A. The recovery of the axe head.
1. (1-3) The sons of the prophets need to expand.
And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.” Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.”
a. The place where we dwell with you is too small for us: This indicates that at this time Elisha had a significant impact on the nation. The old facility for housing the sons of the prophets was not large enough to meet the needs of all those who wanted to be trained in ministry.
b. Please consent to go with your servants: Elisha did not initiate or lead this work of building a new center for training the prophets, but it could not happen without his approval and blessing.
2. (4-7) The recovery of the axe head – another miracle of provision.
So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.
a. The iron ax head fell into the water: This was a significant loss. Iron was certainly present at this time in Israel, but it was not common enough to be cheap.
b. Alas, master! For it was borrowed: The man who lost the ax head was rightly sensitive to the fact that he lost something that belonged to someone else, making the loss more acute.
i. “The iron axe-head (Hebrew ‘iron’) had been asked for, that is, begged or prayed for, and not necessarily ‘borrowed.’ “ (Wiseman)
c. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float: This was an obvious and unique miracle. There was no trickery in the way that Elisha put the stick in the water, it was simply an expression of his faith that God honored.
i. “God can do all things, he can make iron swim-we cannot-and yet you see the prophet did it, and he did it by the use of a stick. He cut down a stick. Was there any connection between the stick and the iron? I can’t see any, and yet God does use means, and he would have us use means.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The chief value of the story likes in its revelation of the influence Elisha was exerting in the nation. The growth of the school of the prophets was most remarkable.” (Morgan)
d. Pick it up for yourself: Conceivably, God could have arranged a way for the ax head to appear right in the man’s hand without any effort on his part. But this miracle worked in a familiar way – God did the part only He could do, but He left to man the part that he could do.
i. “Elisha then caused the submerged ax head to surface and instructed the pupil to retrieve the ax; thus he would personally participate in the miracle.” (Patterson and Austel)
B. God protects Elisha from the Syrians.
1. (8-13) The king of Syria plots the capture of Elisha.
Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.” And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.” Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.” And it was told him, saying, “Surely he is in Dothan.”
a. And the man of God sent to the King of Israel: Elisha did not support the corrupt monarchs of Israel, but he knew that it was even worse for Israel to be conquered and subjugated under Syria. Therefore, he gave the King of Israel information from divinely inspired espionage.
i. “A more sensible king, Jehoram, now sits on the throne of Ahab, and the prophet of the Lord is no longer a dreaded antagonist, but the king’s trusted counselor. Elijah was a fugitive constantly on the run from a wrathful king, but now Elisha is a welcome visitor in Jehoram’s court.” (Dilday)
b. Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel? The King of Syria was naturally mystified by the way the King of Israel knew all of Syria’s plans beforehand. He was convinced there was a traitor among them until one servant revealed that Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, knew and revealed these things.
2. (14-17) Elisha sees his invisible, spiritual protection.
Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
a. Alas, my master! What shall we do? When Elisha’s servant saw the horses and chariots and a great army surrounding their city, he was naturally afraid. He knew that there was little chance of escaping or surviving an attack from so many.
b. Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them: This seemed unbelievable to Elisha’s servant. He saw the horses, the chariots, and the great army surrounding them. He could not see anyone who was with himself and Elisha.
i. We also notice that Elisha gave his servant a reason to not fear. This was not empty hope or wishful thinking; it was a real reason for confidence, even if the servant could not see it.
c. Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see: Elisha did not pray that God would change anything in the situation. His only request was that his servant could actually see the reality of the situation. Yet, Elisha also did not try to persuade the servant of the reality of those who are with us. The servant could not have this explained to him nor could he be persuaded into it. He had to see it.
d. Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw: God answered Elisha’s prayer. When a person is blind to spiritual reality, only God can open their eyes. God may do it through the words someone speaks, but the work of spiritually opening eyes is spiritual work and belongs to God alone.
e. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha: When his eyes were opened, the servant saw the reality that he could not see before. He saw that there really were more with him and Elisha than those assembled against them.
i. The previous lack of perception on the part of Elisha’s servant did not make the reality of the spiritual army any less real. If there are 50 people who do not see something, it doesn’t invalidate the perception of one who does see.
