Summary: We are never really aware of the secret burdens that some people carry.

2 Kings 6:24-30 KJV And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria. [25] And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver. [26] And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. [27] And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? [28] And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. [29] So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son. [30] And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.


-This is one of the most horrific tales that is told in Scripture. Samaria was under siege and her citizens were literally doing everything imaginable to stave off the attacks of their enemies.

-Samaria was the capital city of the northern ten tribes commonly referred to as Israel. Jerusalem was the capital city of the southern portion which was composed of two tribes, Benjamin and Judah.

-Samaria, established by Omri, had in her past experienced some great moments.

• It was the place that the great prophet Elijah had confronted the wicked Ahab and the savage Jezebel.

• It was the place that God had blinded the Syrian soldiers when they tried to capture Elisha.

• It was the place that Namaan had gotten violently angry because Elisha refused to come out and meet him to help him get a cure for his leprosy.

-In the end, this is the place that four lepers would find the Syrian armies had fled from their camps and there was enough to sustain the city. But that is what happened in the end.

A. The Siege of Samaria

-For now, we see that Samaria has shut the gates and locked itself in. The famine in the city was of such magnitude that hunger had worked its terrible spell on them.

• The head of an unclean and forbidden beast, a donkey, sold for eighty pieces of silver.

• The dried remains of dove dung was sold for five pieces of silver to make a stew of sorts.

-Every day, King Jehoram, in his efforts to encourage the people the best way he could would walk on the walls and call out to his people to keep heart amidst their struggles.

-One day as he was walking along, he was stopped by a woman who begin to plead her cause to him. She had made a bargain with her neighbor that they would boil and eat her son and then after they had consumed him, they would then do the same thing with her son.

-But as the day drew near for the neighbor to bring her son to the cooking pot, her hunger had been appeased enough that she refused to do so, now the child has been hidden.

-Listen to the cry of Isaiah,

Isaiah 49:15 AMP . . . Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?

-A mother can never forget her own child no matter what the circumstances.

-This story would almost be too far-fetched to believe but the fact remains that it happened in Jerusalem when it was under siege. Jeremiah the prophet had prophesied it would take place there and it did.

Lamentations 4:10 KJV The hands of the pitiful women have sodden (boiled—ESV) their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.

-We are shocked at this sort of thing taking place but I have to bring this up that the not too distance past has also noted its own share of cannibalistic behavior.

B. Starvation

1. The Donner Party

The Donner Party (sometimes called the Donner–Reed Party) was a group of American pioneers who set out for California in a wagon train. Delayed by a series of mishaps, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness.

The journey west usually took between four and six months, but the Donner Party was slowed by following a new route called the Hastings Cutoff, which crossed Utah's Wasatch Mountains and Great Salt Lake Desert. The rugged terrain and difficulties later encountered while traveling along the Humboldt River, in present-day Nevada, resulted in the loss of many cattle and wagons and contributed to divisions within the group.

By the beginning of November 1846 the group had reached the Sierra Nevada where they became trapped by an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. Their food supplies ran low, and in mid-December some of the group set out on foot to obtain help.

Rescuers from Sacramento, California, attempted to reach the emigrants, but the first relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train became trapped. Forty-eight of the 87 members of the party survived to reach Sacramento.

Historians have described the episode as one of the most spectacular tragedies in Californian history and in the record of western migration.

2. Andersonville Prison

One of the survivors from Andersonville, the Confederate prison in Georgia, related how that hunger stripped all the starving soldiers the principles of honor, chivalry, and humanity from them. He related that two men who had been close friends during the way lay side by side growing weaker as the days went by. Each was waiting for the other to die so that he could take his handful of beans and bread. Finally one day in his impatience, he choked his friend to death—only to die himself just a few minutes later.

-That is the terrible outcome of the siege of hunger.

-After the king heard the story of this woman, he rent his clothes. This is what people did during those days to express their deep-seated emotions of grief and pain. When the king ripped his garments, all of the people who were standing about him were shocked to see that there was sackcloth within.

-Until that moment in time, they had only noticed his royal robes whose primary color was purple and fine linen. Underneath the fine clothes there was the horrible presence of those coarse brown rags made of sackcloth.


-Sackcloth under fine garments reminds me of the invisible burdens that a lot of people have to contend with on a regular basis.

