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2 Kings 6:8-8:15 – Elisha’s Political Involvement

Summary

Elisha functions as political advisor in battles with Syria (Aram) and encourages Hazael's overthrow of the Syrian king Ben-hadad.

Analysis

The four episodes related here are often included in the tally of Elisha's miracles. But the miracles in 4:1-6:7 are decidedly more miraculous and display a structural unity that sets them apart. The narratives that comprise this section also display some internal consistencies, including their unmistakable political context, interaction with Syria, and miracles that are less overtly "miraculous."

2 Kings 6:8-8:15

The Aramean Attack Is Thwarted

8 Once when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he took counsel with his officers. He said, ‘At such and such a place shall be my camp.’ 9But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, ‘Take care not to pass this place, because the Arameans are going down there.’ 10The king of Israel sent word to the place of which the man of God spoke. More than once or twice he warned such a place* so that it was on the alert.

11 The mind of the king of Aram was greatly perturbed because of this; he called his officers and said to them, ‘Now tell me who among us sides with the king of Israel?’ 12Then one of his officers said, ‘No one, my lord king. It is Elisha, the prophet in Israel, who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber.’ 13He said, ‘Go and find where he is; I will send and seize him.’ He was told, ‘He is in Dothan.’ 14So he sent horses and chariots there and a great army; they came by night, and surrounded the city.

15 When an attendant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. His servant said, ‘Alas, master! What shall we do?’ 16He replied, ‘Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.’ 17Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18When the Arameans* came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Strike this people, please, with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. 19Elisha 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.

20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, ‘O Lord, open the eyes of these men so that they may see.’ The Lord opened their eyes, and they saw that they were inside Samaria. 21When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, ‘Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?’ 22He answered, ‘No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.’ 23So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.

Ben-hadad’s Siege of Samaria

24 Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. 25As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. 26Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, ‘Help, my lord king!’ 27He said, ‘No! Let the Lord help you. How can I help you? From the threshing-floor or from the wine press?’ 28But then the king asked her, ‘What is your complaint?’ She answered, ‘This woman said to me, “Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.” 29So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, “Give up your son and we will eat him.” But she has hidden her son.’ 30When the king heard the words of the woman he tore his clothes—now since he was walking on the city wall, the people could see that he had sackcloth on his body underneath— 31and he said, ‘So may God do to me, and more, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat stays on his shoulders today.’ 32So he dispatched a man from his presence.

Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders, ‘Are you aware that this murderer has sent someone to take off my head? When the messenger comes, see that you shut the door and hold it closed against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?’ 33While he was still speaking with them, the king* came down to him and said, ‘This trouble is from the Lord! Why should I hope in the Lord any longer?’ 71But Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a measure of choice meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’ 2Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, ‘Even if the Lord were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?’ But he said, ‘You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from it.’

The Arameans Flee

3 Now there were four leprous* men outside the city gate, who said to one another, ‘Why should we sit here until we die? 4If we say, “Let us enter the city”, the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; but if we sit here, we shall also die. Therefore, let us desert to the Aramean camp; if they spare our lives, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.’ 5So they arose at twilight to go to the Aramean camp; but when they came to the edge of the Aramean camp, there was no one there at all. 6For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to fight against us.’ 7So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives. 8When these leprous* men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them. Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.

9 Then they said to one another, ‘What we are doing is wrong. This is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the king’s household.’ 10So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, ‘We went to the Aramean camp, but there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied, the donkeys tied, and the tents as they were.’ 11Then the gatekeepers called out and proclaimed it to the king’s household. 12The king got up in the night, and said to his servants, ‘I will tell you what the Arameans have prepared against us. They know that we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, “When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.” 13One of his servants said, ‘Let some men take five of the remaining horses, since those left here will suffer the fate of the whole multitude of Israel that have perished already;* let us send and find out.’ 14So they took two mounted men, and the king sent them after the Aramean army, saying, ‘Go and find out.’ 15So they went after them as far as the Jordan; the whole way was littered with garments and equipment that the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned, and told the king.

16 Then the people went out, and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a measure of choice meal was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. 17Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; the people trampled him to death in the gate, just as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. 18For when the man of God had said to the king, ‘Two measures of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a measure of choice meal for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria’, 19the captain had answered the man of God, ‘Even if the Lord were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?’ And he had answered, ‘You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from it.’ 20It did indeed happen to him; the people trampled him to death in the gate.

The Shunammite Woman’s Land Restored

8Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Get up and go with your household, and settle wherever you can; for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come on the land for seven years.’ 2So the woman got up and did according to the word of the man of God; she went with her household and settled in the land of the Philistines for seven years. 3At the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she set out to appeal to the king for her house and her land. 4Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, ‘Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.’ 5While he was telling the king how Elisha had restored a dead person to life, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. Gehazi said, ‘My lord king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ 6When the king questioned the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, together with all the revenue of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.’

Death of Ben-hadad

7 Elisha went to Damascus while King Ben-hadad of Aram was ill. When it was told him, ‘The man of God has come here’, 8the king said to Hazael, ‘Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God. Inquire of the Lord through him, whether I shall recover from this illness.’ 9So Hazael went to meet him, taking a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camel loads. When he entered and stood before him, he said, ‘Your son King Ben-hadad of Aram has sent me to you, saying, “Shall I recover from this illness?” 10Elisha said to him, ‘Go, say to him, “You shall certainly recover”; but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.’ 11He fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was ashamed. Then the man of God wept. 12Hazael asked, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ He answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set their fortresses on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their pregnant women.’ 13Hazael said, ‘What is your servant, who is a mere dog, that he should do this great thing?’ Elisha answered, ‘The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Aram.’ 14Then he left Elisha, and went to his master Ben-hadad,* who said to him, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ And he answered, ‘He told me that you would certainly recover.’ 15But the next day he took the bed-cover and dipped it in water and spread it over the king’s face, until he died. And Hazael succeeded him.

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10 February 2011

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