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Sept 1: 2Ki 6 | Lam 2 | 1Cor 15

Reading 1 - 2Ki 6:1-7

"The company of the prophets said to Elisha, 'Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.' And he said, 'Go.' Then one of them said, 'Won't you please come with your servants?' 'I will,' Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. 'Oh, my lord,' he cried out, 'it was borrowed!' The man of God asked, 'Where did it fall?' When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 'Lift it out,' he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it" (2Ki 6:1-7).

The floating ax-head is perhaps related to Canaanite mythology: El, father of the gods, yields rulership of the gods to Yamm (the god of the sea) -- who is sometimes interchanged with Nahar (the god of the river). Baal is jealous and goes about to kill Yamm/Nahar, after which he succeeds and becomes the ruler. Baal kills Yamm/Nahar by means of two axes -- which fly from the hands of Baal.

Because of this the ax became a cultic symbol to Baal worshippers. Idols have been found of Baal brandishing an ax, and Baal worshipers (rulers/priests/soldiers) would often walk into the river (nahar) holding the ax of Baal to illustrate the supremacy of Baal over Nahar. As the Baal versus Yamm myth was supposed to be a cycle, often these people would stand in the river to associate themselves with the regeneration of Yamm/Nahar (ie, his coming back to life to start the cycle all over again: cp Naaman and the Syrian rivers in 2Ki 5:12).

Here, the ax-head flies into the river... just like Yamm/Nahar (Sea/River god) was killed by Baal's ax. But, even with 'Baal's weapon' in the river god's body, the servant of Yahweh has power over both of them. That is, Yahweh is greater than Yam/Nahar, and greater than Baal. Elisha exercised power over the river by having a stick thrown in the water, causing the ax to float.

Compare, incidentally, the related features of Exo 15: where the iron of Pharaoh's chariots could not part the sea, but the wooden rod of Moses does; and where it is the tree -- of wood -- that makes the bitter waters sweet.