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The events of this chapter are related out of their chronological order. Elijah’s translation did not take place until after the accession of Jehoram in Judah 2 Chronicles 21:12, which was not until the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel 2 Kings 8:16. The writer of Kings, having concluded his notices of the ministry of Elijah in chapter 1, and being about to pass in 2 Kings 3:0 to the ministry of Elisha, thought it best to insert at this point the final scene of Elijah’s life, though it did not occur until several years later.
Gilgal - The modern Jiljilieh, on the highland between Nablous and Beitin (Bethel), about eight and a half miles from the latter, is now commonly supposed to be the Gilgal here mentioned. Some regard it as the ordinary residence of Elisha 2 Kings 4:38.
Tarry here - Elijah’s motive in making this request is not clear. Perhaps he thought that so awful and sacred a scene as that which he was led to expect 2 Kings 2:9, should be kept as secret as possible.
The Lord hath sent me to Bethel - Elijah may have been directed to Bethel, because of the “School of the prophets” there, that the sight of him - if not his words - might console and encourage them before they lost him forever.
As the Lord liveth ... - This double oath, repeated three times 2 Kings 2:4, 2 Kings 2:6, is very remarkable. The two clauses of it are separately used with some frequency (see Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Samuel 1:26, etc.), but it is comparatively seldom that they are united (see the marginal references).
Came forth to Elisha - It does not appear that any interchange of speech took place between “the sons of the prophets” (see the marginal reference note) and Elijah; but independent revelations had been made to the two “schools” at Bethel and Jericho 2 Kings 2:5, and also to Elisha, with respect to Elijah’s coming removal.
From thy head - i. e. from his position as teacher and master. The teacher sat on an elevated seat, so that his feet were level with the heads of his pupils (compare Acts 22:3).
Hold ye your peace - i. e. “Say nothing - disturb us not. The matter is too sacred for words.”
Fifty men of the sons of the prophets - We see by this how large were the prophetical schools. It is implied that the “fifty” were only a portion of the school of Jericho. They ascended the abrupt heights behind the town, from where they would command a view of the whole course of the river and of the opposite bank for many miles.
They were divided ... - The attestation to the divine mission of Elijah furnished by this miracle would tend to place him upon a par in the thoughts of men with the two great leaders of the nation named in the marginal references.
Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me - Like Solomon, Elisha asks for no worldly advantage, but for spiritual power to discharge his office aright. The “double portion” is that which denotes the proportion of a father’s property which was the right of an eldest son Deuteronomy 21:17. Elisha therefore asked for twice as much of Elijah’s spirit as should be inherited by any other of the “sons of the prophets.” He simply claimed, i. e., to be acknowledged as Elijah’s firstborn spiritual son.
It would be better to omit the words “when I am,” which are not in the original. The sign was to be Elisha’s seeing the actual translation, which he did 2 Kings 2:12.
Elijah went up ... - No honest exegesis can explain this passage in any other sense than as teaching the translation of Elijah, who was taken from the earth, like Enoch Genesis 5:24, without dying. Compare Ecclesiasticus 48:9.
The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof - These difficult words are probably said of Elijah, whom Elisha addresses as “the true defense of Israel, better than either the chariots or horsemen” which he saw. Hence, his rending his clothes in token of his grief.
Where ... - Some prefer, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah, even he? And when he had smitten, etc.” Or, according to others, “now when he, etc.” Elisha’s smiting of the waters seems to have been tentative. He was not sure of its result. Hence, the form of his invocation - “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Is He here - i. e. - with me, or is He not?” Answered by the event, he appears never subsequently to have doubted.
Compare the marginal references. The words “cast him upon some mountain,” rather imply that they expected to find the prophet alive.
Till he was ashamed - i. e. to refuse them any longer.
The water is naught - i. e. “bad.”
And the ground barren - Translate “and the land apt to miscarry.” The stream was thought to be the cause of untimely births, abortions, and the like, among the cattle, perhaps also among the people, that drank of it.
The “new cruse” and the “salt” are evidently chosen from a regard to symbolizm. The foul stream represents sin, and to cleanse it emblems of purity must he taken. Hence, the clean “new” dish previously unused, and thus untainted; and the salt, a common Scriptural symbol of incorruption (see Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24; Matthew 5:13, etc.).
The spring of the waters - The spring intended is probably that now called Ain-es-Sultan, which is not much more than a mile from the site of the ancient town. It is described as a large and beautiful fountain of sweet and pleasant water. The springs issuing from the eastern base of the highlands of Judah and Benjamin are to this day generally brackish.
As Beth-el was the older seat of the calf-worship 1 Kings 12:32-33; 1 Kings 13:1-32, a prophet of Yahweh was not unlikely to meet with insult there.
By the way - i. e. “by the usual road,” probably that which winds up the Wady Suweinit, under hills even now retaining some trees, and in Elisha’s time covered with a dense forest, the haunt of savage animals. Compare 1 Kings 13:24; and for the general prevalence of beasts of prey in the country, both earlier and later than this, see Judges 14:5; 1Sa 17:31; 2 Kings 17:25; Amos 5:19, etc.
On this occasion only do we find Elisha a minister of vengeance. Perhaps it was necessary to show, at the outset of his career as a prophet, that he too, so mild and peaceful could, like Elijah, wield the terrors of God’s judgments (1 Kings 19:19 note). The persons really punished were, not so much the children, as the wicked parents 2 Kings 2:23, whose mouth-pieces the children were, and who justly lost the gift of offspring of which they had shown themselves unworthy.
Carmel - Where Elisha held gatherings for religious purposes 2 Kings 4:23-25 during one period of his life, if he did not actually reside there.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany