Sometimes these two men can be confused; at least they used to be to me. Elijah was the prophet who confronted Ahab, and the culture of the time; and the departure from the LORD God for man made idols; human imagination run amok.
Elisha is a young man when Elijah is called by GOD to anoint him “in thy room” (1 Kings 19:16). He was still in his father’s home, because he was plowing with the oxen when Elijah came to him (vv. 19-21).
I ask myself what the reason is for GOD calling another prophet to take Elijah’s place. Is GOD angry with Elijah, thus getting another? Is the ministry of Elijah coming to an end? Maybe soon? If we read ahead we find that Elijah would confront Ahab another time; concerning Naboth’s vineyard. We will look at that sometime later.
The LORD wants to put to rest Elijah’s assumption that he is the only true prophet of God. The LORD tells him,
“Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18 (KJV)
Elijah obeyed and went as the LORD commanded him. He finds Elisha plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. That seems to be a plenty of ox power, and more than necessary; but that is what we are told. It probably means that there were twelve teams of oxen plowing – a yoke containing two – and with a man leading each yoke; and Elisha taking up the rearward. The mantle of Elijah is mentioned in Scripture at least five times; the first in 19:13; the second in verse 19; then the other three in 2 Kings chapter two.
The mantle seems to be used as a token or symbol of the power of God upon Elijah. With it Elijah covers his face when he hears the still small voice, he cast it upon Elisha, he smote the waters of the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:8), Elisha receives it as Elijah is taken away (2 Kings 2:13-14); and then Elisha divides the Jordan using it as well. More on that will come later in future study.
When Elisha passes by Elijah; Elijah cast his mantle upon him. Now Elisha left his oxen, asked Elijah to go and tell his parents he was leaving, then he would follow him. He would be Elijah’s student as a prophet; being prepared to take Elijah’s place in ministry of the Word of God.
“And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.’ And he said unto him, ‘Go back again: for what have I done to thee?’ And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” 1 Kings 19:20-21 (KJV)
Elijah’s telling Elisha to “Go back…” was telling him to do as Elisha had requested, but to not reject his calling. Elisha goes and tells his parents of his calling in life, and they have a celebration, by the killing of Elisha’s yoke of oxen, and having a feast. In his training as a prophet he was a servant unto Elijah.
Elijah was a faithful prophet of God. Though he was weak in some points the LORD still used him. In human weakness GOD is strong. In our weaknesses God is glorified.
Be strong in the LORD and the power of His might.
-Tim A. Blankenship