THE BOOK OF 2 KINGS
Lesson 2: Chapters 4:1-6:7
Part I: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
The Miracles of Elisha

Beloved heavenly Father,
The miracles of Your prophet Elijah were surpassed by Elisha, and the miracles of Elisha were surpassed by Your supreme prophet, Jesus Christ. Of all the miracles of Your prophets recorded in the Old Testament, none of them can compare with the miracle of Jesus dying on the altar of the Cross in atonement for the sins of mankind, and the gift of everlasting life that the miracle of His Resurrection promises to everyone who accepts Your Son as Savior and Lord. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, as we read and study the stories of events in the Old Testament that prefigure and are fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament and the New Covenant He established with mankind. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Now that woman was sterile, but at the prayer of Elisha she bore a son. So, too, the Church was sterile before the coming of Christ; but just as the other bore a son at the prayer of Elisha, so the Church bore the Christian people when Christ came to it. However, the son of that woman died during the absence of Elisha; thus also, the Church's son, that is, the Gentiles, died through sin before Christ's advent. When Elisha came down from the mountain, the woman's son was revived; and when Christ came down from heaven, the Church's son or the Gentiles were restored to life.
Ephrem the Syrian, Sermon 128.6

Chapter 4: More Miracles of Elisha, Man of God

Both Elijah and Elisha had ministries to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but Elisha's ministry was different from Elijah's in several ways:

  1. The focus of Elijah's ministry was to call the people to repentance and to demonstrate the sovereignty of the one God while Elisha's miracles were designed to resolve difficulties for the people with whom he came into contact.
  2. Both Elijah and Elisha confronted the kings of the Northern Kingdom but Elisha was more involved in political affairs and had a greater influence with the king and his court.
  3. Elijah was more a solitary prophet with only a little contact with the communities of the prophets while Elisha took responsibility for the communities of the prophets and was acknowledged their "father" who provided for them.
  4. While Elijah was Israel's harsh judge who pointed out the people's covenant failures, Elisha had a much closer personal relationship with the people, showing them the love God had for them.

Elijah performed 8 miracles but Elisha performed double; God worked 16 miracles through Elisha, the "man of God."

Elijah's 8 miracles:

  1. Shut up the heavens causing a drought (1 Kng 17:1)
  2. Multiplied flour and oil for a widow (1 Kng 17:14-16)
  3. Raised a widow's son from the dead (1 Kng 17:17, 22-23)
  4. Defeated the prophets of Baal with fire from heaven (1 Kng 18:25-38)
  5. Brought rain to end the drought (1 Kng 18:41-45)
  6. Destroyed 51 soldiers with fire (2 Kng 1:9-10)
  7. Destroyed 51 soldiers with fire and lightening (2 Kng 1:9-11-12)
  8. Parted the waters of the Jordan River (2 Kng 2:8)

Elisha's 16 miracles:

  1. Parted the waters of the Jordan River (2 Kng 2:14)
  2. Purification of the water source for Jericho (2 Kng 2:18-22)
  3. Protection of the prophet by two she-bears (2 Kng 2:23-25)
  4. Water for the army of Israel and success over the Moabites (2 Kng 3:16-25)
  5. Providing the widow's oil (2 Kng 4:1-7)
  6. Elisha's annunciation prophecy for the woman from Shunem (2 Kng 4:8-17)
  7. Resurrection of the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kng 4:18-37)
  8. Purified the poison soup (2 Kng 4:38-41)
  9. Multiplication of loaves (2 Kng 4:42-44)
  10. Healing of Naaman (2 Kng 5:1-19)
  11. Gehazi cursed with a skin disease (2 Kng 5:25-27)
  12. Miracle of finding the axe (2 Kng 6:1-7)
  13. Capturing a band of Aramaeans by striking them blind (2 Kng 6:8-23)
  14. Prophesizing relief from the enemy and the famine (2 Kng 6:24-7:20)
  15. Prophesizing the death of Ben-Hadad and the rise of Hazael (2 Kng 8:7-15)
  16. Prophesizing that Israel's defeat of King Hazael of Damascus (2 Kng 13:14-19)

2 Kings 4:1-7 ~ The prophet's widow and her jug of oil
1 The wife of a member of the prophetic brotherhood appealed to Elisha. "Your servant my husband is dead," she said, "and you know how your servant revered Yahweh. A creditor has now come to take my two children and make them his slaves." 2 Elisha said, "What can I do for you? Tell me, what have you got in the house?" "Your servant has nothing in the house," she replied, "except a flask of oil." 3 Then he said, "Go outside and borrow jars from all your neighbors, empty jars and not too few. 4 When you come back, shut the door on yourself and your sons, and pour the oil into all these jars, putting each aside when it is full." 5 So she left him, and she shut the door on herself and her sons; they passed her the jars and she went on pouring. 6 When the jars were full, she said to her son, "Pass me another jar." There are no more," he replied. Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She went and told the man of God, who said, "Go and sell the oil and redeem your pledge; you and your children can live on the remainder."

