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Days Of Elisha

Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!"

And Elisha said to him, "Take a bow and some arrows." So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, "Put your hand on the bow." So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. And he said, "Open the east window"; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot"; and he shot.

And he said, "The arrow of the LORD's deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them."

Then he said, "Take the arrows"; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground"; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times."

Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence.

Now Hazael king of Syria died. Then Ben-Hadad his son reigned in his place. And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz recaptured from the hand of Ben-Hadad, the son of Hazael, the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times Joash defeated him and recaptured the cities of Israel. (2 Kings 13:14-25)

There are some remarkable lessons we can learn about this faithful man of God named Elisha in 2 Kings 13. He had fallen sick, and he had lived long. At this point of his life, it was almost 50 years after he was first called to be a prophet, and became a disciple of Elijah. It was amazing that he could continue for so long being a shining light burning bright to the people of Israel and the sons of the prophets. God's prophets have their days set for them - some longer and others shorter, as God sees fit. Our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15).

Elisha succeeded the prophet Elijah when Elijah's time on earth was done (1 Kings 19:16). Elisha ministered in the northern kingdom of Israel, serving God during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Joash. Some Biblical scholars dated the period of his ministry from 850 BC to 800 BC. Elisha's work consisted of presenting the Word of God through prophecy, advising kings, anointing kings, helping the needy, and performing several miracles.

Elisha was the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah, a town between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea on the western side of the Jordan River. Elijah found Elisha plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him (1 Kings 19:19). As Elijah walked past Elisha, he threw his mantle over Elisha's shoulders. Elisha immediately recognized this as a call to ministry. He left his family to follow Elijah.

Elisha arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant (1 Kings 19:21). But Elisha was not mentioned again until 2 Kings 2:1, shortly before Elijah descended to heaven in a chariot of fire. While being taken upwards, Elijah fulfilled the final request of Elisha by providing him with a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9-10). Upon receiving Elijah's mantle, Elisha demonstrated this gift by parting the waters of the Jordan River, allowing him to cross on dry land (2 Kings 2:14). In this way, God declared that Elisha had received His blessings as Elijah's successor.

Although Elisha continued Elijah's ministry of prophecy, he cultivated a different strategy from his predecessor. While Elijah was called to be a loner, Elisha was called and chosen to work within the established system. He assumed his rightful place as the head of the official prophetic order in Israel, where kings sought his counsel and advice. In contrast to Elijah's strained relationship with the king and his officials, Elisha enjoyed the gracious and friendly role of a trusted advisor. This does not mean that Elisha never had a word of criticism for the government of Israel. Such criticism could be seen in the vital role that Elisha played in the overthrow of Jezebel and the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-3).

Elisha and Elijah were very different in many ways. His appearance was much more typical than Elijah's. He was bald (2 Kings 2:23), while Elijah had been an extremely hairy man (2 Kings 1:8). Elisha did not wander as extensively as Elijah. Instead, he had a house in Samaria (2 Kings 6:32). Much tension existed between Elijah and his audience. But Elisha's ministry was welcomed into virtually all levels of society from the courts of the king to the dwellings of the lowliest peasants.

However, Elisha followed in Elijah's footsteps in the working of miracles. Elisha must have surely received a double portion of Elijah's spirit, because he performed twice as many miracles as Elijah. Elisha's miracles answered a wide variety of needs in every level of society. He carried out signs and wonders for high government officials, peasants, and the disadvantaged. He had a reputation for sympathizing with the poor and the oppressed. Elisha's activities and miracles as a prophet were often focused on those who were abused by officials in positions of power. In this way, Elisha demonstrated a true love and concern for all people.

One of Elisha's community services was his purification of an unhealthy spring near Jericho. After learning that the spring was bad, Elisha threw a bowl of salt into it, making it pure (2 Kings 2:19-21). The Bible reported, "the water remains healed to this day" (2 Kings 2:22). This showed a permanent healing, and not just a temporary relief. In another miracle, Elisha helped the widow of one of the sons of the prophets. He helped her to pay off her creditor who intended to take her two sons to become his slaves as payment of the debt. Elisha multiplied the amount of oil in one jar to fill all available containers. This brought in enough money to pay off all her debts, and also having a surplus on which the widow and her sons could live (2 Kings 4:1-7).

Elisha became a friend of a wealthy family in Shunem. The Shunnamite woman displayed hospitality towards the prophet by regularly feeding him and building a room onto their home where he could stay. Elisha repaid the childless couple by promising them a son (2 Kings 4:8-17). Later, when tragedy struck the child, Elisha raised him from the dead (2 Kings 4:18-37). When Elisha learned that a famine would strike Israel, he warned the family to flee the land. When the family returned seven years later, the king restored their property because of their relationship with Elisha (2 Kings 8:1-6).

Elisha also advised kings and performed miracles for them. He helped Jehoram, king of Israel; Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and the king of Edom defeat Mesha, the king of Moab (2 Kings 3:1-19).

