Unlike many other biblical prophets, Elisha’s ministry was marked by numerous miracles. These spectacular works served as a powerful rebuke to those who favored false gods and religion over the true God, reminding us all of the utter foolishness of abandoning the Creator.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 24:25 that those who rebuke the wicked will be rewarded. They may not be rewarded by the people they rebuke, but God will surely reward them for courageously standing for the truth. Without a doubt, the prophets Elijah and Elisha received a great reward as they proved, over and over again, that God is the true and living God. And here in chapters 3 and 4 of 2 Kings, Elisha performs several more miracles.
King Ahaziah, the son of the wicked King Ahab, has died after reigning for only two years. And now Jehoram, another son of Ahab, takes the throne of Israel. Verse 2 tells us that, just like his father and brother, Jehoram “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Jehoram immediately faces the Moabite rebellion that began during his brother’s reign. Verse 4 reveals that the Moabites had been paying tribute to Israel in the form of lambs and wool, but now they have stopped paying it. Of course, Jehoram mobilizes the army to attack. And he’s not alone. He is joined by Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom. Evidently, they all want to put down this Moabite insurrection.
Now as they approach Moab from Edom, the combined armies run into a big problem. Verse 9 says, “There was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them.” We’re not told why, but Jehoram assumes the Lord is behind this predicament.
So, Jehoram and the other two kings go down to talk to Elisha, who is somewhere nearby. But Elisha is not impressed by them. He rebukes Jehoram here in verse 13, saying, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.”
In other words, go ask the false gods that your dad and mom, Ahab and Jezebel, loved so much. He says in verse 14:
“Were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you [Jehoram] nor see you.”
This is real courage in the face of this wicked king.
Well, Elisha delivers from God a promise that the next day, God will miraculously send a river of water to fill the dry streambed nearby. The text may indicate that the “pools,” or trenches, are to be dug by the king’s men to hold the excess water. Elisha makes it clear, though, that God is not going to send water by way of rain or wind but by filling these trenches with water that will just come rushing in like a wave.
Elisha also promises the kings that the Lord will deliver Moab into their hand.
Well, the next morning the promised water streams in, and in the morning sunlight it appears to be red. From a distance, the Moabite army assumes this is blood, and they interpret it to mean the armies of Israel and Edom have turned on each other and their bloodshed has colored the water. So, they rush toward the camp to clean up the spoil, only to be surprised by a living army that is there waiting for them. They are soundly defeated.
The Moabite king, who has retreated into a city, realizes he is about to be taken captive, and in desperation he sacrifices his oldest son – the heir to the throne – as an offering to his god Chemosh (verses 26-27). Verse 27 tells us that following this horrific act up there on the city wall, “there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their land.”
Now frankly we don’t know what this great wrath was that brought the battle to an end. Some believe Israel was so appalled by this that they stopped fighting and went home. Others believe that upon witnessing this, the Israelite soldiers were struck with guilt over allowing child sacrifice in their own land. Others believe God permitted some sort of demonic power to stop the battle.
We do know how the king of Moab interpreted this, though. Archaeologists have discovered the Moabite Stone in this land, on which Mesha, the Moabite king, recorded his own record of this battle. And he claims to have stayed alive with the help of Chemosh.
Well, one thing is for sure here, beloved: Israel, Judah, and Edom, have seen the mercy and power of God in providing the water they desperately needed. And they have also seen the depths of idolatry and depravity in the Moabite king sacrificing his oldest son in order to stay alive himself.
Now in chapter 4, we have a series of miracles performed by Elisha, not on a national stage, but on a personal stage in the presence of individuals and families. Verse 1 says:
Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and . . . the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
With her husband gone, she has no means of support. Her sons are in danger of being put to work by this creditor until her debts are paid.
Elisha comes along and tells her here in verses 3-4 to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors and start pouring the oil from her jar into these empty containers. As she does, the oil miraculously keeps on pouring out until all the containers are full. She is now able to sell the oil, pay her debts, and keep her family together.
Next, beginning in verse 8, we are told about a wealthy couple living in the village of Shunem, in the Jezreel valley. They build onto their home a lovely room where Elisha can stay when he passes by—this would have been a five-star hotel in today’s world.
Well, Elisha asks his assistant, Gehazi what they can do to thank this couple. And Gehazi says in verse 14, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” So, Elisha calls the woman and promises her she will have a son within a year. And she does, just as Elisha said.
Fast-forward the tape to verse 18. The boy now has grown up, but suddenly, one day, he develops a severe headache while out in the fields with his father, and a short time later he dies.
This woman immediately goes to find Elisha. He returns with her, and here in verses 34-35, he miraculously raises her son from the dead.
But we’re not through. Sometime later, Elisha returns to Gilgal, where there is a community of prophets. It’s a time of famine, and one of the prophets gathers herbs and wild gourds to make a pot of stew—the kind where you just throw everything into the pot and hope for the best. Verse 40 records that when they tasted it, “they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’” That is what people probably would say if I did the cooking.
Evidently, he put something into the stew that was poisonous. And Elisha here in verse 41 miraculously purifies the food so that these men can eat it.
One final miracle then is recorded in chapter 4, when Elisha multiplies twenty loaves of barley and some ears of grain to feed a hundred men. Verse 44 tells us they all ate “and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.”
Does that sound familiar? Yes, these miracles prefigure the power of the coming Messiah, who will feed the multitudes, care for the poor, and raise the dead by His own miraculous power.