2 Kings 3:11
But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?…
The resemblances between Elijah and Elisha are occasionally so great, that it is scarcely surprising the one prophet is confused with the other. They both lived in one country and in one age. They were both the messengers of God to kings. They both wrought miracles, and even the same class of miracles, multiplying the widow's off, and raising from the dead a mother's only child. Last of all, the life-work of both was to withstand and witness against idolatry, and restore the worship of the true God in the land of Israel. And yet to the careful reader there is no contrast in the Bible more striking or complete. What John was to Peter, Mary to Martha, Melanchthon to Luther, that was Elisha the Prophet of Peace to Elijah the Desert Prophet — the Prophet of Fire. The one is John the Baptist, the other is the gentler John — the Evangelist, the disciple of love — who, leaning on his Master's bosom, caught and breathed a kindred spirit. In place of the long shaggy locks that had marked the awful Elijah, the head of the new and youthful prophet was shorn and smooth. Instead of the sheepskin mantle, he wore the attire of the period. In his hand he carried a walking staff. His whole gait was that of the ordinary citizen. Elisha was no lonely man dwelling in the grot of Cherith or the solitudes of the wilderness. He had his own house in Samaria. He was known in far Damascus. Indeed the whole contrast between Elijah and Elisha is so significant and instructive as to be well worth following from point to point.
1. Elijah simply drops upon the scene. There is no warning, no period of pupilage or preparation. Of his previous history nothing whatever is known. Like Melchisedec he has neither "beginning of days nor end of life." We meet Elisha, on the other hand, for the first time in his father's fields, in "the meadow of the dance," at Abel-meholah. Shaphat is a man of means, for he has twelve ploughs at work; a man of piety also, for he has refused to do homage at the shrine of Baal. In particular, he has trained his son to know Israel's God.
2. During the whole of his public life — about twelve years at the most — Elijah to a large extent lived out of the world, or at least far above it, in stern sublimity. Elisha, on the other hand, is intimately mixed up with all the political movements and events of his day. Three kings seek him as their counsellor. Jehu is crowned at his bidding. Ben-hadad consults him in war. Joash attends at his death-bed. Whenever Elijah is seen in connection with kings and courts, it is always as their enemy — Ahab, Jezebel, Ahaziah. When Elisha is seen in the same connection, it is always as their friend — "My father, my father," is their uniform and reverent mode of address.
3. The miracles wrought by the two prophets form another interesting point of contrast between Elijah and Elisha. It is noticeable that Elisha wrought twice as many miracles as Elijah did, suggesting the inference that the parting request had been complied with to the letter: "And Elisha said, I pray thee let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." On his introduction to work, Elijah begins with a miracle — the emblem of so much of his future career — a miracle of judgment: "There shall not be dew nor rain these years," referring to the drought, "but according to My word." Elisha begins with a miracle — the emblem also of so much of his future career — but it is a miracle of mercy: "There shall not be from thence," speaking of the bitter waters of Jericho sweetened, "any more death or barren land." The miracles of Elisha, in fact, remind us very much of the miracles of Christ — miracles of beneficence. The very grave of Elisha wrought a miracle that reads very like a miracle of Christ, for "when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet."
4. As another point in the contrast between Elijah and Elisha, it cannot be out of a place to say that of Elisha, like Joshua the son of Nun, not a single infirmity or failing is recorded. This cannot be said of Elijah, for he fled into the wilderness and lay down under the juniper tree to escape a woman's vengeance, and in despair to die. The humbler Elisha may do the greater work. There is every reason to believe that in reclaiming Israel from idolatry, by the conversion of individual men and women, the "still small voice" of Elisha, conjoined with his healing acts and social intercourse, accomplished wider and more permanent changes than the fire and storm and national upheaval caused by Elijah. Nor is this to be wondered at. The ministry of Elisha in Israel lasted nearly five times longer than the ministry of Elijah. The rough and pioneer work had already been done.
5. The translation of the one, the ordinary death by dissolution of the other. In conclusion, the whole career of Elisha supplies us with some serious and useful practical lessons. His special feature of character was this — holiness. He was "a holy man of God." What a sublimity there is in this simple language! What honour or title is ever to be compared with it? Abraham was "the friend of God," David was "the man after God's own heart," Daniel was "the man greatly beloved," Elisha is "the man of God." All social distinctions that count so much with men sink here into insignificance. Whatever else we are honourably known to be, let us seek to "be holy even as God is holy." Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee."
(H. J. Howat.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
WEB: But Jehoshaphat said, "Isn't there here a prophet of Yahweh, that we may inquire of Yahweh by him?" One of the king of Israel's servants answered, "Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah."