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Deeper Commentary

2Ki 2:1 It happened, when Yahweh would take up Elijah-
The Lord Jesus likens Himself to Elijah at times. Jesus sent fire on earth as Elijah did (Lk. 12:49). He quotes Elijah’s words “Your son lives” (1 Kings 17:23 = Jn. 4:50-53). What this shows is that the Lord saw what was good in Elijah, and He didn’t separate Himself from someone who didn’t have His Spirit. And here we have another example. The context of the Lk. 9:54 reference to Elijah is that the Lord’s time had come that he should be “received up”, and “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51). This is all very much the language of Elijah being received up into the sky / heaven. Elijah set his face to do this; but it was a setting of his face to have the humility to give up his much coveted ministry to Elisha. We could possible reason[although see later] that Elijah set his face, he was determined... to be humble. To not cavil against God's word that Elisha was to replace him. And so the Lord set His face to the humility required for the cross, and the ascension not into the sky [as Elijah did] but into Heaven itself.

By a whirlwind into heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal-
Elijah didn't go to Heaven itself, for no man has ascended to Heaven (Jn. 3:13). He was a sinner and the wages of sin is death. The time for reward and eternal life is not after death, but at the return of the Lord Jesus. We know from 2 Chron. 21:12-15 that Elijah died, and wrote a letter soon before his death. So indeed he was snatched away and taken to another point on earth. Obadiah had implied this was a regular occurrence. Hence the young men later went out looking for Elijah. Elijah was taken away to a life of obscurity, during which he repented of his narcissism. He wrote a letter to Joram king of Judah, meaning he lived for quite some time after his snatching away. 

Gilgal was where there was a school of the prophets (2 Kings 4:38). Before being snatched away, Elijah was it seems touring the groups of "sons of the prophets".

2Ki 2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, Please wait here, for Yahweh has sent me as far as Bethel. Elisha said, As Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. So they went down to Bethel-
"Leave" is "deny". Elijah's ascension into the sky has remarkable similarities with that of the Lord, into Heaven itself- a group of men sent to take him; Elisha cp. Peter saying ‘I will not deny you’ (2 Kings 2:2 Heb.); a cloud of Angels receive him; men stand watching on earth; the Holy Spirit given on his ascension… 

Elijah tells his servant to remain whilst he goes out into the desert alone, intent on committing suicide (1 Kings 19:3). When he is finally snatched away, he tried to get his servant Elisha to likewise remain whilst he went further alone. Again he intended suicide and Elisha likely perceived this. And so God did snatch him away, either to death or to make him end his ministry. 

2Ki 2:3 The sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, Do you know that Yahweh will take away your master from your head today? He said, Yes, I know it. Hold your peace-
The day for Elijah to be publically removed and Elisha to take his place had been set, and the other prophets knew this. Elisha was to take over as their chief. We can appreciate how hopeless it was for Elijah to be leader of the various schools of the prophets, if he had been persuaded that they were all insincere and he alone was left Yahweh's only true prophet. For this reason he was removed from the office. See on :5,23.

Elijah was told to replace himself with Elisha, but it seems he only called Elisha to be his servant and didn't anoint him as asked. Hence the section about this finishes with the comment that Elisha served him (1 Kings 19:21). 2 Kings 3:11 describes Elisha as the one ‘who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah’- he was his servant. That was not at all what God asked of Elijah. His taking up and snatching away was God forcing him to end his ministry; Elisha was told that Yahweh would take away his master from above his head, indicating Elijah was in the role of Elisha's master [and Elisha was his servant] right up to the moment he was carried away in the whirlwind. Taken away from above his head (2 Kings 2:3 "Yahweh will take away your master from your head today") is a strange phrase. Perhaps it indicates that Elijah was forcibly removed from having Elisha as his servant, and the way Elijah refused to relinquish his role was displeasing to God. But we note how in the gap between being fires from his ministry and being forcibly stopped from continuing it, God graciously still used him. See on :9.   

