2 Kings 2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel. But Elisha said, As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.
Elisha was aware that God would soon take Elijah away, and he was determined to stay by Elijah’s side. Elijah may have wanted to be alone with God, but Elisha was determined to be a witness. So they went together to see the company of the prophets (2 Kings 2:3) at Bethel and Jericho. These were probably religious communities that looked to Elijah for leadership during this time of national apostasy. Elijah was stopping by to say farewell.
2 Kings 2:6 Then Elijah said to him, Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.
Again Elisha refused, and they walked together to the Jordan River, followed by fifty men from the company of the prophets. When they got to the river, Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8).
This was an important miracle for Elijah’s disciples to see. It put him in the same category as Joshua, who also parted the Jordan River (Joshua 3:9-17). It also identified him with Moses, who parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-22). They could be confident the instruction they received from Elijah was truly from God.
The religion of the Bible is not only theological, but also historical. More than bare assertions, it tells about real events with real witnesses. The fifty men who observed Elijah’s final miracle would be enough to overcome any unbelief the religious community may have entertained. They would also be emboldened to share their faith.
The ministry of Jesus Christ was also authenticated by miracles done before many witnesses, and some of them would go on to die for their faith. Many are willing to die for what they believe is true, but few are willing to die for what they know is false. The disciples were in a position to know if Jesus was a fake, and none of them believed that. They saw his miracles, and were willing to die for the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 14:33).
2 Kings 2:9-10 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you? Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit, Elisha replied. You have asked a difficult thing, Elijah said, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.
To carry out his ministry, Elisha wanted twice the spiritual power that Elijah had. Elijah established the condition that Elisha would have to see his departure in order to receive his request. But he did not rebuke Elisha for wanting such a thing.
Likewise, your Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13), said Jesus. By paying attention to Christ, and asking for more of his Spirit, we too can do the work of our Master. [B]e filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), said Paul. And, apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5), said Jesus. Effective ministry can only take place with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2 Kings 2:11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
In one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible, the prophet was taken into heaven. He is one of only two people in the Old Testament who were taken there without dying. The other was Enoch, who walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5:24).
Elijah and Enoch remind us of what will happen to believers when Jesus Christ returns. [W]e who are still alive and are left will be caught up . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), wrote Paul. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31), said Jesus. We should live like birds on a branch: ready to fly away at any moment.
2 Kings 2:13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
This was the same cloak Elijah had put on Elisha when he was called to the prophetic ministry (1 Kings 19:19). It was also the cloak Elijah used to part the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:8). As Elijah was going into heaven, he dropped the cloak for Elisha to use in his ministry.
2 Kings 2:14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah? he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
Elisha’s first miracle assured him and others that The spirit of Elijah [was] resting on Elisha (2 Kings 2:15). The passing of the cloak symbolized the succession of ministry. Elisha was now the lead prophet of Israel, and he would do even more miracles than Elijah.
2 Kings 2:23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him.
There were at least forty-two of them (2 Kings 2:24), and they were probably in their teens. They were a physical threat to Elisha, and were clearly disrespectful. Get out of here, baldy! they said. Get out of here, baldy! (2 Kings 2:23b).
Elisha was either going bald or had shaved his head. Either way, the boys were insulting a man of God, and therefore God himself. So Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys (2 Kings 2:24).
It is not clear if they lived or died, but youthfulness is no excuse for wickedness. God knows that every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21), and he called these youth to account. Not all young people are equally wicked, but there are no innocent youth. The most vile adults on earth began as beautiful babies.
A church was having a service for parents to dedicate their children to God. Someone asked if they could pin white roses on the children to symbolize their purity. The pastor said they could use any color rose they wanted, as long as it was black. Children need to repent and follow Jesus Christ as soon as they are able, or they too will come under his wrath (John 3:36).
Reflection and Review
Are miracles still important to establish the Christian faith?
How does the Holy Spirit empower us for ministry?
Are children naturally good or evil?