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This is an interesting Chapter, in that it contains the history of the removal of Elijah to heaven, and of establishing Elisha as his successor in the prophetical office upon earth: the dividing of Jordan; healing the waters: the children mocking Elisha, torn and destroyed.
2 Kings 2:1
The ascension of Elijah to heaven, without passing through the intermediate passage of death, is striking and singular; never such an event happening before, except in the case of Enoch; (see Genesis 5:24 , compared with Hebrews 11:5 ) it merits the more particular attention. Some have thought that the honour conferred upon this man, was on account of his great piety. And others have conjectured that it was to rouse the attention of the Lord's people, Israel, to the consideration of another state, which, from their long degeneracy into idolatry, was almost effaced from their dark and earthly minds. But though this latter motive might, in a secondary point of view, be in the design; yet I cannot be brought to think that Elijah's singular piety and faithfulness, great as both these qualities, (through grace) were in the prophet's life, were the cause. I rather think that both in the patriarchal age, in the instance of Enoch, and now, while the church was in Canaan, in the instance of Elijah, these things were wholly intended to signify that glorious event hereafter to take place in the church of God, in the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Did not God our Father by such remarkable circumstances, mean to give the old church lively tokens of the triumph of our Jesus who, in this return to heaven, entered as the glorious forerunner of his people, and took possession of the kingdom in their name? Seen in this point of view, oh! how inconceivably sweet and precious is this account of Elijah, dearest Lord Jesus, if by thy blessed Spirit our views of this subject are directed to the right apprehension of it! Oh! do thou open our hearts more and more to the discovery of the many precious things as they concern thee, which are contained in it, that while we read this chapter our meditation of thee may be sweet.
It should seem that Elisha, as well as Elijah, had the knowledge of the great event about to be wrought. And indeed it was generally known, among the sons of the prophets. By what means the revelation was made is not said. But of what were the feelings of the school of the prophets, and of Elisha, on this departure of Elijah, we can only form conjectures. No doubt Elijah filled every hour, as the time drew on, in giving suitable instruction and consolation to those around him. There seems to have been a desire in the hoary prophet to have privacy, in that he so often requested Elisha to tarry behind him. Here, Reader! we may learn a lesson; how suited it is to dying men, and especially dying believers, to be free from much interruption. It is true, indeed, it becomes a most important office of the dying believer to leave a rich testimony behind him whose he is, and of his sure expectation of dying in the Lord. But this being done, the true believer in Jesus hath too much to say to Jesus himself to suffer interruption from the world, or the people of it. But here, dearest Lord Jesus, shall I not leave Elijah and his successor going from Gilgal to Bethel, and from Bethel to Jericho and Jordan, to contemplate thee in the garden of Gethsemane, and at the fare well supper? Oh! how sweet that discourse followed up and closed with prayer, in which thou didst commit thy people to thy Father before the awful night, when cold as it was, so as to compel the servants of the High Priests to make a fire to warm themselves, thy sweat and agony was so great as to induce great drops of blood falling to the ground from thy sacred body! Here, dearest Jesus! here is a subject enough to call up animation in the most lifeless heart. See Luke 22:39-44 .
That sacred river Jordan, what miracles have been wrought upon it! Here it was that Joshua, as a type of the Lord Jesus, made so illustrious an appearance. See Joshua 3:0 . Header! as the ark which was always considered a lively type and symbol of God's presence, made to Joshua a dry and safe passage over Jordan; so to Elijah. Jordan itself is like the river of death. Jesus hath opened a safe and easy passage through it to all his followers. Here, according to the highly finished representation of the prophet, the ransomed of the Lord shall pass over. Jesus himself is the way; and by his finished redemption work he hath divided the waters hither and thither; so that the faithful will pass over as on dry ground. Isaiah 35:9-10 .
Elijah's question differs from Elisha's answer. What shall I do for thee! Whereas what Elisha desired, was not what Elijah could do. He had not the gifts of the spirit at his disposal. The departing prophet therefore seems to have referred it to the Lord, and to leave the decision of it in its being known by a sign. The greatest beauty in this passage, as it strikes me is, to notice wherein the servant Elijah differs from his master Jesus. The prophet Elijah desires to know what he should do for Elisha before he left him, conscious that he could do nothing for him after. But our Jesus, as if to teach his people that his departure was that he might enter more especially upon his glorious office of intercessor, bade them ask whatsoever they needed in his name, and promised it should be done for them. Reader! mark this in the memorandums of your heart, for it is a precious view of the Lord Jesus. John 15:16 .
Instead of unprofitable and improper enquiries concerning this event, I would rather refer the Reader to the consideration, how lively a type the prophet was, in this instance, of his divine master. And is it not probable (for I beg it may be understood that I do not presume to say as much) that from this view of the prophet, in his translation, like Enoch, to glory, the minds of the faithful in the church through all the intermediate ages from Elijah to Christ, were strengthened in their faith of the coming Saviour; the outlines of whose redemption-work they were brought savingly acquainted with? Hebrews 11:5 .
