Elisha has seen Elijah taken into the heavens, then turning, strikes the waters with the mantle and walks over onto dry land. Then, quite humorously (to me), the sons of the prophets begin to worry about the body of Elijah. “Peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley,” let us go look for him!
Have you ever considered this in your reading? Fifty of the sons of the prophets felt obligated to search for Elijah “just in case” God had decided to cast (lit. hurl or throw) Elijah onto some mountain or into some valley. Obviously, they could not understand that Elijah had been removed from the earth. Elisha, knowing this fact, did not initially acquiesce to their request to search for the body, but finally, he relented and allowed them to search for Elijah’s body.
Notice now, while the sons of the prophets search for three days, Elisha resides in the city of Jericho. Let that sink in for a moment. Is there anything about this information that brings about a little bit of alarm? Well, absolutely! Jericho should not exist!
Jericho, following the battle of Ai, was the first victorious conquest of God’s when the children of Israel had entered into the land of Canaan. Notice, I did not say “the first victorious conquest of Israel.” (I will explain this in a subsequent post, so stay tuned). Let us digress for a moment though to the moment that Jericho has been destroyed and only Rahab and her father’s household had survived.
Joshua 6:26 (KJV) And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.
Cursed be the man in the sight of God that lifts up and rebuilds “this city Jericho.” What was the curse proclaimed? Beginning with the foundation and ending with the gates, his eldest to his youngest sons would perish by the time the city had been rebuilt. The underlying principle is that God would cut off the future lineage of the man who attempted to rebuild Jericho.
Fast-forward almost 500 years to the reign of Ahab and we are given a terrible glimpse into the undercurrent of wickedness that has overwhelmed the nation of Israel.
1 Kings 16:33-34 (KJV) 33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. 34 In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.
Thus, at the cost of his children, Hiel rebuilds the city of Jericho. Jericho never should have been there! Jericho should have remained a desolate ruin on the landscape of Israel’s horizon. However, moving forward a short period of time and we find Elisha hanging out in Jericho, awaiting the sons of the prophets to return.
2 Kings 2:19-22 (KJV) 19 And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren20 And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. 21 And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. 22 So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
Consider with me this miracle. Too often we pass quickly by and attempt to ascertain the figurative meaning of a new cruise and the salt. However, what about the simple fact that Jericho should not have been there? What about the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Jericho has a cursed background and its very presence is a dark stain in the sight of God’s word?
What would have been the mindset of most of us today had we been approached by individuals living in Jericho? Mind you, they should have known better! It would be like rebuilding Sodom and Gomorrah and everyone deciding, “Hey, let’s move to Sodom and Gomorra!” Absolutely not! There are some places you do not rebuilt, nor revisit! However, here we have a group of men that approach Elisha and begin to appeal to him in regards to the condition of the water and the barrenness of the land.
What would our response have been? “Hey, what did you expect guys? Don’t you deserve it for living here?” Come now, let us be honest. We are often quick to cast an appropriate degree of “what did you expect” upon certain situations we come across in life. We are quick to just shake our head and said, “they had it coming.”
Seriously! What did they expect? It’s Jericho of all places! Of course the land is barren and the water is bad! Interestingly, several Hebrew translations indicate that the barren ground could actually mean, “land that miscarries.” In other words, based upon the condition of the water (their only source of drinking water) the women and livestock of the city only miscarry and no children or animals are being birthed.
To some degree, this makes more sense than if the physical ground of the land was incapable of producing harvest. Without food the people would die, unless they imported all their food from nearby cities. Regardless of the actual meaning, the response of Elisha stands out.
Instead of pointing the accusative finger at the people of the city and declaring, “what did you expect?” Elisha asks that a new cruise (bowl) be fetched and that salt be placed in this new bowl. The significance of this is full of speculation but one thing stands out; a new bowl implies a bowl that has not been introduced to the foul water. Perhaps this also factors into the salt being placed in the bowl, signifying a degree of preservation of newness? Regardless, Elisha brings the bowl of salt up to the source of water and throws the salt into the well and declares, “Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.”
I hope this sets in! The man of God changed the situation and future of Jericho! Look at what one man with a word of God and a walk with God can do in a bad situation that is plagued with a bad past! Instead of pointing a judgmental finger and declaring, “what did you expect,” the man of God does something about the present and miraculously changes the living conditions of “death and barrenness” from the land. At least for this author, this speaks to something deeply within my soul.