Thursday, May 2, 2013

CXLVI - II Kings 6:8-7:20 - Elisha is a Busy Prophet

In the last post we studied eight miracles that the prophet Elisha made happen.  Elisha isn't finished with his ministry to Israel as we will see in this post.  A timeline at this point is difficult to establish.  Although the Scripture is not specific as to the dates these events occurred, I think we can assume they were written in basic chronological order, although there seem to be some overlaps.  But trying to figure timelines can be a frustrating exercize in futility.

The Arameans have been mentioned a number of times thus far and will continue to be.  These Arameans are Syrians whose capital is Damascus.  Although there were some intermittent peaceful periods of time between the two nations, the Syrians were the aggressors against Israel during most of Elisha's ministry.  {One of the times when there was peace between these nations is when Naaman, Syria's Commander of the Army, went to Elisha to ask him to heal him of leprosy, which he did.}  The Scripture mentions them repeatedly and indicates that there were "marauding bands" of Syrians constantly reaking havok on Israel's villages and camps.

II Kings 6:8-19  -  Elisha Defeats Syrians

Ben-hadad was the king of Syria at this time.  {KJV refers to them as Syrians; NIV uses Arameans.}  As mentioned above, there was not what we would call an "all-out war".  But rather, the Syrians were sending bands of marauders to raid various towns and communities throughout Israel.  King Ben-hadad would personally direct this raiding parties.  But Elisha intervenes as God lets Elisha know the whereabouts of the marauders before they even arrived.  Elisha would send messages to the king of Israel and the king would side-step the Syrians every time.  {Jehoram (Joram) was the king of Israel at this time.  Although Jehoram and Elisha did not get along at all well, they seem to be on peaceful terms during the time period of this series of events.}  It didn't take Ben-hadad long before he realized someone was leaking information to his enemy Israel.  And he was enraged.  So (vs 11) he summoned all of his officers and councilors together to accuse and demand that the perpetrater confess.  But one of his officers steps forward and tells the king that Elisha is the one, because he even knows what is said in the privacy of the king's bed chambers.  So the king sends a sizable army to Dothan (where Elisha was at this time) to bring Elisha back to him in chains.  When all those soldiers arrived outside the city of Dothan, it was nightfall, so they waited till morning to attack the city and capture Elisha.

In verse 15 we see that the next morning, one of Elisha's servants was frightened by the huge army camped outside the city (I seriously doubt this servant is Gehazi.  Elisha punished Gehazi for stealing and lying by casting leprosy upon him.)  {I do not usually recommend memory verses, but verse 16 would be a good one.}  In verse 16 Elisha responds to his servant, "Don't be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  It's similar to that which you have heard me say, "If God is with me, who can stand against me?"  That is ALWAYS true.  Then Elisha opened the servant's eyes to allow him to see the mountain full of multitudes of horses and chariots of fire.  WOW!  How breathtaking that sight must have been.  {We must continue to remind ourselves that the very same army of angels with horses and chariots of fire are always out there.  There is not an army or any force that can stand against these angels.  None.  As we'll see when we get to the Book of Revelation, angels do not look like the pretty little girls with wings as they are often portrayed.  These are frightening looking angels of war, and they are on OUR side.  I cannot say enough about this, but I must move on.}  Here comes another miracle.  When the Syrian army marched toward Elisha, he asked God to strike them with blindness, which He did.  {The Hebrew word for "blindness" in this verse occurs also in Genesis 19:11 (citizens of Sodom who wanted to force their way into Lot's house).  It was a blinding that did not involve the actual loss of sight, but rather it was a state in which a person was unable to recognize what he was looking at, sending him into a helpless state of confusion.}  When the soldiers were in this blind state of confusion, Elisha (vs 19) became their leader and guide.  Although the Syrian soldiers thought they were going to Dothan or perhaps Damascus, Elisha was leading them to Samaria, Israel's capital and strong-hold.  Upon arrival in Samaria (vs 20) the Lord opened the eyes of the Syrian soldiers.  Of course they were frightened because they were in the middle of their enemy's strong-hold and there was no escape.  Israel's king Jehoram asked Elisha if he should kill them.  I like Elisha's response.  In verses 22-23 he instructs the king to treat them like guests.  They were fed and released to return home.  After that, the Syrians stopped raiding Israel's territory.  (at least for a while)

