Keith Hunt - Elisha's Axehead? Restitution of All

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Elisha's Axehead?

Not what many may think



                         Keith Hunt

There are some people who will not have the miracle of Elisha and
the axehead any other way than how they read the KJV of 2 Kings
6:5-7.  To them the miracle is that Elisha threw a branch of a
tree or stick he cut down from somewhere, into the water and the
axehead came floating to the top.
They put emphasis on the KJV words "cast" and "swim."

I said in the previous study that we need to keep in mind the
English words rendered from the Hebrew, by some translators, for
the Hebrew words can often have various "shades of meaning" and
sometimes the translators may choose the wrong shade, often from
their personal bias, or "theological background" or what they
think would be the best way to translate a context of a passage
to make the miracle even more miraculous.

I now give you the full expounding of this word "cast' from:  


2398  (shalak) throw, cast, hurl. Occurs In the Hiphil and the


2398a (shalak) bird of prey, perhaps the cormorant (Dent 14:17;
Lev 11:17).

2398b  (shalleket) felling of tree (Isa 6:13).

SHALAK occurs 111 times, always in Hiphil or Hephal. It is the
verb normally used with the general meaning "to throw." "tal" and
"rama" are synonymous, but me not nearly as common (used eleven
times and two times respectively). Other verbs which are
sometimes synonymous have specialized meanings, such as "shamat"
- let drop, "saqal" - throw stones, " napal"  Hiphil - cause to
The verb is used in a wide variety of situations ranging from the
physical act of throwing an object to the metaphorical use of
abandoning or rejecting a person or thing. A common use is
illustrated in Jud 8:25; Ex 4:3; 7:9; Gen 37:20. In Ex 32:19 and
Deut 9:17 Moses casts the tablets of the Law down to the ground
as an expression of his wrath and indignation at Israel's
defection from God. But it is more than an expression of wrath;
it symbolizes as well the bitter truth that Israel had no sooner
entered into the Covenant of Sinai than they had broken it.
Casting someone or something to the ground may be used as a
gesture of victory over, and utter annihilation of, someone, as
in Dan 8:7 in which the ram (Persia) is thrown to the ground and
trampled on in complete defeat by the goat (Greece).

Another important use of shalak is "throw away," "cast off or
out." In Neh 13:8, Nehemiah throws Tobiah's things out of the
temple. Similarly in Isa 2:20, when God begins to speak in
judgment, the idolaters will throw away their idols and run to
the caves and rocks. So in Ps 71:9 the Psalmist prays that God
will not cast him away (i.e. abandon him) in his old age (cf.
also Ps 102:10[H 11]).
This usage seems to afford a proper explanation of Gen 21:15 in
which Hagar "cast the child (Ishmael) under one of the shrubs."
Since Ishmael was at this time a teenager it would not seem
probable that a physical throwing was involved. Rather what is
meant is that Hagar, abandoned him under a bush, considering him
to be in such a weakened condition that there was no hope for
him. Though she remained and watched over him she had given him
up for lost.
The sense of "abandon" appears in Ezk 31 and 20:7-8, in which God
admonishes his people to abandon, renounce their sins, to throw
them away entirely, having nothing more to do with them. This is
an important spiritual truth as is also the admonition in Psalm
55:23 to cast our burdens on the Lord. That is, our cares and
burdens, are to be thrown away, abandoned into his care, so that
we have nothing more to do with them. 
God's total forgiveness of sin is graphically portrayed in Micah
7:19, in which God casts the sins of his people into the depths
of the sea. The obvious inference is that they are gone forever,
never again to be brought to light. Similar to this is Isa 38:17
in which God has cast Hezekiah's sins behind his back (cf. Ps
103:12 using a different verb [Hiphil of "rahaq"] for the same
Casting someone or something out may also be a symbol of
rejection, as in I Kgs 14:9. The idea of rejection is also
portrayed as a "casting away from someone's presence or face," as
in 2 Kgs 13:23; 17:20; 24:20.

Bibliography:  Cogan,M.,"A Technical Term for Exposure," JNES
27:133-35. THAT, 11, pp. 916-18.



Did you notice the various nuances or shades of meaning and uses
this word can have?

Elisha takes a branch of a tree, or stick he cuts from something,

and "casts" it forth, or puts it forth, which does not
automatically mean sends it forth from holding it and throws it
into the water. That is one idea only, but not necessarily, the
ONLY meaning of "cast' or of this Hebrew word. We can cast forth
a fishing line, but we do not send it forth from holding it.

We need to be careful we do not read into "words" things that the
CONTEXT may not want us to think or believe.

The idea that the branch that Elisha cast forth was a type or
symbol of the Holy Spirit, is the imagination of the human mind.
Certainly the context would NOT suggest any idea as that. There
are no words from Elisha or anyone else there when Elisha did
this, to say, that this stick represented the Holy Spirit or the
power of God, now going to be called upon by Elisha, to retrieve
the axehead.


The for the word rendered as "swim" in the KJV. The THEOLOGICAL

sup - flow, overflow (Lam. 3:54; Deut. 11:4).


To overflow carries the thought of being on top, as we are all
familiar with an overflowing sink. Even "flow" carries an
understanding of water being on the top of something and moving

It should be fairly obvious that the axehead was not visible. It
had fallen into the river Jordan where wood was being cut. If it
had fallen into the river's edge where it was shallow and clear,
it would have been a simple matter of wading in and picking up
the axehead. Obviously it had fallen into the Jordan where it was
not visible to the eye.

If this was going to be a miracle from Elisha where he was just
going to use the command and power of God to say, "axehead come
to the surface and to shore" then surely the words and context
would have recorded it thus. But we have Elisha cutting down a
stick and into the water he put it, so the axehead would be

I see the miracle being the divine guidance of Elisha putting the
stick into the river and finding the axehead immediately, and
being able to lift it from where it lay and have it move along
the stick to his hand and return it to the axeman who had lost
it. Did the axehead have a hole in it as many axeheads do, and
Elisha was able to "spear it"? Maybe so. The main point I see is
that the miracle was using the stick to immediately locate the
axehead and to bring it to shore.


July 2004

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