ELISHA wanted to feed a hungry crowd that had come to hear him lecture. But all he had was a few ears of corn and twenty small loaves of barley bread. Elisha instructed that these be given to the people. His servant complained that such a small amount of food for so many people would be more annoying than satisfying. (II Kings 4:42-43.)
Not Enough Food?
"Distribute the corn and bread as I asked," Elisha said firmly. "You will find that there will be more than enough." Grudgingly the servant began passing out the food. But he grumbled to himself that when the people realized only a few were to be favored, they would feel anything but friendly to him and his master. Moments later he became aware that his baskets of bread and corn were no emptier than when he had started to pass out the contents. The servant finally noted with astonishment that the crowd of over a hundred had been served. And bread and corn were still in the baskets. Almost frantically he started again, this time swiftly handing out food in the attempt to empty the containers. Then he gave up, convinced that every time he took food out, it was somehow replaced. Blinking in wonderment, he set the baskets, still full, down beside Elisha, who gave him a knowing grin. (II Kings 4:44.) This was the ninth miracle performed through the prophet.
The Case of the Sick Syrian
About this same time, up in the land of Syria, an Israelite girl, captured by a Syrian raiding band, was turned over to the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Naaman was highly respected for his ability, bravery and integrity. But all this was overshadowed by the awful fact that he had leprosy. (II Kings 5:1-2.) Greatly disturbed to learn that such an able leader had such a serious affliction, the Israelite handmaid suggested to her mistress that her husband go to a man in Israel who could cure Naaman of his leprosy. "This man, whose name is Elisha, has performed some wonderful miracles because he is so close to: God," the girl explained. "If he asked our God to heal your husband, it would be done." (II Kings 5:3.)! "I don't think your God would be interested in anyone except you, Israelites," Naaman's wife observed indifferently. "That really isn't so, ma'am," the girl said. "Our God is interested in all people, because He made all people. He wants to help all who try to live honorably, and surely your husband is an honorable man." Naaman's wife ignored her handmaid's suggestion, but a servant who overheard the conversation told Naaman about it. The general was so interested that he went to the king of Syria to ask his advice. "Go to this Elisha," the king said. "What can you lose? I have heard that this man has strange powers. I shall give you a letter to the king of Israel to explain your presence in that country." Accompanied by servants, and supplied with plenty of money and several changes of clothing, Naaman left at once for Samaria. (II Kings 5:4-5.) Jehoram, Israel's king, was pleasantly surprised when he learned that the commander of the Syrian army had come on a peaceful mission. However, his attitude immediately changed when he read the letter from the king of Syria. He jumped to his feet and yanked so violently at his royal coat, in his anger, that he put a long rip in it. "The king of Syria is trying to start another war!" he bellowed. "He sends me a leper to be healed! Does he think that I'm God, to be able to take or give life? If his general returns unhealed, he'll probably become so vengeful that he'll send an army to attack us!" (II Kings 5:6-7.) Jehoram refused to meet Naaman. He wouldn't even let him know where he could find Elisha. Somehow the prophet quickly found out about Jehoram's conduct. He sent word to Jehoram, before Naaman left Samaria, requesting the king of Israel to send the general to him. "This is a matter for me to take care of," Elisha's message stated. "There is no reason for you to be alarmed. The king of Syria is not trying to make a reason for war. Let his commander learn that there is only one real God, and that there is one of God's ministers in Israel." A short while later Naaman drove up in his colorful chariot close to the house in which the prophet was staying. The general and his aides, mounted on steeds with fancy trappings, waited for Elisha to come out and greet them. (II Kings 5:8-9.) Presently a man emerged from the house and walked up to the chariot.
