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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

("God for salvation".) Eliseus in New Testament. Shaphat's son, of Abel Meholah ("meadow of the dance"), in the Jordan valley. See his call: Elijah . He was engaged at field work, 12 yoke before him, i.e. himself with the 12th while the other 11 were in other parts of the field; or, as land was measured by "yokes of oxen," he had plowed land to the extent of nearly 12 yokes, and was finishing the 12th: either view marks his being a man of substance. Hengstenberg regards the twelve as marking him the prophet of the whole covenant nation, not merely of the ten tribes. Whether formally "anointed" with oil or not, he was really anointed with the Spirit, and duly called by his predecessor to the prophetic office by Elijah's crossing over, and hastily throwing upon him the rough mantle, the token of investiture, and then going as quickly as he came. Elisha was one to act at once on God's first call, at all costs.

So bidding farewell to father and mother (contrast  Matthew 8:21-22; "suffer me first to go and (tend my father until his death, and then) bury my father"; and  Luke 9:61-62, where the "bidding farewell" involved in that particular case a division of heart between home relations and Christ,  Luke 14:26;  Matthew 10:37;  Philippians 3:13), and slaying a yoke of oxen and boiling the flesh with the wooden instruments (compare  2 Samuel 24:22), a token of giving up all for the Lord's sake, he ministered to Elijah henceforth as Joshua did to Moses. His ministry is once described, "Elisha who poured water on the hands of Elijah." He was subordinate; so the sons of the prophets represent it: "Jehovah will take away thy master (Elijah) from thy head" ( 2 Kings 2:3). Yet his ministry made an advance upon that of his master.

The mission of Elijah, as his name implied, was to bring Israel to confess that Jehovah alone is God ( 'Εel ); Elisha further taught them, as his name implies, that Jehovah if so confessed would prove the salvation of His people. Hence, Elisha's work is that of quiet beneficence; Elijah's that of judicial sternness upon all rebels against Jehovah. Contrast  1 Kings 18:40 with  2 Kings 5:18-19. Elisha, the healer, fitly comes after Elijah, the destroyer. The latter presents himself with the announcement, "as Jehovah God of Israel liveth ... there shall not be dew nor rain these years": the first miracle of the former is, "thus saith Jehovah, I have healed these waters (by casting in salt, the symbol of grace and incorruption), there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land." The large spring N.W. of the present town of Jericho is the traditional object of the cure (Ain-es-Sultan).

Elijah, like a Bedouin, delighted in the desert, the heights of Carmel, and the caves of Horeb, and avoided cities. Elisha on the contrary frequented the haunts of civilization, Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:18), Samaria ( 2 Kings 2:25), and Dothan ( 2 Kings 6:13), where he had a house with "doors" and "windows"  2 Kings 4:3;  2 Kings 4:9;  2 Kings 4:24;  2 Kings 6:32;  2 Kings 13:17). He wore the ordinary Israelite garment, and instead of being shunned by kings for sternness, he possessed considerable influence with the king and the "captain of the host" ( 2 Kings 4:13).

At times he could be as fiery in indignation against the apostate kings of Israel as was his predecessor ( 2 Kings 3:13-14), but even then he yields himself to the soothing strains of a minstrel for the godly Jehoshaphat's sake, and foretells that the ditches which he directs to be made should be filled with water (the want of which was then being sorely felt), coming by the way of Edom; this took place at the S.E. end of the Dead Sea; the route of the confederates Judah. Israel, and Edom, in order to invade the rebelling Moabite king Mesha from the eastern side, since he was (according to the Moabite stone) carrying all before him in the N.W.

Like Elijah, he conquered the idols on their own ground, performing without fee the cures for which Beelzebub of Ekron was sought in vain. At Bethel, on his way from Jericho to Carmel ( 2 Kings 2:23), where he had been with Elijah ( 2 Kings 2:2), he was met by "young men" ( Narim , not "little children"), idolaters or infidels, who, probably at the prompting of Baal's prophets in that stronghold of his worship sneered at the report of Elijah's ascension: "Go up" like thy master, said they, "thou bald head" ( Qereach , i.e., with hair short at the back of the head, in contrast with Elijah's shaggy locks flowing over his shoulders; Gibeach is the term for bald in front). Keil understands, however, "small boys" to have mocked his natural baldness at the back of his head (not with old age, for he lived until 50 years later,  2 Kings 13:14).

The God-hating spirit which prevailed at calf-worshipping Bethel betrayed itself in these boys, who insulted the prophet of Jehovah knowingly. The profanity of the parents, whose guilt the profane children filled the measure of, was punished in the latter, that the death of the sons might constrain the fathers to fear the Lord since they would not love Him, and to feel the fatal effects recoiling on themselves of instigating their children to blaspheme ( Exodus 20:5). Elisha, not in personal revenge but as Jehovah's minister, by God's inspiration, pronounced their doom. Two Syrian she-bears (corresponding to the Arctic bear of northern Europe) "tare forty-two of them" (compare and contrast  Luke 9:54-55). A widow (Obadiah's widow, according to Josephus), when the creditor threatened to take her sons as bondmen, cried to Elisha for help on the ground of her deceased husband's piety.

Elisha directed her to borrow empty vessels, and from her one remaining pot of oil to fill them all, shutting the door upon herself and her sons who brought her the vessels. Only when there was no vessel left to fill was the miraculous supply of oil stayed. A type of prayer, with "shut doors" ( Matthew 6:6), which brings down supplies of grace so long as we and ours have hearts open to receive it ( Psalms 81:10;  Ephesians 3:20). Only when Abraham ceased to ask did God cease to grant (Genesis 18). On his way from Gilgal (not the one which was near Jericho, but N. of Lydda, now Jiljilieh) to Carmel, Elisha stayed at Shunem in Issachar, now Solam, three miles N. of Jezreel, on the southern slopes of Jebel ed Duhy, the little Hermon. "A great woman" (in every sense: means, largeness of heart, humility, contentment) was his hostess, and with her husband's consent provided for him a little chamber with bed, table, stool, and candlestick, so that he might in passing always "turn in there."

In reward he offered to use his interest for her with the king or the captain of the host; with true magnanimity which seeks not great things for self ( Jeremiah 45:5), she replied, "I dwell among mine own people." At Gehazi's suggestion without her solicitation, Elisha promises from God that she should have what was the greatest joy to an Israelite wife, a son. When he was old enough to go out with his father, a sunstroke in the harvest field caused his death. The mother, inferring from God's extraordinary and unsought gift of the child to her, that it could not be God's design to snatch him from her for ever, and remembering that Elijah had restored the widow's son at Zarephath, mounted her she-ass ( Hathon , esteemed swifter than the he-ass), and having left her son on the bed of the man of God, without telling her husband of the death, rode 15 miles, four hours ride, to Carmel.

There Elisha was wont to see her regularly at his services on the "new moon and sabbath." Seeing her now approaching from a distance, Elisha sent Gehazi to meet her and ask, "Is it well with thee? ... with thy husband? ... with the child?" Her faith, hope, and resignation prompted the reply, "It is well." Gehazi, like Jesus' disciples ( Matthew 15:23;  Matthew 19:13), would have thrust her away when she clasped Elisha's feet (compare  Matthew 28:9;  Luke 7:38), but Elisha with sympathetic insight said, "Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her, and Jehovah hath hid it from me." A word from her was enough to reveal the child's death, which with natural absence of mind amidst her grief she did not explicitly men. lion, "Did I desire a son from my lord?" Elisha sends on Gehazi with his staff; Gehazi is to salute none on the way, 'like Jesus' 70 sent before His face, but lays Elisha's staff on the child's face without effect.

(So the law could not raise the dead in sins ( Romans 8:3;  Galatians 3:21); Jesus Himself must come to do that.) Elisha, entering the room, shuts to the door ( Matthew 6:6), and there stretching himself twice on the child, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, and hands to hands (compare  Acts 20:10; antitypically the dead stoner must come into contact with the living Jesus, 1 John 1), after Elijah's pattern, and praying to Jehovah, proved the omnipotence of prayer to quicken the dead; then he delivered the resuscitated son to the happy mother. In a time of dearth ( 2 Kings 4:38), perhaps the same as that in  2 Kings 8:1-2, one of the sons of the prophets brought in a lap full of gourds or wild cucumbers, off a plant like a wild vine, the only food to be had; the effect in eating was such that one exclaimed, "There is death in the pot." Elisha counteracted the effect by casting in meal.

Next, a man of Baal Shalisha brings firstfruits (paid to the prophets in the absence of the lawful priests:  Numbers 18:8;  Numbers 18:12;  Deuteronomy 18:3-4), namely, 20 small loaves of new barley, and full green ears of grain roasted, esteemed a delicacy ( Leviticus 2:14;  Leviticus 23:14), in his garment (margin) or bag. In reply to his servitor's unbelieving objection," What, should I set this before an hundred men?" Elisha replied, "Give the people ... for thus saith Jehovah, They shall eat, and leave thereof": a forerunner of Christ's miracle of feeding more men with fewer loaves, preceded by like want of faith on the disciples' part ( Luke 9:18-17;  John 6:9-13), and followed by a like leaving of abundance, after the multitude were fed. Naaman's cure follows. His leprosy was of the white kind, the most malignant ( 2 Kings 5:27).

In Syria it did not, as in Israel, exclude from intercourse; and Naaman was "great" in the presence of his master, and honored as "a mighty man in valor," because of being Jehovah's instrument in giving Syria victory. But withal (as all human greatness has some drawback) he was a leper. A "little maid" of Israel, carried captive to Syria in a foray, and brought to wait on Naaman's wife (so marvelously does God's providence overrule evil to good, and make humble and small agents effect great good) was the honored instrument of informing Naaman of the prophet of God. A lesson to us that none should plead ( Matthew 25:24-30) inability to serve God and man in some form or another. Benhadad, with oriental absolutism, wrote as though the Israelite king could at will (compare  Matthew 8:9) command Elisha's services. At the same time he sent much gold, silver, and the rich raiments ( Lebush , robe of ceremony) of Damascus; as though "God's gift may be purchased with money" ( Acts 8:20).

Joram showed no less want of faith, than Benhadad showed want of religious knowledge. Had he believed as did the little maid his former subject, he would have felt that, though he was "not God to, kill and to make alive," yet there was in the midst of the people one by whom God had both killed and made alive ( Deuteronomy 32:39). Elisha rectifies his error, sending a dignified message of reproof to the king, and desiring him to let Naaman come, and he should know "there is a prophet in Israel." Naaman came with horses and chariots, not yet perceiving that true greatness lies not in earthly pomp and, wealth ( 2 Kings 5:1;  2 Kings 5:9;  2 Kings 5:11). Elisha, to teach him humility as the first step to any favor from God, sent a messenger, instead of coming in person to the door: "Go, wash in Jordan seven times." But, like men offended at the simplicity of the gospel message of salvation, Naaman having expected a more ceremonial mode of cure, and despising Jordan in comparison with the magnificent waters of his own Damascus, went off in a rage.

His slaves, however, suggested the reasonableness of obeying so easy a command, since had it been a "great" one he would have complied. The mode of cure was wisely designed to teach him to unlearn his false ideas of greatness. He dipped seven times as he was told, "and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child"; typifying the spiritual new birth through washing in the "fountain opened for uncleanness" ( Job 33:25;  Zechariah 13:1;  John 3:5). Elisha by refusing his presents shows that the minister of God is not influenced by filthy lucre ( 1 Timothy 3:3), as Naaman's master had supposed ( 2 Kings 5:5, compare  Genesis 14:28). Naaman desires to take away two mules burden of earth, wherewith to make an altar to Jehovah of the holy land, a sensible memorial to remind him perpetually in his pagan country of Jehovah' s past favor bestowed on him in Israel (compare  Joshua 4:20-21, and the mediaeval campo santos).

He further asked God's pardon if, when in attendance on the Syrian king, he bowed in Rimmon's temple as a mark of respect to his master's religious feeling, not to the idol. Elisha, without sanctioning this compromise, but tacitly leaving his religious convictions to expand gradually, and in due time to east off the remains of idolatry still cleaving to him, bade him farewell with the customary "Go in peace." So the Lord Jesus "spoke the word as they were able to hear it" ( Mark 4:33, compare  Mark 8:23-25;  John 16:12). Nothing is precipitately forced; principles planted in germ are left to their own silent development in due course. Gehazi's covetousness stands in sad contrast to Elisha's disinterestedness. The man of God's servant is as faithless as the pagan Naaman's servants were faithful; the highly privileged often fall far below the practice of those with scarcely any spiritual privileges whatever.

He even makes it a merit not to "spare" a pagan, "this Syrian," and dares to invoke God: "my master hath spared this Syrian ... but, as Jehovah liveth, I will take somewhat of him." By lying he gains two talents and two changes of raiment from Naaman; but lying is of no avail before Elisha: "went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? is it a time to receive money?" etc.; compare  1 Peter 4:3. If Gehazi must have Naaman's money he shall have also Naaman's leprosy, and that for ever. In this miracle too Elisha foreran the Lord Jesus, the cure of leprosy being exclusively God's work. This must have been at least seven years after raising the Shunammite's son ( 2 Kings 8:1-4). During Elisha's residence at Jericho, the numbers of the sons of the prophets increasing, the place became "too strait" for them. So they removed to the Jordan, and there felled the trees densely growing on its banks.

The iron axe-head, a borrowed one, fell into the water. By a stick cast in, Elisha raised the iron to swim. God teaches His children to trust Him in small as in greater difficulties. He who numbers our very hairs regards nothing as too small to be brought under His notice; "God can as easily make our hard, heavy hearts, sunk down in the world's mud, to float upon life's stream and see heaven again" (Trapp). Benhadad, while Elisha resided at Dothan, half-way between Samaria and Jezreel, tried to surprise Israel from different points, but was foiled by Elisha warning the Israelite king, "beware that thou pass not such a place." Benhadad suspecting treachery was informed (probably by one who had witnessed Elisha's cure of Naaman)," the prophet in Israel telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber" ( 2 Kings 6:12); compare Christ's ministers,  Luke 12:3.

The Syrian king therefore sent horses and chariots to compass Dothan by night. Elisha's ministering servant (not Gehazi) rising early was terrified at the sight; "alas, my master! how shall we do?" Elisha replies, "they that be with us are more than they with him" ( 2 Chronicles 32:7;  Psalms 55:18;  Romans 8:31), and prays, "Lord, open his eyes"; then he saw "the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" ( Psalms 34:7;  Zechariah 9:8.) Thus the same heavenly retinue attended Elisha as his master ( 2 Kings 2:11). At Elisha's prayer the investing host was smitten with blindness (mental, Keil,  Genesis 19:11), and Elisha went out to meet them as they came down from their encampment on the hill E. of Dothan, and led them into Samaria.

There Jehovah opened their eyes; and when the king of Israel would have smitten them, Elisha on the contrary caused him to "prepare great provision for them, and send them away." Compare  Romans 12:2.). Untaught by this lesson, Benhadad, in disregard of gratitude and prudence, tried, instead of the previous marauding forays, a regular siege of Samaria. Israel was reduced to the last extremities of famine, unparalleled until the Roman siege of Jerusalem, a woman eating her own son, fulfilling the curse ( Leviticus 26:29;  Deuteronomy 28:53-57).

Joram, in language identical with his mother Jezebel's threat against Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:2;  2 Kings 6:31), makes Elisha the scape-goat of the national calamity, as though his late act in leading the blinded Syrians to Samaria and glorifying Jehovah above Baal were the cause, or suspecting it was by Elisha's word of prayer, as it was by Elijah's formerly (1 Kings 17), that the famine came (See Jehoram ); "God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha shall stand on him this day." Seeing the executioner's approach Elisha said to the elders sitting with him to receive consolation and counsel, "this son of a murderer (i.e. of Ahab and Jezebel,  1 Kings 18:4;  1 Kings 18:21) hath sent to take away my head"; "hold the messenger fast at the door," "his master's feet (are) behind him," namely, hastening to revoke his hasty order for Elisha's execution.

"Behold," said the king, "this evil is of Jehovah; what, should I wait for Jehovah any longer?" (as thou exhortest me,  Psalms 27:14.) Compare  Malachi 3:14;  Proverbs 19:3. Elisha replies that as "this evil (the famine) is of Jehovah," so the suddenness of its removal by the morrow at "the word of Jehovah" would prove it not to be futile, as Joram said, to "wait for Jehovah." The Lord will not allow Joram's perversity to stop the current of divine mercy. A lord on whose hand the king leaned answered that this could only be "if Jehovah would make windows in heaven." His sentence was according to his unbelief; "thou shalt see it ... but shalt not eat thereof." Tantalus like, his seeing should only aggravate the bitterness of his exclusion from the blessing. A panic at a fancied sound of Hittite and Egyptian foes, by God's appointment, caused the Syrians to leave theft' camp and all its contents, and flee for their life.

