"God is salvation,"
was the successor of Elijah in the office of the prophet in Israel
(1 Kings 19:16, 19–21; 2 Kings 5:8).
He was called to follow Elijah in 1 Kings 19:19, and he spent the next several years as the prophet’s protégé, until Elijah was taken into heaven. At that time, Elisha began his ministry, which lasted about 60 years, spanning the reigns of kings Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash.
The initial call of Elisha is instructive. After a mighty display of God’s power against the prophets of Baal and a return of the rain after a long drought, Queen Jezebel sought Elijah’s life. Afraid, the prophet fled. He was refreshed by an angel and prepared for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb. There, Elijah confessed that he believed himself to be the only faithful prophet remaining. God told Elijah to go back home, anoint Hazael king of Aram, Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha to succeed him as prophet. God said, "Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu" (1 Kings 19:17). He also reassured Elijah that there were 7,000 remaining who had not bowed to Baal.
Elijah obeyed God’s word and found Elisha, who was plowing with a pair of oxen at the time. Elijah put his cloak around Elisha—a sign that Elijah’s responsibilities would fall on Elisha, and Elisha left his oxen and ran after the prophet. Elisha asked only to say goodbye to his family and then would return to Elijah. Elisha went back, slaughtered his oxen and burnt his equipment, gave the meat to the people, then followed Elijah as his servant. Elisha responded to the call immediately. He completely removed himself from his former life—essentially hosting a celebration and leaving himself no option to return to his oxen. Not only did Elisha leave his former life, he became a servant in his new life (1 Kings 19:21).
Elisha seemed to love Elijah like he would a father. He refused to leave Elijah before Elijah was taken into heaven, despite Elijah’s telling Elisha to remain behind. Elijah permitted Elisha to stay with him, and he asked what he could do for his protégé before he left. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. This was not a greedy request but rather one indicating that Elisha wanted to be considered as Elijah’s son. Elijah told Elisha that, if he saw Elijah when he was taken, then the double portion would be Elisha’s. Elisha did, indeed, see the chariot of fire and horses of fire that separated the men, and he saw Elijah taken to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak and walked to the Jordan River. Elisha struck the water with the cloak, and it divided, just as it had done for Elijah. The other prophets who witnessed this recognized that Elijah’s spirit now rested on Elisha. As God had decreed, Elisha would now be His prophet to the people (2 Kings 2:1–18).
As God had told Elijah on the mountain, it was during Elisha’s ministry that organized Baal worship was eradicated (2 Kings 10:28). In his ministry Elisha traveled widely and served as an adviser to kings, a companion of the common people, and a friend of both Israelites and foreigners.
There are many well-known accounts of Elisha’s service as prophet. He healed the waters of Jericho (2 Kings 2:19–21) and was jeered by youths upon whom he called a curse resulting in their death by mauling bears (2 Kings 2:23–25). He multiplied a widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1–7). He prophesied a son for a wealthy Shunammite family who hosted him and later resurrected that same son (2 Kings 4:8–37). Elisha also removed poison from a pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38–41) and multiplied twenty barley loaves to feed one hundred men (2 Kings 4:42–44). He cured Naaman of leprosy (2 Kings 5) and made a borrowed ax head float (2 Kings 6:1–7). The miracles Elisha performed are, for the most part, acts of helpfulness and blessing. Others strongly resemble some of the miracles of Christ, such as the multiplying of food (Matthew 16:9–10) and the healing of lepers (Luke 17:11–19).
Elisha offered counsel to the king of Israel. One incident tells of Elisha warning the king about the king of Aram’s movements. When the king of Aram found out it was Elisha foiling his plans, he sought to capture the prophet. When Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, saw the Arameans that had come against them, he was afraid. But Elisha told him not to be afraid because "those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, 'Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:16–17). One cannot help but recall how Elisha had seen similar chariots of fire when Elijah was taken to heaven. Elisha then prayed for the Arameans to be struck with blindness. Elisha led them to Samaria, the capital of Israel, before asking the Lord to open their eyes. The king of Israel wondered if he should kill the captives, but Elisha counseled him to prepare food for them instead. When they were finished with the feast, the Aramians returned to their master, and Aram ceased raiding Israel. Elisha also prophesied other events of national and international importance regarding Israel and Syria.
