Elisha was chosen by God to continue the office of Elijah. His primary mission was to advise the kings of Israel. In that sense, what he accomplished was a continuation of the work of Elijah. Among the prophets who performed miracles, none surpassed Elisha. The number of miracles attributed to him is simply astounding. Some of these miracles were performed when he was supervising the school of the prophets. When the prophets saw the spirit of Elijah resting upon Elisha, they immediately accepted him as their leader and mentor. At their Jericho location, the school of the prophets was having a problem.
And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, 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 which he spake (2 Kings 2:19-22).
This recorded miracle is the first one of many to follow. Another school of the prophets was located at Bethel, and one other at Gilgal. Elijah sometimes visited these schools, and Elisha did the same. Bethel was the center of idolatrous worship-the site where many years earlier Jeroboam had set up the golden calves. There was antagonism between idolaters and those who served God. This hostility was especially seen in the children of these idolaters. On his way to Bethel Elisha encountered a mob of these belligerent youngsters.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them (2 Kings 2:23-24).
These “little children” were not small youngsters. They were juvenile delinquents. This curse was a divine judgment for their disrespect toward God as represented by His prophet.
At times Elisha carried out the same function as Elijah. Upon Ahab’s death, Jehoram succeeded to the throne. He was not a righteous king, but he persuaded Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and the king of Edom to join him in a campaign against the Moabites who had rebelled against him. On the way to attack Moab the army ran out of water. The situation seemed hopeless. But Jehoshaphat was a righteous king who feared God, so he knew where to get help.
. . . Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him (2 Kings 3:11-12).
When Elisha saw Jehoram, he did not mince any words.
And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab. And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts 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, nor see thee (vv. 13-14).
So, for the sake of Jehoshaphat, Elisha said:
But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand. And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water (vv. 15-20).
God miraculously intervened to give a great victory to the allied army.
And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country. And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it (2 Kings 3:21-25).
Many of the miracles Elisha performed were for the benefit of the poor and underprivileged. He had deep feelings for the unfortunate. Here is one example.
Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest (2 Kings 4:1-7).
While making his rounds, Elisha often boarded with a woman in Shunem, located in the territory of Issachar. The woman was barren and had no children. Because she had been so kind, Elisha asked his servant, Gehazi, what favor he could bestow upon the woman. Gehazi replied that her husband was elderly, and she had no children; she would very much appreciate a son.
“. . . Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life” (2 Kings 4:15-17).
What gratitude and joy she must have experienced. But when the child was older, he went into the fields to reap with his father. The heat was intense, and the young man died of heatstroke. The woman left immediately for Mount Carmel where she knew she could find Elisha. “And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me” (2 Kings 4:27). When he heard the boy was dead, he immediately followed the woman to her home.
And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out (2 Kings 4:32-37).
Indeed, the spirit that had rested upon Elijah was upon Elisha. His request to receive a double portion of that spirit had been granted. He began his ministry about the time that Jehoram, the son of Ahab, ascended to the throne of Israel. Elisha died during the reign of Joash, about 45 years later. The miracles he performed took place during the reigns of several kings.
On another occasion Elisha visited the school of the prophets in Gilgal. This visit led to another miracle.
And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat[thereof. But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot (2 Kings 4:38-41).
There is an example, similar to that of Christ, where Elisha fed a hundred people with a small amount of bread. On this occasion a man from Baalshalisha brought Elisha some bread and corn. And Elisha said, ” . . . Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD” (2 Kings 4:42-44).
Elisha was well known in Israel, and among the Syrians. The following account illustrates this.
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me (2 Kings 5:1-7).
The king of Israel did not take kindly to this request. He viewed it as pretence to start a war. But Elisha heard about it and sent a message to the king of Israel.
. . . Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5:8-12).
Naaman may have been incensed, but he was willing to listen to reason.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant (2 Kings 5:13-15).
Elisha refused the gifts. He wanted God to have the glory, but his servant Gehazi became greedy. He managed to dupe Naaman out of a sizeable amount of wealth. When he returned from intercepting Naaman, Elisha said: “. . . Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:26-27).
Even seemingly small things were important to Elisha. One of the sons of the prophets had lost a borrowed tool and was not able to replace it. The account goes as follows:
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it (2 Kings 6:1-7).
During the time that various kings were ruling in Israel, there was often war between Israel and Syria. The Syrians could not achieve the upper hand because of Elisha. On numerous occasions, he warned the king where the Syrians were located, thus thwarting their plans. “Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:11-12). The Syrian king decided to put a stop to this.
And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha (2 Kings 6:13-18).
Elisha then led the blinded soldiers to Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom. What was the outcome? “And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:23).
Sometime later the king of Syria besieged Samaria. A severe famine ensued, with dire consequences (2 Kings 6:25-31), The king of Israel blamed Elisha and threatened to kill him. It appears the king may have been advised by Elisha not to surrender, or he felt the prophet could deliver the city but refused to do so. Whatever the reason, God gave Elisha a revelation and told him the siege would end.
Here is how it happened:
For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life (2 Kings 7:6-7).
One of the king’s courtiers had scoffed at Elisha’s announcement. “Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (2 Kings 7:2). When the Syrians fled, there was a stampede at the city gates to find the food stores the Syrians had left behind. “And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him” (2 Kings 7:17).
An noted earlier, Elisha often boarded in the home of the woman at Shunem. On one occasion he warned that a severe famine was coming. “Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years” (2 Kings 8:1). She went into the land of the Philistines and resided there several years. When the famine abated, she returned to her home to find her property had been confiscated. At the very moment she petitioned the king for redress, Gehazi was in the king’s presence relating to him how Elisha had restored a dead body to life.
And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now (2 Kings 8:5-6).
In his old age Elisha fell sick. He eventually died from the sickness, but just before his death he asked the king of Israel (Joash) to do something symbolic. It was to be a prophetic announcement, the last one made by Elisha.
And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands. And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the LORD’S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice (2 Kings 13:15-19).
The king simply did not have the drive and determination to be a true victor. He was successful three times against the Syrians, just as Elisha predicted, but does not appear to have engaged them anymore. “And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities, which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash beat him, and recovered the cities of Israel” (2 Kings 13:25).
Elisha’s good and successful ministry lasted over 45 years. The Bible record shows he performed more miracles than any other prophet. He was very influential during the time when the kings of Israel were going from bad to worse. Elisha had a powerful influence for good and prevented them from becoming even worse than they already were. Elisha was sympathetic toward the unfortunate, and some of his miracles were for their benefit. He was a great man whose deeds cannot easily be forgotten.