The Word Made Fresh
1Members of the prophetic guild came to Elisha. They said, “Look, the house we live in is too small for all of us. 2Give us permission to go to the Jordan where we can find wood to build a place for us to live there.” He agreed. 3One of them asked him to come with them, and he said he would. 4So he went with them and when they came to the Jordan, they began cutting trees. 5One man was cutting down a tree when his axe head flew off the handle into the water. “Oh, no!” he cried. “It was borrowed!”
6The man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When shown the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in, and made the iron axe head float. 7“Pick it up,” he said, and the man who lost it reached out his hand and recovered it.
8On one occasion, when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he told his officers, “We’ll camp at such and such a place.” 9The man of God sent this message to the king of Israel: “Don’t go beyond this place, because the Arameans are going there.” 10The king of Israel sent word to his men about the place the man of God had spoken of. This happened more than once or twice, which kept the army on the alert.
11The king of Aram was really upset over it. He called his officers together and asked, “Who among us is alerting the king of Israel?”
12One of them said, “No one here, my lord. It is Elisha the prophet in Israel who tells the king of Israel whatever you say, even in your bedroom.”
13“Find out where he is, and I will have him captured.”
“He is in Dotham,” they said.
14So he sent his cavalry of horses and chariots there along with foot soldiers. They arrived at night and surrounded the city. 15When one of the men with the man of God got up early in the morning and went outside, he saw an army surrounding the city, with chariots and horses. He cried out, “Help, master! What should we do?”
16The man of God said, “Don’t be afraid. There are more with us than with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “LORD, open his eyes so that he can see.” The LORD opened the man’s eyes. He saw the hillsides covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.18When the enemy began their attack, Elisha prayed to the LORD: “Strike them with blindness, I beg you!” The LORD struck them blind as Elisha had asked. 19Elisha spoke to them and told them, “You’re going the wrong way. This is the wrong city. Follow me and I’ll lead you to the man you’re looking for.” Then he led them to Samaria.
20When they entered the city Elisha said, “LORD, open their eyes and let them see.” The LORD opened their eyes and they discovered they were inside Samaria.
21When the king of Israel saw them, he said “Sir, should I kill them?”
22“No!” he answered. “Did you capture them with your sword and bow? Give them food to eat and water to drink and send them back to their king.”
22So a great feast was prepared for them, and when they had their fill, he sent them on their way back to their king. After that the Arameans stopped sending raiders into Israel.
24On another occasion Ben-Hadad of Aram gathered his army and marched against Samaria and began a siege against it. 25It continued until a donkey’s head sold for two pounds of silver and a half-pint of bird’s dung for two ounces of silver. 26As the king of Israel walked on the city walls one day a woman called out to him, “Help, my lord the king!”
27“Ask the LORD to help. What can I do? Bring you something from the threshing floor or the wine press?” he asked sarcastically. 28But then he said more seriously, “What do you need?”
She answered, “This woman told me if I would give up my son to eat today, she would give up hers tomorrow.29We cooked my son and ate him, but the next day when I told her it was her turn to give up her son, she had hidden him away.”
30When the king heard this, he ripped his clothes apart, and since he was up on the city wall the people below could see that underneath, he was wearing sackcloth. 31Then he declared, “May God do even more to me if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat stays on his shoulders today!” 32And he sent an officer to find him.
Elisha was sitting at home with the city elders. Right before the attendant arrived, he was saying to them, “Did you know this murderer has actually sent someone to take off my head? When he gets here make sure the door is shut tight. Can you hear his master’s footsteps behind him?”
33While he was saying this the messenger arrived and said to him, “This disaster is from the LORD! Why should we hope in the LORD any longer?”
1-7: Another Elisha story: The prophetic school Elisha inherited from Elijah wishes to build new quarters near the Jordan River and they ask Elisha’s permission to proceed with the project. He agrees and, at their request, goes with them. One of them loses an ax head in the water and is distraught because he has borrowed the ax. No problem; Elisha throws a stick in the water and the ax head floats to the surface!
8-10: Another example of Elisha’s uncanny ability to “see” things a distance away in space and/or time: the Arameans plan to camp at a certain place. Elisha informs the king, who in turn warns the people of that place to be on the alert. This happens “more than once or twice.”
11-14: The king of Aram senses a security breech and learns of Elisha’s special gift. He sends an army to capture Elisha at Dothan, and they surround the city by night.
15-19: Early next morning Elisha is informed of the blockade, but is not alarmed. He prays that the servant will be allowed to “see” what he “sees,” and when the man looks again, he “sees” horses and chariots of fire surrounding the Arameans. Elisha prays again, and the Arameans are struck blind. Elisha goes out and leads their horses and chariots (with the soldiers in them, of course) to Samaria.
20-23: They enter Samaria, and the king is caught completely by surprise and doesn’t know what to do. Should he kill them? No, instead Elisha tells him to feed them! He does, a great feast, and then lets them go. They return to the king of Aram in Damascus, and Aram ceases its raids into Israel (at least until the next paragraph). If only every war could be settled so peaceably.
24-31: But then another king, Ben-Hadad, comes to rule Aram, and he sends his army to lay siege to Samaria. The people begin to starve; donkey’s heads are being sold for food and dove’s dung for fuel. The king (presumably Jehoram?) is out walking on the wall, surveying the scene. A woman cries for help, but the king is so overwhelmed with concerns that his first response is one of helplessness. Then he demurs and asks her what the problem is. She tells a gruesome story of cannibalism, how she and another woman had eaten her child yesterday, but today the other woman has hidden her child and refuses to give him up. The king is so distraught over her report that he tears his clothes, revealing that he is already wearing sackcloth underneath, a sign of repentance and sorrow. He blames Elisha for the siege, perhaps because Elisha had told him to let the enemy soldiers go when he had them in his power within the city walls of Samaria.
32-33: He sends a man to arrest Elisha, but Elisha senses the danger before the man arrives at his house where he is meeting with the elders of the city. He also senses that the king is right behind this officer. The king, though, does not seem to want to kill Elisha but rather to seek his counsel. He says he has no reason to trust in the LORD anymore. But then, did he ever?
Don’t you love Elisha? He faces every crisis calmly and acts immediately to provide wisdom and aid. He is a good role model for anyone in leadership: hear the complaint, assess the need, provide assistance. And above all, trust the LORD.