Some time later, King Ben-hadad of Aram brought all his military units together and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. So there was a severe famine in Samaria, and they continued the siege against it until a donkey’s head sold for thirty-four ounces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung sold for two ounces of silver.
As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, “My lord the king, help!”
He answered, “If the Lord doesn’t help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor or the winepress?” Then the king asked her, “What’s the matter?”
She said, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son, and we will eat him today. Then we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him, and I said to her the next day, ‘Give up your son, and we will eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.”
When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his clothes. Then, as he was passing by on the wall, the people saw that there was sackcloth under his clothes next to his skin. He announced, “May God punish me and do so severely if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”
Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger got to him, Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent someone to remove my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door to keep him out. Isn’t the sound of his master’s feet behind him?”2 Kings 6:24-32
As a father, this is one of those passages that grieves me. It’s hard to imagine a situation so desperate that a mother would cook her own son to have food to eat. People had become very desperate for food at any cost. Yet, this woman suffered a double injury because of the deception of the other woman who hid her son instead of following through on the agreement she had suggested just a day ago. This woman had been deceived into doing the unthinkable.
The case presented to King Joram reminds me of the case heard by Solomon early in his reign between two mothers debating whose child had died in the night and whose child was still alive. Joram did not have the wisdom of Solomon in this situation, though. He had no way to answer this woman in her time of grief. Though the sackcloth under his royal garments show that he was mourning for his people, his response was to blame Elisha instead of searching his own heart for his responsibility in making Samaria vulnerable to this siege. He needed a scapegoat and he felt he was justified in demanding Elisha’s head for the situation they were experiencing.
We are capable of doing the same thing. When we encounter a desperate situation with severe tragedy, it is easy to ignore what role we had in the situation. Instead, we look for someone else to blame and try to make ourselves judge, jury, and executioner of the villain we have identified in our mind.
- Are there times when you have tried to shift blame to someone else for the tragedies in your life?