Puncturing the Balloon of Vanity
"Are you Elisha?" Naaman asked. "No," the man answered. "Elisha sent me to tell you, if you are Naaman, that you should go to the Jordan River and immerse yourself seven times. Then you will be free of your leprosy." The man turned and went back into the house, leaving Naaman puzzled. Then he became irritated. "This prophet fellow didn't even come out to meet me!" the general bitterly remarked to his aides. "Instead, he sends out a servant to tell me, a general, what to do. I thought he would at least come out personally to me, call on his God for the power to perform a miracle, make appropriate passes over me with his hands and declare me cured. What sense does it make to be told by an underling that I should go dip myself seven times in the Jordan? The high rivers of my own country are cleaner and clearer than any river in Caanan, especially the Jordan. Wouldn't I be better off to immerse myself in them? Let's get out of here and return home!" (II Kings 5:10-12.) Naaman's party turned back to the north. The way to Syria took them across the Jordan River. At this point Naaman's aides carefully pointed out to him that he might be wise to follow the advice he had been given.
Proof of God
"You expected Elisha to do something grand and dramatic for you," they reminded him. "Instead, he sent word to you to carry out something easy and simple. It was so simple that you ridiculed it. If you had been instructed to do something more complex and difficult, so you could feel that you were important, wouldn't you have been more inclined to carry it out?" "Probably," Naaman answered. "You fellows are trying so hard to talk me into this thing, that I'll satisfy your desires and curiosity by dipping myself in this river seven times." After the general had put himself under the water seven times, he walked out on the shore to discover, to his amazement, that the diseased part of his body had become as whole as that of a healthy boy! (II Kings 5:13-14.) "I am healed!" Naaman shouted. "The decay in my flesh has disappeared!" The general's aides swarmed around him with curiosity, astounded at what they saw. "I must go back and thank Elisha!" the overjoyed Syrian told his men. When they arrived at the house where Elisha was staying, the prophet came out to greet them. He knew that Naaman's return meant that the general had followed his advice. Naaman stepped out of his chariot and strode happily toward Elisha. "I did as you said, and I have been healed!" he exclaimed. "This proves to me that your God is the only real God on this Earth. All the other so called gods put together could never perform a miracle such as this!" "That is true," Elisha nodded. "I would be pleased if more Syrians realized that." "There isn't enough gold in Syria to pay for my healing," Naaman said, motioning to one of his aides to bring him a bag of coins, "but it's my pleasure to give you this as a token of my thanks." (II Kings 5:15.) "I can't take it," the prophet stated, holding up a refusing hand. "But surely you can use it in your work for your God," Naaman pointed out. "I want you to accept it." "Thank you, but I can't," Elisha said firmly, shaking his head. Naaman stared at the prophet. He realized that it was useless to press the Israelite in this matter. He shrugged his shoulders and passed the bag of gold back to his aide. "If I can't help this way, I can make offerings to your God," Naaman observed. "Allow me to take with me all that two of my mules can carry of the soil of Israel. From it I could construct an altar to sacrifice to your God." (II Kings 5:16-17.) "No one should sacrifice to the God of Israel unless he forsakes idols," Elisha remarked. "From now on I'll worship only the one true God," Naaman answered. "There'll be times, though, when my aged and feeble king will expect me to accompany and assist him to the shrine of Rimmon, the Syrian god of the sky. I trust that God will forgive me if I give the appearance of worshipping when I bow with the king before the altar." "May God be with you," Elisha said, "and I will pray that you won't bow before a false god just to please your king." (II Kings 5:18-19.)
The Love of Money
The Syrians left, unaware that they were being watched from behind a wall by a man who didn't intend to see the last of them. The man was Elisha's servant, Gehazi. He had overheard the conversation between his master and Naaman. A scheme to obtain some of the Syrians' gold had come to him. Naaman and his men had gone about three miles when they saw someone on foot wearily trying to overtake them. The general recognized him as the man who had informed him, hours before, what he should do to be healed. He stepped out of his chariot and walked back to meet him. "I am Elisha's servant," Gehazi panted. "My master sent me to try to catch up with you." "Is anything wrong?" Naaman asked. "It was, but I trust it will be all right now," Gehazi answered. "Right after you left, two men came from Mt. Ephraim, where my master teaches a school for prophets, to inform him that the school would have to be closed unless a talent of silver could be paid on back expenses. Even the two men, who are students, were almost threadbare. Unfortunately, my master had no clothes to give them, and no money to send back for the school. Then he thought of you, and how you had offered to help. He hesitated to send me after you but I persuaded him it should be done." "Say no more," Naaman interrupted. "I welcome this opportunity to assist. In fact, I want you to take TWO talents of silver back to your master, and I'll see that you get the clothing that's needed. Two of my men will take these things back for you. Two talents of silver weigh too much for you to carry." (II Kings 5:20-23.) Gehazi shook with greedy anticipation at the thought of sudden wealth. Besides the costly clothing, two talents of silver were a great deal of money. But he was worried. If Naaman's men took all this back to where Elisha was staying. Gehazi's lie about Elisha needing money would be exposed, and he would be punished for thievery. The wily servant managed to prevent the two men from reaching Elisha by talking them into leaving their load at the north side of a high boulder only yards from the house the prophet was in. "My master is probably praying, and wouldn't want to be disturbed," Gehazi lied. "I'll take the silver and clothing to the house later. I know that you're anxious to rejoin Naaman and be on your way back to your country." (II Kings 5:24.)
