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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: How Could Iron Float and Wood Sink?

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Don Stewart
One of the events that the Old Testament records which appears unscientific is given in the Book of Second Kings. It is when wood sank and iron floated.

While Elisha and his fellow prophets were building new facilities near the Jordan River, one of the men lost an axehead as he was cutting down a tree. He cried out in dismay because the axehead had been borrowed. The Bible says Elisha then took charge of the situation:

And the man of God said, Where did it fall? And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float (2 Kings 6:6).

How are we to understand this event? The properties of iron make it sink while the properties in wood cause it to float.


This is an excellent example of a biblical miracle in which God performs a sign contrary to the ordinary routine of nature. Certainly this cannot be repeated in a laboratory experiment and observed. It happened only once for a particular purpose. The purpose of the sign was to encourage the people. Thomas L. Constable comments:

Certainly this miracle encouraged the group of faithful followers of the Lord that their God really is alive and that He would supernaturally provide for their needs even though many Israelites had turned from the true God to Baal (Thomas L. Constable, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John Walvoord, Roy Zuck, eds., Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1985, p. 549).

Alternative Explanation

Aramaic scholar George Lamsa thinks the axehead came to the top of the water because Elisha put the stick in its hole. He translates the verse:

And he cut off a stick and thrust it in there; and it stuck in the hole of the axehead (George Lamsa, translator, The Holy Bible Translated from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1961, p. 417).

The miracle was then one of divine guidance. When Elisha put the stick into the water it immediately found the axehead.

There is, however, no basis for his translation, therefore, we are not to look for some ordinary natural explanation to explain this occurrence. It was a miracle of God as a sign to his people that He was with them.
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