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"TOO SMALL FOR US"
The sons of the prophets are often spoken of in connection with Elisha's history, but when banded together, they did nothing (so far as the record goes) that indicated they were led by God. Once do we read of one of the sons of the prophets carrying a message from God. Elisha told him to take a flask of oil and anoint Jehu to be king over Israel, giving him a message from God at the same time. The son of the prophet did so alone (2 Kings 9:1-10). This was work done for God, for the young man acted by faith, without help from others. Another case was that of one of the sons of the prophets telling his neighbour to strike him (1 Kings 20:35). When he would not, a lion killed him. Then another did strike and wounded him. This man was acting alone at the Word of God, so that afterward he was called a prophet (1 Kings 20:38), and he fearlessly brought God's message to Ahab (ch.20:39-42).
The general tendency was for the sons of the prophets to live on the reputation of their fathers, which was not personal faith. These young men had evidently been attracted to Elisha and were living with him. But the time came when they felt themselves too confined (v.1). If it is not faith that has brought us into the place of enjoyment of the Lord's presence, we too will begin to feel too confined. It is natural to desire a larger place for ourselves than that which God has provided, and there are many today who direct their energies into building something that will satisfy them.
These men did not want to dwell where Elisha was in their midst, but they wanted his presence with them in what they were doing (v.3). How much like many Christians today who feel restricted where two or three are gathered together to the name of the Lord Jesus, yet in building their own churches they desire the Lord to go with them.
Elisha let them have their way and graciously went with them, just as we know today that the Lord often blesses those who are building in their own way. It was not Elisha who suggested or directed this project, though he did not oppose it. But rather than ambitiously building for ourselves, is it not wiser to be content with what the Lord Jesus says, "On this Rock I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18)? Since believers are a vital part of His church, it is inconsistent of us to be building another church. Yet in the Lord's sovereign wisdom and grace, He does give His blessing to those who have some good motives, though mixed with selfish motives.
We do not read of the work of these men having any good and lasting result. In fact, the record only reports that as one man was cutting down a tree the head of his axe flew off into the water. He did not even appeal to his fellow workers, but rather told Elisha. "Alas master, for it was borrowed" (v.5). This is too often the case with "sons of the prophets." The axe speaks of the truth of the Word of God, a tool that can be most effective when well used. But we may be using "borrowed" truth, that which someone else has gained for his own profit, but which we have not really acquired in our own souls. It may have been learned intellectually in a Bible school, but not vitally in the school of God. If so, there will always be some sort of failure in our work.
However, just as the man appealed to Elisha, we may appeal to the Lord Jesus, who is sufficient for every need. Elisha cut off a stick from a tree and threw it into the water (v.6), and the iron axe head miraculously floated to the top of the water. The stick reminds us of a connection with the cross of Christ, as the stick is connected to a tree.
SYRIANS - BLINDED, CAPTURED AND RELEASED
Though the commander of the Syrian armies had been healed through and Israelitish prophet (ch.5), the king of Syria was still determined to wage war against Israel. His plan was to ambush Israel's army, deciding by consultation with his servants where his army should camp to best accomplish his purpose (v.8).
But the Lord revealed to Elisha what Syria was doing, and he warned the king of Israel, Jehoram, not to pass in the direction of Syria's camp (v.9). Jehoram sent spies who confirmed that Syria's camp was in the place of which Elisha told him. This happened more than twice. If we pay attention to the Word of God we shall be preserved from the deceptions of the enemy. God was by no means showing His approval of Jehoram by giving him this information, for Jehoram was not approved by God (2 Kings 3:14). But God rather showed the king of Syria that Israel was God's nation, and He would protect them in spite of their bad king.
The king of Syria was so disturbed that his plans were known to Israel that he thought there must be a traitor in his own court (v.11). But one of his servants knew (by whatever means) that Elisha the prophet told the king of Israel the words the king of Syria spoke in his own bedroom (v.12). Certainly this information could come to Elisha only by the power of God, and the king of Syria ought to have realised he was dealing with One infinitely higher than himself. In such a case, the only wise thing for him to do was to leave Israel alone.
