fulfilled but not realizing it for himself.

Friend, is the same not true of many who hear the gospel but reject Jesus Christ as Savior? Don’t make the mistake of the man who doubted God’s provision for Samaria. He heard that God would provide, but he did not believe. The same God offers you redemption and forgiveness of sins if you believe and trust Him.  

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:11–13)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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