The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.” And he said, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!” The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. – 2 Kings 6:1-7
This is one of those passages that I read and think what in the world am I going to do with this one….a floating axe head….really. Elisha seems to have acquired quite a following of prophets, kind of like prophet “roadies” I guess. There are so many they have to move to the Jordan River where apparently there is room to build a larger meeting place. The description of each prophet getting a pole is somewhat puzzling. Was this merely a division of labor or was it perhaps symbolic of each prophet helping to build and invest in this new meeting place. They invite Elisha to participate in their building project, which is a good thing as they will soon need his help.
Now I don’t want stretch this passage further than is called for but what if this entire story is alluding to the important role Elisha and the prophets play in building and maintaining God’s presence here on earth, and the building they are doing is more than the cutting of trees and erecting of poles. At this time in Israel’s history the countryside, and the Israelite’s hearts, are full of idols and altars that are replacing God. Elisha and these prophets have been given the spiritual task of felling these “trees” so they can build in their place a temple and place for God. The loss of the axe head was a setback in the process of transforming the trees into a place for Godly men to gather. Elisha, and God, stepped in to float the axe head and allow them to continue their important work.
When I first read this passage I thought — there is no way that there are any insights or hidden wells here. I have been surprised once again. I think there is an important message here about discouragement as we go about the work God has set before us. We all encounter times when it seems our “axehead” has flown into the muck. We look to heaven in frustration and wonder how we can go on doing what God has called us to do. If we are willing to seek God’s help, or in the case of these prophets, seek the help of God’s representative, then God will “float our axehead” and help us to continue our work.
Prayer: God thank You for dwelling with us when we are discouraged and providing what we need to complete the work You have set before us.
I think the floating ax preconfigures Jesus walking on the water. In Jeremiah 51:20, Jesus is called God’s “battle ax”, thus the ax head floating is symbolic of Jesus “floating” or walking on the water!
That is an interesting connection that I had not considered. Thanks for sharing.
Matthew 3:10 says that “even now, the ax is poised at the root of the tree”….
I think Jesus (as God) and as the “ax” is indicating that the Gentiles will now be included in the olive tree (wild branches grafted in) in what was previously only Jews (natural tree branches).
This is to elaborate on my assertion that Christ is the “ax” that I made above!
Hi Mike, I am intrigued by the connection you have made in the passage to Jesus and the inclusion of gentiles in the kingdom. Thanks for sharing.
Oops! John the Baptist was saying this (not Christ), but I think the rest of the assertion still holds!
I think that the floating ax is representing the presence of God/ and the glory of God being present with us, when we are challenged/ remember that God’s presence through prayer believing the knowledge of his word will manifest the solution for the problem
Elisha used a “branch” to cause an ax head to float. Jesus is called the “Branch” in Scripture and He caused iron-headed Peter to “float” upon the surface of the water, both before and after he’d sunk down into it.