The Call Of Elisha
1 KINGS 18:19-21
Elijah has been recommissioned by God and sent to the place of service: “Go, return thy way…” [19:15]. God has encouraged Elijah by:
§ The promise of coming judgement at the hands of Syrians: “anoint Hazael king over Syria…” [19:15].
§ The rising of Jehu to destroy Baalism: “Jehu shalt thou anoint king over Israel…” [19:16].
§ The anointing of Elisha as his successor: “Elisha shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room” [19:16].
§ The realisation that he, Elijah, was not alone: “I have left me seven thousand…” [19:18].
The first instruction that Elijah carries out is the anointing of Elisha to be prophet and his successor.
Elisha was one awesome prophet of God! His name means ‘my God is salvation’ and the whole ministry of Elisha would prove to be an outworked testimony to the meaning of his name.
- THE CALL OF ELISHA
Elijah sets out to obey God, fully persuaded that God’s word will not fail.
1. The Encounter
a. Elijah’s Obedience
Elijah responded in obedience: “so he departed hence…” [19:19].
§ יֵּ֣לֶךְ - “departed” [19:19], qal imperfect, ‘to travel, take a journey’;
§ מִ֠שָּׁם - “hence” [19:19], ‘from out of there’;
Elisha is identified: “he found Elisha the son of Shaphat…” [19:19].
§ אֱלִישָׁ֤ע - “Elisha” [19:19], ‘my God is salvation’;
§ בֶּן־שָׁפָט - “son of Shaphat” [19:19], from ‘judge’; ‘one who presides over disputes in a legal capacity’;
§ יִּמְצָ֞א - “found” [19:19], qal imperfect, ‘to learn the location of’; ‘to uncover, discover’;
c. Elisha’s Life
Elisha’s way of life: “ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen…” [19:19].
§ חֹרֵ֔שׁ - “ploughing” [19:19], qal participle, ‘cut a furrow into the earth as the first part of the planting process’;
§ צְמָדִים - “yoke” [19:19], ‘a collective of two of something’; the niphal ‘to be attached’; the nominative ‘team or yoke’;
§ This indicates that Elisha belonged to a family of considerable wealth.
§ To obey the prophetic call would mean doing so at a considerable personal loss, financially speaking. It would mean counting the cost.
2. Elisha’s Call
a. The Encounter
Elijah makes contact with Elisha: “Elijah passed by him…” [19:19].
§ יַּעֲבֹ֤ר - “passed” [19:19], qal imperfect, ‘to cross over, to travel through’; ‘to make linear motion along route or path’;
§ אֵלָ֔יו - “by him” [19:19],
b. The Mantle
Elijah took: “his mantle…” [19:19].
§ אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו - “mantle” [19:19], ‘cloak made of animal hair’ and was a ‘garment of distinction’;
i. The Etymology
The word is derived from the root word rd"a:
§ rd"a; (’adar), niphal, ‘be magnificent, majestic, splendid’; hiphil, ‘make magnificent, splendid’; ryDIa' (’addîr), adjective, ‘magnificent, excellent, splendid’; rd<a&, (’eder), nominative, garment(?), majesty (?); tr<D&<a' (’adderet), nominative, ‘splendor, robe’.
ii. The Practice
This ‘garment of splendour’ was worn by person in positions of authority for the purpose of distinction:
§ The אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו was worn by kings: “For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him…” [Jon.3:6].
§ The אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו was worn by prophets: “when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle…” [19:13].
§ The אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו was the official garment of the prophet and marked a man as a ‘spokesman for God’.
§ The אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו represented a man’s gift, the call of God, and the purpose for which God had called him.
iii. The Holy Spirit
In the Old Testament the Spirit of God appears most often as the Spirit that empowers and enables prophecy: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he prophesied” [1Sam.10:10].
§ Sometimes it was said that the Spirit of God clothed the prophet: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…” [Jdg.6:34].
§ This is the background for the symbolism involved when Elijah cast his cloak around Elisha.
c. Elijah’s Action
Elijah: “cast his mantle upon him” [19:19].
