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Deeper Commentary

2Ki 6:1 The sons of the prophets said to Elisha, See now, the place where we dwell before you is too small for us-
This continues the impression that the sons of the prophets lived poorly. The Mosaic idea was that Israel paid tithes to the Levites, out of whom the priests were to be the teachers of the people (2 Chron. 15:3; Mal. 2:7). But this wasn't functioning, and so men of all tribes had come with their families to form these schools of the prophets, where God's word was studied and taught.

2Ki 6:2 Please let us go to the Jordan, and every man take a beam from there, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. He answered, Go!-
This school of the prophets was near the Jordan, so it must have been that at Jericho. And I noted on 2 Kings 2:5 that by no means all of them there had been supportive of Elisha. But they felt they needed Elisha's blessing to remove their camp from one place to another. They presumably had grown in size as there was more response to Elisha's ministry and disillusion with the apostacy in the nation. The idea of "every man" taking a beam was that all were to share in the work. The priests were served by the Levites, and if this had been a priestly group, then we would have expected the Levites to do this work. See on :1.  


2Ki 6:3 One said, Please go with your servants. He answered, I will go-
The idea was that Elisha himself would be involved with the work. True leadership will always involve this kind of manual work together with those being led.


2Ki 6:4 So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down wood-
Josephus records the presence of good timber growing alongside the Jordan river.


2Ki 6:5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water. Then he cried and said, Alas, my master! For it was borrowed-
We have a window here onto the poverty of these communities of prophets. He had needed to borrow [Heb. 'begged'] an axe head, and also had no means of buying another one to replace it. It was a major tragedy that blew up suddenly out of left field. And his cry from the heart implies he was asking Elisha to try to find the means to replace it with. Another rendering is "It has been sought. It has fallen in, and I have sought it in vain".


2Ki 6:6 The man of God asked, Where did it fall? He showed him the place. He cut down a stick, threw it in there, and made the iron float-
Elisha was surely not wealthy, and yet had been asked to effectively buy a new axe head. The method for the miracle was significant. Elisha himself cut down some wood; it was more than a stick because he had to cut it down. He showed his solidarity with the man, in that he himself cut down wood from a tree. The question "Where did it fall?" was to make the man relive the tragic moment, for his eyes would have seen the axe head go "splash" at a certain point in the river, and it was engrained in his memory. Elisha wanted the man to relive what had happened, and to realize that through his identity with him, as a fellow cutter of wood, God would do a miracle. This in essence was the spirit of the Lord Jesus in so many miracles. Thus He asked the blind man what he wanted; He was, like Elisha, making the man realize his desperation, and to focus upon what he so wanted. And it is how He works today too, piquing our desperation and realization of our need. Our understanding of Him as having had our nature, our representative and fellow, greatly enhances our appreciation of this. And it is on the basis of our shared humanity that we likewise are to work with people.  


2Ki 6:7 He said, Take it. So he put out his hand and took it-
Elisha seeks the maximum involvement of the man in the miracle. The axe head 'swum' (AV) toward him, so that from the bank he could take it. It was clearly a miracle, and yet it involved the man's full engagement and openness to it. The spirit of the miracle was repeated by the Lord (Mt. 17:27).


2Ki 6:8 Now the king of Syria was warring against Israel; and he took counsel with his servants, saying, My camp will be in such and such a place-
Presumably the Benhadad of :24. Perhaps the following larger scale and more public miracle is intentionally juxtaposed against that of making the axe head swim. The idea therefore would be that God works in small private matters and also on the scale of the nations. We wonder where Naaman was in all this. He was commander of the Syrian military, and yet an avowed proselyte to Israel's God. Like Daniel, he was in a situation where loyalty to Yahweh was very difficult, and so he may well have resigned or purposefully slipped out of the limelight of senior leadership. However, the record is not all chronological. We have here a list of Elisha's various miracles, beginning with private ones and now more public ones. The Syrians were invading Israel with bands of marauders (:23), and it could have been from these raids that Naaman's wife got her Israelite maid. For she was taken captive by these "bands" of marauders (2 Kings 5:2). The record is really giving us cameos from the ministry of Elisha arranged according to theme and not chronology. See on 2 Kings 8:1 for another example of where the cameos are definitely not chronological.    


