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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]

Resurrecting a Child

At one point Elisha went to the village of Shunem, and a certain woman often invited him to stay for a meal in her house. After some time, the woman and her husband built a small room for Elisha to stay there whenever he returned to Shunem. [18] The prophet wished to repay her, and, employing his servant Gehazi as an intermediary, learned that she wanted a baby, despite her husband being old. Elisha met the woman and told her that she would have a son the following year. At first, the woman objected in disbelief. However, she eventually got pregnant, and almost exactly one year after Elisha's prophecy, she gave birth to a son.[19]

After some time, the child grew, but one day he suffered a fulminant disease and died.[20] His mother then set out for Mount Carmel in search for Elisha. When she arrived at the mountain, she fell to Elisha's feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the prophet stopped him, realizing that the woman was in great sorrow. [21] The three went back to Shunem, and Elisha ordered Gehazi to lay his staff on the boy's face. Gehazi did as instructed, but there was no response from the boy, so he came back to his master. Elisha arrived at the woman's house and, after shutting the door and praying to the Lord, he laid on the boy and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. This restored warmth into the boy's body. The prophet got up, walked back and forth, and then repeated the same procedure, finally bringing the boy back to life.[22]

Immediately after performing the miracle, Elisha called for the Shunammite woman. She came in, and, after noticing that her son was alive, fell to the ground and bowed. [23]

Famine in Gilgal

Elisha returned to Gilgal and found that there was a famine in the region. He met with fellow prophets of Yahweh there, and then he told his servant Gehazi to cook a stew for them. One of the prophets gathered herbs and gourds for the meal. However, once the stew was served, they realized the gourds used were poisonous, and they couldn't eat it. Elisha ordered them to get some flour, and he poured it over the stew, thus removing any poison in it and making it edible.[24] Some time later during the famine, Elisha multiplied twenty loaves of barley bread brought by a man from Baal Shalishah. The bread was enough to feed at least one hundred people, and there was even some leftovers after all of them ate.[25]

The Healing of Naaman

Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was afflicted by a skin disease (referred to as leprosy in the Scriptures).[26] One of his wife's slave girls, an Israelite, knew about Elisha and told her mistress about his feats. A letter from the king of Aram was carried to Jehoram, king of Israel, asking for a cure to Naaman's disease. As the message didn't mention Elisha, Jehoram was deeply offended, thinking that the Syrians were challenging or mocking him by actually asking him to come and heal Naaman. [27]

Elisha sent word to Jehoram after hearing that the King had torn his robes in response to the letter. He told him to have Naaman sent to Elisha's house to be healed. The Syrian commander then traveled to Israel and arrived at the door of the prophet's house. Elisha sent Gehazi to Naaman, telling him that he needed to dip seven times into the waters of the Jordan River and thus be healed. The simplety of the instructions made Naaman feel insulted, and, amidst a burst of rage and pride, was on the verge of giving up and going back to Damascus. [28] However, Naaman's servants convinced him otherwise, and the commander went down and washed himself seven times in the Jordan. Then, his skin was restored, as Elisha had said.

Then, Naaman went back to Elisha, and offered him a gift in retribution, but the man of God refused, despite Naaman's insistence. The Syrian commander acknowledge God's might, and requested to be given two mule-loads of land, so that he may worship the Lord back in Aram. Elisha also allowed him to remain in service of his king, Benhadad. After this, Naaman was sent away in peace. [29]

Despite this, Gehazi persuaded Naaman to give him the gifts instead, and the commander consented. Elisha learned of Gehazi's actions, and after he confronted his servant, the same skin disease that formerly harassed Naaman now clinged to Gehazi, along with his descendants. [30]

After some time, Elisha rejoined the other prophets of Yahweh. They agreed to find a place to settle near the Jordan River. Once they chose a suitable location, the prophets began to cut down trees. One of the prophets accidentally broke his ax, with the iron axhead falling into the water. Elisha then cut a stick and threw it to the site where the axhead had sunk. The metal then floated, and the man reached out his hand and recovered it. [31]

The Siege of Samaria

Restoring the Shunammite's Land

Anointing Hazael and Jehu

Last Days and Death

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)
  18. 2 Kings 4:9-10 (Link)
  19. 2 Kings 4:15-17 (Link)
  20. 2 Kings 4:18-20 (Link)
  21. 2 Kings 4:27 (Link)
  22. 2 Kings 4:32-35 (Link)
  23. 2 Kings 4:37 (Link)
  24. 2 Kings 4:38-41 (Link)
  25. 2 Kings 4:42-44 (Link)
  26. 2 Kings 5:1 (Link)
  27. 2 Kings 5:7 (Link)
  28. 2 Kings 5:11-12 (Link)
  29. 2 Kings 5:15-19 (Link)
  30. 2 Kings 5:20-27 (Link)
  31. 2 Kings 6:1-7 (Link)