II Kings 4
MIRACLES WROUGHT BY ELISHA (vs. 1-44)
The miracles of this chapter are all of them miracles of mercy. The first and last consist
in the multiplying of food, and thus belong to the same class as our Lord’s feeding the
four and the five thousands, and Elijah’s increasing the meal and oil of the widow of
Zarephath (1 Kings 17:10-16). It serves no useful purpose to ask how miracles of
this class were wrought. The inspired writers have not told us; and our own thoughts
upon the subject can at the best be mere unfounded conjectures. The rationalistic
attempts which have been made to solve the mystery exhibit a weakness and
feebleness that are absolutely puerile. The second miracle is the resuscitation of a
dead person, and belongs, consequently, to the very narrow class of such recoveries,
of which in the Old Testament there are three only (see I Kings 17:17,23; here; and
ch. 13:21). The third miracle consists in rendering fit for man’s use that which was
previously unfit, not by human skill or science, but by miracle; and is analogous to
the act of Moses whereby the waters of Marah ceased to be bitter (Exodus 15:25),
and to that other act of Elisha himself, whereby the waters of
(ch. 2:19-22). It is evidently the object of the writer or compiler of II Kings to
collect in this place the principal, or at any rate the most noted, of the miraculous
acts of the great prophet who succeeded Elijah, and so to preserve them from
oblivion. This object, which he began to set before himself in ch. 2:13, continues
to be pursued, and forms a link uniting the various narratives together, up to ch. 8:6.
The Multiplication of the Widow’s Oil (vs. 1-7)
1 “Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets
unto Elisha, saying,” - We learn from this that the “sons of the prophets” were
not merely, all of them, college students, but included fathers of families, who cannot
have lived a cloistered life, but must have had separate homes for themselves and
their families. Such persons may still have taught in the prophetical schools, as do the
married tutors and professors of modern universities – “Thy servant my husband
is dead;” - Elisha had, it seems, known her husband, who had been his “servant,”
not literally and in deed, but in will and heart, i.e. always ready to serve him. She
recalls this fact to his memory, to predispose him in her favor – “and thou knowest
that thy servant did fear the Lord:” - Here was a second ground for Elisha’s
interference — the woman’s husband had been a God-fearing man, one who not
only acknowledged Jehovah, but worshipped Him in spirit and in truth – “and the
creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.” In
primitive communities, men borrowed upon their personal credit, and the primary
security for debt was regarded as being their own persons, the value of their labor,
and that of those dependent on them. In
Hebrew community, borrowers ordinarily raised money by pledging their persons,
and, if they could not pay when the debt became due, went into servitude with their
children. The Mosaic Law presupposes this state of things, and permits its
continuance, but in two respects interferes to modify it:
25:43, 46), but such as was commonly rendered by hired servants
vs. 39-40); and
(Ibid. vs. 40-41). In the instance brought here under our notice, it
would seem that the creditor had not proceeded to claim his rights until the
debtor died, when he enforced them against the man’s children (compare
2 “And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee?” Elisha acknowledges
at once the call upon him to do something for the woman. This is, no doubt, in part,
because she is a widow. Widows were, in the Law, especially commended to the
attention and care of the faithful. The Law urgently commands to succor the
widows and the fatherless, and to care for them (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy
14:29; 24:17, 19; 26:12; 27:19). They are mentioned as representatives of the
forsaken, the oppressed, and the necessitous as a class (Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah
22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5). It is especially emphasized and praised in
Jehovah, that he is the Father and Judge (i.e. Protector of the rights) of the widows
and the fatherless (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; 146:9; Isaiah 9:17). Neglect
and contempt of them are counted among the heaviest offences (Psalm 94:6;
Job 22:9; Ezekiel 22:7); just as, on the other hand, compassion and care for them is
a sign of the true fear of God, and of true piety. (Job 29:12; 31:16; James 1:27).