Four lepers discovered the fact, and at first hid their spoil ( Matthew 13:44;  Matthew 25:25); afterward fearing mischief from selfishness ( Proverbs 11:24), they held their peace no longer, but, feeling it a day of good tidings, told it to the king's household. Compare spiritually as to the gospel  Isaiah 52:7;  Isaiah 62:6-7;  Matthew 28:19;  Romans 13:12. The thronging crowd trode down the unbelieving lord who had charge of the gate. By Elisha's advice the Shunammite woman had gone to sojourn in the grain-growing seacoast plain of the Philistines during the seven years famine already alluded to ( 2 Kings 4:38).

In her absence her house and field had been appropriated, and she on her return appealed with loud cry to the king. He at the very time, by God's providence, had been inquiring from Gehazi (long before his leprosy, 2 Kings 5; 2 Kings 8, a proof that the incidents of Elisha's life are not recorded in chronological sequence, but in their spiritual connection) concerning Elisha's miracles, and was hearing of her son's resuscitation when she herself appeared. Her land, and all she had lost, were restored. Elisha, when Joram and Israel failed to be reformed by God's mercies, proceeded to Damascus to execute Elijah's commission ( 1 Kings 19:15-16). Benhadad respectfully inquired by Hazael, who brought a kingly present, 40 camels laden with every good thing of Damascus, "thy son (regarding Elisha as a father and lord) saith, Shall I recover of this disease?" "Then mayest certainly (i.e. in the natural course): howbeit Jehovah showed me he shall surely die."

Elisha, intensely gazing at Hazael's countenance, discerned his unscrupulous cruelty, and wept at the thought of the evil he would do to Israel. Hazael in the common view repudiated the possibility of being capable of such atrocities, "is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?" But the Hebrew requires "what" to be the predicate, and "the dog" connected with "thy servant" the subject. "What is thy servant (the dog as he is) that he should do this great thing?" Not the atrocity, but the greatness of it, is what startles him as something beyond his ability to accomplish, "dog (i.e. low, not cruel) as he is." "Dog" is the eastern phrase for meanness, not cruelty. Hazael, in the common view, murdered Benhadad with a wet cloth, whether "the bath mattress" (Ewald) or the thick woolen quilt or mosquito net. Others, from "Hazael" being named at the end of  2 Kings 8:15 as if distinct from the previous "he," think Benhadad placed it wet on himself to cool the fever, and died of the sudden chill.

Elisha next proceeded to Ramoth Gilead in the hills east of Jordan, which Hazael had tried to occupy ( 2 Kings 8:28). Joram was wounded, but the fortress still resisted Syria. There Elisha anointed Jehu, by the hand of one of the children of the prophets, to take vengeance on Ahab's guilty seed, having been witness of that monarch's wicked seizure of Naboth's vineyard and of Elijah's awful sentence on him ( 2 Kings 9:26). Elisha's last recorded act was when Jehu's grandson, Joash, wept over his deathbed in the words which Elisha had used of the departing Elijah: "my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof," i.e., in losing thee Israel loses its main defense. Elisha, putting his hands on the king's (for God's hand must strengthen ours if we are to prosper,  Genesis 49:24), bade Joash shoot toward the hostile land, saying, "the arrow of Jehovah's deliverance ... thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek."

Joash's half heartedness deprived him of complete triumph; for when told to smite the ground, he smote but thrice, instead of five or six times. Spiritually, if we fainted not in shooting the arrow of prayer ( Psalms 5:3), we should smite down our spiritual foes more completely ( Isaiah 43:22). Even when dead and buried, Elisha's body was made by God the means of revivifying a dead body cast hastily sideways into his sepulchral cell, upon a sudden inroad of the Moabite bands; a type of the vivifying power of Christ's dead body ( Isaiah 26:19). Other antitypical resemblances are

(1) Christ's solemn inauguration at the Jordan.

(2) His dividing death's flood for us:  Isaiah 51:15.

(3) By his "covenant of salt" healing the "naught water" and "barren ground" of the condemning law and of afflictive chastisements:  Isaiah 35:1;  Isaiah 35:6.

(4) His making the barren church mother of spiritual children:  Isaiah 55:1.

(5) Multiplying the oil of grace:  Isaiah 61:3.

(6) Reviving the spiritually and the naturally dead:  John 5:25-29.

(7) Curing those bodily and those spiritually lepers.

(8) Feeding multitudes with bread for the body, and the bread of life for the soul.

(9) Being the church's "chariots and horsemen," "always causing us to triumph":  2 Corinthians 2:14.

(10) Setting the captives free:  Isaiah 61:1.

(11) Inflicting judgments on mockers.  Acts 13:41; and on lucre-loving Gehazi-like ministers, as Judas; giving up to judicial blindness the willfully blind,  John 9:39-41; and to seeing without tasting bliss those who disbelieve the gospel promise of the heavenly feast; so the rich man in hell saw Lazarus afar off in Abraham's bosom, an impassable gulf excluding himself ( Luke 16:23-26). The gentle features of his character attracted the poor and the simple to him in their troubles, whereas sternness characterized Elijah. In Herod and Herodias Ahab and Jezebel are reproduced, as in John the Baptist Elijah is reproduced; as Elijah, the representative of the law, foreruns the gentler Elisha, so John the greatest prophet of the law foreruns Jesus the gracious Savior.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

ELISHA . Elisha was a native of Abel-meholah, which was situated in the Jordan valley 10 Roman miles from Scythopolis, probably on the site of the modern ‘Ain Helweh . His father was a well-to-do farmer, and so Elisha is a representative of the newer form of Hebrew society. On his return from Horeb, Elijah cast his mantle upon the youth, as he was directing his father’s servants at their ploughing. The young man at once recognized the call from God, and, after a hastily-devised farewell feast, he left the parental abode (  1 Kings 19:16;   1 Kings 19:19 ), and ever after he was known as the man ‘who poured water on the hands of Elijah’ (  2 Kings 3:11 ). His devotion to, and his admiration for, his great master are apparent in the closing scenes of the latter’s life. A double portion of Elijah’s spirit (cf. the right of the firstborn to a double portion of the patrimony) is the summum bonum which he craved. In order to receive this boon he must be a witness of the translation of the mighty hero of Jehovah; and as Elijah is whirled away in the chariot of fire, his mantle falls upon his disciple, who immediately makes use of it in parting the waters of the Jordan. After Elisha has recrossed the river, he is greeted by the sons of the prophets as their leader (  2 Kings 2:15 ).

After this event it is impossible to reduce the incidents of Elisha’s life to any chronological sequence. His ministry covered half a century (b.c. 855 798), and during this period four monarchs, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash, sat on the throne of Israel ( 2 Kings 3:1 ff; cf.   2 Kings 13:14 ff.). The story of Elisha was borrowed by the author of the Book of Kings from some prophetic work of the Northern Kingdom; and, without any regard for sequence in time, he has arranged his material according to subject-matter. In our canonical Book of Kings, the larger part of Elisha’s activities is placed within the reign of Jehoram (  2 Kings 3:1 ff; cf.   2 Kings 9:1 ff.). He may have reached the zenith of his career in these twelve years, but all the recorded events of his life cannot be crowded into this short period.

His name, Elisha (= ‘God is salvation’), like that of his master, tersely describes his character and expresses his mission. Elijah’s was a flint-like nature, which crushed its opponents and won its victories by hard blows. Elisha is a gentler and more gracious man, and gains his ends by diplomacy. He loves the haunts of men, and resides in cities like Dothan and Samaria. His miracles are deeds of mercy, and, like that of the Prophet of Nazareth, his ministry breathes a spirit ‘of gracious, soothing, holy beneficence.’ We find him at the headquarters of the sons of the prophets, making his benign presence felt. He sweetens a spring of brackish water at Jericho (  2 Kings 2:19 ff.) at a time of drought; he renders a poisonous mess of pottage harmless for the members of the prophetic guild (  2 Kings 4:38 ff.); he multiplies the oil for the prophet’s widow, who finds herself in dire extremity (  2 Kings 4:1 ff). At the prophet’s command, as at the bidding of a greater than Elisha, the loaves are multiplied (  2 Kings 4:42 ). His sympathy goes out in a practical way for the man who has lost his axe (  2 Kings 6:1 ff.). One of the most beautiful stories in the whole range of Scripture is that of the entertainment of Elisha in the home of the Shunammite. Her hospitality and the practical manifestation of gratitude on the part of the prophet form a charming picture. In the restoration of her son to life, Elisha performs one of his greatest miracles (  2 Kings 4:8 ff.,   2 Kings 8:1 ff.). In his treatment of the Syrian troops which had been despatched to capture him, he anticipated the spirit of the Saviour (  2 Kings 6:14 ff.). The familiar incident of the healing of the leprosy of Naaman not only gives an idea of the influence and power of the man of God, but the story is suggestive of the pro-foundest spiritual truths (  2 Kings 5:6-17 ).

The contrast between the spirit of master and disciple may be over-emphasized. Elisha could be as stern as Elijah: at Bethel he treats the mocking youth in the spirit of Sinai ( 2 Kings 2:23 ), and no touch of pity can be detected in the sentence that falls on Gehazi (  2 Kings 5:27 ). The estimate of Sirach ( Sir 48:12 ) is according to all the facts of the OT narrative:

‘Elijah it was who was wrapped in a tempest:

And Elisha was filled with his spirit:

And in all his days he was not moved by the fear of any ruler,

And no one brought him into subjection.’

This severer side of the prophet’s character appears in his public rather than in his private life. In the Moabitish campaign, the allied kings seek his counsel. His address to Jehoram of Israel. ‘What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father and the prophets of thy mother,’ indicates that Elisha had not forgotten the past and the conflicts of his master ( 2 Kings 3:13 ff.). Later, the relations between the reigning monarch and the prophet seem more cordial, for the man of God reveals the plans of the Syrians to Israel’s king (  2 Kings 6:8 ff.). This change of attitude on the part of the prophet may be due to the fact that Jehoram attempted to do away with Baal worship (  2 Kings 3:2 ); but Elisha has not forgotten the doom pronounced upon the house of Ahab by Elijah. While Jehu is commanding the forces besieging Ramoth-gilead, Elisha sends one of the sons of the prophets to anoint the general as king, and thus he executes the commission which Elijah received from Jehovah at Horeb (  1 Kings 19:16 ).

Elisha’s relations with the Syrians are exceedingly interesting. On one occasion he appears to be as much at home in Damascus as in Samaria. Ben-hadad, suffering from a severe ailment, hears of his presence in his capital, and sends Hazael to the man of God to inquire concerning the issue. The prophet reads the heart of the messenger, and predicts both the king’s recovery and his assassination by Hazael ( 2 Kings 8:7 ff.). Nothing is said of a formal anointing, but in this connexion Elisha seems to have carried out the commission of Elijah (  1 Kings 19:17 ). The blockade of Samaria (  2 Kings 6:24 to   2 Kings 7:20 ) probably falls in the reign of Jehoahaz. That the prophet is held by king and statesmen responsible for the straits to which the city has been reduced, is an eloquent tribute to his political influence. In this connexion Elisha’s prediction of deliverance is speedily fulfilled. Under Joash, Israel was hard pressed, and her might had dwindled to insignificance (  2 Kings 13:7 ), but Elisha was still the saviour of his country. Joash weeps over him as he lies on his deathbed: ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof.’ Directing the monarch to perform a symbolical act, the prophet gives him assurance of victory (  2 Kings 13:15 ff.). Even after his burial his bones had the power to perform a beneficent miracle (  2 Kings 13:20-21 ).

An incident in the life of Elisha throws light on the prophetic state. Before declaring the final result of the campaign to the three kings, he asks for a minstrel. The music induces the ecstatic state, and then he prophesies ( 2 Kings 3:15 ). The supernatural abounds in his life; in many instances he manifests the power of prediction (  2 Kings 4:16 , 2Ki 5:26 ,   2 Kings 6:8 ff.,   2 Kings 7:1 ff., 2Ki 8:10;   2 Kings 8:12 ff.,   2 Kings 9:6 f.,   2 Kings 13:15 ff.). But some of his deeds are not miracles in the modern sense (  2 Kings 2:19 ff.,   2 Kings 4:38 ff.,   2 Kings 6:6 ff.).

James A. Kelso.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

Son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah. Elijah was instructed by God to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his stead. Elijah cast his mantle over him, but we do not read of the anointing: doubtless it was realised in receiving a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Elisha was not prepared then to take up Elijah's mantle, but first he made a feast for his people, and then he followed Elijah and ministered unto him. When God was about to take Elijah to Himself, it became known to the sons of the prophets, and they told Elisha, but he knew it already; and when Elijah suggested to him to remain behind he refused and followed him from place to place, until he had traversed Jordan (figuratively death) with Elijah. Being thus proved to be knit together in spirit, Elijah asked Elisha what he should do for him before he was taken. Elisha said, "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." Elijah replied that, though he had asked a hard thing, it should be so if he saw him when he was taken up. A chariot and horses of fire separated them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven; and Elisha saw it. Elisha took up the mantle that fell from Elijah, which before he had failed to do, and went to the Jordan and smote it with the mantle, and the waters divided, and he passed over into the land, with the spirit of the ascended Elijah resting on him.

Elisha's first miracle was healing the waters at Jericho, the cursed city, by means of salt in a new cruse: type of the purifying power of grace. His mission was grace as from an ascended one; the waters were permanently healed, and the ground was no longer barren. But as he went to Bethel some boys out of the city mocked him, saying, "Go up, thou bald head." He cursed them in the name of the Lord, and two she bears tore forty-two of them. God vindicated the authority of His servant. Elisha had come as it were from heaven, into which Elijah had entered, and he came in grace, and if this was despised, judgement must follow, as it will be with Israel by-and-by. Elisha went to Carmel, where the priests of Baal had been destroyed, and thence to Samaria, the seat of the apostasy, and where his testimony was most needed. Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Jehoram king of Israel, and the king of Edom, to attack Moab; but they had no water. Elisha was sought for, and he boldly told Jehoram to go to the gods of his father and mother: if Jehoshaphat had not been there he would not have helped them, nevertheless there was grace for them. Ditches, or pits were made, and in the morning the valley was full of water; victory over Moab followed.   2 Kings 2,3 .

A widow ofone of the prophets appealed to Elishato save her two sonsfrom the grasp of a creditor. She had nothing but a pot of oil. She was told to borrow vessels 'not a few,' and fill them with oil. On her doing this the oil was increased until there was not a vessel more to fill. Thus according to her faith in borrowing was her supply from God. The creditor was paid, and she and her sons lived on the remainder, showing how God far exceeded her request.

A great woman at Shunem bestowed hospitality on Elisha, and provided a chamber for his use whenever he passed that way. For this she was rewarded with a son; but when grown old enough to go into the fields he died. The woman laid him on Elisha's bed, and hastened to inform him of what had happened, but piously added 'It is well.' Elisha returned with the woman, and the child was raised to life and restored to his mother. Thus was manifested the power of God over death and a broken heart was bound up.

Two more miracles followed. In gathering herbs for a meal because of the dearth, a poisonous weed was included and there was 'death in the pot.' Elisha cast in some meal, and the pottage was cured. The other miracle was the increase of the bread so that a hundred men were supplied from twenty loaves, or cakes, and there was some left: similar to the Lord feeding the multitudes when He was on earth.  2 Kings 4 .

The next miracle was healing Naaman the Syrian of leprosy. This was grace extending beyond the land, even to their enemies. Naaman had to be humbled as well as blessed, and to learn that there was "no God in all the earth but in Israel," as he himself confessed. Gehazi, Elisha's servant, was, alas, tempted with a lie in his mouth to take of the Syrian some of the presents which he had brought for Elisha, but which had been refused. This was revealed to Elisha, and the leprosy of Naaman cleaved to Gehazi and to his seed. The one nearest to the means of blessing, if he turns from it, suffers most. Elisha next made the iron head of the axe to swim, thus reversing the laws of nature: the axe was borrowed, and the trust must not be violated. 2Kings 5, 2 Kings 6:1-7 .

The Syrians had now to learn a lesson of the power of the God of Israel, but still in grace. They laid traps for the king of Israel, but Elisha warned him again and again of the danger, and he escaped. On this being made known to the king of Syria he sent an army to seize Elisha. He was at Dothan, and they compassed the city. Elisha prayed that his servant's eyes might be opened to see that they were surrounded with horses and chariots of fire which were otherwise invisible: cf.  Hebrews 1:13,14 . The army was then smitten with blindness, led to Samaria, fed with bread and water, and dismissed to their master with the wonderful tale. It was no use laying plots against people whose God protected them like this. "The bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel;" that is, the marauding bands that laid plots to seize the king; for immediately we read that Ben-hadad king of Syria came with a great army and besieged Samaria. The famine became so severe that a woman's child was boiled and eaten. The king was greatly moved at this and threatened to take the life of Elisha, apparently linking the famine with God's servant. This was revealed to Elisha as he sat in the house. The king followed the messenger and he said, "This evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?" Elisha had a message of deliverance: by the next day a measure of fine flour should be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for the same. An unbelieving lord scoffed at this; but he saw it, though he did not eat of it, for he was trampled to death in the crowd. Thus judgement followed unbelief in the gracious provision of God.   2 Kings 6:8 -   2 Kings 7 .

