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Elijah and Elisha

About a century after the time of David and Solomon (pbut), the great Prophet Elijah (pbuh) emerges from the land of Transjordan, where key incidents in his life took place. He is called "Elijah the Tishbite", having been born in the Tishbe area in the forested mountains of Gilead (1 Kings 17:1).

Tishbe in Gilead has long been associated with the archaeological remains at modern Listib. Adjacent to Listib are the newly excavated remains of a large 6th-7th century AD Byzantine church on the hilltop site long identified with Elijah, known in Arabic as Tell Mar Elias (the mound of Saint Elijah). Prophet Elijah ascended into heaven "on a chariot of fire and horses of fire", which later gave rise to the gospel song "Swing low, Sweet chariot".

At Elijah's Hill, Bethany

From as early as the centuries immediately after Jesus' time, the place of Elijah's ascension to heaven has been known as Elijah's Hill. This small natural hill, about two kilometers east of the Jordan River, forms the core of the ancient settlement called "Bethany beyond the Jordan" in the New Testament (John 1:28), where John (pbuh) was living when he baptized Jesus (pbuh).

The natural stream here, called Wadi Kharrar today, is a leading candidate for the Brook Kerith (or the Kerith Ravine), the stream "east of the Jordan" where God commanded Elijah to seek refuge from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.

Every morning and evening ravens arrived with meat and bread for Elijah (1 Kings 17:3-6). Elijah would be remembered frequently in the New Testament as a righteous, ordinary man who achieved great deeds by the power of prayer and faith in God (Luke 4:25-26; James 5:16-18).

Upon God's instruction, Elijah traveled to Abel-meholah in the northern Jordan Valley to anoint the Prophet Elisha (pbuh) as his successor (1 Kings 19:1-21). Abel-meholah has been associated with several sites in Jordan, including Tell Al-Maqlub and Tell Al-Maqbara, which can be easily visited, but have never been excavated.

The Original Mesha Stele at LouvreElijah found Elisha working 12 pairs of oxen in the field. Throwing his mantle over the shoulder of Elisha, Elijah passed on to him the duties of God's prophet. Elisha was personally involved in the episode when the kings of Judah, Israel and Edom marched for seven days along "the Way of the Wilderness of Edom" to attack the Moabite King Mesha at his fortress of Kir-moab (or Kir-hereseth) (2 Kings 3:4-27). Then the capital of Moab, Kir-moab is now known as Kerak town.

During that incident, Elisha miraculously provided the three kings' armies with water and helped to defeat the Moabite forces. However, the Moabite stronghold was spared when King Mesha sacrificed his oldest son on the citadel walls.

The Mesha Stele, or Dhiban Stone, was a large basalt stone on which Mesha left a public record of his victory over the Israelites. It is the longest known original, non-biblical indigenous text about a historical episode that is also mentioned in the Bible, and another example of how archaeological finds in Jordan often correspond to the biblical narratives. The original Dhiban Stone is in the Louvre Museum in Paris, but copies are on view at the archaeological museums in Amman and Irbid.

Elisha walked across the Jordan River with Elijah, and was on the ground on the eastern bank of the river when Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah threw his mantle down as he ascended, and Elisha picked it up and used it to separate the waters of the Jordan River as he crossed back to the western bank of the river to start his prophetic mission (2 Kings 2:7-14).

Elisha once told the Syrian general Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River to rid himself of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). This incident in the mid 9th century BC was a precursor to the symbolism of this holy river for baptism and spiritual cleansing in the New Testament.

Many scholars have seen parallels between Elisha and Jesus Christ (pbut): both pursued itinerant ministries, had disciples, challenged the political powers of their days, and performed similar miracles that included bringing the dead back to life, cleansing lepers, and walking on water or splitting the water of the Jordan River to walk through it.

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