2 Kings 2:9
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you, before I be taken away from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be on me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) I pray thee, let . . .—Literally, And (i.e., well, then) let there fall, I pray thee, a portion of two in thy spirit, unto me.

A double portion.—The expression used in Deuteronomy 21:7 of the share of the firstborn son, who by the Mosaic law inherited two parts of his father’s property.

Elisha asks to be treated as the firstborn among “the sons of the prophets,” and so to receive twice as great a share of “the spirit and power” of his master as any of the rest. “Let me be the firstborn among thy spiritual sons;” “Make me thy true spiritual heir;” not “Give me twice as great a share of the spirit of prophecy as thou possessest thyself,” as many have wrongly interpreted. The phrase, “a mouth of two,” seems to be a metaphor derived from the custom of serving honoured guests with double, and even greater, messes (Genesis 43:34).

Ask what I shall do for thee . . . from thee.—As a dying father, Elijah might wish to bless his spiritual son ere his departure (Genesis 27:4). (Comp. 2Kings 2:12 infra, “My father, my father.”)

2 Kings 2:9. Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee — Elijah, undoubtedly, had an inward assurance that God would grant him his last request that he should make; but we may observe here, that he expressly confines it to its being made before he was taken away, and gives no manner of hope to his disciple, that his asking any thing of him after he was removed would be of any avail, or that he could then render him any service. I pray, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me — Double to what the rest of the sons of the prophets receive at thy request. He alludes to the double portion of the firstborn, Deuteronomy 21:17. But though Elisha desired no more, yet God gave him more than he desired or expected; and he seems to have had a greater portion of the gifts of God’s Spirit than even Elijah had.2:9-12 That fulness, from whence prophets and apostles had all their supply, still exists as of old, and we are told to ask large supplies from it. Diligent attendance upon Elijah, particularly in his last hours, would be proper means for Elisha to obtain much of his spirit. The comforts of departing saints, and their experiences, help both to gild our comforts and to strengthen our resolutions. Elijah is carried to heaven in a fiery chariot. Many questions might be asked about this, which could not be answered. Let it suffice that we are told, what his Lord, when he came, found him doing. He was engaged in serious discourse, encouraging and directing Elisha about the kingdom of God among men. We mistake, if we think preparation for heaven is carried on only by contemplation and acts of devotion. The chariot and horses appeared like fire, something very glorious, not for burning, but brightness. By the manner in which Elijah and Enoch were taken from this world, God gave a glimpse of the eternal life brought to light by the gospel, of the glory reserved for the bodies of the saints, and of the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. It was also a figure of Christ's ascension. Though Elijah was gone triumphantly to heaven, yet this world could ill spare him. Surely their hearts are hard, who feel not, when God, by taking away faithful, useful men, calls for weeping and mourning. Elijah was to Israel, by his counsels, reproofs, and prayers, better than the strongest force of chariot and horse, and kept off the judgments of God. Christ bequeathed to his disciples his precious gospel, like Elijah's mantle; the token of the Divine power being exerted to overturn the empire of Satan, and to set up the kingdom of God in the world. The same gospel remains with us, though the miraculous powers are withdrawn, and it has Divine strength for the conversion and salvation of sinners.Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me - Like Solomon, Elisha asks for no worldly advantage, but for spiritual power to discharge his office aright. The "double portion" is that which denotes the proportion of a father's property which was the right of an eldest son Deuteronomy 21:17. Elisha therefore asked for twice as much of Elijah's spirit as should be inherited by any other of the "sons of the prophets." He simply claimed, i. e., to be acknowledged as Elijah's firstborn spiritual son. 9. Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee—trusting either that it would be in his power to bequeath it, or that God, at his entreaty, would grant it.

let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me—This request was not, as is commonly supposed, for the power of working miracles exceeding the magnitude and number of his master's, nor does it mean a higher endowment of the prophetic spirit; for Elisha was neither superior to, nor perhaps equally great with, his predecessor. But the phrase, "a double portion," was applied to the first-born [De 21:17], and therefore Elisha's request was, simply, to be heir to the prophetic office and gifts of his master.

