Part 1: The Restoration of Israel
Elisha, The Prophet of God
And the LORD said unto him [Elijah], Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.—1 Kings 19:15,16
By this instruction from God to Elijah, his successor Elisha is introduced to us in the sacred narrative. The accomplishments of Elisha were remarkable, and followed immediately upon the also remarkable accomplishments of Elijah. Of the three assignments God gave Elijah, cited above, only the third was done by Elijah directly; the first two were done later by Elisha. This shows even more directly that Elisha was the successor and representative of Elijah, through whom Elijah’s commissions were effected.
It also suggests that the Elijah class, the Church, is taken from the scene before the fulfillment of that which is represented by the removal of Benhadad (predecessor of Hazael), and the aggressive campaign of Jehu against the house of Ahab. But Elisha, a picture of the Ancient Worthies, will be present during these closing episodes.
The Second Approach
The article Elijah and Elisha Together (pages 11 to 15) suggests that Elijah represents our Lord Jesus and Elisha, his successor, represents the Church continuing the work of Christ during the Gospel age. Many thoughtful points raised for this view impress us. In this case the twelve yoke of oxen may represent the twelve tribes of Israel with which the first disciples were affiliated; as Elisha left those in pursuit of Elijah, so those early Christians left their former associations for the excellency of the gospel.
However, a view more familiar to brethren considers Elijah a picture of the Church, and Elisha their successor during the Millennial age. It is our opinion that the allegories presented in the lives of Elijah and Elisha apply on two levels. The key to the Divine Plan is recognizing two ages of redemption, the Gospel age for the saints and the Millennial age for the world. The ministry of Christ personally was a precursor to the Gospel age work, and the work of the saints in the flesh is a precursor to the Millennial age work. The 3½ year ministry of Christ foreshadowed the greater 3½ “times” during which the saints would suffer; Jesus’ ascension to heaven is paralleled by the ascension of his body members later. In these respects each was a fulfillment of Elijah.
As the work begun by Jesus was expanded greatly by the disciples after Pentecost, as they received the mantle of authority to preach on behalf of Christ, as they through the spirit accomplish the gathering of the entire anointed class, so the saints in the Gospel age in this respect fulfill the work of Elisha.
But another level applies to the next age. As the work of reconciliation committed to the saints now will be expanded greatly by the Ancient Worthies in the kingdom, as they receive the mantle of authority to preach to the world on behalf of Christ, as they through the spirit will accomplish the gathering of the entire world, so the Ancient Worthies in the Millennium in this respect fulfill the work of Elisha.
The disciples expanded the work of reconciliation to the Gentiles, as Naaman the Syrian was cured from leprosy by Elisha. The saints during this age lift those who accept Christ from the murky waters of sin, as the axehead was raised from the Jordan by Elisha. The Israelites who accepted Christ were instruments of filling Gentile vessels with the holy spirit, as Elisha caused a debtor woman to fill many vessels with oil. In all these respects the saints of the present age fulfill the work of Elisha. But the next age awaits a second, greater, and more expansive application of these works to the whole world of mankind, through the Ancient Worthies.
This greater and expanded point of view—Elisha picturing the work of the Ancient Worthies during the Millennium—is the focus of this study. We will discuss fourteen episodes of Elisha’s career, narrated in 2 Kings chapters 2 through 9. We begin with a prelude, connecting Elisha’s ministry to Elijah, and an introduction to the fourteen episodes. Then we consider those episodes in three divisions, each with a special emphasis.
Prelude—Elijah and Elisha
The taking of Elijah in a whirlwind represents the completion of the bride class in the tumultuous events which close the present harvest. Before this, he and his companion Elisha visited the schools of the prophets at three locations—Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and then approached the Jordan which split before them. These represent three conditions of the truth movement during the harvest. Gilgal is the starting point, Sectarianism. The first stop thereafter is Bethel, “house of God,” a lovely picture of the truth movement in the early days of the harvest. Jericho represents the divided condition which followed, and Jordan represents nearly contemporary times, but a little more in the future. There the Jordan was divided by Elijah’s mantle, picturing a message of truth which is between two poles of thought in this world—the dissidents and the conservatives. The former are inclined to clamor against circumstances and authorities, the latter inclined to emphasize the need for continuing order and structure. But the truth message is between these: the present order will pass away, but only in deference to the greater authority of Christ’s kingdom. After walking on a little further, the climax is reached for Elijah.