2Ki 6:9 The man of God sent to the king of Israel saying, Beware that you not pass such a place; for the Syrians are coming that way-
The king of Israel would then have been Joram. If as noted on :8 this incident took place before that of 2 Kings 5, then we recall how in 2 Kings 5, Elisha was living in a house in Samaria very near to the palace. I suggested on :8 that this incident may have been before the events of 2 Kings 5. Elisha's knowledge was clearly by direct revelation from God. And yet Yahweh had also blessed the Syrian bands with success (2 Kings 5:1). But He also gives warnings to the Israelites to help them avoid the Syrians defeating them. The fact "Yahweh had given victory to Syria" at this time means therefore that Elisha's warnings were not always accepted and obeyed. We have a similar situation here to that on Passover night. Yahweh's destroyer Angel went out to slay all the firstborn in Egypt, including the Israelites. But for those obedient to God's word, another Angel hovered over the homes of the obedient Israelites and preserved them from the destroying Angel. God's workings are so complex, and they likewise go on all around us, even if mostly unperceived by us. To accuse Him of injustice is to fail to humbly appreciate this. For all these actions were orchestrated by Him, articulating His ultimate justice and desire to save. This we must take on faith, but this kind of incident shows that there is every reason to believe that His actions are to this day likewise carefully balanced and just.


2Ki 6:10 The king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of; and he saved himself there, not once nor twice-
I suggested on :9 that the Israelites didn't always obey Elisha's warnings and suffered because of it. But it seems the king did, and saved himself personally from capture several times. Yet he was a murderer (:32) and God's summary of his life is that he did evil. But he was preserved, because God sought his repentance. Even if that never happened ultimately.


2Ki 6:11 The heart of the king of Syria was very troubled about this. He called his servants, and said to them, Won’t you show me which of us is for the king of Israel?-
Naaman wanted to be a secret believer, even bowing down to Rimmon to keep his boss happy. God seems to have allowed this, but He worked in Naaman’s life, I suggest, so that his faith was no longer secret. For soon after his conversion, his master got the hunch that one of his courtiers was “for the king of Israel” (2 Kings 6:11). And Naaman would have been the obvious suspect, as he had gone to Israel and been cured of his leprosy by an Israeli prophet. We then read that the army of Syria came against Elisha the prophet and sought to surround him in order to capture him. They were then judged by God. Could it really be so that Naaman would have led that army? Surely the situation arose so as to force Naaman to resign the job. Thus God worked to stop him being a secret believer, and to remove him from a position where he could not live with a free conscience before the Father. And so God will do in our lives- if we respond.

But another reading is possible, if we accept the suggestion on :8 that this happened before the events of 2 Kings 5. Naaman as commander of the army would have been aware of this strange action of Israel's God, whilst being also aware that Yahweh was giving him victory against Israel on the occasions when they did engage with and defeat them (2 Kings 5:1). It was all setting him up for faith in Yahweh, even though His first introduction to Him was through beholding His apparently contradictory behaviour. And there are many former atheists, agnostics and skeptics who have a similar testimony.


2Ki 6:12 One of his servants said, No, 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-
If as suggested on :8, this happened before the events of 2 Kings 5... then we see a theme being set up, of senior leadership humbling themselves to listen to their servants. The king of Syria listened to his servant and sent horses and chariots to Dothan (:13) because he believed the servant. And because Naaman believed his wife's servant girl, he also came to Samaria to Elisha with horses and chariots. And because he finally listened to his servants, he dipped in Jordan and was cured. And he also believed Elisha's servant Gehazi, with his story about needing clothes. God works like this, giving us examples in observed experience of others (in this case, the king believing his servant) in order to prepare us personally for similar challenges. We wonder too whether this servant of Benhadad was also an Israelite, just as Naaman's wife's servant was.


2Ki 6:13 He said, Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him. It was told him saying, Behold, he is in Dothan-
Dothan was near Shechem, and yet it seems from 2 Kings 5 that Elisha also had a home in Samaria near to the king's palace. This knowledge that he was at that point in Dothan would suggest that the Syrian's servant of :12 was an Israelite with connections in Israel. And so the theme continues, of listening to and believing Israelite servants. 


