Prophets were men specifically chosen to speak and act for God. Many of the mighty acts and miracles of God were performed by these men. The first in this line of prophets was Samuel (Acts 13:20). In the section on “The Kings of Israel” we covered one of the miracles God performed for Samuel when Israel demanded a king. But God began to work with Samuel much earlier than this-while he was still a child. Samuel was a Levite, and before he was born his mother Hannah dedicated him as a Nazarite. The importance of a Nazarite vow was discussed in the segment on Samson, under the “Judges.” At an early age Samuel was placed under the tutorage of Eli, the high priest (1 Sam. 1:11).
Eli had two sons who assisted at the Tabernacle, but they were evil. “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD” (1 Sam. 2:12). “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (v. 17). Eli mildly reprimanded them. Perhaps it was due to his age, but for whatever reason he did not control them, so God determined to kill them (vv. 22-25). Eli was given another chance to act. A prophet was sent to warn him, but he failed to take heed (vv. 27-36).
Samuel continued with his duties, and God was pleased with him. “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men” (1 Sam. 2:26). About this time God began to work directly with Samuel. He manifested Himself to Samuel at night. At first Samuel did not realize it was God, but Eli told him God was calling him and to listen (1 Sam. 3:1-10).
Then God gave him this message:
And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. (1 Sam. 3:11-14)
As for Samuel, we read: “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Sam. 3:19-21).
Some time later, the Philistines attacked Israel, and the Israelite troops called for the Ark of the Lord to be brought to the battlefield. The two sons of Eli accompanied the Ark. In the battle that followed, the two were slain and the Philistines captured the Ark. When Eli heard the news, he fell over backward and died from a broken neck (1 Sam. 4:18). After the death of Eli, Samuel began a work of national repentance.
He told the Israelites:
. . . If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. (1 Sam. 7:3-6)
So, Samuel was not only a prophet, but also the judge over Israel. The Philistines heard of this national conclave and viewed it as a hostile act. They again attacked.
And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel . . . So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. (1 Sam. 7:9-10, 13-15)
Samuel was the first in a line of prophets who served God faithfully all his life. In his days he brought about a great national reformation. Other significant events in the life of Samuel, and the mighty acts of God performed at that time, have already been related in the segment on Saul under the “Kings of Israel.”
While there are a number of prophets mentioned in the Old Testament, there are not many details about most of them. The Mighty Acts of God involve only an outstanding few that were on the scene at the time God chose to manifest His power. One of these prophets was Elijah. We know nothing of him until he suddenly appeared on the scene. Indications are that he was an older man. This was at the time Ahab was the king of Israel. Ahab was wicked, and the people had become engrossed in rank idolatry. Elijah gave Ahab this message: ” . . . As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). The drought continued for three and one half years, and the land was in dire straits. During this period Elijah was in hiding, even going to the land of Zidon. Part of the time he was in the wilderness, his food supplied by ravens (vv. 2-6). In Zidon God miraculously supplied his needs.
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16)
When the time came for the drought to end, Elijah was told to present himself before Ahab.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. (1 Kings 18:17-24)
The prophets of Baal could get no response from all their antics (vv. 25-29). Then God performed a stunning miracle before all the people.
And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. (1 Kings 18:36-41)
Jezebel, Ahab’s wicked wife, swore to kill Elijah, so he fled for his safety. Though discouraged, God assured him that His work was not completed. He was told to anoint a successor, Elisha, who would eventually take his place. A number of outstanding miracles were yet performed before Elijah left the scene. After the death of Ahab, his son Ahaziah took the throne. He injured himself in a fall and sent servants to Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, to see if he would recover.
But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed. (2 Kings 1:3-4)
The king was so incensed he ordered Elijah arrested. An arrogant officer was sent to arrest him.
Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:9-10)
The king sent another officer, but he was just as arrogant.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:11-12)
The king sent a third, but this officer had seen what had happened to others. His attitude was different.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight. And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king. (2 Kings 1:13-15)
Elijah then gave the king this message.
“And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken . . . ” (2 Kings 1:16-17).
