THE POT OF OIL AND THE POT OF POISON
2 Kings 4: 1 to 7; 4:38 to 44; 6:1 to 7
IN many places in the land of Israel there were living families of people who listened to the teaching of the prophets, and worshipped the Lord. They were among the seven thousand in Israel who never bowed their knees to the images of Baal. Elisha went through the land meeting these people, and teaching them, and leading them in their worship. They were called the "sons of the prophets," and among them were some to whom God spoke, men who themselves became prophets of the Lord.
The wife of one of these men, the sons of the prophets, came one day to Elisha, and said, "O man of God, my husband is dead; and you know that he served the Lord while he lived. He was owing some money when he died; and now the man to whom he owed it has come, and he says that he will take my two sons to be his slaves, unless I pay the debt."
For in those lands, when a man owed a debt, he could be sold, or his children, that the debt might be paid. Elisha said to the woman, "What shall I do to help you? What have you in the house?"
"I have nothing in the house," answered the woman, "except a pot of oil."
Then Elisha said to her, "Go to your neighbors and borrow of them empty jars, and vessels, and bowls; borrow a great many. Then go into the room, and shut the door upon yourself and your sons; and pour out the oil into the vessels, and as each vessel is filled set it aside."
The woman went out, and borrowed of all her neighbors vessels that would hold oil, until she had a great many. Then she went into the house, and shut the door, and told her sons to bring the vessels to her one by one; and she poured out oil, filling vessel after vessel until all were full. At last they said to her, "There is not another vessel that can hold oil."
And then the oil stopped running. If she had borrowed more vessels there would have been more oil. She came and told Elisha, the man of God; and he said, "Go and sell the oil; pay the debt, and keep the rest of the money for yourself and your sons to live upon."
At another time Elisha came to Gilgal among the mountains, near Bethel, and with him were some of these men, the sons of the prophets. It was a time when food was scarce, and they sought in the field for vegetables and green things to be eaten. One man by mistake brought a number of wild gourds, which were poisonous, and threw them into the pot to be cooked with the rest of the food.
While they were eating they felt suddenly that they had been poisoned, and they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot! The food is poisoned!"
Then Elisha took some meal, and threw it into the pot with the poisoned food. And he said, "Now take the food out of the pot, and let the people eat of it."
They did so; and there was no longer any poison in the food.
At one time a man came bringing to the prophet a present of loaves of barley-bread, and some ears of new corn in the husks. There were with Elisha that day a hundred men of the sons of the prophets, and Elisha said to his servant, "Give this to the people for their dinner."
The servant said, "What, should I give this for a meal to a hundred men?"
And Elisha said, "Yes, set it before them, and let them eat. For thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall have enough, and shall leave some of it."
So he gave them the food; and every man took as much as he wished, and some was left over, according to the word of the Lord.
Once a company of these sons of the prophets went down from the mountains to a place near the river Jordan, and began to build a house; and Elisha was with them. As one of the men was cutting down a tree the head fell off from his axe, and dropped into the water. In those times iron and steel were very scarce and costly. The man said, "O my master, what shall I do? For this was a borrowed axe!"
Then Elisha asked to be shown just where the axe-head had fallen into the water. He cut off a stick of wood, and threw it into the water at the place. At once the iron axe-head rose to the surface of the water, and floated, as if it were wood. The prophet said, "Reach out and take it," and the man took the iron, fitted it to the handle, and went on with his work.
By these works of power all the people came to know that Elisha was a true prophet of the Lord, and spoke as with the voice of the Lord to Israel.