A Study of 2 Kings 2:15-22
In this article I would like us to take a close look at the second miracle of the prophet Elisha. The first miracle was that God parted the waters of the Jordan River. The second miracle was that God healed the waters of the city of Jericho. And thus the title of this article is, “The Waters of Jericho”. At about this time the prophet Elisha had succeeded the prophet Elijah.
Who was The Prophet Elisha? (2 Kings 2:15-22)
Elisha was a disciple of Elijah. Just before the prophet Elijah was to be raptured up into heaven Elisha asked “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me”.
Shortly thereafter Elijah was taken up into heaven, body and soul, and Elisha inherited the mantle of Elijah. Then we read in 2 Kings chapeter 2:
2 Kings 2:15
And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
2 Kings 2:16
And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.
2 Kings 2:17
And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
2 Kings 2:18
And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?
2 Kings 2:19
And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.
2 Kings 2:20
And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
2 Kings 2:21-22
And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren (land). So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
“The sons of the prophets” are members of a school at Jericho for those who have received the prophetic gift from God. In addition there were schools for prophets at Bethel and at Gilgal. These sons of the prophets have seen how God parted the waters of Jordan before Elisha, and they have seen the hairy mantle of Elijah now on the shoulders of Elisha, and they recognized that the spirit of Elijah now rested on Elisha. Then Elisha stayed for a few days at Jericho, until the young men were convinced that Elijah could no longer be found on earth. So he stayed at Jericho.
Jericho, the Cursed City (Deuteronomy 34:3, Joshua 6:17, 24-26, 1 Kings 16:34)
When the children of Israel came up out of Egypt they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and then, under the leadership of Joshua, they crossed the Jordan River, and God miraculously parted the waters of the Jordan River so that they crossed over on dry ground. The first city in the land of Canaan that they had to conquer was Jericho, which God identified in Deuteronomy 34:3 as the “City of Palms”. We read in Joshua chapter 6:
And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.
God wrote this story of the destruction of Jericho as a picture of the end of the world. Everything living, including the animals, was destroyed, and the city was burned with fire. But before this burning of the city occurred, Rahab the harlot and all those that were in her house were rescued, a picture of the rapture of the saints before God destroys this world.
And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.
Here we read that this city was accursed not only before the city was destroyed, but also there would rest a curse on anyone who would attempt to rebuild this city of Jericho. But about 550 years later, during the reign of wicked king Ahab, this command from God was forgotten, for we read in:
1 Kings 16:34
In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.
Why would anyone build a city on this place?
Apparently it was a desirable location, for Jericho was described as the city of palm trees. There was water there. The Canaanites already concluded that this was a desirable location for a city, and they fortified that city greatly.
At the time Elisha tarried in that city it was still a young city. It was built in the days of Ahab, and the son of Ahab named Ahaziah had just begun his reign. But now they discovered a problem:
“The Water Is Naught” (2 Kings 2:19, Genesis 6:5, 2 Timothy 3:16, John 4:10-14)
2 Kings 2:19
And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. (lit: causes barrenness)
“The water is naught”.
Do you recognize the root word for the word “naughty”?
This does not adequately reflect the strength of the Hebrew word that has been translated “naught”. This Hebrew word has been translated “naught” three times in the Bible, but the same word has been translated “evil” or “wickedness” or “wicked” 526 times in the Bible.
For example, in the Garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the word “evil” is that same Hebrew word. Another example is given in Genesis 6:5, where God says, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”.
Now we see that this Hebrew word reflects a very great evil. Therefore, when we read 2 Kings 2:19 we should understand it to mean, “the water is evil”.
How can an inanimate object, such as water, have the property of being evil, such as human beings are?
The key to the problem here must be sought in the spiritual meaning of this historical event that God used as a metaphor for salvation. Yes, the whole Bible was written for the salvation of those whom God intended to save from their slippery slide into Hell. For example, God says in 2 Timothy 3:16,
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
All Scripture is profitable for instruction in righteousness. It means that we must acknowledge God’s handiwork unto salvation of man on almost every page of the Bible. This was the purpose of God in giving the Bible to all mankind. We may not see God’s salvation plan on every page of the Bible, but that is our problem, that is not God’s problem.
What elements of salvation then can we find in this historical event that is described here in just 4 verses in this chapter?
1) We can understand that Jericho might be a picture of this world, and this world is certainly under the curse of sin, and on the way to Hell.
2) The people of this world consider this world a desirable location, and they see great beauty in all that God has placed in this world.
3) When the people dig a little deeper into the ground out of which they were taken, they find there is a problem with the water that is in this ground. The water is evil. And what does this water refer to?
4) This water that is in them is a metaphor for the Gospel unto salvation.
