5.72 2 Kings -- Prophetic Succession
Of more interest and importance than the succession of minor kings was the passing of the prophetic mantle (literally). Here in these decades of crisis, the Lord maintained an active presence through His spokesmen, a presence not merely of words but of signs and miracles as well. Consider that in 2 Kings 2, two cities are mentioned, Bethel and Jericho, and each had its own band of prophets. Furthermore the size of the Jericho group exceeded 50 men (2 Kings 2:7)! And this was in a time of persecution. Clearly, the prophetic tradition in Israel was a major religious current during these years of political chaos. These prophets were in touch with "meta-history," with the Real world behind our world of appearances:
"Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?" (2 Kings 2:3)
Elisha not only knew this, but told them to be quiet. He himself had no intention of losing sight of Elijah, so that he might claim the "inheritance" at his passing. An Israelite, as he lay dying, would give his sons a final blessing. So Elijah had a parting gift that he could bestow on his protege:
"Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" (2 Kings 2:9)
Elisha's request for a double portion has been much misunderstood. Instead of being grandstanding, it was in keeping with Israelite laws of inheritance: the firstborn son received a double portion (Deut 21:17). In this understanding, he was not asking for twice the anointing that Elijah had, but for succession to the position of chief prophet in his generation. At most, he would have received twice the anointing that any of the other Jericho prophets received (assuming Elijah's legacy was parcelled out among them). This interpretation is supported by Elisha's final cry:
"My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more (2 Kings 2:12).
Why did he call Elijah his father? We recall that Elisha had burnt his bridges when he followed Elijah, giving up his earthly goods and family estate. Elijah became Elisha's spiritual father, and the Spirit was his patrimony.