2 Kings 2:16
And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.
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(16) And they said unto him.—After he had told them of the Assumption of Elijah (Thenius).

Fifty strong men.—See margin. Perhaps these were attendants on the members of the prophetic guild. (Comp. Elisha’s servant Gehazi, and the fifty sons of the prophets, in 2Kings 2:7.) Their being “sons of valour” was important, as the search in the mountains would involve danger.

The Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up.—Comp. 1Kings 18:12; Acts 8:39-40. This suggestion of the sons of the prophets is a good comment on 2Kings 2:11-12. It shows that what is there told is certainly not that Elijah ascended a fiery chariot and rode visibly into heaven, as the popular notion is.

Upon some mountain, or into some valley.—Literally, on to one of the mountains, or into one of the valleys, of the land of Gilead. The motive of the disciples was not a desire to pay the last honours to the body of the departed master, as Keil suggests; for they rather expected to find Elijah alive. After the words “cast him,” the LXX. has “into the Jordan,” which may be authentic. In that case, the disciples may have thought the prophet was hidden somewhere among the reeds and rushes of the river bank, in order to escape some threatened danger.

Ye shall not send.—Or, Ye must not, ye should not, or ought not, to send.

2 Kings 2:16-17. Behold, there be with thy servants fifty strong men — Able to take such a journey. Let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master — They had received but an imperfect revelation of God’s design, with respect to Elijah, when they asked Elisha if he knew that the Lord would take away his master: for they seem to have supposed that the Spirit of God might have taken him up and cast him, either dead or alive, upon some mountain, or in some valley at a distance; see on 1 Kings 18:12; and if alive, they wished to find him, that they might minister to his necessities; and if dead, that they might give his body an honourable burial. And he said, Ye shall not send — For he knew it would be to no purpose. They urged him till he was ashamed — That is, to deny them any longer, lest they should think his denial proceeded from a neglect of his master, or a contempt of them. Or, as the Hebrew, עד בשׁ, gnad bosh, may with equal propriety be rendered, till they were ashamed, namely, because he so often and so obstinately denied their request. And they sought him three days — Searching every place where they thought it likely he might be cast. But found him not — Thus still further evidence was given of his translation, and they, having lost their labour, and tired themselves with their fruitless search, would be more ready to submit to Elisha’s authority, and acquiesce in his judgment another time.

2:13-18 Elijah left his mantle to Elisha; as a token of the descent of the Spirit upon him; it was more than if he had left him thousands of gold and silver. Elisha took it up, not as a sacred relic to be worshipped, but as a significant garment to be worn. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha inquired, 1. After God; when our creature-comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, who lives for ever. 2. After the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for. The Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; but what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God? See Elisha's dividing the river; God's people need not fear at last passing through the Jordan of death as on dry ground. The sons of the prophets made a needless search for Elijah. Wise men may yield to that, for the sake of peace, and the good opinion of others, which yet their judgment is against, as needless and fruitless. Traversing hills and valleys will never bring us to Elijah, but following the example of his holy faith and zeal will, in due time.Compare the marginal references. The words "cast him upon some mountain," rather imply that they expected to find the prophet alive. 16-18. fifty strong men, let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master—Though the young prophets from Jericho had seen Elijah's miraculous passage of the Jordan, they had not witnessed the ascension. They imagined that he might have been cast by the whirlwind on some mountain or valley; or, if he had actually been admitted into heaven, they expected that his body would still be remaining somewhere on earth. In compliance with their importunity, he gave them permission, but told them what the result would be. Strong men; able to take such a journey. They thought, either,

1. That God had not finally taken him away from them, but only for a time; compare 1 Kings 18:12; which they heartily desired, and therefore easily believed; or

2. that God had only taken away his soul, and that his body was cast down into some place, which they desired to seek, that they might give it an honourable burial.

