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The Malbim suggests that
Elijah was afraid that Elisha would be found unworthy and bring disaster upon
himself for daring to approach too close to the Almighty and not being fit to do
3 NOW THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS WHO WERE AT BETHEL CAME OUT TO ELISHA, AND SAID TO HIM, 'DO YOU KNOW THAT THE LORD WILL TAKE AWAY YOUR MASTER FROM OVER YOU TODAY?'
AND HE SAID, 'YES, I KNOW; KEEP SILENT!'
"Sons of the Prophets". The same word "Banim" (literally "sons") or "Bnei" ("sons of" ) in Hebrew is variously translated as "Sons" or as "Children". Here it does not mean the literal offspring but rather students and those who were training to become prophets. In the Book of Samuel we find "a group of prophets" (1-Samuel 10:5). We also had the incident where:
#' Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied # (1-Samuel 19:20).
4 THEN ELIJAH SAID TO HIM, 'ELISHA, STAY HERE, PLEASE, FOR THE LORD HAS SENT ME ON TO JERICHO.'
BUT HE SAID, 'AS THE LORD LIVES, AND AS YOUR SOUL LIVES, I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU!' SO THEY CAME TO JERICHO.
5 NOW THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS WHO WERE AT JERICHO CAME TO ELISHA AND SAID TO HIM, 'DO YOU KNOW THAT THE LORD WILL TAKE AWAY YOUR MASTER FROM OVER YOU TODAY?'
SO HE ANSWERED, 'YES, I KNOW; KEEP SILENT!'
Apparently the message had gone out from Heaven and a great many of they who were close to heavenly matters had received it. At a lower level this sometimes happens in everyday life where the community at large intuits matters. Unfortunately it may also be reversed whereby things that should be obvious appear to be universally willfully ignored.
6 THEN ELIJAH SAID TO HIM, 'STAY HERE, PLEASE, FOR THE LORD HAS SENT ME ON TO THE JORDAN.'
BUT HE SAID, 'AS THE LORD LIVES, AND AS YOUR SOUL LIVES, I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU!' SO THE TWO OF THEM WENT ON.
7 AND FIFTY MEN OF THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS WENT AND STOOD FACING THEM AT A DISTANCE, WHILE THE TWO OF THEM STOOD BY THE JORDAN.
We previously saw that military units numbering fifty (2-Samuel ch.1) were conventionally employed. Here we have a unit of fifty men training to be prophets. Daat Mikra (Yehudah Kiel) suggests that they may have been organized along semi-military lines.
8 NOW ELIJAH TOOK HIS MANTLE, ROLLED IT UP, AND STRUCK THE WATER; AND IT WAS DIVIDED THIS WAY AND THAT, SO THAT THE TWO OF THEM CROSSED OVER ON DRY GROUND.
This reminds us of the Splitting of the Red Sea (Exodus ch.14) and of the Jordan River when the Israelites entered the Land of Canaan (Joshua ch.3). Elijah performed this miracle using his mantle (i.e. cloak) and was to bestow two portions of his spirit upon Elisha again using his cloak.
9 AND SO IT WAS, WHEN THEY HAD CROSSED OVER, THAT ELIJAH SAID TO ELISHA, 'ASK! WHAT MAY I DO FOR YOU, BEFORE I AM TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU?'
ELISHA SAID, 'PLEASE LET A DOUBLE PORTION OF YOUR SPIRIT BE UPON ME.'
10 SO HE SAID, 'YOU HAVE ASKED A HARD THING. NEVERTHELESS, IF YOU SEE ME WHEN I AM TAKEN FROM YOU, IT SHALL BE SO FOR YOU; BUT IF NOT, IT SHALL NOT BE SO.'
11 THEN IT HAPPENED, AS THEY CONTINUED ON AND TALKED, THAT SUDDENLY A CHARIOT OF FIRE APPEARED WITH HORSES OF FIRE, AND SEPARATED THE TWO OF THEM; AND ELIJAH WENT UP BY A WHIRLWIND INTO HEAVEN.