Hereby Elisha gave proof that the petition he had asked was granted. The renting of his garment perhaps had a greater signification than the mere expression of grief.
Hereby the Lord gave a decisive testimony that Elisha was by him appointed the successor of his servant Elijah, Oh! that all who minister in holy things were careful to be convinced, that they carried with them their credentials.
There is somewhat mysterious in those verses. That the sons of the prophets should be so destitute of faith, and Elisha suffer himself to be led away to the permission of what is here said appears so truly unaccountable, that I confess I know not in what sense to consider the passage. If the whole arose from the slenderness of their faith, it only serves to afford a renewed instance of human infirmity. Might not the prophet do in this instance as in after ages, John the Baptist did concerning the enquiries of his disciples about Christ, send them for their own conviction unto Jesus? Matthew 2:2-6 . Oh! blessed Jesus! how precious at every review is thy finished work!
Here Elisha enters upon his ministry. And a lovely service it was to heal the barren and corrupt waters of Jericho. Like the waters of Marah the appointed remedy cast in by the Lord's command became efficacious to both. Reader! remark with me, that this remedy in both cases was of the Lord; and the remedy itself also typical of Christ. Is not Jesus the healer of all our Marahs, and all our barrenness? And is not Jesus all this as the Christ of God; the Sent, the Sealed of the Father! John 6:27 .
In this destruction of the wicked children there is more evidently implied than is here related. If we look into the book of the Chronicles, and compare what is there said with what, from this book of the Kings, we learn of the present despised and low estate of the church, we shall discover that to such a degree of contempt was the Lord's cause now held by Israel, that the scoffing at God's servants was in common practice. Here the Lord was pleased to show his abhorrence by this awful judgment on the children. It is not said that they were killed, but torn. Perhaps, however, in many instances, if not in all, death might follow. 2 Chronicles 36:16 .
I PASS over all lesser considerations in the perusal of this chapter, to behold with all suitable thankfulness to the Lord, as the gracious author of the mercy, thy happy privilege Elijah, whom thy God was pleased to take to himself in glory, without passing through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Thou wert indeed an highly favoured servant of our Lord! no doubt as Enoch, so Elijah, found the translation by faith. For nothing but God's covenant love and grace in Christ Jesus, could either have first procured heaven, or have opened a way of translation thither. In this believing view of Jesus, and by faith in his blood and righteousness, all the faithful have lived, and died as they lived, in the exercise of it. In this most dear and holy name I would hail thee, thou prophet of my God and Saviour on this happy departure of thine. And though now so many ages have run out since, yet in the faith of him who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever, I would bless the Lord Jesus in the recollection of his grace and goodness toward thee. At the same time praising his most holy name for all his departed servants, who while passing through the grave to their home in glory, were not less beloved, neither less happy, but found in the same complete and finished salvation; the same entrance being abundantly administered unto them, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
But let not my meditations end here. Do I not behold in the servant some of the faint outlines of the master? Shall I see the prophet Elijah going up by a whirlwind into heaven, and shall I not recollect that the Lord God of the prophets ascended visibly into heaven in the presence of his apostles, attended with angels to grace his triumph? Yes! precious Lord! thou risen, ascended, and exalted Redeemer, my soul would take her flight on the wing of faith to the mount of Bethany, and gaze on thy blessed person, until that I followed thee to the right hand of power, and beheld all things put under thy feet! And surely the distinguished mercy manifested to the prophet Elijah in this instance, was principally with a view to show to thy church under the Old Testament dispensation, that such would be thy glorious triumphs when thou hadst conquered sin, death, hell, and the grave; and hereby opened thy kingdom to all believers.
And was not this Elijah a type in many other similar situations wherein a servant might be supposed to mark out the features of his Lord. Was the prophet poor, and was our Jesus rich? Did he go in the strength of the Lord's sustenance forty days and nights to mount Horeb? And was not Jesus led up of the Spirit forty days into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? Did the widow's cruse multiply under Elijah's ministry by the word of Jehovah? And shall I not call to mind, blessed Jesus, how the loaves and the fishes multiplied under thine own Almighty hand, to give bread to the people in the wilderness? Did the Lord so far honour his servant as to raise the widow of Zarephath's son; and shall I overlook him who by his own power called from death the widow of Nain's son; and as a confirmation that he was God, brought up Lazarus from the grave, and will at the last day raise the bodies of all his saints, because he is the resurrection and the life? Oh! precious Lord of all thy people, I would bless thy holy name in all I read of thy ministering servants, of grace and mercy manifested to them. And in all I behold of miracles wrought by their instrumentality, I would ever be looking unto thee as the cause. Thou art the author and the finisher. By thee kings reign, and princes decree justice. Patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, and the faithful in all ages, have acted under thy commission, and in thy name. To thee they bend the knee, and now the whole army of them, both in heaven and earth, joyfully confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13