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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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the son of Shaphat, Elijah's disciple and successor in the prophetic office, was of the city of Abelmeholah, 1 Kings 19:16 , &c. Elijah having received God's command to anoint Elisha as a prophet, came to Abelmeholah; and finding him ploughing with oxen, he threw his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha, who left the oxen, and accompanied him. Under the article Elijah, it has been observed that Elisha was following his master, when he was taken up to heaven; and that he inherited Elijah's mantle, with a double portion of his spirit. Elisha smote the waters of Jordan, and divided them; and he rendered wholesome the waters of a rivulet near Jericho. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom, having taken the field against the king of Moab, who had revolted from Israel, were in danger of perishing for want of water. Elisha was at that time in the camp; and seeing Jehoram, the king of Israel, he said, "What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. As the Lord liveth, were it not out of respect to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, who is here present, I would not so much as look on thee. But now send for a minstrel; and while this man played, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Elisha, and he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make several ditches along this valley; for ye shall see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley shall be filled with water, and you and your cattle shall drink of it." The widow of one of the prophets having told Elisha, that her husband's creditor was determined to take her two sons and sell them for slaves, Elisha multiplied the oil in the widow's house, in such quantity that she was enabled to sell it and to discharge the debt. Elisha went frequently to Shunem, a city of Manasseh, on this side Jordan, and was entertained by a certain matron at her house. As she had no children, Elisha promised her a son; and his prediction was accomplished. Some years after, the child died. Elisha, who was then at Mount Carmel, was solicited by the mother to come to her house. The prophet went, and restored the child. At Gilgal, during a great famine, one of the sons of the prophets gathered wild gourds, which he put into the pot, and they were served up to Elisha and the other prophets. It was soon found that they were mortal poison; but Elisha ordering meal to be thrown into the pot, corrected the quality of the pottage. Naaman, general of the king of Syria's forces, having a leprosy, was advised to visit Elisha in order to be cured. Elisha appointed him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan; and by this means Naaman was perfectly healed. He returned to Elisha, and offered him large presents, which the man of God resolutely refused. But Gehazi, Elisha's servant, did not imitate the disinterestedness of his master. He ran after Naaman, and in Elisha's name begged a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. Naaman gave him two talents. Elisha, to whom God had discovered Gehazi's action, reproached him with it, and declared, that the leprosy of Naaman should cleave to him and his family for ever. This is a striking instance of the disinterestedness of the Jewish prophets. Elisha, like his master Elijah, had learned to contemn the world. The king of Syria being at war with the king of Israel, could not imagine how all his designs were discovered by the enemy. He was told, that Elisha revealed them to the king of Israel. He therefore sent troops to seize the prophet at Dothan; but Elisha struck them with blindness, and led them in that condition into Samaria. When they were in the city, he prayed to God to open their eyes; and after he had made them eat and drink, he sent them back unhurt to their master. Some time after, Benhadad, king of Syria, having besieged Samaria, the famine became so extreme, that a certain woman ate her own child. Jehoram, king of Israel, imputing to Elisha these calamities, sent a messenger to cut off his head. Elisha, who was informed of this design against his life, ordered the door to be shut. The messenger was scarcely arrived, when the king himself followed, and made great complaints of the condition to which the town was reduced. Elisha answered, "To-morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." Upon this, one of the king's officers said, "Were the Lord to open windows in heaven, might this thing be." This unbelief was punished; for the prophet answered, "Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof," which happened according to Elisha's prediction, for he was trodden to death by the crowd in the gate. At the end of the seven years' famine, which the prophet had foretold, he went to Damascus, to execute the command which God had given to Elijah many years before, of declaring Hazael king of Syria. Benhadad being at that time indisposed, and hearing that Elisha was come into his territories, sent Hazael, one of his principal officers, to the prophet to consult him, and inquire of him whether it were possible for him to recover. The prophet told Hazael, that he might recover, but that he was very well assured that he should not; and then looking steadfastly upon him, he broke out into tears upon the prospect, as he told him, of the many barbarous calamities which he would bring upon Israel, when once he was advanced to power, as he would soon be, because he was assured by divine revelation that he was to be king of Syria. Hazael, though offended at the time at being thought capable of such atrocities, did but too clearly verify these predictions; for at his return, having murdered Benhadad, and procured himself to be declared king, he inflicted the greatest miseries upon the Israelites.

2. Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, and grandson of Nimshi, to be king, in pursuance of an order given to Elijah some years before; and Jehu having received the royal unction, executed every thing that had been foretold by Elijah against Ahab's family, and against Jezebel. Elisha falling sick, Joash, king of Israel, came to visit him, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." Elisha desired the king to bring him a bow and arrows. Joash having brought them, Elisha requested him to put his hands on the bow, and at the same time the prophet put his own hand upon the king's, and said, Open the window which looks east, and let fly an arrow.

The king having done this, Elisha said, This is the arrow of the Lord's deliverance: thou shalt be successful against Syria at Aphek. Elisha desired him again to shoot, which he did three times, and then stopped. But Elisha with vehemence said, "If thou hadst smitten five or six times, then thou hadst smitten Syria until thou hadst consumed it; whereas now thou shalt smite Syria only thrice." This is the last prediction of Elisha of which we read in Scripture, for soon after he died; but it was not his last miracle: for, some time after his interment, a company of Israelites, as they were going to bury a dead person, perceiving a band of Moabites making toward them, put the corpse for haste into Elisha's tomb, and, as soon as it had touched the prophet's body, it immediately revived; so that the man stood upon his feet: a striking emblem of the life-giving effect of the labours of the servants of God, after they themselves are gathered to their fathers.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Elisha'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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