All sorts of assertions are made from 1 Kings 19:19, (i.e. Elisha was well-to-do because he owned 24 oxen).

My first question of this passage is simply that is it correct to assume that He owned the oxen and/or field?

Is there something about the text that means you couldn't instead assume:

  • Perhaps he was hired help on the field (because he owned oxen)
  • Perhaps he owned the land and rented the other oxen
  • Perhaps he owned the land and the oxen were the neighbours oxen (ie they help each other plow)

c.f. How would Elisha plowing with 12 oxen have been understood at the time of writing?

2 Answers 2


Oxen were very expensive in biblical times. Few farmers owned even a single team of them. In ancient documents from elsewhere in the Near East, there are records of farmers renting them from wealthy owners or even government officials.

My assumption that that Elisha owns both the oxen and the land is that he's in charge of the whole team of and yet he's driving a plow himself. If he was just a farm hand, the text wouldn't have made an issue of him also driving a team. And the fact that he sacrificed two of the oxen strongly implies ownership - otherwise it would have been quite a crime, because oxen were very expensive.

I read the text as telling readers that Elisha owns 12 pairs of oxen in order to inform them that he was an industrious farmer and a man of means. But Elisha was also impassioned about his calling as Elijah's successor, because he burned his plow and sacrificed a pair of oxen, showing his commitment to leave behind his prosperous agrarian lifestyle. He asks to kiss his parents goodbye, likely wanting to have his family's blessing. But when Elijah challenges him, he forgoes even that. This tells you that he's committed to family but willing to leave absolutely everything behind to follow Elijah. These details are provided to show you that Elisha was the right man to be the successor to Elijah, God's fiery, impassioned prophet.

OT narratives often select a few significant details that give key information about a character rather than describing him or her in many flowery words. That's partly because Hebrew doesn't have a lot of adjectives, and partly the style of the text was to "show" rather than "tell."


Elisha did not own the land. His property was likely only that pair of oxen which he later slaughtered and cooked to the people, and the plowing equipment that he burnt for the cooking.

First of all, Elisha was an ordinary man when Elijah found him. He did not have spiritual power to drive 12 yoke of oxen. He was likely just one of the twelve servant driving his own yoke of oxen. If he was wealthy, why did he keep himself as the twelfth working in the field?

After he determined to follow Elijah, he said goodbye to his parents and cooked meat to the people. He didn't have servants to do the cooking, and didn't have enough wood for the cooking. It indicated that Elisha was not the owner, nor the son of the owner of the land.

Another observation is, God mostly chose ordinary people to do mighty jobs. Elisha should be an ordinary one, a servant when Elijah found him.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.