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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.

When the Lord would take up Elijah. A revelation of this event; had been made to the prophet; but, unknown to him, it had also been revealed to his disciples, and to Elisha in particular, who kept constantly beside him.

Gilgal. This Gilgal (Jiljil) was near Ebal and Gerizim: a school of the prophets was established there. At Beth-el there was also a school of the prophets, which Elijah had founded, notwithstanding that place was the headquarters of the calf-worship; and at Jericho there was another. In traveling to these places, which he had done through the impulse of the Spirit (2 Kings 2:2; 2 Kings 2:4-6), Elijah wished to pay a farewell visit to the several institutions, which lay on his way to the place of ascension; and at the same time, from a feeling of humility and modesty to be in solitude, where there would be no eye-witnesses of his glorification. All his efforts, however, to prevail on his attendant to remain behind were fruitless. Elisha knew that the time was at hand, and at every place the sons of the prophets spoke to him of the approaching removal of his master. Their last stage was at the Jordan, in going to which they were followed at a distance by fifty scholars of the prophets, from Jericho, who were desirous, in honour of the great occasion, to witness the miraculous translation of the prophet (cf. 1 Samuel 7:15) 'Jericho,' says Drew. ('Scripture Lands,' p. 99) 'is very seldom mentioned in the history before the captivity, and chiefly in connection with the "schools of the prophets," whose habits and personal discipline were favoured by the wildness of the bordering desert.' The revelation of this striking event to so many was a necessary part of the dispensation; because it was designed to be, under the law, like that of Enoch in the patriarchal age, a visible proof of another state, and a type of the resurrection of Christ.

Verse 2

And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. Take away thy master from thy head - an allusion to the custom of scholars sitting at the feet of their master, the latter being over their heads (Acts 22:3).

Verses 4-6

And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.

They two stood by Jordan, [ `al (H5921) ha-Yardeen (H3383), upon the Jordan; so Septuagint, epi tou Iordanou.

Verse 8

And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.

Elijah took his mantle, [ 'adartow (H155)]. This word generally denotes a large and sumptuous cloak (Joshua 7:21; Jonah 3:6); but here, the hairy mantle of the prophet (cf. 2 Kings 2:13-14; 1 Kings 19:13; 1 Kings 19:19; Zechariah 13:4; also Genesis 25:25); Septuagint, teen meelooteen, the sheep's skin (Hebrews 11:37).

And wrapped it together, [ wayiglom (H1563)] - rolled it like a staff.

And smote the waters. Like the rod of Moses, it had the divinely operating power of the Spirit (Exodus 7:19; Exodus 8:5; Exodus 8:16; Exodus 9:23; Exodus 10:13; Exodus 14:16: cf. 2 Kings 2:20).

Verse 9

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.

Elijah ... Ask what I shall do for thee - trusting either that it would be in his power to bequeath it, or that God, at his entreaty, would grant it.

Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me [ piy (H6310) shªnayim (H8147)] - a portion of two; i:e., a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17). This request was not, as is commonly supposed, for the power of working miracles exceeding the magnitude end number of his master's, nor does it mean a higher endowment of the prophetic spirit; because Elisha was neither superior to, nor perhaps equally great with, his predecessor. But the phrase, "a double portion," was applied to the first-born; and therefore Elisha's request was simply to be heir to the prophetic office and gifts of his master.

Verse 10

And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

Thou hast asked a hard thing - an extraordinary blessing, which I cannot, and God only can, give. Nevertheless Elijah, doubtless by the secret directions of the Spirit, proposed a sign, the observation of which would keep Elisha in the attitude of an anxious waiter, as well as suppliant, for the favour.

Verse 11

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

As they still went on, and talked. Surely that conference was needful, and upon matters of high importance to the Church and the nation, in connection with the promises of their covenant God, otherwise we might have expected it would have given way to private meditation, and Elijah had been taken up rather from his knees than from his feet. But as Dr. Hall remarks ('Contemplations,' 2:, pp. 25-29), 'There can be no better posture or state for the messenger of our dissolution to find us in, than in a diligent prosecution of our calling. The busy attendance on our holy vocation is no less pleasing to God than an immediate devotion.' 'Happy is the servant whom the Master, when he comes, shall find so doing.' Behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire - some bright effulgence, which, in the eyes of the spectators, resembled those objects. Angels are called "chariots," and represented as such in mysterious fire (Psalms 68:18; Ezekiel 1:4-13; Ezekiel 10:6). Angels are meant by chariots and "horses of fire," because, like chariots of war, they are the strength and protection of the Lord's people, and because of their swiftness in doing the work. Dean Stanley uses very ambiguous language respecting this miraculous event. He does not say that Elijah was lost in a tempest, but he does not accept the miraculous view given in the record, and seems to believe the prophet was carried off, like Romulus, in a thunderstorm, narrated in the Oriental style of description. Josephus, whom the Dean apparently follows ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 2:, sec. 2) says that 'Elijah disappeared from among men, and no one knows of his death to this very day. Indeed, as to Elijah and as to Enoch, it is written in the sacred books that they disappeared, but so that nobody knew that they died.'

