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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-7

God’s ability to revive the nation 6:1-7

"In contrast to Gehazi who had received the reward of his unfaithfulness, the account unfolded here is a demonstration of the reward of faithful labor." [Note: Patterson and Austel, p. 192.]

The expensive [Note: R. L. Hubbard Jr., First and Second Kings, p. 157.] iron ax head was similar to Israel since it was an instrument used for constructive and destructive purposes (cf. Exodus 19:5-6). Like the ax, Israel had belonged to another, Egypt, but God used it for a job He had to do since the Exodus. Unfortunately Israel had gone its own way (flown off the ax handle) and appeared lost to any further usefulness. Perhaps the water symbolized the nations among whom Israel had sunk since water often represents the Gentile nations elsewhere in the Old Testament. Nevertheless, God was able to restore His people to a place of usefulness again, even as Elisha restored the ax head to its user. I suspect that around the fireside that night, after this incident took place, Elisha explained the significance of this miracle for the sons of the prophets. From then on they passed this story along until it became part of the folklore of Israel. Several interpreters have seen the symbolism that I have suggested in this story as well as in the other Elisha stories, but not all have, of course. Allegorists repudiate the factuality of these accounts.

Verses 8-23

God’s ability to defend and deliver His people from her enemies 6:8-23

The king of Aram was probably Ben-Hadad II, though the writer did not mention him by name (2 Kings 6:8). Perhaps since he only identified Elisha and Yahweh by name, he wished to focus attention on them as the main characters in this drama. Dothan stood about 12 miles north of Samaria (2 Kings 6:13). Compare Genesis 37:17-28 where another hostile foreign foe, the Ishmaelites, surrounded another prophet, Joseph, at Dothan. Here is another vain attempt by a king to silence prophecy (cf. 1 Kings 17:1-24; 1 Kings 18:1-15; 1 Kings 19:1-18; 2 Kings 1:1-15). The Aramean king tried again to surprise the Israelites (2 Kings 6:14) after having failed many times in his previous attempts to do so (2 Kings 6:8-12). This shows that he did not really believe Elisha could predict his movements. The events that followed proved him wrong.

The Arameans surrounded Dothan (2 Kings 6:15; cf. 2 Kings 6:13). Elisha realized that God’s angelic army was in control (2 Kings 6:17; cf. 2 Kings 2:11; Psalms 34:7). His protégé, whomever he may have been, needed to learn to see with the eyes of faith, as Elisha could (2 Kings 6:17). Elisha led the temporarily blinded Aramean army into Samaria because Dothan was not the city where God wanted them (2 Kings 6:19).

King Jehoram referred to Elisha as his father (2 Kings 6:21) because he realized this great victory had come from Elisha, who was superior to him for accomplishing it. It was not God’s purpose to kill the Arameans but to deliver the Israelites and to teach them a spiritual lesson (2 Kings 6:22). In the ancient Near East eating together under one’s roof often constituted making a covenant of peace. [Note: J. Herbert Livingston, The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment, p. 157.] Social custom now bound the Arameans not to attack the friend who had spared their lives and had extended the honor of hospitality. Consequently the Arameans did not invade Israel for some time (2 Kings 6:23; cf. 2 Kings 6:8-10; 2 Kings 6:24). It is less likely, I believe, that we should understand 2 Kings 6:23 to mean that the Arameans never again sent small companies of troops against Israel. [Note: T. R. Hobbs, 2 Kings, p. 78.]

What the Israelite army could not have accomplished without much fighting and loss of life, God did peacefully through one man. This should have been a clear lesson to everyone in Israel that Yahweh was her strong deliverer as well as her sovereign. God did not provide this victory because of the Israelites’ obedience but to teach them lessons.

God’s ability to preserve and provide for His people through famine 6:24-7:20

Aram’s cessation of hostilities ended after some time (2 Kings 6:24; cf. 2 Kings 6:23), perhaps between 845 and 841 B.C. [Note: Alberto R. W. Green, "Regnal Formulas in the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Books of Kings," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 42 (1983):178.] The famine in Samaria, and the siege that caused it, were punishments from the Lord for Israel’s apostasy (cf. Leviticus 26:27-29; Deuteronomy 28:52-53; Deuteronomy 28:57; Ezekiel 5:10). "Dove’s dung" (2 Kings 6:25) is probably a better translation of the Hebrew word hiryyownim than "seed pods" (NIV). [Note: Jones, 2:432.] The two mothers who approached King Jehoram recall the two mothers who asked King Solomon for justice (1 Kings 3:16-28), but now the situation was more serious. Individuals could always appeal directly to the king. [Note: Wiseman, p. 210.] Yahweh forced Jehoram to acknowledge His superiority over him (2 Kings 6:27), but the king did not submit to God’s authority. The Mosaic Law had warned of the extreme distress the Israelites were experiencing (2 Kings 6:29; cf. Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53). The sackcloth Jehoram wore represented repentance, but that repentance was very superficial (2 Kings 6:30; cf. 2 Kings 6:31; 2 Kings 6:33). As Jezebel had threatened to kill Elijah, her son now threatened Elisha (2 Kings 6:31; cf. 1 Kings 19:2).

Jehoram planned to murder Elisha as his father Ahab had murdered Naboth (2 Kings 6:32; cf. 1 Kings 21:1-16). He also grew impatient with the Lord, as Saul had grown impatient with Samuel (2 Kings 6:33; cf. 1 Samuel 15:11). We see the king’s real wickedness in his behavior.

Jehoram’s officer did not believe Yahweh could, much less would, do what Elisha predicted (2 Kings 7:1-2). In this he represented many others in Israel who had abandoned Yahweh for Baal. A "measure" (Heb. seah) of flour amounted to about seven quarts.

The four lepers likewise represented many in Israel whose hopeless destiny was death because of their uncleanness (2 Kings 6:3). They were, however, the undeserving recipients of God’s grace. They became the source of blessing (life) to others when they reported what God had graciously provided for all the hopeless Samaritans (2 Kings 6:9-10). Understandably many preachers have used them as examples of sinners saved by grace.

God dispersed the besieging Aramean army supernaturally (2 Kings 6:6; cf. 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:17). He accomplished this deliverance through no work of those whom He saved.

Rather than asking Elisha what was going on (2 Kings 6:12; cf. 2 Kings 6:21) Jehoram relied on his own wisdom, but that gave him no comfort. The writer concluded this story by emphasizing the judgment the royal officer experienced for his unbelief (2 Kings 6:17-20). His fate, as God had previously announced, happened exactly as predicted (2 Kings 6:17-18). Such would be the destiny of all in Israel who refused to believe what God had said in His Law and through His prophets.

Chapter 7 is one of many sections in Scripture composed in a chiastic literary structure that stresses a particular point in the story. We could outline this story as follows.

A The royal officer’s unbelief 2 Kings 6:1-2 a

B Elisha’s prediction of relief 2 Kings 6:2 b

C The lepers’ decision 2 Kings 6:3-5

D Yahweh’s salvation 2 Kings 6:6

C’ The leper’s deliverance 2 Kings 6:7-10

B’ The fulfillment of Elisha’s prediction 2 Kings 6:11-15

A’ The royal officer’s judgment 2 Kings 6:16-20

This structure emphasizes the central element, Yahweh’s salvation, and teaches other lessons in concentric circles of significance. These points include the role of the lepers in bringing news of deliverance to the doomed Samaritans. They were evangelists in the truest sense: heralds of good news. The value of God’s revelation is another lesson, as is the folly of rejecting that revelation.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-kings-6.html. 2012.
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