Elijah and Elisha were both prophets. Elijah came before Elisha. So, before we get to Elisha, let’s dredge up a little bit of background concerning Elijah.
Elijah’s life and ministry foreshadow John the Baptist. Both Elijah and John were prophets who came out of the wilderness to proclaim God’s message in a dark and difficult day. Elijah was described as “a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). “John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist” (Matthew 3:4). “The Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask (John the Baptist), ‘Who are you? ... Are you Elijah?’ ” (John 1:19–21). The Jews believed that John could be the “messenger” ... “the prophet Elijah,” that Malachi promised would prepare the way for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6).
Elisha became Elijah’s servant and apparent successor when Elijah found Elisha plowing in his father’s fields. “Elijah walked by him and threw his mantle over him ... Then (Elisha) left, followed Elijah, and served him” (1 Kings 19:19-21). Elisha left his daddy’s lucrative farming operation to become a humble servant (2 Kings 3:11).
As the end of Elijah’s ministry drew near, God directed him to cross to the eastern side of the Jordan. As the two men stood on the banks of the great river, “Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8).
“When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you.’ So Elisha answered, ‘Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit’ ” (2 Kings 2:9). In other words, “let me be like your first-born son and inherit the double blessing” (Deuteronomy 21:17). Elisha knew that the one who inherited the double blessing also bore the responsibility of carrying on the family business. Elisha counted the cost and accepted his new responsibility.
“As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire with horses of fire suddenly appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went up into heaven in the whirlwind’ ” (2 Kings 2:11–12). Like Enoch (Genesis 5:24), Elijah went to Heaven without going through the portal of death. God took him home.
Left behind, Elisha “picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle Elijah had dropped, and he struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’ he asked. He struck the water himself, and it parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over” (2 Kings 2:13-14). Elisha cried out, “Where is God? I’ll show you! Elijah’s gone, but God’s not!”
So, if Elijah’s life foreshadows John the Baptist, does Elisha’s life and ministry foreshadow Jesus? Maybe.
Elisha’s ministry began as God divided the waters of the Jordan River. Nearly nine-hundred years later, Jesus’ ministry began with John the Baptist at the Jordan. “The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him” and God thundered from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Their names even demonstrate some correspondence. Elisha means “God is salvation.” Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation.”
Let’s read the first ten chapters of Second Kings. It’s good stuff!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.