James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.2 Kings 1:1-2:25
HIS LAST COMMISSION (2 Kings 1)
The story of Ahaziah’s reign in the last chapter of 1 Kings and the first verse of this lesson is a close link between the two books. It indicates that the death of Ahab and the accession of his son gave occasion to the Moabites for this uprising, the first since their conquest by David (1 Samuel 8:2).
“Baalzebub” (2 Kings 1:2), “the lord of the fly,” was the name under which the sun-god Baal was worshipped at Ekron, the city of the Philistines lying nearest to Ahaziah’s capitol, Samaria. Probably the name comes from the supposition that he produced the flies and was consequently able to protect against them as a pest. The name is not to be confounded with “Beelzebub” of Matthew 10, although there may be a relation between the two. Observe the phrase at the beginning of 2 Kings 1:3, and recall what we have learnt about the Christophanies of the Old Testament.
In 2 Kings 1:9-12 Elijah, as the representative of God, is speaking in judgment against malefactors, for such the soldiers and the king behind them must be regarded. Had Elijah been apprehended of them it would have meant his death and a victory of the kingdom of darkness over the kingdom of light. How the fire came down and consumed the soldiers is not stated.
HIS LAST JOURNEY (2 Kings 2:1-11)
The localities in the first five verses (Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho) were doubtless where schools of the prophets had been established, as far back as Samuel’s time (1 Samuel 7:15-17). These schools were for the training of godly youth in the law of God and the experience of a holy life. Elisha seems to have been among them while Elijah was their head at this period (2 Kings 2:3). The awesome event about to transpire seems to have been revealed to them to some extent, explaining their communications to Elisha as well as his determination not to separate from Elijah till the end. Elijah’s indisposition to have himself accompanied is difficult to explain, some attributing it to his purpose of testing the fidelity of Elisha as qualifying him for his succession.
Of what earlier events does verse 8 remind you? How would you interpret Elisha’s request in 2 Kings 2:9? Shall we say that it refers to Deuteronomy 21:17, where the law of the firstborn is recorded? Elisha would have Elijah regard him as a firstborn son, and give him, as compared with the other sons of the prophets, a richer measure of his prophetic spirit. He did not ask twice as much of the Holy Spirit as Elijah had which even on natural grounds Elijah could not have granted him. It is as a prophet that Elijah replies in 2 Kings 2:10. The translation in 2 Kings 2:11 suggests that of Enoch, that of Christ Himself, and that of the Church yet to occur (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; Acts 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
HIS LAST TOKEN (2 Kings 2:12-18)
Elisha’s expression (2 Kings 2:12) means that Elijah had been the true defense of Israel rather than its military strength in chariots and horsemen. That defense was seen in his combating of idolatry which was Israel’s real and only enemy. How otherwise does Elisha express his grief in this verse?
Compare the reference to Elijah’s mantle (2 Kings 2:13) 1 Kings 19:19, and observe that its possession by Elisha is a token that his petition is answered and he has been endued for the prophetic office.
Is his question (2 Kings 2:14) an expression of doubt or a prayer of faith? What does the result show (2 Kings 2:15)?
The desire of the sons of the prophets (2 Kings 2:16) is difficult to explain on the supposition that they had any clear idea that Elijah had gone into heaven. “Into heaven,” might be rendered “toward heaven,” and it may be questioned whether the prophet really went into heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions,” and Elijah, for the time being, may have been located at some other happy stopping place.
HIS SUCCESSOR’S INAUGURAL (2 Kings 2:19-25)
The concluding verses furnish two other tokens of Elisha’s official character and power which may be considered in this lesson.
Of course it was neither the new bowl nor the salt that healed the water and made it usable (2 Kings 2:19-21), but the power of God. They were symbols. The new bowl was necessary because every vessel used for a religious act in the service of Jehovah must be as yet unused, i.e. uncontaminated. The salt symbolized the purifying, restoring power God would put in the spring.
The second evidence of Elisha’s power (2 Kings 2:23-24), has its difficulties. “Little children” in the margin of the Revised Version is “young lads,” and there is good authority for so considering it.
Lange suggests that the young people recognized him as a prophet and opponent of the popular idolatrous worship centered at Bethel. Therefore they called to him in mockery, “What dost thou want here among us?”
The epithet “bald head” was a standing insult for old or reverend people whether they were bald or not. It was not so much scorn of Elisha as of Jehovah Himself (compare Exodus 16:8, Acts 5:4, etc.).
She-bears are ravenous, but how two could tear forty-two young people must remain a mystery for the present.
1. What is the meaning of “Baalzebub?”
2. Who commissioned Elijah in this case?
3. How many illustrations of swift judgment on sin does this lesson contain?
4. What may be understood by “the schools of the prophets?”
5. How has Elijah’s desire to be alone been interpreted?
6. How do you understand Elisha’s request of Elijah?
7. Of how many “translations” does the Bible speak?
8. What is the meaning of the “chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof”?
9. Why did Elisha use means in healing the waters?
10. How would you try to explain the cursing of the children?