Hava Shalom-Guy, The Crossing of the Jordan by Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-18) in Light of the Crossings of the Reed Sea and the Jordan, Beit Mikra vol. 61 (2016), No. 2, The Bialik Institute
|The Bialik Institute|
A comparative consideration of the crossing of the Jordan by the prophets Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings 2:1-18, against the backdrop of the narratives of the splitting of the Reed Sea (Exod 14) and Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan (Josh 3-4), sheds light on the figures of Elijah and Elisha, the underlying beliefs reflected by their actions, and the formation of the text in its current form. As part of his call-narrative, Elisha performs a miracle similar to that performed by Elijah before his ascent to heaven: using Elijah’s mantle, he crosses the Jordan (v. 15). The definitive similarity between the actions of both prophets prompts a comparison of the links and the differences between the two narratives. The similarities between the actions of the master and his disciple in crossing the Jordan serve to enhance the figure of Elisha. Not only did Elisha inherit Elijah’s mantle but also the supernatural abilities later manifested in the performance of miracles. The differences indicate that nonetheless, Elijah outshone his disciple. Some textual versions, however, represent an attempt to aggrandize Elijah through the addition of the words לא נחצו after the first time Elisha strikes the water. Nonetheless, God plays a greater role in the Elisha narrative.
The affinities to the story of the splitting of the Reed Sea and of the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua’s day contribute to a more profound examination of the actions of the master and his disciple and assist the definition of these narratives’ elements and their modification. These narratives share the motif of a miraculous crossing of a body of water and additional elements: plot, language, character formation, and beliefs regarding the nature of the miracle, especially the balance between divine and human forces in its implementation. However, linguistic affinities between the Elijah and Elisha narratives and the crossing of the Jordan show that it, not the narrative of the crossing of the Reed Sea, influenced their formation. This perhaps reflects the shared element of the Jordan River as the locus of events.