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2 Kings 2:1 . When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven. The LXX read, ως εις τον ουρανον , as into heaven. They mean to say, that he did not ascend higher than paradise, as in John 3:13.
2 Kings 2:3 . The sons of the prophets at Bethel. This favourite city had been recovered by the house of David, and was now a little seat of sacred letters. See on 1 Samuel 19:20.
2 Kings 2:5 . The sons of the prophets at Jericho. This was once a royal city; and since Hiel had fortified it, it was rising apace to be next in rank to Jerusalem. These schools, though poor, had royal patronage. It is true, the nature of the first christian missions did not admit of academies, but God gave the divine endowments which colleges cannot confer. The most shining characters in the second age of the church, were those philosophers who came into the church loaded with Egyptian gold; for the Greeks allow that they received letters from Egypt. Clement, Justin, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Basil, Jerome, and Chrysostom shone as morning stars by their learning and eloquence. In the present age many of the infidels are learned, and the servants of the sanctuary must always be able to look their enemies in the face.
2 Kings 2:9 . A double portion of thy spirit be upon me. Elisha asked here the full right of the firstborn. The miracles which Elisha performed indicate that it was so.
2 Kings 2:11 . A chariot of fire. Kings in triumphs rode in splendid chariots. The Lord also rode on a cherub, and flew on the wings of the wind. Psalms 18:9.
2 Kings 2:22 . So the waters were healed. Josephus affirms this to be correct; so it is likely that by prayer he divested the channel of the noxious mineral spring.
2 Kings 2:23 . Go up, thou bald head. Children of idolatrous parents, who perhaps had often mocked the worshippers of the Lord, going up to the feasts in Jerusalem: here they did it once too often.
From the tragic death of Ahaziah, we pass to the triumphant exit of the long persecuted prophet Elijah. Neither his age, nor the time of his labours is named; but the last fifteen years of his ministry were distinguished by the most extraordinary revelations, miracles, and persecutions; and had not providence interposed in this extraordinary way, how could religion have subsisted at all. The Lord never lost sight of his covenant; but as was the day of his servants, so was their strength proportioned. This holy and highly honoured man, having so long a time been counted unworthy of any certain dwelling place on earth, God resolved to crown his career with a translation to glory, more than correspondent to the purity and sufferings of his former life. Besides, he saw his flock all the day long accounted as sheep for the slaughter, and would give them a full view of immortality, and a striking figure of the future ascension of the Messiah, in the translation of their sacred prophet. How good and gracious is the Lord to his afflicted people!
This honour, greater than what Moses had received, Elijah wished cautiously to conceal; for perfect humility is the highest character of grace. But as God revealed the case of Sodom to Abraham, so now he revealed it to Elisha, and to the sons of the prophets. He has at all times invited the church to the contemplation of his ways. The study of providence and grace, is equally worthy of angels and men. It elevates the soul, it encreases faith, and kindles the heart with a flame of devotion worthy of heaven itself.
Elijah’s day being come, the day in which he should leave his sorrows, and triumph over his foes, he wished at parting to leave a blessing to his successor, like our blessed Lord who was carried up into heaven in the very act of blessing his disciples. We are also struck with the wisdom and sanctity of Elisha’s request, in asking a double portion of his master’s spirit; so the firstborn had a double portion of the estate, to support with credit the name and honour of the family. Thus also St. Paul exhorts the faithful to covet earnestly the best gifts, and to follow after charity which was above all knowledge, above all gifts, and far surpassing both faith and hope in the excellence of its nature and duration. May the Lord more and more inspire us with the spirit which distinguished his prophets, and made them so precious in his sight. Elijah, longing and groaning in spirit Elijah, weary with the journey of the day, and more so with the journey of life, at last saw the welcome chariot arrive. It severed him from his friend, transformed his nature, and transported him to the world of immortality. Oh how much better to ride here, than to roll in Ahab’s splendid car. How much better for Elijah to wait, and work, and suffer a few years of affliction, than to have died obscurely, when through discouragements he requested death in the desert. Go, happy prophet; go to thy father’s God. Lay in silence thy trophies at his feet, while thy heralds and conductors shall recount in heaven thy fidelity, thy afflictions, and victories over the world. Go, happy prophet; all thy faithful fathers are waiting to welcome thee to the heavenly throng, and all thy colleagues and thy martyred friends seem to await from thee a farther consummation of eternal bliss. Go, rich in faith, and full of all good works, to augment the happiness of heaven!
But oh, shall we look back to thee, poor weeping Elisha. We would fain look steadfastly up towards heaven, and never remove our eyes, but thy piercing cries call us back. My father my father! Be content, Elisha; he has left thee his mantle; money he had none. Take it up; it is the mantle he cast upon thee when ploughing, and the Spirit came along with it. Be clothed with that Spirit of which the mantle is but a badge, and Elijah’s God will bring thee through. Hence ministers may learn, when having to succeed a great man in the work, that they peculiarly need a double portion of the spirit of grace and glory to rest upon them. The mantle or robe is but a badge of disgrace to him who wears it, if the spirit be wanting.
And where now are those sincere but discouraged souls by long afflictions and repeated sorrows? The translation of this prophet is designed to encrease your faith, and reänimate your hope. Keep your eye steadfastly on the promise; wait, like Elijah, till your work be accomplished; and you shall pass dryshod through the divided Jordan of death, and shall find the chariot and angels of the Lord ready to conduct you to the heavenly city, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, as our prophet was here on earth. Let us then, under all our afflictions, be most solicitous to acquire all the good which God has designed we should acquire by our sufferings. So it was with Elijah. He was a man of strong passions: bidding defiance to all fear, he boldly protested to Ahab and his guilty court, that there should be neither dew nor rain till he returned. When he requested to die in the desert, not caring what became of his body, his complaints and discouragements, a natural consequence of his excess of joy on Carmel, was followed with new persecutions, and ultimately, as in Job’s case, with a vision of the Almighty. Thus his sorrows were sanctified, after he had been persecuted for fifteen years by the princes and the priests of his country. He had no certain dwellingplace; yet his faith was so divinely supported that it never failed; and during all those troubles he had an unremitting care of the church. He obeyed the divine nomination in the call of Elisha, and a school of the prophets was by some means preserved in those evil times. Thus his faith, his patience and his zeal, received on earth the full stamp of a growing perfection. And what an encouragement to us poor sinful worms, that one of our own species, while in a mortal body, was so fair a transcript of the image of God!
Having cast our eyes on the weeping Elisha, we retrace his steps to the school of the prophets; and where should he first go to tell his sorrows and recount his joy? They came to meet him; and behold the Jordan divided at the stroke of the mantle, while he invoked the presence of Elijah’s God. They saw that though the prophet was gone, his work remained, and that the Spirit rested on Elisha. What a proof that the glorious presence of the Lord is with his church to the end of time! Yet as Thomas would not for awhile believe in the Saviour’s resurrection, so those prophets would not believe in Elijah’s ascension. He had, either when he warned Ahab of the drought, or on some former occasion, been carried away in the Spirit; and they thought it was the case again. Here, though the pillar was removed, the temple stood. We find Elisha in the Spirit and power of Elijah as father of the prophets, healing the waters of Jericho, and moving with equal steps in the sphere of his glorified master.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany