Elijah-Elisha (II Kings Chapter 2)

            This is the chapter describing the translation of Elijah and the beginning of the ministry of Elisha, his successor.

            Elijah had just been taken up to heaven by a whirlwind.


II Kings 2:12:

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father,…and he took hold of his clothes and rent them in two pieces.

            To rent clothes, garments or mantle is all one and the same thing. A mantle is usually a piece of white cloth three or four yards long and eighteen to twenty inches wide. They fold it over and over until it is 4 to 6 inches wide yet still the same length. They wear it folded about the neck and let it hang down to the knees or even below. When this cloth or garment is folded it is technically called a mantle in the Bible.

            The mantle is always a sign of authority and power. In the East it is called "The mantle of authority" worn by priests. No priest would think of preaching or administering the sacraments unless he had on the "mantle of authority" which in the Christian Church is called the stole.

            Many times in the East the mantle is unfolded and worn on the body like a shawl, or a shirt or it may even be called a sheet. The poorest use the mantle to cover with during the night.

            The Eastern people dress with their underclothing and then with a long piece of clothing that hangs from the shoulders to the ankles called the robe or cloke. Over this they wear a garment that hangs from the shoulders to the knees only and this is called the coat. Then over this they still wear or hang the mantle.

            Jesus instructed his followers that if any men should ask them for their coat they were to give their robe also. According to Bible customs when you get rid of your coat and robe you still are not naked although in the Bible it is called naked. You still have your "under clothes," but it is an indication of giving your all. For in the East many times a man has no other possession than what he wears.

            People rent the mantle in two pieces at times of death, sorrow, distress or anger, showing thereby, that the authority is broken, gone. There by the Eastern people indicate to those round about them as to what is going on inside of their hearts. To rend the clothes, garments or mantle is always a sign of some great calamity or happening.

            Elisha saw the ascension of Elijah and the word Elijah means "God himself" so Elisha did what every Oriental of Bible times would do, tore his mantle in two pieces and threw it away, indicating great sorrow of heart and the authority of Elijah gone.

            Verse 12 is where the Roman Catholics get the idea of calling their spiritual leaders "Father."

            I now also want to just indicate the true Oriental meaning of verses 23 and 24 which have caused the Western people to error much.

            Elisha was on his way to Bethel. The word Bethel means "House of God." Elisha was going up to worship God, and while he was on the way "there came forth little children out of the city and mocked him" (verse 23). The words "little children" does not mean children in the sense we in the West interpret it, 6 or 7 years of age. Grown up people in the East are many times referred to affectionately as children, and more especially as "little children" when grown-ups show their stupidity.

            These were all adults who came out of the city after Elisha and said to him, "Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head" (verse 23).

            When you understand what had transpired you can't miss the importance and greatness of this happening. Elijah the great prophet of God had just been taken away and here was a "little nobody" called Elisha who was going to try to fill the shoes of that great man of God. How foolish could a man get, a man like Elisha, to think that he could now go to Bethel, the House of God, and take up where Elijah had left off. To them it was conceit and folly on the part of Elisha, therefore, they said "Go up, bald-head, go up, but it won’t do you any good. You are a fool."

            In the East to call a man a "bald-head" does not mean he hasn't any hair, it means fool. To call a man this is a great insult and more especially so here because Elisha had been called of God to "fill the shoes"of Elijah.

            These people were mocking Elisha, trying to make a fool of him, but God won't have His called ones mocked. Elisha could have passed on without saying or doing a thing but that again would not be the Oriental way of life.

            In Eastern society when men or women are acting up, being silly or making foolish remarks, it is an established principle and procedure that the older people or a religious man must correct them because they believe that if they do not correct them that their sin will be upon them for not correcting the parties concerned. So Elisha as a religious man could not let them go uncorrected.

            The Authorized Version says, "And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the Name of the Lord" (verse 24). The word "cursed" does not mean what the West has given it to mean. It means "corrected" or "challenged." To the Western mind it means "condemnation" or something worse.

            Elisha said and did the following as every true religious man would do, "Listen, you call me a fool, don't you dare to do that for you are hurting God for I am a man of God and to prove it to you, do you see those bears coming, you better change your mind and way of acting. "
            The word "tare" is not in the Eastern Versions, meaning, to kill, as it does to you in the West. The word is "frightened" and properly so for the prophet proved his ability and authority to the doubters who called him a fool, and they admitted their error by fleeing from the "she bears" who after all do not eat human flesh.

            These last few verses have caused such error in the West simply because we do not understand the Eastern way of society nor idioms or figures of speech. We need to know the truth in order to be set free. This applies to everything in life including the Bible which is The Word of God.

Bishop K.C. Pillai, D.D.

Anthony Gilmore,
May 5, 2012, 6:12 AM