Elisha, son of Shaphat, was a prophet from Abel-meholah. He served for about fifty years in the northern Kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jehoash. After serving for a time as Elijah's disciple, he would go on to be used twice as mightily by the LORD, fulfilling his wish spoken shortly before the older prophet was taken bodily into heaven.
When Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha picked up Elijah's mantle, and to test his authority, struck it on the waters of the Jordan River as his mentor had done, and said, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?". When the river parted Elisha crossed over, he began his service as a prophet of God.
Through the reigns of four kings, Elisha stood as both a spiritual and a political leader. As a spiritual leader, he supported the sons of the prophets as they labored under oppressive governments. But as God's prophet, Elisha also served the nation, being the LORD's eyes and hands to do great things. Altogether, he was used sixteen times to bring about miraculous things from God.
Elisha (Heb: El-Ishua = "God is Salvation) was born in Abel-meholah, in the ancestral lands of Issachar, His father was Shaphat, a farmer whose land required twelve yoke of oxen to plow. It fell upon young Elisha to work with these animals.
When he had reached manhood, during the reign of Ahab, he was confronted by the prophet Elijah on his return after fleeing Jezebel, the queen. He understood the gesture when the Tishbite threw his mantle to him. After taking leave of his family, he killed his oxen, cooked them using the wood from the yokes, and gave the food to his kinfolk.
Disciple of Elijah
Elijah had arisen from Gilead, across the Jordan from where Elisha had grown up. After predicting the drought in the land, he had disappeared for over three years, only to return to challenge the prophets of Baal. After the LORD had proven Himself to be the true God, Elijah and his supporters had killed the prophets of Baal. However, this had angered the queen, sending the great prophet into hiding. When he showed up again, he had been directed by God to chose Elisha as his successor.
Elisha was by his master's side through the end of Ahab's reign and through that of Ahaziah, When it came time to end his ministry, the great prophet informed his protege that he was leaving. Elisha insisted on staying with him wherever he went. Against Elijah's wishes, he followed him all the way to the Jordan River, where the prophet took off his mantle and struck the river. Unsurprisingly, the waters parted, making way for the two to reach the other side. Elijah asked Elijah what he wanted, and Elisha claimed his right as "firstborn" son—the double portion of the spirit from God. Then, Elijah was taken away in the swirl of a mighty wind in the presence of a chariot and horses burning with fire.
Israel's Miracle Worker
Elisha, like Elijah, performed some extraordinary miracles as a prophet of God. He brought back to life the dead son of a Shunammite woman; he cured Naaman a general from Damascus, of leprosy; he multiplied loaves of barley and ears of grain to feed a crowd of people; he caused a metal axehead to float on water; he caused an attacking Aramean army to go blind and then returned their sight; and, among other miracles, he filled large empty vessels with oil. A count of the recorded miracles of the two in the Bible, Elijah performed eight and Elisha performed sixteen.
Elisha was probably bald, for he was once mocked by a band of ruffians who called him "baldy". Translated "little children" in some versions, these men were "little" (Heb: qatan = "small, unimportant") in character and "young men" possibly of the servant class (Heb: na`ar = "young man, servant"). In showing derision to God's representative, they incurred His wrath, evidenced by His honoring a curse which His prophet placed upon them. Soon after Elisha left, the LORD sent two she-bears maul the men.
Elisha had a member of his company of prophets anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, and to strike down Jezebel and members of Ahab's household, which Jehu completed.
When Elisha was on his deathbed, he prophesied to Joash, the King of Israel, that Israel will win the next three Battles with Aram. When Elisha was being buried, the body of another man was placed in the same grave. When the dead man's body touched Elisha's body, the dead man came to life and stood on his feet.