And they said unto him, behold, now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men,.... Perhaps meaning themselves, 2 Kings 2:7 who were young, stout, and strong, and able to travel for days together:

let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master; for though they knew he was to be taken away, yet knew not for what time, and imagined he might be found again:

lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up; as it seems he was wont to do, see 1 Kings 18:12.

and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley; where he sometimes had his abode; or they might fancy, if he was taken up to heaven, yet in his soul only, and that, when that was separated, his dead body would be left on a mountain, or in a valley; and therefore they were desirous of seeking and finding it, that it might not be exposed to birds and beasts of prey, but that they might bury it in a decent and honourable manner:

and he said, ye shall not send; he knew it was to no purpose, since he was translated to heaven, body and soul, and which he was an eyewitness of.

And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, {l} Ye shall not send.

(l) Because the fact was extraordinary, they doubted where he had gone, but Elisha was assured that he was taken up to God.

16. there be with thy servants fifty strong men] Doubtless some from among the company of the prophets are meant. In chapter 2 Kings 4:1-4 they are described as men equal to the labour of telling trees, and doing the work of building. We cannot suppose that in such a society there were many persons retained for the service of the college. As Elisha served Elijah, so they did all that was needful for themselves.

seek thy master] Throughout the narrative there is implied a much closer connexion between Elijah and Elisha than between Elijah and the rest. He is ‘thy master’ not ‘our master’.

the spirit of the Lord hath taken him up] Compare 1 Kings 18:12, where Obadiah speaks of the spirit of the Lord carrying Elijah away to some unknown spot. A like expression is found in the introduction to Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1) of the dry bones. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon me and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord.’ The ‘sons of the prophets’ appear to have thought that the body of Elijah might be discovered somewhere, though God had taken away his soul. They had knowledge, as is seen from the previous part of the narrative, that the prophet was to be taken away from life, but seem to have expected his body would be left lifeless near the spot where he was separated from Elisha. It cannot be supposed after what they had before said to Elisha, that the Lord would take away his master from him on that day, that they expected to find Elijah somewhere alive. ‘Could they think that God would send such a chariot and horses, for a less voyage than heaven?’ (Bp Hall).

and cast him] Here the LXX. adds ‘in the Jordan or’, an addition which seems due to a desire to express every possible place into which the body could have been thrown. If it were not on a hill or in a valley, it might perhaps be in the river. The use of the word ‘cast’ seems to indicate that they thought of the body of the prophet as merely the wrapping of that better part which God had taken to Himself, and that the body was of small account when the spirit had been taken from it.

Ye shall not send] There could be no doubt in Elisha’s mind about the taking up of the body of his master. The garment left as a symbol of the granted petition was all that had fallen to the ground. But though he described, as no doubt he did, the glory which he had beheld and the way in which his master was translated, the sons of the prophets could not be moved from their notion that the body of Elijah might somewhere be discovered, and it is easy to understand how they would desire to give it reverent burial, if it were to be found.

Verse 16. - And they said unto him. Thenius suggests that Elisha first related to them what had befallen his master; but the impression left by the narrative is rather that they began the conversation, being aware of Elijah's disappearance, which in that clear atmosphere they may have distinctly perceived, though the ascension may not have been visible to them. Keil thinks that they saw the ascension, but supposed that the body, after being taken up a certain height into the air, would necessarily fall to earth, and that they wished to find it and bury it. But the natural interpretation is that they thought the prophet had been "caught away" by a Divine influence, as Philip the evangelist was in later times (Acts 8:39), and would be found somewhere alive, as Philip "was found at Azotus." Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; literally, sons of strength; i.e. stout, active persons, capable of climbing the rough and precipitous rocks among which they thought that Elijah might be east. Let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. On either side of the ciccar, or Jordan plain, are rugged districts, consisting of alternate rocky mountain slopes and narrow gulleys, or water-courses, dry during the greater part of the year. The sons of the prophets think that Elijah has been carried by the Spirit of God into one or other of these mountain tracts, and wish to search them. And he said, Ye shall not send; or, do not send; meaning, "it will be useless - you will find nothing - it is not as you suppose." 2 Kings 2:16But the disciples of the prophets at Jericho were so unable to realize the fact of Elijah's translation, although it had been previously revealed to them, that they begged permission of Elisha to send out fifty brave men to seek for Elijah. פּן־נשׂאו: whether the Spirit of the Lord has not taken him and cast him upon one of the mountains, or into one of the valleys. פּן with the perfect is used "where there is fear of a fact, which as is conjectured almost with certainty has already happened," like μὴ in the sense of "whether not" (vid., Ewald, 337, b.). יהוה רוּח is not a wind sent by Jehovah (Ges.), but the Spirit of Jehovah, as in 1 Kings 18:12. The Chethb גּיאות is the regular formation from גּיא or גּיא (Zechariah 14:4); the Keri with the transposition of א and ,י the later form: גּאיות, Ezekiel 7:16; Ezekiel 31:12, etc. The belief expressed by the disciples of the prophets, that Elijah might have been miraculously carried away, was a popular belief, according to 1 Kings 18:12, which the disciples of the prophets were probably led to share, more especially in the present case, by the fact that they could not imagine a translation to heaven as a possible thing, and with the indefiniteness of the expression ראשׁך מעל לקח could only understand the divine revelation which they had received as referring to removal by death. So that even if Elisha told them how miraculously Elijah had been taken from him, which he no doubt did, they might still believe that by the appearance in the storm the Lord had taken away His servant from this life, that is to say, had received his soul into heaven, and had left his earthly tabernacle somewhere on the earth, for which they would like to go in search, that they might pay the last honours to their departed master. Elisha yielded to their continued urgency and granted their request; whereupon fifty men sought for three days for Elijah's body, and after three days' vain search returned to Jericho. עד־בּשׁ, to being ashamed, i.e., till he was ashamed to refuse their request any longer (see at Judges 3:25).

The two following miracles of Elisha (2 Kings 2:19-25) were also intended to accredit him in the eyes of the people as a man endowed with the Spirit and power of God, as Elijah had been. 2 Kings 2:19-22. Elisha makes the water at Jericho wholesome. - During his stay at Jericho (2 Kings 2:18) the people of the city complained, that whilst the situation of the place was good in other respects, the water was bad and the land produced miscarriages. הארץ, the land, i.e., the soil, on account of the badness of the water; not "the inhabitants, both man and beast" (Thenius). Elisha then told them to bring a new dish with salt, and poured the salt into the spring with these words: "Thus saith the Lord, I have made this water sound; there will not more be death and miscarriage thence" (משּׁם). משׁלּכת is a substantive here (vid., Ewald, 160, e.). המּים מוצא is no doubt the present spring Ain es Sultn, the only spring near to Jericho, the waters of which spread over the plain of Jericho, thirty-five minutes' distance from the present village and castle, taking its rise in a group of elevations not far from the foot of the mount Quarantana (Kuruntul); a large and beautiful spring, the water of which is neither cold nor warm, and has an agreeable and sweet (according to Steph. Schultz, "somewhat salt") taste. It was formerly enclosed by a kind of reservoir or semicircular wall of hewn stones, from which the water was conducted in different directions to the plain (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. p. 283ff.). With regard to the miracle, a spring which supplied the whole of the city and district with water could not be so greatly improved by pouring in a dish of salt, that the water lost its injurious qualities for ever, even if salt does possess the power of depriving bad water of its unpleasant taste and injurious effects. The use of these natural means does not remove the miracle. Salt, according to its power of preserving from corruption and decomposition, is a symbol of incorruptibility and of the power of life which destroys death (see Bhr, Symbolik, ii. pp. 325,326). As such it formed the earthly substratum for the spiritual power of the divine word, through which the spring was made for ever sound. A new dish was taken for the purpose, not ob munditiem (Seb. Schm.), but as a symbol of the renewing power of the word of God. - But if this miracle was adapted to show to the people the beneficent character of the prophet's ministry, the following occurrence was intended to prove to the despisers of God that the Lord does not allow His servants to be ridiculed with impunity.

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