Home

2 Kings 2:1-18

1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.


3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.


5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.”

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.


7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.

13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.


15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”

“No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.”

17 But they persisted until he was too ashamed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”


Let’s start at verse 1

1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.


What do we know about Gilgal?  

 Show on Map013

(NW of Jericho, NW of Jerusalem)














Joshua 4:18-20

18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran in flood as before.

19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.


Gilgal remained Joshua’s main camp for many years (Joshua 14:6) and Israel’s first king was confirmed there:


1 Samuel 11:14-15

14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.


And it seems it was there that Elijah and Elisha had their base. But now they were on a journey. Probably they had started the uphill climb and had reached the top of the hill to the west of Gilgal. From this point it is about 15 miles to Bethel.


What do we know about Bethel? Well the spot where they were currently standing was the place mentioned in Genesis 12:8 when Abram entered Canaan:

8 From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.


Later in Genesis 35:1 we read

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”


Later in the time of the Judges it was considered a place where you could meet with God: Judges 20:18

18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and enquired of God. They said, “Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?”

The Lord replied, “Judah shall go first.”

 

Then we come to wicked king Jeroboam : 1 Kings 12:26-30

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom is now likely to revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.


So that’s Bethel. But where have so many prophets suddenly come from as an established group? And also the ones at Jericho? I wonder if these two groups of prophets are the ones Obadiah had been sheltering in the cave? (1 Kings 18:4) The two groups of fifty prophets had been living together in a confined space for what could have been three years. On their release it is quite likely that they would have wanted to continue together, but where should they go?


Perhaps their first thought was somewhere near the border with friendly Judah (Friendly to the Lord’s prophets that is) – and perhaps near the fords of the Jordan – another well established way of escape if Jezebel turned against them again.


Also, as we saw above, Jeroboam had been very clever adopting an established ‘religious site’ for his altar. But now that the tide has turned maybe it was appropriate for the true prophets to have retaken that same site for the Lord. We’ll look at Jericho in a moment.


 So let’s continue:


2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.


The most unusual thing about this passage is the number of people who knew that this was Elijah’s final day on earth. The prophets at Bethel and Jericho knew it. In verses 3 and 5 Elisha says he knew it, and in verse 9 it is apparent that Elijah too knew what was going to happen. So it was not surprising then that Elisha didn’t want to leave Elijah. But this was not just wanting to be with his friend when he died – Elisha wanted to inherit Elijah’s spirit – and for that reason he would not let him go on alone.


3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”


What was behind what the prophets asked?

It suggests to me that the company of the prophets thought that Elisha should have at least warned them that Elijah intended to spend his last moments on earth with them.  Did he want them to organise some sort of farewell gathering? Who can we get as the guest speaker? Who’s doing the music?
Who should we invite? Why didn’t you give us more warning?!


There is always a danger when a famous personality comes to a church, perhaps for a Mission, that there will be people who feel they need to do something. Perhaps to prepare a special meal, or to be part of the planning committee.

Why is that?

Is it because we need to demonstrate in some way that we are not as inferior as we feel?

Is it a natural human instinct to need to take some sort of control?


Would it be fair to say that the prophets felt slightly threatened by the visit of the great Elijah, and were at a loss to know how to respond? It’s also interesting to note that none of the prophets seemed to want to go with Elijah. It’s almost as if having had their plans turned down, they then loose interest in what actually was going to be the focal point of the day.


4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.


Would Elisha like to stay here to organise things? No. Elisha knew that this was not the way God was going to work. The only way he could be ‘in at the death’ so to speak, would be if he kept close to Elijah. So they retrace their steps another 15 miles, to Jericho.


What do we know about Jericho?

Joshua 6:20,  24,  26

20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.  .  .

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house.  .  .

26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

“At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations;

at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.”


1 Kings 16:34

34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.


From the very beginning, although Jericho was included in the territory of Benjamin, it was only a location – never assigned to any family as their home town.


It’s only mentioned once in the Old Testament between the time of Joshua and the reference above, and that was during the time of David:


2 Samuel 10:4-5

4 So Hanun seized David’s men, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away.

5 When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.”


That suggests that Jericho was the obvious place to stay without the danger of meeting anyone else!


So it seems that it was never considered a place where anyone would want to live, and there would not have been any automatic desire for anyone to move in once it had been rebuilt. Maybe the prophets were glad to find some cheap, empty housing. Or did the prophets deliberately move into this cursed city in order to reclaim it for the Lord?