Elisha prophesied that there wouldbe a seven years' famine, and he told the Shunammite woman to sojourn where she could during the time. She dwelt among the Philistines seven years, and on her return she cried to the king for the restoration of her house and land. God so ordered it that just at that time Gehazi was relating to the king the great things that Elisha had done. He recognised the woman as the one whose son Elisha had raised, and the king ordered the restoration of her property.

The prophet went to Damascus, and Ben-hadad, being sick, sent Hazael to inquire if he should recover. The answer was that he might certainly recover, yet he should die: an apparent enigma; but it was fully explained by Hazael causing his death when he would otherwise have recovered. Elisha prophesied that Hazael would be king over Syria, and he wept as he told the dreadful things he would do to Israel. Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel: he was to execute God's judgement on the house of Ahab and on Jezebel, which had been prophesied by Elijah.  1 Kings 21:23,24 . What had been foretold Jehu fulfilled. 2Kings 8, 2 Kings 9 .

The time now approached for Elisha's death. He was sick and Joash king of Israel went to visit him. Elisha prophesied that Joash should smite the Syrians till they were consumed, but he was angry with the king's want of energy and said he should smite them but three times. Elisha's work was now done and he died and was buried. When a corpse was let down into the same tomb, as soon as it touched the bones of Elisha life was restored. Type that though Israel is now dead towards God (cf.  Daniel 12:2 ), when they are brought into connection with God's true Prophet they will be restored to life as unexpectedly and as powerfully. As we have seen, Elisha's mission was grace, and his history to the end is stamped with the power of life.  2 Kings 13:14-21 . He is called ELISEUS in  Luke 4:27 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

At the time of the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, Israel’s ancient religion was threatened by the Baalism that Jezebel had brought with her from Phoenicia. Through her husband, King Ahab of Israel, Jezebel had tried to establish Phoenician Baalism as the official religion of Israel ( 1 Kings 16:30-33). The man who began the long and difficult job of removing this Baalism from Israel was the prophet Elijah (see Elijah ). By God’s direction Elijah passed on the unfinished task to Elisha ( 1 Kings 19:16;  1 Kings 19:19), whose ministry lasted through the reigns of six Israelite kings. The extent of his ministry was about fifty years. The period was the latter half of the ninth century BC.

Successor to Elijah

From the beginning Elisha showed a willingness to succeed Elijah, in spite of the obvious difficulties ahead. Originally a farmer, he gave up his former way of life for the unpopular task of being God’s messenger to the hardened and idolatrous people of Israel ( 1 Kings 19:19-21). Like Elijah, Elisha would have to move around the country, strengthening the believers and opposing the idolaters. Elijah tested him to see if he would try to avoid some of the difficulties by remaining at one of the schools for young prophets. But Elisha was determined to carry on Elijah’s work. He was Elijah’s spiritual heir, and he remained with Elijah to the end to receive the spiritual inheritance ( 2 Kings 2:1-12).

A miracle at the Jordan River quickly proved that God’s power had now passed from Elijah to Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:13-14). Many more miracles would follow, showing what a serious threat Jezebel’s Baalism was to Israel’s national life.

Elisha’s ministry was to be twofold. It was to be concerned on the one hand with preserving the faithful minority in Israel (the remnant), and on the other with preparing judgment for the unfaithful nation ( 1 Kings 19:15-18). His first two miracles symbolized these characteristics of blessing and cursing. To those who were in need he brought healing, but to those who rejected his message he brought judgment ( 2 Kings 2:19-25).

A combined Israelite-Judean attack on Moab gave Elisha the opportunity to demonstrate to the two kings his opposition to Baal. He refused to help the Baal-worshipping Israelite king, though he passed on advice to the godly Judean king ( 2 Kings 3:9-15).

Caring for the faithful minority

Faithful believers were rare in Israel, and Elisha had to help preserve them, lest the true worship of Yahweh vanish from the nation. He helped the poor widow of one of the godly prophets by giving her a miraculous supply of oil that saved her entire family ( 2 Kings 4:1-7). He also secured the future for a wealthy believer by giving her a son. When, years later, the son died, Elisha brought him back to life ( 2 Kings 4:8-37).

Many of the faithful were to be found in the schools where young men trained to be prophets. Like Elijah before him, Elisha moved around these schools, with the aim of strengthening those who could later help rebuild the religious life of the nation ( 2 Kings 2:1-7;  2 Kings 2:15;  2 Kings 4:38;  2 Kings 6:1).

These communities were very poor. They had difficulty getting enough food to eat each day, and they lacked even the basic tools to rebuild their inadequate housing. In one place Elisha worked a miracle to save the day’s food from being lost, and in another he miraculously recovered a borrowed tool that had fallen into the river ( 2 Kings 4:38-41;  2 Kings 6:1-7). On one occasion he miraculously multiplied a gift of food to feed a large group of his followers ( 2 Kings 4:42-44).

By the healing of Naaman, Elisha showed God’s power to the commander of the army (Syria) that God was going to use to punish Israel ( 2 Kings 5:1-14; cf.  1 Kings 19:15-17). Naaman’s knowledge of the one true God was still imperfect, but at least he had a more sincere faith in Yahweh than did many Israelites ( 2 Kings 5:15-19).

Preparing Israel for judgment

God’s intention to use Syria to punish his people did not mean that Elisha had to desert Israel and join the Syrians. In fact, the Syrians saw him as an enemy and tried to capture him. Instead Elisha captured the Syrian soldiers and led them to the Israelite capital, Samaria. When the Israelite king wanted to kill them, Elisha directed him to feed them. The incident brought a temporary peace, and should have taught both nations that God controlled their destinies ( 2 Kings 6:8-23).

Neither king learnt much from the incident. The Syrian king attacked Jerusalem afresh, and the Israelite king blamed Elisha for the suffering that resulted ( 2 Kings 6:24-31). Elisha assured Israel’s king that the siege would be broken and there would be plenty of food the next day. But when Elisha’s prediction proved to be true, the king was slow to believe ( 2 Kings 7:1-15).

Syria’s partly successful attacks on Israel were only the beginning. The attacks would become increasingly successful and violent. When Hazael of Syria murdered his king and seized the throne, a new era of terror began. Elisha wept when he saw the trouble that Hazael’s cruelty would bring upon Israel ( 2 Kings 8:7-15; cf.  1 Kings 19:15). With Hazael now king of Syria, the time had arrived for Elisha to carry out his last major responsibility, the anointing of Jehu to be king of Israel. Jehu’s job was to remove Jezebel’s Baalism from Israel’s leadership by destroying Ahab, Jezebel and all their Baal-worshipping family ( 2 Kings 9:1-10; cf.  1 Kings 19:16-17; see Jehu ).

Elisha lived to see the divine judgment carried out, first on Ahab’s family and then on Israel as a whole. After that, he saw the beginnings of Israel’s recovery, and might have seen Israel overthrow Syrian power completely had not the Israelite king been lacking in faith ( 2 Kings 13:14-19). Even after Elisha’s death, dramatic events at his burial place showed that the God he served was still alive and powerful ( 2 Kings 13:20-21).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

the son of Shaphat, Elijah's disciple and successor in the prophetic office, was of the city of Abelmeholah,  1 Kings 19:16 , &c. Elijah having received God's command to anoint Elisha as a prophet, came to Abelmeholah; and finding him ploughing with oxen, he threw his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha, who left the oxen, and accompanied him. Under the article Elijah, it has been observed that Elisha was following his master, when he was taken up to heaven; and that he inherited Elijah's mantle, with a double portion of his spirit. Elisha smote the waters of Jordan, and divided them; and he rendered wholesome the waters of a rivulet near Jericho. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom, having taken the field against the king of Moab, who had revolted from Israel, were in danger of perishing for want of water. Elisha was at that time in the camp; and seeing Jehoram, the king of Israel, he said, "What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. As the Lord liveth, were it not out of respect to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, who is here present, I would not so much as look on thee. But now send for a minstrel; and while this man played, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Elisha, and he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make several ditches along this valley; for ye shall see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley shall be filled with water, and you and your cattle shall drink of it." The widow of one of the prophets having told Elisha, that her husband's creditor was determined to take her two sons and sell them for slaves, Elisha multiplied the oil in the widow's house, in such quantity that she was enabled to sell it and to discharge the debt. Elisha went frequently to Shunem, a city of Manasseh, on this side Jordan, and was entertained by a certain matron at her house. As she had no children, Elisha promised her a son; and his prediction was accomplished. Some years after, the child died. Elisha, who was then at Mount Carmel, was solicited by the mother to come to her house. The prophet went, and restored the child. At Gilgal, during a great famine, one of the sons of the prophets gathered wild gourds, which he put into the pot, and they were served up to Elisha and the other prophets. It was soon found that they were mortal poison; but Elisha ordering meal to be thrown into the pot, corrected the quality of the pottage. Naaman, general of the king of Syria's forces, having a leprosy, was advised to visit Elisha in order to be cured. Elisha appointed him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan; and by this means Naaman was perfectly healed. He returned to Elisha, and offered him large presents, which the man of God resolutely refused. But Gehazi, Elisha's servant, did not imitate the disinterestedness of his master. He ran after Naaman, and in Elisha's name begged a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. Naaman gave him two talents. Elisha, to whom God had discovered Gehazi's action, reproached him with it, and declared, that the leprosy of Naaman should cleave to him and his family for ever. This is a striking instance of the disinterestedness of the Jewish prophets. Elisha, like his master Elijah, had learned to contemn the world. The king of Syria being at war with the king of Israel, could not imagine how all his designs were discovered by the enemy. He was told, that Elisha revealed them to the king of Israel. He therefore sent troops to seize the prophet at Dothan; but Elisha struck them with blindness, and led them in that condition into Samaria. When they were in the city, he prayed to God to open their eyes; and after he had made them eat and drink, he sent them back unhurt to their master. Some time after, Benhadad, king of Syria, having besieged Samaria, the famine became so extreme, that a certain woman ate her own child. Jehoram, king of Israel, imputing to Elisha these calamities, sent a messenger to cut off his head. Elisha, who was informed of this design against his life, ordered the door to be shut. The messenger was scarcely arrived, when the king himself followed, and made great complaints of the condition to which the town was reduced. Elisha answered, "To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." Upon this, one of the king's officers said, "Were the Lord to open windows in heaven, might this thing be." This unbelief was punished; for the prophet answered, "Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof," which happened according to Elisha's prediction, for he was trodden to death by the crowd in the gate. At the end of the seven years' famine, which the prophet had foretold, he went to Damascus, to execute the command which God had given to Elijah many years before, of declaring Hazael king of Syria. Benhadad being at that time indisposed, and hearing that Elisha was come into his territories, sent Hazael, one of his principal officers, to the prophet to consult him, and inquire of him whether it were possible for him to recover. The prophet told Hazael, that he might recover, but that he was very well assured that he should not; and then looking steadfastly upon him, he broke out into tears upon the prospect, as he told him, of the many barbarous calamities which he would bring upon Israel, when once he was advanced to power, as he would soon be, because he was assured by divine revelation that he was to be king of Syria. Hazael, though offended at the time at being thought capable of such atrocities, did but too clearly verify these predictions; for at his return, having murdered Benhadad, and procured himself to be declared king, he inflicted the greatest miseries upon the Israelites.

2. Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, and grandson of Nimshi, to be king, in pursuance of an order given to Elijah some years before; and Jehu having received the royal unction, executed every thing that had been foretold by Elijah against Ahab's family, and against Jezebel. Elisha falling sick, Joash, king of Israel, came to visit him, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." Elisha desired the king to bring him a bow and arrows. Joash having brought them, Elisha requested him to put his hands on the bow, and at the same time the prophet put his own hand upon the king's, and said, Open the window which looks east, and let fly an arrow.

The king having done this, Elisha said, This is the arrow of the Lord's deliverance: thou shalt be successful against Syria at Aphek. Elisha desired him again to shoot, which he did three times, and then stopped. But Elisha with vehemence said, "If thou hadst smitten five or six times, then thou hadst smitten Syria until thou hadst consumed it; whereas now thou shalt smite Syria only thrice." This is the last prediction of Elisha of which we read in Scripture, for soon after he died; but it was not his last miracle: for, some time after his interment, a company of Israelites, as they were going to bury a dead person, perceiving a band of Moabites making toward them, put the corpse for haste into Elisha's tomb, and, as soon as it had touched the prophet's body, it immediately revived; so that the man stood upon his feet: a striking emblem of the life-giving effect of the labours of the servants of God, after they themselves are gathered to their fathers.

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 1 Kings 19:16

His Name and Call Experience Elisha was plowing one day when “Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.” ( 1 Kings 19:19 ). This action symbolically manifested God's plan to bestow the prophetic powers of Elijah upon Elisha. The chosen one understood the call of God for, “he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah” ( 1 Kings 19:20 ). That Elisha felt the call of prophetic succession is again clear following Elijah's dramatic ascent into heaven. There Elisha “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” ( 2 Kings 2:13 ).

The beginning of Elisha's ministry should be dated to the last years of King Ahab's rule ( 1 Kings 19:1 ) or approximately 850 B.C. The prophet then served faithfully during the reigns of Ahaziah (about 853 B.C.), Jehoram or Joram (852 B.C.), Jehu (c. 841 B.C.), Jehoahaz (c. 814 B.C.), and Jehoash or Joash (798 B.C.).  2 Kings 1-13 preserves the details of Elisha's ministry which ranged from about 850-800 B.C.

His Miracles After Elijah insisted to his chosen successor that he, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you,” Elisha answered, “Let me inherit a double portion of spirit” ( 2 Kings 2:9 NIV). Taking up the mantle of the departed prophet, he parted the Jordan River. Following this miracle the prophetic order or “sons of the prophets” declared, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha” (  2 Kings 2:15 ).

Soon thereafter, Elisha made bad water wholesome ( 2 Kings 2:19-22 ). His reputation soon assumed so sacred an aura that harassment of the prophet merited severe punishment. For mocking the bald prophet, 42 boys were attacked by two she-bears ( 2 Kings 2:23-24 ).

The prophet used his power to provide a widow with an abundance of valuable oil to save her children from slavery ( 2 Kings 4:1-7 ). He made a poisonous pottage edible ( 2 Kings 4:38-41 ), fed a hundred men by multiplying limited resources ( 2 Kings 4:42-44 ), and miraculously provided water for thirsting armies ( 2 Kings 3:13-22 ). Once he made an iron ax head float ( 2 Kings 6:5-7 ).

Some of the miracles of Elisha are quite well known and loved. Who has not been moved by the story of the Shunammite woman and her son? This barren woman and her husband who had graciously opened their home to the prophet had in turn been given a son by the Lord. One day while the boy worked in the field with his father, he suffered an apparent heartstroke and died. The compassion and tenacious hope of the mother met its reward when she sought and found the man of God and pleaded for help. God's power through Elisha raised the boy from the dead ( 2 Kings 4:8-37 ).

Yet another well-known story is the healing of Naaman the leper and the subsequent affliction of Gehazi the dishonest servant of Elisha ( 2 Kings 5:1-27 ). The miraculous powers of the prophet were prominently displayed still further in the war between Syria and Israel. The Syrian soldiers were blinded, then made to see. Then, at last, divine intervention totally foiled the Syrian siege of Samaria ( 2 Kings 6:8-7:20 ).

Elisha's power did not end at death. For when a dead man was thrown into Elisha's grave and touched his bones, “he revived, and stood up on his feet” ( 2 Kings 13:21 ).

In carrying out the second and third commands of the “still small voice” to Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:11-16 ), Elisha enhanced his legacy beyond the realm of miracle worker. He played a major role in Hazael becoming king of Syria ( 2 Kings 8:7-15 ) and also in the anointing of Jehu as king of Israel ( 2 Kings 9:1-13 ).

Powerful enough to perform miracles and appoint kings, yet sensitive enough to weep over the fate of Israel ( 2 Kings 8:11-12 ), Elisha, disciple and successor to Elijah, proved to be both prophet and statesman. Chosen by God and hand-picked by Elijah in the latter half of the ninth century B.C., Elisha directed the historical drama of Israel. See Miracles; Prophet-Prophecy; History of Israel; Baal Worship.

J. Randall O'Brien

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Eli'sha. (God His Salvation). Son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah; the attendant and disciple of Elijan, and subsequently, his successor as prophet of the kingdom of Israel. The earliest mention of his name is in the command to Elijah in the cave at Horeb.  1 Kings 19:16-17. (B.C. About 900). Elijah sets forth to obey the command, and comes upon his successor engaged in ploughing. He crosses to him and throws over his shoulders, the rough mantle - a token at once of investiture with the prophet's office and of adoption as a son.

Elisha delayed merely to give the farewell kiss to his father and mother and preside at a parting feast with his people, and then followed the great prophet on his northward road. We hear nothing more of Elisha for eight years, until the translation of his master, when he reappears, to become the most prominent figure in the history of his country during the rest of his long life.