Elisha could also gather from the tone of the woman’s address that she, like her
late husband, was God-fearing – “tell me, what hast thou in the house?
Hast thou anything, that is, which thou canst sell, and so pay the debt? “And she
said, Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house, save a pot of oil.”
Literally, save an anointing of oil; i.e. so much oil as will suffice for one anointing
of my person.
3 “Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even
empty vessels; borrow not a few.” God stints not in His gifts (Isaiah 55:1).
When He offers them, men should take advantage of the offer largely, in the
same spirit in which it is made!
4 “And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon
thy sons,” - The miracle was to be performed secretly. Attention was not to be
called to it, the hearts of the woman and of her sons should be lifted up in prayer
and adoration and thankfulness to God for the mercy which He was bestowing.
Compare our Lord’s secret performance of many miracles – “and shalt pour out
into all those vessels — i.e. those which thou shalt have borrowed — and thou
shalt set aside that which is full.” - i.e. as each vessel is filled, it shall be
removed and set aside, and one of the empty vessels substituted — that the
pouring might be continuous.
5 “So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons”
— i.e. obeyed exactly the prophet’s orders — “who brought the vessels to her;
and she poured out.”
6 “And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her
son, Bring me yet a vessel.” It did not occur to her that all the vessels had been
already filled; so she asked her son for another, that she might fill it. “And he said
unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.” God will not have
waste. If the oil had continued to flow, it would have fallen on the floor of the house,
and have been of no service to any one. Therefore, when all the vessels were full,
there was a sudden stoppage.
7 “Then she came and told the man of God.” i.e. Elisha - She did not feel
entitled to make use of the oil which she had got by his instrumentality without
first telling him and receiving his directions respecting it. The prophet gave them
with all plainness and brevity. “And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt,
and live thou and thy children of the rest.” The oil in the vessels was
more than sufficient for the discharge of the debt. The prophet directs the
woman to sell the whole, and, after satisfying the claim of her creditor with
part of the money, to support herself and her children on the remainder.
The Promise of a Child to the Shunammite Woman, and
the Restoration of the Child to Life (vs, 8-37)
8 “And it fell on a day, that” - The expression seems to be archaic. It occurs
only here and in. the opening chapters of the Book of Job (1:6, 13; 2:1). The most
literal rendering would be, and the day came when. “Elisha passed to Shunem,”
- Shunem was a
(Joshua 19:18) an is in the midst of some of the finest corn-fields in the world,
on the edge of the
of the northern kingdom, happened to come on one occasion to Shunem
“where was a great woman,” - The meaning seems to be that she was
a woman of substance, one well-to-do, perhaps one that had brought her
husband the bulk of his wealth – “and she constrained him to eat bread.”
- i.e. she invited him in as he passed her house, and would take no denial.
so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.”
Elisha, it appears, had frequent occasion to pass through Shunem on his
on these journeys, to eat his meals at the house of the rich Shunammite, hence
arose a kindly feeling on both sides.
9 “And she said unto her husband, Beheld now, I perceive that this is
an holy man of God,” - Not all the men of God were truly religious and
God-fearing. In Elisha’s time, as in all others, there were among the teachers
of religion some who were “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” The Shunammite
woman, after a certain length of acquaintance, came to the conclusion that
Elisha deserved the title which he commonly bore, was truly a “man of God,”
a real devoted servant of Jehovah. She therefore wished to do more for him than
she had hitherto done – “which passeth by us continually.” i.e. who passes
through our village often.
10 “Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall;” probably a
small addition to the existing upper chamber of the house is meant — a tiny
room resting partly upon the wall of the house, partly projecting beyond it,
balcony fashion. Such sleeping-chambers are common in Oriental dwellings –
“and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a
candlestick:” - rather, a bed, and a table, and a chair, and a lamp —
the necessary furniture of an apartment which was to be used, not only; as
a sleeping-chamber, but also for retirement, for study, and perhaps for
literary composition - “and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he
shall turn in thither.” In the intervals between his active ministrations, a
prophet would naturally desire quiet retirement, security from interruption.
