NEVER DISPUTE THE LORD’S PROMISE OF SALVATION – NO MATTER HOW DESPERATE THE SITUATION – HE WILL ALWAYS COME THROUGH —
4 SALVATION LESSONS FROM THE SIEGE OF SAMARIA
The account of the Siege of Samaria continues the series of salvation lessons from the ministry of Elisha. The promise of God to deliver His people in His timing and according to His methodology and for His purposes might frustrate the patience of the king and his court, but the certainty of fulfilment should never be disputed or mocked or challenged. God always comes through on His Word and Elisha is a faithful communicator of that Word. The privilege of first discovering the fruits of salvation fall to four desperate lepers, not to some prominent or wealthy or powerful individuals – another example of God exhibiting His power through our weakness. The judgment upon the official who scorned God’s promise would be comical if it were not so tragic and a foretaste of the eternal judgment upon all who reject God’s truth.
Constable: Chapter 7 is one of many sections in Scripture composed in a chiastic literary structure that stresses a particular point in the story. We could outline this story as follows.
[Elements from Dale Ralph Davis were wrapped into this chiastic structure]
A The royal officer’s unbelief vv. 1-2a
B Elisha’s prediction of relief v. 2b
C The lepers’ decision vv. 3-5
– Lepers outside the gate, v. 3a
o Decision, vv. 3b-4
Action, v. 5
D Yahweh’s salvation v. 6-7
C’ The leper’s deliverance vv. 8-10
Action, v. 8
o Decision, v. 9
– Lepers back to the gate, vv. 10-11
B’ The fulfillment of Elisha’s prediction vv. 11-15
A’ The royal officer’s judgment vv. 16-20
This structure emphasizes the central element, Yahweh’s salvation, and teaches other lessons in concentric circles of significance. These points include the role of the lepers in bringing news of deliverance to the doomed Samaritans. They were evangelists in the truest sense: heralds of good news. The value of God’s revelation is another lesson, as is the folly of rejecting that revelation.
I. (6:24-33) PREPARATION FOR SALVATION MUST NOT BE RESISTED
A. (:24-25) Desperation is the Preparation for Salvation
1. (:24) Samaria was Under Siege by Powerful Forces
“Now it came about after this, that Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and went up and besieged Samaria.”
R. D. Patterson: Yet at a later date war broke out again between Ben-Hadad II and Jehoram. Perhaps the miraculously arranged temporary lull had been divinely designed to teach Israel God’s abiding love and concern for his people, to whom he had sent his duly authenticated prophet, Elisha. But with no evidence of repentance by Israel, God withdrew his protective hand; and Israel faced a full-scale Syrian invasion. The Arameans were eminently successful, penetrating to the very gates of Samaria itself, and putting the city under a dire siege.
2. (:25) Samaria was Devastated by a Great Famine
“And there was a great famine in Samaria; and behold, they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.”
Whitcomb: As the siege continued, the plight of the surrounded Israelites became desperate. Even an ass’s head (not ordinarily a choice item) brought 80 shekels of silver; and four pints of dove’s dung was worth five shekels of silver (for fuel). Just as God had warned through Moses long before, willful national rebellion against His Word would reduce His proud and privileged people to savage cannibalism (Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28: 53; cf. Lam. 4:10), as He gave them up to the outworking of their own carnal desires.
Mordechai Cogan: The effectiveness of the Aramaean siege is described in terms of the extremes to which the population of Samaria was brought: buying repulsive items, which were normally discarded, at exorbitant prices.
B. (:26-31) Desperate Life Stories Should Stir Repentance Not Blame Shifting
1. (:26-27) There is No Deliverance Apart from God
“And as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, ‘Help, my lord, O king!’ 27 And he said, ‘If the LORD does not help you, from where shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the wine press?’”
2. (:28-29) The Depths of Depravity are Heartbreaking
“And the king said to her, ‘What is the matter with 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. 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.’”
MacArthur: The curses of the Mosaic Covenant, especially for the sin of apostasy, predicted this sort of pagan cannibalism (Lv 26:29; Dt 28:52-57). The way in which the woman presented her case without feeling added to the horror of it.
August Konkel: The pathos of the story surfaces in the appeal of the woman who cries out to the king for help (6:26–31). Her complaint is not that she had been reduced to eating the corpse of her own child for food, but the injustice she feels when her neighbor refuses to honor the agreement they have to equally share their grisly fare. Her complaint to the king is legal; it is an appeal for justice in the deception of her neighbor. The revulsion of the story is her apparent lack of feeling for the death of her own child and that of her neighbor; the normal compassion of motherhood is subordinated to the desperation to survive.
3, (:30) Sorrow for the Situation Does No Good Apart from Repentance
“And it came about when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes– now he was passing by on the wall– and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body.”
