Study Notes

2Kings 2:1-12


As we completed chapter one, we saw that Ahab's son, King Akh-az-YAW, fell through the lattice of his bedroom window and was injured. Because he sought the word of BA-al Zeb-OB rather than the God of Israel, he died. And Elijah, who had been used by the Lord during the reigns of both Ahab and Akh-az-YAW, is about to leave the earth as well.

2:1 Elijah Will Be Taken Up

This is the first that we've heard about Elijah being taken up by a whirlwind to heaven, but I guess that the writer knew it was such common knowledge that he didn't take a lot of time building up to it!


We also see that Elisha accompanied Elijah to Ghil-GAWL. Remember that Elisha has been following Elijah around since 1Kings 19, ministering to him, being his servant (1Kings 19:19-21).

Although for the last four chapters, we have not heard anything from Elisha, he has been there, serving his master, quietly, behind the scenes.

This ministry reminds me very much of Joshua, who served Moses for years. Moses was able to delegate responsibility to him because he was fiercely loyal and devoted, and continued ministering each day even longer than Moses did. He never sought out attention, and never tried to grab notice for himself. This was the ideal kind of man for God to choose as Moses' replacement.

The same is true for Elisha. He has done the same, not seeking the spotlight, or trying to be the attention-getter. He has just faithfully served the Lord by serving Elijah all this time.

Servanthood is always the path to greatness in the kingdom. Jesus told the twelve,

Mark 9:35 ..."If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all."

This is the heart of God for us - to be servants to one another. A lot of people - too many people - in the kingdom are looking to be served. Instead, we should be pouring out our lives into others, investing our time, effort, and energy into others.

If you want to be an Elisha, you're going to need to serve an Elijah behind the scenes, getting no credit. If you want to be a Joshua, you need to find a Moses that you can serve faithfully.

When God is looking for people to raise up in His kingdom, he looks not in the palace, but in the servants' quarters. When God wanted to have a message preached to the Jewish High Council, He chose from among the deacons, the men that were serving widows, waiting tables, and found Stephen. When God was looking for an evangelist to preach the gospel to the Samaritans, He looked in the same place, and found Philip.

I know that if I had set out to become a senior pastor without first putting in the servanthood years of ministering as an elder and an assistant pastor, I would have failed miserably. There was too much to learn, too many serving principles that the Lord had to show me first.

I would ask you, "Have you made yourself the greatest or the least? Who are you serving? What ministry are you plugged into? How are you giving of yourself?"

2:2-6 I Will Not Leave You

The Lord was sending Elijah to Bayth-ALE, but at Ghil-GAWL, Elijah tried to dump Elisha off. Then at Bayth-ALE, Elijah got direction from the Lord to go to Jericho, and again tried to get Elisha to abandon him. Elisha would not. A third time, when he was being sent to the Jordan River, Elijah was turned down by Elisha refusing to leave.

Elisha kept insisting, "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." This is a most emphatic statement in the original Hebrew.

Elisha's loyalty was unmovable. Why? He knew for certain that God had called him to Elijah's side. Therefore, nothing on earth would move him from that place.

It is important that we know where God has led us and who he has placed us next to. The apostles knew that the Lord had called them to follow Jesus. At one point in Jesus' ministry, many of the disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked,

John 6:67-69 ..."You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."

I have gotten to that point before, where discouragement and defeat are troubling me. But then I am reminded that this is where the Lord has commanded me to be. In this Christianity, in this city, in this church. Where else am I going to go except where the Lord has commanded me? As the Lord lives, I will not leave!

How about you? Have you been thinking about leaving? Whether you're talking about your job, your marriage, your church, or anything else, where else can you go except where the Lord has placed you?

Elisha would not leave the side of the man that he had been directed to follow.

The Sons Of The Prophets

Now, at two of these places, Elisha was approached by the sons of the prophets, who said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?"

We first encountered "the sons of the prophets" back in 1Kings 20, but they certainly dated back farther than this time period. Because teachers and disciplers were called "father" by their students and disciples, it is commonly thought that this term referred to men who were being schooled or discipled under the prophets of God.

It is very likely that Samuel initiated these schools, since there were almost no prophets at all during the days of the Judges, and because before Saul became king, there was a group of these prophets in affiliation with Samuel (1Sam. 10).

By the time of the early days of the reign of Ahab, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of these prophets. But Ahab's wife Jezebel had them put to death - only a hundred of them were spared, when Obadiah hid them in caves (1Kings 18:4).

And so I believe that the best way to envision the sons of the prophets might be to think of them as Bible college or School of Ministry students.

They themselves moved in the gift of prophecy, for they told Elisha that Elijah would no longer be over him (literally, "over your head"), but that the Lord was taking him away.

2:7-8 The Jordan Divided

When Elijah and Elisha approached the Jordan River, Elijah struck the water with his mantle (a mantle was an outer garment like a cloak or a cape). The water of the Jordan River was divided, and the two of them were able to walk across on dry ground.

Now, as you read the Scripture, this miracle seems like it is almost becoming commonplace. Back in the days of the Exodus, although Pharaoh had finally conceded and let the Israelites go, he changed his mind, chasing after them with 600 chariots. When the Israelites saw the Egyptian army approaching at high speed, they were frightened, crying out to the Lord.

Exod. 14:13-16 But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. And as for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.

Exod. 14:21-22 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea {back} by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters {were like} a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

There was another parting of waters in Israel's history, at the end of the wilderness wandering. Joshua took the people to the Jordan River, and God promised to do a wonder among them. The priests were told to carry the ark into the river.

Josh. 3:13 "And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, {and} the waters which are flowing down from above shall stand in one heap."

Josh. 3:17 And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Again, the water was replaced by dry ground, just as it is doing here in 2Kings. What do these three events have in common? What can we learn from them?

First of all, notice that each time, God was leading. Often, the Lord will lead you into a situation that seems impossible, a place that is impassable. This is not to build your frustration, but to build your faith. He wants to do a miracle, which is exactly why He leads you to a place that were can't do anything short of a miracle.

But notice the other thing: each time, the miracle was accomplished in a completely different manner. While the deliverance that the Lord brings is often similar, the methods by which he accomplishes the deliverance are often very different. Moses was told to stretch out his hand with the staff over the sea. Joshua was told to send the priests and the ark in to step on the water. Elijah simply folded his mantle in half and struck the waters.

I believe that the Lord mixes things up like this so we continue to depend on Him, rather than begin to depend on the methods. If you notice the miracles of Jesus, He made sure not to duplicate the manner in which He did each one. With this precedence, we know that if we need a miracle from God, we will not find it in duplicating the method, but only in depending on the master.

2:9-10 A Double Portion

Because Elisha had been faithful to follow, Elijah asked how he could bless him. Elisha's request was bold:

2Kgs. 2:9 ..."Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me."

In one respect, this was literally fulfilled, for Elisha would go on to perform twice as many miracles as Elijah. However, I believe this relates more to the law of inheritance. You see, in the Mosaic Law, it states that the first-born son of a man received a double portion of the inheritance.

Elijah had been like a father to Elisha. But Elijah had no earthly inheritance to pass on, other than his spirit.

A Hard Thing

Elisha was asking to inherit the ministry of his spiritual father, his mentor, his master. But Elijah said,

2Kgs. 2:10 ..."You have asked a hard thing."

Elijah's ministry was not easy. While the spectacular things that happened are most memorable, they actually happened in the midst of great difficulty. People remember that Elijah called down fire from heaven, but forget that he did this when 50 men were coming to arrest him. They remember that ravens fed him, but they forget that it was in the midst of his famine and starvation. They remember that God talked to him in a still, small voice, but they forget that it was in the midst of suicidal despair and fear for his life.

The life of the prophet, of the preacher, of the pastor, of the minister, is not easy. Although it looks attractive at times, it is very difficult. It takes every minute of your life, it requires that you empty yourself of yourself all the time. It means living in a glass house, and attracts the arrows of the enemy.

And I believe that this is why so many people leave the ministry in the first few years. They go in expecting to be popular, to be the center of attention, to have blessings bestowed upon them, to be the authority, to be a respected leader. But then the reality sets in that it was nothing like they imagined. People complain, they rebel, they gossip, and they take. So the disillusioned ministers first wise up, then get fed up, and finally they give up.

Understand that I'm not complaining in the slightest about my lot in life - I love the ministry because God has called me to it. But it is also incredibly difficult. And so I know that when someone comes to me saying, "I want to be a pastor," I tell them in so many words, "You have asked a hard thing."

Elisha was in for great difficulties, just as Elijah had endured.

If You See Me

The other aspect of Elijah's answer was that it wasn't going to be up to him. He could not anoint Elisha with his spirit. He could not ordain Elisha for the ministry. He could physically throw his mantle on him, as he did in 1Kings 19, but the spiritual ordination would have to be up to God.

The true minister is not ordained by the church unless he is ordained first by God. The Scriptural model is found in Acts 13,

Acts 13:1-4 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was {there} , prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

The Holy Spirit selected Barnabas and Saul. The church simply recognized that ordination and confirmed it.

We as a church will follow that model - not ordaining any pastors unless the Lord first ordains them.

Elijah too, knew that his promotion of Elisha into the ministry would mean nothing unless God did it first.

2:11-12 Elijah Taken Up

And so this season of the ministry of Elijah comes to an end with him being caught up to heaven. However, his ministry is not over yet. The Old Testament closes with the statement,

Mal. 4:5-6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to {their} children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."

And in fact, he met with Jesus and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration some 400 years later (Matt. 17:3). He will come again before the great and terrible day of the Lord, I believe as one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

Next week, we will see the beginnings of Elisha's ministry as a prophet.

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