Elisha is now the leader of the communities of prophets who look to him for their protection and provision. A widow of a member of the brotherhood is in so much debt that she fears her sons will be sold into servitude to pay her creditors. She comes to Elisha for help. In her appeal to the prophet she mentions that he knows her husband "feared Yahweh" (literal translation). To "fear God" is an expression of piety and reverence toward God and in the woman's statement is also probably said with an emphasis on loyalty both to God and His prophet. The seizure of the property of a debtor and the practice of selling his children to pay the debt was common in the ancient world, but the Law of the Sinai Covenant regulated the seizure of wives and children for the nonpayment of debts (see Ex 21:7; Am 2:6; Is 50:1).

Question: What was the law concerning the servitude of such people in Leviticus 25:35-42?
Answer: Under the Law, Israelites must be treated as employees instead of slaves and could not be kept in permanent servitude. They were to be freed and their land restored to them in the Jubilee Year.

2 Elisha said, "What can I do for you? Tell me, what have you got in the house?" "Your servant has nothing in the house," she replied, "except a flask of oil."
In the first question, Elisha is asking himself what he can do, since he knows he cannot stop a legal foreclosure; yet he realizes that he has the power to produce a miracle.

 

7 She went and told the man of God, who said, "Go and sell the oil and redeem your pledge; you and your children can live on the remainder."
The miracle requires her cooperation in collecting as many jars as she can to hold in which to pour out the oil she has in her one jar. The oil does not stop flowing until she runs out of jars, and Elisha tells her to sell the oil to pay her debts. Notice that Elisha is called "man of God" instead of "prophet" throughout these stories. "Man of God" is a term that is used frequently in 1 and 2 Kings. It does not mean "clergyman" as the term is used today but is used as a synonym for "prophet," one who speaks the word of God. In the Hebrew text of 1 Kings, "man of God" is used 19 times in 12:22; 13:1, 4, 5, 6 twice, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14 twice, 21, 26, 28, 31; 17:18, 24; 20:28 in addition to the word "prophet" that is used 29 times. But in the Hebrew text of 2 Kings it is used almost more frequently, especially for Elisha:

  1. Elijah is called "man of God" by others and by himself in in 1:9, 10, 12, and 13.
  2. Elisha is called "man of God" 8 times in 4:7, 9, 16, 21, 22, 25 (twice), and 27 in the story of the Shunammite woman.
  3. Elisha is called "man of God" in the continuing Elisha cycle in 4:40, 42; 5:8, 14, 15, 20; 6:6, 9, 10, 15; 7:2, 17, 18, 19; 8:2, 4, 8, 11; 13:19.
  4. It is also used for the unnamed prophet of Judah who pronounced God's curse judgment against King Jeroboam is called "man of God" in 23:16 and 17 (his story was told in 1 Kng chapter 12).

The word "prophet" is only used in 2 Kings 13 times while "man of God" is used 33 times.

Question: Compare the success of the miracle for this woman with the lack of success in the lost victory of the Israelites in the war against the Moabites in the previous chapter, even though Elisha gave them everything they needed for victory.
Answer: The success of both miracles required the cooperation of the people for whom Elisha brought the miracle, but they had to have faith and trust in God and His prophet in order to see the fulfillment of the miracle. The woman had faith that God, through His prophet, could save her and she trusted in the prophet's plan for her salvation. The armies of the three kings had witnessed the miracles Elisha had worked to prepare their way to victory, but in the end they lacked the faith and trust to complete the victory.

Question: What miracle of Elijah does Elisha's miracle of the jars of oil recall? See 1 Kng 17:8-16.
Answer: It is similar to the miracle of the jug of oil and jar of meal that never ran out for the Gentile widow of Zarephath. Both women were impoverished widows in need and in both cases the prophets redeemed them; one widow redeemed from starvation and the other from bondage.

These two miracles can be seen as foreshadows to the mercy of God to an impoverished mankind. Mankind has a debt of sin that cannot be paid by ordinary means, and yet God, in His mercy, has provided a miracle in pouring out the never ending cleansing blood of His Son on the sins of mankind. He has redeemed mankind from bondage to sin and death and given everyone who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior the food of everlasting life in the Eucharistic cup that never fails.

