Soccer Analytics: MLS and Premier League Comparison

In the previous entry in this series we discussed the relationship between team performance (points in the standings) and a ratio of expected goals for to expected goals against. We also showed the impact of the team’s salary on their performance. Note that we did this all for the US MLS soccer league. Here’s what we saw from 2022:

MLS 2022 season results: Impact of npxG ratio and team salary on points

This shows a strong relationship between points (the teams on the left side of the chart were the highest ranked) and the xG Ratio. But there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between the team salaries and performance. This could mean a lot of different things, but the well-known relationship in the English Premier League between salary and performance seems to be absent in the MLS. So I wondered, what would this graph look like for the teams in the Premier League during 2022? Would we see the same trends or something different? So here goes:

Premier League 2021-2022 season results: Impact of npxG ratio and team salary on points

A few things are obvious from this comparison.

  1. The premier league teams are paid WAY more than MLS. We knew that this was likely to be the case, but this is an order of magnitude higher! Perhaps Manchester United is reflecting Ronaldo’s salary in that big outlier!
  2. In the Premier League, it is clear that there is a strong direct correlation between team salary and performance. This is very unlike what we saw in the MLS. I can think of a few reasons… first, the MLS has a kind of salary cap that I have read prevents them from using salary as effectively as the European leagues. Second, the Premier League has relegation, where teams that end at the bottom of the league (sorry, Norwich City) get relegated to the second tier league while the top performers in the second league get pulled up. This is likely to have major effects on the salary. There are likely many more reasons.
  3. Note how smoothly the xG Ratio descends down the point scale compared to the MLS. In the MLS chart, we saw a general trend with some outliers, but it is very clear that the xG ratio correlates strongly with performance in the Premier League.

Why is this interesting?

Well, what we see here are two measures that are easy to collect which are nice proxies for team performance. In the Premier League, we know that increasing team salary tends to lead to improved performance. We also know in both leagues that increasing the number of expected goals by focusing on creating more quality shots (instead of concentrating on only perfect shots) and reducing your opponent’s number of quality shots leads to better performance. This is important, because of the chance involved in converting a shot (about 1 out of 10 shots are converted). Expected Goals gives teams a good measure to try to optimize.

LINKS to Other Soccer Analytics Entries

  1. Soccer Analytics Series Intro
  2. MLS and Premier League Comparison
  3. Home and Away Luck Metric
  4. Does Counterpressing Work? Evidence.
  5. Evaluation of Outcomes using the Luck Metric
  6. More Analysis using the Luck Metric
  7. Soccer Analytics in Practice – Youth Soccer Example
  8. xG and Luck update on recent MLS season

New Blog “Tag”. Soccer Analytics.

Arizona Youth Soccer, credit Tod Newman

I’ve been thinking about Soccer analytics for some time now. I coached a Middle School soccer team last season and decided to develop some simple measurements that might allow the team to see improvement. I selected shots, shots on goal (good shots), and turnovers (losing the ball for more than 3 seconds). As it turns out, without a focused team manager, it is difficult to collect these simple measures, even when carefully defined. Middle School attention spans are not long, everyone!

So in this light, I recently picked up a copy of Ryan O’Hanlon’s book “Net Gains” (link to Amazon) and was inspired to tune up my old COVID stats and visualizations (check out my COVID-19 tag if you really want to relive those times) for something much more interesting to me now. Since I haven’t seen much in the way of MLS analytics, I figured that might be a good place to start.

What do we Know about Soccer Analytics?

First, soccer is a highly unstructured game which typically low numbers of scores. Think about baseball… the players are often in set positions, both defensively and offensively. The batter stands in the batter’s box, the pitcher is on the mound, runners stay within the basepaths and stand on the bases. Defensive players tend to stand most of their time in the same spots. A Baseball diamond is a huge space that players will only occupy a small portion of throughout the game. It is rare that an official makes a single call that flips the outcome of the game.

Soccer Analytics Are Hard because Soccer has Low Structure!

