That’s the end of Elijah’s story for now. He’ll return at the Mount of Transfiguration and later on to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland temple. What did I learn from or about Elijah? Not only was his character illuminated through the stories and chapters I read but also his faith. He seemed a bit of a lonely guy, always being in the desert and all. But despite this, he had a profound trust and confidence in the Lord. He was most definitely not ashamed of the gospel. He spoke the words that God put into his mouth. He lived in a time when a majority of the people did not obey the gospel or want to. Like his upbringing in the desert, he was alone in his faith among the cities of the Northern Kingdom. Just like he knew he could survive in the desert, so too did he know his testimony in Jehovah, despite opposition, would sustain him. Now on to Elisha.
Who was Elisha?
Elisha as you already know from previous chapters with Elijah was his attendant and disciple. They were missionaries! Elisha was probably Elijah’s second witness to the truth! How cool is that! Although I think there was a big difference in age between them. Not to mention that Elisha’s companion is a prophet! Elisha is a city boy and Elijah is a country boy. There must have been some interesting conversations between them. Oh, and they were together for some six or seven years! Imagine having been out for three years and thinking, “Well, I’m only halfway done!” That seems like such a long time.
The BD says that Elisha was of a gentle and affectionate disposition which differed from his master’s fire and zeal. Elisha’s acts were mostly of kindness and mercy. Do you think that Elisha ever talked Elijah out of destroying cities? I don’t know. Maybe Elijah wasn’t THAT fiery.
After Elijah was translated, Elisha became the leading prophet in the Northern Kingdom. He became a trusted advisor of the Kings of Israel. His ministry lasted more than 50 years and was during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehoahaz, and Joash.
Contemporaries of Elisha
Time to look up some people. You already know about Jehoram I should hope. He is the brother of Ahaziah and the son of Ahab. He reigns until two years into Jehoshaphat’s sons, Jehoram’s reign. Jehoahaz isn’t in the BD, however, his son Joash is! Joash was the king of Israel after his father. He was one of the best kings of Israel. Elisha, Hosea, and Amos prophesied during his reign. Does that mean that both Amos and Hosea were contemporaries with Elisha? Let me see…
Ok, Amos was not living at the same time as Elisha. I believe that Elisha was finishing up the last half of the 7th century B.C. whereas Amos was probably prophesying during the mid 6th century B.C.
Hosea or Hoshea was also not a contemporary with Elisha. According to the BD, he prophesied during the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II. He probably died around 736 B.C. Hosea probably was contemporaries with Amos. It seems reasonable that their ministries could have overlapped. As to which one outlived the other, I don’t know. I think Hosea may have been the last prophet before the Northern Kingdom was carried into captivity.
The Importance of Chariots in the Ancient Near East
Now back to the story of Elisha. He has just seen Elijah taken up into a whirlwind of a chariot and horse of flames. That reminds me. I never talked about the chariot of fire. Do you know the significance? Neither did I until about a month ago. Chariots were probably the most influential invention for warfare. Previously, people had flocked to battle on foot. After the chariot came about, everything changed. You could move around the battlefield more quickly and mow down men. Even shoot arrows or hack down people with your sword from the comfort of your vehicle. It became a symbol of strength and power. Well, little doubt that God uses the greatest symbol of power and strength to get around. Ok, maybe not get around, he’s God, he can just think and be there. But I think you get the point.
The Passing of the Prophet’s Mantle
Back to the story for reals this time. Elisha saw the horsemen and chariot take Elijah up and he cries out, “Father, father…” I think this exclamation shows perfectly their relationship. Like that of father and son. Once you realize this, the fact that Elisha asked for a double inheritance as a “son” becomes natural. Elisha experiences sorrow and rips his shirt in two. I know there is great significance in ripping your clothes but I don’t remember.
Elisha picks up the mantle (shawl) of Elijah that probably fell from the sky or was left on the ground. He asks where the God of Elijah is and smites the water. It parts and Elisha crosses back over the river.
Prophetic succession is something I would like to know more about. How does that work? What did Elisha feel or know after becoming a prophet? Was he bestowed with all this profound knowledge that rushed into his brain? Was the spirit upon him? I feel the answer to these questions is something along the following. I think as soon as he picked up the mantle, the realization of what had actually happened began to dawn upon him. I don’t think he had profound knowledge or visions rush into his mind all at once. I think this learning would take time and happen over the course of his prophethood. But I do think there are a few things he felt and knew that day. I do think he felt the spirit a lot. I think the Lord came and told him of his privileges and duties were. He may not have known fully what he was doing but I feel like that day he knew what he had access to and that God would help him every step of the way. Even until his will and God’s became so aligned that like Elijah, he wouldn’t say anything the Lord wouldn’t support.
The Spirit of Elijah
When Elijah comes back over the Jordan River, the sons of the prophets at Jericho saw Elisha and said,” The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.” They came out to meet Elisha and bowed down at his feet.
The spirit of Elijah huh? That’s a phrase I’ve heard before. I think everyone has seen it before. We learn from the bible dictionary entry on Elijah that his power and authority was that of whatever was bound on earth was bound in Heaven. We also learn that the same power is in effect today after being restored to Joseph Smith in the temple. I often have heard people talk about the spirit of Elijah in connection with family history, temple work, and salvation for the dead. These are definitely synonyms for Spirit of Elijah (see topical guide). When we realize that the power or spirit of Elijah was binding things on Earth so they are bound in Heaven, we begin to have a yearning to do those saving ordinances for our ancestors.
