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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Kings 2

Verses 1-11

Second Kings - Chapter 2

Translation o1 Elijah – Verses 1-11

There is no indication in the Scriptures how much time elapsed between the call of Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21) and the translation of Elijah. Whatever time there was must have included the constant companionship of the older prophet and the younger, so that each had endeared himself to the other. Now it was time for old Elijah to be removed from the walks of men, and it was common knowledge to the prophets, teachers and students. Elijah seems even to have known the manner of his departure, and Elisha may also have known from obvious statements he made. How the Lord revealed this event to His servants is unknown. It seems the young prophets from the schools thought that Elisha may perhaps not have known.

As he left for his meeting with the Lord Elijah was accompanied by his understudy, Elisha. They came to Gilgal, where Elijah requested Elisha to remain while he proceeded to Bethel. But Elisha swore by the living Lord and by the life of Elijah he would not leave him. So they came to Bethel, where was one of the schools of the prophets. It was here that the student prophets first inquired of Elisha of his knowledge of what was about to occur relative to his master. Elisha did not wish to speak of it, informing them that he was aware of it, and they should be quiet concerning it. Again Elijah urged Elisha to remain behind while he proceeded as ordered by the Lord to Jericho, and Elisha repeated his oath that he would, by no means be shaken from his resolution to accompany Elijah to the end.

At Jericho the routine that was experienced at Bethel was repeat­ed. The young prophets in the school at Jericho came out to inform Eli­sha of the impending loss of his master, and he again admonished them to hold their peace concerning it. And again the older prophet urged Eli­sha to remain behind at Jericho, as the Lord had commanded him to move on to Jordan Still Elisha persisted in his refusal to leave Elijah, and the two pressed on. Their road had led from central Israel (Probably the Samaria area) southward, passing through Gilgal in the tribe of Eph­raim near Shiloh, to Bethel at the border of Benjamin, on to Jericho in the plain of Jordan And now it proceeds to the crossing of the Jordan

Fifty of the young prophets came and stood on a hill to see what was about to happen in the plain of Jordan The two prophets came to the river, and Elijah removed his mantle, rolled it up, and smote the waters with it. They immediately parted, and the two proceeded to cross on dry ground. As they walked on, Elijah asked Elisha what he should do for him before he was taken away. Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, and Elijah replied that he had asked for a hard thing. However, if he saw when Elijah was taken he would receive it, otherwise he would not.

Of what did the double portion of the spirit consist? No one seems to be certain. Some have said it was manifested in the fact twice as many miracles of Elisha are recorded as of Elijah. The Scriptures say that God does not give the Spirit by measure (John 3:34), and the desir­able spirit of Elijah must have been that of the Lord in him. In fact, the re­quest of Elisha for a double portion seems to imply his humility in feeling his incapability and lack of boldness when compared with Elijah. He wanted to have command of the power of God as Elijah had had. He had demonstrated the kind of persistence and desire to know God’s will in continuing with Elijah that would be rewarded by such blessing as he requested. For a present day application of this desire see 1 Peter 2:2 and Mr 9:23.

As the two prophets continued on their way conversing there suddenly appeared a chariot and horses of fire, which passed between them and separated them. Elijah was borne up into heaven by a whirlwind (see also verse 1). Was Elijah actually conveyed by a fiery chariot and horses as is commonly thought? and as the popular spiritual implies? The Scriptures do not specifically say so. It was the whirlwind which bore him aloft, though the chariot and horses may have been in the whirlwind. It is merely an interesting question and certainly not vital to the lesson and teaching.

Verses 12-18

Elisha’s Double Portion - Verses 12-18

Elisha saw the fiery chariot and horses and cried out, as it wafted his father in the ministry heavenward, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." And as he gazed into the heavens he saw Elijah disappear from his sight. It was a sight which reminds one of the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:8-11), and well it might. This translation of Elijah was a prophetic figure of the rapture of the living saints when the Lord returns in glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The ascension of Christ, He having first broken the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), was with promise of His return to receive to Himself the saved (John 14:3).

Elisha had qualified for receipt of the double portion. The mantle of Elijah had fallen down to him, and he gathered it up and returned to the Jordan There he smote the waters with the mantle, as Elijah had done, saying, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah," proving to himself whether God would, indeed, grant to him that miraculous power or not. And the water parted for him, as it had for Elijah, and he crossed back to Jericho on dry ground. The fifty observers on the hill took in these things and im­mediately concluded that the spirit possessed by Elijah had come upon Elisha. They came meeting him and bowing to him as obedient servants to hear the work of the Lord through him as they had previously listened to Elijah.

