16 June 2016

1 Kings 19:19-21

“Elijah passed by [Elisha] and threw his mantle over him.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 104:1-23


It is easy to overlook these three verses, coming as they do after Elijah's encounter with God on Mount Horeb.

A mantle (verse 19) was generally a large, loosely fitted garment make of animal skin, something akin to a cloak. But it was more than just a piece of clothing: prophets were known for wearing mantles as a sign of their calling from God. Just as the physical mantle covered a person, it also represented a spiritual covering, or the person being covered by God. Interestingly, in biblical times, the throwing of a mantle was also said to be part of the process of adopting a child. So Elijah is 'adopting' Elisha and inviting him to follow the prophet.

Although God is not directly mentioned in this passage, Elijah is obeying divine instructions revealed in 1 Kings 19:16. It is worth noting that Elisha understands exactly who Elijah is doing, even though the prophet said nothing. The action is all that is warranted.

There is an interesting contrast between the calling by Elijah where Elisha kisses his parents farewell, before being told to "go back again" (v. 20), and Jesus who commands his disciples just to leave their family (Luke 14:26). Quite why Elijah tells his new follower to return to his family is uncertain. Could it be that Elijah has doubts about what he has done, rather than Elisha.

Note Elisha's actions in verse 21 of slaughtering the oxen, and presumably using their yoke to fuel the fire. It is both a farewell gift and feast for his friends and family, but also a sign that he will not be returning. A modern turn of phrase would be 'burning one's boats' or even 'bridges'.

To Ponder

  • Has God ever spoken to you by actions, rather than words? What happened?
  • It is unusual to see that it is Elijah - a man of faith - who has doubts, rather than his protégée Elisha. How do you cope with doubt? And what would you say to someone who tell you that they have doubts about God and their faith?


Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.