Now think about soccer. There are many variants of soccer formations. Some clubs have traditionally used a 4x4x2 or a 4x4x3. But there are creative variants of these formations that could get adopted for special situations. There are very few spots on the pitch where players have a low probability of occupying during a game. This contributes to making soccer a very hard game to collect data on and analyze. This difficulty has also led to a lack of “killer” metrics that are indicative of team success. Indeed, in the book ‘Soccereconomics’, the authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, find that in European leagues the amount spent on players’ wages is the most highly correlated measurable with team success that is known! And of course, with many games decided by one goal or tied, a single call from an official can reverse the outcome of the game. This is discouraging, to say the least, for anyone that wants to find any other signals hiding under that noise. Billy Beane, the former GM of the Oakland Athletics baseball team became famous for finding soft signals in the data that the high-spending teams hadn’t been paying attention to. These are hard to find in soccer.

One Early Metric I Like (And Think I can Collect)

One metric that I’m interested in is Expected Goals (both For and Against). This is a measure of (my words) the times when a team makes good decisions to put themselves into the position of taking a good shot. Most of the data indicates that in soccer, ten decent shots on goal will on aggregate score one real goal. So most shots have an Expected Goals score (xG) of 0.1. Some shots from better locations have a higher factor. Overall, it isn’t hard to count up the xG during a game. A team that has 3 xG but only 1 goal in a game could be thought to have fallen on the bad side of the luck that drives much of what happens in soccer. The xG for a team’s opponent can also be calculated. I use a feature called npxG that I find on the site FBRef.com (link to site) because it takes penalty shots out of the mix (I’m not a big fan of penalty shots, which seem highly subjective to me, and therefore unpredictable). Then the ratio of npxG “for” your team to npxG “against” your team is a very good ratio to measure with one number how your team performed.

Early Analysis on MLS Soccer

I collected data and did some data engineering on it to allow me to plot two things for each MLS Club. First, the annual salary for the club (in millions of dollars) and second the npxG ratio. The hypothesis is that when these are plotted for the teams in rank order by their number of points for the season, maybe we’ll see some trends.

2022 MLS Results

2022 MLS End of Season Results, comparing final points, npxG Ratio, and Team Annual Salary

This is a pretty satisfactory result ans shows a trend that correlates a high npxG ratio with success. Actually, the top npxG ratio of all goes to LAFC, who won the 2022 championship over Philadelphia (the second highest ratio). The trend is not linear down, reflecting the impact of chance on the results of individual games. Note however that there is no trend at all regarding team salaries and final results. I have seen papers that indicate that others haven’t found any trends with MLS salaries either, ostensibly due to the way the MLS implements a salary cap.

Can we Predict the 2023 MLS Championship yet?

2023 MLS Current Status, comparing current points standings, npxG Ratio, and Team Annual Salary

So as is obvious, the trend is non-existent after 15 or so games of the 2023 MLS season. My suspicion is that it’s too early in the season for “luck” to have filtered down to its normal level.

Plans for Future Analysis

I’m planning to evaluate more MLS seasons for this trend and incorporate a number of other metrics that are interesting and available (% possession is one that I tried to estimate for my Middle School soccer team, but an accurate % possession might have good correlation with performance. I’ll roll these kinds of articles out periodically. Please weigh in if you have interest and/or expertise to contribute!

LINKS to Other Soccer Analytics Entries

  1. Soccer Analytics Series Intro
  2. MLS and Premier League Comparison
  3. Home and Away Luck Metric
  4. Does Counterpressing Work? Evidence.
  5. Evaluation of Outcomes using the Luck Metric
  6. More Analysis using the Luck Metric
  7. Soccer Analytics in Practice – Youth Soccer Example
  8. xG and Luck update on recent MLS season

Book Review, “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

My rating:
5 of 5 stars


Anna Karenina
is widely considered to be one of the top novels of all time, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree. There are aspects of this book’s greatness, however, that keep bringing me back to it every few years. As I get older, I see more and more amazing insights into human nature in this book than I ever noticed before. Tolstoy tells us, without telling us, that we should serve others, go deeper, and travel further in, and we leave his novel wanting these things for ourselves.

Here we see two all-time great personalities with incredible depth, Anna Karenina and Kostya Levin and eagerly follow their lives. Many other interesting characters live inside these pages, but in general they exist to shine more light upon the two major ones. Sadly, the reader isn’t aware for much of the novel that one character is on the ascent and the other is descending. Both are very sympathetic and engaging in very different ways.