Elisha, however, was immediately faced with a problem of weak faith on the part of the student prophets. Though they had seen the miracle performed by both prophets at the Jordan’s water and must have detected the departure of Elijah (though it is unlikely they saw the fiery chariot and horses as Elisha did), they were fearful that the old prophet might be stranded out in the wilderness on a high mountain or in a deep valley. They volunteered to go out and search for him. though they had known that the Lord was going to remove Elijah from Elisha’s head that very day, they became fearful lest the Lord was not able to get him into heaven, and had left him stranded in the wilderness. How weak the faith of men often is!

Elisha forbade them to go looking for him, but they aggravated him about it until he finally consented for them to go, to prove for themselves that Elijah had gone to heaven. After the fifty men had searched for three days they came back and reported to Elisha that they had found nothing. Elisha reminded them of how he had told them not to go.

Verses 19-22

It has been seen that a man from Bethel, Hiel, rebuilt the city of Jericho in the time of King Ahab, contrary to the curse which was uttered by Joshua in the name of the Lord on the day of its fall to Israel.

(Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34). Yet the city remained under a curse. It appears that the water was so polluted that it caused disease of the people and kept the land from bearing. However, its climate and situation were otherwise very conducive to habitation. It is not known how the people who dwelled there escaped its deadliness.

The elders of Jericho came to Elisha appealing to him to intercede with the Lord to lift the curse from their city. Elisha asked for a new cruse filled with salt. Then he took to the poisonous springs, cast the salt in them, and said in the name of the Lord, "1 have healed these waters." He promised there would be no more death or unproductive land as a result of the springs. The waters remained fresh and good at the time of the inspired record. Today Jericho is a beautiful oasis, producing beautiful flowers and fruits. Tourists are shown the spring, puportedly the very one healed by the ministration of Elisha (it is called Elisha’s spring or well), and the water is free-flowing and good.

A modern parallel can be made to the condition in Jericho. Theirs was a civic problem, and there is scarcely a city in the world today without civic problems of crime, pollution, etc. The cure for Jericho was a new cruse filled with salt. Mayors and other civic leaders today need to try a "new" cruse filled with "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). If good Godfearing people could get in control of city government, and all other governments, that would do much to cure the curse on them.

Verses 23-25

Case of Juvenile Delinquency - Verses 23-25

Upon leaving Jericho, in the tribe of Benjamin, of the kingdom of Judah, Elisha started homeward, to the kingdom of Israel. His route lay back through Bethel, where people still worshipped the golden calves of Jeroboam, and where that idol temple was located. The people must have been intolerant and critical of those who still held on to the "old" religion, such as Elijah and Elisha, and the school of young prophets located there. And as in every such case, the children had learned from their parents to mock the Lord’s people also.

The casual reader of the King James Version, finding that these mockers of Elisha were "little children," might think the prophet used his power abusively. But such is not the case. The Hebrew word is not taph, which means "a little one," but na-ar, which means "a young man, or child." The mockers knew what they were doing. They were reflecting the delinquency of their parents. By ridiculing God’s prophet they were reproaching Him (Psalms 69:9; Romans 15:3). In disrespecting the bald­headed prophet they were showing disrespect for God, and He will always punish those guilty.

Forty-two of them were mauled and maimed by the two female bears which Elisha called against them. How many young people today are maimed, crippled, and killed by the negligence of promiscuous parents who allow them to indulge in alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, and other forms of evil? There is surely a parallel in this incident.

Elisha continued on his way, going first to Carmel, where Elijah had got the great victory over the Baal prophets (1Ki, chapter 18). Perhaps he sought spiritual strength by going there to commune with God. Eventually he went on to Samaria, the capital.

Lessons from these incidents: 1) younger people should be diligent in learning all possible from their godly parents; 2) persistence in the Lord will reap good dividends: 3) the student should desire to excel his teacher; 4) the spirituality of God’s servants should be apparent to others; 5)doubt concerning the Lord’s power will lead to embarrassment of the doubter; 6) whatever the Lord heals remains healed; 7) "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-2.html. 1985.