2 Kings 2

Elijah's Last Day


Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal (2 Kings 2:1).

An inscribed potsherd with the name of “Elisha” was discovered at the site of Tel Rehov in the Jordan Rift, about 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Elisha’s hometown of Abel-meholah. The proximity in terms of both geography and chronology has led some archaeologists to suggest that this may refer to the same Elisha as mentioned in the book of Kings. The inscription was written in large letters in red ink.

From Bethel to Jericho

So they came to Jericho (2 Kings 2:4).

The logical route from Bethel to Jericho would have been along the Zeboim Route. This view is from the hill country in the area of Bethel, looking down toward the area of Jericho (not visible on the valley floor behind the hills). The path followed by Elijah and Elisha as they descended to Jericho would have been here or very close to here.

Fording the Jordan

And they stood by the Jordan (2 Kings 2:7).

Prior to the construction of bridges, rivers had to be crossed by wading or swimming across. Some places were naturally easier to cross because of depth, the steepness of the banks, and the makeup of the river bottom. Roads led to and from these crossing places and would have provided a more natural place for Elijah and Elisha to cross. In a flat plain like the lower Jordan, the location of fords sometimes changes as the course of the river changes, making it impossible to tell exactly where an ancient ford might have been located. This is an early photo of one of the fords of the Jordan. This photograph comes from Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee and was taken in the early 1890s.

The Other Side

As they were walking and talking . . . (2 Kings 2:11)

Crossing the Jordan River brought Elijah and Elisha into the Plains of Moab, a region best known as the place of the Israelites’ encampment when Moses delivered the book of Deuteronomy and died. It may well be that the Lord directed Elijah to come here specifically so that the connection between these two great prophets would be strengthened. The traditional area of “Bethany beyond the Jordan” is opposite Jericho and thus the approximate area where Elijah was walking when he was taken up to heaven.

Elijah's Ascension

As they were walking . . . , a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated them (2 Kings 2:11).

Although the text is ambiguous about how Elijah was taken up (did the whirlwind take him up by himself, or did it take him up in the chariot?), there is a long tradition of portraying Elijah as ascending to heaven in a chariot, as illustrated on this sarcophagus fragment from the 3rd or 4th century AD. This relief also reflects its Roman setting in its portrayal of the chariot as a four-horse quadriga. This fragment of a sarcophagus was photographed at the Vatican Museums.

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