2Ki 2:4 Elijah said to him, Elisha, please wait here, for Yahweh has sent me to Jericho. He said, As Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. So they came to Jericho-
It seems Elijah was being sent around the various schools of the prophets (all of whom, as noted on :3, he had despised as apostate). They were to see him as their leader for one last time. There is no sense that they were that distressed about losing him, unlike the weeping at Troas when Paul told the disciples they would see his face no more. This is understandable, seeing he had claimed he was the only true prophet and they were all astray on this or that point of doctrine or practice.

2Ki 2:5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came near to Elisha and said to him, Do you know that Yahweh will take away your master from your head today? He answered, Yes, I know it. Hold your peace-
We note that all the sons of the prophets speak to Elisha of Elijah as "your master" rather than "our master" (also :3). Perhaps Elijah had formally disfellowshipped them for some apostacy or other, and demanded they never call him their master. No wonder he needed to be replaced. Or perhaps they didn't share Elisha's huge respect for Elijah.  

2Ki 2:6 Elijah said to him, Please wait here, for Yahweh has sent me to the Jordan. He said, As Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. They both went on-
It seems Elijah didn't want Elisha to be present when he was snatched away. Or as suggested above, the similarity with his attempted suicide near Beersheba suggests that he wanted to do the same again. And although Elisha had been told Elijah would be snatched away, the record carefully avoids saying that Elijah knew he would be snatched away at that time. He keeps asking him not to follow him. Perhaps he knew that his mantle would then drop to the earth and Elisha would have it. And he was resistant, still, to the idea of another man taking his ministry. He knew that if Elisha saw him ascend into the sky, then Elisha would have a double portion of his spirit (:10), making him greater than Elijah. And Elijah apparently didn't want that. 

2Ki 2:7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood opposite them at a distance; and they both stood by the Jordan-
We recall how Obadiah had hidden prophets by groups of 50 in a cave; and yet Elijah didn't accept them as legitimate, considering himself the only true prophet of Yahweh and Obadiah as a servant of Ahab rather than Yahweh. So their relationship was somewhat strained. Perhaps these meetings with them were intended by God to lead Elijah to repentance. But he refused, and so was snatched away from any public ministry in a clear, dramatic way. There had been one cave for the two groups of 50 (1 Kings 18:4). So perhaps a 'group of 50 prophets' was not a literal group of 50 men, but a kind of prophetic division of prophets. Rather like a "thousand" likewise refers to a family or military subdivision of an army, rather than literally 1000.

2Ki 2:8 Elijah took his mantle, wrapped it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that they two went over on dry ground-
This recalls the great miracles of Joshua and Moses. The crossing of the Jordan was near Jericho (:4), exactly where Joshua dried up the Jordan and passed also to Gilgal (Josh. 3:16; 4:13,19). To ask for a double portion of this Spirit was reflective of quite some spiritual ambition on Elisha's part. We see here Elijah acting as Moses; although when in Moses' cave on Sinai, he had been shown that he was not as Moses because he lacked Moses' humility. Although he had been set up to be as Moses; see on 1 Kings 19:11. Perhaps he was trying still to assert himself as Moses; or maybe he had finally arrived at the required humility, and so was permitted to act as Moses. And that is why he is given a role parallel to Moses  at the transfiguration. See on :21. 

2Ki 2:9 When they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you-
Maybe he knew that he would be snatched away east of Jordan, and so now they had crossed the river, he knew the end was near. However, it could be argued that he had no idea that he would be taken away as and when he was- although surely he had a premonition about it. The Hebrew could equally mean "What shall I do for you, seeing I've not yet been taken from you". The same word for "before" is found in 1 Sam. 3:7 "Samuel did not yet know Yahweh". So he could even be hinting that seeing he had not yet been forced out of the ministry, he could still do miracles, and so he enquired what he might do for Elisha personally. This position was what called forth the abrupt, dramatic, public ending of his ministry by the fire coming down from Heaven to remove him.

