Lesson 26: Miracles of the Prophet Elisha

Reading Preperation:
  • 2 Kings 2:4-7
Lesson Notes:
1. Elijah’s Translation
We have discussed in Chapter 24, the mission of Elijah. We noted Elijah’s ministry during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel and the miracles that occurred. These include: causing the heavens to withhold rain; feeding a widow and her son; raising the widow’s son from the dead and bringing down fire from heaven. It is likely that there were yet further miracles, however they were not noted in our current scripture.
We noted that prior to Elijah’s translation, he had schooled Elisha in his role as prophet. Elisha had served as Elijah’s travelling companion as he had journeyed through the land of Israel.
Joseph Fielding Smith taught,
“The ‘School of the Prophets’ is not something new to this dispensation [that was organized in Kirtland by the Prophet Joseph Smith in order to teach the early leaders of the Church the principles of the gospel]. In ancient Israel, especially in the days of Samuel, Elijah and Elisha there was such as school [see 1 Samuel, tenth chapter and II Kings, chapter two]” (Church History and Modern Revelation 1. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1953, 373).
2 Kings 2:7, 15
7 And the fifty men of the sons of the prophet went, and stood to view afar off: and they two (Elijah and Elisha) stood by Jordan.
15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
These fifty men known as the “sons of the prophets,” organized by Elijah, will now be led by Elisha and will also assist him in his labors.
The last miracle performed prior to Elijah’s departure was to take his mantle and part the waters of the Jordan River. Joshua had performed this same miracle as had Moses before him when he, through the power of the priesthood, had parted the waters of the Red Sea.
2 Kings 2:8
8 And Elijah took his mantel, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
Elijah now asks Elisha an important question.
2 Kings 2:9
9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of the spirit be upon me.
Ellis T. Rasmussen clarifies meaning of “double portion,
“the birthright son inherited a double portion of property as well as more responsibility than other sons; thus Elisha asked, in effect, to be made Elijah’s spiritual heir” (A Latter-Day Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 300).
John Taylor offers further clarification regarding Elisha’s request
“Elisha, knowing that he had something to do and that he was about to be left alone,… requested Elijah to let a double portion of his spirit rest upon him. But could Elijah grant his request? No, he could not. What answer did Elijah make him? He said that he had asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou seest me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not it shall not be so. How did Elijah know that? Because he knew that the Melchizedek Priesthood holds the keys of the mysteries and the revelations of God; and that if he could see him as he ascended, it would be an evidence to him that the Lord had granted his request, although he himself had not the power to grant it… I do not suppose that [the sons of the prophets] saw anything of Elijah as he was being taken up into heaven… Elisha saw the manner in which he went… God had conferred upon him that priesthood by which he was enabled to see them. Elijah threw down his mantle as he ascended, which Elisha took up and started off alone… he had received the answer to his prayer” (Journal of Discourses 21. London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-86, 248-249).
Meaning of doctrine of translation
Joseph Smith clarifies,
“Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters to be held in reserve to be ministering angels” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Second Edition, Revised. 7 vols. Edited by B.H. Roberts. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51, 210).
Joseph Fielding Smith adds,
“We learn from modern revelation that there are no angels who administer to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it (D&C 130:5)… We may be sure that any messenger coming before the resurrection of Jesus who had a tangible body was a translated being who had lived on the earth and have been translated to become a messenger to men on the earth” (Answers to Gospel Questions 2. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1958, 44-45).
Why you might ask was Elijah translated? It was necessary for Elijah to be translated so he (see Luke 4:25 Elias = Elijah) could return to earth, along with Moses, to convey upon Peter, James and John at the Mount of Transfiguration the sealing keys that he held (see Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36). Elijah will also along with Moses appear to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in our dispensation to convey necessary keys (see D&C 110:12-16).
2. Miracles
Before we address the miracles performed by Elisha, it is important that we have a clear understanding of the meaning of miracles and their source.
Bruce R. McConkie states,
“In the broadest sense, miracles embrace all those events which are beyond the power of any presently known physical power to produce. They are occurrences that deviate from the known laws of nature and which transcend our knowledge of those laws… in the gospel sense, miracles are those occurrences wrought by the power of God which are wholly beyond the power of man to perform. Produced by a supernatural power, they are marvels, wonders, and signs, which cannot be duplicated by man’s present powers or by any powers which he can obtain by scientific advancements. Miracle in the gospel sense are gifts of the Spirit; they take place when the Lord on his own motion manifests his powers or when man by faith prevails upon Deity to perform supernatural events” (Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, Second Edition, 506).
