Elijah Taken to Heaven
2 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
Elisha Succeeds Elijah
Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the LORD has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him. And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”
Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.
He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
2 Kings 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
It is a story of amazing commitment and determination in a relationship. Elijah was about to be taken to heaven and his successor Elisha, whom God had chosen, would not be swayed from his side. Let’s recount a moment on both of these men.
Elijah the incredible prophet had done miraculous things and showed the power of God to the people. He had also struggled. He had fled and longed for his life to end at one point. Although God still had work for him to do, He had a person ready to step in. God had lined up Elisha to move forward in his place.
Elisha was a man who was all in. When Elijah had asked him to join him Elisha, who was a farmer, burnt his plowing equipment and slaughtered his oxen. There was no turning back. He burnt his bridges with his past and moved toward the future. The two walked forward in ministry and mentorship.
But there is something so beautifully shown in the last days or weeks of Elijah’s ministry. Let’s not forget Elijah had virtually lived in isolation as a prophet. Some of this was part of the job and the times, but it also was part of Elijah’s choice. It was isolation and depression that led him to that cave that day. He had been alone in ministry for years, why would the end of that be any different? Yet, when Elisha was brought on board, he stuck closely to him, even at the end when Elijah said he would prefer to be alone.
As these days were winding down, Elijah continued to give opportunity for Elisha to not follow. It reads almost like a test of devotion, which it may have been. Or it simply could have been Elijah’s MO that as his life had been alone; he would give opportunity for Elisha to not be with him. Whatever the case, Elisha never budged. He followed by his side up to the very end. He wanted to stay as close as he could to his mentor.
In an interesting request, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be given to him. It may sound like an odd thing to ask, but according to customs, the firstborn son received a double portion of his father’s inheritance. In essence, Elisha was recognizing himself as Elijah’s son and heir or successor. He would continue the work.
It’s really a beautiful picture, isn’t it? Elijah, who had never had children, had an heir. In the twilight at the end of his life, God provided a son for him that would not only be an encouragement; he was absolutely committed to him and would carry the ministry forward.
When the end came, Elisha was right there. As the chariots of heaven descended and took Elisha, his words were, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” and Elijah was gone. Showing deep mourning, he tore his clothes. Yet God honored Elisha’s request and that double portion from his spiritual father was given to him. As he returned to where he had come, it was evident to all.
I suppose it’s a good question to ponder for all of us. Are there people pouring into our lives in mentorship like Elijah? Are there those whom God is preparing to take over what we are doing at some point, like Elisha? Are we recognizing this and committed to these individuals? Are we willing to walk alongside to the very end? And even in both of these men’s lives, I have to believe there was emotional healing and affirmation that took place. Are we open to this or giving it?
2 Kings 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Elijah respectfully asked Elisha to stay and leave him alone, but Elisha refused to leave his mentor. After Elisha demonstrated such incredible loyalty and commitment to him, Elijah offers a special gift, and that is where we see the request for a double portion.
In ancient times, a firstborn son would receive twice the inheritance from the father as compared to the other sons as well as the right of succession. Elisha would receive a double portion of the total spiritual power granted to all the other prophets under Elijah in order to fulfill his purpose as the next major prophet to lead God’s people.
Just like Moses and Joshua, we get a picture of effective discipleship. Elijah and Moses started something great that was passed on and finished by Joshua and Elisha.
And just like Israel mourned Moses’ death, Elisha grieved the loss of his mentor. He tore his clothes and cried out to God. And as he pulls his eyes away from the heavens, he looks down at the ground to see all that’s left: the cloak of Elijah. It’s now decision time because that cloak represented the mantle of Elijah’s ministry. By picking it up and putting it on, Elisha is proclaiming that he will dedicate the rest of his life to seeing Elijah’s ministry go forward.
Go On Up Baldy!
Verses 23-24 have been confusing for many people including myself.
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, “Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the children.2 Kings 2:23-24 HCSB
It’s such a strange story, but it makes sense with further study. First, we can deduce from other texts that these “young lads” were not children, but most likely young men. This same phrase is used to describe Joseph at 39 years old and Solomon when he was 20. Most commentators agree they were teenagers to young adults.
Second, they were from Bethel. They obviously opposed Elisha and mocked him as a prophet of God. Their attitude toward Elisha shows their attitude toward God. Bethel was known as a place that opposed men of God and was the center for pagan calf-worship. We can conclude that these rowdy young lads were, at the very least, committed to making a mockery of the Lord.
Their taunting is a response to the fact that Elijah was taken up into the sky. They are sarcastically telling Elisha to “go on up” and follow after his mentor. They probably did not want someone like Elisha to be around Bethel because they despised a man of God who would hold them accountable for their sin. It’s possible that Elisha was bald, or that they were just mocking his receding hairline. Either way, they were intentionally trying to stir up trouble.
Elisha calls down a curse, and the Lord does the rest. Two female bears come out and maul 42 of these young men. When you consider the fact that there were at least 42 of them mocking and insulting Elisha, it’s possible that he was physically outnumbered and overwhelmed. That’s my speculation, as the text doesn’t say, but it would make sense if they were standing in his way or becoming overly aggressive with their mockery.
The moral of the story – don’t mock God’s (in this case bald) leaders!