Elijah was not a biological parent to Elisha, but he was his spiritual father. (Elisha calls Elijah his father twice in 2 Kings 2:12.) Just before Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be upon him. In essence, he was asking to walk in twice the anointing that Elijah walked in. Elijah could have taken offense at this, but instead, like a loving father, he helped Elisha obtain it.


Elisha’s double anointing can be seen in a couple of ways. First, he did many of the same things Elijah did, but to a greater extent. Elijah prophesied a three and half year drought in Israel; Elisha prophesied a seven-year drought. Elijah primarily counseled or confronted one king; Elisha counseled or confronted multiple kings. Elijah was visited by an angel when he fled from his enemy Jezebel; Elisha was surrounded by an entire angelic army when he was hunted by the Arameans.


Second, Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:17 say that the primary function of the spirit of Elijah is turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. In other words, it acts as a relational bridge between two generations. Elijah laid the foundation for this ministry by taking Elisha under his wing and mentoring him to become his replacement. Elisha then built upon this foundation by investing heavily into the next generation, just as Elijah invested in him.


Throughout Elisha’s ministry, we see him spending time and ministering side by side with “the sons of the prophets.” (ex. 2 Kings 2:15, 4:1, 6:1, and 9:1) In fact, some of his finest miracles were performed in service to them. He supernaturally provided oil as a source of income to one of their widows. He miraculously cleansed their food when they all shared a meal (2 Kings 4). He helped one of them recover a borrowed ax head (2 Kings 6). Clearly, they were a tight-knit group that shared a great deal of affection for one another.


Spiritual fathering can work the same way today. Sometimes God provides spiritual fathers of different types of ministries or spiritual gifts. Then they equip their sons to function similarly, only with an even greater anointing, and to equip others after them.


What Did Elijah Do?

How did Elijah father Elisha? He modeled godly ministry to him. He did this by leading Elisha to a series of destinations where Elisha could learn by example. We are not told specifically what happened at these destinations, but I believe their names hold the answer. The destinations were Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and the Jordan River. Let’s briefly look at each one.  


Gilgal. Gilgal is best known as the place where God instructed all the Israelites to circumcise themselves in Joshua 5. Here, Elijah taught Elisha to cut away his old self-serving nature and consecrate himself fully to be used by the Lord.


Bethel. Bethel means house of God and is perhaps best known as a place of God’s presence where Jacob saw angels ascending and descending to heaven in Genesis 28. Here, Elijah taught Elisha how to recognize, function in, and steward the presence of God so he could better know Him and make Him known to others.


Jericho. Jericho is typical of a stronghold of the enemy, known as the first stronghold Israel encountered in the Promise Land in Joshua 6. Here, Elijah taught Elisha how to stand in bold faith against a stronghold of the enemy and believe God for its complete destruction.


The Jordan River. The Jordan River, like baptism, represents death. The Jordan is where John the Baptist baptized and it is also where the younger generation of Israelites was baptized as a nation, similar to how the older generation had been baptized in the Red Sea. Here, Elijah taught Elisha to voluntarily submit to death and suffering for the sake of others’ salvation.


Just as Elijah led Elisha, it is likewise the calling of some spiritual fathers and mothers to lead their sons and daughters through one or more of these milestones.



The goal of any godly parent is the spiritual maturity of his children. But what exactly is spiritual maturity? How does the Bible define it? We’ll find out in the next two chapters.