Elijah and Elisha

The Deathly Stew

This devotional is written by Louise O'Brien. Louise has been attending St Mary's since January 2015 and is a lover of nature, creativity and all things chocolate.

2 Kings 4:38-41

Death in the Pot

38 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, "Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets."

39 One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "Man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it.

41 Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.


As a novice cook, I can relate to today's title and the experimental nature of the person who picked the 'wild' vine .... a spicy Mexican rice omelette was surprisingly good... boiled eggs on toasted fruit loaf... not so much. Anyway, back to the story.

The intention was to provide a meal for some hungry prophets during a famine. A large pot was used (generous not sparing). Picking the "wild vine" showed initiative and invited risk "no one knew what it was". There is the temptation to stick with what is known, like salt and pepper. Personally, I am glad there is more than salt and pepper in the spice rack both in my kitchen and life. Stepping out takes courage and we may fall but space is created outside what is known.

"One of them...", I like the fact that the person who picked the wild vine is not named - their dignity upheld. The stew did not need to be abandoned, thrown away, something was added to transform it. As a person, family, organisation, community, with the best intentions we can add a wild vine to a conversation or situation that 'poisons'. In the story, flour was used to transform. Given the famine, perhaps that was all that was to hand. Symbolically, flour is bursting with power and is a source of strength and a supplier of energy. Something tangible was added to the stew. When something is poisoned, there can be restoration, healing, transformation. Elisha was focused on transforming not asking "OK, which genius tried to kill us?" No one was exiled. Perhaps afterwards someone gently slipped an edible plant guide into the person's hand along with a warm hug...

They ate the food and there was "nothing harmful in the pot". In life we encounter a variety of experiences that can poison us against ourselves, family, friends, community. We might not need to abandon the relationship or project; it might just need a little flour. The poisoned stew was an opportunity for healing. They had to experience the stew - taste it - acknowledge the reality that it was poisonous and name it and then be open to transformation.

The prophets looked to Elisha, the leader. Elisha added the flour himself and others served it to the prophets. Miracles frequently invite our participation, be it stirring in the flour, serving the food or eating it.

Things happen that can be transformed or transform us.

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