Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Naaman the Leper

Elisha had become the successor of Elijah, and it soon became plain that the spirit of the Lord was with him, because he too could work miracles. Among those which we find written in the Book of Kings, we see that he not only divided the waters of the Jordan with Elijah’s mantle, but that he also sweetened the waters of a bitter spring at Jericho.

On his way to Bethel, some wicked children once scoffed at him, crying: "Go up, thou bald head!" In punishment for this rude conduct, they were all torn to pieces by the bears that sprang out of the forest upon them.

Elisha next went on to Mount Carmel and to Samaria, where he was openly recognized as a prophet of the Lord. Later on, in the course of his ministry, he multiplied a widow’s cruse of oil, so that it filled many jars. These she sold, and the money which she thus got was enough to supply all her needs.

To please a woman who befriended him, Elisha prayed that she might have a son. Five years after this prayer had been granted, the child was taken out into the harvest field by his father. There he was probably overcome by the hot sun, for he sickened and died. When Elisha saw the mother’s grief, he felt very sorry for her, and by a miracle brought her dead child back to life.

Elisha once prevented a mess of poisoned pottage from doing any harm to those who ate of it, and at another time he multiplied twenty barley loaves and a few ears of corn so that they were food enough for a famished city. We are also told that he once made an iron ax head to rise to the surface of a stream in which it had fallen, and swim there until it was taken out.

Elisha’s most famous miracle was done for the sake of Naaman, a Syrian, who came to him to be cured of his leprosy, which is a terrible disease. The prophet, instead of laying his hands upon him, as Naaman expected, merely bade the man go and wash in the Jordan if he would be clean.

This advice seemed far too simple to please Naaman, and he went off in anger, saying that the rivers in his own country were just as good as all the waters of Israel. As he was thus riding home in high dudgeon, one of his servants spoke to him, and after much persuasion induced him to try the remedy which Elisha had advised, and which he had come so far to obtain.

Naaman then stepped down into the Jordan, and when he had washed, his loathsome disease was all gone, and he was indeed clean. In his delight at being cured, he went back to thank Elisha, and offered him rich gifts, which the prophet refused to accept.

Naaman departed; but Elisha’s servant secretly followed and stopped him, saying that he had been sent by his master to ask for the gifts. He received them, but instead of being made richer, he was punished for his deceit by suffering all his life from the disease of which Naaman had been cured.

The Syrians, or people of Damascus, ever since they began to wage war against Israel, had been in the habit of making sudden raids into the country to carry off cattle and spoil. Elisha, warned by God of their coming, always sent word to the king, who was thus able to drive the enemy away before they had done any damage. The King of Syria soon heard that the prophet knew all that he said, even in his bedchamber, and that his words were always repeated to the Israelites. He therefore became very anxious to capture Elisha, and sent out an armed force for that express purpose.

The Syrian army surrounded the mountain upon which Elisha had taken refuge, and seemed so large that his poor servant cried out in fear. To reassure him, Elisha fervently prayed that his eyes might be opened; and then the man, looking up, saw the heavenly host mounting guard all around them.

His fear was gone, and when the Syrian army drew near to take Elisha captive, he saw that all the men were struck with sudden blindness. Helpless, and not knowing where to turn, they allowed themselves to be led into the capital of their enemies, where Elisha not only restored their sight, but persuaded the King of Israel to let them go home unharmed.