2 Kings 4:8-17 ~ The Shunammite woman and Elisha's blessing
8 One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. 9 She said to her husband, "Look, I am sure the man who is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. 10 Let us build him a small walled room, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there." 11 One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, "Call our Shunammite." He called her and when she appeared, Elisha said, 13 "Tell her this: Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?'" But she replied, "I live with my own people about me." 14 "What can I do for you then?" he asked. Gehazi replied, "Well, she has no son and her husband is old." 15 Elisha said, "Call her." The servant called her and she stood at the door. "This time next year," he said, "You will hold a son in your arms." But she said, "No, my lord," do not deceive your servant." 17 But the woman did conceive, and she gave birth to a son at the time that Elisha had said she would.

The Biblical account reveals that Elisha travels a great deal between Mt. Carmel, the capital of Samaria, and the communities of the prophets in Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho. He has a servant who travels with him named Gehazi. Perhaps he is a prophet-in-training as Elisha was to Elijah.

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there.
Shunem was a town in the tribal lands of Issachar in the Jezreel Valley (Josh 19:18). The Shunammite woman was wealthy; her husband was a landowner with servants. Like the Gentile woman of Zarephath who shared her food and her home with Elijah, this woman generously offered Elisha her hospitality and then decided to offer him a room of his own in her house. These women are only two of many women in salvation history who opened their homes and gave their hospitality to God's representatives and the people of His faith community.

Question: Can you name some women in the New Testament who showed the same generosity of spirit as the Shunammite woman?
Answer:

  1. St. Peter's wife and mother-in-law opened their home in Capernaum to Jesus and His disciples (Mt 4:13; 8:5; Mk 1:21-28; 2:1; Lk 7:1).
  2. Mary and Martha of Bethany opened their home to Jesus and His disciples (Lk 10:38-42; Jn 12:1-2).
  3. The house of Mary of Jerusalem became the first Church-home of St. Peter and the Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
  4. The widow Lydia offered St. Paul her hospitality (Acts 16:14-15).
  5. Priscilla and her husband Aquila took in St. Paul and founded a Church-home in Ephesus and later in Rome (Acts 18:26; 1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16:3-5).

12 He said to his servant Gehazi, "Call our Shunammite." He called her and when she appeared, Elisha said, 13 "Tell her this: Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?'"
Thankful for her generosity, Elisha asks what he can do for her to show his appreciation. Elisha is rather formal with women. It is interesting that in the literal Hebrew and Greek texts of the story Elisha refers to her as "this" or "the" Shunammite, (three times in 2 Kng 4:12, 27, 36) and never uses her name; perhaps it is because he considers it inappropriate to address a married woman by her name. His offer to intercede with the king or army commander shows he had influence at the royal court.

Question: What is her response to his offer and why?
Answer: She politely declines, suggesting that she is cared for materially by her husband and her clan. Evidently the presence of a holy man of God in her house is reward enough.

It is Gehazi who points out to Elisha that she had no son and her husband is elderly. 15 Elisha said, "Call her." The servant called her and she stood at the door. "This time next year," he said, "You will hold a son in your arms." But she said, "No, my lord," do not deceive your servant."
Elisha likes his servant's suggestion and promised his friend that she will bear a child at this season in the next year. She protests because it seems too amazing to believe.

17 But the woman did conceive, and she gave birth to a son at the time that Elisha had said she would.
Question: What similar stories to this one do you recall from the Old and New Testaments concerning barren women? What is different in this story? Include this miracle in your list. Do not list the Virgin Mary who was not barren and whose miracle resulted from her being an unmarried virgin.
Answer: There are seven such stories:

  1. In the story of Abraham and Sarah, they were both elderly and Sarah was barren, yet God made Sarah fertile and she bore a son in their old age. God told them to name the child Isaac (Gen 18:9-11; 21:1-3).
  2. Rebekah was barren until Isaac prayed for her and God gave them twin sons whose names are given as Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:20-24).
  3. Rachel was barren until God gave her a son which we are told she named Joseph (Gen 30:22-24).
  4. Manoah's wife was barren but God answered her prayer and gave her the judge Samson (Judg 13:2-7, 24).
  5. Hannah was barren, but God heard her prayer and gave her the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-2, 10-11, 20).
  6. The birth of the son of the barren Shunammite woman (2 Kng 4:14-17).
  7. Zechariah and Elizabeth were elderly when God made Elizabeth fertile and she bore a son which Zechariah was told to name John (Lk 1:1-25, 57-58).

There are only 5 annunciation stories in the Bible in which a woman received a direct message of a future birth by an agent of God:

  1. Sarah the mother of Isaac
  2. Manoah's wife who becomes the mother of the prophet Samuel
  3. The Shunammite woman
  4. The Virgin Mary the mother of Jesus
  5. Elisabeth the mother of John the Baptist

There are three differences between Elisha's annunciation story and the gift of a child to the other barren women or the other annunciation stories in the Bible:

  1. All the other stories of the gift of children to barren women originate from the word of God, but this one is from the prophet's own initiative as recompense for the woman's kindness to him.
  2. The son from the birth is named in the other stories.
  3. All the other stories lead to the birth of someone destined to play a significant role in salvation history, while it is not recorded that this unnamed child plays any significant role in the national story.