Elisha said, Please let a double portion of your spirit be on me-
The allusion may be to the double portion of the firstborn (Dt. 21:17). The "sons of the prophets" had Elijah as their father; and so Elisha as now the senior prophet is asking to be treated as the firstborn of Elijah amongst the sons of the prophets (:12). That Elijah should have rejected them all, considering himself the only prophet of Yahweh, was as bad as a father disowning his children. No wonder Elijah had to be replaced as the 'father' of the sons of the prophets. But by asking to be treated as the firstborn, Elisha is showing that he considers himself just another son of the prophet Elijah, even if the firstborn. Elisha has not grasped that he is to replae Elijah because Elijah had failed the test of humility, as explained in 1 Kings 19. And Elijah had clearly not explained that to him. But he is thereby not making any claim to be a new father to them. He therefore considered Elijah an impossible act to follow, even though Elijah had earlier condemned him. He focused on the positive in Elijah rather than being fazed by his arrogant rejection of all his brethren. This is indeed a challenge to us; for self congratulatory brethren who condemn all others are some of the hardest people to be positive about. It is so hard to make ourselves see the good in them, as Elisha clearly did to Elijah.

If indeed Elisha is asking to be treated as Elijah's spiritual firstborn, he is apparently ignorant of the fact that Yahweh had told Elijah on Carmel to replace himself with Elisha by anointing him. But it seems Elijah hadn't told Elisha that, reflective of how he so struggled against the command to retire. See on :3. Elisha shouts out to Elijah as he departs "My father, my father!", as if he wishes to stake his claim as Elijah's spiritual firstborn. But Elijah considered all the other prophets to be fake, probably including Elisha and Elisha's family, and only himself sincere. As he departs, he throws his mantle onto Elisha, as if finally accepting that he has been replaced by Elisha.   

2Ki 2:10 He said, You have asked a hard thing. If you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so-
It's difficult to see why the gift of a double portion should be predicated upon this. Maybe Elijah means that if Elisha will continue to follow him to the absolute end, then he would support this idea. But the giver of the Spirit was God and not Elijah. So Elijah may mean that if Elisha truly follows Elijah to the very end, when none of the other sons of the prophets apparently wanted to personally accompany him, then he was sure that God would indeed do so. See on :6.

The Hebrew for "hard" means 'unpleasant', rather than difficult. It was bitter and unpleasant for Elijah to have to give his prophetic spirit to Elisha. This indicates how bitterly he resented having to accept that he was fired from the prophetic ministry, and had been replaced by Elisha.

We enquire why Elijah should reason that if Elisha saw him taken away, then he would receive the requested gift of Elijah's spirit. Most expositors glide over this question. "When I am..." is in italics in the KJV. These are words added to try to make sense of a difficult text. The idea is, 'If you see me taken from you... then you will receive my spirit'. Elijah had been told to anoint Elisha, the oil representing his spirit being placed on Elisha. He had refused to do so, and only treated Elisha as his servant and run around. They are on the road together, visiting the sons of the prophets. Elijah had a premonition God might cut short his ministry but had no idea how that might happen. He ought to have anointed Elisha with his spirit, but he doggedly insisted on keeping on in his ministry when God had fired him from it on Horeb. It's as if he is saying: 'Elisha, I'd need to be taken forcefully away from my ministry for you to get my spirit. If you live to see that, then I guess you will get it'. This was arrogant disobedience to the command to anoint Elisha and thus give him his spirit. And so... woosh, God does indeed forcibly remove Elijah from his ministry. And Elijah gets that and throws his mantle (the sign of his prophetic office) down to Elisha as he is snatched away, in some kind of last minute acceptance that he has indeed been replaced by Elisha.

2Ki 2:11 It happened, as they still went on, and talked-
This has similarities with the lead up to the Lord's ascension (Lk. 24:50,51).

That behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into the sky-
This may have been visible only to Elisha and Elijah, just as Elisha's servant alone saw the horses and chariots at Dothan (2 Kings 6:17). Horses, fire from Heaven and whirlwind are all the language of Divine judgment. And Elijah himself had called fire from Heaven in judgment. It is hard not to get the impression of God's wrath- with Elijah. This was not the ending of a ministry in a blaze of glory. The ministry had been ended on Horeb when God fired Elijah from the prophetic ministry. And yet Elijah had continued to want to work for God, and he had been accepted- so far. But his attitude to giving his spirit to Elisha was enough to trigger this dramatic, enforced ending of his ministry.

