Elijah’s Final Journey

Chapter two! The last 11 verses with Elijah! What a journey it has been! Next, we’ll start Elisha  and I’ll probably write even more.

The first verse is intriguing. I’ll copy it down for convenience.

“And it came to pass when the Lord would take Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.”

The reason I talk about this is because it seems like the author wrote this after the fact and is throwing in his own commentary, that the time is drawing nigh when Elijah is taken up into Heaven. BUT at the time, the author makes it sound like Elijah knew he was going to be translated and this was the time and place. Can you imagine being a prophet and knowing you were about to be taken up? I think all prophets know when they are going to die or be translated. I think Elijah knew. How far in advance do you think? Can you imagine the anticipation? It would be like waiting in the bathroom to throw up. Something you couldn’t avoid because your time had come. Inevitability man, it kills.

In Gilgal

So the two of them are in Gilgal. Elijah says to Elisha to remain in Gilgal because the Lord told him to go to Bethel. Elisha says he will not leave/abandon/desert him. So they both go to Bethel together. I think this shows nicely the relationship between Elisha and Elijah. Even when Elijah wants to go alone, Elisha remains loyal to him. It doesn’t say much at all about the things these two did together but in my mind, you would become a pretty good person if you hung out with the prophet for a long time. It’s a small wonder that Elisha doesn’t want to leave him. Cross reference Ruth 1:16. She says something similar to what Elisha says. It’s really quite a beautiful verse.

Why Bethel?

Any significance in Bethel? Yes! Bethel or formerly called Luz (see Bible dictionary) was one of the most sacred spots in all of Israel. It was on the border of Ephraim and Benjamin. it was the location of Abraham offering sacrifice upon first entering the land of Canaan and where Jacob had his dream, set up a pillar and named it Bethel. I was looking through some of the scripture references for Bethel. It was talking about Abraham in Canaan. This was before Jacob’s time so it should have been called Luz in the scriptures. Since they weren’t, you can tell these stories were compiled after the time of Jacob. Possibly from the originals (an abridgment like Moroni?) Or perhaps the name Luz was changed to Bethel in the scriptures to facilitate further understanding since it was no longer known by Luz.

Cool tidbit: Bethel is the combination of the two Hebrew words, “beth” and “el.” Beth is a prefix that means “house of” and el means “god.” So Bethel means house of God. While we are on the topic of prefixes, I want to talk about “ben.” I know I talked about it many many posts ago when I was talking about Benhadad, but since coming to Malaysia, I have noticed a little bit more prominence. For review, “ben” is Hebrew meaning “son” or “son of.” Now, in Malaysia, there are hard, if any Hebrew people. In fact, I think they are banned from Malaysia. It says on Malaysian passports that they can’t go Israel. I don’t know if it works both ways. Anyway, we have a more prominent religion as you may be aware, Islam. In Arabic, they have a similar word they use instead of “ben.” I know this because of a taxi I was in one day. The taxi owners father, also a taxi driver took us. both had their permits on the dashboard and since they were both Muslim, and had Muslim names, I was able to compare them. In Arabic, they use “bin” instead of “ben.” Like Osama BIN Laden (Sorry, that’s the only example I could think of).  It’s interesting to see how close the two are because Islam claims lineage through Ishmael, the first of Abraham’s sons through Hagar. Whereas Hebrew lineage is through Isaac, the first of Abraham’s sons through Sarah. Interesting isn’t it?

In Bethel

So both Elijah and Elisha go to Bethel. As soon as they get there, prophets come up to Elisha and ask why he is with Elijah. They ask,” knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” This must have been a big event! All the prophets know! Was it no secret? How big was Elijah among the other prophets? These are all questions I don’t’ have an answer to.

How must Elijah feel right now? He clearly knows Elijah is going to be taken up today. Everyone is telling him no, leave him alone, let him go up by himself. Man, prophets-righteous people who talk to God are telling this guy to leave Elijah! Some of the hardest moments in my life have been choosing between two very good things. He can leave Elijah or not. Must have been a tough decision but I think he chose correctly. He was loyal to Elijah. He had been with him for a long time. How could he abandon him in his hour of almost translation? He even says unto the prophets,”yes , I know he’s leaving. Hold your peace.”

