The Second Book of Kings
Chapter Six

2-Kings. Chapter 6. Elisha Retrieves iron from under water, a Syrian Army is Stricken with Blindness, Famine in Samaria.


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[2-Kings 6:1] And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us.
"The Sons of the Prophets" were in effect Students of   Prophecy. WE see here that the term "son" or "child of" can also mean "student of". "The Sons of the Prophets" had a kind of learning community a precursor to the great Rabbinical Colleges [Yeshivah (s), Yeshivot (pl)] of later times. They were supported by the community. Their aim was to educate and forward students along the path of Knowledge leading to Prophecy.
[2-Kings 6:2] Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.
So he answered, Go.

The Jordan had advantages. It may not have made much of an impression on Naaman the Syrian leper but it was much more impressive than it is now. Relatively speaking it was a place with plenty of water and plenty of greenery. The water was needed for drinking, washing, and bathing and also for the frequent ritual immersions required at that time by advanced students of Biblical Knowledge. The banks of the Jordan were also areas of trees interspersed with shrubbery etc wherein rough shelters could be easily constructed. In the Jordan Valley the climate and fauna may be defined as semi-tropical.

[2-Kings 6:3] Then one said, Please consent to go with your servants.
And he answered, I will go.

The Commentary "Kli Yakar" (Rabbi Shlomoh Efraim of Luntchitz 1550-1619) is quoted as understanding the nuances of these verses as implying:
Elisha dwelt with the Sons of the prophets and was considered their spiritual guide and leader. Where they dwelt had become unsuitable possibly due to an increase in numbers and the too-close proximity of commoners. The students had informed Elisha that they were moving on. Elisha, being somewhat offended at their usurpation of authority, told them to go ahead on their own without him. They then appeased Elisha and persuaded him to come with them.

[2-Kings 6:4] So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.

[2-Kings 6:5] But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, Alas, master! For it was borrowed.
Iron implements in those days were apparently relatively rare and expensive.

[2-Kings 6:6] So the man of God said, Where did it fall? And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float.
cut off. Hebrew "VaYiktsof" from the root "KTsF" implying carved out. The Commentary Meam Loaz explains that the iron head of the ax had shot away from its handle and fallen into the water. Elisha carved out a new wooden handle that would fit into the handle-aperture of the ax-head. He threw the wood in the water and it sank down, entered the ax-head ring, and then floated to the surface.
he made the iron float. This translation is in accordance with the Hebrew but the order of the words implies that it was the carved wood that caused the ax to float.
This was an obvious miracle but like many miracles it may have a partly natural explanation. It could be that the freshly carved wood expanded in the water and expanding wood enclosed with iron could (I surmise) force the iron upwards.
Or maybe not?
The Brit-Am attitude is to favor natural or partly-natural explanations and look for them. We think this enhances our appreciation of Scripture and helps our understanding. There are other schools of thought however who take just the opposite approach and resent attempts at rationalization.
To each his own.
As long as we all keep learning we should be open to whatever approach enables us to learn better.

[2-Kings 6:7] Therefore he said, Pick it up for yourself. So he reached out his hand and took it.

 The heavenly Army of Angels is revealed!

We saw (2-Kings 6:6) how Elisha had caused the iron axe-head to rise up out of the wood. Elisha had cut down a sapling, and according to one understanding carved it into the shape of an axe-handle. He cast the handle into the water, it sank down, wedged itself into the socket of the iron handle and then rose to the surface bringing the axe-head with it. We suggested a partly naturalistic explanation for this. It may be that certain wooden growths just after being cut down will expand shortly afterwards if cast into water. If the expansion is restricted (i.e. by iron surroundings such as would have happened with the handle entering the socket), the wood could float upwards. This explanation is only a suggestion. Even if it is correct it does not lessen the miracle. It does not mean that Elisha necessarily was familiar with the phenomenon.
Everyone of us at some time in their lives has experienced moments of elation and inspiration. We suddenly understand what can and must be done. Our actions are guided by a combination of intuition and almost-subconscious logical deduction. Outstanding artists, poets, scientists, and athletes in their own fields have this quality to a greater degree than others. That is what makes them better than others. It is in a sense distantly related to the Gift of Prophecy only the Prophet is on a much higher level and is guided from above.
Nevertheless in these Biblical accounts of Elijah and Elisha we see the existence of Schools of Prophecy, and Students (i.e. Children of) the Prophets. A person in those days could prepare themselves to receive Prophecy.
According to tradition the Gift of Prophecy in its pure sense has ceased to exist though Divine Presence still reveals itself in other ways. Sometime in the era leading up to the Messianic Age Prophecy will be renewed. 

[2-Kings 6:8]  Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, My camp will be in such and such a place.

[2-Kings 6:9]  And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.
We see here that the prophet on a regular basis would warn the King of Israel concerning the enemy's intentions. We also saw that the prophet evidently would regularly heal incurable diseases so much so that his ability to do so was taken for granted. The captured Israelite little serving girl had spoken to the wife of Naaman the Syrian general as if the healing gifts of Elisha were obvious,  common-place, and unquestionable (2-Kings 5:3).
This remains us of the story of Samuel (1-Samuel ch.9). The Bible tells us of the life and deeds of Samuel. We also learn that Samuel used his gifts of Prophecy to help the people on a regular basis. If a person had lost something of importance, such as donkeys,  they brought a gift to Samuel and Samuel would tell them where the lost objects were. We learn these things from scripture incidentally. The Bible does not seem to consider them important in their own right but only as background to the events they lead up to. 

[2-Kings 6:10]  Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice.

[2-Kings 6:11]  Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?

[2-Kings 6:12]  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 bedroom.

[2-Kings 6:13]  So he said, Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.
And it was told him, saying, Surely he is in Dothan.

Dothan is to the north of Schechem (Nablus) near present-day city of Jenin at present illegally and immorally occupied by Arab squatters. We hope this temporarily and that all the so called "Palestinian Arabs" are shortly transported to someplace like Brazil, as indicated in Prophecy.

[2-Kings 6:14]  Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.

[2-Kings 6:15]  And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, Alas, my master! What shall we do?

[2-Kings 6:16]  So he answered, Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.

[2-Kings 6:17]  And
Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see. Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

[2-Kings 6:18]  So when the Syrians came down to him,
Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, Strike this people, I pray, with blindness. And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
So too, in  the case of Lot nephew of Abraham the angles had stricken the people of Sedom with blindness (Genesis 19:11).
The theme of there being various degrees of seeing and perception is emphasized in this incident. The Prophet sees what others do not and reports it to the King of Israel and thus saves his forces from ambush and defeat. The assistant of the Prophet needs his eyes to be opened to see the army of angels that is protecting them. The soldiers of Aram (Syria) are stricken with blindness in order to be lead away captive. Once their captivity is ensured and they are securely in Israelite hands their eyes are opened. Blindness in this case would not even necessarily mean that they could see at all (though such might have been the case) but rather their faculty of perception regarding what they should do and where they should go was taken from them making them dependent on the Prophet.

[2-Kings 6:19]  Now Elisha said to them, This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek. But he led them to Samaria.
[2-Kings 6:20]  So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that
Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria!

[2-Kings 6:21]  Now when the king of Israel saw them, he said to
Elisha, My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?
[2-Kings 6:22]  But he answered, You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.

[2-Kings 6:23]  Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel.

The Hebrew indicates that special ovens where prepared to prepare food for the soldiers.
[2-Kings 6:24] And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria.

[2-Kings 6:25] And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkeys head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a
kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver.
dove droppings. A discussion exists as to whether dove droppings were for food or for fuel or whether the term actually applies to a certain type of plant.

[2-Kings 6:26] Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, Help, my lord, O king!

[2-Kings 6:27] And he said, If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?

[2-Kings 6:28] Then the king said to her, What is troubling you?
And she answered, This woman said to me, Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.

[2-Kings 6:29]  So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, Give your son, that we may eat him; but she has hidden her son.

Here too, differences of opinion exist. Were the children both dead? Or was the second son still alive but the first woman wanted the mother to kill him so that they might eat?
Cases of cannibalism and even of murder for the sake of cannibalism are well known from times of famine. The German siege of Leningrad in World War-2 caused many of the inhabitants to eat each other. So too, the Stalin induced famine in the Ukraine before WW2 had similar results.
Wikipedia. Cannibalism.

# in February 1943, roughly 100,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner of war (POW). Almost all of them were sent to POW camps in Siberia or Central Asia where, due to being chronically underfed by their Soviet captors, many resorted to cannibalism.#
# An Indian POW, Lance
Naik Hatam Ali (later a citizen of Pakistan), testified that in New Guinea: "the Japanese started selecting prisoners and every day one prisoner was taken out and killed and eaten by the soldiers. I personally saw this happen and about 100 prisoners were eaten at this place by the Japanese. The remainder of us were taken to another spot 50 miles [80 km] away where 10 prisoners died of sickness. At this place, the Japanese again started selecting prisoners to eat. Those selected were taken to a hut where their flesh was cut from their bodies while they were alive and they were thrown into a ditch where they later died."[87] #

[2-Kings 6:30] Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body.
The word for "Sackcloth" in Hebrew is "sak" the same as in English!
Sackcloth was worn as a means of self-affliction to arouse the mercy of heaven. So too, we found that King Ahab when he repented put sackcloth on his body,
# So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. # [1-Kings 21:27].

[2-Kings 6:31] Then he said, God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today!
Why Elisha was chosen as responsible for the famine is not certain. Perhaps he had prophesied it or warned about it beforehand and therefore somehow considered responsible?
Alternately this attitude presents a common phenomenon. Elisha was a Prophet of God. He was a representative of the Almighty. It happens that after suffering a great calamity or being unduly distraught that people blame God for their troubles even when the problem is obviously the result of human misdeed. Rabbis, ministers, or just the known devout may be verbally or even physically attacked after something terrible has happened. 

[2-Kings 6:32] But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Is not the sound of his masters feet behind him?
# son of a murderer #. Opinions are divided as to who is being spoken of. Radak says the "murderer: referred to is "Ahab". Ahab was followed by his sons Ahaziah and Jehoram. Ahaziah ruled for about a year after which Jehoram became king and ruled for ca. 12 years.
the elders. Hebrew "zekanim" meaning "old men" but often in Scripture applied to the assembly of advisors and judges not necessarily just elderly ones.
Elisha was sitting with the learned wise men of the city. He knew that the King had sent men to kill him. He also knew that the king had straight away changed his mind and was personally following hard after his own emissaries to prevent them from the deed.

[2-Kings 6:33] And while he was still talking with them, there was the messenger, coming down to him; and then the king said, Surely this calamity is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?
In other words, Much of the worst damage has already taken place, What hope remains?
After the Death of Solomon:
The Divided Kingdom

The Divided Kingdom
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2-Kings ch.5
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