Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. ( 2 Kings 4:37-42)
Remember that the land of Israel, which was supposed to be a land of life, abundance and beauty, had become a land of death, due to the idolatry they had given themselves over to. The Acts of Elisha in these stories are all examples of the various forms of death, which he was sent to conquer through the miracles he performed.
God would not just abandon his wayward people to their fate. He would come to them in their diseases, barrenness and oppression. Their distance from the Temple and all that it stood for, would be countered by a little upper room with its own table, lamp and chair, and a servant of God anointed by God with Life.
He was but a shadow of the ultimate life-giving servant, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Apostle Peter would tell us,
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. ( Acts 10:38)
One of the benefits which Israel was intended to abound with, was beautiful food. It was to be a land flowing with milk and honey. This is what it would be like in blessing.
The LORD taught Israel how to eat, thus separating them from all of the other nations. All of the clean and unclean foods listed in the law of Moses, held both a physical and a spiritual meaning, for food has a spiritual correspondence.
We feed our bodies and our souls. Spiritual teaching, preaching and doctrine are the food that truly feeds us and makes us sound. Man lives by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.
On the other hand, False prophecy and false teaching, or just vanity and empty words are detrimental and even deadly to our souls.
When the school of the prophets put on the pot to make stew, some indiscriminately threw wild cucumbers and poisonous vines into the stew, not realizing what they were doing. They poisoned those who ate of it.
The miracle performed by Elisha involved a very simple principle, the Prophet threw some flour into the poisoned pot.
This miracle is similar, yet different from the time the Prophet threw salt into the poisoned waters at Jericho. The similarity is obvious. But the difference is significant and takes us to the theme of the prophet himself as Temple, for estranged Israel.
Flour differs from salt in that it doesn’t occur naturally. God gives the grain, but men must crush the grain to make flour. The Temple in Jerusalem offered regular grain offerings as a type of the one who would liken himself to a “grain of wheat” that must die alone, that He might bring forth much fruit.
Jesus had to be crushed and sifted and put into the oven of God’s wrath as an offering to God for us. Thus the “grain offering” in the temple. Elisha is teaching us that in this world, which has been poisoned by sin, Jesus can turn the stew of our life, into something edible and wholesome.
Notice that the congregation of prophets, call out to the “Man of God”. Elijah and Elisha were both “men of God”, ie men sent into the situation of decline and defection from faith in Israel, to represent God’s interest and to relay God’s Word and works to a scattered remnant. There is a God in Israel!
But they are only types of the ultimate and final “Man of God” , for God became a man and entered into our world, fully aware of what it means to be tempted, tried, loved, hated, mocked, and despised, that we all might know that there is truly a living God, who knows and understands us.
…God our Saviour;Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; ( I Timothy 2:3-5)
Another indication that in God’s grace, everything the temple should have been for Israel, would be acted out and embodied in Elisha the man of God, is this next vignette.
And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. 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 4:42-44)
This little account is infused with Levitical terminology and imagery for the law of the First fruits. Normally the first fruits of the barley harvest would be presented to the Priest at the temple. Eidersheim again gives insight,
We know that the Lord directed the first-fruits to be given to the Priests and Levites (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4). This ordinance could not any longer be obeyed in the kingdom of Israel, since the Aaronic priesthood, for whose support it was destined, was not in office there. But the pious in Israel, to whom such contributions were not merely matter of obligation nor only of law, but who willingly offered to Jehovah, in acknowledgment of His sovereignty and proprietary over the land, knew to observe the spirit, if they could no longer obey the letter, of the law. Accordingly this unnamed man from Baal-Shalisha brought, as is expressly stated, to the “man of God” “bread of the first-fruits, twenty loaves of barley and bruised ears of corn* in his sack.”**(Old Testament History, Eidersheim,Alfred)
Elisha had a servant, Gehazi, who complained when Elisha announced that they should share the bread among all of the prophets. Would twenty loaves feed a hundred men? Elisha again pronounced, “Give (the bread) unto the people that they may eat…” , then he prophesied that all would eat and that there would be leftover… , and performed something like Jesus’ miracle of loaves and fishes.