He would need to reflect, to meditate, to pray, perhaps to write. The
Shunammite’s proposal shows, not only kindness, but thoughtfulness and
appreciation. 11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned
into the chamber, and lay there; i.e. slept there, passed the night there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant,” - Gehazi is here mentioned for the
first time. He seems to have been Elisha’s “servant” in a lower sense than Elisha
had been Elijah’s. Still, his position was such that on one occasion (ch. 8:4,-5) a
Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him” -i.e.
before Gehazi. Elisha communicates with the woman through his servant, or
at any rate in his presence, probably to prevent any suspicion of impropriety
arising in the mind of any one. The prophet of the Lord must not be evil spoken of.
13 “And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been
careful for us with all this care” — or, anxiety; i.e. thou hast taken all this
trouble in lodging both me and my servant, and in attending on us — “what is
to be done for thee?” - or, What is there that thou wouldest have done for
thee? Is there anything that we can do for thee in return? “Wouldest thou be
spoken for to the king?” Elisha assumes that he has credit at court, and offers
to use it in the Shunammite’s favor, if she has any request to prefer. We see
something of his influence in chps. 6:9-12, 21-23; 8:4-6 – “or to the captain of
the host?” - i.e. the person whose authority and influence was next to that of the
king. “And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.” i.e. “The
court is nothing to me. I want nothing from it. I have no wrong to complain of, no
quarrel with any of my neighbors, so as to need the help of one in power. I dwell
peaceably among them. They are ‘my own people’ — friends or dependents.” The
reply is that of one perfectly content with her position. Perhaps she aims at impressing
on Elisha that she has had no selfish motive in what she has done for him, but has
merely wished to honor God in His prophet.
14 “And he said — he, Elisha, said to Gehazi — What then is to be done for her?”
If the woman will suggest nothing herself, can Gehazi suggest anything? Has he heard
her express any wish? Does he know of any boon that would be welcome to her?
Evidently the woman’s disinterestedness has increased the prophet’s desire to do
something for her but it does not appear that the woman had made any complaint or
exhibited any special anxiety on the subject of offspring. But Gehazi knows, that to
be barren is regarded by all Hebrew women as a reproach, that it exposes them to
scorn and contumely (I Samuel 1:6-7), and that offspring is universally, or all but
universally, desired. He therefore assumes that the Shunammite must wish for it.
And Elisha accepts his suggestion without a moment’s hesitation.
15 “And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the
door.” - rather, the doorway. The same word in Hebrew stands both for “doorway”
and for “door.” It would seem that the woman came at once on being called, but,
out of modesty and respect, would not advance beyond the entrance of the apartment.
16 “And he — i.e. Elisha — said, About this season, according to the time of
life” — rather, when the time comes round; literally, revives; i.e. about this time
next year — “thou shalt embrace a son.” - i.e. “a son shall be born to thee, whom
thou wilt embrace, as mothers are wont to do.” “And she said, Nay, my lord,
thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” Like Sarah, the woman was
incredulous; she could not believe the good tidings, and thought the prophet was
only raising hopes to disappoint them. Her words, “Do not lie unto thy servant,”
are less harsh in the original, being merely equivalent to the “Do not deceive me”
of v. 28.
17 “And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha
had said unto her, according to the time of life.” - rather, as the Revised
Version gives the passage, the woman conceived, and bare a son at that
season, when the time came round, as Elisha had said unto her. The event
was exactly as predicted; the child was born at the same season of the ensuing year.
18 “And when the child was grown” — not grown up, for he was still a “child”
(vs. 30-31, 35), but grown to be a boy, perhaps four or five years old —“it fell on
a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.” The corn-fields about
Shunem attract the admiration of travelers. The husband of the Shunammite, the
owner of several, was in one of them, superintending the cutting of his corn by the
reapers; and the boy joined him there, as he had probably often done before.
