Elisha’s miracles were practical in nature, and not merely for show; and the first of the five miracles recorded in this chapter was an act of real charity. Such also were the miracles of Christ – not only great wonders, but also great favors to those for whom they were done. God magnifies His goodness with His power.
Elisha readily received a poor widow’s complaint. She was a prophet’s widow, and her deceased husband had the reputation of being a Godly man. He had kept his integrity in a time of national apostasy; he was one of the 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. However, he died poor and in debt – induced, perhaps, by persecution; for when Jezebel ruled, true prophets had a hard time surviving, especially if they had families. But now this man’s creditors were being very severe with his widow. She had two sons, who were to be the support of her widowed state; but they were about to be forced to serve the creditors for seven years (Ex. 21:2) to work out the debt. In this distress, the poor widow went to Elisha; and he effectually relieved her distress, and put her in a way to both pay the debt and also support her family! He miraculously provided her with a supply of oil to sell. Firmly believing in the Lord’s power and goodness, and in pure obedience to the prophet, she borrowed many vessels from her neighbors and poured out her single jar of oil into them; and she and her sons were amazed to find that the oil continued flowing as long as the woman had any empty vessels to receive it. We never come short in the Lord, or in His power and bounty and the riches of His grace. All our deficiency is in ourselves; but His promises never fail, and His grace and mercy never cease to flow!
Next we read of the kindness of a Shunammite woman to Elisha. Shunem was a city in the tribe of Issachar, and it lay along the road between Samaria and Carmel – a route that the prophet often traveled. This pious woman invited him to dine with her family whenever he passed that way; and so well-pleased was she with her guest, and so desirous was she of his company, that she not only bid him welcome to her table, but she also wished to provide a guest-room for him in her house so that he might stay longer. Being greatly pleased with the quietness of his apartment and the friendliness of the hospitality which he received, Elisha began to consider what recompense he could make to this Godly woman. He consulted with his servant Gehazi on this matter, and Gehazi reminded him that she was childless. So Elisha called his hostess and assured her that within a year, she would give birth to a son! This promise was a surprise to her; but the fulfillment of the event, within the time specified, confirmed the truth of the prophet’s words. What a joy this must have been to her family!
But then we read of the unexpected death of the child! However, his Godly mother wisely guarded her lips under this surprising affliction. Rather, in faith, she made no preparation for the burial of her dead child – but for his resurrection! She laid him on Elisha’s bed in his empty room, and then begged leave of her husband to go to the prophet. She made all possible haste to get to Elisha; and he, seeing her at a distance, sent his servant Gehazi to enquire if anything was amiss. However, she had not come to see Gehazi; so she put him off with a general response: “It is well.” But when she came to the prophet himself, she humbly reasoned with him concerning her affliction. She threw herself at his feet, as one troubled and in grief – which she never showed until she came to the man whom she knew could help her.
Elisha sent Gehazi to go speedily to the dead child with his own staff, and bade him lay that on the face of the child to restore his life; however, the woman resolved not to go back without the prophet himself. Gehazi returned without success; but Elisha, by earnest prayer to the Lord, obtained the restoring of the dead child to life again. How joyfully the child was restored alive to his mother, and all parties involved were greatly comforted!
We next find Elisha among the sons of the prophets. There was a famine of bread in the land; but thankfully, there was not a famine of hearing the Word of God – for Elisha had the sons of the prophets sitting before him, to hear his wisdom and learn how to teach others. And on two occasions, Elisha also took care to provide them with their earthly food as well – just as Christ also twice fed those to whom He preached. First, he miraculously made harmful soup become safe and wholesome. He overpowered the effects of some poisonous wild gourds that were put into the soup by adding flour into the pot. On another occasion, the prophet miraculously made a little food go a long way. Elisha was given a gift of 20 barley-loaves and some ears of corn – a present which was especially valuable when there was a famine in the land. And having freely received, the prophet also freely gave – ordering it all to be set before the sons of the prophets, without reserving any for himself. Although the loaves were little – likely no more than what one man would ordinarily eat at a meal – yet with 20 of them, Elisha satisfied 100 men! His servant thought that so little food before so many men would only tantalize them; but in God’s name, Elisha pronounced that it would be a full meal for them, and there would even be leftovers – and so it came to pass. Those whom the Lord feeds, He also fills; and that which He blesses, even if it is little, will do much good!
Lord, we praise You as the Great Provider and Preserver of Your people – the One to Whom all Your creatures look for their food in due season (Ps. 145:15). Amen.
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image from The Art Bible, 1896