Themes that this book undertakes that might have been unpopular at the time of writing abound. One major theme is that of the loosening of restrictions on the common class, the rural peasants who were enslaved serfs not too long in the memory of the characters. This change in the social fabric of Russia is seen in clear contrast to the often-frivolous, excessive lives of the urban wealthy elite. Another major theme is that of sanctification versus decline. Sometimes characters who early on appear to have a broad excess of humanity find themselves in a downward spiral just as other characters who struggle to understand themselves and others improve and begin demonstrating goodness and grace to others. As Kostya Levin, an impulsive and argumentative landowner discovered late in the book, “if goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.” This realization is a major breakthrough for Levin, who is struggling mightily to discover his purpose and place.

Throughout the book, it is hard not to adore the character Anna Karenina herself. She reminds one of the classmate in school who was confident and well-liked and didn’t understand or care about why. Anna comes from a lesser background but has easily made a charming path into the acceptance of the nobility. Her ability to be very decisive during challenging times turns into a flaw, though, and her life — unnoticed by anyone — begins to unravel.

This is a long book with incredible amounts of detail. As a writer myself (mediocre at best in comparison to Leo Tolstoy), I found many admirable examples where Tolstoy fits a beautiful, surprising set or event into the story in ways that seem natural and obvious. The book will be challenging, and therefore valuable, to any who struggle with the attachment of too much value to material things. Tolstoy reminds the reader over and over that the elements of one’s life that constitute goodness owe no debt to wealth and possessions.



View all my reviews

Book Review, “Fathers and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev

Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A classic of Russian literature, “Fathers and Sons” describes the conflict between generations in a way that may be quite recognizable in our modern era. Bazurov is a talented force of nature who studies medicine and proclaims loudly that he believes in nothing at all, “I look up to heaven only when I want to sneeze.” Arkady is his admiring friend, who probably doesn’t believe nearly as strongly as Bazurov does. Turgenev uses Bazurov as a foil against his believing and eager parents’ generation, some of whom look upon the idea of rejecting all truth and reality rather skeptically, “The fact is that previously they were simply dunces and now they’ve suddenly become nihilists.”

“Fathers and Sons” is written beautifully and economically and provides great depths of knowledge about families, love, heartache, religion, and even the institution and elimination of serfdom in 19th-century Russia. The beauty of Turgenev’s mind is his compassionate treatment of all the generations present and his unwillingness to take a side. This should be exemplary to all writers, but in fact, it infuriated the sophisticated reviewers of his day, much in the same way it would irritate the elite of our day. Because of this even-handedness, however, Turgenev has created a thoughtful and timeless novel that reveals the power of an author who truly loves his characters and their stories, no matter how absurd they may seem.



View all my reviews

Book Review – “Ward No. 6” by Anton Chekhov

Ward No. 6

Ward No. 6 by Anton Chekhov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In Ward No. 6, one of Anton Chekhov’s novelas, readers are introduced to the colorful residents of Ward 6, a gloomy facility for the mentally ill attached to a run-down Russian hospital. The patients are diverse and interesting, but the story centers around the doctor in charge of the hospital, Andrei Yefimitch, who comes to the hospital with vision and energy, but is then ground down by the despair of not having resources or abilities to have any real impact. Chekhov’s description of the horrific downfall of this middle-class doctor due to his intellectual conceit and tendencies to idle routine is fascinating. The reader just can’t take their eyes away.







View all my reviews

The Eyes of Gehazi – Part Ten

I continue publishing this book on my site, a few chapters per week.

However, if you’re impatient or would rather read it on your Kindle, please head over to my AMAZON LINK. Click the link and check out how it looks on Amazon! The price is still set very low for the first few weeks to encourage new readers and hopefully gather reviews.

So to restate, the purchase is a low risk right now and if you’d be willing to read it and provide an Amazon review, you will be very helpful to my goal of getting this book out to a broader set of readers (where I hope it would do some good).

NEW! If you prefer reading in paperback, I have a nice, trade size version available on Lulu.com now!

