About 850 BC Samaria was under siege, and the people starving, when four men abandoned faith, fled, and found riches without God. But the narrative reveals the ephemeral benefits of a life without God, and the necessity of knowing Him.
‘Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord? Thus saith the Lord, tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel in the gate of Samaria.’
Well, our subject is ‘hollow gains without God’, simply that. And this is a remarkable passage, an historical passage, taking us back to around 850 BC. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of the people of God, the kingdom of Israel. Jehoram was king, and he was an extremely evil man. And the city was under judgment for a period of time under God’s hand because of its sin. The city was a wonderful place. It was barely 30 years old when Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, invaded and laid siege to it. And the siege was long, and the people in the city were starving, starving so much that there were even incidents of cannibalism. It was a terrible time of utter humiliation and degradation within the city.
And Elisha, the prophet, was in the city at that time. Samaria, well, it had huge walls, double walls, 30 feet plus in height, and has been excavated, of course. And the events of this period and some of the things, Jehoram’s son, King Ahab, well, his famous ivory is there in the British Museum. So there are many tokens of an archaeological kind that authenticate the history and the places of this period without any doubts.
Well, here was the state of affairs, famine in the city. And then Elisha made a prophecy, and we read it in that first verse. He says, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, thus saith the Lord, tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour should be sold for next to nothing, and two measures of barley for next to nothing in the gate of Samaria.’ What a turnaround. It was unbelievable. It was inconceivable that suddenly food, which was absent entirely, would be in such abundance that the prices would tumble and everything would be so cheap. Was he mocking them? What could this possibly mean? Who could believe such a prophecy that within 24 hours everything would be turned round?
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