It is important to note that the miracle is the result of the manifestation of spiritual power, not achievable through scientific advancement. The timing of the event is wholly under the will and direction of deity and “it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:68). The second requirement necessary is the presence of belief or faith on the part of the individual or on his/her behalf. We learn from the Book of Mormon, “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracles among them” (Ether 12:12). Lastly, the one who is performing the miracle must be spiritually pure, “there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he was cleansed every whit from his iniquity” (B/M, 3 Nephi 8:1). Miracle are also evidence that the power and authority of God rests with the individual, however it is important to understand that Satan also has the power to bring about manifestations that appear to duplicate the authority of the Lord. You will recall that the Pharaoh’s wise men, sorcerers, and magicians were able to replicate the miracles of Moses and Aaron up to a point (Exodus 7:11-12; 22;8:7, 17-18). What are the lasting effects of the miracle upon the actions of the recipient “for a good tree bringth… forth good fruit” (Luke 6:43).
3. Elisha’s 12 Miracles: Lessons to be learned
During Elisha’s ministry he, like Elijah before him, was noted in the scriptures for the miracles he performed. We will now examine each of them in an effort to better understand their purpose and meaning.
3.1. Parted waters of Jordan
2 Kings 2:14-15
14 And he {Elisha] took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
As previously referenced, Elisha being able to see Elijah taken into heaven, without suffering death confirmed to Elisha that the Lord had granted his request “of receiving a double portion” meaning “God had conferred upon him [the] priesthood by which he was enabled to see [him taken up]” (see John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:249).
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
Elisha receiving Elijah’s mantle confirmed to him that he had been “made Elijah’s spiritual heir. The ‘mantle’ of Elijah, which had earlier been placed symbolically on Elisha, was now given to him (1 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 2:13)” (A Latter-Day Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 300).
While the “sons of the prophets,” had not seen Elijah’s translation, they most certainly would have observed the parting of the waters of the river Jordan which signified to them the transfer of authority of Elijah upon Elisha.
This miracle is significant in that it symbolized the calling of Elisha by the Lord to replace Elijah as his anointed prophet to Israel. Equal in importance, it signifies to Elisha that he holds the priesthood or the authority to act in God’s name on earth.
3.2. Healed spring near Jericho
2 Kings 2:19-22
19 And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
20 And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
21 And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall ot be from thence any more death or barren land.
22 So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
The significance of this miracle is two-fold. First, it demonstrates to the inhabitants of Jericho that the power and authority of the Lord extends to control over the forces of nature.
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Our current knowledge is that “salt normally corrupts rather than purifies water” (Old Testament manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 64).
By Elisha exercising the authority his priesthood authority, his adding salt cleansed the water rather than corrupting it.
The second purpose is to meet a need the population has in this barren area for water that is pure so that they may be able to have sufficient water to drink and to water their crops. This miracle allowed the city of Jericho to thrive throughout the ages.
Daniel H. Ludlow notes,
In fact today, “the major spring supplying water for modern Jericho is still known as “Elisha’s Spring” (A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 237).
3.3. Commanded two she bears
2 Kings 2:23-24
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going by the way, there came forth little children [Heb. youths] out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children [youth]…
This miracle is one of the most misunderstood events in the Old Testament. It is probably due to the fact that we do not have all the required information necessary to provide an informed understanding.
At first glance, the response of the Prophet Elisha to the mocking of the children [Heb. Youth} seems reactionary and without feeling or sensitivity. How could a prophet of God use his authority to bring about the injury of others whose annoying, though taunting behavior, under usual circumstance would merit forbearance? May I offer another explanation for your consideration?
A prophet is the Lord’s servant upon the earth and therefore represents the Lord himself. When we take adverse action against his person, it is “as if” we are mocking the Lord himself. We are taught that men are to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear [respect]” (Hebrews 12:28). Israel was taught “to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Throughout Israel’s history, including today, before the Lord takes any adverse action against his sons and daughters, he warns them through his prophets so that they may have the opportunity to repent or to change their actions. When however the warning is not heeded, then the promised action follows whither it involves an individual, city or nation. It is my supposition that the youth were given a warning along with the accompanied circumstances that would follow. This event is then yet another example of the warnings of the Lord to each of us. Whatever the action in which we may be engaged that is displeasing to the Lord, if the individual or group chooses not to heed the warning, the promised circumstances will occur. In this instance the attack by two she bear! In the final analysis, the consequences are not the choice of either the Lord or his prophet, they are ours; or in this instance, the forty-two errant youth.
3.4. Water in Edom
2 Kings 3:16-18, 20, 22-23
16 And he [Elisha] said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.
17 For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.
18 And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
20 And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.
22 And they [Moabites] rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:
23 And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.
This miracle is prefaced by the exercise of faith by king Jehoshaphat who believes that Elisha is the Lord’s prophet. He convinces the other two kings, king of Israel and king of Edom that they should consult with Elisha prior to going into battle against the Moabites, their mutual enemy (see 2 Kings 3:12). Elisha is willing to seek the Lord’s inspiration based upon the righteousness of king Jehoshaphat (see 2 Kings 3:14).
As noted this miracle involves the covering of the valley by water that was miraculously provided. The sun reflecting upon the water gives it the appearance of blood to the Moabites and they believe that the kings have been slain and they will now claim the spoils.
2 Kings 3:24
24 And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
This miracle is performed by Elisha on behalf of a more righteous nation against her attacking enemy. The faith of king Jehoshaphat was sufficient to bring about the intervention of the Lord through his prophet.
