2022 Study Summary 28: There Is A Prophet In Israel
2 Kings 2-7
“There Is A Prophet In Israel”
2 Kings 2. Elisha and the prophets know that Elijah is to be translated—Elijah divides the waters of the Jordan and is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind—The mantle of Elijah falls on Elisha, who also divides the waters of the Jordan—Elisha heals the waters of Jericho—Youths are torn by bears for mocking Elisha.
2 Kings 3. Jehoram of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah join forces against Moab—Elisha promises them water for their animals and victory in the war—The Moabites are defeated.
2 Kings 4. Elisha multiplies the widow’s oil—He promises a son to a Shunammite woman—The child dies and is raised to life by Elisha—He makes the poisonous food harmless—Bread and grain are multiplied for the people to eat.
2 Kings 5. Naaman, the Syrian, comes to Elisha to be healed of leprosy—He rejects the prophet’s instruction at first but relents and dips himself in the Jordan seven times; he is healed—Elisha refuses to accept a reward—Gehazi accepts a gift from Naaman and is cursed with leprosy.
2 Kings 6. Elisha causes an ax to float—He reveals to the king how to conduct a war with Syria—Horses and chariots of fire protect Elisha—The Syrians are smitten with blindness—Benhadad besieges Samaria, and foodstuff sells for a great price.
2 Kings 7. Elisha prophesies incredible plenty in Samaria—The Syrian hosts flee at a noise of battle and leave their possessions—Israel takes spoil from the Syrians.
How does the name of Elisha teach us the maker of miracles?
The name Elisha means “my God saves” It includes the inference that it is God, not the prophet, who is the maker of miracles. Jewish thought has alternated between recognizing the power of man or the power of God. “Elisha’s prophetic powers were indeed increased after the master’s death—he performed 16 miracles compared to Elijah’s eight, and brought back to life two people to Elijah’s one.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.) The greatest miracle in Jewish history is the grand exodus from Egypt. The account is repeated every year at Passover, the feast (celebration) of deliverance. A handbook (Haggadah) explains the miraculous event. “Since the overriding theme of the Haggadah is that God saved the Jewish people from their enemies, Moses’ name is not mentioned in the Haggadah (except for one passing instance). This emphasizes that it was God Himself—not an angel and not a messenger—who redeemed Israel. Accordingly, a large part of the Haggadah is filled with songs of praise for the great miracles that God performed.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
How do miracles teach us the workings of God?
“The mystics believed that the regular laws of man and nature do not reveal God’s essence. Rather it is phenomena, miracles and unusual happenings which reveal the true nature of God, and the pious and learned scholar interprets them in order to understand God.” “…the biblical accounts stress the distinction between…occult practices and the miracles which such men as Moses perform. The latter are the result solely of the command of God, who changes the laws of nature in accordance with His will, and not human designs.” “Miracles (are) extraordinary phenomena that seem to fall outside the pattern of normal, explainable occurrences are frequently referred to in English as miracles. In the Bible, such events are termed otot or moftim (“wondrous signs”), and in the Talmudic literature as nisim (“heralds”). The terms point to the fact that both for the Bible and for the rabbis, miraculous events were caused by God and served as clear indicators of His controlling power in the universe.”
How did the doing of miracles shift from God to man?
“Later thinkers, for whom “the natural order” had an existence independent of God, were troubled by the question whether biblical miracles were “natural” or “supernatural,” but the Bible makes no such distinction and never questions God’s ability to do anything, by any means.” “The rabbis of the Talmud unquestionably accepted the biblical miracles as related, but they were troubled by the fact that they seemed to imply a lack of perfection in the very act of Creation. They solved this theological problem by postulating that miracles were, so to speak, provided for already at the time of creation. Thus, although they were “extraordinary” they were still manifestations of the natural order. Many rabbis reversed this perspective and emphasized that the very regularity and harmony of the natural world were in fact “miraculous.” “The rabbis rejected, however, the belief in “miracle performers” as bearers of religious truth. Once the Torah had been revealed to man, it was no longer “in heaven” It could not be altered by extraordinary means, but only by a natural process of development which was purely in the hands of ordinary human beings.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
How does God share his miracle-making with His children?
“Having been created by God, the universe is also totally subject to His control. As a result, God can impose His will upon the workings of the natural world as He pleases (the miracles of the Bible) but He can also transfer some of His controlling power to others. This God did when He created and blessed man. Although part of the natural world, man was given dominion over it, and told that the natural world was to serve his greater interests.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.) Traveling in the Jordan Valley, one passes by Jericho and a well which supplied the ancient city with water and is still called the “Spring of Elisha.” It is a reminder that the brackish water was healed by God through his newly appointed prophet Elisha (my God saves), who replaced Elijah (my Godis Jehovah). That water supply is still one of the main fresh water sources for Jericho today. In another account, Elisha’s continuing theme was that he was a servant of God, even refusing payment from Syria’s highest-ranking officer in the Land of Israel at that time. The anomaly is that the children of Israel strongly objected to the Syrian occupying forces. The prophet was probably teaching the same principle that Jesus taught and that has been revealed again in our day: “Then saith he unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Articles of Faith 11)
How are “enemies” also blessed?
A faithful young woman, probably serving in Naaman’s household, was an Israelite believer and prompted the occupying Syrian officer to come to the prophet to be blessed. The prophet sent a message to do something simple—bathe in the Jordan River. When he finally swallowed his pride, he was blessed! Imagine—the enemy was blessed! “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) We don’t know for sure if that resulted in the conversion of Naaman and it does not matter. The blessing was unconditional. The lesson for the unbelieving Israelites was repeated by the Savior as he said: “And many lepers were in Israel in the time of (Elisha) the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27) It is interesting to note the unbelief of today as the following statement refers to Naaman, assuming that he did not become a real believer. “Persons who, without actually being Jewish, follow Jewish practices or claim to be Jews are termed Judaizers. The model of the Judaizer was Naaman, minister to the king of Syria around 850 B.C.E. who, after being cured of leprosy by the prophet Elisha, worshiped the God of the Jews while continuing outwardly to pray to the idols of the state religion.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
Who did God provide to connect mankind with God and to provide miracles with Him?
“. . . Jehoshaphat said “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire 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) “And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.” (2 Kings 4:43-44) In all ages, a prophet testifies of the Messiah. Note, the sequel or repeat of this feeding miracle in Jesus’ mortal life. “. . . Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.” (Matthew 14:16-20)