2 Kings 2
Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
Elijah, taking his leave of Elisha, with his mantle divideth Jordan, 2 Kings 2:1-8; and granting Elisha his request on condition, is taken up by a fiery chariot into heaven, 2 Kings 2:9-11. Elisha, dividing Jordan with Elijah’s mantle, is acknowledged his successor, 2 Kings 2:12-18. He with salt healeth the waters at Jericho, 2 Kings 2:19-22. Children mock him; he curseth them, and they are devoured by two bears, 2 Kings 21:23-25.

No text from Poole on this verse.

And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
Elijah said unto Elisha: this he desires, either,

1. That he, being left alone, might better prepare himself for his great change. Or,

2. Out of his humility and modesty; he desired no witnesses of his glorious removal, and no fame and glory from it. Or,

3. Out of indulgence to Elisha, that he might not be overwhelmed with grief at so sad a sight. Or,

4. That he might try his love, and whet his desire to accompany him; it being highly convenient for God’s honour, and the church’s good, (which Elijah sought above all things,) that there should be witnesses of so glorious a translation.

The Lord hath sent me to Beth-el; which was truth, but not the whole truth; for he was to go a far longer journey. But he was first to go to Beth-el, as also to Jericho, to the schools of the prophets there, that he might comfort and strengthen their hearts in God’s work, and give them his last and dying counsels.

And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
The Lord will take away thy master: this was revealed to some of the sons of the prophets, and by them to the whole college.

From thy head, Heb. from above thy head; which phrase may respect, either,

1. The manner of sitting in schools, where the scholar sat at his master’s feet, Deu 33:3 Acts 22:3. Or,

2. The manner of Elijah’s translation, which was to be by a power sent from heaven, to take him up thither.

Hold ye your peace; do not aggravate my grief, nor divert me with any unseasonable discourses; that I may digest my sorrow, and prepare myself for so great a stroke, and diligently attend all my master’s steps, lest he be snatched away from me whilst I am talking with you; and that I may beg and obtain some great blessing from him before his departure.

And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
Stood to view; to observe this great event, Elijah’s translation to heaven, which they expected every moment, now when he had taken his last farewell of all the prophets; and whereof they desired to be spectators, not so much to satisfy their own curiosity, as that they might be witnesses of it to others.

And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.

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 he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
A hard thing, i. e. a rare and singular blessing, which I cannot promise thee, which only God can give; and he gives it only when and to whom he pleaseth.

If not, it shall not be so: this sign he proposed not without the instinct and direction of God’s Spirit, that hereby he might engage him more earnestly to wait, and more fervently to pray, for this mercy.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
A chariot of fire, and horses of fire; a bright cloud formed into such a likeness, managed by holy and blessed angels sent from heaven to conduct him thither.

Into heaven; into the third heaven being in the way so transformed and changed, as might make him meet to be admitted into those blessed mansions.

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.
My father, my father; so he calls him for his fatherly affection to him, and for his fatherly authority which by his office he had over him, in which respect the scholars of the prophets are called their sons, as 1 Kings 20:35.

The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof; who by thy example, and counsels, and prayers, and power with God, didst more for the defence and preservation of Israel, than all their chariots and horses, or other warlike provisions. The expression alludes to the form of chariots and horses which he had seen.

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
God so ordering it for Elisha’s comfort, and the strengthening of his faith, as a pledge that, together with Elijah’s mantle, his office and spirit should rest upon him.

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
Where is the Lord God of Elijah? who at Elijah’s request divided these waters, and is as able to do it again; and hath given me his spirit and office; and therefore I humbly beg, and confidently expect, his assistance in this matter.

They parted; but these words after

Where is the God of Elijah? are by many rendered otherwise, and that agreeably to the Hebrew, even himself? or, even the same? (which words they join with the former, as an emphatical addition, or repetition, which is usual in fervent prayers. But they may be rendered without an interrogation, thus, Surely he, is, to wit, here present, and ready to help me. Or, Surely he is the same, to wit, to me, that he was to Elijah, as able and willing to work for me as for Elijah. Then the following words they render, as they are in the Hebrew,) and he smote the water, and it was divided. By which repetition it may seem that he smote it twice, and that at the first smiting the success did not answer his desire and expectation; which God so ordered, partly to keep him in a modest and humble sense of his own insufficiency, that he might not be puffed up with the great gifts which he had now received; compare 2 Corinthians 12:7; and partly to stir him up to a more lively exercise of faith and prayer, which followed God’s denial or suspension of his help, as it is here expressed; which also was attended with desired success.

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
Or, as it is in the Hebrew, And the sons of the prophets who lived in Jericho saw him over against them, from some hill where they stood at a convenient distance to observe the event, 2 Kings 2:7.

They said, Heb. and they said, either by revelation; or rather, by the visible effects of it which they saw.

