2 Kings 2: Elisha Succeeds Elijah

2 Kings 2: Elisha Succeeds Elijah

Original Publication Date
February 4, 2017
Sep 30, 2023 10:36 PM
2 KingsChapter StudyElijahElishaDeathFireWater
Bible References

2 Kings 2

Table of Contents
This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on February 4, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


At the end of his career, Elijah is taken to Heaven in a whirlwind. He is one of the people who never experiences death, but goes straight to Heaven. This is perhaps the thing Elijah is most well known for. 2 Kings 2 tells us of Elisha's loyalty to Elijah and his desire to carry on Elijah's mantle.

I always have trouble verbally distinguishing between Elijah and Elisha. In my Southern Black English dialect, they sound the same. However, in Hebrew these are very different names. Elijah’s name is pronounced “Eli-yahu” and means “My God is YHWH.”[6] Elisha’s name is pronounced “Eli-sha” and means “God is salvation.”[7]

Elisha Follows Elijah

Just before Elijah is taken up to Heaven, he asks Elisha to stay in Gilgal while he handles business in Bethel, but Elisha insists on joining him. In Bethel the prophets ask Elisha if he is aware of what is happening and he reveals that he is. This means most prophets must have known that God had decided to receive Elijah into Heaven some time soon.

Once again Elijah says he must go somewhere (Jericho), and Elisha refuses to stay behind. In Jericho these events play out once again, and the two leave for Jordan.

Parting the Jordan River

At the Jordan River, Elijah parts the water to walk across as prophets watch in awe. Previously, Moses had called on God to part the Red Sea when Israel fled Egypt, and Joshua had called on God to part the Jordan when Israel entered the promised land. The parting of the Jordan by Elijah, and later Elisha, also marks an important time for Israel. These are the moments of revival where God poured out his spirit on the prophets to bring the people back to Him, just before Israel was taken captive.

Elisha Named Heir

Knowing that his time of departure is nearing, Elijah asks what Elisha would like of him before he departs and Elisha requests a double portion of Elijah's spirit. From Deuteronomy 21:16-17, we can see that Elisha is asking to be recognized as the legitimate heir. In families, the firstborn, who was heir to the family inheritance, always received a double portion. By asking for this, Elisha was announcing that he wanted to be the next great prophet in Israel and fill Elijah's role. God had already chosen Elisha for this purpose, but Elisha still had to put in the work to receive this appointment.

Elijah says that what Elisha is asking for is a hard thing, but promises that if Elisha is there to see him leave, his request will be granted. This request was hard, despite being foretold and ordained by God; just because God says that something will happen, doesn't mean it will be easy. Taking over as the prophet, especially at such a time of turmoil in Israel was a big responsibility; one needed to prove himself worthy of such a position before hastily taking over.

Elijah Taken Up

Elijah's ride to Heaven is a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire. This sounds like how they would depict a carriage taking you to hell in Hollywood—which is a reminder of how warped our view of things is. God is often depicted with fire; He even appeared to Moses as a burning bush. We must be careful not to let man's art and imagery taint our eyesight. If we fall into that trap, we will not recognize God when He comes to us. Since Elijah was in tune with God, he knew this was his ride to Heaven and that it was safe.

Despite the prestige and undeniable closure that came with seeing Elijah ascend to Heaven, Elisha still goes into mourning after seeing this. On the journey back (assumably to Samaria), Elisha takes up Elijah's mantle which signified him as Elijah's heir. He asks for the God Elijah served to part the waters of the Jordan again, and God obliges. This convinces onlooking prophets that the spirit of Elijah was in Elisha and that Elisha was the new prophet of Israel.

These same men, who were said to be prophets, pestered Elisha to look for Elijah, thinking God had betrayed him. While a believer should know that God would never betray us, it stands to reason that with all the corruption that was happening in Israel, the prophets were skeptical. Initially Elisha stands firm that God would do no such thing, but the men pester him until he is ashamed and gives in. Needless to say, they don't find Elijah.

Elisha's First Miracle

While in Jericho, Elisha learns there is something wrong with the water. Because of the water, the land is barren and the people are in despair. Elisha heals the water in the name of God so that death and famine will retreat from the city.

Punishing Children

Elisha continues into Bethel where he is mocked by children. Elisha curses them and two female bears attack them. From there, Elisha then returns to Samaria.

This sounds rather horrifying, particular since in our society we generally give children a pass for not knowing any better. While I do think the Bible expects us to discipline children so that they do not behave in such a manner, this passage maybe not be discussing children at all.[1] The word translated children is often used to refer to grown men as well. The Hebrew words translated to little and children in 2 Kings 2:23-24 are qatan, na’ar, and yeled.[2] Qatan means "least," which doesn't necessarily refer to a child or even physical stature.[3] Least simply means without honor, clout, or authority. Na'ar is a masculine noun most often translated to "young man." Servant is the next most-popular translation of the word.[4] Yeled is the only word that is often translated to child, though it's definition seems to mean offspring.[5] In short, the people Elisha had attacked by a bear, were not likely to be children. A great article on this topic can be found here.

References and Footnotes

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 633. 2014
  2. Elizabeth Mitchell, PhD. "Elisha, Little Children, and the Bears". Answers in Genesis. November 2010
  3. "Strong's 6996: Qatan"; via BibleHub.com; visited February 2017
  4. "Strong's H5288: Na'ar"; via BlueLetterBible.org; visited February 2017
  5. "Strong's H3206: Yeled"; via BlueLetterBible.org; visited February 2017
  6. "Strong's H453. אֵלִיָּה"; via BlueLetterBible.org; visited February 2017
  7. "Strong's H477. אֱלִישָׁע"; via BlueLetterBible.org; visited February 2017

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