Scripture reading – 2 Kings 2
“And it came to pass,” and with those words, so began the last stage of the prophet Elijah’s life. After a long, and courageous ministry as God’s prophet to Israel, the day of promotion had come, for “the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2:1).
Elijah’s Final Journey (2:2-9a)
Elisha, the man chosen by the LORD to be His prophet to Israel, was with Elijah at Gilgal, when the old prophet said, “Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el” (2:a). Elisha, however, protested, and said, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el” (2:2b).
Elijah and Elisha journeyed from Gilgal (the ancient place where Israel had first encamped in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:9), and they came to Bethel where Elijah was met by “the sons (or a company) of the prophets” (2:3). The prophets asked Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?” (2:3b). Elisha acknowledged he was aware the old prophet would soon depart, and perhaps with a heavy heart answered, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:3).
Departing Bethel, Elijah offered Elisha to stay at Bethel, but the young prophet declared, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho” (2:4). At Jericho, that ancient oasis in the desert, Elijah was met by a company of prophets who queried Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:5).
Elijah once again prevailed upon Elisha to stay at Jericho, “for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan [River]” (2:6). Again, Elisha would not remain behind, and insisted on journeying with Elisha to the Jordan (2:6). Departing from Jericho, the prophets of that town followed Elijah and Elisha from a distance, and observed the waters of the river part when Elijah struck the river with his mantle (2:9).
Elisha’s Request (2:9b-10).
The two prophets stood on the western shore of the Jordan, and Elijah questioned his young protégé, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee” (2:9b). Knowing he would soon face the challenge of being the prophet to Israel without Elijah, Elisha made a bold, but insightful request, and said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2:9c). Feeling the weight of his calling, and the responsibility of facing a rebellious people without his mentor, Elisha’s request for a double anointing of the Spirit’s power was an acknowledgement that his task was beyond his strength and ability. Elijah assured Elisha, should God give him opportunity to see him taken up to heaven, then his request for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit would be granted (2:10).
Elijah’s Glorious Departure (2:11-13)
Continuing their journey, suddenly the heavens opened and “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” appeared, “and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11). Showing his affection for Elijah, Elisha cried out to the old prophet, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2:12). In an act of sorrow, Elisha tore his clothes, and then “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” (2:13).
Three Miracles Confirmed God’s Anointing on Elisha (2:14-25)
Standing on the shore of the Jordan, Elisha took Elijah’s mantle, struck the river, and said, “Where is the LordGod of Elijah?” (2:14). The waters parted, and Elisha went to the other side (2:14). Seeing Elisha perform the same miracle as Elijah, the prophets exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2:15).
Having sought, but not finding Elijah (2:16-18), some men of Jericho came to Elisha contending the water of that city was bad, and the ground was infertile. Elisha went to the spring that watered the oasis, and casting in salt, the water was purified (2:19-22).
The third miracle was a tragic one, for as Elisha approached Bethel, young children came out of the city, “and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head [perhaps in the manner it was said Elijah had gone up to heaven]” (2:23). Elisha rebuked the children “in the name of the LORD” (2:24). Immediately, “there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them”(2:24).
Closing thoughts – The LORD left no doubt that Elisha was a man of God, and He sternly defended the honor of His prophet. We do not know the homes from which those children came, but they did not manifest a fear of the God of Israel, and together they taunted and scorned His servant. Tragic as it was for 42 children of that city to be struck down, it was nevertheless and act of justice that sent throughout Israel the news: There was a prophet in Israel, and his name was Elisha.
God’s will is for His servants to be respected, and we read, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1). Let no believer take lightly the consequences of failing to render “honour to whom honour” is due (Romans 13:7).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith