2 Kings 6-8 You shall see it with your own eyes, but not eat of it

From 2 Kings 6-8

11 crown cross

Today’s story is one instance where good news describes events that have happy import for the people listening. In this case it was the LORD’s gracious provision of food.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The king of Syria seems to forget Naaman and gets frustrated with the secret knowledge Elisha is giving the king of Israel about the movements of his army. At one point the king of Syria sends his army to take the city Elisha is staying at in order to kill him. Elisha is not afraid in the slightest because the army of the LORD surrounds him. An angel strikes the Syrian army down with blindness and in a surprisingly merciful action the Israelites feed them. These Syrians do not come again into Israel.
A later king of Syria, Ben-hadad will invade Israel and will contribute to a massive famine that covers the land. People begin to starve. It gets so bad people have resorted to cannibalism and are eating their own children. The king of Israel is exposed to one horrible incident and decides to kill Elisha. Somehow blaming him for the siege and the famine which is probably a curse from the LORD for Israel’s disobedience.

32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Now the king had dispatched a man from his presence, but before the messenger arrived Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?” (2 Ki 6:32–33)

The servant reveals that he and the people have been waiting a long time for the famine to end. They have been waiting of the LORD to lift it. Now it appears to him the kings actions are driven by the LORD. Elisha has likewise waiting for the LORD to lift the famine, but he hasnt given up on his trust in the LORD.

7 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” (2 Ki 7:1-2)

Elisha prophesies that two things will happen. One, tomorrow food will be plentiful and selling cheap. Which seems strange. How could this happen? And two, the captain will see it but not have any of it.

3 Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 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.” (2 Ki 7:3-4)

These lepers reason they are about to die anyway. The Syrian army must have lot of food so they reason their current options are;
1) Die of starvation inside the city, or go outside. If they go outside two things may happen, either
2) They will be killed by the Syrians, or
3) The Syrians will feed them and they will live.
Crazy options. But these are desperate times.

5 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. 6 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 against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. (2 Ki 7:5-8)

Amazing. The Syrian camp has been abandoned in haste! The LORD has diverted them away from the city. The lepers strike a gold mine and eat their fill and take enough gold to provide for them a long time.

9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household. (2 Ki 7:9-11)

The lepers cannot contain the good events for themselves. They realise people are suffering and they must do something about it with their new found bounty. Otherwise something bad will happen to them. So they share the good news with the king and his household.

12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of 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.’ ” 13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” 14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” 15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king. (2 Ki 7:12-15)

The king initially does not believe the good news. But a servant convinces him to send out some men. If it is a trap they will be killed but the rest spared. They ‘go and see’ for themselves and  return with the good news.

16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD. 17 Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. 18 For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” 19 the captain had answered the man of God, “If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died. (2 Ki 7:16–20)

As Elisha predicted from the LORD. The food became plentiful and was sold cheaply. The captain say it, but did not eat of it because he died.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

This story is another instance where good news describes events that have happy import for the people listening. In this case it was the LORD’s gracious provision of food.  Sometimes ‘good news’ describes the outcome of a battle (1 Sam 31.9; 2 Sam 4.10; 18.27,31). In Isaiah ‘good news’ is the future prediction of the coming of the LORD to restore Israel and her fortunes.

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. 9 Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Is 52:7–10)

Story of Jesus

After Jesus died and rose again the apostles shared the good news that the king had come. They proclaimed the king Jesus Gospel. Like the lepers the apostles felt motivated to share this good news with everyone around them.

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:8–20)

There are a few different kinds of people in the story of the famine and the good news. The lepers, the hungry people and the captain. Which do you want to be?

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.