Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.2. Elijah’s Translation
1. From Gilgal to Jordan (2Kings 2:1-6)
2. The divided Jordan (2Kings 2:7-8)
3. Elisha’s request (2Kings 2:9-10)
4. Elijah goes up to heaven in a whirlwind (2Kings 2:11)
The time for Elijah’s departure had now come, and the LORD, whom he had served so faithfully, “would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind.” As Lord He graciously orders the time and the manner of the departure of His servants (John 21:18-22). His coming translation was known to him, to Elisha and to the sons of the prophets. The latter belonged to the schools of the prophets.
The “schools of the prophets,” which were placed under the direction of experienced and approved prophets, afforded to younger men an opportunity of becoming qualified to perform the duties of the prophetic calling. The selection and the admission of individuals who were suited for the prophetic office by their personal character, and who had a divine call, undoubtedly depended on the prophetic judgment of those who presided over these institutions. As prophecy was a gift and not an art, the instructions which were imparted, probably referred merely to the study of the law, and were intended to awaken and cultivate theocratical sentiments, as well as promote a growth in spiritual life, for herein a suitable preparation for the prophetic office necessarily consisted. There are also indications found which authorize us to conclude that the revival of sacred poetry, as an art, and that theocratic-historical composition also, are to be ascribed to these religious communities as their source. Such schools existed in Ramah, Jericho, Beth-el, and Gilgal (1Samuel 19:18; 2Kings 2:3; 2Kings 2:5; 2Kings 4:38). Those who frequented them, had, usually, reached the age of manhood already, and in some cases, were married men. They lived together in a society or community, which often embraced a large number of members, and were occasionally employed as prophetic messengers by their teachers (2Kings 9:1). However, the prophets were not invariably trained in these schools; several are named who were taken at once from civil life and invested with the prophetic office (Sacred History).
The goodness and power of God was now to be manifested in taking him into heaven without passing through death. The Jewish synagogue and the church have always believed the record of his departure, but it has been reserved to the destructive criticism to deny the translation of Elijah. The following statements are taken from Canon F.W. Farrar’s exposition of the second book of Kings. “Knowing that he was on his way to death, Elijah felt the imperious instinct which leads the soul to seek solitude at the supreme crisis of life.” “His death, like that of Moses, was surrounded by mystery and miracles, and we can say nothing further about it.” How strange that a scholar and expositor can speak twice of the death of Elijah, when the record so dearly establishes the fact that he was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and that he did not die at all!
He appeared with Moses when our Lord was transfigured. According to Peter’s inspired comment the transfiguration scene foreshadows the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Peter 1:16-21). As He stood in glorious majesty upon that mountain so will He come to this earth once more and bring His saints with Him. Moses is the representative of those saints, who died and are raised from the dead; Elijah represents that company, who will be caught in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, departing from the earth without dying (1Corinthians 15:51-53; 1Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Elisha clings close to Elijah. He had previously cast his mantle (the symbol of the prophetic office) upon Elisha, and he was then not quite ready to follow him fully. (See 1Kings 19:19-20. Compare with Luke 9:62.) But now we see Elisha following Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, and from Jericho to Jordan. He proves himself worthy of the mantle, to exercise the holy office as the prophet of the LORD. He covets in answer to Elijah’s request a double portion of the spirit which was upon Elijah to rest upon him. (According to the marginal reading, “the portion of the first born son,” which was twice as much as that of the other sons. See Deuteronomy 21:17.) Elijah’s answer is conditional. If Elisha saw Elijah taken up into heaven, it should be so, and if not, then his request was not to be granted. And while they yet talked the chariot of fire, and horses of fire appeared and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. The chariot of fire with its horses of fire were the symbol of the presence of the LORD of Hosts (Psalm 104:3-4; Isaiah 66:15; Habakkuk 3:8), but Elijah went up by the whirlwind. We know he was translated; he passed on without dying, but the details of it are not made known.
Elisha following Elijah, his request and the vision of glory, are suggestive about true service for God. Only as we follow the Lord wholly, as Elisha followed Elijah, and look to the coming glory, are we fit and fitted for service.
And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.II. THE PROPHET ELISHA
1. The Beginning of His Ministry
1. The mantle used (2Kings 2:12-14)
2. The sons of the prophets (2Kings 2:15-18)
3. The healing of Jericho’s waters (2Kings 2:19-22)
4. Judgment upon the scoffers (2Kings 2:23-25)
Both Elijah and Elisha are types of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their names indicate this. Elijah means “my God is Jehovah,” and Elisha, “my God is salvation.” Suffering, affliction and rejection are prominent in the life of Elijah, but it ended for him by being taken into heaven. It foreshadows the path of Him who was rejected by His own, cast out by the world and who has gone to heaven. In Elisha and his ministry, sovereign grace towards Israel in apostasy and ripening for judgment, is the predominant feature, foreshadowing Him who appeared in the midst of His people, ministering grace and truth (John 1:14; John 1:18). (Another typical application is to look upon Elisha’s ministry as typifying what will be bestowed upon Israel and upon the Gentiles with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.)
Elisha had seen Elijah’s departure into heaven, and when he saw him no more “he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” He thus expressed his grief, but at the same time he took Elijah’s mantle (symbolical of the prophetic ministry, which had fallen upon him) and used it at once. He smites with it the waters of Jordan and the Lord God of Elijah answers faith by parting the river. It was the first miracle of his administration. “So shall the waters of difficulty, nay, the cold flood of death itself, part, if we smite in faith with the heaven given garment; so shall the promise of God ever stand sure, and God be true to His Word; and so may we go forward undauntedly, though humbly and prayerfully, to whatever work He gives us to do” (A. Edersheim).
The sons of the prophets then acknowledged Elisha. They are seen ever after in close fellowship with the prophet; they belonged to the faithful remnant in Israel. However, not having witnessed Elijah’s translation they were unbelieving and thought that the Spirit might have transported the prophet (1Kings 18:12; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:3). They were not obedient to Elisha’s command and urged him to send, till he was ashamed and yielded to their request. After a three days’ unsuccessful search they returned and now they had to be ashamed, when their master told them, “Did I not say unto you, Go not?” They were like the disciples of our Lord “slow to believe.”
The second miracle is one of mercy, followed by a miracle of judgment. The healing of Jericho’s waters is a miracle of much significance. Jericho is a type of the world under the curse (Joshua 6). The water was naught and the ground barren. A new cruse with salt is brought. The salt is put into the waters and the prophet said: “Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” When He, who is greater than Elisha, comes back to this earth again, now under the curse and death reigning upon it, the curse will be removed; there will be healing as it was for Jericho. The other miracles of grace and mercy teach the same lesson.
The third miracle is one of judgment. Judgment well deserved fell upon those who despised the chosen messenger of God. The mockers were not “little children,” but young men. They were of Bethel, and no doubt associated with the wicked worship established there (1Kings 7:25-33). They were infidels and scoffers. They mocked the translation of Elijah and taunted Elisha. The curse of the Lord fell upon them. Forty-two of their number were torn by she-bears. The punishment has been declared by critics “disproportionate to the offence.” It certainly is not when the offence is considered as an insult to the man of God, who had gone to heaven and to the prophet who had taken his place; besides, these young men had scoffed at the power of God. And we must not overlook the fact that present day mockers and rejecters of the ministry of the gospel and grace of God will also receive their punishment in due time (2Peter 3:3-7).