2 Kings 4-8: Elisha's Miracles

The legendary Miracles of Elisha.

Introduction

Elisha's miracles are well known, after all he raises someone from the dead! Many of his miracles are directly applicable to our lives today if you think about it.
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Debt Solution

A woman comes to Elisha for a solution to her debt problems: she owes money and the creditors wish to take her son as a bondservant (slave). Elisha inquires what she has back home and discovers that all she has is a pot of oil. Elisha instructs her to gather vessels (bowls) from her neighbors then fill them with the oil. Miraculously, she still has oil left after filling all the bowls she has collected. Elisha instructs her to sell it to pay the debt and live off the rest.

This is a key narrative missing in today's church. Many people think if they simply sit in their house praying, everything will fall in place. However, you have to both seek out God and follow His commands. The woman reached out to Elisha because that was her connection to God (like prayer). Elisha, likely after consulting God though that isn't specified in the Bible, tells her to perform a series of tasks. These tasks sound pretty crazy given her situation, but she does them because she has faith. In the end God rewards her actions and faith. When we pray for a better world or a better job, we have to also be following the tasks God gives us. We have to stand up for God's Word, and follow where God leads. Many times we offer one way prayers; we ask for something, but expect God's response to be whatever we ask for, so we don't bother to listen to His instructions.
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Raising Someone From the Dead

Elisha discovers yet another woman who needs his help. This time the woman is not even an Israelite. This woman gives Elisha bread and even a place to rest. She knows that he is a man of God and wishes to please him so that she may gain favor. When Elisha asks what she would like for her generosity, she declines acceptance into the nation of Israel, but instead reveals that she desires a child. Elisha tells her that a year from then, she would have a baby boy, but the woman does not believe him. Nonetheless, when the time comes, she bares a son. Interestingly, the appointed time is thought to be the same time Sarah gave birth to Isaac since it is referred to the "time of life" and the prophecy is similar to the one given to Sarah in Genesis 17:21.[1]

When the boy grows up, he incurs some sort of head injury that causes him to die after being transported home. After his death, the woman goes out seeking Elisha. I think it's worth noting that the woman—not the father—goes out seeking Elisha's help. We are being shown that it is the woman who has strong faith, which is the case in many of the Biblical narratives, particularly concerning non-Israelite women.

Elisha sends his servant to see about the child, and the servant confirms that he is dead. Elisha makes contact with the body. The contact is described to sound a little like CPR, but more involved. Elisha then prays for God to bring the child back. The child sneezes 7 times then awakens. This is the second resurrection in the Bible.

Although I know that the phrase "bless you" originated with the idea that sneezing expelled demons from the body, I wonder if that tradition dates back to Elisha's miracle?[2]
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Fleeing a Famine

At some point, Elisha warns the woman whom he raised her son that a 7 year famine is coming. She flees to the land of the Philistines and waits out the 7 years there. After 7 years she returns and goes to the king about reclaiming her possessions. Gehazi, Elisha's servant is also there. He tells the king of Elisha's miracles and the raising of the woman's son from the dead, which persuades the king to give the woman her belongings.

Although this passage is found in 2 Kings 8, after we are told Elisha curses Gehazi with leprosy, the events must happen beforehand. Scholars suggest that it is placed here because it deals with government rule as opposed to Elisha's miracles.[1]

Rid of Poison

When Elisha travels to Gilgal, he shares a meal with some men. While there, one of the men adds a plant to the meal that is not good for eating. When then men start to feel the effects of this poisonous plant, they speak up. Elisha miraculously removes the tainted element rom the pot.
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Twenty Loaves of Barley

Perhaps at the same meal, a man from Baalshalisha brings the firstfruits of barley and corn to Elisha. He gives him 20 loaves of barley along with full ears of corn. Elisha tells the man to feed it to the multitude, but the man doesn't think it will feed the group. Elisha insists and is miraculously able to feeds a hundred men with the 20 loaves of barely and corn.
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Elisha Heals Naaman

2 Kings 5 opens with an introduction to Naaman, the captain of the Syrian army. He is described as a great man who had earned deliverance for Syria from the Lord. However, he contracts leprosy. When the Syrians defeated Israel and took captives, they brought a maid from Israel to wait on Naaman's wife, who suggests Elisha could heal Naaman.

The king of Syria sends 10 talents of silver, 6000 pieces of gold and 10 changes of clothes to the king of Israel hoping to obtain Elisha's services for his fallen captain. A messenger brings these gifts to the king of Israel, presents Naaman, and reads the king of Syria's request that the king of Israel restore Naaman from his leprosy. At this the king of Israel panics; he believes it is a trap designed to lead them to war.

When Elisha hears that the king of Israel has rent his clothes, he offers to be of service so that people would know there was a prophet in Israel. This would also serve as a reminder that God was the true King of Israel. Elisha instructs Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan and asserts that he will come away clean. Intially, Naaman doesn't have faith; he believes the waters in Syria are better and instead of following Elisha's instructions, he leaves in anger. Naaman's servants talk him into obeying Elisha and when he follows the prophets instructions, his skin is healed.

