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Elisha is a man of God. This is reflected in each section of this chapter. He is the man of grace, although the aspect of judgment is not lacking. With Elijah, that is the other way round. This grace is not the result of a revolution in the people. It is a grace that God grants, when the condition of the people is dark. In this chapter and the following we see three examples of this.
A New Place to Live
Here we meet again the student prophets about whom we read a few times in 2 Kings 2. They are united in schools dating back to the time of Samuel. They are faithful men, whom we can see as a remnant among the people of God. They have learned lessons from 2 Kings 2. At first they have no illuminated eyes, nor have they seen Elijah’s ascension, even though they do have knowledge of the fact that he was taken up to heaven. Meanwhile they have seen who Elisha is, how the spirit of Elijah rests on him. They have seen some of his miracles.
Elisha is with them, possible to give them further education. Then they come to him with a wish. They want to build a new home, because a larger space is needed to live together. This will be due to an increase in the number of student prophets. The man of God is a point of attraction for those who want to know more about the LORD.
We can apply this to a local church. If there is a man of God in a place, there will be increase. In a man of God the Lord Jesus becomes visible. Wherever He becomes visible, those who seek Him will also want to be there. A man of God is not one above the local church, but is part of it. He is the power of the church. But if decisions are made, he will not make them as an individual. Decisions are taken by the entire church. Often a certain decision is made following his advice. He shows the way.
The student prophets propose to go to the Jordan. The Jordan is the river through which the Israelites had to pass to get into the promised land. For us, the Jordan is a picture of the death and the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, through which we have entered the heavenly places, the heavenly land. God has “seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). That they propose to go to the Jordan can therefore be seen from a spiritual point of view as a proof of their spiritual growth. First they saw the Jordan from afar (2 Kings 2:7), they remained at a distance from it, but now they want to live there.
The proposal is that each of them will get a beam from the Jordan to build a new place to live together. They each have a personal share in the construction. Each of them makes a contribution to the best of their ability. So it is with building God’s house. For its construction, the Lord has given each of His own responsibilities. We all contribute to the construction of the church, each with his or her own gift. However, it is important to build with good materials.
If Elisha agrees to the request, the student prophets don’t immediately get on their way. They want Elisha to go with them. That is a good thing. Not only do they go on his way at his direction, they also want to ensure his presence on that way. Elisha not only shows the way, but is also with them the way he shows. The Spirit does the same with us. He indicates the way we should go and accompanies us on that way. We may walk through the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Not only do we need the Lord to show us the right way, we also need Him on the way itself.
The Accident and the Miracle
At the Jordan they go to work. While they are busy, an accident happens. When someone is cutting down a beam with an axe, the axe head fell into the water. He loses control of his tools. Fortunately the axe does not hit anyone (cf. Deuteronomy 19:5), but it does disappear into the water of the Jordan. The man has lost his tool. As he sees the iron disappear into the water, he cries out: “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.”
Elisha must have been close to him, because the man addresses his cry of fear to the man of God. That is also the right address. Humanly we would say: ‘What a luck that they asked Elisha to come along.’ Elisha informs where the iron has fallen into the water. When the man has designated him the place, Elisha cuts off a stick and throws it to that place. The stick functions as a magnet, because the iron is made float. Elisha doesn’t take the iron out of the water herself, but tells the man to take it up for himself. Elisha does the miracle, the man must do what he can do himself.
The story as such shows how much the man of God is involved in an apparently small event, but which means a personal drama for someone. This history stands between two events that are of international magnitude. God’s attention goes out to the big and the small. He has interference with the peoples and with the individual.
The man’s need is that he has lost something that is not his. He borrowed the axe, because he himself has none. From his panic because of the loss we can perhaps deduce that he had no money to buy one. The outcome that Elisha offers also points to this. The prophet does no miracles without reason. If there is a real need, then we can count on God’s gracious and wonderful help.
Spiritually speaking, there is also something to learn. Here we see the Jordan as the river that, as it were, swallows up the tool of a student prophet, but also has to return it. When we think again of what the Jordan is a picture of – the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – we learn that all our strength has been destroyed in the death of the Lord Jesus. We also learn that we have risen in a new life and that we may work in the power of the Holy Spirit on God’s house with the means He has for us.