That Enoch was actually translated, is placed beyond controversy by the testimony of the apostle. And the same conclusion is inferentially drawn in the analogous case of Elijah. Dr. Hall's observations on this translation of Elijah are too appropriate and beautiful to be disregarded,-`Long and happily had Elijah fought the wars of his God; and now, after his noble and glorious victories, God will send him a chariot of triumph. How full of heavenly joy was the soul of Elijah while he foreknew and looked for this instant happiness! Jordan must be crossed by Elijah in his way to heaven. There must be a parallel between the two great prophets that shall meet Christ at Tabor-Moses and Elias. Both received visions on Horeb; to both God appeared there-in fire and in other forms of terror; both were sent to kings-one to Pharaoh, the other to Ahab; both revenged idolatries with the sword-the one upon the worshippers of the golden calf, the other upon the 400 Baalites; both divided the waters-the one of the Red Sea, the other of Jordan; both must be fetched away beyond Jordan-the body of Elijah is translated, the body of Moses is hid. What Moses doth by his rod, Elijah does by his mantle; he only bids the waters stand aside, and they give way to his last walk, that he might with dry feet mount up into the celestial chariot.'

Went up by a whirlwind - a tempest or storm; wind accompanied with vivid flashes of fire, figuratively used for the divine judgments (Isaiah 24:6).

Verse 12

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father - i:e., spiritual father, as the pupils of the prophets are called their sons.

The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof - i:e., that is, as earthly kingdoms are dependent for their defense and glory upon warlike preparations, there a single prophet had done more for the preservation and prosperity of Israel than all her chariots and horsemen.

Took hold of his own clothes, and rent them - in token of his grief for his loss.

Verse 13

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

He took up also the mantle of Elijah. The transference of this prophetic cloak was, to himself, a pledge of his being appointed successor, and it was an outward token to others of the spirit of Elijah resting upon him.

Verse 14

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

Smote the waters. The waving of the mantle on the river, and the miraculous division of the waters consequent upon it, was an evidence that the Lord God of Elijah was with him; and as this miracle was witnessed by the scholars of the prophets from Jericho, they forthwith recognized the pre-eminence of Elisha, as now the prophet of Israel. The mantle of an old sooffee bequeathed to a young one, is equivalent to making him heir or successor. 'The mantle of a dervish is considered as sacred, and valued as a precious legacy, if it had belonged to a dervish of note. Such, ideas have been always prevalent in the East,' (see instances in Joseph Wolff's 'Missionary Labours,' p. 493, etc.)

Verse 15

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

When the sons of the prophets which were to view, [ mineged (H5048)] - from over against; i:e., from the opposite side of Jericho.

Verse 16

And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send. Fifty strong men; let them go ... and seek thy master. Though the young prophets from Jericho had seen Elijah's miraculous passage of the Jordan, they had not witnessed the ascension. They imagined that he might have been cast by the whirlwind on some mountain or valley; or, if he had actually been admitted into heaven, they expected that his body would still be remaining somewhere on earth. In compliance with their importunity, he gave them permission, but told them what the result would be.

Lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain. "The Spirit of the Lord," in their view, meant the whirlwind or thunderstorm.

Verses 17-18

And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.

The situation of this city is pleasant ... but the water is naught, and the ground barren. There is near some tumuli, marking the ancient site of Jericho, a foundation, 'Ain es Sultan, 'the Foundation of Elisha.' Its waters are diffused over the plain.

Verse 20

And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.

Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. The noxious qualities of the water could not be corrected by the infusion of salt; because, supposing the salt was possessed of such a property, a whole spring could not be purified by a dishful for a day, much less in all future time. The pouring in of the salt was a symbolic act with which Elisha accompanied the word of the Lord, by which the spring was healed.

