2 Kings 2:1-25


Although this is only the second chapter of 2 Kings, we have reached the midway point of the unified book of Kings.  This chapter marks the pivotal point in the entire book of 1st and 2nd Kings.


The United Kingdom of Solomon (1 Kings 1-12)



Wars of Judah and Israel (1 Kings 13-16)



The Ministry of Elijah (1 Kings 17 - 2 Kings 1).



The Passing of the Prophetic Mantle from Elijah to Elisha (2 Kings 2).


The Ministry of Elisha (2 Kings 3-13).



Wars of Judah and Israel 2 Kings 14-17).


The Kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18-25).



As the scepter and rulership of God’s people passed from Solomon down to his descendants, so also the mantle of the prophetic office also passed down from one prophet to the next.


In the passing of the mantle, Elisha was going to experience some of the glory of God.  The Jews knew it as the Shekinah - the glory cloud.  The prayer of Moses had been to see the glory of God.  But you can’t see God’s glory and live.  And so, Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock and permitted to glimpse a bit of the “after-glow” of God’s glory.


The book of Revelation pictures the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven “having the glory of God” (21:10-11).  This is not a city of bricks or mortar.  It represents the people of God.  It is the “bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).  Who is the bride of Christ?  We are!  This is the church.  And we will one day experience the glory of God (1 John 3:1-2).





1                       And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.

2                       Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.”  But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”  So they went down to Bethel.

3                       Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?”  And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.”

4                       Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”  But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”  So they came to Jericho.

5                       The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?”  And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.”

6                       Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”  And he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”  So the two of them went on. (2 Kings 2:1-6).


We are told at the very outset that these events take place when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven.  By stating it in this way, the author has removed the suspense of what is going to happen to Elijah.  That is already known.  He does this because he wants us to focus on something else.  He wants to direct our attention to Elisha.


These verses reflect Elisha’s persistent commitment to Elijah.  Their journey begins at Gilgal.  The word “Gilgal” means “circle.”  The Hebrew refers to this as THE Gilgal.  There seems to have been several different places by this name.  The most well-known was located on the west bank of the Jordan River.  It was here that the Israelites had camped just prior to their attack on Jericho (Joshua 4:19).  If this is the Gilgal of this passage, then it means that Elijah traveled in a large circle.  Why would he travel by such a route?  Because of who was on the way.  Elijah was taking this opportunity to meet with his students along the way.  These men were known as “the sons of the prophets.”  They were seminary students who were preparing for ministry.  Elijah had been one of their teachers.  He was saying his final good-byes to them.  By the time they get to the Jordan, there will be 50 men with him.






Served as the first camp for Israel when they entered Canaan.  Joshua had set up a memorial mound here.

The Place of Beginnings - Revelation 2 speaks of going back and doing the “first works.”


It was the place where Abraham worshiped when he first came to Canaan.  In more recent times, it was the site for idolatry - one of Jeroboam’s golden calves was here.

The Place of the Altar - wrong worship leads to wrong living.  This had been the case in Israel.


The first Canaanite city to fall to Israel.  It had been rebuilt in the days of Ahab (1 Kg 16:34).

The Place of Judgment - Jericho served as a warning against idolatry.


It was through the Jordan River that Israel crossed to enter into the Promised Land.

The Place of Commitment - there comes a time when you must “cross over.”


Before traveling to each of these locations, Elijah gave Elisha permission to remain behind.  But Elisha would not quit.  He was committed to staying with Elijah.  What was the source of this commitment?  I think that it was twofold.  I think that there was a personal commitment to the man.  But more importantly, Elisha was committed to the God of Elijah.  This was primarily a SPIRITUAL commitment.  Elisha was determined to partake of the same spiritual relationship that he had witnessed in the life of his teacher.


Parents, what is it in your life that your children hunger to emulate?  You have a spiritual heritage to share.  But this is not something that can be taught in a series of lectures.  It is something that must be CAUGHT in the same way that one is infected with a virus.





7                       Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.

8                       Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. (2 Kings 2:7-8).


Moses had divided the Red Sea when the Israelites were departing from Egypt.  Joshua had divided the Jordan River when the Israelites were coming into Canaan.  The same miracle happens now.


Why did they cross the Jordan?  Elijah was the prophet who had come out of the desert.  He was from the lands across the Jordan and now he is going back.




9                       When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.”  And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”

10                     He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” (2 Kings 2:9-10).


Elisha is asked a question:   “What shall I do for you?”  It is similar to the question which the Lord asked of Solomon at the beginning of his reign.  It was a test question.  It was designed to show the heart of the man.


Solomon had asked for wisdom from the Lord — the quality of an understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9).  Elisha’s answer is along similar lines.


The honor for which Elisha asked came on the heels of great humility.  He had already held the role as servant to Elijah for some time.  The preparation for leadership comes in the form of servanthood.

Elisha asks for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah — literally a “double mouthful.”  The double portion was always the portion of the firstborn.  It was the inheritance of the heir of the family.  Elijah had no children that we know of.  Elisha wished to be his spiritual heir.  Do you have that desire?  Is there a spiritual mentor in your life?  Is there someone whom you desire to emulate with regard to his or her spiritual walk?