Meeting the King

Bringing a message to a King from a person not completely approved of by the King in question is a tricky art-form that I, with my upbringing among the common people, had no training in. So my task was a difficult one for me to reconcile myself to. Fortunately I had plenty of time to think the process through because the journey from Dan to Samaria took a number of days. I was surprised to discover that though I was not well known like the Prophet, there were still people waiting to feed and house me in every city I passed through around the time of nightfall. I cannot even begin to explain to you how this could have happened unless it had been truly the hand of The God. Eventually I arrived in Samaria, nervous and worn out, but strangely excited about the mission I must accomplish. The Prophet told me to simply announce myself at the city gate and someone would take me to the King. I followed this recommendation and was surprised to find that the results were exactly as the Prophet had described. I was efficiently ushered from the gate into a pleasant waiting area inside a structure that was clearly the King’s residence. This room must have been designed for heads of state or powerful dignitaries to keep them calm and happy while they waited on the arrival of the King. Beautiful young women who served the King came in and out of the room with food and drink. The chair in which I rested was very comfortable and allowed me to recline while I waited. This is a life that I could aspire to! I thought. Finally, a tall official with a long, reddish-colored beard who was dressed in the livery of the King arrived. The King awaits the servant of the Prophet, he said gesturing for me to accompany him. Please follow me, he continued, so I did exactly that. After my short meeting with the King, the young official of the King’s court led me back to the gate of the city. Please continue your journey in peace, oh servant of the Prophet, he said in a very kind tone. I passed through the city gate, loaded with provisions given me by servants of the king and departed for Dothan, as the Prophet had requested. It was somewhat stunning how rapidly this had all occurred. My appointment with the King had been exceedingly short and to the point and as such was a very strange ten minutes. The lives of noble-born people were and still are so puzzlingly different from mine. During the entire time we were in the same room, the King never spoke directly to me. Instead, he spoke to me through the bearded young man who presented me to him. Likewise, the official relayed my responses to the King’s questions. I recall that our meeting began with a statement something like the following. Oh! the King uttered, staring idly out the window. I see we have here the servant of that annoying Prophet that is constantly making my life difficult. Please ask him what his business is. I responded nervously to the bearded official without even glancing at the King. The message from my master, I said, is that he is aware of all the plans of the King of Syria, which of course is a gift provided to our nation by The God. Syria is fully knowledgeable of your travel plans and understands that you will be proceeding to Shiloh to celebrate a feast in two weeks. The Syrian army intends to ambush you on the highway. The Prophet says that if you bypass the highway and proceed through a less direct route that the King of Syria will fail to intercept you and will return home to Syria in shame in front of his army. At this point, the King gave a small wave, as one might swat away a flying insect and thanked his official for relaying my message. He then promptly exited the room and my audience was over. I was surprised to realize that the King’s assistant was already beginning to gently escort me out of the palace towards the gates of the city. I apologize for the King’s lack of decorum, the young man stated as we walked. He just truly can’t stand your master but he knows that he needs him. As I reflect back on this time of my life, I’m struck by the manner in which The God maintained this strange tension between Elisha and the King. I imagine the purpose of this was to protect the King from his evil desires while continuing to preserve the opportunity for him to repent of them. I understand this better now, because I believe The God effectively did the same thing in my life, perhaps expecting that I would eventually make the choices in my life that pleased Him instead of myself. After this meeting, I began to realize how this very strange relationship that existed between the King and my master governed much of what happened in Israel. Pondering this puzzle kept my mind occupied as I walked down the dusty road towards Dothan, the new donkey provided to me by the King’s servants in tow. After my return from delivering the message to the King, I proceeded to get back into the rhythm of my role serving the Prophet. There were many great and surprising things I saw him do during this time. We did not stop in one place for long, for the Prophet continually felt led to travel between the cities in the Northern Kingdom. We spent much time in Bethel, Dothan, and Samaria, among other places. We heard word from the Sons of the Prophets that as the Prophet had foretold, the King of Syria had returned to Damascus in shame. He had bet too much of his prestige on this attempt to overthrow Israel by ambushing the King of Israel’s procession to Shiloh. I smiled at this news, for I took pride in my participation in delivering the message. In time, the Prophet detected another plan being conceived by the King of Syria to besiege Samaria and I was dispatched to the King once again. This time the message involved an alert to the King regarding the exact time the army of Syria would be moving stealthily through a very narrow pass in the mountains. The King treated me the same way as he did the first time I brought him a message, but he did seem to listen. We learned a few months later from the roving Sons of the Prophets about the trap that Israel laid for Syria that destroyed nearly half of the Syrian army and sent the rest running home to Damascus. Over the next few years, this happened two to three more times. This must have caused great consternation in the King of Syria’s heart, but he had specific reasons why conquering Israel was important to him, and as such, he was unable to back off.

