2 Kings 2:1-25 – Step Five – Review of Commentaries

We have already looked at Bible commentaries in connection with the content and context of 2 Kings 2:1-25. But now we will review what further light they may shed on this text.

1. Review what several Bible commentaries say about the text.

In surveying various commentaries, we can look at their answers to questions that arise in interpreting each verse. In each case, I will look first at online commentaries, and then at more recent commentaries.

2 Kings 2:1-6

– Where is “Gilgal” mentioned in verse 1 located?

There is some disagreement as to the location of Gilgal. The Gilgal referred to in Joshua 4:19 is near the Jordan and Jericho and quite far from Bethel. Also, 2 Kings 2:2 says Elijah and Elisha “went down to Bethel.” They would have gone up to Bethel from the Gilgal in the Jordan valley. Because of this, commentators have suggested that another Gilgal is referred to. As the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Bible Hub says,

“The ‘Gilgal’ spoken of here must be a different place from that so named in Joshua 4:19; Joshua 5:9-10. That was situate in the Jordan valley and not very far from Jericho. But here the travellers are described (verse 2) as ‘going dawn’ from Gilgal to Bethel. There is however another place of the same name in the hill country of Ephraim, which is also the place alluded to in Deuteronomy 11:30 and is now known as Jiljilia, and by making this the starting-point of Elijah’s last journey, the description in the text becomes quite accurate, for that place stands considerably higher than Bethel. It is known from 2 Kings 4:38 that at Gilgal there was a colony of the prophets. At the time when he was to be translated Elijah was probably dwelling among the prophetic body, and passed to the other two centres, Bethel and Jericho, that to them he might leave the precious memory of a visit on the last day when he was seen on earth.”[1]

Gray has a similar understanding of the location of Gilgal. He writes: “Actually, the name is a common one in Palestine, signifying ‘stone circle’, and there are several sites Jiljillyeh in the country. The one here denoted is generally located about eight miles north of Bethel. This, too, is lower than Bethel, but a journey from there to Bethel involves an ascent to high ground between the two sites, so that eventually one does go down to Bethel.”[2]

Gray and Jones also mention the suggestion of Sanda of a location west near Kefr Tult. Another suggestion is that “went down” “reflects the author’s geographical standpoint.”[3]

– What is the significance of this journey from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan?

Writing in the Lectionary Commentary, Volume One, Achtemeier says:

“The journey on which Elijah leads Elisha in our story is rather pointless. Gilgal is very near the Jordan, which is Elijah’s final destination. Jericho is a few miles from Gilgal, but the trip there is interrupted by a detour to Bethel. The route seems to have no purpose other than to illustrate Elisha’s determination to remain with Elijah and to show that Elisha hears the same words from the sons of the prophets at each of the shrines. Nevertheless, the journey does serve to build suspense in the story.”[4]

Wiseman has a different take:

“Elijah took his young student on a farewell visit to the groups of prophets at Bethel (v. 1), Jericho (v. 4) and Gilgal by Jordan (v. 6). His coming departure was reiterated (vv. 3, 5), as was his assurance that the Lord had sent him on the journey (vv. 2, 4, 6).”[5]

House connects the journey with the past:

“The trip from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan retraces the first movements Israel made in the promised land (cf. Josh 1–8), and the parting of the Jordan may also remind readers of the crossing of the Red Sea. Such a scenario calls attention to the similarities of Elisha’s succession of Elijah and Joshua’s succession of Moses (Num 27:18–23; 1 Kgs 19:15–21).”[6]

Why does Elijah repeatedly request Elisha to “stay here”?

Commentators have various explanations for this request. Some understand Elijah to be testing Elisha.[7]

Others, such as Keil, argue that Elijah was motivated by humility: “He did not wish to have anyone present to witness his glorification without being well assured that it was in accordance with the will of God.”[8]

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says: “Elijah, feeling that soon he was to stand before God, and was drawing near to the gate of heaven, would save his disciple from the sight of a glory on which man, as the Jew felt, cannot gaze and live, while Elisha is resolved that nothing but the last necessity shall take him from his master’s side.”[9]

Earlier in his commentary, Provan suggests that Elijah’s response to God’s plans as outlined in 1 Kings 19:13-21, “is less than whole-hearted.” He notes that Elijah never does anoint Hazael, Jehu or Elisha, as the Lord required. Provan writes, “We are entitled to ask whether Elijah has really adjusted himself to God’s plans at all.”[10]

In line with this, Provan wonders about the meaning of Elijah’s repeated attempts to leave Elisha behind: “Is this further testimony of Elijah’s reluctance to adopt God’s plans for the future (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:13–21)? Is he trying to shake Elisha off his tail, so as to subvert these plans?”[11]

The text itself is silent as to why Elijah requests Elisha to “stay here.” The fact that he doesn’t object when Elisha refuses to leave him makes the explanation that he is testing Elisha seem plausible.

