Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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4 KINGS - Chapter 2

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4 Kings ii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Heaven. By heaven here is meant, the air, the lowest of the heavenly regions, (Challoner) through which he was carried by the ministry of angels, who directed the storm, (Haydock ) to the place designed for him. --- It is generally supposed to be Paradise, (Calmet) whither Henoch had been translated. (Haydock) --- They are still living, (Calmet) and must come again, to invite all to repent. After which they will die martyrs, in the persecution of Antichrist. (Haydock) --- See St. Augustine, de Gen. ad lit. ix. 6., and Apocalypse xi. (Worthington) --- Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 10. (Menochius) --- They are a proof of a future resurrection. (Calmet) --- To decide where the paradise which they inhabit, (Haydock) is situated, would be rash. (St. Chrysostom, hom. 21. in Gen. &c.) Some suppose it is still in some unknown region of the earth: others place it above the sky, (Menochius) or in the bosom of Abraham. (Calmet) --- The Jews (following Munster) assert that Elias penetrated the sphere of fire, where his body was consumed. (Vatable) --- The earthly paradise is very probably no longer existing, in its ancient luxuriant state. (Haydock) --- It may now be covered with the waters of the Persian Gulf. (Worthington)

Ver. 3. The sons of the prophets. That is, the disciples of the prophets; who seem to have had their schools, like colleges or communities, in Bethel, Jericho, and other places, in the days of Elias and Eliseus. (Challoner) --- Many of these disciples might be also their children. Elias collected some fervent souls together even at Bethel, to preserve the true religion, as much as possible. He visited them before his departure. (Calmet) --- Peace: let not Elias hear us.

Ver. 5. From thee. Hebrew, "from thy head," thy superior, and raise him into the air, ver. 3. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. Thee. Elias had tried the constancy of his disciple three times, as Christ required of St. Peter a triple confession of love, John xxi. 17. (Haydock) --- Humility might also prompt the prophet to desire to be alone. (Salien)

Ver. 8. Mantle. Septuagint meloten, "sheep skin," (Menochius) such as the prophets wore. The Syriac explains it of an ornament or bandage of the head; others, of a leathren mantle to keep off rain. Ad subitas nunquam scortea desit aquas. (Martial xiv.)

Ver. 9. Double spirit. A double portion of thy spirit, as thy eldest son and heir: or thy spirit, which is double, in comparison of that which God usually imparteth to his prophets; (Challoner) or the power of working miracles, as well as of prophesying. (Worthington) --- He wishes to excel his fellow disciples, rather than his master. (Tirinus) (Cajetan) (Amama) --- Double often means, great and perfect, Jeremias xvii. 18. If Eliseus even begged that he might perform more and greater wonders than his master, (as Christ enabled his disciples to surpass himself, in this particular, John xiv. 12.; Haydock) he might do it without pride, purely for the glory of God. He certainly shone forth with peculiar splendour; and some have enumerated sixteen or twenty-four of his miracles, while they can only find eight (Lyranus) or twelve recorded of Elias. See Cornelius a Lapide, in Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 13. (Calmet) --- We read a similar expression in Pindar, (Olym. vi.) where Neptune gave his son Jamus (Thesauron didumon mantosunas) "the double treasure of divination," p. 50. Ed. Step. (Haydock)

Ver. 10. Hard thing. Hebrew literally, "thou art hardened to ask" a thing so difficult, and which I have not the power to grant. But I will pray that thou mayst receive it; (Calmet) and I feel confident that thou wilt, if God shall grant thee the power to see me, at my departure. (Haydock) --- This he did, ver. 12. (Menochius) --- Elias had perhaps imagined that his disciple would have desired some of his clothes, or some advice. (Calmet) --- He left him his mantle, (ver. 13.; Haydock) and by prayer was enabled to communicate his spirit to him; as Moses and the apostles did to their assistants in the ministry. (Calmet)

Ver. 11. Horses. Angels assumed these forms, (Grotius) or a cloud, resembling a fiery chariot and horses, was impelled by a strong wind, under their guidance. (Tostat) (Menochius) (Salien, the year before Christ 914.) --- As the name of Elias is very like Helios, "the sun," some have supposed that they have the same meaning: (Sedulius, pasc. 1.) but the Hebrew term signifies, "He is my God." The pagans have taken occasion from this history to represent the sun drawn in a fiery chariot, by horses composed of the same element.

