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Elisha

2 Kings 3–13

“…Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years” (2 Kings 3:1).

“Joram or Jehoram was not so ungodly as his father Ahab and his mother Jezebel. He had the statue or pillar of Baal, which his father had erected in Samaria, removed; and it was only to the sin of Jeroboam, i.e., the calf-worship, that he adhered. Joram therefore wished to abolish the worship of Baal and elevate the worship of Jehovah, under the image of the calf (ox), into the religion of his kingdom once more. . . . He did not succeed, however, in exterminating the worship of Baal. It not only continued in Samaria, but appears to have been carried on again in the most shameless manner . . . at which we cannot be surprised, since his mother Jezebel, that fanatical worshipper of Baal, was living throughout the whole of his reign.” ( Commentary on the Old Testament, 3:1:300–301.)

“The worship of Baal, who was a fertility god, involved all sorts of immorality, temple prostitution, and other wicked practices that were extremely difficult to stop when most of the people were themselves immoral and wicked.”

The King of Moab rebelled against Israel, and after numbering his armies, Jehoram approached Jehoshaphat  King of Judah about joining forces against Moab.  Jehoshaphat agreed.  They decided to enter Moab from the south, through Edom (click hereto see a map), and the King of Edom joined them.

“The Moabites had paid tribute to Israel since the days of King David. They gave a hundred thousand lambs and the same number of rams to the king of Israel each year (see v. 4 ). With the death of Ahab, King Mesha of Moab thought Israel was weakening, so he rebelled and began to attack nearby towns and villages.  Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, had maintained friendly relations with Ahab (see 1 Kings 22:4 ) and wanted to maintain them with Jehoram, Ahab’s son and successor. Judah had also been attacked by Moab (see 2 Chronicles 20:1 ), so it was natural for Jehoshaphat to agree to an alliance with Israel against a common enemy. By marching through Edom, Judah and Israel could increase their army with Edomite soldiers, who were in servitude to Judah. They could also surprise Moab by attacking from the geographically most difficult, and therefore the least likely, direction.”

But in the wilderness, they found themselves, their armies, and their cattle about to perish for lack of water.  Jehoshaphat recommended seeking help from Elisha the prophet, and he, Jehoram, and the King of Edom went down to find him.   Elisha’s initial reaction was very negative.  It was not so much the presence of Jehoshaphat, who worshipped Jehovah, but the presence of  Jehoram, who worshipped the golden calf and led a country of apostates.  However, after being calmed by some requested musicians, Elisha agreed to get the advice of the Lord on the matter.

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches.  For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.  And this is buta light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.  And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.  And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water” (2 Kings 3:16-20).

The Moabites gathered every man who could fight and went to the border with Edom.  The soil there is very red, and it’s a waterless desert.  When the Moabites saw the water in the ditches, mixed with the red soil, they thought it was blood, and that the enemy had already been virtually destroyed, probably by infighting.  They went down for the spoil, and were surprised by the armies of the three kings.

The King of Moab could make no headway in the fight, so he offered sacrifice — his own son: “Chemosh, god of the Moabites, was frequently offered human sacrifice to appease his anger. This custom may have prompted the Moabite king in this case.”  Thus the future heir to the throne became a burnt offering.

In 2 Kings 4, there is a story of a widow whose husband had been one of the prophets.  A creditor desired to take her two sons as bondmen. Elisha told her to borrow as many vessels as she could, and then to shut herself up in her house and fill all of them with oil.  The woman’s only possession was a small pot of oil, but miraculously, the oil filled all the vessels.  Elisha then instructed her to sell the oil and pay her debt.

Nearby, there was a household that offered Elisha refreshment every time he passed by.  The mistress of the house suggested that she and her husband create a nook for Elisha, with a bed, table, and other amenities.  Elisha, then, was able to stay there when needed.  Wanting to do something in return, and discovering that the woman was barren, and her husband aging, he promised her a son.  She conceived as Elisha had promised (2 Kings 4:8-17).  The son, however, when he was old enough to help in the fields, died.  His mother went all the way to Mt. Carmel to find the prophet, and Elisha sent his servant with his staff to lay upon the child’s face.  This didn’t heal the child, so Elisha went himself, and raised the child from the dead.

Elisha then went to Gilgal, where there was a drought, and fed a multitude with but few provisions.