It could be that after the triumph on Carmel, there had been another vision of God’s glory in order to humble Elijah. I say this on the basis that the description of the cloud in 1 Kings 18:44 “like a man’s hand” recalls “the likeness of a man’s hand” under the cherubim in Ezekiel’s visions. Clouds and rain are invariably part of theophanies. Elijah spoke of how, by faith, he heard “the feet of rain” (1 Kings 18:41 LXX), as if he believed that the Angels were coming with rain. Perhaps Elijah therefore told Ahab “prepare your chariot” and ride with the rain- i.e. ‘be part of the vision of glory / cherubim chariots on the ground as it passes overhead’. This was the point of Ezekiel’s vision; Israel were to reflect the Cherubim on earth, just As David moved in step with the Spirit / the sound of marching in the mulberry trees. Therefore in 1 Kings 19:42 when in the face of all this, Elijah places his  face between knees, he may be doing the same thing as when he hides his face in the mantle. He sensed the glory of God near him but didn’t want to face up to it personally. He didn’t want to become part of the Cherubic vision of glory, even though he advised Ahab to do so. We must identify ourselves with the vision of God’s glory, and face up to the life-changing implications of it.

Elijah ultimately did this, although it took him a lifetime- he was caught up in another cherubic vision and threw away his mantle and became part of the vision of glory; and hence he was called “the chariot of Israel and the [great] horseman thereof” [reading “horsemen” as an intensive plural]. The chariots and horsemen of God appeared; and Elisha perceived that Elijah had finally become identified with them. For Elisha sees them and then describes Elijah as being them- the chariot and horseman of Israel (2 Kings 2:11,12). Finally, Elijah became part of God’s glory; He merged into it rather than resisting it for the sake of his own  glory. He was the charioteer of the cherubim; for his prayers had controlled their direction. This identification of ourselves with God’s glory, this losing of ourselves and our own insistence upon our rightness, and our focus on others’ wrongness... this is the end result of our lives if they are lived out after the pattern of Elijah’s. 

Fire from Heaven is a clear symbol of Divine judgment; we think of Sodom's judgment and the fire that fell on Job's home. Elijah calls fire down from Heaven apparently at will- both on Carmel and in destroying the soldiers sent to take him. God is not recorded as telling him to do this. He is extremely confident that God's judgment must fall, and his faith is rewarded. But he was so far from God in his spirit, as the Lord's allusion to the incident shows. But God patiently doesn't forcibly stop him nor force him out of ministry. Finally God sends fire from Heaven to remove Elijah from his ministry, as he was refusing to quit it as asked. The fire that came from Heaven to remove Elijah was therefore some kind of judgment of him, although he was not slain by it and was apparently removed to live in obscurity elsewhere. The chariots of fire that came to remove him were not therefore the blaze of glory in which a glorious ministry ended- but rather the opposite. Chariots and whirlwind are all the language of Divine judgment. It was God's judgment upon him, although he was not destroyed by it, but forcibly removed to obscurity. And in that obscurity, he apparently repented- for the transfiguration appearance make it clear that he will be in God's Kingdom. Jonah is very similar to Elijah, and we are left to infer his similar repentance after the narrated events finished.

We note how in Lk. 9:8, Herod enquires whether the Lord is in fact Elijah, and then in Lk. 9:19 we learn that many people thought that He was Elijah. In between those two questions about whether the Lord was Elijah, we have the feeding of the five thousand- a miracle framed in terms of how Elisha, not Elijah, fed 100 men in a similar way (2 Kings 4:43.44). It could be that the Lord is replying that He is not Elijah, but He is more in the spirit of Elisha, the prophet intended to replace Elijah. This all again hints that the Lord is pointing out that He was not of Elijah's spirit.

2Ki 2:12 Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father-
We saw on :9 that Elisha considered himself as Elijah's spiritual son, indeed his firstborn.

