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Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?
4 Now, therefore, thus saith the LORD, Thou "shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.
5 And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?
6 And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
7 And he said unto them, 'What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?
d Mark 3. 22. The bed whither thou art gone up, thou shalt not come down from it. e Is. 41. 22, 23. f 1 Chr. 10. 13. Ps. 16. 4. What was the manner
Testament, the prince of the devils is called Beel-zebub, (Matt. 12. 24;) for the gods of the Gentiles were devils, and this, perhaps, grew to be one of the most famous.
IV. Elijah, by direction from God, meets the messengers, and turns them back with an answer that shall save them the labour of going to Ekron. Had Ahaziah sent for Elijah, humbled himself, and begged his prayers, he might have had an answer of peace; but if he send to the god of Ekron, instead of the God of Israel, that, like Saul's consulting the witch, shall fill the measure of his iniquity, and bring upon him a sentence of death. They that will not inquire of the word of God for their comfort, shall be made to hear it, whether they will or no, to their amazement.
1. He faithfully reproves his sin; (v. 3,) Is it not because there is not (that is, because you think there is not) a God in Israel, (because there is no God, none in Israel, so it may be read,) that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub, the God of Ekron, a despicable town of the Philistines, (Zech. 9. 7,) long since vanquished by Israel? Here, (1.) The sin was bad enough, giving that honour to the devil, which is due to God alone, which was done as much by their inquiries, as by their sacrifices. Note, It is a very wicked thing, upon any occasion or pretence whatsoever, to consult with the devil. This wickedness reigned in the heathen world, (Is. 47. 12, 13,) and remains too much even in the Christian world, and the devil's kingdom is supported by it. (2.) The construction which Elijah, in God's name, puts upon it, makes it much worse: "It is because you think not only that the God of Israel is not able to tell you, but that there is no God at all in Israel; else you would not send so far for a divine answer." Note, A practical and constructive atheism is the cause and malignity of our departures from God. Surely we think there is no God in Israel, when we live at large, make flesh our arm, and seek a portion in the things of this world.
2. He plainly reads his doom; "Go, tell him, he shall surely die, v. 4. Since he is so anxious to know his fate, this is it; let him make the best of it." The certain fearful looking for of judgment and indignation which this message must needs cause, cannot but cut him to the heart.
V. The message being delivered to him by his servants, he inquires of them by whom it was sent him, and concludes, by their description of him, that it must be Elijah, v. 7, 8. For, 1. His dress was the same that he had seen him in, in his father's court. He was clad in a hairy garment, and had a leathern girdle about him, plain and homely in his garb, John Baptist, the Elias of the New Testament, herein resembled him, for his clothes were made of haircloth, and he was girt with a leathern girdle, Matt. 3. 4. He that was clothed with the Spirit, despised all rich and gay clothing. 2. His message was such as he used to deliver to his father, to whom he never prophesied good, but evil. Elijah is one of those witnesses that still torment the inhabitants of the earth, Rev. 11. 10. He that was a thorn in Ahab's eyes, will be so in the eyes of his son, while he treads in the steps of his wickedness; and he is ready to cry out, as his father did, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? Let sinners consider, that the word which took hold of their fathers, is still as quick and powerful as ever. See Zech. 1.6. Heb. 4. 12.
V. 9-18. Here,
I. The king issues out a warrant for the apprehending of Elijah. If the God of Ekron had told him he should die, it is probable he would have taken it quietly; but now that a prophet of the Lord tells him so, reproving him for his sin, and reminding him of the God of Israel, he cannot bear it so far is he from making any good improvement of the warning given him, that he is enraged against the prophet; neither his sickness, nor the thoughts of death, made any good impressions upon him, or possessed him with any fear of God: no external alarms will startle and soften secure sinners, but rather exasperate them. Did the king think Elijah a prophet, a true prophet?
8 And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.
9 Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him; (and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill;) and he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
10 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire 'come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and *consumed him and his fifty.
