The Old Testament Lesson for Transfiguration Sunday is written in the second book of Kings. The text is 2 Kings 2:1-12 and is the account of Elijah being taken up into heaven in a whirlwind right before the eyes of Elisha, his chosen successor. There are several interesting things to consider in this pericope, especially as one wonders how it was chosen to compliment the Mark account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. We especially want to look at two things:

1) The aspects of death and resurrection demonstrated in this text.
2) The movement through water into eternal life/Heaven that is so prevalent in the pages of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.

Many theologians have questioned the level of understanding and/or belief the Old Testament Hebrews had concerning the afterlife. Because the Hebrews do not always use language specific terms it is assumed there is either no belief, or at most, a rather primitive understanding of Heaven and Hell. However, while we do not have the specific terms, we do have these kinds of accounts which help us to see that indeed they do have a belief in the afterlife. Elijah was not merely taken up into the sky. There were the divine chariots and the presence of the LORD in the whirlwind to accomplish the event.

As far as the movement through water into eternal life, we see the crossing of the Jordan River and then the ascending into Heaven. Earlier, we saw the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan. The “Promised Land” is another word for the dwelling place of God, or Heaven, in Scripture. Now, Elijah crosses over the Jordan to be taken into Heaven. Later, Elisha will cross the Jordan again into the Promised Land. Naaman will go into the Jordan seven times before he is given new life, etc. By now, we should also be able to see a picture of Baptism through which we are brought through the waters into the Kingdom of God.

We see a reversal of this movement, as we frequently do, in Jesus. Christ Jesus gives us a glimpse of Heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration, but then He descends the Mount and journeys to the cross. This reversal takes place in order that WE might have eternal life.

Christ Jesus gives us a glimpse of Heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration, but then He descends the Mount and journeys to the cross.

2:1 בַּסְעָרָה (bas-a-Rah) from:סְעָרָ (sah-ar) “whirlwind; tempest; high wind” “In the whirlwind; by a whirlwind”

וַיֵּלֶךְ (vai-Ye-lech) root: הלך (haw-lak) Qal, imperfect with waw consecutive: “to go; to come; to walk” “He went”

2:2 פֹה (Foh) “here” (“Please stay here”)

שְׁלָחַנִי (she-la-Cha-ni) root: שׁלח (shaw-lakh) Qal, with suffix: “to send; stretch out” “He has sent me”

אֶעֶזְבֶךָ (e-ez-Ve-ka) root: עזב (aw-zab) Qal, with suffix: “to leave; to forsake; to loose” “I will leave you (not)”

2:3 הֶחֱשׁוּ (he-che-Shu) root: חשׁה (khaw-shaw) Hiphil: “to be silent; show silence; to be inactive; to be still”

2:4-5 Note the similar construction here as in verses 2-3.

2:6 Again, the language is repetitious. Note how it appears that prophets from each of the “schools” follow along until they have a group of fifty (vs 7).

2:7 מֵרָחוֹק (me-ra-Chok) “distance; from/at a distance”

2:8 אַדַּרְתּוֹ (ad-dar-To) “coat; cloak”

וַיִּגְלֹם (vai-yig-Lom) root: גלם (gaw-lam) Qal: “to wrap; wrap up; fold up”

וַיֵּחָצוּ (vai-ye-cha-Tzu) root: חצה (khaw-tsaw) Nifal: “to divide; be divided; part”

הֵנָּה וָהֵנָּה (Hen-nah vai-Hen-nah) “Hither and thither; to and fro; from one side to the other”

בֶּחָרָבָה (be-cha-ra-Vah) “dry ground; dry land”

2:9 בְּטֶרֶם (be-Te-rem) “before”

2:10 הִקְשִׁיתָ (hik-Shi-ta) root: קשׁה (kaw-shaw) Hiphil: “to make difficult; cause to be hard; to be severe; to be fierce”

2:11 וַיַּפְרִדוּ (vai-yaf-Ri-du) root: פרד (paw-rad) Hiphil: “to separate; make a division; cause to divide”

בַּסְּעָרָה (bas-se-a-Rah) “high wind; storm wind; tempest”

2:12 וּפָרָשָׁיו (u-Fa-ra-Shav) “horsemen; horse; steed (פרשׁ) (paw-rawsh)”

וַיִּקְרָעֵם (vai-yik-ra-Em) root: קרע (kaw-rah) Qal: “to tear; rend; rip to pieces”

As you go through this text make note of the movement and the verbs of movement. This is significant as we consider the movement of Elijah from Earth to Heaven, and of the faithful people of God!

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching 2 Kings 2:1-12.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach 2 Kings 2:1-12.