Good morning! Today’s passage (2 Kings 3-7) is all about the prophet Elisha. If he were a magician (which he sounds like from the stories here), his stage title would be The Unmatched and Unbelievable Elisha! Carnival copy almost writes itself: Watch Elisha win the war with Moab! See miracles with Elisha too—never-ending oil! resuscitation! food multiplied before your very eyes! Witness Elisha’s victories over Aram! And in the middle of all this spectacle, there’s a wonderful story about the healing of Naaman, where small actions and overlooked people lead to healing.
2 Kings 3 offers virtually the same story setup as in 1 Kings 22—Jehoshaphat and the King of Israel team up (plus the king of Edom here) to take on Moab. As the story goes this time, the prophet Elisha makes water flow in the desert to provision all the animals and people assembled for war. One no doubt truthful but sad reality of war is an ungodly ransacking of the environment (trees, springs, and land itself) as a consequence of prevailing against Moab.
Miracles by Elisha pile up in chapter 4. First he creates an overflowing abundance of oil that gives a poor widow something to sell in order to pay off her debts. With the Shunammite woman, Elisha first promises her a long-delayed conception, which she at first marvels at and then experiences despite her disbelief (like Sarah in Genesis). When the son dies unexpectedly, Elisha wastes no time in getting to the body, then with some effort and care resuscitates the boy to health. Here too, we can find scriptural parallels in Elijah’s healing of the Zarephath widow’s son in 1 Kings 17, and Jesus’ raising to life again the son of the widow of Nain in Luke 7. A final miracle in this chapter, multiplying a little food in order to feed a hundred, also brings to mind Jesus’ feeding of thousands.
The healing of Naaman effectively rebukes all those who rely on themselves for power, with proof that God has all the power needed. Naaman is an enemy Aramean army commander second only to the king, but he suffers from leprosy. A captive Israelite girl (the lowest of the low in that time) has the nerve to speak of the Hebrew prophet Elisha’s power in healing, and it comes to Naaman’s attention. When a letter from the Aramean king arrives with the request to heal Naaman’s leprosy, the king of Israel receives this as an impossible challenge, a pretense for later attacking Israel. But Elisha calls the Aramean to him, and grand Naaman arrives with his full entourage of horses, chariots, silver, gold and garments. But Elisha doesn’t even dignify Naaman with a face-to-face conversation. He sends a messenger to say that all Naaman needs to do is wash seven times in the Jordan River. Such a non-challenge offends Naaman—the rivers of Damascus are far more impressive than puny Jordan. His servants persuade him to just give it a try, and behold, he is cleansed of the leprosy. Naaman converts allegiance to the God of Elisha and carries dirt from Israel back with him to Aram in order to praise God on Hebrew soil. Elisha refuses any ostentatious thank-you gift, and when his servant chases after Naaman to get his hands on a bit of that wealth, his punishment is to be leprous for life. This underscores the whole point of the story: power, might, wealth, fame and other supposed virtues are not as impressive as small, faithful actions and sensible people. It is the war-prisoner girl and the servants who persuade Naaman to find in little Jordan the healing that all the money and power in Aram had not previously secured for him.
After another miracle of a floating ax head, chapter 6 returns to the theme of war, this time with Aram. Elisha has powers of divine espionage, warning Hebrew towns to evacuate before Aram’s king attacks. When the king of Aram surrounds the town where Elisha is staying, the prophet asks God “please” (!) to strike the enemy forces with blindness until they are well within Hebrew territory. After demonstrating his prophetic abilities, Elisha then displays moral superiority by caring for the enemy combatants and sending them on their way unharmed.
In another fight against Aram, the town of Samaria suffers under extended siege and famine. Israel’s king cracks and threatens to kill Elisha, the closest thing to killing God (for whom the king blames this trouble). Elisha promises that within 24 hours, the famine and siege will be marvelously overturned. Lepers discover that the Arameans have all fled from a common auditory hallucination of charging chariots and horses. All of Samaria parties in the street with loot and food from the enemy camp. It’s the overlooked and taken-for-granted poor (the lepers) who discover this good news first. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Kings 8-10. Thanks for reading!