Then Elijah says, “Elisha, stay here. The lord has sent me to Jericho.” Elisha’s reply is the same. He will not leave him. I wish I knew Elisha’s motives for sticking around with him. I think they were good and based on a genuine love. I wonder if there are any books at Deseret Book on Elijah or Elisha’s life?  If so, that would be super cool! I would totally read them!

In Jericho

Let me look up in the Bible dictionary about Jericho. I know most people know something about it. It has been immortalized in songs and stories so I think a study of it in the BD will prove worthwhile. According to the BD, it is a walled city 800 ft. below sea level and is in the territory assigned to Benjamin in the valley of Jordan. One thing I didn’t know was that Christ visited the city on his last journey to Jerusalem. And Joshua placed a curse on the land that was later fulfilled.

Description of Jericho from the visitor center in Jericho

Description of Jericho from the visitor center in Jericho

Fountain at the visitor center in Jericho

Fountain at the visitor center in Jericho

Cross reference photo 15 in the back of the bible for a photo of Jericho. It is one of the oldest cities on Earth. I really do like the photo in the back. Good stuff. And they mean a lot more to you once you have read stories about them.

Walls of Jericho

Walls of Jericho from my trip.

 

Ruins in Jericho

Ruins in Jericho from my trip there.

Ruins of an ancient tower at Jericho

Ruins of an ancient tower at Jericho

In Jericho, the same thing happens. The sons of the prophets kecau (bother in Malay) Elisha about following Elijah. They say the exact same thing. Elisha tells them the exact same thing also as he told them in bethel. Do you think they were the same people just following him from city to city?

Same thing happens again. Elijah says this time he is going to Jordan (the river). Elisha says he won’t leave him. I want to know what this journey looks like on the map. We go from Gilgal to Bethel, Jericho, to the Jordan River. Here is a rough sketch.

My rough sketch of the journey of Elijah from Gilgal to the Jordan River.

My rough sketch of the journey of Elijah from Gilgal to the Jordan River.

This was based on map 10 in the back of the Bible. Trying to get an idea of how far a journey that was I measured. It’s hard to know for sure because I have no idea where Gilgal is located. Assuming it is right outside the city, it would be about 20 miles in full. Not too bad I can imagine.

Something interesting happens this time around. It says that 50 sons of the prophets follow him. Up to this point, it seems like all the people have remained in the city as Elijah and Elisha have passed through. Why this time are they following? Probably because it is getting late in the day and they know he is going to be taken up soon. After all, everyone is saying its happening today. Wow, 20 miles in one day, impressive. The Force is definitely strong with this one.

In Jordan

Anyway, 50 prophets follow them to Jordan, hoping to glance what is nigh unto commencing. But, as in verse 7 says, they stand back. They let Elisha and Elijah go down to the riverbanks alone.

What happens next is really quite something. Elijah takes off his mantle (shawl. See BD) wraps it up and smacks the water with it! He divides the Jordan River! Both of them walk across the river on dry ground. Can you imagine seeing this happen? How cool! It for sure isn’t every day that you see rivers stopped and divided as tow people cross over. But their fear awe, amazement, whatever they felt, was replaced by sadness as they realized that they would not get the desire of their heart in seeing what happened to Elijah and Elisha. For both had now crossed over and were alone in the homeland of Elijah, the wilderness of Gilead.

The Jordan River.

The Jordan River. It was a lot wider back then.

A view of the landscape surrounding the Jordan River. It's very dry.

A view of the landscape surrounding the Jordan River. It’s very dry.

Crossing The Jordan

Once they crossed over on the other side of the river, Elijah says to Elisha, “What do you want from me before I go?” Can you imagine this?  A prophet of God asking you to ask him for anything! Imagine President Monson saying,” Elder Jackson, what do you want before I die/ am translated?” I would answer that I wanted all the necessities to have a good life. Who am I kidding, though? I want stuff that isn’t temporal, but lasts for eternity! Maybe a good wife whom I can be sealed to in the temple ( Update: THAT CAME TRUE!!!!). Maybe a really fantastic knowledge of the scriptures. Maybe to know the mysteries of God. All of these would last longer than the temporal things I mentioned before.

