Melachim II Four: Elisha’s Miracles

“Now a woman, of the wives of the disciples of the prophets, cried out to Elisha, saying, ‘Your servant, my husband, has died, and you know that your servant did fear the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children for himself as slaves (Kings II 4:1).'” So the woman’s husband was in debt, and now her children are potentially up for grabs. Elisha wants to help, so he asks her about her possessions. The woman is deeply impoverished, and all that she owns is a jug of oil. Elisha tells her to borrow as many vessels as she can from her friends and neighbors, and then to pour oil into all of the vessels until there aren’t anymore. She obeys, and the oil lasts enough to fill every vessel. “And she came and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons will live with the remainder (Kings II 4:7).'” Elisha has saved the woman and her children, and she is able to pay the debts of her late husband. Finally, a successful, happy story!

Now, there’s a second woman. Elisha is in Shunem, and there’s a woman there who feeds him every day that he’s in town. The woman tells her husband about him, and the two of them seem to concoct a plan to trap Elisha in their house. Not in a sinister way, I don’t think, but so that he’ll have a place to rest there. He does, and then he asks the woman what she wants from him. It turns out that she’s barren, as is the plight of so many biblical women. “And he said, ‘At this time next year, when you will be alive like now, you will be embracing a son.’ And she said, ‘No, my lord, O man of God, do not fail your maidservant (Kings II 4:16).'” Like other biblical women who are promised a miracle baby, she’s hesitant to believe it, but her dream comes true. She has a baby, and he grows up. But then one day, he suddenly dies. His mother decides to go seek out Elisha. She’s justifiably bitter and angry, but she gets a second miracle. Elisha comes home with her, and brings her son back to life. I honestly never heard this story before. Why don’t we talk more about there apparently having been a resurrection in the Jewish tradition? That’s an amazing story, and I feel like it should be more widely shared. My guess is that it fell out of focus with the rise of Christianity, and there not wanting to be even an implicit acceptance of the concept.

Elisha is clearly a badass prophet. Next, he saves the people during famine. His miracles are amazing, and I’m left wondering why Elijah is the prophet we all know about, while Elisha is more minor, at least in my mind. He’s obviously powerful and did amazing things, so why is he not more central to the tradition?


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