In 2 Kings 6:24-33, we come to another one of the Bible’s tragic stories. It is truly a sad, nauseating retelling of a horrible event that took place, but this tragic story is yet another reason why we know the Bible is true. In His Holy Word, God honestly tackles difficult subjects – rape, murder, adultery, lies, war, famine, and betrayal; and He honestly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about His people’s lives from Adam and Eve to Peter and Paul.
In the Scripture passage we’re looking at today, the city of Samaria was under siege by the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, and his army. The siege lasted so long that a famine fell upon the city and people began to suffer the terrible effects that often accompany war – starvation, grief, and madness. Madness is the best word I can think of to describe the horrible thing that two mothers did to their children because the famine was so terrible.
One day during the siege, the king of Israel was walking along one of the city’s walls when a woman cried out to him, “Help me, my lord the king!” She then told him her horrible story. To avoid starving, she had made an agreement with another woman to eat their children. They agreed to eat the first woman’s son first and then to eat the second woman’s son the next day. So, they killed the first woman’s son, cooked him, and ate him. But when it was time to do the same with the second woman’s son, that woman hid her son, and now the first woman is full of anger and despair and is demanding the king help her.
What is the king’s response to this horridity? He tears his clothes and wears sackcloth. And then he blames God and the prophet Elisha for causing such a disaster to come upon his city and his people. There is nothing he can do to help the woman who has sunk to such a desperate low as to eat her own child and then has the audacity to ask for help in eating another woman’s child. What is there to learn from the women who ate their children?
1. The women who ate their children allowed a desperate time to push them to do a desperate act. No matter how bad a famine is or how great the despair in times of war, most mothers will not even think about eating their children and they will not allow their children to be eaten either. No matter the circumstance, sane people do not go around plotting, planning, and agreeing together to eat their own children – or anyone else, for that matter. But it appears that the horrible situation these two women found themselves in caused them to lose all sense of morality. It is quite obvious that they lost their righteous minds. The fear of starvation and dehydration, the dismay of being under siege, and the uncertainty of not knowing what the next day might bring, pushed these women to do the unthinkable.
It is not in times of ease and peace that character is tested, but in times of desperation and uncertainty. “Desperate times call for desperate measures” a popular expression goes, but will we allow desperate times push us to desperate GOOD measures or desperate BAD measures? In desperate times, do our righteous minds shut down? Do our morals disintegrate into thin air? Or do we fight for what we know is right and true and virtuous, regardless of how spiritually, emotionally, or physically weak we may be?
James Lane Allen said, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” You will not know how strong your strength is until you experience a moment of weakness. When you find yourself in times of trouble, do not so easily give in to despair and doubt. Do not allow desperate times to push you to do desperate acts, but allow desperate times to push you closer to God who will give you the strength and the grace to overcome.