The Axehead Resurfaces (6:1-7)
Elisha oversaw several schools of prophets that trained and encouraged young men in their calling. There were schools in Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho (2:1-5), and Ramah (1 Sam. 19:22-24). In the process of enlarging the school at Jericho, an axhead flew off its handle and fell into the Jordan River. Elisha threw a stick into the river. Miraculously the iron resurfaced.
Blinding the Arameans (6:8-23)
Once again, the Arameans (Syrians) were making war with the Israelites. God told Elisha about a secret attack, and King Joram frustrated it. Ben Hadad II ("Ben Hadad" was the "throne name" for Syrian kings like "Pharaoh" was the title of Egyptian kings) thought someone in his army was tipping the Israelites off, but one of his officers informed him that it was Elisha. So, Ben-Hadad II sent a band to capture Elisha. Elisha's frightened servant (could not have been Gehazi because he was dismissed) told Elijah of the surrounding army, but Elisha was not afraid and prayed that the servant's eyes would be opened and he would see the unseen army of fire that surrounded Aram's band. Contrarily, he asked that the Arameans would be blinded. As a result, the Arameans were delivered right into the hands of Joram. Ecstatic, Joram respectfully addressed Elisha as "father" and asked him if he should kill him, but Elisha knew that God's purpose was not to destroy the Arameans but to save the Israelites. As a result, they even had a feast with the Arameans. In the ancient Near East, eating together meant they were making a covenant of peace (J. Herbert Livingston, The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment, p. 157).
I am sure those of you who have a problem with all the killing in the Old Testament will be excited that the Israelites did not kill anyone.
Samaria's Famine (6:24-7:20)
It is not known how long the Arameans stayed away from Israel after the peacemaking feast, but Ben Hadad II decided to siege Samaria. After reading The Iliad and The Odyssey a few years ago, I know that ancient kings needed to make war occasionally in order to gain glory for themselves among their gods and among their people. So, this might explain why he did not honor their peace covenant.
The siege left the people in the city starving and reduced to eating their own children! God warned of military defeat and famine if Israel broke the terms of His covenant (Leviticus 26: 17, 25-26, 29, 33, 36-39). With all this, King Joram did not call his people to repentance and prayer (2 Chronicles. 7:14) and blamed it all on God and wanted to murder Elisha. Yet, Elisha remained calm and listened to and relayed the word of the LORD that the siege on Samaria would be lifted.
Through the four lepers, King Joram learned that the Arameans had fled after hearing a "great army" that they perceived as Hittites and Egyptians. Of course, Joram doubted because he doubted the word of the LORD! So, he sent spies to confirm that God had indeed ended the siege through miraculous means. Even with this, Joram did not repent and humble himself before the LORD.
I was going to write my own little reflection regarding making peace and how we might apply the example of Elisha's advice to not kill the Aramean band to our own life, but Warren Weirsbe says it so much better than I ever could:
Solomon wrote, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:21–22, niv). In Romans 12:20–21, Paul quoted these words and applied them to believers today, and see also the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43–48 and Luke 6:27–36. King Joram wanted to kill the Syrians, but Elisha “killed them with kindness.” By eating together, they made a covenant of peace and the Syrian bands would no longer raid the borders of Israel.Warren Wiersbe commentaries are my FAVORITE! My dear husband bought these Old Testament commentaries for me as an early Christmas present in 2009. One of the best presents anyone has ever given me!
Would this approach avert conflicts today? We must remember that Israel is a covenant nation and that the Lord fought their battles. No other nation can claim these privileges. But if kindness replaced long-standing and deeply rooted ethnic and religious differences among peoples, as well as national pride and international greed, there would no doubt be fewer wars and bombings. The same principle applies to ending divorce and abuse in families, riots and lootings in neighborhoods, uproars on campuses, and division and conflict in our communities. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
- Pray for peace in our neighborhoods, campuses, communities, and world.
- Pray that God would raise up men and women who might broker peaceful solutions to the many conflicts throughout the world.
- Finally, pray through things in the news: the Syrian conflict (the modern day "King Aram") and unrest throughout the Middle East. If you do not know about these, Google them and PRAY! We need to be informed in order to pray intelligently. But being informed without praying will leave you depressed and anxious.
Lord, we live in a time of many conflicts. Help us to be faithful to pray for peace, and may we be peacemakers. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.