by A.W. Pink
1. Elisha’s Life and Miracles
2. His Call
3. His Testings
4. First Miracle — Passage Through Jordan
5. Second Miracle — Salt-healed Waters
6. Third Miracle — Two Avenging Bears
7. Fourth Miracle- Valley of Ditches
8. Fifth Miracle — A Pot of Oil
9. Sixth Miracle — A Great Woman.
10. Seventh Miracle — A Child Restored
11. Seventh Miracle — His Mother’s Faith
12. Eighth Miracle — Meal-healed Pottage
13. Ninth Miracle — Twenty Loaves of Barley
14. Tenth Miracle — Naaman the Leper.
15. Tenth Miracle — A Little Jewish Maid
16. Tenth Miracle — Pride in the Way.
17. Tenth Miracle — Too Simple a Remedy
18. Tenth Miracle — Complete Submission
19. Eleventh Miracle- A Wayward Servant
20. Twelfth Miracle — Floating Iron
21. Thirteenth Miracle — Eyes with New Sight
22. Fourteenth Miracle — Sightless Eyes.
23. Fifteenth Miracle — A Great Famine.
24. Fifteenth Miracle — The Wrath of Man
25. Fifteenth Miracle — Four Leprous Men
26. Fifteenth Miracle — Glad Tidings
27. Sixteenth Miracle — The Shunammite Returns
28. Seventeenth Miracle — Death of a King
29. Elisha’s Young Deputy
30. Elisha’s Death.3
THAT WHICH OCCUPIES the central and dominant place in what the Spirit
has been pleased to record of the life of Elisha is the miracles performed by
and connected with him. Far more miracles were wrought by him or were
granted in answer to his prayers than any other of the Old Testament
prophets. In fact the narrative of his history consists of little else than a
record of supernatural acts and events. Nor need this at all surprise us,
though it is strange that so few seem to grasp its implication and
significance. The character of Elisha’s mission and ministry was in
thorough keeping with Israel’s condition at that time. The very fact that
these miracles were needed indicates the state into which Israel had fallen.
Idolatry had held sway for so long that the true and living God was no
longer known by the nation. Here and there were individuals who believed
in the Lord, but the masses were worshipers of idols. Therefore by means
of drastic interpositions, by awe-inspiring displays of His power, by
supernatural manifestations of His justice and mercy alike, God forced
even the skeptical to recognize His existence and subscribe to His
It is fitting here that we should make a few remarks upon the reason for
and meaning of miracles. Prophecy and miracles partake of much the same
nature. Prophecy is really an oral miracle, and miracles are virtually
prophecies (forthtelling of God) in action. As God sends forth one of His
prophets only in a time of marked declension and departure of His people
from Himself, so miracles were quite unnecessary while the sufficiency of
His Word was practically recognized. The one as much as the other lies
entirely outside the ordinary line or course of things, neither occurring
during what we may term normal times. Which of the patriarchs, the
priests, or the kings performed any miracles? How many were wrought
during the lengthy reign of Saul, David, or Solomon? Why, then, were so.4
many wonders done during the ministry of Elijah and still more so during
that of Elisha?
The mission and ministry of Elisha was the same in character as that which
God did in Egypt by the hand of Moses. There Jehovah was unknown:
entirely so by the Egyptians, largely so by the Israelites. The favored
descendants of Abraham had sunk as low as the heathen in whose midst
they dwelt, and God, by so many remarkable signs and unmistakable
interventions, brought them back to that knowledge of Himself which they
had lost. Unless the Hebrews in Egypt had been thoroughly convinced by
these displays of divine power that Moses was a prophet sent from God,
they never would have submitted to him as their leader. How reluctantly
they owned his authority on various occasions! So also in the conquest of
Canaan, God wrought four miracles in favor of His people: one in the
water, in the crossing of Jordan; one in the earth, in throwing down the
walls of Jericho; one in the air, in destroying their enemies by hail; and one
in the heavens, by slowing the course of the sun and the moon. Thereby the
nations of Canaan were furnished with clear proof of Jehovah’s supremacy,
that the God of Israel possessed universal dominion, that He was no local
deity but the Most High reigning over all nature.
But, it may be asked, how do the miracles wrought by Christ square with
what has been said above? Surely they should present no difficulty. Pause
and ask the question, Why did He work miracles? Did not His teaching
make clearly evident His divine mission? The very officers sent to arrest
Him had to acknowledge, “Never man spake as this man.” Did not the
spotless holiness of His life make manifest the heavenliness of His person?
Even Pilate was forced to testify, “I find no fault in Him.” Did not His
conduct on the cross demonstrate that He was no imposter? The centurion
and his fellows owned, “Truly this was the Son of God” (

27:54). Ah, but men must be left without the shadow of an excuse for their
unbelief. The whole world shall have it unmistakably shown before their
eyes that Jesus of Nazareth was none other than “God manifest in flesh.”
The Gentiles were sunk in idolatry; Judaism was reduced to a lifeless
formality and had made void the Word of God by traditions. Therefore did
Christ reveal the wisdom and power of God as none other before or since
by a series of miracles which warranted His saying, “He that hath seen Me
hath seen the Father.”.5
Thus it will be seen that there is another characteristic which links closely
together prophecy and miracles: the character of the times in which they
occur supply the key both to their implication and their significance. Both
of them may be termed abnormalities, for neither of them are given in the
ordinary course of events. While conditions are relatively decent, God acts
according to the ordinary working of the laws of creation and operations of
His providence. But when the Enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of
the Lord lifts up a more apparent and noticeable standard against him,
coming out more into the open and obliging men to take cognizance of
Him. But there is this difference: the one intimates there is a state of
grievous departure from God on the part of His people; the other indicates
that the knowledge of the true and living God has publicly disappeared,
that He is no longer believed in by the masses. Drastic diseases call for
drastic remedies.
The missions of Elijah and Elisha form two parts of one whole, the one
supplementing the other, though there was a striking contrast between
them. Therein we have an illustration of the spiritual significance of the
number two. Whereas one denotes there is no other, two affirms there is
another and therefore a difference. That difference may be for good or for
evil, and therefore this number bears a twofold meaning according to its
associations. The second that comes in may be for opposition or for
support. The two, though different in character, may be one in testimony
and friendship. “The testimony of two men is true” (

John 8:17 and cf.

Numbers 35:30). Thus two is also the number of witnesses, and the
greater the contrast between the two witnesses the more valuable their
testimony when they agree therein. Hence it is that all through the
Scriptures we find two persons linked together to present a contrast: as in
such cases as Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob
and Esau; or two bearing witness to the truth: as Enoch and Noah, Moses
and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, Naomi and Ruth, Ezra and Nehemiah, the
sending forth of the apostles by twos (

Mark 6:7 and cf.

This linking together of two men in their testimony for God contains
valuable instruction for us. It hints broadly at the twofoldness of truth.
There is perfect harmony and unity between the two great divisions of
Holy Writ, yet the differences between the Old and New Testaments are.6
apparent to every thoughtful reader of them. It warns against the danger of
lopsidedness, intimating the importance of seeking to preserve the balance.
The chief instruments employed by God in the great Reformation of the
sixteenth century were Luther and Calvin. They took part in a common
task and movement, yet how great was the difference between the two men
and the respective parts they were called upon to play. Thus with Elijah
and Elisha: there are manifest parallels between them, as in the likeness of
their names, yet there are marked contrasts both in their missions and their
miracles. It is in the observing of their respective similarities and
dissimilarities that we are enabled to ascertain the special reaching which
they are designed to convey to us.
At first glance it may appear that there is a much closer resemblance than
antithesis between the two men. Both of them were prophets, both of them
dwelt in Samaria, and they were confronted with much the same situation.
The falling of Elijah’s mantle upon Elisha seems to indicate that the latter
was the successor of the former, called upon to continue his mission. The
first miracle performed by Elisha was identical with the last one wrought by
his master: the smiting of the waters of the Jordan with the mantle, so that
they parted asunder for him (

2 Kings 2:8, 14). At the beginning of his
ministry Elijah had said unto Ahab king of Israel, “As the Lord God of
Israel liveth, before whom I stand” (

1 Kings 17:1). And when Elisha
came into the presence of Ahab’s son he also declared, “As the Lord of
hosts liveth, before whom I stand” (

2 Kings 3:14). As Elijah was
entertained by the widow of Zarepath and rewarded her by restoring her
son to life (

1 Kings 17:22), so Elisha was entertained by a woman at
Shunem (

2 Kings 4:8-10) and repaid her by restoring her son to life

2 Kings 4:35-37).
Striking as the points of agreement are between the two prophets, the
contrasts in their careers and works are just as vivid and certainly more
numerous. One appeared suddenly and dramatically upon the stage of
public action, without a word being told us of from whence he sprang or
how he had previously been engaged; but of the other the name of his
father is recorded, with an account of his occupation at the time he
received his call into God’s service. The first miracle of Elijah was that for
the space of three and a half years there should be neither dew nor rain
according to his word, whereas the first public act of Elisha was to heal the
springs of water (

2 Kings 2:21, 22) and to produce an abundance of
water (

2 Kings 3:20). One of the most noticeable features of Elijah’s.7
life was his loneliness, dwelling apart from the apostate masses of the
people; but Elisha seems to have spent most of his life in the company of
the prophets, presiding over their schools. The different manner in which
their earthly careers terminated is even more marked: the one was taken to
heaven in a chariot of fire, and the other fell sick in old age and died a
natural death.
The principal contrast between the two prophets appears in the character
of the miracles wrought by and connected with them. The majority of those
performed by Elijah were associated with death and destruction, whereas
by far the greater of those attributed to Elisha were works of healing and
restoration. If the former was the prophet of judgment, the latter was the
prophet of grace; if the course of one was fittingly closed by a “whirlwind”
removing him from this scene, a peaceful dove would be the more
appropriate emblem of the other. Elisha’s ministry consisted largely of
divine interpositions in a way of mercy, interventions of sovereign
goodness, rather than judicial dealings. He commenced his mission by a
miracle of blessing, healing the death-dealing springs of water. What
immediately followed was the establishing of his authority, the symbol of
his extraordinary office. The work of Elijah was chiefly a protest against
evil, while the work of Elisha was an almost continuous testimony to the
readiness of God to relieve the distressed and respond to the call of need
wherever that call came from a contrite and believing heart.
Unto many it may seem really astonishing that a ministry like that of Elisha
should immediately follow after Elijah’s, for in view of the desperate
defiance he encountered we would naturally suppose the end had been
reached, that the patience of God was at last exhausted. But if we take into
account what has been before us above on the significance of miracles, we
shall be less surprised. As we have pointed out, a state of general infidelity
and idolatry forms the historical background, and thus is the reason for and
purpose of His breaking through the darkness and making Himself manifest
to a people who are God’s, but know Him not. Now since God is “light”

1 John 1:5), that is, the ineffably holy one, it necessarily follows that
when revealing Himself He will do so as the hater and punisher of sin. But
it is equally true that God is “love” (

1 John 4:8), that is, the infinitely
benevolent one, and consequently when appearing more evidently before
the eyes of His creatures, it is in wondrous works of kindness and
benevolence. Thus we have the two sides of the divine character revealed.8
in the respective ministries of Elijah and Elisha: deeds of vengeance and
deeds of mercy.
While their two missions may certainly be considered separately, yet
Elisha’s ministry should be regarded primarily as the complement of
Elijah’s. The two, though dissimilar, make one complete whole — and only
subordinately a thing apart. On the one hand Elijah’s mission was mainly of
a public character; on the other, Elisha’s was more in private. The former
had to do principally with the masses and those who had led them astray,
and therefore his miracles consisted chiefly of judgments, expressive of
God’s wrath upon idolatry. The latter was engaged mostly with the Lord’s
prophets and people, and consequently his acts were mainly those of
blessing, manifestations of the divine mercy. The comforting and assuring
lesson in this for Christians today is, that even in a season of apostasy and
universal wickedness, when His rod is laid heavily upon the nations, the
Lord will neither forget nor forsake His own, but will appear unto them as
“the God of all grace.” Things may become yet worse than they are now.
Even so the Lord will prove Himself to be “a very present help” to His
Coming now to the subordinate viewpoint and considering Elisha’s career
as the sequel to Elijah’s, may we not find in it a message of hope in this
dark, dark hour. Those with any measure of spiritual discernment cannot
fail to perceive the tragic resemblance there is between the time in which
Elijah’s lot was cast and our own sad day. The awful apostasy of
Christendom, the appalling multiplication of false prophets, the various
forms of idolatry now so prevalent in our midst, and the solemn judgments
from heaven which have been and are being visited upon us and the blatant
refusal of the multitudes to pay any heed to them by mending their ways,
all furnish an analogy which is too plain to be missed. There is therefore a
real temptation to conclude that the end of all things is at hand — some say
an end of the age, others the end of the world. Many thought the same
when Napoleon was desolating Europe and again in 1914-18 but they were
wrong, and it is quite likely that they who think the same today will have
their conclusions falsified. There is at least a warning for us here: Elijah
was followed by Elisha! Who can tell what mercy God may yet show to the
We must be on our guard against missing the consolation which this
portion of Scripture may contain for us. The darkest night is followed by.9
the morning’s light. Even if the present order of “civilization” is doomed to
destruction, we know not what favors from God await this earth in
generations to come. Of necessity there will be a time when this world and
all its works will be burned up, and that event may be very near. On the
other hand that event may be thousands of years away. If such be the case,
then black as is the present outlook and blacker it may yet become, yet the
clouds of divine judgment will again disperse and the sun of Righteousness
arise once more with healing in His wings. More than once the times of
Elijah have been substantially duplicated even during this Christian era, yet
each time they were followed by an Elisha of mercy. Thus it may be again,
yea will be unless God is now on the point of bringing down the curtain
upon human history.
Very little indeed seems to have been written upon the life of Elisha, yet
this is not difficult to account for. Though there is almost twice as much
recorded about him than his predecessor, his history is not given in one
connected piece or consecutive narrative. Rather it is disjointed, the
current of his life being crossed again and again by references to others.
The scattered allusions to the prophet’s career do not lend themselves so
readily to biographical treatment as do the lives of Abraham, Jacob, or
David. Why is this? For there is nothing meaningless in Scripture; perfect
wisdom directs the Holy Spirit in every detail. May it not be that we have a
hint here of the method which will be followed by the Lord in that era
which will possibly succeed the period of Christendom’s history
foreshadowed by Elijah’s life? May not the broken and disconnected
account of Elisha’s deeds presage the form God’s dealings will take in a
future generation: that instead of being a regular stream they will be
occasional showers of blessing at intervals?.10
IN THE INTRODUCTION we noted the close connection between the missions
and ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Let us now consider the personal
relation that existed between the two prophets themselves. This is
something more than a point of interest. It throws light upon the character
and career of the latter, and it enables us to discern the deeper spiritual
meaning which is to be found in this portion of the Word. There was a
twofold relation between them: one official, and the other more intimate.
The former is seen in

1 Kings 19:16 where we learn that Elijah was
commanded to “anoint Elisha to be prophet,” and it is worthy of note that
while it is generally believed all the prophets were officially “anointed” yet
Elisha’s case is the only one expressly recorded in Scripture. Next we learn
that immediately following his call, Elisha “went after Elijah and ministered
unto him” (

1 Kings 19:21), so the relation between them was that of
master and servant, confirmed by the statement that he “poured water on
the hands of Elijah” (

2 Kings 3:11).
But there was more than an official union between these two men; the ties
of affection bound them together. There is reason to believe that Elisha
accompanied Elijah during the last ten years of his earthly life, and during
the closing scenes we are shown how closely they were knit together and
how strong was the love of the younger man to his master. During their
lengthy journey from Gilgal to the Jordan, Elijah said to his companion
again and again, “Tarry ye here, I pray thee.” But nothing could deter
Elisha from spending the final hours in the immediate presence of the one
who had won his heart or make him willing to break their communion. So
they “still went on, and talked” (

2 Kings 2:11). Observe how the Spirit
has emphasized this. First “they went down to Bethel” (

2 Kings 2:2),
but later “they two went on” (

2 Kings 2:6); “they two stood by Jordan”

2 Kings 2:7); “they two went on dry ground” (

2 Kings 2:8). They
refused to be separated. But when it was necessary, Elisha cried, “My
father, my father” (a term of endearment), and in token of his deep grief
“took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces.”.11
As the invariable rule of Scripture, it is the first mention which supplies the
key to all that follows:
“Elisha, the son of Shaphat, of Abel-melolah shalt thou anoint to be
prophet in thy room” (

1 Kings 19:16).
Those words signify something more than that he was to be his successor.
Elisha was to take Elijah’s place and act as his accredited representative.
This is confirmed by the fact that when he found Elisha, Elijah “cast his
mantle upon him” (

1 Kings 19:19) which signified the closest possible
identification. It is very remarkable to find that when Joash the king of
Israel visited the dying Elisha he uttered the selfsame words over him as
the prophet had used when Elijah was departing from this world. Elisha
cried, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen
thereof” — the real defense of Israel (

2 Kings 2:12), and Joash said,
“O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen
thereof” (

2 Kings 13:14).
That not only marked the identification of Elisha with Elijah, but the
identification was actually acknowledged by the king himself.
Another detail which serves to manifest the relation between the two
prophets is found in the striking reply made by Elisha to the question of his
master: “Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken from thee,” namely,
“I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me”

2 Kings 2:9).
That his request was granted appears clear from the sequel. “If thou see me
when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee,” and

2 Kings 2:12
assures us “and Elisha saw.” Moreover, when the young prophets saw him
smite the waters of the Jordan with his master’s mantle so that they “parted
hither and thither,” they exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on
Elisha” (

2 Kings 2:15). The “double portion” was that which pertained
to the firstborn or oldest son and heir: “But he shall acknowledge the son
of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he
hath: for he is the beginning of his strength: the right of the firstborn is his”

Deuteronomy 21:17; and cf.

1 Chronicles 5:1)..12
Elisha, then, was far more than the historical successor of Elijah. He was
appointed and anointed to be his representative — we might almost say, his
“ambassador.” He was the man who had been called by God to take
Elijah’s place before Israel. Though Elijah had left this scene and gone on
high, yet he would be so in spirit. Elisha was to be in “his room” (

Kings 19:16), for the starting point of his mission was the ascension of his
master. Now what, we may ask, is the spiritual significance of this? What is
the important instruction to be found in it for us today? Surely the answer
is not far to seek. The relation between Elijah and Elisha was that of master
and servant. Since the anointing of Elisha into the prophetic office is the
only case of its kind expressly recorded in Scripture, are we not required to
look upon it as a representative or pattern one? Since Elijah was a figure of
Christ, is it not evident that Elisha is a type of those servants specially
called to represent Him here upon earth?
The conclusion drawn above is manifestly confirmed by all the preliminary
details recorded of Elisha before he entered upon his life’s work. Those
details may all be summed up under the following heads: his call, the
testings to which he was submitted and from which he successfully
emerged, the oath he was required to follow, and the special endowment
which he received equipping him for his service. The closer these details
are examined and the more they are prayerfully pondered, the more
evidently will it appear to anointed eyes that the experiences through which
Elisha passed are those which, substantially, each genuine servant of Christ
is required to encounter. Let us consider them in the order named. First,
the call of which he was the recipient. This was his induction into the
sacred ministry. It was a clear and definite call by God, the absence of
which makes it the height of presumption for anyone to invade the holy
The summons which Elisha received to quit his temporal avocation and to
henceforth devote the whole of his time and energies to God and His
people is noted in,
“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who
was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was
with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon
him” (

1 Kings 19:19)..13
Observe how that here, as everywhere, God took the initiative. Elisha was
not seeking Him, but the Lord through Elijah sought him out. Elisha was
not found in his study but in the field, not with a book in his hand, but at
the plow. As one of the Puritans said when commenting thereon, “God
seeth not as man seeth, neither does He choose men because they are fit,
but He fits them because He hath chosen them.” Sovereignty is stamped
plainly upon the divine choice, as appears also in the calling of the sons of
Zebedee while “mending their nets” (

Matthew 4:21), of Levi while he
was “sitting at the receipt of custom” (

Matthew 9:9), and Saul of
Tarsus when persecuting the early Christians.
Though Elisha does not appear to have been seeking or expecting a call
from the Lord to engage in His service, yet it is to be noted that he was
actively engaged when the call came to him, as was each of the others
alluded to above. The ministry of Christ is no place for idlers and drones,
who wish to spend much of their time driving around in fancy cars or being
entertained in the homes of their members and friends. No, it is a vocation
which calls for constant self-sacrifice, and which demands tireless devotion
to the performance of duty. Those then are most likely to be sincere and
energetic in the ministry who are industrious and businesslike in their
temporal avocation. Alas, how many who wish to shirk their natural
responsibilities and shelve hard work have entered the ministry to enjoy a
life of comparative ease.
Elisha means “God is Savior” and his father’s name Shaphat signifies;
“judge.” Abel-meholah is literally “meadow of the dance” and was a place
in the inheritance of Issachar, at the north of the Jordan valley. Elisha’s
father was evidently a man of some means for he had “twelve yoke of
oxen” engaged in plowing, yet he did not allow his son to grow up in
idleness as is so often the case with the wealthy. It was while Elisha was
usefully engaged, in the performance of duty, undertaking the strenuous
work of plowing, that he was made the recipient of a divine call into
special service. This was indicated by the approach of the prophet Elijah
and his casting his mantle — the insignia of his office — upon him. It was a
clear intimation of his own investiture of the prophetic office. This call was
accompanied by divine power, the Holy Spirit moving Elisha to accept the
same, as may be seen from the promptness and decidedness of his
Before we look at his response, let us consider the very real and stern test
to which Elisha was subjected. The issue was clearly drawn. To enter upon
the prophetic office, to identify himself with Elijah, meant a drastic change
in his manner of life. It meant the giving up of a lucrative worldly position,
the leaving of the farm, for the servant and soldier of Jesus Christ must not
“entangle himself with the affairs of this life” (

2 Timothy 2:4). (Paul’s
laboring at “tent-making” was quite the exception to the rule and a sad
reflection upon the parsimoniousness of those to whom he ministered.) It
meant the breaking away from home and natural ties. Said the Lord Jesus,
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me:
and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
me” (

Matthew 10:37).
If such immoderate affection was an effectual bar to Christian discipleship

Luke 14:26), how much more so from the Christian ministry. The test
often comes at this very point. It did so with the present writer, who was
called to labor in a part of the Lord’s vineyard thousands of miles from his
native land, so that he did not see his parents for thirteen years.
There was first, then, the testing of Elisha’s affections, but he shrank not
from the sacrifice he was now called upon to make. “And he left the oxen
and ran after Elijah.” Note the alacrity, the absence of any reluctance. And
he said, “Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother and I will
follow thee.” Observe his humble spirit. He had already taken the servant’s
place, and would not even perform a filial duty without first receiving
permission from his master. Let any who may be exercised in mind as to
whether they have received a call to the ministry search and examine
themselves at this point, to see if such a spirit has been wrought in them.
The nature of Elisha’s request shows clearly that he was not a man devoid
of natural feelings, but an affectionate son, warmly attached to his parents.
Far from being an excuse for delaying his obedience to the call, it was a
proof of his promptness in accepting it and of his readiness to make a
deliberate break from all natural ties.
“And he [Elijah] said unto him, Go back again: for what have I
done to thee?” (

1 Kings 19:20)..15
It was as though the prophet said, “Do not act impulsively, but sit down
and count the cost before you definitely commit yourself.” Elijah did not
seek to influence or persuade him. “It is not to me but to God you are
accountable — it is His call which you are to weigh.” He knew quite well
that if the Holy Spirit were operating, He would complete the work and
Elisha would return to him.
Oh that the rank and file of God’s people would heed this lesson. How
many a young man, never called of God, has been pressed into the ministry
by well-meaning friends who had more zeal than knowledge. None may
rightly count upon the divine blessing in the service of Christ unless he has
been expressly set apart thereto by the Holy Spirit (

Acts 13:2). One of
the most fearful catastrophies which has come upon the churches (and
those terming their’s “assemblies”) during the past century has been the
repetition of what God complained of old: “I have not sent these prophets,
yet they ran” (

Jeremiah 23:21). To intrude into the sacred office calls
down heaven’s curse (

2 Samuel 6:6-7).
But Elisha’s acceptance of this call from God not only meant the giving up
of a comfortable worldly position and the breaking away from home and
natural ties; it also involved his following or casting his lot with one who
was very far from being a popular hero. Elijah had powerful enemies who
more than once had made determined attempts on his life. Those were
dangerous times, when persecution was not only a possibility but a
probability. It was well then for Elisha to sit down and count the cost; by
consorting with Elijah, he would be exposed to the malice of Jezebel and
all her priests. The same is true in principle of the Christian minister. Christ
is despised and rejected of men, and to be faithfully engaged in His service
is to court the hostility not only of the secular but of the religious world as
well. It was on religious grounds that Jezebel persecuted Elijah, and it is by
the false prophets of Christendom and their devotees that the genuine
ministers of God will be most hated and hounded. Nothing but love for
Christ and His people will enable Elisha to triumph over his enemies.
“And he returned back from him and took a yoke of oxen and slew them
and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the
people and they did eat.” This farewell feast was a token of joy at his new
calling, an expression of gratitude to God for His distinguishing favor, and
the burning of the oxen’s tackle a sign that he was bidding a final adieu to
his old employment. Those oxen and tools of industry, wherein his former.16
labors had been bestowed, were now gladly devoted to the celebration of
the high honor of being called to engage in the service of God Himself.
Those who rightly esteem the sacred ministry will freely renounce every
other interest and pleasure, though called upon to labor amid poverty and
persecution; yea, they who enter into the work of our heavenly Master
without holy cheerfulness are not at all likely to prosper therein. Levi the
publican made Christ “a great feast in his own house” to celebrate his call
to the ministry, inviting a great company thereto (

Luke 5:27-29).
“Then he arose and went after Elijah.” See here the power of the Holy
Spirit! The evidence of God’s effectual call is a heart made willing to
respond. Divine grace is able to subdue every lust, conquer every
prejudice, surmount every difficulty. Elisha left his worldly employment,
the riches to which he was heir, his parents and friends, and threw in his lot
with one who was an outcast. Thus it was with Moses, who
“refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing
rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the
pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ
greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto
the recompence of the reward” (

Hebrews 11:24-26).
Love for Christ and His saints, faith in His ultimate “Well done,” were the
motive-springs of his actions. And such must prompt one entering the
ministry today.
“Then he arose and went after Elijah and ministered unto him”

1 Kings 19:21).
That was the final element in this initial test. Was he prepared to take a
subordinate and lowly place, to become a servant, subjecting himself to the
will of another? That is what a servant is: one who places himself at the
disposal of another, ready to take orders from him, desirous of promoting
his interests. He who would be given important commissions must prove
himself. Thus did God approve of Stephen’s service to the poor (

7:1, 2). Because Philip disdained not to serve tables (

Acts 6:2, 5) he
was advanced to the rank of missionary to the Gentiles (

Acts 8:5, 26).
On the other hand, Mark was discontented to be merely a servant of an
apostle (

Acts 13:5, 13) and so lost his opportunity of being trained for
personal participation in the most momentous missionary journey ever.17
undertaken. Elisha became the servant of God’s servant, and we shall see
how he was rewarded..18
IN OUR LAST CHAPTER we pointed out that the peculiar relation which
existed between Elijah and Elisha foreshadowed that which pertains to
Christ and His servants, and that the early experiences through which
Elisha passed are those which almost every genuine minister of the gospel
is called upon to encounter. All the preliminary details recorded of the
prophet before his mission commenced must have their counterpart in the
early history of any who are used of God in the work of His kingdom.
Those experiences in the case of Elisha began with a definite call from the
Lord, and that is still His order of procedure. That call was followed by a
series of very real testings, which may well be designated as a preliminary
course of discipline. Those testings were many and varied. There were
seven in number, which at once indicates the thoroughness and
completeness of the ordeals through which Elisha went and by which he
was schooled for the future. If we are not to ignore here the initial one,
there will of necessity be a slight overlapping between this section and
what was before us in our last chapter.
This occurred at the time he received his call to devote the whole of his
time and energies to the service of God and His people. A stern test it was.
Elisha was not one who had failed in temporal matters and now desired to
“better his position,” nor was he deprived of those who cherished him and
were therefore anxious to enter a more congenial circle. Far from it. He
was the son of a well-to-do farmer, living with parents to whom he was
devotedly attached. Response to Elijah’s casting of the prophetic mantle
upon him meant not only the giving up of favorable worldly prospects, but
the severing of happy home ties. The issue was plainly drawn: which
should dominate — zeal for Jehovah or love for his parents? That Elisha
was very far from being one of a cold and unfeeling disposition is clear
from a number of things. When Elijah bade him remain at Bethel, he
replied, “I will not leave thee” (

2 Kings 2:2); and when his master was.19
caught away from him, he evidenced his deep grief by crying out, “My
father! My father,” and by rending his garments asunder (

2 Kings 2:12).
No, Elisha was no stoic, and it cost him something to break away from his
loved ones. But he shrank not from the sacrifice demanded of him. He “left
the oxen” with which he had been ploughing and “ran after Elijah” asking
“Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and I will
follow thee” (

1 Kings 19:20).
When permission was granted, a hasty farewell speech was made and he
took his departure; and the sacred narrative contains no mention that he
ever returned home even for a brief visit. Dutiful respect, yea, tender
regard, was shown for his parents, but he did not prefer them before God.
The Lord does not require His servants to callously ignore their filial duty,
but He does claim the first place in their hearts. Unless one who is
contemplating an entrance into the ministry is definitely prepared to accord
Him that, he should at once abandon his quest. No man is eligible for the
ministry unless he is ready to resolutely subordinate natural ties to spiritual
bonds. Blessedly did the spirit prevail over the flesh in Elisha’s response to
this initial trial.
This occurred at the outset of the final journey of the two prophets.
“And it came to pass when the Lord would take up Elijah into
heaven by a whirlwind that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee” (

2 Kings
Various reasons have been advanced by the commentators as to why the
Tishbite should have made such a request. Some think it was because he
wished to be alone, that modesty and humility would not suffer that his
companion should witness the very great honor which was about to be
bestowed upon him. Others suppose it was because he desired to spare
Elisha the grief of a final leave-taking. But in view of all that follows, and
taking this detail in connection with the whole incident, we believe these
words of the prophet bear quite a different interpretation, namely, that
Elijah was now making proof of Elisha’s determination and attachment to.20
him. At the time of his call Elisha had said, “I will follow thee,” and now he
was given the opportunity to go back if he were so disposed.
There was one who accompanied the apostle Paul for awhile, but later he
had to lament,
“Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is
departed unto Thessalonica” (

2 Timothy 4:10).
Many have done likewise. Daunted by the difficulties of the way,
discouraged by the unfavorable response to their efforts, and their ardor
cooled, they concluded they had mistaken their calling; or, because only
small and unattractive fields opened to them, they decided to better
themselves by returning to worldly employment. To what numbers do
those solemn words of Christ apply:
“No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit
for the kingdom of God” (

Luke 9:62).
Far otherwise was it with Elisha. No fleeting impression had actuated him
when he declared to Elijah, “I will follow thee.” And when he was put to
the test as to whether or not he was prepared to follow him to the end of
the course, he successfully gave evidence of his unwavering fidelity. “As
the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee” was his
unflinching response. Oh for like stability.
From Gilgal, Elijah and his companion had gone on to Bethel, and there he
encountered a subtle temptation, one which had prevailed over any whose
heart was not thoroughly established.
“And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to
Elisha and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take
away thy master from thy head to day?” (

2 Kings 2:3).
Which was as much as saying, Why think of going on any further, what is
the use of it, when the Lord is on the point of taking him from you? And
mark it well, they who here sought to make him waver from his course
were not the agents of Jezebel but those who were on the side of the Lord.
Nor was it just one who would deter Elisha, but apparently the whole body
of the prophets endeavored to persuade him that he should relinquish his.21
purpose. It is in this very way God tries the mettle of His servants: to make
evident to themselves and others whether they are vacillating or steadfast,
whether they are regulated wholly by His call and will or whether their
course is directed by the counsels of men.
A holy independence should mark the servant of God. Thus it was with the
chief of the apostles: “I conferred not with flesh and blood” (

1:16). Had he done so, what trouble would he have made for himself; had
he listened to the varied advice the other apostles would offer, what a state
of confusion his own mind would have been in! If Christ is my Master, then
it is from Him, and from Him alone, I must take my orders. Until I am sure
of His will I must continue to wait upon Him; once it is clear to me, I must
set out on the performance of it, and nothing must move me to turn aside.
So it was here. Elisha had been Divinely called to follow Elijah, and he was
determined to cleave to him unto the end, even though it meant going
against well-meant advice and offending the whole of his fellows. “Hold ye
your peace” was his reply. This was one of the trials which this writer
encountered over thirty years ago, when his pastor and Christian friends
urged him to enter a theological seminary, though they knew that deadly
error was taught there. It was not easy to take his stand against them, but
he is deeply thankful he did so.
“And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the
LORD hath sent me to Jericho” (

2 Kings 2:4).
“Tarry here.” They were at Bethel, and this was a place of sacred
memories. It was here that Jacob had spent his first night as he fled from
the wrath of his brother. Here he had been favored with that vision of the
ladder whose top reached unto heaven and beheld the angels of God
ascending and descending on it. Here it was Jehovah had revealed Himself
and given him precious promises. When he awakened, Jacob said, “Surely
the Lord is in this place… this is none other but the house of God and this
is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28). Delectable spot was this: the place of
divine communion. Ah, one which is supremely attractive to those who are
spiritually minded, and therefore one which such are entirely loath to leave.
What can be more desirable than to abide where such privileges and favors
are enjoyed! So felt Peter on the holy mount. As he beheld Christ
transfigured and Moses and Elijah talking with Him, he said, “Lord, it is.22
good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make here three tabernacles; one
for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Let us remain and enjoy
such blessing. But that could not be.
God still tests His servants at this very point. They are in some place where
the smile of heaven manifestly rests upon their labors. The Lord’s presence
is real, His secrets are revealed to them, and intimate communion is
enjoyed with Him. If he followed his own inclinations he would remain
there, but he is not free to please himself: he is the servant of another and
must do His bidding. Elijah had announced, “the LORD hath sent me to
Jericho” and if Elisha were to “follow” him to the end then to Jericho he
too must go. True, Jericho was far less attractive than Bethel, but the will
of God pointed clearly to it. It is not the consideration of his own tastes
and comforts which is to actuate the minister of Christ but the performance
of duty, no matter where it leads to. The mount of transfiguration made a
powerful appeal unto Peter, but at the base thereof there was a demon-possessed
youth in dire need of deliverance! (

Matthew 17:14-18).
Elisha resisted the tempting prospect, saying again, “I will not leave thee.”
Oh for such fidelity.
This was a twofold test. When the two prophets arrived at Jericho, the
younger one suffered a repetition of what he had experienced at Bethel.
Once again “the sons of the prophet” from the local school accosted him,
saying, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy
head today?” Elijah himself they left alone, but his companion was set upon
by them. It is the connection in which this occurs that supplies the key to
its meaning. The whole passage brings before us Elisha being tested first in
one way and at one point and then at another. That he should meet with a
repetition at Jericho of what he had encountered at Bethel is an intimation
that the servant of God needs to be especially on his guard at this point. He
must not put his trust even in “princes,” temporal or spiritual, but cease
entirely from man, trusting in the Lord and leaning not on his own
understanding. Though it was annoying to be pestered thus by these men,
Elisha made them a courteous reply, yet one which showed them he was
not to be turned away from his purpose: “Yea, I know it, hold ye your
“And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent
me to Jordan.” This he said to prove him, as the Savior tested the two
disciples on the way to Emmaeus when He “made as though he would have
gone further” (

Luke 24:28). Much ground had been traversed since
they had set out together from Gilgal. Was Elisha growing tired of the
journey, or was he prepared to persevere to the end? How many grow
weary of well doing and fail to reap because they faint. How many fail at
this point of testing and drop out when Providence appears to afford them
a favorable opportunity of so doing. Elisha might have pleaded, “I may be
of some service here to the young prophets, but of what use can I be to
Elijah at the Jordan?” Philip was being greatly used of God in Samaria

Acts 8:12) when the angel of the Lord bade him arise and go south
“unto Gaza, which is desert” (

Acts 8:26). And he arose and went, and
God honored his obedience. And Elisha said to his master, “I will not leave
thee,” no, not at the eleventh hour; and great was his reward.
“And it came to pass, when they were gone over [the Jordan], that
Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be
taken away from thee” (

2 Kings 2:9).
Here is clear proof that Elijah had been making trial of his companion when
he had at the different stopping places, bade him “Tarry here” or remain
behind, for certainly he would have extended no such an offer as this had
Elisha been disobedient and acting in self-will. Clearly the Tishbite was so
well pleased with Elisha’s devotion and attendance that he determined to
reward him with some parting blessing: “Ask what I shall do for thee.” If
this was not the most searching of all the tests, certainly it was the most
revealing. What was his heart really set upon? What did he desire above all
else? At first glance it seemed surprising that Elijah should fling open so
wide a door and offer to supply anything his successor should ask. But not
only had they spent several years together; Elisha’s reaction to the other
testings convinced him that this faithful soul would ask nothing which was
incongruous or which God could not give.
“And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon
me.” He rose above all fleshly and worldly desires, all that the natural heart
would crave, and asked for that which would be most for the glory of God
and the good of His people. Elisha sought neither wealth nor honors,.24
worldly power nor prestige. What he asked for was that he might receive
that which marked him out as Elijah’s firstborn, the heir of his official
patrimony (

Deuteronomy 21:17). It was a noble request. The work to
which he was called involved heavy responsibilities and the facing of grave
dangers, and for the discharge of his duties he needed to be equipped with
spiritual power. That is what every servant of God needs above everything
else: to be “endued with power from on high.” The most splendid faculties,
the ablest intellect, the richest acquirements, count for nothing unless they
be energized by the holy One.
The work of the ministry is such that no man is naturally qualified for it;
only God can make any meet for the same. For that endowment the
apostles waited upon God for ten days. To obtain it Elisha had to
successfully endure the previous testings, pass through Jordan, and keep
his eye fixed steadily upon his master.
When we ask God for something it is often His way to test our earnestness
and importunity by keeping us waiting for it, and then when He grants our
request, He puts our fidelity to the proof in the use we make of it. If it is
faith that is bestowed, circumstances arise which are apt to call into
exercise all our doubts and fears. If it is wisdom which is given, situations
soon confront us where we are sorely tempted to give way to folly. If it is
courage which is imparted, then perils will have to be faced which are
calculated to make the stoutest quake. When we receive some spiritual gift,
God so orders things that opportunity is afforded for the exercise of it. It
was thus with Elisha. A double portion of Elijah’s spirit was granted him,
and the prophetic mantle of his master fell at his feet. What use would he
make of it? As this comes up in our next chapter, suffice it now to say that
he was confronted by the Jordan — he was on the wrong side of it and no
longer was there any Elijah to divide asunder its waters!
We turn now from the testings to which Elisha was subjected unto the
course which he had to take. The spiritual significance of his journey has
also to receive its counterpart in the experiences of the servant of Christ.
That journey began at Gilgal (

2 Kings 2:1), and none can work
acceptably in the kingdom of God until his soul is acquainted with what
that place stands for. It was the first stopping-place of Israel after they
entered Canaan, and where they were required to tarry before they set out.25
on the conquest of their inheritance (

Joshua 5:9). It was there that all
the males who had been born in the wilderness were circumcised. Now
“circumcision” speaks of separation from the world, consecration to God,
and the knife’s application to the flesh. Figuratively it stood for the cutting
off of the old life, the rolling away of “the reproach of Egypt.” There is a
circumcision “of the heart” (

Romans 2:29), and it is that which is the
distinguishing mark of God’s spiritual children, as circumcision of the flesh
had identified His earthly people. Gilgal, then, is where the path of God’s
servant must necessarily begin. Not until he unsparingly mortifies the flesh,
separates from the world, and consecrates himself unreservedly to God is
he prepared to journey further.
From Gilgal Elisha passed on to “Bethel,” which means “the house of
God.” As we have seen, it was originally the place of hallowed memories,
but in the course of time it had been grievously defiled. Bethel had been
horribly polluted; for it was there that Jeroboam set up one of his golden
calves, appointed an idolatrous priesthood, and led the people into terrible
sin (

1 Kings 12:28, 33). Elisha must visit this place so that he might be
suitably affected with the dishonor done unto the Lord.
History has repeated itself. The house of God, the professing church, is
defiled, and the servant of Christ must take to heart the apostate condition
of Christendom today if his ministry is to be effective. From Bethel they
proceeded to Jericho, a place that was under God’s curse (

6:26). The servant of God needs to enter deeply into the solemn fact that
this world is under the curse of a holy God. And what is that “curse”?
Death (

Romans 6:23), and it is of that the Jordan (the final stopping-place)
speaks. That too must be passed through in the experience of his
soul if the minister is to be effective..26
THE RELATION BETWEEN Elijah and Elisha was that of master (

2 Kings
2:16) and servant (

2 Kings 3:11), and thus it set forth that which exists
between Christ and His ministers. For some time Elijah himself occupied
the state of action; but upon the completion of his mission and after a
miraculous passage through Jordan, he was supernaturally removed to
heaven. Thus it was with the One whom he foreshadowed: when the
Savior had finished the work given Him to do and had risen in triumph
from the grave, He ascended on High. But men were appointed by Him to
serve as ambassadors in the world from which He departed, to act in His
name and perpetuate His mission. So it was with His type. Elisha was to
succeed Elijah and carry forward what he had inaugurated. In order to do
this he had been called by him. Then we saw in our last chapter how Elisha
was subjected to a series of testings, which shadowed forth the disciplinary
experiences by which the servant of Christ approves himself and through
which he is schooled for his life’s work. Then we viewed the path which
Elisha was required to tread and pointed out briefly its spiritual significance
in connection with the preparatory history of the minister of the gospel.
One other preliminary feature remains for our consideration, namely, the
endowment Elisha received.
It will be remembered that when Elijah had put to his companion that
searching question, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away
from thee,” Elisha had replied, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy
spirit be upon me.” This we believe showed three things.
First, it revealed his modesty and humility, being an acknowledgment of
his weakness and insufficiency. He was conscious of his unfitness for his
mission and felt that nothing but a plentiful supply of the Spirit which had
rested upon the Tishbite would be enough for the tasks confronting him.
Happy is the young servant of Christ who is aware of his own impotence,
for in felt weakness lies his strength. Happy is the one who has
experimentally learned the force of that word,.27
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD”

Zechariah 4:6).
Second, if Elisha were to take Elijah’s place at the head of the schools of
the prophets, then he needed a superior endowment to theirs — a double
supply of the Spirit of wisdom and power.
Third, as the accredited servant of God, he needed more than the rank and
file of His people: not only the Spirit’s indwelling, but also the Spirit’s
resting upon him.
We have only to turn to the final discourse of our Lord to His apostles,
recorded in John 14-16, to discover the part which the Holy Spirit must
play if His servants are to be duly equipped for their work. First, He
declared He would pray the Father that another Paraclete or Comforter
should be given them, who would abide with them forever (John 14: 16).
Then He promised that this blessed Comforter, sent in His name, would
teach them all things (

John 16:13). It was by means of the Spirit of
truth given unto them that they would be enabled to bear testimony unto
their Master (

John 15:26-27). He would guide them into all truth, show
them things to come, and glorify Christ by a fuller revelation to them of the
mystery of His person, office, and work (

John 16:13-15). In the book of
Acts we see how those promises were made good. These servants were
already indwelt by the Spirit of life (

John 20:22) but the “power of the
Holy Ghost” was to come upon them (

Acts 1:8). This took place on the
day of Pentecost, when “there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as
of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they [the apostles,

Acts 1:26]
were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (

Acts 2:3-4).
This, then, is the deep need of the servant of Christ: that he be endowed by
the Spirit, for without such an anointing his labors can only prove
ineffective. It was thus that Christ Himself was furnished (


Acts 10:38), and the disciple is not greater than his Lord. Much
has been said and written on this subject of the minister being endowed and
empowered by the Holy Spirit, and varied indeed are the directions given
as to what must be done in order to enter into this blessing. Personally, we
have long been convinced that the position occupied by the apostles was
unique, and therefore we are certainly not warranted in praying and
looking for any supernatural endowment such as they received. On the
other hand we must be careful not to go to an opposite extreme and
conclude there is no special and distinct anointing by the Spirit which the.28
servants of God need today. Elisha shows otherwise, for this case we
believe is a typical and representative one.
Taking it for granted then that most of our readers will concur in the last
remarks, we proceed to the important question. What is required of the
minister if he is to enjoy a double portion of the Spirit? In answering this
inquiry we will restrict ourselves to what is recorded of Elisha. In his case
there were two things. First, the passage through Jordan, for it is to be duly
noted that Elijah did not ask him “what shall I do for thee” until they had
gone through its divided waters. Now, the Jordan stands for death, and
death must be experimentally passed through before we can know the
power of resurrection. The minister has to die to self, to all self-pleasing
and self-seeking, before the Spirit of God will use him. Second, the prophet
had to keep his eye fixed steadily upon his master if his desire was to be
realized (

2 Kings 2:10). It is all summed up in those words of Paul,
“Not I, but Christ” (

Galatians 2:20). Just in proportion as self is set
aside and the magnifying of Christ is the goal of my ministry, is an
ungrieved Spirit likely to use me.
“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold,
there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them
both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And
Elisha saw it” (

2 Kings 2:11-12).
Of course he did. God never disappoints those who renounce self and are
occupied solely with Christ. Elijah had made the granting of Elisha’s
request turn upon this very thing: “If thou seest me when I am taken from
thee, it shall be so unto thee.” Additional incentive then had the young
prophet to keep his gaze steadfastly on his master. Those who follow on to
know the Lord, who press forward in the race set before them, who allow
nothing to turn them aside from fully following Christ, are permitted to
behold things which are hidden not only from the world but also from their
halfhearted brethren. A vision of the unseen is ever the reward which God
grants to faith and fidelity. It was so with Abraham (

Genesis 22:11-12),
with Moses (

Exodus 19:3-4), with Stephen (

Acts 7:55), with John

Revelation 1:1).
But something more than spiritual vision was granted unto Elisha, namely
spiritual perception. He not only saw, but understood the significance of
what he beheld..29
“And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot
of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” (

2 Kings 2:12).
Only as we ponder carefully the words of that sentence will the force of it
be apparent. He did not say “the chariot of fire,” nor even “the chariot of
God,” but “the chariot of Israel.” What did he mean? And why preface that
explanation with the cry “My father, my father”? He was interpreting for us
the wondrous vision before him, the supernatural phenomenon described in
the preceding verse. There was a divine suitability in Elijah’s being
removed from this scene in a chariot of fire driven by horses of fire. No
other conveyance could have been more suitable and suggestive, though
we have met no writer who appears to have grasped the significance of it.
Why did God send a fiery chariot to conduct His servant to heaven? Let us
endeavor to find the answer to that question.
Scripture interprets Scripture, and if we turn to other passages where
“chariots” and “horses” are mentioned we shall obtain the key which opens
to us the meaning of the one here before us.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses: but we will remember
the name of the LORD our God” (

Psalm 20:7).
Israel had good reason for saying that. Go back to the beginning of their
national history. Behold them in their helplessness before the Red Sea as
“Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen”

Exodus 14:23)
menaced their rear. Ah, but behold the sequel! They are all safe on the
other side, singing
“The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Pharoah’s
chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea:… The depths have
covered them:…Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in
power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy”

Exodus 15:3-6).
The ungodly may look to such things as horses and chariots for protection
and prowess, but the saints will find their sufficiency in the name of the
Lord their God.
It is sad indeed to see how woefully the favored nation of Israel failed at
this very point. “They soon forgat his works;” yea, they “forgat God their.30
savior” (

Psalm 106:13, 21) and relied upon the arm of flesh. They even
sought alliances with the heathen until one of their prophets had to cry,
“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses,
and chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they
are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel,
neither seek the LORD!” (

Isaiah 31:1).
Now set over against this our present passage and is not its meaning clear?
As Elisha beheld that awe-inspiring sight, his soul perceived its
significance: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen
thereof.” His master, had been in the band of the Lord of Israel’s real
chariot and horses, their true defense against Jezebel and Baal’s prophet
which are bent on their destruction. The nation was too carnal, too much
given to idolatry to recognize what they were losing in the departure of
Elijah; but Elisha realized it was “the chariot of Israel,” which was being
taken from them.
This brings us then to the time when Elisha performed his first miracle. It
was what men generally would deem a most unpropitious one, when the
prophet’s spirits were at their lowest ebb. His beloved master had just been
taken from him and deeply did he feel the loss.
“He took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces”

2 Kings 2:12).
That action was emblematic of his grief, as a comparison of

37:34 and

Joshua 7:6, shows; yet it was a temperate sorrow, a
controlled sorrow, and not an inordinate one. He only rent his garments in
two pieces; had he done more they would have been wastefully ruined. His
action may also have betokened Israel’s rejection of Elijah (cf.