I think Elisha realized this too. Spiritual things are of more worth than temporal things. I think he understood this because of his response. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be upon him. I’m not exactly sure what that means. Does that mean he wants to have twice as much spirit as Elijah? Twice as much power? There is a footnote for “double portion” I’m going to follow it.

The Double Portion

Cross reference Deuteronomy 21:17. This is talking about inheritance and “double portions” It is saying that if a man has two wives, one hated and one loved. Both have born him sons. However, if his firstborn son is by the hated wife, the father is obliged to give his firstborn son a double portion of his inheritance as an acknowledgment that he was the first and beginning. birthright? What I believe Elisha is saying when he asks this of Elijah is that “Hey, you have no family (that I, the writer, know of.) and I’m like your son. I follow you, help you, and I have learned from you. I want an inheritance as if I was your firstborn sons.” That sounded a lot more arrogant than I think it was in real life. I think what Elisha requested was reasonable according to the customs at the time.

With this in mind, Elijah’s response makes more sense. He says that Elisha has asked a hard thing of him. I don’t’ know the reasoning behind the response for sure. If he is referring to the customs I have talked about, yes, it definitely is a hard thing. I don’t think Elijah had much, if any, material possessions. It would be hard to leave something if you have nothing. Perhaps Elisha knew this and wanted a spiritual inheritance. this would also be hard to give since, in order to become strong in the gospel, you have to have those experiences and gain that knowledge fro yourself. It cannot be given to you. So when Elisha requested this thing, yeah, both ways you look at it would be hard to fulfill.

How Elisha Gains the Double Portion

Despite the hardness of the request, Elijah tells him if he sees him when he is taken up, his request will be granted.If not, his request will be denied. If a prophet told me all I had to do was play I SPY in order to obtain my desire, you better believe I would be looking. Ain’t nothing getting past my sight without me seeing it. I think there is more to this statement than appears first, though. One does not just simply see a person taken up. There has to be faith involved. With faith, the veil can be lifted and you can see things you normally wouldn’t see. Like a prophet being taken up into heaven. I think what Elijah is telling Elisha is that if he has enough faith, to the point of seeing Elijah taken up, he will receive his wish. through faith in Jesus Christ, all thing are possible. Also, I think Elijah probably knows who is going to be the next prophet and if he can exercise the faith required to see the taking of himself into heaven, he definitely ready to be the prophet.

I think this remains true today as well. I mean, it has to be if God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I think God is standing ready to grant our righteous desires if we but exercise a little faith in him. Maybe we aren’t asked to look for a prophet taken up in a whirlwind but rather, to continue reading the scriptures, going to church, praying, and otherwise enduring to the end. Maybe the granting of that desire won’t be as immediate as it was for Elisha. Maybe it will take patience and time, testing our faith and testimony  before the desire is realized. But I think all righteous desires, whatever the Lord’s timeframe will be granted according to our obedience. If God loves us as much as I think he does (he loves you more than you know). He is eager to grant those desires. Us mortals, being the flaky ones have to always remember the nature of God and our relationship to him. I think that would help the most in motivating myself and others to hold fast to covenants and duties.

Sir, Your Chariot Has Arrived

What happens next must have not only scared and surprised Elisha, it must have happened in the blink of an eye. They continued walking after talking about Elisha’s desire. When a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire, picked up Elijah and left in a whirlwind back up to heaven! Would have taken me by surprise!

Cross reference Abraham 2:7. It talks about how God controls the wind and fire to be his chariot and at his word, the mountains can be removed by a whirlwind. I think this scripture elaborates a little on God’s control of the elements and gives us a slightly better mental picture of how this stirring event could have taken place.

Cross reference Ezekiel 1:4. Great verse describing what the whirlwind could have looked like. I love how it is described. A great cloud…amber….brightness about it.

Well, that’s the end of Elijah’s story. Hope you liked it. who would have thought 11 verses could turn into 2627 words?

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2 thoughts on “Elijah’s Final Journey

  1. Pingback: The Priesthood Covenant and How Melchizedek Used It | Towards a Greater Light

  2. Pingback: A New Syrian Invasion and the Death of Elisha | Towards a Greater Light

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