- Comparison/Contrast between Elijah and Elisha’s names and work.
- Following God’s demonstration against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, Jezebel vowed to make Elijah like her dead prophets by the end of the day. Elijah fled and despaired that only he was left. God revealed himself to Elijah as the still, small voice on Mt Horeb. On Mt. Horeb, God reassured Elijah by telling him what work he still had to do and that there were 7,000 other believers in Israel. Included in Elijah’s work was to anoint Elisha as prophet to take his (Elijah’s) place (1 Kings 19:16).
I. Elisha’s call: 1 Kings 19:19-21
- What was the "sign" by which Elijah called Elisha?
- What was the significance of the oxen feast cooked with fire from the plow/yoke?
- Elisha not yet ready to assume role as prophet, but he followed Elijah and became his servant. The Lord was training Elisha.
II. Elisha enters his "full-time ministry": 2 Kings 2:1-18
- Each stop, Elijah tells Elisha to stay…cf: Ruth and Naomi
- Notice the recurring question of the "sons of the prophets" and Elisha’s response
- Consider Elisha’s request
- v. 12 cf: with 13:14
- Search party…cf: searching for Jesus on Easter; why seek the living among the dead ~ why seek those in heaven upon the earth?
III. Elisha’s ministry established: 2 Kings 2:19-25
- Ministry of POWER like that of Elijah’s
- Ministry of HONOR and RESPECT for the office of prophet
IV. Elisha’s ministry was one of speaking the Lord’s Word: 2 Kings 3:1-27
- Jehoram, Ahab’s son, became king in Israel. He did evil in the sight of the Lord but not like his father. "Nevertheless, he persisted in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin…" (2 Kings 3:3). The king of Moab was a sheep breeder and paid his tribute to Israel in the form of 100,000 lambs and the wool from 100,000 rams. However, once Ahab died, Moab’s king rebelled against Israel. In reaction, Jehoram gathered Israel for war and enlisted the help of Judah (Jehoshophat) and the king of Edom. The plan of attack was to come up against Moab through Edom. Jehoram was ready to do battle, but Jehoshophat wanted to consult the Lord first.
- vv. 11-27
- Elisha wanted nothing to do with Jehoram. Jesus said, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before the swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces" (Matthew 7:6)
- Elisha served the three kings for the sake of Jehoshophat, a believer. Speaking of the great tribulation that would come when Jerusalem was destroyed, Jesus said, "…Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:22).
- All false religion is the same—it’s a religion of fear and desperation. The prophets of Baal slashed themselves, the king of Moab offered up his son, Luther beat himself—all to no avail.
V. A Variety of Miracles through Elisha
- SPARING FROM CREDITORS: A woman whose husband (a son of the prophets) had died was about to lose her two sons as slaves to the creditors. Elisha told the woman to gather many containers from her neighbors and pour oil into them. As she filled each container she would call upon her sons to bring another container…and another…and another until all were filled. She was then able to sell the oil and pay her debt (4:1-7).
- PROVIDING FOOD IN PLACE OF POISON: Elisha returned to Gilgal to find the region suffering from famine. Elisha told his servant to put on a large pot and boil some stew for the sons of the prophets. One of the men went out and gathered hers and vines and gourds and sliced them into the stew. As the men were eating the stew they cried out, "Man of God, there is death in the pot!" and could not neat it. Elijah put flour in the pot and the stew became edible (4:38-41).
- PROVIDING MUCH FOOD FROM LITTLE: A man brought bread made from his firstfruits to Elisha as a thankoffering. He brought 20 loaves of barley bread and new grain in a sack. The man said, "Give it to the people that they may eat." Elisha’s servant knew this wouldn’t feed the hundred people he had to feed. But Elisha told the servant to give it to the people. They ate and there were leftovers (4:42-44).
