Elisha Makes an Axe Head Float
1 Some of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too cramped for us. 2 Let’s go to the Jordan. Each of us will get a log from there and we will build a meeting place for ourselves there.” He said, “Go.” 3 One of them said, “Please come along with your servants.” He replied, “All right, I’ll come.” 4 So he went with them. When they arrived at the Jordan, they started cutting down trees. 5 As one of them was felling a log, the axe head dropped into the water. He shouted, “Oh no, my master! It was borrowed!” 6 The prophet asked, “Where did it drop in?” When he showed him the spot, Elisha cut off a branch, threw it in at that spot, and made the axe head float. 7 He said, “Lift it out.” So he reached out his hand and grabbed it.
Elisha Defeats an Army
8 Now the king of Syria was at war with Israel. He consulted his advisers, who said, “Invade at such and such a place.” 9 But the prophet sent this message to the king of Israel, “Make sure you don’t pass through this place because Syria is invading there.” 10 So the king of Israel sent a message to the place the prophet had pointed out, warning it to be on its guard. This happened on several occasions. 11 This made the king of Syria upset. So he summoned his advisers and said to them, “One of us must be helping the king of Israel.” 12 One of his advisers said, “No, my master, O king. The prophet Elisha who lives in Israel keeps telling the king of Israel the things you say in your bedroom.” 13 The king ordered, “Go, find out where he is, so I can send some men to capture him.” The king was told, “He is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent horses and chariots there, along with a good-sized army. They arrived during the night and surrounded the city.
15 The prophet’s attendant got up early in the morning. When he went outside there was an army surrounding the city, along with horses and chariots. He said to Elisha, “Oh no, my master! What will we do?” 16 He replied, “Don’t be afraid, for our side outnumbers them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he can see.” The Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw that the hill was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 As they approached him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike these people with blindness.” The Lord struck them with blindness as Elisha requested. 19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the right road or city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you’re looking for.” He led them to Samaria.
20 When they had entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open their eyes, so they can see.” The Lord opened their eyes and they saw that they were in the middle of Samaria. 21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Should I strike them down, my master?” 22 He replied, “Do not strike them down! You did not capture them with your sword or bow, so what gives you the right to strike them down? Give them some food and water, so they can eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he threw a big banquet for them and they ate and drank. Then he sent them back to their master. After that no Syrian raiding parties again invaded the land of Israel.
The Lord Saves Samaria
24 Later King Ben Hadad of Syria assembled his entire army and attacked and besieged Samaria. 25 Samaria’s food supply ran out. They laid siege to it so long that a donkey’s head was selling for eighty shekels of silver and a quarter of a kab of dove’s droppings for five shekels of silver.
26 While the king of Israel was passing by on the city wall, a woman shouted to him, “Help us, my master, O king!” 27 He replied, “No, let the Lord help you. How can I help you? The threshing floor and wine-press are empty.” 28 Then the king asked her, “What’s your problem?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Hand over your son; we’ll eat him today and then eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. Then I said to her the next day, ‘Hand over your son and we’ll eat him.’ But she hid her son!” 30 When the king heard what the woman said, he tore his clothes. As he was passing by on the wall, the people could see he was wearing sackcloth under his clothes. 31 Then he said, “May God judge me severely if Elisha son of Shaphat still has his head by the end of the day!”
32 Now Elisha was sitting in his house with the community leaders. The king sent a messenger on ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the leaders, “Do you realize this assassin intends to cut off my head?” Look, when the messenger arrives, shut the door and lean against it. His master will certainly be right behind him.” 33 He was still talking to them when the messenger approached and said, “Look, the Lord is responsible for this disaster! Why should I continue to wait for the Lord to help?”
C H Spurgeon
2 Kings 6:1. And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.
It seems to have been a habit of the prophets to gather about them companies of young men whom they instructed in the holy Scripture and in the truths of revelation. Many of these young men became prophets themselves and were the instructors of the people. Elisha, then, was the President of a College for young men who were being trained for the sacred ministry of God. They had grown so numerous that they were cramped in their lodging and they said, “The place is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us fit place there, where we may dwell.” They were ready to work to build their own lodging; they do not appear to have gone into debt for it, and to have saddled themselves and the institution for many years afterwards, but they put their own shoulders to the wheel as good men should do when there is any work to be done for the cause of God.