But who is Elisha? We understand he represents the Great Company which associates with the Bride during the harvest. After the taking of Elijah, the mantle of authority, the spirit of God, falls to them and they also give a closing message. Perhaps this is the message of the Great Company expressed in Song of Solomon 5:8 through 6:2, commending Israel to appreciate the beauties of their Messiah, inducing them to seek him also. With this message those of the Great Company complete their role. When Elisha comes up from the Jordan the second time, he still has the mantle of the prophet, the spirit of God. The mantle always identifies those who speak for God. In this case, it is the Ancient Worthies during the Millennium.
Immediately, Elisha works a miracle, one of several to follow, in fourteen episodes narrated in the sacred record. Thus immediately will the work of the Ancient Worthies begin, after their raising up from the dead, to lead and instruct Israel, and through them, all who accept their leadership.
Fourteen is often associated with the blessings of the Millennial kingdom. Seven, by contrast, is frequently associated with the Gospel age: seven churches, seals, trumpets, lamps, spirits, eyes, and even plagues. But the Millennium is the second age of redemption, and is thus represented as “double” this wonderful number of seven.
This is apparent in the festivals of Israel. It was usual and normal for the Israelites to observe seven lambs as a burnt offering each day on special occasions. This occurred on the day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:18), on new moons (Numbers 28:11), each day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Numbers 28:19-24), New Year’s Day (Numbers 29:2), and Atonement Day (Numbers 29:8). But on each day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which represents the Millennium, fourteen lambs were offered (Numbers 29:12-32). The “double measure” of the spirit in the second age of redemption is thus suggested.
Other examples in which something numbered by fourteen introduces the kingdom are the following.
So the fourteen episodes in the record of Elisha fit well as pictures of kingdom blessings.
Segregating the Episodes
There is some sense in segregating the episodes into two series of seven, for there are parallels in concept or symbol between each pair—numbers 1 and 8, 2 and 9, 3 and 10, etc. But as we examine the meaning in each episode, it seems the first five form a unit concerning Israel, the second five a unit widening to the Gentiles, and the remaining four a picture of the judgments of God which bring us into the new age. Therefore we will consider the episodes in these three divisions, in this and the next two articles.
The Blessing of Israel
1) Sweetening the Waters (2 Kings 2:19-22). This was a peculiar miracle. The bitter waters of the spring of Jericho were sweetened by adding a new cruse of salt—the ingredient one would least suspect of redeeming water. This was quite in contrast with the healing of the salty waters of Marah by Moses. There a tree was cast in which precipitated the salt—representing the cross of Christ which took away the condemnation of the Law (Exodus 15:25). That miracle applied at the opening of the Gospel age. But this miracle at Jericho is fulfilled at the opening of the Millennium. The “new cruse” of salt is the newly completed bride class, the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). After the church is glorified, then the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,” will begin to flow (Revelation 22:1).
As the miracle at Marah pertained first to believing Jews, released from the curse of the Law by the death of Christ, so in the kingdom, the first recipients of the sweet waters of life will be Jewish people, brought to faith in Messiah (Zechariah 12:10).
2) Youths Mock Elisha (2 Kings 2:23-25). This mockery evidently represents that the Ancient Worthies will be disparaged by some who are spiritually immature. Probably this means the leaders of Christendom. For them to see the Ancient Worthies as the new leaders of Israel, and as representatives of Christ, will be a lesson in humility that will prove difficult for many of them. Will the pope and cardinals and bishops willingly cede that they have misrepresented the gospel of Christ, and quietly acquiesce to Israel’s new leaders?
That the youths mauled were forty-two in number reminds us of that system which persecuted the saints for forty-two months, from 539 to 1799 (Revelation 13:5). That it was two she bears that mauled them reminds us that Papacy was represented as having “feet of a bear” (Revelation 13:2). What just retribution is thus represented in type. Notice “42" again in 2 Kings 10:14, in retribution against apostate Israel.
