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Elisha was a prophet of God, serving as the successor to Elijah who is documented in the Biblical Book of Second Kings . After being apprentice to Elijah, Elisha took on his "spirit" and the ability to perform miracles. Elijah worked throughout the Northern Kingdom of Israel for about fifty years; during the reigns of Jehoram,[1] Jehu,[2] Jehoahaz[3] and Jehoash[4]. Elisha led a small order of prophets, who worked to uproot Baalism as the dominant religion in Israel. Elisha's miracles focused on helping the poor and included raising people from the dead and giving poor widows finances from nothing.

Biography

Early life

Elisha was born in Abel-meholah, a city in Issachar where some of the Midianites fled after Gideon caused their defeat. His father's name was Shaphat[5], while his mother's[6] name is unknown. Before being called by Elijah, Elisha worked in the fields, leading oxen to plow fields.

Elisha was named "God is Salvation". Elisha's name may have been given near birth or may have been given to him by Elijah when he became his apprentice.

At the very least, Elisha was known by God who planned for Elisha to be Elijah's eventual successor. It is possible, that Elijah may have known Elisha before, but this is not something directly implied in Scripture.

Disciple of Elijah

The Call

The prophet Elijah was in hiding, taking refuge from Queen Jezebel who was hunting him down for eliminating all of Baal's prophets. After coming out of hiding by God's call, Elijah was given several people to anoint as new leaders of Israel- one of them was Elisha. Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as his successor prophet and that he was the son of Shaphat and lived in Abel meholah.

Elijah taken up

Elisha despairs as his mentor is taken up into Heaven

Elisha was out leading the oxen in plowing the fields, when Elijah approached him for the Office of Prophet. Elisha had led eleven oxen already and was working with the twelfth. Elijah moved past Elisha and threw his prophet's uniform on him. Elisha knew that this meant Elijah wanted him to come and work alongside the prophet. So, Elisha chased after Elijah and asked him to be allowed to wish his parents goodbye before he left with him and he was allowed to do such. Before leaving, Elisha took the oxen under his care and gave them as sacrifices, using the leftover yokes to feed the townspeople.[7]

The Apprentice

Elisha was by his master's side through the end of Ahab's reign and through that of Ahaziah. It is not known how Elisha specifically helped Elijah, but he was probably educated in the duties of Prophet during this time. Elisha was not a mere aide in his staff, but would be his eventual successor. Presumably, Elisha was present when his teacher condemned Ahab and Ahaziah. Elisha was extremely loyal and devoted to Elijah, so much that he would clean Elijah[8].

The pair made a trip to the city of Gilgal together, unbeknownst to Elisha would be his last time of teaching with his master. Through foresight or revelation of God, when the two left Gilgal Elisha knew that God was preparing to end Elijah's time. Elijah was called to Bethel a considerable journey from their present location. So, Elijah asked Elisha to stay to spare him the long journey. Showing loyal devotion to his master (perhaps wishing to see him before he was taken away) Elisha insisted that he be allowed to come with him.[9]

Upon arriving at Bethel the two were greeted by an Order of Yahwist Prophets who asked Elisha if he knew his master's imminent faith,which Elisha told them he was aware, thus he did not wish to hear about it. When they had completed their ministry in Bethel, they went on to Jericho; Elijah asked Elisha to remain in Bethel, but Elisha loyally refused to leave his side. Once again, the prophets came out and warned of Elijah's fate.[10]

Elijah's Spiritual Successor

The exact same things happened again when Elijah was called to go the Jordan River. This time, Elijah's "disappearing" was imminent. After crossing the river miraculously with his master, Elisha was asked if there was anything Elijah could do for him. Elisha asked only for a double inheritance of Elijah's spirit, claiming his right as the "firstborn son"; indicating that Elijah was a father figure to him. Shortly thereafter, Heavenly chariots arose and Elijah was taken away in a wind. As Elijah ascended into Heaven Elisha realized the last moment with his mentor and father surrogate had arrived. Elisha called out to Elijah, calling him father before he disappeared into the clouds. Since Elisha had witnessed Elijah's ascension he inherited Elijah's spirit twofold.[11] Elisha would now be the new leader of the School of Prophets across Israel and inherited Elijah's servant staff.