- SOLVING AN EARTHLY PROBLEM: The sons of the prophets wanted to build a new home for themselves because there was little room where they were staying with Elisha. As they were cutting down trees, the iron ax head fell into the water. The man using the ax cried out, "Alas, master! For it was borrowed!" Elijah asked where the ax head had fallen, cut a stick, threw it into the water, and the ax head floated so that the man was able to pick it up himself (6:1-7).
VI. Elisha’s time in Shunem: 2 Kings 4:8-37
- Fruits of faith provide for the Lord’s servants (8-10)
- The Lord GAVE (11-17)
- The Lord HAS TAKEN AWAY (18-20)
- BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD – a name to call upon in every trouble (21-28);
- The Lord HEARS (29- 37)
- Later, Elisha warned the Shunammite woman of an impending famine and told her to take her family elsewhere. She and her family went into the land of the Philistines and stayed there for 7 years. When she returned to Israel she went to the king of Israel to appeal for the return of her house and land. It "happened" that at that time, Gehazi (Elisha’s servant) was before the king answering the king’s request to "tell me, please, all the great things Elisha has done." When the woman came to plead for her land, the servant told the king that this was the woman whose son Elisha had raised from the dead. The king returned her land and home as well as all the proceeds from the land while she was gone.
VII. Elisha’s opportunity from a slave girl’s mission work: 2 Kings 5:1-27
- Naaman was a commander in Syria’s army.
- Naaman’s wife had an Israelite slave girl who had been taken captive during a Syrian raid.
- The slave girl testified to the Lord: v. 3
- Naaman went to Elisha with the Syrian king’s permission, was irritated that Elisha did not come out to see him AND told him to wash in the mucky, yucky Jordan river. Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him to do the simple thing the prophet had told him to do. Naaman’s leprosy was healed. Naaman returned to Elisha and offered great gifts but Elisha would not accept any gift; instead Naaman demonstrated the gift God had already given him: vv.15-19
- Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was greedy. He ran after Naaman and lied to him saying that Elisha had changed his mind and would now take a gift. When Gehazi returned, Elisha confronted him with his sin and declared that Naaman’s leprosy would not afflict Gehazi. Gehazi left Elisha’s presence "white as snow."
VIII. Elisha and Syrians: 2 Kings 6:8-7:20; 8:7-15
- The king of Syria was making war against Israel. The king would share his battle plans with his men and invariably, the plans would fail for Israel would be ready for the enemy. This happened "not just once or twice." The Syrian king assumed he had a betrayer among his men, but one of the servants told him it was not an unfaithful Syrian who was betraying the secrets. It was the man of God in Dothan, Elisha.
- The Lord provided deliverance by striking the Syrians with blindness. Then Elisha led the Syrians into the capital city, Samaria. When the men were in Samaria, God opened their eyes. The king of Israel asked Elisha if he should kill the Syrians. Elisha answered, "No" and told the king to prepare a feast for them. They ate and drank and the army returned, after which the bands of Syrian raiders no longer came into Israel. "Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head" (Romans 12:20).
On another occasion, Ben-Hadad, king of Syria gathered his howl army and besieged Samaria.
- God provided deliverance by causing the Syrian army to hear the sound of horses and chariots—the noise of a great army. The Syrians assumed that the Israelites had enlisted help from other nations and so they fled leaving their camp and everything behind. Four lepers had decided to leave the city gate where they had been staying and turn themselves over to the Syrians for "If we say, ‘we will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we dies also. Now, therefore, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die" (7:4). The lepers found the abandoned camp and entered a tent, ate & drank, and took silver, gold, and clothing and hid them. Then their consciences corrected their error and they returned to the city to tell of their discovery. The prophecies of Elisha were fulfilled: The siege and famine ended, and the gatekeeper who doubted Elisha’s word was trampled by the people leaving the city to go to the Syrian camp—he doubted the Lord’s deliverance and never saw it.
- The illness of Ben-Hadad, the promised recovery, but then assassination: 8:7-15
IX. Elisha’s ministry of judgement: 2 Kings 9:1-10:36
- Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu as king of Israel
- Jehu’s calling as king of Israel would be to bring judgment upon the house of Ahab which he did.