Book Review, “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin  (Princess Irene and Curdie, #1)

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Irene is the bright and joyous Daughter of the King and lives in a place crawling with the worst sorts of goblins. Amazingly mature for her young years, she is of interest to the goblins for some reason. Two people intervene to protect her life, Curdie, the young son of a miner and her ghostly and powerful great grandmother who lives in the castle, but only Irene knows she’s there.

MacDonald’s works on the Faeries were intended for the entertainment of children, but there is great wisdom buried therein. MacDonald’s depth of learning and indeed, understanding, about the world is on full display, such as when Irene learns from her mysterious grandmother, “We are all very anxious to be understood, and it is very hard not to be. But there is one thing much more necessary.′
‘What is that, grandmother?’
‘To understand other people.‘”

The genius of MacDonald is that even when being entertaining, his books constantly whisper to us about the need to humbly respect and seek to understand the others who travel with us.



View all my reviews

Book Review, “The Black Monk” by Anton Chekhov

The Black Monk

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One of Chekhov’s novelas, The Black Monk explores the contrast between “the mania of greatness”, or what we today might call grandiosity or even narcissism, and the joy that comes from selfless devotion to one’s work and family. Kovrin receives a visit from the Black Monk, a vision from the distant past, who tells Kovrin that he is one of the great and is highly favored by God. This becomes an obsession and the Black Monk’s visits become more frequent. Kovrin’s new wife and father-in-law suffer as Kovrin’s madness is discovered and treated and Kovrin sinks into a sort of bitter depression. “How happy were Buddha, Mohammed, and Shakespeare, that their relations and doctors did not try to cure them of their ecstasies and inspirations!” Kovid relays to his well-meaning and shattered family.
The Black Monk is a very thoughtful exploration of the individual and society and has much value in our current age where self-centered individualism is often celebrated.



View all my reviews

The Eyes of Gehazi – Part Nine

I continue publishing this book on my site, a few chapters per week.

However, if you’re impatient or would rather read it on your Kindle, please head over to my AMAZON LINK. Click the link and check out how it looks on Amazon! The price is still set very low for the first few weeks to encourage new readers and hopefully gather reviews.

So to restate, the purchase is a low risk right now and if you’d be willing to read it and provide an Amazon review, you will be very helpful to my goal of getting this book out to a broader set of readers (where I hope it would do some good).

NEW! If you prefer reading in paperback, I have a nice, trade size version available on Lulu.com now!

