In 2nd Kings we find the prophet Elijah at the end of his life. We’ll take a close look at chapter 2. Here is 2nd Kings 2: 1-18:
1 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?"
4 Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho."
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?"
6 Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan."
7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"
10 "You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not."
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 "Look," they said, "we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley."
17 But they persisted until he was too ashamed to refuse. So he said, "Send them." And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, "Didn't I tell you not to go?"
Did you notice that Elijah told Elisha to “Stay here” three different times? When something comes up in Scripture three times God is really trying to get your attention. Each time the Lord sent Elijah somewhere new, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan, Elisha proclaimed that as long as the Lord lived and Elijah lived that he, Elisha, would not leave Elijah. A company of 50 prophets came out at each place and told Elisha that the Lord was going to take Elijah that very day. It is interesting that Elisha said, in each instance, “Yes, I know, but don’t speak of it.” (This reminds me of the messianic prophecies and how Jesus told even a demon to keep quiet about who He was, as in Luke 4:35.)
Elijah performs a miracle at the Jordan by striking the water with his cloak and causing the waters to divide so they could cross on dry ground. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, in other words, he wants the first born son’s inheritance, which Elijah warns is a difficult thing, but not too hard for God, of course. “If you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise, not,” he tells him.
Next is the scene that many people misconstrue: read verses 1 and 11 again and if you thought that Elijah was carried away on that chariot (swing low, sweet chariot) you’ll see that the fiery chariot and horses merely separated Elijah and Elisha before Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Well, Elisha saw this so now he’ll get that double portion of spirit (power, authority). First, though, he tore his clothes apart. Compare this to Mark 15: 38 and how the curtain of the temple was torn in two when Jesus died. By the way, Elisha cried out the very phrase that would be spoken by King Jehoash when the king weeps about Elisha’s death years later (2nd Kings 2:12 & 2nd Kings 13:14). Think about that!
Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak and performed the same miracle of parting the Jordan while the company of prophets from Jericho watched. These prophets knew that the Lord would take Elijah. They saw Elijah go up in the whirlwind, they saw Elisha take over with power and authority from God, yet what do they say? They want to go looking for Elijah, maybe he’s on a mountain or in a valley, they say. Such unbelief can only be likened to the continual denying of Jesus by the Jews who knew of the messianic prophecies, saw the miracles and fulfillment of Scripture yet are still looking. Did you notice how long the 50 prophets looked for Elijah? 3 days.