II Kings 6: 24-7:19  -  Famine in Samaria

Peace didn't last long between Israel and Syria.  {An enmity had been allowed to grow and fester between these two nations, much like the enmity that exists today between the Israelis and the Arabs.  It is so difficult for peace to last very long between two factions that hold so much hate in their hearts, especially when hate is handed down from generation to generation.}  In verse 24 Ben-hadad once again marches against Israel's capital city Samaria.  At this time there is a great famine in Samaria.  A good description of just how bad a famine can get is in vss 25-29.  As you can see, people were starving to the point that they resorted to cannibalism.  As told in these verses, two women brought a dispute to king Jehoram.  He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth.  I believe he did this to mourn the terrible state of his own city, and he was powerless to do anything about it.  But, as usual, Jehoram was not as interested in solving the problem as he was in finding someone to blame.  {I guess all of us can be found guilty of this at some time during our lives.}  And he found someone to blame:  Elisha.  Jehoram sent his soldiers to arrest Elisha, but as when was approached, Elisha announced the end of the famine.  Elisha prophesied that "tomorrow" the best flour would be sold cheap enough for anybody in Samaria to purchase.  {At the current time, as told in vs 25, a donkey's head was sold for a small fortune because of the lack of food.}  This prophesy seemed hard for anyone to believe, especially since it was going to happen in twenty four hours.  One of the king's officers voiced doubt about Elisha's prophecy and in verse 2 of chapter 7 Elisha told him that he would see this prophesy come true, but would not get to eat any of the food that would be made available.

In verse 3, the story does not change, but the focus shifts to four lepors talking among themselves outside the gate of the city.  {Remember, Syrian forces were camped right outside the city preparing to lay siege on it.}  The lepors were not even allowed to enter the city gates and came to the conclusion that they were going to die no matter what.  So they decided to surrender themselves to the Syrians.  The worst that could happen would be quick death, which sounded pretty good compared to the continued slow death by starvation.  In vss 5-7 we see that God had made the entire Syrian camp to hear the sounds of multitudes of chariots.  The Syrians thought that Israel had hired Hittites and Egyptians to fight for them.  The Syrian soldiers hurriedly abandoned their camp along with all of its supplies, including food and livestock.  The four lepors entered the camp and found it abandoned so they helped themselves to the abundance.  The lepors eating and drinking and having a big time as they had the whole camp to themselves.  So much food was there that they decided they needed to share this bounty so they went to the city to report this.  Of course king Jehoram never could recognize a blessing and suspected this to be a trap set by the Syrians.  {I think you will find this whole passage to be interesting reading.}  So picture in your mind that this city was starving to the point of cannibalism.  The four lepors went to the city and announced to the guards on the walls that the Syrian camp was abandoned and there was plenty of food there.  Just think how quickly that word would have spread among the starving people throughout the entire city of Samaria.  And it so
happened that the main gatekeeper assigned duty for that night was the very officer that questioned the validity of Elisha's prophesy.  And in vs 2 Elisha told him that he would not get to eat any of the food that signaled the end of the famine.  So as the word spread, the people in mass rushed through the main gate of the city to go to the Syrian camp.  Such a mad rush was it that they trampled the gatekeeper to death when he tried to maintain some order.  The last verse of chapter 7 repeats the prophesy. then says "...and that is exactly what happened to him, ..."

Next post  -  Chapter 8  -  Elisha's Ministry Continues

No comments:

Post a Comment