Eli’sha (God his salvation), son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah; the attendant and disciple of Elijah, and subsequently his successor as prophet of the kingdom of Israel. The earliest mention of his name is in the command to Elijah in the cave at Horeb. 1 Kings 19:16, 17. (b.c. about 900.) Elijah sets forth to obey the command, and comes upon his successor engaged in ploughing. He crosses to him and throws over his shoulders the rough mantle—a token at once of investiture with the prophet’s office and of adoption as a son. Elisha delayed merely to give the farewell kiss to his father and mother and preside at a parting feast with his people, and then followed the great prophet on his northward road. We hear nothing more of Elisha for eight years, until the translation of his master, when he reappears, to become the most prominent figure in the history of his country during the rest of his long life.
In almost every respect Elisha presents the most complete contrast to Elijah. Elijah was a true Bedouin child of the desert. If he enters a city it is only to deliver his message of fire and be gone. Elisha, on the other hand, is a civilized man, an inhabitant of cities. His dress was the ordinary garment of an Israelite, the beged, probably similar in form to the long abbeyeh of the modern Syrians. 2 Kings 2:12. His hair was worn trimmed behind, in contrast to the disordered locks of Elijah, and he used a walking-staff, 2 Kings 4:29, of the kind ordinarily carried by grave or aged citizens. Zech. 8:4. After the departure of his master, Elisha returned to dwell at Jericho, 2 Kings 2:18, where he miraculously purified the springs. We next meet with Elisha at Bethel, in the heart of the country, on his way from Jericho to Mount Carmel. 2 Kings 2:23. The mocking children, Elisha’s curse and the catastrophe which followed are familiar to all. Later he extricates Jehoram king of Israel, and the kings of Judah and Edom, from their difficulty in the campaign against Moab arising from want of water. 2 Kings 3:4-27. Then he multiplies the widow’s oil. 2 Kings 4:5. The next occurrence is at Shunem, where he is hospitably entertained by a woman of substance, whose son dies, and is brought to life again by Elisha. 2 Kings 4:8-37. Then at Gilgal he purifies the deadly pottage, 2 Kings 4:38-41, and multiplies the loaves. 2 Kings 4:42-44.
The simple records of these domestic incidents amongst the sons of the prophets are now interrupted by an occurrence of a more important character. 2 Kings 5:1-27. The chief captain of the army of Syria, Naaman, is attacked with leprosy, and is sent by an Israelite maid to the prophet Elisha, who directs him to dip seven times in the Jordan, which he does and is healed, 2 Kings 5:1-14; while Naaman’s servant, Gehazi, he strikes with leprosy for his unfaithfulness. ch. 5:20-27. Again the scene changes. It is probably at Jericho that Elisha causes the iron axe to swim. 2 Kings 6:1-7. A band of Syrian marauders are sent to seize him, but are struck blind, and he misleads them to Samaria, where they find themselves in the presence of the Israelite king and his troops. 2 Kings 6:8-23. During the famine in Samaria, 2 Kings 6:24-33, he prophesied incredible plenty, ch. 7:1-2, which was soon fulfilled. ch. 7:3-20. We next find the prophet at Damascus. Benhadad the king is sick, and sends to Elisha by Hazael to know the result. Elisha prophesies the king’s death, and announces to Hazael that he is to succeed to the throne. 2 Kings 8:7-15. Finally this prophet of God, after having filled the position for sixty years, is found on his death-bed in his own house. 2 Kings 13:14-19. The power of the prophet, however, does not terminate with his death. Even in the tomb he restores the dead to life. ch. 13:21.