I’ve taken a hiatus from writing as I have been focusing on being a dad. It’s been about 5 months, and now I feel like putting my thoughts out there in the blogoshpere once again. So here we go…
Elijah’s story runs throughout the 2nd half of 1 Kings. He is one of the first major prophets since the time of Samuel. He is even thought of as the prophet in the line of Moses that was promised back in Deuteronomy. But I don’t want to talk about Elijah right now. I want to talk about Elijah’s protege, apprentice, and successor – Elisha.
Elisha’s name literally means “God saves”. And just as Elijah was a type of Moses, so Elisha is a type of Joshua (whose name means “YHWH saves”). Elijah’s time on the earth has come to an end by 2 Kings 2, and he takes Elisha on a journey outside the land of Israel across the Jordan which is parted before them so they may walk across on dry ground. Elijah is then taken up into heaven in a fire tornado, leaving Elisha all alone to carry out the work of God.
Elisha, just like Joshua before him, crosses the Jordan on dry ground as he enters the land. The first city he comes to is Jericho, which was conquered and cursed by Joshua. If anyone were to rebuild the walls of Jericho, he would bring a curse upon himself and the land. But as we all know, it was impossible for the Israelites to leave well enough alone, so they rebuilt the city and its walls several centuries later. And, surprise!, the ground and the water were cursed because of their disobedience.
So along comes Elisha, God’s newly established frontman. The people know that God is with him, so they come out to him begging for his help. They say the water is cursed, and it’s causing death and miscarriages and crop failure. In today’s world, we would be digging up pipes, running all kinds of tests, shipping in bottled water, and doing everything within our power to fix whatever was making our water bad. But Elisha didn’t do that.
And it wasn’t lead, or pesticide, or any other toxic waste. It was the curse they brought on themselves by disobeying God’s commands. Elisha could have simply rubbed it in their faces that they deserved what they got. They were under God’s curse. He could have left it at that and moved on. But Elisha didn’t do that either.
He got a bowl, placed some salt in that bowl, and threw the salt into the water. To this day, the text tells us, the water was cleansed, and it no longer caused death or miscarriage or famine.
Elisha reversed the curse. Not bad for an inaugural act as head prophet.