The Sages said that Elijah entered Heaven alive. Others say that the body of Elijah was consumed by the fire but he himself was transformed into a spiritual being. Only Elisha witnessed this event. The other Prophets knew that Elijah would be taken away in a miraculous manner but that was all. They did not know how it would happen or (as we see later) what would become of Elijah afterwards.
This whole scenario has philosophical and mystical significance that we are not aware of and would probably prefer not to discuss if we were.
12 AND ELISHA SAW IT, AND HE CRIED OUT, 'MY FATHER, MY FATHER, THE CHARIOT OF ISRAEL AND ITS HORSEMEN!' SO HE SAW HIM NO MORE. AND HE TOOK HOLD OF HIS OWN CLOTHES AND TORE THEM INTO TWO PIECES.
"The Chariot" in Hebrew "recev" also given as "mercavah" from the same RCV root. This root connotes "ride, place astride". In Hebrew a related word from the same root "HaRCiV" means to graft. The Heavenly "Chariot" represents the point where Heaven and Earth combine, the intermediate agency through which the Almighty governs the world. The Prophet Elijah had served as a fatherly protector of Israel and Intercessor on their behalf and also as a regulator of spiritual matters.
13 HE ALSO TOOK UP THE MANTLE OF ELIJAH THAT HAD FALLEN FROM HIM, AND WENT BACK AND STOOD BY THE BANK OF THE JORDAN.
14 THEN HE TOOK THE MANTLE OF ELIJAH THAT HAD FALLEN FROM HIM, AND STRUCK THE WATER, AND SAID, 'WHERE IS THE LORD GOD OF ELIJAH?' AND WHEN HE ALSO HAD STRUCK THE WATER, IT WAS DIVIDED THIS WAY AND THAT; AND ELISHA CROSSED OVER.
Elisha with the mantle of Elijah repeated the miracle of Elijah and showed himself to be the chosen successor approved by Heaven.
15 NOW WHEN THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS WHO WERE FROM JERICHO SAW HIM, THEY SAID, 'THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH RESTS ON ELISHA.' AND THEY CAME TO MEET HIM, AND BOWED TO THE GROUND BEFORE HIM.
16 THEN THEY SAID TO HIM, 'LOOK NOW, THERE ARE FIFTY STRONG MEN WITH YOUR SERVANTS. PLEASE LET THEM GO AND SEARCH FOR YOUR MASTER, LEST PERHAPS THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD HAS TAKEN HIM UP AND CAST HIM UPON SOME MOUNTAIN OR INTO SOME VALLEY.'
AND HE SAID, 'YOU SHALL NOT SEND ANYONE.'
17 BUT WHEN THEY URGED HIM TILL HE WAS ASHAMED, HE SAID, 'SEND THEM!' THEREFORE THEY SENT FIFTY MEN, AND THEY SEARCHED FOR THREE DAYS BUT DID NOT FIND HIM.
ASHAMED. In Hebrew "Bash" meaning "abashed" the same as in English. The word "ashame" also comes from the Hebrew "asham" meaning "guilty". Me-am Lo'az says they made Elisha feel as if they suspected him of ulterior motives for not wanting to search for Elijah so he agreed.
18 AND WHEN THEY CAME BACK TO HIM, FOR HE HAD STAYED IN JERICHO, HE SAID TO THEM, "DID I NOT SAY TO YOU, 'DO NOT GO'?"
19 THEN THE MEN OF THE CITY SAID TO ELISHA, 'PLEASE NOTICE, THE SITUATION OF THIS CITY IS PLEASANT, AS MY LORD SEES; BUT THE WATER IS BAD, AND THE GROUND BARREN.'
The ground was barren because of the bad quality of the water.