Elisha ministered to all people, regardless of their nationalities. He cured Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army (2 Kings 5:1-14), of leprosy, but he also advised the king of Israel of the plans (2 Kings 6:8-10) of their Syrian enemies.

Elisha was a prophet who was faithful till his last days. Even after his death, his dry bones had miraculous powers. When a corpse was hidden in Elisha's tomb, it came back to life as it touched the prophet's bones (2 Kings 13:21). God uses men and women, young and old, as long as they avail themselves to their Master's use. There is no retirement in the kingdom of God! Not even when we die! There is life after death!

Though the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha, Elisha was not sent up to heaven in a fiery chariot, as Elijah was. Instead he fell sick, and died. This does not indicate that Elisha was inferior to Elijah! It was the hand of God, doing whatever He willed to do. If Elisha had gone the same way as Elijah, the people of Israel would make an idol of him, and worship him.

In 2 Kings 13, King Joash visited Elisha in his sickness, and wept over him. He wanted to receive Elisha's dying counsel and blessing. Even before he died, Elisha was useful to the kings. How often do we see the deathbeds of good ministers and godly men become a counselling centre for kings of the nations? Though Elisha was very old and dying, he was still being sought after, as he was still useful and functioning in his prophetic office. His experience and anointing did not deteriorate with age. Instead he became greater and more powerful in the might of the LORD!

When the king saw Elisha sick and dying, he wept over him. King Joash lamented him in the same words with which Elisha had himself lamented during the take-off of Elijah. He honoured Elisha by calling him "father." However this king was selfish. He lamented the loss of Elisha because Elisha was like the chariots and horsemen of Israel. As Israel was so poor in chariots and horsemen, having only fifty horsemen and ten chariots (2 Kings 13:7), Elisha was the king's best weapon against his enemies. Elisha actually provided better defence to the nation of Israel than all the horses and chariots in the world put together. He was able to help Israel in fighting against her enemies using divine help!

Elisha gave the king great assurances of his success against the Syrians. He encouraged him to war against them with vigour. Elisha was well aware that his time was limited, and that the battle actually belonged to the LORD! It was Him Who would fight for them! However, the king needed to be trained in spiritual warfare, and how to fight by placing his faith in God and not Elisha. Elisha therefore asked the king to take a bow and some arrows. This was the prophetic act to deliver Israel from the Syrians. The king himself must learn how to fight the war through faith! God would be the Deliverer, and the king must be the instrument. Elisha was just the trainer and counselor.

The king was to shoot an arrow towards Syria. As if the king had been a child that never drew a bow before, Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands, training him, and also bestowing faith in the heart of the king. The king must look unto God as His Helper and Strength!

He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:34

Though sick and dying, Elisha's trembling hands were full of power and anointing as he gave this arrow more force and strength than the hands of the king. He was whole-heartedly and fully devoted to God and His people. He was not half-hearted and double-minded as the king. As the Syrians were in the East, Elisha asked the king to open the east window, and shot the arrow in that direction. There is no randomness, haphazardness or guesswork in his prophetic ministry. He was precise in executing the Word of God!

This arrow was a commission to the king to attack the Syrians, notwithstanding their power and might. It was also a promise of success as it was the arrow of the Lord's deliverance, even the arrow of deliverance from Syria. It was God Who would deliver! The arrow of deliverance was His.

He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Psalm 18:14

But the king must strike the Syrians at Aphek till he had destroyed them to achieve total and complete victory! However the king did not pass the test! The test of striking the arrows.

Elisha instructed the king to strike with the arrows. The prophet, coming in the name of the LORD, had already assured him of victory over the Syrians. But Elisha tested the king to see whether he was zealous and eager to carry out the mission on his own without Elisha! Elisha asked him to smite the arrows on the ground. But the king showed little interest and eagerness. He was still thinking that Elisha would do the job for him. He was depending on Elisha instead of God! As such, the king smote the arrows only thrice and no more!

The king was foolish by showing softness towards the Syrians who would not be merciful to the people of Israel. As he smote thrice, he did it in a very coldly manner. He thought that it was a silly thing to do. It also looked foolish for a king to beat the floor with his arrows. Therefore, thrice was good enough for him to play the fool just to please the dying prophet. By despising the prophetic act, he lost the total deliverance from the Syrians!

Elisha was angry with him, and told him he should have smitten five or six times to obtain complete victory. As a result, the king only defeated the king of Syria thrice, and recaptured the cities of Israel. And Syria continued to be a threat to the nation of Israel till this day!

Elisha died in a good old age. The people of Israel buried him, and that was not the end of his story! One day, the people were carrying the dead body of a man to the grave. When they saw the Moabites in a distance, they feared to fall into their hands. They then laid the corpse in the next convenient place, which happened to be Elisha's sepulchre. The dead man, upon touching Elisha's bones, became revived!

While Elijah was honoured in his departure, Elisha was honoured after his departure. God thus honours whomever He pleases, but in the way He desires! May we be like Elisha, faithful and useful to God to the very end till we see Him face to face in glory!

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Matthew Henry's Commentary

Written On:
3 May 2005