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When Elisha revives the son of the Shunamite woman, he first instructs his servant to place his staff on the boy's mouth. The next posuk says "...and there was no sound nor any attention; and [Gehazi] returned toward him and told him saying, "The lad has not awakened..."

Did Elisha think placing the staff on the boy's face would revive him? What did Elisha think would happen? Was placing the staff some sort of diagnostic test?

A possible clue: Gehazi has time to go to the boy's house and return to Elisha before Elisha gets there. Did Elisha begin travelling before he received the report or did he only leave when he received the report? I was thinking that perhaps Elisha knew the staff wouldn't do anything but he had it placed to either a) Make some kind of placebo to calm down the parents or b) "claim" the patient so voodoo faith healers wouldn't attempt to perform quack medicine before Elisha could spiritually heal the boy.

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Rashi, Metzudas David, and Radak say that he announced to people on the way what he was going to do and he did not believe it would work therefore it did not work.

Yalkut Meam Loez says, Gehazi tested out the staff on the way on either a dead lion or a dead dog, which it revived, and thus it lost its power to do so for the lad.

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Perhaps related (to your first paragraph): web.archive.org/web/20080509162804/http://www.math.wustl.edu/… – msh210 Jan 2 '14 at 20:49
The second answer implies that the staff itself was magic and, like an single use epi-pen, was only good one time. The first answer is better because it implies that for miracles/magic to work, the practitioner must be suitable. – Clint Eastwood Jan 2 '14 at 20:50

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