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2 Kings 6-8

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

2 Kings Chapter 6

Although Prophets are often regarded as being solitary individuals (as they often were), they are also recorded in the Scriptures as sometimes living together in groups. The term "sons of the prophets" here could apply to some physical sons, but moreover in an instructive sense, just as Elijah taught Elisha i.e. "And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father!" (2 Kings 2:11-12; see also Where Did Elijah Go?). They certainly had different levels of miraculous ability, as in this example of when a son of the prophets lost his axe in the river and Elisha recovered it by making it float.

Dothan

"Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, "See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there." (2 Kings 6:1-2 RSV)

"Then the man of God said, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float." (2 Kings 6:6 RSV)

Syria (see the Fact Finder question below) went to war against Israel, again. Elisha was, in effect, working for Israel's military intelligence.

"Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, "At such and such a place shall be my camp." But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, "Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there." And the king of Israel sent to the place of which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice." (2 Kings 6:8-10 RSV)

The king of Syria, when he realized that the Israelites were aware of his every move, assumed that he had an informer within his own military. When they realized that the prophet Elisha was the source of the information for Israel, the Syrians sent a very large army with the specific task to kill Elisha. They laid siege to the city of Dothan where Elisha was found.

"And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, "Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?"

And one of his servants said, "None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber."

And he said, "Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him." It was told him, "Behold, he is in Dothan." So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army; and they came by night, and surrounded the city." When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was round about the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" (2 Kings 6:11-15 RSV)

Although the Syrians had Elisha surrounded with a large, powerful army, Elisha had the Syrians surrounded with a much larger, much more powerful army - "the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." Elisha did not use the army at his command however; he chose instead, by means of the power of The Lord, to capture the entire Syrian army alive by striking them with blindness. After presenting them to the king of Israel, Elisha sent them back home to Syria.

"Then Elisha prayed, and said, "O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see." So The Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to The Lord, and said, "Strike this people, I pray thee, with blindness." So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

And Elisha said to them, "This is not the way, and this is not the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek." And he led them to Samaria.

As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, "O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see." So The Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and lo, they were in the midst of Samaria.

When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, "My father, shall I slay them? Shall I slay them?"

He answered, "You shall not slay them. Would you slay those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." So he prepared for them a great feast; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians came no more on raids into the land of Israel." (2 Kings 6:17-23 RSV)

Later, Ben-hadad of Syria again laid siege to Samaria, cutting off the food supply to many of the people of Israel, resulting in a horrible depravity - some of the Israelites became anthropophagites (people who eat human flesh, also called "cannibalism"). Despite all that Elisha had done to defend Israel, the king of Israel blamed Elisha for the situation.

"Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army, and went up, and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver." (2 Kings 6:24-25 RSV)

"And the king asked her, "What is your trouble?" She answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.' So we boiled my son, and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, 'Give your son, that we may eat him'; but she has hidden her son." When the king heard the words of the woman he rent his clothes - now he was passing by upon the wall - and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath upon his body - and he said, "May God do so to me, and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today." (2 Kings 6:28-31 RSV)

2 Kings Chapter 7

Elisha told the king that The Lord would continue to defend Israel, and that the siege-caused famine would end. Four lepers were the first to discover that The Lord had driven the Syrian army away - using only sound effects.

Syria

"Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here till we die? If we say, 'Let us enter the city,' the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians; if they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die."

"So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; but when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. For The Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots, and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come upon us." So they fled away in the twilight and forsook their tents, their horses, and their asses, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives." (2 Kings 7:3-7 RSV)

Israelite scouts later discovered that the Syrian army had dropped everything that they had and fled in a panic - from an enemy army that wasn't even there.

"So they took two mounted men, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, "Go and see." So they went after them as far as the Jordan; and, lo, all the way was littered with garments and equipment which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king. Then the people went out, and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a measure of fine meal was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of The Lord." (2 Kings 7:14-16 RSV)

2 Kings Chapter 8

Elisha then made a very bold journey through the Golan, straight into Syria's capital city. King Ben-hadad was ill; amazingly, he sent his servant Hazael to inquire of The Lord, through Elisha, about his prognosis. Elisha's answer was that Ben-hadad could recover from his illness, but would die anyway.

The Golan

"Now Elisha came to Damascus. Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick; and when it was told him, "The man of God has come here," the king said to Hazael, "Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of The Lord through him, saying, 'Shall I recover from this sickness?'"

So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camel loads. When he came and stood before him, he said, "Your son Ben-hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, 'Shall I recover from this sickness?'"

And Elisha said to him, "Go, say to him, 'You shall certainly recover'; but The Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die." (2 Kings 8:7-10 RSV)

Hazael didn't understand Elisha's emotional response. It was then made clear that Elisha was grieving for the savage crimes that Hazael would inflict upon Israelites - after Hazael assassinated Ben-hadad and seized the throne for himself.

"And Hazael said, "Why does my lord weep?"

He answered, "Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set on fire their fortresses, and you will slay their young men with the sword, and dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child."

And Hazael said, "What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?"

Elisha answered, "The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria."

Then he departed from Elisha, and came to his master, who said to him, "What did Elisha say to you?" And he answered, "He told me that you would certainly recover." But on the morrow he took the coverlet and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Hazael became king in his stead." (2 Kings 8:12-15 RSV)

In the meantime, Kings of Israel and Judah continued to come and go (see also The Southern Kingdom and The Northern Kingdom). Jehoram succeeded his father Jehoshaphat as king of Judah. Along with his wife Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel of Israel, Jehoram did much evil in The Lord's sight, "Yet The Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since He promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons for ever" (i.e. see Israelite Monarchy - The Messiah.

"In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of The Lord. Yet The Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons for ever." (2 Kings 8:16-19 RSV)

Ahaziah succeeded his father Jehoram as king of Judah. Disastrously influenced by his idolatrous mother Athaliah, his reign was evil. He allied with his uncle Jehoram, king of Israel, in a war against Hazael of Syria but died from battle wounds.

"In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab.

He went with Joram the son of Ahab to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead, where the Syrians wounded Joram. And King Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria." (2 Kings 8:25-29 RSV)

Fact Finder: In Bible History, what were the geographic and political differences between (a) "Syria" and (b) "Assyria"?
(a) See Syria; also Aram, The Seleucids and Syria Palaestina
(b) See Ancient Empires - Assyria


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