Naaman is converted to worshipping God, and confesses that he will only offer sacrifices to the Lord. He asks for dirt from Israel which was tied to superstitious beliefs and forgiveness for bowing in house of a pagan god with the king. Elisha says "go in peace" which implies that he permitted him to do so. This is interesting because in Daniel, we will see that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego are rewarded for not bowing to pagan gods. I think this is one of those spectrums where maturity plays a role in how God expects us to behave. While Naaman is not punished for being present in body but not in spirit among pagan worship, he is also a new believer and not held to the same standard as the Israelites who had been raised in God's teachings since birth.

Elisha takes no money from Naaman, despite his offering. This is an example that modern "preachers" ignore. Elisha was called to be a prophet of God, which is a service to God's people. It isn't a get rich quick scheme. God's blessings are free. Besides, it is God who actually carries out the miracles, to take payment would be to rob God.

Elisha's servant Gehazi, however is in disagreement with this action. Gehazi chases down Naaman and asks for a talent of silver and 2 changes of clothes as payment. Naaman gives Gehazi what he seeks plus an additional talent. When Elisha learns of Gehazi actions (which included lying), he curses him and his family with the leprosy that Naaman had just been cured of.
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Making Iron Float

Elisha and the prophets decide to take up a new home because their current one is too "strait" (likely too crowded).[3] Once in their new location, the prophet are cutting wood when someone drops his axe head into the water. This was a great concern because it was borrowed and expensive at the time.[1] Elisha throws a stick in the water where the axe head fell and it miraculously floats. This is a reminder that even when our burden is heavy, God can make it light!
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Syrian War

The king of Syria goes back to war with Israel, despite Elisha's healing of Naaman. As odd as this seems, foreign relations, even today, are this fickle as well. Syria's king sends his men to a place he knew Israel would be camping. However, Elisha sends a message to the king warning him of this and saves the troops multiple times. The king of Syria is in such shock, he believes one of his men is betraying them. They confess that Elisha knows his every move because he is a prophet of God.
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Chariots From Heaven

At this revelation, the king sends an army after Elisha who is residing in Dothan at the time. When Elisha's servant becomes nervous of the situation, Elisha informs him that the Syrian army is out numbered. Elisha prays that God will open his servants eyes so that he could witness God's protection and the servant sees that the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire from God.

When the army attacks, Elisha prays that God will curse them with blindness, to which God obliges. Elisha then leads the army to Samaria under the pretense that he will take them to the man they seek. Once in Samaria, Elisha prays for God to lift the blindness. The king of Israel wants to kill them, but Elisha stops him. He convinces the king to feed them and send them back to Syria. When the army returns and tells the king what happened, the king relents of his battles.

This tells us a lot about both God's character and the character of a man of God. God could have stuck the Syrian's down with the army that surrounded them. Elisha could have prayed for that or he could have let the king of Israel kill the army. However, just as David did with Saul, God and Elisha set the Syrian's up to see that they had been delivered into Elisha's had but God's mercy had saved them. God wants us to repent and follow Him, so He gives us chances like these. When your eyes are opened, don't forget to see what God is showing you.
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The Attack on Samaria

having seemingly forgotten the past events, Syria attacks Israel once again. This time they siege the capital city of Samaria. The siege is so great that a famine flourishes in Samaria and prices for things like dove's poop increase drastically. Israel had drifted so far away from God that they were eating unclean foods. A woman confesses to have killed her son to eat under the pretense that they would eat another woman's son the next day. How disturbing is that? This is the image of nation completely fallen and devoid of faith in God. They have been rendered hopeless and are trying to survive on base instinct instead of relying on God. This cannibalism fulfills the prophecy given in Deuteronomy 28:52-53.

The king blames Elisha and God for the trouble just as people today blame God for their own lack of faith. When the king sends a messenger to chastise Elisha, they find that the elders respected Elisha so much that they are already at his home.
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Prophecy of Plenty

Photocredit: FreeImages.com/Denise Hunter
During the siege, Elisha prophesies that the next day, food will become abundant and reasonably priced. One of the king's servants challenges Elisha, revealing his lack of faith and Elisha remarks that the man will see it with his own eyes, but he won't get to eat the food.

God brings about this miracle through a group of outcasts who were lepers, yet another sign that God moves in unexpected places. You do not have to be popular or powerful to usher in change, you merely have to follow God. The lepers knew that regardless of what they did, they would die. They became determined to break into the Syrian's camp as it was the most optimistic option they had. When they do so, they discover that the Syrians have fled and the camp is empty. God had put the sound of a host of chariots coming toward them in the sounds of the Syrian's ears and the Syrians believed Israel had formed an alliance with Egypt and the Hittites. Fearing that they were out numbered, the Syrians fled.

The lepers ate their fill, then went to tell the kings household. The king, still not following God, did not believe them. After some persuading, he sends a small party to check out what is happening. When they discover that the camp is in fact empty, the people of the city raid the tents. Just as Elisha said, the next day there is an abundance of food and it is being sold at reasonable rates.

The king sends his servant, who had had questioned Elisha, to monitor the turmoil. The man sees with his own eyes that the prophecy has come true, but is trampled in the confusion. Just as Elisha said, he was not able to eat any of the food because he dies.
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References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 636-643. 2014
  2. "Why do we say, ʺGod bless you,ʺ when someone sneezes?". GotQuestions.org; visited 2017
  3. 2 Kings 6:1 Commentary". via BibleHub.com; visited 2017

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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