2 Kings 6:2-3. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.
His presence would be an encouragement to them; his holy conversation would make their work more pleasant, they would feel also as if they were more truly working for God when they had the presence and the patronage of God’s servant. He, on the other hand, was quite ready to go. God’s ministers, if they are what they should be are quite ready to help in any kind of work. We find Paul the Apostle picking up sticks to make a fire, and we find Elisha going with his dear friends to the forest when they would cut down timber to make a house. We sometimes regret that spiritual work should so often have to come into contact with common-place things, and yet so it is. Young prophets must have a house, and when we gather a congregation we must build them a meeting-house. In this country we cannot meet every day in the open air, and we often regret this, yet I believe it is meant by God to be a discipline for His Church. If the Church cannot come into contact with common life without its spirituality being endangered, so much the worse for its spirituality. It must be flimsy stuff if it cannot bear the wear and tear of common life.
2 Kings 6:4-5. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe-head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
These young men were too poor to buy tools of their own, and they therefore asked for a kindly loan of an axe-head that they might use it in the Lord’s service. It was very natural, therefore, that this young man should regret that the axe which he had borrowed should fall off into the water. This made him say,- “Alas!” Be very careful about loans, be sure to repay them in due time, and be very particular that nothing happens so that you cannot. He said, “Alas, master! for it was borrowed.”
2 Kings 6:6. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
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. “He cut down a stick and cast it in thither, and the iron did swim.” If you’re in great trouble tonight, have confidence in that God who can make the iron swim. If you have some worry, and you do not know how to meet it, some work, and you do not know how to do it, look to him who made the iron swim and he can do the same for you. Trust him, rest upon him and see if he does not do it.
2 Kings 6:7-8. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it. Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp.
Of course, he wanted to keep it secret, and pounce upon Israel here and there without notice and so win an easy victory.
2 Kings 6:9-11. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing;
He could not understand how all his well-laid plans were baffled.
2 Kings 6:11-12. And he called his servants and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O King.
There is no traitor here, there is no one who blabs out the royal secrets, not anyone,
2 Kings 6:12. But ‘Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.’”
For the Lord knows what we say in the bedchamber when no ears can hear; if we speak to ourselves he hears it, and if we whisper in all quietness into the ear of one who will never repeat, it is written in the book of the divine record “Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.”
2 Kings 6:13. And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him.
Not a very wise project, for if Elisha knew all about the words of the king it was not very likely that he would catch him.
2 Kings 6:13-15. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, beheld, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
That is a question we have often asked, “How shall we do.” We shall do nothing at all. How shall we do? If that were the question we might sit down in despair. The proper question is, “How will God do? How will God deliver us? But it is only the man of faith who thinks about God at all. How many there are of you who are in trouble and you are wondering how you shall get out of it. Poor things! Poor things! Oh, if we had but faith to look to that Omnipotent arm that is moving among us, and to that great and wise heart that is thinking of us, and then trust our case with him.
2 Kings 6:16-17. And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
More of these horses of fire than there were horses of flesh, more of these chariots of flame than there were chariots of iron.
2 Kings 6:18-19. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.
In all which-though I grant you it seems a stratagem Elisha spoke neither more nor less than the truth; Dothan was not his city, Samaria was the city where the man of God dwelt. He was then outside Dothan, and he said, I will bring you to the man whom ye seek, He did lead them to him, took them to his own home, to the very place where he lived. I think I see him leading all these blind men; they had come to catch him, and he had caught them, and he led them to Samaria.
2 Kings 6:20. And it came to pass, when they were come into 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, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
In the central square of the city. They opened their eyes and found themselves caught like rats in a trap. What cannot God do!
2 Kings 6:21. And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?
His hand was on his sword, he would call his men to come forward with their lances. “My father shall I smite them?” See the fine spirit of the prophet, the magnanimity of the man of God!
2 Kings 6:22. And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow?
For if you had conquered them in fair fight you would not think of killing them; I have captured them by God’s power, I have taken them prisoners and they had not be put to death.
2 Kings 6:22. Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
This is the way of carrying on war, the best way in all the world; to conquer by grace, to conquer by kindness.
2 Kings 6:23. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master.
Now mark the consequences.
2 Kings 6:23. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
No, they could not come any more to vex a people who had treated them so generously, and thus the man of God was master of the situation, his noble spirit was put to the front, and God was glorified.