11 Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
12 And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
II. The captain that was sent with his fifty soldiers, found Elijah on the top of a hill, (some think Carmel,) and commanded him, in the king's name, to surrender himself, v. 9. Elijah was now so far from absconding, as formerly, in the close recesses of a cave, that he makes a bold appearance on the top of a hill; experience of God's protection makes him more bold. The captain calls him a man of God, not that he believed him to be so, or reverenced him as such a one, but because he was commonly called so; had he really looked upon him as a prophet, he would not have attempted to make him his prisoner; and had he thought him intrusted with the word of God, he would not have pretended to command him with the word of a king. III. Elijah calls for fire from heaven, to consume this haughty daring sinner, not to secure himself, he could have done that some other way, nor to avenge himself, for it was not his own cause that he appeared and acted in; but to prove his mission, and to reveal the wrath of God from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. This captain had, in scorn, called him a man of God: "If I be so," says Elijah, “thou shalt pay dear for making a jest of it." He valued himself upon his commission, (the king has said, Come down,) but Elijah will let him know that the God of Israel is superior to the king of Israel, and has a greater power to enforce his commands. It was not long since Elijah had fetched fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, (1 Kings 18. 38,) in token of God's acceptance of that sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of the people; but they having slighted that, now the fire falls, not on the sacrifice, but on the sinners themselves, v. 10. See here, 1. What an interest the prophets had in heaven; what the Spirit of God in them demanded, the power of God effected; Elijah did but speak, and it was done; he that formerly had fetched water from heaven, now fetches fire. O the power of prayer! Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me, Is. 45. 11. 2. What an interest heaven had in the prophets! God was always ready to plead their cause, and avenge the injuries done to them. Kings shall still be rebuked for their sakes, and charged to do his prophets no harm. One Elijah is more to God than 10,000 captains and their fifties. Doubtless Elijah did this by a divine impulse, and yet our Saviour wou'd not allow the disciples to draw it into a precedent, Luke 9. 54. They were now not far from the place where Elias did this act of justice upon provoking Israelites, and would needs, in like manner, call for fire upon those provoking Samaritans; "No," says Christ, "by no means; you know not what manner of spirit you are of; that is, (1.) "You do not consider what manner of spirit, as disciples, you are called to, and how different from that of the Old-Testament dispensation; it was agreeable enough to that dispensation of terror, and of the letter, for Elias to call for fire; but the dispensation of the Spirit and of grace will by no means allow of it." (2.) "You are not aware what manner of spirit you are, upon this occasion, acted by, and how different from that of Elias: he did it in holy zeal, you in passion; he was concerned for God's glory, you for your own reputation only." God judges men's practices by their principles, and his judgment is according to truth.
IV. This is repeated a second time; would one think it? 1. Ahaziah sends, a second time, to apprehend Elijah, (v. 11.) as if he were resolved not to be baffled by omnipotence itself: obstinate sinners must be convinced and conquered, at last, by the fire of hell, for fire from heaven, it seems, will not do it. 2. Another captain is ready with his fifty, who, in his blind rage against the prophet, and his blind obedience to the king, dares engage in that service which had been fatal to the last undertakers; this is as impudent and imperious as the last, and more in haste; not only," Come down quietly, and do not
13 And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went In this chapter we have, I. That extraordinary event, the translation of Elijah; up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious "in thy sight.
in the close of the foregoing chapter, we had a wicked king leaving the world in disgrace, here we have a holy prophet leaving it in honour; the departure of the former was his greatest misery, of the latter, his greatest bliss: men are as their end is. Here is, 1. Elijah's taking leave of his friends, the sons of the prophets, and especially Elisha, who kept close to him, and walked with him through Jordan, v. 1-10 2. His rapture into heaven by the ministry of angels, (v. 11,) and Elisha's lamentation of the loss this earth had of him, v. 12. 11. The manifestation of Elisha, as a prophe: in his room. 1. By the dividing of Jordan, v. 13, 14. 2. By the respect which the sons of the prophets paid him, v. 15-18. 3. By the healing of the unwholesome waters of Jericho, v. 19-22. 4. By the destruction of the children of Beth-el that mocked him, v. 23-25. This revolution in prophecy makes a greater figure than the revolution of a kingdom.
14 Behold, there came "fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.
15 And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him; be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.
16 And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, (is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?) therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
17 So he died, according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken: and 'Jehoram reigned in his stead, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
[ Is. 66. 2. m 1 Sam. 26. 21. Ps. 72. 14. 116. 15. л ver. 10, 12. o ver. 6. † the second year that Jehoram was Prorex, and the eighteenth of
struggle," but, without taking any notice of what had been done, he says, "Come down quickly, and do not trifle, the king's business requires haste; come down, or I will fetch thee down." 3. Elijah relents not, but calls for another flash of lightning, which instantly lays this captain and his fifty dead upon the spot; they that will sin like others, must expect to suffer like them; God is inflexibly just.
V. The third captain humbled himself, and cast himself upon the mercy of God and Elijah. It does not appear that Ahaziah ordered him to do so, (his stubborn heart is as hard as ever; so regardless is he of the terrors of the Lord, so little affected with the manifestations of his wrath, and withal so prodigal of the lives of his subjects, that he sent a third with the same provoking message to Elijah,) but he took warning by the fate of his predecessors, who, perhaps, lay dead before his eyes; and, instead of summoning the prophet down, fell down before him, and begged for his life, and the lives of his soldiers, acknowledging their own evil deserts, and the prophet's power; (v. 13. 14,) Let my life be precious in thy sight. Note, There is nothing to be got by contending with God: if we would prevail with him, it must be by supplication; if we would not fall before God, we must bow before him; and those are wise for themselves, who learn submission from the fatal consequences which others entail by their obstinacy.
