I have often wondered why the writer of Kings sandwiched this story of the floating iron between the accounts of the curse of Gehazi and the chariots of fire. It is a short story in the middle of two long stories. It is so short and simple, leaving readers wondering why it is there.
There seems to be a contrast between the stories of Gehazi and the lost iron. One is concerning Elisha’s servant, Gehazi and the other, Elisha’s students. The first is about money, and the second, ministry. In one is faithlessness, and in the other, faithfulness. One is for personal gain, and the other, for everyone’s benefit. The first is action without approval, and the other, with permission. In one, something is gained by lying, and in the other, by borrowing.1
But the story stresses the writer’s recurring theme of Yahweh’s protection of His servants. Two threads tie this story with the stories of the widow’s “bottomless” oil, life in the pot, and the feeding of one hundred (cf. 2 Ki. 4:1-7, 38-44). Each of the stories involves prophets. Each portrays Elisha protecting them from financial trouble (the widow and axe head) and physical need (the stew and 100 hungry prophets).2
Yet the writer seems to stress a larger theme with this story. That theme is Yahweh’s preservation of His prophets, and hence, the preservation of the worship of Yahweh. At this time, Israel has fallen in apostasy (cf. 2 Ki. 3:1-3). Yahwist spirituality was at an all time low. Idolatry in the form of calf and Baalist worship was widespread in the land. We find Elisha busy devoting his time to training a new breed of prophets. These prophets will keep alive the worship of Yahweh. Thus, Yahweh is more than merely demonstrating His care for His servants. He is really preserving His prophets and thus, maintaining a Yahwist testimony in apostate Israel.
We note four key elements in this brief but fascinating account. . . more