Monday, April 22, 2013

CXLII - Elijah Taken to Heaven

In the last post we began our study of the Book of II Kings.  As mentioned, this Book continues the study of the kings of both Israel and Judah, but will lean more heavily on the prophets than in First Kings.  We've seen the power of the great prophet Elijah.  Elijah served as a spokesman for God, as does all true prophets.  It is important that you realize that Elijah was a prophet in Israel, not Judah.  He dealt with Ahab several times, and Ahab hated him, as he continually exposed Ahab for the evil king that he was.  One might conclude that Elijah made little impact against the downward spiral in the nation of Israel.  But we cannot properly measure the impact that Elijah had on the people of the nation Israel, as the text in I Kings was describing the nature and acts of the kings, more so than the citizens of Israel and Judah.

Chapter 2 dedicates itself to the prophets Elijah and his successor Elisha.  In the very first verse it says "When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, .........."  The human author of this Book used the act as a reference in time.  By the time of this writing, the act of God taking Elijah was a well known fact throughout Israel and Judah.  The following verses tell that Elijah wanted to go to Bethel, Jericho, and on to the Jordan River.  Before each journey, Elijah told Elisha that he was going by himself, and each time Elisha refused to stay behind.  Also, when they arrived at each location, there was a large group of prophets to greet them.  The prophets were true prophets because they knew that God was going to take Elijah "today".  They would make it a point to tell Elisha, but he already knew this, as he would respond, "I know".  On the third trip which was to the Jordan, Elijah performed one of his many miracles.  (vs 8)  He took his cloak, rolled it up, and struck the water of the Jordan with it.  The water divided and the two passed over on dry ground.  {This is the third such miracle documented in the Old Testament.  The first was Moses parting the Red Sea.  The second was when the Jordan River was parted to allow Joshua to lead the people of Israel across to enter the Promised Land.  The location where Joshua was must have been very close to the same spot in the Jordan as was this spot mentioned here, centuries later.  It must have been close because Joshua was leading Israel into the Promised Land toward the city of Jericho.  In this passage, Elijah had just left Jericho, and it indicated it was the same day.}  This time, there were fifty prophets meeting Elijah.  {I believe that Elijah parted the Jordan to allow him and Elisha to cross in order to separate them from the fifty prophets and any other people that may have been there.}

Verse 9-->  Elijah knew that the time for his departure was near.  Elisha had been with him for years and Elijah had become very fond of him.  Elijah asked him, "Tell me, what can I do for your before I am taken from you?".  Elisha's answer was simple.  He asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, which meant a double portion of his power and influence in representing God Almighty.  Elijah did not commit to granting such a difficult request.  Elijah wanted to leave that decision to God, so he told Elisha that his request would be granted if he was able to see Elijah being take to heaven.  Then in verse 11, as they were walking together, there was suddenly what must have been a tremendous sound when a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them.  It was at this time that Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a whirlwind.  {Contrary to centuries old popular opinion, the Bible does not say that Elijah's transition from Earth to Heaven was in a chariot of fire, but rather "by a whirlwind".  The chariot and the horses, both of fire, represented the power of God, and was used in this instance to separate Elijah from Elisha.  This was necessary because Elisha stayed very close to Elijah and he may have gotten caught up in the whirlwind with him.  It was from this event that the song was first sung by the weary slaves working hard in the fields, ♫"Swing low, sweet chariot.  ♪ coming for to carry me home ♫..........".  What a beautiful song.}  In Gen. 5:24 Enoch was taken much the same way as Elijah, but without witnesses.  When Elisha saw that Elijah was gone, he tore his clothes.  This was a customary gesture of grief and mourning.  After all, Elisha had spent years following Elijah as an understudy.  I'm sure it indeed grieved Elisha to realize he would never see Elijah again on this earth.

Verses 13-->  I'm sure Elisha was anxious to try out this God given power as promised by Elijah.  It says that Elijah's garment had fallen from him as the whirlwind took him up.  Elisha took the garment and went to the Jordan and struck the water with it.  The river divided just like it did for Elijah.  {The King James and subsequent versions took a slight short-cut in this passage.  The original Hebrew text says that Elisha struck the water twice.  The first time failed.  The second time Elisha was careful to "call on the name of the Lord".}  The group of prophets standing on the west side of the river witnessed this miracle performed by Elisha.  When Elisha crossed the river on dry ground, they greeted him by bowing to the ground before him.  They then insisted on searching the area on the east side of the river for Elijah.  Of course they could not find him, and upon their return Elisha said "I told you it would be a waste of time".

The Second Miracle of Elisha

Verses 19-22  -  The people of the city (I assumed to be Jericho) approached Elisha and told him the water in the well was bad, and the land was unproductive.  Having spoiled water would destroy a city and force its inhabitants to leave.  Elisha instructed them to bring him a new bowl with salt in it.  He took the bowl of salt and (being careful to call upon the Lord) poured it into the well.  This purified the well water, making it safe for the people, the livestock, and the crops.  {All cities back then had at least one water well, many of them had more than one.  These wells were protected and guarded around the clock.  Wells were dug by hand.  They were dug down until the diggers were literally standing in water at the bottom of the hole.  There were substances that could be put into the wells to spoil the water, but the fastest and easiest way for an enemy to contaminate the water to render it undrinkable was to throw a carcass of a large animal or human being down into the well.  Sounds gross because it IS gross.  Times were hard back then.}  So Elisha's presence and Godly authority had already begun to be a blessing to the people of Israel.

The Third Miracle of Elisha

Verses 23-24  -  Elisha decided to leave Jericho and go to Bethel, back the same way he and Elijah had travelled.  Along the way a large group of boys began to jeer him and tease him about being bald.  (Men even back then didn't care much for baldness.  It is written "Julius Caesar was bald, which displeasured him greatly.")  These boys were relentless with teasing Elisha, so much so that Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord.  As a result of the curse, two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty two of the boys.

The last verse of this chapter 2 says that Elisha continued his journey on to Mount Carmel, than returning to Samaria.  Elisha, through miracles and knowledge given to the prophets of that day, has now been well established as the main prophet and spokesman for God.  Notice he ends up going back to Samaria, the capital city of Israel, where the king's palace is located.  This should be the location from which the largest impact could be made in the name of the Lord.

Next post  -  Chapter 3  -  Moab Strikes Again

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that is where that song came from, wow! So cool