Elisha’s Ministry

Discovery for Teachers

Elisha’s Ministry

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
2 Kings 1:1 through 8:15

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:9)

BACKGROUND

The Book of 1 Kings closes with a brief introduction of the reign of Ahaziah, who succeeded his father Ahab as king of Israel. The Book of 2 Kings resumes the narrative of Israel as a whole, relating the histories of twelve kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and sixteen kings of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The events in the first eight chapters take place during the reigns of Ahaziah of Israel, and his successor, his brother Jehoram. However, rather than focusing on the kings themselves, as is typical in the rest of the two books, these chapters give special emphasis to the ministry of the Prophet Elisha.

Elisha’s ministry began by divine call (1 Kings 19:16, 19-21) and he first served as an apprentice to the Prophet Elijah. His prophetic role as Elijah’s successor began in approximately 848 B.C. after King Ahaziah’s death and Elijah’s departure to Heaven in a whirlwind. While Elijah’s focus had been primarily matters of state, Elisha more typically concentrated his efforts on the common people of the land. His ministry was approximately sixty-three years in length (including his time of service as Elijah’s apprentice) and touched six kings of Israel, whose reigns spanned ninety-seven years: Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash. This was one of the most wicked times in the Northern Kingdom’s history, and also the worst time politically and economically. In his prophetic role, Elisha had a major impact on four nations: Israel, Judah, Moab, and Syria. The prophet died in approximately 797 B.C. (2 Kings 13).

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. In chapter 2 of our text, what spiritual attributes do you think were necessary for Elisha to see Elijah be taken up into Heaven, and thereby receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit?

    Attributes mentioned by the students may include: faith, persistence, desire, watchfulness, patience, and confidence. After your class has developed a list, ask them what role these attributes play when we are seeking something from the Lord. Class discussion should bring out that each of them will be present to some degree if we are to receive from God, for His requirements are timeless. While He knows our personal level of understanding and spiritual maturity, and deals with each of us as individuals, the principles for receiving from God do not change.
  2. When Elijah ascended in a whirlwind, his mantle fell from him. What did Elisha do with that mantle, and what was the significance of his action? 2 Kings 2:13-14

    Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah, which was symbolic of God’s endorsement of him as Elijah’s successor. He then went back to the Jordan River where he smote the water with the mantle as Elijah had done, and cried, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” This was an entreaty that God would verify His commission of Elisha by demonstrating His power in the same manner He had done when Elijah smote the waters, which He did by causing the waters to part.

    Follow up this question by asking your students if we always will receive a physical manifestation of God’s call and anointing upon our lives. The conclusion should be reached that most of us will not receive as dramatic a validation as Elisha did. However, while the means may vary, God’s anointing and His divine call will be verified in some manner.

  3. Jehoram, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, joined forces with the king of Edom in an alliance against Moab. When the water supply for their combined armies ran low and the fear of defeat intensified, the kings appealed to the Prophet Elisha concerning their plight. Why did Elisha show regard for King Jehoshaphat but not for King Jehoram? (2 Kings 3:1-3; 2 Chronicles 17:3-6). What lesson can we learn from this?

    Jehoshaphat had the Lord’s blessing because “he walked in his commandments” and “his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord.” King Jehoram had no such testimony. The promise Elisha made to the kings of ample water and the defeat of Moab were due to Jehoshaphat’s trust in God and his insistence that they “inquire of the Lord” through the prophet.

    In response to the second question, your group of students should conclude that the godly influence of Jehoshaphat brought about a positive result for these other kings, who observed firsthand through this event the benefits of serving God. Some in your class may be willing to share examples from their own knowledge or experience of times when a righteous Christian life brought benefits into the lives of others.

  4. The first seven verses of chapter 4 describe one of Elisha’s miracles. What occurred in this passage, and what lessons can we learn from it?

    The impoverished widow of one of the prophets was about to lose her two sons to slavery, as she had no means to pay back a debt. Elisha instructed her to borrow vessels from her neighbors, and oil was miraculously provided to fill all of the vessels she procured. She was then instructed to sell the oil to pay off the debt.

    The lessons that can be learned from this account are many. For example, your group may note that this miracle is evidence of God’s love and tender care toward those who serve Him. It could be pointed out that the woman went for help to the right source — the man of God — rather than appealing to others. It is notable that the miraculous oil only ceased when there were no more vessels to fill, teaching us that God’s provision is as large as our faith and willingness to obey. The funds obtained when the oil was sold were enough to meet her needs, and God’s provision for us will also always be enough.

  5. Chapter 4 goes on to record several other miracles performed by Elisha. List these miracles and describe what they have in common. 2 Kings 4:16-17, 34-35, 38-41, 42-44

    2 Kings 4:16-17 – The Shunammite woman had a son

    2 Kings 4:34-35 – Resurrection of the Shunammite’s son

    2 Kings 4:38-41 – A poisonous stew made edible

    2 Kings 4:42-44 – Miracle of the bread

    After your students identify the miracles, they should conclude that in every situation God fulfilled a need. He saved from ruin, barrenness, loss, death, and hunger. The point should be made that even when Israel was filled with idolatry, God was still reaching out to those who loved Him.

    It might be interesting to bring out to your class that many of the miracles which Elisha performed — healing of the sick, raising of the dead, and providing for those in need — were similar in nature to the miracles of Jesus. For this reason, some commentators note that Elisha and his deeds foreshadow the earthly ministry of Jesus, who also reached out to those who were sick, raised the dead, and met physical needs of those around Him.

  6. Chapter 5 gives the account of the healing of Naaman, a Syrian captain who was afflicted with leprosy. Give a one- or two-word description of each of the main characters who were involved in this event.

    You may wish to note your students’ one-word suggestions for each character on a dry erase board; their combined ideas will provide a fairly comprehensive character study for each of the individuals, as well as giving you a format to review this incident. Their thoughts could include the following:

    Israelite maid – witness, courageous, caring

    Naaman – leper, influential, proud, needy, grateful

    King of Syria – demanding, unbelieving

    King of Israel – fearful, confused

    Elisha – assured, trusting, obedient

    Naaman’s servants – faithful, wise

    Gehazi – opportunistic, greedy, dishonest

    As you sum up this event, you might wish to bring out that during the time of Elisha, the nation of Syria was growing in power and was Israel’s greatest enemy. God’s healing of this Syrian captain was no doubt intended to reinforce to both Syria and Israel that the Lord God of Israel was far mightier than the gods of the Syrians. In addition, His power and concern extended beyond the boundaries of Israel.

  7. What four miracles were involved in the capture of the Syrian army, as related in 2 Kings 6:8-23?

    The four miracles were as follows:

    1) Elisha was miraculously aware of the plans of the Syrians as they sent raiding parties into Israel (verses 8-12).

    2) The young servants’ eyes were opened to the fact that the host of Heaven surrounded and protected the prophet (verses 15-17).

    3) God smote the Syrian soldiers with blindness at the prayer of Elisha (verse 18).

    4) The eyesight of the Syrian soldiers was restored once Elisha had led them to Samaria and they were surrounded by the army of Israel (verses 19-20).

  8. How is God’s wonderful timing for those who trust in Him seen in the case of the Shunammite woman whose dead son had been raised to life through Elisha? 2 Kings 8:1-6

    The Shunammite woman had obeyed Elisha’s advice and left her house and property to move to another land during a time of famine. Seven years later, when she returned, her property was inhabited by strangers, and it seemed all was lost. However, as she went before King Jehoram to attempt to reclaim her land, God was already working in her behalf. Providentially, just as she came into the court, Elisha’s servant was telling the king about this woman’s son being raised from the dead and how God had cared for her and her family. The Shunammite woman was able to tell the king of the loss of all her property. He appointed people to make sure she not only got her home and land back, but also the profit that had been gained while she was gone!

    Make the point that God is never too late, and He is often working behind the scenes in ways that we cannot imagine. This would be a good time to encourage your students to share personal experiences where God’s precise timing was evident in their lives.

  9. As you review these eight chapters which focus on the miracles of the Prophet Elisha, what lesson from his life and ministry stands out the most to you?

    This question should provide a framework for you to sum up this lesson with your class. Lessons from Elisha’s life may include the following thoughts:

    We must be willing to follow and learn in order to be equipped to do the work God has called us to do.

    The power of God is a necessity in our lives if we are to be effective servants for Him.

    We should be responsive and caring to the needs of others, and use whatever gifts or talents God has given us to minister to those needs.

    God can and will lead us as we work for Him, giving us specific instructions.

CONCLUSION

Elisha’s longing and persistent desire for a double portion of his master’s spirit was granted, and during Israel’s darkest times, he brought help, hope, and instruction to those who were faithful to the Lord.