Elisha [Ĕlī’shă]—god is saviour. The son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, of the tribe of Issachar, the companion and successor of Elijah (1 Kings 19:16-19; 2 Kings 2-13).
There is a striking difference between Elijah and Elisha, both of whom labored in the Northern Kingdom. Elijah’s name means, Jehovah my God and suggests the Law while Elisha’s name speaks of grace—Jehovah my Saviour.
Elisha left a peaceful occupation to become a model spiritual leader. Elijah prepared Elisha for his commission (2 Kings 2:1-14), and the two became devoted to each other. Elisha’s character is marked by mercy (2 Kings 2:21), disinterestedness (2 Kings 5) and toleration (2 Kings 5:19). He earned a wonderful posthumous influence (2 Kings 13:20, 21). What a victorious death was his (2 Kings 13:14-19)! Summarizing the life of this prophet who spoke with the authority of an oracle of God (2 Kings 3:16, 17), we see him etched as:
A man of indomitable faith (1 Kings 19:20, 21; 2 Kings 1-18).
A man of swift action (2 Kings 2:12-18).
A man of spiritual power (2 Kings 2:19-22).
A man of dauntless courage (2 Kings 3).
A man of deep sympathy (2 Kings 4:1-7).
A man of God (2 Kings 4:8-37).
A man of willing help (2 Kings 4:38-41).
A man who merited blessing (2 Kings 4:42-44).
A man of clear understanding (2 Kings 5:1-19).
A man of force and might (2 Kings 6:1-7).
A man who knew secrets (2 Kings 6:8-23).
A man of remarkable foresight (2 Kings 6:24-33; 7).
A man of unerring counsel (2 Kings 8:1-6).
A man of tears and sorrow (2 Kings 8:7-15).
Elisha suggests the ministry of Christ. On the whole, Elijah’s work was destructive—he was the prophet of fire. Elisha’s task was more merciful and beneficial. He had double the power of Elijah (2 Kings 2:8, 9, 15), and consequently performed twice as many miracles as his former master. The following contrasts between these two prophets can be noted:
Elijah was a prophet of the wilderness;
Elisha was a prince of the court.
Elijah had no settled home;
Elisha enjoyed the peace of a home.
Elijah was known by his long hair and shaggy mantle;
Elisha by his staff and bald head.
Elijah was mainly prophetical;
Elisha’s work was mainly miraculous.
Elijah’s ministry was one of stern denunciation;
Elisha’s task was that of teaching and winning.
Elijah was a rebuker of kings;
Elisha was a friend and admirer.
Elijah was a messenger of vengeance;
Elisha was a messenger of mercy.
Elijah represented exclusiveness;
Elisha stood for comprehension.
Elijah was fierce, fiery, energetic;
Elisha was gentle, sympathetic, simple.
Elijah was a solitary figure;
Elisha was more social.
Elijah had an extraordinary disappearance from earth;
Elisha’s death was ordinary.