Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
2 Kings 2:1-25
2 Kings 4:1-44
Questions & Observations
Q. (2 Kings 2:1-6): How far is it from Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan River? Could Elijah and Elisha made it to all three places in one day?
A. Don’t forget where they started, at Gilgal, so they didn’t even start in Bethel. The notes that I have say that this is a total journey of between 25 and 30 miles. That’s a long way, but not outside the realm of possibility. My notes also say that we tend to assume, but it doesn’t say, that they walked the entire distance. They might have had transportation for some portion of the trip.
Q. (2:9-10): Is Elisha being greedy here, asking for a double share of Elijah’s spirit? Elijah said it would be a difficult thing to get.
A. Apparently God didn’t think so, because He granted the request, as confirmed with the cloak parting the Jordan.
Q. (2:17): Is Elisha showing weakness here by allowing the men to go search for Elijah? Apparently Elisha was the only one that witnessed Elijah going up in the chariot?
A. I think he just wanted to stop hearing about it, he knew Elijah was gone, but couldn’t convince his companions until they couldn’t find him on their own. The story implies Elisha was the only one to see Elijah being taken.
Q. (2:24): I would think that a more proper response for this situation would be for Elisha to influence the youth in a positive way without having them killed. They are youth and kind of expected to make unwise choices, but instruction could set them straight. But I am not a prophet.
A. The cultural gist of the insult — calling him bald — that the boys/young men use (these aren’t children we’re talking about here!) is that Elisha is diseased and unclean. That is most likely why he cursed them. I’m not really clear on why he reacts the way he does either, but, as you said, he is a man of God.
O. (4:8-37): The faith of the woman from Shunem is strong and true!
Q. (4:42-44): This story mirrors Jesus feeding the 5,000 with fish and bread. The olive oil story (4:1-7) is also used at least one more time. Is there some message the authors intended for readers today with the repetition of these stories, like “God WILL provide?”
A. While the idea of God’s provision is a major theme of scripture — think of the manna and water in the Exodus — these texts were not written with “modern” audiences in mind at all. They were written to tell the history of the Jewish people, including the fact that God was indeed faithful, to future generations of Jews. We are “eavesdropping,” if you will, on that conversation. One of the ways that this occurs, however, is that the Spirit of God works in the hearts of people today to remind them of things that we can learn by studying books like Kings. So there can be great benefit to us, even if it wasn’t “for” us.
As to the stories matching with things in the gospels, that is not a coincidence. One of the things that Jesus taught his followers is that He was, and is, the fulfillment of the Law, associated with Moses, and the Prophets — including Elijah and Elisha, see Matthew 11:13 and Luke 16:16. So it is no surprise to me that the gospel writers would share with their audience places where they saw Jesus doing things that Moses (trials in the wilderness, Matthew 4), or the Prophets did (like feeding people where there didn’t seem to be enough food, Mark 6). Part of that is emphasis, but part of it also is that understanding of the NT that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the best of old way, the OT, while establishing the NEW one.