Having received knowledge that Elisha was revealing to the King of Israel the secrets of the King of Syria in planning warfare, the King of Syria foolishly decided to fight against God by taking Elisha captive, possibly hoping to kill him. He sent horses and chariots and a great army with the intention of capturing one lone, defenceless man! Similarly, the chief priests and Pharisees sent "a great multitude with swords and clubs" to arrest the Lord Jesus (Matthew 26:47), though He had no weapons and nothing like an army to protect Him. Why did they think it necessary to have such crowds, either in the case of the Lord Jesus or in that of Elisha? Because they were afraid of spiritual power, but thought that overwhelming numbers could defeat that power. How pathetically foolish! The Lord Jesus showed His superior power in speaking the words, "I Am," causing all the crowd to go backward and fall to the ground (John 18:6). Thus they were helpless before His face, yet He allowed them to get up and take Him prisoner! Why? Because He had said His hour had come (John 17:1).
The Syrian armies came by night and surrounded the city (v.14). They used all the strategies of a major war engagement! Elisha's servant, when he rose early in the morning, was terrified and asked, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" (v.15).
With perfect calmness Elisha answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (v.16). Then he prayed that the Lord would open the servant's eyes, and the young man saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (v.17). Is there any less protection for believers today? Believers may not see the angel of the Lord camping round about us, but this is nevertheless true (Psalms 34:7). Those redeemed by the blood of Christ have no reason to fear any enemy, for God is their Protector.
Elisha prayed that the Syrians might be stricken with blindness, then went boldly out to them, telling them, "This is not the way, nor is this the city" (v.19). Then he led them in their blindness to Samaria, where they were surrounded by Israel's men. He prayed again, asking the Lord to open their eyes, and they found themselves prisoners in the enemy's camp! (v.20).
The king of Israel eagerly asked Elisha if he should kill these men, but Elisha refused to give him permission, asking him if he would kill men whom he had taken captive. Rather, he told Jehoram to give them food and water and allow them to return to their master (v.22). What a lesson for these men! Though God had shown them His great power, yet He would also show them His great grace. Would they ever forget an experience like this? The king prepared a great feast for them before sending them away. We are told therefore that the bands of Syrian raiders did not come any more into the land of Israel.
THE SIEGE OF SAMARIA BY SYRIA
The grace shown by the king of Israel to the Syrians did not, however, have a very lasting effect. For though the Syrians did not send bands of raiders to Israel, yet Ben-Hadad king of Syria took his whole army to lay siege to the City of Samaria (v.24).
The siege caused severe famine in the city, so that a donkey's head was sold for 80 shekels of silver and a small amount of dove's droppings for 5 shekels. Why did the king of Israel not even consider praying to the Lord in this predicament? He could speak of the Lord (v.27), but had no faith whatever in God's sovereign goodness.
A woman cried out to the king for help, but not asking for food. Rather, she had a complaint against another woman with whom she had made an agreement that they would kill and boil their sons on different days so that they could eat. She claimed she gave her son the first day, whom they killed and ate. Now she said the other woman had hidden her son when it was her turn to provide him as food (vv.26-29).
Certainly the king could not remedy this matter, and was so affected that he tore his clothes, a sign intended to express repentance, though true repentance was not in the king's thoughts. In fact, when he tore his clothes, people were able to see that he had sackcloth underneath (v.30). The sackcloth was also intended to be a sign of repentance, but he was wearing it as a sort of religious charm, hoping by this means to remedy the bad situation of Israel. This was merely hypocrisy.
Verse 31 is a proof of his hypocritical attitude. He swore by God that Elisha must be killed. Why? Because Elisha was the one person in Samaria who represented God and Jehoram blamed God for the famine. Certainly God could have prevented it, but He did not, for the famine was an infliction because of Jehoram's guilt. Instead of Jehoram judging himself, he determined to judge Elisha, the one man through whom he could have found deliverance. But his judging Elisha was the one way he could show his hatred toward the God of Israel. How many there are who bitterly condemn the Lord Jesus when they are in trouble! Yet He is the one source of true help for them!
Elisha, sitting in his house with the elders of the city, knew perfectly well that King Jehoram had sent a man to kill him, and told the elders of this, instructing them to shut the door and not allow the man to come in (v.32). He spoke of Jehoram as "this son of a murderer," for Ahab was certainly a murderer. But God would see to it that His servant was protected.
Serious trouble ought to melt people's hearts, but the heart of Jehoram was only hardened instead. Blaming the Lord for the famine, he said, "Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?" (v.33). But if he would not wait for the Lord, what could he do?
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 6". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany