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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 2


1 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.


"Stay here, please," Elijah said to Elisha. "The LORD has sent me on to Bethel." "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live," Elisha replied, "I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel,


where the guild prophets went out to Elisha and asked him, "Do you know that the LORD will take your master from over you today?" "Yes, I know it," he replied. "Keep still."


Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, please, Elisha, for the LORD has sent me on to Jericho." "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live," Elisha replied, "I will not leave you."


They went on to Jericho, where the guild prophets approached Elisha and asked him, "Do you know that the LORD will take your master from over you today?" "Yes, I know it," he replied. "Keep still."


Elijah said to Elisha, "Please stay here; the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan." "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live," Elisha replied, "I will not leave you." And so the two went on together.


Fifty of the guild prophets followed, and when the two stopped at the Jordan, stood facing them at a distance.


Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground.


2 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha answered, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit."


"You have asked something that is not easy," he replied. "Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not."


As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.


3 When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, "My father! my father! Israel's chariots and drivers!" But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.


Then he picked up Elijah's mantle which had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan.


Wielding the mantle which had fallen from Elijah, he struck the water in his turn and said, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.


The guild prophets in Jericho, who were on the other side, saw him and said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." They went to meet him, bowing to the ground before him.


"Among your servants are fifty brave men," they said. "Let them go in search of your master. Perhaps the spirit of the LORD has carried him away to some mountain or some valley." "Do not send them," he answered.


However, they kept urging him, until he was embarrassed and said, "Send them." So they sent the fifty men, who searched for three days without finding him.


When they returned to Elisha in Jericho, where he was staying, he said to them, "Did I not tell you not to go?"


Once the inhabitants of the city complained to Elisha, "The site of the city is fine indeed, as my lord can see, but the water is bad and the land unfruitful."


"Bring me a new bowl," Elisha said, "and put salt into it." When they had brought it to him,


he went out to the spring and threw salt into it, saying, "Thus says the LORD, 'I have purified this water. Never again shall death or miscarriage spring from it.'"


And the water has stayed pure even to this day, just as Elisha prophesied.


4 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up, baldhead," they shouted, "go up, baldhead!"


The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the children to pieces.


From there he went to Mount Carmel, and thence he returned to Samaria.



1 [1] Gilgal: commonly identified with Jiljulieh, about seven miles north of Bethel, and different from the Gilgal in Deut 11:30 near Shechem, and that in Joshua 4;5 passim, near Jericho.

2 [9] Double portion of your spirit: as the first-born son inherited a double portion of his father's property ( Deut 21:17), so Elisha asks to inherit from Elijah his spirit of prophecy in the degree befitting his principal disciple. In Numbers 11:17, 25 God bestows some of the spirit of Moses on others.

3 [12] My father: a religious title accorded prophetic leaders; cf 2 Kings 6:21; 8:9. Israel's chariots and drivers: Elijah was worth more than a whole army in defending Israel and the true religion. King Joash of Israel uses the same phrase of Elisha himself ( 2 Kings 13:14).

4 [23-24] This story, like the one about Elijah and the captains (2 Kings 1), is preserved for us in Scripture to convey a popular understanding of the dignity of the prophet. Told in popular vein, it becomes a caricature, in which neither Elisha nor the bears behave in character. See note on 2 Kings 1:12 and the contrasting narrative in 2 Kings 4.

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