The Elisha Narratives and the Coherence of 2 Kings 2-8 -- By: Philip E. Satterthwaite

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: The Elisha Narratives and the Coherence of 2 Kings 2-8
Author: Philip E. Satterthwaite

The Elisha Narratives and the
Coherence of 2 Kings 2-81

Philip E. Satterthwaite


2 Kings 2-8, containing most of the narratives of the prophet Elisha, are generally held to be somewhat incoherent. Many of Elisha’s miracles, in particular, seem both trivial and ill-related to their context. This article argues that the key to 2 Kings 2-8 is provided by the portrayal of Elisha as a ‘second Joshua’ in ch. 2. In a logical outworking of this chapter, the subsequent narratives set over against each other Elisha’s followers and the Northern Kingdom, raising the hope that Elisha’s followers will ‘conquer’ the land, bringing the North back to YHWH. This hope is ultimately not realised. The miracle accounts find their place in this interpretation.

I. The Problem: Coherence In 2 Ki. 2-8?

2 Kings 2-8, the chapters in which the majority of the material relating to the prophet Elisha is found, are usually reckoned to pose considerable literary and historical problems. Though Elisha features in every episode, he is found engaged in a range of different activities in which it is hard to see a unifying theme, on the one hand engaging in the politics of his day (war with Moab, ch. 3; war with Aram, chs. 5-7), on the other performing a number of striking, but in the light of the larger context, irrelevant-seeming miracles (ch. 4; 6:1-7). Given the diverse subject-matter and also the differences in length, style, complexity and mood of all these episodes, it is not surprising that some scholars have argued that a variety of sources underlie these

chapters;2 nor that some of the proposals made as to the stages by which chs. 2-8 have reached their present form should be quite intricate.3 It has been suggested that many of the events narrated in chs. 2-8 did not take place during the reign of Jehoram, where Kings4 seems to locate them.5 My impression is that most readers find these ch...

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