2 Kings 4:18-28 ~ The death of the Shunammite woman's son
18 The child grew up; one day he went to his father who was with the reapers, 19 and exclaimed to his father, "Oh, my head! My head!" The father told a servant to carry him to his mother. 20 He lifted him up and took him to his mother, and the boy lay on her lap until midday, when he died. 21 She went upstairs, laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door on him and went out. 22 She called her husband and said, "Send me one of the servants with a donkey. I must hurry to the man of God and back." 23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It is not New Moon or Sabbath." But she replied, "Never mind." 24 She had the donkey saddled and said to her servant, "Lead on, go! Do not draw rein until I give the order." 25 She set off and made her way to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her in the distance, he said to his servant Gehazi, "Look, here comes our Shunammite! 26 Now run and meet her and ask her, "Are you well? Is your husband well? Your child well?'" "Yes," [It is well] she replied. 27 When she came to the man of God there on the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi stepped forward to push her away, but the man of God said, "Leave her; there is bitterness in her soul and Yahweh has hidden it from me, he has not told me." 28 She said, "Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say: Don't deceive me?" [..] = literal translation IGHE, vol. II, page 981.

Like the annunciation story of Isaac, this son born after an annunciation is also threatened with death. Since we are told that the boy became ill after being with his father and the reapers at harvest time, it is possible that sunstroke caused his death.

20 He lifted him up and took him to his mother, and the boy lay on her lap until midday, when he died.
The mother's anguish is intensified by her child still being alive when he was brought to her and then dying as she desperately tried to save him. After he died, she took him to the only place in her house that she associates with holiness and that is the room and bed of the "man of God."

22 She called her husband and said, "Send me one of the servants with a donkey. I must hurry to the man of God and back." 23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It is not New Moon or Sabbath."
Her husband apparently does not grasp the role of Elisha as God's agent who has the power to perform miracles and does not understand why his wife wants to go to him. Sabbaths (Num 28:9-10) and New Moon festivals (Num 28:11-15) were times when special sacrifices and petitions to God were offered, and, since the people of the Northern Kingdom were discouraged from going to the Jerusalem Temple, they may have brought their special sacrifices and petitions to the prophets at this time.

But she replied, "Never mind." 24 She had the donkey saddled and said to her servant, "Lead on, go! Do not draw rein until I give the order." 25 She set off and made her way to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
She ignores her husband and immediately sets out to find Elisha, telling her servant to drive the donkey to make it move faster.

25b When the man of God saw her in the distance, he said to his servant Gehazi, "Look, here comes our Shunammite! 26 Now run and meet her and ask her, "Are you well? Is your husband well? Your child well?'" "Yes [It is well]," she replied.
When Elisha sees her in the distance, Elisah immediately senses that there is a problem, and he sends his servant to inquire what has brought her to find him. Her reply to Gehazi in the Hebrew text is "It is well."
Question: But all is not "well." Why does she respond to the servant in this way as she rushes past him?
Answer: Probably because she does not want to waste her time explaining to the servant; she knowns only his master can help her.

27 When she came to the man of God there on the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi stepped forward to push her away, but the man of God said, "Leave her; there is bitterness in her soul and Yahweh has hidden it from me, he has not told me."
The mountain is Mt. Carmel (2 Kng 4:25). Gehazi steps forward to protect his Master from the woman's grasp, but Elisha recognizes that she is deeply distressed and is surprised that God has hidden the cause of her distress from him. That Elisha was not forewarned makes the miracle he will perform even more dramatic.

28 She said, "Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say: Don't deceive me?"
In her distress, she blames Elisha for her pain; why did he give her a son to love only to take away his life?

2 Kings 4:29-37 ~ The resurrection of the Shunammite woman's son
29 Elisha said to Gehazi, "Hitch up your clothes, take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; if anyone greets you, do not answer him. You are to stretch out my staff over the child." 30 But the child's mother said, "As Yahweh lives and as your yourself live, I will not leave you." Then he stood up and followed her. 31 Gehazi had gone ahead of them and had stretched out the staff over the child, but there was no sound or response. He went back to meet Elisha and told him. "The child has not woken up," he said. 32 Elisha then went to the house, and there on his bed lay the child, dead. 33 He went in and shut the door on the two of them and prayed to Yahweh. 34 Then he climbed on to the bed and stretched himself on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes to his eyes, and his hands on his hands, and as he lowered himself on to him, the child's flesh grew warm. 35 Then he got up and walked to and fro inside the house, and then climbed on to the bed again and lowered himself on to the child seven times in all; then the child sneezed and opened his eyes. 36 He then summoned Gehazi. "Call our Shunammite," he said. He called her. When she came to him, he said, "Pick up your son." 37 She went in and, falling at his feet, prostrated herself on the floor and then picked up her son and went out.

