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Saint Eliseus
Elisha raising the Shunammite’s Son, early 1900's Bible Card illustration
Prophet
Died Samaria
Venerated in Judaism
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Lutheranism
Islam
Feast June 14
Attributes Clothed as a prophet, often holding a scroll

Elisha (Hebrew: אֱלִישַׁע, Modern Elišaʿ Tiberian ʾĔlîšaʿ ; "My God is salvation", Greek: Ελισσαίος, Elisaios, Arabic: إليسعIlyasaʿ; pronounced /ɨˈlaɪʃə/[1]) is a prophet of the Hebrew Bible. To many Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox he is known as Saint Eliseus; however, the standard English form of the name has been "Elisha," at least since the introduction of the Authorized King James Version. He is also a prophet in Islam under the name Al-Yasa.

Contents

Biblical biography

Elisha raises the Shunamite woman's son. Woodcut by Julius von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), published in 1840 in Bibeleni Billender.

Elisha was the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah; he became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (1 Kings 19:16-19), and after Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot into the whirlwind, he was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets, and became noted in Israel. He possessed, according to his own request, "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2:9); and for sixty years (892-832 BC) held the office of "prophet in Israel" (2 Kings 5:8).

His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). After learning, on Mount Horeb, that Elisha, the son of Shaphat, had been selected by God as his successor in the prophetic office, Elijah set out to make known the Divine will. On his way from Sinai to Damascus, Elijah found Elisha "one of them that were ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen". Elisha delayed only long enough to kill the yoke of oxen, whose flesh he boiled with the very wood of his plough. He went over to him, threw his mantle over Elisha's shoulders, and at once adopted him as a son, investing him with the prophetic office. Elisha accepted this call about four years before the death of Israel's King Ahab. For the next seven or eight years Elisha became Elijah's close attendant until Elijah was taken up into heaven. During all these years we hear nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah's life.

After he had shared this farewell repast with his father, mother, and friends, the newly chosen Prophet "followed Elijah and ministered to him". (1 Kings 19:8-21) He went with his master from Gilgal 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. Elisha then beheld Elijah in a fiery chariot taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. By means of the mantle let fall from Elijah, Elisha miraculously recrossed the Jordan, and so won from the prophets at Jericho the recognition that "the spirit of Elijah hath rested upon Elisha" (2 Kings 2:1-15). He won the gratitude of the people of Jericho for healing its barren ground by adding salt to its waters.

Syrian Brown Bear in Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. It is suggested that this is the species of bear mentioned in the story.

When a group of youths ("little boys" or "children" in some translations) from Bethel jeered at the prophet for being bald, Elisha cursed them in the name of YHWH and two female bears came out of the forest and mauled 42 of them (2 Kings 2:23-25). Perhaps because this episode could be seen to conflict with the image of a loving and forgiving God, some Christians feel the need to offer explanations of it.[2] [3]

Before Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind, Elisha asked to "inherit a double-portion" of Elijah's spirit. This is indicative of the property inheritance customs of the time, where the oldest son received twice as much of the father's inheritance as the younger sons. For example, if a man had 3 sons, his property was divided into fourths. Each son received one-fourth, with the oldest receiving two-fourths (twice as much as the others). In this instance with Elijah, Elisha is not asking to become twice as powerful as Elijah, but that he may be seen as the "rightful heir" to the work of the Lord that Elijah had done.

Before he settled in Samaria, the Prophet passed some time on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 2:25). When the armies of Judah, Israel and Edom, then allied against Mesa, the Moabite king, were being tortured by drought in the Idumæan desert, Elisha consented to intervene. His double prediction regarding relief from drought and victory over the Moabites was fulfilled on the following morning (2 Kings 3:4-24).

That Elisha inherited the wonder-working power of Elijah is shown throughout the whole course of his life. To relieve the widow importuned by a hard creditor, Elisha so multiplied a little oil as to enable her, not only to pay her indebtedness, but to provide for her family needs (2 Kings 4:1-7). To reward the rich lady of Shunam for her hospitality, he obtained for her from YHWH, at first the birth of a son, and subsequently the resurrection of her child (2 Kings 4:8-37). To nourish the sons of the prophets pressed by famine, Elisha changed into wholesome food the pottage made from poisonous gourds (2 Kings 4:38-41). By the cure of Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy, Elisha, 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". (2 Kings 5:1-19) Jesus referred to this when He said: "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:27).