VI. Elijah does more than grant the request of this third captain. God is not severer with those that stand it out against him, than he is ready to show mercy to those that repent, and submit to him; never any found it in vain to cast themselves upon the mercy of God. This captain not only has his life spared, but is permitted to carry his point; Elijah, being so commanded by the angel, goes down with him to the king, v. 15. Thus he shows that he, before, refused to come, not because he feared the king or court, but because he would not be imperiously summoned, and would not lessen the honour of his master; he magnifies his office. He comes boldly to the king, and tells him, to his face, (let him take it as he may,) what he had, before, sent to him, (v. 16,) that he should surely and shortly die; he mitigates not the sentence, either for fear of the king's displeasure, or in pity to his misery: the God of Israel has condemned him, let him send to see whether the god of Ekron can deliver him. So thunderstruck is Ahaziah with this message, when it comes from the prophet's own mouth, that neither he, nor any of those about him, durst offer him any violence, nor so much as give him an affront; but out of that den of lions he comes unhurt, like Daniel. Who can harm those whom God will shelter?
NOTES TO CHAPTER II.
V. 1-8. Elijah's times, and the events concerning him, are as little dated as those of any great man in scripture; we are not told of his age, nor in what year of Ahab's reign he first appeared, nor in what year of Joram's he disappeared, and VOL. I.-110
AND it came to pass, when the LORD would take
up by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2 And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as "thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el.
3 And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
4 And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul
Jehoshaphat, c. 3. 1. a Gen. 5. 24. b 1 Kings 19. 21. c Jer. 4 2. d 1 Sam. 1. 26. ver. 4. 6. c. 4. 30. e 1 Kings 20. 35. ver. 5, 7, 15. c. 4. 1, 38. 9. 1.
therefore cannot conjecture how long he flourished; it is supposed about 20 years in all.
Here we are told,
I. That God had determined to take him up into heaven by a whirlwind, v. 1. He would do it, and, it is probable, let him know of his purpose, some time before, that he would shortly take him from the world, not by death, but translate him body and soul to heaven, as Enoch was, only causing him to undergo such a change as would be necessary to the qualifying of him to be an inhabitant in that world of spirits; and such as they shall undergo, who will be found alive at Christ's coming. It is not for us to say, why God would put such a peculiar honour upon Elijah above any other of the prophets; he was a man subject to like passions as we are, knew sin, and yet never tasted death. Wherefore is he thus dignified, thus distinguished, as a man whom the King of kings did delight to honour? We may suppose that herein, I. God looked back upon his past services, which were eminent and extraordinary, and intended a recompense for those, and an encouragement to the sons of the prophets to tread in the steps of his zeal and faithfulness, and, whatever it cost them, to witness against the corruptions of the age they lived in. 2. He looked down upon the present dark and degenerate state of the church, and would thus give a very sensible proof of another life after this, and draw the hearts of the faithful few upward toward himself, and that other life. 3. He looked forward to the evangelical dispensation, and, in the translation of Elijah, gave a type and figure of the ascension of Christ, and the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Elijah had, by faith and prayer, conversed much with heaven, and now he is taken thither, to assure us that if we have our conversation in heaven, while we are here on earth, we shall be there shortly, the soul shall, (and that is the man,) be happy there, there for ever.
II. That Elisha had determined, as long as he continued on earth, to cleave to him, and not to leave him: Elijah seemed desirous to shake him off, would have had him stay behind at Gilgal, at Bethel, at Jericho, v. 2, 4, 6. Some think, out of humility; he knew what glory God designed for him, but would not seem to glory in it, nor desired it should be seen of men; (God's favourites covet not to have it proclaimed before them, that they are so, as the favourites of earthly princes do;) or rather, it was to try him, and make his constant adherence to him the more commendable, like Naomi's persuading Ruth to go back in vain does Elijah entreat him to tarry here, and tarry there; he resolves to tarry no where behind his master, till he goes to heaven, and leaves him behind on this earth; whatever comes of it, I will not leave thee; and why so? Not only because he loved him, but, 1. Because he desired to be
Lastly, The prediction is accomplished in a few days; Ahaziah died, (v. 17,) and, dying childless, left his kingdom to his brother Jehoram; his father reigned wickedly twenty-edified by his holy heavenly converse as long as he stayed on two years, he not two; sometimes the wicked live, become old, earth; it had always been profitable, but, we may suppose, now, yea, are mighty in power; but they who therefore promise more so than ever. We should therefore do all the spiritual themselves prosperity in impiety, may, perhaps, find them- good we can, one to another, and get all we can, one by another, selves deceived; for, (as Bishop Hall observes here,) "Some while we are together, because we are to be together but a while. sinners live long, to aggravate their judgment, others die soon, 2. Because he desired to be satisfied concerning his departure, to hasten it" but it is certain that evil pursues sinners, and, and to see him when he was taken up, that his faith might be sooner or later, it will overtake them; nor will any thing fill the confirmed, and his acquaintance with the invisible world inmeasure sooner than that complicated iniquity of Ahaziah; creased. He had long followed Elijah, and he would not leave honouring the devil's oracles, and hating God's oracles. him now when he hoped for the parting blessing; let not those that follow Christ, come short by tiring at last.
III. That Elijah, before his departure, visited the schools of the prophets, and took leave of them; it seems that there were such schools in many of the cities of Israel, probably, even in Samaria itself; here we find sons of the prophets, and considerable numbers of them, even at Bethel, where one of the
liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Je-1 richo.
5 And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to-day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
6 And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
⚫ in sight, or, over against. 1 Kings 19. 13, 19.
calves was set up, and at Jericho, which was lately built in defiance of a divine curse. At Jerusalem, and in the kingdom of Judah, they had priests and Levites, and the temple service, the want of which, in the kingdom of Israel, God graciously made up by those colleges, where men were trained up and employed in the exercises of religion and devotion, and whither good people resorted to solemnize the appointed feasts with praying and hearing, when they had not conveniences for sacrifice or incense; and thus religion was kept up in a time of general apostacy. Much of God was among these prophets, and more were the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife; none of all the high priests were comparable to those two great men Elijah and Elisha, who, for aught we know, never attended in the temple at Jerusalem. These seminaries of religion and virtue, which Elijah, it is probable, had been instrumental to found, he now visits, before his departure, to instruct, encourage, and bless them. Note, Those that are going to heaven themselves, ought to be concerned for those they leave behind them on earth, and to leave with them their experiences, testimonies, counsels, and prayers, 2 Pet. 1. 15. When Christ said, with triumph, Now I am no more in the world, he added, with tenderness, But these are; Father, keep them.
8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither; so that they two went over on dry ground.
9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
10 And he said, Thou hast tasked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
11 And it came to pass, as they still went on,
g Ex. 14. 21. ver. 14. Josh. 3. 14-17. A Num. 27. 20. † done hard in asking. V. 9-12. Here,
I. Elijah makes his will, and leaves Elisha his heir, now anointing him to be a prophet in his room, more than when he cast his mantle upon him, 1 Kings 19. 19.
IV. That the sons of the prophets had intelligence, (either from Elijah himself, or by the spirit of prophecy in some of their own society,) or suspected, by the solemnity of Elijah's farewell, that he was now shortly to be removed; and, 1. They told Elisha of it, both at Bethel, (v. 3,) and at Jericho; (v. 5,) Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day? This they said, not as upbraiding him with his loss, or expecting that when his master was gone, he would be upon the level with them, but to show how full they were of the thoughts of this matter, and big with expectation of the event, and to admonish Elisha to prepare for the loss: know we not that our nearest relations, and dearest friends, must shortly be taken from us? The Lord will take them, we lose them not till he calls for them, whose they are, and who taketh away, and none can hinder him. He takes away superiors from our head, inferiors from our feet, equals from our arms; let us therefore carefully do the duty of every relation, that we may reflect upon it with comfort, when it comes to be dissolved. Elisha knew it too well, and sorrow had filled his heart upon this account, (as it did the disciples in a like case, John 16. 6,) and therefore he did not need to be told of it, did not care for hearing of it, and would not be interrupted in his contemplations on this great concern, or, in the least, diverted from his attendance upon his master; I know it, hold ye your peace: he speaks not this peevishly, or in contempt of the sons of the prophets, but as one that was himself, and would have them, composed and sedate, and with an awful silence expecting the event; I know it, be silent, Zech. 2. 13. 2. They went themselves to be witnesses of it at a distance, though they might not closely attend; (v. 7) Fifty of them stood to view afar off, intending to satisfy their own curiosity, but God so ordered it, that they might be eyewitnesses of the honour heaven did to that prophet, who was despised and rejected of men. God's works are well worthy our notice; when a door is opened in heaven, the call is, Come up hither, come and see.
V. That the miraculous dividing of the river Jordan was the preface to Elijah's translation into the heavenly Canaan, as it had been to the entrance of Israel into the earthly Canaan, v. 8. He must go on the other side Jordan, to be translated, because it was his native country, and that he might be near the place where Moses died, and that thus honour might be put on that part of the country, which was most despised. He and Elisha might have gone over Jordan by a ferry, as other passengers did, but God would magnify Elijah in his exit, as he did Joshua in his entrance, by the dividing of this river, Josh. 3. 7. As Moses with his rod divided the sea, so Elijah with his mantle divided Jordan, both, the insignia-the badges of their office; these waters, of old, yielded to the ark, now, to the prophet's mantle, which, to those that wanted the ark, was an equivalent token of God's presence. When God will take up his faithful ones to heaven, death is the Jordan which, immediately before their translation, they must pass through, and they find a way through it, a safe and comfortable way; the death of Christ has divided those waters, that the ransomed of the Lord may pass over; O death, where is thy sting! thy hurt, thy terror?