The means we are given to serve the Lord are borrowed means. These are the gifts that have been made available to us. These gifts are no guarantee that the work will be done properly. We must learn that what we are and have can only be properly used if we receive it from the hands of the man of God (the Lord Jesus) who gets it from the Jordan (the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus).
Moses is also a man of God who once threw a wood into the water. In that case it is to make undrinkable water drinkable, so that the people can drink it (Exodus 15:25). Elisha does the same for a few. In the wood we can see a picture of the cross of the Lord Jesus. Paul brings “the wood”, the cross of Christ, into the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-Deuteronomy :). Because the Corinthians misuse their gifts to their own glory, Paul reminds them of the foolishness of the cross. In the light of the cross the self-importance disappears and the Spirit is given the space to work what is to God’s glory.
The man has to take up his tool himself. Now the house is being built with a tool that came from the Jordan. The power of the stream is overcome by a piece of wood, so that what was hopelessly lost, is saved from it and can be used useful.
Elisha Warns the King of Israel
God’s Spirit tells us the secret deliberations of the king of Aram, or Syria. The king may decide what he wants, but nothing is hidden from God. The Spirit communicates to Elisha what the king of Syria is up to. The man of God sends messengers to the king of Israel (possibly Jehoram) to warn him of the enemy’s plans. He does not do it for Jehoram (cf. 2 Kings 3:13-2 Chronicles :), but for the poor people and even more as a sign for the king of Syria. It is a sign of God’s omnipotence for this king.
The man of God has a prophetic view. The king of Israel is so wise to listen to Elisha’s advice. This is repeated several times. It also shows that no one can do any harm to God’s people if their Protector does not allow it.
Command to Capture Elisha
The king of Aram, or Syria, gets severely frustrated by the fact that his plans are always known. There is nothing more frustrating for a culprit than the fact that all his well thought-out plans are known to others and his intention fails time and time again. The king calls his servants together and wants to know who the traitor is. As it happens more often, someone from the common people knows the answer. We are not told how he knows it, as we are told so much in this history without any explanatory information.
If the ‘traitor’ is known, the king commands the arrest of Elisha. He has no doubt that with the arrest of Elisha he has indeed caught the culprit. He sends a huge army to Elisha. He has heard something of the power of this man and does not want to underestimate it. It shows how afraid the king is of the man of God. At the same time, he underestimates God’s power by turning an army, however large, towards Elisha.
In the invisible world, the powers of darkness are also working in a common effort to eliminate every believer who is a man of God’s will. There are spiritual powers that are out to stop us in our work for the Lord. The devil does not under-estimate us. He is full of interest in us. He is not interested in slacking Christians, but in working Christians.
Open and Closed Eyes
The servant of Elisha is impressed by the power of the enemy. That’s because he can’t see well. He gets scared because he doesn’t see the unseen. He looks only with his natural eyes and counts only with visible powers.
Elisha sees well. He does not need to pray if his own eyes will be opened. What we see with our eyes is no more reliable than what we see with the eyes of our heart. Thus the Lord Jesus sees the many angels at His disposal when a multitude of people comes to capture Him (Matthew 26:53). Faith knows: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them” (Psalms 34:7). Jacob also sees a host of angels when he is on his way to meet Esau (Genesis 32:1-Exodus :).
On the prayer of Elisha the eyes of the servant open. The servant sees what Elisha saw when Elijah went to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). The power of God who brought Elijah to heaven is at our disposal against the enemy. It is the power that lifts us above the earthly stage of threat and danger and brings us in the spirit in the area of complete security, inaccessible and therefore untouchable to the enemy.
When the enemies come towards him, Elisha prays a new prayer, now not to open eyes, but to close eyes (cf. Genesis 19:11). This is a physical blindness, a literal blindness. The result of the Lord Jesus’ service is spiritual blindness. He has come to make spiritually blind people seeing and those who believe to see, to make blind. This is not a literal blindness, but a blindness of insight, of understanding the situation.
The men walk with open eyes, but blind to where they are, after Elisha. In this way he brings the enemy into the lion’s den. This does not result in their destruction, but in a proof of unprecedented grace. When they are in the middle of Samaria, Elisha prays again, now again to open eyes. Then the enemies become aware of their position. They discover the power of Elisha.
