The New International Encyclopædia/Elisha
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|Edition of 1905. See also Elisha on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
ELI'SHA (Heb., Elisha, God is deliverance). A prophet of Israel, who continued the movement of Elijah against the Baal cult. The story of his career is told in II. Kings ii., ix., xiii. as follows: He was the son of Shaphat, and lived at Abel-meholah, where, until his call, he was a farmer (I. Kings xix. 19). While at Horeb Elijah is told to appoint Elisha his successor; this he does by throwing his mantle over him, whereupon Elisha sacrifices the oxen with which he was plowing, and follows Elijah. During the life of his master nothing is heard of Elisha until immediately before Elijah's death. Elisha follows him from Bethlehem to Jericho and then across the Jordan, which Elijah divides with his mantle, and as Elijah is taken up he receives the mantle of his master (II. Kings ii. 13). Elisha also divides the Jordan and comes to Jericho, where he heals the poisonous waters (II. Kings ii. 19-22). On the road to Bethlehem he is met by children who laugh at him for his bald head. He curses them and forty of their number are devoured by two she bears (II. Kings ii. 23-25). He severely rebukes Jehoram and refuses to speak to him, but prophesies for the sake of Jehoshaphat (II. Kings iii.). A wife of one of the sons of the prophets coming to Elisha for aid, he performs the miracle of the oil (II. Kings iv. 1-7), and restores to life the son of another woman who has befriended him (II. Kings iv. 8-37). Another miracle like that performed at Jericho was the removing of the poison from the food prepared by the sons cf the prophets (II. Kings iv. 38-41). Still another miracle is the making twenty loaves of bread serve one hundred men (II. Kings iv. 42-44). He cures Naaman of Syria of his leprosy and refuses to take any return for it and curses his servant Gehazi for having taken a present (II. Kings v.). He strikes the Syrian army with blindness, but sends them away in peace after he has brought them to Samaria (II. Kings vi. 8-23). When he sees Hazael he knows at once the suffering that will be brought on Israel, but still tells Hazael that he will be king (II. Kings viii. 7-15.). To fulfill the prophecy of Elijah, Elisha sends a prophet to anoint Jehu, who promptly kills the family of Ahab and takes the throne (II. Kings ix.). Before the death of Elisha he is visited by Joash and predicts three victories against the Syrians (II. Kings xiii. 14-19). Even after his death Elisha performs miracles; a body thrown upon his bones revives and stands tip (II. Kings xiii. 20-21).
The character of the Elisha stories, it will be seen, is very much the same as that of those told of Elijah. Both perform miracles, restoring dead persons to life, striking the living with disease, predicting victories or disasters, and the like. While not so rugged as Elijah, he surpasses the latter in the political influence that he exercises. The narrative clearly indicates a progress toward the recognition of Yahweh to the exclusion of the Baal cults, so that Elisha's path is considerably smoother owing to the antecedent activity of Elijah.