– Why does Elisha refuse to leave Elijah?

Here again it is hard to know the answer to this question. Commentators have various explanations.

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary says:

“Under ordinary circumstances, the servant would naturally have obeyed his lord, and submitted to a temporary separation; but Elisha has a presentiment, or something stronger than a presentiment, of what is impending (vers. 3, 5), and will not be induced to accelerate by a single moment the time of the last parting. He will remain with his master, ready to do him all needful service, until the end.”[12]

Jones writes: “Tarry here: This command is repeated in vv. 4, 6, and by repeating in each case Elisha’s stubborn refusal to obey the impression is given that he has some mysterious premonition of what was to happen; this increases the suspense and mysterious character of the event.”[13]

Nelson comments: “The Elijah/Elisha dialogue, repeated three times, shows the reader where Elisha stands. He knows exactly what is going on and takes a powerful oath refusing to leave (cf. 4:30; 1 Sam. 20:3; 25:26).”[14]

– What is the meaning of “as the LORD lives and as you live”?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says,

“The combination of the two phrases imparts much solemnity to the resolve. They are not un-frequently found apart. Thus ‘As the Lord liveth’ occurs alone in Jdg 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Samuel 14:39 &c., and ‘As thy soul liveth’ in 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 17:55; 2 Samuel 14:19 &c. Beside the places in this chapter the double form is found in 1 Samuel 20:3; 1 Samuel 25:26 and is expressive of the most intense earnestness. Elisha’s master may be withdrawn from him: he will not be withdrawn from his master.”[15]

– What is the role of “the sons of the prophets” in the narrative?

Hobbs writes: “The important place given the sons of the prophets in this narrative is noteworthy. Of the eleven references to them in the OT, four are found here. They function as corroborating witnesses to the succession of Elisha.”[16]

-Why does Elisha tell the sons of the prophets to keep quiet?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges speculates:

“Elisha had marked the solemn and meditative frame of his master’s mind, and would not have it disturbed by any prolonged conversation between himself and the sons of the prophets. He cannot bear the questioning. He thinks of his own weakness and of the terrible burden which will be laid upon him when he is left alone without the friend on whom he has hitherto leaned.”[17]

The Pulpit Commentary has this suggestion of Elisha’s meaning: “Hush – do not chatter about what is so sacred; do not suppose that you are wiser than any one else; be a little modest and a little reticent.”[18]

According to House, “Elisha’s refusal to speak of the matter apparently shows his sorrow at the prospect of losing Elijah.”[19]

Hobbs says that as an imperative, “Keep quiet,” “reflects the very strong sense of urgency Elisha felt during this period.”[20]

According to Nelson, “The narrative tension is set up by the circuitous journey and the interplay of ‘tarry’ and ‘I will not leave’ along with ‘do you know’ and ‘hold your peace.’ The reader knows what will happen (v. 1). The real questions are How will this happen? Where are we going? Will Elisha be there?”[21]

2 Kings 2:7-8

– What is the significance of the fact that fifty of the sons of the prophets stand at a distance and watch Elijah and Elisha?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary comments as follows:

“For the sons of the prophets to have approached nearer, and hung on the skirts of Elijah, would have been an impertinence, Elisha’s persistence is only justified by his strong affection, and the special office which he held, of attendant minister. The fifty students showed a courteous sense of what was due to the prophet’s desire of seclusion by not pressing on his footsteps, and at the same time a real interest in him, and a reasonable curiosity, by quitting their college and ‘standing to view’ on some eminence which commanded a prospect of the lower Jordan valley. There were many such eminences within a short distance of Jericho.”[22]

According to Hobbs: “In the present narrative, these fifty men serve as further corroborating witnesses to the final disappearance of Elijah.”[23]

House adds a further observation: “The fact that this group of prophets has seen this miracle becomes important later, for Elisha’s repetition of the act will confirm in their minds that Elisha is truly Elijah’s successor (cf. 2 Kgs 2:13–15).”[24]

-What is the significance of Elijah and Elisha crossing the Jordan miraculously?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary comments:

