Elisha takes over as the main prophet that God talks to after the ascension of Elijah. He does some interesting things in the beginning of his time as God’s go-to guy.
This book opens up with the death of Ahaziah. He falls and wants to inquire of another god about whether or not he’ll die but God and Elijah intercept those he sends to let him know that he will die. He ends up sending three groups of soldiers to Elijah to verify his words because the first two sets of fifty are killed by fire from heaven at Elijah’s request because they meant to harm him. The last one gets the verification because he realizes that Elijah is definitely a man of God and treats him as such.
Here we find the story of Elijah being taken up by the chariots and into the whirlwind rather than die. I’ve heard this story several times but never had the chance to sit with it the way I have been with some of these posts. Some things that I never noticed or were left out of the retellings I heard:
- this happens just after Elijah parts the Jordan with his cloak
- Elijah had spent the whole day trying to get away from Elisha because he knew was supposed to “go up” that day
- Elisha knew also and wasn’t going to leave him. In fact, it seemed like all the prophets knew because several said something to Elisha about it
- Elijah’s cloak is left after being taken into the chariot
- Elisha uses the cloak to part the Jordan and cross back through it at the end of the story
- I knew that Elisha asks for the “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, but I didn’t know that getting this was dependent on whether or not he saw Elijah go up.
Elisha goes on to Jericho where the “sons of the prophets” are looking for Elijah and insist on going to find him despite that they see the “spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha”. I don’t know what method Elisha used to try to dissuade them or if it was as simple as saying to not go, but he eventually gives in. When they can’t find Elijah, they go back to Elisha and he reminds them that he said not to go. I feel like a simple explanation may have saved them three days the sons were looking for Elijah, but perhaps they were adamant and not paying attention, I’ve seen that kind of stubbornness. It happens. Then Elisha does two things before the chapter comes to a close.
First, he heals the spring that was by Jericho with some salt and then he sends two she-bears after a bunch of kids that were heckling him. Yeah, you read the second half of that right. It just says “some small boys” but I feel like “some” is not an adequate descriptor when 42 were torn by the bears. Not only does it seem strange to curse in the name of the Lord, but at boys who were heckling. They said “go up, baldhead” which is much tamer than some of the catcalling I’ve heard in my lifetime. It kinda makes me think I’m going to picture bears killing catcallers from now on.
The Moabites rebel against Israel, so the king asks the king of Judah for help, who does. They decided to go through Edom, so the king of Edom joins in. Interesting note, that the kingdom of Edom has descended from Isaac’s line also, from the twin of Jacob, if you recall.
The three kings end up without water and send for Elisha who is known to be a man of God. They inquire if the lack of water stems from God not wanting them to have success in their endeavor. God responds by giving them plenty of water and letting them know that they will win but that they “shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones”.
This is important because God has given instructions for battle before and deals were made instead. While they seemed like good and more humane deals, they were disobedient and it always seemed later that God was trying to keep them from unintended consequences with His original orders. They do follow Him to the letter this time and all seems to end well.
It is specified in the beginning that though the new king of Israel, Jehoram, wasn’t as bad as Ahab and Jezebel, he still “clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat”, which was bad.
There are three stories in this chapter. The first one is about a widow of one of the prophets who has a bill collector coming for her. She remains unnamed throughout the story. She goes to Elisha for help because the bill collector is threatening to enslave her sons if she doesn’t pay up. After a few questions, he tells her to borrow jars from all of her neighbors and “not too few” and to bring them home and pour oil from the one jar that she had until they were all full. Then he tells her to sell them for the money she needed. It’s pretty genius and a nice miracle. I love the unending supplies of things.
Then there’s an unnamed Shunammite woman who suggests to her husband that they build and furnish a little room for Elisha in their home because he comes through there and stays with them so much. Elisha wants to repay this kindness, though the woman asks for nothing, and so he tells her that she will have a son soon. They had no children and so he figured that was the best thing he could give her and he turns out to be right.
Unfortunately, the son gets injured and dies in her arms when he had grown some. She puts him in Elisha’s bed in the house and insists on going to get him. She successfully finds Elisha and tells him what happened. He immediately sets off with her, even sending a servant to try to get there faster and have things right as soon as possible. The servant is unsuccessful but then Elisha brings the boy back from the dead.
In the third story, some stew is made with poisonous ingredients but Elisha makes it better. When a man from another town comes in bringing some more food for Elisha, he shares with another miracle of unending supply.