Sometimes, as Christians, we wonder: Do I really need to speak truth into other people’s lives? Can’t I stay unobtrusive and not make people uncomfortable? It’s the pastor’s job anyway, right?
Recently, I learned something about Elijah’s mantle, answering this question. In 2 Kings chapter 2, we see that Elijah knows he will leave soon. He starts walking, and Elisha, his disciple, follows him everywhere! At the Jordan River, Elijah takes off his mantle, folds it and strikes the water with it and the Jordan parts so that he and Elisha walk over on dry land. Fifty young prophets waited near Jericho. On the other side of the river, Elijah tells Elisha, “Ask what shall I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elisha responds, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” Elijah says, “…. if you see me taken away from you, then it shall be so for you.” As they casually go along, walking and talking, a chariot and horses of fire appear. It separates them, and a windstorm picks up Elijah, and he disappears. His mantle falls to the ground. So, Elisha picks it up and heads back to the Jordan to cross over to Jericho. He strikes the water the same way Elijah had…the water parts, and he goes back to the waiting fifty sons of the prophets. When they saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha!”
I wondered, what is the big deal about the mantle? Turns out it’s another word for cloak or robe. The Hebrew word in this passage is ‘addereth.’ It means glory, wide, glorious, and majestic. In ancient Hebrew, “the addereth is a rather unique type of robe. It can carry the meaning of glory or honour. It is a common cloak that prophets wore, a robe. The Hebrew (אדרת) suggests something of beauty and splendour [Josh 7:21]. The prophet’s attire may have been simple, but the image it conveyed was one of great dignity.” The Bible dictionary explains that the presentation of a robe, in many instances, amounted to the installation or investiture of someone in a new position. So, the mantle falling for Elisha to pick up was no accident. It was from the Lord. It signified that Elisha was continuing where Elijah left off.
Now, the historical aspect of the double portion that Elisha asked for is interesting. Double means times two, and I always thought that is why Elisha did twice as many miracles as Elijah, but that is NOT what Elisha was asking for. ‘Portion’ in this passage means ‘from the mouth—as a means of blowing, or air coming out’. And wouldn’t you know it, words are air coming out of the mouth! A prophet of Jehovah was under the influence of Divine Spirit and would speak forth God’s words.
In Hebrew culture, a double portion was the firstborn son’s right. For example, if there are five sons, the land inheritance would be split into six equal portions. The firstborn would get two-sixths, and the other four sons would get one-sixth each. He would be the leader in the home and able to exercise authority like the father. But he then also carries the responsibility to provide food, clothing, and other necessities for his mother until her death and his sisters until they are married.
Now, why and what was Elisha asking for? In those days, the presence of God wasn’t guaranteed as we have today. Today, when we surrender our lives to Jesus and believe and obey Him, we always have His Presence inside us! (John 14:16-21). Elisha didn’t have that. God’s intimate presence was specifically for the prophets, and Elijah longed for that same kind of intimacy with Jehovah that Elijah had. He wasn’t leaving his mentor’s side until that happened.
It made me ask: do we, do I, long for intimacy with Jesus this way? To know the heart of Jesus and walk in it every day? This is our privilege! One of God’s many promises is that we will have His Spirit forever! I pray that we long for Jesus, to know Him better, and walk with him this way.
Elijah’s mantle falling for Elisha to pick up signifies the spiritual inheritance that Elisha has just received from God. It’s a tangible picture of his investiture to the role of prophet and his responsibilities to care for God’s people as Elijah had and as God asked him to. All a prophet is called to do is speak God’s Word to those He puts in their path. Mark and Matthew’s gospels tell us that Jesus told His disciples (and therefore to us!) to go and preach the gospel to all creation.
The sons of the prophets saw something different in Elisha when he returned. They called it the spirit of Elijah, but it was really the presence of Jehovah, Elisha’s inheritance. All believers in Jesus have this exact same inheritance! I pray that people will see Jesus’ Spirit in us.
In the same way, a firstborn son cares for his family after his father’s death; by both provision and correction, the prophet provides counsel, knowledge of scripture, care for their hearts and corrective challenges to guide people back into relationship with Jehovah. We are all called to do this daily in our relationships with everyone around us. To do this well, we need a continually growing intimacy/relationship with Jesus.
By: Rachel Layoun