Mentoring in the Old Testament: Part 2

In the first half of “Mentoring in the Old Testament” we looked at what mentoring is and how it was exemplified in the life of Jethro and Moses. In the second half I want to show a few more Old Testament examples of mentorship – some are good and some are bad.

Moses & Joshua

There are quite a few passages that deal with the relationship of Moses and Joshua.  I would encourage you to look at each, but here is a summary of what we learn from their mentoring relationship.

  1. Joshua was selected for mentoring because he showed good potential (Exodus 17:8-16).
  2. Joshua was given the opportunity for further service and training following the victory over Amalek (Exodus 24:12-14).
  3. Joshua showed love for and dedication to the Lord and the tabernacle of the Lord (Exodus 33:9-12).
  4. Joshua learned a lesson about humility from Moses (Numbers 11:24-30).  
  • He was given more opportunity to learn and develop as a leader because he had proven himself at this battle. His “promotion” was to a position of service.
  • He was given the opportunity to go places and see things that even the 70 elders did not get to experience (Exodus 24:12-1432:15-18).
  • When mentoring others we need to exercise patience.  Moses did not make Joshua second or third-in-command, he just gave him an opportunity to serve.  We need to be careful to not push people forward to fast.
  • Joshua was constantly around, learning, watching, growing, and maturing.
  • Most preparation for leadership is often behind the scenes and under the radar. More than just leadership abilities, knowledge of and love for God is essential in our growth and preparation

Here we see that:

  • Good mentors are secure in their calling and do not feel threatened by the gifts and blessings of others.
  • Good mentors don’t envy when they see God using someone else.
  • Good mentors don’t need to defend their position.
  1. Joshua proved himself to have courage despite the fears of the majority (Numbers 13-14) 

While others focused on the obstacles, Joshua saw what the Lord could do for them. Because Joshua and Caleb tried to convince the people to trust God, they would be allowed to enter the land 40 years later.  From Joshua we learn that those who would be Godly leaders must stand for what is right even when everyone else wants to do wrong.  They must not be intimidated or allow fear to control them.

  1. Moses prepared Joshua to receive the baton of leadership  (Numbers 27:12-23).

He honoured him in front of the people, encouraged him, challenged him, and reminded him that God would be with him (Deuteronomy 31).  From this, we learn:

  • Who will succeed us should be of the utmost importance.
  • God will ultimately choose the man, but we can help to prepare the men that God just might choose.
  • As we prepare our successor, we need to honour him and do all in our power to encourage him and to make him a success.
  • “We are not a success until we have a successor and we make him a success.” – Austin Gardner (my mentor)
  1. The day came that Joshua had to step up and lead the people without Moses’ help (Joshua 1). 

The right kind of mentoring will prepare men for the day they will have to stand alone without their mentor.  We must learn everything we can because one day our opportunity will come to lead.

Moses & Caleb

Relevant Scripture Passages: Num. 1314:6–934:16–19Josh. 14:6–15.

The mentoring of Caleb is not something that is directly described in the Bible but more implied.  It is very possible that Moses groomed Caleb for leadership, and inspired in him an unswerving faith in the Lord’s promises.

He was chosen to be one of the spies.  He had the courage to still the people and challenge them to possess the land despite a resistant majority.  Because he had ‘another spirit’, God allowed him to live on to go in to possess the land.

Caleb was chosen to be one of the spies as well (Numbers 13:6).  Even at 85 years of age, he had not lost his vision, his courage, and his desire to do something big for God.

The spirit, the zeal, and the courage of Caleb were no doubt inspired by the example of Moses.  Moses became the leader of the people at age 80.  Caleb learned from him that it does not matter what age you are, God can still use you and do great things through you.  Moses’ mentoring of Caleb was probably less formal than Joshua, but it still had a big impact in his life.

Samuel & Saul

Saul was a young man with great potential and much natural ability.  Saul started out well relying upon his natural ability, but his reign quickly deteriorated due to a lack of character and godliness.

Samuel did he best to try to shape the character of Saul. Even when Saul rebelled against the Lord, Samuel kept challenging him to repent and return to God.

From the story of Samuel and Saul in 1 Samuel, we learn a few things about mentoring:

  1. Mentors can only do so much. The people they mentor must be willing to obey God and must be willing to let God develop their character.
  2. Mentoring can be a heart-breaking thing. When we open our hearts up to love and help people, we are vulnerable to getting hurt. Samuel was excited about the young king and wanted the best for him. (10:1) Saul made mistake after mistake that cost him the kingdom (13:8-14, 15:9-35). Samuel mourned for Saul because he was rejected from being king (16:1).
  3. We should not get all of our hopes and dreams so wrapped in one person that we cannot move on and help others when that one individual does not work out (16:1).
  4. Who we choose to mentor may not always be the guy with the greatest potential or the one that everyone would pick first (16:6-13).

