2 Kings 6-8
The cheap magic tricks continue as Elisha makes an ax-head float on water (v 6). Neato – how come Jesus didn’t copy that one? But it seems to me that there could be more worth-while displays of supernatural powers. I guess there is, in v 12, as Elisha uses ESP to hear the war plans of the King of Aram and relays them to the King of Israel. He uses his powers again in verses 16-22 to conjure chariots of fire and turn the Aramean soldiers away from Israel. But I guess I was thinking of more humanitarian purposes like health and education.
Sadly, there follows in verse 24 a famine so severe that people are forced to eat dove’s dung – where are Elisha’s powers now? Neither does he intervene when the women in verses 28 are cannibalizing their young.
Elisha cryptically predicts that the famine will end. But I don’t really see that god intervenes to provide food, unless you attribute the panic the Aramean army experienced to a supernatural cause. (Really, lots of natural phenomena could have caused that.) The supplies that the Israelites acquire come from raiding the camp that the frightened Aramean soldiers abandoned. This whole plot seems contrived for the purpose of fulfilling Elisha’s cryptic prophesy. And the moral of the story? Well the officer who questioned Elisha’s prophesy dies a horrible death – so it’s obviously to shut up and obey the prophet or else!
So much for providing food for the hungry. At the beginning of the chapter, Yahweh calls for another 7 year famine. And then the text conveniently skips over those 7 years. Who knows how many people died? And where was the mighty Elisha? Verse 4 has Elisha’s servant Gehazi telling the king of the many wondrous feats Elisha has performed. Really? Gehazi is the guy that Elisha just condemned to leprosy in chapter 5!
It gets even uglier from here. King Ben-Hadad of Aram asks Elisha whether he will recover from illness. Elisha tells the messenger, Hazael, to lie (why?). Then Elisha foretells that Hazael will become the next king; moreover he adds “I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn their fortified cities, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women!” (v 12 NLT). And Hazael’s response????? “How could a nobody like me ever accomplish such great things?” I checked this verse against the KJV and the direct-from-Hebrew translation; both also use the word ‘great’. The NIV says ‘accomplish such a feat’. So the writers and translators seem to have unanimously admired Hazael’s intentions. Hazael takes Elisha’s words as encouragement, goes back and smothers Ben-Hadad, and becomes king. Perhaps he is fulfilling Yahweh’s order to kill Ben-Hadad (remember Ahab was condemned back in 1 Kings 20:42 for sparing him).
The rest of this chapter Is just more of the same crap about evil kings. They are evil because they ‘did what was evil in the lord’s sight’ – ie evil is again associated with disobeying religious rules.