Elisha | General Background

The Old Testament books of First and Second Kings record Israel’s unhappy history from the days of Solomon’s reign to the conquest of Judah. After the Lord granted their desire for a King, they did not survive long as a united nation.

Benjamin Grull J3 Zqfdgrqs Unsplash

Samuel had warned the elders of Israel that a King would oppress them and put them into servitude, but they would not listen, being determined to be like their neighbours.

"Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”"
1 Samuel 8 81-20 (NKJV)

The twelve tribes remained together throughout the reigns of three Kings: Saul, David, and Solomon. They got what they wanted, which was to be like the ungodly neighbouring monarchies. However, they learned a hard truth; getting what you want is rarely a good outcome, if you will not listen to the Lord. This is a truism recognized by ungodly men such as Oscar Wilde who has a quotation attributed to him: 'sometimes the only thing worse than not getting what you want is getting it.' 

Following Solomon’s death, Israel divided into the southern kingdom of Judah (consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) and the northern kingdom of Israel (consisting of the remaining ten tribes). In 722BC the northern kingdom of Israel ceased to exist as a nation, having been defeated by the Assyrians. Judah lasted longer and in 586BC was finally taken into captivity by the Babylonians.

There is a significant difference in the stories of the northern and southern kingdoms. Judah outlasted Israel by more than a hundred years in their occupation of the promised land. The key to their longer survival was that, although they had many kings who led the people into idolatry, they had some good kings who brought about spiritual reforms. The northern kingdom of Israel was different. They were ruled by a succession of kings who did not seek God, and led their people deeper into idolatry.

"In the increasingly idolatrous northern kingdom, the Lord called two men to serve Him"

In the increasingly idolatrous northern kingdom, the Lord called two men to serve Him, one being the successor of the other, with a long period of overlapping ministry. In desperate days Elijah and Elisha spoke for God and stood as witnesses to God. They also led a school of prophets who served God in the northern and southern kingdoms.