2Ki 6:14 Therefore he sent horses, chariots and a great army there. They came by night, and surrounded the city-
This was tacit reflection of the belief in the words of the Israelite servant, and was to be repeated when again Naaman came with horses and chariots to the home of Elisha in Samaria (assuming as suggested on :8 that these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5). Step by step, God was setting Naaman up to believe in Him. He responded, although his pride nearly got in the way. But God works likewise in so many lives, in such detail, and yet their pride stops them being led to the intended outcome, of faith and conversion.


2Ki 6:15 When the servant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was around the city. His servant said to him, Alas, my master! What shall we do?-
This servant was presumably Gehazi. If this is chronological [and the records often aren't], then this would have been at a point after Gehazi had been made a leper (2 Kings 5:27). By saying he had gone nowhere (2 Kings 5:25), he clearly lied to the Holy Spirit, as it were, as Ananias and Sapphira did. They were slain, again in a context of covetousness, whereas Gehazi was made a leper but was allowed to apparently continue serving Elisha, even though (see on 2 Kings 5:1) he was supposed to be quarantined away from society. His ministry was allowed to continue, but every moment of his subsequent life he would have been aware that he was only allowed to continue in the ministry by God's grace. Which should always be our view anyway. But this issue evaporates if as suggested on :8 these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5


2Ki 6:16 He answered, Don’t be afraid; for those who are with us are more than those who are with them-
The surrounding of Elisha's home in Samaria with the same horses and chariots in 2 Kings 5 would have been a scary experience. But Elisha doesn't even come out (remember as suggested on :8 that these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5). For he had learned from this experience that they were of no ultimate power. He was surrounded by the heavenly armies and chariots of Angels. 


2Ki 6:17 Elisha prayed and said, Yahweh, please open his eyes, that he may see. Yahweh opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire around Elisha-
Elisha was so confident they were there, that he didn't ask to see them himself. He knew they were there; he simply asked that his servant be enabled to see the unseen reality which he calmly knew was there. He of course had had first hand experience of the Angelic horses and chariots (a kind of cherubim) when he had been parted from Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11. This must have left an abiding impression upon him- he knew that those Angelic horses and chariots were in fact permanently encamped around him (cp. Ps. 34:7). And so we are surely to see significance in the way that Naaman came to Elisha's house with his horses and chariot- for this is surely a development of a theme of connection between Elisha, horses and chariots (2 Kings 5:9). Most other Israelites would've been petrified to have the horses and chariots of Naaman and a company of Syrians pull up at their door. But Elisha was quite unfazed. He didn't even bother coming out to meet Naaman, knowing this was an insult to Naaman's pride, and was humanly certain to result in Naaman simply killing him and burning his house. Surely the horses-chariot-Elisha connection taught Elisha that in fact there were Angelic horses and chariots around him- he need not fear any human horse and chariot. There is no hint that Angelic activity is any less, or operates in any different way, for us today.


2Ki 6:18 When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to Yahweh, and said, Please strike this people with blindness. He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha-
Elisha's game plan was that the Syrians be converted to Yahweh. Presumably (if as suggested on :8 these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5) Naaman was present at this time, and was also struck with blindness and then healed of it. This would have been another step along the way of being set up for faith that he could be healed of leprosy. "They", the Syrian troops including Naaman, came down to Elisha, who had presumably gone out of the city gate to meet them. It would have been Naaman's first meeting with Elisha. And no sooner had he seen him, he and his men were smitten with blindness. Naaman may have perceived the similarity with the smiting of the Sodomites with blindness as they stood before the door of God's prophet Lot (Gen. 19:11). He would then have realized that he was being treated as a sinner. 


2Ki 6:19 Elisha said to them, This is not the way, neither is this the city-
The idea was 'I am Elisha, but I usually live in Samaria, not here in Dothan. If you want to go to Elisha's house, I'll lead you there'.

Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek. He led them to Samaria-
This was to set up Naaman for again coming to Elisha's house in Samaria with his horses and chariots, to see Elisha (if as suggested on :8 these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5). Clearly this was all intended to create patterns in life which Naaman was to perceive by as it were joining the dots and seeing the picture.


2Ki 6:20 It happened, when they had come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Yahweh, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. Yahweh opened their eyes, and they perceived that they were in the midst of Samaria-
They "perceived" this because many of them would never have been there before. The opening of eyes by Yahweh is often associated with spiritual vision, and this was the hope of Elisha. And it eventually worked for Naaman at least.


2Ki 6:21 The king of Israel said to Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I strike them? Shall I strike them?-
Naaman would have realized that he was now without his horses and chariots of human strength, surrounded by Israelite soldiers eager to kill him. His only hope was salvation by the grace of Israel's God, and His prophet Elisha. And he was not disappointed. Slaying captives was permitted under the law (Dt. 20:13), but Elisha is showing that the spirit of the law was actually far above and in contradiction to the letter of it in many places.  


2Ki 6:22 He answered, You shall not strike them. Would you strike those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master-
"Bow" and "sword" often occur together as almost an idiom for human strength (Gen.48:22; Josh. 24:12; 2 Kings 6:22; 1 Chron. 5:18; Hos. 1:7). The giving of food to captives and sending them back is exactly what was commanded later in 2 Chron. 28:15. The Israelites were intended to learn from the grace which had been shown to the Syrian captives. This is a great theme of the historical books; that situations in essence repeated, because God's people are expected to learn from Biblical history. And that is the relevance of these records for us today. The Syrians, Naaman especially, were likewise to learn about the grace of Israel's God and His prophet Elisha. For not only were their lives spared but they were given every courtesy, and a feast which was counter instinctive to all their culture understood- whereby you killed your enemies and invaders. And this was all to climax in Naaman's cure of leprosy and conversion to Yahweh (if as suggested on :8 these events happened before those of 2 Kings 5).


2Ki 6:23 He prepared a great feast for them. When they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. The bands of Syria stopped raiding the land of Israel-
The way the King of Syria found his servants returning to him their master with stories of the amazing grace of the God of their enemy Israel was surely to try to bring him to conversion too (2 Kings 6:23; 5:1). Israel were to be the light to the Gentile world around them, the righteous servant who showed light to the Gentiles. But they sadly failed. This is all a great example of grace turning away aggression. But although the bands stopped marauding Israel, the Syrians were to return "after this" (:24) not with marauding bands but with a great army. If as suggested on :8 the events of 2 Kings. 6:1-22 happened before those of 2 Kings 5, then perhaps we are to insert 2 Kings 5 at this point. But Israel didn't remain committed to Yahweh's grace, and the Syrians refused to live under the impression of it.


2Ki 6:24 It happened after this, that Ben Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria-
For the chronology, see on :23. We have to assume that Naaman either died, lost his faith or resigned his position. The Biblical record leaves many such questions intentionally hanging open (such as did Jephthah kill his daughter), so that we might reflect and enter more fully into the narrative and explore the possibilities. This is now the third time we read of the Syrians coming into Israel with their armies; to Dothan, then to Samaria for Naaman to meet Elisha, and now they come to invade and take Samaria. They ought to have learned from their previous two experiences, as the king of Israel likewise should have learned faith in Yahweh.


2Ki 6:25 There was a great famine in Samaria. Behold they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver-
Famine was typically a punishment for apostacy. If Joram had gone out in faith and fought with Benhadad, then this situation need not have arisen. For there had been ample evidence in the besieging of Dothan that there were armies of Angelic help available. History repeated itself, in the hope that Israel would learn faith. And it does likewise in our lives. It was perhaps this same Benhadad who had been subjected by Ahab in 1 Kings 20. He was trying to get even with Israel, rather than humbly accept how he was being led like Naaman toward acceptance of Israel's God. Dove's dung was tiny, so this may have been a name for a very cheap kind of pulse, similar to how such food is called in German 'devil's dung', teufelsdreck.  


2Ki 6:26 As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him saying, Help, my lord, O king!-
Presumably houses were joined to the wall of the city, and therefore this woman was in close range of the king.


