The incident of the swimming of the iron axe head is interesting, but quite secondary. The chief value of the story lies in its revelation of the influence Elisha was exerting in the nation. The growth of the school of the prophets was most remarkable. It was necessary that they should enlarge their borders, as they had not room to dwell. Their relation to Elisha is clearly manifest.
In an hour of national peril he rose above the gentler works which were chiefly characteristic of his ministry. Revealing the plans of the Syrians, he saved his people from peril. The picture of the prophet shut up within the city in company with his servant is very fine, as it brings to light facts of which Elisha was conscious, but which were not seen ordinarily by men closely associated with him. When his servant cried out in despair at the situation of peril, Elisha prayed that his eyes might be opened; and there appeared to the trembling man that of which the prophet was perpetually conscious, the presence of the flaming hosts of God round about him.
It is in such consciousness as this that a man is strong. If he acts in co-operation with God he knows that Hell is nigh, but God is nigher, Circling us with hosts of fire.
The siege of Samaria by the Syrians brought about a state of famine which resulted in most fearful conditions. When a woman in her sore distress appealed to the king he became angry with Elisha. In all probability Josephus is right when he suggests that his anger was kindled because Elisha did nothing to relieve the situation.
the Second Week after Epiphany