Note the significance of water in this chapter. Elijah and Elisha both split the Jordan waters as demonstrations of the Divine Influence they have been favored with and the passage of this gift from one to the other. Here Elisha is asked to heal the waters that cause the earth to not give forth its fruit. The Malbim points out that in Talmudic terminology "waters" represent "doctrine". Untrue and unworthy beliefs and attitudes are liable to cause stagnation and death to whole communities. Salt represents the covenant.
20 AND HE SAID, 'BRING ME A NEW BOWL, AND PUT SALT IN IT.' SO THEY BROUGHT IT TO HIM.
21 THEN HE WENT OUT TO THE SOURCE OF THE WATER, AND CAST IN THE SALT THERE, AND SAID, 'THUS SAYS THE LORD: 'I HAVE HEALED THIS WATER; FROM IT THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH OR BARRENNESS.''
22 SO THE WATER REMAINS HEALED TO THIS DAY, ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF ELISHA WHICH HE SPOKE.
23 THEN HE WENT UP FROM THERE TO BETHEL; AND AS HE WAS GOING UP THE ROAD, SOME YOUTHS CAME FROM THE CITY AND MOCKED HIM, AND SAID TO HIM, 'GO UP, YOU BALDHEAD! GO UP, YOU BALDHEAD!'
YOUTHS. Hebrew "na-arim katanim" literally small boys. Different commentaries have een given on this. In the Language of the Talmud and Midrash the expressions "youth" and "children" are applied to grown men who reject responsibility and sobriety and act like animals. Some of the Commentators propose that similar usage is being applied here. There is a principle that "Scripture always keeps within its literal boundaries" i.e. the literal meaning always applies. Nevertheless in some cases the Hebrew Language lends itself to alternate interpretations.
The expression in Hebrew is "naarim katanim".
"naarim" from the root "naar" can connote "throw off, reject". The Arab word "Intifada" translated as Uprising actually means "arousal" "throw off", "rebel".
"katanim" is the plural of "katan" meaning "small" but it also can connote something that is despicable,
BEHOLD, I HAVE MADE THEE SMALL AMONG THE HEATHEN: THOU ART GREATLY DESPISED [Obadiah 1:2].
GO UP, in Hebrew "aley" i.e. Get Going! They were mocking him and driving him away. They were calling him "Baldy" in contrast to Elijah who had been distinguished by his long hair. It was as if they were rejecting Elisha as successor of Elijah and turning their backs on the authority of Prophecy altogether.
24 SO HE TURNED AROUND AND LOOKED AT THEM, AND PRONOUNCED A CURSE ON THEM IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. AND TWO FEMALE BEARS CAME OUT OF THE WOODS AND MAULED FORTY-TWO OF THE YOUTHS.
Daat Mikra points out that bereaved female bears have a reputation for being the most vicious.
MAULED, Hebrew "ve-tivkana" from the root "BAKA" meaning "split open".
This seems quite cruel to us and unwarranted but doubtless there was a justified reason for it. Elisha was a prophet and knew what he was doing.
These days a good many of us had disturbed childhoods and so did our parents. The upbringing we eventually gave to our offspring in many cases was even worse than what we ourselves received. We tend to be lenient towards the offences of youth but perhaps we should not be' Maybe this incident was meant to serve us an example and warning for the sake of others'
In my opinion all our modern psychologists and social experts and various other experts do not know very much. We need to heed the Bible and teach others to do so. That is the only thing we have. Other people may be able to get by with their traditions and social conformity etc. We cannot. Peoples of Israelite descent need Scripture to live by.
YOUTHS. Here the Hebrew word used is "Yaladim" literally "children" or "boys". In later usage this expression was used similarly to our present slang term "gang bangers".
25 THEN HE WENT FROM THERE TO MOUNT CARMEL, AND FROM THERE HE RETURNED TO SAMARIA.
Daat Mikra points out that he was retracing the itinerary of Elijah before he departed.
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The Divided Kingdom
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