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What is the significance of Elisha sending Gehazi to place the staff upon the boy's face in anticipation of his later arrival upon the scene in 2 Kings 4:29?

2 Kings 4:29 (NASB)
Then he said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins and take my staff in your hand, and go your way; if you meet any man, do not salute him, and if anyone salutes you, do not answer him; and lay my staff on the lad’s face.”

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The staff was a symbol of authority. Moses lifted his up and the great water parted, Moses hit the rock with it and water gushed out of an actual rock.

The prophet's staff was a symbol of the authority of God that was with him and working through him.

Elisha sending his staff, was like Elisha sending himself to be there. (similar to Paul sending cloths from his body to others)

The rod itself may have been just made of plain wood, but the component that gave it life, power, authority, and supernatural ability, was that God Himself was connected with it through the one to whom the rod belonged.

An example of this was Aaron's rod, which budded supernaturally, with three different levels of fruitfulness, all at one time. This life in the rod which was actually severed from the tree from which it came, was sustained, as well, through generations, near the ark of God - in this living and vital form for many to see.

This rod was supernaturally alive with God.

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  • Would then the staff be recognisable by others. Would it be recognised as Elisha's staff and therefore as coming in Elisha's authority. So the significance of the staff was one of authority. Feb 22 '15 at 9:43
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    @John Unsworth - Not sure if it would be recognized as Elisha's staff, unless Gehazi told, plus, more than authority was involved - like the cloths from Paul's body, brought physical healing, I believe the staff contained something of God, - which I call His "train" as in when "His train filled the temple". If we relate this to a bridal dress 'train', common in our culture, it is something connected to the person, without being the person,..if, for example the train could enter into the church, just prior to the bride, who is attached to the train, enters,...
    – Hello
    Feb 23 '15 at 4:27
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    @John Unsworth - In this way, something of Elisha (most likely Elisha's annointing from God) was sent ahead to arrive faster than Elisha could himself, and start 'ministering' to the boy, without Elisha. Note, it was placed on the boy's face, where his mouth, and nose are, I assume it began warming him up from and up out of the cold of physical death. (face to face encounter with God, God spoke directly with OT prophets) Note Elisha's instructions to Geh. - don't engage in convers. or any distraction, I believe there was an angelic group, with the Holy Spirit attached to the physical rod..
    – Hello
    Feb 23 '15 at 4:32
  • The Holy Spirit attached, with the angelic accompaniment made the rod a "living thing" that the servant carried. Oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit's presence in the OT, and the Holy Spirit was thought to mix with oil, for example, and this oil was used for holy purposes, containing something of God's personal power and presence. This was the "annointing oil", the oil symbolized the Presence of God in Spirit, present and working, doing something.
    – Hello
    Feb 23 '15 at 4:34
  • The train of God might be compared to how even the very atmosphere itself has to change when pure Love personified is present, or to the growing intensity of heat in an area of forest before the forest fire arrives. God's "spill-off" for lack of a better word, like just the 'shadow' of Peter -walking by, healed some, because the annointing of God was in, on and flowing from his person as he walked by, like Elisha's bones emitted when they buried someone on top of them, causing the dead, newly buried one, to resurrect from the dead! The prophets bones even contained "residual Presence of God",
    – Hello
    Feb 23 '15 at 4:45
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How did we get to a "train", "anointing", "an attached angelic group", and "oil"? None of these are mentioned in the passage. Let's please engage in exegesis, not eisegeses (reading our own pet phrases into to passage).

For a good discussion on the staff and specifically Gehazi's failure, check out: http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ARTB/k/145/Elisha-and-Shunammite-Woman-Part-II-Serving-Gods-Chidren.htm.

Note Gehazi's failure to pray and to "try, try again". I like the author's description of Gehazi's attitude: "Oh well, that didn't work, gotta go tell Elisha and especially the mother (worrying and/or hurting her even more). I paraphrased the author there ;-)". Possibly Elisha's repeated acts (or: lack of immediate success) are mostly for Gehazi's benefit; a lesson on persistent faith. David (in The Netherlands)

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    – Frank Luke
    May 19 '17 at 14:38
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II Kings 4:29,31 presents a story-within-a-story, Elisha's delegation of Gehazi to revive the Shunamit's son.

The question of why the delegation fails is a classic question. The question of why this little story of failure, in two verses, is included in the text is also a classic, separate question, but is less frequently asked. The text itself provides no direct answers. The answers can only be inferred from what is not written.

The staff obviously represents Elisha's spiritual authority and mission, as the shepherd of Israel. As in the story of Moses's staff, it is the agency of miracle.

The critical view of this passage as presented by Professor Yair Zakovitch, is that it is included in its current form as an unstated but nonetheless forceful criticism of Elijah, Elisha and the popular miracle-working religion that they represent. According to this understanding of the text as a polemic, the Deuteronomic writer presents the events of Elijah's and Elisha's ministries unfavorably in order to downgrade or de-rate their standing relative to Moses. Apparently at some time in history the standing of these prophets threatened to eclipse that of Moses in the popular mind. This eclipsing of Moses by later figures, especially miracle workers, is a perennial challenge in Judaism. Examples are Honi the Circle Drawer and Rabbi Simeon Bar Yohai, the purported author of the Zohar. Not to mention more recent figures, Sabbatai Zevi and later.

In this view, the delegation of Gehazi for the mission of reviving the boy illustrates Elisha's blindness to Gehazi's corruption and unworthiness to be Elisha's successor. Even after the mission fails, Elisha shows no understanding of who Gehazi really is. Besided being a criticism of Elisha, it is also a criticism of miracle-working popular religion that always attracts unseemly figures who cluster around the miracle worker for their own gain. The intent of the writer is to contrast Gehazi to Joshua, the corresponding figure in Moses's ministry.

The failure of Gehazi's mission is also a criticism of Elisha for not taking personal responsibility for the situation that he himself created by working an entirely unasked-for miracle, responsibility that he is ultimately forced to take.

The entire story presents a comic and derogatory picture of Elisha as a spiritual Don Quixote. He works an unasked-for miracle for the Shunamite woman, removes himself far away to the Carmel with his corrupt side-kick second-in-command, fumbles the first revival attempt through Gehazi, and only succeeds in the end through a suggestive physical closeness with a corpse.

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I call them wands instead of rods or staffs. But whatever we chose to call them, they were all believed to possess magical powers in antiquity. So Elisha's wand was significant because it was used to conduct magic, and we see plenty of impressive wand work in the Bible.

Without instructions from God, Moses used his wand to win wars.

Exodus 17:11 (KJV) 11

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.



Moses drew water from a rock by smiting it twice.

Numbers 20:11 (KJV)

And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts [also].



Aaron turned the dust of Egypt into gnats by smiting it with his wand.

Exodus 8:16 (KJV) 16

And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.



According to the book of Judges, Gideon saw the angel of the LORD use his wand to offer a burnt offering to the LORD.

Judges 6:21 (KJV) 21

Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that [was] in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. (Compare Judges 13:19,20)



I'll leave you with some commentary from The History of Magic by Joseph Ennemoser

...one must be a man of God as Elisha was. Second, Elisha must have been well acquainted with the transferring of this power by means of a conductor, or he would not have sent his servant before with the staff, by simply laying the same upon the face of the dead child, and thereby restore him to life. Third, the command that he gave to his servant to salute no one on the way, has deep significance. He was to give his undivided attention to the business of raising the dead to life, and not to be led away by any other consideration or occasion whatever...

So again, Elisha's staff or wand was significant because it was used as tool to do God's work. It was also a symbol of authority.

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