2 Kings 2:17
And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Urged him.Genesis 33:11.

Till he was ashamed.—Literally, unto being ashamed. The pronoun is not expressed in the Hebrew. “They pressed upon him, ‘ad bōsh,” means “until he was embarrassed, disconcerted, put out of countenance.” (Comp. 2Kings 8:11; Judges 3:25.) Thenius prefers “they carried their importunity to a shameless length;” Keil and Bähr, “until he was disappointed in the hope of dissuading them.” (Comp. Psalm 22:5.)

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.Till he was ashamed - i. e. to refuse them any longer. 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. Till he was ashamed, i.e. to wit, to deny them any longer, lest they should think his denial proceeded from a neglect of his master, or a contempt of the sons of the prophets, or a secret content he took in his master’s loss, that he might have his honour and power. Or, till they were ashamed, because he did so oft and so obstinately deny their request. And when they urged him until he was ashamed,.... To deny them any longer, being so very pressing and importunate:

he said, send; lest they should think he had not the respect for his master he should have had; or was so fond of his office, that he did not choose he should be found alive if he could, and return and reassume it:

they sent therefore fifty men; some one way, and some another:

and they sought three days, but found him not; and then returned.

And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. till he was ashamed] i.e. to refuse longer so urgent, though as he knew resultless, a petition. There is no pronoun expressed in the original. Hence some have thought the expression meant ‘to a shameful extent’ and was to be applied to the undue persistence of the petitioners. But the same phrase occurs in Jdg 3:25 of Eglon’s servants who waited till they were ashamed to wait longer. Here it implies that Elisha was at a loss how to refuse them any longer. His narrative was unprecedented in its character, and if they refused to be persuaded by that, he had no more that he could do.Verse 17. - And when they urged him, till he was ashamed, he said, Send; literally, when they urged him until shame; which some expound to mean, "until they were ashamed to press him any more" (Gesenius, Winer, Keil); but others, with more reason, "until he was ashamed to persist in his refusal" (ἑὼς οῦ ἠσχύνετο, LXX.). It is always a hard thing for one man to refuse the repeated and earnest request of a multitude. When Elisha said, "Send," he had not in the least changed his mind; he only meant to say, "Send, then, if you insist upon it, to satisfy yourselves, not me. There is no harm in your sending." They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. The result bore out the advice and anticipations of the prophet. It was simply nil. No trace was found of the aged seer who had been translated from earth to heaven. Elijah's ascension. - 2 Kings 2:11. While they were walking on and talking to each other, "behold (there suddenly appeared) a fiery chariot and fiery horses, and separated the two (by driving between them), and Elijah went up in the tempest to heaven." As God had formerly taken Enoch away, so that he did not taste of death (see at Genesis 5:24), so did He also suddenly take Elijah away from Elisha, and carry him to heaven without dying. It was בּסּערה, "in the tempest," that he was taken away. The storm was accompanied by a fiery phenomenon, which appeared to the eyes of Elisha as a chariot of fire with horses of fire, in which Elijah rode to heaven. The tempest was an earthly substratum for the theophany, the fiery chariots and fiery horses the symbolical form in which the translation of his master to heaven presented itself to the eye of Elisha, who was left behind.

(Note: All further questions, e.g., concerning the nature of the fiery chariot, the place to which Elijah was carried, the day of his ascension, which C. a Lap., according to the Romish martyrology, assigns to the 20th of July in the 19th year of Jehoshaphat, and others of the same kind, which have been discussed by the earlier commentators, are to be set down as useless trifles, which go beyond the bounds of our thought and comprehension.)

