« AnteriorContinuar »
(2 Kings Ii. 23, 24.)
When Elijah was translated to heaven in a " chariot of fire," the sons of the prophets eagerly sought him amid mountains and valleys, in the hope that he was not in reality departed. Their search was vain; but they received comfort in the successor whom God appointed. As Elisha smote the waters of Jordan, like his predecessor, and they receded backwards, to open a pathway for his feet, they exclaimed with joy, " The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha!"
This was not the only transaction which proved the Divine legation of Elisha. A succession of miracles of mercy and judgment followed in its train.
Elisha took up his residence at Jericho. This was a pleasant situation, but the waters were impure, and the country around barren. Availing themselves of the prophet's presence, the inhabitants complained to him that the water was unwholesome. Elisha attended to their complaint, and directed the suppliants to furnish him with some salt in a new cruse. Having brought it, the prophet "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." Through this simple act, accompanied by Divine power, the waters of Jericho became permanently wholesome,* an apt emblem of the effect produced by the grace of God operating on the polluted heart of man. When that remedy is applied, a change takes place through all the powers of the soul—a change which results in its purification and salvation.
This miracle of mercy was followed by one of judgment, which is represented in the annexed engraving. Removing from Jericho to Bethel, where the golden calf was worshipped, a company of profane youths came out and poured personal contempt upon Elisha, and derided the translation of Elijah, by bidding him " Go up," that is, ascend to heaven after his master. This was grossly impious. It was not only an act of disrespect to the prophet, but a direct insult to the power and majesty of God. Hence they did not act thus with impunity. Moved by the spirit of inspiration, Elisha turned back, and in the name of the Lord pronounced the Divine vengeance upon them, and at his word two she-bears issued from an adjoining wood, and tare forty-two of the revilers.
* This stream, which rises to the west of Rihhah, is thus described by Maundrell: "Turning down into the plain, we passed by a ruined aqueduct, and a convent, in the same condition, and in about a mile's riding came to the fountain of Elisha. Its waters are, at present, received into a basin about nine or ten paces long, and five or six broad, and from thence, issuing out in good plenty, divide themselves into several small streams, dispersing their refreshment between this and Jericho, and making it exceeding fruitful."
The object of the annexed engraving is intended rather to exhibit the ministers of vengeance than the actual fulfilment of their mission, which would have involved many painful details. The guilty scornfulness of the mockers, however, and the punishment in store for them, stand prominently before the reader. The engraving also illustrates oriental costume; and another portion takes natural history for its point.
The species of bear mentioned in Scripture, and introduced into the engraving, is the Ursus Syriacus, or Syrian bear, which is, perhaps, a variety of the Ursus'Arctos, or brown bear, produced by climate. Hemprich and Ehrenberg have given a description, in the " Symbolse Physicse," of a female of this species, which was killed near Bischerre, in Syria. It was of a uniform fulvous white, sometimes variegated with fulvous; its ears were elongated; its forehead slightly arched; its fur was woolly beneath, with long, straight, or but slightly curled hair externally, and a stiff mane of erected hairs, about four inches long, was between the shoulders. The individual killed was neither young nor old, and it measured about four feet, two inches, from the nose to the tip of the tail. Nothing was found in its stomach; but it is described as frequently preying on animals, though for the most part it feeds on vegetables.
The characteristics of bears are, surliness, rapacity, mischievousness, vengeance, and unconquerable energy. In such a light is the bear mentioned in Scripture to the reader. The sacred writers, indeed, frequently associate the bear with the lion, as being equally dangerous and destructive. Thus Amos, setting before the Israelites the succession of calamities about to befall them, declares that the removal of one would only leave another equally grievous, under this emphatic figure:—