II Kings 2

 

   

    The Removal of Elijah from the Earth in a Fiery Chariot (vs. 1-12)

 

The great prophet of Israel was to have a departure from earth as marvelous as his

life had been.  An earthly career which had no equal in the purity of its devotion to

the service of Jehovah, and was at the same time consummated by such powerful

efforts to promote the kingdom of God, could only have a corresponding close. It

ceases before the very eyes of men, only to be taken up into the realm of pure

spirit, that is, to heaven, there to carry on its work with less disturbance, and with

greater power; and at that moment heaven itself descends to earth, to take to itself

that spirit which is already entirely its own. And so a fiery chariot with fiery horses

comes down from heaven and bears Elijah in the tempest up to heaven.

 

 

1  “And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven,” - 

The subject is introduced as one of general notoriety, the writer professing rather to

give the exact details of a well-known fact, than to relate a new fact unknown to his

readers. “When the time came,” he means to say, “for Elijah’s translation, of which

you, my readers, all know, the following were the circumstances under which it took

place.” The fact itself was deeply impressed on the Jewish consciousness. “Elias,”

says the Son of Sirach, “was taken up in a whirlwind of fire, and in a chariot of fiery

homes” (Ecclesiasticus  48:9). He was ranked with Enoch, (Genesis 5:24)  as not

having seen death  (Josephus, ‘Ant. Jud.,’ 9:2. § 2), and was viewed as continuing

in heaven a mysterious life, which no death had ever interrupted, whence he

was ready at any time to return to earth.  The scribes thought that he was beyond

all doubt to make his appearance upon the earth in person, before the coming of the

Messiah (Matthew 16:10) – [In this time of perceived “end times” we also look

for Elijah to return – {Malachi 4:5-6; Revelation 11:3-12} – CY – 2011] -  “by a

whirlwind. Saarach is not so much an actual “whirlwind” as a storm or atmospheric

disturbance (susseismo>v, LXX.).  It is a word which only occurs here in the

historical Scriptures – “that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.”  Elisha had

become to Elijah what Joshua was to Moses (Exodus 24:13) — his “minister,” or

regular attendant, from the time of his call at Abel-meholah (I Kings 19:21).

Elijah had no fixed residence, but moved from place to place as the Spirit of God

suggested. His wanderings had now brought him to Gilgal, one of the most ancient

sanctuaries of the land (I Samuel 10:8; 11:15), celebrated in the history of Saul

and Samuel.

 

2  “And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath

sent me” -  Elijah makes three efforts to rid himself of the presence of his faithful

attendant (see vs. 4 and 6), either really desirous to pass in solitude the few

remaining hours of his earthly life, for he knows that his end is approaching

(vs.9-10), or for the purpose of testing his fidelity and affection. Under ordinary

circumstances, the servant would naturally have obeyed his lord, and submitted to

a temporary separation; but Elisha has a presentiment, or something stronger than

a presentiment, of what is impending (vs. 3, 5), and will not be induced to accelerate

by a single moment the time of the last parting. He will remain with his master,

ready to do him all needful service, until the end -  “to Bethel.”  Bethel was

the spiritual center of the kingdom of the ten tribes. There may have been many

reasons why Elijah should visit it once more before he quitted the earth. He may have

had directions to leave, consolation to give, words of warning to speak. We must

not suppose that the narrative before us is complete. “And Elisha said unto him,

As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth. These were ordinary forms of earnest

asseveration with the Israelites, generally used separately (Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13;

I Samuel 1:26; 14:39; 17:55; 19:6; 20:21; II Samuel 4:9; 11:11); but on occasions

of special solemnity united, as here and in I Samuel 20:3; 25:26; ch. 4:30). The

prophet is not to be blamed for using them, since the command, “Swear not at all,”

(Matthew 5:34) had not yet been given – “I will not leave thee.” The resolve

indicates strong attachment, deep fidelity, combined, perhaps, with a reasonable

curiosity to see how the end would be brought about. “So they went down to

Bethel.” The expression, “went down,” shows that the Gilgal of v. 1 is not that

of the Jordan valley, but the mountain-city between Sichem and Bethel.

