We have here an account of what followed immediately after the translation of Elijah.
I. The tokens of God’s presence with Elisha, and the marks of his elevation into Elijah’s room, to be, as he had been, a father to the sons of the prophets, and the chariots and horsemen of Israel.
1. He was possessed of Elijah’s mantle, the badge of his office, which, we may suppose, he put on and wore for his master’s sake, 2 Kgs. 2:13. When Elijah went to heaven, though he did not let fall his body as others do, he let fall his mantle instead of it; for he was unclothed, that he might be clothed upon with immortality: he was going to a world where he needed not the mantle to adorn him, nor to shelter him from the weather, nor to wrap his face in, as 1 Kgs. 19:13. He left his mantle as a legacy to Elisha, and, though in itself it was of small value, yet as it was a token of the descent of the Spirit upon him, it was more than if he had bequeathed to him thousands of gold and silver. Elisha took it up, not as a sacred relic to be worshipped, but as a significant garment to be worn, and a recompence to him for his own garments which he had rent. he loved this cloak ever since it was first cast over him, 1 Kgs. 19:19. He that then so cheerfully obeyed the summons of it, and became Elijah’s servant, is now dignified with it, and becomes his successor. There are remains of great and good men, which, like this mantle, ought to be gathered up and preserved by the survivors, their sayings, their writings, their examples, that, as their works follow them in the reward of them, they may stay behind in the benefit of them.
2. He was possessed of Elijah’s power to divide Jordan, 2 Kgs. 2:14. Having parted with his father, he returns to his sons in the schools of the prophets. Jordan was between him and them; it had been divided to make way for Elijah to his glory; he will try whether it will divide to make way for him to his business, and by that he will know that God is with him, and th 50aa at he has the double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah’s last miracle shall be Elisha’s first; thus he begins where Elijah left off and there is no vacancy. In dividing the waters, (1.) He made use of Elijah’s mantle, as Elijah himself had done (2 Kgs. 2:8), to signify that he designed to keep to his master’s methods and would not introduce any thing new, as those affect to do that think themselves wiser than their predecessors. (2.) He applied to Elijah’s God: Where is the Lord God of Elijah? He does not ask, “Where is Elijah?” as poring upon the loss of him, as if he could not be easy now that he was gone,—or as doubting of his happy state, as if, like the sons of the prophets here, he knew not what had become of him,—or as curiously enquiring concerning him, and the particular of that state he was removed to (no, that is a hidden life, it does not yet appear what we shall be),—nor as expecting help from him; no, Elijah is happy, but is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; but he asks, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Now that Elijah was taken to heaven God had abundantly proved himself the God of Elijah; if he had not prepared for him that city, and done better for him there than ever he did for him in this world, he would have been ashamed to be called his God, Heb. 11:16; Matt. 27:31, 32. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven Elisha enquired, [1.] After God. When our creature-comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, that lives for ever. [2.] After The God of Elijah, the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for, and adhered to when all Israel had deserted him. This honour is done to those who cleave to God in times of general apostasy, that God will be, in a peculiar manner, their God. “The God that owned, and protected, and provided for Elijah, and many ways honoured him, especially now at last, where is he? Lord, am not I promised Elijah’s spirit? Make good that promise.” The words which next follow in the original, Aph-his—even he, which we join to the following clause, when he also had smitten the waters, some make an answer to this question, Where is Elijah’s God? Etiam ille adhuc superest—“He is in being still, and nigh at hand. We have lost Elijah, but we have not lost Elijah’s God. He has not forsaken the earth; it is even he that is still with me.” Note, First, It is the duty and interest of the saints on earth to enquire after God, and apply to him as the Lord God of the saints that have gone before to heaven, the God of our fathers. Secondly, it is very comfortable to those who enquire after God that they know where to find him; it is even he that is in his holy temple (Ps. 11:4) and nigh to all who call upon him, Ps. 145:18. Thirdly, Those that walk in the spirit and steps of their godly faithful predecessors shall certainly experience the same grace that they experienced; Elijah’s God will be Elisha’s too. The Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God?
3. He was possessed of Elijah’s interest in the sons of the prophets, 2 Kgs. 2:15. Some of the fellows of the college at Jericho, who had placed themselves conveniently near Jordan, to see what passed, were surprised to see Jordan divided before Elisha in his return, and took that as a convincing evidence that the spirit of Elijah did rest upon him, and that therefore they ought to pay the same respect and deference to him that they had paid to Elijah. Accordingly they went to meet him, to congratulate him on his safe passage through fire and water, and the honour God had put upon him; and they bowed themselves to the ground before him. They were trained up in the schools; Elisha was taken from the plough; yet when they perceived that God was with him, and that this was the man whom he delighted to honour, they readily submitted to him as their head and father, as the people to Joshua when Moses was dead, Josh. 1:17. Those that appear to have God’s Spirit and presence with them ought to have our esteem and best affections, notwithstanding the meanness of their extraction and education. This ready submission of the sons of the prophets, no doubt, was a great encouragement to Elisha, and helped to clear his call.
II. The needless search which the sons of the prophets made for Elijah. 1. They suggested that possibly he was dropped, either alive or dead, upon some mountain, or in some valley; and it would be a satisfaction to them if they sent some strong men, whom they had at command, in quest of him, 2 Kgs. 2:16. Some of them perhaps started this as a demurrer to the choice of Elisha: “Let us first be sure that Elijah has quite gone. Can we think Elijah thus neglected by heaven, that chosen vessel thus cast away as a vessel in which was no pleasure?” 2. Elisha consented not to their motion till they overcame him with importunity, 2 Kgs. 2:17. They urged him till he was ashamed to oppose it any further lest he should be thought wanting in his respect to his old master or loth to resign the mantle again. Wise men may yield to that, for the sake of peace and the good opinion of others, which yet their judgment is against as needless and fruitless. 3. The issue made them as much ashamed of their proposal as they, by their importunity, had made Elisha ashamed of his opposing it. Their messengers, after they had tired themselves with fruitless search, returned with a non est inventus—he is not to be found, and gave Elisha an opportunity of upbraiding his friends with their folly: Did I not say unto you, Go not? 2 Kgs. 2:18. This would make them the more willing to acquiesce in his judgment another time. Traversing hills and valleys will never bring us to Elijah, but the imitation of his holy faith and zeal will, in due time.