- God’s words to Ahab and Jezebel were brought to pass
X. One final prophecy as Elisha’s ministry and earthly pilgrimage come to a close; one final miracle as testimony: 2 Kings 13:14-21
- Elisha became ill with the sickness the Lord would use to call him home (cf: God’s statement in 13:14a with his statement 2:1a).
- A sign for Joash—his opportunity to show great confidence in the LORD.
- God’s design and work for Elisha was a ministry of the miraculous…even in death.
ADDENDUM ON ELISHA
In our discussion of Elisha’s ministry (Bible Class 11/12), two questions were raised concerning the mocking of Elisha and the subsequent curse from which two she bears mauled the mockers. The questions were: 1) What did the mockers mean by their taunt? 2) Did the mockers lose their lives? During the study of these two questions, another question arose: What was the age of the mockers? The following seeks to answer those questions as well as provide interesting detail on Elisha’s baldness (a demonstration of Scripture’s precision).
What was the age of the mockers?
The text uses two words to describe the mockers. In v. 23 "some youths" came from the city The King James’ version translates as "little children." The Hebrew word that is used in this verse can mean a very young child, but its primary significance is to identify someone as a youth compared to an old man.
In v. 24 the bears mauled forty-two of the "youths." The King James’ version translates as "children." The Hebrew text makes use of a different word in this verse. This word highlights the idea of "offspring" – someone who was brought forth, i.e. children. It is often translated as "boy" or "child." [Another Hebrew word translated as "son" or "child" emphasizes the parental relationship].
What did the mockers mean by their taunt?
Elisha’s baldness is baldness on the back of the head. Another word is used for baldness on the front of the head, literally "one who has too high a forehead." God distinguishes between the two kinds of baldness in His Old Testament law, but the law is the same for both. "As for the man whose hair has fallen from his head, he is bald [back of the head like Elisha], but he is clean. He whose hair has fallen from his forehead, he is bald, but he is clean" (Leviticus 13:40-41).
"Go up, you bald head!"
The exact meaning of this taunt cannot be determined with absolute certainty. Ultimately, it is enough to know that God called it "mocking." The following are a few of the thoughts in this matter.
- A mocking because of the derogatory address toward the Lord’s prophet. Franzmann "baldy." "You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32).
- "…they railed on him and insulted him as an impure and expelled person" [Kretzmann].
- "Go up" a reference to the fact that Elisha was "going up" to Bethel (cf: v.23). Thus, "go up, get outta’ here baldy!"
- "Go up" a reference to Elijah’s ascent into heaven (v. 11). Thus, "You are doing absolutely no good here on earth. So why don’t you ascend to heaven, as they say—and this gives us a laugh—your master Elijah did" [Franzmann].
Did the mockers lose their lives?
The NKJV/NIV translation of v. 24, "…and mauled forty-two…" could leave the possibility of survival because the connotation of "mauled" does not necessarily imply death. The Hebrew is more explicit.
The word translated "mauled" occurs in its various forms, no fewer than 50 times in the Old Testament. The basic meaning of the inspired word is: "to cleave asunder, to divide—the cleaving/opening that results from striking."
- "…he who splits wood may be endangered by it" (Ecclesiastes 10:9).
- "In the six hundreth year of Noah’s life…the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened…" (Genesis 7:11).
There is also a form of the word (and most Hebrew words) that describes the action in an intensified form:
- "…I know the evil that you will do to the children of Israel: Their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword; and you will dash their children, and rip open their women with child" (2 Kings 8:12; cf: 2 Kings 15:16).
- "I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion" (Hosea 13:8).
The word used in 2 Kings 2:24 and translated "mauled" is this intensive form. We can rightfully conclude that the youths lost their lives in this judgment from God.
Sampling of Translations:
NKJV/NIV = "mauled"
NASB = "tore up"
LUTHER = "zerissen"
BECK = "tore up"
CEV = "ripped to pieces"