1. Elijah, being greatly pleased with the constancy of Elisha's affection and attendance, bade him ask what he should do for him, what blessing he should leave him at parting; he does not say, (as Bishop Hall well observes,) "Ask of me when I am gone, in heaven I shall be better able to befriend thee," but, Ask before I go." Our friends on earth may be spoken to, and can give us an answer, but we know not that we can have access to any friend in heaven, but Christ, and God in him; Abraham is ignorant of us.
2. Elisha, having this fair opportunity to enrich himself with the best riches, prays for a double portion of his spirit; he asks not for wealth, or honour, or exemption from trouble, but to be qualified for the service of God and his generation; he asks, (1.) For the Spirit; not that the gifts and graces of the Spirit were in Elijah's power to give, therefore he says not, "Give me the Spirit," (he knew very well it was God's gift,) but, "Let it be upon me, intercede with God for this, for me.' Christ bade his disciples ask what they would, not one, but all, and promised to send the Spirit, with much more authority and assurance than Elijah could. (2.) For his spirit; because he was to be a prophet in his room, to carry on his work, to father the sons of the prophets, and face their enemies; because he had the same difficulties to encounter, and the same perverse generation to deal with, that he had, so that if he have not his spirit, he has not strength according to the day. (3.) For a double portion of his spirit; he does not mean double to what he had, but double to what the rest of the prophets had, from whom so much would not be expected as from Elisha, who had been brought up under Elijah. It is a holy ambition to covel earnestly the best gifts, and those which will render us most serviceable to God and our brethren. Note, We all ought, both ministers and people, to set before us the examples of our predecessors, to labour after their spirit, and to be earnest with God for that grace which carried them through their work, and enabled them to finish well.
3. Elijah promises him that which he asked, but under two provisoes, v. 10. (1.) Provided he put a due value upon it, and esteem it highly: this he teaches him to do, by calling it a hard thing; not too hard for God to do, but too great for him to expect. Those are best prepared for spiritual blessings, that are most sensible of their worth, and their own unworthiness to receive them. (2.) Provided he kept close to his master, even to the last, and was observant of him: If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so, otherwise not. A diligent attendance upon his master's instructions, and a careful observance of his example, particularly now in his last scene, were the condition, and would be a proper means of obtaining much of his spirit: taking strict notice of the manner of his ascension, would likewise be of great use to him. The comforts of departing saints, and their experiences, will mightily help, both to gild our comforts, and to steel our resolutions. Or, perhaps, this was intended only as a sign; "If God favour thee so far as to give thee a sight of me when I ascend, take that for a token that he will do this for thee, and depend upon it." Christ's disciples saw him ascend, and were, thereupon, assured that they should, in a little time, be filled with his Spirit, Acts 1. 8. Elisha, we may suppose, hereupon, prayed earnestly, Lord, show me this token for good.
II. Elijah is carried up to heaven in a fiery chariot, v. 11. Like Enoch, he was translated, that he should not see death; and was (as Mr. Cowley expresses it)
and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof! And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the *bank of Jordan:
i c. 6. 17. Ps. 104. 4. c. 13. 14. lip. I ver. 8. for heaven is carried on only by contemplation, and the acts of devotion. Usefulness to others will pass as well in our account as any thing. Thinking of divine things is good, but talking of them (if it come from the heart) is better, because for edification, I Cor. 14. 4. Christ ascended as he was blessing his disciples.
3. How he was separated from Elisha; this chariot parted them both asunder. Note, The dearest friends must part; Elisha had protested he would not leave him, yet now is left behind by him.
4. Whither he was carried; he went up by a whirlwind into heaven; the fire tends upward, the whirlwind helped to carry him through the atmosphere, out of the reach of the magnetic virtue of this earth, and then how swiftly he ascended through the pure ether to the world of holy and blessed spirits, we can
"But where he stopp'd, will ne'er be known.
