Biblical People
Elisha, KJV of NT Eliseus. [Heb., probably "God is salvation." The name occurs on a Hebrew seal and on an Aramaic ostracon found at Nimrud. Gr. Elissaios]. Son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah; the prophet who succeeded Elijah as God's special envoy to the northern kingdom of Israel. His ministry as pastor-prophet spanned the reigns of Jehoram (Joram), Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash of the northern kingdom, and thus lasted from at least 852 b.c. to about 798 b.c. a period of more than half a century. On the national scene he completed the eradication of Baal worship begun by Elijah, counselled the king of Israel on national policy, and took an intense personal interest in the problems and needs of the individuals with whom his ministry brought him into contact. He supervised the so-named "schools of the prophets" founded 2 cent. earlier by Samuel, and thus made what was perhaps his greatest single contribution to the spiritual life of the nation. In the presence of need he was ever solicitous and large-hearted; in the presence of a limited understanding of the divine will he was tolerant and patient; in the presence of danger he manifested firm, unflinching courage; in the presence of evil he was stern and severe without being vindictive. Whereas Elijah tended to be ascetic in dress and diet, in place of abode, and in his limited contacts with people €”at least insofar as the record goes €”Elisha lived close to the people he served, and loved social life. Unlike the life of Elijah, who appeared on the stage of sacred history for a few striking events, Elisha's life is recorded as a steady ministry during which he constantly ministered to the needs of his fellow men as individuals, as well as to the spiritual life of the nation as a whole. Although for a time there seems to have been an encouraging response on the part of the nation to his leadership as a prophet, the reforms he set in motion were short-lived and did not prevent the complete dissolution of the northern kingdom some 75 years after his death.

The life narrative of the prophet Elisha seems, almost, to be one of an uninterrupted succession of miracles, some consisting essentially of supernatural information, and others of supernatural control over men and the forces of nature. In an era of apostasy and Baal worship, these miracles provided a continuing witness to the Lord as the true God and to Elisha as His messenger. Elisha is distinguished in the annals of sacred history as the greatest miracle-working prophet of all time, next to Jesus Christ.

Abel-meholah, a town of the upper Jordan Valley, was Elisha's home until his call to the prophetic office. At the time of his call he was following the plough (1 Ki 19:19-21). For an unspecified period of time he was a personal attendant of Elijah (2 Ki 3:11). His immediate response to Elijah's call and his persistence in accompanying the prophet to the place of his translation testify to the earnestness with which Elisha took up his appointed work (ch 2:1-12). Returning from Elijah's ascension, Elisha miraculously sweetened the brackish waters of a spring at Jericho (vs. 19-22), and on the way from there to Bethel pronounced a curse upon a group of godless youth who ridiculed him as God's messenger (vs. 23-25). Later, he miraculously provided water for an expedition by kings Jehoram of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah to suppress a revolt in Moab, and assured these kings of success (ch 3:6-27). He provided assistance for the widow of one of the sons of the prophets when she was in financial straits (ch 4:1-7), and at another time foretold the birth of a son to a Shunammite woman who had befriended him, and later raised this son back to life when he died (vs. 8-37). During a famine he provided an antidote for poison gourds as a group of the sons of the prophets sat at table (vs. 38-41), and miraculously satisfied the hunger of 100 men with 20 barley loaves and a few ears of ripe grain (2 Ki 4:42-44). He cured Naaman's leprosy (ch 5:1-19) and foretold Gehazi's fate as a leper when the latter dishonoured the prophetic office (vs. 20-27). He procured the recovery of a valuable axehead that had been lost in the Jordan (ch 6:1-7). He counselled the king of Israel in defending the nation against a Syrian invasion (vs. 8-12), and when he was himself surrounded at Dothan, led a group of Syrian soldiers to Samaria, presented them to the king, and then released them to return home (6:13-23). At another time when Syrian forces had reduced Samaria by siege to the point of famine he foretold an abundance of food on the morrow, implying the lifting of the siege (chs 6:24-31; 7:1-20). He predicted the arrival of a messenger sent to arrest him (ch 6:32, 33). He declared the destruction of the house of Ahab, because of apostasy, and arranged for the anointing of Jehu as king (chs 9:1 to 10:28). His last recorded act was the encouragement of King Jehoash to defend Israel against the Syrians (ch 13:14-19). After Elisha's death another man hastily buried in the same tomb during an emergency was miraculously restored to life when his body touched Elisha's bones (vs. 20, 21) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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