1 Samuel
15:26-28). But severe as his loss was and heavy as his heart must have
been, Elisha did not sit down in despair and wring his hands with
inconsolable dejection. Pining over the loss of eminent ministers
accomplishes no good to those left behind, but rather enfeebles them.
Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. The darkest hour of all is the best
time to prove His sufficiency. This is what Elisha did now..31
Consider now the object on which it is wrought. A formidable one it was,
none less than the river Jordan. He had friends, the prophets at Jericho, on
the other side; the problem was how to come to them. Probably he was
unable to swim, or surely he would have done so, since miracles are not
wrought where there is no urgent need for them. There was no boat to take
him over; how then was he to cross? A very real difficulty confronted him.
Let us note that he looked the difficulty squarely in the face. He “went
back, and stood by the bank of the Jordan” (

2 Kings 2:13), instead of
foolishly playing the part of an ostrich, which buries its head in the sand
when menaced by danger. To close our eyes to difficulties gets us
nowhere, nor is anything gained by underestimating or belittling them. The
Jordan was a challenge to Elisha’s faith; so he regarded it and so he dealt
with it. That is why God lets His servants and saints be confronted with
difficulties: to try them and see of what metal they are made.
“He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went
back, and stood by the bank of Jordan” (

2 Kings 2:13).
When his master’s mantle fluttered to his feet, Elisha knew beyond doubt
that heaven had granted his request. Not only had he seen Elijah at the
moment of his departure, but the gift of his prophetical garment was an
additional token of receiving a double portion of his spirit. And now came
the test: what use would he make of his master’s mantle! Testing always
follows the bestowment of a divine gift. After Solomon had asked the Lord
for “an understanding heart” that he might judge His people wisely and
well and “discern between good and bad,” he was quickly confronted by
the two women each claiming the living child as hers (

1 Kings 3:9, 16-
27). No sooner did the Spirit of God descend upon Christ than He led Him
into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Scarcely had the apostles
been endowed with power from on High and begun to speak with other
tongues, than they were charged with being “full of new wine.” So here:
Elijah’s mantle fell at his feet, but before Elisha smote the Jordan!.32
This is of deep interest and importance, for it inculcated a truth of the
greatest possible moment.
“And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the
waters” (

2 Kings 2:14).
That was what the mantle had been given to him for — not to be idolized
as a venerable memento, but to be made practical use of. “For whosoever,
hath to him shall be given” (

Luke 8:18), which means that he that has in
reality, evidences it by improving the same, by investing it for interest. By
cleaving so steadfastly to his master, Elisha had already given proof that he
was indwelt by the Spirit, and now the double portion became his. This too
he used, and used in the right way. He followed strictly the example his
master had left him. In the context we are told,
“Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the
waters” (

2 Kings 2:8).
Now his disciple did precisely the same thing. Is not the lesson for us clear?
If the servant of Christ would work miracles, his ministry must be
patterned closely after his Master’s example.
In view of all that has been before us, this should now be apparent. As we
have sought to show, Elisha is to be regarded all through the piece as the
representative servant, as a figure of the ministers of Christ: in their call,
their testings, the path they must tread, their spiritual endowment; and the
miracles he performed are not to be taken as exceptions to the rule. What
then is the meaning and message of this first miracle, the smiting of and
dividing asunder the waters of the Jordan? Clearly it is victory over death,
ministerial victory. The servant of Christ is sent forth to address those who
are dead in trespasses and sins. What an undertaking! How is he to prevail
over the slaves and subjects of Satan? As Elisha did over the Jordan! He
must be divinely equipped: he must obtain a double portion of the Spirit.
By acting as Elijah did: using what has been given him from above. As he
smote the waters in the exercise of faith, he said “Where is the LORD God
of Elijah?” or, “Give proof that Thou art with me too.”.33
“And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and
thither: and Elisha went over” (

2 Kings 2:14).
There was the proof that though Elijah was not present, the God of Elijah
was! There was the proof that he had received a double portion of his
master’s spirit. There was the proof that by using the same means as his
master had employed, God was pleased to honor his faith and grant the
same result. Three times in Scripture do we read of a miraculous crossing
of the Jordan. See

Joshua 3:17 for the first example. Typifying, I
believe, the victory of Christ over the grave, the deliverance of the church
from spiritual death, and the resurrection of our bodies in the day to come.
“And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho
saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And
they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before
him” (

2 Kings 2:15).
The miracle they had witnessed convinced them, and they accepted him as
the successor or representative of Elijah. The parted waters of the Jordan
demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit. So the regeneration of souls
makes manifest that the servant of God has been endowed with power
from on high, and those with spiritual perception will accept and honor him
as such, for faithful ministers are to be esteemed “very highly in love for
their work’s sake” (

1 Thessalonians 5:13). If Romanists have gone to
one extreme in exalting the priesthood and making it a barrier to prevent
the individual Christian from having direct dealings with God Himself, the
democratic spirit of our day has swung so far to the other side as to level
all distinctions. Those who have received a double portion of the Spirit are
to “be counted worthy of double honor” if they “rule well” (

1 Timothy
“AND THEY SAID UNTO HIM, Behold now, there be with thy
servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy
master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up,
and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley”

2 Kings 2:16).
Two things must be borne in mind in connection with this request, lest we
be too severe in our criticism of those who made it.
First, these young prophets had known that Elijah was to be removed from
Elisha that day, as is clear from their words to him on a former occasion:
“Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy
head to day?” (

2 Kings 2:5).
As to how they had learned of this, we cannot be sure; nor do we know
how full was their information. Yet it seems clear they knew nothing more
than the general fact that this was the day which would terminate the
earthly career of the renowned Tishbite.
Second, we are told,
“And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view
afar off: and they two [Elijah and Elisha] stood by Jordan”

2 Kings 2:7).
Here again we cannot be certain what it was or how much they actually
saw. Perhaps, some are ready to exclaim, if they were definitely on the
lookout, they must have seen the remarkable translation of Elijah, for the
“chariot of fire and the horses of fire” in midair would surely have been
visible to them. Not necessarily. Probably that “fire” was very different
from any that we are acquainted with. Moreover we must bear in mind that
on a later occasion “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire
round about Elisha,” yet his own personal attendant saw them not until the
prophet asked, “LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see” (

Kings 6:17)! We are therefore inclined to believe that as these young
prophets watched, Elijah suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from their
view, without their actually seeing his miraculous translation to heaven.
Consequently they felt that something unprecedented and supernatural had
taken place, and they ascribed it to a divine intervention, as their reference
to “the Spirit of the LORD” intimates.
Though they must have realized that an event quite extraordinary had
occurred, yet they were uneasy, fearful that something unpleasant had
befallen their teacher. They were deeply concerned, and veneration and
love for Elijah prompted their petition. Let us seek to put ourselves in their
place and then ask, Would we have acted more intelligently? At any rate,
was their request any more foolish than Peter’s on the mount of
transfiguration when he said to Christ,
“If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and
one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (

Matthew 17:4)!
Moreover it should be observed that they did not rashly take matters into
their own hands, but respectfully submitted their request to Elisha. Before
criticizing them too harshly let us make sure that our hearts are as warmly
attached to God’s servants as theirs, and that we are as troubled over their
departure as they were.
Elisha tersely refused their request. “Ye shall not send.” But why did he
not explain to them the uselessness of such a quest, by informing them
exactly what had happened to Elijah? Probably because he concluded that
if the Lord had intended them to know of His servant’s miraculous exit
from this scene, He would have opened their eyes to behold what he
himself had been permitted to see. Not all of the twelve witnessed Christ’s
transfiguration either. Moreover, is there not a hint here as to why this
privilege had been withheld from them, in the statement that “they stood to
view afar off”? Not so Elisha, who followed his master fully. It is only
those who “draw near” that enjoy the highest privileges of grace. Finally
we may learn from Elisha’s reticence that there are some experiences
which are too sacred to describe to others. Oh for more of such holy
reserve and modesty in this day of curiosity and vulgar intruding into one
another’s spiritual privacy..36
“And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They
sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him
not” (

2 Kings 2:17).
Let it not be forgotten that up to this time only one individual from all
mankind had gone to heaven without passing through the portals of death,
and it is very doubtful if the contemporaries of Enoch (or those who lived
later) knew of his translation, for the words, “He was not found”

Hebrews 11:5) intimate that search was also made for him. Elisha’s
being “ashamed” means that he felt if he were to continue refusing them
they would likely think he was being influenced by an undue desire to
occupy Elijah’s place of honor.
“And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he
said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?” (

2 Kings
Now they must have felt ashamed.
“This would make them the more willing to acquiesce in his
judgment another time” (Matthew Henry).
This brings us to Elisha’s next miracle. First, let us consider the order of it.
It was Elisha’s second one, and the scriptural significance of that numeral
casts light upon this point. One expresses unity and sovereignty. One
stands all alone; but where there are two, another element has come in. So
in the first miracle Elisha acted alone. But here in this one Elisha is not
alone. A second human element is seen in connection with it — the “men
of Jericho.” They were required to furnish a “new cruse” with “salt
therein” before the wonder was performed. Probably this very fact will
prove a serious difficulty to the thoughtful reader. Those who have
followed closely the preceding chapters will remember how we pointed out
again and again that Elisha is to be regarded as a representative character,
as a figure of the servants of Christ. Some may conclude the type fails us at
this point, for it will be said, Surely you do not believe that ministers of the
gospel demand something at the hands of sinners in order to be saved! Our
answer will be given under the meaning of this miracle..37
Let us take note of the place where this occurred: it was at Jericho. This
too is very illuminating. Jericho had been the first city of the Canaanites to
defy the children of Israel, for it was closed and barred against them

Joshua 6:1). Whereupon it was pronounced “accursed,” and orders
were given that Israel should not appropriate anything in it unto
“And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest
ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing”

Joshua 6:18).
By the power of Jehovah, Jericho was overthrown, following which His
“burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein” (

Joshua 6:24).
Afterward the fearful denunciation went forth,
“Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth
this city Jericho” (

Joshua 6:26).
But both of those divine prohibitions were flouted. The first was by Achan,
“saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two
hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold” (

Joshua 7:21),
which he coveted and stole, for which he and his family were stoned to
death and their bodies destroyed by fire.
The second prohibition was broken centuries later, in the reign of the
apostate Ahab: “In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho” (

Kings 16:34). Thus Jericho was the city of the curse. It was the first place
in Canaan where defiance of the Lord and His people was displayed. It was
there that Israel, in the person of Achan, committed their first sin in the
land of promise. A fearful curse was pronounced against the man who
should have the effrontery to rebuild the city. That there is an unmistakable
parallel between these things and what occurred in Eden scarcely needs
pointing out. But we must not anticipate. That which is now before us is
the fact that, in defiance of the divine threat, Jericho had recently been
rebuilt — probably the attractiveness of its locality was the temptation to.38
which Hiel yielded (as the pleasantness of the fruit in Eve’s eyes induced
her to partake:

Genesis 3:6), for we are told
“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the
situation of this city is pleasant” (

2 Kings 2:19).
“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the
situation of this city is pleasant, as my Lord seeth: but the water is
naught, and the ground barren” (

2 Kings 2:19).
Herein God had evidenced His displeasure on that accursed rebuilding of
Jericho by making its water unwholesome and the ground barren, or as the
margin notes, “causing to miscarry.” The Jewish commentators understood
this to mean that these waters caused the cattle to cast their young, the
trees to shed their fruit before it was mature, and even the women to be
incapable of bearing children. The Hebrew word which is rendered “the
water is naught” (“ra”) is a much stronger one than the English denotes. In
the great majority of cases it is translated “evil” (as in

Genesis 6:5;

Proverbs 8:13), and “wicked” no less than thirty-one times. Its first
occurrence is in “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (

2:9)! But it signifies not only evil but that which is harmful or injurious to
others, being translated “the hurtful sword” (

Psalm 144:10).
Jericho then was a pleasant location, but there was no good water for its
inhabitants or their flocks and herds. This was a serious matter, a vital
consideration, for the Israelites were an essentially pastoral people.
(Observe how often we find mention of the “wells” in their early history:

Genesis 16:14; 21:25; 26:15, 22; 29:2;

Numbers 21:16-18, etc.)
Jericho in spite of all its ideal qualities then lacked the one thing essential.
How this reminds us of another and later incident in the career of Elisha:
“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great
man with his master, and honorable, because by him the LORD had
given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor,
but he was a leper” (

2 Kings 5:1).
In spite of his exalted position, his wealth, his exploits, he lacked the one
thing needful — health. He was a leper and that nullified everything else..39
And thus it is with every man in his natural sinful condition; however
favored by creation and by providence, the springs of his life are defiled.
“And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they
brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters,
and cast the salt in there” (

2 Kings 2:20-21).
The appropriateness of this particular means for counteracting the effects
of the curse is at once apparent. Salt is the grand purifier and preserver. It
is by means of the salty vapors which the rays of the sun distill from the
ocean that the atmosphere of our earth is kept healthy for its inhabitants.
That is why the sea breezes act as such a tonic to the invalid and the
convalescent. Salt prevents putrefaction. Hence, after the backs of
prisoners were scourged, salt was rubbed into the wounds; though
extremely painful, it prevented blood poisoning. Salt is the best seasoning;
how insipid and unsavory are many foods without a sprinkling of it. Salt is
the emblem of divine holiness and grace, and so we read of the “covenant
of salt” (

Numbers 18:19;

2 Chronicles 13:5). Hence also the
exhortation, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt”

Colossians 4:6), the savor of true piety. The ministers of Christ are
therefore denominated “the salt of the earth” (

Matthew 5:13).
Obviously the salt itself could not heal those unwholesome waters, any
more than the “rods” or twigs of the trees with their “white streaks” that
Jacob set before the flocks, were able to cause the cattle to bring forth
young ones that were “ringstreaked, speckled and spotted” (

30:37-39). Though the men of Jericho were required to furnish the salt,
and though the prophet now cast the same into the springs, yet he made it
clear this would avail nothing unless the blessing of Jehovah accompanied
the same. His power must operate if anything good was to be
accomplished. Therefore we find that as Elisha cast in the salt he declared
“Thus saith the LORD, I have healed the waters; there shall not be
from thence any more death or miscarrying” (

2 Kings 2:21,
Thereby the prophet disclaimed any inherent power of his own. Yet he was
instrumentally employed of God, for the very next verse says, “So the
waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which
he spake”! How very similar to Paul’s experience, which he expressed, “I
have planted, Apollos watered [they were the instruments]; but God gave
the increase” (1

Colossians 3:6).
The first key to the meaning is found in the order of it. Under that point we
intimated that probably some readers would find a difficulty in the men of
Jericho being required to furnish the salt and be inclined to object that
surely the minister of the gospel (for as a figure of such Elisha is to be
viewed here) does not demand anything at the hand of sinners in order for
them to be saved. But such a difficulty is self-created through entertaining
vague and general concepts instead of distinguishing sharply between
things that differ. When we speak of “salvation” we refer to something that
is many-sided. If on the one hand we must guard most carefully against the
error of man’s contributing to his regeneration, on the other we must
watch against swinging to the opposite extreme and denying that man is
required to concur with God in connection with his reconciliation,
preservation, etc. The typical picture which is here set before us is divinely
perfect; yet we need to view it closely if we are to see its details in their
proper perspective.
The first miracle, the smiting of the Jordan, suggests the ministerial power
of the evangelist over spiritual death, in connection with salvation. But this
second miracle foreshadows a later, second experience in the history of
those truly converted. This miracle at Jericho speaks of neutralizing the
effects of the curse, overcoming the power of innate depravity. And here
the minister of the gospel acts not alone, for in this matter there is the
conjunction of both the divine and the human elements. Thus the second
key to its meaning lies in the place where it occurred. It is true that the
conjunction of the divine and human elements in conversion cannot be so
closely defined as to express the same in any theological formula;
nevertheless the reality of those two elements can be demonstrated both
from Scripture and experience. We do not like the expression “man’s
cooperating with God” for that savors too much of a dividing of the.41
honors, but man’s “concurring with God” seems to be both permissible and
The third key is contained in the fact that these men of Jericho are
represented as taking the initiative, coming unto Elisha, acquainting him
with their need, supplicating his assistance! Apparently they knew from his
dress that Elisha was a prophet; and as he no doubt still carried Elijah’s
mantle, they hoped he would use his power on their behalf. The servant of
God ought to be readily identified by his (emblematic) “garments” or
spiritual graces, easily accessible and approachable, one to whom members
of a community will gladly turn in their troubles. Elisha did not repulse
them by saying this lay outside his line of things, that his concern lay only
with the young prophets. Instead he at once intimated his willingness to
help. Yet something was required of them (compare

2 Kings 4:41 and
5:10 for other illustrations of the same principle). They were told to
provide a “new cruse” with salt therein. That was a test as to whether they
were willing to follow the prophet’s instructions. They promptly heeded.
How different from many who disregard the directions of God’s servants!
This miracle then does not give us a history of the servant of God going to
those who are utterly unconcerned, dead in trespasses and sins, but rather
that of awakened souls, seeking help, acquainting the minister with their
need. In the first miracle it is God acting in sovereign power, enabling His
servant to ministerially triumph over death; here it is His servant addressing
human responsibility. In bidding awakened and inquiring sinners to provide
a “new cruse and put salt therein,” he is saying to them, “Cast away from
you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a
new heart and a new spirit” (

Ezekiel 18:31 and cf.

James 4:8). These
men of Jericho could not have procured the new cruse and the salt unless
God had first placed it at their hands, and the sinner cannot bring a
responsive and obedient heart to the minister until God has previously
quickened him. That this miracle is, instrumentally, attributed to the
“saying of Elisha” (the Hebrew term dabar is rendered “word” in

Kings 17:2, 8) denotes that awakened sinners are delivered from the effects
of the curse as they obey the instructions of God’s faithful servants.
“Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not
be from thence any more death or miscarrying: so the waters were.42
healed unto this day, according to the word of Elisha which he
spake” (

2 Kings 2:21-22, ASV).
It was no superficial and temporary change that was wrought, but an
effectual and permanent one.
“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing
can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it” (

Ecclesiastes 3:14).
Herein we see again the appropriateness of the salt, the emblem of
incorruption, used in the covenant to express its perpetuity. Placing in a
“new cruse” and then casting into “the springs of water” give figures of the
new and honest heart, out of which are “the issues of life” (

The nature of fallen men, even the most attractive specimens, is like
unwholesome water and barren soil; it must be renewed by God before any
good works can be produced. Make the tree good and its fruit will be
good. The miracle is attributed, instrumentally, not to the faith or the
prayer of Elisha (though there was both), but to his word. By His response
God avouched His prophet and sustained his testimony in Israel..43
“AND HE WENT UP FROM THENCE unto Beth-el: and as he was
going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city,
and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up,
thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and
cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two
she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them”

2 Kings 2:23-24).
In seeking to give an exposition of this miracle let us observe its
connection. It will be noted that our passage opens with the word “And.”
Since there is nothing meaningless in Scripture, it should be duly pondered.
It evidently suggests that we should observe the relation between what we
find here and that which immediately precedes. The context records the
wonders which God wrought through Elisha at the Jordan and at Jericho.
Thus the truth which is here pointed to by the conjunction is plain: when
the servant has been used by his Master he must expect to encounter the
opposition of the enemy.
There is an important if unpalatable truth illustrated here, one which the
minister of Christ does well to take to heart if he would be in some
measure prepared for and fortified against bitter disappointment. After a
period of blessing and success, he must expect sore trials. After he has
witnessed the power of God attending his efforts he may count upon
experiencing something of the rage and power of Satan; for nothing
infuriates the devil so much as beholding his victims delivered from
spiritual death and set free. Elisha has been favored both at the Jordan and
at Jericho, but here at Bethel he hears the hiss of the serpent and the
roaring of the lion against him. Yes, the minister of the gospel is fully
aware of this principle and even often reminds his hearers of it. He knows
it was the case with his Master; for after the Spirit of God had descended
upon Him and the Father had testified to His pleasure in Him, He was at.44
once led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Yet how quickly is
this forgotten when he himself is called to pass through this contrasting
It is one thing to know this truth theoretically, and it is quite another to
have a personal acquaintance with it. The servant of Christ is informed that
the smile of heaven upon his labors will arouse the enmity of his great
adversary, yet how often is he taken quite unaware when the storm of
opposition bursts upon him! It ought not to be so, but so often it is.
“Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you”

1 Peter 4:12).
Various indeed are the ups and downs which are encountered by those who
labor in the Christian vineyard. What a striking contrast is here presented
to our view! At Jericho Elisha is received with respect, the young prophets
render obeisance to him, and the men of the city seek his help. Here at
Bethel he is contemptuously ridiculed by the children. At Jericho, the city
of the curse, he is an instrument of blessing; at Bethel, which signifies “the
house of God” and where blessing might therefore be expected, he
solemnly pronounces a curse upon those who mock him.
The insulting of God’s servant occasioned this miracle. As Elisha was
approaching Bethel, “there came forth little children out of the city and
mocked him.” Upon reading this incident it is probable that some will be
inclined to say that it seems that children then were much like what they
are now — wild, rude, lawless, totally lacking in respect for their seniors.
From this analogy the conclusion will be drawn: therefore we should not be
surprised nor unduly shocked at the present-day delinquency of some of
our youth. But such a conclusion is entirely unwarranted. It is true there is
“nothing new under the sun” and that fallen human nature has been the
same in every age. But it is not true that the tide of evil has always flowed
uniformly and that each generation has witnessed more or less the same
appalling conduct which now stigmatizes the young in every part of the
world. No, very far from it.
When there was an ungrieved Spirit in the churches, the restraining hand of
God was held upon the baser passions of mankind. That restraint operated
largely through parental control — moral training in the home, wholesome.45
instruction and discipline in the school, and adequate punishment of young
offenders by the state. But when the Spirit of God is “grieved” and
“quenched” by the churches, the restraining hand of the Lord is removed,
and there is a fearful moral aftermath in all sections of the community.
When the divine law is thrown out by the pulpit, there inevitably follows a
breakdown of law and order in the social realm, which is what we are now
witnessing all over the so-called civilized world. That was the case to a
considerable extent twenty-five years ago; and as the further an object rolls
down hill the swifter becomes its momentum, so the moral deterioration of
our generation has proceeded apace. As the majority of parents were
godless and lawless, it is not to be wondered at that we now behold such
reprehensible conduct in their offspring.
Older readers can recall the time when juveniles who were guilty of theft,
wanton destruction of property, and cruelty to animals were sternly
rebuked and punished for their wrong doing. But a few years later such
conduct began to be condoned, and “boys will be boys” was used to gloss
over a multitude of sins. So, far from being shocked, many parents were
pleased and regarded their erring offspring as smart, precocious, and cute.
Educational authorities and psychologists insisted that children must not be
suppressed and repressed but “directed.” These professionals prated about
the evils inflicted on the child’s character by “inhibitions,” and corporal
punishment was banished from the schools. Today the parent who acts
according to

Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, and 23:14 will not only be
called a brute by his neighbors, but is likely to be summoned before the
courts for cruelty; and instead of supporting him the magistrate will
probably censure him. The present permissive treatment of children is not
normal but abnormal. What is recorded in our passage occurred in the days
of Israel’s degeneracy! Child delinquency is one of the plain marks of a
time of apostasy. It was so then; it is so now.
As with the former miracles, the place where this one happened also
throws much light upon that which occasioned it. Originally Bethel was
called “the house of God” (

Genesis 28:16-19), but now it had become a
habitation of the devil, one of the principal seats of Israel’s idolatry. It was
here that Jeroboam had set up one of the calves. Afraid that he might not
be able to retain his hold upon those who had revolted from Rehoboam,.46
especially if they should go up to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices in the
temple, he
“made two calves of gold, and said unto them. It is too much for
you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which
brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in
Bethel, and the other put he in Dan…. And he made an house of
high places and made priests of the lowest of the people which
were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast for the
eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast
that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel,
sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in
Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made”

1 Kings 12:28-29, 31-33).
Thus it will be seen that, far from Bethel being a place which basked in the
sunshine of Jehovah’s favor, it was one upon which His frown now rested.
Its inhabitants were no ordinary people, but high rebels against the Lord,
openly defying Him to His face, guilty of the most fearful abominations.
This it was which constituted the dark background of the scene that is here
before us. This accounts for the severity of the judgment which fell upon
the youngest of its inhabitants; this explains why these children conducted
themselves as they did. What occurred here was far more than the silly
prank of innocent children; it was the manifestation of an inveterate hatred
of the true God and His faithful servant. Israel’s worship of Baal was far
more heinous than the idolatry of the Canaanites, for it had the additional
and awful guilt of apostasy. And apostates are always the fiercest
persecutors of those who cleave to the truth, for the very fidelity of the
latter is a witness against and a condemnation of those who have forsaken
The fearful doom which overtook those children must be considered in the
light of the enormity of their offense. Our degenerate generation has
witnessed so much condoning of the greatest enormities that it may find it
difficult to perceive how this punishment fitted the crime. The character of
God has been so misrepresented by the pulpit, His claims so little pressed,
the position occupied by His servants so imperfectly apprehended, that.47
there must be a returning to the solemn teaching of Holy Writ if this
incident is to be viewed in its proper perspective. God had said,
“Touch not mine annointed, and do my prophets no harm”

Psalm 105:15).
They are His messengers, His accredited representatives, His appointed
ambassadors, and an insult done to them is regarded by God as an insult
against Himself. Said Christ to His ministers,
“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me
receiveth him that sent me” (

Matthew 10:40);
conversely, he that despises and rejects the one sent forth by Christ,
despises and rejects Him. How little is this realized today! The curse of
God now rests on many a place where His ministers were mocked.
“And we went up from thence unto Bethel; and as he was going up by the
way, there came forth little children out of the city and mocked him, and
said unto him, Go up, thou bald head.” After the vain search which had
been made for Elijah (

2 Kings 2:17), it is likely that some inkling of his
supernatural rapture was conveyed to the prophets at Jericho, and from
them to their brethren at Bethel (

2 Kings 2:3). Hence we may conclude
that his remarkable translation had been noised abroad — received with
skepticism and ridicule by the inhabitants of Bethel. In their unbelief they
would mock at it. Today apostate leaders of Christendom do not believe
that the Lord Jesus actually rose again from the dead and that He ascended
to heaven in a real physical body, and they make fun of the Christian’s
hope of his Lord’s return and of being caught up to meet Him in the air

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Thus in saying, “Go up, thou bald head,” the
children were, in all probability, scoffing at the tidings of Elijah’s
translation — scoffs put into their mouths by their elders.
Thomas Scott says,
They had heard that Elijah was “gone up to heaven” and they
insultingly bade Elisha follow him, that they might be rid of him
also, and they reviled him for the baldness of his head. Thus they
united the crimes of abusing him for a supposed bodily infirmity,
contemptuous behavior towards a venerable person, and enmity
against him as the prophet of God. The sin therefore of these
children was very heinous: yet the greater guilt was chargeable on.48
their parents, and their fate was a severe rebuke and awful warning
to them.
How true it is that “the curse causeless shall not come” (

26:2). “And he turned back and looked on them,” which indicates he acted
calmly, and not on the spur of the moment. “And he cursed them in the
name of the LORD,” not out of personal spite, but to vindicate his insulted
Master. Had Elisha sinned in cursing these children, divine providence
would have prevented it. This was a fair warning from God of the awful
judgment about to come upon Israel for their sins.
The passage before us is one which infidels have been quick to seize upon,
and lamentable indeed have been many of the answers returned to them.
But the Word has survived every opposition of its enemies and all the
puerile apologies of its weak-kneed friends. Nor are the Scriptures in any
danger whatever in this skeptical and blatant age. Being the Word of God,
they contain nothing which His servants have any need to be ashamed of,
nothing which requires any explaining away. It is not our province to sit in
judgment upon Holy Writ: our part is to tremble before it (

Isaiah 66:2)
knowing that one day we shall be judged by it (

John 12:48). As Jehovah
was able to look after the sacred ark without the help of any of His
creatures (

2 Samuel 6:6-7), so His truth is in need of no carnal
assistance from us. It is to be received without question and believed in
with all our hearts. It is to be preached and proclaimed in its entirety
without hesitation or reservation.
Certain so-called Christian apologists have replied to the taunts of infidels
by a process of what is termed “toning down” the passage, arguing that it
was not little children but young men who were cursed by the prophet and
torn to pieces by the bears: but such an effeminate explanation is as
senseless as it is needless. We quite agree with Thomas Scott when he
Some learned men have endeavored to prove that these offenders
were not young children but grown-up persons, and no doubt the
word rendered “children” is often used in that sense. The addition,
however of the word “little” seems to clearly evince they were not
men, but young boys who had been brought up in idolatry and
taught to despise the prophets of the Lord..49
Others roundly condemn Elisha, saying he should have meekly endured
their taunts in silence and that he sinned grievously in cursing them. It is
sufficient to point out that his Master deemed otherwise. Instead of
rebuking His servant, He sent the bears to fulfill his curse, and there is no
appeal against His decision.
Some Bible teachers have asserted mistakenly that this drastic punishment
was necessary because the Old Testament period was governed by the law,
but that under New Testament grace, this would not warrant immediate
judgment. Let such teachers remember that Ananias and Sapphira fell dead
as soon as they sinned against the Holy Spirit (Acts 5).
God is even now giving the most awe-inspiring and wide-reaching proof of
His wrath against those who flout His Law, visiting the earth with sorer
judgments than any He has sent since the days of Noah! The New
Testament equally with the Old teaches
“it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them
that trouble you” (

2 Thessalonians 1:6).
In the incident before us, God was righteously visiting the sins of the
fathers upon the children, as He was by the death of their children also
smiting the parents in their tenderest parts. At almost the end of the Old
Testament era we read that Israel
“mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and
misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his
people, till there was no remedy” (

2 Chronicles 36:16).
Here at Bethel God was giving a warning, a sample of His coming wrath,
unless they reformed their ways and treated His servants better.
At first glance it certainly appears that there can be no parallel between the
above action of Elisha and that which should characterize the servants of
Christ, and many are likely to conclude that it can only be by a wide stretch
of imagination or a flagrant wresting of this incident that it can be made to
yield anything pertinent for this age. But it must be remembered that we
are not looking for a literal counterpart but rather a spiritual application.
Viewing it thus, our type is solemnly accurate. Ministers of the gospel are.50
“unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in
them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death;
and to the other the savor of life unto life” (

2 Corinthians 2:14-
Certainly the evangelist has no warrant to anathamatize any who oppose
him, but he can point out that they are accursed of God who love not
Christ and who obey not His law (

1 Corinthians 16:22;

This is recorded in the closing verse of 2 Kings 2. “And he went from
thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” In the
violent death of those children as the outcome of Elisha’s malediction, we
behold the estating of the prophet’s divine authority, the sign of his
extraordinary office, and the fulfillment of the prediction that he should
“slay” (

1 Kings 19:17)! After his unpleasant experience at Bethel, the
prophet went to Carmel, which had been the scene of Elijah’s grand
testimony to a prayer-answering God (1 Kings 18). By heading for the
mount this servant of God intimated his need for the renewing of his
strength by communion with the Most High and by meditation upon His
holiness and power. Samaria was the country where the apostate portion of
Israel dwelt, and by going there, Elisha manifested his readiness to be used
of his Master as He saw fit in that dark and difficult field of labor.
There is only space left for us to barely mention some of the more
outstanding lessons to be drawn from this solemn incident.
First, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” (

11:22): if the previous miracle exemplified His “goodness,” certainly this
one demonstrated His “severity,” and the one is as truly a divine perfection
as the other!
Second, the words as well as actions of children, even “little children,” are
noticed by God! (

Proverbs 20:11). They should be informed of this and
warned against showing disrespect to God’s servants.
Third, what must have been the grief of those parents when they beheld
the mangled bodies of their little ones! But how much greater the anguish
of parents in the day of judgment when they witness the everlasting.51
condemnation of their offspring if it has been occasioned by their own
negligence and evil example..52
IT HAS PLEASED the Holy Spirit in this instance to provide a somewhat
lengthy and complicated miracle, so it will be wise for us to patiently
ponder the account He has given of what led up to and occasioned this
exercise of God’s wonder-working power. Just as a diamond appears to
best advantage when placed in a suitable setting, so we are the more
enabled to appreciate the works of God when we take note of their
connections. This applies equally to His works in creation, in providence,
and in grace. We are always the losers if we ignore the circumstances
which occasion the varied actings of our God. The longer and darker the
night, the more welcome the morning’s light, and the more acute our need
and urgent our situation, the more manifest is the hand of Him that relieves
and His goodness in ministering to us. The same principle holds good in
connection with the Lord’s undertaking for our fellows, and if we were not
so self-centered we should appreciate and render praise for the one as
much as for the other.
In 2 Kings 3 we read,
“Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in
Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and
reigned twelve years. And he wrought evil in the sight of the
LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away
the image of Baal, that his father had made. Nevertheless he
cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made
Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom” (

2 Kings 3:1-3).
Five things are taught us in these verses about that “abominable thing”
which God “hates” and which is the cause of all the suffering and sorrow
that is in the world, namely, sin.
1. God Himself personally observes our wrongdoing. It was “in the sight
of the LORD” that the guilty deeds of Jehoram were performed. How.53
much evil doing is perpetrated secretly and under cover of darkness,
supposing none are witness. But though evildoing may be concealed from
human gaze, it cannot be hidden from the omnipresent One, for
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place (by night as well as by
day), beholding the evil and the good” (

Proverbs 15:3).
What curb this ought to place on us.
2. God records our evil deeds. Here is a clear case in point. The evil which
Jehoram wrought in the sight of the Lord is set down against him, likewise
that of his parents before him, and further back still “the sin of Jeroboam.”
Unspeakably solemn is this: God not only observes but registers against
men every infraction of His Law. They commit iniquity and think little or
nothing of it, but the very One who shall yet judge them has noted the
same against them. It may all be forgotten by them, but nothing shall fade
from what God has written. And when the dead, both small and great,
stand before Him, the “books” will be opened, and they will be
“judged out of those things which were written in the books,
according to their works” (

Revelation 20:12).
And my reader, there is only one possible way of escape from receiving the
awful wages of your sins, and that is to throw down the weapons of your
warfare against God, cast yourself at the feet of Christ as a guilty sinner,
put your trust in His redeeming and cleansing blood. Then God will say, “I
have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions” (

Isaiah 44:22).
3. God recognizes degrees in evildoing. Jehoram displeased the Lord; yet
it is said, “but not like his father, and like his mother.” Christ declared to
Pilate, “he [Judas] that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin”

John 19:11). Again we are told,
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or
three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall
he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of
God” (

Hebrews 10:28-29).
There are many who ignore this principle and suppose that since they are
sinners it makes no difference how much wickedness they commit. They
madly argue, “I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb,” but are only
treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath (

2:5), for “every transgression and disobedience” will yet receive “a just
recompence of reward” (

Hebrews 2:2).
4. God observes whether our reformation is partial or complete. This
comes out in the fact that we are told Jehoram “put away the image [or
‘statue’] that his father had made,” but he did not destroy it, and a few
years later Baal worship was restored. God’s Word touching this matter
was plain:
“thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their
images” (

Exodus 23:24).
Sin must be dealt with by no unsparing hand, and when we resolve to break
away, we must burn our bridges behind us or they are likely to prove an
irresistible temptation to return to our former ways.
5. God duly notes our continuance in sin. Here it is recorded that Jehoram
not only “cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam” but also that “he departed not
therefrom” which greatly aggravated his guilt. To enter upon a course of
wrongdoing is horrible wickedness, but to deliberately persevere in it is
much worse. How few heed that word “break off thy sins by
righteousness” (

Daniel 4:27).
“And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto
the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred
thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was
dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel”

2 Kings 3:4-5).
In fulfillment of Balaam’s prophecy (

Numbers 24:17) David had
conquered the Moabites. They became his “servants” (

2 Samuel 8:2),
and they continued in subjection to the kingdom of Israel until the time of
its division, when their vassalage and tribute was transferred to the kings of
Israel, as those of Edom remained to the kings of Judah. But upon the
death of Ahab they revolted. Here we see the divine Providence crossing
His sons in their affairs. This rebellion on the part of Moab should be
regarded in the light of
“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies
to be at peace with him” (

Proverbs 16:7);.55
but when our ways displease Him, evil from every quarter menaces us.
Temporal as well as spiritual prosperity depends entirely on God’s blessing.
To make His hand more plainly apparent, God frequently punishes the
wicked after the manner of their sins. He did so to Ahab’s sons: they had
turned from the Lord, and Moab was moved to rebel against them.
As we ponder this incident we are made to realize that there is no new
thing under the sun. Discontent, strife, jealousies, and blood-shedding have
characterized the relations of one nation to another all through history.
Instead of mutual respect and peace, “living in malice and envy, hateful,
and hating one another” (

Titus 3:3) have marked them all through the
years. How aptly were the great empires of antiquity symbolized by “four
great beasts” (

Daniel 7:3) — wild, ferocious, and cruel ones, at that!
Human depravity is a solemn reality, and neither education nor legislation
can eradicate or sublimate it. What, then, are the ruling powers to do? Deal
with it with a firm hand: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to
the evil…. He beareth not the sword in vain: for he [the governmental and
civil ruler] is the minister of God [to maintain law and order], a revenger
[to enforce law and order]… upon him that doeth evil” (

Romans 13:4).
“But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled
against the king of Israel.” The Moabites were the descendants of the son
which Lot had by his elder daughter. They occupied a territory to the
southeast of Judah and east of the Red Sea. They were a strong and fierce
people — “the mighty men of Moab” (

Exodus 15:15). Balak, who sent
for Balaam to curse Israel, was one of their kings. Even as proselytes they
were barred from entering the congregation of the Lord unto the tenth
generation. They were idolators (

1 Kings 11:33). For at least a hundred
and fifty years they had apparently paid a heavy annual tribute, but upon
the death of Ahab they had decided to throw off the yoke and be fined no
“And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and
numbered all Israel” (

2 Kings 3:6).
There was no turning to the Lord for counsel and help. He was the One
who had given David success and brought the Moabites into subjection,
and Jehoram should have turned to Him now that they rebelled. But he was
a stranger to Jehovah; nor did he consult the priests of the calves, so
apparently he had no confidence in them either. How sad is the case of the
unregenerate in the hour of need; no divine comforter in sorrow, no.56
unerring counselor in perplexity, no sure refuge when danger menaces
them. How much men lose even in this life by turning their backs upon the
One who gave them being. Nothing less than spiritual madness can account
for the folly of those who “observe lying vanities” and “forsake their own
mercies” (

Jonah 2:8). Jonah had to learn that lesson in a hard school.
Alas, the vast majority of our fellows never learn it, as they ultimately
discover to their eternal undoing. Will that be the case with you, my
“And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying,
The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me
against Moab to battle?” (

2 Kings 3:7).
Both Thomas Scott and Matthew Henry suppose that it was merely a
political move on the part of Jehoram when he “put away the image of Baal
that his father had made.” They think this external reformation was
designed to pave the way for obtaining the help of Jehoshaphat, who was a
God-fearing, though somewhat vacillating, man. The words of Elisha to
him in verses

2 Kings 3:13-14 certainly seem to confirm this view, for
the servant of God made it clear that he was not deceived by such a device
and addressed him as one who acted the part of a hypocrite. Any student of
history is well aware that many religious improvements have been granted
by governments simply from what is termed “state policy” rather than from
spiritual convictions or a genuine desire to promote the glory of God. Only
the One who looks on the heart knows the real motives behind much that
appears fair on the surface.
“And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy
people, and my horses as thy horses” (

2 Kings 3:7).
It seems strange that Jehoshaphat was willing to unite with Jehoram in this
expedition, for he had been severely rebuked on an earlier occasion for
having “joined affinity with Ahab” (

2 Chronicles 18:1-3). Jehu the
prophet said to him,
“Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the
LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (

Chronicles 19:2).
How, then, is his conduct to be explained on this occasion? No doubt his
zeal to heal the breach between the two kingdoms had much to do with it,

2 Chronicles 18:1-3 intimates he was anxious to promote a better.57
spirit between Judah and Israel. Moreover, the Moabites were a common
enemy, for we learn from

2 Chronicles 20:1 that at a later date the
Moabites, accompanied by others, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. But
it is most charitable to conclude that Jehoshaphat was deceived by
Jehoram’s reformation. Yet we should mark the absence of his seeking
directions from the Lord on this occasion.
“And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The
way through the wilderness of Edom. So the king of Israel went,
and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a
compass of seven days’ journey: and there was no water for the
host, and for the cattle that followed them. And the king of Israel
said, Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together to
deliver them into the hand of Moab” (

2 Kings 3:8-10).
Note that Jehoram was quite willing for the king of Judah to take the lead,
and that he made his plans without seeking counsel of God. The course he
took was obviously meant to secure the aid of the Edomites, but by going
so far into the wilderness they met with a desert where there was no water.
Thus the three kings and their forces were in imminent danger of perishing.
This struck terror into the heart of Jehoram and at once his guilty
conscience smote him — unbelievers know sufficient truth to condemn
“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth
against the LORD” (

Proverbs 19:3).
What an illustration of that is furnished by the words of Jehoram on this
“But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD,
that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of
Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of
Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. And
Jehoshaphat said, The Word of the LORD is with him. So the king
of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him”

2 Kings 3:11-12).
Here we see the difference between the unrighteous and the righteous in a
time of dire calamity. The one is tormented with a guilty conscience and.58
thinks only of the Lord’s wrath; the other has hope in His mercy. In those
days the prophet was the divine mouthpiece, so the king of Judah made
inquiry for one, and not in vain. It is blessed to observe that as the Lord
takes note of and registers the sins of the reprobate, so He observes the
deeds of His elect, placing on record here the humble service which Elisha
had rendered to Elijah. Appropriately was Elisha termed “the chariot of
Israel and the horsemen thereof” (

2 Kings 13:14). He was their true
defense in the hour of danger, and to him did the three kings turn in their
urgent need.
“And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with
thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of
thy mother” (

2 Kings 3:13).
Mark both the dignity and fidelity of God’s servant. Far from feeling
flattered because the king of Israel consulted him, he deemed himself
insulted and let him know he discerned his true character. It reminds us of
the Lord’s words through Ezekiel,
“These men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put the
stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be
enquired of at all by them?” (

Ezekiel 14:3).
“And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these
three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab,” as much as to
say, “Do not disdain me; our case is desperate.”
“And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I
stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat
the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee”

2 Kings 3:14).
Little do the unrighteous realize how much they owe, under God, to the
presence of the righteous in their midst.
“But now bring me a minstrel” (

2 Kings 3:15). In view of

1 Samuel
16:23, Scott and Henry conclude that his interview with Jehoram had
perturbed Elisha’s mind and that soothing music was a means to compose.59
his spirit, that he might be prepared to receive the Lord’s mind. Possibly
they are correct, yet we believe there is another and more important
reason. In the light of such passages as
“Sing unto the LORD with the harp;… and the voice of a psalm”

Psalm 98:5),
“Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to
praise the LORD” (

1 Chronicles 25:3 and cf.

1 Chronicles
we consider that Elisha was here showing regard for and rendering
submission to the order established by God. The Hebrew word for
“minstrel” signifies “one who plays on a stringed instrument,” as an
accompaniment to the psalm he sang. Thus it was to honor God and
instruct these kings that Elisha sent for the minstrel. “And it came to pass
when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord (cf.

Ezekiel 1:3,
3:22) came upon him.” The Lord ever honors those who honor Him.
“And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of
ditches. For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither
shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye
may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts”

2 Kings 3:16-17).
A pretty severe test was this, when all outward sign of fulfillment was
withheld. It was a trial of their faith and obedience, and entailed a
considerable amount of hard work. Had they treated the prophet’s
prediction with derision, they would have scorned to go to so much
trouble. It was somewhat like the order Christ gave to His disciples as He
bade them make the multitudes “sit down” when there was nothing in sight
to feed so vast a company, only a few loaves and fishes. The sequel shows
they heeded Elisha and made due preparation for the promised supply of
water. As Henry says, “They that expect God’s blessings must prepare
room for them.”.60
The very number of this miracle helps us to apprehend its significance. It
was the fourth of the series, and in the language of scripture numerics it
stands for the earth — for instance, the four seasons and the four points of
the compass. What we have in this miracle is one of the Old Testament
foreshadowments that the gospel was not to be confined to Palestine but
would yet be sent forth throughout the earth.
Prior to His death Christ bade His disciples,
“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye not: but Go rather to the lost sheep of the
house of Israel” (

Matthew 10:5-6 and cf.

John 4:9);
but after His resurrection He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”

Matthew 28:19). But there is more here. “Salvation is of the Jews”

John 4:22), and we Gentiles are “their debtors” (

Romans 15:26-
Strikingly is this typified here, for it was solely for the sake of the presence
of Jehoshaphat this miracle was wrought and that the water of life was
made available for the Israelites and the Edomites! Thus it is a picture of
the minister of the gospel engaged in missionary activities that is here set
“And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat-offering was
offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and
the country was filled with water” (

2 Kings 3:20).
This hour was chosen by the Lord for the performing of this miracle to
intimate to the whole company that their deliverance was vouchsafed on
the ground of the sacrifices offered and the worship rendered in the temple
in Jerusalem. It was at the same significant hour that Elijah had made his
effectual prayer on Mount Carmel, (

1 Kings 18:36), when another
notable miracle was wrought. So too it was at the hour “of the evening
oblation” that a signal blessing was granted unto Daniel (

Daniel 9:21).
Typically, it teaches us that it is through the merits of the sacrifice of Christ
that the life-sustaining gospel of God now flows unto the Gentiles..61
IN CREATION we are surrounded with both that which is useful and that
which is ornamental. The earth produces a wealth of lovely flowers as well
as grain and vegetables for our diet. The Creator has graciously provided
things which charm our eyes and ears as well as supply our bodies with
food and raiment. The same feature marks God’s Word. The Scriptures
contain something more than doctrine and precept: there are wonderful
types which display the wisdom of their Author and delight those who are
able to trace the merging of the shadow into the substance, and there are
mysterious prophecies which demonstrate the foreknowledge of their giver,
and minister pleasure to those granted the privilege of beholding their
fulfillment. These types and prophecies form part of the internal evidence
which the Bible furnishes of its divine inspiration, for they give proof of a
wisdom which immeasurably transcends that of the wisest of mortals.
Nevertheless one has to turn unto the doctrinal and preceptive portions of
Holy Writ in order to learn the way of salvation and the nature of that walk
which is pleasing to God.
In our earlier writings we devoted considerable attention to the types and
prophecies, but for the last decade, we have concentrated chiefly upon the
practical side of the truth. Observation taught us that many of those who
were keenly interested in a Bible reading on some part of the tabernacle or
an attempt to explain some of the predictions of Daniel, appeared quite
bored when we preached upon Christian duty or deportment; yet they
certainly needed the latter for they were quite deficient therein. A glorious
sunset is an exquisite sight, but it would supply no nourishment to one that
was starving. The perfumes of a garden may delight the senses, but they
would be a poor substitute for a good breakfast to a growing child. Only
after the soul has fed upon the doctrine of Scripture and put into practice
its precepts is it ready to enjoy the beauties of the types and explanations of
the mysteries of prophecy.
This change of emphasis in our writings has lost us hundreds of readers.
Yet if we could relive the past fifteen years, we would follow the same.62
course. The solemn days through which we are passing demand, as never
before, that first things be put first. There are plenty of writers who cater
to those who read for intellectual entertainment; our longing is to minister
to those who yearn for a closer walk with God. What would be thought of
a farmer who in the spring wasted his time in the woods listening to the
music of the feathered songsters, while his fields were allowed to remain
unplowed and unsown? Would it not be equally wrong if we dwelt almost
entirely on the typical significance of the miracles of Elisha, while ignoring
the simpler and practical lessons they contain for our hearts and lives?
Balance is needed here as everywhere, and if we devote more space than
usual on this occasion to the spiritual meaning of the miracle before us (and
similarly in the “Dagon” articles), it will not be because we have made or
shall make a practice of so doing.
Great service had Elisha done in the foregoing chapter for the three
kings: to his prayers and prophecies they owed their lives and
triumphs. One would have expected that the next chapter should
have told us what honors and what dignities were conferred on
Elisha for this: that he should have been immediately preferred at
court, and made prime-minister of state; that Jehoshaphat should
have taken him home with him and advanced him in the kingdom.
No, the wise man delivered the army, but no man remembered the
wise man (

Ecclesiastes 9:15). Or, if he had preferment offered
him, he declined it: he preferred the honor of doing good in the
schools of the prophets, before that of being great in the courts of
kings. God magnified him and that sufficed him: magnified him
indeed, for we have him here employed in working no less than five
miracles (Henry).
He who has, by grace, the heart of a true servant of Christ, would not, if he
could, exchange places with the monarch on his throne or the millionaire
with all his luxuries.
“Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the
prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and
thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor.63
is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen”

2 Kings 4:1).
The one for whom this miracle was wrought was a woman, “the weaker
vessel” (

1 Peter 3:7). She was a widow, a figure of desolation:
“how doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she
become as a widow!” (

Lamentations 1:1).
Contrast the proud boast of corrupt Babylon:
“I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow”

Revelation 18:7).
Not only was she bereft of her husband but she was left destitute, in debt
and without the means of paying it. A more pitiable and woeful object
could scarcely be conceived. In her sad plight she went to the servant of
Jehovah and told him her dire situation. Her husband may have died while
Elisha was absent with the kings in their expedition against the Moabites,
and thus he was unacquainted with her troubles.
The situation confronting this poor widow was indeed a drastic one. Her
human provider and protector had been removed by the hand of death. She
had been left in debt and had not the wherewithal to pay it, a burden that
would weigh heavily on a conscientious soul. And now she was in
immediate danger of having her two sons seized and taken from her by the
creditor to serve as bondmen to him. Observe that in the opening words of
2 Kings 4 it is not said, “Now there came a certain woman of the wives of
the sons of the prophets unto Elisha” but “there cried a certain woman,”
which indicates the pressure of her grief and the earnestness of her appeal
to the prophet. Sometimes God permits His people to be brought very low
in their circumstances; nor is this always by way of chastisement or because
of their folly. We do not think that such was her case. The Lord is pleased
to bring some to the end of their own resources that His delivering hand
may be more plainly seen acting on their behalf.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the regenerate is that they are
given honest hearts (

Luke 8:15). Therefore is it their careful endeavor
“provide things honest in the sight of all men” and to “owe no man
anything” (

Romans 12:17, 13:8).
They are careful to live within their income and not to order an article
unless they can pay for it. It is because so many hypocrites under the cloak
of a Christian profession have been so dishonest in financial matters and so
unscrupulous in trade, that reproach has so often been brought upon the
churches. Yet, in certain exceptional cases, even the most thrifty and
upright may run into debt. It was so with her. The deceased husband of this
widow was a man who “did fear the LORD” (

2 Kings 4:1); nevertheless
he left his widow in such destitution that she was unable to meet the claims
of her creditor. There has been considerable speculation by the
commentators as to the cause of this unhappy situation, most of which this
writer finds himself quite unable to approve. What then is his own
In seeking the answer to the above question three things need to be borne
in mind.
First, as we pointed out in our introduction to this study, a prophet was an
abnormality; that is, there was no place for him, no need of him in the
religious life of Israel during ordinary times. It was only in seasons of
serious declension or apostasy that he appeared on the scene. Thus, no
stated maintenance was provided for him, as it was for the priests and
Levites under the law. Consequently the prophet was dependent upon the
gifts of the pious or the productions of his own manual labors. Judging
from the brief records of Scripture, one gathers the impression that most of
them enjoyed little more than the barest necessities of life.
Second, for many years past Ahab and Jezebel had been in power, and not
only were the pious persecuted but the prophets went in danger of their
lives (

1 Kings 18:4).
Third, it seems likely to us that this particular prophet obtained his
subsistence from the oil obtained from an olive grove, and that probably
there had been a failure of the crop during the past year or two — note
how readily the widow obtained from her “neighbors” not a few “empty
“And Elisha said unto her, what shall I do for thee?” Possibly the prophet
was himself momentarily nonplussed, conscious of his own helplessness.
Possibly his question was designed to emphasize the gravity of the.65
situation. “It is beyond my power to extricate you.” More likely it was to
make her look above him. “I too am only human.” Or again, it may have
been to test her. “Are you willing to follow my instructions?” Instead of
waiting for her reply, the prophet at once asked a second question, “Tell
me, what hast thou in the house?” (

2 Kings 4:2). Perhaps this was
intended to press upon the widow the seriousness of her problem, for the
prophet must have known that she possessed little or nothing, or why
should she have sought him? Or, in the light of her answer, its force may
have been an admonition not to despise small mercies. Her “not anything,
save a pot of oil” reminds of Andrew’s “but what are they among so many”

John 6:9). Ah, do not we often reason similarly!
“Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy
neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few”

2 Kings 4:3).
It was a test both of her faith and her obedience. To carnal reason it would
appear that the prophet was only mocking her, for of what possible service
could a lot of empty vessels be to her? But if her trust was in the Lord,
then she would be willing to submit herself to and comply with His word
through His servant.
Are not His thoughts and ways ever the opposite of ours? Was it not so
when He overthrew the Midianites? What a word was that to Gideon:
“The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the
Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me,
saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (

Judges 7:2).
And in consequence, his army was reduced from over twenty-two
thousand to a mere three hundred (

Judges 7:3-7); and when that little
company went forth, it was with trumpets and “empty pitchers” and lamps
inside the pitchers in their hands (

Judges 7:16)! Ah, my reader, we have
to come before the Lord as “empty vessels” — emptied of our self-sufficiency
— if we are to experience His wonder-working power..66
“And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee
and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and
thou shalt set aside that which is full” (

2 Kings 4:4).
This was to avoid ostentation. Her neighbors were not in on the secret, nor
should they be permitted to witness the Lord’s gracious dealings with her.
It reminds us of Christ’s raising of the daughter of Jairus: when He arrived
at the house it was filled with a skeptical and scoffing company, and the
Savior “put them all out” (

Mark 5:40) before He went in and performed
the miracle. The same principle stands today in connection with the
operations of divine grace. The world is totally ignorant of this mystery —
God’s filling of empty vessels:
“the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it
seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (

John 14:17).
Yes, she must shut the door, so “that in retirement she and her sons might
the more leisurely ponder and adore the goodness of the Lord” (Scott).
This was the “pot of oil” which appeared to be so utterly inadequate to
meet the demands of the widow’s creditor. It was so in itself, but under the
blessing of God it proved amply sufficient. The five barley loaves and the
two small fishes (

John 6:9) seemed quite useless for feeding a vast
multitude, but in the hands of the Lord they furnished “as much as they
would,” and even “when they were filled” there remained a surplus of
twelve baskets full. Ah, it is the little things which God is pleased to use. A
pebble from the brook when slung by faith is sufficient to overthrow the
Philistine giant. A “little cloud” was enough to produce “a great rain”

1 Kings 18:44-45). A “little child” was employed by Christ to teach
His disciples humility (

Matthew 18:2). A “little strength” supplied by
the Spirit enables us to keep Christ’s Word and not deny his name

Revelation 3:8). Oh, to be “little” in our own sight (

1 Samuel
15:17). It is blessed to see that this widow did not despise the means, but
promptly obeyed the prophet’s instructions, her faith laying hold of the
clearly-implied promise in “all those vessels” (

2 Kings 4:4)..67
In this miracle we have a most blessed, striking, and remarkable, typical
picture of the grand truth of redemption, a subject which is, we fear, rather
hazy in the minds even of many Christians. The gospel is preached so
superficially today, its varied glories are so lost in generalizations, that few
have more than the vaguest idea of its component parts. Redemption is
now commonly confused with atonement; the two are quite distinct, one
being an effect of the other. The sacrifice which Christ offered unto divine
holiness and justice was “that he might bring us to God” (

1 Peter 3:18)
— a comprehensive expression covering the whole of our salvation, both in
the removal of all hindrances and in the bestowal of all requisites. In order
to bring us to God it was necessary that all enmity between us and God
should be removed — that is reconciliation; that the guilt of our
transgressions should be cancelled — that is remission of sins; that we
should be delivered from all bondage — that is redemption; that we should
be made, both experimentally and legally, righteous — that is regeneration
and justification.
Redemption, then is one of the grand effects or results of the atonement,
the satisfaction which Christ rendered unto the law. God’s elect are debtors
to the law, for they have broken it; and they are prisoners to His justice, for
they are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (

2:3). And our deliverance (or “salvation”) is not a mere emancipation when
adequate compensation has been made. No, while it is true our redemption
is of grace and affected by sovereign power, yet it is so because a ransom
is offered, a price paid, in every way equivalent to the discharge secured. In
the words,
“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem
them from death” (

Hebrews 13:14)
we are taught that the latter is the consequence of the former. Ransom is
the paying of the price required. Redemption is the setting free of those
ransomed, and this deliverance is by the exercise of divine power. “Not
accepting deliverance” (

Hebrews 11:35); the Greek word “deliverance”
here is commonly rendered “redemption”; they refused to accept it from
their afflictions on the dishonorable terms (apostasy) demanded by their
Redemption necessarily presupposes previous possession. It denotes the
restoration of something which has been lost, and returned by the paying of
a price. Hence we find Christ saying by the Spirit of prophecy, “I restored
that which I took not away” (

Psalm 69:4)! This was strikingly
illustrated in the history of Israel, who on the farther shores of the Red Sea
“Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast
redeemed” (

Exodus 15:13).
First, in the book of Genesis, we see the descendants of Abraham
sojourning in the land of Canaan. Later, we see the chosen race in cruel
servitude, in bondage to the Egyptians, groaning amid the brick kilns,
under the whip of their taskmasters. Then a ransom was provided in the
blood of the pascal lamb, following which, the Lord by His mighty hand
brought them out of serfdom and brought them into the promised
inheritance. That is a complete picture of redemption.
There are many who perceive that Christians were a people in bondage,
lost to God, but recovered and restored to Him; yet some fail to perceive
they belonged to the Lord before Christ freed them. The elect belonged to
Christ long before He shed His blood to ransom them, for they were
chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (

Ephesians 1:4) and
made over to Him as the Father’s love-gift (

John 17:9). But they too
fell and died in Adam, and therefore did He come to seek and to save that
which was lost. Christ purchased the church of God with His own blood

Acts 20:28) and therefore does the Father say to Him, “By the blood
of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no
water” (

Zechariah 9:11). He has a legal right to them. There is no
unavailing redemption: all whom Christ purchased or ransomed shall be
redeemed; that is, delivered from captivity, set free from sin. Judicially they
are so now, experientially too in part (

John 8:36), but perfectly so only
when glorified — hence the future aspect in

Luke 21:28 and

Romans 8:23.
Now observe how all the leading features of redemption are typically
brought out in 2 Kings 4.
1. The object of it is a widow. She had not always been thus. Formerly she
had been married to one who “feared the Lord,” but death had severed that
happy bond and left her desolate and destitute — apt figure of God’s elect,.69
originally in union with Him, and then through the fall alienated from Him

Ephesians 4:18).
2. Her creditor was enforcing his demands. He had actually come to seize
her sons “to be bondmen.” The Hebrew word rendered “creditor” in

Kings 4:1 signifies “one who exacts” what is justly due to him, and is so
translated in

Job 11:6. It looks back to,
“And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be
sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a
bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be
with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile” (

Our Lord had reference to this practice in His parable of

18:23-25. Thus the “creditor” of

2 Kings 4:1 who showed no mercy to
the poor widow is a figure of the stern and unrelenting law.
3. The widow was quite unable to pay her creditor. So we are utterly
incompetent to satisfy the demands of the law or effect our own
4. She, like us, could rely only on the mere favor of God.
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in
Christ Jesus” (

Romans 3:24).
That is exactly what we should expect to find in this miracle, for five is the
number of grace (see

Genesis 43:34, 45:22;

1 Corinthians 14:19).
Note also the means used, the “oil” multiplied. Oil is a figure of the
superabounding grace of God (

Psalm 23:5;

Isaiah 61:3).
5. Yet it was a grace that was wrought “through righteousness”

Romans 5:21). It obtained the freedom of the widow’s sons by meeting
the full due of her creditor.
6. Both aspects of redemption are seen here. First, the price: “Sell the oil,
and pay thy debt” (

2 Kings 4:7); Second, the power: the miraculous
supply of oil.
7. It was not a general and promiscuous redemption. It was a definite and
particular one. For a “widow” was the special object of God’s notice.70

Deuteronomy 24:19;

Psalm 68:5;

James 1:27), and not a mere
abstraction of “freewillism.”.71
OUR PRESENT NARRATIVE opens with the word “And” which intimates that
the incident described here is closely related to the preceding miracle,
though we must not conclude that this by any means exhausts its force.
Sometimes the Spirit of God has placed two things in juxtaposition for the
purpose of comparison that we may observe the resemblances between
them; at other times, it is with the object of pointing a contrast, that we
may consider the points of dissimilarity.
Here it is the latter: note the following antitheses. In the former case the
woman’s place of residence is not given (

2 Kings 4:1), but here it is

2 Kings 4:8). The first was a widow (

2 Kings 4:1); this woman’s
husband was alive (

2 Kings 4:9). The former was financially destitute;
this one was a woman of means. The one sought out Elisha; the prophet
approached the other. Elisha provided for the former; this one ministered
unto him. The widow had “two sons,” but the married woman was
childless. The one was put to a severe test (

2 Kings 4:3-4); the other
was not.
The place where this miracle was wrought cannot be without significance,
for there is nothing meaningless in Holy Writ, though in this instance we
confess to having little or no light. The one who was the beneficiary of this
miracle resided at Shunem, which appears to mean “uneven.” This place is
mentioned only twice elsewhere in the Old Testament.
First, in

Joshua 19:18, from which we learn that it was situated in the
territory allotted to the tribe of Issachar.
Second, in

1 Samuel 28:4, where we are told it was the place that the
Philistines gathered themselves together and pitched in battle array against
Israel, on which occasion Saul was so terrified that, after inquiring in vain.72
of the Lord, he sought out the witch of Endor. Matthew Henry tells us that
“Shunem lay in the road between Samaria and Carmel, a road which Elisha
was accustomed to travel, as we gather from

1 Samuel 2:25.” It seems
to have been a farming district, and in this pastoral setting a lovely
domestic scene is laid.
“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a
great woman” (

2 Kings 4:8).
The Hebrew word (gadol) is used in varied connections. In

1:16, 21 and many other passages it refers to material or physical
greatness. In

Exodus 32:21, “great sin,” it has a moral force. In

Kings 5:1,

Job 1:3, and

Proverbs 25:6 it is associated with social
eminence. In

Psalm 48:1 and numerous other places, it is predicated of
the Lord Himself.
This, woman was one of substance or wealth, as is intimated by the
servants her husband had and their building and furnishing a room for the
prophet. God has His own among the rich and noble. This woman was also
“great” spiritually. She was great in hospitality; in discernment, perceiving
that Elisha was “a holy man of God”; in meekness, by owning her
husband’s headship; in thoughtfulness for others, the care she took in
providing for the prophet’s comfort; in contentedness,

2 Kings 4:13; in
wisdom, realizing Elisha would desire retirement and quietness; and in
faith, confidently counting upon God to show Himself strong on her behalf
and work a further miracle as we shall see.
“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great
woman; and she constrained him to eat bread.” Elisha seems to have
resided at or near Mount Carmel (

2 Kings 2:25, 4:25); but went his
circuit through the land to visit the seminaries of the prophets and to
instruct the people, which probably was his employment when he was not
sent on some special service.
“At Shunem there lived a woman of wealth and piety, who invited
him to come to her house, and with some difficulty prevailed”
Several practical points are suggested by this. The minister of the gospel
should not be forward in pressing himself upon people, but should wait.73
until he is invited to partake of their hospitality. Nor should he deliberately
court the intimacy of the “great,” except with the object of doing them
“Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate”

Romans 12:16)
is one of the rules God has given His people to walk by, and His servants
should set them an example in this matter.
The Lord’s servants, like those to whom they minister, have their ups and
downs, not only in their inward experience but also in external
circumstances. Yes, they have their ups as well as their downs. They are
not required to spend all their days in caves or sojourning by brooks. If
there are those who oppose, God also raises up others to befriend them.
Was it not thus with our blessed Lord when He tabernacled here? Though
for the most part He “had not where to lay his head,” yet there were many
women who “ministered unto him of their substance” (

Luke 8:2-3), and
the home at Bethany welcomed Him. So with the apostle Paul; though he
was made as the off-scouring of all things to the Jewish nation, yet the
saints loved and esteemed him highly for his work’s sake. If he was cast
into prison, yet he also makes mention of “Gaius mine host” (

16:23). It has ever been thus. The experience of Elisha was no exception,
as the present writer can testify, for in his extensive journeyings the Lord
opened the hearts and homes of many of His people unto him.
Hospitality (

Romans 12:13) is required of the saints, and of God’s
servants too (

Titus 3:2;

Titus 1:8), and that “without grudging”

1 Peter 4:9), and this held good equally during the Old Testament era.
It is to be noted that this woman took the initiative, for she did not wait
until asked by Elisha or one of his friends. From the words “as often as he
passed by” we gather that she was on the lookout for him. She sought
occasion to do good. Nor was her hospitality any formal thing, but earnest
and warmhearted. Hence it may strike us as all the more strange that the
prophet demurred and that she had to constrain him to enter her home.
This intimates that the servant of God should not readily respond to every
invitation received, especially from the wealthy. “Seekest thou great things
for thyself? seek them not” (

Jeremiah 45:5) is to regulate his conduct.
Elisha responded to her importunity, and after becoming better acquainted
with her, never failed to partake of her kindness whenever he passed that
“And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is
an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make
a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there
a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be,
when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither” (

2 Kings
Herein we have manifest several other features of her moral greatness.
Apparently she was the owner of this property, for her husband is not
termed a “great man.” Yet we find her conferring with him and seeking his
permission. Thereby she took her proper place and left her sisters an
admirable example. The husband is “the head of the wife, even as Christ is
the head of the church,” and therefore explains the command,
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the
Lord” (

Ephesians 5:22-23).
Instead of taking matters into her own hands and acting independently, this
“great woman” sought her husband’s consent and cooperation. How much
domestic strife would be avoided if there was more of this mutual
This lady of Shunem was endowed with spiritual discernment, for she
perceived that Elisha was a holy man of God. The two things are not to be
separated; it is those who walk in subjection to the revealed will of God
who are granted spiritual perception: “He that is spiritual judgeth
[discerneth] all things” (

1 Corinthians 2:15), and the spiritual person is
the one who is regulated by the precepts of Holy Writ, who is humble and
meek and takes the place which the Lord has appointed. “If therefore thine
eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (

Matthew 6:22); it is
acting in self-will which beclouds the vision. “I understand more than the
ancients” said David. And why so? “Because I keep thy precepts”

Psalm 119:100). It is when we forsake the path of obedience that our
judgment is clouded and our perception dimmed.
While admiring the virtues and graces of this woman, we must not
overlook the tribute she paid to Elisha. Observe how she refers to him. Not
as a “charming” or “nice man”; how incongruous such an appellation for a
servant of God! No, it was not any such carnal or sentimental term she
employed. Nor did she allude to him as a “learned man,” for scholarship
and spirituality by no means always go together. Rather as “an holy man of.75
God” did she designate the prophet. What a description! What a searching
word for every minister of the gospel to take to heart. It is “holy men of
God” who are used by the Spirit (

2 Peter 1:21). And how did she
perceive the prophet’s holiness? Perhaps by finding him at prayer, or
reading the Scriptures. Certainly from the heavenliness of his conversation
and general demeanor. Ah, my reader, the servant of God should need no
distinctive manner of dress in order for people to identify him. His walk,
his speech, his deportment ought to be sufficient.
Returning to the “great woman,” let us next take note of her constancy.
The inviting of Elisha into her home was actuated by no fleeting mood of
kindness, which came suddenly upon her and as suddenly disappeared; it
rather was a steady and permanent thing. Some people are mere creatures
of impulse. But the conduct of those who act on principle is stable.
How often a church is elated when a minister is installed, and its members
cannot do too much to express their appreciation for him; but how soon
such enthusiasm often cools off. The best of us are spasmodic if not fickle,
and need to bear in mind the injunction “let us not be weary in well doing”

Galatians 6:9). It is blessed to see that this woman did not tire of
ministering to God’s servant but continued to provide for his need and
comfort, and at considerable trouble and expense.
“And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the
chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this
Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him”

2 Kings 4:11-12).
Elisha did not complacently accept as a matter of course the loving
hospitality which had been shown him, as though it were something due
him by virtue of his office. No, he was truly grateful and anxious to show
his appreciation. In this he differed from some ministers we have met, who
appeared to think they were fully entitled to such kindness and deference.
While resting from his journey, instead of congratulating himself on his
good fortune, he thought upon his benefactress and wondered how he
could best make some return. She was in no financial need; apparently she
lacked none of the good things of this life. What then should be done for
her? He was at a loss to know; but instead of dismissing the thought, he
decided to interrogate her directly..76
“And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been
careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee?
wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the
host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people”

2 Kings 4:13).
This miracle differed from most of those we have previously considered in
that it was unsought, proposed by the prophet himself. He suggested that
royal honors might be bestowed on herself or husband if she so desired.
Thomas Scott says,
Elisha had no doubt acquired considerable influence with Jehoram and his
captains by the signal deliverance and victory obtained for him (

2 Kings
3:4-27), and though he would ask nothing for himself, he was willing to
show his gratitude on behalf of his kind hostess by interposing on her
behalf, if she had any petition to present.
Yet we feel that the prophet knew her too well to imagine her heart was
set upon such trifles as earthly dignities, and that he gave her this
opportunity to declare herself more plainly.
“And she answered, I dwell among mine own people” (

2 Kings 4:13). It
looks as though the prophet’s offer to speak to the king for her intimated
that positions of honor could be procured for her and her husband in the
royal household. Her reply seems to show this, for it signified, “I am quite
satisfied with the portion God has given me. I desire no change or
improvement in it.” How very rare is such contentment! She was indeed a
“great woman.” Also, today there are so few like her. As Henry points out,
“It would be well with many, if they did but know when they are well off.”
But they do not. A roving spirit takes possession of them, and they
suppose they can improve their lot by moving from one place to another,
only to find as the old adage says, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest”

Isaiah 57:20),
but it should be far otherwise with the people of God. It is much to be
thankful for when we can contentedly say, “I dwell among mine own
“And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi
answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he
said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou
shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God,
do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and
bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her” (

2 Kings
Observe the prophet’s humility: in his perplexity, he did not disdain to
confer with his servant. He was now pleased to use his interests in the
court of heaven, which was far better than seeking a favor from Jehoram. It
should be remembered that in Old Testament times the giving of a son to
those who had long been childless was a special mark of God’s favor and
power, as in the cases of Abraham, Isaac, Manoah, and Elkanah. We are
not sure whether her language was that of unbelief or of overwhelming
astonishment; but having received a prophet in the name of a prophet, she
received “a prophet’s reward” (

Matthew 10:41).
This may be gathered from the miracle preceding. There we had before us
a typical picture of redemption, a setting free from the exactions of the law,
a deliverance from bondage. What then is the sequel of this? Surely it is
that which we find in the lives of the redeemed, namely, their bringing forth
fruit unto God. This order of cause and effect is taught us in
“being made free from sin… ye have your fruit unto holiness”

Romans 6:22 and cf.

1 Corinthians 6:20).
But it is not the products of the old nature transformed bringing forth after
its own evil kind, for the “flesh” remains the same unto the end. No, it is
altogether supernatural, the “fruit of the spirit,” the manifestation of the
graces of the new nature communicated by God at the new birth.
Accordingly we have here the fruit of the womb, yet not by the ordinary
workings of nature, but, as in the case of John the Baptist (

Luke 1:7,
57), that which transcends nature, which issues only from the wonder-working
power of God..78
It is to be carefully noted in this connection that the beneficiary of our
miracle is designated a “great woman.” As we have pointed out in a
previous paragraph, this appellation denotes that she was one upon whom
divine providence had smiled, furnishing her liberally with the things of this
life. But she was also morally and spiritually “great.” In both respects she
was an appropriate figure of that aspect of salvation which is here before
us. Redemption finds its object, like the widow of the foregoing miracle, in
distress — poor, sued by the law, unable to meet its demands. But
redemption does not leave its beneficiaries thus. No, God deals with them
according to “the riches of his grace” and they can now say, “He ‘hath
made us kings and priests unto God and his Father’” (

Revelation 1:6).
The righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, and they are “great” indeed
in the eyes of God. They are “the excellent, in whom is all my delight”

Psalm 16:3) is how He speaks of them. Such are the ones in whom and
by whom the fruits of redemption are brought forth.
Everything recorded of this woman indicates that she was one of the
Lord’s redeemed. She honored and ministered unto one of His servants, in
a day when prophets were far from being popular. Moreover, Elisha
accepted her hospitality, which he surely would not have done unless he
discerned in her the marks of grace. The very fact that at first she had to
“constrain” him to partake of her kindness indicates he would not readily
receive favors from anybody and everybody. But having satisfied himself of
her spirituality, “as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.”
Let it be remarked that that expression to “eat bread” means far more to an
Oriental than to us. It signifies an act of communion, denoting a bond of
fellowship between those who eat a meal together. Thus by such intimacy
of communion with the prophet, this woman gave further evidence of being
one of God’s redeemed.
As the procuring of our redemption required miracles (the divine
incarnation, the death of the God-man, His resurrection), so the application
of it unto its beneficiaries cannot be without supernatural operations, both
before and after. Redemption is received by faith; but before saving faith
can be exercised, the soul must be quickened, for one who is dead to God
cannot move toward Him. The same is true of our conversion, which is a
right about-face, the soul turning from the world unto God. This is morally
impossible until a miracle of grace has been wrought upon us: “Turn thou
me, and I shall be turned” (

Jeremiah 31:18). Such a miracle as
regeneration and conversion, whereby the soul enters into the redemption.79
purchased by Christ, is necessarily followed by one which shows the
miraculous fruits of redemption. Such is the case here, as we see in the
child bestowed upon the great woman. Remarkably enough, that gift came
to her unsought and unexpected. And is it not thus in the experience of the
Christian? When he came to Christ as a sin-burdened soul, redemption was
all that he thought about; there was no asking for or anticipation of
subsequent fruit..80
“And The Woman Conceived, and bare a son at that season that
Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life” (

2 Kings
As Matthew Henry pointed out,
We may well suppose, after the birth of this son, that the prophet
was doubly welcome to the good Shunammite: he had thought
himself indebted to her, but from henceforth, as long as she lives,
she will think herself in his debt, and that she can never do too
much for him. We may also suppose that, the child was very dear to
the prophet, as the son of his prayers, and very dear to the parents
as the son of their old age.
What is more attractive than a properly trained and well-behaved child!
And what is more objectionable than a spoiled and naughty one? From all
that is revealed of this great woman, we cannot doubt that she brought up
her boy wisely and well, that he added to the delightfulness of her home,
that he was a pleasure and not a trial to visitors. Alas that there are so few
of her type now left. Godly and well-conducted homes are the choicest
asset which any nation possesses.
“And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out
to his father to the reapers” (

2 Kings 4:18).
The opening clause does not signify that he was now a fully-developed
youth, but that he had passed out of infancy into childhood. This is quite
obvious from a number of things in the sequel. When he was taken ill, a
“lad” carried him back home (

2 Kings 4:19); for some time he “sat on
her knees” (

2 Kings 4:20), and later she — apparently unaided —
carried him upstairs and laid him on the prophet’s bed (

2 Kings 4:21).
Yet the child had grown sufficiently so as to be able to run about and be.81
allowed to visit his father in the harvest field. While there, he was suddenly
stricken with an ailment, for “he said unto his father, My head, my head”

2 Kings 4:19). It is hardly likely that this was caused by a sunstroke,
for it occurred in the morning, a while before noon. Seemingly the father
did not suspect anything serious, for instead of carrying him home in his
own arms, he sent him back with one of his younger workers. How
incapable we are of foreseeing what even the next hour may bring forth!
“And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat
on her knees till noon” (

2 Kings 4:20).
What a lovely picture of maternal devotion! How thankful should each one
be who cherishes the tender memories of a mother’s love, for there are tens
of thousands in this country who were born of parents devoid of natural
affection, who cared more for cocktail lounges and the parties than for
their offspring. But powerful as true mother love is, it is impotent when the
grim reaper draws near, for our verse adds “and then died.” Death strikes
down the young as well as the old, as the tombstones in our cemeteries
bear ample witness. Sometimes it gives more or less advance notice of its
gruesome approach; at others, as here, it smites with scarcely any warning.
How this fact ought to influence each of us! To put it on its lowest ground,
how foolish to make an idol of one who may be snatched away at any
moment. With what a light hand should we grasp all earthly objects. So,
then, the occasion of this miracle is the death of the child.
How often the Lord’s dealings seem strange to us. Hopes are suddenly
blighted, prospects swiftly changed, and loved ones snatched away. “All
flesh is grass” (

Isaiah 40:6), “which to day is and to morrow is cast into
the oven” (

Matthew 6:30). Thus it was here. The babe had survived the
dangers of infancy, only to be cut down in childhood. That morning,
apparently full of life and health, he trotted merrily off to the harvest field;
at noon he lay a corpse on his mother’s knee. But in her case such a
visitation was additionally inexplicable. The boy had been given to her by
the divine bounty because of the kindness she had shown to one of God’s
servants; and now, to carnal reason, it looked as though He was dealing
most unkindly with her. A miracle had been wrought in bestowing the
child, and now that miracle is neutralized. Yes, God’s ways are frequently.82
“a great deep” unto human intelligence. Yet let the Christian never forget
that those ways are ever ordered by infinite love and wisdom.
It is indeed most blessed to observe how this stricken mother conducted
herself under her unexpected and severe trial. Here, as throughout the
whole of this chapter, her moral and spiritual greatness shines forth. There
was no wringing her hands in despair, no giving way to inordinate grief.
Nor was there any murmuring at Providence, any complaint that God had
ceased to be gracious unto her. It is in such crises and by their demeanor
under them that the children of God and the children of the devil are
manifest. We do not say that the former always conduct themselves as the
great woman, yet they sorrow not as do others who have no hope. They
may be staggered and stunned by a crushing affliction, but they do not give
way to an evil heart of unbelief and become avowed infidels. There may be
stirrings of rebellion within, and Satan will seek to foster hard thoughts
against God, but he cannot induce the true child to curse Him and commit
suicide. Divine grace is a glorious reality, and in his measure every
Christian is given to prove the sufficiency of it in times of stress and trial.
“And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and
shut the door upon him, and went out” (

2 Kings 4:21).
This must be pondered in the light of her subsequent actions if we are to
perceive the meaning of her conduct here. There was definite purpose on
her part; and in view of what immediately follows, it seems clear that these
were the actions of faith. She cherished the hope that the prophet would
restore her son to her. She made no preparations for the burial of the child,
but anticipated his resurrection by laying him upon Elisha’s bed. Her faith
clung to the original blessing: God, by the prophet’s promise and prayers,
had given him unto her, and now she takes the dead child to God (as it
were) and goes to seek the prophet. Her faith might be tried even to the
straining point, but in that extremity she interpreted the inexplicable
dealings of God by those dealings she was sure of, reasoning from the past
to the future, from the known to the unknown. The child had been given
unto her unasked, and she refused to believe he had now been
irrecoverably taken away from her.
Her faith was indeed put to a severe test, for not only was her child dead,
but at the very time she seemed to need him the most, Elisha was many.83
miles away! Ah, that was no accident but was wisely and graciously
ordered by God. How so? That there might be fuller opportunity for
bringing forth the evidences and fruits of faith. A faith which does not
triumph over discouragements and difficulties is not worth much. The Lord
often causes our circumstances to be most unfavorable in order that faith
may have the freer play and rise above them. Such was the case here.
Elisha might be absent, but she could go to him. Most probably she had
heard of the raising of the widow’s son at Zarephath (

1 Kings 17:23) by
Elijah, and she knew that the spirit of Elijah now rested on Elisha (

Kings 2:15). And therefore with steadfast confidence, she determined to
seek him. That she did act in faith is clear from

Hebrews 11:35, for that
chapter which chronicles the achievements of faith of the Old Testament
saints says that through faith “women received their dead raised to life
again.” There were but two who did so, and the great woman of Shunem
was one of them.
“And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee,
one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the
man of God, and come again” (

2 Kings 4:22).
While faith triumphs over difficulties, it does not act unbecomingly by
forcing a way through them and setting aside the requirements of
propriety. Urgent as the situation was, she did not rush away without
informing her husband of her intention. The wife should have no secrets
from her partner, but take him fully into her confidence; failure at this point
leads to suspicions, and where they exist love is soon chilled. Nor did this
stricken mother content herself with scribbling a hurried note, telling her
husband to expect her return within a day or so. No, once again she took
her proper place and owned her subjection to him. Though she made
known to him her desire, she demanded nothing, but respectfully sought his
permission, as her “I pray thee” plainly shows. Faith is bold and
venturesome, but it does not act unseemly and insubordinately.
Thomas Scott says,
It is happy and comely when harmony prevails in domestic life:
when the husband’s authority is tempered with affection, and
unsuspecting confidence; when the wife answers that confidence
with deference and submission, as well as fidelity, and when each
party consults the other’s inclinations, and both unite in attending
on the ordinances of God and supporting His cause..84
But such happiness and harmony is attainable only as both husband and
wife seek grace from God to walk in obedience to His precepts, and as
family worship is duly maintained. If the wife suffers herself to be
influenced by the spirit which is now so common in the world and refuses
to own the lordship of her husband (

1 Peter 3:6), or if the husband acts
as a tyrant and bully by failing to love, nourish, and cherish his wife

Ephesians 5:25, 29) and “giving honor unto the wife, as unto the
weaker vessel” (

1 Peter 3:7), then the smile of God will be forfeited,
their prayers will be “hindered,” and strife and misery will prevail in the
“And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither
new moon nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well”

2 Kings 4:23).
While we admire her virtues, her husband appears in a much less favorable
light. His question might suggest that he was still ignorant of the death of
his son, yet that scarcely seems likely. If he had made no inquiry about the
child he must have been strangely lacking in tender regard for him, and his
wife’s desire to undertake an arduous journey at such a time ought to have
informed him that some serious emergency had arisen. It is difficult to
escape the conclusion that his language was more an expression of
irritability, that he resented being left alone in his grief. At any rate, his
words served to throw light upon another praiseworthy trait in his wife:
that it was her custom to attend the prophet’s services on the feast days
and the sabbath. Though a great woman, she did not disdain those
unpretentious meetings on Mount Carmel. No genuine Christian, however
wealthy or high his station, will consider it beneath him to meet with his
poorer brethren and sisters.
Those words of her husband may be considered from another angle,
namely, as a further testing of her faith. Even where the deepest affection
exists between husband and wife, there is not always spiritual equality, not
even where they are one in the Lord. One may steadily grow in grace while
the other makes little or no progress. One may enter more deeply into an
experimental acquaintance with the truth, which the other is incapable of
understanding and discussing. One may be given a much increased measure
of faith without the other being similarly blessed. None can walk by the
faith of another, and it is well for those of strong faith to remember that.
Certainly there was no cooperation of faith in this instance; the husband of.85
our great woman seemed to discourage rather than to encourage her. She
might have reasoned with herself, Perhaps this is an intimation from God
that I should not seek unto Elisha. But faith would argue, This is but a
further testing of me, and since my reliance is in the Lord, I will neither be
daunted nor deterred. It is by our reactions to such testings that the reality
and strength of our faith is made evident. Faith must not expect a smooth
and easy path.
“And she said, It shall be well.” That was the language of firm and
unshaken confidence.
“Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive and go
forward, slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee”

2 Kings 4:24).
Her husband certainly does not shine here. Had he discharged the duties of
love, he would have undertaken this tiring journey instead of his wife, or at
the very least offered to accompany her. But he would not exert himself
enough to saddle the ass for her, but left her to do that. How selfish many
husbands are! How slack in bearing or at least sharing their wives’
burdens! Marriage is a partnership or it is nothing except in name; and the
man who allows his wife to become a drudge and does little or nothing to
make her lot lighter and brighter in the home, is not worthy to be called
“husband.” Nor is it sufficient reply to say, It is only lack of thought on his
part. Inconsiderateness and selfishness are synonymous terms, for
unselfishness consists largely in thoughtfulness of others. The best that can
be said for this man is that he did not actually forbid his wife to start out
for Carmel.
We know not how far distant Shunem was from Carmel, but it appears that
the journey was long and hard, in a mountainous country. But love is not
quenched by hardships, and faith is not rendered inoperative by difficulties.
And in the case of this mother, both of these graces were operative within
her. Love can brook no delay and thinks not of personal discomfort, as her
language to the servant shows. It is also the nature of faith to be speedy
and to look for quick results; patience is a distinct virtue which is only
developed by much hard schooling. An intense earnestness possessed the
soul of this woman, and where such earnestness is joined with faith, it
refuses all denial. While our faith remains a merely mental and mechanical
thing it achieves nothing, but when it is intense and fervent it will produce
results. True, it requires a deep sense of need, often the pressure of an.86
urgent situation, to evoke this earnestness. That is why faith flourishes
most in times of stress and trial, for it then has its most suitable opportunity
to declare itself.
“So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel.
And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he
said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite”

2 Kings 4:25).
There are several things of importance to be noticed here. First, like his
predecessor, Elisha was the man of the mount (

2 Kings 2:25),
symbolical of his spiritual elevation, his affections set upon things above.
Second, mark how he conducts himself: not in haughty pride of fancied
self-superiority. He did not wait for the woman to reach him, but
dispatched his servant to meet her, thereby evidencing his solicitude. Third,
was it not a gracious token from the Lord to cheer her heart near the close
of a trying journey? How tender are God’s mercies! Fourth, “that
Shunammite” denotes either that she was the only pious person in that
place or that she so towered above her brethren and sisters in spirituality
that such an appellation was quite sufficient for the purpose of
“Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with
thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she
answered, It is well” (

2 Kings 4:26).
Incidentally, this shows that younger men engaged in the Lord’s service
and occupying lowlier positions are required to execute commissions from
their seniors (cf.

2 Timothy 4:11-13). We do not regard the woman’s
“it is well” as expressing her resignation to the sovereign will of God, but
rather as the language of trustful expectation. She seems to have had no
doubt whatever about the outcome of her errand. It appears to us that
throughout the whole of this incident, the great woman regarded the death
of her child as a trial of faith. Her “it is well” looked beyond the clouds and
anticipated the happy outcome. Surely we must exclaim, Oh woman, great
is thy faith. Yes, and great too was its reward, for God never puts to
confusion those who really count upon Him showing Himself strong on
their behalf. Let us not forget that this incident is recorded for our learning
and encouragement..87
“And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him
by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man
of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the
LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me” (

2 Kings
We are reminded of the two women who visited the Lord’s sepulcher and
that He eventually met them saying,
“All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped
him” (

Matthew 28:9).
In the case before us, the great woman appears to have rightly viewed
Elisha as the ambassador of God, and to have humbly signified that she had
a favor to ask of him. In the rebuffing from Gehazi, we see how her faith
met with yet another trial. And then the Lord tenderly interposed through
His servant and rebuked the officious attendant. The Lord was accustomed
to reveal His secrets unto the prophets (

Amos 3:7), but until He did so
they were as ignorant and as dependent upon Him as others, as this
incident plainly shows.
Here was still a further test of faith; the prophet himself was in the dark,
unprepared for her startling request. But the Lord has just as good a reason
for concealing as for revealing. In the case before us, it is not difficult to
perceive why He has withheld from Elisha all knowledge of the child’s
death; He would have him learn from the mother herself, and that, that she
might avow her faith.
“Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not
deceive me?” (

2 Kings 4:28).
Those were powerful arguments to move Elisha to act on her behalf.
“As she did not impatiently desire children, she could not think that
her son had been given her, without solicitation, merely to become
the occasion of her far deeper distress” (Scott).
The second question evidenced that her dependence was entirely upon the
word of God through His servant.
“However the providence of God may disappoint us, we may be
sure the promise of God never did, nor ever will deceive us: hope in
that will not make us ashamed” (Henry)..88
IN THE LAST CHAPTER we dwelt, first, upon the occasion of this miracle,
namely, the death of the “great woman’s” son. Second, we considered the
mystery of it. To all appearances, the child had been quite well and full of
life in the morning, yet by noon he was a corpse. In this case such a
disaster was doubly inexplicable, for the son had been given to her by the
divine bounty because of the kindness she had shown to one of God’s
servants; and now, to carnal reason, it looked as though He was dealing
most unkindly with her. Furthermore, the wonder-working power of God
had been engaged in bestowing a son upon her, and now this miracle was
neutralized by his suddenly being snatched away. Third, we expanded upon
its expectation. It is inexpressibly blessed to behold how this stricken
mother reacted to the seeming catastrophe; throughout the whole narrative
it is made evident that she regarded this affliction as a trial of her faith, and
grandly did her confidence in God triumph over it.
“Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in
thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not;
and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon
the face of the child” (

2 Kings 4:29).
Some think the prophet believed that the child was only in a swoon. Yet
we can hardly conceive of the mother leaving the boy under such
circumstances; rather she would have sent a message by one of her
servants. Nor is it likely that Elisha’s instructions to the servant would be
so peremptorily expressed if such had been the case. Matthew Henry says
“I know not what to make of this.” Another of the Puritans suggests that,
“It was done out of pure conceit, and not by Divine instinct, and therefore
it failed of the effect.” Thomas Scott acknowledged, “It is difficult to
determine what the prophet meant by thus sending Gehazi.” He had
divided Jordan by using Elijah’s mantle, and perhaps he thought that the
prophet’s design was to teach Gehazi a much needed lesson. However, this.89
much seems clear from the incident: no servant of God should delegate to
another that which it is his own duty to do.
“And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy
soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her”

2 Kings 4:30).
It is clear from her words that, whatever was or was not the prophet’s
design in ordering his servant to hurry to where the child lay, she regarded
his action as another testing of her faith. She evidently had no confidence in
Gehazi, or in Elisha’s staff as such. She was not to be put off in this way.
Her language was both impressive and emphatic, signifying, “I swear that I
will not return home unless you come with me. The situation is desperate;
my expectation is in you, Elisha, as the Lord’s ambassador, and I refuse to
take any no.” Here we behold the boldness and perseverance of her faith.
Whether there was any unwillingness on Elisha’s part to set out on this
journey, or whether he was only putting her to the test, we cannot be sure;
but such earnestness and importunity won the day and now stirred the
prophet to action.
“And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the
face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing.
Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The
child is not awaked” (

2 Kings 4:31).
Young’s concordance gives “denier” as the meaning of the name Gehazi. If
the various references made to him are carefully compared it will be seen
that his character and conduct were all alike and in keeping with his name.
Why Elisha should have had such a man for his personal attendant we
know not; yet in view of there being a Judas in the disciples, we need not
be unduly surprised. First, we see him seeking to officiously thrust away
the poor mother when she cast herself at his master’s feet (

2 Kings
4:27). Here we note the absence of prayer unto the Lord, and the
nonsuccess of his efforts. Later, we find him giving expression to selfish
unbelief, a complete lack of confidence in the power of Elisha (

2 Kings
4:43). Finally, his avarice masters him and he lies to Naaman, and is
stricken with leprosy for his deception (

2 Kings 5:20-27). Thus in the
verse before us, we have a picture of the unavailing efforts of an
unregenerate minister, and his failure made manifest to others..90
“And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was
dead, laid upon his bed” (

2 Kings 4:32).
In previous paragraphs we have dwelt much upon the remarkable faith of
the child’s mother. Yet we must not allow it to so occupy our attention as
to obscure the faith of the prophet, for his was equally great. It was no
ordinary demand which was now made upon him, and only one who was
intimately acquainted with God would have met it as he did. The death of
this child was not only quite unexpected by him, but must have seemed
bewilderingly strange. Yet though he was in the dark as to the reason of
this calamity, he refused to accept it as final. The mother had taken her
stand upon the divine bounty and kindness, expecting an outcome in
keeping with God’s grace toward her, and no doubt the prophet now
reasoned in the same way. Though he had never before been faced with
such a desperate situation, he knew that with God all things are possible.
The very fact that the dead child had been placed upon his bed was a direct
challenge to his faith, and nobly did he meet it.
“He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and
prayed unto the LORD” (

2 Kings 4:33).
We are not quite clear whether “them twain” refers to himself and the child
or to the mother, and Gehazi, who had most probably accompanied him;
but whichever it was, his action in closing the door denoted his desire for
privacy. The prophet practiced what he preached to others. In the miracle
recorded at the beginning of chapter four, Elisha had bidden the widow
“shut the door upon” herself and her sons (

2 Kings 4:4) so as to avoid
ostentation, and here Elisha follows the same course. Moreover, he was
about to engage the Lord in most urgent and special prayer, and that is
certainly something which calls for aloneness with God. The minister of the
gospel needs to be much on his guard on this point, precluding everything
which savors of advertising his piety like the Pharisees did (see

Matthew 6:5-6). Here, then, was the means of this miracle: the
unfaltering faith of the mother and now the faith of the prophet, expressed
in prayer unto his Master — acknowledging his own helplessness, humbly
but trustfully presenting the need to Him, counting upon His almighty
power and goodness..91
“And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon
his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes,… and the flesh of the child
waxed warm” (

2 Kings 4:34).
The means used by the prophet and the policy he followed are so closely
linked together that they merge into one another without any break, the
faith of Elisha finding expression in prayer. Considering the extraordinary
situation here, how that act of the prophet’s serves to demonstrate that he
was accustomed to count upon God in times of emergency, to look for
wondrous blessings from Him in response to his supplications. He was fully
persuaded nothing was too hard for Jehovah and therefore no petition too
large to present unto him. The more faith looks to the infinite power and
all-sufficiency of the One with whom it has to do, the more is He honored.
Next, the prophet stretched himself on the body of the little one, which was
expressive of his deep affection for him and his intense longing for the lad’s
restoration, as though he would communicate his own life and thereby
revive him.
Those who are familiar with the life and miracles of Elijah will at once be
struck with the likeness between Elisha’s actions here and the conduct of
his predecessor on a similar occasion. In fact so close is the resemblance
between them, it is evident the one was patterned after that of the other —
showing how closely the man of God must keep to the scripture model if
he would be successful in the divine service. First, Elijah had taken the
lifeless child of the Zarephath widow, carried him upstairs, and laid him on
his own bed, thereby preventing any human eyes from observing what
transpired. Next, he “cried unto the Lord” and then “he stretched himself
upon the child” (

1 Kings 17:19-21). In addition to what had been
pointed out in the previous paragraph, we believe this stretching of the
prophet on the one for whom he prayed signified an act of identification,
and it was a proof that he was putting his whole soul into the work of
supplication. If we are to prevail in interceding for another, we must make
his or her case ours, taking his need or burden upon our own spirit, and
then spreading it before God.
“Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro”

2 Kings 4:35)..92
Let it be noted that even the prayer of an Elisha did not meet with an
immediate and full answer. Why then should we be so soon disheartened
when heaven appears to be tardy in responding to our crying! God is
sovereign in this, as in everything else; by this we mean that He does not
deal uniformly with us. Sometimes our request is answered immediately, at
the first time of asking, but often He calls for perseverance and persistence,
requiring us to wait patiently for Him. We have seen how many rebuffs the
faith of the mother met with, and now the faith of the prophet is tested too.
It is true that he had been granted an encouragement by the waxing warm
of the child’s body — as the Lord is pleased to often give us “a token for
good” (

Psalm 86:17) before the full answer is received; but as yet there
was no sign of returning consciousness, and the form of the little one still
lay silent and inert before him. And that also has been recorded for our
“Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went
up, and stretched himself upon him” (

2 Kings 4:35).
This pacing up and down seems to denote a measure of mental
perturbation, for the prophets were “subject to like passions as we are”

James 5:17) and compassed with the same infirmities. But even if
Elisha was now at his wit’s end, he did not give way to despair and regard
the situation as hopeless. No, he continued clinging to Him who is the
giver of every good and perfect gift, and again stretched himself upon the
child. Let us take this important lesson to heart and put it into practice, for
it is at this point so many fail. It is the perseverance of faith which wins the
day (see

Matthew 7:7).
Scott has pointed out,
It is instructive to compare the manner in which Elijah and Elisha
wrought their miracles, especially in raising the dead, with that of
Jesus Christ. Every part of their conduct expressed a consciousness
of inability and an entire dependence upon Another, and earnest
supplication for His intervention; but Jesus wrought by His own
power: He spake, and it was done: “Young man, I say unto thee
arise; Talitha cumi; Lazarus come forth.”
In all things He has the preeminence..93
The marvel of this was nothing less than the quickening of the child, the
restoring of “a dead body to life” (

2 Kings 8:5). After the prophet had
again stretched himself upon the child, we are told that
“the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes”

2 Kings 4:35).
See how ready God is to respond to the exercise of real faith in Himself! In
this case neither the mother nor the prophet had any definite or even
indefinite promise they could plead, for the Lord had not said the child
should be preserved in health or recovered if he fell ill. But though they had
no promise, they laid hold of the known character of God. Since He had
given the child unasked, Elisha did not believe He would now withdraw
His gift and leave his benefactress worse off than she was before. Elisha
knew that with the Lord there is “no variableness, neither shadow of
turning” (

James 1:17), and he clung to that. True, it makes prayer easier
when there is some specific promise we can claim, yet it is a higher order
of faith that lays hold of God Himself.
There was no promise that God would pardon a penitent murderer, and no
sacrifice was appointed for such a sin, yet David appealed not in vain to the
multitude of His tender mercies (

Psalm 51:1).
“And the child opened his eyes” (

2 Kings 4:35).
See what a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God is ours! Hopeless as our
case may be so far as all human aid is concerned, it is not too hard for the
Lord. But we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is
like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,” and therefore is it
“Let not that man think that he shall receive anything from the
Lord” (

James 1:6-7).
No, rather it is the one who declares with Jacob, “I will not let thee go,
except thou bless me” (

Genesis 32:26) who obtains his request. What
must have been Elisha’s delight when he saw the child revive and obtained
this further experience of God’s grace in answer to his petition, delivering
him from his grief! How great must have been his joy as he called for
Gehazi and bade him summon the mother, and when he said to her, “Take.94
up thy son!” Blessed is it to behold her silent gratitude — too full for
words — as she “fell at his feet,” and in worship to God, “bowed herself to
the ground.” Then, she “took up her son, and went out” (

2 Kings 4:37),
to get alone with God and pour out her heart in thanksgiving to Him.
Some help is obtained here by noting that this passage opens with the
connective conjunction (

2 Kings 4:18). That “And” not only intimates
the continuity of the narrative and notes a striking contrast between the
two principal divisions of it, but it also indicates there is an intimate
relation between them. As we have pointed out on previous occasions, the
word “and” is used in Scripture sometimes with the purpose of linking two
things together, but at other times with the object of placing two objects or
incidents in juxtaposition in order to display the contrasts between them. In
the present instance it appears to be used for both reasons. As we hope to
show, light is thrown on the typical significance of this miracle by carefully
noting how it is immediately linked to the one preceding it. When we look
at the respective incidents described, we are at once struck with the
antitheses presented. In the former we behold Elisha journeying to
Shunem; in the latter it is the woman who goes to him herself. First, it was
the woman befriending the prophet; here he is seen befriending her.
Previously a son is miraculously given to her; in this he is taken away.
The typical meaning of that does not appear on the surface, and therefore it
will not be a simple matter for us to make it clear to the reader. Only the
regenerate will be able to follow us intelligently, for they alone have
experienced spiritually that which is here set forth figuratively. That which
is outstanding in this incident is the mysteriousness of it: that a child should
be miraculously given to this woman, and then that the hand of death
should be laid upon him! That was not only a sore trial to the poor mother,
but a most perplexing providence. To carnal reason it seemed as though
God was mocking her. But is there not also something equally tragic,
equally baffling, in the experience of the Christian? In the previous miracle
we were shown a picture of the fruit of redemption, and here death appears
to be written on that fruit. Ah, my reader, let it be clearly understood that
we are as dependent upon God for the maintenance of that fruit as we were
for the actual gift of it..95
And what is the “fruit of redemption” as it applies to the individual? From
the side which looks Godward: reconciliation, justification, sanctification,
preservation. But from the selfward side, what a list might be drawn up.
Peace, joy, assurance, fellowship with God and His people, delight in His
Word, liberty in prayer, separation from the world, affections set upon
things above. Oh the inexpressible sweetness of our “espousals”

Jeremiah 2:2) and of our “first love” (

Revelation 2:4). But, in many
cases, how soon is that joy dampened and that love is left! How wretched
then is the soul; like Rachel mourning for her children, we refused to be
comforted. How sore the perplexity! How Satan seeks to take advantage
and persuade such an one that God has ceased to be gracious. How strange
that such a blight should have fallen upon the fruit of the spirit! How
deeply mysterious the deadness which now rests upon the garden of God’s
planting, causing the soul to say with the poet,
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord;
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still,
But now I feel an aching void
The world can never fill.
Yes, it does indeed seem inexplicable that the child of God’s own
workmanship should pine away, and in a sense, lie cold and lifeless. Ah,
but we must not stop there. We must not sit down in despair and conclude
that all is lost. The incident before us does not end at that point; the death
of the child was not the final thing! There is “good hope” for us here,
important instruction to heed. That “great woman” did not give away to
dejection and assume that all hope was gone. Very far from it. And if the
Christian who is aware of spiritual decays, of languishing graces, of his dire
need of being renewed in the inner man, would experience a gracious
reviving, then he should emulate this mother and do as she did. And again
we would point out that she did not faint in the day of trouble and indulge
in self-pity; she did not bemoan her helplessness and say, What can I do in
the presence of death? And if she did not, why should you!
Mark attentively what this stricken woman did..96
(1) She regarded this inexplicable and painful event as a testing of her
faith, and she acted accordingly.
(2) She moved promptly. Without delay she carried the child upstairs
and laid him on the prophet’s bed, in anticipation of the Lord’s
showing Himself strong on her behalf.
(3) She vigorously bestirred herself, going to some trouble in order to
obtain relief, starting out on an arduous journey.
(4) She refused to be deterred when her own husband half-discouraged
(5) She sought the One who had promised the son in the first instance.
The soul must turn to God and cry “quicken thou me according to thy
word” (

Psalm 119:25).
(6) She clung to the original promise and refused to believe that God
had ceased to be gracious (

2 Kings 4:28).
(7) She declined to be put off by the unavailing intervention of an
unregenerate minister (

2 Kings 4:29-30).
(8) She persisted in counting upon the power of Elisha, who was to her
the representative of God. And gloriously was her faith rewarded.
Regarding the illustrative value of this miracle in connection with Elisha
himself, it teaches us the following points.
(1) The servant of God must not be surprised if those in whose
conversion he has been instrumental should later experience a spiritual
decay, especially when he is absent from them.
(2) If he would be used to their restoration, no half measures will avail,
nor may he entrust the work to a delegate.
(3) Believing, expectant, fervent prayer, must be his first recourse.
(4) In seeking to revive a languishing soul, he must descend to the level
of the one to whom he ministers (

2 Kings 4:34) and not stand as on
some pedestal, as though he were a superior being.
(5) He must not be discouraged because there is not an immediate and
complete response to his efforts, but should persevere.
(6) No cold and formal measures will suffice; he must throw himself
into this work heart and soul..97
(7) The order of recovery was: renewed circulation (

2 Kings 4:34),
sneezing, eyes opened. We can draw a three-fold application here for
the steps of spiritual renewal: the affections warmed, the head cleared
(understanding restored), vision..98
THE PASSAGE which is before us (

2 Kings 4:38-41) has in it practical
instruction as well as spiritual lessons for us, for the Scriptures make
known the evils and dangers which are in this world as well as the glory
and bliss of the world to come. Elisha was visiting the school of the
prophets at Gilgal, instructing them in the things of God. At the close of a
meeting he gave orders that a simple meal should be prepared for them; for
though he was more concerned about their spiritual welfare, he did not
overlook their physical. It was a time of “dearth” or famine, so one went
out into the field to gather herbs, that they might have a vegetable stew. He
found a wild vine with gourds. Securing a goodly quantity, he returned and
shred them into the pot of pottage, quite unconscious that he was making
use of a poisonous plant. Not until after the broth was poured out was the
peril discovered, for when they began eating the men cried out, “There is
death in the pot.” How little we realize the many and varied forms in which
death menaces us, and how constantly we are indebted to the preserving
providence of God.
The effects of the curse which the Lord God pronounced upon the sin of
Adam have been by no means confined unto the human family. “Cursed is
the ground for thy sake” (

Genesis 3:17) was part of the fearful
sentence, and as

Romans 8:22 informs us, “The whole creation
groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” No matter where one
looks, the observant eye can behold the consequences of the fall. No
section of creation has escaped; even the fields and the woods bring forth
not only thistles and thorns, but that which is noxious and venomous.
Some of the most innocent-looking herbs and berries produce horrible
suffering and death if eaten by man or beast. Yet for the most part, in fact
with rare exceptions, God has mercifully provided adequate protection
against such evils. The instinct of the animals and the intelligence of men
causes each of them to leave alone that which is harmful. Either the eye
discovers, the nostril detects, or the palate perceives their evil qualities, and
thereby we are guarded against them..99
It scarcely needs to be pointed out that what we have alluded to above in
the material world suggests that which we find in the religious realm.
Among that which is offered for intellectual and spiritual food, how much
is unwholesome and vicious. The fields of Christendom have many “wild
gourds” growing in them, the use of which necessarily entails “death in the
pot,” for fatal doctrine acts upon the soul as poison does upon the body.
This is clear from that apostolic declaration, “Their word will eat as doth a
canker” or “gangrene” (

2 Timothy 2:17), where the reference is to the
evil doctrine of heretical teachers. But just as God has mercifully endowed
the animals with instincts and man with sufficient natural intelligence to
avoid what is physically injurious, so He has graciously bestowed upon His
people spiritual “senses” which, if exercised, “discern both good and evil”

Hebrews 5:14). Thus they instinctively warn against unsound writings
and preachers, so that “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from
him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (

John 10:5).
The mercy of the Creator appears not only in the protecting “senses” with
which He has endowed His creatures, but also in providing them with
suitable remedies and effective antidotes. If there be herbs which are
injurious and poisonous, there are others which are counteracting and
healing. If the waters of Marah are bitter and undrinkable, there is a tree at
hand which when cut down and cast into the waters renders them sweet

Exodus 15:25). If we read at the beginning of the Scriptures of a tree
the eating of whose fruit involved our race in disaster and death, before
that volume is closed we are told of another tree, the leaves of which are
“for the healing of the nations” (

Revelation 22:2). This fact, then, holds
good in both the physical and the spiritual realms: for every evil, God has
provided a remedy, for every poison an antidote, for every false doctrine a
portion of the truth which exposes and refutes it. With these introductory
observations, we may now consider the details of Elisha’s eighth miracle.
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the
land” (

2 Kings 4:38).
It will be remembered that it was from this place that Elisha had started out
with his master on their final journey together before Elijah was raptured to
heaven (

2 Kings 2:1), where his sincerity had been put to the proof by
the testing, “Tarry here, I pray thee.” From Gilgal they had passed to.100
Bethel (

2 Kings 2:2), and from there to Jericho, and finally to the
Jordan. It is striking to note that our hero wrought a miracle at each of
these places in inverse order of the original journey. At the Jordan he had
divided its waters so that he passed over dry-shod before the wondering
gaze of the young prophets (

2 Kings 2:14-15). At Jericho he had healed
the evil waters (

2 Kings 2:19-22). At Bethel he had cursed the profane
children in the name of the Lord and brought about their destruction (

Kings 2:23-25). And now here at Gilgal Elisha again exercises the
extraordinary powers with which God had endowed him. Wherever he
goes, the servant of God should, as opportunity affords, use his ministerial
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the
land” (

2 Kings 4:38).
Gilgal was to the east of Jericho, close to the Jordan, where there would be
more moisture and vegetation than further inland. It was a place made
memorable from the early history of Israel. It was there that the nation had
set up twelve stones as a monument to God’s gracious intervention, when
He had caused them to pass through the river dry-shod (

Joshua 4:18-
24). It was there too that they had circumcised those who had been born in
the wilderness wanderings, thereby rolling away the reproach of Egypt
from off them. This evidenced their separation from the heathen, as being
God’s peculiar people, who made the circumcision of the heart

Jeremiah 4:4;

Romans 2:29), which is the distinguishing mark of
God’s spiritual children. It was there also that they had first partaken of
“the old corn of the land” (

Joshua 5:11) so that miraculous supplies of
manna ceased. Yet even such a favored spot as this was affected by the
dearth, for great wickedness had also been perpetrated there (

1 Samuel
15:21-23 and cf.

Hosea 9:15).
“There was a dearth in the land.” The Hebrew word for “dearth” (raab)
signifies a famine, and is so rendered in

1 Kings 18:2. This is one of the
“four sore judgments” which the Lord sends when He expresses His
displeasure against a people:
“the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the
pestilence” (

Ezekiel 14:21)..101
In our day the “famine” with which a righteous God afflicts a land is one
far more solemn and serious than that of dearth of material food, as that
threatened in

Amos 8:11:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a
famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but
of hearing the words of the LORD.”
Such a “famine” is upon Christendom today. It has not yet become quite
universal, but almost so. Thousands of places dedicated to divine worship
have become social centers, political clubs, ritualistic playhouses, and today
they are heaps of rubble. The vast majority of those still standing provide
nothing for people desiring spiritual food, and even in the very few where
the Word of God is ostensibly ministered, it is no longer so in the power
and blessing of the Spirit. It is this which gives such pertinence to our
present passage.
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the
land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him”

2 Kings 4:38).
What a blessed and beautiful conjunction of things was this. How
instructive for the under-shepherd of Christ and for His sheep in a day like
this. Though God was acting in judgment, the prophet did not consider that
that warranted him ceasing his labors until conditions became more
favorable. So far from it, he felt it was a time when he should do all in his
power to
“strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die”

Revelation 3:2),
and encourage those who are liable to give way to dejection because of the
general apostasy.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season”

2 Timothy 4:2)
is the injunction which God has laid upon His ministers. In seasons of
“dearth” the servant of Christ needs to be particularly attentive to the
spiritual needs of young believers, instructing them in the holiness and
righteousness of a sin-hating God when His scourge is upon the nation; and
also making known His faithfulness and sufficiency unto “His own” in the.102
darkest hour, reminding them that “God is our refuge and strength, a very
present help in trouble” (

Psalm 46:1).
See here what a noble example Elisha has left those called by God to
engage in proclaiming His truth. The prophet was not idle; he did not wait
for needy souls to come to him, but took the initiative and went to them.
Times of national distress and calamity do not exempt any from the
discharge of spiritual duties nor justify any slackness in employing the
appointed means of grace. Nor did these “sons of the prophets” raise the
objection that Elisha sought them at an inopportune time and make the
excuse they must busy themselves looking after their temporal interests.
No, they gladly availed themselves of their golden opportunity, making the
most of it by attentively listening to the instructions of Elisha. Their “sitting
before him” showed respect and attentiveness. It reminds us of Mary who
“sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word” (

Luke 11:39), which Christ
designated that “good part,” the one thing “needful” (

Luke 11:42). And
though many today no longer may hear the Word preached, they can still
sit and read it. Be thankful for the printed page, if it contains that which
strengthens faith and promotes closer walking with God.
“And he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe [boil
or concoct] pottage for the sons of the prophets”

2 Kings 4:38).
The order of action in this verse is significant, for it shows how the needs
of the soul take precedence over those of the body. Elisha saw to it that
they had spiritual food set before them before arranging for material food.
On the other hand, the prophet did not conduct himself as a fanatic and
disdain their temporal needs. Here, as everywhere in Scripture, the balance
is rightly preserved. Attention to and enjoyment of fellowship with God
must never be allowed to crowd out the discharge of those duties
pertaining to the common round of life. As Christ thought of and
ministered to the bodily needs of the hungry multitudes after He had
broken unto them the bread of life, so His servant here was concerned
about the physical well-being of these students: a plain and simple meal in
either case; in the one, bread and fish; in the other, vegetable stew.
“And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild
vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and.103
shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not”

2 Kings 4:39)
Apparently this person took it upon himself to go out and gather herbs in
the field; no doubt his intention was good, but so far as the narrative is
concerned, it records no commission from Elisha to act thus — a clear case
where the best intentions do not warrant us to act unless we have a definite
word from God, and to use only those means He has appointed. It is
possible this person may have returned thanks to God when his eye fell
upon those gourds and felt that his steps had been directed by Him to the
place where they were growing. If so, we have a warning how easily we
may misunderstand the divine providences when we are acting in self-will
and interpret them in a way which justifies and apparently sanctifies the
course we have taken. When Jonah fled from the command the Lord had
given him, to “flee unto Tarshish” and went down to Joppa, he “found a
ship going” to that very place (

Jonah 1:3)!
Seasons of “death” are peculiarly dangerous ones. Why so? Because in
times of famine, food is scarce, and, because there is less to select from, we
are very apt to be less particular and act on the principle of “beggars
cannot be choosers.” Certainly there is a warning here to be careful about
what we eat at such times, and especially of that which grows wild. The
Hebrew word here rendered “wild” means uncultivated, and is generally
connected with “wild beasts,” which were not only ceremonially unclean
under the Mosaic law but unfit for human consumption. It is to be duly
noted that there was a plentiful supply of these “wild gourds” even though
there was a “dearth” in the land. So it is spiritually; when there is a
“famine” of hearing the words of the Lord, Satan sees to it that there is no
shortage of spurious food. Witness the number of tracts from cultists and
pornographic booklets which are so freely circulated, to say nothing of the
vile literature in which the things of God are openly derided.
Yet though these gourds were “wild,” they must have borne a close
resemblance to wholesome ones; or he who gathered them would not have
been deceived by them, nor would it be said of those who stood by while
he shred them into the pot of pottage that “they knew them not.” This too
has a spiritual counterpart, as the enemy’s “tares” sown among the wheat
intimates. Satan is a subtle imitator. Not only does he transform himself
“into an angel of light” but his “deceitful workers” transform themselves
“into the apostles of Christ” (

2 Corinthians 11:13-14). They come.104
preaching Jesus and His gospel, but as the Holy Spirit warns us, it is
“another Jesus” and “another gospel” than the genuine one (

Corinthians 11:4). Those who looked on while this person was shredding
the wild gourds into the pot raised no objection, for they were quite
unsuspicious, instead of carefully examining what they were to eat. What
point this gives to the apostolic exhortation, “Prove all things; hold fast
that which is good” (

1 Thessalonians 5:21); and if we refuse to do so,
who is to blame when we devour that which is injurious?
“So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as
they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O
thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat
thereof” (

2 Kings 4:40).
It was not until the eleventh hour that they discovered their peril, for the
deadly danger of these “wild gourds” was not exposed until they had begun
eating them; not only had the gourds’ appearance deceived them, but they
had no offensive or suspicious odor while cooking. The case was
particularly subtle, for seemingly it was one of their own number who had
gathered the poisonous herbs. Ah, note how the apostle commended the
Bereans for carefully bringing his teaching to the test of Holy Writ

Acts 17:11). Much more do we need to do so with the preachings and
writings of uninspired men. We need to “consider diligently” what is set
before us by each ecclesiastical ruler (

Proverbs 23:1 and cf.