The Old Testament student manual quotes Keil and Delitzsch,
“The divine help consisted, therefore, not in a miracle which surpassed the laws of nature, but simply in the fact that the Lord God, as He had predicted through His prophet, caused the forces of nature ordained by Him to work in the predetermined manner… From the reddish earth of the freshly dug trenches the water collected in them had acquired a reddish colour, which was considerably intensified by the rays of the rising sun, so that when seen from a distance it resembled blood… .As the Moabites knew very well that there was no water in the wady at the time, and they had neither seen nor heard anything of rain… the thought was therefore a natural one, that the water was blood” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malahi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 74).
The miracle involved the faith of a king, the sudden filling of the valley with water without accompanying wind or rain and the appearance of the water as blood to the Moabites. The water appearing as blood lead the Moabites to a false conclusion that brought about the success of the battle. The battle was won, however, not through the strength of the nation’s military and armor but through their faith and obedience to a prophet of the Lord.
3.5. Multiplied oil
2 Kings 4:1-2
1 Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondsmen.
2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? Tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.
This miracle involves the compassion of the Lord for the wife and family of one of his deceased servants. It begins with the woman’s faith and heartfelt petition to his prophet Elisha for assistance. Due to her poverty, she is unable to pay her obligation to her creditor. Under the law, when one was unable to meet a legal debt, one could bind out the debtor’s son as a servant to satisfy the obligation (Leviticus 25:39-40). The widow is going forfeit her two sons. In her extremities, she confesses to Elisha, the only item of value that she possesses is a “pot of oil.”
2 Kings 4:3-4
3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.
4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out [your oil] into all the vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.
What a strange request in order to pay her debt! Why would she need to borrow a large number of vessels from her neighbors? All the oil she has is contained in just one, probably small, pot? The widow has sought the prophet for assistance, and he had offered her direction howbeit unusual. Her dilemma, and ours, is do we act with our faith or with our doubt. She acted as she had been instructed by a Prophet of the Lord. She borrowed a number of pots from her neighbors and then with her sons, went into her house and closed the door.
2 Kings 4:5-6
5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.
6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.
Surely to the astonishment of both the widow and her sons, and to many of us, all the vessels that she had borrowed were now full of oil and there was still oil in her single small pot! From her one small pot of oil had come oil sufficient to fill many pots. How great must have been her joy and her tears as she ran to tell Elisha the miracle that had occurred!
2 Kings 4:7
7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.
Her joy and her tears must have flowed even more as she realized how generous the Lord had been to her. He had provided not only sufficient oil for her to sell and then be able to pay her debt and prevent the servitude of her sons, but the excess income would be sufficient to provide for her and her family into the future. She had acted on her faith and trusted in the Lord and He had greatly blessed her and her family. Her test, and ours, is to act in faith. When we do, we open the door for great blessing to also occur in our lives.
3.6. Restores a child to life
2 Kings 4:8
8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
This miracle begins with a simple act of thoughtfulness extended by one person to another. These simple acts of consideration still occur in our world today. They often go unnoticed except by the giver and their beneficiary. The purpose of the act of selflessness is not for recognition or honor. The act of compassion is often reward in its self. Nothing more is sought or expected. The offer is unconditionally extended and then accepted by the one in need.
2 Kings 4:9-10
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber. I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
The wife senses that their frequent visitor is no ordinary individual. He is a “holy man of God.” How did she know and her husband did not? Sometimes it is the woman who is more sensitive to the whispering of the spirit than a man. Maybe it is because she had more interaction with him and was the first of the two to recognize her feeling that there was something different about this stranger at their door. Whatever the reason, she requests of her husband that they expands their generosity from food to providing periodic lodging to their visitor.
2 Kings 4:11-13
11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto her, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us will all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
Elisha, and now we understand also his servant Gehazi, accept the offer of lodging by this hospitable couple as they visit the area. Elisha and his servant as beneficiaries of the couple’s kindness want to offer something to them in return. Elisha’s offer is declined. Their consideration is offered unconditionally. Surely, Elisha must have thought, surely there is something that we can do to show our gratitude and appreciation for their assistance.
2 Kings 4:14-16
14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
Elisha has just revealed to his hostess the silent wish of her heart… to be a mother in Israel! In all likelihood, she had given up this desire long ago in view of the increasing years of her husband. She is so startled by Elisha’s words to her that for a moment her faith turns to doubt and she accuses the man of God of lying to her! Dare she believe, she silently asks herself, that this blessing really could be hers?
2 Kings 4:17
17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
How great must have been the joy and happiness of this couple as their doubt turns to faith and the generous giver of hospitality and more, become the beneficiary of the Lord’s bounteous blessing of motherhood. Like Sarah of old, her heart must have been full of gratitude to the Lord and to His humble servant for this wonderful blessing of parenthood. Surely, her joy and gratitude would have greatly multiplied occurring at a time in history when being barren was also accompanied with disgrace and shame!
