Questions From Readers
Why did Elisha ask for “two parts” of Elijah’s spirit?
Just before Elijah finished his assignment as a prophet in Israel, the younger prophet Elisha requested from him: “Please, that two parts in your spirit may come to me.” (2 Kings 2:9) Spiritually speaking, Elisha was evidently claiming a double portion such as that given to a firstborn son. (Deuteronomy 21:17) A brief consideration of the account will make this clear and will help us to draw lessons from what happened.
In harmony with Jehovah’s direction, the prophet Elijah had anointed Elisha as his successor. (1 Kings 19:19-21) For some six years, Elisha served as Elijah’s faithful attendant and was determined to do this to the end. Even on Elijah’s last day as a prophet in Israel, Elisha stuck to his mentor. Although Elijah urged Elisha to stop following him, the younger prophet stated three times: “I will not leave you.” (2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6; 3:11) Indeed, Elisha viewed the older prophet as his spiritual father.—2 Kings 2:12.
However, Elisha was not the only spiritual son of Elijah. Elijah and Elisha associated with a group of men known as “the sons of the prophets.” (2 Kings 2:3) The account in Second Kings indicates that these “sons” also felt a close bond with their spiritual father, Elijah. (2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 15-17) Yet, as the anointed successor, Elisha was the foremost among Elijah’s spiritual sons—he was like the firstborn. In ancient Israel, a literal firstborn son received two parts of his father’s inheritance, whereas the other sons each received one part. Hence, Elisha asked for two parts of Elijah’s spiritual inheritance.
Why did Elisha make this request at that particular time? Because he was about to take on a weighty task—that of succeeding Elijah as prophet in Israel. Elisha realized that in order to fulfill the responsibilities related to this daunting assignment, he needed spiritual power far beyond his own capabilities, power that only Jehovah could provide. He needed to be as fearless as Elijah had been. (2 Kings 1:3, 4, 15, 16) Thus, he asked for two parts of Elijah’s spirit, a spirit of courage and of being “absolutely jealous for Jehovah”—desirable qualities produced by God’s spirit. (1 Kings 19:10, 14) How did Elijah respond?
Elijah knew that Elisha had asked for something that was not his but only God’s to give. So Elijah modestly replied: “You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me when taken from you, it will happen to you that way.” (2 Kings 2:10) And, indeed, Jehovah allowed Elisha to see Elijah ascend in a windstorm. (2 Kings 2:11, 12) Elisha’s request was granted. Jehovah provided him with the spirit he needed to take on his new task and to face coming trials.
Today, anointed Christians (sometimes called the Elisha class) and God’s servants in general can draw much encouragement from this Bible account. At times, we may feel overwhelmed and inadequate in the face of a new assignment, or we may be losing some of our courage to continue with our Kingdom-preaching work as we face increasing indifference or opposition in our territory. Yet, if we beg Jehovah for his support, he will give us holy spirit as we need it to cope with challenges and changing circumstances. (Luke 11:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 4:13) Yes, just as Jehovah strengthened Elisha for his weightier responsibilities, he will help all of us, young and old, to accomplish our ministry.—2 Timothy 4:5.