 

3  “And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel” - The institution of the

“schools of the prophets,” or theological colleges where young prophets were

brought up, is usually assigned to Samuel, one of whose habitual residences for a

part of the year was Bethel (I Samuel 7:16). Probably he had established a

“school” there which continued to this time – “came forth to Elisha, and said

unto him” -  The students did not venture to address the master himself, who was

a person of too much dignity to be intruded on; but sought out the servant, to give

him a warning of what their prophetic instinct assured them was about to happen –

Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head (i.e.

from his position as teacher and master) today?” There was, perhaps, something a

little officious and self-assertive in this question. They might have felt sure, if they

had been properly modest, that Elisha would have at least as much prophetic

instinct and foresight as themselves. Hence he answers them with something of

rebuke: “And he said, Yea, I know it — literally, I too know it hold ye

your peace.” -  or, “Hush — do not chatter about what is so sacred; do not

suppose that you are wiser than any one else; be a little modest and a little reticent.”

 

4  “And Elijah said unto him, Tarry here, I pray thee;” -  The first trial of

Elisha’s fidelity is followed by a second. The master suggests his tarrying at Bethel,

the sacred center, where he will have the company of the “sons of the prophets,”

and will not be companionless, as perhaps he would have been at Gilgal. He himself

is ordered to take a second journey, longer and rougher than the first – “for the

Lord hath sent me to Jericho.”  Will it not be better that Elisha shall spare

himself the long and rugged descent from the highland of Ephraim to the deep

gully of Jordan, and remain with the friends who have sought him out, while his

master accomplishes the remainder of his journey alone? “And he said, As the

Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” Absolute

unchangeableness of resolution is best shown by absolute unchangingness of

speech. Elisha, therefore, simply repeats his previous words. And the master

once more yields. “So they came to Jericho.”

 

5  “And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and

said unto him; Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from

thy head today? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.”  At

Jericho, too, as well as at Bethel, there was a school of the prophets, though the

two places were not more than about twenty miles apart. This would seem to imply

the existence of a large number of such seminaries at this period. No doubt, when

the secular power was most strongly opposed to true religion, the prophetical order

had to make increased efforts to raise its numbers and multiply its schools.  The

prophets of Israel, it must be remembered, were, after the withdrawal of the priests

and Levites (II Chronicles 11:13-14), the sole teachers of the people in true religion.

 

6  “And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent

me to Jordan.”  Elijah makes a third effort to detach his follower from him, or a

third trial of his fidelity. He is ordered, not to a town, where his follower might find

lodging and refreshment and companionship, but into the open country — to the

Jordan. And then, who can say whither? Will it not be best for Elisha to leave him

now, and not continue a wandering which threatens to be endless? But the follower

is staunch; nothing daunts him; and he makes the same reply as before. “And

he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.

And they two went on.”

 

7  “And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar

off:” -  It is a harsh judgment to blame the “sons of the prophets” for an idle

and shallow curiosity in merely “standing” at a distance “to view” the wonderful

event, which Elisha was determined to witness as closely, and associate himself with

as intimately, as possible. For the sons of the prophets to have approached nearer,

and hung on the skirts of Elijah, would have been an impertinence, Elisha’s

persistence is only justified by his strong affection, and the special office which he

held, of attendant minister. The fifty students showed a courteous sense of what

was due to the prophet’s desire of seclusion by not pressing on his footsteps, and at

the same time a real interest in him, and a reasonable curiosity, by quitting their

college and “standing to view” on some eminence which commanded a prospect

of the lower Jordan valley. There were many such eminences within a short distance

of Jericho. (Even a space shuttle launch would be hard pressed to rival this – CY –

2011) – “and they two stood by Jordan.” At length all other human companionship

was shaken off — “they two” stood, side by side, on the banks of the sacred stream,

which had played so important a part, and was still to play so far more important a

part, in the theocratic history. All the world, except their two selves, was remote —

was beyond their ken; the master and the servant, the prophet of the past and the

prophet of the coming generation, were together, with none to disturb them, or

interfere between them, or separate them. Jordan rolled its waters before their eyes,

a seeming barrier to further advance; and Elisha may naturally have looked to see

the final scene transacted in that “plain below a plain,” the Jordan bed, sunk

beneath the general level of the Ghor, green with lush grass and aquatic plants,

and with beds of reeds and osiers, but squalid with long stretches of mud and

masses of decaying vegetation, brought down from the upper river, and with

rotting trunks of trees torn from the banks higher up. But the end was not yet.

Jordan was to be crossed, and the ascension to take place from the plain whence

Moses, when about to quit earth, had made his ascent to Pisgah.

 

8  “And Elijah took his mantle” -  the sheep-skin cape or capote, which covered

his shoulders – “and wrapped it together,” - rather, and rolled it up (ei]lhse,

LXX.); so  that it resembled in some degree a rod or staff – “and [with this he]

smote the waters,” - consciously imitating the act of Moses when he “stretched

out his hand over the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), and divided its waters asunder -

“and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on

dry ground.”  The parallelism with the miraculous acts of Moses and Joshua

(Joshua 3:13) is obvious.  It was intended that Israel should regard Elijah and

Elisha as a second Moses and Joshua, and should therefore yield them a ready

obedience. Miracles have a place in the Divine economy and here was a worthy

occasion for them. The powers of the world were arrayed against the cause of

true religion and so against God; the cause was about to lose its great champion

and assertor, Elijah; a weaker successor was about to take his place; — without

some manifest display of supernatural might the cause of religion would evidently

have lost ground, perhaps have been ruined altogether. It pleased God, therefore,

just at this time, to grant that signs and wonders of an extraordinary character should

be done by the hands of his servants Elijah and Elisha, that a halo of mystic glory

should encircle them, for the better sustentation of his own cause against His

adversaries, for the exaltation and glorification of his faithful ones, and for the

confusion and dismay of those who were opposed to them. Now, surely, if ever,

was there a dignus vindice nodus, justifying a miraculous interposition.

 

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.”

 Elijah knows that the time is growing now very short. He will soon have left the

earth. A yearning comes over him, before he goes, to leave his faithful follower,

his trusty, persevering adherent, some parting gift, some token of his appreciation,

some sign of his love. What does his “minister” desire? Let him ask what he will,

and his master will, if it be possible, grant it. “And Elisha said, I pray thee, let

a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” Elisha’s request has been variously

explained. The older commentators regarded him as having asked for twice as much

spiritual and prophetical power as Elijah had possessed; and this interpretation is

certainly favored by the reply of Elijah, as recorded in the next verse.

 

10  “And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing:” - literally, thou hast been hard

 in asking (ejsklh>runav tou~ aijth>sasqai, LXX.).  Perhaps the “hardness” of

the request was in the thing asked, not in the quantity of the thing. Had Elisha asked

for anything that Elijah had it directly in his power to give, as for his mantle, or his

blessing, or his prayers in the other world, to grant the request would have been

easy.  But he had asked for something that was not Elijah’s to give, but only God’s.

Elijah could not bequeath his spirit, as a man bequeaths his property; he could only

pray God that Elisha’s pious request might be granted - “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.”  Our translators have thought to clear the sense by inserting

“nevertheless” and “when I am.” But the inserted words would be better away.

As Elijah cannot either grant or refuse a request for a spiritual gift, which it is not

in his power to bestow, he is divinely instructed to give Elisha a sign, by which

he shall know whether God grants his prayer or not. The sign of acceptance is to

be his actually seeing his master’s translation. Probably the chariot and horses

were not visible to the natural human eye, any more than the angelic hosts

were who compassed Elisha himself about at Dothan (ch. 6:17).