Verse 21

And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.

Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters. There can be no reason to doubt that this is the spring which flowed into the city; because Elisha "went forth unto the spring of the waters," and healed it, and caused even the land to become fruitful, which before was barren; and the rich verdure which follows its outgoings, the delicate, fringe-like beauty of the branches and graceful tendrils, so soft and slender and varied, as they crowd together, running their roots and fibres into the stream, adding to the music of its waters and the beauty of the scenery, all attest the lasting power of these, words of Elisha (cf. Psalms 107:35-36). (Osborne's 'Palestine, Past and Present,' p. 427; Porter's 'Handbook,' p. 192; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,'

ii., p. 283; 'Tent and Khan,' p. 372).

There shall not be from thence any more death or barren land, [ haa'aarets (H776) mªshakaalet (H7921), land sterile, unproductive, waste]. The radical meaning of the word is given by our translators in the margin, 'causing to miscarry.' The learned editor of Calmet ('Fragments,' No. 5:) considers the word applicable not to the land itself, but to the ungenerative influence of the soil about Jericho upon its inhabitants. 'Since it never had occurred to our translators,' says he, 'that a city, which, by reason of some peculiarity in the land around it, was unfavourable to procreation or to parturition, could possibly be inhabited, and in fact be "pleasant," it has been usual to consider this word here (and here only) as expressing a blight on the fruits; but if this blight occurred every year, it were a circumstance no less singular (perhaps more so) than this fatal effect on animal life; and if this blight occurred but rarely, why ask the prophet to cure that to which all countries are sometimes subject? And, indeed, this seems contrary to the text, which says, "the city was pleasant;" for surely fertile trees contribute to the pleasantness of a city's situation; besides Jericho is noticed as the city of palm trees (2 Chronicles 28:15).

But what shall we say, if there be actually, at this time, cities in the same predicament as that in which Jericho was? Namely, where animal life of certain kinds, pines, decays, and dies; cities where that posterity which should replace the current mortality is either not conceived, or if conceived, is not brought to the birth, or is brought to the birth, is fatal in delivery both to the mother and her offspring.' He quotes the instances of Porto Bello, in South America (Don Ulloa's 'Voyage,' vol. 1:, p. 93), and of Sennaar (Bruce's 'Travels,' vol. 4:, p. 469, 471, 472) and he considers this bad property in the soil was the means of accomplishing the prediction of Joshua respecting the rebuilding of Jericho (cf. Joshua 6:26 with 1 Kings 16:34). By the prophet's curing the WATERS, it should seem they had, at least, some share in producing this effect by being drank, etc.; but those inhabitants of the city and proprietors of the adjacencies, who solicited Elisha, plainly say, 'the land causes to miscarry.'

Verse 22

So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

There came forth little children, [ nª`aariym (H5288), young lads; applied to Isaac, Joseph, Rehoboam, when full-grown (Genesis 22:5; Genesis 41:12; 2 Chronicles 13:7); Septuagint, paidaria mikra] - i:e., the idolatrous or infidel young men of the place, who affected to disbelieve the report of his master's translation, sarcastically urged Elisha to follow in the glorious career.

Bald head, [ qeereeach (H7142), bald in the hinder part of the head;-an epithet of contempt in the East, applied to a person even with a bushy head of hair. Stanley is of opinion that it was applied to Elisha from the contrast presented by his bare shoulders and the shaggy locks of his prophetic predecessor; Septuagint, falakre, bare head]. Beth-el, which Elisha was about to enter, was one of the strongholds of the Phoenician idolatry that had been patronized by Ahab; and these young idolaters, probably instigated by some of Baal's prophets, and who were desirous of pouring discredit and ridicule upon the report of Elijah's rapture, publicly insulted the new prophet by sarcastically bidding him follow his master.

Verse 24

And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

He ... cursed them in the name of the Lord. Not in a fit of irritation, or from an impulse of vindictive resentment, but as the minister of God, solemnly in His name pre-intimated the awful fate which, as a providential judgment, was about to overtake these idolaters.

There came forth two she-bears. They belonged to the Ursus Syriacus, the Palestine representative of the Ursus Arctos of north Europe. It was found by Hemprich and Ehrenberg on one of the summits of Lebanon; and according to Dr. Thomson ('Land and Book'), it is still found on the high mountains of that part of the country. The appalling judgment that befell them was God's interference to uphold His newly invested prophet.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-2.html. 1871-8.
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