How could this woman of Shunem have known when she offered a stranger in her village to share a meal with she and her husband that if would result in the fulfillment of her greatest dream… to be a mother in Israel? How can any of us know in advance the blessings that will come into our own lives as we perform quiet acts of kindness to someone in need with no thought of compensation or reward to ourselves? While these acts may carry no immediate reward, nor should they for that would defeat their true purpose, I believe that changes do occur in the lives of the giver and the receiver. Both are changed by their encounter.
Marion D. Hanks, quoting his friend, stated,
“You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed” (The Gift of Self. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974, 2nd Printing, 70).
One thing I know for sure is that as we give unselfishly to others, we draw a little closer to becoming like the One who lived a perfect life, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 Kings 4:18-20
18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.
19 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.
20 And when had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.
On this tragic day in the life of anyone who has ever lost a loved one, especially a child, his mother knew what to do.
2 Kings 4:21-22
21 And she went up and laid him [her dead son] on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.
22 And she called her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.
She knew where to go for help for while her understanding said, “My child is dead,” her faith said, “Go to man of God. He will know what to do.”
When the distraught mother arrives, Elisha does not know initially know the reason for her visit.
2 Kings 4:27
27 And when she came to the man of God to the him, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.
As soon as Elisha understanding that her concerns are regarding her son, he sends his servant ahead with the instructions that when he comes to the child, he is to “lay my staff upon the face of the child” (2 Kings 4:29). When the servant arrived, he did as he had been instructed, however “there was no voice, nor hearing.” When Elisha arrived, Gehazi told him, “the child is not awaked” (2 Kings 4:31).
2 Kings 4:32-35
32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.
33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.
34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.
35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
Who can doubt the joy that must have come to this mother as she learns that her son who was dead is now alive!
2 Kings 4:37
37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.
Words would be inadequate to express the joy and happiness that both she and her husband must have felt on this occasion. She had known in her heart that the man of God would know what to do. Her faith had been strong, and she had not been disappointed. Her son who was dead, now lived again!
3.7. Cured poisonous food
2 Kings 4:38
38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth [famine] in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
In this miracle, Elisha comes to the land only to find that a famine existed. Having compassion on those who assisted him in the work, the sons of the prophets, he desired to offer them nourishment.
2 Kings 4:39-40
39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage; for they knew them not.
40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.
A servant, desiring to serve, but lacking in knowledge regarding the poisonous properties of the “wild gourds” he had gathered, unwittingly had poisoned the pot of food. Rather than provide nourishment, the food proved deadly!
2 Kings 4:41
41 But he [Elisha] said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.
How is it that someone not trained in the medicine and the effects of poison would know at the moment of crisis the common antidote that would instantly render the contaminated food eatable? The event seems so insignificant and the medical knowledge of Elisha so ordinary that anyone would know what to do. I submit to you that this is, even today, often not the end result, even when one who is a trained expert is on the scene. At best, medical knowledge may be utilized to alleviate the patient’s discomfort, while back-up support is summoned. Ordinarily, the medical expert would ordinarily not be able to determine “on the spot” the cause of the contamination nor are they able to immediately determine that the food is now save to be eaten. The usual practice would be to make the victim comfortable, summon immediate assistance and gather a sample for further laboratory examination. The balance of the food would be disposed of.
Elisha being a “man of God” and holding the holy priesthood, is able to draw upon the powers of heaven and then to be assured that the inspiration that he is given is based upon the perfect knowledge of the divine source. The solution offered is in keeping with divine laws that often defies current knowledge or practice. It is for this reason that we define the event as a miracle regardless of how insignificant or simple at first glance it may appear.
3.8. Multiplied food
2 Kings 4:42
42 And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.
A man of faith brings loaves of barley and husks of corn to the prophet Elisha. In faith, he asks the “man of God” to bless the food that he might be able to provide food for those in need.
2 Kings 4:43
43 And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He [Elisha] said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.
Reading between the lines, it appears that the man who had brought the food recognized himself that the amount he brought was not sufficient to feed one hundred men, without it being multiplied. He also, like many of us, expected Elisha to perform the miracle immediately. Again, it appears to me that the Lord felt the man’s request was sincere, and he would honor it, but on his time schedule, not on the man’s time table. When the miracle did not occur immediately, the man’s faith wavered, and he stated the obvious, “the amount before me is not sufficient.” Nevertheless, Elisha reiterates his blessing upon the food, as if to say, “take this food and it will be sufficient for the hundred men and there will be extra left over.” His faith shaken, but yet obedient to the prophet’s direction, the man returns to the people with his same small amount of food in hand.
2 Kings 4:44
44 So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.
Imagine the man’s surprise when the meager amount of food that he had brought to the group of hundred men was increased before his very eyes and, as Elisha had stated, there was extra left over! To believe without seeing is true faith, but one’s faith may also be increased when they become a personal witness of the verity of the words of the “man of God.” There were two miracles, a minimum amount of food, blessed by the Lord, is sufficient and more to feed one hundred men, and the faith of a believer is strengthened.
