Summary: Who would still dare to say that the Bible is a boring book? What a tremendously gripping story, full of suspense and drama. The message of this afternoon sends us home with a question. Do I care for the people around me, do I take responsability to share
‘This is a day of good news’ (2 Kings 6:24-7:20)
Who would still dare to say that the Bible is a boring book? We have just read a tremendously gripping story, full of suspense and drama. The different people in the story all have their own way oof reacting to a situation of serious crisis in their lives.
What is actually the matter of crisis in this story? The story talks about the siege that the army of the Aramitic king Ben-Hadad had laid to Samaria. The citizens are being threatened with death by a famine. Bible scholars suppose that the precarious situation was caused by two circumstances. First of all there was, of course the lengthy siege. But secondly there is some archeological evidence indicating a time of great drought in this period. As a resut of the drought, the harvest had already, for some years, been very small, and people had not been able to stock up on food. Because of this combination of factors the need had increased dramatically.
The text gives us a picture of the situation, as some prices of foodstuffs and fuels are mentioned. At the black market, only a few products are available, and they are available at exorbitant prices. A donkey’s head cost about one kilogram of silver, and half a liter of seed pods (used for the cooking-fire), was half a kilogram of silver. It is even more surprising when you recall that a donkey’s head was unclean, and could not be eaten in Israel.
Next to this account, we read about a horrible incident of cannibalism. Two women decide to eat their own sons. The first day, one of the sons, the second day the other. After the first son is killed, the mother of the second son hides him. The other mother gets terribly upset and asks help from the king. But when the king hears about this atrocity, he tears his robes in total despair. He wants to take revenge on Elisha, the prophet of God. Something like this just can not happen! The king feels something needs to be done. He decides to chop off the head of Elisha.
It seems that the king is furious at Elisha, because the prophet told him not to surrender to the Arameans. Elisha wanted to wait for God. Elisha wanted to wait until God would liberate the city. Now that the liberation seems like it won’t come, the king looses all his patience, and wants to punish Elisha. The king even becomes so desperate, that he starts blaming God, and looses his faith in Him. “This disaster is from the Lord. What hope can I still have from the Lord?”
The siege and the hunger of Samaria can be viewed as a metaphor, an image of our world. The devil has laid siege to people’s lives. He has surrounded us by powers of darkness. One could even say that we are all in hunger, which makes us eat other people, figuratively. Naturally we don’t eat our children. But we feed our selfish desires by abusing other people. We cheat, we lie, participate in corruption, egoism. We eat each other in a metaphorical sense. At work, at school, in our families. And even in our church.
The king is desperate. The only remaining thing to do is to surrender the city to Ben-Hadad, the King of Aram. If God doesn’t give salvation, all hope is gone. “What hope can I still have from the Lord?” The king of Israel prefers to put his hope in the enemy. Perhaps Ben-Hadad still has some compassion in him; hhe leaves the city and doens’t kill its people.
Now, in the darkest hour of ultimate despair, Elisha may announce the liberation by their God. Tomorrow everything will be over. Elisha chooses rather unusual words for his message of salvation:
“About this time tomorrow, a seah of flower will sell for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria” (7:1).
In other words, Elisha proclaims: the economy of the city will be restored again tomorrow. There will be no more exorbitant prices at the black market. Tomorrow will be business as usual because the Lord will bring salvation!
There are only two possible responses to such a proclamation: either you believe, or you don’t believe. It was apparently beyond the belief of the king’s officer. He didn’t believe it at all, and expresses this doubt, “look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen." It’s hard to miss the biting mockery and ridicule in his words. "Whoever would like to believe this, shouldiis living in a fantasy world!" The king’s officer was at that moment, the only person who made his feelings public. It shows that he strongly denies God’s almighty power, and His ability to do such a thing. In other words he says, "our God is too weak for such a great miracle.’ But it’s not hard to imagine that many others present had strong doubts in their hearts as well.