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2 Kings 4:1-6:7 – Elisha’s Miracles

Summary

A collection of six episodes presents Elisha as a worker of miracles.

Analysis

The miracles in 2 Kings 4:1-6:7 form a distinct unit within the Elisha cycle, as shown by their overall structure and individual character. The six episodes have a more "wonder-working" quality than the other miracles attributed to Elisha in 6:8-8:15, which are generally more politically relevant and associated with Syria (Aram). This is especially true of the four episodes that anchor the unit (4:1-7; 38-41; 42-44; and 6:1-7). The episodes also fall into a tight concentric structure:
A    The Widow's Oil (4:1-7)
    B    The Shunammite Woman (4:8-37)
        C    Feeding Miracle (4:38-41)
        C′    Feeding Miracle (4:42-44)
    B′    Naaman the Syrian (5:1-27)
A′    The Floating Ax Head (6:1-7)
The A and A′ sections are linked by the prominent appearance of a "borrowed" (sha´al) utensil (4:3; 6:5). The long narratives in B and B′ share many mots crochets (hook words): great woman ("wealthy woman" in NRSV) (4:8) // great man (5:1); small room as means of introduction (4:10) // small girl ("young girl" in NRSV) as means of introduction (5:2); commander of the army (4:13) // commander of the army (5:1); "Is your husband all right?" (4:26) // "Is everything alright? (5:21); oath formula (4:30) //oath formula (5:16, 20); flesh (4:34) // flesh (5:14); seven times (4:35) // seven times (5:10, 14); and the presence of Gehazi in both. The central sections C and C′ are both brief feeding miracles that share the phrase, "serve/give it to the people and let them eat" (4:41; 42, 43).

2 Kings 4:1-6:7

Elisha and the Widow’s Oil

4Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets* cried to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.’ 2Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ She answered, ‘Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.’ 3He said, ‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbours, empty vessels and not just a few. 4Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.’ 5So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. 6When the vessels were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ But he said to her, ‘There are no more.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. 7She came and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest.’

Elisha Raises the Shunammite’s Son

8 One day Elisha was passing through Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to have a meal. So whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for a meal. 9She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure that this man who regularly passes our way is a holy man of God. 10Let us make a small roof chamber with walls, and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that he can stay there whenever he comes to us.’

11 One day when he came there, he went up to the chamber and lay down there. 12He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call the Shunammite woman.’ When he had called her, she stood before him. 13He said to him, ‘Say to her, Since you have taken all this trouble for us, what may be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ She answered, ‘I live among my own people.’ 14He said, ‘What then may be done for her?’ Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.’ 15He said, ‘Call her.’ When he had called her, she stood at the door. 16He said, ‘At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.’ She replied, ‘No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.’

17 The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.

18 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19He complained to his father, ‘Oh, my head, my head!’ The father said to his servant, ‘Carry him to his mother.’ 20He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 21She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. 22Then she called to her husband, and said, ‘Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.’ 23He said, ‘Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.’ She said, ‘It will be all right.’ 24Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, ‘Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.’ 25So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, ‘Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?’ She answered, ‘It is all right.’ 27When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, ‘Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.’ 28Then she said, ‘Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?’ 29He said to Gehazi, ‘Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.’ 30Then the mother of the child said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.’ So he rose up and followed her. 31Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, ‘The child has not awakened.’

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34Then he got up on the bed* and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36Elisha* summoned Gehazi and said, ‘Call the Shunammite woman.’ So he called her. When she came to him, he said, ‘Take your son.’ 37She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.

Elisha Purifies the Pot of Stew

38 When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the company of prophets was* sitting before him, he said to his servant, ‘Put the large pot on, and make some stew for the company of prophets.’* 39One of them went out into the field to gather herbs; he found a wild vine and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. 40They served some for the men to eat. But while they were eating the stew, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ They could not eat it. 41He said, ‘Then bring some flour.’ He threw it into the pot, and said, ‘Serve the people and let them eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

Elisha Feeds One Hundred Men

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat.’ 43But his servant said, ‘How can I set this before a hundred people?’ So he repeated, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, “They shall eat and have some left.” 44He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

The Healing of Naaman

5Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.* 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’* 4So Naaman* went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’* 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?* Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!* 12Are not Abana* and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ 16But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. 18But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’ 19He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

Gehazi’s Greed

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, ‘My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.’ 21So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, ‘Is everything all right?’ 22He replied, ‘Yes, but my master has sent me to say, “Two members of a company of prophets* have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.” 23Naaman said, ‘Please accept two talents.’ He urged him, and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi.* 24When he came to the citadel, he took the bags* from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and they left.

25 He went in and stood before his master; and Elisha said to him, ‘Where have you been, Gehazi?’ He answered, ‘Your servant has not gone anywhere at all.’ 26But he said to him, ‘Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves? 27Therefore the leprosy* of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants for ever.’ So he left his presence leprous,* as white as snow.

The Miracle of the Axehead

6Now the company of prophets* said to Elisha, ‘As you see, the place where we live under your charge is too small for us. 2Let us go to the Jordan, and let us collect logs there, one for each of us, and build a place there for us to live.’ He answered, ‘Do so.’ 3Then one of them said, ‘Please come with your servants.’ And he answered, ‘I will.’ 4So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5But as one was felling a log, his axehead fell into the water; he cried out, ‘Alas, master! It was borrowed.’ 6Then the man of God said, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float. 7He said, ‘Pick it up.’ So he reached out his hand and took it.

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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