Elijah and Elisha

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Prophets

  • Between them, Elijah and Elisha prophesied for 50-80 years.
  • Elijah means "Yahweh is my god (el)."
  • Elijah prophesied while Ahab was king and Jezebel was queen.
  • Baal was thought to be the god of rain but when Elijah proclaimed a drought, Baal was found to be impotent.
  • Ravens fed Elijah twice a day during the drought (poor people were fortunate to eat one meal a day).
  • Zarephath in Sidon was deep in Baal country (Jezebel was also from Sidon).
  • In a patriarchal society, widows were particularly vulnerable, but when Elijah asked her for help, she was willing to oblige.
  • When the widow's son died, Elijah prayed and God restored him.
  • It is not known why Elijah stretched himself out on the lad.
  • Ahab and his servant were out looking for grass for their cattle, when the servant met Elijah.
  • Ahab's servant had hidden 100 of Yahweh's prophets from Ahab.
  • Ahab blamed the drought on Elijah, calling him a troublemaker for Israel.
  • Elijah proposed a contest between Yahweh and hundreds of Baal's best prophets.
  • Mount Carmel was about 17 miles away from Jezreel.
  • The people in attendance were very confused, not knowing which god to follow.
  • When Baal didn't answer his prophets, Elijah mocked him, saying maybe he was sleeping and they should yell louder.
  • Elijah doused his altar with water: he didn't want anyone to think it happened spontaneously.
  • Yahweh answered Elijah's simple prayer without the need for incantations or rituals.
  • Part of Elijah's prayer was that the people would be converted, that they would see and follow the true God.
  • In this "winners take all" contest, Baal's prophets were killed.
  • Following this demonstration of Yahweh's power, the drought ended.
  • Elijah raced Ahab home, so convinced was he that the "war" was over.
  • Elijah misjudged Jezebel's anger and resolve, so he ran for his life to Beersheba in the southern part of Judah, out of the land under Ahab's control.
  • Exhausted and afraid, Elijah was ready to die.
  • The Lord had other plans and sent an angel to feed him -- twice.
  • It took him forty days to get from there to Horeb.
  • "A still small voice" could also be translated as "the sound of deep silence."
  • Whatever the translation, it certainly got Elijah's attention.
  • He still complained, however, that he was the only one left to worship the Lord.
  • God refused to accept his resignation as prophet.
  • God's response was to give him three directives: Anoint a new king of Syria, a new king of Israel, and Elisha as his own successor. Elijah only completed the third task, though even here he did not anoint Elisha, but gave him his mantle.
  • This was enough because Elisha knew he was to "follow."
  • Elisha was out plowing with twelve men and oxen - a statement indicating great wealth.
  • After Ahab stole Naboth's property, Elijah was commissioned to pronounce judgment on him and Jezebel.
  • When it was time for Elijah to go, Elisha refused to stay behind. First they went to Bethel, then Jericho, then Jordan.
  • At each point, groups of prophets prophesied that Elijah would leave.
  • With his cloak, Elijah also parted the waters of the Jordan and he and Elisha crossed over on dry ground (reminds us of Moses and Joshua).
  • Elisha was very upset when Elijah was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind.
  • There is no parallel or precedent for this happening to anyone else in the Bible.
  • Elisha's father and locale were known.
  • Elisha means "my God saves."
  • Elisha used Elijah's cloak to part the waters of the Jordan River, just like Elijah had done. (Successful successor)
  • The two stories that follow illustrated to Elisha that he was being offered a choice between good and evil.
  • The people of the city needed fresh water - they got it.
  • Young boys taunted Elisha; they were punished.
  • Elisha acted as theological advisor for Jehoram in the battle against Moab.
  • He only agreed to help because the Judahite king was also involved.
  • The successful battle further established his credentials as Elijah's successor.
  • Like Elijah, Elisha encountered a widow who needed help.
  • That she was able to fill pots with oil without Elisha even being present only heightened his authority.
  • Elisha's promise that the Shunammite woman would have a son echoed God's promise to Abraham and Sarah.
  • When that son died, the woman had complete faith in Elisha, telling him (against all evidence to the contrary) "it is well."
  • But she also complained that he gave her a son only to deceive her (compare the mother's complaint against Elijah in 1Kings 17:18).
  • Elisha's servant could not restore the child.
  • Like Elijah, Elisha also lay upon the child, and prayed, and the child was restored.
  • The third in this series of life-giving miracles was when Elisha overcame "death in the pot" during a famine. People were able to eat freely.
  • Lastly, Elisha multiplied twenty loaves of bread to feed over 100 men (compare Jesus' multiplication of loaves and fishes).
  • The incident with Naaman (captain of the host of the king of Syria) brought international stature to Elisha.
  • Naaman was used to dealing with top-level people so he went to the king of Israel first for healing for his condition of leprosy.
  • The king of Israel had nothing to offer and immediately "rent his clothes" (a typical sign of mourning), thinking there would be retribution.
  • Elisha took pity on the king and offered to help.
  • When Naaman appeared at his door, he sent out a messenger with a simple message - go wash in the Jordan seven times.
  • This was humiliating because the Jordan was considered to be a "lesser" river.
  • Nonetheless, when he was obedient, Naaman was cleansed of leprosy.
  • Elisha refused Naaman's generous offer to pay him.
  • Unfortunately, Gehazi did not.
  • Unlike many of the other parallels in the life of Elisha, he is the only one in the Bible who "made iron float." (See 2 Kings 6:1-6)
  • Because of Gehazi's earlier misconduct in taking payment from Naaman, it is not known which servant was with Elisha when the Syrian army surrounded him.
  • In the face of overwhelming odds and immediate danger, Elisha told his servant "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Almost immediately the Syrian army was struck blind, and Elisha led them to Samaria - the capital of the northern kingdom.
  • Elisha insisted that the Syrian army, though captive, be treated well, fed, and allowed to return home. "And they warred no more against Israel."
  • The treaty, however, was short lived.
  • Shortly thereafter, the Syrians instituted a siege against Samaria.
  • When all seemed lost and the king was about to kill him, Elisha predicted it would end "tomorrow." It did. The Syrians vanished without a fight.
  • Elisha was further validated through a second party conversation between Gehazi and the king. Just as he was telling the king about the Shunammite woman's son, she walked in and confirmed everything. In return, she was blessed because the king restored her land to her.
  • Elisha fulfilled Elijah's commission to anoint Hazael as king of Syria.
  • He wept as he did so, because he could foresee the pain and suffering Hazael would inflict on the people of Israel.
  • Next he sent a messenger with oil to anoint the head of Jehu as king over Israel (Elijah's second commission).
  • It was Jehu who brought the dynasty of the House of Omri to an end, as well as the demise of Jezebel.
  • On his deathbed, Elisha gave prophetic signs regarding the course of events with Syria - they would win some early battles, but eventually they would be defeated by the Assyrians.
  • As soon as Elisha passed on, the bands of Moabites invaded the land.
  • Even in his death, Elisha had one more life-saving act to perform.
  • When a corpse was also thrown into Elisha's grave, he was restored to life the minute his body touched Elisha's bones. (Another tribute to the life-giving stature of Elisha).


Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 1987.

Auld, A.Graeme. "I & II Kings." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1986.

Brueggeman, Walter. "1 & 2 Kings." Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys. 2000.

Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995

Nelson, Richard. "I & II Kings." Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press. 1987.

Provan, Iain. "1 and 2 Kings." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.

Rice, Gene. "1 Kings, Nations Under God." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1990.

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