3) The Battle with Moab (2 Kings 3:4-27). During the reign of Ahab, Moab was subject to Israel. After Ahab’s passing, and apparently after the brief reign of his son Ahaziah, Moab rebelled. It was left to Ahab’s son Jehoram to handle the problem. He found two allies—King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom. The conflict which ensued almost devastated both houses of Israel, and their ally. But at the hour of desperation Elisha appeared, gave them the necessary assistance, and by the providence of God secured a victory.
Today two parts of Israel—secular Israel, represented by faithless Jehoram, and religious Israel, represented by the faithful Jehoshaphat —are involved in another struggle against the Arabs. As Micah 5:5 indicates, it will not be resolved until the Ancient Worthies (eight princes) are raised for their deliverance (also seven shepherds, or kings, the church in glory).
The Israelites fetched a compass through the land of Edom which took seven days, probably representing the lengthy experience of Israel through the Gospel age of seven “days” or stages. Most of this has been among the countries which are nominally Christian, represented by Edom through which the Israelites journeyed.
On the seventh day they were parched and in great need. It is amazing that Elisha was nearby, for he was a prophet who lived in the north, yet Edom was very far south. So it will prove amazing to Israel for the Ancient Worthies to appear among them in the hour of their need, and, through the wisdom they have from above, direct Israel to their rescue. As they approached Elisha, the prophet rebuked faithless Jehoram and would not have assisted were it not for believing Jehoshaphat. For his sake the prophet agreed to help. So with Israel today: it is on account of those who have faith in God and in the promises pertaining to Israel that God acts on their behalf. The unbelieving secularists are part of the nation, however, and they will be delivered as well, their good fortune because of their associates.
Elisha called for a minstrel to play and “the hand of the LORD came upon him.” He said there would be an abundance of water, though they would not see rain or wind—evidently there was a cloud burst in the mountains to the east which provided the necessary torrent. Elisha told them to dig many ditches to receive the water.
So the Ancient Worthies will instruct the Israelites to prepare for a blessing from God, which they will do by contrition and repentance. This will be no small thing. Their nation has rejected their appointed Messiah for two millenniums. As everyone knows who has come face to face with their own transgressions, contrition is humbling. If we resist, the final humbling is all the more difficult a threshold. For Israel it will be tremendous, but necessary. The pressures of the crisis, the realization of the truth, and their appreciation of the wonderful mercy of God to deliver them, will all work a remarkable change of mind and heart, nationally.
“I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn … in bitterness … as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. ”—Zechariah 12:10, ASV
Elisha assured them of victory over the Moabites, just as Israel will be victorious over the Arab offensive against them. “Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance” (Zechariah 14:14).
The deliverance promised came the following morning, as the deliverance of Israel will occur in the morning of the new Millennial Day. “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 3:20).
Notice the time of the morning: “When the meat offering was offered.” This was one of two daily offerings which looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ. There were two lambs daily, one in the morning and one in the evening, foreshadowing the death of the “lamb of God” which will both free the Jews from their condemnation under the Law, and all of Adam’s race from the death condemnation through disobedience. Our Lord died for everyone, but he was crucified for the Jews (Galatians 3:13). Our Lord was put on the cross in the morning at the third hour for the Israelites—the same time the holy spirit came to Jewish believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:15). Our Lord died in the afternoon at the ninth hour for the world—the same time Cornelius, the first Gentile received into Christ, had an angelic visitation (Acts 10:3). But this picture of Elisha’s day is about Israel. The deliverance occurs at the time of the morning offering.
The water came “by the way of Edom,” suggesting it is the same river of truth which Christendom has had for many years, though they have adulterated it with various misapprehensions and false doctrines. “The country was filled with water”—as Israel will be.
As the sun rose, it reflected upon the water. The Moabites thought this was blood and supposed the Israelites, Judahites, and Edomites had fallen out against each other. As they went down to plunder the spoil, instead of the weakness they expected, they ran into the refreshed and strengthened armies. The Israelites routed the Moabites thoroughly. As the last plague in Egypt was the death of the enemy firstborn, so here the king of Moab sacrificed his own firstborn to his god.