The ascension of Elijah has been compared to the death of Moses. "As God Himself buried Moses, and his grave has not been found to this day, so did He fetch Elias to heaven in a still more glorious manner in a fiery chariot with fiery horses, so that fifty men, who searched for him, did not find him on the earth" (Ziegler). This parallel has a real foundation in the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Christ on the mountain of transfiguration, only we must not overlook the difference in the departure from this life of these two witnesses of God. For Moses died and was to die in the wilderness because of his sin (Deuteronomy 32:49.), and was only buried by the hand of the Lord, so that no one has seen his grave, not so much for the purpose of concealing it from men as to withdraw his body from corruption, and preserve and glorify it for the eternal life (see the Comm. on Deuteronomy 34:5-6). Elijah did not die, but was received into heaven by being "changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.). This difference is in perfect harmony with the character and position of these two men in the earthly kingdom of God. Moses the lawgiver departed from the earthly life by the way of the law, which worketh death as the wages of sin (Romans 6:23; Romans 7:13); Elijah the prophet, who was appointed to admonish for future times (ὁ καταγραφεὶς ἐν ἐλεγμοῖς εἰς καιρούς), to pacify the wrath before the judgment, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob (Ecclus. 48:10), was taken to heaven as the forerunner of Christ (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:10-11) without tasting of death, to predict the ascension of our Lord, and to set it forth in Old Testament mode; for as a servant, as the servant of the law, who with his fiery zeal preached both by word and deed the fire of the wrath of divine justice to the rebellious generation of his own time, Elijah was carried by the Lord to heaven in a fiery storm, the symbol of the judicial righteousness of God. "As he was an unparalleled champion for the honour of the Lord, a fiery war-chariot was the symbol of his triumphal procession into heaven" (O. v. Gerlach). But Christ, as the Son, to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth, after having taken away from death its sting and from hell its victory, by His resurrection from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55), returned to the Father in the power of His eternal deity, and ascended to heaven in His glorified body before the eyes of His disciples as the victor over death and hell, until a cloud received Him and concealed His figure from their sight (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9).

(Note: The actual truth of this miraculous departure of the prophet is strongly confirmed by the appearance of Elijah, as recorded in Matthew 17:3-4 and Luke 9:30, upon which the seal of attestation is impressed by the ascension of our Lord. His ascension was in harmony with the great mission with which he, the mightiest of all the prophets, was entrusted in that development of the divine plan of salvation which continued through the centuries in the interval between Moses and Christ. - Whoever is unable to do justice to the spirit and nature of the divine revelation of mercy, will be unable to comprehend this miracle also. This was the case with Josephus, and even with Ephraem the Syrian father. Josephus, for example (Ant. ix. 2, 2), saying nothing about the miracle, and simply states that Ἠελίας ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἠφανίσθη· καὶ οὐδεὶς ἔγνω μέχρις τῆς σήμερον αὐτοῦ τὴν τελευτήν, and adds that it is written of Elijah and Enoch in the sacred books, ὅτι γεγόνασιν ἀφανεῖς. θάνατον δὲ αὐτῶν οὐδεὶς οἶδεν. Ephraem, the Christian father, passes over the last clause of 2 Kings 2:11, "so Elijah went up in the whirlwind to heaven," in his exposition of our chapter, and paraphrases the rest of the words thus: "There came suddenly from on high a fire-storm, and in the midst of the flame the form of a chariot and of horses, and separated them from one another; one of the two it left on the earth, the other, namely Elijah, it carried up on high (Syr. ‛alı̂ lȧmerawma'); but whither the wind (or Spirit? Syr. rôha') took him, or in what place it left him, the Scriptures have not told us. They say, however, that some years afterwards an alarming letter from him, full of threats, was delivered to king Joram of Judah." Following the lead of such predecessors as these, J. D. Michaelis, who boasts so much of his orthodoxy, informed the "unlearned" (in the Anmerkungen to his Bibel-bersetzung) that Elijah did not go to heaven, but was simply carried away from Palestine, and lived at least twelve years more, that he might be bale to write a letter to king Joram (2 Chronicles 21:12), for "men do not receive letters from people in heaven." This incident has been frequently adduced since then as a disproof of the ascension of Elijah. but there is not a word in the Chronicles about any letter (ספרים, ספר, or אגרת, which would be the Hebrew for a letter); all that is said is that a writing (מכתב) from the prophet Elijah was brought to Joram, in which he was threatened with severe punishments on account of his apostasy. Now such a writing as this might very well have been written by Elijah before his ascension, and handed to Elisha to be sent by him to king Joram at the proper time. Even Bertheau admits that, according to the chronological data of the Old Testament, Elijah might have been still living in the reign of Joram of Judah; and it is a priori probable that he both spoke of Joram's sin and threatened him with punishment. It is impossible to fix the year of Elijah's ascension. Neither the fact that it is mentioned after the death of Ahaziah of Israel, which he himself had personally foretold to that ungodly king, nor the circumstance that in the war which Jehoshaphat and Joram of Israel waged with the Moabites the prophet Elisha was consulted (1 Kings 3), warrants the conclusion that Elijah was taken from the earth in the interval between these two events. It is very obvious from 2 Kings 3:11, that the two kings applied to Elisha simply because he was in the neighbourhood, and not because Elijah was no longer alive.)

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