When the time came for Elijah to step down, another miracle occurred. Elijah and Elisha, his successor, prepared to cross the Jordan River. “And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8). “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (vv. 9-10).
Elisha witnessed what then took place, and was given the power that Elijah had possessed.
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (2 Kings 2:11-15)
The next series of God’s Mighty Acts took place during the time of Elisha. His tenure as a prophet lasted throughout the reigns of five of the kings of Israel. The quantity and kinds of miracles performed by Elisha are simply astounding. Shortly after he was given the power of the Holy Spirit, the inhabitants of Jericho, the city in which he was residing at the time, came to Elisha for help. “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 barren” (2 Kings 2:19). In brief, the water supply for the city was bad; it made the ground unproductive and was the cause of premature abortions. “And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. 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. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake” (vv. 20-22).
This miracle was the beginning of many during his tenure. At this time the people of Israel were generally indifferent or hostile toward the prophets of God and often rejected them. An example of this occurred when Elisha was on his way to Bethel. “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head” (2 Kings 2:23). This was a reference to the translation of Elijah, and Elisha was being told to “get lost,” just like Elijah. “Little children” in this verse does not refer to toddlers. These youngsters were juveniles. For the usage of the Hebrew word used for “little children” compare Genesis 41:12 and 1 Kings 20:14. “And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them” (v. 24). Their lack of respect for God’s prophet manifested a lack of respect and proper fear for God. God saw to it that such contempt needed punishment as an object lesson.
After the death of Ahab, Jehoram, his wicked son, took the throne of the northern kingdom. Before he could solidify his power, the Moabites rebelled. Jehoram determined to bring them back under his authority and prevailed upon Jehoshaphat, the king of the southern kingdom, to assist him. The king of Edom also joined the alliance against the Moabites. Jehoshaphat was a righteous man and really had no business allying himself with such a man as Jehoram. On the way to Moab, the kings and their troops made the journey through a wilderness. But there was no water. They were in dire straits.
But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. (2 Kings 3:11-12)
Elisha’s response toward the king of Israel was not congenial.
And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab. And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, 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 see thee. (2 Kings 3:13-14)
For the sake of Jehoshaphat, Elisha called for a minstrel, and shortly after God told him what would take place.
But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand. And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. (2 Kings 3:15-19)
Then what happened?
And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country. And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. (2 Kings 3: 20-25)
After this, Elisha performed a miracle for a widow of one of the sons of the prophets. The sons of the prophets belonged to the schools or colleges of the prophets. They were extant during the period of the kings and may have continued later. They were not wealthy men. “Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen” (2 Kings 4:1). Elisha’s response was: ” . . . What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil” (v. 2).
Elisha’s instruction was as follows:
. . . Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. (2 Kings 4:3-6)
In brief, the oil filled as many vessels as she could collect. Oil was an expensive commodity, worth a considerable sum of money. “Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest” (v. 7).
On his rounds Elisha often traveled through Shunen, a city of the tribe of Issachar. A pious woman of the city provided him with accommodations on a regular basis. Elisha felt compelled to do something for her and asked her what she would like. She had no requests, but Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, told him that the woman had no child. Elisha said: ” . . . Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life” (2 Kings 4:15-17).
Some years later, tragedy struck.
And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. (2 Kings 4:18-21)
In this desperate situation, the woman sought out Elisha and poured out her anguish.
So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well. And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? (2 Kings 4:25-28)
Elisha acted swiftly, first by sending Gehazi. God did not respond to the instruction Elisha had given Gehazi. He required Elisha to be there in person.
And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out. (2 Kings 4:32-37)
We can only imagine the kind of joy and relief this woman felt for God’s great manifestation of power displayed in Elisha.
On another occasion Elisha again visited Gilgal, where there was a school of the prophets. ” . . . And there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets” (2 Kings 4:38). In their need, one of the sons of the prophets gathered poisonous gourds and included them in the soup. It was quickly discovered that the soup was poisonous. “So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof” (v. 40). “But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot” (v. 41).
Another outstanding miracle God performed by the hand of Elisha involved the Syrian general Naaman. “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1). An Israelite maiden who had been captured earlier by the Syrians was a maid to Naaman’s wife. She informed the wife that the prophet Elisha could heal him. It was told to the king of Syria, and he sent a message to the king of Israel requesting that Naaman be healed. The king of Israel was alarmed and viewed this as a pretext for war. “And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (v. 8).
Elisha’s instruction was simple: “So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:9-10). Naaman was accustomed to great respect, and regarded this as an insult. “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (v. 11-12). His advisors were a little more level headed and urged him to do what he had been told. “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (v. 13). Naaman listened to them. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (v. 14).
Naaman was grateful and acknowledged the God of Israel as the true God. He offered Elisha great rewards. Elisha refused because he knew all the glory belonged to God. But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was covetous and desired some of the wealth for himself. He deceived Naaman into giving over a goodly sum to him. What happened next?
But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. (32 Kings 5:25-27)
God made it plain with this example by the hand of Elisha that His true servants cannot properly serve Him if they are greedy and covetous. Such conduct discredits God and His purpose, and cannot be allowed to prevail. Gehazi was a man who did not properly evaluate or appreciate God’s expectations. As a result, he was cursed and rejected.
On another occasion, Elisha was with the sons of the prophets, probably at Jericho. The sons of the prophets were enlarging their quarters and had gone near the Jordan River to secure logs. “But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed” (2 Kings 6:5). “And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it” (vv. 6-7). Obviously the man did not have the means to purchase an axe, so he borrowed one. It is unlikely he could have afforded to purchase a replacement. Elisha was very kind and emphathetic in coming to his aid. He was concerned about not only large matters, but also small ones.
The kings of Israel were often at war with the Syrians. On several occasions, Elisha told the king where the Syrians would set up camp. The Syrians became aware of the source of this intelligence and determined to capture Elisha. He was at Dothan, a city of the tribe of Manasseh, on the western side of the Jordan River. The Syrians came by night and surrounded the city. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15). Elisha said: ” . . . Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (v. 16). “And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (v. 17). God had sent a vast host of angels to protect Elisha. As the Syrian army advanced, ” . . . Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha” (v. 18).
Then a remarkable event took place. Elisha went out to meet them and said: ” . . . This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria” (2 Kings 6:19). Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom. The Syrians were now helpless. The king of Israel wanted to destroy them. But Elisha had more valuable advice? “And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. . . ” (vv. 22-23). What was the result of this strategy” “So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (v. 23). This kind of treatment completely disarmed them, and brought an end to their incursions. Elisha must have been aware of the proverb that states: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee” (Prov. 25:21-22).
In another struggle with the Syrians, the city of Samaria was under siege. The king was so distraught by the starvation, he blamed Elisha and threatened to kill him. Elisha prophesied that the siege would end the following day.
For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life. (2 Kings 7:6-7)
There were many other occasions in which Elisha was directly instrumental, but the above is the last dramatic event that is recorded. For details regarding these other occasions please refer to the series The Great Men of the Old Testament, listed on the home page of the Bethel Church of God internet site.
God had repeatedly warned the Israelites-the northern kingdom-that if they did not repent, He would remove them from the land. Not too long before their captivity and deportation, God raised up a prophet for a very specific mission. That prophet was Jonah. What is remarkable is that no less than eight miracles occurred during his mission.
After receiving God’s instruction to go to Nineveh and to cry against it, Jonah decided to flee. He wanted no part of this undertaking.
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)
Jonah should have known that one cannot hide from God. David wrote:
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Ps. 139:7-12)
The first miracle was that God sent a great storm. It was so perilous that the ship was in danger of breaking up. We read: “But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken” (Jonah 1:4). The sailors were in a panic, and in desperation finally decided to cast lots to see who could have displeased the gods. “. . . So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah” (v. 7). This was the second miracle. As the book of Proverbs tells us, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD” (Prov. 16:33).
Jonah then confessed his guilt before the sailors and requested that they throw him into the ocean. Jonah obviously did not want to go to Nineveh at any price. Though the sailors did not want to do so, they were frantic and finally complied. “So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging” (Jonah 1:15). The calming of the sea was the third miracle that took place.