Trouble With Syrians

It was in Capernaum that we heard of the impending arrival of a great Syrian army from the north. We did not learn this right away, though, for as usual, we discovered that there were locals in Capernaum who were eagerly expecting our appearance and they quickly led us to the place they had arranged for us to stay. This was yet another example of the oft-related strangeness of traveling with the Prophet. Just like his predecessor Elijah, he never seemed to plan anything at all. As someone who liked to plan things, this, of course, drove me crazy but I knew better than to speak of it. The Prophet would just say something like, Today we go to Bethel, Gehazi please get the donkey loaded. Then we would simply go and I would find that there was someone waiting for us there with a need the Prophet could address. Now at my advanced age I possess hard-earned knowledge that provides the insight that The God and Elisha must have been constantly communicating and The God was simply preparing the path that Elisha obediently followed. I did not understand this at all at the time. How impatient and unseeing I was as a young man! Once we were settled in a pleasant house that had a view of the Sea of Galilee the young, dark-headed man who had met us at the edge of the city returned and took Elisha away to a meeting or something. Stay behind and rest and take time to enjoy the day, the Prophet gently directed as he walked out into the night with the young man. So I did. I unloaded our provisions for the donkey and got things ready for a late dinner in case the Prophet returned hungry. As it turned out, he was fed by the man who took him away, so I was the only one that was hungry when the Prophet returned. He looked at me and said, We need to prepare ourselves. I think that we may intercede with the Syrian king in a few days. If he was confident about this diplomatic mission, he did not show it. What I observed was the man I used to know who might have been uncertain about which crops to plant or whether to do maintenance to a field. I was able to help him with decisions during those days, but since his transformation into the Prophet of The God, I hadn’t been able to help him in the ways that my pride wished that I could. Should we buy weapons? I asked, attempting to demonstrate my great usefulness. No, this is not that kind of mission, he replied kindly with a sideways grin. I’m not sure what The God will ask of me, but I’ll discover that when the time comes. I did not imagine that I would be treating with foreign armies, however, when The God placed me under His protection. He laughed, paused and continued, We will both see what The God will call us to do. And that was all that was said about this notable subject that night. I was very disturbed by all of it. I also never expected to be supporting a diplomatic mission with a nation as cruel as the Syrians. The rumors of the destruction and evils performed by their army raced headlong across the entire country. I thought about our poor friend Jeremiah who had been murdered by the Syrians, leaving a bereft wife and fatherless children, it was said. I did not sleep much that night, fighting against a mind racing ahead of my fear and despairing about what might lie ahead. Speaking of fear, I find it interesting now to think about the many things I feared when I was younger. Normally, the emotion turned out to have been misapplied to something that did not warrant the energy I allocated to it. I have learned much through my many years, and I suspect so will you, dear reader. When I finally slept that night, it was to a tantalizing dream that took me back to the green valley surrounded by desert and the deep longing that waited just out of sight. The vision was unclear that night, as if I was perceiving something shimmering at the bottom of a lake. We rested many more days in Capernaum, something I was quite grateful for. The men who took care of us in the city were kind and good and provided us a much-needed time of rest. When we left the town, there was no sign of these men or any other citizens of the town. The streets were completely empty as we departed and we made our way alone to the ford of the Jordan river as it entered the Sea of Galilee on its journey downward from the mountains. The water was low and we crossed with ease to the Eastern side of the river in preparation for our journey north. There was no need for the Prophet to part the waters for us to cross, something that disappointed me somewhat. We traveled quite a distance north along the east bank of the Jordan, choosing to remain in the territory of the tribe of Naphtali rather than move further west into lands controlled by the Syrians. Our goal was to reach the city of Dan, a place of good size in the northern-most reaches of Israel, situated at the foot of the snowy Mount Hermon. North of Mount Hermon lay the lands of Syria, including the great and ancient city of Damascus. I did not know the details of our mission at the time, but eventually we learned that there would be an envoy from the Syrian King, Ben-Hadad, waiting for us at a location on the eastern slopes of the mountain. The Prophet assured me that we would stop in Dan for a time before proceeding to the place where we would meet the Syrian emissary. I was grateful that our travels remained uneventful as we skirted the Syrian territory and followed the Jordan northward. Once we reached the outskirts of Dan, we were met by a group of men who took us to the home of a family that would feed and shelter us. The leader of this group was a man I recognized as one of the members of the Sons of the Prophets who I had not seen since the transition from Elijah to Elisha at the Jordan River. He appeared very excited to see us and spoke some quiet words to Elisha just out of my earshot. Yes, I understand, Elisha told him. I believe that’s one of the reasons we are here. The young man seemed relieved and nodded