Jonathan & David

Jonathan and David were friends, but much more than that.  Jonathan was most likely older than David and certainly of a higher status, but he was willing to do everything in his power to make David a success.  Notice several things about their mentoring relationship:

  1. Jonathan was a mighty man of God himself. He won several decisive victories for Israel and single-handedly took on a whole garrison of the Philistines (1 Samuel 13-14).
  2. Jonathan became a very close friend to David after the victory over Goliath (1 Samuel 18).Jonathan made a covenant with David, and his friendship was the most precious gift David was ever given.
  3. Jonathan demonstrated loyalty to David despite very adverse circumstances. Jonathan defended David before his own father, continually spoke good about David, and was at peace about David becoming the next king in his own place (1 Samuel 19-20).
  4. Jonathan was committed to encouraging and helping his friend. When David was running for his life, Jonathan endangered himself by going to David and encouraging his hand in God (1 Samuel 23:16-17).

Mentoring lessons:

  • For mentoring to take place and be most effective, there must be trust, loyalty, sacrificial love, and no envy.
  • The key to making others a success is unconditional love, sacrificial investment, and unselfish joy at another’s advancement.
  • If we want to mentor, we must relinquish our claim on the throne and do all in our power to exalt another to the throne!
  • To effectively mentor, we must be committed to being a friend, an encouragement, and a help even when it may cost us greatly and put us at great risk.
  • We need to sensitive to key times of discouragement and crisis and be there to help and lift them up.

Where would the great king of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, have been if it were not for his friend and mentor Jonathan who loved him, encouraged him, and believed in him?  Read 2 Samuel 1:17-27 to see how David felt about Jonathan.

Elijah & Elisha

One of the best examples of intentional mentoring in the Old Testament is found in Elijah and Elisha.

  1. Elijah was God’s prophet, and God used him in powerful ways. He commanded it to not rain, and it did not rain for three years and six months (1 Kings 17:1James 5:17).  During the drought, He was supernaturally sustained by God  at the brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:2-7) and later through the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16).  When the widow’s son died, Elijah, with God’s help, raised him back to life again (1 Kings 17:17-24).  He prayed down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel and then killed the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40).  Later, Elijah prayed and it began to rain again (1 Kings 18:41-46James 5:18).
  2. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are (James 5:17). He was a man who got weak and tired like anyone else. He got discouraged and ran for his life after the great victory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:1-3).  Despite his weaknesses and frailties, God greatly used him and helped him to be a wonderful mentor to Elisha.  Elijah shows us that we don’t have to be perfect to train others.  It is important that a mentor be willing to be transparent so that others can identify with them.
  3. Elisha jumped at the chance to be trained for ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21). Elisha already had a job and some wealth, but, judging by the way he responded to Elijah’s invitation, he was not happy.  He jumped at the chance to follow Elijah.  He was willing his work, his possessions, and his family the ministry.  He sacrifices are similar to the ones Christ asks of His disciples (Luke 14:26-27,33).  Elijah on the other hand did not beg Elisha to follow him.  Just like Christ, he did not want a half-hearted disciple (Luke 9:57-62).  Over the few years, Elisha served Elijah.  As Elijah’s servant, Elisha learned through watching, helping, and being with him.  He was extremely committed to Elijah, as seen in 2 Kings 2.  He would not leave Elijah’s side, and, when it came time for Elijah to leave, Elisha became his successor.  He would go on to be used in even greater ways than his mentor.

What are some lessons we can learn about mentoring from Elijah and Elisha?

  • Before we can really mentor and train others, we must be who we ought to be.
  • Mentors are not perfect people, but they are willing to be transparent and to invest in the one being mentored.
  • Mentoring requires a deep commitment by both parties.
  • Mentoring is about service not position.
  • Mentoring is a long-term commitment.
  • Mentoring produces some of the finest leaders, who often do even greater things than the one who mentors.


I hope that this will be an encouragement and help to you.  I know that I really enjoyed studying these mentoring relationships in the Old Testament.

Let me know in the comments section of this blog what you have learned about mentoring and what you would add to these thoughts.  Thank you.

About the author

Travis has been a church planter to the United Kingdom since 2002 and also serves as the Europe Field Director for Vision Baptist Missions.

Leave a Reply

Get Articles in Your Inbox