Matthew 24:45), for though they be “dainties” and “sweet words,” yet
they may be “deceitful meat” (

Proverbs 23:2, 8). How we need to make

Psalm 141:4 our prayer!
It was when the sons of the prophets began to eat the pottage that they
discovered its deadly character. Ah, my reader, are you able to discriminate
between what is helpful to the soul and what is harmful? Is your spiritual
palate able to detect error from truth, Satan’s poison from “the sincere
[pure] milk of the word?” Do you really endeavor so to do, or are you lax
in this matter?
“Hear my words, O ye wise men, and give ear unto me, ye that
have knowledge. For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth
meat” (

Job 34:2-3)..105
But let us not miss the moral link between what is said in

2 Kings 4:40
and that which was before us in verse 38. It was those who had just
previously been sitting at the feet of Elisha who now discovered the
poisonous nature of these gourds. Is not the lesson plain and recorded for
our learning? It is those who are instructed by the true servant of God who
have most spiritual discernment and better judgment than others not so
favored. Then “take heed what ye hear” (

Mark 4:24) and what ye read.
“They cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot.
And they could not eat thereof.” What made them aware of their peril we
know not. Nor is the child of God always conscious of it when some secret
repression or unseen hand prevents him from gratifying his curiosity and
turns his feet away from some synagogue of Satan where there is “death in
the pot” being served in that place. Have not all genuine Christians cause
to say with the apostle,
“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in
whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (

2 Corinthians 1:10).
From that pot of death., Elisha, under God, delivered them.
“But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he
said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no
harm [or ‘evil thing’] in the pot” (

2 Kings 4:41).
The “meal” we regard as the Word of God: either the written or the
personal Word. One of the great types of Christ is seen in the meat (i.e.,
meal) offering of Leviticus 2. It is only by the Word we are safeguarded
from evil. See how graciously God provided for “His own.” Though there
was a “dearth in the land,” yet these sons of the prophets were not without
“meal”! How thankful we should be for the Word of God in our homes in
such a day as this. Though someone else fetched the meal, “he [Elisha] cast
it into the pot”!
Much of this has been intimated in what has already been pointed out. Let
it not be overlooked that verse 38 of 2 Kings 4, begins with “And”: after a.106
reviving, be careful where you go for your food! If you are suspicious of
the soundness of a religious publication, take counsel of a competent “man
of God.” Let not a time of spiritual “dearth” render you less careful of
what you feed upon. In seasons of famine the servant of God should be
diligent in seeking to strengthen the hands of young believers. Only by
making the Word of God our constant guide shall we be delivered from the
evils surrounding us..107
IT SEEMS STRANGE so few have perceived that a miracle is recorded in

2 Kings 4:42-44, for surely a careful reading of those verses makes it
evident that they describe the wonder-working power of the Lord. How
else can we explain the feeding of so many with such a little and then a
surplus remaining? It is even more strange that scarcely any appear to have
recognized that we have here a most striking foreshadowment of the only
miracle wrought by the Lord Jesus which is narrated by all the four
evangelists, namely, His feeding of the multitude from a few loaves and
fishes. In all of our reading, we have not only never come across a sermon
thereon, but so far as memory serves, not so much as a quotation from or
allusion to this striking passage. Thomas Scott dismisses the incident with a
single paragraph, and though Matthew Henry is a little fuller, he too says
nothing about the supernatural character of it. We wonder how many of
our readers, before turning to this article, could have answered the
question, Where in the Old Testament is described the miracle of the
feeding of a multitude through the hands of a man?
Though there was a “dearth [famine] in the land” (

2 Kings 4:38) yet we
learn from the first verse of our passage that it was not a total or universal
one: some barley had been grown in Baal-shalisha. In this we may perceive
how in wrath the Lord remembers mercy. Even where the crops of an
entire country are a complete failure — an exceedingly exceptional
occurrence — there is always food available in adjoining lands. Therein we
behold an exemplification of God’s goodness and faithfulness. He declared,
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and
summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (

Genesis 8:22).
Though more than four thousand years have passed since then, each
returning one has furnished clear evidence of the fulfillment of that promise
— a demonstration both of the divine veracity and of God’s continuous
regulation of the affairs of earth. As we have said, it is very rare for there.108
to be a total failure of the crops in arty single country, for as the Lord
“I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon
another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereon it
rained not withered” (

Amos 4:7).
“And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of
God bread of the firstfruits” (

2 Kings 4:42).
Let us begin by observing how naturally and artlessly the conduct of this
unnamed man is introduced. Here was one who had a heart for the Lord’s
servant in a time of need, who thought of him in this season of scarcity and
distress, and who went to some trouble to minister to him. Shalisha
adjoined Mount Ephraim (

1 Samuel 9:4), and probably a journey of
considerable distance had to be taken in order to reach the prophet. Ah,
but there was more behind this man’s action than meets the eye; we must
look deeper if we are to discover the springs of his deed. It is written, “The
steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (

Psalm 37:23). And
thus it was in the case before us. This man now befriended Elisha because
God had worked in him “both to will and to do of his good pleasure”

Philippians 2:13). It is only by comparing scripture with scripture we
can discover the fullness of meaning in any verse.
Before passing on let us pause and make application to ourselves of the
truth to which attention has just been called. It has an important bearing on
each of us, and one which needs to be emphasized in this day of practical
atheism. The whole trend of things in our evil generation is to be so
occupied with what are termed “the laws of Nature,” that the operations of
the Creator are lost sight of; man and his doings are so eulogized and
deified that the hand of God in providence is totally obscured. It should be
otherwise with the saint. When some friend comes and ministers to your
need, while being grateful to him, look above him and his kindness to the
One who has sent him. I may pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and
then, because I am so absorbed with secondary causes and the instruments
which He may employ, fail to see my Father’s hand as He graciously
answers my petition. God is the giver of everything temporal as well as
spiritual, even though He uses human agents in the conveying of them..109
“And there came a man from Baal-shalisha.” This town was originally
called “Shalisha” but the evil power exerted by Jezebel had stamped upon
it the name of her false god, as was the case with other places (cf. “Baal-hermon,”

1 Chronicles 5:23). But even in this seat of idolatry there was
at least one who feared the Lord, who was regulated by His law, and who
had a heart for His servant. This should be a comfort to the saints in a time
of such fearful and widespread declension as now prevails. However dark
things may get, and we believe they will yet become much darker before
there is any improvement, God will preserve to Himself a remnant. He
always has, and He always will. In the antediluvian world there was a
Noah, who by grace was upright in his generations and walked with God.
In Egypt, when the name of Jehovah was unknown among the Hebrews, a
Moses was raised up, who refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s
daughter. So now there is one here and there as a voice in the wilderness.
Though the name of this man from Shalisha is not given, we doubt not it is
inscribed in the Book of Life.
“And there came a man from Baal-shalisha, and brought the man of God
bread of the firstfruits.” Again we point out that there is more here than
meets the careless eye or is obvious to the casual glance. Other passages
which make mention of the “firstfruits” must be compared if we are to
learn the deeper meaning of what is here recorded and discover that this
man’s action was something more than one of thoughtfulness and kindness
to Elisha.
“The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the
house of the LORD thy God” (

Exodus 23:19, 34:26).
The “firstfruits,” then, belonged to the Lord, being an acknowledgment
both of His goodness and proprietorship; a fuller and very beautiful
passage is found in

Deuteronomy 26:1-11. From

Numbers 18:8-13
we learn that these became the portion of the priests.
“Whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they [the people] shall
bring unto the LORD, shall be thine [Aaron’s and his sons]; every
one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it” (

Numbers 18:13).
The same holds good in the rebuilt temple.
“The first of all the firstfruits… shall be the priest’s”

Ezekiel 44:30)..110
This man from Shalisha then, was, in principle, acting in obedience to the
divine law. We say “in principle,” because it was enjoined that the
firstfruits should be taken into “the house of the LORD” and that they
became the priest’s portion. But this man belonged to the kingdom of
Israel and not of Judah; he lived in Samaria and had no access to
Jerusalem, and even had he gone there, entrance to the temple had been
forbidden. In Samaria there were none of the priests of the Lord, only
those of Baal. But though he rendered not obedience to the letter, he
certainly did so to the spirit, for he recognized that these firstfruits were
not for his own use; and though Elisha was not a priest he was a prophet, a
servant of the Lord. It is for this reason, we believe, that it is said he
brought the firstfruits not to “Elisha” but to “the man of God.” That
designation occurs first in

Deuteronomy 33:1 in connection with
Moses, and is descriptive not of his character but of his office — one
wholly devoted to God, his entire time spent in His service. In the Old
Testament it is applied only to the prophets and extraordinary teachers

1 Samuel 2:27, 9:6;

1 Kings 17:18); but in the New Testament it
seems to belong to all of God’s servants (

1 Timothy 6:11;

Timothy 3:17).
What has been pointed out above should throw light on a problem which is
now troubling many conscientious souls and which should provide comfort
in these evil days. The situation of many of God’s people is now much like
that which prevailed when our present incident occurred. It was a time of
apostasy, when everything was out of order. Such is the present case of
Christendom. It is the clear duty of God’s people to render obedience to
the letter of His Word wherever that is possible; but when it is not, they
may do so in spirit. Daniel and his fellow Hebrews could not observe the
Passover feast in Babylon, and no doubt that was a sore grief to them. But
that very grief signified their desire to observe it, and in such cases God
accepts the will for the deed. For many years past, this writer and his wife
have been unable to conscientiously celebrate the Lord’s supper; yet (by
grace) we do so in spirit, by remembering the Lord’s death for His people
in our hearts and minds.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”

Hebrews 10:25).111
is very far from meaning that the sheep of Christ should attend a place
where the “goats” predominate, or where their presence would sanction
what is dishonoring to their Master.
Before passing on, we should point out another instructive and
encouraging lesson here for the humble saint. This man from Shalisha,
acting in the spirit of God’s law, journeying with his firstfruits to where
Elisha was, could have had no thought in his mind that by this action he
was going to be a contributor to a remarkable miracle. Yet such was
actually the case, for those very loaves of his became the means, by the
wonder-working power of God, of feeding a large company of people. And
this is but a single illustration of a principle which, under the government of
God, is of frequent occurrence, as probably most of us have witnessed. Ah,
my reader, we never know how far-reaching may be the effects and what
fruits may issue for eternity from the most inconspicuous act done for
God’s glory or for the good of one of His people. How often has some
obscure Christian, in the kindness of his heart, done something or given
something which God has been pleased to bless and multiply in a manner
and to an extent which never entered his (or her) mind.
“And brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of
barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof.” How it appears that it
delighted the Holy Spirit to describe this offering in detail. Bearing in mind
that a time of serious “dearth” then prevailed, may we not see in the varied
nature of this gift thoughtfulness and consideration on the part of him that
made it. Had the whole of it been made up in the form of “loaves,” some of
it might have become moldy before the whole of it was eaten. At best it
would need to be consumed quickly; to obviate that, part of the barley was
brought in the husk. On the other hand, had all been brought in the ear,
time would be required for the grinding and baking, and in the meanwhile
the prophet might be famished and fainting. By such a division, both
disadvantages were prevented. From the whole, we are taught that in
making gifts to another or in ministering to his needs we should exercise
care in seeing that it is in a form best suited to his requirements. The
application of this principle pertains to spiritual things as well as temporal.
Before noting the use to which Elisha put this offering, let us observe that
gifts sometimes come from the most unexpected quarters. Had this man.112
come from Bethel or Shunem there would be no occasion for surprise, but
that one from Baal-shalisha should bring God’s servant an offering of his
firstfruits was certainly not to be looked for. Ah, does not each of God’s
servants know something of this experience! If on the one hand some on
whose cooperation he had reason to count, failed and disappointed him,
others who were strangers befriended him. More than once or twice have
the writer and his wife had this pleasant surprise. We cherish their memory,
while seeking to forget the contrasting ones. Joseph might be envied and
mistreated by his brethren, but he found favor in the eyes of Potiphar.
Moses may be despised by the Hebrews, but he received kindly treatment
in the house of Jethro. Rather than have Elijah starve by the brook Cherith,
the Lord commanded the ravens to feed him. Our supplies are sure, though
at times they may come from strange quarters.
“And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat”

2 Kings 4:42).
In the preceding miracle this same trait is manifest: nothing is there said of
Elisha partaking of the pottage, nor even of the young prophets in his
charge, but rather “the people.” Such liberality will not go unrewarded by
God, for He has promised “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (

6:38). Such was the case here, for the very next thing recorded after his
“Pour out for the people that they may eat” (

2 Kings 4:41) is the
receiving of these twenty loaves. And what use does he now make of
them? His first thought was not for himself, but for others. We must not
conclude from the silence of this verse that the prophet failed either to
perceive the hand of God in this gift or that he neglected to return thanks
unto Him. Had the Scriptures given a full and detailed account of such
matters, they would run into many volumes. According to the law of
analogy we are justified in concluding that he did both. Moreover, what
follows shows plainly that his mind was stayed upon the Lord.
The situation which confronted Elisha is one that in principle has often
faced God’s people. What the Lord gives to one is not to be used selfishly
but is to be shared with others. Yet sometimes we are in the position that
what is on hand does not appear sufficient for that purpose. My supply may
be scanty and the claims of a growing family have to be met. If I contribute
to the Lord’s cause and minister to His servants and people, may not my
little ones go hungry? Here is where the exercise of faith comes in. Lay
hold of such promises as

Luke 6:38 and

2 Corinthians 9:8; act on.113
them and you shall prove that “the liberal soul shall be made fat”

Proverbs 11:25). Especially should the ministers of Christ set an
example in this respect; if they be close-handed, it will greatly hinder their
usefulness. Elisha made practical use of what was designed as an offering
to the Lord, as David did not hesitate to take the “shewbread” and give to
his hungry men.
“And his servitor said, What! should I set this before an hundred
men?” (

2 Kings 4:43).
Ah, the servant of God must not expect others to be equally zealous in
exercising a gracious spirit or to cooperate with him in the works of faith.
No, not even those who are his assistants — none can walk by the faith of
another. (When Luther announced his intention of going to Worms, even
his dearest brethren sought to dissuade him.) But was not such an
objection a natural one? Yes, but certainly not spiritual. It shows how
shallow and fleeting must have been the impression made on the man by
the previous miracles. It was quite in keeping with what we read elsewhere
of this “servitor,” Gehazi. His language expressed incredulity and unbelief.
Was he thinking of himself? Did he resent his master’s generosity and
think, We shall need this food for ourselves? And this, after all the miracles
he had seen God work through Elisha! Ah, it takes something more than
the witnessing of miracles to regenerate a dead soul, as the Jews made
evident when the Son of God was in their midst.
Faith in God and His Word was the only human means involved.
“He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith
the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof”

2 Kings 4:43).
Where there is real faith in God it is not stumbled by the unbelief of others;
but when it stands in the wisdom of men, it is soon paralyzed by the
opposition it encounters. When blind Bartimaeus began to cry out, “Jesus,
thou son of David, have mercy on me,” and many charged him that he
should hold his peace, “he cried the more a great deal” (

Mark 10:46,
48). On the other hand, one with a stony-ground hearer’s faith endures for.114
awhile, “for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word,
by and by [quickly] he is offended” (

Matthew 13:21). When Elisha had
first said, “Give unto the people, that they may eat,” it was the language of

2 Kings 4:41 seems to show that the people had been seeking the
prophet in the extremity of their need. His own barrel of meal had probably
run low, and it is likely he had been praying for its replenishment. And here
was God’s answer — yet in such a form or measure as to further test his
faith! Elisha saw the hand of God in this gift and counted upon His making
it sufficient to meet the needs of the crowd. Elisha regarded those twenty
loaves as an “earnest” of greater bounties.
Do we regard such providences as “a token for good,” or are we so
wrapped up in the token itself that we look no further? It was a bold and
courageous faith in Elisha; he was not afraid the Lord would put him to
confusion and cause him to become a laughingstock to the people. At first
his faith was a general (yet sufficient) one in the character of God. Then it
met with a rebuff from Gehazi, but he refused to be shaken. And now it
seems to us that the Lord rewarded His servant’s faith by giving him a
definite word from Himself. The way to get more faith is to use what has
already been given us (

Luke 8:18), for God ever honors those who
honor Him. Trust Him fully and He will then bestow assurance. The
minister of Christ must not be deterred by the carnality and unbelief of
those who ought to be the ones to strengthen his hands and cooperate with
him. Alas, how many have let distrustful deacons quench their zeal by the
difficulties and objections which they raise. How often the children of
Israel opposed Moses and murmured against him, but
“by faith… he endured, as seeing him who is invisible”

Hebrews 11:27).
There is no doubt whatever in our minds that the above incident supplies
the Old Testament foreshadowment of our Lord’s miracle in feeding the
multitude, and it is both interesting and instructive to compare and contrast
the type with its antitype. Note, then, the following parallels:
(1), in each case there was a crowd of hungry people;
(2), Elisha took pity on them, and Christ had compassion on the needy
multitude (

Matthew 14:14);.115
(3), a few “loaves” formed the principal article of diet, and in each case
they were barley ones (

John 6:9);
(4), in each case, the order went forth “give [not ‘sell’] the people that
they may eat” (cf.

Mark 6:37);
(5), in each case an unbelieving attendant raised objection (

(6), Elisha fed the crowd through his servant (

2 Kings 4:44) and
Christ through His apostles (

Matthew 14:19);
(7), in each case a surplus remained after the people had eaten (

Kings 4:44 and cf.

Matthew 14:20).
And now observe wherein Christ has the preeminence:
(1), He fed a much larger company, over five thousand (

14:21) instead of one hundred;
(2), He employed fewer loaves — 5 (

Matthew 14:17), instead of
(3), He supplied a richer feast, fish as well as bread;
(4), He wrought by His own power.
It will suffice if we just summarize what we have previously dwelt upon.
(1) The servant of God who is faithful in giving out to others will not
himself be kept on short rations.
(2) The more one obtains from God, the more should he impart to the
people: “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
(3) God ever makes His grace abound to those who are generous.
(4) A true servant of God has implicit confidence in the divine
(5) Though he encounters opposition, he refuses to be stumbled
(6) Though other ministers ridicule him, he acts according to God’s
(7) God does not fail him, but honors his trust..116
THE HEALING OF NAAMAN is the best known one of all the wonders
wrought through Elisha. It has been made the subject of numerous sermons
in the past, supplying as it does a very striking typical picture of salvation.
Not in all its varied aspects — for salvation is many-sided — but as
portraying the condition of him who is made its subject, his dire need
because of the terrible malady of which he was the victim, the sovereign
grace which met with him, the requirements he had to comply with, his
self-will therein, and how his reluctance was overcome. Yet there is not a
little in this incident which is offensive to our supercilious age, inclining
present-day preachers to leave it alone, so that much that has been said
about it in the past will be more or less new to the present generation. As it
has pleased the Holy Spirit to enter into much more detail upon the
attendant circumstances of this miracle, this will require us to give it a
fuller consideration.
It is their spiritual import which renders the Old Testament Scriptures of
such interest to us upon whom the ends of the ages are come:
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our
learning” (

Romans 15:4).
That which is set before us more abstractly in the epistles is rendered easier
to understand by means of the concrete and personal illustrations supplied
under the previous dispensations, when figures and symbols were
employed more freely. Noah and his family in the ark preserved from the
flood which swept away the world of the ungodly; the Hebrews finding
security under the blood of the pascal lamb when the angel of death slew
all the firstborn of the Egyptians; healing being conveyed by faith’s look at
the brazen serpent on the pole; the cities of refuge affording asylum to the
manslayer who fled for refuge from the avenger of blood, are so many
examples of simple yet graphic prefigurations of different aspects of the
redemption which is found in Christ Jesus. Another is before us here in 2
Kings 5..117
Before taking up the spiritual meaning of what is recorded of Naaman, one
thing mentioned about him deserves separate notice, and we will look at it
now so that our main line of thought may not be broken into later on. In
the opening verse of 2 Kings 5, it is stated that Naaman was
“a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the
LORD had given deliverance [victory] unto Syria.”
This teaches us that there can be no success in any sphere of life unless
God gives it, for
“the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to
direct his steps” (

Jeremiah 10:23),
still less to insure their outcome.
“Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it
[as was made evident when God brought to nought the lofty
ambitions of those erecting the tower of Babel!]: except the LORD
keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (

Psalm 127:1)
— as Belshazzar discovered, when the Medes surprised and overcame his
sentinels and captured Babylon.
Not only can there be no success in any human undertaking unless the Lord
is pleased to prosper the same, but He exercises His own sovereignty in the
instruments or agents employed in the carrying out of His purposes,
whether it be in the communicating of blessings or the execution of
judgments. It is therefore to be duly observed that it was not because
Naaman was a good man that the Lord caused his military efforts to thrive;
far from it, for he was an idolator, a worshiper of Rimmon. Moreover, not
only was he a stranger to God spiritually but he was a leper, and therefore
ceremonially unclean, shut out by the Mosaic law. From this we may learn
that when the Most High is pleased to do so, He makes use of the wicked
as well as the righteous — a truth which needs pressing on the attention of
the world today. Temporal success is far from being an evidence that the
blessing of God rests upon either the person or the nation enjoying it. All
men are in God’s hands to employ as and where He pleases — as truly so
in the political and military realms as in the churches..118
Six things (the number of man) are here recorded about Naaman.
(1) He was “captain of the host of the king of Syria.” In modern
language this would be commander-in-chief of the king’s army.
Whether or not he had risen from the ranks we cannot be sure, though
the reference to his “valor” suggests that he had been promoted from a
lower office. Whether that was so or not, he now occupied a position
of prominence, being at the summit of his profession.
(2) He was “a great man with his master.” It has been by no means
always the case that the head of the military forces was greatly
esteemed by his master. History records many instances where the
reigning monarch has been jealous of the popularity enjoyed by the
general, fearful in some cases that he would use his powerful influence
against the interests of the throne. But it was quite otherwise in this
case, for as the sequel goes on to show, the king of Syria was warmly
devoted to the person of his military chieftain.
(3) “And honorable.” Far from the king’s slighting Naaman and
keeping him in the background, he stood high in the royal favor.
Naaman had furthered the interests of his kingdom securing notable
victories for his forces, and his master was not slow to show his
appreciation and reward his valorous general. The brilliant exploits of
many a brave officer have passed unnoticed by the powers that be, but
not so here.
(4) His military success is here directly ascribed to God, for our
passage goes on to say, “by him the LORD had given deliverance unto
Syria.” The blessing of heaven had attended him and crowned his
efforts, and therein he was favored above many. Not that this intimated
he personally enjoyed the approbation of God, but that divine
providence made use of him in accomplishing His will.
(5) He was naturally endowed with qualities which are highly esteemed
among men, being possessed of great bravery and fortitude, for we are
told, “he was also a mighty man in valor” — daring and fearless — and
thus well equipped for his calling.
It might well be asked, What more could any man desire? Did he not
possess everything which is most highly prized by the children of this.119
world? What he not what they would designate “the darling of fortune,”
having all that the human heart could wish? He had, as men express it,
“made good in life.” He occupied a most enviable position. He possessed
those traits which were admired by his fellows. He had served his country
well and stood high in the king’s regard and favor.
Even so there was a dark cloud on his horizon. There was something which
not only thoroughly spoiled the present for him, but took away all hope for
the future. For,
(6) “he was a leper.” Here was the tragic exception. Here was that
which cast its awful shadow over everything else. He was the victim of
a loathsome and incurable disease. He was a pitiful and repulsive
object, with no prospect whatever of any improvement in his condition.
Yes, my reader, the highly-privileged and honored Naaman was a leper,
and as such he portrayed what you are and what I am by nature. God’s
Word does not flatter man: it lays him in the dust — which is one reason
why it is so unpalatable to the great majority of people. It is the Word of
truth, and therefore instead of painting flattering pictures of human nature,
it represents things as they actually are. Instead of lauding man, it abases
him. Instead of speaking of the dignity and nobility of human nature, it
declares it to be leprous — sinful, corrupt, depraved, defiled. Instead of
eulogizing human progress, it insists that “every man at his best state is
altogether vanity” (

Psalm 39:5). And when the Holy Scriptures define
man’s attitude toward and relationship with God, they insist that
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that
understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God”

Romans 3:10-11).
They declare that we are His enemies by our wicked works (

1:21), and that consequently we are under the condemnation and curse of
God’s law, and that His holy wrath abides on us (

John 3:36).
The Word of truth declares that by nature all of us are spiritual lepers, foul
and filthy, unfit for the divine presence: “being alienated from the life of
God” (

Ephesians 4:18). You may occupy a good position in this world,
even an eminent station in the affairs of this life; you may have made good
in your vocation and wrought praiseworthy achievements, by human
standards; you may be honorable in the sight of your fellows, but how do
you appear in the eyes of God? A leper, one whom His law pronounces.120
unclean, one who is utterly unfit for His holy presence. That is the first
outstanding thing; the dominant lesson taught by our present passage. As it
was with Naaman, so it is with you: a vast difference between his
circumstances and his condition. There was the horrible and tragic
exception: “a great man… but a leper”!
We would not be faithful to our calling were we to glide over that in God’s
Word which is distasteful to proud flesh and blood. Nor would we be
faithful to our readers if we glossed over their frightful and fatal natural
condition. It is in their souls’ interests they should face this humiliating and
unpleasant fact: that in God’s sight they are spiritual lepers. But we must
individualize it. Have you, my reader, realized this fact in your own case?
Have you seen yourself in God’s light? Are you aware that your soul is
suffering from a disease that neither you nor any human being can cure? It
is so, whether you realize it or not. The Scriptures declare that from the
sole of your foot to the crown of your head there is no soundness in you,
yes, that in the sight of the holy one, you are a mass of “wounds, and
bruises, and putrifying sores” (

Isaiah 1:6). Only as you penitently accept
that divine verdict is there any hope for you.
All disease is both the fruit and the evidence of sin, as was plainly intimated
to Israel. Under the Levitical law God might well have required separate
purifications for every form of disease. But He did not, and thereby He
displayed His tenderness and mercy. Had such a multiplicity of ceremonial
observances been required it would have constituted an intolerable burden.
He therefore singled out one disease as a standing object lesson, one that
could not fail to be a fit representation and most effective symbol of sin.
This disease was white leprosy, described with much minuteness of detail
in Leviticus 13 and 14. Leprosy, then, was not only a real but a typical
disease, corresponding in a most solemn and striking manner to that fearful
malady — sin — with which we are infected from the center to the
circumference of our being. While it is true that the type is only intelligible
in the light of its antitype, the shadow in the presence of its substance, yet
the former is often an aid to the understanding of the latter.
That the disease of leprosy was designed to convey a representation of the
malady of sin appears from these considerations.
(1) The ceremonial purification whereby the stain of leprosy was
cleansed pointed to the Lord Jesus as making atonement for the
cleansing of His people..121
(2) It was not a physician but the high priest who was the person
specifically appointed to deal with the leper.
(3) There was no prescribed remedy for it; it could only be cured by a
direct miracle.
(4) The leper was cut off from the dwelling place of God and the
tabernacle of His congregation, being put “outside the camp.” Thus it
will be seen from these circumstances that leprosy was removed from
the catalog of ordinary diseases, and had stamped upon it a peculiar
and typical character. It was a visible sign of how God regarded the
sinner: as one unsuited to the presence of Himself and His people. How
unspeakably blessed then, to discover that, though not the first He
performed, yet the first individual miracle of Christ’s recorded in the
New Testament is His healing of the leper (

Matthew 8:2-4).
For the particular benefit of young preachers and for the general instruction
of all, we will close this chapter with an outline.
1. Leprosy has an insignificant beginning. To the nonobservant eye it is
almost imperceptible. It starts as “a rising, a scab, or bright spot”

Leviticus 13:2). It is so trivial that usually no attention is paid to it.
Little or no warning is given of the fearful havoc it will work. Was it not
thus with the entrance of sin into this world? To the natural man the eating
of the forbidden fruit by our first parents appears a very small matter,
altogether incommensurate with the awful effects it produced. The
unregenerate discern not that sin is deserving of and exposes them to
eternal destruction. They regard it as a trifle, unduly magnified by
2. Leprosy is inherited. It is a communicable disease. It poisons the blood,
and so is readily transmitted from parent to child. It is so with sin.
“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so
death passed upon all men, for that all sinned” (

Romans 5:12).
None has escaped this dreadful entail.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother
conceive me” (

Psalm 51:5)
is equally true of every member of Adam’s race. None is born spiritually
pure; depravity is communicated in every instance from sire to son, from.122
mother to daughter. Human nature was corrupted at its fountainhead, and
therefore all the streams issuing therefrom are polluted.
3. Leprosy works insidiously and almost imperceptibly. It is a disease
which is attended by little pain; only in its later stages, when its horrible
effects reveal themselves, is it unmistakeably manifest. And thus it is with
that most awful of all maladies. Sin is subtle and sly, so that for the most
part its subjects are quite unconscious of its workings. Hence we read of
“the deceitfulness of sin” (

Hebrews 3:13). It is not until the Spirit
convicts, that one is made aware of the awfulness and extent of sin, and
begins to feel “the plague of his own heart” (

1 Kings 8:38). Yes, it is
not until a person is born again that he learns his very nature is depraved.
Only as the sinner grows old in sin does he discover what a fearful hold his
lusts have upon him.
4. Leprosy spreads with deadly rapidity. Though it begins with certain
spots in the skin which are small at first, they gradually increase in size;
slowly but surely the whole body is affected. The corruption extends
inwardly while it spreads outwardly, vitiating even the bones and marrow.
Like a locust on the twig of a tree, it continues eating its way through the
flesh, till nothing but the skeleton is left. This is what sin has done in man;
it has corrupted every part of his being, so that he is totally depraved. No
faculty, no member of his complex constitution has escaped defilement.
Heart, mind, will, conscience — spirit and soul and body — are equally
“I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”

Romans 7:18).
5. Leprosy is highly infectious. Inherited inwardly, contagious outwardly.
The leper communicates his horrible disease to others wherever he goes.
That is why he was quarantined under the Mosaic law, and when he saw
anyone approaching, he was required to give warning by crying, “Unclean,
unclean.” The analogy continues to hold good. Sin is a malady which is not
only inherited by nature, but it is developed by association with the wicked.
“Evil communications corrupt good manners” (

1 Corinthians 15:33).
That is why the righteous are bidden,
“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil
men. Avoid it [as a plague], pass not by it, turn from it, and pass
away” (

Proverbs 4:4-5)..123
Such repetition bespeaks our danger and intimates how slow we are to be
warned against it.
“Shun profane and vain babblings:… their word will eat as doth a
canker” (

2 Timothy 2:16-17).
6. Leprosy is peculiarly loathsome. There is nothing more repellent to the
eye than to look upon one on whom this awful disease has obtained firm
hold. Except with the most callous, despite one’s pity, he or she is obliged
to turn away from such a nauseating sight with a shudder. Under Judaism
there was no physician who ministered to the leper, and hence it is said of
his putrifying sores that
“they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with
ointment” (

Isaiah 1:6).
The leper may well appropriate to himself the language of Job,
“All my inward [or ‘intimate’] friends abhorred me: and they whom
I love are turned against me” (

Job 19:19).
All of which is a figure of how infinitely more repellent is the sinner in the
sight of Him who is
“of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity”

Habakkuk 1:13).
7. Leprosy is a state of living death. There is a discoloration of the skin,
loss of sensation, and spreading ulceration. The fingers, toes, and nose
atrophy. Vision is impaired and sometimes blindness results. As one has
said, “The leper is a walking sepulcher.” And this is precisely what sin is: a
state of spiritual death — a living on the natural side of existence, but dead
to all things spiritual. Thus we find an apostle declaring “she that liveth in
pleasure is dead while she liveth” (

1 Timothy 5:6). The natural man is
“dead in trespasses and sins” (

Ephesians 2:1); he is alive sinward and
worldward but dead Godward.
8. Leprosy was dealt with by banishment. No leper was allowed to remain
in the congregation of Israel. The terms of the Mosaic law were most
“he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be”

Leviticus 13:46)..124
In the center of the camp was Jehovah’s abode, and around His tabernacle
were grouped His covenant people. From them the leper was excluded.
How rigidly that was enforced may be seen from the fact than even
Miriam, the sister of Moses (

Numbers 12:10-15), and Uzziah the king

2 Kings 15:5) were not treated as exceptions. The leper was deprived
of all political and ecclesiastical privileges, dealt with as one dead, excluded
from fellowship. It is a visible sign of how God regards the sinner, for sin
shuts out from His presence (

Isaiah 59:2;

2 Thessalonians 1:9).
9. Leprosy makes its victim an object of shame. It could not be otherwise.
Robbing its subject of the bloom of health, replacing it with that which is
hideous. Excluding him from God and His people, placing him outside the
pale of decency. Consequently the leper was required to carry about with
him every mark of humiliation and distress. The law specified that
“his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a
covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean”

Leviticus 13:45).
What a spectacle! What a picture of abject misery! What a solemn
portrayal of the natural man! Sin has marred the features of God’s image,
in whose likeness man was originally made, and stamped upon him the
marks of the devil.
10. Leprosy was incurable so far as the Old Testament was concerned.
One really stricken with this disease was beyond all human aid. The
outcome was inevitably fatal. Modern medical science has reported some
cured cases; and by lengthy treatment with sulfone drugs, the tubercular
form is usually arrestable. But there is no sure cure; research still goes on.
In like manner sin is beyond human cure; it cannot be eradicated. No
power of will or effort of mind can cope with it. Neither legislation nor
reformation is of any avail. Education and culture are equally impotent.
Sooner can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots than
those do good who are accustomed to do evil (

Jeremiah 13:23).
But what is beyond the power of man is possible with God. Where the
science of the ages stands helpless, the Savior manifests His sufficiency.
“He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God
by him” (

Hebrews 7:25).
To the leper He said,.125
“I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed”

Matthew 8:3).
Blessed, thrice blessed is that! In view of the ten points above, how
profoundly thankful every Christian should be that
“the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”

1 John 1:7)..126
IN THE PRECEDING ARTICLE our attention was confined to the subject of
this miracle, namely Naaman, the Syrian, who was stricken with the
horrible disease of leprosy — a striking type of the natural man, corrupted
by sin, unfit for the presence of a holy God. The most fearful thing of all
was that leprosy was incurable by the hand of man. Naaman was quite
incapable of ridding himself of his terrible burden. No matter what plan he
followed, what attempts he made, no help or relief was to be obtained from
self-efforts. (Have you realized the truth of this, in its spiritual application,
my reader? There is no deliverance from sin, no salvation for your soul by
anything that you can do.) There was no physician in Syria who could
effect a cure; no matter what fee Naaman offered, what quack he applied
to, none was of any avail. And such is the case of each of us by nature. Our
spiritual malady lies deeper than any human hand can reach; our condition
is too desperate for any religious practitioner to cure. Man can no more
deliver himself, or his fellows, from the guilt and defilement of sin than he
can create a world.
Most solemnly was the fact shadowed forth under the system of Judaism.
No remedy was provided for this fearful disease under the Mosaic law; no
directions were given to Israel’s priesthood to make use of any application,
either outward or inward. The leper’s healing was left entirely to God. All
the high priest of the Hebrews could do was to examine closely the various
symptoms of the complaint, have the leper excluded from his fellows, and
leave him to the disposal of the Lord. Whether the sufferer was healed or
not, whether he lived or died, was wholly to be decided by the Almighty.
So it is in grace. There is no possible salvation for any sinner except at the
hands of God. There is no other possible alternative, no other prospect
before the sinner than to die a wretched death and enter a hopeless eternity
unless distinguishing mercy intervenes, unless a sovereign God is pleased
to work a miracle of grace within him. It is entirely a matter of His will and
power. Again we ask, do you realize that fact, my reader? God is your.127
Maker, and He is the determiner of your destiny. You are clay in His hands
to do with as He pleases.
“And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought
away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited
on Naaman’s wife” (

2 Kings 5:2).
In one of the many periods in which the name of Jehovah was blasphemed
among the heathen, through the unfaithfulness of His ancient people, a
little Jewish maid was taken captive by the Syrians. In the dividing of the
spoils, she fell into the hands of Naaman the commander of the Syrian
forces. Observe the series of contrasts between them. He was a Gentile,
she a hated Jew. He was a “great man,” she but “a little maid.” He was
“Naaman,” she was left unnamed. He was “captain of the host of Syria,”
while she was captive in the enemy’s territory. But he was a leper; while
strange to say, she was made a contributing instrument unto his healing. It
has ever been God’s way to make use of the despised and feeble, and often
in circumstances which seem strange to human wisdom. Let us take note
how this verse teaches us a most important lesson in connection with the
mysteries of divine providence.
“And had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid.”
Visualize the scene. One fair morning the peace of Samaria was rudely
broken. The tramp of a hostile army was heard in the land. A cruel foe was
at hand. The Syrians had invaded the country, and heaven was silent. No
scourge from God smote the enemy; instead, he was permitted to carry
away some of the covenant people. Among the captives was “a little maid.”
Ah, that may mean little to us today, but it meant much to certain people at
that day. A home was rendered desolate! Seek to enter into the feelings of
her parents as their young daughter was ruthlessly snatched from them.
Think of the anguish of her poor mother, wondering what would become
of her. Think of her grief-stricken father in his helplessness, unable to
rescue her. Endeavor to contemplate what would be the state of mind of
the little girl herself as she was carried away by heathen to a strange
country. Bring before your mind’s eye the whole painful incident until it
lives before you.
Do you not suppose, dear friend, that both the maid and her parents were
greatly perplexed? Must they not have been sorely tried by this mysterious.128
providence? Why, oh why? must have been asked by them a hundred times.
Why had God allowed the joy of their home to be shattered? If the maiden
had reflected at all, must she have thought her lot strange. Why was she, a
favored daughter of Abraham, now a servant in Naaman’s household? Why
this enforced separation from her parents? Why this cruel captivity? Such
questions she might have asked at first, and asked in vain. Ah, does the
reader perceive the point we are leading up to? It is this: God had a good
reason for this trial. He was shaping things in His own, unfathomable way
for the outworking of His good and wise purpose. Nothing happens in this
world by mere chance. A predestinating God has planned every detail in
our lives. “My times are in thy hand” (

Psalm 31:15). He “hath
determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation”

Acts 17:26). What a resting place for our poor hearts does that grand
truth supply!
It was God who directed that this little maid of Israel should become a
member of Naaman’s household. And why? That she might be a link in the
chain which ended not only in the healing of his leprosy, but also most
probably in the salvation of his soul. Here then is the important lesson for
us to take to heart from this incident. Here is the light which it casts upon
the mysterious ways of God in providence: He has a wise and good reason
behind each of the perplexing and heart-exercising trials which enter our
lives. The particular reason for each trial is frequently concealed from us at
the time it comes upon us; if it were not, there would be no room for the
exercise of faith and patience in it. But just as surely as God had a good
reason for allowing the happiness of this Hebrew household to be
darkened, so He has in ordering whatever sorrow has entered your life. It
was the sequel which made manifest God’s gracious design; and it is for
the sequel you must quietly and trustfully wait. This incident is among the
things recorded in the Old Testament
“for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the
scriptures might have hope” (

Romans 15:4).
“And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the
prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy”

2 Kings 5:3).
This is surely most striking and blessed. It would have been natural for this
young girl to have yielded to a spirit of enmity against the man who had
snatched her away from her own home, to have entertained hatred for him,.129
and to have been maliciously pleased that he was so afflicted in his body.
The fall not only alienated man from God but it radically changed his
attitude toward his fellowmen, evidenced at a very early date by Cain’s
murder of his brother Abel. Human depravity has poisoned every
relationship; in their unregenerate state God’s own people are described as
“hateful, and hating one another” (

Titus 3:3). But instead of cherishing
ill feelings against her captor, this little maid was concerned about his
condition and solicitous about his welfare. Apparently she had been
brought up in the nurture of the Lord, and the seeds planted by godly
parents now sprang up and bore fruit in her young life. Beautiful is it to
here behold grace triumphing over the flesh.
How this little maid puts us to shame! How sinfully have we conducted
ourselves when the providence of God crossed our wills and brought us
into situations for which we had no liking! What risings of rebellion within
us, what complaining at our circumstances. So far from being a blessing to
those with whom we came into contact, we were a stumblingblock to
them. Has not both writer and reader much cause to bow his head in shame
at the recollection of such grievous failures! Was not this child placed in
uncongenial circumstances and a most trying situation? Yet there was
neither murmuring against God nor bitterness toward her captor. Instead,
she bore faithful testimony to the God of Israel and was moved with
compassion toward her leprous master. What a beautiful exemplification of
the sufficiency of divine grace! She remembered the Lord in the house of
her bondage and spoke of His servant the prophet. How we need to turn
this into earnest prayer, that we too may glorify the Lord “in the fires”

Isaiah 24:15).
No position would seem more desolate than this defenseless maiden in the
house of her proud captors, and no situation could promise fewer openings
for usefulness. But though her opportunities were limited, she made the
most of them. She despised not the day of small things, but sought to turn
it to advantage. She did not conclude it was useless for her to open her
mouth, nor argue that an audience of only one person was not worth
addressing. No, in a simple but earnest manner, she proclaimed the good
news that there was salvation for even the leper, for the very name “Elisha”
meant “the salvation of God.”
“And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the
maid that is of the land of Israel” (

2 Kings 5:4)..130
A very incidental and apparently trivial statement is this, yet being a part of
God’s eternal truth it is not to be passed over lightly and hurriedly. We are
ever the losers by such irreverent treatment of the Word. There is nothing
meaningless in that Holy volume; each single verse in it sparkles with
beauty if we view it in the right light and attentively survey it. It is so here.
First, this verse informs us that the little maid’s words to her mistress did
not pass unheeded. They might have done so, humanly speaking, for it
would be quite natural for those about her — a mere child, a foreigner in
their midst — to have paid no attention to her remarks. Even had they
done so, surely such a statement as she had made must have sounded like
foolish boasting. If the best physicians in Syria were helpless in the
presence of leprosy, who would credit that a man of another religion, in
despised Samaria, should be able to heal him! But strange as it may seem,
her words were heeded.
Second, in this we must see the hand of God.
“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even
both of them” (

Proverbs 20:12)
— true alike both physically and spiritually. Yet how little is this realized
today, when the self-sufficiency of man is proclaimed on every side and the
operations of the Most High are so much ignored. All around us are those
who pay no heed to the declarations of Holy Writ and who perceive no
beauty in Christ that they should desire Him. Who then has given to thee
an ear that responds to the truth and an eye that perceives its divine origin?
And every real Christian will answer, The God of all grace. As it was the
Lord who opened the heart of Lydia that she “took unto her [Greek] the
things which were spoken” (

Acts 16:14), so He caused those about her
to listen to the words of this little maid. Ah, my reader, make no mistake
upon this point: the most faithful sermon from the pulpit falls upon deaf
ears unless the Holy Spirit operates; whereas the simplest utterance of a
child can become effectual through God.
Third, this made manifest the effect of the maid’s words upon her
mistress. She communicated it to another, and this other went in and
acquainted the king of the same. Thus

2 Kings 5:4 reveals to us one of
the links in the chain that eventually drew Naaman to Elisha and resulted in
his healing. It also shows how our words are heard and often reported to
others, thereby both warning and encouraging us of the power of the.131
tongue. This will be made fully manifest in the day to come. Nothing which
has been done for God’s glory will be lost. When the history of this world
is completed, God will make known before an assembled universe what
was spoken for Him (

Malachi 3:16;

Luke 12:3).
Finally, we are shown here how God is pleased to make use of “little” and
despised things. A maid in captivity. Who would expect her to do service
for the Lord? Who would be inclined to listen to her voice? Her age, her
nationality, her position were all against her. Yet because she used her
opportunity and bore witness to her mistress, her simple message reached
the ears of the king of Syria. The Lord grant us to be faithful wherever He
has placed us.
“And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto
the king of Israel” (

2 Kings 5:5).
Here also we must see the hand of the Lord. Had He not worked upon the
king too, the message would have produced no effect on his majesty. Why
should that monarch pay any attention to the utterance of a kitchen maid?
Ah, my reader, when God has a design of mercy, He works at both ends of
the line. He not only gives the message to the messenger, but He opens the
heart of its recipient to heed it. He who bade Philip take a journey into the
desert, also prepared the Ethiopian eunuch for his approach (

Acts 8:26-
31). He who overcame Peter’s scruples to go unto the Gentiles, also
inclined Cornelius and his household to be “present before God, to hear all
things that were commanded him of God (

Acts 10:33).
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of
water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (

Proverbs 21:1).
Strikingly did that receive illustration here. Yet though God wrought, in
the instance now before us, it did not please Him to use the king as an
“Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel”

2 Kings 5:5).
As will appear in the sequel, the Lord had a reason for permitting the king
to act this way. Poor Naaman was now misdirected by the carnal wisdom
of his master. The little maid had said nothing about “the king of Israel,”.132
but had specified “the prophet that is in Samaria.” It would have been
much better for the leper to have heeded more closely her directions; he
would have been spared needless trouble. Yet how true to life is the picture
here presented. How often is the sinner, who has been awakened to his
desperate condition, wrongly counseled and turned aside to cisterns which
hold no water! Rarely does a troubled soul find relief at once. More
frequently his experience is like that of the old woman in

Mark 5:26
who tried “many physicians” in vain before she came to Christ; or like the
prodigal son when he “began to be in want” and went and joined himself to
a citizen of the far country and got nothing better than “the husks that the
swine did eat” (

Luke 15:14-18), before he sought his father.
“And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six
thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment”

2 Kings 5:5).
It has been computed that the value of these things would be at least
seventy thousand dollars today. The Hebrew maid has said nothing of the
need for silver and gold; but knowing nothing of the grace of God,
Naaman was prepared to pay handsomely for his healing. Again we
exclaim, how true to life is this picture. How many there are who think the
“gift of God” may be purchased (

Acts 8:20) — if not literally with
money, yet by works of righteousness and religious performances. And
even where that delusion has been removed, another equally erroneous
often takes its place: the idea that a heavily-burdened conscience, a deep
sense of personal unworthiness, accompanied by sighs and tears and
groans, is the required qualification for applying to Christ and the ground
of peace before God. Fatal mistake. “Without money and without price”

Isaiah 55:1) excludes all frames, feelings, and experiences, as truly as it
does the paying of a priest.
“And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when
this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman
my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he
rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that
this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?.133
wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel
against me” (

2 Kings 5:6-7).
How this made manifest the apostate condition of Israel at that time and
shows why God had moved the Syrians to oppress them! There was some
excuse for the king of Syria acting as he did, for he was a heathen; but
there was none for the king of Israel. Instead of getting down on his knees
and spreading this letter before the Lord, as a later king of Israel did

Isaiah 37:14), he acted like an infidel; instead of seeing in this appeal
an opportunity for Jehovah to display His grace and glory, he thought only
of himself.
What a contrast was there here between the witness of the little maid and
the conduct of the king of Israel. Yet his meanness served as a foil to set
off her noble qualities. She was in lowly and distressing circumstances,
whereas he was a monarch upon the throne. Yet she was concerned about
the welfare of her master, while he thought only of himself and kingdom.
She had implicit confidence in God and spoke of His prophet, whereas
neither God nor His servant had any place in the king’s mind. Some may
think from a first reading of

2 Kings 5:7 that the king’s language sounds
both humble and pious, but a pondering of it indicates it was but the
utterance of pride and unbelief. Knowing not the Lord, he saw in this
appeal of Benhadad’s nothing but a veiled threat to humiliate him, and he
was filled with fear. Had he sought God, his terror would have soon been
quieted and a way of relief shown him; but he was a stranger to Him, and
evidenced no faith even in the idols he worshiped. Yet this made the more
illustrious the marvel of the miracle which followed.
Perhaps the Christian reader is tempted to congratulate himself that there is
nothing for him in

2 Kings 5:7. If so, such complacency may be
premature. Are you quite sure, friend, that there has been no parallel in
your past conduct to that of Israel’s king? Were you never guilty of the
thing wherein he failed? When some heavy demand was made upon you,
some real test or trial confronted you, did you never respond by saying, I
am not sufficient for this; it is quite beyond my feeble powers? Possibly you
imagined that was a pious acknowledgment of your weakness, when in
reality it was a voicing of your unbelief. True, the Christian is impotent in
himself; so, too is the non-Christian. Is then the saint no better off than the
ungodly? If the Christian continues impotent, the fault is his. God’s grace is
sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Feeble knees.134
and hands bring no glory to God. He has bidden us, “Be strong in the
Lord, and in the power of his might” (

Ephesians 6:10). Then cease
imitating this defeatist attitude of Israel’s king, and,
“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (

2 Timothy 2:1)..135
IN THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE we emphasized the secret operations of God in
inclining one and another to pay attention to the message of the little
Hebrew maid. It was God who gave the hearing ear to both Naaman’s wife
and the king of Syria. Perhaps some have thought that such was not the
case with the king of Israel! No, it was not. Instead of sharing her
confidence and cooperating with her effort, he was skeptical and
antagonistic. Therein we may perceive God’s sovereignty. He does not
work in all alike, being absolutely free to do as He pleases. He opens the
eyes of some but leaves others in their blindness. This is God’s high and
awful prerogative:
“Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom
he will he hardeneth” (

Romans 9:18).
This is what supplies the key to God’s dealings with men and which
explains the course of evangelical history. Clearly is that solemn principle
exemplified in the previous chapter, and we should be unfaithful as an
expositor if we deliberately ignored it as so many now do.
“And it came to pass when the king of Israel had read the letter,
that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make
alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his
leprosy?” (

2 Kings 5:7).
So utterly skeptical was Jehoram that he considered it not worthwhile even
to send for Elisha and confer with him. The prophet meant nothing to
Israel’s unbelieving king, and therefore he slighted him. Perhaps this strikes
the reader as strange, for the previous miracles Elisha had wrought must
have been well known. One would have thought his restoring of a dead
child to life would thoroughly authenticate him as an extraordinary man of
God. But did not the Lord Jesus publicly raise a dead man to life? And yet
within a few days both the leaders of the nation and the common people
clamored for His crucifixion! And is it any different in our day? Have we
not witnessed providential marvels, divine interpositions both of mercy and.136
judgment? and what effect have they had on our evil generation? Jehoram’s
conduct is easily accounted for: “the carnal mind is enmity against God”

Romans 8:7), and that enmity evidenced itself by his slighting God’s
accredited servant.
“And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the
king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he went to the king, saying,
Wherefore has thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and
he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (

2 Kings 5:8).
The slighted Elisha pocketed his pride and communicated with the king,
rightly concluding that his own feelings were not worth considering where
the glory of God was concerned.
Naaman came into the land of Israel, expecting relief from a
prophet of the God of Israel, and Elisha would by no means have
him go back disappointed, lest he should conclude that Jehovah
was like the gods of the nations, and as unable to do good or evil as
they were. On the contrary he would have it known that God has “a
prophet in Israel” by whom He performed such cures as none of the
heathen prophets, priests, or physicians could effect; and which
were far beyond all the power of the mightiest monarchs (Scott).
The “counsel of the LORD, that shall stand,” whatever devices were in
Jehoram’s heart to the contrary (

Proverbs 19:21).
“The righteous are bold as a lion.” Elisha not only rebuked the king for his
unbelieving fears but summarily gave him instructions concerning Naaman.
However unwelcome might be his interference, that deterred him not. The
real servant of God does not seek to please men, but rather to execute the
commission he has received from on high. It is true that the prophets, like
the apostles, were endowed with extraordinary powers, and therefore they
are not in all things models for us today; nevertheless the gospel minister is
not to cringe before anyone. It is his duty to denounce unbelief and to
proclaim that the living God is ever ready to honor those who honor Him
and to work wonders in response to genuine faith. As God overruled the
king of Syria’s misdirecting of Naaman, so He now overcame the
skepticism of the king of Israel by moving him to respond to Elisha’s
demand — thereby demonstrating that the words of the little maid were no
idle boast and her confidence in God no misplaced one..137
“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood
at the door of the house of Elisha” (

2 Kings 5:9).
Naaman before the prophet’s abode may be regarded as a picture of the
natural man in his sins, not yet stripped of his self-righteousness, nor aware
that he is entirely dependent on divine mercy, having no title or claim to
receive any favor at God’s hand. The fact that he rode in a chariot
mitigated his terrible condition not one iota. No matter how rich the
apparel that covered his body, though it might hide from human view his
loathsome disease, it availed nothing for the removal of it. And as the
valuables he had brought with him could not procure his healing, neither
can the cultivation of the most noble character nor the performance of the
most praiseworthy conduct in human esteem merit the approbation of God.
Salvation is wholly of divine grace and cannot be earned by the creature:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly
through Jesus Christ our Savior” (

Titus 3:5-6).
However much it might be in accord with the principles and sentiments
which regulate fallen human nature, there was surely something most
incongruous in the scene now before us. Here was a poor creature stricken
with a most horrible disease, and yet we behold him seated in a chariot.
Here was one smitten by a malady no physician could heal, surrounded by
official pomp. Here was one entirely dependent upon the divine bounty, yet
one whose horses were laden with silver and gold. Do we not behold in
him, then, a representative not only of the natural man in his sins, but one
filled with a sense of his own importance and bloated with pride! Such is
precisely the case with each of us by nature. Totally depraved though we
be, alienated from God, criminals condemned by His holy law, our minds at
enmity with Him, dead in trespasses and sins, yet until a miracle of grace is
wrought within and the abcess of our pride is lanced, we are puffed up with
self-righteousness, refuse to acknowledge we deserve anything but eternal
punishment, and imagine we are entitled to God’s favorable regard.
Not only does Naaman here fitly portray the self-importance of the natural
man while unregenerate, but as hinted above he also illustrates the fact that
the sinner imagines he can gain God’s approbation and purchase his
salvation. The costly things which the Syrian had brought with him were
obviously designed to ingratiate himself in the eyes of the prophet and pay.138
for his cure. Following such a policy was of course quite natural, and
therefore it shows what is the native thought of every man. He supposes
that a dutiful regard of religious performances will obtain for him the
favorable notice of God, that his fastings and prayers, church-attendance
and contributing to its upkeep, will more than counterbalance his demerits.
Such an insane idea is by no means confined to Buddhists and Romanists
but is common to the whole human family. It is for this reason we have to
be assured,
“By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast”

Ephesians 2:8-9).
Spiritually speaking, every man is bankrupt, a pauper, and salvation is
entirely gratis, a matter of charity.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:
for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned” (

1 Corinthians 2:14).
This is true alike of the most cultured and the thoroughly illiterate. No
amount of education or erudition fits one for the apprehension of spiritual
things. Man is blind, and his eyes must be opened before he can perceive
either the glory of God and His righteous claims or his own wretchedness
and deep needs. Not until a miracle of grace humbles his heart will he take
himself to the throne of grace in his true character; not until the Holy Spirit
works effectually within him will he come to Christ as an empty-handed
It is recorded that a famous artist met with a poor tramp and was so
impressed with his woebegone appearance and condition that he felt he
would make an apt subject for a drawing. He gave the tramp a little money
and his card and promised to pay him well if he would call at his house on
the following day and sit while he drew his picture. The next morning the
tramp arrived, but the artist’s intention was defeated. The tramp had
washed and shaved and so spruced himself that he was scarcely
Similarly does the natural man act when he first attempts to respond to the
gospel call. Instead of coming to the Lord just as he is in all his want and
woe, as one who is lost and undone, he supposes he must first make
himself more presentable by a process of reformation. Thus he busies.139
himself in mending his ways, improving his conduct, and performing pious
exercises, unaware that Christ “came not to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance” — to take their place in the dust before Him. What we have
just been dwelling upon receives striking illustration in the chapter before
us. Instead of sending Naaman directly to Elisha, Benhadad gave him a
letter of introduction to the king of Israel; and instead of casting himself on
the mercy of the prophet, he sent a costly fee to pay for the healing of his
commander-in-chief. We have seen the futility of his letter — the effect it
had upon its recipient; now we are to behold how his lavish outlay of
wealth produced no more favorable response from Elisha. Naaman had to
learn the humiliating truth that, where divine grace is concerned, the
millionaire stands on precisely the same level as the pauper.
“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in
Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou
shalt be clean” (

2 Kings 5:10).
As the representative of Him who deigned to wash the feet of His disciples,
the minister of the gospel must not decline the most menial service nor
despise the poorest person. Elisha has set us an example of both, for he
scorned not to minister to the physical needs of Elijah by washing his hands

2 Kings 3:11), and refused not to help the impoverished widow (

Kings 4:2). On the other hand, the servant of Christ is to be no sycophant,
toadying to those of affluence; nor is he to feed the pride of the self-important.
From the sequel it is evident Naaman considered that he, as a
“great man,” was entitled to deference, and probably felt that the prophet
ought to consider a favor or honor was now being shown him. But,
officially, Elisha was an ambassador of the King of kings; and with
becoming dignity, he let Naaman know that he was at no man’s beck and
call, though he failed not to inform him of the way in which healing was to
be obtained.
“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan
seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be
clean.” Here we see no servile obeisance nor owning of the mightiness of
Naaman. The prophet did not even greet him, nor so much as go out of his
house to meet him in person. Instead, he sent him a message by a servant.
Ah, my reader. God is no respecter of persons, nor should His ministers be..140
Incalculable harm has been wrought in churches by pastors pandering to
those in high places, for not only are the haughty injured thereby, but the
lowly are stumbled; and in consequence, the Holy Spirit is grieved and
quenched. God will not tolerate any parading of fleshly distinctions before
Him: “That no flesh should glory in his presence” (

1 Corinthians 1:29)
is the unrepealable decision. The most eminent and gifted of this world are
due no more consideration from the Most High than the most lowly, for
“there is no difference: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of
God” (

Romans 3:22-23). All alike have broken the law; all alike are
guilty before the supreme judge; all alike must be saved by sovereign grace,
if they be saved at all.
But there is another way in which we may regard the prophet’s conduct on
this occasion; not only did he maintain his official dignity, but he evidenced
personal humility and prudence, having his eye fixed on the glory of God.
It is not that he was indifferent to Naaman’s welfare. No, the fact that he
sent his servant out to him with the needful directions evidenced the
contrary. But Elisha knew full well that the all-important thing was not the
messenger, but the message. It mattered nothing who delivered the
message — himself or his servant; but it mattered everything that the God-given
word should be faithfully communicated. Elisha knew full well that
Naaman’s expectation lay in himself, so like a true “man of God” he
directed attention away from himself. What a needed lesson for us in this
person-exalting day. How much better would preachers serve souls and
honor their Master if, thus hidden, they occupied them with the gospel
instead of with themselves. It was in this self-effacing spirit that Paul
rebuked the person-worshipping Corinthians when he said,
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye
believed?” (

1 Corinthians 3:5).
So too our Lord’s forerunner who styled himself “the voice [heard but not
seen!] of one crying in the wilderness” (

John 1:23).
What was the force of “Go wash in Jordan seven times”? Let us give first a
general answer in the words of another.
When Naaman stood with his pompous retinue, and with all his
silver and gold at the door of Elisha, he appears before us as a
marked illustration of a sinner building on his own efforts after
righteousness. He seemed furnished with all that the heart could.141
desire, but in reality all his preparations were but a useless
incumberance, and the prophet soon gave him to understand this.
“Go wash” swept away all confidence in gold, silver, raiment,
retinue, the king’s letter, everything. It stripped Naaman of
everything, and reduced him to his true condition as a poor defiled
leper needing to be washed. It put no difference between the
illustrious commander-in-chief of the hosts of Syria, and the
poorest and meanest leper in all the coasts of Israel. The former
could do nothing less; the latter needed nothing more. Wealth
cannot remedy man’s ruin, and poverty cannot interfere with God’s
remedy. Nothing that a man has done need keep him out of heaven;
nothing that he can do will ever get him in. “Go wash” is the word
in every case.
But let us consider this “Go wash” more closely and ponder it in the light
of its connections. As one stricken with leprosy, Naaman pictures the
natural man in his fallen estate. And what is his outstanding and
distinguishing characteristic? Why, that he is a depraved creature, a sinner,
a rebel against God. And what is sin? From the negative side, it is failure to
submit to God’s authority and be subject to His law; positively, it is the
exercise of self-will, a determination to please myself; “we have turned
every one to his own way” (

Isaiah 53:6). If then a sinner inquires of
God’s servant the way of recovery, what is the first and fundamental thing
which needs to be told him? That self-will and self-pleasing must cease;
that he must submit himself to the will of God. And that is only another
way of saying that he must be converted, for “conversion” is a turning
round, a right about-face. And in order for conversion, repentance is the
essential requisite (

Acts 3:19). And in its final analysis, “repentance” is
taking sides with God against myself, judging myself, condemning myself,
bowing my will to His.
Again, sin is not only a revolt against God, but a deification of self. It is a
determination to gratify my own inclinations, it is saying, “I will be lord
over myself.” That was the bait which the serpent dangled before our first
parents when he tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit: “Ye shall be as
gods” (

Genesis 3:5). Casting off allegiance to God, man assumed an
attitude of independence and self-sufficience. Sin took possession of his
heart; he became proud, haughty, self righteous. If, then, such a creature is
to be recovered and restored to God, it must necessarily be by a process of
humbling him. The first design of the gospel is to put down human pride,.142
to lay man low before God. It was predicted by Isaiah when speaking of
gospel times,
“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of
men shall be bowed down” (

Isaiah 2:11).
And again,
“every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall
be made straight” (

Isaiah 40:4);
and therefore did our Lord begin His Sermon on the Mount by saying,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven”

Matthew 5:3).
That was the basic truth which the prophet pressed upon Naaman: that he
must abase himself before the God of Israel.
“Go wash in Jordan seven times” was but another way of saying to the
conceited Syrian,
“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit
yourselves therefore to God…. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and
purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and
weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to
heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall
lift you up” (

James 4:6-10).
Naaman must come down from off his “high horse” and take his proper
place before the Most High. Naaman must descend from his “chariot” and
evidence a lowly spirit. Naaman must “wash,” or “bathe” as the word is
often translated, in the waters of the Jordan; not once or twice but no less
than seven times, and thus completely renounce self. And the requirement
which God made of Naaman, my reader, is precisely the same as His
demand upon you, upon me: pride has to be mortified, self-will
relinquished, self-righteousness repudiated. Have we complied with this?
Have we renounced self-pleasing and surrendered to the divine scepter?
Have we given ourselves to the Lord (

2 Corinthians 8:5) to be ruled by
Him? If not, we have never been savingly converted.
In its ultimate significance, the “Go wash in Jordan seven times” had a
typical import, and in the light of the New Testament there is no difficulty.143
whatever in perceiving what that was. There is one provision, and one
only, which the amazing grace of God and the wondrous love of His Son
has made for the healing of spiritual lepers. It is that blessed “fountain”
which has been opened for sin and for uncleanness (

Zechariah 13:1).
That holy “fountain” had its rise at Calvary, when from the pierced side of
Christ “forthwith came there out blood and water” (

John 19:34). That
wondrous “fountain” which can cleanse the foulest was provided at the
incalculable cost of the crucifixion of Immanuel, and hence the washing in
“Jordan” which speaks of a point, beyond which there is no return. Here,
then, dear friend, is the evangelical significance of what has been before us.
If you have been made conscious of your depravity, ready to deny self,
willing to humble yourself into the dust before God, here is the divine
provision: a bath into which you may plunge by faith, and thereby obtain
proof that
“the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”

1 John 1:7).
If by grace you have already done so, then join the writer in exclaiming,
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own
blood… to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”

Revelation 1:5-6)..144
IN OUR LAST CHAPTER we dwelt mainly upon the requirement which was
made upon Naaman when he reached the prophet’s abode: “Go and wash
in Jordan seven times,” seeking to supply answers to, Why was he so
enjoined? What was the implication in his case? What beating has such a
demand upon men generally today? What is its deeper significance?
We saw that it was a requirement which revealed the uselessness and
worthlessness of Naaman’s attempt to purchase his healing. We showed
that it was a requirement which demanded the setting aside of his own will
and submitting himself to the will of Israel’s God. We pointed out that it
was a requirement which insisted that he must get down off his “high
horse” (descend from his chariot), humbling and abasing himself. We
intimated that it was a requirement which, typically, pointed to that
amazing provision of the grace of God for spiritual lepers, namely, the
“fountain opened… for sin and for uncleanness” (

Zechariah 13:1), and
by which alone defilement can be cleansed and iniquities blotted out.
“But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I
thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the
name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and
recover the leper” (

2 Kings 5:11).
In his own country he was a person of consequence, a “great man,”
commander-in-chief of the army, standing high in the favor of the king.
Here in Israel the prophet had treated him as a mere nobody, paying no
deference to him, employing a servant to convey his instructions. Naaman
was chagrined; his pride was wounded, and because his self-importance
had not been ministered to, he turned away in a huff. Elisha’s “Go and
wash in Jordan seven times” was not intended to signify the means of cure,
but was designed as a test of his heart, and strikingly did it serve its
purpose. It was a call to humble himself before Jehovah. It required the
repudiation of his own wisdom and the renunciation of self-pleasing; and
that is at direct variance with the inclinations of fallen human nature, so.145
much so that no one ever truly complied with this just demand of God’s
until He performed a miracle of grace in the soul.
Even the most humiliating providences are not sufficient in themselves to
humble the proud heart of man and render him submissive to the divine
will. One would think that a person so desperately afflicted as this poor
leper would have been meekened and ready to comply with the prophet’s
injunction. Ah, my reader, the seat of our moral disease lies too deep for
external things to reach it. So fearful is the blinding power of sin that it
causes its subjects to be puffed up with self-complacency and self-righteousness
and to imagine they are entitled to favorable treatment even
at the hands of the Most High. And does not that very spirit lurk in the
hearts of the regenerate! And it not only lurks there, but at times it moves
them to act like Naaman! Has not the writer and the Christian reader ever
come before the Lord with some pressing need and sought relief at His
hands, and then been angry because He responded to us in quite a different
way from what we expected and desired? Have we not had to bow our
heads for shame as He gently reproved us with His “Doest thou well to be
angry?” (

Jonah 4:4). Yes, there is much of this Naaman spirit that needs
to be mortified in each of us.
“Behold, I thought” said Naaman. Herein he supplies a true representation
of the natural man. The sinner has his own idea of how salvation is to be
obtained. It is true that opinions vary when it comes to the working out of
detail, yet all over the world fallen man has his own opinion of what is
suitable and needful. One man thinks he must perform some meritorious
deeds in order to obtain forgiveness. Another thinks the past can be atoned
for by turning over a new leaf and living right for the future. Yet another,
who has obtained a smattering of the gospel, thinks that by believing in
Christ he secures a passport to heaven, even though he continues to
indulge the flesh and retain his beloved idols. However much they may
differ in their self-concocted schemes, this one thing is common to them
all: “I thought.” And that “I thought” is put over against the Word and way
of God. They prefer the way that “seemeth right” to them; they insist on
following out their own theorizings; they pit their prejudices and
presuppositions against a “thus saith the Lord.” Reader, you perceive here
the folly of Naaman, but have you seen the madness of setting your own
thoughts against the authority of the living God!.146
And what was it that this foolish and haughty Syrian “thought”? Why this:
“He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the
LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.”
He was willing to be restored to health, but it must be in his own way — a
way in which his self-respect might be retained and his importance
acknowledged. He desired to be healed, provided he should also be duly
honored. He had come all the way from Syria to be rid of his leprosy, but
he was not prepared to receive cleansing in the manner of God’s
prescribing. What madness! What a demonstration that the carnal mind is
enmity against God! What proof of the fearful hold which Satan has over
his victims until a stronger one delivers them from his enthralling power!
Naaman had now received what the king of Israel had failed to give him —
full directions for his cure. There was no uncertainty about the prescription
nor of its efficacy, would he but submit to it. “Go and wash in Jordan seven
times… and thou shalt be clean.” But he felt slighted. Such instructions
suited not his inclinations; the divine requirement accorded not with the
conceits of his unhumbled heart.
What right had Naaman, a leper, to either argue or prescribe? He was a
petitioner and not a legislator; he was suing for a favor, and therefore was
in no position to advance any demands of his own. If such were the case
and situation of Naaman, how infinitely less has any depraved and guilty
sinner the right to make any terms with God! Man is a criminal, justly
pronounced guilty by the divine law. Mercy is his only hope, and it is
therefore for God to say in what way mercy is to be shown him and how
salvation is to be obtained. For this reason the Lord says not only,
“Let the wicked forsake his way,” but also adds “and the
unrighteous man his thoughts” (

Isaiah 55:7).
Man must repudiate his own ideas, abandon his own prejudices, turn away
from his own schemes, and reject his own preferences. If we are to enter
the kingdom of heaven, we must “become as little children” (

18:3). Alas, of the vast majority of our fellowmen it has to be said, that
they, “going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted
themselves unto the righteousness of God” (

Romans 10:3). They “will
not come to Christ that they might have life” (

John 5:40).
C. E. Stuart wrote,.147
In Naaman’s mind all was arranged. He pictured the scene to
himself, and made himself the foremost figure in the group — the
Gentile idolator waited on by the prophet of God. The incongruity
of this he did not then see. We see it. God would visit him in grace,
but as one who had no ground of his own to stand on. As a sinner
He could meet him. As a leper He could heal him. As the captain of
the hosts of the king of Syria He would not receive him. What
place has a sinner before God save that of one to whom mercy can
be shown? What place is suited to the leper save that outside the
camp? Naaman has to learn his place. He may be wroth with the
prophet, but he cannot move him. Before him he is only a leper,
whatever he may appear before others. Learning his place, he has to
learn his vileness. He imagined Elisha would have struck his hand
over the place. A sign, a scene, he expected — not a mere word.
He did not know what a defiling object he was. The priest looked
on the leper to judge whether he was leprous or not. He touched
him only when he was clean (Leviticus 14). Of Naaman’s leprosy
there was no doubt, for he had come to be healed of it. To touch
him ere he was clean would only have defiled the prophet! But
further, if he had been able to touch him, and so have healed him,
would not man have thought there was virtue in the prophet? By
sending him to the Jordan to wash, it would be clearly seen the cure
was direct from God. Man has no virtue in himself — he can only
be the channel of God’s grace to others. God must have all the
glory of the cure, and Naaman must be taught his own condition
and vileness.
“Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the
waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he
turned and went away in a rage” (

2 Kings 5:12).
Naaman was incensed not only because he thought that insufficient respect
had been shown to his own person, but also because he felt his country had
been slighted. If it was merely a matter of bathing in some river, why could
not those of his own land have sufficed? This was tantamount to dictating
to Jehovah, for it was the word of His prophet he now challenged. Shall
the beggar insist on his right to choose what form the supply of his need
must take! Shall the patient inform the physician what remedy will be
acceptable to him! Is the guilty culprit to have the effrontery to dictate to
the judge what shall be done to him! Yet a worm of the earth deems.148
himself competent to pit his wits against the wisdom of God. A hell-deserving
sinner is impudent enough to draw up terms on which he
considers heaven is due him. But if we are to be cleansed, it can only be by
the way of God’s appointing and not by any of our own devising.
Matthew Henry said,
He thinks this too cheap, too plain, too common, a thing for so
great a man to be cured by; or he did not believe it would at all
effect the cure, or, if it would, what medicinal virtue was there in
Jordan more than in the rivers of Damascus? But he did not
consider (1) That Jordan belonged to Israel’s God, from whom he
was to expect the cure, and not from the gods of Damascus; it
watered the Lord’s land, the holy land, and in a miraculous cure,
relation to God was much more considerable than the depth of the
channel or the beauty of the stream. (2) That Jordan had more than
once before this obeyed the commands of Omnipotence: it had of
old yielded a passage to Israel, and of late to Elijah and Elisha, and
therefore was fitter for such a purpose than those rivers which had
only observed the common law of their creation, and had never
been thus distinguished; but above all, Jordan was the river
appointed, and if he expected a cure from the Divine power he
ought to acquiesce in the Divine will, without asking why or
wherefore. It is common for those that are wise in their own
conceits to look with contempt on the dictates and prescriptions of
Divine wisdom, and to prefer their own fancies before them.
“So he turned and went away in a rage.” How true to life; how accurate
the picture! The flesh resents the humbling truth of God and hates to be
abased. And let us say here for the benefit of young preachers who are
likely to read these lines: you must expect some of your hearers to turn
from you in anger if you faithfully minister the Word of God in its
undiluted purity. It has ever been thus. If the prophets of the Lord incensed
their hearers, can you expect your message will be palatable to the
unregenerate? If the incarnate Son of God had to say, “Because I tell you
the truth, ye believe me not” (

John 8:45), can you expect the truth to
meet with a better welcome from your lips? If the chief of the apostles
“For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ”

Galatians 1:10),.149
do you expect to be popular with them? There is but one way to avoid
displeasing your hearers, and that is by unfaithfulness to your trust, by
carnal compromise, by blunting the sharp edge of the sword of the Spirit,
by keeping back what you know will prove unacceptable. In such an event,
God will require their blood at your hand and you will forfeit the
approbation of your Master.
“So he turned and went away in a rage.” In this we may see the final effort
of Satan to retain his victim before divine grace delivered him. The rage of
Naaman was but the reflection of Satan, who was furious at the prospect
of losing him. It reminds us of the case recorded in

Luke 9:37-42. A
father of a demon-possessed child had sought for help from the apostles,
which they had been unable to render. As the Savior came down from the
mount, the poor father approached Him and He gave orders, “bring they
son hither.” We are told, “And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him
down, and tare him” (

Luke 9:42). But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit,
and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. It is frequently
thus; the conflict which is waged in the soul is usually worst just before
peace is found. Lusts rage, unbelief seeks to wax supreme, the truth of
sovereign grace when first apprehended is obnoxious, and to be told our
righteousnesses are as filthy rags stirs up enmity. Satan fills the soul with
rage against God, against His truth, against His servant. Often that is a
hopeful sign, for it at least shows that the sinner has been aroused from the
fatal sleep of indifference.
“And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My
father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest
thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to
thee, Wash, and be clean?” (

2 Kings 5:13).
Let us consider first the surface teaching of this verse. This gentle
remonstrance was “a word spoken in season.” Had Naaman remained calm
and reasonable he would have perceived that what was required of him was
simple and safe, and neither difficult nor dangerous. Had the prophet
prescribed some laborious and lengthy task, or ordered a drastic operation
or painful remedy, probably Naaman would have complied without a
murmur. So why not do this when no other sacrifice was demanded of him
but the humbling of his pride?
“When sinners are under serious impressions, and as yet prejudiced
against the Lord’s method of salvation, they should be reasoned.150
with in meekness and love, and persuaded to make trial of its
simplicity” (Thomas Scott).
If it is necessary to rebuke their petulence and point out to them the
foolishness of their proud reasoning, we should make it evident that our
rebuke proceeds from a desire for their eternal welfare.
It is a great mercy to have those about us that will be free with us, and
faithfully tell us our faults and follies, though they be our inferiors. Masters
must be willing to hear reason from their inferiors:

Job 31:13, 14. As
we should be deaf to the counsel of the ungodly though given by the
greatest and most venerable names, so we should have our ears open to
good advice, though brought to us by those who are much below us: no
matter who speaks, if it be well said… The reproof was modest and
respectful: they call him “father” — for servants must honor and obey their
masters with a kind of filial affection (Matthew Henry).
How few ministers of the gospel now proclaim the divine injunction,
“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own
masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine
be not blasphemed” (

1 Timothy 6:1).
It may be those servants had heard quite a lot from the Hebrew maid of the
wondrous miracles that had been wrought by Elisha, and hence they were
very desirous that Naaman should try out his directions. Or, perhaps it was
because they were deeply devoted to their master, holding him in high
esteem, and felt he was forsaking his own mercies by permitting his
wounded vanity to now blind his better judgment. At any rate, they saw no
sense in coming all the way from Syria and now leaving Samaria without at
least making a trial of the prophet’s prescription. Such are the suggestions
made by the commentators to explain this action of Naaman’s attendants.
Personally, we prefer to look higher and see the power of the Most High in
operation, working in them both to will and to do if His good pleasure,
employing them as one more link in the chain which brought about the
accomplishment of His purpose;
“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom
be glory for ever. Amen” (

Romans 11:36).
What has been before us here is in full accord with the other things already
contemplated. It seemed quite unlikely that any serious attention should be.151
paid to the simple statement of the captive Hebrew maid, but God saw to it
that her words did not fall to the ground. It appeared very much as though
Naaman’s mission was blocked when the skeptical king of Israel failed to
cooperate, but God moved Elisha to intervene and caused his royal master
to carry out his order. And now that Naaman himself turned away from the
prophet in a rage, it certainly looked as though the quest would prove
unsuccessful. But that could not be. The Almighty had decreed that the
Syrian should be healed of his leprosy and brought to acknowledge that the
God of Israel was the true and living God; and all the powers of evil could
not prevent the fulfillment of His decree. Yet just as He is generally pleased
to work, so here; He used human instruments in the accomplishing of His
purpose. It may be concluded that, naturally and normally, those attendants
would have their place and distance, and would not have dared to
remonstrate with their master while he was in such a rage. Behold the
secret power of God working within them, subduing their fears, and
moving them to appeal to Naaman.
The little maid was not present to speak to her august master and plead
with him to further his best interests. The prophet of the Lord had issued
his instructions, only for them to be despised. What, then? Shall Naaman
return home unhealed? No, such a thing was not possible. He was to learn
there was a God in Israel and that He had thoughts of mercy toward him.
But he must first be abased. Mark, then how God acted. He moves in a
mysterious way, His wonders to perform — oftentimes unperceived and
unappreciated by us. He inclines Naaman’s own followers to admonish him
and show him the folly of his proud reasoning. Remarkable and significant
is it to observe the particular instruments the Lord here employed. It was
first the servant maid whom He used to inform Naaman that there was a
prophet in Israel by whom he could obtain healing. Then it was through his
servant that Elisha gave the Syrian the needed instructions. And now it was
Naaman’s own servants who prevailed upon him to heed those
instructions. All of this was intended for the humbling of the mighty
Naaman. And, we may add, for our instruction. We must take the servant’s
place and have the servant spirit if we would hope for God to employ us.
See here too the amazing patience of the Lord. Here was one who was
wrothful against His faithful prophet: what wonder then that He struck him
down in his tracks. Here was a haughty creature who refused to humble
himself and, in effect, impudently dictated to God how he should receive
healing. Had he been on his knees supplicating the divine favor, his attitude.152
would have been a becoming one; instead, he turned his back upon God’s
servant and moved away in a rage. Yet it was then that God acted — not
against him, but for him, so that where sin abounded, grace did much more
abound. And why? Because sovereign mercy had ordained him a vessel
unto honor from all eternity.
Let the Christian reader join with the writer in looking back to the past,
recalling when we too kicked against the pricks. How infinite was the
forbearance of God toward us! Though we had no regard for Him, He had
set His heart upon us; and perhaps at the very time when our awful enmity
against Him was most high-handedly operative, He moved someone of
comparative obscurity to reason with us and point out to us the folly of our
ways and urge us to submit to God’s holy requirements..153
WE DEVOTED MUCH of our attention in previous chapters to the
requirement made upon Naaman, because that demand and his compliance
therewith are the hinge on which this miracle turns, as the response made
by the sinner to the call of the gospel settles whether or not he is to be
cleansed from his sin. This does not denote that the success or failure of
the gospel is left contingent upon the will of men, but rather announces
that order of things which God has instituted: an order in which He acts as
moral governor and in which man is dealt with as a moral agent. In
consequence of the fall, man is filled with enmity against God and is blind
to his eternal interests. His will is opposed to God’s, and the depravity of
his heart causes him to forsake his own mercies. Nevertheless he is still a
responsible creature, and God treats him as such. As his moral governor,
God requires obedience from him; and in the case of His elect He obtains
it, not by physical compulsion but by moral persuasion, not by mere force
but by inclining him to free concurrence. He does not overwhelm by divine
might, but declares,
“I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love”

Hosea 11:4).
What has just been pointed out above receives striking illustration in the
incident before us. When God’s requirement was made to Naaman it
pleased him not, he was angry at the prophet and rebellious against the
instructions given him. “Go and wash in Jordan seven times” was a definite
test of obedience, calling for the surrender of his will to the Lord.
Everything was narrowed down to that one thing: would he bow before
and submit to the authoritative Word of God? In like manner every person
who hears it is tested by the gospel today. The gospel is no mere
“invitation” to be heeded or not as men please, and grossly dishonoring to
God is it if we consider it only as such. The gospel is a divine
proclamation, demanding the throwing down of the weapons of our
warfare against heaven. God “now commandeth all men every where to
repent” (

Acts 17:30). And again we are told,.154
“And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the
name of his Son Jesus Christ” (

1 John 3:23).
The gospel is “for obedience to the faith” (

Romans 1:5), and Christ is
“the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (

5:9). To those “that obey not the gospel,” the Lord Jesus will come in
flaming fire, taking vengeance (

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). If men will not
bow to Christ’s scepter, they shall be made His footstool.
It was this very obedience that Naaman was reluctant to render, so much
so that he was on the point of returning to Syria unhealed. Yet that could
not be. In the divine decree he was marked out to be the recipient of God’s
sovereign grace. As yet Naaman might be averse to receiving grace in the
way of God’s appointing, and the devil might put forth a supreme effort to
retain his victim; but whatever be the devices of the human heart or the
malice of its enemy, the counsel of the Lord must stand. When God has
designs of mercy toward a soul, He sets in operation certain agencies
which result in the accomplishment of His purpose. The flesh may resist
and Satan may oppose, but it stands written, “Thy people shall be willing in
the day of thy power” (

Psalm 110:3). That “day” had now arrived for
Naaman, and speedily was this made manifest. It pleased God to exercise
His power by moving the Syrian’s servants to remonstrate with him and by
making effectual their plea.
“My father,” they said, “if the prophet had bid thee do some great
thing, wouldst not thou have done it? how much rather then, when
he saith to thee, Wash and be clean? Then went he down, and
dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the
man of God” (

2 Kings 5:13-14).
“Then went he down.” That was something which he had to do; and until
he did it, there was no cleansing for him. The sinner is not passive in
connection with God’s blotting out his iniquities. He has to repent (

3:19), and believe in Christ (

Acts 10:43) in order to obtain forgiveness
of his sins. It was a voluntary act on the part of Naaman. Previously he had
been unwilling to comply with the divine demand, but the secret power of
God has worked in him — by means of the pleading of his attendants —
overcoming his reluctance. It was an act of self-abasement. “He went down
and dipped” signifies three things: he descended from his chariot, he waded
into the waters, he was submerged beneath them, and thus did he own his
vileness before God. No less than “seven times” must he plunge into that.155
dark stream, thereby acknowledging his total uncleanness. A person only
slightly soiled may be cleansed by a single washing, but Naaman must dip
seven times to make evident how great was his defilement. The seven times
also intimated that God required complete submission to His will. Nothing
short of full surrender to Him is of any avail.
“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according
to the saying of the man of God.” It is of deep importance that we grasp
the exact implication of this second clause; otherwise, we shall miss one of
the principal lines in this gospel picture. Note well then that it was not
according to the pleading of his attendants, the last thing mentioned in the
context. Had Naaman acted simply to please them, he might have dipped
himself in Jordan seventy times and been no better off for it. “According to
the saying of the man of God” signifies according to the declaration of God
Himself through His prophet. Naaman heeded the Word of God and
rendered faith obedience (

Romans 1:5) to it. Repentance is not
sufficient to procure cleansing; the sinner must also believe. And this is
what Naaman now did. His heart laid hold of the divine promise, “Go and
wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and
thou shalt be clean.” He believed that “shalt” and acted upon it. Have you
done similarly, my reader? Has your faith definitely appropriated the gospel
promise, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”? If
not, you will never be saved until it has. Faith is the indispensable
requirement, for without faith it is impossible to please God (

“And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he
was clean” (

2 Kings 5:14).
Of course it did. It could not be otherwise, for “he is faithful that
promised” (

Hebrews 10:23). None has ever laid hold of a divine
promise and found it to fail, and none ever will. That which has been
spoken through the prophets and apostles is the Word of Him “that cannot
lie” (

Titus 1:2). He cannot falsify His Word. He cannot depart from it,
alter it, or break it.
“For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven”

Psalm 119:89).
Forever, too, is it settled on earth:.156
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out
of my lips” (

Psalm 89:34).
God has promised to receive, welcome, own, justify, preserve, and bring to
heaven, all who will take Him at His simple Word; who will rely upon it
unconditionally and without reservation, setting to their seal that He is
true. The warrant for us to believe is contained in the promise itself, as it
was for Naaman. The promise says, “you may”; the promise says, “You
must”; the promise says, “You are shut up to faith” (

Galatians 3:23).
And I, I say, “Lord, I believe.” Faith is taking God at His Word — His
undeceiving and infallible Word — and trusting in Jesus Christ as my
Savior. If you have not already done so, delay no longer, but trust Him
now, and wash in that “fountain” which has been opened “for sin and for
uncleanness” (

Zechariah 13:1).
“And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was
clean.” Let it be duly noted that there was no lengthy interval between the
faith-obedience of Naaman and his healing, in fact no interval at all. There
was no placing of him upon probation before his disease was removed. His
cleansing was instantaneous. Nor was his cleansing partial and effected
only by degrees; he was fully and perfectly healed there and then, so that
not a single spot of his leprosy remained. And that is exactly what the
glorious gospel of God announces and promises: “the blood of Jesus Christ
his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (

1 John 1:7). The moment a sinner
claims Christ as his own, His perfect righteousness is placed to his account.
The moment any sinner really takes God at His Word and appropriates the
gospel promise, he is — without having to wait for anything further to be
done for him or in him — entitled to and fit for heaven, just as was the
dying thief. If he is left here another hundred years, he may indeed enter
into a fuller understanding of the riches of divine grace, but he will not
become one iota more fit for glory.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet [not ‘is
now doing so’] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in
light” (

Colossians 1:12).
“And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and
came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that
there is no God in all the earth but in Israel: now therefore, I pray
thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (

2 Kings 5:15)..157
When a work of grace is wrought upon a person, it is soon made evident
by him. Notice the radical and blessed transformation which had been
produced in Naaman’s heart as well as in his body. He might have hastened
back at once to Syria, but he did not. Previously he had turned his back
upon Elisha in a rage, but now he sought his face in gratitude. Formerly he
had despised the “waters of Israel” (

2 Kings 5:12); now he
acknowledged the God of Israel. All was completely changed. The proud
and haughty Syrian was humbled, terming himself the prophet’s “servant.”
The bitterness of his legalistic heart which had resented a way of
deliverance that placed him on the same level as paupers had received its
death wound. The enmity of his carnal mind against God and his hatred of
His prophet, together with his leprosy, were all left beneath Jordan’s flood,
and he emerged a new creature — cleansed and lowly in heart. No longer
did he expect the prophet to seek him out and pay deference to him.
Instead he at once went to Elisha and honored him as God’s servant — a
lovely figure of a saved sinner desiring fellowship with the people of God.
Let us look more closely at the actions of the cleansed Naaman.
First, he “returned to the man of God.” Nor did he seek him in vain. This
time Elisha came forth in person, there being no longer any need to
communicate through his servant.
Second, Naaman was the first to speak, and he bore testimony to the true
and living God: “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth,
but in Israel.” He had listened to no lectures on evidences of the divine
existence, nor did he need to; effectively is a soul taught when it is made
partaker of saving grace. Naaman was as sure now as Elisha himself that
Jehovah alone is God.
Third, this testimony of Naaman was not given in private to the prophet,
but openly before “all his company.” Have you, my reader, made public
profession of your faith? “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”

Romans 1:16); does a like witness issue from your lips, or are you
attempting to be a “secret disciple” of His?
Fourth, Naaman now wished to bestow a present on Elisha as an
expression of his gratitude. Are you ministering to the temporal needs of
God’s servants?.158
Yes, my reader, where a work of divine grace has been wrought, its subject
soon makes the fact evident to those around him. One who has fully
surrendered to God cannot hide the fact from his fellows, nor will he wish
to. A new life within cannot help but be made manifest in a new life
without. When Zaccheus was made a partaker of God’s “so great
salvation,” he gave half his goods to the poor and made fourfold restitution
to those he had robbed (

Luke 19:8). When Saul of Tarsus was
converted, he at once said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and
henceforth a walk of loving obedience to Him marked the grand
transformation. No sooner was the Philippian jailer made savingly
acquainted with Christ than he who had made fast in the stocks the feet of
the sorely-beaten apostles “washed their stripes” and, after being baptized,
“brought them into his house” and “set meat before them” (Acts 16). Is it
thus with you? Does your everyday conduct testify what Christ has done
for you? Or is your profession only like a leafy tree without any fruit on it?
“But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will
receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused”

2 Kings 5:16).
Naaman was now taught the freeness of God’s grace. This freeness is
pictured by Joseph, when he gave orders for the sacks of his brethren to be
filled with corn and their money to be returned and placed in their sacks

Genesis 42:25). When God gives to sinners, He gives freely. It was for
a truly noble reason then that Elisha declined the blessing from Naaman’s
hand: he would not compromise the blessed truth of divine grace. “He
would have Naaman return to Syria with this testimony, that the God of
Israel had taken nothing from him but his leprosy! He would have him go
back and declare that his gold and silver were useless in dealing with One
who gave all for nothing” (Things New and Old). God delights in being the
giver. If you wish to please Him, continue coming before Him as a
receiver. Listen to David,
“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon his name”

Psalm 116:12-13).
In other words, he would “render” to Him by receiving more!
By his response Elisha showed Naaman that the servant of God looks upon
the wealth of this world with holy contempt..159
Gratitude to the Lord will dictate liberality to the instruments of His
mercies. But different circumstances will render it necessary for
them to adopt different measures. The “man of God” will never
allow himself to covet any one’s gold or silver, or apparel; but be
content with daily bread, and learn to trust for tomorrow. Yet
sometimes he will understand that the proffered kindness is the
Lord’s method of supplying his necessities, that it will be fruit
abounding to the benefit of the donor, and that there is a propriety
in accepting it as a token of love; but as others, the gift will be
looked on as a temptation, and he will perceive that the acceptance
of it would degrade his character and office, dishonor God, and
tend exceeding to the injury of the giver. In this case he will
decidedly refuse it. This is particularly to be adverted to in the case
of the great, when they first turn their thoughts to religious
subjects. From knowledge of the world, they are apt to suspect all
their inferiors of mercenary designs, and naturally suppose that
ministers are only carrying on a trade like other men; while the
conduct of too many so-called confirms them in the sentiment.
There is but one way of counteracting this prejudice, and that is by
evidencing a disinterested spirit, and not asking anything, and in
some cases refusing to accept favors from them, until they have
attained a further establishment in the faith; and by always
persevering in an indifference to every personal interest (Scott).
“And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy
servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth
offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto
the LORD” (

2 Kings 5:17).
Once the true God is known (

2 Kings 5:15), all false ones are
repudiated. Observe carefully his “be given” and “thy servant.” He does
not offer to purchase this soil, nor does he as “captain of the hosts” of
Syria’s victorious army demand it as a right. Grace had now taught him to
be a recipient and conduct himself as a servant. Beautiful is it to see the
purpose for which he wanted this earth; it was not from a superstitious
veneration of the soil, but that he might honor God. This exhibits, once
more, the great and grand change which had been wrought in Naaman. His
chief concern now was to be a worshiper of the God of all grace, the God
of Israel, and to this end he requests permission to take home with him
sufficient soil of the land of Israel to build an altar. And is not the.160
application of this to ourselves quite apparent? When a soul has tasted that
the Lord is gracious, the spirit of worship possesses him, and he will
reverently pour out his heart’s adoration unto Him.
The order of truth we have been considering is deeply instructive. First, we
have a cleansed leper, a sinner saved by grace, (

2 Kings 5:14). Then an
assured saint: “I know” (

2 Kings 5:15); and now a voluntary worshiper

2 Kings 5:17). That is the unchanging order of scripture. No one that
ignores the cleansing blood of Christ or “the washing of water by the
word” (

Ephesians 5:26) can obtain any access to the thrice holy God.
And none who doubts his acceptance in the beloved can offer unto the
Father that praise and thanksgiving which are His due. Therefore believers
are bidden to
“draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our
hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (

Hebrews 10:22).
As we have passed from one detail to another, we have sought to make
definite application to ourselves. Let us do so here. Naaman was
determined to erect an altar unto the Lord in his own land. Reader, are you
the head of a household, and do you claim to be a Christian? Then gather
this family around you each day and conduct worship. If you do not, you
have good reason to call into question the genuineness of your profession.
If God has His due place in your heart, He will have it in your home.
“In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master
goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth
on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I
bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy
servant in this thing” (

2 Kings 5:18).
This presents a real difficulty; for as the verse reads, it quite mars the
typical picture and seems utterly foreign to all that precedes. It is true that
Naaman was a converted heathen; and he had himself acknowledged that
“there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel,” so however great his
previous ignorance, he was now enlightened. His desire to erect an altar
unto Jehovah would appear to preclude the idea that he should in the next
breath suggest that he play the part of a compromiser and then
presumptuously count on the Lord’s forgiveness. One who is fully
surrendered to the Lord makes no reservation. He cannot, for His
requirement is, “Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and him only shalt.161
thou serve;” and again, “Touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive
you.” And still more difficult is it for us to understand Elisha’s, “Go in
peace” (

2 Kings 5:19), if he had just been asked to grant a dispensation
for what Naaman himself evidently felt to be wrong.
Is there then any legitimate method of removing this difficulty? Though he
does not adopt it himself, Scott states that many learned men have sought
to establish an alternative translation: “In this thing the Lord pardon thy
servant: that when my master went into the house of Rimmon to bow
down himself there, that I bowed down myself there — the Lord pardon
thy servant in this thing.” We do not possess sufficient scholarship to be
able to pass judgment on this rendition, but from what little we do know of
the Hebrew verb (which has no present tense), it strikes us as likely. In this
case, Naaman’s words look backward, evidencing a quickened conscience,
confessing a past offense, rather than forward and seeking a dispensation
for a future sin. But if that translation is a cutting of the knot rather than an
untying of it, then we must suppose that Elisha perceived that Naaman was
convinced that the thing he anticipated was not right. So, instead of
rebuking him, Elisha left that conviction to produce its proper effect,
assured that in due course when Naaman’s faith and judgment matured, he
would take a more decided stand against idolatry.
We will take up, seventh, the meaning of this miracle, in the next chapter..162
THE ELEVENTH MIRACLE of Elisha is so closely connected with the tenth
that it will scarcely be out of place for us to bring forward the final division
of the foregoing and use it as the introduction to this one. Though we
dwelt at more than customary length with the healing of Naaman and
pointed out much as we went along that was typical, yet there still remain
several details of interest which deserve separate notice.
First, the cleansing of Naaman supplied a striking display of the
sovereignty of God. This was emphasized by the Lord Jesus in His first
public discourse in the synagogue at Nazareth, when He reminded His
“Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus [Elisha] the
prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the
Syrian” (

Luke 4:27).
It is ever thus with Him whose thoughts are so different from and whose
ways are so high above ours that, acting in the freeness of His grace, He
passes by others and singles out the most unlikely to be the recipients of
His high favors (

1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Second, the cleansing of Naaman afforded a blessed foreshadowment of
the divine mercy reaching out to the Gentiles, for Naaman was not an
Israelite but a Syrian. Nevertheless he was made to learn the humbling
lesson that if divine grace were to be extended to him, it could only
proceed from the God of Abraham. That was why he must wash in the
Jordan; the waters of “Abana and Pharpar” (

2 Kings 5:12) were of no
avail — he must wash in one of Israel’s streams. This truth is written
boldly across the pages of Holy Writ. The harlot of Jericho was to be
spared when her city was destroyed, but it could only be by her heeding the
instructions of the two Hebrew spies. The widow of Zarephath was
preserved through the famine, but it was by receiving Elijah into her home..163
The Ninevites were delivered from impending wrath, but at the preaching
of Jonah. The king of Babylon received a dream from God, but for its
interpretation he must turn to Daniel. To the Samaritan adulteress Christ
declared, “Salvation is of the Jews” (

John 4:22). Then let us heed the
warning of

Romans 11:18-25.
Third, the cleansing of Naaman provided a full picture of “the way of
salvation” or what is required of the sinner in order for his cleansing. First
we have a picture of how fallen man appears in the eyes of the holy God: a
leper, one condemned by His law, a loathsome object, unfit for the divine
presence, a menace to his fellow-men. Then we behold man’s self-righteousness
and self-importance, as Naaman came expecting to purchase
his healing and was angry at the prophet’s refusal to show him deference.
Next we learn of the demand made upon him; he must descend from his
chariot and go and wash seven times in the Jordan. There must be the
setting aside of his own thoughts and desires, the humbling of proud self,
the acknowledgment of his total depravity, full surrender to God’s
authority, and faith’s laying hold of the promise “and thy flesh shall come
again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” Finally, we behold the immediate
and complete transformation: “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh
of a little child,” with a corresponding change of heart and conduct toward
Elisha and his God.
Before passing from this most fascinating incident, let us consider further
the particular waters into which Naaman was required to dip. It was not in
the river Kishon or the pool of Bethesda, but the Jordan. Why? The answer
to that question reveals the striking accuracy of our type. As leprosy
(emblem of sin) was in question, the curse must be witnessed to. Sin has
called down the curse of the One against whom it has raised its defiant
head (Genesis 3). The curse is God’s judgment upon sin, and that judgment
is death. It is this of which the Jordan ever speaks. It was not because its
waters possessed any magical properties or healing virtues; the very name
Jordan means “judgment.” Those who heeded our Lord’s forerunner “were
baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (

Mark 1:5);
immersion beneath its waters was the acknowledgment that death was their
due. Therefore did the Savior allude to His death as a “baptism” (

12:50), for at the cross He was overwhelmed by the judgments of God

Psalm 42:7; 88:7). When a sinner believes the gospel and appropriates
Christ as his substitute, God regards him as having passed through His.164
judgment of sin, so that he can now say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and
in his baptism as a believer there is a symbolic showing forth of that fact.
The miracle which is now to engage our attention is of quite another order,
the differences between them being most striking. We will therefore
consider, first, its contrasts.
The subject of the foregoing miracle was a heathen idolater; now it is the
prophet’s own servant. Naaman sought the prophet for relief; the other
pursued the relieved one and virtually demanded tribute from him. There
we beheld Elisha teaching Naaman the grand truth of the freeness of divine
grace; here we see Gehazi casting a dark cloud over the same. In the one
Naaman is represented as expressing deep gratitude for his recovery and
urging the man of God to receive a present at his hands; now the avaricious
Gehazi is portrayed as coveting that which his master so nobly refused.
There it was a poor creature healed of his leprosy; here it is one being
smitten with that dread disease. There we beheld God’s goodness acting in
mercy; here we see His severity acting in holy justice. The former closes
with the recipient of divine grace returning home as a devout worshiper;
the latter ends with a pronouncement of God’s curse on the transgressor
and on his seed forever.
The one on whom this solemn miracle was wrought is Gehazi, the servant
of Elisha. He has come before us several times previously, and nowhere
was he seen to advantage. First, when the woman of Shunem sought the
man of God on behalf of her dead son and cast herself at his feet, “Gehazi
came near to thrust her away” (

2 Kings 4:27), and his master told him
to “let her alone.” Then the prophet instructed his servant to go before him
and lay his staff upon the face of the child (

2 Kings 4:29). Elisha could
successfully smite the waters of Jordan with Elijah’s mantle because “the
spirit of Elijah” rested upon him (

2 Kings 2:15); but being devoid of the
Spirit, Gehazi found the prophet’s staff of no avail in his prayerless hands

2 Kings 4:31). In

2 Kings 4:43 we beheld his selfishness and
unbelief: “What, should I set this before an hundred men” when Elisha was
counting upon God to multiply the loaves. Thus his character and conduct.165
is consistent and in keeping with his name which significantly enough
means “denier.”
“But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold,
my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his
hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run
after him, and take somewhat of him” (

2 Kings 5:20).
It will be remembered that before Naaman left Syria for the land of
Samaria that he provided himself with a costly treasure, consisting of “ten
talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of
raiment” (

2 Kings 5:5). No doubt a part of this was designed for
traveling expenses for the retinue of servants who accompanied him, but
the major portion of it he evidently intended to bestow upon his
benefactor. But Elisha had firmly refused to receive anything (

2 Kings
5:15-16), and so he was now returning home with his horses still laden
with the treasure. This was more than the covetous heart of Gehazi could
endure, and he determined to secure a portion of it for himself. The honor
of Jehovah and the glory of His grace counted nothing with him.
Every word in the above verse repays careful attention. The ominous “But”
intimates the solemn contrast between the two miracles. Gehazi is here
termed not only “the servant of Elisha” but “of Elisha the man of God” —
the added words bring out the enormity of his sin. First, they call attention
to the greatness of the privilege he had enjoyed, being in close attendance
on so pious a master. This rendered his wicked conduct the more
excuseless, for it was not the act of an ignorant person, but of one well
instructed in the ways of righteousness. Second, it emphasizes the enormity
of his offense, for it reflected seriously on the official character of the one
who employed him. The sins of those in the sacred office or of those
associated with them are far graver than those of others (