earnestly. I will make sure that she is aware. Then he ran off. The next morning, the Prophet woke me early as he prepared for the day. This wasn’t usual, for it was typically me who woke first, so I took some notice. Why are you up so early, master, I asked, staggering quickly to my feet. I have a meeting soon, he replied as I waved off his offer to help me stand up. I’d like you to go with me. I want you to see the hand of The God. Elisha sometimes did something like this for my benefit. I think that he often suspected that I wasn’t able to wholly believe in or understand his ministry and he wanted me to be able to. I agreed and we left within the hour. The young man from the night before materialized in front of us from behind a small house. Thank you for communicating to her, Baruch, the Prophet began. I hope she is prepared? I had no idea what the two were talking about, so I remained silent. We continued toward whatever our objective was. After ten minutes we arrived at a small, dust-covered house, where two young boys met us enthusiastically. Hearing the noise, a woman also came out of the house. She looked exhausted and tentative. When she welcomed us into her residence, we passed through the entry and I looked around. On every surface sat clay jars of the type that people generally use to contain their olive oil. There were hundreds of these. I looked up at the Prophet in surprise. Hello, Dinah, he began, while casually strolling around the room and inspecting the jars. Our friend Baruch has told me about the evil thing that happened to your family. I’m so sorry about your husband’s death. As you know, Jeremiah was with me frequently and served well. Now I recognized what was going on, for a group of men who I recognized had just also entered the room. All of them had been with us at the River Jordan when the two Prophets had crossed over and one had returned. I quickly understood that this was the home of the family of the slain young prophet. Man of God, the woman began, her voice not fully under control, I am without recourse here. Your servant, my husband, was deeply in debt because he spent many hours in your school of the prophets and now I am holding all of his bills! The man we owe is not a follower of The God, but instead, like many of our people, believes only in wealth. He has told me that he will take my sons today as slaves if I cannot repay the debts. These men (here she gestured at the sons of the prophets in the room) have been trying to help me, but like me, they have no money or power in our community. Here she suddenly stopped speaking. Tears stood in her eyes, but her gaze never left the Prophet. I understand, Dinah, the Prophet responded. His voice carried an excess of emotion as well. The God has told me to tell you this, he continued. Go take your household jar of olive oil and bring it to me. Dinah did so and the prophet held it up. It is nearly empty, she stated blankly. It is the last thing of any value that I have. This is a mystery then, the Prophet said with a kind smile, for this jar seems quite full to me. He handed it back to her and her face took on a look of true amazement. So it is! she cried in astonishment. Now, Dinah, here’s what I want you to do, the Prophet resumed. From this jar you handed me, fill up all of those empty vessels that I instructed Baruch to help you to find. Fill one, and then move to the other. Let me know when you run out of oil jars. He motioned to me and we walked out of her home. The Prophet told her young sons that she might need some help inside and they rushed to comply. Then he spoke to me, Now Gehazi, you have seen lots of unbelievable works from The God and I think every time you have justified them in some way that is convenient for your mind. You have a small time left where The God can reach your heart, but I fear for you. Please pay attention to this. You know this oil of the olive is so important to our lives. We use it to create light in our lamps, we can use it to cook our food, we even sanctify our priests and anoint our kings with it, for it is a sign of the wealth and the life that The God provides. Here this poor widow has nearly run out of this life, but due to the mercy of The God, you will soon see that she will have life abundant. You, yourself are coming to the end of the store of oil that The God has granted you and my wish for you is that you would allow The God to fill it to overflowing. But I fear you will not. Stop, lets go look. I was somewhat overcome by this interaction with the Man of God and was unable to formulate any sort of idea why he expressed it to me this way. But when we re-entered the widow’s house, I could see her rejoicing with her sons. The other men, who had all stepped out of the home when we did, returned and began rejoicing too. I walked around the room and looked at the formerly empty jars and found that not only were they full now, most of them had oil overflowing their narrow spouts. The Prophet motioned for quiet. Before your life and joy were nearly lost, but look! Now you have life overflowing. Dinah, go out and sell all of the extra jars of olive oil in the market for a good price. You will find that you have more than enough to pay your husband’s debt. The look on the widow’s face was shocking. With that one expression I could see the sadness and mourning instantly replaced with a sense of joy that I realized I had never personally experienced, but which The God kept dangling in front of me in my visions. For it was very obvious to me that the triumph I could see in her face right now was a picture of what remained just out of sight in my vision of the desert highway in bloom. I will not ever know the full reason for our long journey up to Dan, but the miracle that occurred in the house of the wife of the prophet was certainly part of it. The remaining reasons begin to emerge shortly after. A mysterious messenger came to the Prophet one morning very early and