“The parallelism with the miraculous acts of Moses and Joshua (Joshua 3:13) is obvious, and allowed even by those who view the acts themselves as having no historical foundation (Ewald, ‘History of Israel,’ vol. 4. p. 111, note, Eng. trans.). It was intended that Israel should regard Elijah and Elisha as a second Moses and Joshua, and should therefore yield them a ready obedience.”[25]

According to Wiseman: “Elijah is again linked with Moses who had used the symbol of his office, a staff, to smite the Re(e)d Sea waters in bringing God’s people out of Egypt (cf. Exod. 14:21–22). So Elijah used his rolled up (now finished with) long cloak to do the same to cross the Jordan (cf. Josh. 3–5),”[26]

Davis writes:

“The events of verses 8 and 14 clearly re-enact the events of Joshua 3–4, when Yahweh cut off the waters of the Jordan and Israel entered Canaan. Here in 2 Kings 2, however, the Jordan parting is not so public. Only a group of the remnant views it here. But what is the text saying when Elijah and Elisha duplicate the dividing of the Jordan? Simply that the God of 1400 BC is just as mighty in 850 BC. His arm has not atrophied.”[27]

– What is the significance of Elijah using his mantle to cross the Jordan?

Keil comments: “The cloak, that outward sign of the prophet’s office, became the vehicle of the Spirit’s power which works unseen, and with which the prophet was inspired.”[28]

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges attempts to explain why Elijah rolled up his mantle: “Making thus a sort of roll or rod, and reminding us by his action of Moses, who smote with his rod the waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:17; Exodus 7:20) when they were to be turned into blood.”[29]

– Why do Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan before Elijah is taken up?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes that Elijah and Elisha were near “the spot where the earlier prophet Moses had been taken from the earth.” It also mentions that “Elijah stood again on the slopes of his native Gilead,” and asks, “Was he impelled by that strong desire which so often makes men wish to die among the scenes of their childhood?”[30]

Hobbs also mentions that by crossing the Jordan, the prophets had entered “the region of the death of Moses.”[31]

Nelson comments:

“The two cross the Jordan on the ‘dry ground’ of the exodus and conquest (v. 8; Exod. 14:21; Josh. 3:17; 4:18), reversing history as it were. They journey back in time and out of the land into a mysterious locale where supernatural translations can take place (cf. the ‘high mountain apart’ of the synoptic transfiguration story; Matt. 17:1).”[32]

2 Kings 2:9-12

– Why does Elisha ask for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit?

As mentioned in 2 Kings 2:1-25 – Step Four – Closer Study of Context, the double portion Elijah requests is not twice the amount of the spirit that Elijah had. Rather, it is the double portion of the inheritance that went to the firstborn son (Deut. 21:17).

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says, “What Elisha longs for is such a blessing as will shew that he is esteemed as the dearest member of that band whom Elijah had most trusted.[33]

Keil writes, “Elisha looked upon himself as the first-born son of Elijah in relation to the other ‘sons of the prophets,’ inasmuch as Elijah, by the command of God, had called him to be his successor and to carry on his work.”[34]

According to Hobbs, “Elisha is asking for the status as rightful heir to the prophetic leader’s role.”[35] Jones says he “is asking that he be granted special privileges as his master’s successor, possibly as the leader of a community of prophets.”[36]

House comments:

“Elisha’s request for a “double portion” of the spirit that possesses Elijah indicates his understanding that Elijah has a special relationship with God. … Perhaps … Elisha desires both Elijah’s spiritual strength and temporal responsibilities, or he may simply ask for the spiritual power to do the job he has known he would someday assume (cf. 1 Kgs 19:19–21).”[37]

– Why does Elijah say that Elisha has asked a difficult thing?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says it is difficult “because it was not Elijah’s to bestow.”[38]

Goldingay makes a similar comment: “In effect Elisha is asking to have the resources that will make it possible for him to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah knows he cannot decide that he will have them (notwithstanding that commission to anoint him); it is God’s business.”[39]

– Why does Elijah say Elisha’s request will be granted if he sees him as he is taken?

Jones makes the following observation:

“What Elijah implies is that Elisha’s status as his successor depends on his ability to see and penetrate the spiritual world. If he possesses the ability of a visionary to penetrate into the heavenly world, his request will be granted; if he cannot demonstrate that he has that ability, his request will not be granted.”[40]

– What is the significance of the fiery horses and fiery chariots?

Cogan and Tadmor write as follows: “Fire is a regular feature of the divine manifestation (e.g. Exod 3:2; 13:21; 19:18) and is of the divine essence (cf. Deut 4:24); thus the vehicles beheld by Elisha were those of the Lord.”[41]

According to Hobbs: “The image is undoubtedly military, and the combination of chariots and horses in this way is scattered throughout the OT. The background to such allusions as these has been identified, with some merit, with the tradition of Holy War.”[42]

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says the vision of horses and chariots was given to Elisha to encourage him: “The vision was a source of strength and encouragement in the labours which were before him with no master at his head.”[43]

Gray comments: “The theophany at the disappearance of Elijah may have been elaborated to emphasize the presence of God and so to enhance the authority to which Elisha fell heir.”[44]

– Why does Elisha cry out, “My father, my father!”?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary says:

“It was usual for servants thus to address their masters (2 Kings 5:13), and younger men would, out of respect, almost always thus address an aged prophet (2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14, etc.). But Elisha probably meant something more than to show respect. He regarded himself as Elijah’s specially adopted son, and hence had claimed the “double portion” of the firstborn. That his request was granted showed that the relationship was acknowledged.”[45]

Gray simply says, “’My father’ (‘abi) expresses respect and dependence.”[46]

According to Hobbs, “The repetition is a simple means of attracting attention (cf. Gen 22:11; 46:2; Exod 3:4 and 1 Sam 3:4).”[47]

– What is the meaning of the exclamation, “The chariots of Israel and its horseman”?

Some have thought that the reference is to the chariots and horse of fire. But the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Bible Hub is probably correct in saying: “These words are in apposition with the former clause, and mark the sense which Elisha had of the protection afforded to the land by the presence of Elijah. Horses and chariots might be prepared in abundance, but they who had God’s prophet as their guide, and his voice lifted to heaven for their help, were guarded by a might against which armies were powerless.”[48]

The Pulpit Commentary adds: “The sight of the fiery chariot and horses may have determined the imagery, but they are not spoken of. Note the substitution of “horsemen” for “horses,” and comp. 2 Kings 13:10, where the same expression is used in reference to Elisha.”[49]

– Why does Elisha tear his garments in two?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary says, “An action marking extreme horror or extreme grief – here the latter (comp. Genesis 37:29; 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 1:20; Job 2:12, etc.).”[50]

2 Kings 2:13-15

– What is the significance of Elisha’s taking up the mantle of Elijah?

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says Elisha picked up the mantle as “as a precious memento of the departed master, and as a sort of pledge of the promise which had been made to him. This heirloom was taken of the inheritance on which he was now about to enter.”[51]

According to Keil, “The prophet’s mantle of the master fell to Elisha the disciple, as a pledge to himself that his request was fulfilled, and as a visible sign to others that he was his divinely appointed successor, and that the spirit of Elijah rested on him (ver. 15).”[52]

-Why does Elisha say, “Where is the God of Elijah”?

According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

“The question does not imply any doubt of God’s presence, of which Elisha had so lately seen a manifestation; but should rather be explained as an entreaty for His power to shew itself and give a foretaste of the spirit of Elijah which had been promised. ‘As if he had said: Lord God, it was thy promise to me by my departed master, that if I should see him in his last passage, a double portion of his spirit should be upon me. I followed him with my eyes in that fire and whirlwind; now therefore, O God, make good thy gracious word unto thy servant: make this the first proof of the miraculous power wherewith thou shalt endow me. Let Jordan give the same way to me as it gave to my master’ (Bp Hall).”[53]

– What is the significance of Elisha’s splitting the Jordan?

According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Elisha “acts upon the faith that he would receive from God the power which he had desired. He is in a degree to represent Elijah and therefore he acts as Elijah had done.” By the splitting of the waters “the Lord confirmed the promise made to Elisha by Elijah, and shewed that the spirit of the master had been bestowed on the disciple.”[54]

Cogan and Tadmor comment: “The succession of Elisha to the ‘fathership’ over the Sons of the Prophets is demonstrated by his ability to perform the wondrous splitting of the Jordan; he has indeed inherited his master’s qualities.[55]

Goldingay adds: “Elijah’s parting of the waters shows him to be someone who stands in the line of Moses; Elisha’s then being able to do so shows that he comes next in this line.”[56]

– What role to the sons of the prophets play in verse 15?

According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, by bowing, they are “expressing their acknowledgement of him as their head, and the divinely appointed successor of Elijah.”[57]

Nelson comments: “The sons of the prophets now become a dramatic chorus recognizing the implications of what they have seen happen with the mantle.”[58]

2 Kings 2:16-18

– What is the meaning of “sons of strength”?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary says: “Literally, sons of strength; i.e. stout, active persons, capable of climbing the rough and precipitous rocks among which they thought that Elijah might be cast.”[59]

Many commentators think these strong men were part of the group of the sons of the prophets. Jones thinks they were not.[60]

– Why do the sons of the prophets think that the Spirit of the Lord has caught Elijah up?

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Bible Hub comments:

“Compare 1 Kings 18:12, where Obadiah speaks of the spirit of the Lord carrying Elijah away to some unknown spot. A like expression is found in the introduction to Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1) of the dry bones. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon me and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord.’”[61]

Why did the sons of the prophets think a search party should be sent to find Elijah?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges gives the following explanation:

“The ‘sons of the prophets’ appear to have thought that the body of Elijah might be discovered somewhere, though God had taken away his soul. They had knowledge, as is seen from the previous part of the narrative, that the prophet was to be taken away from life, but seem to have expected his body would be left lifeless near the spot where he was separated from Elisha. It cannot be supposed after what they had before said to Elisha, that the Lord would take away his master from him on that day, that they expected to find Elijah somewhere alive.” … “The sons of the prophets could not be moved from their notion that the body of Elijah might somewhere be discovered, and it is easy to understand how they would desire to give it reverent burial, if it were to be found.”[62]

Wiseman writes: “It was important to them to avoid the dishonour of a corpse lying unburied, and the need for confirmation of his final disappearance would be essential to them if not to Elisha, for Elijah had been known to disappear (and reappear) suddenly (1 Kgs 18:12).”[63]

Cogan and Tadmor say “the spirit of the Lord” refers to “the stormy apparition” and translate, “Maybe YHWH’s wind has carried him.”[64]

What is the significance of the fact that “they urged him till he was ashamed” and “he said, ‘Send’”?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments:

“till he was ashamed] i.e. to refuse longer so urgent, though as he knew resultless, a petition. There is no pronoun expressed in the original. Hence some have thought the expression meant ‘to a shameful extent’ and was to be applied to the undue persistence of the petitioners. But the same phrase occurs in Jdg 3:25 of Eglon’s servants who waited till they were ashamed to wait longer. Here it implies that Elisha was at a loss how to refuse them any longer.”[65]

Cogan and Tadmor have a different take: “The phrase seems to have ‘become equivalent to a long while’ when the original significance of the verb may no longer have been felt (so G. F. Moore, Judges [ICC, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark 1895], 101, ad Judge 3:25); cf. 2 Kings 8:11.”[66]

– What is the significance of the fact that the search for Elijah is futile?

Hobbs writes: “The confirmation of the disappearance of Elijah and the truth of the word of his successor is now complete.”[67]

2 Kings 2:19-22

– Why was this episode about the healing of the water included?

According to Keil: “The two following miracles of Elisha (vers. 19-25) were also intended to accredit him in the eyes of the people as a man endowed with the Spirit and power of God, as Elijah had been.”[68]

Provan comments: “With the two concluding stories of the chapter we leave behind uncertainties about the fate of Elijah (vv. 16–18) and concentrate upon what is clear (picking up vv. 13–15): that Elisha has indeed taken his place.”[69]

Wiseman writes: “Note that this further selected example to show that the miraculous powers of Elijah were also in Elisha was performed not for his own glorification but to help others.”[70]

– What was the problem with the water and land near Jericho?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary comments:

“Bitter and brackish springs, of which there are many in the Jordan valley, gushed forth from the foot of the mountains, and formed rivulets, which ran across the plain towards the Jordan, not diffusing health and fertility, but rather disease and barrenness. Untimely births, abortions, and the like prevailed among the cattle which were fed in the neighborhood, perhaps even among the inhabitants of the locality, and were attributed to the bitter springs, which made the land “miscarrying” (ἀτεκνουμένη, LXX.).”[71]

According to Gray: “In a recent geological and hydrological survey of the Wilderness of Judah south of Jericho, it has been observed that certain springs are affected by radio-activity, which laboratory tests have demonstrated to cause sterility, which was noticed at Jericho in this passage.”[72]

Others have suggested that the water was contaminated with bacteria.[73]

Is it significant that this water problem was in Jericho?