James 3:1).
But just as Gehazi had no concern for the glory of God, so he cared
nothing for the reputation of Elisha.
What has just been pointed out definitely refutes one of the wide-spread
delusions of our day, namely, that it is their unfavorable surroundings
which are responsible for the degenerate conduct of so many of the present
generation: social improvement can only be effected by improving the
wages and homes of the poor. And is the behavior of the rich any better? Is.166
there less immorality in the west end of London than in the east? It is
drunken and thriftless people who make the slums, and not the slums which
ruin the people. God’s Word teaches it is “out of the heart” of fallen man

Mark 7:21-23) and not from his faulty environment that all proceeds
which defiles human nature. Nor it is any more warrantable for any person
to attempt to throw the blame for his downfall on his being obliged to
mingle with evil characters. Gehazi was isolated from all bad companions,
placed in the most favorable circumstances, dwelling with a “man of God,”
but his soul was depraved! While “the heart of the sons of men is fully set
in them to do evil” (

Ecclesiastics 8:11), the gospel and not more social
reforms is the only remedy.
Neither his close association with the man of God nor the witnessing of the
miracles performed by him effected any change within Gehazi. The state of
his heart is revealed by each expression recorded in verse 20 of

2 Kings
5. “Behold, my master hath spared Naaman.” Incapable of appreciating the
motives which had actuated Elisha, he felt that he had foolishly missed a
golden opportunity. Gehazi regarded Naaman as legitimate prey, as a bird
to be plucked. Contemptuously, he refers to him as “this Syrian.” There
was no pity for the one who had been such a sufferer, and no thankfulness
that God had healed him. He was determined to capitalize on the situation:
“I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.” His awful sin was
deliberately premeditated. What was worse, he made use of an impious
oath: “As the LORD liveth I will run after him.” There was no fear of God
before his eyes; instead, he defiantly took His holy name in vain.
“So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him
running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him,
and said, Is all well?” (

2 Kings 5:21).
It is solemn to observe that God put no hindrance in the way of him who
had devised evil. He could have moved Naaman to quicken his pace and to
outdistance Gehazi. But He did not, an indication that God had given
Gehazi up to his heart’s lusts. It is ever a signal mark of divine mercy when
the Lord interferes with our plans and thwarts our carnal designs. When we
purpose doing anything wrong and a providential obstacle blocks us, it is a
sign that God has not yet abandoned us to our madness. The graciousness
of Naaman in alighting from his chariot and the question he asked gave
further evidence of the change which had been wrought in him..167
“And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold,
even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young
men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of
silver, and two changes of garments” (

2 Kings 5:22).
Here we see the wicked Gehazi adding sin to sin, thereby treasuring up to
himself wrath against the day of wrath (

Romans 2:5). First, his greedy
heart cherished a covetous desire; then he deliberately and eagerly (as his
“running” shows) proceeded to realize the same; and now he resorts to
falsehoods. Liars can tell a plausible tale, especially when asking for
charity. The thievish knave pretended it was not for himself, but for others
in need that he was seeking relief — ever a favorite device employed by the
unscrupulous when seeking to take advantage of unwary victims. Worse
still, he compromised his master by saying he had sent him. To what fearful
lengths will a covetous heart carry its subjects!
“And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged
him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes
of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants, and they bare
them before him” (

2 Kings 5:23).
Naaman was quite unsuspicious. He not only complied with Gehazi’s
request but gave him more than he asked for. After the prophet’s firm and
repeated refusals to accept his gifts, he should have been more on his
guard. There is a warning here for us to beware of crediting every beggar
we encounter, even though he is a religious one. There have always been
religious leeches who consider the righteous are legitimate prey for them to
fatten upon. While it is a Christian duty to relieve the genuinely poor, yet
we are not to encourage idleness or let ourselves be deceived by those with
a smooth tongue. Investigate their case.
“And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand,
and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they
departed” (

2 Kings 5:24).
He took pains to carefully conceal his ill-gotten gains in a secret place, no
doubt congratulating himself on his shrewdness. This reminds us of our
first parents hiding themselves (

Genesis 3:8) and of Achan’s sin

Joshua 7:21). “But he went in, and stood before his master” (

Kings 5:25). Pretending to be a faithful and dutiful servant, he now.168
appeared before Elisha to await his orders. The most untruthful and
dishonest often assume a pious pose in the company of the saints! “And
Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” An opportunity was
thus given him to confess his sins, but instead of so doing, he added lie to
lie: “And he said, Thy servant went no whither.” There was no repentance,
but a daring brazenness.
“And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the
man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to
receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and
vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and
maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto
thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his
presence a leper as white as snow” (

2 Kings 5:26-27).
Though Christians are not endowed with the extraordinary powers of the
prophets, yet if they be truly walking with God they will discern a liar when
he confronts them (

1 Corinthians 2:15). Elisha put his finger on the
worst feature of the offense: “Is it a time to receive money [and thus stain
God’s free grace]?” From the words that follow, Elisha indicated that he
knew how Gehazi planned to use the money: he intended to leave his
service and set up as a farmer. His punishment was an appropriate one: he
had coveted something of Naaman’s — he should have that which would
henceforth symbolically portray the polluted state of his soul.
That Gehazi fully deserved the frightful punishment which was visited upon
him and that the form it took was a case of what is termed “poetic justice”
will be evident to every spiritual mind. Nevertheless there was a severity of
dealing with him which is more noticeable than in other cases. Nor is the
reason far to seek. God was incensed at his having so grievously
compromised the display of His free grace. The Lord is very jealous of His
types. Observe how He moved Joseph to restore the money to the sacks of
his brethren when they came to obtain food from Egypt (

42:25), because he was there foreshadowing Christ as the bread of life —
given to us “without money and without price.”.169
The failure of Moses was far more than a losing of his temper: it was a
marring of a blessed type. Note, “smite the rock” in

Exodus 17:6, but
only “speak” to it in

Numbers 20:8 — Christ was to be “smitten”

Isaiah 53:4) but once! As Moses suffered a premature death for his sin,
so Gehazi was smitten with leprosy for his.
We shall mention only three of the lessons we can draw from this miracle.
First, there is a sharply pointed example here of the bitter fruits borne by
the nourishing of a covetous spirit, and a fearful exemplification of that
word, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves
through with many sorrows” (

1 Timothy 6:10). How we need to pray,
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” (

Psalm 119:37).
Second, there is a most solemn warning against putting a stumblingblock
in the way of a babe in Christ. Naaman had only recently come to know
Jehovah as the God of all grace and that was another reason why He dealt
so severely with Gehazi (see

Matthew 18:6)!
Third, there is a searching test for those of us who are engaged exclusively
in God’s service: though delivered from the love of money, we may seek
the good opinion and praise of men..170
AS WE POINTED OUT in our Introduction, the larger part of what is
recorded of the life of this prophet is devoted to a description of the
miracles performed by him and the circumstances or occasions which gave
rise to them. Excepting that which occupied our attention in the first two
or three chapters, when we contemplated the preparing and enduing of him
for his work, very little indeed has been said about Elisha’s mission or
ministry up to the point we have now reached in his history. Yet here and
there brief hints have been given us about that which engaged most of his
energies. Those hints center around the several brief mentions made of “the
sons of the prophets” and the relation which Elisha sustained to them, a
further reference to whom is found in the passage which is now before us.
As we pointed out in a previous book on Elijah, Israel had fallen on bad
times, and spirituality was at a low ebb. Idolatry was rampant and God’s
judgments fell frequently upon them — in the form of letting the
surrounding nations invade their land (

1 Kings 20:1, 26; 22:1;

Kings 1:1; 5:2).
From the brief allusion made to them, it would seem that Elisha devoted
much of his time and attention to the training of young preachers, who
were formed into schools and designated “the sons of the prophets,” which
in the Hebrew language would emphasize the nature of their calling and
contain no reference to their ancestry. There was one group of them at
Bethel and another at Jericho (

2 Kings 2:3, 5) and yet another at Gilgal

2 Kings 4:38). It is from the last reference we learn that Elisha was
accustomed to sojourn with them for a time and preach or lecture to them,
as their “sitting before him” signifies (

Deuteronomy 33:3;

2:46; 10:39). From the repeated mention of “the people” in this connection

2 Kings 4:41-42), we gather that these seminaries also served as more
general places of assembly where the pious in Israel gathered together for
the worship of Jehovah and to receive edification through His servant. That
Elisha acted as rector or superintendent of these schools is evident from.171
the young prophets owning him as “thou man of God” (

2 Kings 4:40)
and “master” (

2 Kings 6:5).
“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the
place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us”

2 Kings 6:1).
By means of the opening “And,” the Holy Spirit has linked together the
miracle recorded at the end of chapter 5 and the one we are now to
consider. As in previous instances it suggests both comparisons and
contrasts. Each miracle concerned those who were intimately connected
with Elisha — in the one case his personal attendant, in the other his
students. Each occurred at the same place — in the immediate vicinity of
the Jordan. Each was occasioned by dissatisfaction with the position its
subjects occupied — the one reprehensible, the other commendable. But
first it was the unfaithful Gehazi, while here it is the devoted sons of the
prophets. In the one, Gehazi took matters into his own hands; in the other
they deferentially ask permission of their master. In the former an act of
theft was committed; in the latter a borrowed article was recovered. In one
a curse descended upon the guilty one; in this, an article was retrieved from
the place of judgment.
“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the
place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us”

2 Kings 6:1).
There does not appear to us to be anything in this verse which justifies the
conclusion that some have drawn from it, namely, that these young men
were discontented with their quarters and requested something more
congenial. Charity always requires us to place the best construction on the
projects and actions of our fellows. The motives which prompt them lie
beyond our understanding and therefore are outside of our province; and
actions are to be condemned only when it is unmistakably clear that they
are evil in their nature or tendency. Had these students given expression to
a covetous desire, surely Elisha would have reproved them; certainly he
would not have encouraged their plan, as the sequel shows he did..172
We are not told which particular school of the prophets this one was, but
from its proximity to the Jordan there can be little doubt that it was the one
situated either at Jericho or Gilgal — most probably the latter, because the
reference in

2 Kings 4:38 seems to indicate that it was there that Elisha
made his principal headquarters. This appears to be confirmed by the
language used by the students “where we dwell with thee”; they would
have said “sojourn” had he been merely on a temporary visit to them. From
their statement, we gather that under the superintendency of Elisha their
school had flourished, that there had been such an increase of their
numbers that the accommodation had become too cramped for them.
Accordingly, they respectfully called the attention of their master to what
seemed a real need. It is to be observed that they did not impudently take
matters into their own hands and attempt to spring a surprise upon Elisha,
but instead pointed out to him the exigency of the situation.
“Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a
beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell”

2 Kings 6:2).
Had their desire for more spacious quarters proceeded from carnal
ambition, they would have aspired to something more imposing than a
wooden building. Nor is it at all likely that in such a case they would
volunteer to do the work themselves. Instead they would have suggested
going around soliciting gifts from the people, so that they might have the
money to hire others to erect a more commodious seminary for them.
They were humble men who did not affect that which was gay or
great. They did not speak of sending for cedars, and marble stones
and curious artificers, but only of getting every man a beam, to run
up a plain hut or cottage with. It becomes the sons of the prophets,
who profess to look for the great in the other world to be content
with mean things in this (Henry).
Alas that Protestants have so often aped the heathen in making a show
before the world.
“And he answered, Go ye” (

2 Kings 6:2), which he surely would not
have done if they were seeking something more agreeable to the flesh. That
reply of Elisha’s was something more than a bare assent to their proposal
or permission for them to execute the same; it was also a real testing of
their hearts. Those who are accustomed to judge others harshly might infer.173
that these young men had grown tired of the strict discipline which Elisha
must have enforced, and had found irksome the pious and devotional type
of life he required from them, and that this idea of making for the Jordan
was but a cover for their determination to get away from the man of God.
In such a case they promptly would have availed themselves of his grant,
bidden him farewell, and taken their departure.
But we may learn something more from this answer, “Go ye”; it gives us a
sidelight on the prophet’s own character, manifesting as it does his
humility. He at once perceived the reasonableness of their request and
concurred with them therein. A proud and haughty man would quickly
resent any suggestion coming from those under his charge or care. Thus an
important practical lesson is here taught: superiors ought not to consider
themselves above receiving and weighing ideas from their underlings; and
when discerning the wisdom of the same and recognizing they could be
carded out to advantage, they should not hesitate to adopt them. It is the
mark of a little mind, and not of a great one, which considers it has a
monopoly of intelligence and is independent of help from others. Many a
man has paid dearly for disdaining the counsel of his wife or employees.
“And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants”

2 Kings 6:3).
Very blessed is this, revealing as it does the happy relations which existed
between them and of the veneration and love these students had for their
master. Such meekness and graciousness on the part of superiors as we
have alluded to above is not unappreciated by their subordinates. Nobly did
they respond to the test contained in Elisha’s “Go ye,” by begging him to
accompany them on their expedition. And how such a request on their part
refutes the evil inference which some might draw from their original
proposal — jumping to the conclusion that they were tired of Elisha’s
company and merely devised this plan as a pretext to get away from him. It
is a warning to us not to surmize evil of our fellows, giving point to
Christ’s admonition,
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous
judgment” (

John 7:24)..174
“And he answered, I will go. So he went with them to the Jordan.” And a
good thing it was that he did so, as the sequel shows. “And when they
came to Jordan, they cut down wood” (

2 Kings 6:4). Very
commendable was this. But how unlike some of the young people of our
generation, who have been encouraged to expect that someone else will do
everything for them, that they should be waited on hand and foot by their
seniors. These young men were willing and ready to put their own shoulder
to the work. They did not seek to shelter behind a false conception of their
sacred calling and indulge in foolish pride over their office by concluding
that such a thing was beneath their dignity. No, instead of hiring others to
do it, they performed the task themselves.
“But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and
he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed”

2 Kings 6:5).
An accident now happened. In one sense it is perfectly true that there are
no accidents in a world that is presided over by the living God; but in
another sense it is equally true that accidents do occur in the human realm.
This calls for a defining of our term. What is an accident? It is when some
effect is produced or some consequence issues from an action undesigned
by its performer. From the divine side of things, nothing occurs in this
world but what God has ordained; but from the human side, many things
result from our actions which were not intended by us. It was no design of
this man that he should lose the head of his ax; that he did so was
accidental on his part.
“And he cried and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.” The objective,
then, was to recover the borrowed article now lost. How strange that such
a thing should happen while in the performance of duty! Yet the Lord had
a wise and good reason for permitting it, and mercifully prevented the
death of another (

Deuteronomy 19:5). It is to be noted that the student
did not regard Elisha as being too great a man to be troubled about such a
trifling matter, but rather as an honest person deeply concerned over the
loss; and assured of his master’s sympathy, he at once informed him. His
“alas” seems to denote that he regarded his loss as final and had no.175
expectation it would be retrieved by a miracle. The lesson for us is plain:
even though (to our shame) we have no faith of His showing Himself
strong on our behalf, it is ever our duty and privilege to spread before our
Master everything that troubles us.
Not one concern of ours is small
If we belong to Him,
To teach us this, the Lord of all
Once made the iron to swim.
John Newton
“And the man of God said — “Observe the change in verse 6 of

2 Kings
6 from verse 1: not simply “Elisha” here, because he was about to act
officially and work a miracle. “Where fell it?” This was designed to awaken
“And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it
in thither; and the iron did swim” (

2 Kings 6:6).
There was no proportion between the means and the end — to
demonstrate that the power was of God! The Hebrew word for “stick” is a
generic one. It is rendered “tree” 162 times, being the same word as in

Deuteronomy 21:23 — quoted in

Galatians 3:13! It is also translated
“wood” 103 times, as in

Genesis 6:14, the shittim “wood” used in
connection with the frame and furniture of the tabernacle, and in verse 4 of

2 Kings 6. Evidently it was a small tree or sapling Elisha cut down.
The incident which has been before us may, we consider, be justly regarded
as broadly illustrating what is portrayed by the law and the gospel. It serves
to give us a typical picture of the sinner’s ruin and redemption. As the
result of being dissatisfied with the position God originally assigned us —
subjection to His authority — we (in Adam) appropriated what was not
ours, and in consequence suffered a fearful fall. The inanimate iron falling
into the Jordan — the place of “judgment” — is an apt figure of the elect
in their natural state: dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of doing
anything for their deliverence. The way and means which God took for our
recovery was for Christ to come right down to where we were, and to be
“cut off” (

Daniel 9:26), yes, “cut off out of the land of the living”.176

Isaiah 53:8), enduring judgment on our behalf, thereby recovering us
to God (

1 Peter 3:18).
This incident may also be taken to inform the believer of how lost blessings
may be restored to him. Are there not among our readers some who no
longer enjoy the liberty they once had in prayer, or the satisfaction they
formerly experienced in reading the Scriptures? Are there not some who
have lost their peace and assurance, and are deeply concerned about being
so deprived? If so, the devil will say the loss is irrecoverable and you must
go mourning the rest of your days. But that is one of his many lies. This
passage reveals how your situation may be retrieved.
(1) Acquaint your Master with your grief (

2 Kings 6:5); unbosom
yourself freely and frankly unto Him.
(2) Let His “where fell it?” (

2 Kings 6:6) search you. Examine
yourself: review the past, ascertain the place or point in your life where
the blessing ceased, discover the personal cause of your spiritual loss,
judge yourself for the failure and confess it, acknowledging the blame
to be entirely yours.
(3) Avail yourself and make use of the means for recovery: cast in the
“stick” or “tree” (

2 Kings 6:6): that is, plead the merits of Christ’s
cross (

1 Peter 2:24).
(4) Stretch forth the hand of faith (

2 Kings 6:7); that is, count upon
your Master’s infinite goodness and grace, expect His effectual
intervention, and the lost blessing shall be restored to you.
This incident may also be viewed as making known to us how we may
grow in grace.
(1) There must be the desire and prayer for spiritual expansion (

Kings 6:1) — a longing to enter into and possess the “large place”

Psalm 118:5) God has provided for us.
(2) The recognition that to enter therein involves effort from us (

Kings 6:2), labor on our part.
(3) Seek the oversight of a servant of God in this (

2 Kings 6:3), if
one is available..177
(4) Observe very carefully the particular place to which we must take
ourselves if such spiritual enlargement is to be ours. We are to be
buried under the Jordan. We can only enter into an enriched spiritual
experience by dying more and more unto the flesh, that is, by denying
self, and mortifying our lusts (

Romans 8:13;

Colossians 3:5).
(5) Expect to encounter difficulties (

2 Kings 6:5).
(6) Use the appointed means (

2 Kings 6:6) for overcoming the
obstacle of the flesh (

Galatians 6:14).
(7) Stretch forth the hand of faith (

2 Kings 6:7) and appropriate
what God has given us in Christ.
(1) See the value of requesting our Master’s presence even when you
are about to engage in manual labor.
(2) Be conscientious about borrowed articles — books, for example!
We should be more careful about things lent us than those which are
our own.
(3) Despise not those engaged in manual labor; Elisha did not.
(4) Let not the servant of God disdain what may seem trifling
opportunities to do good.
(5) Remember your Father cares for His people in their minutest
(6) Is anything too hard for Him who made the iron to swim?
(7) What encouragement is here for us to heed (

Philippians 4:6)!.178
IN THIS INCIDENT we see Elisha discharging a different line of duty. No
longer do we see him engaged in ministering to the young prophets, but
instead we find him faithfully rendering valuable assistance to his
sovereign. Once more the lust of blood or booty moved the king of Syria
to war against Israel. Following the advice of his military counselors, he
decided to encamp in a certain place through which the king of Israel was
apt to pass, expecting to catch him and his retainers. God acquainted Elisha
with his master’s peril, and accordingly the prophet went and warned him.
By heeding him, the king was preserved from the snare set for him. It is
required of us, as we have opportunity, to “do good unto all men”

Galatians 6:10). True, the Christian is not endowed with the
extraordinary gifts of Elisha; nevertheless he has a responsibility toward his
king or ruler. Not only is he divinely commanded to “Honour the king”

1 Peter 2:17), but
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For kings,
and for all that are in authority” (

1 Timothy 2:1-2).
We come now to the thirteenth miracle.
“Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel
with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my
camp” (

2 Kings 6:8).
Clearly, the opening “Then” bids us pay attention to the connection. From
a literary viewpoint we regard our present incident as the sequel to what is
mentioned in

2 Kings 5, taking

2 Kings 6:1-7 as a parenthesis,
thereby emphasizing the base ingratitude of the Syrian monarch for the
miraculous healing of his commander-in-chief in the land of Israel. There
he had written a personal letter to Israel’s king (

2 Kings 5:5-6) to
recover Naaman from his leprosy; but here he has evil designs upon him..179
That he should invade the land of Samaria so soon after such a remarkable
favor had been rendered to him, made worse his offense and made more
manifest his wicked character. It is wrong for us to return evil for evil, for
vengeance belongeth alone unto the Lord; but to return evil for good is a
sin of double enormity; yet how often have we treated God thus!
But there is another way in which this opening “Then” may be regarded,
namely, by linking it unto the typical significance of what is recorded in

2 Kings 6:1-7. We suggested a threefold application of that miracle.
First, this miracle supplies a picture of the sinner’s redemption. Viewing it
thus, what is the next thing he should expect to meet with? Why, the rage
of the enemy, and this is illustrated by the attack of the king of Syria.
Second, this miracle may also be regarded as showing the Christian how a
lost blessing is to be retrieved. And when the believer has peace, joy, and
assurance restored to him, what is sure to follow? This, “Then the king of
Syria warred against Israel.” Nothing so maddens Satan as the sight of a
happy saint — blessed is it to see in what follows how his evil designs were
Third, this miracle can also be viewed as portraying how the Christian may
grow in grace — by mortifying his members which are upon the earth. And
if he does, and enters into an enlarged spiritual experience, then he may
expect to be an object of the enemy’s renewed assaults; yet he shall not be
overcome by him.
“Then the king of Syria warred against Israel.” Yes, my reader, there were
wars in those days; human nature has been the same in each generation and
in all countries. So far from war being a new thing, the history of nations
— both ancient and modern, civilized and uncivilized — is little more than
a record of animosities, intrigues, and fightings. “Their feet are swift to
shed blood” (

Romans 3:15) is one of the solemn indictments which God
has made against the whole human family. There is no hint anywhere that
Ben-hadad had received any provocation from Israel; it was just his own
wicked greed and bloodthirstiness which moved him. And this in spite of a
serious defeat he had suffered on a previous occasion (

1 Kings 20:1,
“The heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil”

Ecclesiastics 8:11),.180
and nothing but the restraining hand of God can stop them from executing
their desires and devices. Neither solemn warnings nor kindly favors — as
this man had recently received — will soften their hearts, unless the Lord is
pleased to sanctify the same unto them.
“Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel
with his servants” (

2 Kings 6:8).
He asked not counsel of the Lord, for He was a stranger to him. We are
glad to see no mention is made here of Naaman. It was with his “servants”
rather than “the captain of the host” (

2 Kings 5:1) he now conferred.
We would hope that it was against the remonstrance of Naaman rather
than with his approval that the king now acted. Yet what daring impiety to
attack a people whose God wrought such marvels! If he had been
impressed by the healing of his general, the impression speedily faded.
“Saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp” (

2 Kings 6:8).
From the sequel it would appear that this particular “place” was one
through which the king of Israel had frequent occasion to pass; thus Ben-hadad
evidently laid a careful ambush for him there.
Thus it is with the great enemy of our souls: he knows both our ways and
our weaknesses, and where he is most likely to gain an advantage over us.
But as carefully as he made his plans, this king reckoned without the Most
“And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware
that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come
down” (

2 Kings 6:9).
Yes, the king of Syria had left the living God out of his calculations. God is
fully acquainted with the thoughts and intents of His enemies and, with the
utmost ease, can bring them to naught. The methods which He employs in
providence are as varied as His works in creation. On this occasion He did
not employ the forces of nature, as He did at the Red Sea when He
overthrew Pharoah and his hosts. Nor did He bid the king of Israel engage
Ben-hadad in battle and enable him to vanquish his enemy. Instead, He
prompted His servant to give his royal master warning and made the king
believe him. The lesson for us is important. God does not always use the
same method in His interpositions on our behalf. The fact that He came to.181
my relief for deliverance in a certain manner in the past is no guarantee that
He will follow the same course or use the same means now. This is to lift
our eyes above all secondary causes to the Lord Himself.
Observe that it was “the man of God” not merely “Elisha” who went with
this warning.
“The Lord GOD… revealeth his secret unto his servants the
prophets” (

Amos 3:7).
Thus it was in his official character that he went to the king with this divine
message. Just previously he had used his extraordinary powers to help one
of his students; here he befriended his sovereign. Whatever gift God has
bestowed on his servants, it is to be used for the good of others. One of
their principal duties is to employ the spiritual knowledge they have
received in warning those in peril. How merciful God is in warning both
sinners and saints of the place of danger! How thankful we should be when
a man of God puts us on our guard against an evil which we suspected not!
How many disastrous experiences shall we be spared if we heed the
cautions given us by the faithful messengers of Christ. It is at our peril and
to our certain loss if, in our pride and self-will, we disregard their timely
“beware that thou pass not such a place.”
The course which the Lord took in delivering the king of Israel from the
ambush set for him may not have flattered his self-esteem, any more than
Timothy’s was when Paul bade him “flee youthful lusts”; yet we may
perceive the wisdom of it. God was enforcing the king’s responsibility. He
gave him fair warning of his danger; if he disregarded it then his blood was
on his own head. So it is with us. The particular locality of peril is not
named. The Syrian had said, “In such and such a place shall be my camp,”
and, “Beware that thou pass not such a place” was the prophet’s warning.
That the king would identify it in his mind is clear from the sequel. Yet
since there is nothing meaningless in Scripture, there must be a lesson for
us in its not being specifically named. We are plainly informed in the Word
that our arch foe lies in wait to ensnare us. Sometimes a particular danger
is definitely described; at others it is (as here) more generally mentioned —
that we may ever be on our guard, pondering “the path of our feet”

Proverbs 4:26).
Though Satan may propose, God will both oppose and dispose. Before
passing on to the sequel, let us link up what has just been before us with.182
the typical teaching of the previous miracle — as the opening “Then” of
verse 8 of

2 Kings 6 and the connecting “And” of

2 Kings 6:9
require — and complete the line of thought set out in our third paragraph
above. When a sinner has been delivered from the power of darkness and
translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, he at once becomes the
object of the devil’s enmity; but God has graciously made provision for his
security and prevents the enemy from ever completely vanquishing him.
Likewise when a believer has been enabled to regain his peace and joy,
Satan will renew his efforts to encompass his downfall; but his attempts
will be foiled, for since the believer is now in communion with God, he has
light on his path and clearly perceives the place to be avoided. So also
when by means of mortification the Christian enjoys an enlarged spiritual
experience, Satan will lay a fresh snare for him; but it will be in vain, for
such a one will receive and heed divine warning.
“And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God [not
‘Elisha’!] had told him and warned him of, and saved himself there,
not once nor twice” (

2 Kings 6:10).
Here we see the king’s skepticism (cf.

2 Kings 5:7). He had some
respect for the prophet’s message or he would have disregarded it, yet he
had not full confidence therein or he would not have “sent” to investigate.
It was well for him that he went to that trouble, for thereby he obtained
definite corroboration and found the caution he had received was not
groundless. Ah, my reader, the warnings of God’s servants are not idle
ones, and it is our wisdom to pay the most serious heed to them. But alas,
while most of our fellow men will pay attention to warnings against
physical and temporal dangers, they are deaf concerning their spiritual and
eternal perils. There is a real sense in which we are required to emulate
Israel’s king here: we are to follow no preacher blindly, but we must test
his warnings, investigating them in the light of Scripture: “Prove all things;
hold fast that which is good” (

1 Thessalonians 5:21) and thereby we
shall obtain divine corroboration.
“Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this
thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not
show me which of us is for the king of Israel” (

2 Kings 6:11).
It never crossed his mind that it was the Lord who was thwarting him.
Being a stranger to Him, he had no place in his thoughts for God; and
therefore he sought a natural explanation. Instead of recognizing that God.183
was on the side of Israel and blaming himself, he was chagrined at the
failure of his plan. He suspected a traitor in his camp and sought a
“And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha,
the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that
thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (

2 Kings 6:12).
Even the heathen are not in entire ignorance of God; they have sufficient
light and knowledge of Him to render them “without excuse” (

1:19-20, 2:14-15). Much more so is this the case with unbelievers in
Christendom. This verse also shows how the spirituality and power of a
true servant of God is recognized even by his enemies. The spokesman
here may have been one of those who formed the retinue of Naaman when
he came to Elisha and was healed of his leprosy. Yet observe there was no
recognition and owning of God here. There was no acknowledgment that
He was the one who revealed such secrets to His servants, no terming of
Elisha “the man of God,” but simply “the prophet that is in Israel.” He was
regarded merely as a “seer,” possessing magical powers. Neither God nor
His servant is accorded His rightful place by any but His own people.
This miracle occurred at Dothan, which was to the west of Jordan, in the
northeast portion of Samaria. Significantly enough, Do-than means “double
feast,” and from

Genesis 37:16-17 we learn it was the place where the
flocks were fed. “And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and
fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan” (

Kings 6:13). Even now, the Syrian monarch was unwilling to recognize
that he was fighting against Jehovah, but determined to remove this
obstacle in the way of a successful carrying out of his campaign, even
though that obstacle was a prophet. God allowed him to have his own way
up to this point, that he might discover he was vainly flinging himself
against God’s “brick wall” and be made to feel his own impotency.
This verse illustrates the persistence of our great adversary, who will not
readily accept defeat. As the Syrian now sought to secure the one who had
come between him and his desired victim, so the devil makes special efforts
to silence those who successfully warn the ones he would like to take
“Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host [of
infantry]: and they came by night, and compassed the city about”

2 Kings 6:14).
That he had some realization of the power Elisha wielded is evident by the
strength and size of the force he now sent forth to take him prisoner. Yet
the fact that he did not deem him to be invincible is shown by the plan he
put into operation. Though the wicked are rendered uneasy by the stirrings
of conscience and their convictions that they are doing wrong and
following a course of madness, yet they silence the one and treat the other
as vain superstitions, and continue in their sinful career. The surrounding of
Dothan “by night” illustrates the truth that the natural man prefers the
darkness to the light, and signifies that our adversary follows a policy of
stealth and secrecy, ever seeking to take us unawares, especially when we
are asleep.
“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone
forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and
chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall
we do?” (

2 Kings 6:15).
Notice its subject is termed a servant, not of “Elisha” but of “the man of
God.” It is in such small but perfect details that the devout student loves to
see the handiwork of the Holy Spirit, evidencing as it does the verbal
inspiration of the Scriptures — God guiding each penman in the selection
of every word he employed. This man, the successor of Gehazi, was new in
the prophet’s service, and therefore he was now being tested and taught.
When a young believer throws in his lot with the people of God he will
soon discover they are hated by the world; but he is called upon to share
their reproach. Let not his older brethren expect too much from him while
he is young and inexperienced; not until he has learned to walk by faith will
he be undaunted by the difficulties and perils of the way.
“Alas, my master! how shall we do?” See here a picture of a young, weak,
timid, distracted believer. Is not the picture true to life? Cannot all of us
recall its exact replica in our own past experience? How often have we
been nonplussed by the trials of the way and the opposition we have
encountered. Quite likely this “young man” (

2 Kings 6:17) thought he
would have a smooth path in the company of the man of God, and yet here.185
was a situation that frightened him. And did we never entertain a similar
hope? And when our hope was not realized, did we never give utterance to
an unbelieving “Alas!” How shall we act — shutting God completely out
of our view, with no hope of deliverance, no expectation of His showing
Himself strong on our behalf? If memory enables us to see here a past
representation of ourself, then let compassion cause us to deal leniently and
gently with others who are similarly weak and fearful.
It should be borne in mind that the young believer has become,
constitutionally, more fearful than unbelievers. Why so? Because his self-confidence
and self-sufficience has been shattered. He has become as “a
little child,” conscious of his own weakness. So far so good; the great thing
now is for him to learn where his strength lies. It should also be pointed
out that Christians are menaced by more numerous and more formidable
foes than was Elisha’s servant,
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”

Ephesians 6:12).
Well might we tremble and be more distrustful of ourselves were we more
conscious of the supernatural beings opposing us.
“And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than
they that be with them” (

2 Kings 6:16).
A realization of that will dispel our doubts and quiet our fears.
“Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”

1 John 4:4).
“And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes,
that he may see” (

2 Kings 6:17).
How blessed is this!
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
thee: because he trusteth in thee” (

Isaiah 26:3)..186
There was no trepidation on the part of Elisha; perfect peace was his, and
therefore could he say, “Fear not” to his trembling companion. Note there
is no scolding of his servant, but instead a turning to the Lord on his behalf.
At first the writer was puzzled at the “Elisha prayed” rather than the “man
of God”; but pondering this brought out a precious lesson. It was not in his
official character that he prayed, but simply as a personal believer — to
show us that God is ready to grant the petition of any child of His who
asks in simple faith and unselfish concern for another.
“And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw:
and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire
round about Elisha” (

2 Kings 6:17).
Proof was this of his “they that be with us are more than they that be with
them”: the invisible guard was now made visible to the eyes of his servant.
Blessed illustration is this that,
“The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear
him, and delivereth them” (

Psalm 34:7).
“Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister
for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (

Hebrews 1:14).
Doubtless the angels took the form of “horses and chariots” on this
occasion because of the Syrian horses and chariots which “compassed
Dothan” (

2 Kings 6:14). What could horses of flesh and material
chariots do against celestial ones of fire! That they were personal beings is
clear from the “they” of

2 Kings 6:16; that they were angels may also be
gathered from a comparison with

Hebrews 1:7 and

2 Thessalonians
Here we are shown how to deal with a young and fearing Christian. The
strong “ought to bear the infirmities of the weak” (

Romans 15:1 ).
Many of God’s little ones are living far below their privileges, failing to
apprehend the wondrous provisions which God has made for them. They
are walking far too much by sight, occupied with the difficulties of the way
and those opposing them..187
First, such are not to be browbeaten or upbraided; that will do no
good, for unbelief is not removed by such a method.
Second, their alarm is to be quietened with calm and confident “Fear
not,” backed up with, “For they that be with us are more than they that
be with them,” and, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31), showing their fears are needless.
Third, definite prayer is to be made for the shrinking one that the Lord
will operate on and in him, for God alone can open his spiritual eyes to
see the sufficience of His provision for him..188
THAT WHICH ENGAGED OUR ATTENTION in the last chapter grew out of the
determination of Ben-hadad to again wage war on Israel. After taking
counsel with his servants, the Syrian laid an ambush for the king of Israel,
but they had reckoned without Jehovah. God revealed to His servant, the
prophet, the danger menacing his royal master, and accordingly he went
and told the king, who, attending to the warning, was delivered from the
trap set for him. The heart of the king of Syria was troubled at this
thwarting of his design, and, suspecting a traitor in his own camp, made
inquiry. Whereupon one of his attendants informed him that nothing could
be concealed from the prophet that was in Israel, and that he had put the
intended victim on his guard. After sending out spies to discover the
whereabouts of Elisha and learning that he was in Dothan, the king of Syria
sent a formidable force, consisting of “horses and chariots” and a “great
host” of footmen to take him captive, determining to remove this obstacle
from his path.
The miracle we are about to consider is a double one and, strictly speaking,
comprises the fourteenth and fifteenth of the series connected with our
prophet. But the record is so brief and the two miracles are so closely
related that they scarcely warrant separate treatment. Therefore instead of
taking them singly we propose to consider them jointly, viewing the second
as the counterpart or complement of the former. It is a miracle which
stands out from the last one which occupied our notice. That one
concerned the opening of eyes; this the closing of them. There, only one
person was involved; here a great host of men is concerned. In the one it
was the prophet’s own servant who was the subject; here it is the soldiers
who had been sent to take him captive. In the former, he responded to an
urgent appeal from his attendant; here he acts without any solicitation.
Both miracles occurred at the same place. They were both wrought in.189
answer to Elisha’s prayer. They are both recorded for our learning and
In connection with the preceding miracle, Elisha had prayed to his Master
for Him to open the eyes of his servant, and we are told,
“And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw:
and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire
round about Elisha” (

2 Kings 6:17).
That the prophet himself already saw this celestial convoy is clear; it was
his own vision of them which moved him to ask that his servitor might also
behold them. We may deduce the same from the immediate sequel. Far
from being in a panic at the great host of Syrians which had come to take
him captive, Elisha calmly stood his ground.
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold
as a lion” (

Proverbs 28:1),
for since God is for them, who can be against them? There was no need for
him to cry to the Lord for deliverance, for divine protection was present to
his view. Therefore he quietly waited till the enemy actually reached him
before he acted.
Before passing on, let us offer a further remark about this celestial guard
which was round about Elisha. That it was composed of personal beings is
clear from the pronoun “they that be with us are more than they that be
with them.” That they were angelic beings is evident from several passages:
“Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire”

Psalm 104:4).
At His second advent, we are told,
s“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty
angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not
God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (

Thessalonians 1:7-8).
The ministry of angels is admittedly a mysterious subject, one about which
we know nothing except what it has pleased God to reveal to us. Yet it is a
subject which holds by no means an inconspicuous place in Holy Writ. It.190
would be outside our present scope to explore it at large; rather must we
confine ourself to that aspect of it which is here presented unto us.
Angels are not only God’s messengers sent on missions of mercy, but they
are also His soldiers, commissioned both to guard His people, and execute
judgment on His enemies. They are designated “the host of heaven” (

Kings 22:19;

Luke 2:13) — the Greek word meaning “soldiers” or, as
we would term them, “men of war,” the militia of heaven. In full accord
with that concept we find the Savior reminding His disciples that “more
than twelve legions of angels” (

Matthew 26:53) were at His disposal,
should He but ask the Father for protection against the armed rabble that
had come to arrest Him. It was a host of them, in the form of fiery horses
and chariots (cf.

Psalm 68:17) which here encamped around Elisha,
ready to fight for him. How mighty the angels are we know. One, called
“the destroyer” (

Exodus 12:23 and cf.

2 Samuel 24:16) slew all the
firstborn of the Egyptians, while another slew 185,000 Assyrians in a night

2 Kings 19:35). That their operations continue in this Christian era is
plain from such passages as

Acts 12:7-10;

Hebrews 1:14;

Revelation 7:1, 15:1;

Matthew 24:31.
“And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD,
and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness”

2 Kings 6:18).
The “they” looks back to the armed host mentioned in

2 Kings 6:14.
Formidable as was the force sent to slay him, or at least take him captive,
the prophet stood his ground and calmly waited their approach. And well
he might. Could he not say,
“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set
themselves against me round about” (

Psalm 3:6);
and again,
“Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not
fear” (

Psalm 27:3)!
And should not the same confidence and courage be the Christian’s?
“The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of heaven,
the less shall we fear the calamities of this earth” (Henry)..191
Perhaps the reader says, If I were favored with an actual view of protecting
angels round about me, I would not fear physical danger or human
enemies. Ah my friend, is that not tantamount to a confession that you are
walking by sight? And may we not apply to you those words,
“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”

John 20:29)?
Why, think you my reader, has God chronicled here that which assured the
heart of His servant of old? Is this nothing more than a registering of a
remarkable incident in ancient history? Is that how you read and
understand the sacred Scriptures? May we not adopt the language used by
the apostle in connection with a yet earlier incident and say,
“Now it was not written for his sake alone… But for us also”

Romans 4:23-24)?
Most certainly we may, for later on in that very epistle we are expressly
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our
learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures
might have hope” (

Romans 15:4).
God has recorded that sight of those protecting angels for our faith to lay
hold of. But remember that if faith is to stand us in good stead in the hour
of emergency, it must be regularly nourished by the Word; if it is not, then
the terrors of earth will be real to us and the comforts of heaven unreal.
Unless faith appropriates that grand truth, “If God be for us, who can be
against us,” we shall neither have peace ourselves nor be qualified to quiet
the fears of others.
“And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD”

2 Kings 6:18).
That needs to be pondered and interpreted in the light of the previous
verse, or we are likely to miss its beauty and draw a false inference. Very
lovely was the prophet’s conduct on this occasion. The presence of those
horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha was virtually a sign that God
had delivered these Syrians into his hands; he had only to speak the word.192
and the angels would have destroyed them. But he bore his enemies no ill
will. Had our present verse stood by itself, we might have concluded that
the prophet was asking in self-defense, begging the Lord to protect him
from his foes, but it opens with the word “And”; and in the light of the one
preceding, we are obliged to revise our thought. It is quite clear that Elisha
was in no personal danger, so it could not have been out of any concern for
his own personal safety that he now sought God. Yet, though he calmly
awaited their approach, he did not meet his enemies in his own strength,
for prayer is an acknowledgment of insufficience.
“Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee,
with blindness.” At first glance it seems strange that he is referred to here
by his personal name rather than as “the man of God,” which the Holy
Spirit generally uses when he was about to work a miracle; yet the
variation in this place is neither fortuitous nor meaningless. It points to a
blessed lesson for us, showing as it does the readiness of the Lord to
hearken to the requests of His people. Though we do not possess the
extraordinary powers of a prophet, yet it is our privilege to ask God to
confuse and confound those of our natural enemies who seek our harm,
and to subdue our spiritual ones. This incident has been recorded for our
instruction and comfort, and one of the things we are to learn from it is
that prayer avails to render our enemies impotent. Another preceding
lesson, wherein we see another of Elisha’s requests granted: success in
prayer should encourage and embolden us to ask further favors from God.
Go back again for a moment to Elisha’s situation. This petition of his was
neither because he felt he was in any personal danger, nor did it proceed
from any spirit of malice which he bore his enemies. Then what prompted
it? Does not the miraculous healing of Naaman supply the answer to our
question? When the king of Israel had rent his clothes in dismay, the man
of God assured him that the king of Syria “shall know there is a prophet in
Israel” (

2 Kings 5:7-8), and when Naaman was recovered of his leprosy
he sought unto the man of God and, before all his own retinue, testified,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel”

2 Kings 5:15).
And now this heathen monarch had sent his forces to take the prophet
prisoner! Very well, then, if he were not yet convinced that it was the true
and living God whom Elisha served, he would receive further proof. It was
Jehovah’s glory which prompted Elisha’s request. Weigh that well my.193
reader. Everything depends upon the motive which inspires our petitions,
determining whether or not we shall receive an answer. True and
acceptable prayer rises above a sense of personal need, having in view the
honor of God’s name. Keep before you

1 Corinthians 10:31.
“And he smote them with blindness according to the word of
Elisha” (

2 Kings 6:18).
That was an exact reversal of what took place under the foregoing miracle:
there the prophet’s servant was enabled to see what was invisible to others

2 Kings 6:17), but here the Syrian soldiers were rendered incapable of
seeing what was visible to others. But let us behold in this miracle the
willingness of our God to respond to the cries of His own, that He is a
prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. If we self-distrustfully refuse to
encounter foes in our own strength, if we confidently ask God to render
their efforts impotent, and if we do so with His glory in view, we may be
assured of His gracious intervention. No matter what may be our need,
how drastic the situation, how urgent our case, how formidable our
adversary, while simple faith is exercised and the honor of God is our aim,
we may count upon His showing Himself strong on our behalf. “For I am
the LORD, I change not” (

Malachi 3:6). He is the same now as He was
in Elisha’s day.
“And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the
city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But
he led them to Samaria” (

2 Kings 6:19).
He did not abandon them in their blindness and leave them to themselves.

Genesis 19:11, where God was dealing in wrath. Had they not
been blinded, probably they would have identified the prophet by his attire;
but being strangers to him, they would be unable to recognize him by his
voice. Spiritually that illustrates a fundamental difference between the
goats and the sheep: the former are incapable of distinguishing between
teachers of truth and of error; not so the latter, for they “know not the
voice of strangers” but “will flee from him” (

John 10:5). But exactly
what did Elisha signify by those statements? It is lamentable to find one
commentator, in whose notes there is generally that which is sound and
good, saying, “The prophet intended to deceive the Syrians, and this might.194
lawfully be done, even if he had meant to treat them as enemies, in order to
his own preservation; but he designed them no harm by such deception.”
Apart from such a view giving the worst possible interpretation to the
prophet’s language, such an observation as the above is most
reprehensible. It is never right to do wrong, and, no matter what may be
our circumstances, for us to deliberately lie is to sin both against God and
our fellowmen. Such an explanation as the above is also absurd on the face
of it. Elisha was in no personal danger at all; and now that these Syrians
were blinded, he could have walked away unmolested by them, had he so
pleased. “This is not the way.” What way? He could not mean to Dothan,
for they were already there and must have known it. “I will bring you to
the man whom ye seek.” And who was that? Why, ultimately and
absolutely, the king of Israel, for whom their master had laid an ambush

2 Kings 6:11), Elisha being merely an obstacle, who had hindered
him. One who had just obtained from God such an answer to prayer, and
who was now showing mercy to his enemies, would scarcely lie to them!
“And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that
Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.
And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they
were in the midst of Samaria” (

2 Kings 6:20).
Here was still further proof that Elisha harbored no malice against these
Syrians and that he intended them no harm. Though they had hostile
designs against him, yet he now uses his interest with the Lord on their
behalf. Most gracious was that. What an example for every servant of God:
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves”

2 Timothy 2:25).
Instead of cherishing ill will against those who are unfriendly to us, we
should seek their good and pray to the Lord on their behalf. How this
incident reminds us of a yet more blessed example when the Lord of glory
in the midst of His sufferings made intercession for His crucifiers (


Luke 23:34).
A further miracle was now wrought in answer to Elisha’s intercession,
showing us once more the mighty power of God and His willingness to
employ it in answer to the petitions of His people. Note how Elisha made.195
good his promise: he led them to the man they really sought, for the next
person mentioned is “the king of Israel”!
“And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My
father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?” (

2 Kings 6:21).
Very solemn is this: and in full accord with the king’s character: the Lord
did not open his eyes; consequently he was blind to the working of His
goodness and incapable of appreciating the magnanimous spirit which had
been displayed by the prophet. Here we see what man is by nature: fierce,
cruel, vindictive. Such are we and all of our fellowmen as the result of the
fall: “living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (

3:3). Only the restraining hand of God prevents our enemies from falling
upon us. Were that hand completely withdrawn, we should be no safer in a
“civilized’’ country than if we were surrounded by savages or cast into a
den of wild beasts. We do not sufficiently realize that God’s restraining
power is upon those who hate us:
“I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee”

Acts 18:10).
“And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite
those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy
bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink,
and go to their master” (

2 Kings 6:22).
Observe how Elisha kept full control of the situation, even though he was
now in the royal quarters — something which every servant of God needs
to heed, exercising the authority which Christ has given him. Note too how
this verse teaches that mercy is to be shown to prisoners of war; or taking
it in its wider application, how kindness is to be extended to our enemies.
And this, mark it well, occurred under the Old Testament economy! The
divine law commanded its subjects,
“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be
thirsty, give him water to drink” (

Proverbs 25:21,
and see also

Exodus 23:4-5); much more so under the dispensation of
grace are we required to “overcome evil with good” (

Romans 12:21)..196
Elisha had his way, and the king “prepared great provision for them: and
when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their
master” (

2 Kings 6:23), that he might learn anew that our times, the
success or failure of our plans, our health and our lives, are in the hand of
the living God, and that He is not only infinite in power but plenteous in
mercy. The sequel was,
“So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel”

2 Kings 6:23).
God honored the magnanimity of His prophet and rewarded the obedience
of his royal master by exempting the land from any further depredations
from these savage bands.
May we not see in the above incident another lovely gospel picture,
viewing the graciousness of Elisha to those who had gone to take him
captive as a shadowing forth of God’s mercy to elect sinners? First, we are
shown that they are by nature — at enmity with His servant. Second, we
behold them as the subjects of His servant’s prayers, that they may be
granted a sense of their wretched condition. Third, in answer thereto they
are duly brought to realize their impotency; who are so consciously
helpless as the blind? Fourth, they were moved to follow the instructions
and guidance of God’s servant. Fifth, in due course their eyes were
opened. Sixth, they were feasted with “great provision” at the king’s own
table! Seventh, the picture is completed by our beholding them as changed
creatures — coming no more on an evil errand into Israel’s land.
But is there not also an important spiritual meaning and lesson here for
Christians? How are we to deal with those who seek to injure us, should
Providence deliver them into our hands? We are to ask the Lord to nullify
their efforts and render them powerless to injure us. But more. We are also
to pray that God will open their eyes, and treat them kindly and generously

Matthew 5:44)..197
THE PASSAGE which is now to engage our attention is much longer than
usual, beginning as it does at

2 Kings 6:24 and running to the end of

2 Kings 7. The whole of it needs to be read at a sitting, so as to
perceive its connections, its unity, and its wonders. In it there is a striking
mingling of light and shade: the dark background of human depravity and
the bright display of the prophet’s faith; the exercise of God’s justice in His
sore judgments upon a rebellious and wayward people, and the
manifestation of His amazing mercy and grace. In it we are shown how the
wrath of man was made to praise the Lord, how the oath of a wicked king
was made to recoil on his own head, how the skepticism of his courtier
was given the lie and how the confidence of Elisha in his Master’s word
was vindicated. In it we behold how the wicked was taken in his own
craftiness, or to use the language of Samson’s parable, how the eater was
made to yield meat, and how poor outcast lepers became the heralds of
good news.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Were one to invent a story after the
order of the incident narrated in our present portion, critical readers would
scorn it as being too farfetched. But those who believe in the living and
omnipotent God that presides over the affairs of this world, far from
finding anything here which taxes their faith, bow in adoration before Him
who has only to speak and it is done, to will a thing and it is accomplished.
In this case, Samaria was beseiged by a powerful enemy, so that its
inhabitants were completely surrounded. The situation became drastic and
desperate, for there was a famine so acute that cannibalism was resorted
to. Yet under these extreme circumstances Elisha announced that within
twenty-four hours there would be an abundance of food for everyone. His
message was received with incredulity and scorn, yet it came to pass just as
he had said, without a penny being spent, a gift being made, or a blow
being struck. The surrounding Syrians fled in panic and left their vast
stores of food to relieve the famished city. Let us now begin our
examination of this miracle..198
After our remarks above it may strike the reader that it is quite an
unnecessary waste of effort to labor a point which is obvious and offer
proof that a miracle was wrought on this occasion. The writer would have
thought so too had he not, after completing his own meditations, consulted
several volumes on the Old Testament, only to find that this wonder is not
listed among the miracles associated with Elisha. Even such a work as The
Companion Bible, which supplies what is supposed to be a complete
catalog of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, omits this one. We offer no
solution to this oversight, but since other writers have failed to see in

Kings 7 one of the marvels of our prophet we feel that we should present
some of the evidence which in our judgment furnishes clear proof that a
supernatural event was wrought on this occasion, and that we are fully
warranted in connecting it with Elisha.
The first thing that we would take note of is that when the people were in
such desperate straits and the king was so beside himself that he rent his
clothes and swore that the prophet should be slain that very day, we are
“But [contrastively] Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with
him” (

2 Kings 6:32),
which suggests to us that they had waited upon the Lord and had received
assurance from Him of His intervention in mercy. Second, that the prophet
was in communion with and in possession of the secret of the Lord is borne
out by the remaining words of the verse, where he tells his companions of
Jehoram’s evil intention and announces the approach of his agent before he
arrived. Next, we find the prophet plainly declaring that an abundant supply
of food would be provided on the morrow (

2 Kings 7:1), and he did so
in his official character as “the man of God” (

2 Kings 7:2, 17, 18, 19),
which, as we have seen in previous chapters, is the title that is usually
accorded him when God was about to work mightily through him or for
him in answer to his prayers.
Consider too the circumstances.
“There was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they [the
Syrians] beseiged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore
pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five
pieces of silver” (

2 Kings 6:25)..199
Nevertheless the prophet declared that there should suddenly be provided
sufficient food for all; and the sequel shows it came to pass such an
abundant supply. The manner in which that food was furnished clearly
evidenced the supernatural, as an impartial reading of

2 Kings 7:6-7 will
make clear, for it was their enemies who were made to supply their tables!
Finally, if we give due weight to the “according to the word of the LORD”
and “as the man of God had said” in

2 Kings 7:16-17 and link with

Kings 4:43-44 where another of his miracles is in view and so referred to,
the demonstration is complete.
This was the terrible shortage of food in the city of Samaria, due to its
being surrounded by an enemy, so that none of its inhabitants could go
forth and obtain fresh supplies.
“And it came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria
gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria”

2 Kings 6:24).
Strange as it may at first seem and sound to the reader, we see here one of
the many internal evidences of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. This
will appear if we quote the last clause of the verse immediately preceding:
“So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.” Had an
impostor written this chapter, attempting to palm off upon us a pious
forgery he surely would not have been so careless as to place in immediate
juxtaposition two statements which a casual reader can only regard as a flat
contradiction. No, one who was inventing a story certainly would have
made it read consistently and plausibly. Hence, we arrive at the conclusion
that this is no fictitious narrative from the pen of a pretender to inspiration.
“So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel [of which
‘Samaria’ was a part, as

2 Kings 5:20 shows]. And it came to pass after
this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and
besieged Samaria” (

2 Kings 6:23-24). Now the placing of those two
statements side by side is a clear intimation to us that the Scriptures need
to be read closely and carefully, that their terms must be properly weighed,
and that failure to do so will inevitably lead to serious misunderstanding of
their purport. It is because infidels only skim passages here and there and
are so poorly acquainted with the Word, that they charge it with being “full
of contradictions.” But there is no contradiction here, and if it presents any.200
so-called difficulty to us, it is entirely of our own making. The first
statement has reference to the plundering and irregular “bands” which had
from time to time preyed on the Samaritans (compare the “companies” of

2 Kings 5:2), what we would term today “commando raids”; whereas

2 Kings 6:24 speaks of organized war, a mass invasion, Ben-hadad
gathering together “all his host.”
“And it came to pass after this, that Ben-hadad king of Syria
gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria”

2 Kings 6:24).
The opening clause is far more than a historical mark of time; properly
understood, it serves to bring out the character of this man. The
introductory “And” bids us link his action here with what is recorded in the
context. In the remote context (

2 Kings 5), we saw how God graciously
healed Naaman of his leprosy. Naaman was the commander-in-chief of
Ben-hadad’s army and had been sent by him into Samaria to be cured of his
dread disease. But little did the Syrian monarch appreciate that signal
favor; shortly after, he assembled an increased force of his bands and
“warred against Israel” (

2 Kings 6:8). His plan was to capture Jehoram,
but being foiled by Elisha he sent his men to capture the prophet. In that
too he failed, for in answer to Elisha’s prayer, they were smitten with
blindness; though instead of taking advantage of their helplessness, he later
prayed for their eyes to be opened, and after having the king give them a
feast, sent them home to their master, who had returned to Syria.
“And it came to pass after this”; not that Ben-hadad repented of his former
actings, nor that he was grateful for the mercy and kindness which had
been shown his soldiers; but that he “gathered all his host, and went up,
and besieged Samaria.” Not only was this base ingratitude against his
human benefactors, but it was blatant defiance against Jehovah Himself.
Twice the Lord had manifested His miracle-working power in grace on his
behalf; and here was his response. Yet we must look further if we are to
perceive the deeper meaning of “it came to pass after this,” for we need to
answer the question, Why did the Lord permit this heathen to invade
Israel’s territory?
The reply is also furnished by the context. Ben-hadad was not the only one
who had profited by God’s mercies in the immediate past; the king of Israel
had also been divinely delivered from those who sought his life. And how
did he express his appreciation? Did he promptly institute a religious.201
reformation in his dominions and tear down the altars which his wicked
parents had set up? No, so far as we are informed he was quite unmoved
and continued in his idolatry.
It is written, “the curse causeless shall not come” (

Proverbs 26:2).
When God afflicts a people, be it a church or a nation, it is because He has
a controversy with them. If they refuse to put right what is wrong, He
chastises them. God, then, was acting in judgment on Samaria when He
commissioned the Syrians to now enter their land in full force.
“O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is
mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation”

Isaiah 10:5-6).
So again, at a later date, the Lord said of Nebuchadnezzar
“Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with [or ‘by’] thee
will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy
kingdoms” (

Jeremiah 51:20).
It is in the light of such passages as these we should view the activities of a
Hitler or a Mussolini! Though God’s time to completely cast off Israel had
not come in the days of Jehoram, yet He employed Ben-hadad to
grievously afflict his kingdom.
“And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they
besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of
silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of
silver” (

2 Kings 6:25).
Troubles seldom come singly, for God means to leave us without excuse if
we fail to recognize whose hand it is which is dealing with us. Ben-hadad
chose his hour to attack when Israel was in sore tribulation, which serves
also to illustrate Satan’s favorite method of assaulting the saints. Like the
fiend that he is, he strikes when they are at their lowest ebb, coming as the
roaring lion when their nerves are already stretched to the utmost, seeking
to render them both praiseless and prayerless while lying on a bed of
sickness, or to instill into their minds doubts of God’s goodness in the hour
of bereavement, or to question His promises when the meal has run low in
their barrel. But since “we are not ignorant of his devices” (

Corinthians 2:11), we should be on our guard against such tactics..202
“And there was a great famine in Samaria.” It needs to be pointed out in
these days of skepticism and practical atheism that the inhabitants of earth
are under the government of something infinitely better than “fickle
fortune,” namely, a world which is ruled over by the living God. Goodly
harvests or the absence of them are not the result of chance nor the effect
of a blind fate. In

Psalm 105:16 we read that God “called for a famine
upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread.” And my reader, when He
calls for a “famine,” neither farmers nor scientists can prevent or avert it.
We have read in the past of famines in China and in India, but how faintly
can we conceive of the awful horrors of one in our day! As intimated
above, the Lord called for this famine on Samaria because the king and his
subjects had not taken to heart His previous chastisements of the land for
their idolatry. When a people refuse to heed the rod, then He smites more
“And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it.”
Their design was not to storm but to starve the city, by throwing a
powerful military cordon around it, so that none could either go out or
come in.
“And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall [probably
taking stock of his defences and seeking to encourage the garrison],
there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king”

2 Kings 6:26).
And well she might, for they were now deprived of the bare necessities of
life, with a slow but painful death by starvation stating them in the face.
Ah, my reader, how little we really value the common mercies of this life
until they are taken from us! Poor woman, she turned to lean upon a
broken reed, seeking relief from the apostate king, rather than making
known her need to the Lord. There is no hint anywhere in the narrative that
the people prayed to God.
“And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help
thee? out of the barnfloor or out of the winepress?”