The Liar Discovered
As soon as the Syrians departed, Gehazi returned to the house. Elisha said nothing to him about his absence, so the servant assumed that he hadn't been missed. After dark he made several trips out to the boulder to bring in his valuables. The silver alone weighed more than two hundred pounds. He hid the things in the house in a place he felt certain Elisha wouldn't find. His head swam with thoughts of how he would buy orchards, vineyards, cattle, sheep and servants. "Where have you been today?" Elisha later asked him. "Your sandals look as though you've traveled quite a distance." "I didn't even go for a walk," the servant answered. "Then you did a lot of running," Elisha added. "Otherwise you couldn't have overtaken Naaman, who left his chariot to go back to meet you. With what he gave you, it would be possible to purchase the orchards, vineyards, cattle, sheep and servants you've been thinking about." "How — how do you know?" stammered Gehazi, backing away in fright. "God tells me many things," the prophet explained. "He has told me that because you dishonestly took silver and clothing from Naaman, you will also receive something else that was his." "What do you mean? All I told was a white lie," Gehazi muttered, staring fearfully into Elisha's penetrating eyes. "You can have his leprosy," was the reply. Gehazi's wild gaze dropped to his hands. His eyes popped even wider as he saw that his flesh had suddenly turned a pasty white! Screaming in anguish, he bolted out of the house and disappeared in the darkness. Undoubtedly Elisha soon straightened out matters with Naaman, whose healing was the tenth of God's miracles through the prophet. The eleventh miracle was the transfer of the Syrian's leprosy to Gehazi. (II Kings 5:25-27.)
Returning a Borrowed Tool
The twelfth occurred shortly afterward. The school for prophets near Jericho became so crowded in its living quarters that the students suggested to Elisha that they cut their own lumber along the Jordan River and construct buildings there. Elisha favored the move, and went with the men to help where he could. As one of the men was felling a tree on the bank of the river, his axe head flew off the handle, spun out over the river and fell into a deep hole. "How terrible! I've lost a borrowed axe," the man unhappily declared to his fellow workers. Elisha heard about the incident. He went to the despondent man and inquired where the axe had fallen into the river. "There in that deep part," was the reply. "It was a borrowed tool, and I can't afford to pay for it." (II Kings 6:1-5.) "You'll get it back," Elisha assured him, cutting a branch from a tree and tossing it into the river where the axe had sunk. To the amazement of the workman, the axe head came up to appear on the surface of the water, and drifted downstream with the branch! "Get it while it still floats," Elisha said. The man ran along the river's edge till the branch came within his reach. There he used it to draw the iron axe head to the bank. Within minutes he fitted the axe more securely back on the handle and happily resumed work. (II Kings 6:6-7.)
Spying Without a Spy
About this time the Syrian army made surprise attacks on certain places in Israel, but the expeditions met with strong resistance. The Israelites seemed to be aware in advance where the attacks would be made. This happened so often that the ambitious, war-minded king of Syria became suspicious and angry. At last he called a special meeting of his army staff. (II Kings 6:8-11.) "Someone here is selling information to the enemy!" he thundered. "If the traitor doesn't confess, I'll have no choice but to punish all of you with death!"