What Christians Need to Know about Elijah and Elisha in the Bible
- Meg Bucher Writer and Author
- 2021 7 Jul
The Bible is teeming with miracles and prophecies, and we can read about events like these in the lives of Elijah and Elisha in 1 and 2 Kings. These two men were chosen by God to call His people to revival. Through great faith, love, and obedience, their lives brought great glory to God in heaven. God is the God of miracles, and He has plans for each of us which we cannot even imagine. As we take a peak into the lives of two great prophets, let it inspire us to pray for the purpose God has placed in our lives for His Kingdom. “God inspired 1 and 2 Kings to retell the history of his people and remind them of his promises, assure them that his promises had not failed,” David Mathis explains on desiringGod.org, “and declare that his word remained as sure as ever.”
Who Were Elijah and Elisha in the Bible?
Elijah and Elisha were prophets, recorded in the Old Testament in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. “Their influence led to an awakening among some of the Israelites during a dismal stage of Israel’s history,” the staff at BibleStudyTools.com explains, “Through the corrupt reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah, God trusted in Elijah and Elisha to lead the charge for righteousness.” God’s people were surrounded by idol worship of other gods. The prophecies and miracles of Elijah and Elisha were proof to them of the One True God.
The Meaning of Elijah
“Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 1 Kings 18:37
Elijah means, “The LORD is my God.” His life and the miracles God worked through him brought glory to God. In a tumultuous time for God’s people, Elijah’s strong and firm presence confirmed God does not change in dire circumstances. Consequences for waywardness are painful, however, God’s love remains unchanged by rebellious behavior. Of Elijah’s ministry, Pastor John Piper explains on desiringGod.org: “‘that you, O Lord, are God.’ You are not an idea. You are not a memory. You are not a tradition. You are not a religion. You are not a projection of our imagination. You are not a force. You are not an archetype. You are not a symbol. You are God- the living, active, fire-sending, sin-hating, idolotry-destroying, prayer-hearting, personal God.”
The Meaning of Elisha
“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17 NIV
Elisha means, “My God is salvation.” This prophet’s ministry called the people back to a saving faith, in which knowledge of God allows us to see through a different perspective. “Elisha’s call gives us the idiom ‘take up the mantle,’” Eli Evans explains on Crosswalk.com, “which means to pass an office from mentor to student.” True saving faith allows us to know God beyond head knowledge, by connecting with Him in our heart …our souls …and allowing Him to take precedence over all else in our lives. Saving faith realizes our purpose is to bring glory to God. “One of the themes of Elisha’s ministry was that of the kindness and compassion of God,” Moody Bible Commentary explains, “Elisha had directed the people again and again to the covenants of the Lord.”
Miracles performed by Elijah can be found in these passages:
- 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 17:4, 1 Kings 17:14, 1 Kings 17:22, 1 Kings 18:38, 1 Kings 18:45, 1 Kings 21:22, 1 Kings 21:23
- 2 Kings 1:4, 2 Kings 2:10, 2 Kings 2:12, 2 Kings 2:8, 2 Kings 2:10, 2 Kings 2:11
Miracles performed by Elisha can be found in these passages:
- 2 Kings 2:14, 2 Kings 2:21, 2 Kings 2:24, 2 Kings 3:17, 2 Kings 3:22, 2 Kings 4:4, 2 Kings 4:16, 2 Kings 4:34, 2 Kings 4:41, 2 Kings 4:43
- 2 Kings 5:14. 2 Kings 5:26, 2 Kings 5:27, 2 Kings 6:6, 2 Kings 6:9, 2 Kings 6:17, 2 Kings 6:18, 2 Kings 6:20, 2 Kings 7:1, 2 Kings 7:2, 2 Kings 7:6
- 2 Kings 8:1, 2 Kings 8:10, 2 Kings 8:12, 2 Kings 9:7, 2 Kings 13:17. 2 Kings 13:19. 2 Kings 13:21
The Friendship of Elijah and Elisha
“But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives as as you live, I will not leave you.’” 2 Kings 2:2
Unknowingly, Elijah would soon be taken from Elisha to be with God. In their final moments, the genuine love and loyalty of their friendship is displayed through their conversation. Elijah feels he’s being called away, but Elisha sticks with him to the end. Twice more Elisha’s words are recorded, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:4-6). By doing so, he is able to witness the miraculous whirlwind which takes Elijah to heaven! God places people in our lives purposefully. Not all friendships are easy, or are littered with miracles like the lives of these two prophets. But, a friend to run the race of faith with is irreplaceable; this is the companionship Elijah and Elisha had.