In punishing the avarice of his servant Gehazi (2 Kings 5:20-27), in repeatedly saving King Jehoram of Israel from the ambushes planned by Benhadad (2 Kings 6:8-23), in ordering the elders to shut the door against the messenger of Israel's ungrateful king (2 Kings 6:25-32), in bewildering with a strange blindness the soldiers of the Syrian king (2 Kings 6:13-23), in making iron float to relieve from embarrassment a son of a prophet (2 Kings 6:1-7), in confidently predicting the sudden flight of the enemy and the consequent cessation of the famine (2 Kings 7:1-20), in unmasking the treachery of Hazael (2 Kings 8:7-15), Elisha proved himself a divinely appointed Prophet of the one true God, whose knowledge and power he was privileged to share.

Elisha refusing the gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber 1630

After Elijah's departure, Elisha returned to Jericho, and there healed the spring of water by casting salt into it (2 Kings 2:21).

Elisha is next encountered in Scripture when he predicts a fall of rain when the army of Jehoram was faint from thirst (2 Kings 3:9-20). Other miracles Elisha accomplishes include multiplying the poor widow's jar of oil (4:1-7), restoring to life the son of the woman of Shunem (4:18-37), and multiplying the twenty loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for a hundred men (4:42-44). During the military incursions of Syria into Israel, Elisha cures Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (5:1-27), punishes his servant Gehazi for his falsehood and his greed, and recovers an axe lost in the waters of the Jordan (6:1-7). He administered the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel, and at the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, Elisha prophesied about the terrible sufferings of the people of Samaria and their eventual relief (2 Kings 6:24-7:2).

Elisha then journeyed to Damascus and prophesied that Hazael would be king over Syria (2 Kings 8:7-15); thereafter he directs one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, instead of Ahab. Mindful of the order given to Elijah (1 Kings 19:16), Elisha 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 Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-10). The death of Joram, pierced by an arrow from Jehu's bow, the ignominious end of Jezabel, the slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons, proved how faithfully executed was the Divine command (2 Kings 9:11-10:30). After predicting to Joash his victory over the Syrians at Aphek, as well as three other subsequent victories, ever bold before kings, ever kindly towards the lowly, "Elisha died, and they buried him" (2 Kings 13:14-20).

While Elisha lies on his death-bed in his own house (2 Kings 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away, indicating his value to him: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

The very touch of his corpse served to resuscitate a dead man. "In his life he did great wonders, and in death he wrought miracles" (Ecclesiasticus, xlviii, 15). After his death, a dead body was laid in Elisha's grave a year after his burial. No sooner does it touch Elisha's remains than the man "revived, and stood up on his feet" (2 Kings 13:20-21).

Veneration

He is venerated as a saint in a number of Christian Churches. His feast day is on June 14, on the Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic liturgical calendars (for those churches which use the traditional Julian Calendar, June 14 falls on June 27 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). St. John of Damascus composed a canon in honor of the Prophet Elisha, and a church was built at Constantinople in his honor.

In Western Christianity he is commemorated on the Carmelite religious order's calendar of saints.[4] He is also commemorated as a prophet on the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Both calendars also celebrate him on June 14.

Julian the Apostate (361-363) gave orders to burn the relics of the prophets Elisha, Obadiah and John the Baptist, but they were rescued by the Christians, and part of them were transferred to Alexandria. Today, the relics of the prophet Elisha are claimed to be among the possessions of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt.[5]

There is also "the tomb of the prophet Elisha" in Aloujam in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. Reports from the city of Aloujam say that the shrine was removed by the authorities, because it is not in accordance with Sunni Islam, although in ancient times people used to visit it from afar.[6]

In Islam

Islam refers to him as "Al-Yasha", and he is one of the Islamic prophets mentioned in the Qur'an.

And commemorate Isma'il, Elisha, and Zul-Kifl: Each of them was of the Company of the Good.

(translation by Yusuf Ali)

And Ismail and Al-Yasha and Yunus and Lut; and every one We made to excel (in) the worlds: And from among their fathers and their descendants and their brethren, and We chose them and guided them into the right way.