Then an even greater miracle occurred-the fourth. “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Is this possible? Not according to modern doubters. They tell us that a whale does not have a mouth large enough to swallow a man, and that a man would quickly die in a whale’s stomach. Is this true? According to extracts from a work entitled: Sixty-three years of Engineering and Scientific and Social Work, by Sir Francis Fox, pages 298-301, (John Murray, London, 1924), we read of two separate accounts by a captain and by one of his officers who had witnessed this very thing. Two scientists confirmed the accounts. In 1891, in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, a large sperm whale was spotted. Immediately two boats were launched and not long afterward one of the boats harpooned the whale. The tail of the fish struck the second boat and the men tossed into the sea. One man was drowned and another-James Bartley-disappeared. The whale was killed, lashed to the side of the boat and the crew began to remove the blubber. The work went on throughout the day and into the night. The next morning the stomach was hoisted onto the whaler. The crew was astounded to find the missing sailor inside the stomach, doubled up and unconscious. He was revived and placed in the captain’s quarters, where he remained in a lunatic state for about two weeks. By the end of the third week he had recovered and resumed his duties. He described his ordeal in the whale’s stomach, and said he could breathe, though the heat was terrible. His skin color was changed to a deadly whiteness, and the natural color never fully returned. Other than this, his life continued as normal. The above account was taken from the Bible Research Handbook, serial 31.
According to the Daily Telegraph, February 17, 1928, Sir John Bland-Sutton described another incident of a whale swallowing. He related the episode of an American whaler and another sperm whale. This took place before the invention of the gun harpoon. The harpooning boat was bitten in half, and a Marshall Jenkins taken into the stomach of the whale. The whale came up for a last breath before dying and vomited the contents of its stomach. Included with the cuttlefish and other items was Mr. Jenkins. The account does not say whether he survived the ordeal or not. The above two incidents certainly debunk the notion that a whale cannot swallow a man. This account is also found in the Bible Research Handbook, serial 31.
The fifth miracle is related at the end of chapter two. “And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). Then God spoke to Jonah again and told him, “Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). He was to tell the people of Nineveh, ” . . . Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (v. 4). Because of Jonah’s preaching the people repented of their wickedness. “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (v. 10).
What was Jonah’s reaction?
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. (Jonah 4:1-3)
Why was Jonah displeased? The reader may recall that the commission given to Jonah occurred shortly before the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom and deported all the people. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Jonah, a prophet from the northern kingdom, knew that God was going to cause the Assyrians to invade his land. He had earlier prophesied of Israel’s expansion during the reign of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah did not want to see this invasion happen, but knew that if the Assyrians repented, God would not destroy their kingdom. This is why he said, ” . . . O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (Jonah 4:2). But because the Israelites refused to repent, Jonah knew they would be punished. Because of his nationalistic spirit and love for his country, Jonah was a reluctant prophet. He could not bear to see what was going to happen. But God would not be thwarted. Jonah was sent to Nineveh so that they would repent and God’s punishment upon Israel would not be hindered by the destruction of Nineveh. The Assyrian invasion into the northern kingdom took place about 20 years later.
The next three miracles occurred a short time later in order to teach Jonah a lesson.
“So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd” (Jonah 4:5-6).
But what happened?
“But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:7-8).
The gourd gave Jonah great comfort. The worm and wind took away that comfort. God then told Jonah that while he had appreciated the gourd, it was not there by his effort, nor was it taken away by his effort. God has all power to do as He pleases. Therefore, He said: “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)
The people of Nineveh repented. Jesus referred to this incident when He said: “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Matt. 12:41). The people of the northern kingdom refused to repent. God could not allow Jonah’s feelings to stand in the way of His intention to punish them for their long history of rebellion and disobedience.
The last of the prophets to be covered in this section is Daniel. Some truly dramatic miracles took place during the time of Daniel. The book of Daniel is absolutely outstanding for this very reason. It illustrates how God can and does manifest His power for those who righteously follow Him, as it serves His purpose. Not only did God reveal the future to Daniel, but also intervened mightily for him and his friends.
