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Saint Eliseus
Elisha raising the Shunammite’s Son, Benjamin West 1765
Died Samaria
Venerated in Judaism
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast June 14
Attributes Clothed as a prophet, often holding a scroll

Elisha (Hebrew: אֱלִישַׁע, Modern Elišaʿ Tiberian ʾĔlîšaʿ ; "My God is salvation", Greek: Ελισσαίος, Elisaios, Arabic: إليسعIlyasaʿ; pronounced /ɨˈlaɪʃə/[1]) is a prophet of the Hebrew Bible. To many Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox he is known as Saint Eliseus; however, the standard English form of the name has been "Elisha," at least since the introduction of the Authorized King James Version. He is also a prophet in Islam under the name Al-Yasa.

Biblical biography


Elisha raises the Shunamite woman's son. Woodcut by Julius von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), published in 1840 in Bibeleni Billender.

Elisha was the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah; he became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (1 Kings 19:16-19), and after Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot into the whirlwind, he was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets, and became noted in Israel. He possessed, according to his own request, "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2:9); and for sixty years (892-832 BC) held the office of "prophet in Israel" (2 Kings 5:8).

His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). After learning, on Mount Horeb, that Elisha, the son of Shaphat, had been selected by God as his successor in the prophetic office, Elijah set out to make known the Divine will. On his way from Sinai to Damascus, Elijah found Elisha "one of them that were ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen". Elisha delayed only long enough to kill the yoke of oxen, whose flesh he boiled with the very wood of his plough. He went over to him, threw his mantle over Elisha's shoulders, and at once adopted him as a son, investing him with the prophetic office. Elisha accepted this call about four years before the death of Israel's King Ahab. For the next seven or eight years Elisha became Elijah's close attendant until Elijah was taken up into heaven. During all these years we hear nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah's life.

After he had shared this farewell repast with his father, mother, and friends, the newly chosen Prophet "followed Elijah and ministered to him". (1 Kings 19:8-21) He went with his master from Gilgal to Bethel, to Jericho, and thence to the eastern side of the Jordan, the waters of which, touched by the mantle, divided, so as to permit both to pass over on dry ground. Elisha then beheld Elijah in a fiery chariot taken up by a whirlwind into heaven. By means of the mantle let fall from Elijah, Elisha miraculously recrossed the Jordan, and so won from the prophets at Jericho the recognition that "the spirit of Elijah hath rested upon Elisha" (2 Kings 2:1-15). He won the gratitude of the people of Jericho for healing its barren ground by adding salt to its waters.

Syrian Brown Bear in Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. It is suggested that this is the species of bear mentioned in the story.

When a group of youths ("little boys" or "children" in some translations) from Bethel jeered at the prophet for being bald, Elisha cursed them in the name of YHWH and two female bears came out of the forest and mauled 42 of them (2 Kings 2:23-25). Perhaps because this episode could be seen to conflict with the image of a loving and forgiving God, some Christians feel the need to offer explanations of it.[2] [3]

Before Elijah was taken up into the whirlwind, Elisha asked to "inherit a double-portion" of Elijah's spirit. This is indicative of the property inheritance customs of the time, where the oldest son received twice as much of the father's inheritance as the younger sons. For example, if a man had 3 sons, his property was divided into fourths. Each son received one-fourth, with the oldest receiving two-fourths (twice as much as the others). In this instance with Elijah, Elisha is not asking to become twice as powerful as Elijah, but that he may be seen as the "rightful heir" to the work of the Lord that Elijah had done.

Before he settled in Samaria, the Prophet passed some time on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 2:25). When the armies of Judah, Israel and Edom, then allied against Mesa, the Moabite king, were being tortured by drought in the Idumæan desert, Elisha consented to intervene. His double prediction regarding relief from drought and victory over the Moabites was fulfilled on the following morning (2 Kings 3:4-24).

That Elisha inherited the wonder-working power of Elijah is shown throughout the whole course of his life. To relieve the widow importuned by a hard creditor, Elisha so multiplied a little oil as to enable her, not only to pay her indebtedness, but to provide for her family needs (2 Kings 4:1-7). To reward the rich lady of Shunam for her hospitality, he obtained for her from YHWH, at first the birth of a son, and subsequently the resurrection of her child (2 Kings 4:8-37). To nourish the sons of the prophets pressed by famine, Elisha changed into wholesome food the pottage made from poisonous gourds (2 Kings 4:38-41). By the cure of Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy, Elisha, little impressed by the possessions of the Syrian general, whilst willing to free King Joram from his perplexity, principally intended to show "that there is a prophet in Israel". Naaman, at first reluctant, obeyed the Prophet, and washed seven times in the Jordan. Finding his flesh "restored like the flesh of a little child", the general was so impressed by this evidence of God's power, and by the disinterestedness of His Prophet, as to express his deep conviction that "there is no other God in all the earth, but only in Israel". (2 Kings 5:1-19) Jesus referred to this when He said: "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:27).

In punishing the avarice of his servant Gehazi (2 Kings 5:20-27), in repeatedly saving King Jehoram of Israel from the ambushes planned by Benhadad (2 Kings 6:8-23), in ordering the elders to shut the door against the messenger of Israel's ungrateful king (2 Kings 6:25-32), in bewildering with a strange blindness the soldiers of the Syrian king (2 Kings 6:13-23), in making iron float to relieve from embarrassment a son of a prophet (2 Kings 6:1-7), in confidently predicting the sudden flight of the enemy and the consequent cessation of the famine (2 Kings 7:1-20), in unmasking the treachery of Hazael (2 Kings 8:7-15), Elisha proved himself a divinely appointed Prophet of the one true God, whose knowledge and power he was privileged to share.

Elisha refusing the gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber 1630

After Elijah's departure, Elisha returned to Jericho, and there healed the spring of water by casting salt into it (2 Kings 2:21).

Elisha is next encountered in Scripture when he predicts a fall of rain when the army of Jehoram was faint from thirst (2 Kings 3:9-20). Other miracles Elisha accomplishes include multiplying the poor widow's cruse of oil (4:1-7), restoring to life the son of the woman of Shunem (4:18-37), and multiplying the twenty loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for a hundred men (4:42-44). During the military incursions of Syria into Israel, Elisha cures Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (5:1-27), punishes his servant Gehazi for his falsehood and his greed, and recovers an axe lost in the waters of the Jordan (6:1-7). He administered the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel, and at the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, Elisha prophesied about the terrible sufferings of the people of Samaria and their eventual relief (2 Kings 6:24-7:2).

Elisha then journeyed to Damascus and prophesied that Hazael would be king over Syria (2 Kings 8:7-15); thereafter he directs one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, instead of Ahab. Mindful of the order given to Elijah (1 Kings 19:16), Elisha delegated a son of one of the prophets to quietly anoint Jehu King of Israel, and to commission him to cut off the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-10). The death of Joram, pierced by an arrow from Jehu's bow, the ignominious end of Jezabel, the slaughter of Ahab's seventy sons, proved how faithfully executed was the Divine command (2 Kings 9:11-10:30). After predicting to Joash his victory over the Syrians at Aphek, as well as three other subsequent victories, ever bold before kings, ever kindly towards the lowly, "Elisha died, and they buried him" (2 Kings 13:14-20).

While Elisha lies on his death-bed in his own house (2 Kings 13:14-19). Joash, the grandson of Jehu, comes to mourn over his approaching departure, and utters the same words as those of Elisha when Elijah was taken away, indicating his value to him: "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."

The very touch of his corpse served to resuscitate a dead man. "In his life he did great wonders, and in death he wrought miracles" (Ecclesiasticus, xlviii, 15). After his death, a dead body was laid in Elisha's grave a year after his burial. No sooner does it touch Elisha's remains than the man "revived, and stood up on his feet" (2 Kings 13:20-21).


He is venerated as a saint in a number of Christian Churches. His feast day is on June 14, on the Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic liturgical calendars (for those churches which use the traditional Julian Calendar, June 14 falls on June 27 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). St. John of Damascus composed a canon in honor of the Prophet Elisha, and a church was built at Constantinople in his honor.

In Western Christianity he is commemorated on the Carmelite religious order's calendar of saints.[4] He is also commemorated as a prophet on the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Both calendars also celebrate him on June 14.

Julian the Apostate (361-363) gave orders to burn the relics of the prophets Elisha, Obadiah and John the Baptist, but they were rescued by the Christians, and part of them were transferred to Alexandria. Today, the relics of the prophet Elisha are claimed to be among the possessions of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt.[5]

There is also "the tomb of the prophet Elisha" in Aloujam in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. Reports from the city of Aloujam say that the shrine was removed by the authorities, because it is not in accordance with Sunni Islam, although in ancient times people used to visit it from afar.[6]

In Islam

Islam refers to him as "Al-Yasha", and he is one of the Islamic prophets mentioned in the Qur'an.

And remember Ismail and Al-Yasha and Zulkifl; and they were all of the best.
And Ismail and Al-Yasha and Yunus and Lut; and every one We made to excel (in) the worlds: And from among their fathers and their descendants and their brethren, and We chose them and guided them into the right way.


  1. Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 239. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Elisha"
  2. The mauling of 42 young men.
  3. The wrath of the Lord is just.
  4. Carmelite Calendar
  5. The Monastery of St. Macarius the Great
  6. اليسع (Al-Yasa) (Arabic)

External links

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain. This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

ca:Eliseu cs:Elíša fa:الیسع ia:Elisha ka:ელისე წინასწარმეტყველი lt:Eliziejus ja:エリシャ pt:Eliseu ru:Елисей (пророк) sk:Elizeus sr:Јелисеј fi:Elisa (profeetta) sv:Elisha tr:Elyesa (peygamber) uk:Єлисей wo:Alisa yi:אלישע zh:以利沙