he roused me. Gehazi, quick, lets get ready for travel! As I mentioned earlier, it was normal for me to wake up before the Prophet and then prepare for the day before waking him, so once again this was surprising. I hurried about my usual morning tasks and before long, we were headed north from Dan with our donkey. I asked where we were headed. To Mount Hermon, the Prophet replied. We have a special meeting with someone there. I believe it will change the way Israel responds to Syrian aggression. This sounded good to me, for that enemy nation had caused our people to truly suffer through both war and famine. Our journey to Mount Hermon fortunately turned out to be uneventful. Five of the Sons of the Prophets from Dan joined us in the journey. Now that I was starting to appreciate their company, their presence made the traveling pleasant because I enjoyed learning from them about this part of the country. On the second day after leaving Dan, the terrain began to be steep and rocky and the travel became exhausting. I couldn’t help but notice that the Prophet kept staring off into the distance up the slope. Eventually we found a rough trail that was of the type that timber cutters used. According to one one of the prophets, the cedars on Mount Hermon were prized symbols of luxury and wealth and indeed, had been used in large quantities in the construction of King David’s house as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. This was somewhat interesting to me. I could not discern where we were heading up this trail, but I recalled that the Prophet had received a mysterious message so I assumed that he knew where the meeting place would be. The Sons of the Prophets apparently felt no concern at all about our destination. As best as I could tell, they were always just happy to be near to the Man of God. In time we reached the meeting place. This was a large flat spot overlooking the rocky terrain on three sides. It was roughly halfway up the slope of Mount Hermon and provided an excellent place for a clandestine meeting. The site was not visible from below and it provided an excellent view of all the trails leading up to it. We spied a group of three men who were obviously waiting for us and the Prophet held up a hand to signal us to stop. As we soon discovered, the person we were to meet was not the emissary from the Syrian King that we had expected. Rather, he was a tall man dressed in black from head to toe with small golden charms dangling from his sleeves and woven belt. He wore a black veil to hide his face and was attended by three traveling companions who were similarly dressed. Though we couldn’t see his face, when he spoke, we realized that he was a very aged man. This was a very exciting mystery to me! We are a small remnant of the former Priests of Ba’al who served Queen Jezebel in the past, the older man in charge began, raising his right arm as if in a salute to the Prophet. We have traveled from Israel to places far distant in order to do penance. One day the word of The True God came to us and told us to flee from our band of false priests who served the Queen and warred with the Prophet of the time. We were very sensitive to The God’s voice and realized we must obey or die. This message came just in time, for it spared us from the destruction that fell upon Jezebel’s priests by the hand of The God working through the great Prophet who opposed the King and the Queen. We have spent time most recently in Damascus and have a message from The God and a token that will be very important for the survival of Israel. The famine will continue and the Syrians will seek to destroy the nation, but The God has chosen to intervene. Here he stopped and held up a golden ring at eye level. This is the signet of King Ben-Hadad, he continued. It fell into our possession through a strange set of circumstances in Damascus. The God has sent us to provide it to you, for when it is in your possession, The God will grant you access to the thoughts of Ben-Hadad himself. You will be able to use this gift to prepare Israel for his intended onslaughts. With the message complete, the three mysterious priests promptly turned to leave by the trail from which they had arrived. The Prophet spoke, Wait for a short time! I doubt that you will be seen in Israel again. The black-clad priests nodded in agreement. We have places to go far to the East, their leader said. The God wishes that men from countries who have forgotten Him would have a reminder. We seek to do whatever part He places in front of us and our deepest hope is that serving Him well may undo some of the damage we caused through our misguided past service of the Ba’als. We will not pass through Israel again but perhaps in time distant those who inherit our ministry will return. We’re grateful to have met the successor of the ancient Man of God of Israel. With these words, the priests departed single-file down the path from where they came. The Prophet motioned for us to head back down the mountain in the direction of Dan. I am already sensing what is in the head of the Syrian King, he noted and laughed as he tucked the King’s ring into his robes. I was told that we would be meeting an emissary from the King of Syria. It does seem that that turns out to have been the case, but a more unlikely emissary I have never seen. I suspect the King of Syria will wish these men never went out from Damascus! At that, the Prophet became silent and I realized that questioning him further about the strange events of the day would be futile. Once we returned to Dan, the Prophet called me aside and prepared me for the message I was to deliver to the King of Israel in Samaria. After you have delivered this message, he told me, come and meet me in Dothan. I agreed to do so, and armed with the message to the King from the Man of God, I departed. I thought about my ancestor Joseph and the meetings he must have had with the Pharaoh and was momentarily proud.