Realizing that time is of the essence, Elisha decides to send his young servant and prophet-in-training to run to the boy and to try to revive the child, using Elisha's staff of authority. The mother, however, is not satisfied and swears in the name of Yahweh that she will not leave him; she is not putting her trust in a "magic" staff but in the person of Elisha, prophet of God. By her oath she is insisting that Elisha must go with her to her child. Gehazi is not successful in resuscitating the child and meets Elisha and the mother on the road to report on his failure. The boy's mother was correct in her intuition that it is the "man of God" who is needed to raise her son to life. The delay in time and Ghazi's unsuccessful attempt proves that this is not a question of the child being unconscious or needing resuscitation. The boy is truly dead and his spirit has left his body.

32 Elisha then went to the house, and there on his bed lay the child, dead. 33 He went in and shut the door on the two of them and prayed to Yahweh. 34 Then he climbed on to the bed and stretched himself on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes to his eyes, and his hands on his hands, and as he lowered himself on to him, the child's flesh grew warm. 35 Then he got up and walked to and fro inside the house, and then climbed on to the bed again and lowered himself on to the child seven times in all; then the child sneezed and opened his eyes.
Elisha begins with prayer and then his actions demonstrate not an attempt to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the child but the intention of imparting his own vital life force to the child. The sneeze is the sign that the breath of life has again come into the boy.

Question: What miracle of Elijah does this miracle recall? See 1 Kng 17:17-24 compared with 2 Kng 4:11, 21, 32-34
Answer: It recalls a similar miracle performed by Elijah for his benefactress the widow from Zarephath whose son had died and was restored to life by Elijah in a similar way; both resurrection miracles took place in an Upper Room with each boy laying on the prophet's bed (1 Kng 17:19; 2 Kng 4:11). Elijah stretched out on top of the boy three times and Elisha seven times.

Three and seven are both symbolic "perfect" numbers in Scripture. Three points to something complete, important, or fulfilling in God's perfect plan while seven is a number of perfection and fulfillment especially associated with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What similar resurrection miracles will be performed by Jesus in the New Testament?
Answer:

  1. The resurrection of Jairus' dead daughter (Mt 9:23-26; Mk 5:35-43; Lk 8:49-56).
  2. The resurrection of the dead son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-16).
  3. The resurrection of Martha and Mary of Bethany's dead brother Lazarus (Jn 11:32-44).

Question: What do all these resurrection miracles prefigure?
Answer: The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2 Kings 4:38-41 ~ The poisoned soup
38 Elisha went back to Gilgal while there was famine in the country. As the brotherhood of prophets were sitting with him, he said to his servant, "Put the large pot on the fire and cook some soup for the brotherhood." 39 One of them went into the fields to gather herbs and came on some wild vine, off which he gathered enough gourds to fill his cap. On his return, he cut them up into the pot of soup they did not know what they were. 40 They then poured the soup out for the men to eat, but they had no sooner tasted the soup than they cried, "Man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. 41 "Bring some meal then," Elisha said. This he threw into the pot, and said, "Pour out, for the company to eat!" And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

You will recall in 2 Kings 2:1 that Elijah and Elisha started out from Gilgal (the Gilgal to the north of Bethel and not the Gilgal near Jericho) and travelled south to Bethel and then east to the Jordan River near Jericho on the journey to Elijah's assumption into heaven. There was apparently a third community of prophets at Gilgal in addition to Bethel and Jericho and all the communities recognized first Elijah and now Elisha as their superior. The visit of Elisha is the occasion for a communal meal and perhaps a teaching. Despite the famine, Elisha is determined that they should all eat together and tells his servant (Gehazi ?) to set a pot to boiling to make a soup. One of the community prophets went out to gather herbs for the soup, perhaps a young member of the community who was not familiar with the local poisonous plants. He gathered some fruit from a plant that looked promising, identified by the Septuagint as "bitter apples", also called "apples of Sodom" a vine's fruit that grows in the region with small yellow melon-type fruits that is a strong purgative and has been known to be fatal. Other members of the community recognize the poisonous addition and call out to Elisha. Elisha saves the men and the meal by curing the soup with a miracle in which meal is added to the soup. It is God and not the meal that cures the soup.