Wiersbe: What good is sackcloth if there’s no humility and repentance in the heart?
4. (:31) Angry Blame Shifting Only Brings Greater Condemnation
“Then he said, ‘May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today.’”
John Schultz: Although we do not read this specifically, we may assume that the siege of Samaria by the Aramean army was aimed specially for the purpose of capturing the prophet Elisha. This seems clear from the fact that the king of Israel blamed Elisha for the famine caused by the siege, saying: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!” . . .
Up to this point the king had not considered arresting Elisha and handing him over to the king of Aram, which would have ended the siege. But being made aware of the incident of cannibalism in the city, he decides that that would be the only solution
C. (:32-33) Don’t Give Up on Salvation Coming from the Lord
1. (:32) The Word of the Messenger of God Cannot be Eliminated –
Elisha Has Calm Confidence Despite the King’s Malicious Intentions
“Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man from his presence; but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, ‘Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door shut against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?’”
Constable: Jehoram planned to murder Elisha as his father Ahab had murdered Naboth (v. 32; cf. 1 Kings 21:1-16). He also grew impatient with the Lord, as Saul had grown impatient with Samuel (v. 33; cf. 1 Sam. 15:11). We see the king’s real wickedness in his behavior.
William Barnes: Thus, this son of Ahab and Jezebel (assuming Joram is the king in question) was not one simply to emulate the coldly cruel actions of his mother (cf. especially her active part in the execution of Naboth in 1 Kgs 21). Rather, this king was genuinely heartbroken over the fate of his people. But he was a villain nonetheless, for he did seek the severed head of the prophet rather than the prophetic word from the prophet’s mouth, the only word which could save the city.
2. (:33) The Word of the Messenger of the Wicked King Cannot be Accepted –
The King Despairs of God’s Deliverance
“And while he was still talking with them, behold, the messenger came down to him, and he said, ‘Behold, this evil is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?’”
Varying interpretations as to whether this comment comes from the king’s messenger or directly from the king himself who has just arrived.
MacArthur: Jehoram rightly viewed the Lord as the instigator of the siege and famine in Samaria and declared that he saw no hope that the Lord would reverse the situation.
The Pulpit Commentary: The narrative is very compressed and elliptical. Some suppose words to have fallen out … but this is unnecessary. The reader is expected to supply missing links, and to understand that all happened as Elisha had predicted and enjoined — that the messenger came, that the elders stopped him, and that the king shortly arrived. The king was, of course, admitted, and, being admitted, took the word, and said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what — rather, why — should I wait for the Lord any longer? Jehoram had, apparently, to some extent repented of his hasty message, and had hurried after his messenger, to give Elisha one further chance of life. We must understand that they had been in communication previously on the subject of the siege, and that Elisha had encouraged the king to ‘wait for’ an interposition of Jehovah. The king now urges that the time for waiting is over; matters are at the last gasp; “this evil” this terrible suffering which can no longer be endured — ‘is of the Lord,’ has come from him, is continued by him, and is not relieved. What use is there in his “waiting” any longer? Why should he not break with Jehovah, behead the lying prophet, and surrender the town? What has Elisha to say in reply?”
Iain Provan: The niv gives the impression that the king is present during this interchange. This interpretation may be influenced by 7:17–18, which says that the king “came down” to Elisha and that he spoke the prophecy “to the king.” There is no king in the Hb. text of v. 33, however. The words are certainly his but they are spoken by the messenger he has sent. We are no doubt to understand that the king arrives shortly after his hit man (cf. “footsteps behind him” in v. 32), at which point the prophecy that Elisha has directed to him is reported to him by the messenger, and the conversation in 7:2 ensues.
II. (7:1-9) PROMISE OF SALVATION MUST BE APPROPRIATED
A. (:1-2) Disputing God’s Promise of Salvation Brings Condemnation
1. (:1) Good News Proclaimed
“Then Elisha said, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD; thus says the LORD, Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.’”
John Schultz: Most Bible scholars agree that the division of chapters in this book is unfortunate and illogical. Chapter seven simply continues the story of the previous chapter.
The people of Israel would not have to wait long for the promised salvation from the Lord. Tomorrow was designated as the day of salvation.
Donald Wiseman: Elisha had made a prophetic utterance (had said) that was fulfilled in the successful outcome of the siege (v. 1, cf. 10:18–20) which would lead to the price of basic commodities falling well below the normal price. Such a prophecy was the more effective since no crops could grow in time to restore supplies. The gate was the market-place as well as the local court of justice.
2. (:2a) Good News Disputed
“And the royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, ‘Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’”
Wiersbe: To the humble heart that’s open to God, the Word generates faith but to the proud, self-centered heart, the Word makes the heart even harder. The same sun that melts the ice will harden the clay.
