The Kingdom of God in Transition: Interpreting 2 Kings 2 -- By: Dale Ralph Davis

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 46:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: The Kingdom of God in Transition: Interpreting 2 Kings 2
Author: Dale Ralph Davis

The Kingdom of God in Transition:
Interpreting 2 Kings 2

Dale Ralph Davis

Narrative literature poses its own set of problems for the biblical interpreter. Why is the writer relating this story? What is the primary message he is trying to proclaim? Such questions are more easily answered in didactic or hortatory materials, but the writer’s intention can be difficult to trace in narrative texts. I agree with Greidanus that historical texts “do not merely relate past facts but proclaim these facts in a relevant manner to the church at various stages of redemptive history.”1 But how do we detect the relevant proclamation a writer wants the church to hear?

I. Critics and Preachers

The present passage has not fared very well among either its enemies or its friends. Since this chapter forms part of the Elisha materials with their unabashed supernaturalism (miraculous elements), it does not usually receive positive historical evaluation from scholars. Though acknowledging the charm of some of the Elisha stories, Farrar confessed that “in some cases it is difficult to point out their intrinsic superiority over the ecclesiastical miracles with which monkish historians have embellished the lives of the saints.”2 So Elisha’s activities are “shrouded by the veils of pious legends and miracle narratives” and his memory embellished “with folkloristic and magical elements.”3

Value judgments tend to accompany these negative historical estimates. The incidents of vv 19–25 present a “view of God’s nature which is crude and insensitive,”4 while the “bear episode” (vv 23–25) is “in

every respect a puerile tale” having “no serious point” and “borders on blasphemy.”5 Indeed, in the latter instance the prophet’s reaction was “humorless and savage.”6

How then shall such texts (i.e., such pious legends and puerile tales) be preached? Well, one can talk about “Bible friendships” and of how undying loyalty like that between Elijah and Elisha is so rare in our day. The striking and parting of the Jordan show that seemingly “insurmountable obstacles give way before the courage of real faith” (or, to remain closer to the text: when smitten with the “mantle of faith”). We know only too well how “the very ...

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