2 Kings 2

2 Kings 2:3-7 the sons of the prophets… at Bethel… at Jericho… by Jordan
During Elijah’s ministry there were large groups of “prophets.” Remember, Obadiah tried to gain favor with Elijah telling him how he had saved and fed 100 prophets in a cave (1 Kgs. 18:13). Eventually, even the 100 that Obadiah protected must have been hunted down and slaughtered because Elijah declared he was the last surviving prophet, “I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord” (1 Kgs. 18:22). As Elijah transfers his mantle to Elisha, there is no more mention of the prophet group—rather, “the sons of the prophets” becomes the new term. Presumably, this is because all of the prophets were killed.
Who were “the sons of the prophets”? The scripture doesn’t tell us, but we can infer a few things. Obviously, they were followers of Jehovah, believers in the priesthood of Elijah, and privy to the imminent translation of Elijah. The scripture speaks of them as “sons of” the prophets suggesting a difference in their priesthood or organization than their fathers. Perhaps they were not lucky enough to attend Elijah’s School of the Propehts.
We can speculate that their fathers the prophets were organized under the Priesthood by the keys of Elijah. We can speculate that the sons of the prophets were not so organized. This may be helpful in understanding how Elijah was the last to hold certain priesthood keys even though he passed his prophetic mantle down to Elisha. We can surmise, therefore, that the priesthood and the prophetic office continued through Elisha, but the priesthood organization and keys did not.
Joseph Smith
Elijah was the last prophet to hold the keys of the priesthood. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 172)
2 Kings 2:8 Elijah took his mantle… and smote the waters, and they were divided
The dividing of the waters, whether the Jordan or the Red Sea, became the symbol of ultimate prophetic power. Moses started this miracle, Joshua continued it (Josh. 3). The children of Israel were given a sign of God’s divine approbation when the waters divided; it meant the individual was the Lord’s prophet.
This is the symbolism of Elijah and Elisha dividing the Jordan (v. 14). They were prophets; their power to divide the waters symbolized their power over the elements—a power that could only come from God.
As we speak of Elisha receiving a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, another related scripture comes to mind. “This is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground” (D&C 8:3). We might think of the priesthood as the power by which the waters were divided. This scripture links “the spirit of revelation” to the miracle. The spirit of revelation is the spirit which Elisha desires in double portion. We should desire the same spirit—not so we can divide the waters of the Red Sea, but so we can successfully navigate our individual journey through the “wilderness of Sinai” (Ex. 19:1).
George Q. Cannon
The same Spirit of revelation that Moses had…has rested upon men that have held the keys of this kingdom, whether it was during President [Brigham] Young's life or at the present time—that same Spirit of revelation rests upon him who holds the presidency as senior apostle in the midst of the people of God. The apostles of this Church have all the authority, they have all the keys, and it is within the preview of their office and calling to have all the Spirit of revelation necessary to lead this people into the presence of the Lamb in the celestial kingdom of our God. (Journal of Discourses, 21:264-271)
2 Kings 2:9 Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me
This chapter presents a semantic problem for LDS theology. As latter-day saints, we speak of the Spirit of Elijah differently than it is meant in this verse. We think of the Spirit of Elijah as being the divine influence which turns the hearts of the children to their fathers, that makes an individual interested in genealogy, that drives us to seek out our family histories, to do temple work for our forefathers, to seal our deceased relatives to us in a long, unbroken chain of priesthood power. Is that the spirit that Elisha wanted from Elijah?
We have alluded to the fact that the keys of this power did not continue with Elisha. We don’t know why. The scripture doesn’t say. We usually attribute a loss of keys to apostasy, but there may be something else operative here. At any rate, what Elisha desires from Elijah is not the keys of vicarious temple work, it is something else. Elisha wants a double portion of the Spirit of Revelation; he wants a double portion of power of seership by which immediate events are in plain view; he wants a double portion of the power to perform miracles. As Elder Charles W. Callis stated, “This is the Spirit that gives vision, the Spirit that shows the things of God unto man. And so, Latter-day Saints, with you, I fervently and humbly pray, ‘Lord, give us a double portion…” (Conference Report, October 1924, Third Day—Morning Session 136)
All these gifts of spiritual power, he gets. The keys of temple ordinances, he doesn’t.