Country children delight in watching the various operations of the farmstead.
19 “And he said unto his father, My head, my head.” Sunstroke was
and most fatal at the time of harvest. The cry of the child is at once most touching
and most natural. “And he said to a lad;” - literally, to the lad-probably the lad
who had attended the” young master” to the field – “Carry him to his mother” –
i.e. take him indoors, and let his mother see to him. No wiser directions could
have been given.
20 “And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on
her knees till noon,” - It was in the morning, therefore, that the child received his
sunstroke — an unusual, but not an unknown, occurrence. In the East the sun often
becomes intensely hot by ten o’clock - “and then died.” There is no ambiguity
here, no room for doubt; the child not only became insensible, but died. The
historian could not possibly have expressed himself more plainly.
21 “And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God,” - One
cannot be certain what thoughts were working in the poor bereaved mother’s
heart; but probably she entertained some vague notion that the prophet might be
able to resuscitate her child, and thought that, until his presence could be
obtained, the next best thing was to place the child where the prophet’s presence
had lately been. Elijah had placed on his own bed the child whom he restored to
life (I Kings 17:19); and the fact may have been known to the Shunammite. She
certainly did not expect mere contact with the bed to resuscitate her child – “and
shut the door upon him,” - Either that the body should not be disturbed, or rather
that the death should not be known. It is clear that, from whatever motive, the
woman wished to conceal the death of the child until she had seen what Elisha could
do for her. She neither told her husband nor the servant who accompanied her.
“and went out.” - i.e. quitted the prophet’s apartment, closing the door as she
22 “And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one
of the young men, and one of the asses,” - She “called to her husband” from
the house, without calling him into the house, expressing her desire to visit Elisha,
without stating the object of her visit, and asked for the necessary riding animal and
escort. The nearest part of
Shunem, so that she could not walk – “that I may run — i.e., hasten — to the
man of God.” “Man of God” was evidently the designation by which Elisha was
known in the house (vs. 16, 21, 25). And some again; i.e. return home before
23 “And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him today? it is neither new
moon nor sabbath.” The husband demurred; he saw no occasion for the journey.
It was not either “new moon” or “sabbath” — times when evidently the prophets
conducted services, which were attended by pious persons from the neighborhood:
what could she want of Elisha? He had evidently no idea that the child was dead.
Probably he had not realized to himself that he was in any danger. “And she said,
It shall be well.” She uttered the single word shalom, literally, “peace,” but used,
like the German gut, or the English “all right,” to content an inquirer without giving him
a definite answer. And the husband accepted her assurance, and did not press for an
explanation. The ass and the servant were placed at her disposal without more words.
24 Then she saddled an ass,” - rather, then she saddled (i.e. “caused to be
saddled”) the ass — the particular animal which her husband had placed at her
disposal – “and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward;” - i.e. “set the
ass in motion, and then proceed steadily forward.” In the East, each donkey has
its driver, who sets it in motion, and regulates its pace. The rider leaves all to him.
“slack not thy riding for me -“do not lessen the pace of my riding” — except
I bid thee.”
25 “So she went
and came unto the man of God to
was to Elisha what
retirement and meditation, where, free from disturbance, he might hold communion
with nature and with God. It was not usual for his disciples to intrude upon him there,
except at stated times, when gatherings were held at his residence for edification and
for worship. “And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off —
literally, i.e. coming towards him - that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold,
yonder is that Shunammite.” The prophet knew her at a distance, probably by
her attire and carriage. We may gather, from her husband’s words in v. 23, that
she was one of those who had been accustomed to attend the gatherings on new
moons and sabbaths.
26 “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?”