Most commentators do not see any special significance in the location. Davis, however, refers to Joshua’s curse on the rebuilder of Jericho. According to 1 Kings 16:34, this curse was fulfilled during the reign of Ahab, when Hiel the Bethelite rebuilt the city. Davis writes: “Isn’t this backdrop significant for verses 19–22? The city under a curse now receives a blessing of grace. The place where Yahweh inflicted his destructive word now enjoys his healing word.”[74]

Why does Elisha ask for a new jar and salt?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments:

“The purity and freshness of the vessel were to typify the purification wrought upon the spring. Salt too is significant of preservation and purity. We are not however to think of this as the means whereby the healing was wrought, but only as an outward sign to point to the work which was supernaturally performed.”[75]

According to Gray, “The new dish is significant in magical ritual, in which it is necessary to use an article the virtue of which is unimpaired and which has not be subject to any influence which might counteract the magical rites, cf. new ropes in the Samson story (Judg. 16.11), a new cart for the ark (I Sam. 6.7; II Sam. 6:3).”[76] But Elisha was not here working magic.

In what sense was the water healed?

Gray writes: “rapa’ means regularly in Hebrew ‘to heal’. Here, however, we maintain that it means specifically ‘to restore to fertility’, as in the case of the restoration of fertility of the harem of Abimelech of Gerar (Ge. 20.17).”[77]

According to House: “The fact that Elisha declares the water healed because of God’s word indicates that no magic has occurred. Rather, the prophet has demonstrated the importance of the event through the use of a symbolic act and has then relayed a message concerning God’s will on the matter.”[78]

What is the significance of saying that the water has been healed to this day, according to the word Elisha spoke?

On Bible Hub, the Pulpit Commentary comments: “It was not a mere temporary, but a permanent, benefit which Elisha bestowed upon the town.”[79]

Concerning the phrase, “according to the word Elisha spoke,” Hobbs writes: “The repetition of a phrase similar to that found in 1:17 confirms Elisha’s role as the successor to Elijah as prophet.”[80]

2 Kings 2:23-25

– Why is this episode about the cursing of the boys included?

Skinner writes: “The story is recorded (like 1. 9ff) to enforce the lesson of respect for the office and person of the prophet.”[81]

According to Goldingay: “The story of the boys and the bears further underscores Elisha’s importance as God’s servant.”[82]

Cogan and Tadmor comment: “Just as the prophetic word heals and gives life (cf. 2:19-22), so too, it brings death.” … “The story of the prophet’s effective use of the name of YHWH was set close to the beginning of the Elisha cycle, for it confirmed by a sure sign that he was now ‘father’ to the Sons of the Prophets.”[83]

– How old were the boys?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments: “Although the word may mean ‘a little child’ it is not necessary nor possible in the present passage to understand by it anything but such young persons as were well aware of the outrage and wickedness of their conduct.”[84]

According to the Pulpit Commentary, “Naarim ketanaim would be best translated (as by our Revisers in the margin) ‘young lads’ – boys, that is, from twelve to fifteen.”[85]

Wiseman writes: “The Hebrew nĕ‘ārîm is used of servants or persons in early life of marriageable age.”[86]

– What was the nature of Elisha’s baldness?

Gray and others argue that Elisha’s baldness was not natural but instead was “a kind of tonsure as a mark of the separation of the prophet from the profane sphere of life to the service of God.”[87]

However, Cogan and Tadmor write: “There is little to support the suggestion that Elisha’s baldness was a tonsure of sorts. … Lengthy hair, rather than close shaving of the head, was an accepted feature of asceticism as it reflected in the Nazirite law in Num 6:5. … Perhaps it was Elisha’s extreme natural baldness that caught the attention of the rule youngsters of Beth-el.”[88]

Hobbs concurs, saying: “Since artificial baldness was legislated against in Israel (Deut 14:1), Elisha’s condition was a natural one.”[89]

– Why was what the boys were saying an insult?

According to Skinner: “The insult lies in the derisive epithet bald head, baldness being counted a disgrace in antiquity.”[90]

House, quoting Walter Kaiser, writes: “The jeering ‘Go on up!’ may be a reference to Elijah’s translation, with the sense of ‘Go away like Elijah,’ perhaps spoken in ‘contemptuous disbelief.’”[91]

However, the Pulpit Commentary says: “It is not at all apparent that the lads even knew who Elisha was – they would probably have jeered at any aged person with whom they had fallen in; and by ‘Go up’ they merely meant ‘Go on thy way.’”[92]

Cogan and Tadmor comment: “For *’ah (with the preposition min) in the sense of ‘leave, depart,’ cf. Num 16:27; I Kgs 15:19; 2 Kgs 12:19; Jer 21:2, 37:5.”[93]

Jones writes: “There seems to be little sense to [the boys’] encouragement, ‘Go up’, unless it is rendered ‘Get along with you’ (NEB).”[94]

– Why does Elisha curse them in the name of the LORD?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments: “It was not to avenge himself. Their insult to him was but a symptom of their hatred of all that was connected with the pure worship of Jehovah. It was as Jehovah’s servant and in vindication of Jehovah’s honour that Elisha invoked a curse upon the revilers.”[95]

The Pulpit Commentary notes that “Elisha could not tell what would be the effect of his curse. It could have no effect at all excepting through the will and by the action of God.”[96]

Keil suggests that “the worthless spirit which prevailed in Bethel was openly manifested in the ridicule of the children,” and writes, “Elisha cursed the boys for the purpose of avenging the honour of the Lord, which had been injured in his person; and the Lord caused his curse to be fulfilled, to punish in the children the sins of the parents, and to inspire the whole city with a salutary dread of his majesty.”[97]

– Were bears normally in the area of Bethel?

On Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges writes: “Of the prevalence of wild beasts in the immediate neighbourhood of cities we have indications in the history of David who slew a lion and a bear as he was keeping his father’s flock (1 Samuel 17:36), and in the story of the disobedient prophet who was torn by a lion near this very city of Bethel (1 Kings 13:24).”[98]

Gray: “ya’ar signifies not ‘forest’ but rather maquis. Bears were known until quite recently in the Hermon massif.”[99]

Wiseman likewise comments: “Bears are attested in the hill ranges until mediaeval times.”[100]

Is the number of the boys (forty-two) significant?

According to Hobbs: “’Forty-two’ is hardly likely to contain any symbolic significance (contra Gray and Montgomery) since the term is quite uncommon in the OT.”[101]

– Why does Elisha return to Samaria via Carmel?

Regarding Carmel, on Bible Hub, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments: “At which place, either for the purposes of devotion or because there also was a college of the prophets, we see from 2 Kings 4:25, that Elisha was known to reside from time to time.”[102]

Regarding Samaria, the same commentator adds:

“In which city we learn, from the story of Naaman in chapter 5 below, that Elisha had a house. The Israelitish maid also speaks of him there as ‘the prophet that is in Samaria’. His most permanent home therefore was most likely in the royal city, and his visits to Carmel and other places made from time to time, as need required.”[103]

Keil writes: “Elisha went from Bethel to Carmel … probably to strengthen himself in solitude for the continuation of his master’s work. He returned thence to Samaria, where, according to ch. vi. 32, he possessed a house.”[104]

According to Hobbs: “’To Mount Carmel’ makes the journey complete, and Elisha returns where Elijah was first encountered in chapter one. His movement from there to Samaria would indicate a previous residence in that city.”[105]

2. Review other relevant literature that sheds light on the text.

Regarding the miraculous healing of the water at Jericho, Dillard, in his book Faith in the Face of Apostasy: The Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha, comments:

“Keep in mind the nature of miracles in the Bible: (1) miracles are redemptive—they restore to pristine condition and rectify that which is wrong, and (2) because they restore to wholeness, miracles point toward the future and anticipate the new heavens and the new earth. In the healing of the waters at Jericho, we have a foretaste of the restoration of paradise and the removal of the curse to which creation was subjected through sin. It is not just people that are redeemed, but the creation itself.”[106]

Dillard also has helpful comments on the cursing of the boys:

“Keep in mind once again the way in which miracles in the Bible point toward the end of time. These young men mocked Elisha, and God judged them for their mockery. What was true for the individual would also be true for the nation. Israel mocked her prophets (2 Chron. 36:16), and God judged his people in the destruction of Jerusalem.”[107]

Dillard then makes a connection between the mockery of Elisha and the mockery of Jesus on the cross:

“In the midst of mocking, even by those who were crucified with him (Matt. 27:44), Jesus promised to take one to paradise with him (Luke 23:40–43) and prayed for the others, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus opened a way so that sinful mockery could be forgiven.”[108]

  1. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-1.htm, accessed 12/28/19.

  2. Gray, John. I and II Kings: A Commentary. Second, fully-revised edition. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1970. The Old Testament Library. 474.

  3. Gray. 474, and Jones, Gwilym H. 1 and 2 Kings, Volume II. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984. The New Century Library. 383.

