Eliseus (ELISHA; Heb. ??yes45 t, God is salvation), a Prophet of Israel—After learning, on Mount Horeb, that Eliseus, the son of Saphat, had been selected by God as his successor in the prophetic office, Elias set out to make known the Divine will. This he did by casting his mantle over the shoulders of Eliseus, whom he found “one of them that were ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen”. Eliseus delayed only long enough to kill the yoke of oxen, whose flesh he boiled with the very wood of his plough. After he had shared this farewell repast with his father, mother, and friends, the newly chosen Prophet “followed Elias, and ministered to him”. (III Kings, xix, 8-21.) He went with his master from Galgal to Bethel, to Jericho, and thence to the eastern side of the Jordan, the waters of which, touched by the mantle, divided so as to permit both to pass over on dry ground. Eliseus then beheld Elias in a fiery chariot taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. By means of the mantle let fall from Elias, Eliseus miraculously recrossed the Jordan, and so won from the prophets at Jericho the recognition, that “the spirit of Elias hath rested upon Eliseus”. (IV Kings, ii, 1-15.) He won the gratitude of the people of Jericho for healing with salt its barren ground and its waters. Eliseus also knew how to strike with salutary fear the adorers of the calf in Bethel, for forty-two little boys, probably encouraged to mock the Prophet, on being cursed in the name of the Lord, were torn by “two bears out of the forest”. (IV Kings, ii, 19-24.) Before he settled in Samaria, the Prophet passed some time on Mount Carmel (IV Kings, ii, 25). When the armies of Juda, and Israel, and Edom, then allied against Mesa, the Moabite king, were being tortured by drought in the Idumaean desert, Eliseus consented to intervene. His double prediction regarding relief from drought and victory over the Moabites was fulfilled on the following morning. (IV Kings, iii, 4-24.)
That Eliseus inherited the wonderworking power of Elias is shown throughout the whole course of his life. To relieve the widow importuned by a hard creditor, Eliseus so multiplied a little oil as to enable her, not only to pay her indebtedness, but to provide for her family needs (IV Kings, iv, 1-7). To reward the rich lady of Sunam for her hospitality, he obtained for her from God, at first the birth of a son, and subsequently the resurrection of her child (IV Kings, iv, 8-37). To nourish the sons of the prophets pressed by famine, Eliseus changed into wholesome food the pottage made from poisonous gourds (IV Kings, iv, 38-41). By the cure of Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy, Eliseus, little impressed by the possessions of the Syrian general, whilst willing to free King Joram from his perplexity, principally intended to show “that there is a prophet in Israel”. Naaman, at first reluctant, obeyed the Prophet, and washed seven times in the Jordan. Finding his flesh “restored like the flesh of a little child”, the general was so impressed by this evidence of God‘s power, and by the disinterestedness of His Prophet, as to express his deep conviction that “there is no other God in all the earth, but only in Israel”. (IV Kings, v, 1-19.) It is to this Christ referred when He said: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian” (Luke, iv, 27). In punishing the avarice of his servant Giezi (IV Kings, v, 20-27), in saving “not once nor twice” King Joram from the ambuscades planned by Benadad (IV Kings, vi, 8-12), in ordering the ancients to shut the door against the messenger of Israel’s ungrateful king (IV Kings, vi, 25-32), in bewildering with a strange blindness the soldiers of the Syrian king (IV Kings, vi, 13-23), in making the iron swim to relieve from embarrassment a son of a prophet (IV Kings, vi, 1-7), in confidently predicting the sudden flight of the enemy and the consequent cessation of the famine (IV Kings, vii, 1-20), in unmasking the treachery of Hazael (IV Kings, viii, 7-15), Eliseus proved himself the Divinely appointed Prophet of the one true God, Whose knowledge and power he was privileged to share.
Mindful of the order given to Elias (III Kings, xix, 16), Eliseus delegated a son of one of the prophets to quietly anoint Jehu King of Israel, and to commission him to cut off the house of Achab (IV Kings, ix, 1-10). The death of Joram, pierced by an arrow from Jehu‘s bow, the ignominious end of Jezabel, the slaughter of Achab‘s seventy sons, proved how faithfully executed was the Divine command (IV Kings, ix, 11-x, 30). After predicting to Joas his victory over the Syrians at Aphec, as well as three other subsequent victories, ever bold before kings, ever kindly towards the lowly, “Eliseus died, and they buried him” (IV Kings, xiii, 14-20). The very touch of his corpse served to resuscitate a dead man (IV Kings, xiii, 20-21). “In his life he did great wonders, and in death he wrought miracles” (Ecclus., xlviii, 15).
DANIEL P. DUFFY