ELISHA (ē-lī’sha, called Eliseus, the Gr. form of Heb. ’ĕlîshā‘, in
Since Elisha thus comes into his ministry endowed with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit we are on the alert to see what his first words or deeds will be. The narrative selects two immediate acts of the prophet: the healing of the waters at Jericho and the cursing of the rabble at Bethel, a curse removed (
Jericho had been put under a curse by Joshua (
The situation can be reconstructed, then, like this. Since succeeding Elijah, Elisha has stayed near Jericho, but he must soon return to their old prophetic center at Carmel. This road passes Bethel, and for the first time the new prophet and the old apostasy come face to face. The religious authorities at Bethel are determined not to let the chance pass; Elijah was too much for them, but they will strike at his successor before he consolidates his position. So they arrange a “reception committee” in the approved “rent-a-mob” fashion. Why they opened the proceedings with a taunt of baldness remains a mystery—though possibly, if Elisha was a Nazirite, they were, in fact, mocking the uncut and abundant hair flowing out from under his head covering. At all events, they are bent on a mischief that goes beyond verbal abuse. If the victory is to remain with Elisha, it can only be so if the Lord will come to his aid. Elisha expresses his need of the Lord, not in a “will he, won’t he” wish for help but in a confident commanding of divine wrath. The Lord does not desert his beleaguered servant. We might well ask if we would want it to be otherwise.
Elisha visited Damascus and had an innocent part in Hazael’s succeeding Ben-Hadad as king of Aram (
ELISHAH (ē-lī’sha, Heb. ‘ělîshâh, God saves). The eldest son of Javan, grandson of Noah and founder of a tribal family (
ELISHA, ELISEUS ĭ lī’ shə (Heb. אֱלִישָׁ֖ע God is salvation; Gr., LXX, ̓Ελισα, ̓Ελισαιε, NT, ̓Ελισαίος; KJV, ELISEUS,
His origin. Elisha was a son of a man named Shaphat, of the city of Abel-meholah, possibly modern Tell Abu Sifri, W of the Jordan and about midway between the Dead Sea and the
His call. The call of Elisha to the prophetic office was given by the prophet Elijah and was acted out in the manner characteristic of many of the OT prophets. As he passed by Elisha, Elijah cast his mantle upon him. Elisha immediately ran after Elijah and said that he would follow him as soon as he had said farewell to his parents. Like many other Biblical heroes, Elisha was a man who was close to the soil. At the time of his call he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen (
His early ministry. While Elijah’s ministry continued, Elisha served him (
Elisha and the ascension of Elijah (
The prophetic ministry of Elisha. Elisha was now the full-fledged successor of his master and he proceeded with the same type of ministry, serving the schools of the prophets, helping the needy, performing miracles, giving advice to the king, and acting as a spokesman for God. It has been remarked that the miraculous works of Elisha are double the number performed by his predecessor, thus indicating that he had, in fact, been endowed with a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. The record of the ministry of Elisha extends to
Deeds and miraculous works of Elisha.
The parting of the Jordan
The purifying of the spring
The cursing of the children (
While going from Jericho to Bethel, Elisha was mocked by small boys who made fun of his bald head. He “cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.”
The defeat of Moab (
Jehoram, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and the king of Edom joined in a military campaign against Mesha, king of Moab. Marching through the wilderness of Edom, the armies found no water and were near despair. Jehoshaphat wished to consult a prophet of the Lord and was informed that Elisha was present. At first Elisha refused to counsel Jehoram, but after listening to a minstrel the prophet was empowered by the Lord to predict that the land would be filled with water and that the allies would defeat the Moabites (
The widow’s oil (
A poor widow complained to the prophet that a creditor was about to enslave her two children. When Elisha learned that the woman owned only a jar of oil, he instructed her to borrow many empty vessels from her neighbors, and then to go into her house with her sons and fill all of those vessels from the single jar of oil, so that she could pay her debts and live on the income from the oil.
The Shunammite’s son (
A wealthy woman of Shunem proposed to her husband that they should build on their house a room for the prophet’s use. In return for this kindness, Elisha foretold that in about a year the childless couple would have a son. A few years later this child suddenly became ill and died. The woman went to Mount Carmel to see “the man of God” (
The poison pot (
During a famine, the prophet came to Gilgal and ordered his servants to prepare food for the sons of the prophets. When one of the men in ignorance placed some poisonous wild gourds into the cooking pot, Elisha threw meal into the mixture and the contents of the pot became harmless.