Like the Savior who, during his ministry upon the earth, will use his powers on two separate occasions to multiply a few loaves and fishes in order to feed those who had gathered to hear his message, previously Elisha had performed a similar miracle.
3.9. Leprosy: Naaman and Gehazi
[**As we address the unfolding of this special miracle, I will provide only the specific verse for reference as this miracle comprises the Chapter Five of 2 Kings.]
The healing of Naaman, the Syrian, is one of the better known miracles in the Old Testament. Its popularity may be due to the uniqueness of the participants. These include: “the little maid in the home of Naaman who exercises great faith; the king of Judah whose response to the request of the king of Syria echoes many in the world today; the initial anger of Naaman as his pride is injured and then his profound humility; the tragic consequences of Elisha’s faithful servant, Gehazi, and the steadfastness of a prophet of the Lord who is perfect in his faith and trust in the power and compassion of Lord whom he represents. Each of these unique features come together to make this event memorable.
The Old Testament student manual states,
The position of Naaman is “captain of the entire army of the Syrians” (Old Testament student manual: 2 Kings—Malachi, 75).
Naaman had contracted the dreaded disease of leprosy.
James E. Talmage states regarding leprosy,
“Quoting Zenos, in the Standard Bible Dict., says, ‘True leprosy, as known in modern times, is an affection characterized by the appearance of nodules in the eye-brows, the cheeks, the nose, and the lobes of the ears, also in the hands and feet, where the disease eats in the joints, causing the falling off of fingers and toes. If nodules do not appear, their place is taken by spots of blanched or discolored skin (Mascular leprosy). Both forms are based upon a functional degeneration of the nerves of the skin’… [In addition] Trench in Notes on the Miracles [states] ‘Leprosy was nothing short of a living death, a corrupting of all the humors, a poisoning of the very springs of life; a dissolution, little by little, of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away” (Jesus the Christ. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963, 35th Edition, 199-200).
Given the debilitating nature of Naaman’s disease, it is not surprising that he was desperate for a cure. It is coincidental that a recommendation comes from within his own household in the presence of “a little maid; and waited on Naaman’s wife” (vs. 2). She herself had been brought to Syria “a captive out of the land of Israel” (vs. 2).
In spite of her status as a servant in a foreign land, her faith in a living prophet in Israel, givers her courage, She states, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy” (vs. 3).
Naaman acting upon her recommendation and a desperate hope for cure, seeks a letter from the king of Syria to Jehoram, the king of Israel. The letter states, “Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy” (vs. 6). The reaction is to “rent his clothes” and to state, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man [king of Syria] doeth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?…see how he seeketh a quarrel against me” (vs. 7). It is “as if” he is saying, I may be the king of Israel, but I know of no one who has the power to cure the disease of leprosy? This is just a ploy to create a division between our nations! To think that a man can be cured of leprosy is ridiculous. No one has that power.
Elisha learning of the kings upset offered his assistance. He stated, “… let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (vs. 8). The king is only too glad for Elisha’s assistance, and sends Naaman to his home.
In desperation, Naaman goes to Elisha’s home expecting an audience with this man. He “stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him… ” (vs, 9-10). Elisha’s message to the Syrian commander is, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (vs. 10). Naaman’s reaction to Elisha’s action is both disgust and disappointment. He states, “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call out to the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (vs. 11). His preconceived expectations of not only how he would treated, but that his leprosy would be removed by some spectacular occurrence has only increased his anger. He adds, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (vs. 12). Naaman’s disgust and disappointment have now turned to rage! He has been insulted and hurt and may have turned to make the long trip back to Syria, his hope for cure dashed.
Fortunately for Naaman, he was no alone on this trip for recovery, his servant was with him. It is he who would able to snatch victory from the hands of personal defeat and bring the voice of reason to his master. “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (vs. 13). The servant speaks to his master, not as a servant, but as a son to his father in order to calm him in hope that he may yet follow the direction of the prophet. As king Jehoram had inferred, Only God has the power to heal leprosy!
This is a pivotal moment in the life of Naaman. Does he cling tightly to his foolish pride and return home the fastest way possible and bring this foolish journey to an end? Or does he humble himself, listen to the words of his loyal servant and exercise sufficient faith to lead him to the river Jordan and into the water? “Faith, in the words of Paul, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).Naaman certainly has hope, but is it of sufficient strength to overcome his doubt. How long it took for Naaman to weight his options and to make his decision, I don’t know, but we do know his decision. “Then went he down, and dipped himself even times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (vs. 14).
How great must have been Naaman’s joy! His leprosy was gone. His skin was like a young child, clean and without blemish! The words of the “man of God” so simple and direct had been fulfilled. He had dared to hope and he had not been disappointed. He could now return to Syria and his family clean. But first, one thing more remained. He would return to the home of Elisha and bestow upon him the offering he had brought with him [“ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of rainment” (vs. 5). They seem so insignificant now in comparison to the blessing that he had received from God, but he couldn’t return to Syria without expressing his gratitude to the “man of God.”
