And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. — 2 Kings 2:6
For years in the 1800s, inventors had been working with various types of electric lights. However, Thomas Edison wanted to make an electric light that was practical for homes and offices and had the potential of replacing gas lights. For two years he looked for a suitable material that could be used as the filament, and his search included sending agents to the Amazon jungles and Japan’s forests, and experimenting with thousands of materials. In 1879, he concluded that a filament would last longer if it was in an oxygen-free bulb. After many failures, Edison made a light bulb with carbonized thread as the filament. In December of that year, news of Edison’s breakthrough development of an electric incandescent light amazed the world. His persistence generated a life-changing product.
In today’s text, Elisha’s determination to follow his master exhibited the same type of persistence. The Prophet Elijah, whom Elisha had served for seven or eight years, asked him not just once, but three times, to wait and not follow him. This instruction was not given because Elijah did not want the younger man with him, but rather, it appeared to be a test of Elisha’s devotion. However, Elisha was determined that he was going to stay with his master. He was not going to leave him; he determined to follow him relentlessly.
The sons of the prophets also tried to discourage Elisha from following Elijah, suggesting he stay back and observe from afar. Yet, Elisha was not deterred, and ultimately, his determination and devotion were rewarded. He received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit because he persevered and followed all the way.
We can learn by observing the perseverance of Elisha. His determination should encourage us to persist in our personal walk with the Lord. At times we may face spiritual setbacks and obstacles, and we may be tempted to pull back and only “view from afar,” as the sons of the prophets did. Yet, we have the opportunity to receive blessings by exhibiting devotion and faithfulness in our lives. By following the Lord and staying with Him to the end, we have His promise to be with us and help us, and eventually to give us eternity with Him. Like Elisha, we must persist. It will be well worth the effort.
After the historical account of the rulers of Israel given in chapter 1, this chapter of 2 Kings details Elijah’s departure from the earth and the commencement of Elisha’s ministry.
Elisha had been Elijah’s servant and apprentice for about seven or eight years, and God had revealed that Elijah would be taken to Heaven. The sons of the prophets were groups of students who were in training. Schools for the prophets had been started in the time of Samuel, and the students apparently lived in selected cities, including Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. Perhaps Elijah visited these places on his last day to encourage them.
The Hebrew words pi shenayim, translated double portion, mean “two parts,” not double the quantity.(1) Elisha’s request for a double portion was a reference to Deuteronomy 21:15-17, which granted two shares of the inheritance to the oldest son who would become the family leader. At this time, students of distinguished teachers were commonly described as their children. Because Elisha had been called to become the leader of the prophets in Elijah’s place, he wanted to claim this inheritance of “a double portion of his spiritual influence”(2) so he could fulfill his role. Granting Elisha’s request was not in Elijah’s power; the answer had to come from God, but it was promised if he saw Elijah go to Heaven.
A fiery chariot and horses separated Elijah from Elisha, and a whirlwind caught up Elijah. The only other people who have left this world without dying were Enoch and Jesus after His resurrection. Elisha saw Elijah go, and his expression, “My father, my father,” acknowledged Elijah as his spiritual father and mentor.
The mantle worn by Elijah was probably made of sheepskin. That God directed its fall to where Elisha could pick it up indicated that Elisha had received the double portion he had requested and confirmed that Elisha was Elijah’s successor. Elisha tore off his own clothes, perhaps as an indication of his grief, but the putting on of Elijah’s mantle could have been symbolic of stepping into his new role.
The sons of the prophets, who were watching from afar, had seen Elijah strike the Jordan River with his mantle, and had observed that the river had parted. As Elisha stood by the river and smote the water with the mantle, God confirmed to Elisha and also the watching sons of the prophets that Elisha had received His anointing. The prophets accepted him as their leader. When they asked to look for Elijah’s body, Elisha told them not to go, but they insisted. The futility of their search further confirmed Elisha’s leadership position.
The miracles God promptly worked through Elisha authenticated his position as Elijah’s successor. At Jericho, contaminated water was cleansed by using salt. On the road to Bethel, mocking youths were punished. The word translated children can refer to people in their twenties or thirties, and these must have been old enough to be accountable for their actions. Some Bible scholars believe these were young men who were demonstrating great disrespect for God, as shown by their dishonor of His messenger. Bethel was the Northern Kingdom’s center of idolatry, and the people of the area had a disdainful attitude toward God and His prophets. Elisha pronounced a curse, but God sent the punishment.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah
A. Ahaziah of Israel
2. Elijah’s departure (2:1-11)
3. Elisha’s ministry commenced (2:12-25)
a. The mantle of Elijah (2:12-14)
b. The search for Elijah (2:15-18)
c. The purification of Jericho’s water (2:19-22)
d. The judgment on Elisha’s scoffers (2:23-25)
Even though some around us may try to discourage us, perseverance with God never goes unnoticed or unrewarded.
1. Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary, e-Sword, 2 Kings 2:9.