In almost every respect, Elisha presents the most complete contrast to Elijah. Elijah was a true Bedouin child of the desert. If he enters a city, it is only to deliver his message of fire and be gone. Elisha, on the other hand, is a civilized man, an inhabitant of cities. His dress was the ordinary garment of an Israelite, the beged , probably similar in form to the long abbeyeh of the modern Syrians.  2 Kings 2:12. His hair was worn trimmed behind, in contrast to the disordered locks of Elijah, and he used a walking-staff,  2 Kings 4:29, of the kind ordinarily carried by grave or aged citizens.  Zechariah 8:4.

After the departure of his master, Elisha returned to dwell at Jericho,  2 Kings 2:18, where he miraculously purified the springs. We next meet with Elisha at Bethel, in the heart of the country, on his way from Jericho to Mount Carmel.  2 Kings 2:23. The mocking children, Elisha's curse and the catastrophe which followed are familiar to all.

Later, he extricates Jehoram, king of Israel, and the kings of Judah and Edom, from their difficulty in the campaign against Moab, arising from want of water.  2 Kings 3:4-27. Then he multiplies the widow's oil.  2 Kings 4:5. The next occurrence is at Shunem, where he is hospitably entertained by a woman of substance, whose son dies, and is brought to life again by Elisha.  2 Kings 4:8-37. Then at Gilgal, he purifies the deadly pottage,  2 Kings 4:38-41, and multiplies the loaves.  2 Kings 4:42-44.

The simple records of these domestic incidents amongst the sons of the prophets are now interrupted by an occurrence of a more important character.  2 Kings 5:1-27. The chief captain of the army of Syria, Naaman, is attacked with leprosy, and is sent, by an Israelite maid, to the prophet Elisha, who directs him to dip seven times in the Jordan, which he does and is healed,  2 Kings 5:1-14, while Naaman's servant, Gehazi, he strikes with leprosy for his unfaithfulness.  2 Kings 5:20-27.

Again, the scene changes. It is probably at Jericho that Elisha causes the iron axe to swim.  2 Kings 6:1-7. A band of Syrian marauders are sent to seize him, but are struck blind, and he misleads them to Samaria, where they find themselves in the presence of the Israelite king and his troops.  2 Kings 6:8-23. During the famine in Samaria,  2 Kings 6:24-33, he prophesied incredible plenty,  2 Kings 7:1-2, which was soon fulfilled.  2 Kings 7:3-20.

We next find the prophet at Damascus. Benhadad, the king, is sick, and sends to Elisha by Hazael to know the result. Elisha prophesies the king's death, and announces to Hazael that he is to succeed to the throne.  2 Kings 8:7;  2 Kings 8:15. Finally, this prophet of God, after having filled the position for sixty years, is found on his death-bed in his own house.  2 Kings 13:14-19. The power of the prophet, however, does not terminate with his death. Even in the tomb, he restores the dead to life.  2 Kings 13:21.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

The successor, in the prophetical office, of Elijah. His name is also highly significant, meaning the salvation of my God. I must pass over many interesting circumstances in the history of this man of God, for the same reasons as in the former. But I beg to notice one event in Elisha's ministry, because it is not so generally regarded, and yet seems to lead to a profitable subject of meditation. The event I refer to, is that of his healing the waters of Jericho. (See  2 Kings 2:19-22) The reader will not forget, that Jericho is the city Joshua cursed before the Lord. (See  Joshua 6:26 with  1 Kings 16:34) There evidently appears from this history, the tokens of divine displeasure upon Jericho in the days of Elisha. For we read, that the men of the city said unto the prophet, "Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth, but the water is naught, and the ground barren." In the margin of our Bibles the barren ground is explained, in causing to miscarry. Hence it should seem that the divine displeasure was manifested in this way, in the rendering the climate unfavourable to the increase of children. I do not presume to decide upon the subject, neither do I say as much, when I ask in order to determine the point, as to enquire. But I humbly conceive, if by the naughtiness of the water of Jericho, barrenness was induced among the females, there was somewhat in this analogous to the Lord's appointment in Israel concerning the waters of Jealousy. In both cases, the matter is the same in relation to the cause. (See  Numbers 5:23-31) That the barrenness mentioned of Jericho referred to the sterility of the women, or their miscarriages, which is the same thing in effect, I have no doubt. The same word Sheceleh, is made use of in this place, as in the instance of Jacob's expostulating with Laban: "Thy she-goats" ( Genesis 31:38) "have not cast their young." And the Lord, when speaking in promises to his people, saith, "He" ( Exodus 23:25-26) "shall bless thy bread and thy water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land." It appears then, that amidst all the pleasantness of Jericho, which abounded with palm trees (and, indeed, on that account was called the city of palm trees,) (See  2 Chronicles 28:15) there was still a certain somewhat, unfavourable to that which to the children of Israel (looking forward to the types that the promised seed would be in their lot), was among the most distressing of all calamities, the want of children. This was the state of Jericho. The prophet's cruse of salt cast into the waters, under the Lord's blessing, healed the land. Elisha cast the cruse into the spring, saying,"Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more, death, or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha." I have thought it worthwhile to enter into the particulars of this interesting account, concerning the barrenness at Jericho healed by the cruse of salt cast into the spring of the waters, by way of introducing an infinitely more interesting observation on the subject itself. The cruse of salt, like the tree at Marah ( Exodus 15:25) were both beautiful types of Jesus and his salvation. Both the cruse and the barrenness are effectually cured when Jesus takes them away. The waters of Marah lose their bitterness when his cross is put in them to sweeten and sanctify. The barrenness of Jericho is healed, and children are born, even in Jericho, when Christ's cruse of grace is applied. A Rahab and harlot is found in Jericho; and Æthiopia, and Seba, and the multitude of isles, shall stretch forth their hands unto God. Jesus hath taken out the curse when he was made a curse for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. ( Galatians 3:13;  2 Corinthians 5:21) Hallelujah!

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Elisha ( E-Lî'Shah ), God His Salvation. A distinguished prophet of Israel and successor of Elijah. The acts of his earlier ministry are related at considerable length. He is first mentioned as the son of Shaphat, the agriculturist of Abel-meholah in the valley of the Jordan. While occupied in guiding the plow he received the call of Elijah, and appears ever after to have attended on him.  1 Kings 19:16;  1 Kings 19:19-21;  2 Kings 3:11. How deep the affection was with which he regarded his master, the narrative of Elijah's last days on earth sufficiently testifies. At his translation Elisha asked a double portion of the departing prophet's spirit, secured his falling mantle, and had speedily full proof that the Lord God of Elijah was with him.  2 Kings 2:1-15. Elisha, though a young man, was bald. The young persons mocked at the great miracle just performed. Why should not the bald head go up after his master? the world would be well rid of both. Such profanity must have an instant significant punishment. And at the word of the prophet, speaking in God's name, she-bears destroyed a number of these mockers.  2 Kings 2:23-25. Many would hear and fear, and learn to reverence God's ambassador. He was the counsellor and friend of successive kings. He was the opposite to Elijah in most things. He lived in the city or with his students, honored and sought for, a welcome guest in the homes he graced by his presence. And yet he was filled with a "double"— I.E.. an elder brother's—portion of Elijah's spirit, both to work miracles and to give counsel for present and future emergencies. He multiplied the widow's oil,  2 Kings 4:5-8, and when the son of the good Shunammite—God's reward to her for her kindness to his prophet—died, he raised him to life.  2 Kings 4:8-37. He cured Naaman, smote Gehazi with leprosy, misled the Syrians, foretold abundant food, and when dying gave the king the promise of victory.  2 Kings 5:1-27;  2 Kings 6:1-33;  2 Kings 7:1-20;  2 Kings 8:1-29. But God would still put honor on his servant. He was buried, and afterwards, when Moabite bands were ravaging the country, and some one was to be carried to the tomb, the attendants, surprised by the spoilers, hastily thrust the corpse into Elisha's sepulchre. But no sooner had it touched the great prophet's bones than the dead man lived again.  2 Kings 13:20-21. Truly, by all these wondrous works it was abundantly proved that there was a God in Israel.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 1 Kings 19:16-19 1 Kings 19:16 Luke 9:61,62 2 Kings 2:9 2 Kings 5:8

After Elijah's departure, Elisha returned to Jericho, and there healed the spring of water by casting salt into it ( 2 Kings 2:21 ). We next find him at Bethel (2:23), where, with the sternness of his master, he cursed the youths who came out and scoffed at him as a prophet of God: "Go up, thou bald head." The judgment at once took effect, and God terribly visited the dishonour done to his prophet as dishonour done to himself. We next read of his predicting a fall of rain when the army of Jehoram was faint from thirst ( 2 Kings 3:9-20 ); of the multiplying of the poor widow's cruse of oil (4:1-7); the miracle of restoring to life the son of the woman of Shunem (4:18-37); the multiplication of the twenty loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for an hundred men (4:42-44); of the cure of Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (5:1-27); of the punishment of Gehazi for his falsehood and his covetousness; of the recovery of the axe lost in the waters of the Jordan (6:1-7); of the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel; of the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, and of the terrible sufferings of the people in connection with it, and Elisha's prophecy as to the relief that would come ( 2 Kings 6:24-7:2 ).).

We then find Elisha at Damascus, to carry out the command given to his master to anoint Hazael king over Syria ( 2 Kings 8:7-15 ); thereafter he directs one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, instead of Ahab. Thus the three commands given to Elijah (9:1-10) were at length carried out.

We do not again read of him till we find him on his death-bed in his own house ( 2 Kings 13:14-19 ). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

Afterwards when a dead body is laid in Elisha's grave a year after his burial, no sooner does it touch the hallowed remains than the man "revived, and stood up on his feet" ( 2 Kings 13:20-21 ).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [11]

The pupil and successor of Elijah, a prophet of Israel during the reign of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash, B. C. 903-838. He was a native of Abel-meholah, where he was at work ploughing when Elijah called him to become a prophet,  1 Kings 19:16 . Some years afterwards he witnessed the miraculous ascension of Elijah, divided the Jordan with his mantle, and took his place at the head of the schools of the prophets. During his long ministry he acted an important part in the public affairs of Israel. Many miracles also were wrought at his word; some of these were, healing the waters of Jericho; supplying the widow's cruse with oil, and the allied armies of Judah, Israel, and Edom with water; gaining a son for the woman of Shunem, and restoring him to life; healing the leprosy of Naaman; detecting and punishing Ghazi. His history is recorded in  2 Kings 2:1-9:37   13:14-21 . He died lamented by king Joash and the people; and a year afterwards, a corpse deposited in the same sepulchre was at once restored to life.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [12]

ELISHA ( Authorized Version Eliseus).—The famous disciple, companion, and successor of Elijah. In NT he is only once referred to, viz. in  Luke 4:27. Jesus, preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, reminds His fellow-townsmen, who were unwilling to receive His teaching because He was one of themselves, that Elisha, who was an Israelite, healed but one leper, and he was a Syrian. He leaves them to draw the obvious inference as to the probable consequence of their rejection of Him. It is clear, however, that in this warning our Lord was looking far beyond Nazareth, and that He had in view the casting away of the Jews through unbelief, and the call of the Gentiles.

J. Cromarty Smith.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [13]

 1 Kings 19:16 (c) He is a type of Christ as the Saviour. The word means, "GOD is the Saviour."

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

(Hebrews Elisha', ( אלִֵישָׁ , for אֶלִיאּיֶשִׁ , God is his Salvation; Sept. Ε᾿Λισαιέ or Ε᾿Λισσαιέ , Josephus and N.T. Ε᾿Λισσαῖος , Vulg. Elisaeus, A.V. in N.T. and Apocr. "Elisaeus"), the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah ( 1 Kings 19:16-19), who became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (Josephus, Ant. 8:13, 7), and his successor as prophet in the kingdom of Israel. (See Elijah).

I. History . The earliest mention of Elisha's name is in the command to Elijah in the cave at Horeb ( 1 Kings 19:16-17). But our first introduction to the future prophet is in the fields of his native place (B.C. cir. 900). Abel-meholah-the "meadow of the dance" as probably in the valley of the Jordan, and, as its name would seem to indicate, in a moist or watered situation. (See Abel). Elijah, on his way from Sinai to Damascus by the Jordan valley, lights on his successor engaged in the labors of the field, twelve yoke before him, i.e., probably eleven other ploughs preceding him along the same line (see Thomson, Land And Book, 1:108). To cross to him, to throw over his shoulders the rough mantle a token at once of investiture with the prophet's office, and of adoption as a son was to Elijah but the work of an instant, and the prophet strode on as if what he had done were nothing "Go back again, for what have I done unto thee?" So sudden and weighty a call, involving the relinquishment of a position so substantial, and family ties so dear, might well have caused hesitation. But the parley was only momentary. To use a figure which we may almost believe to have been suggested by this very occurrence, Elisha was not a man who, having put his hand to the plough, was likely to look back; he delayed merely to give the farewell kiss to his father and mother, and preside at a parting feast with his people, and then followed the great prophet on his northward road to become to him what in the earlier times of his nation Joshua had been to Moses. Of the nature of this connection we know hardly anything. "Elisha the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah," is all that is told us. The characters of the two men were thoroughly dissimilar, but how far the lion like daring and courage of the one had infused itself into the other, we can judge from the few occasions on which it blazed forth, while every line of the narrative of Elijah's last hours on earth bears evidence how deep was the personal affection which the stern, rough, reserved master had engendered in his gentle and pliant disciple.

Seven or eight years must have passed between the call of Elisha and the removal of his master, and during the whole of that time we hear nothing of him. But when that period had elapsed he reappears, to become the most prominent figure in the history of his country during the rest of his long life.

Being anxious, after his remarkable appointment to receiving the robe as a symbol of inheriting the prophetic spirit of his ascended master, to enter at once upon the duties of his sacred office, Elisha determined to visit the schools of the prophets which were on the other side of the Jordan. Accordingly, returning to that river, and wishing that sensible evidence should be afforded, both to himself and others, of the spirit and power of his departed master resting upon him, he struck its waters with Elijah's mantle, when they parted asunder and opened a way for him to pass over on dry land. Witnessing this miraculous transaction, the fifty sons of the prophets, who had seen from the opposite side Elijah's ascension, and who were awaiting Elisha's return, now, with becoming reverence, acknowledged him their spiritual head. These young prophets are not more full of reverence for Elisha than of zeal for Elijah: they saw the latter carried up in the air they knew that this was not the first time of his miraculous removal. Imagining it therefore possible that the Spirit of God had cast him on some remote mountain or valley, they ask permission to go and seek him. Elisha, though fully aware that he was received up into glory, but yet fearful lest it should be conceived that he, from any unworthy motives, was not anxious to have him brought back, yielded to their request. The unavailing search confirmed Elisha's fame. (B.C. cir. 892.) There are several considerations from which the incompleteness of the records of Elisha's life may be inferred:

(a.) The absence of marks by which to determine the dates of the various occurrences. The "king of Israel" is continually mentioned, but we are left to infer what king is intended ( 2 Kings 5:5-7, etc.; 6:8, 9, 21, 26; 7:2; 8:3, 5, 6, etc.). This is the case even in the story of the important events of Naaman's cure, and the capture of the Syrian host at Dothan. The only exceptions are  2 Kings 3:12 (compare 6), and the narrative of the visit of Jehoash ( 2 Kings 13:14, etc.), but this latter story is itself a proof of the disarrangement of these records, occurring as it does after the mention of the death of Jehoash ( 2 Kings 13:13), and being followed by an account of occurrences in the reign of Jehoahaz his father ( 2 Kings 13:22-23).

(b.) The absence of chronological sequence in the narratives. The story of the Shunammite embraces a lengthened period, from before the birth of the child till he was some years old. Gehazi's familiar communication with the king, and therefore the story which precedes it ( 2 Kings 8:1-2), must have occurred before he was struck with leprosy, though placed long after the relation of that event ( 2 Kings 5:27)

(c). The different stories are not connected by the form of words usually employed in the consecutive narrative of these books. (See Keil, Comment. On Kings, page 348, where other indications will be found.) The call of Elisha seems to have taken place about four years before the death of Ahab. He died in the reign of Joash, the grandson of Jehu, B.C. cir. 835. Hence his public career embraces a period of not less than 65 years, for certainly 55 of which he held the office of "prophet in Israel" ( 2 Kings 5:8).

1. After the departure of his master, Elisha returned to dwell ( ישֵׁב ) at Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:18). The town had lately been rebuilt ( 1 Kings 16:34), and was the residence of a body of the "sons of the prophets" ( 2 Kings 2:5;  2 Kings 2:15). Among the most prominent features of that place are still the two perennial springs which, rising at the base of the steep hills of Quarantania behind the town, send their streams across the plain towards the Jordan, scattering, even at the hottest season, the richest and most grateful vegetation over what would otherwise be a bare tract of sandy soil. At the time in question, part, at least, of this charm was wanting. One of the springs was noxious had some properties which rendered it unfit for drinking, and also prejudicial to the land (2:19, דָ דם , Bad, A.V. "naught"). At the request of the men of Jericho, Elisha remedied this evil. He took salt in a new vessel, and cast it into the water at its source in the name of Jehovah. From the time of Josephus (War, 4:8, 3) to the present (Saewulf, Mod. Trav. page 17), the tradition of the cure has been attached to the large spring N.W. of the present town, and which now bears, probably in reference to some later event, the name of Ain Es-Sultan (Robinson, Researches, 2:383 sq.). (See Jericho).