§ יַּשְׁלֵ֥ךְ - “cast” [19:19], hiphil imperfect, ‘to throw or hurl’; in the hiphil often implying ‘intensity or violence’;
§ אֵלָֽיו - “upon him” [19:19],
§ Throwing the אַדַּרְתֹּ֖ו over the shoulders of Elisha was a ‘symbolic act denoting his summons to the office of prophet’.
§ It was also a ‘sure sign of God’s gift that enabled him to fulfil the prophetic office and ministry.
§ This act by Elijah was a prophetic announcement that the gift of prophecy hade been given or would come to Elisha.
God uses men and women in our lives to reach us, to train us, to challenge us, etc, but they are only instruments God uses to point or guide us in the right direction.
§ There is a suddenness and unexpectedness about God’s call; Elisha was doing the ordinary things of life.
§ Elisha knew immediately that he was called by God.
§ Elijah throws his cloak, or mantle, upon Elisha, a symbolic way of transferring the prophetic power from one man to the next.
§ We must not lose sight of the fact that there was divine initiative in Elisha’s call.
- ELISHA’S RESPONSE
1. Elisha’s Obedience
Elisha understood immediately what Elijah’s action meant
a. Elisha’s Life
Elisha abandoned his current way of life: “he left the oxen…” [19:20].
§ יַּעֲזֹ֣ב - “left” [19:20], qal imperfect, ‘to abandon, desert’; “so shall a man leave his father and mother…” [Gen.2];
§ הַבָּקָ֗ר - “oxen” [19:20], ‘castrated oxen as more controllable for agricultural or carrying tasks’;
b. God’s Call
Elisha hurriedly went after Elijah: “ran after Elijah…” [19:20].
§ יָּ֙רָץ - “ran” [19:20], qal imperfect, ‘linear motion with movement that is relatively swift or intense’;
§ אַחֲרֵ֣י - “after” [19:20],
For Elisha, there was no decision to make. The fact of God’s call automatically made that decision for him. Any other decision would only lead to futility, unhappiness and a lack of purpose in life.
§ Jesus and discipleship: “we have left all and followed you…” [Mar.10:28].
2. Elisha’s Request
a. Elisha’s Parents
Elijah performs an act of genuine respect and honour for his parents: “Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father…” [19:20].
§ אֶשְּׁקָה־ - “let me kiss” [19:20], ‘touch with the lips as a gesture of affection and mutual relationship’;
§ A sign of affection: “Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them…” [Gen.45:15].
§ A sign of farewell: “they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law…” [Ruth 1:14].
§ נָּא- “I pray thee” [19:20], particle of entreaty or exhortation, ‘please’;
b. Elisha’s Obedience
Elisha would then follow in obedience: “then I will follow thee…” [19:20].
§ אֵלְכָ֖ה - “follow” [19:20], ‘to go, travel’; ‘motion to another place’;
§ אַחֲרֶ֑יךָ - “you” [19:20], ‘after’; ‘behind’;
Elisha’s request is so that he may properly cut his ties with the past
§ There is no reluctance or hesitation; Elisha was prepared to forsake his family and his secular calling in order to obey God’s call.
§ The following actions show that Elisha wanted to make a complete break with the past.
§ Family affections were to be subordinate to the Lord; the wealth he enjoyed in his father’s house was to be sacrificed also.
§ This is what Jesus requires of disciples: “if any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” [Luk.14:26].
3. Elijah’s Response
Elijah allows Elisha’s request: “Go back again…” [19:20].
§ לֵ֣ךְ - “go” [19:20], qal imperative, ‘to go, travel’; ‘motion to another place’;
§ שׁ֔וּב - “back again” [19:20], qal imperative, ‘to turn around, return’;
b. Word of Caution
Elijah adds a word of caution: “for what have I done to thee?” [19:20].
§ מֶה - “what” [19:20], interrogative, when used with reference to a person ‘it endeavours to find what kind of character or quality lies behind that person’;
§ עָשִׂ֖יתִי - “done” [19:20], qal perfect, ‘to do’; ‘to perform an action’;
§ לָֽךְ - “to thee” [19:20],
This was an idiom which should be understood as follows:
§ We might translate it as follows: ‘Go back and bid farewell, for I have done something very important to you; but think carefully on what I have done to you, for your call is not from me but from God’.
