So he departed there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle on him.
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With twelve yoke of oxen - He was plowing in a field with eleven other plows at work, each drawn by one yoke of oxen. Plowing with a single pair of oxen was the practice in Egypt, in Assyria, in Palestine, and in modern times throughout Western Asia.
Passed by him - Rather, "crossed over to him." Perhaps it is meant that he crossed the stream of the Jordan.
Cast his mantle upon him - The action is explained as constituting a species of adoption, because a father naturally clothes his children. The notion of fatherhood and sonship was evidently understood between them 2 Kings 2:9-12.
He with the twelfth - Every owner of an inheritance among the Hebrews, and indeed among the ancients in general, was a principal agent in its cultivation.
Cast his mantle upon him - Either this was a ceremony used in a call to the prophetic office, or it indicated that he was called to be the servant of the prophet. The mantle, or pallium, was the peculiar garb of the prophet, as we may learn from Zechariah 13:4; and this was probably made of skin dressed with the hair on. See also 2 Kings 1:8. It is likely, therefore, that Elijah threw his mantle on Elisha to signify to him that he was called to the prophetic office. See more on this subject below.
and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth; which may be understood either of twelve couple of oxen drawing one plough; which was a large number, but will not seem strange when it is observed, that Abelmeholah, where Elisha was ploughing, lay in the vale of Jordan, which was a clayey stiff ground, and required such a number of oxen to plough it up, especially at the first tilling of it, as this might be (a); compare 1 Kings 4:12 A late traveller (b) observes, that at Damegraed, in upper Egypt on the Nile, six oxen yoked to plough had a great deal of difficulty to turn up the ground; or else, as the Jewish writers generally understand it, there were twelve ploughs, and a yoke of oxen to each, and a ploughman to attend everyone, and Elisha attended the twelfth; or was with one of the twelve, as the Targum, and might have the oversight of them all; Kimchi thinks, and so Abarbiuel after him, that this signified that he should be leader of the twelve tribes of Israel:
and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him; the skirts of it.So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
19. Elisha the son of Shaphat—Most probably he belonged to a family distinguished for piety, and for their opposition to the prevailing calf-worship.
ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen—indicating that he was a man of substance.
Elijah … cast his mantle upon him—This was an investiture with the prophetic office. It is in this way that the Brahmins, the Persian Sufis, and other priestly or sacred characters in the East are appointed—a mantle being, by some eminent priest, thrown across their shoulders. Elisha had probably been educated in the schools of the prophets.2 Kings 1:8) and went out to the entrance to the cave. And behold he heard the question a second time, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" and answered with a repetition of his complain (see 1 Kings 19:9, 1 Kings 19:10). - While the appearance of God, not in the tempest, the earthquake, and the fire, but in a gentle rustling, revealed the Lord to him as a merciful and gracious God, long-suffering, and of great goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6), the answer to his complaint showed him that He did not leave guilt unpunished (Exodus 34:7), since the Lord gave him the following command, 1 Kings 19:15.: "Go back in thy way to the desert of Damascus, and anoint Hazael king over Aram (see 2 Kings 8:12-13), and Jehu the son of Nimshi king over Israel (see 2 Kings 9:2), and Elisha the son of Shaphat prophet in thy stead" (see 1 Kings 19:19); and then added this promise, which must have quieted his zeal, that was praiseworthy in the feelings from which it sprang, although it had assumed too passionate a form, and have given him courage to continue his prophetic work: "And it will come to pass, that however escapeth the sword of Hazael, him will Jehu slay, and whoever escapeth the sword of Jehu, him will Elisha slay." Verse 19. - So he departed thence, and found [Nothing can be concluded from this word as to previous acquaintance] Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing [It was in the winter, consequently (Proverbs 20:4. See Condor, p. 328). "Elisha is found not in his study, but in the field: not with a book in his hand, but the plough" (Hall). with twelve yoke of oxen [Heb. ploughing twelve yoke, from which Ewald gathers that he was ploughing twelve yoke of land - צֶמֶד like jugum, is used as a measure of land in 1 Samuel 14:14, Isaiah 5:10 - and was then at work on the twelfth and last. But the meaning of the "twelve yoke" here is surely settled by the "yoke of oxen;" cf. ver. 21 and see below] before him [This word also points to animals, not land. The twelve pair of oxen, it is generally thought, are mentioned to show that Elisha was a man of substance. It is not certain, however, that all the twelve belonged to him. See next note], and he with the twelfth ["I have seen more than a dozen ploughs thus at work. To understand the reason of this, several things must be taken into account. First, that the arable land of nearly all villages is cultivated in common; then that Arab farmers delight to work together, partly for mutual protection, and partly from their love of gossip," etc. Thomson, L. and B. 1:208]: and Elijah passed by him [Heb. to him. The idea that he may have "crossed the stream of the Jordan" (Rawlinson) is extremely improbable. The current is strong, and it is not everywhere fordable, especially in winter], and cast his mantle upon him. [Heb. to him ךאלָיו. But LXX. ἐπ αὐτόν. Already, it would seem, the rough hairy mantle had come to be recognized as the garb of a prophet (cf. Zechariah 13:4). "The prophet's cloak was a sign of the prophet's vocation" (Keil). To cast the cloak to or upon Elisha was therefore an appropriate and significant way of designating him to the prophetic office. "When Elijah went to heaven Elisha had the mantle entire" 2 Kings 2:13 (Henry). The Germans use the word mantel-kind of an adopted child.]
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