2. We next meet with Elisha at Bethel, in the heart of the country, on his way from Jericho to Mount Carmel ( 2 Kings 2:23). His last visit had been made in company with Elijah on their road down to the Jordan ( 2 Kings 2:2). Sons of the prophets resided there, but still it was the seat of the calf-worship, and therefore a prophet of Jehovah might expect to meet with insult, especially if not so well known and so formidable as Elijah. The road to the town winds up the defile of the wady Suweinit, under the hill which still bears what in all probability are the ruins of Ai, and which, even now retaining some trees, was at that date shaded by a forest, thick, and the haunt of savage animals (comp.  Amos 5:19). (See Bethel).

Here the boys of the town were clustered, waiting, as they still wait at the entrance of the villages of Palestine, for the chance passer-by. In the scanty locks of Elisha, how were they to recognize the successor of the prophet, with whose shaggy hair streaming over his shoulders they were all familiar? So, with the license of the Eastern children, they scoff at the newcomer as he walks by "Go up ( לֵה , hardly Ascend, as if alluding to Elijah, But Pass On out of the way), bald-head ( קֵרֵהִ , devoid of hair on the Back of the head, as opposed to גִּבֵּחֵ , bald on the Forehead)!" For once Elisha assumed the sternness of his master. He turned upon them and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. There was in their expressions an admixture of rudeness, infidelity, and impiety. But the inhabitants of Bethel were to know, from bitter experience, that to dishonor God's prophets was to dishonor himself, for Elisha was at the moment inspired to pronounce the judgment which at once took effect. God, who never wants for instruments to accomplish his purposes, caused two she-bears to emerge from the neighboring wood and punish the young delinquents. It is not said that they were actually killed (the expression is ( נָּקִ , to Rend, which is peculiarly applicable to the claws of the bear). This fate may indeed have befallen some of the party, but it is by no means probable in regard to the greater number.

Ehlenberg says that the bear is seen only on one part of the summit of Lebanon, called Mackmel, the other peak, Jebel Sanin, being, strangely enough, free from these animals. The Syrian bear is more of a frugiverous habit than the brown bear (Ursus arctos), but when pressed with hunger it is known to attack men and animals; it is very fond of a kind of chick-pea (Cicer arietinus), fields of which are often laid waste by its devastations. Most recent writers are silent respecting any species of bear in Syria, such as Shaw, Volney, Hasselquist, Burckhardt, and Schulz. Seetzen, however, notices a report of the existence of a bear in the province of Hasbeiya, on Mount Hermon. Klaeder supposed this bear must be the Ursus arctos, for which opinion, however, he seems to have had no authority; and a recent writer, Dr. Thomson (Land and Book, 2:373), says that the Syrian bear is still found on the higher mountains of this country, and that the inhabitants of Hermon stand in great fear of him. Hemprich and Ehrenberg (Symbole Phys. part 1) inform us that during the summer months these bears keep to the snowy parts of Lebanon, but descend in winter to the villages and gardens; it is probable, also, that at this period in former days they extended their visits to other parts of Palestine; for, though this species was in ancient times far more numerous than it is now, yet the snowy summits of Lebanon were probably always the summer home of these animals. It is not improbable, therefore, that the attack upon the forty-two children who mocked Elisha took place some time in the winter, when these animals inhabited the low lands of Palestine. (See Bear).

3. Elisha extricates Jehoram, king of Israel, and the kings of Judah and Edom, from their difficulty in the campaign against Moab, arising from want of water ( 2 Kings 3:4-27). The revolt of Moab occurred very shortly after the death of Ahab ( 2 Kings 3:5; comp. 1:1), and the campaign followed immediately "the same day" ( 2 Kings 3:6; A.V. "time"). The prophet was with the army; according to Josephus (Ant. 9:3, 1) he "happened to be in a tent outside the camp of Israel." Joram he refuses to hear, except out of respect for Jehoshaphat, the servant of the true God; but a minstrel is brought, and at the sound of music the hand of Jehovah comes upon him, and he predicts a fall of rain, and advises a mode of procedure in connection therewith which results in the complete discomfiture of Moab. This incident probably tool place at the S.E. end of the Dead Sea. (See Jehoram).

4. The widow of one of the sons of the prophets according to Josephus, of Obadiah, the steward of Ahab is in debt, and her two sons are about to be taken from her and sold as slaves by her creditors, as by an extension of the law ( Exodus 21:7, and  Leviticus 25:39), and by virtue of another ( Exodus 22:3), they had the power to do; and against this hard-hearted act she implores the prophet's assistance. God will not, Without A Cause, depart from the general laws of his administration: Elisha therefore inquires how far she herself had the power to avert the threatened calamity. She replies that the only thing of which she was possessed was one pot of oil. This Elisha causes (in his absence, 4:5) to multiply (after the example of Elijah at Zarephath), until the widow has filled with it all the vessels which she could borrow, and thus procured the means of payment ( 2 Kings 4:1-7). No place or date of the miracle is mentioned.

5. The next occurrence is at Shunem and Mount Carmel ( 2 Kings 4:8-37). The account consists of two parts,

[a.] Elisha, probably on his way between Carmel and the Jordan valley, calls accidentally at Shunem, now Solam, a village on the southern slopes of Jebel ed-Duhy, the little Hermon of modern travelers. Here he is hospitably entertained by a woman of substance, apparently at first ignorant of the character of her guest. Wishing that he should take up, more than occasionally, his abode under her roof, she proposed to her husband to construct for him a chamber which he might have for his own accommodation. The husband at once consented, and, the apartment being fitted up in a way that showed their proper conception of his feeling, the prophet becomes its occupant. Grateful for such disinterested kindness, Elisha delicately inquired of her if he could prefer her interest before the king or the captain of his host; for he must have had considerable influence at court, from the part he had taken in the late war. But the good woman declined the prophet's offer by declaring that she would rather "dwell among her own people," and in the condition of life to which she had been accustomed. Still, to crown her domestic happiness, she lacked one thing she had no child; and now, by reason of the age of her husband, she could not expect such a blessing. In answer, however, to the prayer of the prophet, and as a recompense for her care of him, she was saved from that childless condition which was esteemed so great a calamity by every Jewish wife, and permitted to "embrace a son" ( 2 Kings 4:8-17).

[b.] After an interval of several years, the boy is old enough to accompany his father to the corn-field, where the harvest is proceeding. The fierce rays of the morning sun are too powerful for him, and (affected apparently by a Sun-Stroke) he is carried home to his mother only to die at noon. She says nothing of their loss to her husband, but depositing her child on the bed of the man of God, at once starts in quest of him to Mount Carmel. The distance is fifteen or sixteen miles-at least four hours' ride; but she is mounted on the best ass ( הָאָתוֹן , The She-Ass, such being noted for excellence), and she does not slacken rein. Elisha is on one of the heights of Carmel commanding the road to Shunem, and from his position opposite to her ( מִנֶּגֶר ) he recognizes in the distance the figure of the regular attendant at the services which he holds here at "new moon and sabbath" (comp.  2 Kings 4:23). He sends Gehazi down to meet her, and inquire the reason of her unexpected visit. But her distress is for the ear of the master, and not of the servant, and she presses on till she comes up to the place where Elisha himself is stationed ( הָהָר , The Mount,  2 Kings 4:27, i.e., Carmel,  2 Kings 4:25); then throwing herself down in her emotion, she clasps him by the feet. Misinterpreting this action, or perhaps with an ascetic feeling of the unholiness of a woman, Gehazi attempts to thrust her away. But the prophet is too profound a student of human nature to allow this "Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her, and Jehovah hath hid it from me, and bath not told me." "And she said with the enigmatical form of Oriental speech "did I desire a son of my lord? Did I not say, do not deceive me?" No explanation is needed to tell Elisha the exact state of the case. The heat of the season will allow of no delay in taking the necessary steps, and Gehazi is at once dispatched to run back to Shunem with the utmost speed. He takes the prophet's walking-staff in his hand which he is to lay on the face of the child. The mother and Elisha follow in haste. Before they reach the village the sun of that long, anxious summer afternoon must have set. Gehazi meets them on the road, but he has no reassuring report to give; the placing of the staff on the face of the dead boy had called forth no sign of life. Then Elisha enters the house, goes up to his own chamber, "and he shut the door on them twain, and prayed unto Jehovah." It was what Elijah had done on a similar occasion, and in this and his subsequent proceedings Elisha was probably following a method which he had heard of from his master. The child is restored to life, the mother is called in, and again falls at the feet of the prophet, though with what different emotions "and she took up her son and went out" (2 Kings 4:18-37). There is nothing in the narrative to fix its date with reference to other events.

We here first encounter Gehazi, the "servant" ( נִ ר , lad) of the man of God. It must of course have occurred before the events of  2 Kings 8:1-6, and therefore before the cure of Naaman, when Gehazi became a leper.

6. The scene now changes to Gilgal, apparently at a time when Elisha was residing there ( 2 Kings 4:38-41). The sons of the prophets are sitting round him. It is a time of famine, possibly the same seven years' scarcity which is mentioned in  2 Kings 8:1-2, and during which the Shunammite woman of the preceding story migrated to the Philistine country. The food of the party must consist of any herbs that can be found. The great caldron is put on at the command of Elisha, and one of the company brings his blanket ( בֶּגֶד ; not "lap" as in A.V.) full of such wild vegetables as he has collected, and empties it into the pottage. But no sooner have they begun their meal than the taste betrays the presence of some noxious herb, (See Gourd), and they cry out, "There is death in the pot, oh man of God!" In this case the cure was effected by meal which Elisha cast into the stew in the caldron ( 2 Kings 4:38-41).

7. The next miracle in all probability belongs to the same time, and also to the same place as the preceding. A man from Baal-shalisha (q.v.) brings the man of God a present of the first-fruits, which under the law ( Numbers 18:8;  Numbers 18:12;  Deuteronomy 18:3-4) were the perquisite of the ministers of the sanctuary 20 loaves of the new barley, and some delicacy, the exact nature of which is disputed, but which seems most likely to have been roasted ear of corn not fully ripe ( כִּרְמֶל , perhaps elliptically for גֶּרֶשׁ כִּרְמֶל ; comp.  Leviticus 23:4), brought with care in a sack or bag ( צִקְלוֹן , Sept. Πήρα ). This moderate provision is by the word of Jehovah rendered more than sufficient for a hundred men ( 2 Kings 4:42-44). This is one of the instances in which Elisha is the first to anticipate in some measure the miracles of Christ.

8. The simple records of these domestic incidents amongst the sons of the prophets are now interrupted by an occurrence of a more important character ( 2 Kings 5:1-27). The chief captain of the army of Syria, to whom his country was indebted for some signal success (the tradition of the Jews is that it was Naaman who killed Ahab, Midrash Tehillim, page 29 b, on  Psalms 78:1-72), was afflicted with leprosy, and that in its most malignant form, the white variety ( Psalms 78:27). In Israel this would have disqualified him from all employment and all intercourse ( 2 Kings 15:5;  2 Chronicles 26:20-21). But in Syria no such practice appears to have prevailed; Naaman was still a "great man with his master," "a man of countenance." One of the members of his establishment is an Israelitish girl, kidnapped by the marauders ( גְּדוּדִים ) of Syria in one of their forays over the border, and she brings into that Syrian household the fame of the name and skill of Elisha. "The prophet in Samaria," who had raised the dead, would, if brought into the presence of ( לִפְנִי ) the patient, have no difficulty in curing even this dreadful leprosy. The news is communicated by Naaman himself ( וִיָּבא , not " One told") to the king. Benhadad had yet to learn the position and character of Elisha. He writes to the king of Israel a letter very characteristic of a military prince, and curiously recalling words uttered by another military man in reference to the cure of his sick servant many centuries later "I say to this one, go, and he goeth. and to my servant. do this, and he doeth it." "And now" so ran Benhadad's letter after the usual complimentary introduction had probably opened the communication "and now, when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have sent Naaman, my slave, to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy." With this letter, and with a present, in which the rich fabrics ( לְבוּשׁ , i.e., a dress of ceremony) for which Damascus has always been in modern times so famous form a conspicuous feature, and with a full retinue of attendants (13, 15, 23), Naaman proceeds to Samaria. The king of Israel his name is not given, but it was probably Joram is dismayed at the communication. He has but one idea, doubtless the result of too frequent experience "Consider how this man seeketh a quarrel against me!" The occurrence soon reaches the ears of the prophet, and with a certain dignity he "sends" to the king "Let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." To the house of Elisha Naaman goes with his whole cavalcade, the "horses and chariot" of the Syrian general fixing themselves particularly in the mind of the chronicler. Elisha still keeps in the background, and while Naaman stands at the doorway, contents himself with sending out a messenger with the simple direction to bathe seven times in the Jordan. The independent behavior of the prophet, and the simplicity of the prescription not only devoid of any ceremonial, but absolutely insulting to the native of a city which boasted, as it still boasts, of the finest water-supply of any city of the East, all combined to enrage Naaman.

His slaves, however, knew how to deal with the quick but not ungenerous temper of their master; and the result is that he goes down to the Jordan and dips himself seven times, "and his flesh came again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." His first business after his cure is to thank his benefactor. He returns with his whole train ( מִחֲנֶה , i.e., "host" or "camp"), and this time he will not be denied the presence of Elisha, but, making his way in, and standing before him, he gratefully acknowledges the power of the God of Israel, and entreats him to accept the present which he had brought from Damascus. But Elisha is firm, and refuses the offer, though repeated with the strongest adjuration. Naaman, having adopted Jehovah as his God, begs, to be allowed to take away some of the earth of his favored country, of which to make an altar. He then consults Elisha on a difficulty which he foresees. How is he, a servant of Jehovah, to act when he accompanies the king to the temple of the Syrian god Rimmon? He must bow before the god; will Jehovah pardon this disloyalty? Elisha's answer is "Go in peace," and with this farewell the caravan moves off. But Gehazi, the attendant of Elisha, cannot allow such treasures thus to escape him. "As Jehovah liveth" an expression, in the lips of this vulgar Israelite, exactly equivalent to the oft-repeated Wallah " by God" of the modern Arabs, "I will run after this Syrian and take somewhat of him." So he frames a story by which the generous Naaman if made to send back with him to Elisha's house a considerable present in money and clothes. He then went in and stood before his master as if nothing had happened. But the prophet was not to be so deceived. His heart had gone after his servant through the whole transaction, even to its minutest details, and he visits Gehazi with the tremendous punishment of the leprosy, from which he has just relieved Naaman. The date of the transaction must have been 'at least seven years after the raising of the Shunammite's son. This is evident from a comparison of  2 Kings 8:4 with 1, 2, 3. Gehazi's familiar conversation with the king must have taken place before he was a leper. (See Naaman).

9. We now return to the sons of the prophets, but this time the scene appears to be changed, and is probably at Jericho, and during the residence of Elisha there. Whether from the increase of the scholars consequent on the estimation in which the master was held, or from some other cause, their habitation had become too small "The place in which we sit before thee is too narrow for us." They will therefore move to the close neighborhood of the Jordan, and cutting down beams each man one, as with curious minute ness the text relates make there a new dwelling place. Why Jordan was selected is not apparent.. Possibly for its distance from the distractions of Jericho possibly the spot was once sanctified by the crossing of Israel with the ark, or of Elijah, only a few years before. Urged by his disciples, the man of God consents to accompany them. When they reach the Jordan, descending to the level of the stream, they commence felling the trees ( הָ צִים ) of the dense belt of wood in immediate contact with the water. (See Jordan). As one of them was cutting at a tree overhanging the stream, the iron of his axe (a borrowed tool) flew off and sank into the water. His cry soon brought the man of God to his aid. The stream of the Jordan is deep up to the very bank, especially when the water is so low as to leave the wood dry, and is, moreover, so turbid that search would be useless. But the place at which the lost axe entered the water is shown to Elisha; he lops off ( קָצִב ) a stick and casts it into the stream, and the iron appears on the surface, and is recovered by its possessor ( 2 Kings 6:1-7).

10. Elisha is now residing at Dothan, half way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel. The incursions of the Syrian marauding bands (comp.  2 Kings 6:2) still continue, but apparently with greater boldness, and pushed even into places which the king of Israel is accustomed to frequent (comp. Josephus, Ant. 9:4, 3). But their maneuvers are not hid from the man of God, and by his warnings he saves the king "not once nor twice." So baffled were the Syrians by these repeated failures as to make their king suspect treachery in his own camp. But the true explanation is given by one of his own people possibly one of those who had witnessed the cure wrought on Naaman, and could conceive no power too great to ascribe to so gifted a person: "Elisha, the prophet in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber." So powerful a magician must be seized without delay, and a strong party with chariots is dispatched to effect his capture. . They march by night, and before morning take up their station round the base of the eminence on which the ruins of Dothan still stand. Elisha's servant not Gehazi, but apparently a newcomer, unacquainted with the powers of his master is the first to discover the danger. But Elisha remains unmoved by his fears; and at his request the eyes of the youth are opened to behold the spiritual guards which are protecting them, horses and chariots of fire filling the whole of the mountain. But this is not enough. Elisha again prays to Jehovah, and the whole of the Syrian warriors are struck blind. He then descends, and offers to lead them to the person and the place which they seek. He conducts them to Samaria. There, at the prayer of the prophet, their sight is restored, and they find themselves, not in a retired country village, but in the midst of the capital of" Israel, and in the presence of the king and his troops. His enemies thus completely in his grasp, the king of Israel is eager to destroy them. "Shall I slay? shall I slay, my father?" But the end of Elisha has been answered when he has shown the Syrians how futile are all their attempts against his superior power. "Thou shalt not slay. Thou mayest slay those whom thou hast taken captive in lawful fight, but not these [literally, "Are these what thou hast captured with thy sword and bow, that thou art for smiting them?": feed them, and send them away to their master." After such a repulse it is not surprising that the marauding forays of the Syrian troops ceased ( 2 Kings 6:8;  2 Kings 6:23). (See Benhadad).