King Jehoash, or Joash, was reigning at the time of Elisha’s death. The king visited Elisha while the prophet was ill and wept over him. Elisha instructed Jehoash to get a bow and arrows and shoot them out the window. When Jehoash did so, Elisha told him this was God’s arrow of victory over Aram. Elisha then told the king to strike the ground with the arrows, but Jehoash stopped after only three times. Elisha was angered. Had Jehoash struck the ground five or six times, he would have completely destroyed Aram but would now only defeat them three times (2 Kings 13:14–19).
Of Elisha’s death, 2 Kings 13:20 simply says, "Elisha died and was buried." But the passage goes on to talk about Moabite raiders who came to Israel every spring: "Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet" (2 Kings 13:21). It seems that God chose to demonstrate His power through the prophet even after his death.
Jesus spoke of Elisha in Luke 4:27. The people had rejected Jesus in Nazareth and He told them that "no prophet is accepted in his hometown" (Luke 4:24). Jesus said there were many lepers in Israel in Elisha’s time, yet only Naaman, a Syrian, was cured.
A study of the life of Elisha will reveal the prophet’s humility (2 Kings 2:9; 3:11), his obvious love for the people of Israel (2 Kings 8:11—12), and his faithfulness in a lifelong ministry. Elisha was obedient to God’s call, following Elijah eagerly and faithfully. Elisha clearly believed God and trusted Him. Elisha sought after God, and through him God worked powerfully.
2 Kings 17:7-23
Why the Lord punished Israel
7 All this happened because the Israelites did bad things against the Lord, their God. The Lord had brought them safely out of Egypt. He had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But now they worshipped other gods. 8 They did the same bad things that the nations that lived in Canaan did. The Lord had chased those nations out of Canaan so that the Israelites could live there. The Israelites copied the bad things that the kings of Israel were doing. 9 They secretly did things that the Lord their God said were not right. In all their towns, they built altars to worship false gods. They built them everywhere, in small villages and in strong cities. 10 They put up stone pillars and Asherah poles to worship their gods. They put them on top of all the high hills and under all the big trees. 11 At all those places they burned incense to worship their gods, as the nations in Canaan had done. The Lord had chased those nations out of Canaan so that the Israelites could live there. The Israelites did evil things that made the Lord very angry. 12 They refused to obey the Lord's command and they worshipped useless idols.
13 The Lord had used his prophets and his other servants to warn the people of Israel and Judah. He told them, ‘Stop living in an evil way. Obey my Law, with its commands and its rules. I gave my Law to your ancestors so that they would obey it. I also used my servants, the prophets, to teach it to you.’
14 But the Israelites would not agree to obey God's Law. They were proud and they refused to obey. Like their ancestors, they did not trust in the Lord their God. 15 They did not obey God's rules. They did not accept the covenant that he had made with their ancestors. They did not listen when he warned them. Instead, they worshipped useless idols, which caused them to become useless themselves. The Lord had commanded them not to live in the same way that the nations around them did. But they did that anyway. 16 They turned away from all the commands of the Lord their God. They used metal to make images of two calves as their idols. They also made an Asherah pole to worship. They worshipped all the stars in the sky and they served Baal. 17 They burned their sons and their daughters in fire as offerings to Baal. They used magic to find out what would happen in the future. They chose to do things that the Lord said were evil. That made him very angry.
18 The Lord was so angry with Israel that he sent them far away from himself. Only the tribe of Judah remained. 19 But even the people of Judah did not obey the commands of the Lord their God. They did the same bad things that the Israelites had done. 20 So the Lord turned against all the descendants of Israel. He punished them. He put them under the power of robbers. In that way, he chased them far away from himself.
21 God made Israel become a separate kingdom from David's family, Judah. Then Israel chose Nebat's son Jeroboam to be their king. Jeroboam caused the Israelites to turn away from the Lord. He led them to do terrible sins. 22 The Israelites continued to live in the bad way that Jeroboam showed them. They did not turn away from those sins. 23 In the end, the Lord sent the Israelites away from himself. He had used his servants, the prophets, to warn them that this would happen. As a result, the Assyrian army took the Israelites away from their own land as prisoners to Assyria. They still live there, even today.