Elisha (“My God is salvation”) was a prophet and a wonder-worker mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Quran, the Ginza Rba and Bahá’í writings. He was a disciple of Elijah. After Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind, Elisha was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets.
Elisha was a prophet and a wonder-worker of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who was active during the reign of Jehoram/Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash (Joash). Elisha was the son of Shaphat, a wealthy land-owner of Abel-meholah; he became the attendant and disciple of Elijah.
His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor. After learning (in the cave on Mount Horeb) that Elisha, the son of Shaphat, had been selected by God as his successor as prophet, Elijah set out to find him. On his way from Sinai to Damascus, Elijah found Elisha “one of them that were plowing with 12 yoke of oxen”. Elisha delayed only long enough to kill the yoke of oxen, whose flesh he boiled with the wood of his plow. Elijah went over to him, threw his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders, and at once adopted him as a son… investing him with the prophetic office. Elisha accepted this call about 4 years before the death of Israel’s King Ahab.
For the next 7-8 years, Elisha served as Elijah’s close attendant… until Elijah was taken up into Heaven. During all these years, we hear nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah’s life.
After he had shared this farewell repast with his father, mother, and friends, the newly chosen prophet “went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” He went with his master from Gilgal to Bethel, to Jericho, and on to the eastern side of the Jordan, the waters of which, touched by the mantle, divided, so as to permit both to pass over on dry ground. Elisha then was separated from Elijah by a fiery chariot, and Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind into Heaven.
Before Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind, Elisha asked to “inherit a double-portion” of Elijah’s spirit. Some scholars see this as indicative of the property inheritance customs of the time, where the oldest son received twice as much of the father’s inheritance as each of the younger sons. In this interpretation, Elisha is asking that he may be seen as the “rightful heir” and successor to Elijah.
Few replacements in history have been as effective as Elisha was! He took the place of being chief prophet that Elijah had been… and then did it his own way.
Elijah boldly confronted and exposed idolatry, while Elisha quietly served the poor. The Bible records 18 miracles Elisha did for needy people.
Elisha’s ministry reminds us that God does not call all believers to high-profile, headline-grabbing work. Imagine how easy it would have been for Eilsha to downplay his work simply because it “didn’t measure up” to Elijah’s work… But, Elisha knew that God counts the work/obedience of all people equally and important.
God has created you with specific gifts and abilities in order to serve Him well. Are you comparing your abilities with others’… or are you committing what you have –whatever that is – to God’s service?
* God equips each and every believer uniquely to serve Him.
By means of the mantle let fall from Elijah, Elisha miraculously re-crossed the Jordan, and Elisha returned to Jericho, where he won the gratitude of the people by purifying the unwholesome waters of their spring and making them drinkable.
Before he settled in Samaria, Elisha passed some time on Mt. Carmel. When the armies of Judah, Israel and Edom (then allied against Mesha, the Moabite king) were being tortured by drought in the Idumean desert, Elisha agreed to intervene. His double prediction regarding relief from drought and victory over the Moabites was fulfilled the next morning. When a group of boys (or teenagers) from Bethel taunted the prophet for his baldness, Elisha cursed them in the name of God and 2 female bears came out of the forest and tore up 42 of the boys.
He became noted in Israel, and for 6 decades (892–832 BC) held the office of “prophet in Israel”. He is termed a patriot, as he was involved in helping soldiers and kings.
To relieve the widow importuned by a hard creditor, Elisha so multiplied a little oil as to enable her, not only to pay her debt, but to provide for her family needs. To reward the rich lady of Shunem for her hospitality, he obtained for her from God, at first the birth of a son, and subsequently the resurrection of her child, who had succumbed to heat-stroke.
To nourish the sons of the prophets pressed by famine, Elisha changed into wholesome food the pottage made from poisonous gourds.
Elisha cured the Syrian military commander Naaman of leprosy but punished his own servant, Gehazi, who took money from Naaman. Naaman, at first reluctant, obeyed Elisha, and washed 7 times in the Jordan. Finding his flesh “restored like the flesh of a little child”, the general was so impressed by this evidence of God’s power, and by the disinterestedness of His Prophet, as to express his deep conviction that “there is no other God in all the earth, but only in Israel”. Jesus referred to this event when he said, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27).
Elisha’s public political actions included repeatedly saving King Jehoram of Israel from the ambushes planned by Ben-hadad, ordering the elders to shut the door against the messenger of Israel’s ungrateful king, bewildering with a strange blindness the soldiers of the Syrian king, making iron float to relieve from embarrassment a son of a prophet, confidently predicting the sudden flight of the enemy and the consequent cessation of the famine, and unmasking the treachery of Hazael.
Other miracles Elisha accomplished include multiplying the 20 loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for 100 men; for a disciple of the schools of the prophets, he recovered an axe fallen into the waters of the Jordan. He administered the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel. At the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, Elisha prophesied about the terrible sufferings of the people of Samaria and their eventual relief.
Elisha journeyed to Damascus and prophesied that Hazael would be king over Syria; thereafter he directed one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, in place of Ahab. Mindful of the order given to Elijah, Elisha delegated a son of one of the prophets to quietly anoint Jehu King of Israel, and to commission him to cut off the house of Ahab. The death of Jehoram, pierced by an arrow from Jehu’s bow, the ignominious end of Jezebel, the slaughter of Ahab’s 70 sons, proved how faithfully executed was the Divine command. After predicting to Jehoash his victory over the Syrians at Aphek, as well as 3 other subsequent victories, ever bold before kings, ever kindly towards the lowly, “Elisha died, and they buried him” (2Ki. 3:14-20).
While Elisha lay on his death-bed in his own house, Jehoash, the grandson of Jehu, came to mourn over his approaching departure, and uttered the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away, indicating his value to him: “My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”
The touch of his corpse served to resuscitate a dead man. A year after Elisha’s death and burial, a body was placed in his grave. As soon as the body touched Elisha’s remains, the man “revived, and stood up on his feet”.
Throughout his entire ministry, Elisha was a man who was very aware of God’s presence and power. He never doubted that God was watching over him, and he seemed to call on God’s power as naturally as he carried out any other task.
Could that be said of you?
Can you imagine the difference it would make in your day if it could?
You can read Elisha’s story in 1Kings 19:16—2Kings 13:20.