2 Kings 2

CHAPTER II

Elijah, about to be taken up to heaven, goes in company with

Elisha from Gilgal to Beth-el, 1, 2.

Thence to Jericho, 3-5.

And thence to Jordan, 6, 7.

Elijah smites the waters with his mantle; they divide, and he

and Elisha pass over on dry ground, 8.

Elijah desires Elisha to ask what he should do for him; who

requests a double portion of his spirit, which is promised on

a certain condition, 9, 10.

A chariot and horses of fire descend; and Elijah mounts, and

ascends by a whirlwind to heaven, 11.

Elisha gets his mantle, comes back to Jordan, smites the waters

with it, and they divide, and he goes over, 12-14.

The sons of the prophets see that the spirit of Elijah rests on

Elisha, 15.

They propose to send fifty men to seek Elijah, supposing the

Spirit of the Lord might have cast him on some mountain or

valley; after three days' search, they return not having found

him, 16-18.

The people of Jericho apply to Elisha to heal their unwholesome

water, 19.

He casts salt into the spring in the name of Jehovah, and the

water becomes wholesome, 20-22.

Forty-two young persons of Bethel, mocking him, are slain by

two she-bears, 23, 24.

He goes to Carmel, and returns to Samaria, 25.

NOTES ON CHAP. II

Verse 1. When the Lord would take up Elijah] It appears that God

had revealed this intended translation, not only to Elijah

himself, but also to Elisha, and to the schools of the prophets,

both at Beth-el and Jericho, so that they were all expecting this

solemn event.

Verse 2. Tarry here, I pray thee] He either made these requests

through humility, not wishing any person to be witness of the

honour conferred on him by God, or with the desire to prove the

fidelity of Elisha, whether he would continue to follow and serve

him.

Verse 3. Knowest thou that the Lord] Thus we see that it was a

matter well known to all the sons of the prophets. This day the

Lord will take thy master and instructer from thee.

Verse 7. Fifty men of the sons of the prophets] They fully

expected this extraordinary event, and they could have known it

only from Elijah himself, or by a direct revelation from God.

Verse 8. Took his mantle] τηνμηλωτηναυτου, his sheep-skin,

says the Septuagint. The skins of beasts, dressed with the hair

on, were formerly worn by prophets and priests as the simple

insignia of their office. As the civil authority was often lodged

in the hands of such persons, particularly among the Jews, mantles

of this kind were used by kings and high civil officers when they

bore no sacred character. The custom continues to the present day;

a lamb's skin hood or cloak is the badge which certain graduates

in our universities wear; and the royal robes of kings and great

officers of state are adorned with the skins of the animal called

the ermine.

They were divided hither and thither] This was a most

astonishing miracle, and could be performed only by the almighty

power of God.

Verse 9. A double portion of thy spirit be upon me.] This in

reference to the law, De 21:17:

He shall acknowledge the first-born, by giving him a DOUBLE

PORTION of all that he hath-the right of the first-born is his.

Elisha considered himself the only child or first-born of Elijah,

as the disciples of eminent teachers were called their children;

so here he claims a double portion of his spiritual influence, any

other disciples coming in for a single share only. Sons of the

prophets means no more than the disciples or scholars of the

prophets. The original words pi shenayim, mean rather two

parts, than double the quantity.

Verse 10. A hard thing] This is what is not in my power, God

alone can give this; yet if thou see me taken away from thee, it

shall be so. Perhaps this means no more than, "If thou continue

with me till I am translated, God will grant this to thee;" for on

the mere seeing or not seeing him in the moment in which he was

taken away, this Divine gift could not depend.

Verse 11. A chariot of fire, and horses of fire] That is a chariot

and horses of the most resplendent glory, which, manifesting itself in

coruscations or shooting rays, seemed to be like blazing fire, or like

the sun in his strength. Some think that this circumstance, know in

the heathen world, gave rise to the fable of Apollo, or the sun, being

seated in a blazing chariot, drawn by \@horses which breathed and snorted

fire. These horses were four\@, and called Pyroeis, Eous, AEthon, and

Phlegon; all which words signify fire or resplendent light. So OVID:

Nec tibi quadrupedes animosos ignibus illis

Quos in pectore habent, quos ore et naribus efflant,

In promptu regere est: vix me patiunur, ut acres

Incaluere animi; cervixque repugnat habenis.

OVID, Met. Lib. ii., 84.

Interea volucres Pyroeis, Eous, et AEthon,

Solis equi, quartusque Phlegon, hinnitibus auras

Flammiferis implent, pedibusque repagula pulsant

Ib. 153.

Meanwhile the restless horses neighed aloud,

Breathing out fire and pawing where they stood,

Nor would you find it easy to compose

The mettled steeds, when from their nostrils flows

The scorching fire, that in their entrils glows.

Even I their headstrong fury scarce restrain,

When they grow worm, and restiff to the rein.

DRYDEN.

Perhaps the whole of this fable, which represents Phaethon son of

Apollo requesting to drive the chariot of his father (\@the horses and

chariot of fire) for one day, was borrowed from the request of Elisha\@

to his spiritual father Elijah, whom he afterwards saw borne away \@by a

whirlwind, in a chariot of fire drawn by fiery steeds\@.

Elijah went up-into heaven] He was truly translated; and the words

here leave us no room to indulge the conjecture of Dr. Priestley, who

supposes that as "Enoch, (probably Moses,) Elijah, and Christ, had no

relation to any other world or planet, they are no doubt in this;" for

we are told that Elijah went up into heaven; and we know, from the sure

testimony of the Scripture, that our blessed Lord is at the right hand

of the Majesty on high, ever living to make intercession for us.

Elijah went up-into heaven] He was truly translated;

and the words here leave us no room to indulge the conjecture of

Dr. Priestley, who supposes that as "Enoch, (probably Moses,)

Elijah, and Christ, had no relation to any other world or

planet, they are no doubt in this;" for we are told that Elijah

went up into heaven; and we know, from the sure testimony of the

Scripture, that our blessed Lord is at the right hand of the

Majesty on high, ever living to make intercession for us.

Verse 12. The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.] The

Chaldee translates these words thus: 'My master, my master! who,

by thy intercession, wast of more use to Israel than horses and

chariots." This is probably the sense.

In the Book of Ecclesiasticus 48:1, &c., the fiery horses

and chariot are considered as an emblem of that burning zeal which

Elijah manifested in the whole of his ministry: "Then stood up

Elijah the prophet as fire, and his word burned as a lamp," &c.

And rent them in two pieces.] As a sign of sorrow for having

lost so good and glorious a master.

Verse 13. He took-the mantle] The same with which he had been

called by Elijah to the prophetic office, and the same by which

Elijah divided Jordan. His having the mantle was a proof that he

was invested with the authority and influence of his master.

Verse 14. Where is the Lord God of Elijah?] The Vulgate gives a

strange turn to this verse: Et percussit aquas, et non sunt

divisae; et dixu, Ubi est Deus Eliae etiam nunc? Percussitque

aquas, et divisae sunt huc et illuc. "And he smote the waters, but

they did not divide; and he said, Where is the God of Elijah even

now? And he struck the waters and they were divided hither and

thither." The act of striking the waters seems to be twice

repeated in the verse, though we get rid of the second striking by

rendering the second clause, when he also had smitten the waters:

which has the same Hebrew words as the first, and which we

translate, he smote the waters. The Vulgate supposes he smote once

in vain, perhaps confiding too much in his own strength; and then,

having invoked the God of Elijah, he succeeded. This distinction

is not followed by any of the other versions; nor is the clause,

et non sunt divisae, "and they divided not," expressed by the

Hebrew text.

Verse 15. The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.] This was a

natural conclusion, from seeing him with the mantle, and working

the same miracle. This disposed them to yield the same obedience

to him they had done to his master: and in token of this, they

went out to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before

him.

Verse 16. Fifty strong men] Probably the same fifty who are

mentioned 2Ki 2:7, and who saw Elijah taken up in the whirlwind.

Cast him upon some mountain] Though they saw him taken up

towards heaven, yet they thought it possible that the Spirit of

the Lord might have descended with him, and left him on some

remote mountain or valley.

Ye shall not send.] He knew that he was translated to heaven,

and that therefore it would be useless.