Elisha feels that there must be something the matter, to account for the
Shunammite’s coming to him so unexpectedly. His anxiety is aroused, and,
in his impatience to know what has happened, instead of waiting for the
woman’s arrival, he bids his servant run, and ask what is the matter. Some
misfortune, he supposes, must have happened either to her, or to her husband,
or to the child. “And she answered, It is well.” She gave, as before to her
husband (v. 23), the ambiguous answer, “Peace,” intending thereby merely to
put off Gehazi, and not explain herself to any one but his master.
27 “And when she came to the man of God to the hill — rather,
the mountain; i.e.
him by the feet:” (compare Matthew 18:29; Mark 5:22; 7:25; Luke 8:41;
John 11:32). It has always been usual in the East to embrace the feet or the knees,
in order to add force to supplication – “but Gehazi came near to thrust her
away.” He regarded the act as one unduly familiar or unduly importunate, and
interfered to protect and release his master. “And the man of God said, Let
her alone; for her soul is vexed within her:” - Elisha would not have the
woman disturbed. He saw that she was in deep distress, and, if there was anything
unseemly in her action according to the etiquette of the time, excused it to her
profound grief and distraction. The ordinary mind is a slave to conventionalities;
the superior mind knows when to be above them – “and the Lord hath hid it
from me, and hath not told me.” God had not informed Elisha, by inward
miraculous illumination, of the illness of the child, or its death, or the wild hopes
stirring in the afflicted mother’s mind, which induced her to make her long
and troublesome journey. We need not feel surprised at this. There is
always a limit to the miraculous; and facts that may be learnt by a little
inquiry are but rarely communicated supernaturally.
28 “Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say,
Do not deceive me?” The woman does not directly reveal her grief. Great
sorrow is reticent, cannot endure to put itself into words. But she sufficiently
indicates the nature of her trouble by the form of her reproach. “Did I ask for
a son? Did I make complaint of my childlessness? Had I been importunate, and
obtained my son of thee by much asking, I would not have complained. But I did
not ask. I did not even snatch greedily at the offer. I demurred. I said, ‘Do not
deceive me.’ It is greater misery to have a child and lose him, than never to have
had one at all.” All this, and more, seems to be involved in the woman’s words.
And the prophet fully understood their meaning.
29 “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:” The object of all these injunctions is haste. Lose not
a moment. Go as quickly as thou canst to the house where the child lies. Spend no
time in greetings on the way. Slack not. Tarry not. “and lay my staff upon the face
of the child.” What effect the prophet expected from this act, we are not told.
Gehazi appears to have expected that it would at once cause a resuscitation (v. 31);
but there is no evidence that the prophet participated in the expectation. He
may have done so, for prophets are not infallible beyond the sphere of the
revelations made to them; but he may only have intended to comfort and
cheer the mother, and to raise in her an expectation of the resuscitation
which he trusted it would be allowed him to effect.
30 “And the mother of the child said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul
liveth, I will not leave thee.” Apparently, the woman supposed that Elisha
intended to do nothing more, but trust the child’s recovery to such virtue as might
inhere in his staff. But her own resolution was long ago taken — she would be
content with nothing less than bringing the prophet face to face with her dead child.
She “will not leave” him till he consents to accompany her to her home. “And
he arose, and followed her.”
31 “And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff on the face of the
child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing.” Gehazi did as he had been told,
executed his mission faithfully; but there was no apparent result. The child was not
roused by the staff being placed across his face. All remained still and silent as before.