The multiplying of the loaves and grain (
A man from Baal-shalishah brought twenty barley loaves and some heads of grain, which Elisha told his servant to set before a hundred men. Though the servant protested, he finally obeyed and there was food enough and some left over.
The healing of Naaman (
2 Kings 5).
Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was a leper. A captive Israelite girl who served in Naaman’s household suggested to Naaman’s wife that the prophet in Samaria could heal Naaman. The king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel, with a letter of introduction to the king of Israel. The Israelite king panicked, but Elisha heard of the problem and cured the commander’s leprosy by having Naaman dip seven times in the. Naaman then acknowledged the God of Israel, but Gehazi could not resist requesting a reward for the healing and was punished by becoming a leper.
The floating axe head (
While constructing new buildings near the Jordan for the sons of the prophets, one of the men lost the head of a borrowed axe in the water. The prophet threw a stick into the water and the axe head floated and was recovered.
Divine espionage (
On several occasions when the Syrians and Israelites were at war, Elisha saved the Israelite king by warning him of the location of the Syrians.
The Dothan episode (
The Syrians attempted to capture the prophet at Dothan, but the Lord protected him with chariots of fire. When the Lord struck the soldiers blind, Elisha brought them to Samaria, where they recovered their sight. Upon Elisha’s advice, the king of Israel made a great feast for them and then released them.
Famine and feast in Samaria (
Under siege by the army of Ben-hadad of Syria, Samaria suffered such famine that cannibalism was resorted to by several women. When the king proposed executing Elisha, the prophet foretold that there would be an abundance of food the next day. During the night the Syrians fled in disarray and four lepers discovered that the Syrian camp was forsaken; they reported the good news to the city, whose inhabitants soon enjoyed abundance.
The Shunammite’s property (
During a seven-year famine in Israel the Shunammite woman sojourned in Philistia, and upon her return wished to recover her house and land. The woman and her son arrived to make appeal to the king while Gehazi was relating her earlier story to that ruler, who secured the restoration of her property.
Elisha and Hazael (
8:7-15; cf. 1 Kings 19:15).
Ben-hadad became ill and sent Hazael to the prophet to inquire about his recovery. Elisha’s answer indicated that Hazael would become king of Syria; the Syrian smothered his ailing master and became king.
Elisha and Jehu (
9:1-3; cf. 1 Kings 19:16).
Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel.
Elisha and Joash (
During his final illness the prophet signified in a symbolic prophecy that Joash would defeat the Syrians.
The raising of a dead man (
A corpse hastily thrown into the grave of Elisha, when raiders approached, came to life when the body touched the bones of the prophet.
In the NT Elisha is referred to only once. Preaching at Nazareth, the Lord used Elisha’s healing of Naaman as an example of the scarcity of faith within Israel; there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but only Naaman the Syrian was healed.
C. Geikie,Characters (1888), 331-349; R. S. Wallace, Elijah and Elisha (1957); S. Szikszai, “Elisha,” IDB (1962), II, 91, 92; B. L. Smith, “Elisha,” The New Bible Dictionary (1962), 365, 366.
ELISHAH ī lī’ shə (אֱלִישָׁ֣ה, God saves). A son of Javan and progenitor of the Japhetic nation which bears his name (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
elisha`, "God is salvalion"; Septuagint Eleisaie;
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 LITERATURE
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. 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. 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 (
2. His Preparation:
They seem to have spent several years together (
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 (
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. 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 (
(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) 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 (
(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 (
(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 Solam. 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 (
(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 (paqqu`oth), 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 (
(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 (
(7) The next incident is the healing of Naaman, the leprous commander of the Syrian army (
(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 (
(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 (
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) 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 canwerim is used only here and in
(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 (
(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 (
(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 (
(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 (
(7) The last wonder in connection with Elisha occurs after this death. His bones were reported to have vitalizing power (
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" (
(2) General Features of His Ministry.
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, 85 ff; Cornill, Isr. Prophets, 14 f, 33 ff; Farrar,; Kuenen, Religions of Israel, I, 360 ff; Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, 94 f; Maurice, Prophets and Kings, 142; Liddon, Sermons on Subjects, 195-334.
(’elishah, "God saves"; Elisa, Eleisai):