4 More Things to Know about Elijah and Elisha in the Bible
1. Elijah Was Taken Up to Heaven
“When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.” (2 Kings 2:1)
The author of 2 Kings records Elijah’s body being swiftly taken up to heaven, without having to experience an earthly death.
“As they were walking along together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2Kings 2:11)
As the two friends walked together, the whirlwind delivered him home to heaven. In a miraculous visual of a chariot of fire and horses of fire, Elisha witnessed the a glimpse of a spiritual world which is always active, but not often seen by human eyes here on earth. “The Lord’s heavenly host as accompanied and supported Elijah’s ministry,” the NIV Study Bible explains, “and not at his departure Elisha is allowed to see it.” What a bolster of faith for Elisha, and he prepared to take his mentor and friend’s cloak and continue his work.
2. Elisha Performed Double the Miracles of Elijah
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.’” 2 Kings 2:9-10
Scripture tells us God has plans for our lives which are bigger than we can ask for or imagine. Elisha’s life is a visual reminder of this Scriptural truth. “When Elisha saw that these faithful people of God could not meet their ordinary financial needs or feed themselves, his miracles met those needs,” Ligonier Ministries explains, “Our Lord loves to bless His people extravagantly.” Especially after walking with Elijah as his mentor for many years, I wonder if Elisha was brimming with excitement over what God would do through him. “It is often the unrehearsed moments that show us what we really believe,” Greg Morse wrote on desiringGod.org. Elisha could have turned back. After all, Elijah told him too. Instead, he chose to stay, follow, and ask for a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. We can ask big things of God!
3. Elisha's Life and Death Pointed to God as the Source of Life and Power
“Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried. ‘The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’” 2 Kings 13:14
The king relied substantially on Elisha for military advice, and in the prophet’s final moments came to him for advice. The NIV Study Bible notes that there is, “An expression of recognition by Jehoash that Elisha was of greater significance for Israelis military success than Israelite’ military forces were.” Elisha used his final moments, recorded in verses 15-19, to illustrate the importance of saving faith to the king. “The king was looking for military help,” Harry E. Shields with the Moody Bible Commentary explained, “but the prophet realized that help ultimately comes from God.” As he did throughout his ministry, Elisha pointed to the true source of life and power, the One True God.
“Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were boring a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elishas’ bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” 2 Kings 13:20-21
Though Elisha did not leave the earth in the same way Elijah did, taken up in a whirlwind with the horses and chariot of fire appearing, this miracle is recorded in 2 Kings after his death. Though his earthy body was buried in the ground, the miraculous raising of the man mentioned above represents the life-giving power of God. A power so permeating in Elisha, that though his bones had no more life in them here on earth, the power of God on and through his life remained. Often after time passes and people leave this world, we are tempted to wonder if the miracles were real and the stories were true. Especially if we hear of them second or third hand as they are passed down from generation to generation. The miracle at Elisha’s grave was an immediate reminder of this man of God and the miracles which were worked through his life, and a nudge for us to keep firm faith in every part of God’s word.
4. Elijah Appeared with Jesus
“Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw the glory and the two men standing with him.” Luke 9:30-32
The miraculous account of the transfiguration was also recorded by Mark and Matthew. (Mark 9:4-13; Matthew 17:3-13) “These two Old Testament witnesses highlight that Jesus represents a realization of Old Testament hope,” the NIV Application Commentary explains, “since the two figures also span both the early and late periods of Old Testament history.” Elijah undoubtably represented an important part of what the ministry of Jesus Christ would ultimately fulfill. The entire Bible tells the story of Jesus, not just the New Testament. He was there in the beginning, with the Father and the Spirit.
The Lives of Elijah and Elisha Remind Us of the Power of God in Our Everyday Lives
After witnessing the transfiguration, Peter suggests putting up three shelters. The NIV translation follows with a parenthetical, “He did not know what he was saying.” Though the apostles were specifically chosen to be present, they did not grasp in totality what Jesus was preparing them for. Nor, do we in the present age. There is much knowledge and instruction in the Bible. Through Christ, we have full access to the Father in heaven, but we don’t fully understand the totality of God’s plan and purposes. Though we can only grasp and see what He reveals to us, let our eyes be open, both physically and scripturally, to all God has for us to witness. Both, in the pages of Scripture, and the work of the Spirit in our everyday lives.
- NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
- Moody Bible Commentary. Moody Publishers, Chicago, copyright 2014.
- NIV Application Commentary. Copyright © 1996 by Darrel L. Bock
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/aldomurillo
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Join her on the journey as she launches her new site Joy Overflowing, or join her longstanding community at Sunny&80. She is also the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” and “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” and “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ.” She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Media since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team. Always active in her community and the local church, Meg also leads Bible study and serves as a leader for teen girls.