Although on some occasions it has pleased God to allow miracles to be wrought by
the instrumentality of lifeless objects, as when Elisha’s bones resuscitated a
dead man (ch.13:21), and when virtue went out from the hem of our Lord’s garment
(Mark 5:25-34), and still more remarkably, when “handkerchiefs or aprons from the
body of Paul were brought unto the sick, and the diseases departed from them, and
the evil spirits were case out of them” (Acts 19:12); yet the instances are,
comparatively speaking, rare, and form exceptions to what may be called the usual
Divine economy of miracles. Miracles are, as a general rule, attached in Scripture
to intense unwavering faith — faith, sometimes, in those that are the objects of them,
almost always in those that are the workers of them. The present case was not to be
an exception to the general rule, the circumstances not calling for an exception. The
power of faith was to be shown forth once more in Elisha, as not long previously in
Elijah (I Kings
example, how much the effectual fervent prayer of a faithful and righteous
man avails with the Most High (James 5:16). The lesson would have been lost
had the staff been allowed to effect the resuscitation. “Wherefore he — i.e. Gehazi
— went again to meet him — i.e. Elisha — and told him, saying, The child is
not waked.” It is clear from this, that Gehazi had expected an awakening; but there
is nothing to show what the prophet himself had expected.
32 “And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and
laid upon his bed.” (comp. v. 21). The child remained where his mother had laid him.
33 “He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,” - that he might
not be interrupted during his efforts to restore the child’s life (comp. v. 4) — “and
prayed unto the Lord.” Probably his heart had been lifted up in inarticulate prayer
from the time that he realized the calamity which had befallen the Shunammite; but
now he went down on his knees, and lifted up his voice in outspoken words of prayer.
34 “And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth,
and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands:” - following the
example set him by his master and predecessor, Elijah (I Kings 17:21). The idea may
in both cases have been to fit the body for reinhabitation by the soul (Ibid. v. 22),
through the restoration of warmth to it - “and he stretched himself upon the child;”
- i.e. brought his flesh as close as he could to the flesh of the child, covering the
body and pressing on it, to force his own bodily warmth to pass into it. The
word used, rh"g]yi, is different from that in I Kings 17:21, which is ddemot]yi, and
implies a closer contact – “and the flesh of the child waxed warm.” Elisha’s
efforts had an effect; the child’s body was actually warmed by them.
35 “Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro:” - literally, once
to and once fro; took, i.e., a single turn up and down the large room adjoining his
bed-chamber — scarcely with any remedial object, but as men do when they are
in distress and doubt – “and went up, and stretched himself upon him — i.e.
repeated his former act, laying himself upon the child, and warming it — and the
child sneezed seven times — showing the recovery of suspended respiration —
and the child opened his eyes.” - i.e. came to himself.
36 “And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite.” - i.e.
tell her to come here. No time was to be lost in restoring the child to his
mother, now that he was alive again. “So he called her. And when she was
come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.” - i.e. lift him up, take him in
thine arms, feel him to be all thine own once more.
37 “Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to
the ground,” - in acknowledgment of the boon conferred on her. In the East
such prostrations are common, and denote at once gratitude and humility.
“and took up her son, and went out.” (On some later circumstances in the
life of the woman, see ch. 8:1-6.)
The Healing of the Unwholesome Pottage (vs. 38-41)
38 “And Elisha came again to Gilgal:” - i.e. revisited Gilgal, where he had been
previously with his master (ch. 2:1), either casually, or perhaps on one of his regular
circuits to visit the schools of the prophets – “and there was a dearth in the land”
- probably the dearth again mentioned in ch. 8:1 — “and the sons of the prophets
were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot —
i.e. the one great pot that there would be in the house — and seethe pottage for
the sons of the prophets.” Even in a famine there would be some vegetables
produced on which life might be sustained.
39 “And one went out into the field to gather herbs,” - One of the
sons of the prophets, probably, went out into the neighboring country, and
looked about for any wild fruits or vegetables that he could see anywhere -
“and found a wild vine and gathered thereof wild gourds” - The exact kind
of gourd is uncertain. Some identifies the “gourd” in question with the fruit of the
colocynth, which is a gourd-like plant that creeps along the ground, and has a
round yellow fruit of the size of a large orange. This fruit is exceedingly bitter,
produces colic, and affects the nerves – “his lap full,” - as many as he could carry
in the sinus, or large fold, of his beged, or shawl - “and came and shred them
into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.” - i.e. the sons of the prophets,
who stood by and saw them shred into the pot, did not recognize them, or did not
know that they were unwholesome.