“And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him:” (vs. 15). This is the first time Naaman and Elisha had met face to face. This occasion is very different from Naaman’s first visit. “… and he {Naaman] said, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel:” (vs. 15). Naaman’s faith has become more certain. He is now a living witness of the power and mercy of the Lord. Naaman continues, “now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (vs. 15) Let me through my means, express a token of my gratitude to you and your God.
Elisha knows that the powers of heaven are to be freely exercised on behalf of those who meet the prerequisite conditions of faith and humility. These gifts come directly from heaven, and not from man. Under no conditions are they to be sold! Elisha replied, “… As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he [Naaman] urged him [Elisha] to take it: but he refused” (vs. 16). Naaman again offers his goods, if not for Elisha, then for the benefit of “thy servant two mules’ burden of earth?” (vs. 17). Again the generous offer is declined. Naaman now shares his testimony with Elisha, “[I] with henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD” (vs. 17). “And he [Elisha] said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way” (vs. 19).
Our attention is now directed to the encounter of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, and Naaman. [**I believe the following words were formulated in Gehazi’s mind prior to his actions.] “Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him” (vs. 20). It is my opinion that Gehazi, like many of us, is first tempted in his mind by Satan regarding the value of the riches that Naaman had offered to Elisha his master. Unfortunately, Gehazi acts upon the temptation. He will take an action, that he know clearly is wrong. “So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?” (vs. 21).
All is not well. Gehazi is about to perjure himself. “And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: given them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments” (vs. 22). The request for the silver and garments is not from Elisha, but is the bounty that Gehazi wants for himself! “And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him” (vs. 23). Naaman is only too pleased to be able to be able to reward Elisha for the special healing he has received.
Gehazi directs Naaman’s servants to where he is going to store his goods. “And when he came to the tower, he took them from their [servants] hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed” (vs. 24).
Now, in a cloak of innocence, Gehazi returns to his master. “But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (vs. 25). Surely this was Gehazi’s opportunity to confess his actions, instead his continued his charade upon being questioned. To lie to Naaman was one thing, but to betray the trust of Elisha to whom he had served as a faithful servant, was to bring severe condemnation upon himself.
Elisha knew even before he had asked his servant where he had gone, but he gave Gehazi one last opportunity to confess his transgression. Surely, he was painful to Elisha as he continues to address his servant. “And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” (vs. 26). In other words, where does one’s greed stop? How can you ever be trusted by the Lord, when your heart is focus on the temporal, not the spiritual gifts to which the Lord has entrusted his servants? He might have added, where much is given, much is required. Elisha now states the consequences for Gehazi’s choices. “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (vs.27)
Keil and Delitzsch state regarding Gehazi’s leprosy,
“It was not too harsh a punishment that the leprosy taken from Naaman on account of his faith in the living God, should pass to Gehazi on account of his departure from the true God. For it was not his avarice [greed] only that was to be punished, but the abuse of the prophet’s name for the purpose of carrying out his selfish purpose, and his misrepresentation of the prophet” (Keil, C.F. and Delitzsch, F. Commentary on the Old Testament 3. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d., 323).
While I recognize the severity of Gehazi’s actions, I find the extension of the consequences to extend to “thy seed forever (vs. 27), to be extremely harsh. I too must exercise my faith and trust in the Lord that someday his mercy will extend to those of Gehazi’s seed yet unborn.
Ellis T. Rasmussen offers hope for Gehazi,
[While] “Gehazi would likely have lost his position with the prophet [Elisha] as a result; his appearance in a later account (see 2 Kings 8:4) may mean that the events are not compiled in chronological order. Of course, it could be that he repented and was forgiven and cleansed” (The Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 304).
I want to believe that Gehazi did fully repent. As a result of his actions, he was forgiven his sins and his leprosy was healed completely. I want also to believe that any effect upon his “seed” for his lapse was also rescinded.
3.10. Floated iron ax head
The necessity of having a house in which to dwell that meet the needs of “the sons of the prophets,” provides the backdrop for this miracle. It is while constructing this new dwelling that an incident occurs that calls forth another miracle.
2 Kings 6:4-5
4 … And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! For it was borrowed.
The head of the ax, or even possibly the entire ax, had unfortunately fallen into the river. While the spot where it was last seen was known, it must not have been visible to the individual and therefore he assumed it was gone. The main concern of the fellow is that the ax was not his, but he had borrowed it from another individual.
2 Kings 6:6-7
6 And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
7 Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.
The head of an ax would have been made of iron and everyone knows that iron does not float! How could it be that throwing in a stick would cause an object that is not buoyant in the first place to now float? According to the knowledge of the day, including the present, this action is not possible. However, the scriptures record, its actual occurrence. While the retrieval of the ax head by Elisha is outside our current understanding, the only plausible explanation for this event is that it was a miracle performed on behalf of the grieving servant. An action of kindness and mercy performed through heavenly power by a man of God. It underlines the fact that not all miracles involve the healing of disease or restoration of life but each are bestowed by a loving God according to his kindness and mercy to his faithful and obedient children.