 

11  “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked” - (compare Luke

24:50-51). The antitype answers to the type in little details as well as in the general

outline – “that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire,” –

God’s “angels are spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire (Psalm 104:4).

When the eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened, and he saw the angelic host that

protected his master, it appeared to him that “the mountain was full of horses

and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (ch. 6:17). Material fire is, of course,

not to be thought of. But the glory and brightness of celestial beings, when made

visible to man, has some analogy with fire, or at any rate brings the conception of

fire before the mind. The historian doubtless reports the account which Elisha gave

of what he saw on this memorable occasion - “and parted them both asunder;

and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven; literally, and Elijah went up

 in a storm into the heavens.  There is no mention of a “whirlwind;” and “the

heavens” are primarily the visible firmament or sky which overhangs the earth. Elijah,

like our Lord, rose bodily from the earth into the upper region of the air, and was

there lost to sight. Three only of the seed of Adam — Enoch, Elijah, Jesus —

have passed from earth to heaven without dying.

 

12  “And Elisha saw it” -The condition of v. 10 was fulfilled which Elijah had laid

down, and Elisha knew that his request for a “double portion” of his master’s spirit

was granted – “and he cried, My father! my father,” -  It was usual for servants

thus to address their masters (ch. 5:13), and younger men would, out of respect,

almost always thus address an aged prophet (ch. 6:21; 13:14). But Elisha probably

meant something more than to show respect. He regarded himself as Elijah’s specially

adopted son, and hence had claimed the “double portion” of the firstborn. That his

request was granted showed that the relationship was acknowledged – “the chariot

of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”  i.e. the best earthly defense of Israel.  “In

losing thee,” he means, “we lose our great protector – him that is more to us than

chariots and horsemen – the strength of Israel, against both domestic and foreign

foes.” Note the substitution of “horsemen” for “horses,” and compare ch. 13:14,

where the same expression is used in reference to Elisha. “And he saw him no more.” 

Elijah passed beyond Elisha’s ken. So far as we can gather from the expressions

employed, no cloud received him (Acts 1:9), but he gradually vanished from sight.

And he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” -  an action

marking extreme horror or extreme grief — here the latter (compare Genesis 37:29;

II Samuel 13:19; Job 1:20; 2:12).

 

 

                        Some Early Miracles of Elisha (vs. 13-25)

 

The record of Elisha’s early miracles (vs. 13-24) prepares the way for the

position which Elisha is to occupy in the next section of the history, under

the Israelite monarchs, Jehoram, Jehu, Jeheahaz, and Jehoash. On Elisha

falls the mantle of Elijah (v. 13), and with it a portion of his spirit, sufficient to

enable him to carry on the prophetic office with vigor and steadfastness.

 

13  “He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him; and went back,

and stood by the bank of Jordan;” -  literally, the lip of the Jordan; that is, the

brink of the stream, at the point, probably, where he and his master had crossed it.

 

14  “And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him; and smote the

waters,” - imitated, i.e., the action of Elijah (v. 8), as Elijah had imitated the action

of Moses at the passage of the Red Sea“and said, Where is the Lord God

of Elijah?”  The present Hebrew text reads, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah,

even he?” the last two words being emphatic; but the emphasis scarcely appears

to be needed. Hence the translators have very generally detached the two words

from Elisha’s question, and, attaching them to the succeeding clause, have rendered

it - “and when he also had smitten the waters,”  but the position of the vau

conjunctive, after aWhAãa" and before hK,y", makes this division of the

clauses impossible. It has therefore been proposed by some to read awOpae,

“now,” for aWhAãa", “even he”  and to translate, “Where now is the Lord God

of Elijah?” Is He still here, with me, or has He withdrawn Himself from earth with

His prophet, and left me alone to my own unaided strength? This gives a good

meaning, but is perhaps too bold a change. The LXX. had evidently our present

Hebrew text before them, and, as they could make nothing of it, transcribed it into

Greek characters, Pou~ oJ Qeo<v Hliou< ajffw>; - “they parted hither and thither:

and Elisha wont over.”  God showed, i.e., that He was still with Elisha by enabling

him to repeat Elijah’s last miracle, and thus gave him an assurance that He would be

with him thenceforth in his prophetic ministry.