When the sons of the prophets say that Elisha has the spirit of Elijah, they are not saying that Elisha has a desire to do family history work, but rather, that Elisha possesses the same authority or power that Elijah did. When we hear scriptures like D&C 2:2, we understand that the hearts of the children turn to their fathers because of the binding power of the priesthood.
It’s also kind of cool to think that the same thing happened between Elisha and Elijah. Elijah was like a father to Elisha and Elisha like a child or son to Elijah. When it says that the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers, I think in a very real sense, that is what happened when Elijah was taken up into Heaven. Elisha’s heart turned to his “father” and desired of him the same power to save souls as his master had. Rather than redeem the dead, Elisha sought to redeem the living.
The Search for Elijah
The sons of the prophets tell Elisha they have 50 strong men and that they want to go try to find Elijah. Elisha tells them not to go but they persist until Elisha finally tells them to go. After searching three days (meanwhile, Elisha is in Jericho), the sons of the prophets return and tell Elisha that Elijah is nowhere to be found. Elisha pretty much says, “I told you so.”
Why did they not connect the dots? Why couldn’t they see that Elisha had Elijah’s mantle? Why didn’t they understand that Elisha’s loyalty was such that he would not have returned without his master? I think it is unfair to race to the finish line and say they were unrighteous. I think that they just weren’t looking Elisha. They were so focused on Elijah and what happened to him that they completely missed Elisha. Yet, the sons recognized he had the same spirit as Elijah. Maybe they didn’t want to believe it? Maybe they didn’t want Elisha to be their leader? But, having no other option they accept him?
Healings the Waters of Jericho
The sons of the prophet tell Elisha that the city of Jericho is lacking in water and that the land is barren. What ensues is Elisha’s first miracle. He tells the sons of the prophets to bring him a dish or bowl with salt. They do. He then goes over to the springs of water and casts the salt in. Elisha then says, speaking on behalf of the Lord, “I have healed these waters; there shall not be from henceforth anymore death or barren land.” So the waters of Jericho were healed and are unto this day, according to the words which Elisha spoke.
Update: I have been to these springs and indeed they are only clean and pure, providing the water for the land of Jericho.
There is a lot of stuff about this story that I like. One thing that I was thinking about while writing down what was happening was how the sons of the prophets acted. They had a problem: the waters of Jericho are barren. They ask the prophet what they should do. He tells them, and they do it! Once they act on what he says, then the miracle of the waters being healed occurs! I feel like this is really relevant today. People have questions. Whether it’s how should I dress or where did I come from, God has answered them all through prophets. If we have a problem about a lack of knowledge or what to do, a prophet has told us. It is up to us to act and test God to see if the miracles come in the obedience thereof. Maybe the miracles that come won’t be as big as the waters of Jericho being healed, they may even go unnoticed. But I know that those miracles do come. I have seen them as I have tried to become a better missionary.
Significance of Salt
Next, I want to talk about salt. Salt to me seems like the last thing that would fix barren wells. It even makes you more thirsty! The point I want to make is that sometimes the answers to our questions, the way in which we are counseled to act, may not be expected. It may appear contrary to the latest fads and philosophies of man even. In Isaiah 55 we learn that God’s ways and thoughts are not that of mankind’s’. Clayton Christiansen also wrote a fantastic talk on the same subject. I would direct you to that talk for further expounding upon the topic of how God’s ways are not mankind’s.
This next idea about salt may be stretching it. I feel like the water of Jericho before being cleansed was not drinkable. I want to mention that the Savior taught that we are the salt of the Earth. The entire world is filthy like the waters of Jericho. And we, as believers in Christ are like blessed salt that Elisha cast into the well to purify the waters, never again to return to their barren state. Our duty is to go forth among the nations, being an example, teaching them, being an ensign, a standard, a rallying point to which the righteous may flock.
Back to Samaria
Elisha leaves Jericho. He is walking to the next closest city to Jericho (retracing the steps he and Elijah took?). Some youth come up while he is walking and mock him, saying he has a bald head. Cross reference Lamentation 4:16-17. Those verses are talking about the pitiful state of Zion. Specifically how the Lord is angry at the people because they disregard the prophets and do not respect the elders. Well, case and point with what is happening right now.
Sustaining our leaders
It is of utmost importance that we respect each other, especially those whom the Lord calls as our leaders. When we disregard or disrespect what they say, we disregard and disrespect the Lord and his wishes. Don’t seek to deny or belittle someone because of an opportunity God has given them to grow and develop. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Because by that which ye judge, so also shall ye be judged.
I was going to go on a random tangent about the importance of hair in the Old Testament but there was nothing about it in the bible dictionary so I will forego for now.
Enter the Bears
Elisha looks back at the children mocking him and curses them in the name of the Lord. After which, two bears come out of the woods and rip 42 kids apart. That’s a lot of youth! Must have learned that from Elijah! Those youth must have been mocking him pretty badly for him to do that
Settling in Samaria
From Beth-el, he goes to Mount Carmel and from there returns to Samaria. Cross reference 2 Kings 4:25. It seems like Elisha sets up headquarters at Mount Carmel. A woman visits him while he is there. So he must have lived at Mount Carmel long enough to gain a reputation for living there?
I was wondering if he returned to the country Samaria or the city, Samaria. I thought the country because Mount Carmel and Samaria the city are far apart. You can look at map 10 to see how far apart they are and I think you’ll agree he returned to the country Samaria rather than the city.
That’s it for this week. Next installment will be more miracles!