5.78 2 Kings -- Siege of Samaria
Things continued to go badly for Israel. Note that most of the warfare Israel was involved in was defensive, whereas under David it was offensive. This time, the enemy came right up to the gates of the capital city, and sealed it up. There was tremendous suffering within the city for lack of food. This was a fulfilment of the curses of disobedience spoken by Moses hundreds of years previously:
"If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters" (Lev 26:27-29).
"Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you" (Deut 28:53).
King Joram's response to all this calamity was to curse Elisha:
"May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!" (2 Kings 6:31).
This was a repetition of Jezebel's threat to Elijah:
"May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them [the slain prophets of Baal]" (1 Kings 19:2).
Joram even sent a messenger to attempt to kill Elisha (2 Kings 6:32). But Elisha was not the real target of Joram's anger, God was. This is made clear by 2 Kings 6:33, when the king said,
"This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?"
This statement makes no sense. Joram clearly realized that Israel's prostration before Aram was God's doing, yet he sought to kill the prophet of God instead of asking him to intercede for divine intervention. He preferred to take action on his own -- which only made matters worse.
It was at this low point, a place of utter helplessness, that God through Elisha announced deliverance:
"This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1).
There are several unique characteristics of this prophecy:
-- Prior to this word, Israel had not repented of its sins and idolatry. Joram's sackcloth was a testimony to his misery, but he remained defiant towards the Lord. Miraculous deliverance was a product of God's mercy alone, not a reward for repentance.
-- God declared only the next-day price of essential foodstuffs. He said nothing about what would happen or how it would come about.
-- God did not rely on Israel to play any part in His plan. The Israelites were in rebellion and could not contribute anything on their own behalf.
-- Neither Joram nor his officers believed the word of Elisha. The chief officer immediately voiced his unbelief (2 Kings 7:2), and Joram thought it was all a trick of the enemy (2 Kings 7:12).
-- God used the lowest of the low, outcasts -- lepers -- to bring His word to fulfilment.
The mode of deliverance was: God sent a panic among the Arameans. They heard the sound of chariots and horses, and thought the Hittites and Egyptians were upon them. The use of panic to defeat the enemy occurred previously in Old Testament history: Joshua at Jericho (Josh 2:9), Gideon against Midian (Judg 7), Jonathan against the Philistines (1 Sam 14:13-5). The Aramean soldiers abandoned their camp and ran off. Four starving lepers from Samaria found all the Aramean supplies and reported back to the city that the Arameans had fled.
Even then, Joram did not believe God had acted for Israel. Two chariots were sent out to find the Aramean army. They followed their tracks all the way to the Jordan River. Only when the chariots had returned (a journey of over 30 miles each way!) did the fear-filled Israelites pour out of the city and loot the camp of the enemy. The only Israelite casualty was the officer who had disbelieved the word of Elijah the day before: he was trampled to death in the stampede of the crowd out of the city!