 

15  “And when the sons of the prophets, which were to view at Jericho

(see v. 7), saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah cloth rest on Elisha.”

 It is not quite clear upon what grounds the sons of the prophets came to this

conclusion. Probably they had seen the passage of the Jordan by the two prophets,

the disappearance of Elijah, and the return of Elisha across the stream in a way

which they may have suspected to be miraculous. But the Jordan is four or five

miles distant from the city of Jericho, and their apprehension of the various

circumstances would be incomplete, and more or less vague. Perhaps there was

something in Elisha’s appearance and expression of countenance which impressed

them, and appeared to them to mark his exaltation to a higher dignity and spiritual

position. “And they came to meet him; and bowed themselves to the ground

before him.”  - thus acknowledging him for their master, as they had been wont to

acknowledge Elijah.

 

16  “And they said unto him” -  Thenius suggests that Elisha first related to them

what had befallen his master; but the impression left by the narrative is rather that

they began the conversation, being aware of Elijah’s disappearance, which in that

clear atmosphere they may have distinctly perceived, though the ascension may not

have been visible to them. But the natural interpretation is that they thought the

prophet had been “caught away” by a Divine influence, as Philip the evangelist was

in later times (Acts 8:39), and would be found somewhere alive, as Philip

was found at Azotus.”  Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong

men;” -  literally, sons of strength; i.e. stout, active persons, capable of climbing

the rough and precipitous rocks among which they thought that Elijah might be cast.

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.”  On either side of the ciccar, or Jordan plain, are rugged

districts, consisting of alternate rocky mountain slopes and narrow gulleys, or

water courses, dry during the greater part of the year. The sons of the prophets

think that Elijah has been carried by the Spirit of God into one or other of these

mountain tracts, and wish to search them. “And he said, Ye shall not send.”

or, do not send; meaning, “it will be useless — you will find nothing — it is

not as you suppose.”

 

17  “And when they urged him, till he was ashamed, he said, Send;” -  literally,

when they urged him until shame; which some expound to mean, “until they were

ashamed to press him any more” or “until he was ashamed to persist in his refusal”

(eJw<v ou= hjscu>neto, LXX.). It is always a hard thing for one man to refuse the

repeated and earnest request of a multitude (Luke 18:7-8).When Elisha said,

“Send,” he had not in the least changed his mind; he only meant to say,

“Send, then, if you insist upon it, to satisfy yourselves, not me. There is no

harm in your sending.” – “They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought

three days, but found him not.” The result bore out the advice and

anticipations of the prophet. It was simply nil. No trace was found of the

aged seer who had been translated from earth to heaven.

 

18  “And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said

unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?”  The prophet was not above

vindicating the propriety of his past conduct. He waited at Jericho until the fifty men

returned from their vain search, and then reminded them that his advice to them had

been not to start on a useless errand. The ministers of God have to vindicate

themselves, because God’s honor is concerned in their being without reproach.

 

The historian passes to the record of some of Elisha’s minor miracles, belonging to

the time whereof he is writing, and helping to explain the position of dignity and

respect which he is found to occupy in the next chapter (vs. 11-14). The miracles

showed his twofold power, both to confer benefits and to punish.