Either,

1. Double to what is in thee; which it seems not probable that he had confidence either to ask, or to expect. Or rather,

2. Double to what the rest of the sons of the prophets may receive at thy request upon this occasion. He alludes to the double portion of the firstborn, Deu 21:17. But though Elisha desired no more, yet God gave him more than he desired or expected; and he seems to have had a greater portion of the prophetical and miraculous gifts of God’s Spirit than Elijah had. And it came to pass, when they were gone over,.... Had got on the other side Jordan:

that Elijah said unto Elisha, ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee; for, having followed him so closely, he now made no more a secret of his assumption, and having had full trial of his attachment to him, and affection for him:

and Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me; the two parts of the gifts of the spirit he had, that of prophecy, and that of doing miracles, as some think; or two parts out of three of what Elijah was possessed of; or rather double as much, and which he might desire, not from a spirit of vanity and ambition to be greater than his master, but from an eagerness to promote the glory of God, and the interest of religion, to reclaim the Israelites from their idolatry, and establish the true religion, which he might observe Elijah was not able to do with that measure of grace and gifts he had; or however this phrase denotes an abundance, a large portion or measure, as it everywhere does. Many, after Ben Gersom, have thought it refers to the double portion of the firstborn, and that Elisha does not mean a double portion with respect to Elijah, but with respect to the junior prophets, with whom he might be considered as a firstborn, and so desired a double or greater portion than they, and which may be most correct (m); and when he asked this, he did not suppose it was in Elijah's power to give him it, only that he would pray to God, at parting with him, that he would bestow it on him.

(m) See Weemse of the Moral Law, l. 2. c. 7. p. 41.

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. And Elisha said, I pray thee, {g} let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.

(g) Let your spirit have double force in me, because of these dangerous times: or let me have twice as much as the rest of the prophets: or if your spirit were to be divided into three parts, let me have two.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. when they were gone over] Or, with margin of R.V., ‘as they went over’. There was now no other place to visit, and the end was felt to be close at hand. Both probably thought how near they were coming to the spot where the earlier prophet Moses had been taken from the earth. In crossing the Jordan Elijah stood again on the slopes of his native Gilead. Was he impelled by that strong desire which so often makes men wish to die among the scenes of their childhood?

before I be taken away from thee] R.V. omits ‘away’, rather inconsistently, for ‘take away’ is kept as the rendering of the same verb in verses 3 and 5.

The subject which had been filling both their hearts, the approaching separation, is at last mentioned. The master would help in whatever way he could the disciple who has been chosen to fill his place; and the question tests the character of Elisha. It shews that he felt that he must act with the same undaunted courage and boldness, and that he knew the needs of the times.

let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me] The request is not, as some have thought, for twice the spirit of the departing master. And the attempts which have been made to shew that in some ways Elisha went beyond Elijah are utterly pointless. What Elisha wants is what a father may rightly give to a firstborn son. In Deuteronomy 21:17 it is prescribed that to the firstborn shall be given a double portion of all which the father possesses, so that he may have twice as much as each of the other sons. But we are not to think here of the whole of the schools of the prophets as sharing in the gift which Elijah was to bestow. Such slavery to the letter is absurd. What Elisha longs for is such a blessing as will shew that he is esteemed as the dearest member of that band whom Elijah had most trusted.Verse 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. But it is objected

(1) that Elisha's modesty would prevent him from asking so much; and

(2) that double the spirit and power of Elijah certainly did not rest upon him.

This latter fact is quite undeniable. As Keil says, "It is only a quite external and superficial view of the career of Elisha that can see in it a proof that double the spirit of Elijah rested upon him" ('Commentary on Kings,' ad loc.). To one who looks beneath the surface, and regards something besides length of life and number of miracles, Elisha is a very faint and feeble replica of Elijah. Ewald's judgment is here correct: "Elisha is great only so far as he continues and carries out with more force than any other man of his time the work which Elijah had begun with new and wonderful power... he did not possess any such intensity of inward power as his master" ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 82, Eng. trans.). Accordingly, Ewald, rejecting the old explanation, suggests one of his own - that Elisha asked for "two thirds of Elijah's spirit" (ibid., p. 81); but this would be a very strange and unusual request, even if the Hebrew could be made to mean it. Who ever asks for two-thirds of a thing? The third explanation, to which most modern commentators incline (Keil, Thenius, Patrick, Clarke, Pool, Bottcher), is that Elisha merely requested that he might receive twice as much of Elijah's spirit as should be received by any other of the "sons of the prophets." He made a reference to Deuteronomy 21:17, and asked for the "double portion" (literally, "double mouthful") which was the right of an eldest son. The only objection to this view is Elijah's answer (see the next verse). In Bethel the disciples of the prophets came to meet Elisha, and said to him, "Knowest thou that Jehovah will take thy master from over thy head to-day?" ראשׁ מעל לקח expresses in a pictorial manner the taking away of Elijah from his side by raising him to heaven, like ἐπαίρειν and ὑπολαμβάνειν in Acts 1:9-10. Elisha replied, "I know it, be silent," because he knew Elijah's feeling. The Lord had therefore revealed to the disciples of the prophets the taking away of Elijah, to strengthen their faith.
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