11. But the king of Syria could not rest under such dishonor. He abandons his marauding system, and gathers a regular army, with which he lays siege to Samaria. The awful extremities to which the inhabitants of the place were driven need not here be recalled. Roused by an encounter with an incident more ghastly than all, and which remained without parallel in Jewish records till the unspeakable horrors of the last days of Jerusalem (Josephus, War, 5:10, 3; 13, 7, etc.), the king vents his wrath on the prophet, probably as having, by his share in the last transaction (so Josephus, Ant. 9:4, 4), or in some other way not recorded, provoked the invasion; possibly actuated by the spite with which a weak bad man in difficulty often regards one better and stronger than himself. The king's name is not stated in the Bible, but there can be no doubt that Josephus is correct in giving it as Joram; and in keeping with this is his employment of the same oath which his mother Jezebel used on an occasion not dissimilar ( 1 Kings 19:2), "God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha, the son of Shaphat, shall stand on him this day." No sooner is the word out of the king's mouth than his emissary starts to execute the sentence. Elisha is in his house, and round him are seated the elders of Samaria, doubtless receiving some word of comfort or guidance in their sore calamity. He receives a miraculous intimation of the danger. Ere the messenger could reach the house, he said to his companions, "See how this son of a murderer (alluding to Ahab in the case of Naboth) hath sent to take away my head! Shut the door, and keep him from entering: even now I hear the sound of his master's feet behind him (hastening to stay the result of his rash exclamation!" interprets Josephus, Ant. 9:4, 4).

As he says the words the messenger arrives at the door, followed immediately, as the prophet had predicted, by the king and by one of his officers, the lord on whose hand he leaned. What follows is very graphic. The king's hereditary love of Baal burst forth, and he cries, "This evil is from Jehovah," the ancient enemy of my house: "why should I wait for Jehovah any longer?" To this Elisha answers: "Hear the word of Jehovah" he who has sent famine can also send plenty "tomorrow at this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of this very city." "This is folly," says the officer; "even if Jehovah were to make windows in heaven and pour down the provisions, it could not be." "It can, it shall," replies Elisha; "and you, you shall see it all, but shall not live even to taste it" ( 2 Kings 6:24-33;  2 Kings 7:1-2). The next night God caused the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and horses; and conceiving that Jehoram had hired against them the kings of the Hittites and the king of Egypt, they fled from before the walls of Samaria leaving their tents filled with gold and provisions in the utmost panic and confusion. In this way did God, according to the word of Elisha, miraculously deliver the inhabitants of Samaria from a deadly enemy without, and from sore famine within, its walls: another prediction moreover was accomplished; for the distrustful lord was trampled to death by the famished people in rushing through the gate of the city to the forsaken tents of the Syrians ( 2 Kings 7:1-20). (See Samaria).

12. We now go back several years to an incident connected with the lady of Shunem, at a period antecedent to the cure of Naaman and the transfer of his leprosy to Gehazi ( 2 Kings 5:1;  2 Kings 5:27). Elisha had been made aware of a famine which Jehovah was about to bring upon the land for seven years; and he had warned his friend the Shunammite of it that she might provide for her safety. Accordingly she had left Shunem with her family, and had taken refuge in the land of the Philistines, that is, in the rich corn- growing plain on the sea-coast of Judah, where, secure from want, she remained during the dearth. At the end of the seven years she returned to her native place, to find that during her absence her house with the field- land attached to it the corn-fields of the former story had been appropriated by some other person. In Eastern countries kings are (or were) accessible to the complaints of the meanest of their subjects to a degree inconceivable to the inhabitants of the Western world. To the king, therefore, the Shunammite had recourse, as the widow of Tekoah on a former occasion to king David ( 2 Samuel 14:4). Thus occurred one of those rare coincidences which it is impossible not to ascribe to something more than mere chance. At the very moment of the entrance of the woman and her son-clamoring, as Oriental suppliants alone clamor ( צָעִק ), for her home and her land the king was listening to a recital by Gehazi of "all the great things which Elisha had done," the crowning feat of all being that which he was then actually relating the restoration to life of the boy of Shunem. The woman was instantly recognised by Gehazi. "My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life." From her own mouth the king hears the repetition of the wonderful tale, and, whether from regard to Elisha, or struck by the extraordinary coincidence, orders her land to be restored, with the value of all its produce during her absence ( 2 Kings 8:1-6).

13. Hitherto we have met with the prophet only in his own country. We now find him at Damascus. (The traditional spot of his residence on this occasion is shown in the synagogue at Jobar [? Hobah], a village about two miles E. of Damascus. The same village, if not the same building, also contains the cave in which Elijah was fed by ravens and the tomb of Gehazi [Stanley, Palest. page 412; Quaresmius, 2:881 "vana et mendacia Hebraeorum"].) He is there to carry out the command given to Elijah on Horeb to "anoint Hazael to be king over Syria." At the time of his arrival Benhadad was prostrate with his last illness. This marks the time of the visit as after the siege of Samaria, which was conducted by Benhadad in person (compare  2 Kings 6:24). The memory of the cure of Naaman, and of the subsequent disinterestedness of the prophet, were no doubt still fresh in Damascus; and no sooner does he enter the city than the intelligence is carried to the king "The man of God is come hither." The king's first desire is naturally to ascertain his own fate; and Hazael, "he appears to have succeeded Naaman, is commissioned to be the bearer of a present to the prophet, and to ask the question on the part of his master, "Shall I recover of this disease?" The present is one of royal dimensions a caravan (of 40 camels, according to Josephus, Ant. 9:4, 6) laden with the riches and luxuries which that wealthy city alone could furnish. The terms of Hazael's address show the respect in which the prophet was held even in this foreign and hostile country. They are identical with those in which Nasman was addressed Ly his slaves, and in which the king of Israel in a moment of the deepest gratitude and reverence had addressed Elisha himself. "Thy son Benhadad hath sent me to thee, saying, 'Shall I recover of this disease?'" The reply, probably originally ambiguous, is doubly uncertain in the present doubtful state of the Hebrew text, but the general conclusion was unmistakable: "Jehovah hath showed me that he shall surely die."

But this was not all that had been revealed to the prophet. If Benhadad died, who would be king in his stead but the man who now stood before him? The prospect was one which drew forth the tears of the man of God. This man was no rash and imprudent leader, who could be baffled and deceived as Benhadad had so often been. Behind that "steadfast," impenetrable countenance was a steady courage and a persistent resolution, in which Elisha could not but foresee the greatest danger to his country. Here was a man who, give him but the power, would "oppress" and "cut Israel short," would "thresh Gilead with threshing instruments of iron," and "make them like the dust by threshing" as no former king of Syria had done, and that at a time when the prophet would be no longer alive to warn and to advise. At Hazael's request Elisha confesses the reason of his tears. But the prospect is one which has no sorrow for Hazael. How such a career presented itself to him may be inferred from his answer. His only doubt is the possibility of such good fortune for one so mean. "But what is thy slave, dog that he is ( עִבְדְּךָ הִכֶּלֶב , Thy Servant, THE Dog, i.e., insignificant object), that he should do this great thing?" To this Elisha replies, "Jehovah hath showed me that thou wilt be king over Syria." Returning to the king, Hazael tells him only half the dark saying of the man of God "He told me that thou shouldest surely recover." But that was the last day of Benhadad's life. What were the circumstances attending his death, whether in the bath as has recently been suggested (Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 3:523 note), is not clear, except that he seems to have been smothered. The general inference, in accordance with the account of Josephus, is that Hazael himself was the murderer, but the statement in the text does not necessarily bear that interpretation ( הִמִּכְבֵּר יִיַּקִּח , may well be rendered " One took the [not a] hair-cloth," i.e., perhaps divan-mattress); and, indeed, from the mention of Hazael's name at the end of the passage, the conclusion is rather the reverse ( 2 Kings 8:7-15). (See Hazael).

14. Two of the injunctions laid on Elijah had now been carried out, but the third still remained. Hazael had begun his attacks on Israel by an attempt to recover the stronghold of Ramoth-Gilead ( 2 Kings 8:28), or Ramah, among the mountains on the east of Jordan. But the fortress was held by the kings of Israel and Judah in alliance, and, though the Syrians had wounded the king of Israel, they had not succeeded in capturing the place ( 2 Kings 8:28;  2 Kings 9:15). One of the captains of the Israelitish army in the garrison was Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. At the time his name was mentioned to Elijah on Horeb he must have been but a youth; now he is one of the boldest and best known of all the warriors of Israel. He had seen the great prophet once, when with his companion Bidkar he attended Ahab to take possession of the field of Naboth, and the scene of that day, and the words of the curse then pronounced, no subsequent adventure had been able to efface ( 2 Kings 9:25;  2 Kings 9:36). The time had now come far the fulfillment of that curse by his being anointed king over Israel. Elisha's personal share in the transaction was confined to giving directions to one of the sons of the prophets, and the detailed narrative may be found in  2 Kings 9:1-37 (see Maurice, Prophets And Kings, sermon 9). (See Jehu).

15. Beyond this we have no record of Elisha's having taken any part in the revolution of Jehu, or the events which followed it. He does not again appear till we find him on his death-bed in his own house ( 2 Kings 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, is now king, and he has come to weep over the approaching departure of the great and good prophet. His words are the same as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away "My father! my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" But it is not a time for weeping. One thought fills the mind of both king and prophet. Syria is the fierce enemy who is gradually destroying the country, and against Syria one final effort must be made before the aid of Elisha becomes unobtainable. What was the exact significance of the ceremonial employed, our ignorance of Jewish customs does not permit us to know, but it was evidently symbolic. The window is opened towards the hated country, the bow is pointed in the same direction, and the prophet laying his hands on the string as if to convey force to the shot, "the arrow of Jehovah's deliverance, the arrow of deliverance from Syria" is discharged. This done, the king takes up the bundle of arrows, and, at the command of Elisha, beats them on the ground. But he does it with no energy, and the successes of Israel, which might have been so prolonged as completely to destroy the foe, are limited to three victories. (See Jehoash).

16. The power of the prophet, however, does not terminate with his death. Even in the tomb (Josephus embellishes the account by stating that he had a magnificent funeral, Ant. 9:8, 6) he restores the dead to life. Moab had recovered from the tremendous reverse inflicted on her by the three kings at the opening of Elisha's career ( 2 Kings 3:1-27), and her marauding bands had again begun the work of depredation which Syria so long pursued ( 2 Kings 5:2;  2 Kings 6:23). The text perhaps infers that the spring that is, when the early crops were ripening was the usual period for these attacks; but, be this as it may, on the present occasion they invaded the land "at the coming in of the year." A funeral was going on in the cemetery which contained the sepulcher of Elisha. Seeing the Moabitish spoilers in the distance, the friends of the dead man hastened to conceal his corpse in the nearest hiding-place. They chose whether by design or by accident is not said the tomb of the prophet, and, as the body was pushed ( יָלִךְ ) into the cell which formed the receptacle for the corpse in Jewish tombs, it came in contact with his bones. The mere touch of those hallowed remains was enough to effect that which in his lifetime had cost Elisha both prayers and exertions the man "revived and stood up on his feet." Other miracles of the prophet foreshadow, as we have remarked, the acts of power and goodness of our Savior, but this may rather be said to recall the marvels of a later period of the early ages of the Christian Church. It is in the story of Gervasius and Protasius (Augustine's Confessions, 9, § 16), and not in any occurrence in the life of our Lord or of the apostles, that we must look for a parallel to the last recorded miracle of Elisha ( 2 Kings 13:20-22).

II. Characteristics And Traditional Views. In almost every respect Elisha presents the most complete contrast to Elijah. The copious collection of his sayings and doings which are preserved in the 3d to the 9th chapter of the 2d book of Kings, though in many respects deficient in that remarkable vividness which we have noted in the records of Elijah, is yet full of testimonies to this contrast. Elijah was a true Bedouin child of the desert. The clefts of the Cherith, the wild shrubs of the desert, the cave at Horeb, the top of Carmel, were his haunts and his resting-places. If he enters a city, it is only to deliver his message and be gone. Elisha, on the other hand, is a civilized man, an inhabitant of cities. He passed from the translation of his master to dwell at Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:18); from thence he "returned" to Samaria ( 2 Kings 2:25). At Samaria ( 2 Kings 5:3;  2 Kings 6:32; comp.  2 Kings 6:24) and at Dothan ( 2 Kings 6:14) he seems regularly to have resided in a house ( 2 Kings 5:9;  2 Kings 5:24;  2 Kings 6:32;  2 Kings 13:17) with "doors" and "windows," in familiar intercourse with the sons of the prophets, with the elders ( 2 Kings 6:32), with the lady of Shunem, the general of Damascus, the king of Israel Over the king and the "captain of the host he seems to have possessed some special influence, capable of being turned to material advantage if desired ( 2 Kings 4:13). The touches of the narrative are very slight, but we can gather that his dress was the ordinary garment of an Israelite, the Beged, probably similar in form to the long Abbeyeh of the modern Syrians ( 2 Kings 2:12), that his hair was worn short (if not naturally deficient) behind, in contrast with the long locks of Elijah ( 2 Kings 2:23), and that he used a walking-staff ( 2 Kings 4:29) of the kind ordinarily carried by grave or aged citizens ( Zechariah 8:4). What use he made of the rough mantle of Elijah, which came into his possession at their parting, does not anywhere appear, but there is no hint of his ever having worn it. Elijah was emphatically a destroyer. His mission was to slay and to demolish whatever opposed or interfered with the rights of Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts. The nation had adopted a god of power and force, and they were shown that he was feebleness itself compared with the God whom they had forsaken.

But after Elijah the destroyer comes Elisha the healer. "There shall not be dew nor rain these years" is the earliest proclamation of the one. "There shall not be from thence any dearth or barren land" is the first miracle of the other. What may have been the disposition of Elijah when not engaged in the actual service of his mission we have unhappily no means of knowing. Like most men of strong, stern character, he probably had affections not less strong. But it is impossible to conceive that he was accustomed to the practice of that beneficence which is so strikingly characteristic of Elisha, and which comes out at almost every step of his career. Still more impossible is it to conceive him exercising the tolerance towards the person and the religion of foreigners for which Elisha is remarkable in communication, for example, with Naaman or Hazael; in the one case calming with a word of peace the scruples of the new proselyte, anxious to reconcile the due homage to Rimmon with his allegiance to Jehovah; in the other case contemplating with tears, but still with tears only, the evil which the future king of Syria was to bring upon his country. That Baal-worship was prevalent in Israel even after the efforts of Elijah, and that Samaria was its chief seat, we have the evidence of the narrative of Jehu to assure us ( 2 Kings 10:18-27), but his mission is not so directly to rebuke and punish it. In the eulogium of Elisha contained in the catalogue of worthies of  Sirach 48:12-14 the only later mention of him save the passing allusion of  Luke 4:27 his special character is more strongly brought out than in the earlier narrative: "Whilst he lived he was not moved by the presence of any prince, neither could any bring him into subjection. No word could overcome him, and after his death his body prophesied. He did wonders in his life, and at his death were his works marvelous." This thaumaturgic view of Elisha is indeed the true key to his Biblical history, for he evidently appears in these records chiefly as a worker of prodigies, a predictor of future events, a revealer of secrets, and things happening out of sight or at a distance. The working of wonders seems to be a natural accompaniment of false religions, and we may be sure that the Baal-worship of Samaria and Jezreel was not free from such arts. The story of  1 Kings 22:1-53 shows that even before Elisha's time the prophets had come to be looked upon as diviners, and were consulted, not on questions of truth and justice, nor even as depositaries of the purposes and will of the Deity, but as able to foretell how an adventure or a project was likely to turn out, whether it might be embarked in without personal danger or loss. But if this degradation is inherent in false worship, it is no less a principle in true religion to adjust itself to a state of things already existing, and out of the forms of the alien or the false to produce the power of the true. Thus Elisha appears to have met the habits of his fellow-countrymen. He wrought, without reward and without ceremonial, the cures and restorations for which the soothsayers of Baalzebub at Ekron were consulted in vain: he warned his sovereign of dangers from the Syrians which the whole four hundred of his prophets had not succeeded in predicting to Ahab, and thus in one sense we may say that no less signally than Elijah he vanquished the false gods on their own field.