The chariots of Israel and its horseman! He saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and tore them in two pieces-
Although Elijah had been rejected from his ministry as lead prophet of Israel because of his refusal to accept other prophets and believers as valid, and those included Elisha, Elisha really respects Elijah and the tearing of his own clothes reflects that. In this he showed the humility which was so necessary for the prophetic office.

Israel had been forbidden horses and chariots in Dt. 17. Elisha is saying that Elijah was the true horse and chariot of Israel, it was his ministry which had brought victory. And yet it seems Elisha had a wrong view of Elijah. Elisha had been chosen to be the prophet of Israel, from Horeb onwards. But Elisha had not risen up to this, and instead his loyalty to Elijah had reinforced Elijah in his rebellion against God's intentions. And this is so true to how things are amongst God's people. God may seek to remove a man from ministry, but this is militated against by his followers' blind loyalty and mesmerization with him. This is a phenomena seen in politics, religion, companies, families... someone who ought not to be leader any longer is upheld in power by unwise loyalists. Perhaps this is why in 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha is shown again who are the true horsemen and chariots of Israel- hosts of Angels, not Elijah: "The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha".

2Ki 2:13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of the Jordan-
In 1 Kings 19:13, Elijah had wrapped his face [s.w. “before” the Lord] in his mantle and “stood” [s.w. ‘stand’ before the Lord] in the cave mouth before the Angel. In Hebrew, the words for ‘face’ and ‘before’ are the same. Too ashamed to really stand before the Lord, Elijah therefore wrapped his face. Earlier, he had been so keen to use this phrase of himself (1 Kings 17:1; 18:15); he had prided himself on the fact that he stood before the Lord. But now he hid his face, a common idiom often used by God for withholding fellowship. The fact we too are God’s covenant people can initially be a source of pride to us as we do our theological gladiatorship with others. But the implications are so far deeper; and through Angelic work in our lives, we too are brought to see this. The word for “Mantle” is translated “glory” in Zech. 11:3; Elijah wrapped his presence in his own glory, rather than face up to the implications of God’s glory. A desire for our own glory prevents us perceiving God’s glory. Perhaps Elijah was being pseudo-humble, misquoting to himself a Biblical precedent in all this, namely that the cherubim wrapped their faces (Is. 6:2). In this case. Elijah was doing a false impersonation of the cherubim, manifesting himself before God’s manifestation of Himself. Only at the very end does Elijah cast away his mantle (2 Kings 2:13), his human strength, allowing himself to merge with God’s glory. He should have cast away his mantle earlier, when he stood before the still small voice on Horeb. The question of 1 Kings 19:13 “Why are you still here, Elijah?” may imply that Elijah should have allowed himself to be carried away by the cherubim, he should have surrendered himself to the progress of God’s glory, rather than so obsessively insist upon his own personal rightness and the wrongness of others. And this was why God’s ultimate response to Elijah’s attitude on Horeb was to dismiss him from his prophetic ministry and instate Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). Elijah seems to have finally learnt his lesson, for he calls Elisha to the ministry by ‘passing by’ Elisha as in a theophany, taking off his mantle and throwing it upon Elisha (1 Kings 19:19). He realized that he had hidden behind that mantle, using it to resist participating in the selfless association with God’s glory [rather than his own] to which he was called. But he got there in the end; hence the enormous significance of Elijah giving up his mantle when he finally ascends to Heaven in the cherubim chariot (2 Kings 2:13). 

Elijah's mantle doesn't have a good history. He went to Horeb / Sinai at his own initiative, trying to force himself to be the predicted prophet like unto Moses. He goes to the same cave Moses was in, the cleft in the rock, where Yahweh Himself hid Moses' face as He passed by him. Elijah expects this same intimacy with God and hides his face in his mantle in expectation of a similar theophany. But it was an empty theophany- Yahweh was not in the earthquake, wind nor fire, but in the sound of silence- that was the message to Elijah. "What are you doing here?" is a way of rebuking his attempt to put himself in Moses' place. He was not Moses, he prayed to God against Israel rather than as Moses did, offering himself for them. He was then fired from the ministry and told to anoint Elisha to replace him. He doesn't do this, but throws his mantle on Elisha as a sign that Elisha is to become his personal servant- an abuse of the mantle, a sign of his prophetic office.  So in :14 we read that when Elisha tried to part the waters by striking them with Elijah's mantle, it seems it didn't work- and so he has to ask "Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?". The mantle of itself is shown not to be powerful. Elijah had rather abused it, considering that because he was a prophet therefore he could do anything.

