Scripture reading – 2 Kings 2

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“And it came to pass,” and with those words, the last stage of the prophet Elijah’s life began. Elijah served a long and courageous ministry as God’s prophet to Israel. Nevertheless, the day of his promotion came, for “the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2 Kings 2:1).


Elijah’s Final Journey (2 Kings 2:2-9a)


Elisha, the man whom the LORD chose to succeed Elijah as His prophet to Israel, was with Elijah at Gilgal. There, the old prophet said to his protégé’, “Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el” (2 Kings 2:2a). 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 Kings 2:2b).

Elijah’s Final Journey (2 Kings 2:2-9a)

Elijah and Elisha then journeyed from Gilgal (the ancient place where Israel had first encamped in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:9). They came to Bethel, where Elijah was met by “the sons (or a company) of the prophets” (2 Kings 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 Kings 2:3).

Departing Bethel, Elijah offered Elisha to stay at Bethel. Still, the young prophet declared, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho” (2 Kings 2:4). Arriving 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 Kings 2:5).

Elijah once again prevailed upon Elisha to stay at Jericho and said, “for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan [River]” (2 Kings 2:6). Again, Elisha would not remain behind and insisted on journeying with Elisha to the Jordan (2 Kings 2:6). Departing from Jericho, the prophets of that town followed Elijah and Elisha from a distance, and observed the waters of the river parted when Elijah struck the river with his mantle (2 Kings 2:9).


Elisha’s Request (2 Kings 2:9b-10).

Then, the two prophets stood on the eastern shore of the Jordan River. Interested in Elisha’s welfare after his departure, Elijah posed a question to his young protégé, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee” (2 Kings 2:9b). Elisha, knowing he would soon face the challenge of being the prophet to Israel without Elijah, made a bold, but insightful request, and said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 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 acknowledgment that his task was beyond his strength and ability. Elijah assured Elisha that should God allow him to see him taken up to heaven, his request for a “double portion” of his spirit would be granted (2 Kings 2:10).

Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24)

Elijah’s Glorious Departure (2 Kings 2:11-13)

They continued their journey when suddenly the heavens opened and “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” appeared, “and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). Expressing his affection for Elijah, Elisha cried out to the old prophet, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof”(2 Kings 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 Kings 2:13).


Three Miracles Confirmed God’s Anointing on Elisha (2 Kings 2:14-25)

First, standing on the shore of the Jordan, Elisha took Elijah’s mantle, struck the waters, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). Immediately, the waters parted. Elisha went to the other side (2:14). The prophets, having seen Elisha perform the same miracle as Elijah, exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:15).

Some men of Jericho approached Elisha and desired to look for Elijah’s body, supposing the LORD might have taken him up only to “cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley” (2:16). Though he denied their request, they insisted, then journeyed for three days, and returned without Elijah’s body (2:18-18). Then, some men of Jericho came to Elisha and contended that the city’s water was bad and the ground infertile. Elisha performed his second miracle by casting salt into the spring, thus purifying that city’s water (2 Kings 2:19-22).

The third miracle was a tragic one. As Elisha approached Bethel, young children (most likely young boys) came out of the city “and mocked [i.e., bullied] 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 Kings 2:23). Elisha rebuked them “in the name of the LORD” (2 Kings 2:24). Immediately, “there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them” (2 Kings 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 they were guilty of taunting and scorning His servant. Though tragic for the 42 children of Beth-el to be struck down, it was nonetheless an act of justice, and the news spread throughout Israel:

There was a prophet in Israel, and his name was Elisha.

For the sake of application, let us be reminded that it is God’s will that His servants should be honored and respected. In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1).  

Let no believer take lightly the consequences of failing to render “honor to whom honor” is due (Romans 13:7).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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