'Till phenix nature, aged grown,
V. 13-18. We have here an account of what followed immediately after the rapture of Elijah.
I. The tokens of God's presence with Elisha, and the marks of his elevation into Elijah's room, to be, as he had been, a father to the sons of the prophets, and the chariot and horsemen of Israel,
2. What convoy his Lord sent for him; a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which appeared either descending upon them from the clouds, or (as Bishop Patrick thinks) running toward them upon the ground: in this form the angels appeared. The souls of all the faithful are carried by an invisible guard of angels into the bosom of Abraham; but Elijah being to carry his body with him, this heavenly guard was visible, not in a human shape, as usual, though they might so have borne him up in their arms, or carried him as on eagles' wings, but that had been to carry him like a child, like a lamb, (Is. 40. 11, 31,) they appear in the form of a chariot and horses, that he may ride in state, may ride in triumph, like a prince, like a conqueror, yea, more than a conqueror; the angels are called, in scripture, Cherubim and Seraphim, and their appearance here, though it may seem below their dignity, answers to both those names; for, (1.) Seraphim signifies fiery, and God is said to make them a flame of fire, Ps. 101. 4. (2.) Cherubim (as many think) 1. He was possessed of Elijah's mantle, the badge of his signifies chariots, and they are called the chariots of God, Ps. office, which, we may suppose, he put on, and wore, for his 68. 17. And he is said to ride upon a cherub, (Ps. 18. 10,) to master's sake, v. 13. When Elijah went to heaven, though he which perhaps there is an allusion in Ezekiel's vision of four did not let fall his body as others do, he let fall his mantle living creatures, and wheels, like horses and chariots; in Zech- instead of it; for he was unclothed, that he might be clothed ariah's vision they are so represented, Zech. 1.8.-6. 1. Com-upon with immortality: he was going to a world where he pare Rev. 6. 2, &c. See the readiness of the angels to do the needed not the mantle, either to adorn him, or to shelter him will of God, even in the meanest services, for the good of them from weather, or to wrap his face in, as 1 Kings 19. 13. He that shall be heirs of salvation. Elijah must remove to the left his mantle as a legacy to Elisha, and though in itself it world of angels, and therefore, to show how desirous they were was of small value, yet as it was a token of the descent of the of his company, some of them would come to fetch him; the Spirit upon him, it was more than if he had bequeathed to him chariot and horses appeared like fire, not for burning, but bright-thousands of gold and silver. Elisha took it up, not as a sacred ness, not to torture or consume him, but to render his ascension relic to be worshipped, but as a significant garment to be worn, conspicuous and illustrious in the eyes of those that stood afar and a recompense to him for his own garments which he had off to view it. Elijah had burned with holy zeal for God and rent; he loved this cloak ever since it was first cast over him, his honour, and now with a heavenly fire he was refined and 1 Kings 19. 19. He that then so cheerfully obeyed the sumtranslated. mons of it, and became Elijah's servant, is now dignified with it, and becomes his successor. There are remains of great and good men, which, like this mantle, ought to be gathered up and preserved by the survivors, their sayings, their writings, their examples, that as their works follow them in the reward of them, they may stay behind in the benefit of them.
2. He was possessed of Elijah's power to divide Jordan, v. 14. Having parted with his father, he returns to his sons in the schools of the prophets; Jordan was between him and them, it had been divided to make way for Elijah to his glory, he will try whether it will divide to make way for him to his business, and by that he will know that God is with him, and that he has the double portion of Elijah's spirit; Elijah's last miracle shall be Elisha's first; thus he begins where he left off, and there is no vacancy. In dividing the waters, (1.) He made use of Elijah's mantle, as Elijah himself had done, (v. 8,) to signify that he designed to keep to his master's methods, and would not introduce any thing new, as those affect to do, that think themselves wiser than their predecessors. (2.) He applied himself to Elijah's God, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? He does not ask, "Where is Elijah?" either as poring upon the loss of him, as if he could not be easy now that he was gone, or as doubting of his happy state, as if, like the sons of the prophets here, he knew not what was become of him, or as curiously inquiring concerning him, and the particulars of that state he was removed to; no, that is a hidden life, it does not yet appear what we shall be; nor as expecting help from him; no, Elijah is happy, but is neither omniscient nor omnipotent: but he asks, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Now that Elijah was taken to heaven, God had abundantly proved himself the God of Elijah; if he had not prepared for him that city, and done better for him there than ever he did for him in this world, he would have been ashamed to be called his God, Heb. 11. 16. Matt. 27. 31, 32. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha inquired, [1.] After God; when our creature comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, that lives for ever. [2.] After the God of Elijah, the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for, and adhered to, when all Israel had deserted him. This honour is done to those who cleave to God in times of general apostacy, that God will be, in a peculiar manner, their God. "The God that owned, and protected, and provided for Elijah, and, many ways, honoured him, especially now at last, where is he? Lord, am not I promised Elijah's spirit? Make good that promise." The words which
To a better being shall aspire,
Mounting herself, like him, to eternity in fire."-COWLEY.
14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
15 And when the sons of the prophets, which were to view at Jericho, saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
16 And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty 'strong men; let them go,
m ver. 7. sons of strength.