ii. “Faith is never the imagining of unreal things. It is the grip of things which cannot be demonstrated to the senses, but which are real. The chariots of horses and fire were actually there.” (Morgan)
iii. “That you have not perceived spiritual things is true; but it is no proof that there are none to perceive. The whole case is like that of the Irishman who tried to upset evidence by non-evidence. Four witnesses saw him commit a murder. He pleaded that he was not guilty, and wished to establish his innocence by producing forty persons who did not see him do it. Of what use would that have been? So, if forty people declare that there is no power of the Holy Ghost going with the word, this only proves that the forty people do not know what others do know.” (Charles Spurgeon, Three Sights Worth Seeing)
iv. Horses and chariots were the most sophisticated and mighty military instruments of the day. But the invisible army of God had literally more firepower than the horses and chariots of the Syrians. The spiritual army had chariots of fire all around Elisha.
v. “If our eyes were opened, we should see the angel-hosts as an encircling fence of fire; but whether we see them or not, they are certainly there.” (Meyer)
3. (18-23) The blinded Syrians are led to Samaria.
So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Now Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” But he led them to Samaria. So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria! Now when the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” But he answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel.
a. Strike this people, I pray, with blindness: The Syrian soldiers could not see the spiritual army, so they did not hesitate to approach Elisha. But just as he previously prayed that God would give sight to his servant, he then asked God to strike this people . . . with blindness. God answered this prayer; just as He previous answered the prayer to give perception to the servant.
i. This shows us that God may grant sight or send blindness, according to His wisdom and in response to the prayers of His people.
ii. “Not with a total blindness, that they could see nothing, for then they would not have followed him; but with a partial blindness, that they could not distinctly discern the man they sought; which might be by some alteration made by God in their brain, or in the air.” (Poole)
b. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek: Here Elisha told a technical truth but certainly intended to deceive. He did in fact bring them to the man they sought (when their eyes were opened, Elisha was there with them). However, he led them back to Samaria – the capital city of the Kingdom of Israel and an unfriendly place for a group of Syrian soldiers.
i. Yet, the Elisha’s gentle deception demonstrates a principle: the blind are easily deceived. Those who are spiritually blind should appreciate that they can be easily deceived regarding spiritual things.
c. You shall not kill them: Instead of killing these enemy soldiers, Elisha instead commanded the King of Israel to treat them with kindness and generosity. This practice of answering evil with good successfully changed the policy of free-lance raiders from Syria (So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel).
C. The siege of Samaria.
1. (24-29) Terrible famine in the besieged city of Samaria.
And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver. Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” And he said, “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?” Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.”
a. Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria: Though the kindness of Elisha and the King of Israel changed the heart of the Syrian raiders, it did not change the heart of the king of Syria. He launched a large, full-scale attack against his neighbor to the south.
i. He used the common method of attack in those days of securely walled cities: he besieged Samaria. A siege was intended to surround a city, prevent all business and trade from entering or leaving the city, and to eventually starve the population into surrender.
b. There was a great famine in Samaria: The siege strategy successfully starved Samaria. The famine was so bad that a donkey’s head or dove droppings became so expensive that only the rich could afford them.
i. Wiseman says that dove droppings is better translated as carob beans, and that five shekels of silver was more than a month’s wages for a laborer.
ii. Yet, Poole writes: “That dove’s dung, though it be hotter than ordinary, might in other respects be fitter for nourishment that other, as being made of the best and purest grains, and having some moisture in it.”
iii. “When Hannibal besieged Casiline, one mouse was sold for two hundred pence. Puddings made of dogs’ guts were dear bought at the siege of Scodra.” (Trapp)
c. Give your son, that we may eat him: This shows how terrible the famine was. Mothers were so hungry that they ate their own children.
i. Deuteronomy 28 contains an extended section where God warned Israel about the curses that would come upon them if they rejected the covenant He made with them. Part of that chapter describes the horrors fulfilled in this chapter: They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you. You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you. (Deuteronomy 28:52-53)
ii. These terrors came upon Israel because they disobeyed, rejected God, and abandoned the covenant He made with them.
2. (30-33) The anger of the King of Israel against Elisha.
Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body. Then he said, “God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today.” But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, “Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” And while he was still talking with them, there was the messenger, coming down to him; and then the king said, “Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”
a. God do so to me and more also: The king was deeply grieved and angry – but not with himself, with Israel, or with their sin. The king was angry against the prophet of God.
b. Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer? The King of Israel was honest enough to admit that his real anger was against the Lord.
© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission