We've seen Elijah's big exit and Elisha letting everyone know that the new kid is for real! Now Elisha begins his work as God's messenger to the kings.
Just a reminder, there are now two Jehorams in the story. Verse 1 starts off describing Ahab's (Israel) son, Jehoram, taking the throne when Ahab died.
This was in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat's reign (Judah), and Jehoram reigned 12 years.
Verse 2 tells us that he did evil in the sight of the Lord; but for the first time in awhile the evil deescalated. He removed the sacred Baal pillar. However, he continued in the ways of Jeroboam, and not David. While made Israel sin.
When Ahab died, the king of Moab decided it was time to stop paying the annual tribute. Jehoram went out to muster all of Israel to come fight. Then he asked Jehoshaphat to come fight with him. Jehoshaphat gave the same loyal, committed answer to Jehoram as he had to his father, despite what a ckown show that turned out to be. But he had enmeshed himself with Israel by intermarrying with Ahab's family.
So the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom went together, but they took a wilderness route and had no water. They decided they were going to fail until Jehoshaphat asked the same question he asked of Ahab...isn't their a prophet of the Lord around here we can speak to about our troubles? They pointed out that Elisha was with them and they all knew who he was via Elijah.
The Wiersbe Commentary point out that Jehoram blames God for the situation while seemingly forgetting that his own god, Baal, is the rain god. So...if anyone is letting him down, it is his own "god".
Elisha tells them to take their troubles to the prophets of their mothers and fathers (Ahab and Jezebel); but Jehoram tells his sad story about being handed over to the king of Moab. Elisha makes a very pointed reply that if it were not for Jehoshaphat standing there, Elisha wouldn't even see Jehoram.
Wiersbe makes the point here that, once again, it's the line of David that makes way for salvation.
But he did assist. He asked for a minstrel to play and when it did, the Lord came upon him with instructions to make this valley full of trenches. With no wind or rain the lord would fill the valley with water for the people and animals AND deliver Moab into their hands.
Both Ryrie and Wiersbe theorize that the music calmed Elisha's mind and heart enough to hear God. I think that's a point worth pondering. I know when I'm really down or angry, I can put on some praise music and find enough peace to return to a more godly mindset. Music is such a gift from God. He can be speaking to us and we miss it in the mess of our own mind. I've "stumbled" across this truth, but I need to keep it in mind as more of a tool to be used intentionally.
Then they were to wipe out the land- the cities, trees, springs, and good land.
When Moab heard they were being attacked, they prepared at the border and saw the water with the sunrise reflecting, so it looked like blood and they thought the enemy had slain one another and they rushed forward for spoils. Moab was defeated and they ruined the land as instructed. The Moab King made one last push toward the king of Edom. I'm unsure if that was to kill him or to try and turn him. When that failed he offered his oldest son as a burnt offering.
Then it says there was great wrath against Israel...at this point, the attackers left and went back to their own countries.
So, technically, Moab won. But the Lord's will was done. All but the Moab capital was ruined, their army was routed, and an unbelieving Israel didn't get a complete victory. Elisha showed the entire region the miraculous hand of God.
The Widow Strikes Oil, Verses 1-7
The story shifts to a widow of one of the "sons of the prophets" who comes to Elisha to save her from creditors who want to take her children as slaves to pay off the debt.
Elisha asks her what she does have and she tells him that she has a jar of oil.
He tells her to go collect vessels, and not just a few. He tells he to go borrow big vessels from neighbors. Then go home, shut herself in and start pouring her oil. The oil continued to flow until she ran out of vessels and then it stopped. He told her to sell it, pay the debt, and live off of the rest.
While there are differences, there are striking similarities between this story and the Elijah story with the widow feeding all three of them while Elijah was in hiding.
I don't remember this story, and it's probably obvious to those familiar with it; but three things really stand out here.
- God (via Elisha) started with something the widow already had. Even though he did something miraculous with it; the thing itself was something seemingly ordinary in her life. That's significant to me because I think we all want to win the lottery, or to find a goose that lays golden eggs. We want there to be this thing that comes along and makes everything easier. The daily miracle we can all grab hold of is that the Lord gives us all something. We are told that we've all been given gifts and talents. And those with a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ have even been given one more spiritual gift.
- The widow had to participate and she was willing. She had to collect the vessels, which was probably humbling to borrow from all of the neighbors. She had to close the door and pour. These aren't fetes of strength. It wasn't "hard work"; but God does ask us to participate. He doesn't need us. Elisha could have spoke and the vessels would have been filled; but the Lord often asks us to participate. The armies had to dig the trenches in the scene before this one. Maybe God wants us to have some sweat equity in the venture; maybe it activates our faith to have to take an action that may seem absurd. We can never know the mind of the Lord; but we can see that He often asks His followers or those asking something of Him to do something. He's not a genie and He's not an ATM machine. The things He does are for HIS Glory and for His Plans.
- And finally, the oil stopped coming when the vessels stopped coming. God provided to the measure of her faith. Elisha made it clear to plan big and whatever her imagination and faith took that to mean was how much oil she was going to receive. I'm sure there were a finite number of vessels to collect; but as many as she could get her hands on, God would fill. This is quite convicting. How many blessings have I missed out on because I thought too small. Again, I'm not talking about asking for the lottery or something the world would think of as amazing; but something supernatural He wants to accomplish and is looking for the those with the faith to allow Him to be as big as He wants to be.
I want that. I want Him to be able to do whatever He wants with me and the gifts He's given. Trust and obey.
Wiersbe points out another "Jesus parallel" in that he paid this woman's debt for her. (Even though it cost Elisha nothing and cost Jesus everything.)
Elisha Saves a Son, Verses 8-37
As Elisha traveled through Shunem, a prominent woman would offer him food and when she perceived that he was a man of God, she also built a weatherproof shelter for him on their roof, so he had somewhere to stay when he passed through. He asked his assistant to look into what she might want and she was without a son. Even though her husband was old, Elisha promised her a son a year from then. She was afraid to hope for this thing she wanted so badly. She did get a son and he grew up. He had something go wrong with his head and died. The woman raced to Elisha and reminded him that she had feared this. Elisha sent his assistant ahead to confirm that the man was dead. then Elisha came, shut himself in with the corpse and did something similar to what Elijah did with the widow's son, stretching himself out on him.
Elisha was able to bring the Shunammite woman's son back to life after a long period of being dead.
A few interesting things to me:
- The woman gave Elisha food before she knew who he was. And she built him a shelter once she perceived him to be a man of Gad (prophet). But she didn't ask for anything. It seems, from my reading of the text, she knew she was supposed to be hospitable and she knew she should care for a man of God. It seems she was a godly woman. Made that much more interesting because she did have something she wanted; but didn't ask.
- I didn't understand the thing about the husband mentions about the new moon or the Sabbath. Did they think a man of God only operated on those two occasions? It almost reeked of idolatry. Maybe Wiersbe will mention it.
- When she raced to Elisha and he saw her coming, he sent his servant ahead to meet her and inquire about her and her family. She answers, "It is well." Obviously, it was not well. So was this a lie because she feared he wouldn't see her? A polite response because she wasn't there to speak with the assistant? Or was she so godly she really was well because she trusted that Elisha could save her son?
- It's also very interesting that Elisha not only cannot tell what's wrong but he also comments on it. He admits that he cannot tell what's wrong because the Lord has hidden it from him. A healthy admission that he knows where all of his wisdom comes from.
- Also interesting that Elisha sent his assistant ahead of him with his staff and it did not save the boy.
- Ryrie said it was so Elisha could show the people that the staff wasn't the "magic" thing. I don't see that supported in the text, but there may be something I don't understand.
- Wiersbe wonders if the failure had to do with something in the assistant's heart. He hints that we're going to learn something dark in the assistant's heart in a future chapter and wonders if this is a sign of God refusing to use Gehazi or Gehazi's faith being weak.
- The mother did NOT go with the assistant and the staff. Either she knew the miracle would be with Elisha or something. It seems like, if there was any chance at all, she'd want to go with the assistant and the staff; but she said she wasn't leaving Elisha.
- Finally, it is interesting to see so many parallels between this story and the one with Elijah and the widow's son.
Elisha returned to Gilgal to a famine in the land. He had his servant make stew for the sons of the prophets. Someone added in some wild gourds and when the men ate they claimed it was poisoned and they couldn't eat it. Elisha had them add meal to the mix and it cured the poison.
Then in verses 42-44 is a story that seems to resemble the feeding of the masses done by Jesus in a couple of places in the gospels. A man brings 20 loaves and ears of grain and says the Lord says this will feed the people with some left over. And even though an assistant is doubtful it can feed a hundred men, it does.
Wow. There's a lot here and it looks like the next few chapters are further adventures with Elisha. God is truly pouring out His blessings through this man of God.
Some of these stories are very personal, with the appearance of only a few people benefitting from the miracles and some benefit the entire nation. Some came to him and some he came across in the course of his journeys. Some asked of him and some he offered on his own. It was like that with Jesus. It left everyone at the pool of Bethesda there in the same crippled or sickly state He found them, as far as we can tell, except the one man who stood up and walked after decades of being crippled. He has His reasons. His ways and His thoughts are not like ours.
There is a very similar vibe as Jesus. And the whole story of the kings is paused for a long series of these Elisha stories. I find it very compelling because there is man of God who speaks sarcastically to authority figures, cares for widows and those who have gotten themselves into debt, those who are hungry and thirsty. I often wonder how they identify prophesy among some of the Old Testament books and if anyone considers this prophesy of a sort?
The first century Jews wanted a king to arise and throw off the government, but they received Jesus who who spoke sarcastically to authority figures, cared for widows and those who have gotten themselves into debt, those who are hungry and thirsty.
Wiersbe points to the similarity of Elijah to John the Baptist, but of Elisha to Jesus. He also points out that, except for the bear mauling the jeering boys, Elisha's miracle seem to be filled with grace; whereas Elijah had a harder road and many of his miracles expressed a different side of God needed for that generation.
A Wiersbe footnote explains that there is no evidence that the series of stories are in chronological order.