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his sorrow for his own and Israel's loss, but brake forth into pathetic lamentations: My father! My father! the thariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof! Elisha considered himself as a fatherless child, thrown on the wide world, for Elijah had been the guide of his youth. The people of Israel had lost their best guard; for this prophet, by his counsel, reproofs, and prayers, and kept off the judgments of God, which their wickedness would otherwise have provoked; and was, on this account, better to them than the strongest force of horses and chariots : the departure therefore of this holy man was like the routing of an army, an irreparable loss.”
The miraculous manner in which Elijah was taken from earth is very astonishing; and it is impossible to give a more satisfactory explanation of it than that which we find in the scriptures; because there is no accounting for it by natural means, as it was an extraordinary act of ALMIGHTY POWER, exerted for a peculiar purpose.
-Numbers of the prophets had been permitted of Gov to come to untimely ends, which had given occasion to wicked men to exult over their survivors, and to dispute the power and goodness of the LORD, as he had not interposed to preserve his servants from the rage of their enemies. That renraining prophets might not be intimidated from discharging their duty, by the miserable fate of their predecessors, it pleased Gon to convince them, that there was another world, in which they would be ecure from the persecutions of their enemies, and receive
recompence for all the sufferings they should endure on earth. Nothing could more effectually answer this purpose than the visible translation of Elijah; as it pointed out to the faithful, that those holy men, who went before, were exalted to a state of happiness, though their exaltation was not apparent to mortal eyes, because they
left their bodics behind them; but we may reasonably conjecture, (from many texts in scripture) that their deaths had been made easy to them by the comforts of the HOLY SPIRIT; and that their souls were honoured in the sight of angels, who conducted them to that paradise of rest, appointed by the SUPREME BEING, for those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and immortality. If any one amongst the,, prophets deserved to be exempted from death as a reward, surely it was Elijah, who had so often boldly exposed his life in the discharge of the duties of his office. How his body was changed, and rendered fit for a celestial existence, is a vain enquiry, for it is impossible for us to know. 19
Elisha, when his transport of grief was over, clad himself in Elijah's mantle, which he received as a token of the descent of the HOLY SPIRIT upon him; and, willing to try whether he was also invested with the power of Elijah, he smote the waters of Jordan, earnestly seeking the aid of the LORD, and received the same favour as had been lately granted to his master. This miracle was a convincing proof to the sons of the prophets, who were spectators of it, that the Spirit which inspired Elijah did rest .upon Elisha, and that he was entitled to the same respect as they had been accustomed to pay to his predecessor and they readily submitted to him as their chief or father, which no doubt was a great encouragement to Elisha.
The proposal which the prophets made to search for Elijah, might proceed from their affection for him, which inclined them to hope that he would yet be restored to them; or they might think it necessary to make this search, in order to justify to the people their acceptance of Elisha in his stead. Elisha was at last ashamed to oppose them, lest he should be thought wanting in respect. to his old master, or reluctant to resign his mantle.
Elijah left this world in the beginning of the reign of Jehoram king of Israel.
ELISHA HEALETH THE WATERS OF JERICHO-THE CHILDREN OF BETHEL SLAIN BY BEARS.
From 2 Kings, Chap. ii.
And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
And he said, bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more dearth, or barren land.
So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up thou bald-head, go up thou bald-head.
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
And he went from thence to mount Carmel; and from thence he returned to Samaria.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. Jericho was the first city which the Israelites took,
* Sect. xxxviii. vol. ii.
after they passed the river Jordan. There is reason to suppose, that the inhabitants were incorrigibly wicked, for they were all extirpated by the command of the LORD, excepting Rahab the harlot, and her relations. The Israelites were strictly enjoined to destroy the city, and every thing in it, but the vessels of silver and gold, which were consecrated to the service of the tabernacle; and that the ruins of Jericho might remain as a monument of God's wrath against the Canaanites, and of his mercy to his chosen people, Joshua, in the name of the LORD, forbad them to rebuild it; assuring them that whoever should attempt it, would lay the foundation in his firstborn; and in his youngest son should he set up the gates of it. This threatening (which implied that the whole posterity of the man who presumed to build on that spot should be cut off) was fulfilled in the days of Ahab king of Israel. Hiel*, one of the idolatrous inhabitants of the city of Bethel, in defiance of the curse well-known in Israel, began to build it. His eldest son died immediately; but Hiel proceeded in contempt of the Divine wrath, and gradually lost all his children, the youngest of whom was cut off just as he had completed his impious work. The blessing of the LORD was however denied to the city, till it pleased GOD to restore, by the hand of Elisha, wholesomeness to the water, and fertility to the soil, for the benefit of his servants the prophets, who had a school there.
After this acceptable service was performed for the city of Jericho, Elisha departed thence, in order to visit another shool of the prophets at Bethel. In this city was one of the golden calves which Jeroboam set up as an object of worship; to which abominable idolatry the inhabitants of the place still adhered. There is reason to
*See Sect. xxxviii. vol. ii.
think, that they had received intimation of Elisha's approach, and regarding him as their professed adversary, resolved to treat him with derision and contempt. For this purpose they sent their children, or young men, to insult him, not merely as an old man, but as the servant of the LORD JEHOVAH. The indignity was not intended against Elisha alone: they did not only reflect upon his bage, person, and character, by calling him BALD HEAD, but upon his master Elijah, and in him upon the service and servants of GoD, and, even upon God Himself. For when they said Elisha, Go up, and repeated it, they meant to bid him ascend, as his master had done before him, who went up by a whirlwind into heaven. It is very likely, that these impious youths, who came forth out of the city and mocked, would have gone farther, and might have killed the good old man. We cannot wonder that Elisha was commanded to curse (or doom them to destruction) by the authority of the LORD; nor that so dreadful a judgment was inflicted on them; for the honour of GOD was concerned in the preservation of his holy prophet, and the punishment of such open insulters of his chosen servant.
Elisha, from every instance of his life which is recorded, appears to have been of a mild, benevolent disposition; from whence there is reason to conclude, that he would have forgiven any personal affront to himself: and we
These comments on the death of the children of Bethel are taken from the vindicatlon of Elisha's conduct towards them, which may be found in Dr. Gregory Sharpe's Second Argument in Defence of Christianity, &c. This learned author informs us, that the Hebrew word, "here rendered LITTLE, is a general term for quantity or quality; which when applied to the offspring of men, does not always imply little, or small in stature, but is oftentimes used to distinguish them from the more advanced in years, as the young from the old. The other word children is in very many places used for young men. and servants.