The Gospel is like a stream of words flowing out of the mouths of those who claim to be prophets of God. But their gospels are evil. Before Christ came almost the entire world was enveloped by worship of idols that cannot save. These were gospels, or plans of salvation, that were dragging people even deeper into Hell than without this false worship. The Lord Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Paraphrased, the living water represents the words of the Gospel that the Lord Jesus gives to those whom He intends to save, and it shall bring salvation to the soul of the one receiving this living water. And then he himself shall be a source of living water bringing the Gospel of salvation unto eternal life to many others whom God planned to save. But before Christ came the world was full of gospels that were evil.
The waters of Jericho were evil.
What was Elisha’s response to that?
“Bring Me a New Cruse” (2 Kings 2:20, Genesis 19:26, Deuteronomy 29:23, Jeremiah 17:6, Colossians 4:6, Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:49, 2 Chronicles 13:5)
Historically the men of Jericho asked from Elisha if he could do anything to raise their level of prosperity. Since the waters were evil the ground causes barrenness, or it causes to miscarry, which means that women aborted their children before they were 9 months in the womb, and cattle were casting off their young before they were ready for birth.
Jericho in spite of all its ideal qualities then lacked the one thing essential.
And how did Elisha respond to that?
We read in 2 Kings 2:20:
2 Kings 2:20
And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
You recognize that God intended this to be used as a metaphor, and not as a means of curing poisoned waters. Some people start imagining that salt is used as a preservative, and salt adds such a good taste to food, and salt is the emblem of divine holiness and grace. Nonsense! This comes out of their own imagination. They have not consulted the Bible, for the Bible says totally the opposite. For example, when Lot and his family fled from Sodom, after they arrived in Zoar, we read in Genesis 19:26, “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt”. Certainly she did not become the emblem of sweetness and preservation, but she came under the judgment of God. Salt is here a symbol of the judgment of God. And on the Last Day she will stand before the Judgment throne of Christ and be cast into Hell.
Moreover, God speaks in Deuteronomy 29:23 about the land of those who commit the abominations of worshipping idols, and God says there, “And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning”.
Again, salt is here associated with brimstone and burning. Moreover, in Jeremiah 17:5 God speaks about the man that trusteth in man, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. And then God says in Jeremiah 17:6, “For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited”.
I could go on and on about the many places where God indicates that He uses salt as a symbol of Judgment. But how then should we interpret Colossians 4:6, where God says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man”.
It means that we must never leave the judgment of God out of our vocabulary when we present the Gospel. All mankind comes into the world as rebels against God, and if God does not interfere, they all are on the way to Hell, which is their just reward. And when we present the Gospel to anyone we may never leave out the first principle of the Gospel presentation: “Without Christ we are under the Judgment of God”.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
If we leave Judgment out of our Gospel presentation, it has become good for nothing. If a sermon is preached without mentioning Hell and damnation, it is a sermon that is good for nothing. A sermon about John 3:16 that speaks only about the love of God has become good for nothing, and should be trodden under foot by men. The Lord Jesus states it even stronger in the Gospel according to Mark, where He says in Mark 9:49, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt”. Everyone shall be judged with fire.
Either we are judged with Christ and in Christ when He endured the equivalent of an eternity in Hell while He was hanging on the cross, or we must endure an eternity in Hell ourselves on behalf of our own sins. And every Old Testament animal sacrifice was salted with salt, because all those animal sacrifices were pictures of Christ on the cross, as He endured the Judgment of God on behalf of our sins. Therefore when God speaks about a “Covenant of Salt” we know that it is the Covenant of Grace whereby Christ has endured the Judgment of God in our place and for our sins. God says in 2 Chronicles 13:5, “Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?”
Paraphrased, this says that the Lord God of the Israel of God gave the eternal Kingdom to Christ and to His elect, chosen out of all nations and tribes of the earth by the Covenant of Grace, whereby Christ suffered the Judgment in our place and for our sins.
Elisha said to the men at Jericho:
“Put Salt Therein” (2 Kings 2:20, Isaiah 53:5, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Acts 4:25-28)
You put salt therein. You must inflict the Judgment of God.
Do we still interpret this correctly?
2 Kings 2:20
And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.
What is this new cruse?
It means a brand new bowl, straight from the Potter, a bowl that has never contained any salt; a vessel that has never contained any sin, for judgment is the result of sin. This word for “cruse” or “bowl” is a Hebrew word that is different from the Hebrew word for “vessel”, which occurs many times in the Bible. But this word for “cruse” or “bowl” appears only one time, and it is derived from a Hebrew word that means “to prosper”, and “to be successful in all that He does”.
This “cruse” or “bowl” straight from the Potter is very special. And so I am led to the conclusion that this cruse, or this bowl, represents the Lord Jesus Christ who was made like unto His brethren, except for sin. He was born in the likeness of human flesh, yet without original sin, and He never sinned in His entire life, for He must be our Lamb of God without blemish. And He was the cruse that had to be filled with salt, for He had to endure the Judgment that should have come to us. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”, according to Isaiah 53:5. His atonement was a substitutionary atonement, for God says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”.
But who would afflict the Lord Jesus Christ with the sufferings of the cross?