The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the firstborn Son who gave us the privileges that were rightly His own.  He has given us of His portion.  He has given to us the fulness of His Spirit.


Elijah makes no guarantees.  He does not answer the request of Elisha because he CANNOT answer his request.  The Spirit is not Elijah’s to give.  Only God can give His Spirit.


There is a principle here.  Not everyone can be an Elijah.  I would like to be Steve Brown, but God didn’t give me that gift.  But I CAN exercise the gifts that God has given to ME.





11                     As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.

12                     Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”  And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. (2 Kings 2:11-12).


The Hebrew word translated “whirlwind” is a general word for a stormy wind.  It is used to describe:
           The whirlwind from which the Lord spoke to Job (Job 38:1; 40:6).
           A storm on the sea (Psalm 107:25, 29).
           The storm in which Jonah’s ship floundered.

We normally think that Elijah was taken up to heaven by means of a divine chariot.  But that isn’t what the passage says.  The chariot and the horses served only to separate Elijah from Elisha.  It was the whirlwind which took him to heaven.


            Fire is symbolic of the presence of God.

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, the angel kept them out by means of a flaming sword.

When the Lord led the Israelites through the wilderness, He made His presence known through the cloud and through the pillar of fire.


            Wind is a symbol of the Spirit of God.

The Hebrew word for “spirit” also means “wind.”


What did the Christians experience at Pentecost?  Tongues of FIRE.  The sound of a rushing WIND.  The same God who took Elijah UP send His Spirit DOWN.


The image of the chariot of the Lord is a common one among the writings of the prophets.  The chariot was a symbol of strength, of protection and of judgment.


The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;

The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness. (Psalm 68:17).


For behold, the Lord will come in fire

And His chariots like the whirlwind,

To render His anger with fury,

And His rebuke with flames of fire. (Isaiah 66:15).


Behold, he goes up like clouds,

And his chariots like the whirlwind;

His horses are swifter than eagles.

Woe to us, for we are ruined. (Jeremiah 4:13).


Did the Lord rage against the rivers,

Or was Thine anger against the rivers,

Or was Thy wrath against the sea,

That Thou didst ride on Thy horses,

Or Thy chariots of salvation (Habakkuk 3:8).


The chariot was a tool of war.  It was to the ancient world what the armored tank and the jet aircraft are to the modern mechanized world.  If Elijah had been caught up today, he would have been accompanied by the B-1 Bomber.


Elisha had been promised that he would have his request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit fulfilled if he saw Elijah being taken up.  The spirit of Elijah was one that was able to see past the physical world to the spiritual realities which go unseen by most.  His seeing of Elijah’s going was the first such use of that spirit.


You need to know that the physical events you experience are only a cover for what is going on in the spiritual realm.  When you see the news and the things that come into your life, you should recognize that there is a spiritual reality behind those external events.  God’s army is actively at work in this world and you have a significant role in that spiritual conflict.





13                     He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”  And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.

15                     Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.”  And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (2 Kings 2:13-15).


The Lord took Elijah, but not his mantle.  The mantle was significant.  It signified the prophetic office.  When Elijah had first called Elisha into ministry, he did so by taking his own mantle and casting it over the shoulders of Elisha.  This was the badge of the prophetic office.  As Elijah was taken to heaven, the mantle was left behind.


Elisha takes the mantle and comes back to the Jordan River.  As his master had done before him, he strikes the waters and again they are divided, repeating the miracle which had been done earlier.  If there is any doubt that the spirit of prophecy has passed to him, it is now banished.


Elisha was to Elijah what Joshua was to Moses.  In the same way that Joshua repeated the miracle of the Red Sea by stopping the waters of the Jordan, so Elisha now repeats the miracle previously performed by his master.


In a similar way, we are reminded of the greater prophet of God, the One whom the Bible describes as a prophet greater than Moses.  The risen Jesus was caught into heaven in the sight of the apostles and they were left with the same Spirit and power.  It is that same Spirit that indwells the people of His church today.  John 1:16 says that of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.





16                     They said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men, please let them go and search for your master; perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.”  And he said, “You shall not send.”

17                     But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send.”  They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days but did not find him.

18                     They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?” (2 Kings 2:16-18).


Elisha had crossed the Jordan with Elijah.  He had now come back alone.  He related the account of how Elijah had been caught up in a whirlwind and the fifty prophets who had been left behind thought that a most precarious means of locomotion.  They do what anyone would do who was concerned for a loved one who had been caught up in a tornado.  They propose a search party.  Elisha knows that they will be unsuccessful, for he realizes that this was no ordinary wind that has caught up his master.  But when they insist, he allows them to conduct their search anyway.


A search is made for three days.  Once again, we are reminded of the similarity to the events surrounding the coming of Jesus, the greater prophet of God.  He died and was buried, and He lay in the grave for three days.  But no longer.  You can go to His tomb today and it is empty.  The enemies of Jesus were unable to keep Him in the grave.  You can search for His body, but it will not be found.  He is risen and living.





