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PROPHET’S BONES TOUCHED AND A DEAD MAN LIVES
Victor M. Eskew
As an individual reads the Biblical text, he should be observant of all that he reads: names, places, words, feelings, actions, etc. In addition, one should ask questions about the text being read. One question that can be asked is: “Why is this in the Biblical record?” Sometimes the answer to the question is easy. At other times, man is at a loss for words. A wise conjecture may be all this is forthcoming.
Recently, this writer was asked about II Kings 13:20-21. The text states the following: “And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” The question that was asked about this passage was: “Why is this in the Bible?”
First, we need to emphasize that the Bible does not tell us why this story is revealed to us. Any answer, therefore, is sheer conjecture on man’s part. Man, however, is not without reasoning powers. He can examine the context, both immediate and remote, and make an extremely well educated guess as to why the Holy Spirit included this account in the historical narrative.
Let’s first go back to II Kings 2. This chapter tells us how Elijah passed the prophetic mantle on to the young prophet Elisha. Elijah was going to be taken into heaven by a whirlwind (II Kings 2:1). When he made the journey to the place of departure, Elisha went with him. After crossing the Jordan River, “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” (II Kings 2:9). This was a bold request, but it was granted to Elisha.
During his ministry, Elijah had performed 14 miracles by the power of God that rested upon him. If Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, he would perform at least 28 miracles. When he died, though, he had only performed twenty-seven miracles. This miracle of resurrection involving his bones made the 28th miracle performed. Thus, some see the record of this miracle as just an accurate fulfillment of the provision of a double portion of the spirit of Elijah resting upon Elisha. This could be one of the reasons for this story.
Others see more to the miracle than just a fulfillment of the “double portion” promise. In the immediate context, the nation of Israel is experiencing a spiritual low. The noble prophet Elisha has died. He had been a powerful prophet and a courageous leader of the people. In addition to the death of this man of God, “…the bands of the Moabites invaded the land” of Canaan (II Kings 13:20). According to verse 22, the Syrians were also oppressing the nation of Israel. When things begin to go south, people often wish for their old leaders. Some in the nation of Israel may have been longing for the prophet Elisha.
By means of this miracle, God reminded Israel of two things. First, Elisha’s bones were still in the grave. In other words, God was telling Israel, Elisha is dead, and he is not going to return. Second, Elisha’s bones evidenced great power on his occasion. They revived a dead man that came in contact with them. This power was not the power of a dead prophet. This power was the power of a living God. Elisha was dead, but God still lived. Israel did not need Elisha; they needed God. Two individuals commented on this lesson as follows:
1. “Don’t fear your enemy – Your God is still able to deliver you – even though Elijah is just a heap of bones” (www.intekom.com, “The Bones Are Shouting”).
2. “I Elisha, am dead, but God lives. He, your only refuge and strength, never dies: it is His power, not mine that helps you. Look to Him, trust in Him, and He will help you” (www.sermonindex.net, “Blessings from Bones, Denis Lyle).
This would have been a tremendous lesson for the nation of Israel. If they truly believed it, it would have strengthened their faith, lifted their spirits, and filled their hearts with courage and hope.
The context seems to indicate that this may have been God’s overall message to Israel. In II Kings 13:23, we read: “And the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast them from his presence as yet.” The enemies of Israel did not prevail over them. In fact, God allowed Israel to be successful over Ben-hadad the king of Syria three different times (II Kings 13:24-25).
This writer has often heard members of churches long for preachers or elders of the past. They believe that their presence could rebuild churches that are languishing. The reality is that God is the builder of churches. In the first century, Paul wrote: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planted any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (I Cor. 3:5-7). Our trust does not need to be in men. Our trust needs to be in the power of the living God. When men do as God has authorized, God will bless their planting and watering efforts. The psalmist was right when he said: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Ps. 18:2).