The men of Jericho, the men of this world, and all the representatives of mankind, including the representatives of you and me, were gathered together to afflict the Lord Jesus Christ. We all were guilty of crucifying Him, and for putting the salt on Him and in Him, for God says in Acts 4:25-28,
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the
people imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
God, in His counsel, determined before the foundation of the world what needed to be done. And God used the people of the world to afflict Christ, and put Him on the cross. But the power of the people is limited. Therefore in addition, the Father must afflict Him most, for the Father desired His Son to be 100% complete in all that He does, and the Father demanded that the payment which Christ had to make was equivalent to the payment that we would have to make, and that His payment was also sufficient to satisfy the righteousness of God, the Judge.
Now that His payment was complete, now the cruse was emptied into the waters of Jericho, and the Gospel that poured forth into the world was now the Gospel of the New Testament, where it is stated clearly that Christ made the payment for all the sins of all those whom He came to save. And then we read:
“The Lord Has Healed These Waters” (2 Kings 2:21, Galatians 3:17, Romans 8:1, Galatians 3:13-14)
2 Kings 2:21
And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.
What exactly did God promise here?
According to Galatians 3:17 at the cross Christ signed the Covenant of Grace with His own blood. The Covenant was now confirmed by the death of Christ, and the Law cannot disannul the promise of the Covenant of Grace. The demands of the Law, eternal damnation, cannot make of none effect the promise to the heirs of salvation. And thus there is no condemnation to those who are in God’s Covenant of Grace. Thus we believe what God said in Romans 8:1, and Galatians 3:13
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Paraphrased God says in 2 Kings 2:21, I have cleaned up this water of the Gospel. There will be no more confusion in the ordinances of the Ceremonial Law, for the Ceremonial Law has been done away And the promise of salvation by faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ is given to all the souls whom God the Holy Spirit makes to be born from above. For them the curse of the Law is removed from this water. But for all those who prefer to continue to drink from the waters of the false gospels, they remain under the curse that was there before I have cleared the water of the true Gospel. Then we find in Verse 22:
“Unto This Day” (2 Kings 2:22, Romans 15:4, 1 Kings 12:19, Jeremiah 17:9, Malachi 3:10, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Ephesians 1:3)
2 Kings 2:22
So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
When you see these words “unto this day” you must remember that God did not use these words just to explain some historical details. This expression “unto this day” is found at least 88 times in the Bible.
What does it mean?
Well, the Bible was written to mankind in all their generations. It means that when I read these words in this 21st century, “unto this day”, I should believe that it applies unto this day. And if I would be around next year I would still read this as “unto this day”. It means that these words “unto this day” apply unto the last day of this earth’s existence. Moreover, the purpose for the Bible to be written is to proclaim to all mankind that there is the Good News that there is salvation for all who will believe in the sovereign saving act of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Therefore, these words “unto this day” have something to do with salvation. God says in Romans 15:4,
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Armed with this information we must go back into the Old Testament Scriptures and apply this. Thus when we see,
1 Kings 12:19
So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.
We must ask, what does it mean?
It means that “Israel”, whoever God has in view with “Israel” is in rebellion against the house of David, the house of Christ, until the Last Day. We know that the heathen are in rebellion against Christ until the Last Day; that is no surprise.
To us this should not come as a surprise anymore, for we read in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”.
For example, out of the heart of man came a desperately wicked gospel, which may be called “the prosperity gospel”. Basically, they say that if you truly believe that you are now a child of God, He will bless you with material wealth, lots of it, like He blessed Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and Solomon and many others with great material wealth. And if you do not get wealthy and healthy, there must be sin in your life, like Job’s friends were accusing Job of. But this “prosperity gospel” is a false gospel, and is one of the abominations that God hates. When we pray to God, we should not pray for more money or for physical prosperity. All money and material wealth shall be burned up when Christ returns. We must pray for those things that are of lasting value. We must pray for those things that are pleasing to God, such as an open door for witnessing, or an open door to minister to those who are needy or sick, or to give us a greater love for our church family, or an increased wisdom in interpreting the Bible, or better relationships within our personal family, and so on. In a prosperity gospel the preachers claim that we should give the pastor more money, because if we sow bountifully, then we shall also reap bountifully, from Malachi 3:10, and 2 Corinthians 9:6, and they mean that your reward will be that you will get healthy and wealthy. But it is all a hoax, for those passages do not promise any physical prosperity, but they refer to “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”, Ephesians 1:3.
But now God says that even the most religious people on earth, “Israel”, are also in rebellion against Christ.
Today this “Israel” may refer to the physical descendants of Jacob, the thirteen tribes.
And so, when we pray we must not ask God for physical blessings, like the men of Jericho did, but we ask God for spiritual blessings, like Elisha’s response was to the pleading from the men of Jericho. That is what is pleasing to God, and that is what we must do unto this day, which means until the Last Day has arrived
By Alfred J. Chompff