40 “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.” Either the bitter flavor alarmed them, or they began to
feel ill effects from what they had swallowed, which, if it was colocynth, might very
soon have produced stomachache or nausea. Rushing, therefore, at once to the
worst possible supposition, they concluded that they were poisoned, and exclaimed,
“O man of God, there is death in the pot!” “If eaten in any large quantity
colocynths might produce death - “And they could not eat thereof.” - i.e. they
could not continue to eat the pottage — all stopped eating.
41 “But he said, Then bring meal.” Elisha seems not to have hesitated for a
moment. Prompt measures must be taken, if poisoning is even suspected. He has
meal brought — not that meal has any virtue in itself against colocynth, or against
any other deleterious drug. But he acts, now as always, under Divine direction,
and is instructed to use meal on this occasion, as he used salt in healing the waters
the vegetable,” whatever it was, but could not possibly take them entirely away.
The meal, the most wholesome food of man, was only the earthly substratum for
the working of the Divine effluence which proceeded from Elisha, and made the
noxious food perfectly wholesome. “And he cast it into the pot; and he said,
Pour out now for the people — i.e., the assembled company of sons of the
prophets — that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.” Such as
had faith in Elisha, and continued to eat of the pottage, found no ill result. What
they ate did them no harm.
The Feeding of a Hundred Men on Twenty Loaves.
42 “And there came a man from Baal-shalisha,” - “Baal-shalisha”is
reasonably identified with the “Beth-shalisha” of Eusebius and Jerome, which they
place twelve Roman miles north of Diospolis, or Lydda (now Ludd). By “north”
we must probably understand “northeast,” since the “
the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (I Samuel 9:4). The position thus indicated
would not be very far from the Gilgal (Jiljileh) of ch. 2. and here, v.38 - “and
brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits,” - It is clear that the more
pious among the Israelites not only looked to the prophets for religious instruction
(v. 23), but regarded them as having inherited the position of the Levitical priests
whom Jeroboam’s innovations had driven from the country. The firstfruits of corn,
wine, and oil were assigned by the Law (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4-5) to
the priests – “twenty loaves of barley,” - The “loaves” of the Israelites were
cakes or rolls, rather than “loaves” in the modem sense of the word. Each
partaker of a meal usually had one for himself. Naturally, “twenty loaves” would
be barely sufficient for twenty men - “and full ears of corn” - i.e. a few ripe
ears of the same corn as that whereof the bread was made. Ears of corn were
offered as first-fruits at the Passover (Leviticus 23:10), and were regarded as
the most natural and becoming tokens of gratitude for God’s harvest mercies –
“in the husk thereof.” - rather, in his bag, or in his sack. “And he said,
Give unto the people — i.e., to the sons of the prophets who dwelt at Gilgal —
that they may eat.”
43 “And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men?”
The servant felt that the quantity was quite insufficient, and thought it absurd to invite
a hundred men to sit down to a meal, which would not satisfy a fifth of the number;
but Elisha repeated his command. “He said again, Give the people, that they
may eat:” - This time, however, he added an explanation of the proceeding –
“for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.” God had
supernaturally intimated to him that the quantity of food would prove ample for the
hundred men; they would show that they had had enough by leaving some of it.
And the result was as predicted.
44 “So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof,
according to the word of the Lord.” We are not expressly told how the
miracle was wrought, but the analogy of our Lord’s miracles of feeding the
multitudes, (Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-13)
whereof this is a manifest type, makes it probable that in this case also there
was a miraculous increase of the food. The object of the writer in communicating
the account is certainly not merely to show how the Lord cared for his servants,
but to relate another miracle wrought by Elisha, of a different kind from those
previously related. He is occupied with Elisha’s miracles through this entire
chapter and through the three next.