References

  1. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 239. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Elisha"
  2. ^ The mauling of 42 young men.
  3. ^ The wrath of the Lord is just.
  4. ^ Carmelite Calendar
  5. ^ The Monastery of St. Macarius the Great
  6. ^ اليسع (Al-Yasa) (Arabic)

External links

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913. This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ELISHA (a Hebrew name meaning "God is deliverance"), in the Bible, the disciple and successor of Elijah, was the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in the valley of the Jordan. He was symbolically elected to the prophetic office by Elijah some time during the reign of Ahab (1 Kings xix. 19-21), and he survived until the reign of Joash. His career thus appears to have extended over a period of nearly sixty years. The relation between Elijah and Elisha was of a particularly close kind, but the difference between them is much more striking than the resemblance. Elijah is the prophet of the wilderness, wandering, rugged and austere; Elisha is the prophet of civilized life, of the city and the court, with the dress, manners and appearance of ordinary "grave citizens." Elijah is the messenger of vengeance - sudden, fierce and overwhelming; Elisha is the messenger of mercy and restoration. Elijah's miracles, with few exceptions,. are works of wrath and destruction; Elisha's miracles, with but one notable exception, are works of beneficence and healing. Elijah is the "prophet as fire" (Ecclus, xlviii. 1), an abnormal agent working for exceptional ends; Elisha is the "holy man of God which passeth by us continually" (2 Kings iv. 9), mixing in the common life of the people.

It is impossible to draw up a detailed chronology of his life. In most of the events narrated no further indication of time is given than by the words "the king of Israel," the name not being specified. There are some instances in which the order of time is obviously the reverse of the order of narrative, and there are other grounds for concluding that the narrative as we now have it is confused and incomplete. This may serve not only to explain the chronological difficulties, but also to throw some light on the altogether exceptional character of the miraculous element in Elisha's history. On the literary questions, see further Kings.