2Ki 2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and struck the waters, and said, Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?-
The LXX says that the first time Elisha smote the waters, they didn't open. Hence his question. Perhaps this happened, as such things happen to us, to make Elisha realize that the action of God is not automatic. It requires intense personal faith, and not merely following the pattern of other believers. 

When he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha went over-
Elisha is being taught that indeed, the spirit and power of Elijah had fallen upon him. He could perform the same miracles. The parting of water at the Red Sea and by Joshua at the same Jordan river had all been for the salvation of God's people, towards their entry into the kingdom. And so it was with Elisha's work too. This was the reason he was being given this power. Elisha is being set up as a second Joshua, who did the same in crossing the Jordan miraculously at the same place. Elijah was intended to have been the prophet like unto Moses, but he failed; and we wonder whether the lack of further allusions to Joshua in Elisha's life might suggest he likewise failed to be the second Joshua.

2Ki 2:15 When the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha. They came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him-
The present site of Jericho is about four miles from the Jordan, but perhaps "Jericho" is being used of the region around the city. "Which were over against him" (AV) could imply, as we shall see later, that they were not particularly supportive of Elisha.

2Ki 2:16 They said to him, See now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master-
They still call Elijah "your master" rather than "our master". A noted earlier, this suggests a lack of respect toward Elijah. And yet I will suggest on :18 that they respected Elisha even less. I suggested on :7 that a 'group of 50 prophets' was not a literal group of 50 men, but a kind of prophetic division of prophets.

Perhaps the spirit of Yahweh has taken him up, and put him on some mountain, or into some valley. He said, You shall not send them-
As Obadiah earlier pointed out, such snatching away of Elijah, from one place on earth to another, had been quite common (1 Kings 18:12). It was just as Philip was snatched away from the Ethiopian and then found at Azotus, and Ezekiel likewise (Ez. 37:1). It further indicates that Elijah was snatched away into the sky, not to Heaven itself. 

2Ki 2:17 When they urged him until he was ashamed-
Probably a figure of speech meaning that he finally reluctantly agreed, for their benefit rather than his. He wanted them to accept the Divine word that Elijah had been removed and replaced by himself.

He said, Send them. They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched for three days, but didn’t find him-
This strong desire to find Elijah likely reflected their dissatisfaction at the prospect of having Elisha as the 'father' of their school of sons of the prophets. Although they could not doubt that Elisha did now have the spirit of Elijah.

2Ki 2:18 They came back to him while he stayed at Jericho; and he said to them, Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t go?’- 
Elisha appeared angry that they were so persistent in trying to find Elijah. By being so desperate to have Elijah back with them, they were effectively going against the Divine intention that he be replaced by Elisha. So in political terms, things didn't start well for Elisha. The sons of the prophets at Jericho hankered after Elijah rather than Elisha; and those at Bethel despised both Elijah and Elisha (see on :23). 

2Ki 2:19 The men of the city said to Elisha, Behold, please, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land miscarries-
2 Kings 2:19 (AV mg.) records how the people complained that “the water is naught, and that ground causing to miscarry”. This was evidently an incorrect superstition of the time; barren ground cannot make the women who live on it barren. But Elisha does not blow them into next week for believing such nonsense. Instead he performed the miracle of curing the barrenness of the land. The record says that there was no more barrenness of the land or women “according to the word of Elisha which he spoke” (:22). Normally the people would have recoursed to wizards to drive away the relevant demon which they thought was causing the problem. But the miracle made it evident that ultimately God had caused the problem, and He could so easily cure it. This was a far more effective way of sinking the people’s foolish superstition than a head-on frontal attack upon it. The Lord's attitude to the ideas of demon possession in the NT is similar.