  4. Achtemeier, Elizabeth. “Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration), Year B.” The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume One. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001. 244.

  5. Wiseman, Donald J. 1 and 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 9. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. 207.

  6. House, Paul R. 1, 2 Kings. Vol. 8. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995. The New American Commentary. 257.

  7. For example, the Pulpit Commentary: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-2.htm, accessed 12/31/19.

  8. Keil. 290-291.

  9. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-2.htm, accessed 12/31/19.

  10. Provan, Iain W. 1 & 2 Kings. Ed. W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., and Robert K. Johnston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. 147.

  11. Provan. 172.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Jones. 384

  14. Nelson, Richard D. First and Second Kings. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1987. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. 160.

  15. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-2.htm, accessed 1/6/20.

  16. Hobbs. 20.

  17. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-3.htm, accessed 1/7/20.

  18. Ibid.

  19. House. 257.

  20. Hobbs. 20.

  21. Nelson. 160.

  22. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-7.htm, accessed 1/7/20.

  23. Hobbs. 20.

  24. House. 258.

  25. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-8.htm, accessed 1/7/20.

  26. Wiseman, Donald J. 1 and 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 9. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. 208.

  27. Davis, Dale Ralph. 2 Kings: The Power and the Fury. Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2005. Focus on the Bible Commentary. 32.

  28. Keil. 292.

  29. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-8.htm, accessed 1/8/20.

  30. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-9.htm, accessed 1/8/20.

  31. Hobbs. 20.

  32. Nelson. 158.

  33. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-9.htm, accessed 1/8/20.

  34. Keil. 293.

  35. Hobbs. 21.

  36. Jones. 385.

  37. House. 258.

  38. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-10.htm, accessed 1/9/20.

  39. Goldingay, John. 1 and 2 Kings for Everyone. Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011. Old Testament for Everyone. 113.

  40. Jones. 385.

  41. Cogan, Mordechai and Hayim Tadmor. II Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1988. The Anchor Bible. 32.

  42. Hobbs. 21.

  43. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-11.htm, accessed 1/10/20.

  44. Gray. 476.

  45. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-12.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  46. Gray. 476.

  47. Hobbs. 22.

  48. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-12.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  49. Ibid.

  50. Ibid.

  51. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-13.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  52. Keil. 297.

  53. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-14.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  54. Ibid.

  55. Cogan and Tadmor. 34.

  56. Goldingay. 113.

  57. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-15.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  58. Nelson. 160.

  59. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-16.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  60. Jones. 388.

  61. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-16.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  62. Ibid.

  63. Wiseman. 209.

  64. Cogan and Tadmor. 33.

  65. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-17.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  66. Cogan and Tadmor. 33.

  67. Hobbs. 23.

  68. Keil. 298.

  69. Provan. 174.

  70. Wiseman. 209.

  71. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-19.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  72. Gray. 477.

  73. Wiseman. 209. fn. 48.

  74. Davis. 36.

  75. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-20.htm, accessed 1/11/20.

  76. Gray. 478.

  77. Ibid. 479.

  78. House. 260.

  79. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-22.htm, accessed 1/16/20.

  80. Hobbs. 24.

  81. Skinner, John. Kings. Edinburgh: T. C. and E. C. Jack, n.d. The Century Bible. 281.

  82. Goldingay. 113.

  83. Cogan and Tadmor. 39.

  84. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-23.htm, accessed 1/16/20.

  85. Ibid.

  86. Wiseman. 210.

  87. Gray. 480, Jones. 389-390, and Goldingay. 113.

  88. Cogan and Tadmor. 38.

  89. Hobbs. 24.

  90. Skinner. 281-282.

  91. House. 260.

  92. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-23.htm, accessed 1/16/20.

  93. Cogan and Tadmor. 38.

  94. Jones. 389.

  95. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-24.htm, accessed 1/16/20.

  96. Ibid.

  97. Keil. 300.

  98. Ibid.

  99. Gray. 480.

  100. Wiseman. 211.

  101. Hobbs. 24.

  102. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_kings/2-25.htm, accessed 1/16/20.

  103. Ibid.

  104. Keil. 300.

  105. Hobbs. 24.

  106. Dillard, Raymond B. Faith in the Face of Apostasy: The Gospel according to Elijah & Elisha. Ed. Tremper Longman III and J. Alan Groves. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999. The Gospel according to the Old Testament. 89.

  107. Ibid. 91.

  108. Ibid. 92.