Israel will obtain a resounding victory—in the morning.
4) The Pot of Oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). An Israelite woman, a widow who lost a faithful husband, found herself in great debt. No means of relief was apparent. This is a picture of Israel at the opening of the kingdom. Her faithful but deceased spouse represents the faithful Jews of years past who worshipped Jehovah, and she pleads that remembrance to further her cause with Elisha.
The woman had two sons, representing the two houses of Israel’s kingdom. And she had a pot of oil. She had not two pots of oil, as Christians have the two olives trees as sources of the holy spirit, namely the Old and New Testaments. Israel has but one pot of oil, the Old Testament, but how with that can they pay off their debt? They killed the prince of glory. How can this debt be removed?
Elisha had the answer, but it can only happen by a miracle. He asked the woman and her sons to borrow all the vessels they could. Then she was to “shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons,” suggesting a very sacred and private work for the Israelites. “Pour out into all those vessels” (2 Kings 4:4). At last there were no more vessels to fill. So Israel will cooperate with God as an agent in filling all the vessels—the people of the world—with the holy spirit. This not only brings salvation to the world, but the work and industry expended evidence the sincerity of Israel’s repentance.
With this task completed, the woman had abundance from which to pay her debt; so Israel will have sufficient to pay their debt when they have cooperated with God to endue the world with the spirit of God, through their teaching in the Millennium.
5) A Son Raised to Life (2 Kings 4:8-37). As Elisha passed through Shunem, a well-to-do woman who honored the prophet constrained him to accept her hospitality. She had a small room built for him with bed, table, stool, and candlestick for his comfort when in the area. Many in Israel might have done the prophet such kindness, but she actually did it. Many today can render helpful service to the servants of God. Those who do, display from their conduct, and their initiative, the sincerity of their appreciation.
Elisha, through his servant Gehazi, investigated some way to reward the woman of faith. Perhaps an introduction to the king or some other person of note? Yet she was content with her lot. But Gehazi noted she had no son, and her husband was old. So Elisha announced to the woman that she would soon bear a son. She was cautious: “Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid” (verse 16). But in due season she did bear a child, a son.
When the child grew to a young lad, during a time of harvest he was struck with an ailment in his head and died in the lap of his mother at noon. His mother “laid him on the bed of the man of God,” shut the door upon him, and went seeking Elisha. Her husband mildly objected that it was neither the time of new moon or sabbath. But no matter, something had to be done, and she was determined. As she neared the prophet, Gehazi asked if all was well, but she did not explain; she wished only to see Elisha, at whose feet she fell and pleaded when she saw him: “Did not I say, do not deceive me?” (verse 28).
All of this represents what happened to Israel. The young boy represents the fledgling nation which was a reward of faith to their forbearers. But as they grew, and the Jewish age harvest came, because of an affliction in the head, the place of understanding, as a nation they died. Noon was the hour, and noon was the hour of darkness as Jesus hung on the cross.
What could be done? It is neither the day of the new moon nor the sabbath, both pictures of the kingdom (Ezekiel 46:1). The boy was laid on the bed of the prophet, as Israel rested on the faith of their devoted forefathers. But it was insufficient to restore life. Elisha sent Gehazi with his staff to lay it on the child, but even this was ineffective. Not even the teachings of the prophets can restore life to Israel. No, the presence of Elisha himself was necessary, as the presence of the Ancient Worthies themselves, raised from the dead, is necessary to raise Israel nationally back to life.
Elisha went. He entered the home and shut the door, for his personal administration to the boy—as the Ancient Worthies will do at the opening of the kingdom. Israel will be privately attended to, the nations around will have no appreciation for the miracle being visited. Elisha breathed into the boy, who sat up and sneezed seven times. So Israel will revive by faith, and throw off the burdens of affliction they received during the seven stages of the Gospel age. The boy opened his eyes and lived again. Israel will behold their Messiah and live again. The wondering woman bowed at the feet of the prophet, took up her son, and went out with unspeakable joy.
So end the five episodes which apply specifically to Israel in the Millennium. But this is just a beginning. Elisha will accomplish much more. There is all the rest of the world to be healed and blessed. This we will see in the next series of miracles.