2 KINGS CHAPTER 6.
Further Events at Elisha’s Time.
THE SWIMMING OF THE AX-HEAD. — V. 1. And the sons of the prophets, probably those living at Jericho, said unto Elisha, Behold, now, the place where we dwell with thee, literally, “before thy face,” under his supervision, is too strait for us, the present buildings no longer offered sufficient room for their increasing number. V. 2. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan and take thence every man a beam, by cutting down some of the large trees near the river and preparing them for the walls of the new building, and let us make us a place there where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye, he gladly gave his consent. V. 3. And one said, Be content, let it please thee, I pray thee, and go with thy servants, they believed that the presence of the prophet would bring blessing and success to their labor. And he answered, I will go. V. 4. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood, felling some of the trees which grew along its banks. V. 5. But as one was felling a beam, the ax-head, slipping its helve, fell into the water; and he cried and said, Alas, master, for it was borrowed! He had begged its use for the work at hand, since he was too poor to buy an ax. V. 6. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he, Elisha, cut down a stick and cast it in thither, where the iron had sunk to the bottom; and the iron did swim, lifted up by the water against the course of nature, it floated on the surface. V. 7. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand and took it. We see here that the Lord is willing to help even in small things, in the little embarrassments of life.
THE BLINDNESS OF THE SYRIANS. — V. 8. Then the king of Syria, still during the reign of Jehoram of Israel, warred against Israel, more by expeditions which had the plundering of the country for their object than by regular campaigns, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. He fixed the location of his various encampments in advance and informed his captains in secret council. V. 9. And the man of God, Elisha, sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place, namely, for the purpose of occupying it with a sufficiently strong body of men to keep the Syrians away; for thither the Syrians are come down, he knew the places which they had selected for their encampments. V. 10. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, always occupying these places in advance, and saved himself there, thus frustrating the plans of the Syrians, not once nor twice, it happened time and again. V. 11. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing, the matter vexed him severely. And he called his servants and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel? He believed that there was a traitor in their own camp, who made known their plans to the enemy. V. 12. And 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 bed-chamber, he possessed such a great amount of prophetic wisdom that he knew all the secrets of the Syrian king. V. 13. And he said, Go and spy where he is that I may send and fetch him, intending to get Elisha into his power and thus to prevent him from making known his plans to the king of Israel. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan, some twelve miles north of Samaria. V. 14. Therefore sent he, the king of Syria, thither horses and chariots and a great host, a large body of infantry; and they came by night, and compassed the city about. V. 15. And when the servant of the man of God, either Gehazi or some prophet-disciple, was risen early and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master, how shall we do? He felt that they were now in the power of the enemies and could not escape. V. 16. And he, Elisha, answered, Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. Cp. Num. 14, 9; 2 Chron. 32, 7; Ps. 3, 6; 27, 3. V. 17. And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes that he may see, that his physical eyes might behold what his spirit should have known. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw, what was ordinarily hidden from the eyes of mortals; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, the hosts of the heavenly angels had been sent to protect him. V. 18. And when they, the Syrians, came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord and said, Smite this people, I pray Thee, with blindness. And He, Jehovah, smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha; they were in a condition that their eyes could not distinguish properly, although the ability to see was not taken from them. V. 19. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city, he prepared deliberately to mislead them. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria, while they were virtually his captives. V. 20. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, of the Syrians who had followed him so trustfully and blindly, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. V. 21. And the king of Israel said unto Elisha when he saw them, My father, namely, in the spiritual sense, shall I smite them? Shall I smite them? He was eager to make use of the advantage offered by the presence of the enemy, for they were now in his power. V. 22. And he, with the proper humaneness which would consider it highly improper to take a mean advantage of an enemy, answered, Thou shalt not smite them. Wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? The meaning is: If thou shouldst put these to death, could thy action be justified as in the case of prisoners of war? Set bread and water before them, preparing them a bounteous meal, that they may eat and drink and go to their master. V. 23. And he prepared great provision for them; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel; they realized that such expeditions were useless as long as Elisha was in the country and revealed all their plans. The angel of the Lord encamps round about those that fear Him. The true children of God keep many a great misfortune from entire countries.
THE GREAT FAMINE IN SAMARIA. — V. 24. And it came to pass after this, some years after these expeditions had ceased, that Benhadad, king of Syria, gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria, evidently with the object of making the land of Israel tributary altogether. V. 25. And there was a great famine in Samaria; and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head, the poorest part of an unclean animal, was sold for fourscore pieces of silver (some $50), and the fourth part of a cab (about ten cubic inches) of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver (a little over $3). V. 26. And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king! V. 27. And he said, in bitterness verging on despair, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee, out of the barn-floor, the product of threshing, grain or flour, or out of the wine-press? It was the bitter irony of a soul beyond hope. V. 28. And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman, pointing out one whom she accused, said unto me, Give thy son that we may eat him to-day, and we will eat my son to-morrow. What the Lord had foretold and threatened Dent. 28, 57, had come to pass in all its horror. V. 29. So we boiled my son and did eat him, the most revolting form of cannibalism. And I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son that we may eat him; and she hath hid her son. So this unnatural mother, driven practically to insanity by excessive hunger, demanded justice, the fulfillment of the horrible bargain. V. 30. And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes, in uncontrollable grief and horror; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within, as his undergarment, upon his flesh, the symbol of humility, which in his case, however, was more in the form of a mechanical exercise of penance. V. 31. Then he said, in an unreasonable rage against the prophet whom he, in some way, held responsible for the terrible conditions now disclosed, God do so and more also to me if the head of Elisha, the son of Shaphat, shall stand on him this day! He pledged himself, by a terrible oath, to murder Elisha. V. 32. But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders, the magistrates of the city, sat with him, probably for the purpose of asking his counsel and assistance. And the king sent a man from before him; but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, having received a revelation from God, See ye how this son of a murderer, namely, Jehoram, the son of Ahab, hath sent to take away mine head? Look when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door, not permitting him to enter and commit the crime which he had been commissioned to commit. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him? Jehoram was following upon the heels of the messenger. V. 33. And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him; and he, the king, said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer? This was probably the course advised by Elisha, the king having been ready to capitulate some time before. The king’s words were the cry of one in the depths of despair. Note: Although it is customary to this day to place the blame for many misfortunes on the Christians, the latter are, in truth, a blessing and a protection for every Country.