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ping, took off his shaggy mantle of skins, and cast it upon Elisha. The young man, who doubtless was familiar with the appearance of the great prophet, recognized and accepted this significant call, and without remonstrance, even as others in later days devoted themselves to a greater Prophet, “left all and followed” the one who had chosen him. He became Elijah's constant companion and pupil and ministrant, until the great man's departure. He belonged to “the sons of the prophets,” among whom Elijah sojourned in his latter days, - a community of young men, for the most part poor, and compelled to combine manual labor with theological studies. Very few of these prophets seem to have been favored with especial gifts or messages from God, in the sense that Samuel and Elijah were. They were teachers and preachers rather than prophets, performing duties not dissimilar to those of Franciscan friars in the Middle Ages. They were ascetics like the monks, abstaining from wine and luxuries, as Samson and the Nazarites and Rechabites did. Religious asceticism goes back to a period that we cannot trace.
After Elijah had gone from the scenes of his earthly labors, Elisha became a man of the city, and had a house in Samaria. His dress was that of ordinary life, and he was bland in manners. His nature, unlike that of Elijah, was gentle and affectionate. He
became a man of great influence, and was the friend of three kings. Jehoshaphat consulted hiin in war; Joram sought his advice, and Benhadad in sickness sent to him to be healed, for he exercised miraculous powers. He cured Naaman of leprosy and performed many wonderful deeds, chiefly beneficent in character.
Elisha took no part in the revolutions of the palace, but he anointed Jehu to be king over Israel, and predicted to Hazael his future elevation. His chief business was as president of a school of the prophets. His career as prophet lasted fifty-five years. He lived to a good old age, and when he died, was buried with great pomp as a man of rank, in favor with the court, for it was through him that Jehu subsequently reigned. During the life of Elijah, however, Elisha was his companion and coadjutor. More is said in Jewish history of Elisha than of Elijah, though the former was not so lofty and original a character as the latter. We are told that though Elisha inherited the mantle of his master, he received only two-thirds of his master's spirit. But he was regarded as a great prophet for over fifty years, even beyond the limits of Israel. Unlike Elijah, Elisha preferred the companionship of men rather than life in a desert. He fixed his residence in Samaria, and was highly honored and revered by all classes ; he exercised a great influence on the king of Israel, and carried on the work which Elijah
began. He was statesman as well as prophet, and the trusted adviser of the king; but his distinguished career did not begin till after Elijah had ascended to heaven.
After the consecration of Elisha there is nothing said about Elijah for some years, during which Ahab was involved in war with Benhadad, king of Damascus. After that unfortunate contest it would seem that Ahab had resigned himself to pleasure, and amused himself with his gardens at Jezreel. During this time Elijah had probably lived in retirement; but was again summoned to declare the judgment of God on Ahab for a most atrocious murder.
In his desire to improve his grounds Ahab cast his eyes on a fertile vineyard belonging to a distinguished and wealthy citizen named Naboth, which had been in the possession of his family even since the conquest. The king at first offered a large price for this vineyard, which he wished to convert into a garden of flowers, but Naboth refused to sell it for any price. “God forbid,” said he, with religious scruples blended with the pride of ancestry, “ that I should give to thee the inheritance of my fathers.” Powerful and despotic as was the king, he knew he could not obtain this coveted vineyard except by gross injustice and an act of violence, which even he dared not commit. It would be an open violation of the Jewish Constitution. By
the laws of Moses the lands of the Israelites, from the conquest, were inalienable. Even if they were sold for debt, after fifty years they would return to the family. The pride of ownership in real estate was one of the peculiarities of the Hebrews until after their final dispersion. After the fall of Jerusalem by Titus, personal property came to be more valued than real estate, and the Jews became the money lenders and the bankers of the world. They might be oppressed and robbed, but they could hide away their treasures. A scrap of paper, they soon discovered, was enough to transfer in safety the largest sums. A Jew had only to give a letter of credit on another Jewish house, and a king could find ready money, if he gave sufficient security, for any enterprise. Thus rare jewels pledged for gold accumulated among the Hebrew merchants at an early date.
Ahab, disappointed in not being able without a crime to get possession of Naboth’s vineyard, abandoned himself to melancholy. In his deep chagrin he laid himself down on his bed, turned his face to the wall, and refused to eat. This seems strange to us, since he had more than enough, and there was no check on his ordinary pleasures. But covetous men never are satisfied. Ahab was miserable with all his possessions so long as Naboth was resolved to retain his paternal acres It seems that it did not occur even to this unprincipled king that he could get possession of the coveted vineyard if he resorted to craft and violence.
But his clever and unscrupulous wife came to his assistance. In her active brain she devised the means of success. She saw only the end; she cared nothing for the means. It is probable, indeed, that Jezebel hankered even more than Ahab for a garden of flowers. Yet even she dared not openly seize the vineyard. Such an outrage might have caused a rebellion ; it would, at least, have created a great scandal and injured her popularity, of which this artful woman was as tenacious as the Jew was of his property. Moreover, Naboth was a very influential and wealthy citizen, and had friends to support him. How could she remove the grievous eye-sore? She pondered and consulted the doctors of the law, as Henry VIII. made use of Cranmer when he wished to marry Anne Boleyn. They told her that if it could be proved that any one, however high his rank, had blasphemed God and the king, he could legally be executed, and that his property would revert to the Crown. So she suborned false witnesses, who swore at the trial of Naboth, already seized for high treason, that he had blasphemed God and the king. Sentence, according to law, was passed upon the innocent man, and according to law he was stoned to death, and the vineyard according to law became the property of the Crown. Jezebel, who had