They bowed themselves to the ground; thereby testifying their reverence and subjection to him as Elijah’s successor, and their master and teacher.

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.
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 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.
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 came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
Either it was so orignally, at least as to that part of the city where the college of the prophets was, for it is not necessary to understand this of the whole territory; or it became so from the curse of God inflicted upon it, either when Joshua first took it, or afterwards when Hiel rebuilt it. Howsoever, upon the prophet’s care, it grew exceeding fruitful, and therefore is commended for its fertility by later writers.

And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
A new cruse; partly that there might be no ground of suspicion that the cure was wrought by any natural virtue of any thing which was or had been in the cruse before, but only by God’s power; and partly that there might be no legal pollution in it which might offend God, and hinder his miraculous operation by it.

Put salt therein; a most improper remedy; for salt naturally makes waters brackish, and lands barren. Hereby therefore he would show that this was effected solely by the Divine power, which could work either without means, or against them.

And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.
Cast the salt in there; which was in itself idle and ineffectual, considering both the quality of salt, and the small quantity of it, and the place where it was put, the fountain, which quickly works out any thing which is put into it; see Leviticus 11:36; but was only used as a sign of God’s presence and power, which did the thing: compare Exodus 15:25 2 Kings 4:41 6:6.

Any more death, i.e. hurt or danger, as death is oft used, {as 2 Corinthians 11:23} to men or beasts, by drinking of it, as formerly.

So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
He went up from thence unto Beth-el, to the other school or college of prophets, to inform them of Elijah’s translation and his succession into the same office; and to direct, and comfort, and stablish them, as he saw occasion.

Little children; or, children, or young men; as this Hebrew word oft signifies, as Genesis 22:5,12 Ge 41:12 2 Chronicles 13:7 Isaiah 11:6. It is more than probable they were old enough to discern between good and evil as their expression showeth.

Out of the city; Beth-el, which was the mother city of idolatry, 1 Kings 12:28,29 Ho 4:15 5:8, where the prophets planted themselves, that they might bear witness against it, and dissuade the people from it; though, it seems, they had but small success there.

Mocked him, with great petulancy and vehemency, as the conjugation of the Hebrew verb signifies; deriding both his person and ministry, and that from a profane contempt of the true religion, and a passionate love to that idolatry which they knew he opposed.

Go up; go up into heaven, whither thou pretendest that Elijah is gone. Why didst not thou accompany thy friend and master to heaven? Oh that the same Spirit would take thee up also, that thou mightest not trouble us nor our Israel, as Elijah did!

Thou bald-head; so they mock his natural infirmity, which is a great sin.

Go up, thou baldhead: the repetition shows their heartiness and earnestness, that it was no sudden nor rash slip of their tongue, but a scoff proceeding from a rooted impiety and hatred of God and his prophets.

And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
Cursed them; nor was this punishment too great for the offence, if it be considered that these children were grown up to some maturity; (See Poole "2 Kings 2:23";) that their mocking proceeded from a great malignity of mind against God; that they mocked not only a man, and an ancient man, whose very age commanded reverence, and a prophet; but even God himself, and that most admirable and glorious work of God, the assumption of Elijah into heaven, which makes it in some degree resemble the sin against the Holy Ghost; that they might be guilty of many other heinous crimes, which God and the prophet knew; and were guilty of idolatry, which by God’s law deserved death; that the idolatrous parents were punished in their children; and that if any of these children were more innocent and ignorant of what they said, God might have mercy upon their souls, and then this death was not a misery, but a real blessing to them, that they were taken away from that wicked and idolatrous education, which was most likely to expose them not only to temporal, but to an eternal destruction.

In the name of the Lord; not from any carnal or revengeful passion, but by the motion of God’s Spirit, and by God’s command and commission, as appears by God’s concurrence with him; which God did, partly for the terror and caution of all other idolaters and profane persons, who abounded in that place; partly to vindicate the honour and maintain the authority of his prophets, and particularly of Elisha, now especially in the beginning of his sacred ministry. And this did beget such a confidence in Elisha, that he durst venture to go into Beth-el after this was done; and such a terror in the Beth-elites, that they durst not avenge themselves of him.

Two she-bears; possibly robbed of their whelps, and therefore more fierce, Proverbs 17:12 Hosea 13:8; but certainly acted by an extraordinary fury, which God raised in them for this purpose.

Forty and two children: this Hebrew word signifies not only young children, but those also who are grown up to maturity, as Genesis 32:22 34:4 37:30 Ruth 1:5.

And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.
He went from thence; partly, to decline the fury of the people of Beth-el; partly, that he might retire himself from men, and converse more freely with God, and so fit himself more for the discharge of his employment; and partly, that he might visit the sons of the prophets who lived in that place, or near it.

He returned to Samaria, by the direction of God’s Spirit, for the service which he did, 2 Kings 3:11, &c.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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