The Old Testament student manual notes,
“The scarcity of iron and its great value were not sufficient reason to perform such a miracle” (Old Testament student manual: 2 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 76).
J.R. Dummelow states his reason,
“The prophet’s powers were to extended to help one who was honest enough to be the more concerned for his loss because the axe was not his own” (A Commentary on the Holy Bible. New York: Macmillan Co., 1936, 232).
3.11. Blinded Syrian Army
This miracle stands out for extra ordinary features. It pits the power of the Lord, as exercised through one man, his prophet, against the entire Syrian army! An additional feature of this event is that the current king of Israel seeks, listens and then follows the direction of a prophet of God!
The LDS Bible Dictionary states,
“Elisha was the leading prophet of the northern kingdom, and the trusted adviser of the kings of Israel… His ministry last more than 50 yers, during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash” (Elisha. LDS Bible Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1979, 664).
2 Kings 6:8-10
8 Then the king of Syria warred against Israel…
9 And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.
10 And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.
The king of Syria become so frustrated by his defeats by Israel, that he began to suspect there was a spy for Israel within his army.
2 Kings 6:11-12
11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?
12 And one of his servants said, None,my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
The king of Syria is determined to capture Elisha and so he upon determining his whereabouts sends his army to “Dothan” (2 Kings 6:13), where Elisha is staying.
2 Kings 6:14-15
14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him Alas, my master! How shall we do?
It appears that the fate of Elisha is sealed. The Syrian army has completely surrounded the city and there is no escape for Elisha or his servant.
2 Kings 6:16
16 And he [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
The servant must have thought that there was something wrong with Elisha eye sight. Surely, he could see that the city was completely surrounded by a foreign army. What did he mean, there are more for us than against us? Had his eye sight failed him?
2 Kings 6:17
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
It has always struck me that the initial response of the servant is that Elisha must be suffering from some impairment in his vision for he “can’t see” the Syrian army; when in fact, it is the vision of the young man that is impaired for he is looking through “his natural eyes” and Elisha is looking through “his spiritual eyes”
How often do we also fail to see the hand of the Lord in our lives as we look through “our natural eyes” and fail to see what only “our spiritual eyes” can behold?
What action does Elisha take against those who have come to take his captive? We learn that he causes the entire army to become blind (see 2 Kings 6:20).
2 Kings 6:19-20
19 And Elisha said unto them, this is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.
20 And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
Elisha had led the entire Syrian army who had been sent to capture him and return him captive to Syria from Dothan to Samaria! One can imagine their surprise when their eyes were opened and they learned that they were completely surrounded by the foreign enemy! Surely now all will understand that the power of the Lord is greater than the armies of man.
The king of Israel is ready to begin the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian army (see 2 Kings 6:21). Elisha had not brought them to Samaria from Dothan in order to put them to death. Instead, he chooses to prepare a banquet of peace for them.
2 Kings 6:22-23
22 … set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
23 And he prepared great provisions for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
The ways of the Lord is to develop peace, not contention among his children. His choice is always to preserve life rather than take it. How successful was Elisha campaign… “the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:23).
There may be some who would question the lasting effects of Elisha sparing the Syrian army by pointing to the very next verse in support of their position.
2 Kings 6:24
24 And it came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up and besieged Samaria.
Two opposing positions are presented. The first by the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus; the other by Ellis T. Rasmussen.
Flavius Josephus states,
“when the soldiers returned to report their strange blindness and hospitality by Elisha, the king then determined to make no more secret attempts upon the king of Israel, out of fear of Elisha, but resolved to make open war with them… ” (The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, bk.9,chap.4,par.4).
Ellis T. Rasmussen notes,
“Ben-hadad’s siege of Samaria was probably in a later time” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 304).
Regardless of the commentator with whom you choose to side, it would seem unlikely to me that having just suffered such a humiliating set back, a military leader would be reticent to immediately begin an assault upon a nation particularly when the source of that defeat, the power of the Lord with Elisha, was yet present to deter any military actions.
3.12. Caused Syrian army to flee
When the last miracle of Elisha we will examine occurred, whether immediately after the preceding miracle or later is less important. What is important is the fact that each of the miracle we have examined did occur and there are lessons for each of us to learn.
During a time when the Syrians were besieging Samaria, they had been so effective in surrounding the city that the food supply of the inhabitants had been exhausted.
2 Kings 6:25
25 And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they [Syria] besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cap of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.
As the king is passing by upon a wall, he hears a woman cry out to him for assistance (see 2 Kings 6:26). While the king offers no assistance, he does listen to her concern.
2 Kings 6:28-31
28 And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow.
29 So we boiled my son, and did eat thim: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.
30 And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes: and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sack-cloth with upon his flesh.
31 Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.
