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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 2

 

 

Verses 1-25

Though in 1 Kings 19:21 we read of Elisha following Elijah and becoming his servant, yet Elisha is not mentioned as identified with Elijah when Elijah later gave messages to Ahab (1 Kings 21:17-19) and to Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:3-17). But when God is about to take Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven, both Elijah and Elisha are seen together (v.1). They are seen first at Gilgal, the place where the men of Israel were circumcised, speaking of the judgment of sin in the flesh.

Elijah asked Elisha to wait at Gilgal because the Lord had sent him (Elijah) to Bethel (v.2). But if one has learned the lesson of Gilgal with its negative self-judgment, and has opportunity to go to Bethel ("the house of God"), should this not be far more attractive to him? More than this, Elisha wanted to be where his master was (v.2). Do we have the purpose of heart to be firm in, not leaving our Lord?

At Bethel there were sons of the prophets who had received information from some source, so that they asked Elisha if he knew the Lord would take away Elisha from him that day. He responded, "Yes, I know; keep silent!" These sons of the prophets were not prophets themselves, but living on their fathers' reputation, and Elisha knew their words were without the conviction of faith.

Again Elijah asked Elisha to wait at Bethel since the Lord had sent him to Jericho. Bethel was some distance from Gilgal, and it would be just as great a distance back to Jericho. Why did God give Elijah such a journey? The spiritual significance of this must be the answer Gilgal speaks of Israel's initial relationship with God, when sin in the flesh is judged. Bethel shows Israel's relationship to God in the closeness of communion with Him that is indicated in being in His house. Now Jericho is to remind Elijah of God's victory over evil on behalf of His people, as seen in Joshua 6:1-27.

Elisha was just as firm this time as he was before in saying he would not leave Elijah. There is good spiritual instruction in this. Elijah's ministry had been specially that of righteousness calling for judgment an evil, while Elisha in his ministry emphasises the grace of God. These two ministries are not to be separated. When grace is preached, it must not ignore righteousness. John the Baptist emphasised God's righteousness insisting on repentance. When Christ came preaching grace, He fully justified John and his ministry, though He went beyond John in His matchless ministry of grace.

The sons of the prophets at Jericho met Elisha with the same words as those at Bethel had done, and Elisha answered as he had before, "Yes I know; keep silent! (v.5) If the sons of the prophets were speaking for God, Elisha would certainly not have silenced them, but as is true with many preachers today, they were merely repeating what they had heard from someone else.

For the third time Elijah asked Elisha to wait, for the Lord had sent him to Jordan. Elijah may have intended this as a test for Elisha, and Elisha passed the test, showing a lovely, firm decision of faith (v.6). The Jordan illustrates another step in Israel's relationship with God, for it speaks of death. Israel had passed through that river when the waters were rolled back (Joshua 3:15-17) To properly learn the lesson of death, we must be brought to recognise that it is really a great blessing for the believer, for it brings him into the greatest joys possible.

Fifty sons of the prophets were interested to see what would happen, and stood some distance away, but had not the faith to be identified with Elijah as Elisha was. When they arrived at Jordan, Elijah rolled up his mantle and struck the water with it (v.8). Amazingly, the waters were divided, so that the two or them walked over on dry ground. The power of death thus yielded to a higher power, for the mantle speaks of the Spirit of God by whom the believer triumphs over death through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Elijah, knowing he was to be taken away, asked Elisha what he might do for him first. Elisha desired only a double portion of Elijah's spirit. This was a hard thing, Elijah said, but would be done if Elisha saw him when he was taken (vv.9-10)

Then God performed an astounding miracle. A chariot of fire with horses of fire appeared, separating Elijah from Elisha, and Elijah was caught up by a whirlwind into heaven (v.11) What a sight for Elisha! How could he ever forget it? Deeply affected, he cried out, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!". More than this, he tore his clothes in, two, symbolising self-judgment and repentance, for he knew himself to be unworthy of being the servant of God.

Also he took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him. The mantle speaks of the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that had been on Elijah, but when passed on to Elisha there was a double portion involved. This speaks of the two-fold power of the Spirit of God, giving ministry to Elisha that added the truth of God's grace to the ministry of righteousness. Thus, "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

This history of Elijah's translation corresponds to that of John the Baptist being replaced by the Lord Jesus. For John was the same type of prophet as Elijah (Luke 1:17), beginning a work that could only be completed by the Lord Jesus, in whom there is a double portion of the Spirit of God. Thus Elisha is a type of Christ, but specially of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). In fact, Elijah's translation also reminds us of the ascension of Christ to glory, who has shed forth His Spirit on the Church of God, so that we might be His representatives in ministering grace and truth to the world around us.

Returning to the Jordan, Elisha used the mantle to strike the water, at the same time saying, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (v.14). The answer to his question was immediately given, for the waters were again divided for Elisha to pass over. The Lord God of Elijah was with Elisha.

The sons of the prophets who had come from Jericho recognised immediately that the spirit of Elijah was resting on Elisha, and they bowed to him (v.15). However, they showed a woeful lack of discernment by asking Elisha to let 50 strong men of the sons of the prophets go and search for Elijah in case the Spirit of the Lord had dropped him somewhere! Why did they not stop to think that since the Spirit of God was upon Elisha, Elisha could find out simply enough if Elijah was on earth. Their words lacked any thought of direction from God. But they had told Elisha the Lord would take Elijah away. Where was the faith to believe what they had said? If we speak messages for God, let it be with the firm conviction that God has spoken.

Elisha told them not to send anyone. Yet they foolishly urged him to allow them to go. So he gave them their way (v.17), as God sometimes does in order that people may learn by experience what they ought to learn by His Word. They therefore wasted three days in their fruitless search, so that then Elisha reminds them of their folly in not accepting his word to begin with (v.18).

MIRACLES OF GRACE AND OF JUDGMENT

(vv.19-25)

Though Jericho was the city God had cursed (Joshua 6:17) and the men of the men of the city tell Elisha the water is bad and the ground barren (v.19), yet Since Elisha is a type of Christ, he brings the grace that can overcome the curse. He asked for a new bowl requiring that salt be put into it. The new bowl speaks of new creation setting the old aside. The salt pictures righteousness in contrast to the unrighteousness that had incurred the curse of Jericho. Elisha threw the salt into the source of the water and the water was healed. Besides this the Lord said there would be no more barrenness. This miracle is typical of the coming millennial age, when the Lord will heal the land of Israel, to be a land fit for a renewed people. Thus, the first of Elisha's miracles is one of grace.

However, grace does not ignore righteousness. As Elisha left Jericho to go co Bethel, some youths of the city, who had no doubt heard of the translation of Elijah, but were sceptics, accosted him with taunting words, "Go up, you baldhead!" (v.23). This was plain mockery of the fact of Elijah's translation, just as today there are those who make a mockery of the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. This is one evil that God will not tolerate. Elisha was no weakling. He turned and pronounced a curse on these youths in the name of the Lord. They would hardly be prepared for having two female bears come out of the woods to maul 42 of them! Whether any of them were killed we are not told, but if not killed they would not forget a lesson like that!

Thus, the first two miracles of Elisha illustrate the double portion of Elijah's spirit, showing the ministry of grace and the ministry of righteous government, which are not contrary to one another, but rather complementary of each other.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/2-kings-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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