§ The idea is the Elisha was accountable to God for what he did, not to Elijah. What Elijah had done was express God’s call. Elijah would become Elisha’s spiritual leader and mentor, but Elisha must understand that ultimately, he was accountable to God, not to man.
- ELISHA’S FAREWELL
Elisha’s request was prompted by a desire to celebrate his entrance into this ministry and to declare and confirm his commitment to follow the Lord before friends and family.
1. The Celebration
a. Elisha’s Return
Elisha returned to his home: “he returned back from him…” [19:21].
§ יָּ֨שָׁב - “returned back” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to turn around, return’;
§ מֵאַחֲרָ֜יו - “from him” [19:21], literally ‘from after him’;
b. Elisha’s Way of Life
Elisha took the animals that were central to his way of life: “took a yoke of oxen…” [19:21].
§ יִּקַּ֣ח - “took” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to grasp, take hold of’;
§ צֶ֧מֶד - “yoke” [19:21], ‘a collective of two of something’; the niphal ‘to be attached’; the nominative ‘team or yoke’;
§ הַבָּקָ֣ר - “oxen” [19:21], ‘castrated oxen as more controllable for agricultural or carrying tasks’;
c. Elisha’s Sacrifice
Elisha sacrificed the oxen: “slew them and boiled their flesh…” [19:21].
§ יִּזְבָּחֵ֗הוּ - “slew” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to offer a sacrifice by killing a living thing’;
§ בִכְלִ֤י - “instruments” [19:21], ‘object, vessel, utensil’;
§ הַבָּקָר - “oxen” [19:21], ‘castrated oxen as more controllable for agricultural or carrying tasks’;
§ בִּשְּׁלָ֣ם - “boiled” [19:21], piel perfect, ‘to cook food in water’;
§ הַבָּשָׂ֔ר - “flesh” [19:21], ‘soft tissue component parts of a body’;
§ The ‘slaying of the oxen’ is a sign that Elisha is sacrificing to God what was most precious in his life.
§ The ‘destruction of the yokes’ was a sigh that never again would he come back and take up this work.
Elisha turned everything into a fellowship offering enjoyed by all: “gave unto the people…” [19:21].
§ יִּתֵּ֥ן - “gave” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘place an object in the possession or control of another’;
§ לָעָ֖ם - “the people” [19:21],
§ יֹּאכֵ֑לוּ - “eat” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to consume food’;
§ See the account of David and Araunah in 2Samuel 24:22-25.
The oxen and the implements represented the tools of his trade and the means and basis of Elisha’s past life. Elisha is declaring his commitment to follow the Lord:
§ He was burning his bridges and counting his past as loss for the Lord: “counted all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…” [Php.3].
§ Elisha was showing his family and friends that he had new goals, aims, aspirations, new commitments, values and priorities.
§ It showed his determination never to look back, seek to go back, or leave the calling of God no matter how tough it might get.
§ Jesus requires this of disciples: “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” [Luke 9:62].
§ Through the actions of Elisha, God is showing us we need to develop an unwillingness to ‘throw in the towel’; one of the greatest needs in the Christian life is endurance and commitment.
§ When commitment is not there, we will be tottering on the fence and we will be unable to make the tough decisions needed to follow the Lord.
§ Elisha was an ordinary man who became extraordinary because of his commitment to the Lord.
2. Elisha’s Discipleship
Elisha: “he arose and went after Elijah…” [19:21].
§ יָּ֗קָם - “arose” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to stand up’ in readiness to ‘move to another place’;
§ יֵּ֛לֶךְ - “went” [19:21], qal imperfect, ‘to go, travel’; ‘motion to another place’;
§ אַחֲרֵ֥י - “after” [19:21], ‘after’; ‘behind’;
Elisha was the servant of Elijah: “and ministered unto him” [19:21].
§ יְשָׁרְתֵֽהוּ - “ministered” [19:21], piel imperfect, ‘to serve, attend’; ‘to serve deity by doing various commanded religious practices’;
There are lessons to be learned; there are experiences to go through;
§ Elisha was in the place of subordinate service: “Timothy, my own son in the faith…” [1Tim.1:2].
§ In order to lead, one must first learn to be led; the followers of Jesus were disciples before they were apostles.
§ The gospel principle: “whosoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever wishes to be first shall be slave of all…” [Mar.10:43-45].