2Ki 6:27 He said, If Yahweh doesn’t help you, how could I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?-
The king states that he has no personal stocks of food for himself even, and so she needs to address herself to God and not himself. He was driven to faith in Yahweh in his extremity, and yet the summary of Joram's life is that he did evil before Yahweh. The faith of a moment is not the same as living by faith all life long. 


2Ki 6:28 The king said to her, What ails you? She answered, This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow’-
This kind of argument about dead children, between two women apparently living in one house, recalls the case which was put to Solomon by the two prostitutes. But this king has no good answer, for he has no wisdom. His response is simply to kill Elisha, whom he blames for the overall situation.  


2Ki 6:29 So we boiled my son, and ate him. I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him;’ and she has hidden her son-
This was in direct fulfilment of the curses for breaking the covenant (Dt. 28:56,57). The answer to it was repentance and reaffirmation of the covenant. But instead the king seeks to kill Elisha. Had he repented and not been so proud as to prolong the siege, then this tragic situation would not have arisen. He personally was solely responsible for it, but he seeks to put the blame solely upon another individual, Elisha, who was totally innocent. It is a classic case of psychological transference of guilt. And it confirms the absolute psychological credibility of the Biblical records, in contrast to the uninspired histories of other nations, full as they are of exaggeration, lack of credibility and bias. 


2Ki 6:30 It happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes (now he was passing by on the wall); and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth underneath on his flesh-
Such sackcloth was a symbol of both mourning and repentance. If he had repented, then the curses of the covenant would not have come upon the people (see on :29). But his sackcloth was not visible openly. Perhaps he did in a way privately want to repent, but not far enough. A vague personal whim that we need to repent is not enough.


2Ki 6:31 Then he said, God do so to me, and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stay on him this day-
Blaming Elisha, transferring his personal guilt onto him (see on :28) was exactly what the king of Syria had done, and had made his ill fated attack upon Dothan because of it. The king ought to have learned from this. But the whole account here is a parade example of men refusing to learn from Biblical history.


2Ki 6:32 But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Then the king sent a man from before him; but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders
-
Elisha's house had been visited before, both in Dothan and twice in Samaria, by the armies of Syria. The king ought to have perceived this parallel. In 2 Kings 5:9, Elisha sat in his house and messengers from a powerful man, Naaman the leper, came to him; and displayed an amazing calm before them. This situation repeated in 2 Kings 6:32, where Elisha again sits in his house and the messengers of an aggressive King came to him. The theme of lepers recurs in this latter context also (2 Kings 7:3). And in 2 Kings 5:18 we read of Naaman as a man upon whose arm a King (of Syria) leaned; and we find one of those sent to Elisha the second time was likewise "a lord upon whose hand the King (of Israel) leaned (2 Kings 7:2).

Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent to take away my head? When the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold it shut against him. Isn’t the sound of his master’s feet behind him?-
The statement that the king and his father were murderers shows how sinful he was, and what grace God had shown him by saving his life (:10). This shows His long term patience and desire this man would come to repentance, even though he ultimately didn't. And He works likewise with men today.
 


2Ki 6:33 While he was still talking with them, the messenger came down to him. Then he said, This evil is from Yahweh. Why should I wait for Yahweh any longer?
-
Elisha has an apparent roughness with the Almighty that could only surely come from his knowing that God fully viewed and knew his inner feelings. “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kings 6:33 RV) expresses his exasperation, in words which are quite shocking to read- until we realize that our own hearts have probably harboured such basic feelings, even though never verbalized. The intimacy of other prophets with God is reflected in the roughness and familiarity which they sometimes use- take Ps. 44:23,24: "Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, Lord? Awake! Do not cast us off for ever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?".

Or we could assume that the king followed the messenger, running after him and only shortly behind him (:32) and therefore these words are the king's. 2 Kings 7:17 makes it clear that the king himself came to Elisha at this time. He recognizes that evil is from Yahweh (not any cosmic satan figure, Is. 45:5-7). But that he is tired of following Elisha's constant message to "wait for Yahweh", in the spirit of many such statements in the Psalms.