One of his officers answered, “Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city. Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here—yes, they will only be like all these Israelites who are doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.” So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, “Go and find out what has happened.” They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the Lord had said. Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. It happened as the man of God had said to the king: “About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” The officer had said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” The man of God had replied, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died. – 2 Kings 7:13-20
This passage comes after several passages describing a siege on Samaria by the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad. The King of Israel is in the besieged city and getting impatient with Elisha and God for allowing the siege to go on so long. There are some horrific details about what this siege was like, including a very disturbing description of a mother resorting to cannibalism of her own baby (2 Kings 6:26-31). Reading through this was one of the most turbulent and disorienting parts of my walk through the bible so far.
The king of Israel was also shocked by the mother’s admission of cannibalism and blamed Elisha for allowing the siege to go on so long. The king goes to Elisha and he assures them that God will take care of the Arameans and shower the Israelites by opening the floodgates of the heavens. God made the Arameans flee by “causing the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army” (2 kings 7:6). The ones who discover this are four lepers who had lost all hope and decided that they would enter the enemy camp and either kill or be killed rather than stay in the besieged city and starve to death.
The four lepers find the Aramean camp deserted and eventually return to the city to tell the king. The kings initial reaction is that it is a trick to get the Israelites to leave the city walls so the Arameans can kill them. The king did not have much faith in the prophesy of Elisha that God would “open the floodgates”. The king picks five soldiers to send out of the city fully expecting them to be killed. The soldiers find an abandoned camp and a trail of equipment and supplies strewn all the way to the Jordan. The Arameans left in a hurry, leaving everything behind. The Israelites stream out of the city so fast they trample the soldier who Elisha prophesied would die before he saw the “floodgates of heaven opened”.
God not only shows up in response to Elisha’s petition, and He does it in an extravagant way, similar to what God did at Elim when he provided the thirsty Israelites 12 springs when one would have been enough (Exodus 15:27). The king’s God was just not big enough.The way God arranged for the siege to end was truly miraculous and not something anyone would have predicted ahead of time, except Elisha who was confident God would “open the floodgates of the heavens”. There is a contemporary worship song we sing at our church by Meredith Andrews called “Open up the Heavens” that contains similar language as this passage. It is one of my favorite songs that we sing when we gather together, and it will always make me thing of this passage and the way God chose to “lift the siege”.
Prayer: God thanks for showing up for us in extravagant and unpredictable ways when we faithfully follow You.