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A Prophet Tested: Elisha, the Great Woman of Shunem, and the Story's Double Message

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image of Biblical Interpretation

On casual reading, the story of Elisha and the Shunammite appears to belong to the genre of prophetic legends in praise of the prophets. A closer look, however, reveals marked differences between this story and the usual laudatory tales from the lives of the prophets, and places it in quite a different category. Though Elisha performs miracles—showing that he possessed super-human powers—the story exposes his limitations and human errors. It is, therefore, not so much a laudatory story as one of development. In a development story the miracles are meant not only to impress the prophet's surroundings and the readers of the story, but also to teach the prophet a lesson and to imply to the readers that although he possesses super-human powers, the prophet is only a human being with the failings of his kind. In other words, the prophetic stories of development have a double ambivalent message, and this article attempts to answer the question; what is the purpose and the importance of this complicated message, or of this elaboration of the story.

Affiliations: 1: Tel Aviv University


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