“1Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; 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. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, 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. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.”
Summary – Elijah, knowing that he was about to be taken up by God and prompted by the Holy Spirit goes on a journey. He is depicted here as wanting to go off to a quiet place and he is accompanied by his understudy Elisha. He does however ask Elisha if he realizes that his master is about to be taken up. Elisha acknowledges but makes it clear that his loyalty to Elijah will supersede Elijah’s request for him to stay behind and so they press on together passing through the region served. In addition, fifty other men “of the company of prophets” also follow but at a distance as though curious but still showing respect. Elijah when arriving to the Jordan in similar fashion as Moses by the Spirit parts the water and they cross together on dry ground. Elijah asks Elisha if he has a parting request from his master. Elisha’s request is for a “double share of your spirit.” Elijah assures him that if it is to come to fruition it will be of God not him and then states: “yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” They are then separated by the horses and Chariot of fire and Elijah departs to the heavens in a miraculous whirl wind. Elisha then rends his clothes as an expression outwardly of his grief and loss inwardly.
Insight – The miraculous event had been made known to the prophet Elijah. However, unknown to him, it had also been revealed to his disciples and to Elisha who in particular was determined to remain by his side until Elijah’s final departure. Gilgal was near Ebal and Gerizim; a school of the prophets was established there. At Beth-el there was also a school of the prophets, which Elijah had founded. In travelling to these places inspired by the Holy Spirit Elijah would pay a farewell to those institutions. They were also on the way to the place of his ascension. At the same time and from a feeling of humility and modesty Elijah was, wanting to be where there would be no eye-witnesses of his glorification. However, all his efforts to have Elisha remain behind were fruitless. Elisha knew that the time was at hand and at every place the sons of the prophets spoke to him of the approaching removal of his master. Their last stage on the journey was at the Jordan where they were followed by fifty scholars/students who sought to witness the miraculous translation of the prophet. The revelation of this striking event to so many was a necessary part of what would be visible historical proof of the continuation of promised supernatural events that would take place in the fulfillment of the covenant promises and a type of the resurrection of Christ the perfect and final fulfillment of God’s promise to His covenant people for their salvation eternal by grace alone through faith alone and as we hear and read by the Word alone.
Childs Catechism – What promises can we know and trust God for? We can know and trust God for all His promises.
Discussion – How did God translate or change Elijah? Why did God translate Elijah to depart this realm without seeing death?
Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, thank you Lord for your Word which teaches; gives demonstration and proof of Your miraculous supernatural intervention in Your creation and our lives as we both retrospectively witness with trust and faith the fulfillment of your promised Messiah and the inward testimony we have today by the indwelling of Your Holy Spirits as we now through Christ are temples of You O God, and “the temple of God is Holy,” and that is what we are by grace alone through faith alone according to Your Word alone, O God, AMEN.
Contributed by Tom Miller, MA