Elijah had once, in a passion, wished he might die; yet God was so gracious to him, as not only not to take him at his word then, but to honour him with this singular privilege, that he should never see death; and by this instance, and that of Enoch, (1.) God showed how men should have left the world, if they had not sinned, not by death, but by a translation. (2.) He gave a glimpse of that life and immortality which are brought to light by the Gospel, of the glory reserved for the bodies of the saints, and the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers, as then to Elijah; it was also a figure of Christ's
III. Elisha pathetically laments the loss of that great prophet, but attends him with an encomium, v. 12. 1. He saw it; thus he received the sign by which he was assured of the grant of his request for a double portion of Elijah's spirit; he looked steadfastly toward heaven, whence he was to expect that gift, as the disciples did, Acts 1. 10. He saw it a while, but the vision was presently out of his sight; and he saw him no more. 2. He rent his own clothes, in token of the sense he had of his own and the public loss; though Elijah was gone triumphantly to heaven, yet this world could ill spare him, and therefore his removal ought to be much regretted by the survivors. Surely their hearts are hard, whose eyes are dry, when God, by taking away faithful useful men, calls for weeping and mourning. Though Elijah's departure made way for Elisha's eminency, especially since he was now sure of a double portion of his spirit, yet he lamented the loss of him, for he loved him, and
could have served him for ever. 3. He gave him a very honourable character, as the reason why he thus lamented the loss of him. (1.) He himself had lost the guide of his youth; My father, my father! he saw his own condition like that of a fatherless child thrown upon the world, and laments it accordingly. Christ, when he left his disciples, did not leave them orphans, (John 14. 15,) but Elijah must. (2.) The public had lost its best guard; he was the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. He would have brought them all to heaven, as in this chariot, if it had not been their own fault; they used not chariots and horses in their wars, but Elijah was to them, by his counsels, reproofs, and prayers, better than the strongest force of chariot and horse, and kept off the judgments of God; his departure was like the routing of an army, an irreparabie loss. Better have lost all our men of war than this man of God.
we pray thee, and seek thy master; lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some yalley. And he said, Ye shall not send.
17 And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent, therefore, fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
18 And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?
19 And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
20 And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
one of the mountains. 1 Kings 18. 12. Acts 8. 39. o Lev. 2. 13. Matt. 5. 13. Mark 9. 50. p Ex. 15. 25. c. 4. 41. Ez. 47. S, 3.
21 And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death, or barren? land.
next follow in the original, Aph-his-even he, which we join to the following clause, when he also had smitten the waters, some make an answer to this question, Where is Elijah's God? Etiam ille adhuc superest" He is in being still, and nigh at hand; we have lost Elijah, but we have not lost Elijah's God; he has not forsaken the earth, it is even he that is still with me." Note, First, It is the duty and interest of the saints on earth to inquire after God, and apply themselves to him as the Lord God of the saints that are gone before to heaven, the God of our fathers. Secondly, It is very comfortable to those who inquire after God, that they know where to find him; it is even he that is in his holy temple, (Ps. 11. 4,) and nigh to all who call upon him, Ps. 145. 18. Thirdly, Those that walk in the spirit and steps of their godly faithful predecessors, shall certainly experience the same grace that they experienced; Elijah's God will be Elisha's too; the Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their 'places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God?
3. He was possessed of Elijah's interest in the sons of the prophets, v. 15. Some of the fellows of the college of Jericho, who had placed themselves conveniently near Jordan, to see what passed, were surprised to see Jordan divided before Elisha in his return, and took that as a convincing evidence that the spirit of Elijah did rest upon him, and that therefore they ought to pay the same respect and deference to him, that they had done to Elijah. Accordingly, they went to meet him, to congratulate him on his safe passage through fire and water, and the honour God had put upon him; and they bowed them selves to the ground before him: they were trained up in the schools, Elisha was taken from the plough, yet, when they perceive that God is with him, and that this is the man whom he delights to honour, they readily submit to him, as their head and father, as the people to Joshua, when Moses was dead, Josh. 1. 17. Those that appear to have God's Spirit and presence with them, ought to have our esteem and best affections, notwithstanding the meanness of their extraction and education. Whomsoever God honours, we must. This ready submission of the sons of the prophets, no doubt, was a great encouragement to Elisha, and helped to clear his call.
II. The needless search which the sons of the prophets made for Elijah. 1. They suggested it possible that he was dropped, either alive or dead, upon some mountain, or in some valley; and it would be a satisfaction to them, if they sent some strong men, whom they had at command, in quest of him, v. 16. Some of them perhaps started this as a demurrer to the choice of Elisha; Let us first be sure that Elijah is quite gone. Can we think Elijah thus neglected by heaven, that chosen vessel thus cast away as a vessel in which was no pleasure?" 2. Elisha consented not to their motion, till they overcame him with importunity, v. 17. They urged him till he was ashamed to oppose it any further, lest he should be thought wanting in his respect to his old master, or loath to resign the mantle again. Wise men may yield to that, for the sake of peace, and the good opinion of others, which yet their judgment is against as needless and fruitless. 3. The issue made them as much ashamed of their proposal, as they, by their importunity, had made Elisha ashamed of his opposing it. Their messengers, after they had tired themselves with fruitless search, returned with a non est inventus-he is not to be found, and gave Elisha an opportunity of upbraiding his friends with their folly; Did I not say unto you, Go not? v. 18. This would make them the more willing to acquiesce in his judgment another time. Traversing hills and valleys, will never bring us to Elijah, but the imitation of his holy faith and zeal will, in due time.