Not only are Elisha's miracles very numerous, even more so than those of Elijah, but they stand in a peculiar relation to the man and his work. With all the other prophets the primary function is spiritual teaching; miracles, even though numerous and many of them symbolical like Elisha's, are only accessory. With Elisha, on the other hand, miracles seem the principal function, and the teaching is altogether subsidiary. An explanation of the superabundance of miracles in Elisha's life is suggested by the fact that several of them were merely repetitions or doubles. of those of his predecessor. Such were: his first miracle, when, returning across the Jordan, he made a dry path for himself in. the same manner as Elijah (2 Kings ii. 14); the increase of the. widow's pot of oil (iv. 1-7); and the restoration of the son of the woman of Shunem to life (iv. 18-37). The theory that stories from the earlier life have been imported by mistake into the later, even if tenable, applies only to three of the miracles, and leaves. unexplained a much larger number which are not only not repetitions of those of Elijah, but have an entirely opposite character. The healing of the water of Jericho by putting salt in it (ii. 19-22), the provision of water for the army of Jehoshaphat in the arid desert (iii. 6-20), the neutralizing by meal of the poison in the pottage of the famine-stricken sons of the prophets at Jericho (iv. 38-41), the healing of Naaman the Syrian (v. 1-19), and the recovery of the iron axehead that had sunk in the water (vi. 1-7), are all instances of the beneficence which was the general characteristic of Elisha's wonder-working activity in contrast to that of Elijah. Another miracle of the same class, the feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves so that something was left over (iv. 42-44), deserves mention as the most striking though not the only instance of a resemblance between the work of Elisha and that of Jesus (Matt. xiv. 13-21). The one distinct exception to the general beneficence of Elisha's activity - the destruction of the forty-two children who mocked him as he was going up to Bethel (2 Kings ii. 23-25) - presents an ethical difficulty which is scarcely removed by the suggestion that the narrative has lost some particulars which would have shown the real enormity of the children's offence. We may prefer to imagine that among the homely stories told of him was one which had for its main object the inculcation of respect for one's elders.' The leprosy brought upon Gehazi (v. 20-27), though a miracle of judgment, scarcely belongs to the same class as the other; and it will be observed that Gehazi's subsequent relations with the court (viii. 1-6) ignore the disease, a fatal hindrance to intercourse. Further, the healing of Naaman (alluded to in Luke iv. 27) presupposes peaceful relations between Israel and the Syrians, with which, however, contrast ch. vi. The wonderworking power of Elisha is represented as continuing even after his death. As the feeding of the hundred men and the cure of leprosy connect his work with that of Jesus, so the story that a dead man who was cast into his sepulchre was brought to life by the mere contact with his bones (2 Kings xiii. 21, cf. Ecclus. xlviii. 12-14) is the most striking instance of an analogy between his miracles and those recorded of medieval saints. Stanley (Jewish Church, 4th ed., ii. 276) in reference to this has remarked that in the life of Elisha alone "in the sacred history the gulf between biblical and ecclesiastical miracles almost disappears." The place which Elisha filled in contemporary history was one of great influence and importance, and several narratives testify to his great reputation in Israel. On one occasion, when he delivered the army that had been brought out against Moab from a threatened dearth of water (2 Kings iii.), 2 he plainly intimates that, but for his regard to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, who was in alliance with Israel, he would not have interfered. Whether he was with the army or was supposed to be living in the desert is left obscure. An interesting touch is the influence of music upon the prophetic mind (v. 15). His next signal interference was during the incursions of the Syrians, when he disclosed the plans of the invaders to the "king of Israel" with such effect that they were again and again baffled. When the "king of Syria" was informed that "Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bed-chamber," he at once sent an army to take him captive in Dothan. At Elisha's prayer his terrified servant beheld an army of horses and chariots of fire surrounding the prophet. At a second prayer the invaders were struck blind, and in this state they were led by Elisha to Samaria, where their sight was restored. Their lives were spared at the command of the prophet, and they returned home so impressed that their incursions thenceforward ceased (vi. 8-23). This is immediately followed by the siege of Samaria by Benhadad which caused a famine of the severest kind. The calamity was imputed by the "king of Israel" to the influence of Elisha, and he ordered the prophet to be immediately put to death. Forewarned of the danger, Elisha ordered the messenger who had been sent to slay him to be detained at the door, and, when, immediately afterwards, the king himself came ("messenger" in vi. 33 should rather be king), predicted a great plenty within twenty-four hours. This was fulfilled by the flight of the Syrian army under the circumstances stated in ch. vii. After the episode with regard to the woman of Shunem (viii. 1-6), which is out of its chronological order, Elisha is represented as at Damascus (viii. 7-15). The reverence with which the foreign monarch Benhadad addressed Elisha deserves to be noted as showing the extent of the prophet's influence. In sending to know the issue of his illness, the king caused himself to be styled "thy son Benhadad." Equally remarkable is the ' Similarly Elijah enforces respect for the prophetic office in i. 9 sqq. Prof. Kennett points out to the present writer that the epithet "bald-head" may refer to the sign of mourning for Elisha's lost master (cf. Ez. vii. 18, Deut. xiv. 1); "Go up" is perhaps to be taken literally (in reference to Elijah's translation).

s The method of obtaining water (v. 16 sq.) is that which still gives its name to the Wadi el-Absa ("valley of water pits") at the southern end of the Dead Sea (Old Test. Jew. Church, 2nd ed., 147). On the other hand, see Burney, Heb. Text of Kings, p. 270.

very ambiguous nature of Elisha's reply (viii. Io). 3 The most important interference of Elisha in the history of his country constituted the fulfilment of the third of the commands laid upon Elijah. The work of anointing Jehu to be king over Israel was performed by deputy (ix. 1-3). During the forty-five years which the chronological scheme allows for the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz the narratives contain no notice of Elisha, but from the circumstances of his death (xiii. 14-21) it is clear that he had continued to enjoy the esteem of the dynasty which he had helped to found. Joash, the grandson of Jehu, waited on him on his deathbed, and addressed him in the words which he himself had used to Elijah: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof" (cf. Í. 12). By the result of a symbolic discharge of arrows he informed the king of his coming success against Syria, and immediately thereafter he died. The explicit statement that he was buried completes the contrast between him and his greater predecessor.