The New Prophet of Israel

A Newfound Spirit

In the aftermath of losing his dearest friend, Elisha tore his clothes into two pieces. He proceeded to grab the cloak and wear it, bearing Elijah's role and burden; officially succeeding him as the Prophet of Israel. Elisha wondered where God was at and striking the water of the Jordan River it parted. After Elisha crossed the Jordan, the Prophet Order realized that Elisha had Elijah's spirit. The special spirit of miracles, manifested in Elijah truly belonged to Elisha. This had been proven by his miraculous parting of water, reflecting what Elijah did shortly before he was taken.[12]

This would not be the last miracle Elisha would perform with water. Elisha traveled back to Jericho, where he was informed that the city's water was corrupted. Elijah's successor asked the city natives to bring him a bowl of salt, then he threw the salt into the water; the water was now clean and would not kill anyone for a long time.[13]

Elisha wa spurred on to Bethel, retracing the steps his mentor had taken shortly before. On his way to Bethel a large gathering of youthful men verbally harassed Elisha by calling him a "bald head". For some reason (possibly, because Elisha may have been in harm's way) Elisha cursed the protester's in God's name. In response, two bears arose out of the nearby woods and attacked forty two of the gatherers.[14]

Afterwards Elisha went and did ministry at Mount Carmel and then returned to Samaria[15].

Counselor of Kings

During Elisha's time back in Samaria, the nations of Israel, Judah and Edom united for war against Moab. The three kings begin to lead their armies to advance against Moab, when they realized they may be doomed to be defeated by Moab. Jehoshaphat wondered why God would allow them to be delivered to the enemy and asked if there was a prophet to inquire of God. A servant notified his King that Elisha the son of Shaphat (who was known for his affection for Elijah) was an active Prophet of Israel.

Elisha was met by the three kings, showing their desperation to seek God's word through him as the medium. At first glance, Elisha mistakenly assumed that the King of Israel was seeking his services as a Prophet for Baal. After the Kings explained they were there to seek revelation from Yahweh Elisha agreed to act as a diviner, only for the sake of Judah's King, Jehoshaphat. For Elisha's first known act of divination, he required music to be played. Once Elisha received God's plans he revealed them: a water supply would be given to the Abrahamite army and Moab would be given into their hands.[16]

The Servant's Widow

At one point, a prophet who was a servant of Elisha passed away, making his wife a widow. Without the income from her husband, the woman could not pay a debt; her children would be indentured servants to the creditor. When the creditor came for the children, the widow asked Elisha for aide at her home. Elisha asked the widow about her possessions, come to find out that she only had a jar of oil. Elisha instructed the widow to collect jars from her neighbors and spread her oil to each jar. Every single jar was filled, with some oil still leftover- this has been a miracle. The widow then had enough to not only pay off her debt, but to live off for some time as well.[17]

At one point Elisha went to the village of Shunem

Verses

  1. 2 Kings 1:17--2:1 (Link)
  2. 2 Kings 9:1-3 (Link)
  3. 2 Kings 13:1 (Link)
  4. 2 Kings 13:10 (Link)
  5. 1 Kings 19:16, 19 (Link)
  6. 1 Kings 19:20 (Link)
  7. 1 Kings 19:19-21 (Link)
  8. 2 Kings 3:11 (Link)
  9. 2 Kings 2:1-2 (Link)
  10. 2 Kings 3:-5 (Link)
  11. 2 Kings 2:6-12 (Link)
  12. 2 Kings 2:15-17 (Link)
  13. 2 Kings 2:19-22 (Link)
  14. 2 Kings 2:23-24 (Link)
  15. 2 Kings 2:25 (Link)
  16. 2 Kings 3:11-19 (Link)
  17. 2 Kings 4:1-7 (Link)

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