“He Took Up . . .the Mantle of Elijah”
2 Kings 2; 5–6
LDS manual: here
OMFSM, 2 Kings is a tough reading. It’s nothing but this or that king, and either they were a good king (just like David) and they did everything Jehovah wanted (usually destroying other people and/or their religious iconography), or they were just the worst person ever and they liked Baal a lot.
Fortunately, there’s a bit of a buddy story going on between Elijah and Elisha.
Elijah is up to his old tricks, setting a hundred people on fire…
1:9 Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.
1:10 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
1:11 Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.
1:12 And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
and getting taken up into heaven, dropping his mantle to Elisha in the process…
2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
2:12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
2:13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
which Elisha then uses to do magic tricks. These include:
• parting the river
2:14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
• reviving children by inflating them
4:32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.
4:33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.
4:34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.
4:35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
• fixing poisoned food using flour (don’t try this at home)
4:38 And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.
4:39 And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.
4:40 So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.
4:41 But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.
• healing Naaman of leprosy (but only if he washes seven times in the Jordan River)
5:14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
• and giving the leprosy to someone else. I didn’t know leprosy was transferrable. Notice that the leprosy doesn’t transfer to one person, but all his children forever.
5:25 But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.
5:26 And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
5:27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
• Also, making iron float.
6:4 So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
6:5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
6:6 And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
There are still the usual struggles between Jehovah and Baal. You’d think with Jehovah / Jesus being real and almighty and Baal being imaginary, this would be no contest, but — wouldn’t you know — even a god can’t make his omnipotent will happen without a little help from his friends. And when I say “a little help”, I mean “wholesale killing”, when Jehu kills all the priests and followers of Baal by subterfuge.
10:18 And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
10:19 Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
10:20 And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
10:21 And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.
10:22 And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.
10:23 And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.
10:24 And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.
10:25 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.
10:26 And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
10:27 And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
10:28 Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
Jehovah/Jesus thinks all this murder is just dandy.
10:30 And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.
Even so, the lost tribes are lost
17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
as Israel abandons (and in turn, is abandoned by) Jehovah
17:16 And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.
17:17 And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
17:18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.
17:19 Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
17:20 And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.
God cops a bit of an attitude because he’s not being worshipped enough, so he allows his people to either be murdered or become refugees. It’s a bit like the Flood, when people weren’t sufficiently obeisant for him, so he wipes them out. This god isn’t really good at doing stuff.
After this, God has a bit of a pout, and when other people start living in the area, he sends lions to eat them.
17:24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.
17:25 And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.
Even Judah stops believing.
21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah.
21:6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
21:10 And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
21:11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
21:12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
21:13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
That might have been the end of Jehovah. But then, like in a bad movie where someone awakens ancient evil by accident, someone finds a book about Jehovah, and the curse is renewed.
22:8 And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
22:9 And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
22:10 And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
22:11 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
22:12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying,
22:13 Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
Nooo — humanity, what have you done? They’ve restarted all the Jehovah / Jesus crap again. Now all this intolerant religious bullshit has to return. Destruction of trees and sodomites ensues.
23:4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
23:5 And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
23:6 And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.
23:7 And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.
Apparently human sacrifice was not out of the question.
23:20 And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
Let’s just remember that religious intolerance is in the very DNA of Christianity and Judaism. It reminds us once again how difficult it is for followers of religions to get along with followers of other religions. To co-operate and compromise is tantamount to idolatry, if you take your god seriously.
If the story really went down like this, then it seems that belief in Jehovah was really tenuous for a while there. He might have vanished from disbelief, and become just another in the panoply of failed gods. Here’s just a short list.
And as vicious and jealous and capricious as Jehovah is, his disappearance would have been a good thing. But no — these assholes had to go and dig him up. And that’s why in the 21st century, people knock on your door telling you about religion, and why sodomy and gay marriage are illegal.
Also, the Crusades.
Main points from this lesson
Elisha and the bears
One of God’s biggest dick moves in the Bible happens in this reading. God sends bears to kill 42 young people for calling Elisha ‘baldy’.
2:23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
I can understand the desire to harm insolent youngsters — one kid made a crack about my hair once — but there’s just no explanation for this incident that doesn’t scream “disproportionate response”.
Apologetics websites fall all over themselves to provide an answer. They weren’t children! There must have been lots of them, posing a threat to Elisha! “Go up” was a threat!
This is all so much twaddle. If the god of the Bible is all-powerful, could he have come up with a way to protect Elisha without killing anyone (with bears or otherwise)? Then why didn’t he? Like many other stories in the OT, this is just another example of a god who’s concerned with showing his power, no matter who gets hurt.
Succession in the Presidency
The real lesson manual uses the handover between Elijah and Elisha to talk about the issue of succession in the presidency of the LDS Church. Let’s see what they have to say.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church. The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency. The president is not elected, but he has to be sustained both by his brethren of the Council and by the members of the Church” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:156).
JFS thought the matter was settled, but this would be news to the Reorganized Church, the Strangite Church, the Bickerton Church, or any of the many splinter movements that arose after the death of Joseph Smith.
This is what struck me when I first found out about the various Mormon sects: Isn’t it odd that God would go to the trouble of restoring the church, and then be so vague about who was to take it over upon Smith’s death? The possibility seems not to have occurred to Joseph Smith, which is why it’s strange for his modern followers to claim that he knew he was going to die at Carthage.
I think Smith expected to get away with it, which is why he made so little effort to establish his successor in an unambiguous manner. I don’t think he expected to die; I think he expected to become president of the United States.
I want to get more into this, but I have a practice of not cannibalising future lessons, and I think this topic is going to come up again. So we’ll go deeper the next time this comes up.
Additional ideas for teaching
This name for Satan appears in chapter 1, as the Baal (or god) worshipped by those in Ekron.
1:2 And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.
The zebub part means flies, making the name, in all, “Lord of the Flies“. This adds a dimension to the title of the William Golding novel.
The name Beelzebub will appear again in Matthew 10:25.
Waking up dead
A funny little translation glitch occurs in 2 Kings 19. The angel of the Lord smites the Assyrians. As soon as they wake up, they realise they’re dead. Maybe they were only mostly dead.
19:35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
You must admit: waking up is a strange reason to die. As the Gregory Brothers so aptly songified in our closing hymn (at 2:03).
Extra: I don’t know how to work this in to the lesson, so I’ll just leave it here.