2Ki 2:20 He said, Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it. They brought it to him-
The Jordan valley, especially around Jericho, is full of salty springs which don't give good water. The Dead [Salt] Sea is not far from there. So putting salt into the salty spring to change it is a way of showing that God uses that which appears the problem in order to cure the problem. We think of the Lord Jesus having our human nature in order to make a way to overcome it. The jar perhaps represented the well.

We note that  sprinkling salt on a city is a symbol of its destruction (Jud. 9:45). It's as if the just judgment upon Jericho is accepted, but through that acceptance, blessing and healing comes.

2Ki 2:21 He went out to the spring of the waters, and threw salt into it, and said, Thus says Yahweh, ‘I have healed these waters. There shall not be from there any more death or miscarrying’-
Immediately after Moses had parted the waters, he made bitter waters "sweet" through casting a tree into them, looking ahead to the cross, so that the people could drink from them (Ex. 15:25). Elisha had just parted the waters, and he does a similar miracle to Moses. I discussed on :8 and 1 Kings 19:11 how Elijah was set up as another Moses, but he failed to completely attain that potential because unlike Moses, he was not meek enough. Elisha is being shown that he too is called to be as Moses. See on 2 Kings 3:9. This is how much of Bible prophecy works. A potential is set up [in this case for Elijah to be the prophet like Moses]; if the person failed, then  another option is tried, in this case  Elisha. When that person failed, the prophecy became reapplied and reinterpreted in the ultimate fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. And those failed fulfilments become, as some see them, 'types' of Christ- in that their experiences do partially point forward to Him.


2Ki 2:22 So the waters were healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke-
The miracle was essentially by the word of Yahweh which Elisha spoke; the use of the salt in the new jar was shown not to essentially be the cause for the cure. See on :19.

2Ki 2:23 He went up from there to Bethel-
Now the mantle had fallen upon Elisha, he visits the schools of the prophets at Jericho, Bethel (:3) and then at Carmel (see on :25).

As he was going up by the way, some youths came out of the city and mocked him, and said to him-
"Youth" is the same word used of Solomon when he became king. It can apply to young men and not just children. "The city" may not be Bethel but Jericho, because Elisha was going to Bethel from Jericho, and he turned behind him to address the youths (:24). They may have been young men who had worked as water carriers who were now out of work because Elisha had healed the bitter waters; but I suggest they are young men of the sons of the prophets who were bitter with Elisha because they were loyal to Elijah, and shared his bitter attitude and perspective that he could not be replaced- for he never anointed Elisha as asked, and resisted the Divine call to retire and give place to Elisha. The Hebrew qereah translated "baldy" is a form of "Korah", who had rebelled against Moses' authority. The implication would be that they considered Elijah the prophet like unto Moses, and Elisha to be a usurper of Elijah. They saw Elisha as Elijah had taught them to. And this is an essay in his arrogant resistance to God's firing of him as lead prophet, and replacing him with Elisha. So the position of these young men actually says much about what Elijah's position was. But they were in fact the "Korah" usurpers of Divine authority; they were "torn" by the bears (:24), using the same word for how the ground 'tore open' beneath Korah and consumed him (Num. 16:31). The bears "went out" (:24), the same word for how the fire "went out" from Yahweh to destroy Korah's group (Num. 16:35).   

Go up, you baldy! Go up, you baldhead!-
I suggest they were challenging him to "go up" into the sky as Elijah had. They mock him as being bald, rather than being as Elijah, who was famed for being a hairy man (2 Kings 1:8). These young people from Bethel were doubtful that Elisha could indeed carry the mantle of Elisha, which he was presumably wearing. Elijah and Elisha had visited the "sons of the prophets" in Bethel just before Elijah was snatched away (:3), and at that time they had spoken of Elijah as Elisha's master, "your master", rather than "our master". They were not great enthusiasts for Elijah, and it seems they were the "youths" here. They disliked the way Elisha was now claiming to be as Elijah, a prophet for whom they had no respect. I suspect therefore that it is some of them who were these youths, and they were not just random cheeky kids who were punished for their cat calling.