• Cares of life

• Anxious moments of pressure

• Furrowed brows of worry

• Heavy loads of distress

• Unknown sources of sorrow

• Difficult demands of responsibility

• Guilt over some distant mistake

• A past sorrow that cannot be shaken

• The heavy weight of a wasted opportunity

-All of these matters are covered over by purple robes of royalty except that sometimes they don’t look like royalty. Instead our robes are something far different. It is much like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve attempted to cover themselves with in the Garden in Genesis 3.

-Instead of royal robes and fig leaves, many seek other coverings for their sackcloth:

• Robes of “I’m Tough!”

• Robes of “I’m Holy!”

• Robes of “I’m Smart!”

• Robes of “I’ve Got My Act Together!”

• Robes of “I Can Handle It!”

-But if I could pull away the veneer for a little while, I have a feeling that I would find some sackcloth. That is why the person who is across the aisle from you needs your prayers, the family you live with needs your encouragement, and the fact remains that the appearance of kings can sometimes fool us about their sackcloth.

-Yet to those who are looking on the outside never see that everyone has their own share of sackcloth they have to wear. If we were to be able to grasp this great truth, it would remove a lot of our envy of others and discontent with the station of life that we are in.

-Life passes out to every person a few yards of sackcloth that they are forced to wear. Who would have even considered that the king had on sackcloth? That is the way it is with life.

• The man who stands firm for truth. . . has his sackcloth.

• The woman who knows how to pray. . . has her sackcloth.

• The person who appears to have it all under control. . . has their sackcloth.

Anonymous—We do not see visible burdens in our day that people carry, no outward pack on their shoulders, but they stoop inwardly beneath the heavy load upon the heart. The worst burdens are those which never meet the eye.

-The tenth commandment is probably the one that his broken by all men and often we don’t even consider the penalties for having broken that commandment!

-The Tenth Commandment. . . Thou shalt not covet. . . Covetousness leads one to envy!

Clarence Macartney—Envy, like the sun, beats with its scorching rays on everything that is high and great and different. Envy, like Haman, hangs itself on the gallows it builds for others.

-What most do not realize is the ones we may envy the most have their share of sackcloth to wear. There is something to what Paul wrote to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain!” (1 Tim. 6:6).

Proverbs 30:8 KJV . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. . .


-If we all could remember that sackcloth often hides beneath the finest clothes, the loftiest of positions, the most educated minds, and the wealthiest of the world, it could affect all for the better.

-There are secret and hidden burdens in the lives of all men that should deliver us from envy and instead hand us off to compassion and care. An understanding of that could help all of us.

• It takes the edge off of the tongue.

• It takes away the bitter criticism.

• It can cure the anger and malice in the soul.

• It can relieve us of the rash and bitter judgment.

-Has it every crossed your mind that the man or woman you see dressed in purple could be on their knees in a desperate place of struggling prayer.

-The longer that we live, if we are honest with ourselves and the circumstances of others, we will find that there are always a few more details about the situation that you may not be aware of. If you can remember that, it will help you in life!

Max Lucado, in his book Traveling Light, tells of going to the most famous art museum in the world in Paris, France. It is loaded with paintings by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and other famous painters of a bygone era. He confesses that he went to sleep on one of the benches in the museum. Everyone else around him was enthralled by all of the paintings, but he was asleep.

He wrote the reason that he was asleep was from jet lag and then having to drag huge amounts of luggage in and out of airports, taxis, and hotels. He said he was worn out from all of the work that was involved in taking a vacation. His weariness made him miss a great moment of life.

-Sackcloth can do the very same thing to you. It can wear you out!

• Sackcloth of Self-Reliance

• Sackcloth of Discontent

• Sackcloth of Weariness

• Sackcloth of Worry

• Sackcloth of Regret

• Sackcloth of Hopelessness

• Sackcloth of Guilt

• Sackcloth of Sickness

• Sackcloth of Fear

• Sackcloth of Loneliness

• Sackcloth of Shame

• Sackcloth of Disappointment

• Sackcloth of Doubt

-The day that Jesus went to the well and found the woman of Samaria there, he gazed at someone who was wearing sackcloth beneath the trappings of normal life. Although she had to go to the well in the middle of the day, she still carried on her life with all the dignity she could muster.

-It was in that moment that Jesus spoke quietly and gently to her that her sackcloth was exposed. Her life was in shambles but the Lord did not condemn or destroy her, he simply reached out and offered her a better way.

-The Lord is still working in that way now!

Philip Harrelson

October 7, 2011