Verse 17. Till he was ashamed] He saw they would not be

satisfied unless they made the proposed search; he felt therefore

that he could not, with any good grace, resist their importunity

any longer.

Verse 19. The water is naught, and the ground barren.] The

barrenness of the ground was the effect of the badness of the

water.

Verse 21. And cast the salt in there] He cast in the salt at the

place where the waters sprang out of the earth. Jarchi well

observes here, "Salt is a thing which corrupts water; therefore,

it is evident that this was a true miracle." What Elisha did on

this occasion, getting the new cruse and throwing in the salt, was

only to make the miracle more conspicuous. If the salt could have

had any natural tendency to render the water salubrious, it could

have acted only for a short time, and only on that portion of the

stream which now arose from the spring; and in a few moments its

effects must have disappeared. But the miracle here was permanent:

the death of men and cattle, which had been occasioned by the

insalubrity of the waters, ceased, the land was no longer barren;

and the waters became permanently fit for all agricultural and

domestic uses.

Verse 23. There came forth little children out of the city]

These were probably the school of some celebrated teacher; but

under his instruction they had learned neither piety nor good

manners.

Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.]

aleh kereach, aleh kereach. Does not this imply the grossest

insult? Ascend, thou empty skull, to heaven, as it is pretended

thy master did! This was blasphemy against God; and their

punishment (for they were Beth-elite idolaters) was only

proportioned to their guilt. Elisha cursed them, i.e., pronounced

a curse upon them, in the name of the Lord, beshem

Yehovah, by the name or authority of Jehovah. The spirit of their

offense lies in their ridiculing a miracle of the Lord: the

offense was against Him, and He punished it. It was no petulant

humour of the prophet that caused him to pronounce this curse; it

was God alone: had it proceeded from a wrong disposition of the

prophet, no miracle would have been wrought in order to gratify

it.

"But was it not a cruel thing to destroy forty-two little

children, who, in mere childishness, had simply called the prophet

bare skull, or bald head?" I answer, Elisha did not destroy

them; he had no power by which he could bring two she-bears out of

the wood to destroy them. It was evidently either accidental, or a

Divine judgment; and if a judgment, God must be the sole author of

it. Elisha's curse must be only declaratory of what God was about

to do. See on 2Ki 1:10. "But then, as they were

little children, they could scarcely be accountable for their

conduct; and consequently, it was cruelty to destroy them." If it

was a judgment of God, it could neither be cruel nor unjust; and I

contend, that the prophet had no power by which he could bring

these she-bears to fall upon them. But were they little children?

for here the strength of the objection lies. Now I suppose the

objection means children from four to seven or eight years

old; for so we use the word: but the original, nearim

ketannim, may mean young men, for katon signifies to be

young, in opposition to old, and is so translated in various

places in our Bible; and naar signifies, not only a child,

but a young man, a servant, or even a soldier, or one fit to go

out to battle; and is so translated in a multitude of places in

our common English version. I shall mention but a few, because

they are sufficiently decisive: Isaac was called naar when

twenty-eight years old, Ge 21:5-12; and Joseph was so called

when he was thirty-nine, Ge 41:12. Add to these 1Ki 20:14:

"And Ahab said, By whom [shall the Assyrians be delivered into my

hand?] And he said, Thus saith the Lord, by the YOUNG MEN,

benaarey, of the princes of the provinces." That these were

soldiers, probably militia, or a selection from the militia,

which served as a bodyguard to Ahab, the event sufficiently

declares; and the persons that mocked Elisha were perfectly

accountable for their conduct.

But is it not possible that these forty-two were a set of

unlucky young men, who had been employed in the wood, destroying

the whelps of these same she-bears, who now pursued them, and tore

them to pieces, for the injury they had done? We have already

heard of the ferocity of a bear robbed of her whelps; see at the

end of 2Sa 17:28. The mention of

SHE-bears gives some colour to the above conjecture; and,

probably, at the time when these young fellows insulted the

prophet, the bears might be tracing the footsteps of the murderers

of their young, and thus came upon them in the midst of their

insults, God's providence ordering these occurrences so as to make

this natural effect appear as a Divine cause. If the conjecture be

correct, the bears were prepared by their loss to execute the

curse of the prophet, and God's justice guided them to the spot to

punish the iniquity that had been just committed.

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