Gehazi, proved untrustworthy by his conduct on this occasion, again aroused the ire of the prophet when he disregarded the order not to accept money from Naaman, the Syrian captain. He did not succeed in deceiving the prophet. On his return from Naaman he found Elisha occupied with the study of the chapter in the Mishnah Shabbat which deals with the eight reptiles. The prophet Elisha greeted him with the rebuke: "Thou villain! the time has come for me to be rewarded for the study of the Mishnah about the eight reptiles. May my reward be that the disease of Naaman afflict thee and thy descendants for evermore." Scarcely had these words escaped his lips, when he saw the leprosy come out on Gehazi's face. (15) Gehazi deserved the punishment on account of his base character. He was sensual and envious, and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. His unworthy qualities were displayed in his conduct toward the Shunammite and toward the disciples of Elisha. When the pretty Shunammite came to the prophet in her grief over the death of her child, Gehazi took her passionately in his arms, under the pretext of forcing her away from the prophet, on whom she had laid hold in her supplications.
As for the other disciples of Elisha, he endeavored to keep them away from the house of the prophet. He was in the habit of standing without the door. This induced many to turn away and go home, for they reasoned that, if the house were not full to overflowing, Gehazi would not be standing outside. Only after Gehazi's dismissal did the disciples of Elisha increase marvellously. That Gehazi had no faith in the resurrection of the dead, is shown by his incredulity with regard to the child of the Shunammite. (16)
In spite of all these faults, Elisha regretted that he had cast off his disciple, who was a great scholar in the law, especially as Gehazi abandoned himself to a sinful life after leaving the prophet. By means of magnetism he made the golden calves at Beth-el float in the air, and many were brought to believe in the divinity of these idols. Moreover, he engraved the great and awful Name of God in their mouth. Thus they were enabled to speak, and they gave forth the same words God had proclaimed from Sinai: "I am the Lord thy God Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Elisha accordingly repaired to Damascus to lead Gehazi back to the paths of righteousness. But he remained impenitent, for he said: "From thyself I have learned that there is no return for him who not only sins himself, but also induces others to sin." (17) So Gehazi died without having done aught to atone for his transgressions, which were so great that he is one of the few Jews who have no share in Paradise. (18) His children inherited his leprosy. He and his three sons are the four leprous men who informed the king of Israel of the precipitate flight of the Syrian host. (19)
Elisha's excessive severity toward his servant Gehazi and toward the mocking boys of Jericho did not go unpunished. He had to endure two periods of disease, and the third sickness that befell him cause his death. He is the first known to history who survived a sickness. Before him death had been the inevitable companion of disease. (20)
A great miracle marked the end of a life rich in miraculous deeds: a dead man revived at the touch of Elisha's bier, and stood on his feet. It was a worthy character for whom the wonder was accomplished Shallum the son of Tikvah, the husband of Huldah the prophetess, a man of noble descent, who had led a life of lovingkindness. He was in the habit of going daily beyond the city bearing the pitcher of water, from which he gave every traveller to drink, a good deed that received a double reward. His wife became a prophetess, and when he died and his funeral, attended by a large concourse of people, was disturbed by the invasion of the Arameans, he was given new life by contact with the bones of Elisha. He lived to have a son, Hanamel by name. (21)
The death of Elisha was a great misfortune for the Israelites. So long as he was alive, no Aramean troops entered Palestine. The first invasion by them happened on the day of his burial. (22)