V. 19-25. Elisha had, in this respect, a double portion of Elijah's spirit, that he wrought more miracles than he did. Some reckon them in number just double. Two are recorded in these verses-a miracle of mercy to Jericho, and a miracle of judgment to Bethel, Ps. 101. 1.
I. Here is a blessing upon the waters of Jericho, which was effectual to heal them. Jericho was built in disobedience to a command, in defiance to a threatening, and at the expense of the lives of all the builder's children; yet, when it was built, it was not ordered to be demolished again, nor were God's prophets or people forbidden to dwell in it, but even within
22 So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
23 And he went up from thence unto Beth-el: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed 'them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
those walls that were built by iniquity, we find a nursery of piety. Fools, they say, build houses for wise men to dwell in. Here the wealth of the sinner provided a habitation for the just. We find Christ at Jericho, Luke 19. 1. Hither Elisha came, to confirm the souls of the disciples with a more particular account of Elijah's translation than their spies could give them, who saw it at a distance. Here he stayed while the fifty men were searching for him,
And, 1. The men of Jericho represented to him their griev ance, v. 19. God's faithful prophets love to be employed; it is wisdom to make use of them, the little while that their light is with us. They had not applied themselves to Elijah concerning the matter, perhaps because he was not so easy of access as Elisha was; but now, we may hope, by the influence of the divinity school in their city, they were reformed. The situation was pleasant, and afforded a good prospect; but they had neither wholesome water to drink, nor fruitful soil to yield them food; and what pleasure could they take then in their prospect? Water is a common mercy, which we should estimate by the greatness of the calamity which the want or unwholesomeness of it would be. Some think that it was not all the ground about Jericho, that was barren, and had bad water, but some one part only, and that where the sons of the prophets had their lodgings, who are here called the men of the city.
2. He soon redressed their grievance. Prophets should endeavour to make every place they come to, some way or other, the better for them, endeavouring to sweeten bitter spirits, and to make barren souls fruitful, by the due application of the word of God. Elisha will heal their waters; but, (1.) They must furnish him with salt in a new cruse, v. 20. If salt had been proper to season the water, yet what could so small a quantity do towards it, and what the better for being in a new cruse? But thus they that would be helped, must be employed, and their faith and obedience tried. God's works of grace are wrought, not by any operations of ours, but in our observance of his institutions. (2.) He cast the salt into the spring of the waters, and so healed the streams, and the ground they watered. Thus the way to reform men's lives, is, to renew their hearts; let those be seasoned with the salt of grace, for out of them are the issues of life. Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. Purify the heart, and that will cleanse the hands. (3.) He did not pretend to do this by his own power, but in God's name; Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters. He is but the instrument, the channel through which God is pleased to convey this healing virtue. By doing them this kindness with a Thus saith the Lord, they would be made the more willing, hereafter, to receive from him a reproof, admonition, or command, with the same preface. If, in God's name, he can help them, in God's name, let him teach and rule them. Thus saith the Lord, out of Elisha's mouth, must, ever after, be of mighty force with them. (4.) The cure was lasting, and not for the present only, The waters were healed unto this day, v. 22. What God doeth, it shall be for ever, Ec. 3. 14. When he by his Spirit, heals a soul, there shall be no more death nor barrenness; the property is altered; what was useless and offensive, becomes grateful and serviceable.
II. Here is a curse upon the children of Bethel, which was effectual to destroy them; for it was not a curse causeless, At Bethel there was another school of prophets, thither Elisha goes next, in this his primary visitation; the scholars there, no doubt, welcomed him with all possible respect, but the townsmen were abusive to him. One of Jeroboam's calves was at Bethel; this they were proud of, and fond of, and hated them that reproved them. The law did not empower them to suppress this pious academy, but we may suppose it was their usual practice to jeer the prophets as they went along the streets, to call them by some nickname or other, that they might expose them to contempt, prejudice their youth against them, and, if possible, drive them out of their town. Had the abuse done to Elisha, been the first offence of that kind, it is probable that it would not have been so severely punished. But mocking the messengers of the Lord, and misusing the prophets, was one of the crying sins of Israel, as we find, 2 Chr. 36. 16. Now here we have,
1. An instance of that sin. The little children of Bethel (the boys and girls that were playing in the streets, notice, it is