R. D. Patterson: The aide’s words are filled with ridicule and heaped with sarcasm, as if to say, “Oh sure, Yahweh is even now making windows in heaven! So what? Could this word of yours still come to pass?” . . . he was skeptical of the whole thing.
David Guzik: All in all, the officer well illustrates the conduct of unbelief:
• Unbelief dares to question the truthfulness of God’s promise itself.
• Unbelief says, “This is a new thing and cannot be true.”
• Unbelief says, “This is a sudden thing and cannot be true.”
• Unbelief says, “There is no way to accomplish this thing.”
• Unbelief says, “There is only one way God can work.”
• Unbelief says, “Even if God does something, it won’t be enough.”
3. (:2b) Bad News Delivered
“Then he said, ‘Behold you shall see it with your own eyes,
but you shall not eat of it.’”
B. (:3-4) Designated Recipients of God’s Gift of Salvation are Humble and Downtrodden
“Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, ‘Why do we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, We will enter the city, then the famine is in the city and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.’”
Whitcomb: Four humble and desperate men, ostracized from the community because of their leprosy, were honored by God with the great discovery (cf. Ps. 113:7, 8); and fearing divine punishment if they failed to share the good news with their starving countrymen, they hurried back to Samaria to inform the porter at the city gate. . . The responsibility we bear is far greater than that of the four lepers of Samaria.
Spurgeon: If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised.
Dale Ralph Davis: The discovery of God’s work is placed in the hands of the unclean and the unnamed. Surely we feel this text grabbing us by the lapels and pulling us down to kneel and praise. Here Yahweh uses neither the healthy nor the prominent. Doesn’t God deserve high praise for the lowly servants he uses?
C. (:5-7) Description of the Outworking of God’s Plan of Salvation = the Fleeing of the Aramean Troops
“And they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even 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 the Egyptians, to come upon us.’ 7 Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life.”
David Guzik: Everything was left behind, leaving the unlikely lepers to spoil the camp. As a result, the siege for Samaria was over – even though no one in the city knew it or enjoyed it.
“Everybody who went to bed that night felt that he was still in that horrible den where grim death seemed actually present in the skeleton forms of the hunger-bitten. They were as free as the harts of the wilderness had they known it: but their ignorance held them in vile durance [imprisonment].” (Spurgeon)
D. (:8) Desiring to Deceptively Hoard the Riches of Salvation is the Wrong Approach
“When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them.”
III. (7:9-15) PLENITUDE OF SALVATION MUST BE PROCLAIMED
A. (:9-10) Commitment to Witnessing
1. (:9) Mandate for Witnessing to God’s Salvation
“Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.’”
2. (:10) Mission of Testifying Seeks Widespread Proclamation
“So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them, saying, ‘We came to the camp of the Arameans, and behold, there was no one there, nor the voice of man, only the horses tied and the donkeys tied, and the tents just as they were.’”
B. (:11-15) Checking Out the Message
1. (:11) Spreading the Word
“And the gatekeepers called, and told it within the king’s household.”
2. (:12) Suspicion Regarding the Message
“Then the king arose in the night and said to his servants, ‘I will now tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone from the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall capture them alive and get into the city.’”
3. (:13) Strategic Counsel to Investigate the Truth of the Testimony
“And one of his servants answered and said, ‘Please, let some men take five of the horses which remain, which are left in the city. Behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who are left in it; behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who have already perished, so let us send and see.’”
4. (:14-15) Substantiating the Message
“They took therefore two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of the Arameans, saying, ‘Go and see.’ 15 And they went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment, which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. Then the messengers returned and told the king.”
Wiersbe: The men found the camp devoid of soldiers. Then they followed the escape route all the way to the Jordan River, a distance of twenty-five miles, and saw on the ground the clothing and equipment that the Syrians had discarded in their flight.
IV. (:16-20) PROPHECIES ASSOCIATED WITH BOTH SALVATION AND JUDGMENT MUST BE FULFILLED
A. (:16) Fulfillment of Prophecy Regarding Riches of Salvation –
More Food than One Could Ever Desire
“So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.”
B. (:17-20) Fulfillment of Prophecy of Judgment Against the Disputer –
Trampled at the Gate
“Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. 18 And it came about just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, ‘Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time at the gate of Samaria.’ 19 Then the royal officer answered the man of God and said, ‘Now behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?’ And he said, ‘Behold, 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 on him at the gate, and he died.’“
David Guzik: Perhaps the king did this to rebuke his officer. The man would have to personally supervise the people responding to the provision he said could never come, because he could not understand how God could bring the supply despite the siege.
Donald Wiseman: The test of true prophecy is its fulfilment (Deut. 18:21–22). This section is no mere doublet or dittography, but a moralizing summary to emphasize the historian’s view on this episode. God never fails to meet the need of his people when they trust him.