Animosos ignibus illis,

Quos in pectore habent, quos ore & naribus efflant. (Ovid, Metam. xii.) (Calmet)

--- Heaven; (see ver. 1.) where he lives free from all disturbance. (Tirinus) --- It is a constant belief, that he will come again before the last judgment; as his representative, John the Baptist, announced the first appearance of our Redeemer. (St. Gregory, hom. 7. in Ev.) Of this the Jews were convinced. (St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho) See Malachias iv. 5.

Ver. 12. Thereof. Thou alone wast equal to an army, in our defence. Chariots were then very common. (Calmet) --- Chaldean and Vatable, "Thou wast, by thy prayer, better to Israel than chariots and horses." So we should call a person, a pillar of the state, &c. (Tirinus) --- In giving the character of Elias, the Holy Ghost dwells in a particular manner on his burning zeal. (Calmet) --- Elias stood up as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch...he brought down fire from heaven thrice, on the holocaust, and on the captains. (Haydock) --- Who can glory like to thee? Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 1, 4. See Sts. Ambrose and Chrysostom on Elias. His resemblance with Christ is very striking. His name puts us in mind of Christ's divinity; who burnt with zeal for God's house, (John ii. 17.) was persecuted, (Calmet) raised the dead to life, rose again and ascended triumphant into heaven, having imparted his blessing (Haydock) and his sacraments to his disciples. (Calmet) --- No more, as he was taken from the company of men. (Haydock) --- Pieces, to express his grief, at being deprived of so excellent a master. (Menochius)

Ver. 13. Mantle, as an earnest of his affection. By the imposition of this mantle, he had been called to be a prophet, 3 Kings xix. 19.

Ver. 14. Not divided. God thus prevented him from giving way to vanity, (Abulensis, q. 28.) or thinking that he could do any thing of himself. (Haydock) --- Elias. Hebrew, "where is he?" (Calmet) --- The original and Septuagint (Alexandrian and Vatican) do not specify that he struck the waters twice, or that they did not divide at first. (Haydock) --- This is taken from other copies of the Septuagint. (Amama) --- The exclamation contains a most fervent prayer. Hebrew, "he smote the waters, and said: Where is the Lord God of Elias? and when he had stricken the," &c., which removes the idea of presumption, which (Haydock) some discover in the words of Eliseus. (Tirinus) (Sanctius) --- Now. Hebrew aph hu. Septuagint aphpho, retaining the words which Theodotion renders "the hidden" god. (Haydock) --- "Even he himself." (Aquila) (Calmet) --- When I stand so much in need of his assistance, (Menochius) having to perform his important functions, which cannot be done without his spirit, nor without the confirmation of miracles, before an unbelieving people. (Haydock)

Ver. 15. They worshipped him; viz., with an inferior, yet religious veneration, not for any temporal, but spiritual excellency. (Challoner) (Worthington) --- They had stopped on a hill, (Menochius) to see the event, ver. 7. (Haydock) --- Jericho itself is two hours' journey from the Jordan. (Adrichomius) --- The sons of the prophets had seen what had happened at the translation of Elias, and perceiving that Eliseus was invested with his mantle, and with the power of working miracles, they did not hesitate to acknowledge him for their superior, during the absence of Elias, who they expected would return. (Calmet)

Ver. 16. Valley. It seems such translations were not uncommon, 3 Kings xviii. 12. (Calmet)

Ver. 17. Send. He acquiesces, lest they might think that he was afraid of losing his superiority. (Menochius)

Ver. 19. Barren, owing to the salt or bituminous waters. Some think that they were muddy and of a loathsome smell. The fountain is still to be seen very abundant and excellent, watering the plain on the west of the city. Its source is about two miles distant on the road to Jerusalem. (Maundrell, p. 134.) (Calmet) --- Other parts of the environs were very fertile. (Menochius)

Ver. 20. Put salt. He removes every suspicion of imposture: if the waters were already saline, the remedy would seem contrary to his design, but it would display the miracle in a stronger light; and if they were only fetid and muddy, (Calmet) though (Haydock) salt might rectify a small quantity, (Palladius tit. 9. Vales, &c.) it could never correct the bad qualities of such a fountain for a length of time, by the mere force of nature. (Haydock) --- Josephus (Jewish Wars iv. 8.) represents Eliseus acting like a magician, being desirous to please the pagan readers with various embellishments. (Calmet)

Ver. 21. Barrenness. By the divine power they are become salubrious. (Haydock)

