2 Kings 6


In this chapter, we see yet another miracle performed by Elisha, but once again we read that there is a purpose behind the miracle. The purpose was to reinforce the message that God was still with Elisha and He was working through him. This in turn would strengthen the other prophets who were working under Elisha.

An Axhead Floats

‘The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.’ And he said, ‘Go.’ Then one of them said, ‘Won’t you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’ The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.’ 2 Kings 6:1-7

The company of prophets suggest that where they meet is simply too small and suggests to Elisha that they go to the Jordan. Elisha is happy to go with them but as they were cutting down some trees, an iron axhead fell into the water.

Notice that it was a ‘borrowed’ axhead, in the law, it stated that if someone borrowed, lost or even destroyed an item which belonged to someone else, that person was held accountable for the cost or had to replace the item, Exodus 22:14.

The young prophet obviously had no means of replacing the lost axhead and he becomes desperate and calls for Elisha to help. Elisha throws in a stick and made the iron float, this was totally impossible, but not for God, only He could make iron float on water.

Coffman in his commentary says the following.

‘Several important deductions from what is written here are justified.

1. Elisha’s work had been successful. More and more people were believing in the One God, and the sons of the prophets were increasing in number.

2. Their love for Elisha is evident in their desire that he should accompany them.

3. The sons of the prophets were entitled to be praised for their creative energy and industry.

Elisha Traps Blinded Arameans

‘Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp in such and such a place.’ The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: ‘Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.’ So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ ‘None of us, my lord the king,’ said one of his officers, ‘but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.’ ‘Go, find out where he is,’ the king ordered, ‘so I can send men and capture him.’ The report came back: ‘He is in Dothan.’ Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.’ 2 Kings 6:8-14

The king of Aram at this time was at war against Israel, probably during the reign of Jehoram, and he decided to set up camp. Elisha sent word to the king of Israel and warns him over and over again to be on his guard against the king of Aram and his movements.

The king of Aram gets angry and says to his officers, ‘which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ It appears that time after time the king’s army’s violence toward Israel had led to the defeat of the king’s army. He obviously thought that there was a traitor in his ranks who was informing Israel as to where his whereabouts.

The king of Aram had no idea that Elisha was telling the king of Israel about everything that was going on about where he and his army was. God again, by doing this work through Elisha, God was letting the people of Israel know that God was still working in and through His prophet.

When the king of Aram discovers it was God’s prophet, Elisha who was the one telling Israel what he was up to, he wanted to try and capture Elisha. He probably thought to himself, if he can remove Elisha, that is kill him, then he can remove Israel’s source of miraculous knowledge.

After being informed as to Elisha’s whereabouts, the king of Aram sends an army in order to trap Elisha in Dothan.

‘When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike this army with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.’ 2 Kings 6:15-18

The king of Aram went to Dothan with horses and chariots and surrounded the city in order to capture Elisha and kill him. When one of Elisha’s servants saw them, he is at a loss as to what to do.

Elisha tells him not to be afraid and then he tells him, ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ He saw something which his servant couldn’t see, and so in order for his servant to see what was invisible to the human eye, he prays that God would open his servant’s eyes.

There’s no doubt that these were divine beings, angels, sent by God to protect His prophets, Hebrews 1:14. When God miraculous opened his eyes for him to see what couldn’t be seen, he saw a vast army of God with horses and chariots of fire ready to protect them, Romans 8:37.

Elisha could have easily asked God to wife the army from the face of the earth, but instead, he asked God to strike them with blindness. Interestingly, the prophet was able to see God’s army but the king of Aram’s army ended up being blind, not being able to see anything which under normal circumstances could be seen.

‘Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, ‘LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.’ Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?’ ‘Do not kill them,’ he answered. ‘Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’ So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.’ 2 Kings 6:19-23

Because the king of Aram’s army was now blind, Elisha leads them to Samaria. The trap into which the king of Aram wanted to lead the Israelites became the same type of trap into which Elisha led the soldiers of the king’s army.

After the soldiers received their sight back, they find themselves in the middle of the capital city which they sought to defeat. The reason they weren’t killed here was simply because they weren’t prisoners of war and mercy was shown to them here so that they show mercy towards Israel, James 2:13.

Because the soldiers witnessed God’s protection over His people and because of the kindness the king of Israel showed the king of Aram’s soldiers, Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Famine In Besieged Samaria

‘Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, ‘Help me, my lord the king!’ The king replied, ‘If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?’ Then he asked her, ‘What’s the matter?’ She answered, ‘This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.’ 2 Kings 6:24-29

When it comes to the kings of Aram, especially Ben-Hadad, it’s never easy to identify which king the text is referring to.

One suggestion to help us is this, Ben-Hadad I, the son of Tabrimmon, reigned in the 10th to the early 9th century B.C. 1 Kings 15:18. Ben-Hadad II possibly reigned in the middle of the 9th century B.C. Hazael reigned in the late 9th century B.C. Then Ben-Hadad III, the son of Hazael, reigned in the early 8th century B.C.

Up until this point in time, there was a period of peace between Israel and Aram but after this period, Ben-Hadad II assumed Aram’s hostility against Israel. He laid siege to Samaria in the middle of the 9th century.

Notice that ‘the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver’. They were trapped inside the city, and the price of food rocketed, which this us how severe the famine was because a donkey’s head would be the very last thing which people would eat. They also ate a ‘cab of seed pods’, which is basically dove’s dung, which tells us they will eat anything in order to survive.

Things are so horrendous and people are so desperate to eat, one mother suggests to another mother that they eat each other’s sons, this is nothing short of cannibalism.

The event recorded here in this siege is exactly what God, through Moses, said would happen many years before, Deuteronomy 28:53-58.

‘When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and they saw that, under his robes, he had sackcloth on his body. He said, ‘May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!’ Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the elders, ‘Don’t you see how this murderer is sending someone to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold it shut against him. Is not the sound of his master’s footsteps behind him?’ While he was still talking to them, the messenger came down to him. The king said, ‘This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?’ 2 Kings 6:30-33

When the king of Israel, probably Jehoram, heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes and when he did, the onlookers noticed that he was wearing a sackcloth, which was a sign of repentance.

In ignorance, and for reasons we aren’t told, he quickly blames Elisha for what is happening, possibly because Elisha had prophesied that Samaria would be victorious over Aram.

One thing is clear, everyone is in a desperate situation here, and if they return to God in faith, if they turn to God in repentance, then God would deliver them from this horrendous situation.

It’s very easy to overlook the fact that Elisha and the elders were also suffering because of the famine, hence why Elisha is sitting in his house.

Elisha knew exactly what was happening and what was about to happen, he knew that Jehoram was a murderer, he called him a murderer because he intends to murder Elisha.

The king is clearly frustrated and recognises that what’s happening is from God and he doesn’t want to wait any longer for God to deliver them from this famine.

This story will continue in the next chapter.

Go To 2 Kings 7