Daniel was of the royal line. He was included in the captives taken to Babylon at the time the kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon. He, along with others, was trained for service in the court of the king of Babylon. God especially blessed him and his three friends-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-with knowledge and wisdom, and ” . . . Daniel especially had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Dan. 1:17). Sometime after his appointment to the court, he was able to interpret a mysterious dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, and as a result was promoted to a high position in the government (Dan. 2).
A situation arose a number of years later when Nebuchadnezzar set up a great image and demanded that all his subjects bow down and worship it. Daniel was not in the province at the time, so he was not included in the command, but it did include his three friends and fellow counselors-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Nebuchadnezzar’s command, and the response to it was as follows:
. . . To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. (Dan. 3:4-7)
The Babylonians were idolaters, but the Jews were not, so Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey the command.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Dan. 3:8-12)
When the king heard this he was furious.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? (Dan. 3:13-15)
The three counselors did not hesitate. They answered the king:
. . .O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Dan. 3:16-18)
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. (Dan. 3:19-23)
God intervened mightily.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. (Dan. 3:24-25)
Nebuchadnezzar ordered their immediate deliverance from the fire.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. (Dan. 3:26-27)
The king was so moved by this miracle that he declared:
. . . Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. (Dan. 3:28-29)
As a result of their faith and trust in God, the three counselors benefited greatly: “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:30).
The next great miracle is recorded in Daniel, chapter five. At this time Belshazzar was king of Babylon. He was the sixth king of Babylon, and this incident occurred about 45 years after the beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. (Dan. 5:1-4)
Then a strange event occurred. “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another” (Dan. 5:5-6).
Such an incident was certainly shocking. The king wanted to know what this all meant, so he called for all the astrologers and soothsayers to give him the answer, but they could not. However, the queen mother remembered Daniel and suggested the king call him. Upon his arrival before the king, Daniel revealed why this had happened and what was going to take place. He told him that, as Nebuchadnezzar’s descendent, he had not respected the true God.
And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:22-28)
Did Daniel’s word come to pass? “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Dan. 5:30-31).
The last miracle recorded in the book of Daniel is found in chapter six. The Persians had conquered the Babylonians and Daniel had been appointed to a high position in the government. He was highly favored by King Darius and was appointed the first of three presidents. These presidents presided over 120 princes, who were heads of provinces. But these presidents and princes, along with others, were jealous of Daniel. The king was persuaded, unwisely, to institute an unusual law. The purpose of the law was to find a charge against Daniel.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. (Dan. 6:7-9)
But this did not stop Daniel from praying on a regular basis-three times a day. It did not take long for the plotters to bring charges against Daniel.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. (Dan. 6:10-13)
The king now realized how he had been duped into signing the law, but could do nothing to stop it.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. (Dan. 6:14-16)
All that night he anguished over the situation in which he had allowed Daniel to be placed.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? (Dan. 6:18-20)
God had miraculously intervened in Daniel’s behalf.
Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. (Dan. 6:21-23)
What was the fate of the plotters? “And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den” (Dan. 6:24).
Darius was moved to make the following proclamation:
Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. (Dan. 6:25-27)
“So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 6:28).
All the Mighty Acts of God covered in this entire series attest to God’s sovereign power over mankind and over the universe. God does not change (Mal. 3:6). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). What He chooses to do with His Creation, and in the lives of men, depends strictly upon His intent and purpose. The next great manifestation of the Mighty Acts of God will take place near “the time of the end” when God will intervene directly in the affairs of mankind-this to prevent men from destroying themselves and the earth (Matt. 24:22, Rev. 11:18). Let us thank God for His concern for our best interests. At the present, He sustains the universe by the word of His Power (Heb. 1:3). He is now allowing men to rule themselves in order to learn that they cannot bring about the peace and happiness they desire apart from obedience to the Law of God. It has been said that history is the record of what has befallen man in his attempt to assume the government of God rather than to submit to it. Men are free moral agents. Only by submitting to God’s Way of Life can men truly achieve what they have been laboring for so long. When God again manifests His power in the Mighty Acts that are to occur soon, men will finally see He is the Sovereign of the universe. By what we have seen in this series, let us realize it now!