Grace for Enemies
Who also has open eyes is the king of Israel. Only he knows nothing of grace. That proves that he is seeing blind. This is clear from his question to Elisha whether he will be allowed to kill these enemies. Elisha’s answer is sober. He tells the king that he would not have killed them anyway if he had made them prisoners of war. Elisha does not even allow the king to allow the prisoners to simply return to their master. He orders him to do good to his enemies by setting bread and water before them. The LORD first protects the king of Israel and Elisha against the king of Syria, and now He protects the Syrians against the king of Israel.
By this action on the head of the enemy ‘burning coals’ are heaped (Romans 12:20: Proverbs 25:21-Song of Solomon :). The word of the Lord Jesus is acted upon: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-Acts :). After the enemies are done well, they may return to their master. The consequence of the grace shown is that they (for the time being) do not return to the land of Israel to wage war against it.
Famine in Samaria
A proof of mercy can quickly be forgotten. We see that when the king of Aram, or Syria, takes up arms again, goes up against Samaria and besieges the city. The siege is long and causes a great famine. The enemy has forgotten that in this city he himself has received a gracious treatment. A merciless siege takes place because he has forgotten what grace has been bestowed upon him (Matthew 18:21-Habakkuk :). It becomes the cause of yet another great proof of grace by the service of Elisha and now for the people of God. It will be its last public service.
Food is becoming so scarce and hunger so great that an enormous price is being asked for unclean food. Only the richest can buy something. Instead of taking refuge in the LORD with confession and repentance for their unfaithfulness, the LORD is blamed for the misery.
This is made clear when a woman cries to the king. There is no question of crying to God. The king is bitter and slides the blame on the LORD. The LORD does not help and through this he cannot help. He does not realize that he owes the misery to himself. He asks the woman what she wants. Then it turns out that she wants him to speak justice. It is a question that recalls the first case law of Solomon (1 Kings 3:16-Hosea :). However, the cause for the judiciary here is a much greater depravity. It shows the depth of the misery caused by the unfaithfulness of the people.
While the rich may still be able to buy something, the common man and woman, driven by the enormous hunger, resort to one of the greatest horrors one can imagine: eating their own children. All natural feelings have disappeared. Even the fruit of the lap is sacrificed to the selfishness to survive. Whoever is tempted into such acts need not be surprised if an agreement is not kept. Everything bears witness to the great degeneration of God’s people. All norms and values have disappeared. This is the result of deviating from God (Leviticus 26:27-Joel :; Deuteronomy 28:52-Philemon :; Colossians 2:20; Colossians 4:10).
When the king hears the woman’s words, he tears his clothes. The garment of mourning that becomes visible is nothing more than outward appearances. Externally he is dressed in mourning, but there is no inner repentance. On the contrary, he is full of murderousness against the prophet of God.
Elisha Gets the Blame
The king seeks a scapegoat and finds it in Elisha. Just as Ahab attributed the misery to Elijah and thought he would get rid of it if he could kill Elijah, so does the king think he can put an end to the misery by killing Elisha. It is a foolish assumption that comes from a hardened heart. By nature, we blame people who tell us we will be judged. Disasters in an end time do not bring to submission to God. They do not lead to conversion, but to a slander of God (cf. Revelation 16:10-1 Kings :).
While hunger takes such terrible forms and leads to such terrible things, Elisha sits in his house. He will undoubtedly share in the famine. He suffers with the people of God. He has no hidden source of food. There are elders visiting him. They will be there to ask him for advice. It is always available when there is an emergency.
He is also aware of the death threat. He sees in his mind how Jehoram sent a murderer to him. He calls him a “murderer’s son”, for Jehoram himself is the son of a murderer, Ahab. Elisha takes his measures in view of the imminent arrival of the messenger of the king. He knows that Jehoram comes right after him to make sure that Elisha is indeed beheaded.
When the messenger has arrived at Elisha, the messenger speaks the language of his master. He again makes a fierce reproach to the LORD. Elisha must die. He justifies his unjust act by saying, as it were: ‘If God does not take me into account and help me out of my worries, I do not take God into account.’
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany