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Lesson 11 Elijah and Elisha

Lesson 11 Elijah and Elisha
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A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament

As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065

Lesson Outline

  1. Metaphysical significance of Elijah and Elisha.
  2. Metaphysical meaning of Jezebel.
  3. Metaphysical meaning of "adultery."
  4. Significance of God as "a still small voice."
  5. Metaphysical meaning of "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit.
  1. I Kings 17-19, 21; II Kings 1-13; II Chronicles 21-25
  2. Let There Be Light Chapter XI
  3. Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 191, 193
  1. Metaphysically, how are Elijah and Elisha similar, and how do they differ?
  2. What is the main danger of what Jezebel stands for?
  3. What is one of the benefits to man in realizing God as "a still small voice"?
  4. What is the symbolic meaning of "a double portion" of the spirit of Elijah?

In regard to question number 3, the teacher will note that the specific answer to the question is not written out in the course material. Therefore the teacher should deal with it in class, either as the teacher's own point of view, or as a subject of class discussion.

Lesson Text

The stories of Elijah and Elisha are contained in I Kings 17-22; II Kings 1-13; II Chronicles 21-25. These two great characters are referred to as prophets, yet they represent something more than prophets. In many ways they are symbolic of characteristics which are forerunners of Jesus Christ. Elijah means "Jehovah is God." Elisha means "God is salvation."

Both characters symbolize phases in growth toward full spiritual consciousness. Elijah has more to do with works for the sake of convincing proof of the results of correctly worshiping Jehovah ("Jehovah is God"). Elisha has more to do with works and demonstrations for the sake of blessing and helping people, rather than "proving" a point. ("God is salvation")

Elijah achieved a spectacular victory over the priests of Baal, described in I Kings 18. Elijah takes advantage of this victory to persuade the witnesses to kill 450 priests of Baal. But he did not reckon with the danger of their patroness, Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. Jezebel's fury over what happened and her threats of revenge cause Elijah to flee for his safety, and he quickly falls into discouragement bordering on despair. (I Kings 19:4)

The name Jezebel means "adulterous, licentious." The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary interprets her as: "The animal soul, unbridled passions of the sense consciousness." (p. 352) A more clear and simple metaphysical definition of her would be simply negative emotions.

Jezebel is the female counterpart of the male metaphysical symbol Satan. Satan stands for negative thinking and erroneous beliefs. Jezebel stands for negative emotions and erroneous beliefs. Elijah underestimated Jezebel's power and influence, and he paid for his mistake in forgetting how dangerous she could be by succumbing to fear and discouragement. People of today also make the same mistake in underestimating the power and influence of negative emotions.

Traditional Christianity does not emphasize the danger of negative emotions. Rather it gives emphasis to "sin" and "evil" and "disobedience". But New Thought Christianity takes a different view. Unity does not consider "sin" and "evil" the great dangers of human existence any more. But negativity of thought and emotions, and erroneous beliefs and attitudes, are seen as the greatest dangers to unfolding consciousness. Jezebel would symbolize something very important in modern New Thought Truth teachings - the ever-present danger of letting negative emotions rule us.

And another important aspect of the meaning of'Jezebel is "adulterous." Adultery with Jezebel occurs any time a person connects his sense of I Am with any negative emotion. This does not mean just simply feeling the presence of a negative emotion. But it does mean to connect one's sense of I Am with a negative emotion that is felt. Adultery brings painful consequences unless it'is detected and corrected as soon as possible. This is done through "forgiveness of sin," or denial.

While in the depths of discouragement, near to despair, Elijah has the experience which is one of the landmarks of Bible narrative: "And he said, 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord (Jehovah). And behold, the Lord (Jehovah) passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains. . . but the Lord (Jehovah) was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord (Jehovah) was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord (Jehovah) was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." (I Kings 19:11-13)

This is very unusual metaphysical symbolism for the Old Testament. This is the first presentation of the meaning of Jehovah under the symbols of stillness and silence. But from this first usage, such symbolism in the Bible becomes more and more frequent.

Prior to the Elijah story, Jehovah is found in circumstances of a more impressive and spectacular nature. He is a God of sounds, of fire and water, of battles, of nature. But here He is present as the presence of "a still small voice." This represents a definite progression in the conscious awareness of the presence of God. Some Hebrew scholars say that a more accurate translation of these words would be "a voice of gentle stillness"--an image even more appropriate to Unity's understanding of the source of strength and power.

Listening to the still small voice (or voice of gentle stillness) Elijah received instruction to anoint Elisha to be the leading prophet to succeed Elijah when his work was done. Elisha means "God is salvation,'• and he symbolizes a step near to the Jesus Christ level of spiritual awareness.

NOTE: Elizabeth Sand Turner refers to Elisha as "a type of Christ" (Let There Be Light 138); and so he is. But we cannot ignore a very strange incident about him recorded in II Kings 2:23, 24. "He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, 'Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!' And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord (Jehovah). And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys."

What are we to make of this? Should we simply turn our eyes away from the page and pretend it was never printed. Or should we simply say that the kids had it coming to them? None of these tactics would be honest. Metaphysically, this strange incident would symbolize an important fact which serious students of metaphysical Truth must become reconciled to: NOTHING IN THE REALM OF MANIFEST EXISTENCE IS AS YET PERFECT. No symbol is perfect, no analogy is perfect, no human personality is yet capable of expressing perfectly all the time. This is not something to resent; it is somethinc to make oeace with.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Lest we become too angry with Elisha over this incident, let us keep in mind that Elisha merely "cursed" the children. The coming of the ferocious she-bears was not something he did (the bears did it!). Is it not reasonable to assume that he had no idea that his human reaction of "cursing" at his tormentors would have such horrendous results? Let us now realize that we too have often "cursed" things and persons we did not like. We are simply fortunate that she-bears did not rush forth and kill those we cursed at!

In the Bible narrative Elijah and Elisha work together, but Elijah knows that his work is soon to be completed and that he will make the transition. He tells Elisha this and asks Elisha what he can do for him before he makes the transition. Elisha asks for "a double share of your spirit". (II Kings 2:9)

The double share of the spirit of Elijah refers to the duality of energy expressions on this plane of existence. The energies of the manifest world all have polarities, positive and negative. In our inner world energies also have polarities. In human psychology these polarities of energy are "yes" and "no." (Later Jesus points out the great importance of understanding these polarities when He says, "Let what you say be simply 'yes' or 'no'. . ." (Matt. 5:37) A more definite ability to say both yes and no is this "double share" of Elijah's spirit conferred upon Elisha.

Elisha continues in a very busy and successful ministry until his transition which is recorded in II Kings 13:20, 21) The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary contains these words, which is a very fitting memorial tribute to Elisha:

"Elisha is often referred to by Bible commentators as a forerunner of Jesus. His character and his marvelous works are easily recognized as proceeding from the same spirit that inspired Jesus, and his gentleness and simplicity are paralleled only in the Master. It is not difficult to see in Elisha an incarnation of the Christ, and he was in a certain degree God manifest. Jesus was a fuller manifestation of the same spirit." (p. 193)

NOTE: For students who are interested in going into greater detail concerning the events which have earned Elisha the reputation of "a type of Christ," we refer them to the following:

  1. Increase of the widow's oil. (II Kings 4)
  2. Raising the son of the Shunammite woman. (II Kings 4)
  3. Miraculous feeding of a hundred men. (II Kings 4)
  4. Extraordinary mercy extended to the Syrians. (II Kings 5)