In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Elisha

  • Introduction
  • General Introductions
  • Commentaries
  • Monographs
  • Prophecy in Israel
  • Composition and Redaction History
  • Literary Approaches
  • Elisha-Elijah
  • Elisha in Sirach
  • Elisha and the New Testament

Biblical Studies Elisha
Rachelle Gilmour
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 January 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0211


The accounts of Elisha are found in 1 Kgs 19, 2 Kgs 2–10, and 2 Kgs 13, in which he is presented as a northern prophet during the Omride dynasty (876–843 BCE), and the reigns of Jehu through to Joash (843–746 BCE). He is introduced as the successor to Elijah, shown symbolically by receiving Elijah’s mantle; both modern readings and ancient traditions have emphasized the parallels and continuity between the two prophets. Whereas the ministry of Elijah focuses on opposition to the Omride kings and to Baal worship, Elisha’s ministry is characterized by miracle wonder stories and cooperation with the kings of Israel. Some recurring features in the miracles stories are the group called the “sons of the prophets,” Elisha’s servant Gehazi, and foreigners for whom Elisha does his most extraordinary miracles. Elisha does not share the same glittering afterlife as Elijah in biblical and post-biblical literature; however, he is mentioned again in the book of Sirach and the Gospel of Luke. The gospel writers’ presentations of Jesus also contain many elements that point to the influence of the Elisha accounts.

General Introductions

Dictionary articles provide good overviews, particularly in light of the limited amount of literature exclusively on Elisha. White 2000 and Whitelam 1992 orient the reader to theories on historical and compositional-redactional criticism. Mead 2005 touches on a number of approaches including literary and theological readings. Grintz, et al. 2007 is particularly helpful for the sections on Elisha in the Aggadah and Islam. Introductions and textbooks for the Hebrew Bible also offer brief introductions to the content of the Elisha stories; for example, Anderson 1986 and Collins 2004.

  • Anderson, Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament. 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986.

    Brief summary of the “fanciful” Elisha narratives against the background of political events in the closing years of the Omride dynasty (pp. 278–279).

  • Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

    A short overview of the Elisha stories (pp. 268–269). Collins points out that these stories are distinctive for their insights into the popular religion of ancient Israel.

  • Grintz, Yehoshua M., S. David Sperling, and Haïm Z’ew Hirschberg. “Elisha.” In Encyclopedia Judaica. 2d ed. Vol. 6. Edited by F. Skolnik, 350–351. Detroit: Macmillan, 2007.

    Overview of contents of Elisha stories including helpful sections on interpretations of Elisha in the Aggadah with text references and a brief summary of Elisha in Islam.

  • Mead, J. K. “Elisha.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Edited by Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, 254–258. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2005.

    An overview of different approaches to the Elisha narratives, including their tradition history, historical and social context, literary interpretation, structure, and theological message. A substantial bibliography is included.

  • White, Marsha. “Elisha.” In Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 398–400. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

    DOI: 10.5117/9789053565032

    Summary of the Elisha stories, including discussion of their placement in the reigns of Jehoram and Joash in the Deuteronomistic edition of Kings.

  • Whitelam, Keith W. “Elisha.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 472–473. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    Introduction to the contents of the Elisha stories, the Deuteronomic setting of earlier hagiographical material, and historical information about Ephraimite northern prophets.

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