 

19  “And the men of the city” i.e. the inhabitants of Jericho; probably the civic

authorities, having heard of the recent miracle — “said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray

thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth:”  According to the

unanimous voice of travelers, the situation of Jericho (now Eriha) is charming. Lying

on a broad plain which is traversed by an abundant river, at the point where one of

the main wadys debouched from the Judaean upland upon the low country, shaded

by groves of palm trees (Deuteronomy 34:3) and fig-mulberries (Luke 19:4), the air

scented with aromatic shrubs, opobalsam, myroba-lanum, and the like, facing the

Orient sun, and commanding a wide prospect both across and also up and down

the Ghor, with the mountains of Moab in the distance, Jericho was, no doubt, even

before the miracle of Elisha, a “pleasant” place. “but — there was one drawback –

the water is naught, and the ground barren.” Bitter and brackish springs, of

which there are many in the Jordan valley, gushed forth from the foot of the

mountains, and formed rivulets, which ran across the plain towards the Jordan, not

diffusing health and fertility, but rather disease and barrenness. Untimely births,

abortions, and the like prevailed among the cattle which were fed in the neighbor-

hood, perhaps even among the inhabitants of the locality, and were attributed to the

bitter springs, which made the land “miscarrying” (ajteknoume>nh, LXX.). It was

the prayer of the men of Jericho that Elisha would remove this inconvenience.

 

20  “And he said, Bring me a new cruse,” -  Impurity must be cleansed by means

that are wholly clean and pure. The prophet called for an absolutely new cruse, one

that had been put to no use at all, and therefore could not have been defiled- “and

put salt therein.”   Salt, which physically would be most unapt to heal an

unwholesome stream already holding too much salt in solution, is selected doubtless

as emblematic of purity, being that by which corruption is ordinarily prevented or

stayed.  (Jesus told us that we are “the salt of the earth” – our job is through Christ

to prevent or stay the world from becoming corrupt –[Mattthew 5:13] - CY – 2011)

Under the Law every offering was to be purified by salt (Leviticus 2:13).  The same

 symbolism is still employed under the gospel (Mark 9:49; Luke 14:34). “And they

brought it to him.”

 

21  “And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in

there.”  The “spring” intended is supposed to be that now called Ain-es-Sultan,

“the spring of the Sultan,” which is the only copious source near the site of the

ancient Jericho. The modern town lies at a distance of two miles from it.

Ain-es-Sultan is described as “a large and beautiful fountain of sweet and pleasant

water” (Robinson, ‘Researches,’ vol. 2. p. 384), and as “scattering, even at the

hottest season, the richest and most grateful vegetation over what would otherwise

be a bare tract of sandy soil.” The other springs of the neighborhood are mostly

brackish – “and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters;

there shall not be from thence i.e., from the waters — any more death or

barren land.”-  rather, or miscarrying.

 

22  “So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of

Elisha which he spake.”  It was not a mere temporary, but a permanent,

benefit which Elisha bestowed upon the town.

 

23  “And he went up from thence unto Bethel:”  The ascent is steep and long

from the Jordan valley to the highlands of Benjamin, on which Bethel stood,

probably one of not less than three thousand feet. The object of Elisha’s visit may

have been to inform the “sons of the prophets” at Bethel (v. 3) of the events that

had befallen Elijah – “and as he was going up by the way” i.e., by the usual

road or pathway, for, in the strict sense of the word, roads did not exist in Palestine

there came forth little children out of the city,” -  “Little children” is an

unfortunate translation, raising quite a wrong idea of the tender age of the persons

spoken of.  Naarim ketanaim would be best translated (as by our Revisers in the

margin) “young lads” — boys, that is, from twelve to fifteen. (teen agers – CY –

2011 - Such mischievous youths are among the chief nuisances of Oriental

towns; they waylay the traveler, deride him, jeer him — are keen to remark

any personal defect that he may have, and merciless in flouting it; they dog

his steps, shout out their rude remarks, and sometimes proceed from

abusive words to violent acts, as the throwing of sticks, or stones, or mud.

On this occasion they only got as far as rude words – “and mocked him,

and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head! go up, thou bald head!”