19                     Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my Lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.”

20                     He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.”  So they brought it to him.  21  He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’”

22                     So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke. (2 Kings 2:19-22).


The city referred to here seems to be a reference to Jericho.  It was here that Elisha had been staying while the 50 prophets conducted their search for Elijah (2:18).  It was a good location for a city.  It lay on the wide Jordan river valley, ringed by the mountains of Judah on the one side and the mountains of Moab to the east.  But there was a serious problem.  The city’s water supply was tainted.


The city was a picture of the spiritual condition of Israel.  Israel was in a good location.  It was a time of physical prosperity.  The droughts were a thing of the past.  Employment was up and inflation was down and business was booming.  But there was a spiritual poison in people’s lives.  It was a poison which could only be cured by the salt of God’s truth.


There is a poison in the world today.  And the cure is the same.  The cure is to be found in the Word of God AS IT IS LIVED IN GOD’S PEOPLE.  I didn’t make that up.  Jesus did.  He said that you are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).  You are called to purify the poison of this planet with the truth of the gospel.


I am all in favor of ecology.  We have been entrusted with this planet and we ought not to pollute it.  But we are also called to stop spiritual pollution — that which poisons men’s souls.  This can only be accomplished through the cross.





23                     Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”

24                     When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty‑two lads of their number.

25                     He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.  (2 Kings 2:23-25).


As Elisha begins retracing his steps back to Bethel and the school of the prophets which resided there, he is met by a large number of “young lads” who come out of the city with the express purpose of mocking him.

Bethel was the location for one of the schools of the prophets.  Bethel was also the location of one of the golden calves which had been set up by Jeroboam.  It was a place where God was worshiped and it was also a place of idolatry.  The ridicule of which we read may have been inspired by the religion which was practiced there.


The Hebrew term translated “young lad” is n’arim ketannim.  While the word by itself is often used of a young man (Genesis 14:24; 22:3; 33:11; Joshua 6:23), the further description of “little” or “small” indicates that these were adolescents.


This is out of accord with our modern sensibilities.  Our culture does not generally hold children to be accountable for their actions.  And as a result, we have a generation of children that are out of control.  This mob of children came out from the city and waylaid the prophet of God, taunting him with a mocking chant:   “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”  There were two aspects to this insult.


(1)        They may have heard of the ascension of Elijah and therefore they are goading Elisha to also ascend to heaven.


(2)        Their reference to his baldness might have been the result of a Nazerite Vow, a portion of which called for the shaving of one’s head.


(3)        In light of the description in 2 Kings 1:8 of Elijah as a “hairy man,” they may have been indicating that Elisha was too unlike his predecessor and therefore unfit and unacceptable as a prophet.


            “If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins.
            “And I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted.” (Leviticus 26:21-22).

In any event, they were mocking and taunting the prophet of the Living God.  They showed no respect for their elder nor for the man of God.  Their sin was against both man and God.  And as such, it brings upon them a curse.


In response to this curse, two mother bears come charging out of the forest, attacking the mob of uncontrollable children.  In the ensuing attack, 42 of their number were “tore up.”  Though some have maintained that this number were merely wounded, when this word is used elsewhere within 2nd Kings, it refers to the violent act of ripping a pregnant woman’s belly open to kill both her and her unborn child (2 Kings 8:12; 15:18).


In any case, this was a bloody, violent punishment.  It ought to cause you to cringe.  And sin ought to cause that same reaction.  Our problem is that we no longer cringe in the presence of sin.  We have labeled some sins as being “acceptable.”  The question is not why God sent out two mother bears to tear up these children.  Rather the question is why God has not sent out two mother bears to tear us up.


There are several lessons which we can learn from this passage.


1.         The Lesson of the Representative Nature of God’s Prophet.


When you speak against God’s spokesman, you are speaking against God.  It is a dangerous thing to attack a man of God.  It is like attacking a bear cub— you may invoke the wrath of the mother.  God was to Elisha what a bear cub was to its mother.


God takes seriously actions and insults to His people.  You are His children and He doesn’t let anyone hurt His children with impunity.


2.         The Lesson of Liability.


We are called to account for our actions.  If not in this life, then in the judgment which it to come, we shall be judged for every action, whether good or bad.  The only way to escape such judgment is to go to the cross.  It was there that God “tore up” His own Son on your behalf.  It is there that you can find forgiveness.


3.         The Lesson of Leniency.


God is a gracious God.  He is not willing that any should perish, but rather that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  The fact that judgment has been temporarily withheld is a sign of His PATIENCE.  He is waiting for repentance to take place.  He calls you to come today.


Ultimately, this passage reminds us of God’s better prophet who, when He was mocked, did not answer with a curse, but with a prayer on behalf of His mockers.  When Jesus went to the cross, He was mocked and reviled.  Yet He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


Instead of sending in a pair of bears to tear up His enemies, Jesus Himself was torn for our sin and for our rebellion.  He paid the price that was deserved by His enemies so that He could bring us to God.


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