5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.”


Here, not surprisingly, the same formula is repeated. I’m sure that in both places Elijah would have spoken to encourage the prophets, and would have given them his final blessing.


Now, again, Elijah offers the chance for Elisha to stay behind with the other prophets.


If you were to compare the faith of the prophets at Bethel and Jericho with the faith of the ordinary man in the street, where would you place them ?


Draw on board

FAITH


 None  0    1    2    3   4   5    6    7   8    9 10    Amazing


Perhaps ordinary people at 2 or 3, prophets at 7 or 8

But now where would you place Elijah?

 

Was this a test for Elisha: – ‘where do you feel more comfortable, with the prophets at 7 or 8, or do you really want to aim higher? Do you realise quite what God is going to ask of you?’


6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.


Again, none of the prophets are actually prepared to go with them, but they are very happy to find a good spot from which to look on!


Should we at this point ask where we would be? Are we happy for the great men of faith to get on with it while we find a good place from which to watch? Happy to organise a farewell service, but not to follow God’s leading to see what he wants. And certainly not willing to attempt to take on the role of the one who is moving on.


8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.


It is tempting to move on quickly to see what happened next, but it’s worth looking at the miracle itself.


Why did God lead Elijah to cross the Jordan miraculously?  

In a sense it would appear to be unnecessary. Surely Elijah could have been taken to heaven from the West bank of the Jordan just as easily as from the East bank.


It is demonstrated that Elijah already has the faith to divide the waters with his cloak, so it can’t be another lesson of faith to learn at the last minute! Therefore the miracle must be for Elisha and us.


Elisha’s ministry is marked by the amazing number of his miracles (2 Kings 2-8), but he hasn’t been tested yet. So it seems that this demonstration by Elijah is to encourage Elisha to copy him. Practically he is now on the ‘wrong’ side of the Jordan and if he wants any tea today he must re-cross it! Spiritually he has to demonstrate that the mantle of faith which he is now putting on will truly enable him to follow in Elijah’s footsteps.


In Joshua 3 we see that the Ark, symbolic of the presence of God, had to enter the Jordan before the waters were stopped. Now it seems that the mantle (Cloak) of Elijah is used to symbolise the presence and power of God resting on his servant.


What is the symbolism attached to crossing the Jordan?

It is an act of finality

It is an act of commitment

It seems to suggest ‘letting go, and letting God’

For the Israelites it meant entering the Promised Land – the next chapter in their life


9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.


Sometimes we want things from the Lord that we cannot handle, and sometimes we offer the responsibility of being Godly leaders to others before they are either fully willing or able to take upon themselves this transforming character.

So Elijah wisely weighs out what Elisha is asking for. He knows he is loyal and he follows the leading of the Lord when others don't seem to; but to truly know what is in the heart, we must rely upon God. And that is what Elijah does.

If the Lord allows Elisha to see him departing into heaven, then He will also entrust him with the responsibility he is asking for; but if not, then Elisha will not receive his request because he is not ready to receive it.


The ‘double portion’ Elisha asked for is not twice what Elijah had, rather he was asking to be treated as a ‘Firstborn son’ – receiving the main part of the inheritance. He wanted to be able to carry on in the footsteps of Elijah.  


11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.


Elisha had asked for something that even Elijah could not grant; but he could suggest a way for the Lord to make that decision. And Elisha did indeed see Elijah go into heaven. The Lord was prepared to grant his request, but Elisha now had to literally take up the mantle of Elijah and demonstrate that he too had faith in a miracle working God. First though ‘he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.’  Demonstrating the end of his past life, before stepping forward into the new.


13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.


Confirmation to the watching prophets, but more importantly, confirmation to Elisha himself. From now on, having crossed his Jordan, he would be a changed man.


15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”

“No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.”

17 But they persisted until he was too ashamed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him.18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”

 

Elisha had been transformed! He knew that Elijah’s spirit was resting on him and for that reason alone he knew that the prophet’s search would be in vain.





1 Kings Elijah 191 Kings Elijah 21








ELIJAH 20   2 Kings 2:1-18 Elijah’s death

If you would like to PRINT or copy this study, click  HERE  for the PDF version, then Rt Click, and select ‘Print’, or ‘Save as’