2 Kings 6:27).
That was not the language of submission and piety, but, as the sequel
shows, of derision and blasphemy. His language was that of anger and
despair: the Lord will not help; I cannot, so we must perish. Out of the
abundance of his evil heart his mouth spoke. Calming down a little,.203
“the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This
woman [pointing to a companion] said unto me, Give thy son, that
we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we
boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day,
Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son” (

Kings 6:28-29).
This shows the desperate conditions which then prevailed and the awful
pass to which things had come. Natural affection yielded to the pangs of
hunger. This too must also be regarded as a most solemn example of the
divine justice, and vengeance on idolatrous Israel.
It must be steadily borne in mind that the people of Samaria had cast off
their allegiance to Jehovah and were worshipping false gods, and therefore
according to His threatenings, the Lord visited them with severe
judgments. They were so blockaded by the enemy that all ordinary food
supplies failed them, so that in their desperation they were driven to devour
the most abominable offals and even human flesh. Of old the Lord had
announced unto Israel,
“If ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto
me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I,
will chastise you seven times for your sins, and ye shall eat the flesh
of your sons” (

Leviticus 26:27-29).
And again,
“The LORD shall bring a nation against thee… And he shall besiege
thee… And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of
thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given
thee, in the siege, and in the straitness” (

Deuteronomy 28:49,
This was even more completely fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in
A.D. 70. No words of God’s shall fall to the ground; His threatenings,
equally with His promises, are infallibly certain of fulfillment!
“And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the
woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall,
and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon
his flesh” (

2 Kings 6:30)..204
According to the customs of those days and the ways of Oriental people,
this was the external garb of a penitent; but what was it worthwhile he
renounced not his idols? Not a particle in the eyes of Him who cannot be
imposed upon by any outward shows. It was a pose which the king
adopted for the benefit of his subjects, to signify that he felt deeply for their
miseries; yet he lamented not for his own iniquities, which were the
underlying cause of the calamity. Instead of so doing, the very next verse
tells us that he took an awful oath that Elisha should be promptly slain.
“Rend your heart, and not your garments” (

Joel 2:13) is ever the divine
call to those under chastisement, for God desires truth (reality) in “the
inward parts” (

Psalm 51:6).
As it is useless to wear sackcloth when we mourn not for our sins, so it is
in vain to flock to church on a “day of prayer” and then return at once to
our vanities and idols. Israel later complained, “Wherefore have we
fasted,… and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and
thou takest no knowledge?” And God answered them by saying,
“Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your
labors…. Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to
be heard on high” (

Isaiah 58:3-4).
Thus there is such a thing as not only praying but fasting which God pays
no attention to. At a later date He said to them,
“When ye fasted and mourned… did ye at all fast unto me, even to
me? Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by
the former prophets!” (

Zechariah 7:5, 7).
While a nation tramples upon the divine commandments, neither prayer and
fasting nor any other religious performances are of any avail with Him who
says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (

1 Samuel 15:22). There
must be a turning away from sin before there can be any real turning unto
“THEN HE SAID, God do so and more also to me, if the head of
Elisha the son of Shaphat stand on him this day” (

2 Kings 6:31).
This was the language of hatred and fury. Refusing to admit that it was his
own impenitence and stubbornness which was the procuring cause of the
terrible straits to which his kingdom was now reduced, Jehoram turned an
evil eye on the prophet and determined to make a scapegoat of him. As
though the man of God was responsible for the famine, Israel’s apostate
king took a horrible oath that he should be promptly slain. He was well
acquainted with what had happened in the reign of his parents, when in
answer to the words of Elijah there had been no rain on Samaria (

Kings 17:1), and he probably considered that his own desperate situation
was due to Elisha’s prayers. Though just as Ahab declined to recognize
that the protracted drought was a divine judgment upon his own idolatry,
so his son now ignored the fact that it was his personal sins that had called
down the present expression of divine wrath.
This solemn and awful incident should be viewed in the light of that divine
indictment, “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (

Romans 8:7), and
that my reader, is true of your mind and of my mind by nature. You may
not believe it, but He before whose omniscient eye your heart is open,
declares it to be so. You may be quite unconscious of your awful
condition, but that does not alter the fact. If you were better acquainted
with the true God, were aware of His ineffable holiness and inexorable
justice, and realized that it is His hand that smites you when your body
suffers acute pain or when your circumstances are most distressing, you
might find it easier to discover how your heart really beats toward Him and
the ill will you bear Him. True, that fearful “enmity” does not always
manifest itself in the same way or to the same degree, for in His mercy God
often places His restraining hand upon the wicked and prevents the full
outbursts of their hostility and madness. But when that restraining hand is
removed, their case is like that described in

Revelation 16:10-11:.206
“They gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of
heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of
their deeds.”
And why do we say that Jehoram’s conduct on this occasion made
manifest the enmity of the carnal mind against God? Because, while he was
unable to do Jehovah any injury directly, he determined to visit his spite
upon Him indirectly, by maltreating His servant. Ah my reader, there is
important if solemn instruction for us in that. Few people realize the source
from which proceeds the bitterness, the opposition made against, the cruel
treatment meted out to many of the ministers of the gospel. As the
representatives of the holy One, they are a thorn in the side of the ungodly.
Though they do them no harm, but instead desire and seek their highest
good, yet are they detested by those who want to be left alone in their sins.
Nothing recorded in human history more plainly and fearfully displays the
depravity of fallen man and his alienation from God than his behavior
toward the most faithful of His servants — supremely manifested when the
Lord of glory took upon Him the form of a servant and tabernacled among
men. It was just because He made known and revealed the character of
God as none else ever did, that man’s hatred of and enmity against Him
was so inveterately and fiercely exhibited.
“But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him”

2 Kings 6:32).
This verse also needs to be pondered in the light of other Scriptures. For
“Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet
from fear of evil” (

Proverbs 1:33).
The one who truly fears the Lord, fears not man; and his heart is preserved
from those trepidations which so much disturb the rest and so often
torment the wicked. No, “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings”; he shall
neither have alarming anticipations of such, nor be dismayed when they
actually arrive. And why not? Because “his heart is fixed, trusting in the

Psalm 112:7). Rumors do not shake him, nor does he quake
when they are authenticated, for he is assured that his “times” are in the
hand of the Lord (

Psalm 31:15). And therefore is he kept in peace. In
the light of all that is recorded of him, who can doubt that Elisha and his
companions had been on their knees before the throne of grace, and now.207
calmly awaited events. That is the holy privilege of the saints in times of
acutest stress and distress: to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him”

Psalm 37:7).
“And the king sent a man from before him.” This man was dispatched
quickly ahead of Jehoram, either to announce his awful decision or to put it
into actual execution. Had the king paused to reflect, he should have
realized that it was one thing to form such a determination, but quite
another to carry it out. Had not Ben-hadad, only a short time previously,
sent a “great host” not only of footmen, but of “horses and chariots”
against this servant of the Lord (

2 Kings 6:14) only for them to
discover their impotence against him! But when a soul (or a people) has
abandoned the Lord, he is given up to a spirit of madness, so that not only
does God have no place in his thoughts, but he is no longer capable of
acting rationally — rationality and spirituality are closely connected. “But
ere the messenger came to him, he [Elisha] said to the elders, See ye how
this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the
messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the
sound of his master’s feet behind him?” (

2 Kings 6:32).
“And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came
down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD: what
should I wait for the LORD any longer?” (

2 Kings 6:33).
We confess we do not find it easy to ascertain the precise force of this
verse, not even its grammatical meaning. The first sentence is clear, for the
“while he yet talked” evidently refers to what Elisha was saying to the
elders. The difficulty is to discover the antecedent of the “And he said.”
The nearest is the “him” or Elisha, yet certainly he would not say his
proposed murder (“this evil”) was “of the Lord,” ordered by Him. The next
is “the messenger,” but the prophet had given definite orders that he was
not to be admitted, nor would this agree with what follows in

2 Kings
7:1-2. We therefore regard the second sentence as recording the words of
the king himself, who had followed immediately on the heels of his
messenger, thus the more remote but principal antecedent of

2 Kings
6:30-31; just as we understood “the man whom ye seek” as meaning
Jehoram rather than Elisha (

2 Kings 6:19).
But what did the king signify by “this evil is of the LORD?” We certainly
do not concur with Henry and Scott that he referred to the siege and
famine, for not only is the grammar of the passage against such a view, but.208
it is in direct opposition to everything else which is recorded of this son of
Jezebel. He did not believe in Jehovah at all, and therefore his language
must be regarded as that of derision and blasphemy. The context shows he
was in a towering rage, that he regarded Elisha as being in some way
responsible for the present calamity, and that he was determined to put a
sudden end to his life. Fully intending to execute his murderous design, he
now burst in on the prophet and said, “This evil is of the LORD.” Those
were the words of contemptuous mockery: you profess to be a servant of
an all-powerful Jehovah; let’s see what He can do for you now — behold
me as His executioner if you please. “What should I wait for the LORD
any longer?” Jehovah has no place in my thoughts or plan; the situation is
hopeless, so I shall waste no more time, but slay you and surrender to Ben-hadad
and take my chance.
“Then Elisha said — “ The “Then” looks back to all that has been before
us in the last ten verses of

2 Kings 6. “Then” when “all the hosts of
Syria” were besieging Samaria; “then” when there was a great famine and
things had come to such an extreme pass that the people were paying
immense prices for the vilest of offals, and mothers were consuming their
own infants. “Then” when the king of Israel had sworn that the prophet
should be beheaded this very day; “then” when the king in a white heat of
passion entered Elisha’s abode to carry out his murderous intention.
“Then” — what? Did the prophet give way to abject despair and break
forth into bitter lamentations of murmuring rebellion? No indeed. Then
what? Did Elisha fling himself at the king’s feet and plead with him to
spare his life? Very far from it; such is not the way the ambassadors of the
King of kings conduct themselves in a crisis. Instead, “then Elisha said
[calmly and quietly], Hear ye the word of the Lord.” To what import? That
His patience is exhausted, that He will now pour out His wrath and utterly
consume you? No, the very reverse; the last thing they could have expected
him to say.
“Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the
LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be
sold for [as little as] a shekel, and two measures of barley for a
shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (

2 Kings 7:1).
This brings us to the third area of consideration..209
In view of the next verse, it is quite clear that the prophet addressed
himself to the king and those who had accompanied him. It was as though
he said, I have listened to the derisive and insulting words which you have
spoken of my Master; now hear what He has to say! And what was His
message on this occasion? This: He is about to have mercy upon your
kingdom. He is on the point of working a miracle within the next twenty-four
hours which will entirely reverse the present situation, so that not only
will the Syrians depart, but there shall be provided an abundant supply of
food, which will fully meet the needs of your people, and that, without a
blow being struck or your royal coffers being any the poorer.
Admire here the remarkable faith of Elisha. “Then.” When things were at
their lowest possible ebb, when the situation was desperate beyond words,
when the outlook appeared to be utterly hopeless. Mark the implicit
confidence of the prophet in that dark hour. He had received a message of
good tidings from his Master, and he hesitated not to announce it. Ah, but
put yourself in his place, my reader, and remember that he was “a man of
like passions” with us, and therefore liable to be cast down by an evil heart
of unbelief. It is a great mistake for us to look upon the prophets as
superhuman characters. In this case, as in all parallel ones, God was
pleased to place His treasure in an “earthen vessel,” that the glory might be
His. Elisha was just as liable to the attacks of Satan as we are. For all we
know to the contrary and reasoning from the law of analogy, it is quite
likely that the enemy of souls came to him at that time with his evil
suggestions and said, May you not be mistaken in concluding that you have
received such a word as this from the Lord? Nay, you are mistaken — your
own wish is father to the thought. You are deluded into imagining that
such a thing can be.
Those who are experimentally acquainted with the conflict between faith
and unbelief, who are frequently made to cry out, “Lord, I believe, help
thou mine unbelief,” will have little difficulty in following what has just
been said. They who know something from firsthand acquaintance of the
tactics of the devil and the methods of his assaults, will not consider our
remarks farfetched. Rather will they concur that it is more than likely
Elisha was hotly assailed by the adversary at this very time. Would he not
pose too as an angel of light, and preach a little sermon to the prophet,
saying, A holy God is now acting in judgment, righteously scourging the.210
idolatrous Jehoram, and therefore you must certainly be mistaken in
supposing He is about to act in a way of mercy. At any rate, exercise
prudence, wait awhile longer lest you make a fool of yourself; it would be
cruel to raise false hopes in the starving people! But if so, Elisha heeded
him not, but being strong in faith, he gave glory to God. It was just such
cases as this that the apostle had in mind when he mentioned the faith of
“the prophets” in

Hebrews 11:32.
Ah, my reader, Elisha was assured that what he had received was “the
Word” of Him “that cannot lie,” and no matter how much opposed it was
to common sense and to all outward appearances, he firmly took his stand
upon it. The “faith of God’s elect” (

Titus 1:1) is no fiction but a
glorious reality. It is something more than a beautiful ideal to talk about
and sing of. It is a divine gift, a supernatural principle, which not only
overcomes the world but survives the “fiery trial,” yes, issues therefrom
refined. Elisha was not put to confusion. That divine “word,” though
perhaps quite unexpected and contrary to his own anticipations, was
faithfully and literally fulfilled; and remember that this is recorded for our
learning and consolation. We too have in our hands the Word of truth, but
do we have it in our hearts? Are we really relying upon its promises, no
matter how unlikely their accomplishment may seem to carnal reason? If
so, we are resting upon a sure foundation, and we too shall have our faith
vindicated, and God will be glorified through and by us.
But let us look higher now than Elisha’s faith in that divine word to the
One who gave it to him. It was the Lord manifesting Himself as the God of
all grace to those who were utterly unworthy. In their dire extremity the
Lord had mercy upon them and remembered they were the seed of
Abraham, and therefore He would not entirely destroy them. He turned an
eye of pity on the starving city and promised them speedy relief from the
awful famine. How truly wonderful is His mercy! He was saying, “How
shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I
make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned
within me, my repentings are kindled together” (

Hosea 11:8). But that
mercy rested on a righteous basis; there was a “handful of salt” in Samaria
which preserved it from destruction — the prophet and the elders. Rightly
was Elisha styled by a later king “the chariot of Israel and the horsemen
thereof” (

2 Kings 13:14), for his presence in their midst was a better
defense than a multitude of infantry and cavalry; a British queen feared the
prayers of Knox far more than any arm of flesh..211
And may not what has just been pointed out provide a ray of hope for us in
this, spiritually speaking, dark night? Of old Israel was reminded,
“For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto
them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him
for?” (

Deuteronomy 4:7).
Has not that been true of Britain the past four centuries as of no other
people? God has shown us favors, granted us privileges, such as no other
nation in the world has enjoyed. And we, like Israel of old, have evilly
required Him and abused His great benefits. For years past His judgments
have been upon us, and like Israel again, we have sadly failed to bow to
His rod and turn from our sins. If God was so reluctant to abandon Israel,
may He not continue to show us mercy, and for the sake of the little “salt”
still left in our midst, spare us from destruction? Time will tell, but we are
not left without hope.
“Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of
God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in
heaven, might this thing be?” (

2 Kings 7:2).
There was the response that was made to Jehovah’s word through His
prophet. Instead of being received with thanksgiving and tears of gratitude,
it met with a contemptuous sneer. The courtier’s language expressed the
skepticism of carnal reason. Unbelief dared to question the divine promise
— illustrative of the unregenerate’s rejection of the gospel. This man
argued from what he could see: as no possible relief was visible, he scorned
its probability, or rather certainty.
“And he [Elisha] said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but
shalt not eat thereof” (

2 Kings 7:2).
Let it be noted that the prophet wasted no breath in reasoning with this
skeptic. It is not only useless, but most unbecoming for a servant of the
Lord to descend to the level of such objectors. Instead, he simply affirmed
that this man would witness the miracle but be unable to share in its
benefits. God Himself will yet answer the skeptics of this age, as He did
that one, with appropriate judgment. Such will be the doom of unbelievers:
they shall see the redeemed feasting at the marriage of the Lamb, yet not
partake thereof (

Matthew 8:11-12)..212
LET US BRIEFLY REVIEW our last two chapters upon this miracle.
First, we emphasized its reality, seeking to show it was indeed a miracle
which took place and that it might justly be regarded as connected with
Second, we dwelt upon its occasion, which was the fearful shortage of
food in the city of Samaria, resulting from its being so closely surrounded
by the Syrians that none of its inhabitants could go forth and obtain fresh
supplies (

2 Kings 6:24-25). So acute did conditions become that the
vilest of offals were sold at exhorbitant prices, and mothers had begun to
consume their own babies. So far from humbling himself beneath the hand
of divine judgment and acknowledging that it was his own idolatry and
impenitence which was the procuring cause of reducing his kingdom to
such sore straits, Israel’s king turned an evil eye upon Elisha and
determined to make a scapegoat of him, taking a horrible oath that he
should be slain forthwith (

2 Kings 6:31) — evidencing that he was a
true son of Jezebel (

1 Kings 18:4).
“But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him”

2 Kings 6:32);
he calmly awaited events. Announcing that “this son of a murderer hath
sent to take away mine head,” he gave orders that the door should be shut
and the royal messenger not be admitted. Jehoram himself hastened on just
behind. The prophet and the king then came face to face, and the former
announced the impending miracle.
“Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the
LORD, To morrow, about this time shall a measure of fine flour be
sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the
gate of Samaria” (

2 Kings 7:1)..213
That was tantamount to saying, God in His high sovereignty is going to
show mercy on your wretched kingdom, and within a day will work a
miracle that shall entirely reverse the present situation. Not only will the
Syrians depart, but there shall be provided an abundant supply of food
which will fully meet the needs of your people, without a blow being struck
or your royal coffers being any the poorer.
“Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of
God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in
heaven, might this thing be?” (

2 Kings 7:2).
Such a message of good news as the prophet had just proclaimed, of
deliverance from the enemy and food for the starving, seemed utterly
incredible to carnal reason, and therefore instead of being received with
fervent thanksgiving, it was met with a contemptuous sneer. Unbelief
presumed to call into question the divine promise. Arguing from what he
could see, no possible relief being visible, this wicked lord scorned the
likelihood of its fulfillment. That which Elisha had announced was indeed
impossible to anyone but the living God, for only by a miracle could it be
made good; yet it was the express word of Him that cannot lie and who is
endowed with omnipotence. Despite the effort of his unbelieving courtier
to prevent any weakening of his resolution, the king of Israel decided to
wait another day before carrying out his murderous design, and during that
interval the prediction was accomplished. We now continue this study.
Heralds are the ones made use of by the Lord to proclaim the wonder of
mercy which He had wrought. Strange indeed do the divine methods often
appear to our dim vision, yet in the light of Scripture their significance is
not lost upon those favored with anointed eyes. It was not “the elders of
Israel” who had sat with Elisha in his house, nor was it “the sons of the
prophets” whom the Lord honored on this occasion. God is sovereign and
employs whom He pleases. Often He acts as He does in order to stain the
pride of man, for He is jealous of His own honor and will suffer no flesh to
glory in His presence. It is true that He has called certain men to the special
work of the ministry and set them apart, and that He frequently works
through them in the converting of His people; yet He is by no means tied to
that particular agency, and often manifests His independence by making.214
use of the most unlikely ones to be His agents —as appears in the more
extreme cases of Balaam and Judas. So it was here.
“And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate:
and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?”

2 Kings 7:3).
More unlikely instruments could scarcely be imagined. They were pariahs,
outcasts, men debarred from mingling with their ordinary fellow citizens.
They were lepers, and as such excluded by the divine law (

13:46). Yet these were the ones whom God was pleased to employ. How
different are His thoughts and ways from man’s! But let us observe the
position which they occupied and the strange anomaly which that reveals.
They were sitting “at the entering in of the gate,” that is, of Samaria (

Kings 7:1, 3), namely, on the outside of the city’s walls — as the next
verse shows. There we have a striking sidelight on the inconsistency of
perverse human nature, especially in connection with religious matters.
Though idolaters devoid of any respect for Jehovah, yet Jehoram and his
officers were punctilious in carrying out the requirement of the ceremonial
law as it respected the exclusion of lepers! They were diligent in tithing
mint and anise while omitting the weightier matters of the moral law

Matthew 23:23).
That to which we have called attention is frequently exemplified on the
pages of Holy Writ. Instead of utterly destroying Amalek and all his
possessions, as commanded when God delivered them into his hands, Saul
permitted the people to spare the best of the sheep and oxen that they
might offer them in “sacrifice unto the LORD.” To these Samuel declared,
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat
of rams” (

1 Samuel 15:22).
Because it was the eve of the Passover the Jews besought Pilate that the
bodies of Christ and the two thieves who had been crucified with Him
“might be taken away” (

John 19:31), that their solemn feast might not
be defiled. What a strange mixture human nature is! Those ceremonially
unclean lepers must be shut out of Samaria, even though Jehovah Himself
was treated with the utmost contempt! And do we not see the same
principle illustrated in Christendom? Let a Christian attend morning
services, and he may spend the remainder of Sunday as he pleases. Being a
stickler for a particular form of baptism, breaking bread each Lord’s day.215
morning, or spending five days at a “communion,” is a mockery if we love
not our neighbor as ourselves.
“And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they
said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?” It will probably
surprise many to know that some have been taught that this is the proper
attitude to assume when one has been convicted of his lost condition.
Appeal for this is made to such passages as
“Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates,
waiting at the posts of my doors” (

Proverbs 8:34),
“In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt,
withered, waiting for the moving of the water” (

John 5:3).
The awakened sinner is told that he is utterly helpless to do anything for
himself, entirely dependent on God’s sovereign pleasure, and then since
there is a set time to favor Zion (

Psalm 102:13), he must meekly wait
for God’s appointed hour of deliverance, should He deign to deliver him.
But such counsel is an utter misuse of both the truth of God’s sovereignty
and of man’s spiritual inability. Proof of its error is found in the fact that it
both clashes with the call of the gospel and is a repudiation of human
The truth is that the spiritual inability of the natural man is both a voluntary
and a criminal one. He does not love and serve God because he hates Him;
he believes not the gospel because he prefers to cherish a lie; he will not
come to the Light because he loves darkness. So far from his “I cannot
repent, I cannot believe” expressing an honest desire to do so, it is but an
avowal of the heart’s enmity against God. If the doctrine of the cross and
the glorious message of the gospel contain nothing to overcome such
enmity and attract the soul to Christ, it is not for us to invent another
gospel and bend the Scriptures to the inclination of man’s depravity. It is
we who must bend to the Scriptures; and if we do not, it will be to our
eternal undoing. The one who wrings his hands over his inability to believe
and asks, What can I do? is not to be soothed by something other than the
gospel of Christ, or encouraged to suppose that he is willing to be saved in
God’s way. Yet that is the very delusion such souls cherish, imagining they
are as willing to be saved from their sins as the impotent man by the pool
was desirous of being made whole..216
Neither Christ nor any of His apostles ever told a convicted soul to
passively wait for God’s appointed hour of deliverance. Instead, He bade
the heavy laden “Come unto me.” And instead of informing those who
followed Him across the sea, “It lies not in your power to do anything to
secure the bread of life,” He exhorted them to, “Labour… for that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life” (

John 6:27). Rather than tell men
they must sit quietly before it, Christ commanded, “Strive to enter in at the
strait gate” (

Luke 13:24). When his hearers were pricked in their hearts
and asked, “What shall we do?”, instead of saying,
“You can do nothing, except wait until God speaks peace unto
you,” Peter bade them “repent” (

Acts 2:37-38).
Those who think they have been given a sense of their helplessness are
quite content if some physician of no value will inspire them with a hope in
the way they are now in, and encourage them to expect that if they remain
passive, God will release them by a “moving of the waters.” We do but
miserably deceive souls if we give them any comfort or hold out any hope
for them while they remain impenitent and away from Christ.
It is recorded that the passengers of a ship off South America went ashore
on a brief expedition, ascending one of the mountains. But before they
were aware, night and a very cold fog came on. They felt a strong
inclination to sleep, but a medical man in the party remonstrated against
any such indulgence, warning them that there would be the utmost danger
of their never waking. As the one who chronicled this incident asks, “What
had been thought of his conduct if, instead of urging his companions to
escape from the mount, he had indulged them in their wishes? The
Scriptures declare ‘he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the
wrath of God abideth on him,’ and surely we ought not to contradict that,
either by directing to the use of means short of ‘believing’ or by
encouraging those who use them to hope for a happy issue.” Paul did not
offer the jailor comfort on the ground of his being in great distress, but
bade him “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word to troubled souls is
not, “Sit still,” but, “Seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
unto you.”
But to return to the narrative.
“They said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say,
We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we.217
shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore
come, and let us fall into the host of the Syrians: if they save us
alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (

2 Kings
How those poor lepers put to shame the “do nothing” fatalists! Those men
rightly recognized the hopelessness of their case, perceiving that continued
passivity would profit them nothing, and hence they decided to act. And if
you, my reader, are already convicted of your perishing condition, do not
rest content with that conviction and persuade yourself that in due time
God will save you. Embrace the gospel offer and receive Christ as your
Lord and Savior, for He has declared, “Him that cometh to me I will in no
wise cast out.”
We ask the indulgence of others who have not been infected with such
paralyzing teaching while we add a further word. We would ask them to
beg God to use these paragraphs to deliver some souls from this subtle
snare of the devil. If one who reads these lines has been made to feel his
lost condition, then consider, we pray you, the far happier situation facing
you from that in which those lepers were. They decided to come unto an
enemy and cast themselves upon his mercy, while you are invited to betake
yourself unto the Friend of publicans and sinners! They had no invitation
from the Syrians, but you have from the Lord: “If any man thirst, let him
come unto me and drink.” They had nothing better than an “if they save us
alive” to venture upon, whereas you have, “Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” They were confronted with the possible
alternative of being killed; not so you; “He that believeth on the Son hath
everlasting life.” Then why hesitate?
“And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the
Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the
camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there” (

2 Kings 7:5).
What was before us in

2 Kings 7:3-4 did not end in idle talk. The
situation for those lepers was a desperate one; and prompted by a sense of
urgency, they acted. Their sitting still had gotten them nowhere, so they
“rose up” and proceeded at once to their proposed objective. They did not
puzzle their heads about God’s secret decree and whether or not His
ordained hour had arrived, for that was none of their business. Instead,
they responded to the instinct of self-preservation. Again we say, how far
superior is the sinner’s case: he need not wait a moment for the prompting.218
of any instinct, but is invited, “Come; for all things are now ready”

Luke 14:17). Come just as you are with all your sinfulness and
unworthiness; and if you cannot come to Christ with a melted heart and
faith, then come to Him as a patient desperate for them.
The divine narrative breaks in upon the account of the heralds of this
miracle to show us its means. For before we see those lepers going forth to
publish their good news, we are first informed how it was that they came
to find the camp empty.
“For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of
chariots, and the noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and
they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us
the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come
upon us” (

2 Kings 7:6).
This is to be regarded as the sequel to

2 Kings 6:24: Ben-hadad’s
purpose was to starve out Samaria. But man proposes and God opposes
and disposes.
“The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he
maketh the devices of the people of none effect” (

Psalm 33:10).
The Lord accomplishes His purpose by a great variety of measures and
methods, sometimes employing the supernatural, more often using the
natural. What were the means He used here? In the light of what is not said

2 Kings 7:6, it seems strange that Thomas Scott should write,
“The infatuation which seized the minds of the whole Syrian army
was equal to the illusion put upon their senses, and both were from
the Lord, but how produced we know not.”
Little better is Matthew Henry’s “these had their hearing imposed upon.”
There was neither illusion nor imposition. It does not say, “The Lord made
them to hear a noise like as of chariots and horses,” but the actual thing
itself. That is to say, He so attuned their auditory nerves that they
registered the sound of what previously was inaudible to them. This is but
another instance of how we create our own difficulties when reading the
Word through failing to attend closely to exactly what is said..219
If we allow scripture to interpret scripture, we should have no difficulty in
ascertaining the precise means used on this occasion. On a previous one
God had employed “horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (

Kings 6:17), and as we showed, the reference there was to angelic beings.
Then why not the same here! In the former case, God “opened the eyes of
the young man” in order to see them; here, He opened the ears of the
Syrians to hear them. It may well be that in their original condition our first
parents were capacitated to both see and hear celestial beings, but the fall
impaired those as well as all their faculties. The “clairvoyance” and
“clairaudience” of spiritist mediums could be the devil’s imitation of man’s
original powers. That the Syrians, unregenerate idolaters, misinterpreted
what they heard is only to be expected. Those who heard the Father
speaking to His Son thought “it thundered” (

John 12:29), and those
who accompanied Saul heard the voice which spoke to him (

Acts 9:7)
but “heard not the voice” (

Acts 22:9) — distinguished not the words.
“Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents,
and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled
for their life” (

2 Kings 7:7).
How true it is that “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” Supposing
that a more formidable force had come to the relief of the besieged
Samaritans, the Syrians were filled with consternation and at once
abandoned their well-provisioned camp. So thoroughly panic-stricken were
they that they left their “horses” which would have helped their flight. How
easily can the Lord make the heart of the stoutest to quake, and how vain
and mad a thing it is for anyone to defy Him!
“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days
that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do
it” (

Ezekiel 22:14).
Then throw down the weapons of your warfare against Him and make your
peace with Him now..220
IN CONTINUING our contemplation of this miracle, let us now pause and
admire the marvel of it. Ben-hadad had become dissatisfied with the results
achieved by his marauding bands, and, gathering together the whole of his
armed forces, determined to reduce Samaria to utter helplessness.
Throwing a powerful force around their capital he sought to bring its
inhabitants to complete starvation by means of a protracted siege. In order
to carry out his scheme, he had brought with his army large supplies of
food and clothing, so that they might be in comfort while they waited for
the stores of his victim to give out. How nearly his plan succeeded we have
seen: the Samaritans were reduced to the most desperate straits in an effort
to keep life in their bodies. Yet as Scott pointed out, “In extreme distress
unexpected relief is often preparing, and whatever unbelievers may
imagine, it is not in vain to wait for the Lord, how long soever He seems to
delay His coming.”
But in the instance now before us, there is not a word to indicate that the
Samaritans had been crying unto the Lord and looking to Him for relief.
They had openly turned away from Him and were worshiping idols. This it
is which renders the more noteworthy the act of Jehovah on this occasion:
He was found of them that sought Him not (

Isaiah 65:1). He showed
Himself strong on the behalf of a people who had grievously despised and
insulted Him. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. It
was the Most High acting in His absolute sovereignty, having mercy on
whom He pleased to have mercy and showing favor unto those who not
only had no claim thereto but who deserved only unsparing judgment at
His hands. The means which the Lord used on this occasion was as
remarkable as the exercise of His distinguishing mercy. He was pleased to
use the stores of the Syrians, their deadly enemies, to feed the famished
Samaritans. Thus were the wise taken in their own craftiness.
Four lepers outside Samaria’s gates said,.221
“Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the
city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we
sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto
the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if
they kill us, we shall but die” (

2 Kings 7:3-4).
Observe how God wrought: it was not by an audible voice that He bade
these lepers act — not such are the mysterious but perfect workings of
Providence. It is by means of a secret and imperceptible impulse from Him,
through the process of natural laws, that God usually works in men both to
will and to do of His good pleasure. Those lepers acted quite freely of their
own volition, in response to simple but obvious thoughts on their situation,
and followed the dictates of common sense and the impulse of self-preservation.
Mark, we are not here attempting to philosophize or explain
the conjunction between the natural and the supernatural, but we are
merely calling attention to what lies on the surface of our narrative, and
which is recorded for our instruction.
When the four lepers arrived at the enemy’s camp they found it to be
“For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of
chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and
they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us
the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come
upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their
tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and
fled for their life” (

2 Kings 7:6-7).
That was indeed the employment of the supernatural — something over
and above the ordinary workings of Providence, for though the Syrians
misinterpreted the sound, we believe (as stated in our last chapter) that
what they heard was the movement of angelic horses and chariots (cf.

Kings 6:17). The Lord allowed their ears to register what normally would
have been inaudible to them. Yet even here there was a blending of the
supernatural with the natural: those celestial beings did not slay the Syrians
but only terrified them by the noise which they made.
It may not so strike the reader, but what most impresses the writer in
connection with this incident is the remarkable blending together of the
supernatural and the natural, the operations of God and the actions of men,.222
and the light this casts on the workings of divine providence. Perhaps that
would be made plainer by first reading

2 Kings 7:6-7, where we have
recorded the miracle itself and the startling effect which it had upon the
Syrians, and then

2 Kings 7:5 where we are told of the action of these
four men which led to their discovery of a miracle having been wrought,
thereby preparing the way for all that follows. Here we have another
illustration of what we have frequently pointed out in these pages, namely,
that when God works He does so at both ends of the line: here openly at
one end and secretly at the other. Had not the lepers actually journeyed to
the Syrians’ camp, those in Samaria would have remained in ignorance that
food was to be had. God therefore moved those lepers to go there, yet how
naturally He wrought! They were not conscious that He had given them a
secret inclination to move, nor had they any inkling of the miracle, as their
words in

2 Kings 7:4 make clear.
“And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp,
they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence
silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again,
and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and
hid it” (

2 Kings 7:8).
Solemn indeed is this, first, from the negative side. There was no
recognition of the divine hand, no awesome explanation, “What hath God
wrought!” no bowing before Him in thanksgiving for such a remarkable
favor. They conducted themselves like infidels, accepting the mercies of
heaven as a mere matter of course. And remember, they were lepers; but
even such an affliction had not turned their hearts to the Lord. Be not
surprised then that those whose homes are destroyed and whose bodies are
injured by bombs are not brought to repentance thereby. After satisfying
their hunger, they plundered the Syrian tents. Verily, “There is no new
thing under the sun” (

Ecclesiastes 1:9). There was looting then as there
is now, though theirs was not nearly so despicable and dastardly as what is
now so common.
And why is it that
“there is no new thing under the sun”? Because “as in water face
answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Proverbs 27:19)..223
Whether he be a man living in centuries B.C. or A.D., whether he be
civilized or uncivilized, his heart is depraved. Civilization effects no change
within any person, for civilization (not to be confused with morality and
common decency) is but a veneer from without. But to return to our
passage. The lepers, enriching themselves from the spoil of the Syrians, did
not contribute to the relief of the starving Samaritans, and that was what
Jehovah had promised. Mark then the sequel: “Then they said one to
another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our
peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us:
now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household” (

Kings 7:9). The divine design of mercy to the starving city was not to be
thwarted by the greed of these lepers, for His counsel must stand. Yet note
how it was now effected.
As God had wrought secretly in those lepers in verses 3-4, He again did so
now. First it was by an impulse upon their instinct of self-preservation; here
it is upon their conscience. Yet observe how conscience acts in the
unregenerate, producing not horror and anguish at having offended a
gracious God, but causing fear of the consequences. This is made clearer
by the rendering: “If we tarry till the morning light, we shall find
punishment.” But unless God had wrought secretly upon them, they too
would have been like our own generation, from whom His restraining hand
is removed and who are “given up to their own hearts’ lusts” — utterly
reckless and regardless of consequences. In this instance, in order to carry
out His benevolent purpose, God put a measure of fear upon these lepers
and caused them to realize that not only were they playing an ignoble part,
but were likely to swiftly be smitten by His wrath if they failed to announce
the good news to their famished fellows.
“Now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s
household” (

2 Kings 7:9).
Here, as everywhere, we need to be much on our guard against making a
misapplication of Scripture. It is so easy to read our own thought into the
Word and thus find what we are looking for. Those who are so enthusiastic
in urging young believers to become evangelists by preaching the gospel to
all and sundry, would likely find in this verse what they would consider a
striking passage on which to base an address on the necessity of personal
work; yet it would be an altogether unwarranted use to make of it. This
verse is very far from teaching, by typical implication, that it is the duty of.224
every Christian to announce the “good tidings” to all they contact. Holy
Writ does not contradict itself, and none other than the Lord Jesus has
expressly bidden us,
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your
pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and
turn again and rend you” (

Matthew 7:6).
That command is designed to bridle the restless energy of the flesh.
It was unto those who had been prepared for those “good tidings” who
would welcome them, these lepers went forth, namely, to those who were
fully conscious of their starving condition! There is a radical difference
between those who are “lovers of pleasure” and satisfied with what they
find therein, and the ones who have discovered the emptiness of such
things and are deeply concerned about their eternal welfare; and there
should be an equally radical difference in the way we deal with and speak
to each of them. The gospel would not be “good tidings” to the former, but
would be trodden beneath their feet if offered to them; yet it is likely to be
welcomed by the latter. And if we unmistakably meet with the latter, it
would be sinful for us to remain selfishly silent.
“So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told
them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold,
there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and
asses tied, and the tents as they were” (

2 Kings 7:10).
Not being permitted to enter the city, the four lepers called out to those
who were keeping watch at its gate. They announced the good news in
plain and simple language, and then left the issue with them. The chief
porter did not receive the strange tidings with incredulity, but “he called
the [subordinate] porters;” and, while he remained at his post of duty,
“they told it to the king’s house within” (

2 Kings 7:11), middle of the
night though it was. Here too we may perceive the continued, though
secret, workings of the Lord. He it was who caused the porter to give heed
to the message he had just heard. Altogether unexpected as it must have
been, too good to be true as it would have sounded, yet he was divinely
inclined to believe the glad tidings and promptly acquaint his royal master
with them. Yet the porter acted quite freely and discharged his personal
responsibility. How wondrous are the ways of Him with whom we have to
“And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will
now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that
we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide
themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we
shall catch them alive, and get into the city” (

2 Kings 7:12).
The king’s reaction to the good news was thoroughly characteristic of him,
being consistent with everything else recorded of him. Instead of
expressing gratitude at the glad tidings, he voiced his skepticism; instead of
perceiving the gracious hand of God, he suspected his enemies of laying a
subtle snare. Perhaps some may be inclined to say, It was very natural for
Jehoram to argue thus: the king was acting in prudence and wise caution.
Natural it certainly was, but not spiritual! There was no thought that the
Lord had now made good His word through the prophet, but simply the
reasoning of a carnal mind at enmity against Him. One of the ways in
which the carnal mind expresses itself is by a reasoned attempt to explain
away the wondrous works and acts of God.
When God has spoken, plainly and expressly, it is not for us to reason, but
to set to our seal that He is true and receive with unquestioning faith what
He has said. If it is a promise, expect Him to make it good. The skepticism
of the king only serves to show how the tidings borne by the lepers would
have been lost on the porters and the entire royal household had not God
wrought secretly but effectually in the one and the other. Accordingly we
are next told,
“And one of his servants answered and said, Let some take, I pray
thee, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city,
(behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it:
behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that
are consumed:) and let us send and see” (

2 Kings 7:13).
That too was “of the Lord.” He it was who gave this servant both courage
and wisdom to remonstrate with his master. He knew the man he had to
deal with, as his “send and see” showed, reminding us at once of

Kings 6:10, when the king “sent” to see if Elisha’s warning were a true
Nothing could be lost (unless it were the horses) by pursuing the policy
proposed by the servant, and much might be gained. As the divine purpose
could not be thwarted by the greed of the lepers, so it should not be by the.226
skepticism of the king. It was God who gave the servant’s counsel favor in
his master’s sight, and therefore we are told,
“They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the
host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see” (

2 Kings 7:14).
God’s ways and works are as perfect in their execution as they are in their
devising. But be it noted that though Jehoram yielded to the solicitation of
his servant, it was with some unbelief he did so, as his sending them “after
the host of the Syrians” rather than “unto their camp” indicates. Nor was
their errand in vain:
“They went after them unto Jordan: and, lo, all the way was full of
garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their
haste” (

2 Kings 7:15).
It was no temporary spasm of fear that possessed them but a thorough and
lasting one. When God works, He works effectually.
“And the messengers returned, and told the king. And the people
went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine
flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a
shekel, according to the word of the LORD” (

2 Kings 7:15-16).
Of course it was, for no word of God’s can possibly fall to the ground,
since it is the Word of Him “that cannot lie” (

Titus 1:2). Men may scoff
at it, kings may not believe it, even when its definite fulfillment is declared
to them; but that affects not its truth.
“Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel,
according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of
all his good promise” (

1 Kings 8:56).
It is to be noted that the prediction made through Elisha was fulfilled in no
vague and mere general way, but specifically and to the letter. That too is
recorded both for our instruction and our consolation.
After all we have sought to bring out upon this miracle, its spiritual
significance should, in its broad outline at least, be plain to every Christian
reader. We say “its broad outline,” for every detail in it is not to be
regarded as a line in the picture..227
First, the starving Samaritans may surely be viewed as portraying perishing
sinners. They were not seeking God nor looking to Him for relief. So far
from it, they had turned their backs upon Him and had given themselves up
to idolatry. They were reduced to the most desperate straits, being quite
unable to deliver themselves. As such they accurately represented the
condition and position of the fallen and depraved descendants of Adam.
Second, in Ben-hadad and his hosts who sought the destruction of the
Samaritans, we have a figure of Satan and his legions who are relentlessly
attempting to destroy the souls of men, “seeking whom he may devour”

1 Peter 5:8).
Third, in the divine deliverance of the famished Israelites, by a miracle of
sovereign mercy, we have a striking foreshadowment of the saving of
God’s elect. The particular aspect of the gospel here pictured appears in
the strange means which God employed to bring about deliverance,
namely, His causing the Syrians themselves to supply the food for those
they had designed to be their victims. Does not this remind us forcibly of
that verse; “that through death he might destroy him that had [as the
executioner] the power of death, that is, the devil” (

Hebrews 2:14)! As
the Savior Himself declared, “This is your hour, and the power of
darkness” (

Luke 22:53); yet by allowing the serpent to bruise His heel,
He set free his captives. Incredible as it seems to the proud philosopher, it
is by Christ’s humiliation His people are exalted, by His poverty they are
made rich, by His death they have life, by His being made a “curse” all
blessing comes to them!
“And the king [God working secretly in him to do so] appointed
the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate:
and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man
of God [not simply ‘Elisha’!] had said, who spake when the king
came down to him. And so it fell out unto him” (

2 Kings 7:17,
Thus in due course, the divine threat was executed, fulfilled to the very
letter. Solemn indeed was this, being the awful sequel to what was before
us in

2 Kings 7:1-2. In like manner God will yet answer the skepticism
and blasphemous scoffing of this degenerate age. The great of this world
may laugh at the Lord’s servants now, but in eternity they shall gnash their.228
teeth in anguish. This sequel completes the symbolic picture, showing as it
does the doom of the reprobate. The gospel is a savor of death unto death
as well as of life unto life. Unbelievers will “see” the elect feasting with
Christ, as the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom; but they shall not
partake thereof..229

2 Kings 8 chronicle an incident which is
rather difficult to classify in connection with the ministry of Elisha. By this
we mean it is perhaps an open question whether we are to regard it as
properly belonging to the miracles which were wrought through his
instrumentality. Undoubtedly the majority of Christian writers would look
upon this episode as an example of the gracious and wondrous operations
of divine providence, rather than a supernatural happening. With them we
shall have no quarrel, for it is mainly a matter of terms — some define a
“miracle” in one way and some in another. No question of either doctrinal
or practical importance is involved: it is simply a matter of personal opinion
whether this series of events is to be viewed as among the ordinary ways of
the divine government as God orders the lives of each of His creatures, and
in a more particular manner undertakes and provides for each of His dear
children, or whether we are to contemplate what is here narrated as
something over and above the workings of providence.
The signal deliverances which the Lord’s people experience under the
workings of His special providence are just as truly manifestations of the
wisdom and power of God as are what many theologians would technically
term His “miracles,” and are so to be regarded by us. While strongly
deprecating the modern tendency to deny and decry the supernatural, we
shall not now enter into a discussion as to whether or not “the day of
miracles is past;” but this we do emphatically insist upon, that the day of
divine intervention is most certainly not past. God is as ready to hear the
cry of the righteous now as He was in the time of Moses and the prophets,
and to so graciously and definitely answer the prayer of faith as cannot be
explained by so called “natural laws,” as this writer, and no doubt many of
our readers, can bear witness. Whether you term His interpositions.230
“miracles” or not, this is sure; the Lord still shows Himself strong on behalf
of those whose heart is perfect (upright, sincere) toward Him.
This is intimated by the opening word of our narrative. That “then,” which
occurs so frequently in the Scriptures, should never be hurried over
carelessly. There is nothing meaningless nor superfluous in God’s Word,
and every syllable in it should be given its due force and weight. “Then” is
a sign of time, emphasizing the season or occasion when some particular
event happened. To ascertain its significance we should always pause and
ask, When? and in order to find the answer, refer back to the immediate
context — often obliging us to ignore a chapter division. By so doing we
are better enabled to perceive the connection between two things or
incidents, and often the moral relation the one sustains to the other, not
only of cause and effect, but of antecedent and consequent.
In passing, we may point out that “Then” is one of the key words of
Matthew’s gospel, with which should be linked “when” and “from that
time” (see

Matthew 4:1, 17; 15:1, 21; 25:1; 26:14). The deeper
significance of many an incident is discovered by observing this simple rule:
Ask the “then” — when?
In our present instance the miracle we are about to contemplate is
immediately linked to the one preceding it by this introductory “Then.”
There is therefore a close connection between them; the one is the sequel
to the other. When considering

2 Kings 7, we saw how wondrously
Jehovah wrought in coming to the relief of the famished Samaritans,
furnishing them with an abundant supply of food at no trouble or cost to
themselves, causing their enemies to supply their needs by leaving their
own huge stores behind them. But, as we pointed out, there was no
recognition of the hand that had so kindly ministered to them, no
acknowledgment of His goodness, no praising Him for such mercies. He
had no place in their thoughts, for they had grievously departed from Him
and given themselves up to idolatry. Consequently, here as everywhere, we
find inseparably linked together “unthankful, unholy” (

2 Timothy 3:2).
Where there is no true piety, there is no genuine gratitude; and where there
is no thankfulness, it is a sure sign of the absence of holiness. This is a
criterion by which we may test our hearts: are we truly appreciative of the
divine favors, or do we accept them as a matter of course?.231
It may seem a small matter to men whether they are thankful or unthankful
for the bounties of their Maker and Provider, but He takes note of their
response, and sooner or later regulates His governmental dealings with
them accordingly. He will not be slighted with impunity. Whether He acts
in judgment or in mercy, God requires us to acknowledge His hand, either
by bowing in penitence beneath His rod, or offering to Him the praise of
our hearts. When Moses demanded of Pharaoh that he should let the
Hebrews go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to hold a feast unto
the Lord, he haughtily answered,
“Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I
know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go” (

Exodus 5:2).
But before God’s plagues were finished, the magicians owned, “This is the
finger of God” (

Exodus 8:19), and the king himself confessed, “I have
sinned against the LORD your God” (

Exodus 10:16). We are expressly
bidden “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good” (

Psalm 136:1);
and if men break that commandment, God will visit His displeasure upon
them. One of the reasons why He gave up the heathen to uncleanness was
because they were “unthankful” (

Romans 1:21, 24).
God employs various methods and means in chastening an ungrateful
people. Chief among His scourges are His “four sore judgments,” namely,
“the sword, and the famine, and the noisesome beast, and the
pestilence to cut off from it man and beast” (

Ezekiel 14:21).
In the present instance it was the second of these judgments.
“Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to
life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn
wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a
famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years” (

Kings 8:1).
This we regard as a miracle, and as connected with Elisha.
First, because this pronouncement was a prophecy, a supernatural
revelation which he had received from God and then communicated to
the woman..232
Second, because his announcement here is expressly said to be “the
saying of the man of God” (

2 Kings 8:2), indicating he was acting in
his official character.
Third, because both in

2 Kings 8:1 and 5, this incident was
definitely linked with an earlier miracle — the restoring of her dead son
to life.
But our present miracle is by no means confined to the famine which the
Lord here sent upon Samaria, nor to the prophet’s knowledge and
announcement of the same. We should also contemplate the gracious
provision which the Lord made in exempting the woman from the horrors
of it. A famine is usually the outcome of a prolonged drought with the
resultant failure of the crops and the drying up of all vegetation, though in
some cases it follows incessant rains which prevent the farmers from
harvesting their grain. Now, had the Lord so pleased, He could have
supplied this woman’s land with rain, though it was withheld from her
adjoining neighbors (see

Amos 4:7), or He could have prevented her
fields from being flooded, so that her crops might be garnered; or in some
mysterious way He could have maintained her meal and oil that it failed not

1 Kings 17:16). Yet, though the Lord did none of those extraordinary
things, nevertheless He undertook for her just as effectually by His
This particular famine lasted no less than seven years, which was double
the length of time of the one God sent on Samaria in the days of Elijah

James 5:17). When men refuse to humble themselves beneath the
mighty hand of God, He lays His rod more heavily upon them, as the
successive plagues which He sent upon Egypt increased in their severity,
and as the judgments mentioned in the Revelation are more and more
distressing in nature. Of old God called upon Israel, “Consider your ways”
and complained that His house was neglected, while they were occupied
only with rebuilding and attending to their own. But they heeded Him not,
and accordingly He told them,
“Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is
stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and
upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine,
and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth,.233
and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands”

Haggai 1:10-11).
Thus it was now upon the rebellious and idolatrous Samaritans.
This was “the woman whose son Elisha restored to life.” She was before us

2 Kings 4. There we saw that she was one who had a heart for the
servant of God, not only inviting him into her house for a meal whenever
he passed by her place, but building and furnishing for him a chamber (

Kings 4:8-10). Then we beheld her remarkable faith; for instead of
wringing her hands in despair upon the sudden death of her child, she
promptly rode to Mount Carmel where Elisha then was, with the evident
expectation that God would undertake for her in that extremity through
His servant. Nor was her hope disappointed; a miracle was wrought and
her dead son quickened. But now that the seven years’ famine was
imminent, Elisha did not keep to himself the knowledge he had received
from the Lord, but put it to a good use, thinking of the family which had
shown him kindness in his earlier days, warning the woman of the sore
judgment that was about to fall upon the land of Samaria.
The prophet’s action contains important instruction for us, especially for
those who are the ministers of God. First, we are shown that we are not to
selfishly keep to ourselves the spiritual light God gives us, but pass it on to
those ready to receive it. Second, the servant of God is not to lose interest
in those to whom God made him a blessing in the past, but seek
opportunities to further help them in spiritual things, particularly
endeavoring to express his gratitude to those who befriended him in earlier
days. Often this can be most effectively accomplished by prayer for them or
by sending them a special word of greeting (see

Romans 16:6;

Timothy 1:16). Elisha did not consider he had already discharged his
indebtedness to this woman by restoring her son to life, but as a fresh
emergency had arisen, he gave timely counsel. Third, here too we see God
honoring those who honored Him. In the past she had ministered to the
temporal needs of His servant, and He had not forgotten this. Having
received a prophet in the name of a prophet, she now received the
prophet’s reward — light on her path..234
“Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to
life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn
wheresoever thou canst sojourn” (

2 Kings 8:1).
As there is no mention of her husband throughout the whole of this
narrative it is likely he had died in the interval between

2 Kings 4 and 8
and that she was now a widow. If so, it illustrates the special care the Lord
has for widows and orphans. But let us observe the exercise of His
sovereignty on this occasion, for He does not always act uniformly. In an
earlier famine He had miraculously sustained the widow of Zarephath by
maintaining her meal and oil. He could have done the same in this instance,
but was pleased to use other means, yet ones just as real and effective in
supplying her every need. We must never prescribe to the Lord, nor limit
Him in our thoughts to any particular form or avenue of deliverance, but
trustfully leave ourselves in His hands and meekly submit to His imperial
but all-wise ordering of our lot.
“Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou
canst sojourn.” How frequently are we reminded that here have we no
continuing city, which should cause us to hold all earthly things with a very
light hand. This incident also reminds us that the righteous are occasioned
many inconveniences because of the conduct of the wicked; nevertheless
the Lord evidences His particular care of His own when His judgments fall
upon a nation. Observe to what a severe test this woman’s faith was now
submitted. It was no small matter to leave her home and property and
journey with her household into another land, the inhabitants of which had
for so long time been hostile to the Israelites. It called for implicit
confidence in the veracity of God’s servant. Ah, my reader, nothing but a
genuine faith in God and His Word is sufficient for the human heart in such
an emergency; but the mind of one who trusts Him will be kept in perfect
“And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God”

2 Kings 8:2).
Note well how that is phrased: she regarded Elisha’s instruction as
something more than the kindly advice of a personal friend, viewing him as
the messenger of God to her. In other words, she looked above the prophet
to his Master, and accepted the counsel as from Him. Thus she acted in
faith, which was in entire accord with what was previously recorded of her.
There is no hint that she murmured at her lot or complained at the severity.235
of her trial. No, when faith is in exercise, the spirit of murmuring is quelled.
Contrariwise, when we grumble at our lot, it is sure proof that unbelief is
dominant within us. Nor did she yield to a fatalistic inertia and say, If God
has called for a famine, I must bow to it; and if I perish, I perish. Instead
she acted as a rational creature, discharged her responsibility, forsook the
place of danger, and took refuge in a temporary haven of shelter.
“And she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the
Philistines seven years” (

2 Kings 8:2).
Not in the adjoining territory of Judah, be it noted, for probably even at
that date the Jews had “no dealings with the Samaritans” (

John 4:9). It
is sad, yet true, that a Christian will often receive kinder treatment at the
hands of strangers than from those who profess to be the people of God.
This Israelite woman had not been warranted when she took refuge among
the Philistines without divine permission, for God had said unto Israel,
“ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have
severed you from other people, that ye should be mine”

Leviticus 20:26);
and therefore did He declare,
“the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the
nations” (

Numbers 23:9).
But note well that it is not said that she and her household “settled down”
in the land of the Philistines but only that she “sojourned” therein, which
means that she did not make herself one with them, but lived as a stranger
in their midst (cf.