The frequency and unparalleled nature of his miracles also furnish perhaps the best explanation of Elijah's behest of "a double portion of his own spirit" upon Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:9), The ordinary meaning put upon this phrase (see, for example, J.H. Newman, Subj. of the Day, page 191) is that Elisha possessed double the power of Elijah. This, though sanctioned by the renderings of the Vulgate and Luther, and adopted by a long series of commentators from Ephraem Syrus to Krummnacher, would appear not to be the real force of the words. The expression is פַּי שְׁנִיִם , literally "a mouth of two" a double mouthful the same phrase employed in  Deuteronomy 21:17 to denote the amount of A father's goods which were the right and token of a first-born son. Thus the gift of the "double portion" of Elijah's spirit was but the legitimate conclusion of the act of adoption which began with the casting of the mantle at Abel-meholah years before. It was this which Elisha sought not a gift of the spirit of prophecy twice as large as Elijah himself possessed. This carries improbability on the very face of it; for with what propriety could a man be asked to leave as an inheritance to another double of what he himself possessed? Nor did Elisha get any such superlative endowment; his position as a prophet was altogether of a dependent and secondary nature as compared with Elijah's; and the attempts that have been made to invert the relation of the one to the other, proceed upon arbitrary and superficial considerations. Not less arbitrary is the view of Ewald, that the request of Elisha must be understood as indicating a wish for two thirds only of Elijah's spirit (Gesch. 3:507) a view that requires no refutation. The proper explanation is, that Elisha here regarded Elijah as the head of a great spiritual household, which included himself as the first-born and all who had since been added to the fraternity under the name of "the sons of the prophets;" and what he now sought was, that he might be constituted Elijah's heir in the spiritual vineyard, by getting the first-born's double portion, and therewith authority to continue the work. For a curious calculation by Peter Damianus that Elijah performed twelve miracles an

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

ē̇ - lı̄´sha אלישׁע , 'ĕlı̄shā‛ , "God is salvalion"; Septuagint Ἐλεισαῖε , Eleisaı́e  ; New Testament Ἐλισαῖος , Elisaı́os , Eliseus, ( Luke 4:27 the King James Version)):

I. His Call and Preparation

1. His Call

2. His Preparation

3. The Parting Gift of Elijah

II. His Prophetic Career

1. Record of His Career

2. His Ministry in a Private Capacity

3. His Ministry in a Public and National Capacity

4. Characteristics of His Ministry

(1) In Comparison with Elijah

(2) General Features of His Ministry

III. General Estimate


A prophet, the disciple and successor of Elijah. He was the son of Shaphat, lived at Abel-meholah, at the northern end of the Jordan valley and a little South of the Sea of Galilee. Nothing is told of his parents but the father's name, though he must have been a man of some wealth and doubtless of earnest piety. No hint is given of Elisha's age or birth-place, and it is almost certain that he was born and reared at Abel-meholah, and was a comparatively young man when we first hear of him. His early life thus was spent on his father's estate, in a god-fearing family, conditions which have produced so many of God's prophets. His moral and religious nature was highly developed in such surroundings, and from his work on his father's farm he was called to his training as a prophet and successor of Elijah.

I. His Call and Preparation

The first mention of him occurs in  1 Kings 19:16 . Elijah was at Horeb, learning perhaps the greatest lesson of his life; and one of the three duties with which he was charged was to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet in his stead.

1. His Call

Elijah soon went northward and as he passed the lands of Shaphat he saw Elisha plowing in the rich level field of his father's farm. Twelve yoke of oxen were at work, Elisha himself plowing with the twelfth yoke. Crossing over to him Elijah threw his mantle upon the young man ( 1 Kings 19:19 ). Elisha seemed to understand the meaning of the symbolic act, and was for a moment overwhelmed with its significance. It meant his adoption as the son and successor of Elijah in the prophetic office. Naturally he would hesitate a moment before making such an important decision. As Elijah strode on, Elisha felt the irresistible force of the call of God and ran after the great prophet, announcing that he was ready to follow; only he wished to give a parting kiss to his father and mother ( 1 Kings 19:20 ). Elijah seemed to realize what it meant to the young man, and bade him "Go back again; for what have I done to thee?" The call was not such an urgent one as Elisha seemed to think, and the response had better be deliberate and voluntary. But Elisha had fully made up his mind, slew the yoke of oxen with which he was plowing, boiled their flesh with the wood of the implements he was using, and made a farewell feast for his friends. He then followed Elijah, making a full renunciation of home ties, comforts and privileges. He became Elijah's servant; and we have but one statement describing their relationship ( 2 Kings 3:11 ): he "poured water on the hands of Elijah."

2. His Preparation

They seem to have spent several years together ( 1 Kings 22:1;  2 Kings 1:17 ), for Elisha became well known among the various schools of the prophets. While ministering to the needs of his master, Elisha learned many deep and important lessons, imbibed much of his spirit, and developed his own religious nature and efficiency until he was ready for the prophetic service himself. It seems almost certain that they lived among the schools of the prophets, and not in the mountains and hills as Elijah had previously done. During these years the tie between the two men became very deep and strong. They were years of great significance to the young prophet and of careful teaching on the part of the older. The lesson learned at Horeb was not forgotten and its meaning would be profoundly impressed upon the younger man, whose whole afterlife shows that he had deeply imbibed the teaching.

3. The Parting Gift of Elijah

The final scene shows the strong and tender affection he cherished toward his master. Aware that the end was near, he determined to be with him until the last. Nothing could persuade him to leave Elijah. When asked what should be done for him, before his master was taken away, he asks for the elder son's portion, a double portion, of his master's spirit ( 2 Kings 2:9 ). He has no thought of equality; he would be Elijah's firstborn son. The request shows how deeply he had imbibed of his master's spirit already. His great teacher disappears in a whirlwind, and, awestruck by the wonderful sight, Elisha rends his clothes, takes up the garment of Elijah, retraces his steps to the Jordan, smites the waters to test whether the spirit of Elijah had really fallen upon him, and as the water parts, he passes over dry shod. The sons of the prophets who have been watching the proceedings from the hills, at once observe that the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha, and they bowed before him in reverence and submission ( 2 Kings 2:12-15 ). Elisha now begins his prophetic career which must have lasted 50 years, for it extended over the reign of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Joash. The change in him is now so manifest that he is universally recognized as Elijah's successor and the religious leader of the prophetic schools. The skepticism of the young prophets regarding the translation of Elijah found little sympathy with Elisha, but he is conciliatory and humors them ( 2 Kings 2:16-18 ).

II. His Prophetic Career

1. Record of His Career

As we study the life of Elisha we look first at the record of his career. The compiler of these records has followed no strict chronological order. Like other scripture writers he has followed the system of grouping his materials. The records in 2 Ki 2:19 through 5:27 are probably in the order of their occurrence. The events in chapters 6 through 9 cannot be chronologically arranged, as the name of the king of Israel is not mentioned. In  2 Kings 6:23 we are told that the Syrians came no more into the land of Israel, and   2 Kings 6:24 proceeds to give an account of Ben-hadad's invasion and the terrible siege of Samaria. In chapter 5 Gehazi is smitten with leprosy, while in chapter 8 he is in friendly converse with the king. In chapter 13 the death of Joash is recorded, and this is followed by the record of his last interview with Elisha (  2 Kings 13:14-19 ) which event occurred some years previously.

2. His Ministry in a Private Capacity

When he began his career of service he carried the mantle of Elijah, but we read no more of that mantle; he is arrayed as a private citizen ( 2 Kings 2:12 ) in common garmerits ( beghādhı̄m ). He carries the walking-staff of ordinary citizens, using it for working miracles ( 2 Kings 4:29 ). He seems to have lived in different cities, sojourning at Bethel or Jericho with the sons of the prophets, or dwelling in his own home in Dothan or Samaria ( 2 Kings 6:24 ,  2 Kings 6:32 ). He passed Shunem so frequently on foot that a prophet's chamber was built for his special use ( 2 Kings 4:8-11 ).

(1) Elijah's ministry began by shutting up the heavens for three and a half years; Elisha's began by healing a spring of water near Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:21 ). One of these possessed certain noxious qualities, and complaint is made to Elisha that it is unfit for drinking and injurious to the land ( 2 Kings 2:19 ). He takes salt in a new vessel, casts it into the spring and the waters are healed so that there was not "from thence any more death or miscarrying" ( 2 Kings 2:21 ).

(2) Leaving Jericho, 'a pleasant situation,' he passes up to the highlands of Ephraim, doubtless by the Wady Suweinit, and approaches Bethel, a seat of Baal worship and headquarters of idolatry. The bald head, or perhaps closely cropped head, of Elisha, in contrast with that of Elijah, provoked the ridicule of some "young lads out of the city" who called after him "Go up, thou baldhead," their taunt manifesting the most blatant profanity and utter disregard of God or anything sacred. Elisha, justly angered, turned and cursed them in the name of Yahweh. Two bears soon break forth from the woods of that wild region and make fearful havoc among the boys. Elisha may have shown severity and a vindictiveness in this, but he was in no way to blame for the punishment which overtook the boys. He had nothing to do with the bears and was in no way responsible for the fate of the lads. The Septuagint adds that they threw stones, and the rabbis tell how Elisha was himself punished, but these attempts to tone down the affair are uncalled for and useless ( 2 Kings 2:23 ,  2 Kings 2:14 ).

(3) From Bethel Elisha passed on to Mt. Carmel, the home of a school of the prophets, spent some time there and returned to Samaria the capital ( 2 Kings 2:25 ). His next deed of mercy was to relieve the pressing needs of a widow of one of the prophets. The name of the place is not given ( 2 Kings 4:1-7 )

(4) On his many journeys up and down the country, he frequently passed by the little village of Shunem, on the slopes of "Little Hermon." The modern name is Sôlam . It was about three miles from Jezreel. Accustomed to accept hospitality of one of the women of the place, he so impressed her with his sanctity that she appealed to her husband to build a chamber for the "holy man of God, that passeth by us continually." This was done, and in return for this hospitality a son was born to the woman, who suddenly dies in early boyhood and is restored to life by the prophet (2 Ki 4:8-37).

(5) Elisha is next at Gilgal, residing with the sons of the prophets. It is a time of famine and they are subsisting on what they can find. One of them finds some wild gourds ( paḳḳu‛ōth ), shreds them into the pot and they are cooked. The men have no sooner begun to eat than they taste the poison and cry to Elisha, "O man of God, there is death in the pot." Throwing in some meal, Elisha at once renders the dish harmless and wholesome ( 2 Kings 4:38-41 ).

(6) Probably at about the same time and place and during the same famine, a man from Baal-shalishah brought provisions as a present to Elisha - twenty loaves of fresh barley bread and fresh ears of grain. Unselfishly Elisha commands that it be given to the people to eat. The servant declared it was altogether insufficient for a hundred men, but Elisha predicts that there will be enough and to spare ( 2 Kings 4:42-44 ). This miracle closely resembles the two miracles of Jesus.

(7) The next incident is the healing of Naaman, the leprous commander of the Syrian army (2 Ki 5:1-19). He is afflicted with the white leprosy, the most malignant kind ( 2 Kings 5:27 ). A J ewish maiden, captured in one of their numerous invasions of Eastern Palestine, and sold into slavery with a multitude of others, tells her mistress, the wife of Naaman, about the wonder-working Elisha. The maiden tells her mistress that Elisha can heal the leprosy, and Naaman resolves to visit him. Through the king he obtains permission to visit Elisha with a great train and rich presents. The prophet sends his servant to tell him to dip seven times in the Jordan and he will be healed. Naaman is angered at the lack of deference on the part of Elisha and turns away in a rage to go home. Better counsels prevail, and he obeys the prophet and is cured. Elisha absolutely refuses the rich presents Naaman offers, and permits the Syrian to take some earth from Yahweh's land, that he may build an altar in Syria and worship Yahweh there. The idea was that a God was localized and could be worshipped only on his own land. Elisha grants Naaman permission apparently to worship Rimmon while avowedly he is a worshipper of Yahweh. The prophet appreciates the difficulties in Naaman's path, believes in his sincerity, and by this concession in no way proves that he believes in the actual existence of a god named Rimmon, or that Yahweh was confined to his own land, or in any way sanctions idolatrous worship. He is conciliatory and tolerant, making the best of the situation.

(8) An act of severity on the part of Elisha follows, but it was richly deserved. Gehazi's true character now manifests itself. He covets the rich presents brought by Naaman, runs after him, and by a clever story secures a rich present from the general. Elisha divines his trick and dooms him and his family to be afflicted with Naaman's leprosy forever ( 2 Kings 5:20-27 ).

(9) A group of the sons of the prophets, probably at Jericho, finding their quarters too small, determine to build new quarters near the Jordan. While felling the timber the ax-head of one, a borrowed tool, fell into the water and disappeared. It would have been useless to have attempted to search for it in that swift and muddy stream, so he cries in distress to the prophet. Elisha breaks off a stick, casts it in the spot where the ax fell, and makes the iron swim on the surface ( 2 Kings 6:1-7 ).

3. His Ministry in a Public and National Capacity

Elisha's services to his king and country were numerous and significant.

(1) The first one recorded took place during the attempt of Jehoram to resubjugate Moab which had revolted under King Mesha. In company with Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom, his southern allies, the combined hosts found themselves without water in the wilderness of Edom. The situation is desperate. Jehoram appeals to Jehoshaphat, and on discovering that Elisha was in the camp all three kings appeal to him in their extremity. He refuses any help to Jehoram, bidding him appeal to the prophets of his father Ahab and his mother Jezebel. For Jehoshaphat's sake he will help, calls for a minstrel, and under the spell of the music receives his message. He orders them to dig many trenches to hold the water which shall surely come on the morrow from the land of Edom and without rain. He moreover predicted that Moab would be utterly defeated. These predictions are fulfilled, Mesha is shut up in his capital, and in desperation sacrifices his firstborn son and heir on the walls in sight of all Israel. In great horror the Israelites withdraw, leaving Mesha in possession (2 Ki 3:4-27).

(2) His next services occurred at Samaria. The king of Syria finds that his most secret plans are divulged in some mysterious way, and he fails more than once to take the king of Israel. He suspects treachery in his army, but is told of Elisha's divining powers. Elisha is living at Dothan; and thither the king of Syria sends a large army to capture him. Surrounded by night, Elisha is in no way terrified as his servant is, but prays that the young man's eyes may be opened to see the mountains full of the chariots and horses of Yahweh. Going forth to meet the Syrians as they close in, Elisha prays that they may be stricken with blindness. The word ṣanwērı̄m is used only here and in  Genesis 19:11 and probably means mental blindness, or bewilderment, a confusion of mind amounting to illusion. He now tells them that they have come to the wrong place, but he will lead them to the right place. They follow him into the very heart of Samaria and into the power of the king. The latter would have smitten them, but is rebuked by Elisha who counseled that they be fed and sent away (2 Ki 6:8-23). Impressed by such mysterious power and strange clemency the Syrians ceased their marauding attacks.

(3) The next incident must have occurred some time previous, or some time after these events. Samaria is besieged, the Israelites are encouraged to defend their capital to the last, famine prices prevail, and mothers begin to cook their children and eat them. The king in horror and rage will wreak vengeance on Elisha. The latter divines his purpose, anticipates any action on the king's part, and predicts that there will be abundance of food on the morrow. That night a panic seized the Syrian host. They imagined they heard the Hittires coming against them, and fled in headlong rout toward the Jordan. Four lepers discover the deserted camp and report the fact to the king. He suspects an ambuscade, but is persuaded to send a few men to reconnoiter. They find the camp deserted and treasures strewing the path right to the Jordan. The maritans lose no time in plundering the camp and Elisha's predictions are fulfilled to the letter (2 Ki 6:24 through 7:20).

(4) The prophet's next act was one of great significance. It was the carrying out of the first order given to Elijah at Horeb, and the time seemed ripe for it. He proceeds north to Damascus and finds Benhadad sick. Hearing of his presence the king sends a rich present by the hands of his chief captain Hazael and inquires whether he will recover. Elisha gives a double answer. He will recover, the disease will not be fatal, yet he will die. Fixing his eyes on Hazael, Elisha sees a fierce and ruthless successor to Benhadad who will be a terrible scourge to Israel. The man of God weeps, the fierce captain is ashamed, and when told of what he shall do, represents himself as a dog and not able to do such things. But the prospect is too enticing; he tells Benhadad he will recover, and on the morrow smothers him and succeeds to the throne ( 2 Kings 8:7-15 ).

(5) The next, move of Elisha was even more significant. It is the fulfilling of the second order given Elijah at Mt. Horeb. The Israelites are fighting the Syrians in defense of Ramoth-gilead. The king, Jehoram, is wounded and returns home to Jezreel to recover. Elisha seizes on the opportune moment to have the house of Ahab avenged for its many sins. He dispatches one of the young prophets with a vial of oil to Ramoth-gilead with orders to anoint Jehu, one of the captains of the army, as king over Israel. The young prophet obeys, delivers his message and flees. Jehu tries to conceal the real nature of the interview, but is forced to tell, and is at once proclaimed king. He leaps into his chariot, drives furiously to Jezreel, meets the king by the vineyard of Naborb, sends an arrow through his heart, tramples to death the queen Jezebel, butchers the king's sons and exterminates the royal family. He then treacherously murders the priests of Baal and the revolution is complete; the house of Ahab is destroyed, Baal worship overthrown and an able king is upon the throne (2 Ki 9; 10).

