A Christian source claims:

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4)

Christians claim that Elijah and Elisha helped almost nobody. The 2 people that they did help happen to be non-Jewish.

Is this true?

If it were true, why is it true?

What did Naaman and the widow do that not one of the Israelites did that Elijah and Elisha helped those gentiles instead of any Jew?

  • You seemed to be asking one thing in the title and another in the body. I've made an edit to bring them together. Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 18:57
  • 1
    both Elijah AND Elisha?!? ...what about all the stuff that Elisha did for the kings of Israel, all the way into his old age? Have another good perusal through the first 14 chapters of II Melachim...
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 22:50
  • 1
    ....btw, the "Christian sources" didn't always pay the best attention to umm...factual details, especially in the polemic material....
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 22:57
  • I challenge that this entire question is irrelevant, as the job a prophet is not to perform miracles, but to be the messenger of G-d to the people, and the interlocutor on behalf of the people to G-d. In other words, you may (still) be asking the wrong question. You might ask, simply, what was so special about those individuals who received personal miracles?
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 14:46
  • I got good answers. I'll ask the Christians. That being said, Elisha did only cure one lepper
    – user4951
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


Well, Eliyahu's most-famous, grandest miracle, the battle with the priests of Ba'al on Mount Carmel, was for the benefit of the Israelites who were straying from God's path. I think that counts for something. Tradition accords many other miracles to Eliyahu, again for the benefit of Jews.

Elisha performed other miracles than the ones you list. Here are some, summarized from this article:

  • Saving the widow of the prophet Obadiah from poverty and saving her children from being sold into slavery (the pot of oil).

  • Saving the life of the Shunemite woman's child.

  • Sustaining the prophets (who were Jewish) at Gilgal with a miraculous bounty of food (that other guy didn't invent the multiplying-loaves miracle).

  • The miracle of the ax-head at the Jordan, done for one of Elisha's disciples (assumed to be Jewish).


[OP]: Is this true that Elijah and Elisha didn't perform any miracle to help Jews?

Of course not. See the previous answer for a few details.

[OP]: Christians claim that Elijah and Elisha helped almost nobody.

This is not a Christian claim, nor is it claimed in the text cited. The New Testament quote is quite clear that the point being made is that Elijah did not aid Israelite widows (which, as it happens, is true), and Elisha did not heal Israelite lepers (which, again as it happens, is also true). These are not summary statements on the whole of their prophetic careers.

Two other brief observations relevant to the question. (1) Similar sorts of "incident citation" can be seen in the Tanakh itself, e.g. Jeremiah 26:18, which cites a single verse from Micah (3:12). Was this the only thing Micah said? No, of course not. The dynamic is similar in the Luke 4 quote.

(2) Elsewhere in the New Testament Elisha in particular is held up as a model intercessor on behalf of Israel. Even Christian sources understand that these prophets spent themselves primarily for the sake their own people.

  • "The widow of the prophet Obadiah" doesn't count as a widow?
    – Yishai
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 13:29
  • 1
    @Yishai - she counts as a widow, but not one that Elijah ever met. The tradition is that the widow of an unnamed prophet helped by Elisha in 2 Kings 4 is Obadiah's - but this is not a biblical tradition. It is found in the Targum, in Josephus and later in Rashi. But the statement in my post remains accurate, I believe.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 14:07
  • Ah, I was missing the importance of segregating the two like that.
    – Yishai
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 14:13

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