23 Jun Thursday June 23
Elisha, the farmer, plows his field with the twelve oxen, probably symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel. The story does not tell of his anointing, but of Elijah’s covering him with his cloak, which is reminiscent of an ancient near east custom, found in the Ennuma Elish and the Gilgamesh Epic. In the whole story, Elijah anoints a Syrian kind and the king of the northern tribes as well as Elisha; all this is to restore peace to lands torn by constant warfare incited by Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. The story’s missing verse is also about the fidelity of those who have not worshipped Baal. For Israel as well as Elisha it is a time of decision for God’s rule over them. It is a test of faithfulness. God promises salvation and abundance for the faithful. Twelve oxen feeds a lot of people. Elisha is loosed from this farming and finds a new freedom in service to the prophet and by extension service to the people. This freedom tradition is taken up by Paul writing to the Galatians and by Jesus is the formation of his disciples. We ask ourselves, then about our own “freedom”, our discipleship, and the decisions we’ve made in our lives today. Bishops and evangelicals merely create a kind of slavery to the flesh pots of Essau and Egypt.