Upset and distraught regarding the cannibalism that is occurring in his city, the king determines that it is Elisha who is to blame for their dilemma and he should be put to death! How often when we feel helpless to change our circumstances ourselves, we then look to another as the cause of our current dilemma. Other nations, people from other countries, even members of our own family become the scapegoats of our helplessness and anger. Maybe he is the same king who earlier wanted to massacre the Syrian army and Elisha prevented him from doing so, nevertheless acting on the basis of his anger, he sends his servant to Elisha’s home.
2 Kings 6:32-33
32 But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murdered hath sent to take away mine head? Look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?
33 And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer?
Prior to his arrival, Elisha tells those with him why the king’s servant is coming to his house. Upon his arrival, the servant tells Elisha that the dire circumstances the citizenry are experiencing are due to the Lord’s failure to intervene. It often occurs that those whose faith is weak or least merit the Lord’s assistance, are often those who cry the loudest when calamities occur. We want the Lord out of our lives, until tragedy strikes, and then we are often angry because he delays his assistance. It seems we often want him in our lives, only on our terms. Elisha speaks to the servant.
2 Kings 7:1-2
1 Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, to morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
2 Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven might this thing be? And he [Elisha} said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.
Through a vision from the Lord, Elisha is able to see into the future to make a prediction that food will become so abundant on the morrow that the selling price will return to normal and below. This insight must have stretch even the faith of the believer in view of the dire circumstances that existed, never mind the determined doubter!
Now enter four leprous men who prior to entering the gate of the city, recognize the existing famine and decide instead to go to the Syrian camp and seek substance (see 2 Kings 7:3-4).
2 Kings 7:5-7
5 And they [four leprous men] rose up in the twilight to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.
6 For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against tus the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.
7 Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.
The four leprous men upon entering the Syrian camp, found the army had abandoned the camp, but had left their tents, animals and all their supplies. After they had eaten and drunk, they were going to hid their surplus, but determined amongst themselves that “some mischief will come upon us” (2 Kings 7:8-9), made the decision to go and report their findings to the king.
2 Kings 7:12
12 And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city.
The doubting king sends a group of soldiers to check out the area and learn that the Syrians had in fact fled their land and had left in their haste much supplies (see 2 Kings 7:13-15).
2 Kings 7:16
16 and the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.
The words that Elisha had spoken, in spite of the test of faith that had accompanied his prediction, were fulfilled. What happened to the servant who was so full of doubt that he questioned aloud the vision of Elisha?
2 Kings 7:17, 19
17 And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.
19 And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he [Elisha] said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shall not eat thereof.
It is one thing to doubt the power of the Lord to perform a miracle on behalf of a people; it is another to voice that doubt for it may undermine the faith of another whose faith is weak. In this instance, not only did the man doubt the words of Elisha, he also doubted the power of the Lord himself. His words had brought about a rebuke from a prophet and the result was the loss of his life.
Heber C. Kimball stated regarding the death of the king’s servant,
“That is the reward of those who disbelieve the Prophets of God; it was so then,… There was no living faith in that man, he could not believe the testimony of the Prophets, and in this he was like some of our–what shall I say, great men, whose faith is weak and sickly, and they think they know it all, and can chalk out right and left that which would be best for building up the kingdom of God” (Journal of Discourses 17. London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-86, 6-7).
4. Conclusions
We have spend the majority of this chapter reviewing twelve of the recorded miracles of the Lord, performed by Elisha. In light of our examination, we may come to expect that miracles were a common occurrence and were always spectacular in their presentation. In this light, it is important to remember the counsel of a latter-day prophet, Spencer W. Kimball.
Spencer W. Kimball taught,
“Even in our day, many people… expect if there be revelation it will come with awe-inspiring, earth-shaking display. For many it is hard to accept as revelations those numerous ones in Mose’s time, in Joseph’s time, and in our own year–those revelations which come to prophets as deep, unassailable impressions settling down on the prophet’s mind and heart as dew from heaven or as the dawn dissipates the darkness of the night.
“The burning bushes, the smoking mountains, the sheets of four-footed beasts, the Cumorah’s, and the Kirtlands were realities; but they were the exceptions. The great volume of revelation came to Moses and to Joseph and comes to today’s prophet in the less spectacular way–that of deep impressions, without spectacle or glamour or dramatic events. Always expecting the spectacular, many will miss entirely the constant flow of revealed communication” (Conference Report, Munich Germany Area Conference, August.1973, 76-77).
We must remember that often the word of the Lord come through the simple whispering of the spirit. If however we are distracted and not closely listening, we may miss the promptings of the Lord. Two essential ingredients in our effort to receive direction from the Lord involves our obedience to his commandments and the exercise of our faith, both in Him and in his appointed servants. Of the latter ingredient, we read in the Book of Mormon the words of Moroni.
B/M, Ether 12:6, 12
6 … dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
12 For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracles among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.
In conclusion, it is my desire that our faith may be strengthened to the point that we, like the servant of Elisha, may have our eyes opened to the miracles of the Lord. As we do so we will come to know for ourselves the truth as recorded in 2 Kings 6:16, “they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”