(28) Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel – 2 Kings 5:15

Immediately after his triumph over the prophets of Baal, God tells Elijah to appoint new kings over Israel and Syria. He also directs him to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. Elijah continues his work as a prophet with Elisha acting as his assistant, effectively being his apprentice. There are also references to a group of men known as “the company of the prophets” (2 Kings 2:3) which suggest that Elijah had established a school where he taught them God’s law and how they could hear from God.

Elijah was told by God that it was time for him to go to heaven and he sets off for the Jordan River. Elisha goes with him and the sons of the prophets tell him that Elijah is about to leave, which he already knows. The two men cross the Jordan on dry ground after Elijah strikes the water with his cloak and Elijah asks Elisha what he can do for him as his final act. Elisha asks to “inherit a double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). At this point Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and Elisha sees him no more. (Elijah is one of two men who the Bible says avoided death. The other was Enoch who “was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).) Elisha picks up Elijah’s cloak and returns to the Jordan and parts the water in front of the sons of the prophets who were waiting for him. We read of a number of miracles performed by Elisha, including multiplying oil for a poor widow, feeding a hundred men with twenty small loaves and raising a young man from the dead. Only Jesus surpassed Elisha in terms of miracles.

God delivers Israel from the Syrians on a number of occasions through Elisha. He reveals the Syrian plans to Elisha who passes them to the king of Israel. The Syrian king is so frustrated that he sends his whole army to seize Elisha but God temporarily blinds them and Elisha leads them to Samaria where the king of Israel is keen to kill them all but Elisha tells him to feed them and send them home.

Elisha’s most famous miracle is the healing of Naaman from leprosy. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army, a man who has had military success against Israel as the Lord has given him victory. He is highly favoured by the king of Syria, but his life is blighted by having the terrible disease of leprosy. (The Hebrew word used for leprosy covered a variety of diseases affecting the skin. It was thought to be highly contagious so in Israel sufferers were kept outside the towns to avoid spreading the disease.) An Israelite servant girl in his household tells him that there is a prophet in Israel who can heal and so he heads for Israel to see the king. The king of Israel is alarmed at his arrival, fearing an excuse for war, but Elisha sends word for Naaman to come to him so that, “he will know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8).

Naaman turns up at Elisha’s house to find that Elisha can’t even be bothered to come out to see him but just sends a servant to tell him to wash in the River Jordan seven times. Furious at what he sees as a snub he heads home but one of his servants persuades him to do as Elisha says and after the seventh dip in the Jordan he is completely healed. He returns to Elisha and tried to give him gifts which he refuses. His testimony is “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15) which rather puts to shame the Israelites who had, on the whole, abandoned the true God.

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