Douglas L. Callister
Elijah inquired of Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for thee.” Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (2 Kgs. 2:9) He could not have asked for anything greater.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith has written: “The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth. … Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.”
With our confirmation as Church members, the door is opened for us to pursue this heavenly endowment. This should be an urgent and lifelong quest. (“Seeking the Spirit of God,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 30–31)
Vaughn J. Featherstone
The vicarious experiences I have had could not be bought with all the treasures of the earth. I have associated with many of the great and noble of the earth. I have felt like Elisha must have felt when he was with Elijah just prior to Elijah's ascension to heaven in a whirlwind.
And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. (2 Kgs. 2:8-9.)
I have often felt to say, "Let a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me" as I have associated with the Brethren and have come to know and love them. The best men and the greatest men I know have committed their lives and souls to Jesus Christ. (Commitment [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 95)
2 Kings 2:10 thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken…
John Taylor
Elisha, knowing that he had something to do and that he was about to be left alone, and that he might be the better prepared to perform the work before him, requested Elijah to let a double portion of his spirit rest upon him. But could Elijah grant his request? No, he could not. What answer did Elijah make him? He said, thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou seest me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not it shall not be so. How did Elijah know that? Because he knew that the Melchisedec Priesthood holds the keys of the mysteries and the revelations of God; and that if he could see him as he ascended, it would be an evidence to him that the Lord had granted his request, although he himself had not power to grant it, Elisha would then know that his prayer was heard. Those other [sons of the] prophets, who knew that Elijah was to be translated, went and stood to view the event afar off; I do not suppose that they saw anything of Elijah as he was being taken up into heaven. But he was taken up, and Elisha saw the manner in which he went, and cried out, "My father! my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof." And how did he see them? God had conferred upon him that priesthood by which he was enabled to see them… Why? Because the Melchisedec Priesthood holds the keys of the mysteries and the revelations of God. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 21: 249)
2 Kings 2:11 Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven
Joseph Fielding Smith
Elijah called Elisha to follow him, and finally, when Elijah was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire, Elisha became the prophet in Israel in the stead of Elijah.
Now, there was a reason for the translation of Elijah. Men are not preserved in that manner unless there is a reason for it. Moses was likewise taken up, though the scriptures say that the Lord buried him upon the mountain. Of course, the writer of that wrote according to his understanding; but Moses, like Elijah, was taken up without tasting death, because he had a mission to perform.
They had to have tangible bodies… The Lord preserved [Moses], so that he could come at the proper time and restore his keys, on the heads of Peter, James, and John, who stood at the head of the dispensation of the meridian of time. He reserved Elijah from death that he might also come and bestow his keys upon the heads of Peter, James, and John and prepare them for their ministry…
Why was Elijah reserved? What keys did he hold? What keys did he bestow on Peter, James, and John? Exactly the same keys that he bestowed upon the head of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. And what were they? Some of you may be saying the keys of baptism for the dead, No, it was not just that. Some of you may be thinking it was the keys of the salvation of the dead. No, it was not just that, that was only a portion of it. The keys that Elijah held were the keys of the everlasting priesthood, the keys of the sealing power, which the Lord gave unto him. And that is what he came and bestowed upon the heads of Peter, James, and John; and that is what he gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith; and that included a ministry of sealing for the living as well as the dead—and it is not confined to the living and it is not confined to the dead, but includes them both. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 107)
2 Kings 2:24 there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them
The priesthood has the power to curse as well as to bless. This story is not politically correct by modern standards but shows the power of the priesthood to punish those who mock the prophets or the Lord. Does it seem extreme? Sure. Does it seem harsh? Yes, but modern interpreters have felt that the translation should be rendered youth instead of children.
A story of bears killing mocking teenagers somehow seems less of a crime against humanity than the mauling of innocent children. In fact, some frustrated parents might consider such an offering a mere extension of the practice of animal sacrifice.