Another view would be that young men are always "the sons of the prophets" in this section of scripture. They may have been Elijah loyalists who like Elijah, considered all other prophets fake- including Elisha. "Go up" is also used to going up to a sanctuary to worship, e.g. Hos. 4:15 "Do not go up to Beth Aven" ['house of sin', another name for Bethel where Elisha was heading towards]. We note the frequent references to 'going up' to worship at Jerusalem or the sanctuary. They may have been challenging him to "go up" to the nearby sanctuary at Bethel and worship the golden calves there. Because they as Elijah loyalists considered him fake. But any such attempt to incite another to sin would account for the severe judgment of them. For to make others sin is the worst sin.

Despite these suggestions, we can also opt for the simplest view- that these were youngsters who were catcalling a bald man with no particularly malicious intent nor hidden meaning. Elisha calls down severe judgment upon them, apparently out of proportion to their naughtiness. He did this with all the immaturity and impatience of a young, prematurely bald man- for he lived around 60 years after this. This would then be exactly like Elijah calling down fire from Heaven to destroy the two groups of 50 soldiers- an act criticized by the Lord as being not of His spirit. But as discussed on 2 Kings 1, Elijah had been delegated God's power and had a wide leeway of parameters within which to use it. It could be that Elisha in a moment of irritation and embarassed anger followed the bad example of his one time master Elijah. He did just the same. The old covenant cursed those who went after Baal, and it's possible the "go up" was to the fake sanctuary at Bethel. Balaam could only curse those whom God had cursed (Num. 23:8), and "an undeserved curse does not come to rest" (Prov. 26:2). And so Elisha felt he could curse any idolators including these kids. This curse did come to rest, although it seems so extreme and uttered in irritation and short temper. Maybe Elisha was aware of Hos. 13:8 "Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open"; or Am. 5:19 "It will be as though a man fled from a lion and a bear met him". So perhaps, as with Elijah bringing drought upon Israel because this was the punishment for breaking the covenant, so Elisha is reasoning that these youngsters were cursed by God anyway, so he could curse them in God's Name. Breaking the covenant would lead to God sending "wild animals against you, who will rob you of your children" (Lev. 26:22). The threat of wild beasts being sent against God's covenant breaking people is quite common (Jer. 5:6; 8:17; Ez. 5:17; 14:15,21 etc.). And so God went along with that, as He did with allowing Elijah to bring fire down from Heaven even if that was not how He wished His Spirit to be used. The spirit of Christ is to bless those who curse us and bless and not curse (Rom. 12:14; Mt. 5:44), to not repay cursing for cursing (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:5-7).


2Ki 2:24 He looked behind him and saw them, and cursed them in the name of Yahweh. Two female bears came out of the woods, and mauled forty-two of those youths-
That he "looked behind him" shows they did not confront him, but called out these words from a secluded place. The extreme punishment, as explained on :23, was because they were the sons of the prophets at Bethel who had refused Elijah's leadership (probably because he despised them as unfaithful and rejected them when he should have accepted them)- and now refused that of Elisha, seeing he was acting as Elijah. The death of 42 of them may have meant the entire community of sons of the prophets there was virtually wiped out. For it could be argued from :16 that there were only 50 sons of the prophets at Jericho, and perhaps there were only the same at Bethel. There seems a connection with the disobedient prophet who was killed by a lion near this same city of Bethel (1 Kings 13:24). And these were disobedient sons of the prophets.

2Ki 2:25 He went from there to Mount Carmel-

Elijah seems often associated with Mount Carmel, and it seems likely he had a school of the prophets there, which Elisha now visited- having just visited the school of the prophets at Bethel (:3,23). This would corroborate the suggestion on :23 that the disrespectful youths were sons of the prophets.

And from there he returned to Samaria-
We learn from the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 that Elisha had a house there. Hence Naaman's maid talks of Elisha as "the prophet that is in Samaria".