Elisha’s influence has grown, as indicated here by the number of his students. Their living quarters are no longer adequate, and they decide to go to the Jordan to cut trees to build with. They received Elisha’s permission, but they requested his presence as well. Elisha obliges. As they are in the process of felling trees, one of the students meets with disaster. His axe head slips from his axe, and sinks into the water.
One cannot fully relate to his despair until one understands just what a serious loss this represents. Iron was not a plentiful resource, and a refined tool such as an axe was one of considerable value. Hence the reason that it was borrowed in the first place. Some believe that this wording indicates that this borrowing arrangement was one which involved some persuasion–even begging. So we can understand better his despair. He could not pay for what was lost. Nor could he face the lender empty handed.
Could he not have retrieved it himself? The Jordan River, near Jericho where this narrative takes place, is deep and the waters are fast. There was no hope for this student to retrieve this lost axe head for himself.
He cries to Elisha for help.
Elisha asks where exactly the axe head fell, and it was pointed out. Elisha then cuts down a stick, casts it in the river, and suddenly the axe head floats to the service.
No doubt this student looks with stunned disbelief at Elisha, who then tells him to take it up.
What is to be learned from this account?
Again, we find God proving His ability to do the impossible. This miracle defies the laws of physics. But God wanted to prove something here–more than His own ability to do the impossible. God is teaching us here that He can do the impossible for those who desperately need Him to act. God can reclaim an axe from the Jordan River. God can reclaim a life from the clutches of Satan. God can reclaim a heart from the throes of sin. God can reclaim peace from disaster. God can reclaim fellowship from isolation.