(6) Elisha retains his fervent and patriotic spirit until the last. His final act is in keeping with his long. life of generous deeds and faithful patriotic service. He is on his death bed, having witnessed the fearful oppressions of Israel by Hazael who made Israelites as dust under his feet. The young king Joash visits him, weeps over him, calling him, "My father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof." The dying prophet bids him take his bow and arrow and shoot eastward, an act symbolic of his victory over Syria. Being then commanded to smite upon the ground, he smites three times and stops. The prophet is angry, tells him he should have smitten many times, then he would have smitten Syria many times, but now he shall smite her only thrice ( 2 Kings 13:14-19 ).

(7) The last wonder in connection with Elisha occurs after this death. His bones were reported to have vitalizing power ( 2 Kings 13:20-21 ). Tradition says that the man thus restored to life lived but an hour; but the story illustrates something of the reverence held for Elisha.

4. Characteristics of His Ministry

(1) In Comparison with Elijah

In many respects Elisha is a contrast to his great predecessor. Instead of a few remarkable appearances and striking events, his was a steady lifelong ministry; instead of the rugged hills his home was in the quiet valley and on the farm; instead of solitariness he loved the social life and the home. There were no sudden appearances add disappearances, people always knew where to find him. There were no long seasons of hiding or retirement, he was constantly moving about among the people or the prophetic schools. There were no spectacular revolutions, only the effect of a long steady ministry. His career resembled the latter portion of Elijah's more than the earlier. Elijah had learned well his lesson at Horeb. God is not so much in the tempest, the fire and the earthquake, as in the "still small voice" ( 1 Kings 19:12 ). Elijah was a prophet of fire, Elisha more of a pastor. The former called down fire out of heaven to consume those sent to take him; Elisha anticipates the king when he comes to take him ( 2 Kings 6:32 ,  2 Kings 6:33 ) and gives promises of relief. He merely asks for blindness to come upon the army which surrounded him at Dothan, and spares them when the king would have smitten them ( 2 Kings 6:21-23 ). Elijah was austere and terrible, but Elisha was so companionable that the woman at Shunera built him a chamber. His prophetic insight could be helped more by the strains of music than by the mountain solitude ( 2 Kings 3:15 ). Some of his miracles resemble Elijah's. The multiplication of the oil and the cruse is much like the continued supply of meal and oil to the widow of Zarephath ( 1 Kings 17:10-16 ), and the raising of the Shunammite's son like the raising of the widow's son at Zarephath ( 1 Kings 17:17-24 ).

(2) General Features of His Ministry

His services as a pastor-prophet were more remarkable than his miracles. He could be very severe in the presence of deliberate wrongdoing, stern and unflinching when the occasion required. He could weep before Hazael, knowing what he would do to Israel, yet he anointed him king of Syria ( 2 Kings 8:11-15 ). When the time was ripe and the occasion opportune, he could instigate a revolution that wiped out a dynasty, exterminated a family, and caused the massacre of the priests of Baal (2 Ki 8; 9). He possessed the confidence of kings so fully that they addressed him as father and themselves as sons ( 2 Kings 6:21;  2 Kings 13:14 ). He accompanied an army of invasion and three kings consult him in extremity ( 2 Kings 3:11-19 ). The king of Syria consults him in sickness ( 2 Kings 8:7 ,  2 Kings 8:8 ). The king of Israel seems to blame him for the awful conditions of the siege and would have wreaked vengeance on him ( 2 Kings 6:31 ). He was something of a military strategist and many times saved the king's army ( 2 Kings 6:10 ). The king of Israel goes to him for his parting counsel ( 2 Kings 13:14-19 ). His advice or command seemed to be always taken unhesitatingly. His contribution to the religious life of Israel was not his least service. Under Jehu he secured the destruction of the Baal worship in its organized form. Under Hazael the nation was trodden down and almost annihilated for its apostasy. By his own ministry many were saved from bowing the knee to Baal. His personal influence among the schools of the prophets was widespread and beneficial. He that escaped the sword of Hazael was slain by Jehu, and he that escaped Jehu was slain by Elisha. Elisha finished the great work of putting down Baal worship begun by Elijah. His work was not so much to add anything to religion, as to cleanse the religion already possessed. He did not ultimately save the nation, but he did save a large remnant. The corruptions were not all eradicated, the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat were never fully overcome. He passed through a bitter and distressing national humiliation, but emerged with hope. He eagerly watched every turn of events and his counsels were more frequently adopted than those perhaps of any other prophet. He was "the chariots of Israel and tire horsemen thereof" ( 2 Kings 13:14 ). No condemnation of calf-worship at Dan and Bethel is recorded, but that does not prove that he fully sanctioned it. His was a contest between Yahweh worship and Baal worship. The corrupted form of Yahweh worship was a problem which Amos and Hosea had to face nearly a century later.

III. General Estimate

His character was largely molded by his home life. He was friend and benefactor of foreigner as well as of Israelite. He was large-hearted and generous, tolerant to a remarkable degree, courageous and shrewd when the occasion required, a diplomat as well as a statesman, severe and stern only in the presence of evil and when the occasion demanded. He is accused of being vindictive and of employing falsehood with his enemies. His faults, however, were the faults of his age, and these were but little manifested in his long career. His was a strenuous pastor's life. A homeloving and social man, his real work was that of teaching and helping, rather than working of miracles. He continually went about doing good. He was resourceful and ready and was gifted with a sense of humor. Known as "the man of God," he proved his right to the title by his zeal for God and loving service to man.


Driver, LOT , 185 f; W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel , 85ff; Cornill, Isr. Prophets , 14 f, 33ff; Farrar, Books of Kings  ; Kuenen, Religions of Israel , I, 360ff; Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures , 94 f; Maurice, Prophets and Kings , 142; Liddon, Sermons on Old Testament Subjects , 195-334.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

Eli´sha (God the deliverer). The manner, and the circumstances in which Elisha was called to the prophetic office have been noticed in the article Elijah.

Anxious to enter at once upon the duties of his sacred office, Elisha determined to visit the schools of the prophets which were on the other side of the Jordan. Accordingly, returning to this river, and wishing that sensible evidence should be afforded, both to himself and others, of the spirit and power of his departed master resting upon him, he struck its waters with Elijah's mantle, when they parted asunder and opened a way for him to pass over on dry land. Witnessing this miraculous transaction, the fifty sons of the prophets, who had seen from the opposite side Elijah's ascension, and who were awaiting Elisha's return, now, with becoming reverence, acknowledged him their spiritual head.

The divine authority by which Elisha became the successor of Elijah received further confirmation from the miracle whereby the bitter waters of Jericho were made sweet, and the place thereby rendered fit for the habitation of man .

As the general visitor of the schools of the prophets, Elisha now passes on from Jericho to the college which was at Bethel. Ere, however, he entered Bethel, there met him from thence little children, who, no doubt instigated by their idolatrous parents, tauntingly told him to ascend into heaven, as did his master, Elijah. There was in their expressions an admixture of rudeness, infidelity, and impiety. But the inhabitants of Bethel were to know, from bitter experience, that to dishonor God's prophets was to dishonor Himself; for Elisha was at the moment inspired to pronounce the judgment which at once took effect: God, who never wants for instruments to accomplish His purposes, caused two she-bears to emerge from a neighboring wood, and destroy the young delinquents.

Jehoram, who reigned over Israel at this time, though not a Baalite, was yet addicted to the sin of Jeroboam: still he inherits the friendship of Jehoshaphat, the good King of Judea, whose counsel, possibly, under God, had detached him from the more gross idolatry of his father Ahab. Wishing to see the now (B.C. 895) revolted king of Moab reduced to his wonted allegiance to Israel, Jehoshaphat determined to go up to battle against him, together with Jehoram, and his own tributary the king of Edom. These combined armies met together on the plains of Edom. Confident in their own powers they press onward against the enemy; but, not meeting him, another of a more formidable character started up before them. In the midst of the arid plains of Arabia Petraea they could find no water. Jehoram deplored the calamity into which they had fallen, but Jehoshaphat inquired for a prophet. On this, one of his courtiers said to Jehoram, 'Here is Elisha, the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.' No sooner were they made acquainted with the fact that Elisha was at hand than the three kings waited upon him. Elisha, feeling that it was nought but superstitious fear, joined to the influence of Jehoshaphat, which led Jehoram thus consult him, now indignantly and tauntingly advised him to go for succor to the gods of his father Ahab and of his mother Jezebel. The reproved monarch was then led to acknowledge the impotency of those gods in whom he had trusted, and the power of that God whom he had neglected. Still the man of God, seeing the hollowness of Jehoram's humiliation, continues: 'As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee.' Having thus addressed Jehoram, Elisha desired a minstrel to be brought before him; and now when his spirit was calmed by, perhaps, one of the songs of Zion, 'The hand of the Lord came upon him.' The minstrel ceased, and Elisha made known the joyful intelligence that not only should water be miraculously supplied, but also that Moab should be overcome. Accordingly the next morning they realized the truth of this prediction. But the same water which preserves their lives becomes the source of destruction to their enemies. The Moabites, who had received intelligence of the advance of the allied army, were now assembled upon their frontiers. When the sun was up, and its rosy light first fell upon the water, their van-guard, beholding it at a distance, supposed it to be blood. Thus the notion was rapidly spread from one end to another that the kings were surely slain, having fallen out among themselves. Hence there was a universal shout, 'Moab, to the spoil!' and they went forward confident of victory. But beholding the Israelitish squadrons advancing to meet them, they fled in the utmost panic and confusion (, etc.).

The war having terminated in the signal overthrow of the revolters, Elisha, who had returned home, is again employed in ministering blessings. The widow of a pious prophet presented herself before him (2 Kings 4), informed him that her husband having died in debt, his creditors were about to sell her two only sons, which, by an extension of the law (, and ), and by virtue of another they had the power to do; and against this hardhearted act she implores the prophet's assistance. Elisha then inquired how far she herself had the power to avert the threatened calamity. She replied that the only thing of which she was possessed was one pot of oil. By multiplying this, as did his predecessor Elijah in the case of the widow of Zarephath, he enabled her at once to pay off her debts and thereby to preserve the liberty of her children .

It is next related that in his visitations to the schools of the prophets his journey lay through the city of Shunem, where lived a rich and godly woman. Wishing that he should take up, more than occasionally, his abode under her roof, she proposed to her husband to construct a chamber for his reception. The husband at once consented, and, the apartment being completed and fitted up in a way that showed their proper conception of his feeling, the prophet becomes its occupant. The woman was childless; and the gratitude of the prophet for her disinterested kindness was evinced by the gift of a son, which the Lord, at his prayer, bestowed upon her. This new pledge of their affection grows up till he is able to visit his fond father in the harvest-field, when all the hopes they had built up in him were overthrown by his being suddenly laid prostrate in death. The bereaved mother, out of tenderness towards the feelings of the father, concealed the fact that the child was no more till she should see if it might please God, through Elisha, to restore him to life. She therefore hastened to Carmel, where she found the prophet, and informed him what had taken place. Conceiving probably that it was a case of mere suspended animation or a swoon, the prophet sent Gehazi, his servant, to place his staff on the face of the child, in the hope that it might act as a stimulus to excite the animal motions. But the mother, conscious that he was actually departed, continued to entreat that he himself would come to the chamber of the dead. He did so, and found that the soul of the child had indeed fled from the earthly tenement. Natural means belong to man; those that are supernatural belong to God: we should do our part, and beg of God to do His. On this principle the prophet on this occasion acted. God blessed the means used, and answered the prayer presented by Elisha. The child is raised up and restored to the fond embrace of its grateful and rejoicing parents.

The next remarkable event in the history of Elisha was the miraculous healing of the incurable leprosy of the Syrian general, Naaman, whereby the neighboring nation had the opportunity of learning the beneficence of that God of Israel, whose judgments had often brought them very low. The particulars are given under another head [NAAMAN].

Soon after this transaction we find this man of God in Gilgal, miraculously neutralizing the poison which had, by mistake, been mixed with the food of the prophets, and also feeding one hundred of them with twenty small loaves which had been sent for his own consumption (, etc.).

Notwithstanding the general profligacy of Israel the schools of the prophets increased, B.C. 890. This was, doubtless, owing to the influence of Elisha. Accompanied by their master, a party of these young prophets, or theological students, came to the Jordan, and while one of them was felling a beam (for the purpose of constructing there a house) the axe-head fell into the water.' This accident was the more distressing because the axe was borrowed property. Elisha, however, soon relieved him by causing it miraculously to rise to the surface of the river. The sacred record again leads us to contemplate the prophet's usefulness, in reference to his country at large. Does the king of Syria devise well-concerted schemes for the destruction of Israel? God inspires Elisha to detect and lay them open to Jehoram. Benhadad, on hearing that it was he that thus caused his hostile movements to be frustrated, sent an armed band to Dothan in order to bring him bound to Damascus. The prophet's servant, on seeing the host of the enemy which invested Dothan, was much alarmed, but by the prayer of Elisha, God reveals to him the mighty company of angels which were set for their defense. Regardless of consequences, the prophet went forth to meet the hostile band: and having again prayed, God so blinded them that they could not recognize the object of their search. The prophet then promised to lead them to where they might see him with the natural eye. Trusting to his guidance, they followed on till they reached the center of Samaria, when, the optical illusion being removed, Elisha stood in his recognized form before them. The king was for putting them all to death; but, through the interposition of him whom they had just before sought to destroy, they were honorably dismissed to their own country (B.C. 892). But a year had scarcely elapsed from this time when Benhadad, unmindful of Israel's kindness and forbearance, invested Samaria and reduced its inhabitants to a state of the most cruel famine. Yet the king of Israel plunged still deeper into sin, for he ordered Elisha to be put to death, conceiving that it was his prayer which brought these sufferings upon himself and nation. But God forewarned the prophet of his danger, and inspired him to predict to the wicked king that by tomorrow 'a measure of fine flour' should be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.' This assurance was not more comfortable than incredible; but when the lord on whose hand the king leaned expressed his disbelief, he was awfully rebuked by the assurance that he should see but not enjoy the benefit. The next night God caused the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and horses; and conceiving that Jehoram had hired against them the kings of the Hittites and the king of Egypt, they fled from before the walls of Samaria—leaving their tents filled with gold and provisions—in the utmost panic and confusion. In this way did God, according to the word of Elisha, miraculously deliver the inhabitants of Samaria from a deadly enemy without, and from sore famine within, its walls: another prediction, moreover, was accomplished; for the distrustful lord was trampled to death by the famished people in rushing through the gate of the city to the forsaken tents of the Syrians (2 Kings 7).

We next find the prophet in Damascus, but are not told what led him thither (B.C. 885). Benhadad, the king, whose counsels he had so often frustrated, rejoiced to hear of his presence; and now, as if he had forgotten the attempt he once made upon his life, dispatches a noble messenger with a costly present, to consult him concerning his sickness and recovery. The prophet replied that he should then die, though his indisposition was not of a deadly character. Seeing moreover, in prophetic vision, that the man Hazael, who now stood before him, should be king in Benhadad's stead; and that, as such, he would commit unheard of cruelties upon his country, the prophet was moved to tears. How these painful anticipations of Elisha were realized the subsequent history of this man proved.

For a considerable time after Elisha had sent to anoint Jehu king over Israel we find no mention of him in the sacred record. We have reason to suppose that he was utterly neglected by Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash, who reigned in succession. Neither the sanctity of his life nor the stupendous miracles he wrought had the effect of reforming the nation at large: much of the time of his latter years was, doubtless, spent in the schools of the prophets. At length, worn out by his public and private labors, and at the age of 90—during 60 of which he is supposed to have prophesied—he is called into eternity. Nor was the manner of his death inglorious; though he did not enter into rest as did Elijah (, etc.). Among his weeping attendants was Joash, the king of Israel. He was probably stung with remorse for having so neglected to acknowledge his national worth; yet, though late, God does not suffer this public recognition of his aged and faithful servant to go unrequited. The spirit of prophecy again entering the dying Elisha, he informed Joash that he should prevail against the Syrians. Even after death God would put honor upon Elisha: a dead body having touched his bones came to life again .

Elisha was not less eminent than his predecessor Elijah. His miracles are various and stupendous, and, like those which were wrought by Christ, were on the whole of a merciful character. In this they were remarkably distinguished, in many instances, from the miracles of Elijah.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

A Jewish prophet, the successor of Elijah, who found him at the plough, and consecrated him to his office by throwing his mantle over him, and which he again let fall on him as he ascended to heaven. He exercised his office for 55 years, but showed none of the zeal of his predecessor against the worship of Baal; was, however, accredited as a prophet of the Lord by the miracles he wrought in the Lord's name.