2 Kings 4:42-44 ~ Elisha's multiplication of loaves
42 A man came from Baal-Shalishah, bringing the man of God bread from the Firstfruits, twenty barley loaves and fresh grain still in the husk. "Give it to the company to eat," Elisha said. 43 But his servant replied, "How can I serve this to a hundred men?" "Give it to the company to eat," he insisted, "For Yahweh says this, They will eat and have some left over.'" 44 He served them' they ate and had some left over, as Yahweh had said.

The Feast of Firstfruits took place on the day after the Sabbath during the 8 days from the Passover sacrifice to the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14). The covenant people were required to bring grain and bread made from the first fruits of the barley harvest to the Temple and to make a profession of face in front of the altar when presenting their gift (Dt 26:1-11). The same type of offering was made fifty days later in presenting the first fruits of the wheat harvest in the Feast of Weeks (Lev 23:15-22). Since the people of the Northern Kingdom were not allowed to visit the Jerusalem Temple, this religiously observant man may have brought his first fruit offerings to the community of prophets and their leader.

Elisha commands that the offering be shared with the brotherhood of prophets, but his servant points out that there is not enough bread. Elisha reveals that he has a "word of knowledge" from God that not only will there be enough for them to eat, but there will be food leftover.

Question: Elisha's feeding miracle in the multiplication of the loaves prefigures what New Testament feeding miracle of Jesus? See Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:31-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-13; Mt 15:32-39; Mk 8:1-10.
Answer: This miracle prefigures Jesus' feeding miracles of the 5 thousand men and 4 thousand people.

Question: What is significant of the timing of this miracle during the Feast of Firstfruits that took place of the first day of the week after the Sabbath of the Holy Week of Passover/Unleavened Bread and prefigures another miracle in the New Testament on the Feast of Firstfruits in 30 AD? See Mt 28:1-8.
Answer: Jesus arose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits in 30 AD.

Question: How many parallels can you find between Jesus' feeding miracle in Matthew 14:13-21 compared to Elisha's feeding miracle in 2 Kings 4:42-44?
Answer:

Elisha's Feeding Miracle Jesus' Feeding Miracle
In Elisha's miracle there was only a small amount of food (10 loaves of barley bread). In Jesus' miracle there was only a small amount of food (5 loaves of barley bread and 2 fish).
Elisha's servants protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men. Jesus' disciples protested that there was not enough food to feed so many men.
The small amount of food became enough to feed 100 men. The small amount of food became enough to feed 5 thousand men not counting women and children.
There was some food left over. There were 12 large baskets of food left over.
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015

 

Question: What might the Jews who saw the parallels between Jesus' feeding miracle and the feeding miracle of the 9th century BC prophet Elisha conclude from the comparison between the small amount left over in Elisha's miracle and the abundance of left over bread in Jesus' miracle?
Answer: Jesus of Nazareth is a greater prophet of God than the great Elisha.

Chapter 5:1-6:7 ~ Elisha Heals Naaman the Aramaean

 

2 Kings 5:1-7 ~ Naaman the Aramaean seeks help in curing his skin disease
1 Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master's respect and favor, since through him Yahweh had granted victory to the Aramaeans. 2 But the man suffered from a virulent skin-disease. Now, on one of their raids into Israelite territory, the Aramaeans had carried off a little girl who became a servant of Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would approach the prophet of Samaria! He would cure him of his skin-disease." 4 Naaman went and told his master. "This and this", he reported, "is what the girl for Israel has said." 5 "Go by all means," said the king of Aram, "I shall send a letter to the king of Israel." So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes. 6 He presented the letter to the king of Israel. It read, "With this letter, I am sending my servant Naaman to you for you to cure him of his skin-disease." 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes. "Am I a god to give death and life," he said, "for him to send a man to me and ask me to cure him of his skin-disease? Listen to this and take note of it and see how he intends to pick a quarrel with me."

Naaman is an Aramaean and the commander of the army of Ben-Hadad II, the king of Damascus. He is a very important man, but he suffers from a skin disease. The Hebrew word sara'at, translated as lepra in the Septuagint, refers to a wide variety of skin diseases (Cogan and Tadmor, II Kings, page 63). Naaman's condition and the events that follow do not suggest that he had what is understood to be the highly contagious condition of leprosy (Hansen's disease). The text does not suggest that he suffered from the distinctive signs of leprosy that included facial distortions, swellings, and mutilations. He may have suffered from plaque psoriasis or vitiligo since he was part of the court of the Aramaean king. Lepers in most all ancient cultures were completely segregated from society.

 

1 Naaman, army commander to the king of Aram, was a man who enjoyed his master's respect and favor, since through him Yahweh had granted victory to the Aramaeans.
The inspired writer credits Naaman's victories for the Aramaeans to Yahweh since Yahweh is the God of all nations and all of human history is under His control. Even pagan victories could not come about without Yahweh's approval or judgment.