On the narratives, see Kings. In general those where "the prophet appears as on friendly terms with the king, and possessed of influence at court (e.g. 2 Kings iv. 13, vi. 9, vi. 21, compared with xiii. 14), plainly belong to the time of Jehu's dynasty, though they are related before the fall of the house of Omri. We can distinguish portions of an historical narrative which speaks of Elisha in connexion with events of public interest, without making him the central figure, and a series of anecdotes of properly biographical character.. .. In the latter we may distinguish one circle connected with Gilgal, Jericho and the Jordan valley to which AbelMeholah belongs (iv. 1-7? 38-44, v.? vi. 1-7). Here Elisha appears as the head of the prophetic gilds, having his fixed residence at Gilga1.4 Another circle, which presupposes the accession of the house of Jehu, places him at Dothan or Carmel, and represents him as a personage of almost superhuman dignity. Here there is an obvious parallelism with the history of Elijah, especially with his ascension (cf. 2 Kings vi. 17 with ii. I I; xiii. 14 with ii. 12); and it is to this group of narratives that the ascension of Elijah forms the introduction" (Robertson Smith, Ency. Brit., 9th ed., art. Kings, vol. xiv. p. 186). This twofold representation finds a parallel in the narratives of Samuel, whose history and the conditions reflected therein are analogous to the life and times of Elisha.

Elisha is canonized in the Orthodox Eastern Church, his festival being on the 14th of June, under which date his life is entered' in the A cta sanctorum. See especially, W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel (Index, s.v.), and the literature to Elijah; Kings, Books Of; Prophet.

(W. R. S.; S. A. C.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Etymology

Hebrew אֱלִישַׁע "God is salvation".

Proper noun

Singular
Elisha

Plural
-

Elisha

  1. (Biblical) A prophet, a disciple and successor of Elijah.
  2. A male given name of biblical origin, in quiet use since the 17th century.
  3. A female given name in occasional use, apparently confused with Elizabeth or Alicia.

Quotations

Translations

Anagrams


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: God his salvation

The son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, who became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (1 Kg 19:16-19). His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor (1 Kg 19:16). This was the only one of the three commands then given to Elijah which he accomplished. On his way from Sinai to Damascus he found Elisha at his native place engaged in the labours of the field, ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. He went over to him, threw over his shoulders his rough mantle, and at once adopted him as a son, and invested him with the prophetical office (comp. Lk 9:61, 62). Elisha accepted the call thus given (about four years before the death of Ahab), and for some seven or eight years became the close attendant on Elijah till he was parted from him and taken up into heaven. During all these years we hear nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah's life. After Elijah, Elisha was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets, and became noted in Israel. He possessed, according to his own request, "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2Kg 2:9); and for the long period of about sixty years (B.C. 892-832) held the office of "prophet in Israel" (2Kg 5:8).

After Elijah's departure, Elisha returned to Jericho, and there healed the spring of water by casting salt into it (2Kg 2:21). We next find him at Bethel (2:23), where, with the sternness of his master, he cursed the youths who came out and scoffed at him as a prophet of God: "Go up, thou bald head." The judgment at once took effect, and God terribly visited the dishonour done to his prophet as dishonour done to himself. We next read of his predicting a fall of rain when the army of Jehoram was faint from thirst (2Kg 3:9-20); of the multiplying of the poor widow's cruse of oil (4:1-7); the miracle of restoring to life the son of the woman of Shunem (4:18-37); the multiplication of the twenty loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for an hundred men (4:42-44); of the cure of Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (5:1-27); of the punishment of Gehazi for his falsehood and his covetousness; of the recovery of the axe lost in the waters of the Jordan (6:1-7); of the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel; of the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, and of the terrible sufferings of the people in connection with it, and Elisha's prophecy as to the relief that would come (2Kg 6:24-7:2).

We then find Elisha at Damascus, to carry out the command given to his master to anoint Hazael king over Syria (2Kg 8:7-15); thereafter he directs one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, instead of Ahab. Thus the three commands given to Elijah (9:1-10) were at length carried out.

We do not again read of him till we find him on his death-bed in his own house (2Kg 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

Afterwards when a dead body is laid in Elisha's grave a year after his burial, no sooner does it touch the hallowed remains than the man "revived, and stood up on his feet" (2Kg 13:20-21).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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