Wednesday, August 3, 2022


Across the Jordan River, opposite Jericho, Elisha sees Elijah ascend to Heaven in a whirlwind (896 BC). Just before that, Elisha had asked Elijah for a double portion his spirit (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah had told Elisha that he’d get it if he saw him ascend to Heaven. Now Elisha’s got it.

At this time Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, becomes ruler of Israel (896-884) while Jehoshaphat continues as ruler of Judah (914-889). Jehoram would do what was evil in Yahweh’s sight but not as much as his notorious father and mother had (3:2). Jehoshaphat had been doing what was right in Yahweh’s sight—mostly (1 Kings 22:43).

Taking advantage of the change in kings, Moab rebels against paying tribute to Israel. Jehoram asks for and gets help against Moab from Jehoshaphat and his vassal the king of Edom. Worried when they find no water after a week’s march toward Moab, Jehoram consults Elisha. Elisha replies, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at your nor see you” (2 Kings 3:14). This is just the sort of freedom from power and the powerful that Yahweh granted his prophets. Elisha, free both from fear of and hope in Jehoram, nonetheless tells the kings that Yahweh will provide them with the water they need. The next day Yahweh does (3:16-20).

In The Politics of God and the Politics of Man (1972), Jacques Ellul points out that just as Elijah anticipated John the Baptist, so too Elisha is a foreshadow, anticipation, or type of Christ. In anticipation of Jesus, for example, Elisha performs prodigious miracles. He multiplies olive oil to enable a widow to sell enough of it to get out of debt. Another woman conceives and gives birth to a son as he foretells. He prays to Yahweh and a child returns to life. He detoxifies a pot of stew. Yahweh even multiplies loaves of bread through Elisha (ch. 4). Elisha heals Naaman, general of the Syrian army and enemy of Israel, of leprosy (ch. 5). He recovers a lost axe head, miraculously warns the king of Israel of Syrian military plans, and foretells the end of a famine caused by a siege of Samaria (chs. 6-7). 

Yahweh had told Elijah to anoint three people: Elisha as prophet in his place, Hazael as king of Syria, and Jehu as king of Israel (1 Kings 19:15-18). Elijah had done only the first before being taken into Heaven. Before his death (839), Elisha accomplishes the second two tasks.

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