A captured Israelite girl who is the slave of Naaman's wife mentions the healing powers of the Northern Kingdom's great prophet. Naaman approaches his king who willingly writes to Israel's king on his behalf. The Israelite king is King Jehoram. From the beginning of the story, the inspired writer shows us that it is God who is guiding events, even events outside of Israel.
Question: What does the letter upset Israel's king? What is the contrast between the girl and the king? Why does the Israelite king tear his clothes?
Answer: The king thinks the Aramaean king is laying a trap for him and his inability to heal his general will be an excuse for war. The little girl immediately thought of Elisha because she had faith in God's holy prophet, but the king, in spite of the miracles God has worked through Elisha, does not even consider him. The king tearing his clothes is a sign of his grief and fear.

5b So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten festal robes.
That is about 750 pounds of silver and about 150 pounds of gold. Silver and gold, then as now, were highly valued in commercial exchange. They were measured by weight since coinage did into come into existence until the seventh century BC in the ancient Near East.

2 Kings 5:8-14 ~ Elisha heals Naaman
8 When Elisha heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent word to the king, "Why have you torn your clothes?" Let him come to me, and he will find there is a prophet in Israel." 9 So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, "Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more." 11 But Naaman was indignant and went off, saying, "Here was I, thinking he would be sure to come out to me, and stand there, and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and wave his hand over the spot and cure the part that was diseased. 12 Surely, Abana and Parpar, the rivers of Damascus, are better than any water in Israel? Could I not bathe in them and become clean?" And he turned round and went off in a rage. 13 But his servants approached him and said, "Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, Bathe, and you will become clean.'" 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.

Again God's prophet comes to the aid of the king of Israel without being invited. God sent him not for the sake of an apostate king but for the sake of the Gentile general.

9 So Naaman came with his team and chariot and drew up at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent him a messenger to say, "Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will become clean once more."
Elisha like his master Elijah is not impressed by men who are considered important by human standards of status. He doesn't even go out to meet Naaman personally, but sends his servant Gehazi with instructions.

Question: Why is Naaman indignant?
Answer: Since he is an important man he expected to be greeted in person, after all he had shown respect and deference to the prophet by waiting outside his residence. He also expected something more spectacular than bathing in the muddy Jordan River when the rivers in his native land are more impressive.

13 But his servants approached him and said, "Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? All the more reason, then, when he says to you, Bathe, and you will become clean.'"
Naaman's servants intercede with him, calling him "father", the usual title for a leader by men who respect and serve him.

14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, as Elisha had told him to do. And his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.
There are two points that show Naaman is not a disagreeable or unapproachable man. He listened to his wife concerning consulting the Israelite prophet, and he listened to his servants and decided to do as the prophet told him. His faith and trust, even though small at this point in the story, is enough to heal him of his affliction.

2 Kings 5:15-19 ~ Naaman offers Elisha a reward
15 Returning to Elisha with his whole escort, he went in and, presenting himself, said, "Now I know that there is no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Now, please, accept a present from your servant." 16 But Elisha replied, "As Yahweh lives whom I serve, I will accept nothing." Naaman pressed him to accept, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, "Since your answer is No', allow your servant to be given as much earth as two mules may carry, since your servant will no longer make burnt offerings or sacrifice to any god except Yahweh. 18 Only, and may Yahweh forgive your servant for this, when my master goes to the temple of Rimmon to worship there, he leans on my arm, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon when he does; may Yahweh forgive your servant for doing this!" 19 "Go in peace," Elisha replied.

The general had to be obedient in submitting to the plan for his healing through the waters of the Jordan River. The general is truly humbled by his experience and realizes that it is not the waters of the Jordan that healed him but the God of Israel. As a sign of his newly found humility, he refers to himself as Elisha's "servant." The Fathers of the Church saw the healing of Naaman as prefiguring Christian Baptism, the sacrament in which, through the water and obedience in Christ's word, mankind is cleansed from sin and given the gift of faith and new life.
Question: What is the essence of Naaman's statement in verse 15?
Answer: It is his personal profession of faith in Yahweh is the One True God.

Question: Why does Elisha refuse Naaman's gift?
Answer: Serving Yahweh in the man's conversion from a pagan to a monotheist is his reward.

Naaman asks for earth from the land God gave Israel in order to make a clean offering to Yahweh and not a profane offering on pagan soil. Elisha agrees since Naaman is not a member of the Sinai Covenant and therefore the Laws of the Covenant do not apply to him concerning only offering sacrifice at the altar of the Jerusalem Temple. Elisha even accepts his confession that he must accompany his king into a pagan temple. Rimmon was the national god of Aram, evidently a storm-god.

