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He was indeed constantly journeying between Carmel, his ordinary place of residence, and Samaria, Beth-el, and Gilgal. Unlike Elijah, he appears to have had no predilection for solitary retreats, but mixed freely with all men. He was often the counsellor of the king, by whom he was regarded with no hatred or ill-feeling.
119. JEHORAM, KING OF ISRAEL (895–884).
[2 KINGS III.) Jehoram was no Baal worshipper; he zealously removed the idols set up by his mother, cut down the groves, and abolished the numerous high places consecrated to strange worship. But he allowed the golden calves to remain in Dan and in Beth-el, and clung to the pernicious idolatry established by Jeroboam.
He was incensed against the king of Moab for refusing to pay the imposed tribute, and he incited Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to a joint expedition against him. The two kings, at the head of their combined armies, set forth upon their march into the Moabite territory. Their road lay through the wilderness of Edom; and here they were reinforced by the king of that country at the head of a large army. After a seven days' journey they were tormented by want of water, and the kings felt that they were in imminent danger of falling a prey to the enemy.
It was then that Jehoshaphat, as once before on a similar occasion, desired to consult a prophet of the true God, and to act upon his counsel. The prophet was near at hand
-Elisha, the successor of Elijah. His words were stern as those of his master. Turning to Jehoram, he said, "What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father and thy mother. . . . As the Lord of hosts lives, 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 regard thee.' He sent for a minstrel, and requested him to play.
With the strains of music the spirit of the Lord came over His prophet. Elisha bade the kings dig huge ditches in front of their camp
At the close of the day the ditches were completed, and by the light of the following morning the thirsting soldiers beheld them filled with a fresh stream of water. The Moabites from their camp looked upon the ditches, and the water gleaming in the red sunlight seemed to them a river of blood. They imagined that there had been strife and bloodshed in the army of the allies, and they hastened to their camp in the hope of finding rich spoil. But they were met by a fierce and determined band of warriors, by whom they were beaten back and pursued into the very heart of their own country, where their cities were destroyed, their wells stopped up, their best fields filled with stones, and their fruit-trees cut down. As a last resource, the king of Moab, with 700 chosen men, made a desperate sally upon the Edomite army, but without effect. Vanquished in the field, beaten in his own cities, the king of Moab, wishing to propitiate his gods, sacrificed his eldest son publicly upon the walls as a burnt-offering. Amazed by this act of atrocious fanaticism, the allied armies left the territory of Moab, and returned to their own country.
[2 KINGS IV. 1.–VIII. 15.] The fame of Elisha's power and mission grew rapidly. A poor woman, a widow of one of the prophets, came to him in her grief and distress : her husband had died in debt, and the creditors had come to take
her two sons as servants instead of payment. Elisha asked her compassionately, “What shall I do for thee? tell me what
hast thou in the house?' She answered, “Thy handmaid bas not anything in the house save a pot of oil.' Then he bade her borrow of her neighbours as many vessels as they would lend her; and into all these vessels should she
pour oil from the one pot which was in her house. The widow followed Elisha's command without a question. And now her little supply of oil seemed indeed endless, for there was enough to fill all the vessels she had brought together, and there was more to spare. She went to the man of God and told him of the miracle. And he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.'
Whilst journeying through the kingdom of Israel, Elisha would often pass through the northern town of Shunem. In this little town dwelt a man rich in flocks and herds, the master of many servants, who worked in his fields and tended his cattle. Both he and his wife were pious and Godfearing. They would always invite the prophet to rest and eat bread in their house. The wife especially watched for him on his constant journeys, and, knowing that he was a true prophet, she said to her husband, Let us make a little upper chamber, I pray thee, with walls, and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick; and it shall be when he comes to us that he shall turn in thither. The proposal was carried out, and the next time Elisha came to Shunem, he was taken into the chamber prepared for him, and he remained there. Then he sent Gehazi, his servant, to call his hostess to him. When she came, he asked her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care ; what is to be done for thee? wouldst thou be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the host ?' But declining royal favours or gifts, she answered simply,
I dwell among my own people. When she had left the chamber, Elisha asked counsel of his servant, What
then is to be done for her?' Gehazi answered, “Verily, she has no child, and her husband is old.' Then Elisha called her again and said, “ About this season in the next year thou shalt embrace a son.'
And she said, Nay my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thy handmaid.'
At the predicted time, a son was born to her, and the boy grew. Once during the harvest time it happened that he went out into the fields to his father, who was then among
The heat of the noontide sun struck the child, and he exclaimed piteously, My head, my head !' At his father's desire, he was taken back to his mother. Pillowed in her arms he died. She rose and carried him quietly into the chamber set apart for Elisha; and laying him upon the prophet's bed, she closed the door, and left him there. Then she requested her husband, who was probably still unaware of their son's death, to send her one of the young men and one of the asses, for she desired to go without delay to the man of God. Her husband remonstrated: "Wherefore wilt thou go to-day? it is neither New-moon nor Sabbath. But she merely answered, “Let it be.' Then she mounted her ass, and bid her servant drive it on in haste. Elisha, looking out from his dwelling on Mount Carmel, recognised from afar the Shunamite, and full of concern for the hospitable and generous woman, he sent Gehazi to meet her and to ask if it was well with herself, her husband, and child. She only said, 'It is well,' and hurried on. At last she came to Elisha, and threw herself
the ground, grasping his feet. Gehazi was about to thrust her away, when the man of God said, “Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her; and the Lord has hid it from me, and has not told me.' Then she said, “Did I desire a son of my lord ? Did I not say, Do not deceive me?' These words were enough ; Elisha divined all. He gave Gehazi his staff, and ordered him to go in
breathless haste to the city of Shunem, and to lay his staff upon the dead child. The servant hurried on to do his master's bidding, and the prophet followed with the Shunamite. When they approached the threshold of the house, Gehazi came to meet them and said, “The child is not awakened.' Then Elisha repaired to his own little chamber, where the child lay dead, and he prayed long and fervently to the Lord for help; after which he went up to the child and lay upon him, putting his own mouth upon the boy's mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, his hands upon his hands, until the child grew warm and opened his eyes. Then he bade Gehazi call the Shunamite; and as his master Elijah had said to the poor widow whose son he had restored, so Elisha now said to the Shunamite, • Take up thy son!' And when she came, she fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and then, taking up her son, she went out.
From Shunem Elisha proceeded to Gilgal, which bad been visited by a long dearth. He appeared before a large assembly of prophets who were suffering from the famine. He bade his servant set on a large pot and cook a meal for all the prophets; one of the young men went into the fields to seek for herbs; there he found a wild vine, of which he gathered a quantity of gourds; and returning home, he put them into the pottage. The wild gourds, if not poisonous, were at least very hurtful. When the pottage had been poured out, one of the men who had eaten of it exclaimed, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot!' But Elisha ordered them to bring some flour, which he mixed with the pottage, and which allayed the evil, so that the prophets could eat of the meal unharmed.
About that time a man came from Baal-shalisha to Gilgal, and brought Elisha twenty loaves of barley and full ears of corn in a sack. The prophet said, “Give to the people that they may eat. This seemed strange to