Ver. 23. Bald-head. It is not known whether Eliseus was really bald, or only wore his hair short, like the priests of the Lord, and the monks at present. It may also be a term of reproach, of which the emperors Julius Cęsar, Domitian, and Otho, were very sensible. Cęsar wore a crown of laurel, and Otho a sort of false hair, to hide this deformity. (Suetonius)

Quod summum formę decus est, periere capilli. (Petronius) (Calmet)

Ver. 24. Cursed them. This curse, which was followed by so visible a judgment of God, was not the effect of passion, or of a desire of revenging himself; but of zeal for religion, which was insulted by these boys, in the person of the prophet, and of a divine inspiration; God being determined to punish in this manner the inhabitants of Bethel, (the chief seat of the calf-worship) who had trained up their children in a prejudice against the true religion and its ministers. (Challoner) --- The boys themselves were not so little as not to be aware of the insult they were offering to a minister of the God of Juda; and probably they acted thus out of hatred to him, at the instigation of their idolatrous parents. (Sanctius) (Calmet) --- Lord. He called on him (Menochius) to revenge his own cause, (Haydock) "that the people might learn to take care of their souls, by the fear of death." (St. Augustine) (Du Hamel)

Ver. 25. Carmel. To avoid the indignation of the populace, and to instruct his disciples. --- Samaria. That he might be ready to give advice to the two kings, who were meditating an expedition against Moab. (Menochius)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Eliseus will not part from Elias. The water of the Jordan is divided by Elias's cloak. Elias is taken up in a fiery chariot, and his double spirit is given to Eliseus. Eliseus healeth the waters by casting in salt. Boys are torn by bears, for mocking Eliseus.

1 And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elias, into heaven, by a whirlwind, *that Elias and Eliseus were going from Galgal.

2 And Elias said to Eliseus: Stay thou here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as Bethel. And Eliseus said to him: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And when they were come down to Bethel,

3 The sons of the prophets, that were at Bethel, came forth to Eliseus, and said to him: Dost thou know that, this day, the Lord will take away thy master from thee? And he answered: I also know it: hold your peace.

4 And Elias said to Eliseus: Stay here, because the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And when they were come to Jericho,

5 The sons of the prophets, that were at Jericho, came to Eliseus, and said to him: Dost thou know that, this day, the Lord will take away thy master from thee? And he said: I also know it: hold your peace.

6 And Elias said to him: Stay here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as the Jordan. And he said: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on together.

7 And fifty men, of the sons of the prophets, followed them, and stood in sight, at a distance: but they two stood by the Jordan.

8 And Elias took his mantle, and folded it together, and struck the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they both passed over on dry ground.

9 And when they were gone over, Elias said to Eliseus: Ask what thou wilt have me to do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Eliseus said: I beseech thee, that in me may be thy double spirit.

10 And he answered: Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have what thou hast asked: but if thou see me not, thou shalt not have it.

11 And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold, a fiery chariot and fiery horses parted them both asunder: *and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Eliseus saw him, and cried: My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the driver thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own garments, and rent them in two pieces.

13 And he took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him: and going back; he stood on the bank of the Jordan;

14 And he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, that had fallen from him, and they were not divided. And he said: Where is now the God of Elias? And he struck the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over.

15 And the sons of the prophets, at Jericho, who were over-against him, seeing it, said: The spirit of Elias hath rested upon Eliseus. And coming to meet him, they worshipped him, falling to the ground,

16 And they said to him: Behold, there are with thy servants, fifty strong men, that can go, and seek thy master, lest, perhaps, the spirit of the Lord, hath taken him up and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said: Do not send.

17 But they pressed him, till he consented, and said: Send. And they sent fifty men: and they sought three days, but found him not.

18 And they came back to him: for he abode at Jericho, and he said to them: Did I not say to you? Do not send.

19 And the men of the city, said to Eliseus: Behold, the situation of this city is very good, as thou, my lord, seest: but the waters are very bad, and the ground barren.

20 And he said: Bring me a new vessel, and put salt into it. And when they had brought it,

21 He went out to the spring of the waters, and cast the salt into it, and said: Thus saith the Lord: I have healed these waters, and there shall be no more in them death or barrenness.

22 And the waters were healed unto this day, according to the word of Eliseus, which he spoke.

23 And he went up from thence to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, little boys came out of the city and mocked him, saying: Go up, thou bald-head, go up, thou bald-head.

24 And looking back, he saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord: and there came forth two bears out of the forest, and tore of them, two and forty boys.

25 And from thence he went to Mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.



1: Year of the World 3108.

11: Ecclesiasticus xlviii. 13.; 1 Machabees ii. 58.