Questions From Readers
● When you face difficult trials or tasks, is it appropriate to ask for “a double portion” of God’s spirit, as Elisha did?
Rather than feeling that you need to ask for ‘twice as much’ of God’s spirit on some occasion, it is better to think in terms of requesting that God supply holy spirit in accord with your needs.
After the prophet Elijah crossed the Jordan River and just before he was taken heavenward in a fiery chariot, his associate and successor, the prophet Elisha, made a special request. According to the King James Version, Elisha said to departing Elijah: “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (2 Ki. 2:9) Some Christians, drawing on that language, have thought about needing or have actually asked God for “a double portion of spirit.”
However, the New World Translation helps us to understand Elisha’s request. It reads: “Please, that two parts in your spirit may come to me.” (2 Ki. 2:9) Elisha was asking for a firstborn’s portion of Elijah’s spirit. How is that?
What Elisha said draws upon the practice in ancient Israel of distributing a man’s property when he died. Whereas the other sons would receive a portion of the inheritance, the firstborn, or eldest surviving son, received a double portion, as well as the responsibility of headship in the household.—Deut. 21:17.
When it was God’s will to remove Elijah from the immediate scene as the principal prophet to Israel, Elisha was to succeed him. Elisha would not be left as the only prophet at the time. Associated with him were various men known as the “sons of the prophets.” (2 Ki. 2:3, 5) Yet Elisha was to be the foremost among them, as the prime successor to Elijah. (2 Ki. 4:38; 6:1-3) So even though they likely had a measure of God’s spirit and carried out some prophetic functions, Elisha was like the firstborn son of Elijah and could appropriately request two parts of Elijah’s spirit.
Jehovah God provides holy spirit for his faithful worshipers according to their needs and circumstances. When, because of the huge number of people involved, Moses needed assistance, God directed that 70 qualified older men be selected to help. Jehovah told Moses: “I shall have to take away some of the spirit that is upon you and place it upon them, and they will have to help you in carrying the load of the people.” (Num. 11:16, 17) Now, that does not mean that Moses would thereafter be inadequately supplied with holy spirit, having a spirit deficiency. No, God would provide for Moses and for the 70 assistants ample spirit for them to handle the tasks before them. Similarly, Elisha as well as the “sons of the prophets” would have sufficient holy spirit to carry out their duties and to face the coming tests or trials.
Christians, too, can receive an ample amount of God’s active force, or spirit. Understandably, they should live in a way that does not impede the flow and activity of holy spirit. (Compare Ephesians 4:30.) And they should pray for the spirit, believing what Jesus said: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him.” (Luke 11:13) We can be sure that God “does not give the spirit by measure,” or “sparingly.” (John 3:34, NW, 1950 ed.; Centenary Translation of the New Testament) Rather than “a double portion,” he will give us the amount of holy spirit we need to cope with life’s problems, to share in the important work of preaching the “good news of the kingdom” and to understand and apply his Word.—Matt. 24:14.
● Does Matthew 26:74 mean that under pressure the apostle Peter used profanity?
No. This verse describes how Peter reacted when he, after Jesus’ arrest, was accused of being one of His followers. We read concerning Peter’s third denial: “Then [Peter] started to curse and swear: ‘I do not know the man [Jesus]!’”—Matt. 26:74.
In certain languages the words “curse” and “swear” can refer to profanity. But when Peter ‘cursed’ and ‘swore’ he was not using foul or profane speech as many do when angry.
In the Bible, both in the original Hebrew and in the original Greek, a “curse” was a calling down of evil on some one or on some thing. It was not profanity and might not even be linked with anger. (Gen. 3:14, 15; 4:11, 12) To attest to the truthfulness of a statement, a person might utter a curse. By that he was stating, ‘If what I am saying is not true, may I be cursed; may evil come upon me.’ Similarly, someone might “swear” to a matter, thus taking an oath that it was true and that a calamity might befall him if it were not.
So Peter was not using profanity but was fearfully trying to convince those around him that his denials were truthful. That, of course, was a falsehood for which he had to repent. (Luke 22:61, 62) The Bible, though, does make it clear that Christians should avoid profanity, telling us: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth.”—Eph. 4:29.