Jesus will mention miracles associated with two Gentiles in His address to the Synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of His ministry to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God: the widow at Zarephath that Elijah saved from the famine and the healing of Naaman by Elisha in Luke 4:25-27.
Question: What was the future significance of Jesus' mentioning these two Gentiles who came to faith in God through the words of mercy of His prophets? Note: the real miracle was their conversion.
Answer: His point will be that the faith of these two Gentiles in the God of Israel and His holy prophets produced miracles that changed their lives at a time when most of the covenant people in Israel had apostatized from the faith. Just as Elijah and Elisha had reached out to Gentiles so will Jesus' emissaries reach out to the Gentiles when the covenant people of His generation fail to respond to the miracles of God's supreme prophet, Jesus Christ, and come to faith in the Resurrected Christ and His New Covenant Kingdom.

Question: What does the conversion of Elijah's Gentile widow and Elisha's Gentile general foreshadow? See Is 66:18-21.
Answer: The future conversion of the Gentile nations as promised by the prophet Isaiah and fulfilled in the New Covenant, universal Church of Jesus Christ.

2 Kings 5:20-27 ~ The deception of Gehazi and his punishment
20 Naaman had gone a small distance, when Gehazi, Elisha's servant, said to himself, "My master has let this Aramaean Naaman off lightly, by not accepting what he offered. As Yahweh lives, I will run after him and get something out of him." 21 So Gehazi set off in pursuit of Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he jumped down from his chariot to meet him, "Is all well? He asked. 22 "All is well," he said, "My master has send me to say, This very moment two young men of the prophetic brotherhood have arrived from the highlands of Ephraim. Be kind enough to give them a talent of silver and two festal robes.' 23 "Please accept two talents," Naaman replied, and pressed him, tying up the two talents of silver in two bags with the two festal robes and consigning them to two of his servants who carried them ahead of Gehazi. 24When he reached Ophel, he took these from them and put them away in the house. 25 He then dismissed the men, who went away. He, for his part, went and presented himself to his master. 26 But Elisha said, "Gehazi, where have you been?" "Your servant has not been anywhere," he replied. But Elisha said to him, "Was not my heart present there when someone left his chariot to meet you? Now you have taken the money, you can buy gardens with it, and olive groves, sheep and oxen, male and female slave. 27 But Naaman's disease of the skin will cling to you and your descendants forever." And Gehazi left his presence white as snow from skin-disease.

Gehazi became susceptible to the sin of greed. He asked Naaman for about 75 pounds of silver, but Naaman in his generosity gave him twice that amount.
24When he reached Ophel, he took theses from them and put them away in the house.
The word ophel is a topographic term describing an elevated part of a city. The city of Samaria was built on a hill and perhaps it was a house within the royal citadel in Samaria where Gehazi hid his treasure.

Question: How many times does Gehazi sin?
Answer: He sins three times: first there is his sin of greed and then he lies twice: first in lying to Naaman and a second time in lying to Elisha.

But Elisha said to him, "Was not my heart present there when someone left his chariot to meet you? Now you have taken the money, you can buy gardens with it, and olive groves, sheep and oxen, male and female slaved.
He has underestimated the power of his master. Elisha's gift of clairvoyance has revealed the entire distasteful episode.

Question: What is ironic about Ghazi's judgment
Answer: It is ironic that the unfaithful, lying Israelite is now afflicted with the condition that had formerly plagued the converted Gentile.

The condition cannot be leprosy since Gehazi will continue as Elisha's servant.

2 Kings 6:1-7 ~ Elisha recovers the lost axe head
1 The brotherhood of prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we are living with you is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, then, and each of us cut a beam there, and we will make our living quarters there." He replied, "Go." 3 "Be good enough to go with your servants," one of them said. "I will go," he replied 4 and went with them. On reaching the Jordan they began cutting down timber. 5 But, as one of them was felling his beam, the iron axe head fell into the water. 6 "Alas, my lord," he exclaimed," and it was a borrowed one too!" "Where did it fall?" the man of God asked; and he showed him the spot. Then, cutting a stick, Elisha threw it in at that point and made the iron axe head float. 7 "Lift it out," he said; and the man stretched out his hand and took it.

The community of prophets has grown to the point that they need more living quarters and so they petition Elisha, as their leader, for permission to cut wood to build more housing. He gives his permission and accompanies them to the construction site. An accident occurs when a valuable axe head falls into the river, but Elisha retrieves it by a miracle. This is the prophet's 11th miracle. It is another demonstration how Elisha takes care of the community of prophets in even the smallest ways and how they acknowledge him as their leader.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Elijah was a great prophet of God sent to call the covenant people to repentance. But he was succeeded by Elisha, an even greater prophet who surpassed the prophet who came before him. John the Baptist came in the power and spirit of Elijah. What comparisons can be made between Elijah and Elisha and John the Baptist and Jesus Christ?

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2015 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.