The enhancing of a man’s spirit by the Spirit of God was especially visibly demonstrated in the life of Elisha. The work this prophet did pointed to a source that was more than human. It reminds us of Nicodemus addressing Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Jesus, Himself, passed on His Spirit to his disciples, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). His Spirit had to do with dealing with difficulties and handicaps, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19). This was the kind of power Elisha received from Elijah. And believers also can receive this power from Jesus, their Christ.
The Lord created an independent man with a will all of his own. The Lord does not interfere in the way man deals with his problem. Elisha continued to do things God would not do, like killing children who teased the prophet (II Kings 2:23-25). He did what was good by putting salt in the well and cured the water (II Kings 2:19-22). He put flour in the pot and saved the people from dying and he fed a hundred people with twenty loaves of barley bread (II Kings 4:38-44). The most important task of Elisha was to heal Naaman, commander of Ben-Hadad’s army, of leprosy. Through the cleansing in the River Jordan, Elisha led Naaman to believe that the God of Israel was the only one that was real. Naaman declared before Elisha and his own men, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (II Kings 5:15). It all began when a captured Israeli girl told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Samaria that could heal her husband. Naaman was highly valued by his king and Ben-Hadad sent him with a letter to the king of Israel, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (II Kings 5:6). Joram, son of Ahab was king at the time. He tore his clothes and cried out, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking to quarrel with me.” Elisha heard about the king’s predicament and told him to send Naaman to him. Naaman moved his horses and chariots to Elisha’s place; however, the prophet did not meet the Syrian in person. He send a messenger, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (II Kings 5:8-10).
Naaman turned away in anger. He was disappointed that Elisha did not do his curing ritual in person and his rivers in Damascus where better than the Jordan. His servant induced him to think whether he would have obeyed the messenger if he had demanded of him to do something difficult instead of simply, “Wash and be clean?” Naaman listened to his servant, washed in the Jordan seven times and emerged cured from his leprosy. The commander returned to Elisha, recognized the Hebrew God as the real and only one, and he promised not to sacrifice to his master’s god when he assists him in worshipping Rimmon. Naaman brought with him gifts for the healer, ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (II Kings 5:5). Elisha declined all the gifts and credited God with the healing and sent the Syrian away in peace (II Kings 5:11-19). His servant Gehazi felt that Elisha was too easy on Naaman and went after him with a lie that two needy prophets needed a little help. The generous commander gave him two talents and two sets of clothing and Gehazi took them to his own home. Elisha had his eyes on his servant’s trickery and cursed him with the leprosy of Naaman. The prophet had no forgiveness or sympathy in his heart for his own servant that was a little greedy (II Kings 5:19-27). The practicing of mercy for a man of God, like Jesus did, was not an option for Elisha. For a New Testament believer, the crediting God with what Elisha did to Gehazi is troubling.
Ahab had died at the hands of the Syrians as predicted by Micaiah (I Kings 22). And Moab refused to continue paying Homage to Israel of a hundred thousand lambs and the wool from a hundred thousand rams, Joram of Israel invited Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom to punish Moab (II Kings 3:1-8). After seven days of looking for the Moabite army, the three kings and their men ran out of water. And therefore, they became easy prey for the Moabites. The king of Israel cried out, “Alas! The Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” And Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” A servant of the king of Israel knew about Elisha and the three kings went to him. Elisha did not fear the kings and said to them, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” The king of Israel insisted that it was Elisha’s God and not their gods that was handing them over to Moab. Elisha disagreed and asked for a musician to calm his nerves so he could hear what his Lord God had to say about the king of Israel’s accusation. As soon as the musician started to play, Elisha began to speak, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will make this dry stream-bed full of pools.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that stream-bed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your cattle, and your beasts.’ This is a light thing in the sight of the Lord; he will also give the Moabites into your hand, and you shall conquer every fortified city, and every choice city, and you shall fell every good tree, and stop up all the springs of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones” (II Kings 3:9-19). The tree kings believed Elisha and they began to turn a good thing into evil by killing Moabites, plundering and wasting the land. To stop their merciless brutality and waste, the king of Moab offered up, in a burnt offering on top of the wall, his oldest son. In horror and shame, the three kings withdrew and went home (II Kings 3:20-27).
Elisha did things that required supernatural help only granted to few by God for a special task, at a crucial time. Elisha multiplied the oil for a widow so she could pay her debt, he save the Shunammite’s son from dying and helped her get back her land (II Kings 4:1-37; 8:1-6). He made an ax float, blinded an Aramean army and delivered it to the king of Israel, to be treated kindly with food and drink and be sent home. King Ben-Hadad interpreted Israel’s kindness as weakness and laid siege to Samaria that resulted in a devastating famine. The king of Israel blamed Elisha for not letting him kill the Arameans, put on sackcloth and swore to behead Elisha. “May God do so to me, and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.” The king dispatched his assassins to kill Elisha and the prophet send his man to deliver this message to the king, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, ‘tomorrow about this time a measure a measure of a fine meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’ Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, ‘if the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ But he (the man of God) said, ‘You shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat it’” (II Kings 7:1-2). Four lepers stumbled on the deserted Aramean camp and reported it to Samaria. And the people trampled the captain to death at the gate (II Kings 6-7).
Elisha lived and served during the time when both Israel and Judah were in the hands of Ahab household. His son Ahaziah had no son and his brother Joram, second son of Ahab, became king of Israel. In Judah, Ahab’s niece Athaliah became queen of Judah after Jehu killed her son Ahaziah and Joram of Israel. Jehu wiped out all the males of the house of Ahab and of Baasha. He also killed the Baal prophets, but did not disturb the calves in Bethel and Dan. Athaliah killed all the males in David’s succession, except for the child Joash who was saved by his father’s sister and hidden in the temples with the priests. Elisha had one of his man anoint Jehu for a second time, and he had a painful encounter with Hazael, the man that would murder Ben-Hadad is king and will hurt Israel the most in the future (II Kings 8:7-11:3). Elisha wept when he met Hazael. When Hazael asked him why he shed tears, the prophet answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set on fire their fortresses, and you will slay their young men with the sword, and dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child.”
Hazael, himself, was surprised that he would turn into such a monster. Hazael did become a monster when he choked Ben-Hadad, his king to death. And then he became king of Aram (Syria) himself (II Kings 8:13-15). He fulfilled the words of the Lord to Elijah, “And him who escapes the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay” (I Kings 19:17). That prophecy has been multiplied and intensified in our time. The sword has continued to guide human destiny (Matthew 26:52). It is the Spirit of God that gives life and peace (John 6:63; 14:27; Romans 8:5-11).