What shocks most people about the end of 2 Kings 2 is the killing of the youths mentioned there. The King James Bible calls them “children,” which makes the passage doubly shocking. How could a prophet of the Lord do such a thing? How could God allow it?
Our section begins with Elijah’s succession. Elijah is going to be with the Lord and God has a place where that is to happen. On the way, prophets gather from several places to say “good-bye.” This affirms the great respect the prophets of Israel had for this man of God.
Elisha affirms his dedication to Elijah with steadfast refusals to leave him. He asks that Elisha grant him a “double-portion” of his spirit. This is the eldest son’s inheritance share, and as the eldest son, Elisha would be responsible for carrying on Elisha’s name and work. Only God can grant this (which makes it difficult for Elijah to give), and God does.
When Elisha returns, he performs the same miracle Elijah did in front of witnesses: he parts the Jordan. This confirmed he was Elijah’s rightful successor. But that didn’t convince the prophets, who had to make sure Elijah was really gone. Elisha’s second miracle capped off the proof of his authority.
But again, not everyone was convinced. The “youths” he met along the road were not “children,” but young men of marriageable age (Hebrew: nĕ‘ārîm). They had arrived in a mob to harass the man of God, showing their disrespect for him, and for the God he served. Their fate was deserved.
Christians should remember: we are all servants of the Lord. How we treat one another is critical to our relationship with God, and our well-being.