2 Kings 7: Samaria Delivered
In the last chapter, verse 24, it was said that Ben-hadad, king of Syria, gathered all his host and went up and besieged Samaria. His army camped about the city on its hill and shut the people in. King Jehoram was there in his palace and Elisha the prophet in his house. No one could go out or in to bring food into the city, and there was great famine and suffering among the people. Jehoram felt that it was from the Lord, and he was angry with Elisha. He even sent a man to Elisha's house to kill him, but the prophet knew that he was coming and they held the door. The king also came to the prophet's house. (2 Kings 6:32: 7:17)
Then Elisha spoke from the Lord, and promised that instead of the want which there was that day in the city, the next day there would be great plenty. A measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel. The measure was about a peck, and a shekel was worth something more than fifty cents. This was a very little price compared with the great sums that people had been paying for almost worthless food. When Elisha gave this promise from the Lord, it seemed impossible that it could be. One of the king's captains who waited on him laughed at the prophet's words, saying that if the Lord should open the windows of heaven it could not be; and Elisha said that the man should see the plenty but should not eat thereof. We must learn how it all came true.
There were four lepers outside the gate of Samaria. You know that lepers were not allowed to come near to other people, nor to come into the town. (Lev. 13:46; Num. 5:2-3) Today the lepers are often seen outside a city near the gate, begging from the passers-by. In this time of famine in Samaria, no one from the city gave the lepers food; they could not go inside; they would go to the Syrian camp: perhaps they would be kindly treated. They went in the evening, and as they came to the edge of the camp they found it deserted; no one was there; the tents were empty; the horses and asses were standing tied in their places. The Syrians had fled, “for the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host.” They thought that the king of Israel had hired the Hittites to help him. These were an ancient people to the north of Canaan. One of their strong cities was Kadesh on the Orontes river. They thought they heard the Hittites coming from the north, and the kings of Egypt with their armies from the south.
The Syrians fled in great fright down the broad valley that leads from the neighborhood of Samaria to the Jordan. They left their camp as it was, for they had no thought but to get safely out of the country. The four lepers began to take the good things which they found in the camp, but then thought that they ought to tell the people in the city. They brought word to the porter at the gate, and in the night men went and told the king.
He could not believe that the enemy soldiers were gone. He thought they had left the camp to tempt the people of Israel out from the city and that then they would fall upon them, but he sent two chariots with a few of the men and horses to find out if it were really so. They followed the way that the Syrians had gone to the Jordan, and found garments and vessels scattered all the way along. When they brought back word, the people from Samaria helped themselves to the good things which were left in the Syrians’ camp, and there was plenty again in the city. It came true as Elisha had said from the Lord: and as you read the story you will see how the word also came true which he had spoken about the king's captain who had disbelieved the promise.
l. Why was there famine in Samaria? What promise did Elisha give?
2. How did the promise come true? Where were wheat and barley found?
3. What drove the Syrians away? Who first learned that they had gone?
The Syrians hearing the noise of chariots and horses will remind you of the time when horses and chariots of fire were seen round about Elisha. It may remind you also of the time when David heard the sound of marching in the tops of the trees. (2 Sam. 5:24) As the eyes of Elisha's servant were opened to see horses and chariots of fire, so, we cannot doubt, the sound was from the other World. Both were expressive of the presence of heaven on the side of right. They especially stand for the heavenly and Divine power which comes with true understanding of the Lord's Word and true doctrine from it; for these are what horses and chariots on the side of the Lord's prophet and of Israel represent. (A. 2762, 5321)
The Syrians thought the sound that they heard was the Hittites and Egyptians coming to the aid of Israel. Was not this because the Hittites and Egyptians represent things which are awakened in ourselves by the influence of the Lord and heaven, and called to the aid of our spiritual understanding (Israel) in its conflict with the natural and false reasoning of the world (Syria)? The Hittites were remnants of an ancient nation and were among those of the nations of Canaan who preserved most of innocence. We learn that they represented remains of childlike knowledge and willingness to learn. (A. 1203, 2913) The Egyptians stand for memory and for the stores of knowledge gathered from nature and from the letter of the Word. (A, 1461, 1462: E. 654) These are called out by the influence of heaven and are the strength of spiritual understanding.
We read of famine and then of plenty in Samaria. Famine in the spiritual life is a lack of knowledge in regard to serving the Lord and one another, and of the satisfaction of living according to such knowledge. This famine comes when the mind is besieged by natural, worldly thoughts and reasonings. After these are dispersed, the heavenly satisfactions return, represented by the barley and wheat again plenty in Samaria. (R. 323; E. 356) Can you explain spiritually how food from the camp of the Syrians could satisfy hunger in Samaria? The treasures of the natural thought and mind may become truly useful and satisfying when they are taken possession of by spiritual life.