Baldness was sometimes produced by leprosy, and then made a man unclean

(Leviticus 13:42- 44); but the boys probably flouted the mere natural defect,

in which there was no “uncleanness” (Ibid. vs. 40-41), but which they

regarded as a fit subject for ridicule. Their sin was disrespect towards old age,

combined, perhaps, with disrespect for the prophetical order, to which they

may have known from his dress that Elisha belonged. (I always felt sorry for

the kids until one remembers the culture in which they were raised in Bethel

would these youngsters have grown up to be men of the Lord or would they

be idolatrous, selfish and sensual as their parents were?  - CY – 2011)

 

This ridiculing the men of God was one of the crying sins of Israel of that

time.  “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words

and misused His prophets.”  (II Chronicles 36:16)  These children were

but the echoes and the instruments of their parents malignant intolerance.

 

Let us not forget that this occurred at Bethel.  Bethel means “the house of

God.”  It was one of the places where God had recorded His name (Genesis

28:16-19).  Now it was Beth-aven, “the house of the idol” (Hosea 10:5).

The jeering outburst of impiety of these young men of the city was only a

symptom of the iniquity which abounded in that place.  God was

being dishonored in a holy place.  God was involved in its judgment!

 

24  “And he turned back, and looked on them,” -  rather, and he

looked behind him, and saw them, as in the Revised Version. The boys,

after the manner of boys, were following him, hanging upon him, not

daring to draw too near, hooting him from behind, as ill-bred and ill-intentioned

youths are apt to do – “and cursed them in the name of the Lord.”

 The action cannot be defended from a Christian point of view — Christians

have no right to curse any one. (Neither do children today have a right to be

disrespectful to their elders or even their parents but we find this to be rampant

in our culture and a malady of which, apparently, we do not have the resolve to

remedy – Thanks be unto God, He has the resolve – a characteristic of

the END TIMES is that children will be “disobedient to parents” [II Timothy

3:2] – God will cut short those days and for this we shall be brought into Judgment -  

CY – 2011)  But we can well understand that, under the old  covenant, a prophet

newly installed in office, and commencing his ministry, might deem it right to

vindicate the honor of his office by visiting such conduct as that of these misguided

youths with a malediction. Under the Law God’s ministers were required to curs

 the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:14-26). Elisha could not tell what would

be the effect of his curse. It could have no effect at all excepting through

the will and by the action of God.And there came forth two she-bears

out of the wood;”  or, the forest; i.e. the forest, which, as all knew, lay

within a short distance of Bethel, and was the haunt of wild beast - “and tare

forty and two children of them.”  It is not said how far the lads were injured,

whether fatally or not. But the punishment, whatever its severity, came

from God, not from the prophet, and we may be sure was just. For

“shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) - A severe

example may have been needed under the circumstances of the time, when a

new generation was growing up in contempt of God and of religion; and the sin

of the lads was not a small one, but indicated that determined bent of the

will  against good, and preference of evil, which is often developed early,

and generally goes on from bad to worse.

 

25  “And he went from thence to Mount Carmel,” -  Ewald thinks

that Carmel was, on the whole, the main residence of Elijah, and “through

him became a special prophetic locality” (‘History of Israel,’ vol. 4. p. 68).

If so, we may account for Elisha’s visiting it on this occasion by his desire

to communicate the facts of Elijah’s removal from earth to those who had

been his intimates in that quarter – “and from thence he returned to

Samaria.”  Elisha does not imitate the wild, half-savage life and almost

constant seclusion of his master. He “prefers from the first the companionship

of men,” fixes his home in the capital of his country, Samaria, is a friendly

counselor of the king (ch. 6:9), and highly honored by him (ch. 8:4); his whole

life, indeed, is, compared with that of Elijah, one of ease and tranquility. But,

though living “in the world,” he is not “of the world.” In spite of all the

seductions to which he was abundantly exposed through the great consideration

in which he was held, he retained at every period of his life the true prophetic

simplicity and purity, and contempt for worldly wealth and advantages. He is thus,

far more than Elijah, a pattern for Christian ministers, especially for such as

are highly placed, who will do well to follow his example.

 

 

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