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The students of the prophets spoke to Elisha.

Students of the Prophets: The place where we are staying with you is too small for us. Allow us to travel to the Jordan Valley, cut down trees, and build a house there for ourselves.

Elisha: Go.

One of the Students: Will you please travel with us, your servants?

Elisha: Yes, I will go with you.

Elisha traveled with them, and they cut down trees when they arrived at the Jordan. While one of the students was cutting down a tree, the iron of the ax broke off and dropped into the river.

Student of the Prophets (to Elisha): Oh no, master! This ax is not mine! I borrowed it!

Elisha: Where did it drop into the river?

The man showed Elisha where it had dropped into the water, and Elisha took a stick and tossed it into the river. Then the iron of the ax floated to the surface.

Elisha: Get your iron out of the water.

The man then grabbed it.

Aram’s king had waged war against Israel. He gave instructions to those who served him: “I want my war camp at this particular place.” The man of God sent a message to Israel’s king.

Elisha’s Message: Be sure not to travel through this place. The Arameans are on their way.

10 Israel’s king passed this warning on to those in the place the man of God had told him about. Elisha’s warning saved Israel’s king more than a few times. 11 Aram’s king became greatly angered by this. He gathered his servants together.

King of Aram: Which one of you has betrayed me and sided with Israel’s king?

Servant: 12 It is none of us, my lord and king. The prophet Elisha, who lives in Israel, is the one who informs Israel’s king of these things. Elisha somehow knows everything you say—even the secret things you whisper in your private chambers.

King of Aram: 13 Find Elisha right away so that I may capture him!

The servants found Elisha and informed Aram’s king, “Elisha is in Dothan.” 14 So Aram’s king dispatched a great army of warriors, along with many horses and chariots, and they encircled the city of Dothan at night.

15 The servant of the man of God woke up early and went outside. There he saw a great army, along with many horses and chariots, encircling Dothan.

Elisha’s Servant: Ah! Master, what are we going to do now?

Elisha: 16 Have no fear. We have more on our side than they do.

17 (praying) O Eternal One, I ask You to allow my servant to see heavenly realities.

The Eternal awakened Elisha’s servant so that he could see. This is what he saw: the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. 18 When the enemy approached Elisha, he prayed.

Elisha: Eternal One, I ask you to blind these people.

The Eternal blinded them, just as Elisha had requested.

Elisha (to the blind army): 19 You are wrong. This is the wrong path and the wrong city. I will lead you to the person you are really after.

Elisha then led them to Samaria.

Elisha (arriving in Samaria): 20 O Eternal One, I ask you to allow these men to see.

The Eternal awakened the men so they could see. This is what they saw: they were in Samaria. 21 The king of Israel saw them.

King of Israel (to Elisha): Do you want me to slaughter these men, my father? Shall I slaughter them?

Elisha: 22 No, do not slaughter them. Would you really slaughter men whom you have captured with your sword and with your bow? Set the table and fill it with bread and water. Let them eat and drink and return to their own master.

Similar to the Elijah story but expanded, the Elisha story relates the prophet’s life and ministry mostly outside the land. While Elisha is given Elijah’s mantle in Palestine, most of his traveling circuit occurs “outside the land” in Phoenicia or Syria. He even makes a prophecy over Hazael the next Syrian king and enemy of Israel.

The introduction of the figure Ben-hadad (meaning “son of Hadad,” who is the central Syrian god) is pivotal for the rest of the stories of Elisha and Israel. The Eternal uses Syria (also called Aram) as an instrument of divine punishment for Israel’s sins. Ultimately in 732 b.c., Damascus and Syria fall under the hand of Tiglath-Pileser III. The city of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom are conquered just 10 years later.

23 Israel’s king had the table set and offered the Arameans a great feast. After they ate and drank, Israel’s king told them to leave. They returned to their own master, and the Arameans stopped sending raiding parties into Israel.

24 Later, Ben-hadad,[a] Aram’s king, assembled his army and surrounded Samaria. 25 There was already a famine in Samaria. Aram’s king surrounded Samaria for so long that, within Samaria, a donkey head cost two pounds of silver and two cups of dove’s dung[b] cost two ounces of silver.

26 Once when Israel’s king was walking on the wall, a woman yelled up to him.

Woman: My lord and king, help!

King of Israel: 27 How am I supposed to help you if the Eternal does not help you? Do you expect me to miraculously get food from empty storerooms or drink from the silent winepress? 28 But tell me, what is bothering you?

Woman: A woman approached me and said, “If you give up your son and allow us to eat him today, I promise to give up my son, too, and we can eat him tomorrow.” 29 So I gave up my son, and we boiled him and ate him. But when I went to the woman the next day and asked for her son so that we could eat him, she had hidden him.

30 When the king heard of this horror, he ripped his clothes. Since he was walking on the wall, everyone who looked up saw that he was wearing sackcloth underneath.

King of Israel: 31 May God behead me and even worse if the head of Elisha (Shaphat’s son) is still attached to his body by the end of today.

32 Meanwhile Elisha was resting in his house with the elders. The king had sent a messenger to him; but before the messenger arrived at Elisha’s house, Elisha knew what would happen.

Elisha (to the elders): Watch closely. A murderer’s son desires my head on a platter. When the messenger arrives, close the door and hold it tightly shut. Certainly his master will be close behind him.

33 While Elisha was telling the elders these things, the messenger arrived.

Messenger: This wickedness is from the Eternal. Why should I be patient for Him?


  1. 6:24 This may have been Ben-hadad’s son.
  2. 6:25 A few versions based on the Dead Sea Scrolls have suggested a vegetable dish.

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