Genesis 23:4;

Leviticus 25:23).
“And sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.” That is surely
remarkable, and very blessed. The Philistines had long been the enemies of
Israel, and had recently made war against it. Yet here was this Israelite
woman, and her household, was permitted to live peacefully in their midst
with her temporal needs supplied by them! In that we must see the secret
power of God working on her behalf and giving her favor in their eyes. The
Lord never confounds those who truly trust Him, and as this woman had
honored His word through His prophet, so now He honored her faith. Her
ways pleased the Lord, and therefore He made her enemies to be at peace
with her..236
“And it came to pass at the seven years’ end, that the woman
returned out of the land of the Philistines” (

2 Kings 8:3).
This too is equally blessed. She had not found the society of the Philistines
so congenial that she wished to spend the remainder of her days with them.
But observe how it is worded: not “when the famine was over” she
returned to Samaria, but “at the seven year’s end” mentioned by the
prophet — the word of God through His servant was what directed her!
“And she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her
land” (

2 Kings 8:3).
It is not clear whether her property had reverted to the crown upon her
emigration, or whether someone had unlawfully seized it and now refused
to relinquish it; but whichever it was, she did not shirk her duty, but
actively discharged her responsibility. She was neither a believer in passive
resistance nor in looking to God to undertake for her while she shelved her
duty — which would have been highly presumptuous. Scott has pointed
out how this verse illustrates “the benefit of magistracy,” and rightly added
in connection therewith, “Believers may, on important occasions, avail
themselves of their privileges as members of the community: provided they
are not actuated by covetousness or resentment, do not manifest a
contentious spirit and make no appeal in a doubtful or suspicious cause;
and rulers should award justice without respect of persons, and compel the
injurious to restitution.” Had not this woman now appealed to the king for
the restoration of her own property, she would have condoned a wrong
and refused to uphold the principles of righteousness.
This is equally striking, for the anointed eye will clearly perceive the power
of the Lord working on behalf of His handmaid.
“And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God,
saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath
done. And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had
restored a dead body to life, that, behold the woman, whose son he
had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land.
And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her
son, whom Elisha restored to life. And when the king asked the
woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain.237
officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the
field since the day that she left the land, even until now”

2 Kings 8:4-6).
Who can fail to see the superintending hand of God in the king’s desire to
hear of Elisha’s miracles, the presence of one well qualified to inform him,
the timing of such an occurrence, the interest in this woman which would
be awakened in the King, and his willingness to grant her full restitution!
In the course of our remarks, we have called attention to many details of
this incident which we may profitably take to heart, but there is one
outstanding thing in it which especially claims our notice, namely, the
wonder-working providences of God in behalf of the woman — through
Elisha, the Philistines, Gehazi, and the king of Israel. And thus it is that He
still acts on behalf of His own, making gracious provision for them in an
evil day. Whatever be the means or the instruments He makes use of in
providing a refuge for us in a time of trouble, it is as truly “the Lord’s
doing” and should be just as “marvelous in our eyes,” especially when God
constrains the wicked to deal kindly with us, as if He openly worked for us
what are technically called “miracles.” At the close of Psalm 107, after
recounting the various deliverances the Lord wrought for those who cried
unto Him, this comment is made: “Whoso is wise, and will observe these
things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” The
greater pains we take to observe God’s hand undertaking for us by His
providences, the better shall we understand His “lovingkindness” and the
more confidence we shall have in Him..238

2 Kings 8 informs us that the Lord had called
for a seven years’ famine on Samaria, and we considered one of the things
which transpired during that “sore judgment” from heaven. That which is
now to claim our attention is not to be regarded as something which
occurred after the expiration of the famine, but rather as what took place at
its beginning. After tracing the experiences of the woman from Shunem,
the Holy Spirit picks up the thread of

2 Kings 8:1 and informs us of the
movements of the prophet himself. “And Elisha came to Damascus” (

Kings 8:7). He too left Samaria, for it was no place for him now that the
indignation of the Lord was upon it. When God deals in judgment with a
people, His temporal plagues are usually accompanied by spiritual
deprivations, often by removing His servants “into a corner” (

30:20), and then the people of God are left “as sheep without a
shepherd”— one of the acutest afflictions they can experience. It was thus
with Israel in the earlier famine days of Ahab. There is no intimation that
Elijah did any preaching during these three and a half years, for the Lord
sent him to Cherith and then to Zarephath.
Sad indeed is the plight of any people when they are not only scourged
temporally but have their spiritual blessings taken from them too. During
the times of the judges, when “every man did that which was right in his
own eyes” (

Judges 21:25), we are told, “… in those days; there was no
open vision” (

1 Samuel 3:1). This signifies there was no accredited
servant of God to whom the people could go for a knowledge of the divine
mind and will. So again in the days of Ezekiel it was announced, “Mischief
shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor;” and as the
climactic calamity:
“Then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall
perish from the priest” (

Ezekiel 7:26)..239
Little as it is realized by the present generation, the most solemn, fearful,
and portentous of all the marks of God’s anger is the withholding of a
Spirit-filled, faithful, and edifying ministry. For then there is
“a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD” (

Amos 8:11).
There is much more than appears on the surface in that short statement,
“And Elisha came down to Damascus.”
Solemn indeed is that brief and simple sentence, denoting as it does that the
prophet had left Samaria, left it because his ministry there was unwelcome,
wasted. How often we find a parallel to this in the gospels. At the very
beginning of His public ministry, we read that Christ “came down to
Capernaum” (

Luke 4:31). Why? Because at Nazareth they were filled
with wrath at His teaching (

Luke 4:28-29). “He entered into a ship, and
passed over.” Why? Because at Capernaum the whole city “besought him
that he would depart out of their coasts” (

Matthew 8:34; 9:1). He
“withdrew himself from thence” because the Pharisees had “held a council
against him” (

Matthew 12:14-15). “He could there do no mighty
work… because of their unbelief”. What follows? “And He went round
about their villages teaching” (

Mark 6:5-6).
“It was necessary that the word of God should first have been
spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you… lo, we turn to the
Gentiles” (

Acts 13:46).
When God calls a pastor to another charge, the church he has left has
reason to search itself before the Lord as to the cause.
“And Elisha came to Damascus” (

2 Kings 8:7).
The opening “And” links the incident which follows with the first verse of
our chapter. But more, as was the case in several previous instances, it
points a series of striking contrasts between this and the events recorded in
the context. There, the central character was a godly woman; here it is a
wicked man. In the former the prophet took the initiative, communicating
with the woman; now, a king sends to inquire of the man of God. There his
prophetic announcement was promptly credited; here it is scornfully
ridiculed (

2 Kings 8:13). In the first, the king’s servant told him the.240
truth (

2 Kings 8:5); in this, another king’s servant tells him a lie (

Kings 8:13). There God put forth His power and graciously provided for
one of His own; here He removes His restraining hand and lets one of the
reprobate meet with a violent end. The previous miracle closed with the
restoration of the woman’s property to her; this ends with a callous murder
and the usurper occupying the throne.
Though there is nothing in the narrative to intimate specifically when it was
that Elisha “came to Damascus,” yet the introductory “And” seems to
make it clear that the prophet took this journey during “the seven years’
famine,” and probably at an early stage. As the Lord was not pleased on
this occasion to work in a mysterious and extraordinary way for the
temporal preservation of the woman of Shunem (as He had for the widow
at Zarephath) but provided for her needs by the more regular yet not less
wonderful ordering of providence on her behalf, so it would seem that He
did for His servant. And as she sojourned in the land of the Philistines, so
he now sought refuge in the capital of Syria, even though that was the very
country which had for so long been hostile to Samaria. Nor did he go into
hiding there, but counted upon his Master’s protecting him even in the
midst of a people who had so often preyed upon Israel. That Elisha’s
presence in Damascus was no secret is clear from what follows.
“And Elisha came to Damascus” — the most ancient city in the world, with
the possible exception of Jerusalem. Josephus says that “it was founded by
Uz, the son of Aram, and grandson of Shem.” It is mentioned as early as

Genesis 14:15, in the days of Abraham, 2000 B.C. It was captured and
occupied in turn by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. Paul
commenced his ministry there (

Acts 9:19-22). It remains to this day. In
the time of Ahab, Ben-hadad, after his defeat by the Samaritans and the
sparing of his life, said to the king of Israel, “Thou shalt make streets for
thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria.” Upon which Ahab said,
“I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant
with him, and sent him away” (

1 Kings 20:34).
Whether Ben-hadad ever made good his promise Scripture does not inform
us, but his “covenant” with Ahab certainly gave Elisha the right of asylum
in Damascus..241
That Elisha had not fled to Damascus in the energy of the flesh in order to
escape the hardships and horrors of the famine, but had gone there in the
will of the Lord is evident from the sequel. In what follows we are shown
how that while he was here he received communications from God and was
used by Him. That is one of the ways in which the child of God may
ascertain whether or not he is in the place he should be, or whether in self-will
he has forsaken the path of duty.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that
loveth me:… and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him”

John 14:21),
make Myself a living reality to his soul, make discoveries of My glory to
him through the written Word. But when we take matters into our own
hands and our ways displease the Lord, communion is severed, and He
hides His face from us. When we choose our own way and the Spirit is
grieved, He no longer takes the things of Christ and shows them to us, but
disquiets our hearts because of our sins.
Yes, God made use of Elisha while he sojourned in Damascus. But how
varied, how solemnly varied, are the several ways in which He is pleased to
employ His servants. Not now was he commissioned to heal a leper, nor to
restore a dead child to life, but rather to announce the death of a king.
Herein we have shadowed forth the more painful and exacting side of the
minister’s duty. He is required to set before men the way of life and the
way of death. He is under bond to faithfully make known the doom
awaiting the wicked, as well as the bliss reserved for the righteous. He is to
preach the law as well as the gospel; to describe the everlasting torments of
hell, as well as the unending glory of heaven. He is bidden to preach the
gospel to every creature, and announce in no uncertain tones,
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that
believeth not shall be damned” (

Mark 16:16).
Only by so doing will he be warranted in saying,
“I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to
declare unto you all the counsel of God” (

Acts 20:26-27).
“And Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him,
saying, The man of God is come hither” (

2 Kings 8:7)..242
The wearing of a crown does not exempt its possessor from the common
troubles to which man is born; rather does it afford additional opportunities
for gratifying the lust of the flesh, which will only increase his troubles. It is
only by being temperate in all things that many sicknesses can be avoided,
for walking according to the rules of Scripture promotes health of body as
well as health of soul. When sickness overtakes a saint his first concern
should not be its removal, but a definite seeking unto the Lord to ascertain
why He has afflicted him (

Job 10:2). His next concern should be to
have his sickness sanctified to the good of his soul, that he may learn the
lessons that chastisement is designed to teach him, that he may be able to
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy
statutes” (

Psalm 119:71).
But it is the privilege of faith to become better acquainted with Jehovah-Rophi,
“the Lord that healeth thee” (

Exodus 15:26).
In the case before us it was not a child of God who had fallen sick, but a
heathen monarch.
“And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and
go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the LORD by him, saying,
Shall I recover of this disease?” (

2 Kings 7:8).
What a startling antithesis this presents from what was before us in

Kings 6:31! Only a short time previously, the king of Israel had sworn a
horrible oath that Elisha should be slain; here a foreign king owns him as
“the man of God” and makes inquiry concerning his own life or death.
Striking too is the contrast between Ben-hadad’s action here and the last
thing recorded of him when he sent his forces to take Elisha captive (

Kings 6:14)! How fickle is human nature: Man is one day ready to pluck
out his eyes and give them to a servant of God, and the next regards him as
an enemy because he told the truth (

Galatians 4:15-16). But now the
Syrian king was concerned about his condition and anxious to know the
outcome of his illness.
It appears to have been the practice in those days for a king who was
seriously ill to make a formal inquiry from one whom he regarded as
endowed with supernatural knowledge. Thus we read that when
Jeroboam’s son fell sick, he sent his wife to ascertain of Ahijah the prophet.243
“what shall become of the child” (

1 Kings 14:1-3); and again we are
told that Ahaziah sent messengers
“to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover
of this disease.” (

2 Kings 1:2).
From what is recorded in

1 Kings 20:23 and the sequel, we may
conclude that Ben-hadad had lost confidence in his own “gods” and placed
more reliance upon the word of Elisha; yet it is to be noted that he neither
asked for his prayers nor expressed any desire for a visit from him;
seriously sick as he felt himself to be, he was not concerned about his soul
but only his body. Throughout the whole of his career there is nothing to
indicate he had the slightest regard for the Lord, but much to the contrary.
“So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of
every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and
stood before him, and said, Thy son Ben-hadad king of Syria hath
sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this desease?”

2 Kings 8:9).
The “present” was to intimate that he came on a peaceful and friendly
mission and with no design of doing the prophet an injury or carrying him
away as a prisoner. This too was in accord with the custom of those days
and the ways of Orientals. Thus when Saul wished to consult Samuel about
the lost asses of his father, he lamented the fact that he had “not a present
to bring to the man of God” (

1 Samuel 9:7), and when the wife of
Jeroboam went to inquire of the prophet Ahijah she took a present for him

1 Kings 14:3). But looking higher, we may see in the lavish nature of
Ben-hadad’s present the guiding hand of God and an “earnest” for His
servant that He would spread a table for him in the presence of his
enemies! We are not told that Elisha refused this present, nor was there any
reason why he should; perhaps he sent a goodly portion thereof to relieve
the distress of the schools of the prophets still in Samaria.
“And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest
certainly recover: howbeit the LORD hath shewed me that he shall
surely die” (

2 Kings 8:10).
Observe first a significant omission. Elisha did not offer to go and visit
Ben-hadad! That was not because he was callous, for the very next verse
shows he was a man of compassion. Rather was he restrained by the Lord,
who had no design of mercy unto the Syrian king. Very solemn was that..244
But what are we to make of the prophet’s enigmatical language? The
disease from which your master is suffering will not produce a fatal end;
nevertheless, the Lord has showed me that his death is imminent — by
violence: another proof that the Lord God “revealeth his secret unto his
servants the prophets” (

Amos 3:7). It is on this same principle we
discover the harmony between there being “an appointed time to man upon
earth” (

Job 7:1) and “why shouldest thou die before thy time?”

Ecclesiastes 7:17) — before the normal course of nature; and the
fifteen years “added to” the course of Hezekiah’s life — God intervening
to stay the ordinary working of his disease.
“And he settled his countenance steadfastly, until he was ashamed:
and the man of God wept” (

2 Kings 8:11).
The first clause must be interpreted in the light of all that follows. Had it
stood by itself, we should have understood it to signify that Hazael was
deeply grieved by the prophet’s announcement and sought to control his
emotions — though that would not account for the prophet bursting into
tears. But the sequel obliges us to conclude that, far from being horrified at
the news he had just received, Hazael was highly gratified, and the settling
of his countenance was an endeavor to conceal his elation. Accordingly,
we regard the “until he was ashamed” (the Hebrew word is often rendered,
“confounded,” and once, “put to confusion”) as denoting that, under the
piercing gaze of Elisha he realized he had not succeeded and was chagrined
that his countenance revealed the wicked pleasure he found in the
prophet’s reply. God has wisely, justly, and mercifully ordered that to a
considerable extent, the countenance is made to betray the workings of our
minds and the state of our hearts.
The servant of God was not deceived by Hazael’s playacting, for he not
only had the aid of his own eyes to perceive the attempted deception, but
also had a direct revelation from heaven concerning the sequel. The
weeping of the man of God was not occasioned by his knowledge of the
violent end awaiting Ben-hadad, but rather from what the Lord had also
shown him concerning the fearful horrors which should shortly be inflicted
upon Israel. In his tears we behold Elisha foreshadowing his incarnate
Lord, who wept over Jerusalem (

Luke 19:41). Elisha was no heartless
stoic: even though he knew that his nation fully deserved the still sorer.245
judgments which God would shortly visit upon it through the agency of the
man who now stood before him, yet Elisha could not be unmoved at his
prophetic foreview of their terrible afflictions. The prophets were men of
deep feelings, as the history of Jeremiah abundantly manifests. So too was
Paul (

Philippians 3:18). So is every true servant of Christ.
“And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered,
Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of
Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men
wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip
up their women with child” (

2 Kings 8:12).
Like the two preceeding ones, this miracle consists of a supernatural
disclosure, the announcing of a prophetic revelation which he had received
directly from God — in this case a double one: the death of Ben-hadad and
the judgments which should come upon Israel. Hazael was far from being
melted by Elisha’s tears (he was probably nonplussed by them), and in
order to gain time for composure of mind, he asked the question which he
did. It is solemn to note that while Elisha announced what he foresaw
would happen, he made no effort to dissuade or deter Hazael — as our
Lord foretold the treachery of Judas, but sought not to turn him from his
evil purpose.
“And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do
this great thing?” (

2 Kings 8:13).
Hotly did he resent such a charge, nor did he at that moment deem himself
capable of such atrocities, nor did he wish the prophet to regard him as
such a wretch. How little do the unregenerate realize or suspect the
desperate wickedness of their hearts! How anxious are they that others
should not think the worst of them! When not immediately exposed to
temptations, they do not believe they are capable of such enormities, and
are highly insulted when the contrary is affirmed. “And Elisha answered,
The LORD hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.” Again we
see the extraordinary powers with which the prophets were invested,
though Elisha gives God the glory for his. When Hazael ascended the.246
throne, all human restraint would be removed from him, and enlarged
powers and opportunities would be his for working evil.
“So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to
him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that
thou shouldest surely recover” (

2 Kings 8:14).
Thus did Hazael seek to put off his guard the one he intended to murder by
deliberately lying to him.
“And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and
dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died: and
Hazael reigned in his stead” (

2 Kings 8:15).
And this was the man who a few hours before indignantly denied he had
the character of a savage dog! In the fearful doom of Ben-hadad we see the
righteous retribution of God. Having been a man of violence, he met with a
violent end — as he had lived, so he died (see

1 Kings 20:1, 16, 21, 26,
29; 22:1;

2 Kings 6:8, 24). And for Hazael in the future:

2 Kings
This is so obvious that very few words are needed: it is the glaring contrast
between the faithful and the unfaithful servant. Elisha had unflinchingly
declared the counsel which he had received from the Lord, however
unpalatable it was to his hearer. But Hazael gives us a picture of the
hireling, the false prophet, the deceiver of souls. Ostensibly he went forth
in obedience to his master’s commission (

2 Kings 8:9); in reality he was
playing the part of a hypocrite (

2 Kings 8:11). When he delivered his
message he falsified it by withholding the most pointed and solemn part of
it (

2 Kings 8:14). How many there are like him, uttering “smooth
things” and remaining guiltily silent on the doom awaiting the wicked. As
surely as Hazael slew Ben-hadad, the unfaithful preachers of our day are
murdering souls. As Hazael became king, so the most faithless now occupy
seats of power in Christendom..247

2 Kings 9:1-10 as relating to
the mission of Elisha. In order to better understand it, we refer the reader
back to the first two chapters. There we pointed out that the missions of
Elijah and Elisha formed two parts of one whole, much the same as did
those entrusted to Moses and Joshua. While there was indeed a striking
difference between what was accomplished through and by Moses and the
one who succeeded him, and while their respective missions may be
considered separately, yet in the wider view the latter should be regarded
primarily as the complement of the former. Such was also the case with
Elijah and Elisha. The analogy between Moses and Joshua and Elijah and
Elisha is not perfect in every detail, yet there is sufficient agreement in the
broad outline as to enable us to perceive more clearly the relation which
the second sustained to the first in each of those two pairs. By such
perception, light is cast upon the ministries of those we are now more
especially concerned with.
The very similarity of their names intimates a more than ordinary
connection between them. According to that important rule of
interpretation, the very first mention of Elisha in the Scriptures clearly
defines his relation to his predecessor. Unto Elijah the Lord said,
“Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, shalt thou anoint to be
prophet in thy room” (

1 Kings 19:16).
Those words signify something more than that he was to be his successor
in the prophetic office; Elisha was to take Elijah’s place as his accredited
representative. This is confirmed by the fact that when he found Elisha,
Elijah “cast his mantle upon him” (

1 Kings 19:19), which denotes the
closest possible identification between them. In perfect accord with that is
the reply Elisha made when, later, he was asked by the one whose place he
was to take, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away [not
from ‘Israel,’ but] from thee. And Elisha said,.248
“I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me”

2 Kings 2:9),
which request was granted. Elisha, then, was far more than the historical
successor of Elijah; he was appointed and anointed to be his representative,
we might almost say his “ambassador.”
Elisha was the man called by God to take Elijah’s place before Israel.
Though Elijah had left this scene and gone on high, yet his ministry was not
to cease. True, he was no longer here in person, yet he was so in spirit. The
starting point of Elisha’s ministry was the supernatural rapture of his
master, and that the one was to carry on the work of the other was
symbolically intimated by his initial act, for his first miracle was an exact
duplication of the last one wrought by his predecessor, namely, the smiting
and opening up of the waters of Jordan so that he crossed over dry-shod
— the instrument used being Elijah’s own mantle (

2 Kings 2:14)! The
immediate sequel supplies further evidence for what we have just pointed
“And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho
saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And
they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before
him” (

2 Kings 2:15).

2 Kings 2 we read of “the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el”

2 Kings 2:3), and in

2 Kings 2:5 we are also told of “the sons of the
prophets that were at Jericho,” the latter numbering more than fifty (

Kings 2:17). By that expression (a Hebrewism) we understand that these
young men had been converted under the ministries of Elijah and Elisha,
for the latter had accompanied the former for some years previous to his
rapture — and who were organized into schools. As we saw in an earlier
chapter, there was yet another school of them at Gilgal (

2 Kings 4:38),
and from their “sitting before him” (cf.

Deuteronomy 33:3;

2:46 and 10:39) it is evident that Elisha devoted much of his time to their
instruction and edification. Their owning him as “thou man of God” (

Kings 4:40) and “master” (

2 Kings 6:5) reveals plainly enough the
relation which he sustained to them, as does also their appeal to him for the
enlarging of their living quarters (

2 Kings 6:1). He acted then as their
rector or superintendent, and gained both their respect and their affection..249
In the course of our studies we have seen how Elisha wrought more than
one miracle for the benefit of these students. Thus, through his intervention
on her behalf, he enabled the widow of one of the children of the prophets,
who had appealed to him in her dire extremity, to pay off her debt and save
her two sons from being made bondmen to her debtor (

2 Kings 4:1-7).
Next he delivered a whole company of them from being poisoned when
there was “death in the pot” which they were about to partake of (

Kings 4:38-41). Then he rescued the head of the ax borrowed by another
of them (

2 Kings 6:4-7). Not only were the schools of the “sons of the
prophets” which were established by the Tishbite continued throughout the
life of his successor, but in the above instances we see how Elisha acted
toward them as Elijah would have done had he remained among them —
using his extraordinary powers on their behalf as need arose and occasion
Let us now point out the relevancy of this somewhat lengthy preface to the
incident we are now to contemplate. Our narrative opens by saying:
“And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets,
and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in
thine hand, and go to Ramoth-Gilead. And when thou comest
thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of
Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren,
and carry him to an inner chamber. Then take the box of oil, and
pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the LORD, I have anointed
thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not”

2 Kings 9:1-3).
That can only be rightly apprehended in the light of what has just been
pointed out.
If we turn back to

1 Kings 19:15-16 it will be found that Elijah received
the following commission: “And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on
thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint
Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint
to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt
thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.” Concerning the anointing of
Hazael, Scripture is silent; that of Elisha was accomplished when Elijah
“cast his mantle upon him” (

1 Kings 19:19). At first sight the long delay
in the anointing of Jehu seems to present a problem, but compare an earlier
passage, and the difficulty is at once removed. Jehu was to be the Lord’s.250
instrument of executing His vengeance on the wicked house of Ahab — a
solemn announcement of which was made to that apostate monarch by
Elijah in

1 Kings 21:21-24, and Jehu’s agency in connection therewith
was intimated in

1 Kings 19:17.
Upon hearing that dreadful announcement from the lips of the Lord’s
messenger, we are told that Ahab
“rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and
lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (

1 Kings 21:27).
Because of that external humbling of himself before Jehovah, He declared
unto the prophet,
“I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I
bring the evil upon his house” (

1 Kings 21:29).
Since that divine decision was communicated to Elijah personally, we infer
that it was tantamount to bidding him defer the anointing of Jehu: a respite
having been granted unto Ahab, the commissioning of the one who was to
execute the judgment was also postponed. For the same reason we
conclude that since the time for the anointing of Jehu had not arrived
before Elijah left this earth, that he transferred this particular duty to his
successor, to the one who became “prophet in his room,” as the Lord Jesus
is said to have baptized those who were immersed by His disciples acting
under His authority (

John 4:1-2).
But now the question arises, Why did not Elisha personally perform the
task assigned him by the one whose representative he was? Why entrust it
to a deputy? The principal reason given by Matthew Henry (and adopted
by Thomas Scott) is that it was too dangerous a task for Elisha to
undertake, and therefore it was not fit that he should expose himself; that
being so well known, he would have been promptly recognized, and
therefore he selected one who was more likely to escape observation. But
such an explanation by no means commends itself to us, for it is entirely
out of accord with everything else recorded of Elisha. The one who had
spoken so boldly to king Jehoram (

2 Kings 3:13-14), who was not
afraid to give offense unto the mighty Naaman (

2 Kings 5:9-11 ), who
had calmly sat in the house when the king had sworn he should be slain that
day (

2 Kings 6:31-32), and who possessed such power from God as to
be able to smite with blindness those who sought to take him captive (

Kings 6:18), was hardly the one to shrink from an unpleasant task and
invite another to face peril in his stead.
Since the Scriptures do not implicitly reveal to us the grounds on which
Elisha here acted, none may attempt to dogmatically define them. The most
any writer can do is to form his own judgment from what is revealed, state
his opinion, and submit it to the readers. Personally we prefer to interpret
Elisha’s action on this occasion in the light of the particular stage which
had now been reached in his career. Nothing more is recorded about him
after this incident, save what immediately preceded his death. It appears
then that, for some reason unknown to us (for he lived many years
afterward), that he was about to retire from the stage of public action, and
therefore that he would prepare the “sons of the prophets” and perhaps this
one more particularly to take a more prominent part in the public life of
Israel, and consequently was placing more responsibility upon them. It is
not to be lost sight of that it was also an important and distinguished
mission this young man was now entrusted with, and that a high honor was
conferred upon him.
“And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets
and said unto him, Gird up thy loins and take this box of oil in thy
hand, and go to Ramoth-Gilead” (

2 Kings 9:1).
Elisha is not here designated “the man of God” because no miracle was
involved in what follows. Only here is he termed “Elisha the prophet” and
only in

1 Kings 8:36 was his predecessor called “Elijah the prophet”: it
intimated the identification of the one with the other. Elisha’s calling one of
the children of the prophets to him manifests the relation which he
sustained unto them, namely, as one having authority over them —
compare the section on

2 Kings 6:1-7. In the light of what was pointed
out in the preceding paragraph we may see in Elisha’s action an example
which elderly ministers of the gospel may well emulate: Endeavoring to
promote the training of their younger brethren, seeking to equip them for
more important duties after they will have left this scene. This is a principle
which Paul acted upon:
“The things that thou hast heard of me… the same commit thou to
faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (

2 Timothy
“And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of
Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up
from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber”

2 Kings 9:2).
Here we behold another example of the extraordinary powers possessed by
Elisha. He knew where Jehu was to be found, that he would not be alone,
the precise company he would be in, that he would be seated, and yet not
in the inner chamber! But it was a trying ordeal to which he now subjected
his deputy and a solemn errand on which he sent him. The wicked Jehoram
(also called “Joram”) was still on the throne and at that time sojourning in
Ramoth-gilead, where he was recovering from the wounds which the
Syrians had given him in the recent battle at Ramah (

2 Kings 8:29).
With him was the son of the king of Judah, who was visiting him in his
sickness, and with him too were other members of the reigning house. The
mission entrusted to the young prophet involved his entry into the royal
quarters, his peremptory ordering one of the princes to accompany him to
a private chamber, and then discharging the purpose for which he had
That purpose was not only to anoint and make him king, but to deliver an
announcement which would to most temperaments be very unpleasant. But
the minister of God, be he young or old, is not free to pick and choose
either his sphere of labor or the message he is to deliver. No, being but a
“servant” he is subject only to the will of his Master, and therefore any self-seeking
or self-pleasing is nothing else than a species of insubordination.
Implicit obedience to the Lord, no matter what it may involve or cost him
in this life, is what is required of him, and only by rendering such obedience
will he be rewarded in the next life, by hearing from the lips of Christ
himself, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the
joy of the Lord.” Oh that each young minister of Christ who reads these
lines may be constrained to earnestly seek enabling grace that he may live
and act now with the day to come before him.
“Then take the box of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus
saith the LORD, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open
the door, and flee, and tarry not” (

2 Kings 8:3).
The young prophet was to make it unmistakably clear that he was acting in
no private capacity, not even as an agent of Elisha, but under the
immediate authority of Jehovah Himself. It is most important that the.253
minister of Christ should similarly conduct himself. He is to make it evident
that he is commissioned by heaven, not delivering a message of his own
devising nor acting as the agent of his denomination. Only thus is God
honored and only thus will His servant preserve his true dignity and speak
with divine authority. When he has fulfilled his charge, then let him “tarry
not”; that is, not stay around in order to listen to the compliments of his
hearers. Note that kingship is of divine appointment and institution (cf.

Proverbs 8:15), and therefore are God’s people bidden to “honor the
king” (

1 Peter 2:17). It is one of the marks of an apostate and
degenerate age when “dominion” is despised and “dignities” are evil
spoken of (Jude 8).
“So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to
Ramoth-gilead” (

2 Kings 9:4).
Observe how the Holy Spirit has emphasized his youth! Often the babe in
Christ is more pliable and responsive than an older Christian. Note there is
nothing to show he asked for an easier task, objected to this one on the
score of his youth, nor that he felt unworthy for such a mission — which is
more often the language of pride than of humility, for none is “worthy” to
be commissioned by the Almighty. It is entirely a matter of sovereign
grace, and in nowise one of personal merit, that anyone is called to the
ministry. Said the apostle Paul, “I was made a minister, according to the
gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His
power.” He at once added,
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace
given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable
riches of Christ” (

Ephesians 3:7-8).
He referred to a two-fold “grace”: in calling and equipping him. When God
calls one to His service, He also furnishes him. This is illustrated in this
incident by “the box of oil” put into the young prophet’s hand.
“And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting;
and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said,
Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, O captain. And he
arose, and went into the house” (

2 Kings 9:5-6).
We regard the “behold” as having a threefold force..254
First, as calling attention to the accuracy of Elisha’s indirect but obvious
prediction in

2 Kings 9:2.
Second, as emphasizing the severity of the ordeal which then confronted
the young prophet: Jehu being surrounded by companions of note, and the
likelihood that he would resent such an intrusion.
Third, in view of what follows, as intimating the gracious hand of God so
ordering things that Jehu promptly and unmurmuringly complied with the
prophet’s order, thus making it much easier for him. In that we see how
God ever delights to honor those who honor Him and show Himself strong
in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.
That which is recorded in

2 Kings 9:7-10 was evidently included in the
commission which the young man had received from the Lord through
Elisha, and which he now faithfully discharged. The fact that the prophet
here made such an announcement appears to supply strong confirmation of
what was pointed out in our opening paragraphs, namely, that this deputy
of Elisha was acting in the stead of Elijah or as his representative. For if it
is compared with

1 Kings 21:21-24 it will be found that it is practically
an echo of the Tishbite’s own words to Ahab. In the charge here given to
Jehu we are shown how he was to be God’s battle-ax (

Jeremiah 51:20)
or sword of justice. Man might see in Jehu’s conduct (see remainder of

2 Kings 9) nothing more than the ferocity of a human fiend, but in these
verses we are taken behind the scenes as it were and shown how he was
appointed to be the executioner of God’s judgments.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end, it shall
speak and not lie: though it tarry wait for it; because it will surely
come” (

Habakkuk 2:3).
This is equally true whether the “vision” of prophecy foretells divine mercy
or wrath, as the wicked house of Ahab was to discover.
“And he opened the door and fled” (

2 Kings 9:10).
This was most praiseworthy, and should be duly taken to heart by us. The
servant of God is not free to please himself at any point but must carry out
the orders he has received to the last letter. In all probability, if this young
man had lingered, Jehu, after receiving such a high favor at his hands,
would have evidenced his appreciation by bestowing some reward upon
him, or at least feasting him at his royal table. But Elisha had bidden him,.255
“Open the door [as soon as he had performed his errand] and flee,
and tarry not” (

2 Kings 9:3);
and here we see his implicit obedience to his master. Oh that we may in all
things render unqualified compliance with our Master’s will. It is not
without significance that in the very next verse the young prophet is
scornfully referred to as “this mad fellow” (

2 Kings 9:11) by one of the
servants of the king. For the unregenerate are quite incapable of assessing
at their true value the motives which prompt the faithful minister of Christ,
and judging him by their own standards, regard him as crazy. But what is
the contempt and ridicule of the world if we have the approbation of the
Lord? Nothing, and less than nothing, especially if we expect it, as we
should do..256
WE HAVE NO MEANS of ascertaining the exact age of Elisha when he was
overtaken by his fatal sickness, for we know not how old he was when
called to the prophetic office (though from the analogy of Scripture, he
would probably be at least thirty at that time). Nor does there appear any
way of discovering how long a period he accompanied and ministered to
Elijah before his rapture (some writers think it was upwards of ten years);
but if we total up the years which the various kings reigned over Israel,
who were all outlived by our prophet (beginning with Ahab), it will be seen
that he was a very old man. One commentator supposes him to have been
“at this time fully one hundred and twenty years of age.” Good it is to be
assured that, whether our appointed span be long or short, our “times” are
in the hands of the One who gave us being (

Psalm 31:15). God recovers
His people from many sicknesses, but sooner or later comes one from
which there is no deliverance. It is well for us if, when that time arrives, we
conduct ourselves as Elisha did and use our remaining strength to the glory
of the Lord.
The final incidents in connection with Elisha are in striking keeping with
the whole record of his remarkable mission. No commonplace career was
his and most extraordinary are the things which mark its closing scenes.
First, we learn that the reigning monarch called upon him during his fatal
illness! Kings are not accustomed to visit dying people, least of all the
servants of God at such times; it might be good for them if they did. Still
more unusual and remarkable was it for the king to weep over the prophet
because he was on the eve of leaving the scene. Even more noteworthy
was the language used by the king on this occasion.
Second, so far was Elisha from considering himself flattered by the
presence of such a visitor that he took complete charge of the situation,
gave orders to the king, and honored him by giving a message from.257
Jehovah, which was as striking as any he had delivered on earlier
Third, after his death God honored the remains of the prophet by raising
to life one who had been cast into his sepulcher.
That which is recorded in the second half of

2 Kings 13 speaks of what
was really another miracle in Elisha’s memorable life. This is intimated by
the Spirit referring to him there as “the man of God” (

2 Kings 13:19),
which, as we have so frequently pointed out, was used only when he was
acting in his official character and discharging his extraordinary office, a
fact which seems to have escaped the notice of other writers. Like several
others which have been before us, this miracle consisted of a divine
revelation being communicated through him, his uttering a supernatural
prophecy. Previous to this incident nothing is recorded about his activities
or how he was employed, yet it must not be concluded that he was under a
cloud and rusting out. No, that lengthy silence is broken in such a way as
to preclude any thought that he had been set aside by his Master, for the
Lord here makes signal use of him as He had done formerly. Elisha, like
other (though not all) of God’s servants, brought forth “fruit” in his old
age (

Psalm 92:14).
“Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died”

2 Kings 13:14).
“The Spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha and yet he is not sent for to
heaven in a fiery chariot, as Elijah was, but goes the common road
out of the world. If God honors some above others, who yet are
not inferior in gifts and graces, who should find fault? May He not
do what He wills with His own?” (Henry)
God does as He pleases and gives no account of His matters. He asks
counsel of none and explains His actions to none. Every page of Holy Writ
registers some illustration and exemplification of the exercise of His high
“Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye
was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (

Deuteronomy 34:7).
Whereas of Joshua, who lived ten years less (

Joshua 24:29), we read
that he “waxed old” and was “stricken in age” (

Joshua 23:1); yet
certainly he was not inferior in spirituality, nor did he occupy a less eminent.258
position in the Lord’s service than did his predecessor. So it is still; God
preserves the faculties of some unto old age, yet not so with others.
“And Joash the king (also called ‘Jehoash’ in

2 Kings 11:21, the
grandson of Jehu; he is to be distinguished from ‘Joash the king of
Judah’ in

2 Kings 13:10-13),
came down unto him” (

2 Kings 13:14). This indicates that the prophet
had not spent his closing years in isolated seclusion, for the king of Israel,
not long come to the throne, knew the place of his abode. But this mention
of the king’s visit also informs us that the man of God was held in high
esteem, and though the royal house had sadly failed to respond to his
teachings, yet they recognized his value to the nation. Israel’s fortunes had
fallen to a very low point, for a little earlier than this we are told,
“In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael
smote them in all the coasts of Israel; From Jordan eastward, all the
land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites,
from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan”

2 Kings 10:32-33).
What would the end be if Elisha were now removed!
“And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over
his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and
the horsemen thereof” (

2 Kings 13:14).
While this visit of the king probably indicated his respect for Elisha, yet his
tears are not to be regarded as proof of his affection for him; the second
half of the verse really interprets the first. The king was worded over the
assults of Hazael, and greatly feared that upon the death of this man whose
counsels and miracles had more than once been of service to the royal
house and saved the nation from disaster (

2 Kings 3:16-25, 6:9, 7:1), it
would henceforth be left completely at the mercy of their enemies. Joash
regarded the prophet as the chief bulwark of the nation, and the prospect
of his speedy removal filled him with consternation and sorrow. Thus there
was a strange mingling of esteem and selfishness behind those tears; and is
not that generally the case even in connection with the departure of a loved
The practical lesson for us here is plain. In the words of another,.259
Let us seek so to live that even ungodly men may miss us when we
are gone. It is possible for us in a quiet, unobtrusive manner, so to
adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things, that when we die
many shall say “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my
last end be like his,” and men shall drop a tear, and close the
shutter, and be silent and solemn for an hour or two when they hear
that the servant of God is dead. They laughed at him while he lived,
but they weep for him when he dies: they could despise him while
he was here, but now that he is gone they say: — “We could have
better missed a less-known man, for he and such as he are the
pillars of the commonweal: they bring down showers of blessing
upon us all.” I would covet this earnestly, not for the honor and
esteem of men, but for the honor and glory of God, that even the
despisers of Christ may be compelled to see there is a dignity, a
respect, about the walk of an upright man.
“And said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the
horsemen thereof” (

2 Kings 13:14).
This was an acknowledgment that Joash regarded Elisha as the chief
security of his kingdom, his best defense against aggressors, as the piety
and prayers of God’s people are today the nation’s best protection in a
time of evil, being far more potent than any material weapons. But we must
note the striking language used by the king on this occasion as he gave
expression to that truth. In the opening paragraphs of our last chapter we
dwelt at some length upon the connection which the ministry of Elisha has
to that of his predecessor: how he was raised up to act in his stead and
carry forward the work which he began. The final confirmation of the
identity of the latter with the former is found in these words of the king, for
they unmistakably make clear the unusually intimate relation he sustained
to the Tishbite. As he had gazed on the departing form of his master, Elisha
had cried
“My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen
thereof” (

2 Kings 2:12),
and now that he was on the eve of taking his departure from this world,
another utters the same words over him!.260
We turn now to consider Elisha’s response to the king’s visit, his tears, and
his acknowledgment. The prophet was very far from acting as a flatterer
before Joash on this occasion, but maintained and manifested his official
dignity to the end of his course. He was an ambassador of the King of
kings, and conducted himself accordingly. Instead of any indication that he
felt himself to be honored by this visit or flattered by the monarch’s tears,
the man of God at once took charge of the situation and gave orders to his
earthly sovereign. Let not young ministers today conclude from this
incident that they are thereby justified in acting haughtily and high-handedly
in the presence of their seniors and superiors. Not so. Such an
inference would be entirely unwarranted, for they do not occupy the
extraordinary office which Elisha did, nor are they endowed with his
exceptional gifts and powers. Nevertheless, they are to maintain their
dignity as the ministers of Christ:
“Let no man despise thy youth: but be thou an example of the
believers, in word, in [behavior], in [love], in spirit, in faith, in
purity” (

1 Timothy 4:12).
“And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took
unto him bow and arrows” (

2 Kings 13:15).
What follows is virtually a parable in action. It should be remembered that
in Eastern lands, instruction by means of symbolic actions is much more
common than it is with us; and thus we find the prophets frequently using
this method. When Samuel would intimate unto the self-willed Saul that
“the LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day,” he
“laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent” (

1 Samuel
15:28, 27).
When the prophet Ahijah announced that the Lord would “rend the
kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give ten tribes to another,” he
caught hold of the new garment upon Jeroboam and “rent it in twelve
pieces” and bade him “take thee ten pieces” (

1 Kings 11:29-31). Even
the false prophets employed such means (see

1 Kings 22:10-11).
Significant emblems were presented to the eye to stir up the minds of those
who beheld them and evoke a spirit of inquiry (see

Jeremiah 27:2 and
cf. 28:10-11 and see

Ezekiel 24:17-19). To this custom God referred
when He said,.261
“I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions,
and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets” (

For a New Testament example see

Acts 21:10-11.
When Elisha bade Joash “Take bow and arrows,” he was making use of a
visual “similitude.” The articles selected at once explain it. In response to
the king’s lamentation the prophet said, in effect, Weeping over my
departure will avail the nation nothing: stand fast in the faith, quit you like
a man, be strong (

1 Corinthians 16:13). Take not the line of least
resistance, but assemble your forces, lead your army in person against the
enemy. Though I be taken away from the earth, Jehovah still lives and will
not fail those who put their confidence in Him. Nevertheless, you must
discharge your responsibility by making good use of the means at hand.
Thus Joash was informed that he was to be the instrument of Israel’s
deliverance by means of his own military efforts, and that if he trusted in
the Lord and followed out His servant’s instructions, He would grant him
full success. There was no need then for the king to be so distressed. If he
acted like a man, God would undertake for him!
“And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow.
And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the
king’s hands” (

2 Kings 13:16).
Here again we see the commanding authority and influence which the
prophet had, under God, for Joash made no demur but meekly did as he
was ordered. By placing his hands upon the king’s, Elisha signified his
identification with what he should yet do, thereby intimating that he owed
it to the prophet’s mission and ministry that Israel was to be spared and
that God would again intervene on their behalf. By symbolic action, Elisha
was saying to him, “The battle is not your’s, but God’s” (

2 Chronicles
20:15). How little is that recognized today! “He teacheth my hands to war”

Psalm 18:34) was what Elisha now sought to impress upon his royal
“And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then
Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the
LORD’s deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for
thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou hast consumed
them” (

2 Kings 13:17)..262
In those words the prophet explained to the king the meaning of his
symbolic actions, and what should be the outcome of them. It evidenced
that Elisha’s mind was still occupied with the welfare of Israel. It
demonstrated that he still acted as the servant of Jehovah; it was the final
use of his prophetic gift and proof of his prophetic office. “Eastward” was
the portion of the land which Hazael had already conquered (

2 Kings
10:33), and in bidding the king shoot in that direction Elisha indicated
where the fighting would have to be done. Notice the striking conjunction
of the divine and human elements here, and the order in which they were
made. It should be “the arrow of the LORD’S deliverance,” yet “thou
(Joash) shalt smite the Syrians.” God would work, yet by and through him!
“And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said
unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote
thrice, and stayed” (

2 Kings 13:18).
In the light of what follows it is clear that the king’s faith was here being
put to the test; the prophet would have him indicate his reaction to the
reassuring message he had just heard. “Smite upon the ground” and
intimate thereby how far you believe the words which I have spoken and
really expect a fulfillment of them. Did the Lord’s promise sound too good
to be true, or would Joash rest upon it with full confidence? Would he lift
up his heart and eyes to God and say with David,
“Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might
destroy them that hate me” (

Psalm 18:40),
or would he follow the temporizing course which Ahab had pursued, when
instead of following up his victory by slaying Ben-hadad whom the Lord
had delivered into his hand, spared his life, made a covenant with him, and
then sent him away (

1 Kings 20:29-31)?
“And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou
shouldest have smitten five or six times” (

2 Kings 13:19).
There are some who teach that a saint should never lose his temper, that all
anger is sinful, which shows how little their thoughts are formed by
Scripture. In

Ephesians 4:26-27 Christians are thus exhorted: “Be ye
angry, and sin not,” though it is at once added, “let not the sun go down
upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” There is a holy and
spiritual anger — a righteous indignation — as well as a carnal and sinful.263
one. Anger is one of the divine perfections, and when the Son became
incarnate we read that on one occasion He
“looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the
hardness of their hearts” (

Mark 3:5).
Elisha was disgusted at the half-hearted response made by the king to his
message, and from love for Israel, he was indignant that Joash should stand
in their way and deprive them of full deliverance from their foes. And if we
had more zeal for God and love for souls we would be angry at those who
deprive them of their privileges.
“Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou
smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt
smite Syria but thrice” (

2 Kings 13:19).
What possible difference to the issue could be made by the number of times
the king smote upon the ground? If God had foreordained that the Syrians
should be “consumed” (

2 Kings 13:19), then could any failure on the
part of Joash prevent or even modify it? But do not Elisha’s words plainly
signify that the extent to which the Syrians would be vanquished turned
upon the response made by him to the divine promise? We shall not here
give a solution to this problem.
Instead of wasting time on metaphysical subtleties let us learn the practical
lesson which is here pointed, namely, “According to your faith be it unto
you” (

Matthew 9:29). For it was at that point Joash failed; he did not
thoroughly believe the prophet’s words. The majority of God’s people
today need to realize that the exercise of faith does make a real difference
in what they obtain or fail to obtain from God, as real and as great a
difference as between Joash “consuming” the Syrians (the Hebrew word is
rendered “destroy utterly” in

Leviticus 26:44 and “make an utter end
of” in

Nahum 1:8-9) and the “three times” he beat Hazael (

2 Kings
13:25). Most Christians expect little from God, ask little, and therefore
receive little, and are content with little. They are content with little faith,
little knowledge of the deep things of God, little growth and fruitfulness in
the spiritual life, little joy, peace, and assurance. And the zealous servant of
God is justified in being wroth at their lack of spiritual ambition.
“And Elisha died, and they buried him” (

2 Kings 13:20)..264
It is to be noted that nothing is said here of any burial service. Nor is there
anywhere in the Scriptures, either in the Old Testament or the New
Testament. Elaborate, mournful ceremonies are of pagan origin and are
neither authorized nor warranted by the Word of God. If the body of Christ
was tenderly and reverently interred without the mummery of any “service”
over His corpse, shall the disciple be above his Master! What slaves many
are to “the way of the heathen” (

Jeremiah 10:2), and in what bondage
do they let themselves be held through fear of public opinion, afraid of
what their friends and neighbors would think and say if they should be
regulated only by Holy Writ.
“And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in
of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that,
behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the
sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched
the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet”

2 Kings 13:20-21).
Behold here once more the sovereignty of God; He honored Elijah at his
departure from this world, but Elisha, in a different way afterward. It was
the Lord’s seal upon His servant’s mission. It indicated that the Lord was
his God after death as well as before, and thus furnished evidence both of
the immortality of the soul and the final resurrection of the body. It was an
intimation that other miracles would yet be wrought for Israel in response
to his prayers and as the result of his labors. Thus to the end, miracles are
connected with the mission of Elisha.

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