2 Kings chapter 5 opens with the story of Naaman, a Syrian captain.  Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he suffered from leprosy.  “A little maid” was a servant to his wife, and she spoke of the Israelite who could heal him.  The maid was overheard by a servant of Naaman, who went to his master.  Naaman sent the servant with treasure to the King of Israel, who was overcome that a Syrian captain should request a miraculous cure from leprosy.  The king rent his clothes in mourning, and word of the act was taken to Elisha, who bid the Syrian come to him.  Naaman came with his horses and chariot to the door of Elisha.  “And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).  Naaman was insulted and angry.  First, Elisha didn’t come out and heal the king in person.  Second, what was the Jordan of Israel compared to the great rivers of Syria?  “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do somegreat thing, wouldest thou not have done it?how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean” (2 Kings 5:13)?  Naaman humbled himself and did as the prophet directed.  Instantly, he was healed.  He returned to the prophet with new faith, and offered him a gift:

“And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.  But he said, Asthe Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused” (2 Kings 5:15, 16).

But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, went after Naaman and requested a modest reward.  Naaman was generous, but when Gehazi returned to Elisha, Elisha denounced his behavior, and Gehazi was smitten with leprosy.  There were so many false prophets in Israel, and Gehazi had demeaned his and Elisha’s station by taking money from a non-Israelite.

In 2 Kings 6 Elisha performs a miracle for one of the “sons of the prophets.”  The young man had gone with the others to cut wood and dropped his axe into the river.  Of course, the axe sank.  The young man lamented because the axe was borrowed.  Elisha asked where the axe had sunk, threw a branch into the river, and the axe floated.

Then the king of Syria decided to come up against Israel.  Elisha, having received revelation of his designs, warned the king.  The Syrians wondered why they were unable to engage the Israelites and were informed that Elisha told the Israelite king whatever the Syrian king devised “in his bedchamber.”  The Syrian forces tried to do away with Elisha.

“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do” (2 Kings 6:15)?

Elijah mormonElisha’s profound answer was, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:16, 17).

The Syrian troops were smitten with blindness as soon as Elisha requested such from the Lord.  Believers are assured that the forces of heaven are on their side.  No earthly power can overcome the strength of God.  Elisha led them into the midst of Israelitish Samaria, where he gave them their sight.  Elisha ordered the king of Israel to feed them and send them on their way with their newly gained knowledge of the power of the God of Israel.

2 Kings 6:23–24 are verses that need clarification, because the Syrian troops under Syrian king Ben-hadad made war upon Israel right after the above event.  Josephus clarifies that the previous incursions had been secretive, whereas this was a change of tactics toward open warfare  ( Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 9, chap. 4, par. 4).

The Syrians besieged Samaria and caused a famine, in which people sold and ate ass’ heads and pigeon dung (2 Kings 6:24, 25).  The king of Israel encountered a woman who pleaded for help.  She and a neighbor had covenanted to kill their sons and eat them, but although her own son had already been boiled and eaten, the neighbor would not keep the bargain.  The king lamented the situation in sackcloth, but his immediate decision was to blame and kill Elisha.  When the men arrived to take his life, Elisha prophesied that the very next day there would be a surplus of food, and it would sell more cheaply than it had before the famine.

There is a parallel to this story and miracle in Latter-day Sainthistory.  The early Latter-day Saints who moved to the Salt Lake Valley nearly starved there the first winter.  Goods brought from the east were very expensive.  “Heber C. Kimball prophesied that the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley would be able to purchase goods more cheaply than they could back East. The prophecy was fulfilled when thousands came through the valley during the California gold rush.” (See B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:349–53.)

A miracle caused the Syrian army to hear the sounds of an onrushing attack by a multitude of troops.  They fled, leaving all their possessions, including treasure and food, strewn along the way.  The Israelites claimed all of it and feasted.

Later, however, Elisha predicted a seven-year famine.  Elisha sent off the woman whose son he had raised from the dead.  She dwelt in Philistia the years of the famine.  The king restored to her all she had left behind upon her return, when he heard it was she that Elisha had blessed.

Ben-hadad, King of Syria, took sick and was relieved to hear that Elisha was in Damascus.  He sent his servant Hazael to ask Elisha whether he would recover.  Elisha prophesied that Ben-hadad would recover, but then began to cry.  He told Hazael what havoc he would wreak in Israel, as soon as he had power in Syria.  Hazael returned to Ben-hadad, told him Elisha said he would recover, then suffocated him and took over power.   “He ruled Syria for forty-two harsh and brutal years in which he did Israel much harm, fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy.”

Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son, began to reign in Judah (2 Kings 8:16–23).  He married the daughter of wicked Israelite king Ahab and Jezebel.  Athalia, “like her mother, was an evil woman who worshiped the gods of Baal, and she helped corrupt the Southern Kingdom of Judah as her mother had done the Northern Kingdom of Israel.”  Jehoram’s wickedness disqualified him for God’s help, and he had troubles all his days.  He died of a terrible disease (2 Chronicles 21:18–20 ).

Ahaziah succeeded Jehoram in Judah while Joram ruled in the northern country of Israel.  Ahaziah and Joram were cousins, and they were as wicked as any of the house of Ahab.  They went up together against Hazael of Syria, and Joram was wounded.  Ahaziah tended to him in Jezreel.  Meanwhile, Elisha sent a young prophet to anoint Jehu king of Israel; Jehu would destroy the house of Ahab.  “So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram” (2 Kings 9:16).

Joram and Ahaziah went out to meet Jehu, asking if he was on a peaceful mission.  Jehu replied, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are somany” (2 Kings 9:22)?  Both Joram and Ahaziah fled, but were overtaken and killed.  Eunuchs who favored Jehu threw Jezebel from a tower window to her death.  Her flesh was eaten by dogs as prophesied by Elijah.  Jehu also had Ahab’s seventy sons and grandsons killed.  Jehu also killed Ahab’s priests,  so none remained of his house.  He then killed the worshippers of Baal and destroyed all the idols.  However, he did continue to follow the calf worship set up by Jeroboam.  In this he sinned.  Yet, he was a tool in the hands of the Lord in destroying the house of Ahab.

The Syrians continued to battle with Israel until Jehu died after 28 years of rule and was replaced by Jehoahaz, his son.

Ahaziah of Judah had been killed, and his mother, Athaliah, took it upon herself to kill all the members of the royal house.  She began to rule herself.  But one of Ahaziah’s daughters had hidden Joash, her nephew — age 7, and he was spared.

Jehoiada the priest organized an insurrection and anointed Joash to be king, sending his cohorts to slay the queen.

“And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people; between the king also and the people.  And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 11:17, 18).

Joash ruled forty years in Judah, and he reigned in righteousness.  But the high places of idol worship were not taken away, and people still sacrificed and burnt incense to false gods.

“It appears that the single most important factor in Jehoash’s reign was the wise advice and support he received from the high priest, Jehoiada (see v. 2 ). During Jehoash’s administration the temple was repaired, but unfortunately, Jehoash did not continue as he had commenced. Later in his reign he turned to idolatry and led Judah into sin (see 2 Chronicles 24:17–18 ), for soon after Jehoiada’s death, Jehoash became weak and allowed heathen rituals to be performed in Judah again (see 2 Chronicles 24:16–22 ). He also sought to appease Hazael, king of Syria, through bribery. He even sent Hazael holy objects from the temple” (see 2 Kings 12:18 ).

Joash (also called Jehoash) did undertake to repair the temple, which had fallen into disrepair and even been used for Baal worship, but the priests he appointed to oversee the project were poor managers.  He assigned the project to his scribes and they saw that the project was completed, using donations from the people.

“When Joash turned to idolatry, the Lord sent prophets to testify against him and to call the people of Judah to repentance. One such prophet was Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. Joash had him killed along with the other sons of Jehoiada. Because Joash had murdered the sons of Jehoiada, some of his own servants slew him while he lay on his bed” (see 2 Chronicles 24:20–22, 25–26 ).

Amaziah, his son, ruled in his stead.

Jehoahaz then ruled in the northern kingdom of Israel.  Jehoahaz was another wicked king, but he was constantly set upon by Hazael and his Syrian forces, which did much damage to the country.  Finally, he was humbled enough to seek the Lord’s help.

“In this oppression Jehoahaz prayed to the Lord . . . and the Lord heard this prayer, because He saw their oppression at the hands of the Syrians, and gave Israel a saviour, so that they came out from the power of the Syrians and dwelt in their booths again, as before, i.e. were able to live peaceably again in their houses, without being driven off and led away by the foe. The saviour . . . was neither an angel, nor the prophet Elisha, . . . nor a victory obtained by Jehoahaz over the Syrians, . . . but the Lord gave them the savior in the two successors of Jehoahaz, in the kings Jehoash and Jeroboam, the former of whom wrested from the Syrians all the cities that had been conquered by them under his father ( ver. 25 ), while the latter restored the ancient boundaries of Israel ( ch. xiv. 25 ). According to vers. 22–25 , the oppression by the Syrians lasted as long as Jehoahaz lived; but after his death the Lord had compassion upon Israel, and after the death of Hazael, when his son Ben-hadad had become king, Jehoash recovered from Ben-hadad all the Israelitish cities that had been taken by Syrians.” ( Commentary, 3:1:375.)  (Note that the Jehoash mentioned here was NOT the king of Judah, but one of Jehoahaz’ sons.)

Jehoash ruled after Jehoahaz in Israel.  He ruled wickedly, as had his father.  He sought a blessing from Elisha, as Elisha was suffering from the sickness that would end his life.  Elisha prophesied that he would have some measure of success over the Syrians.  Elisha died, and one who touched his bones was instantly healed.

*Parts of this lesson are from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.

Next: Joel

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