Elijah and the Whirlwind



Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 2:1-18

Story Overview:  Elijah continued to be a prophet in Israel during the times of Kings Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram (7th, 8th, and 9th kings of Israel). Elisha became Elijah’s helper. When Elijah’s work as a prophet came to an end, a chariot and horses of fire appeared and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah’s special gifts were passed on to Elisha to continue the work of the prophets. Elijah was one of a handful of people in the bible that went straight to heaven without dying.

Suggested Emphasis: Emphasise the fact that heaven is the place that faithful believers go when we die.

Memory Verse: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Online Resources

Background Study:
While King Jehoshaphat was still ruling the kingdom of Judah, the evil King Ahab of Israel died. His son Ahaziah became king but he also chose to ignore the Lord and follow after false gods like his father had done. He reigned only two years and had no sons. At that time, another one of Ahab’s sons, Joram, became the new king of Israel. Joram also carried on the family tradition of worshipping false gods.

Elijah continued to be a prophet for the Lord during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram. The times continued to be very dangerous for prophets and Elijah often barely escaped death. Things got so bad at one point that Elijah thought he was the only prophet who had not been killed (1 Kings 19:14). The Lord told Elijah that there were other prophets. Elisha would be the prophet who would replace Elijah when his work was complete. At God’s command, Elijah invited Elisha to join up with him. Elisha was Elijah’s helper and student (1 Kings 19:15-21).

The “company of the prophets” mentioned in today’s section of scripture were apparently students who were taught by Elijah and others. There seem to have been classes of them in various places. Elijah probably travelled from place to place to teach them. In this chapter he seems to make one last round of visits before he is taken away.

Elijah’s cloak (or mantle) was a large cape that could be used as an overcoat by day and a blanket by night. He rolled it up and hit the surface of the water with it. Instantly there was a dry path across the river.

It was customary for the oldest son to receive a double portion of a father’s estate. By asking for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha showed that he knew he would need much help to be able to carry on Elijah’s work. Elijah knew that only the Lord could choose whether or not Elisha would carry on his work. The Spirit guided Elijah to explain how Elisha could know whether his request was granted. If Elisha could see Elijah go, that would be a sign that he would have the Spirit as he had asked.

Many visual aids depict Elijah riding to heaven in the chariot but verse 11 says that the chariot kept Elisha away while Elijah was taken up in the whirlwind.

Elisha did see Elijah as he was taken up – the sign that Elisha had received his request. After taking up Elijah’s cloak, he went on to part the Jordan with it showing that he did, indeed, carry Elijah’s special gift.

Children often seem to accept the idea of heaven more easily than adults do. Don’t be afraid to discuss the fact that our soul lives forever. We don’t know what heaven is like but we know that God is there and He has made it a wonderful place. Imagine any joy on earth and know that heaven is even better than that!
Background Information on the Divided Kingdom.
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Way to Introduce the Story:
Use plain paper to wrap a really nice treat like biscuits or lollies. Or you could place them in paper bag and then tape it shut. On the paper wrapping write hints about what is inside. You might write “yummy, chocolate, my favourite food, sweet …” Try to give hints that let them know it’s great but try not to give the answer away. Tell the children that you are the only one allowed to have what’s inside that bag. After that sinks in tell them that all of your friends get to have what’s inside that bag too. Discuss the fact that this bag is like heaven. We don’t know exactly what it will be like but we know it is going to be great. God has told us enough about heaven to make us want to go there but He is leaving the best surprises until after we arrive. Ask the children how we get to heaven. Chances are you will have all sorts of answers about being good. Remind the children that only you and your friends will get what’s inside the bag. Only God and the people who love and obey him will go to heaven. (Now, by all means, share the surprise!)

As the children eat their surprise talk about the fact that people cannot go to heaven until after they die. There are only three people in history who have gone to heaven while they were still alive: Enoch (Genesis 5:23-24), Jesus (Acts 1:9-11) and the man in today’s story.
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The Story:
Elijah was a prophet of God. God would give Elijah messages for the people and Elijah would tell them. Sometimes people liked the messages from God and sometimes they did not. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel did not like the messages that Elijah had for them. God’s message was that they were bad. If they did not stop worshipping idols then bad things would happen to them.

Queen Jezebel was very angry that Elijah, the prophet, gave her God’s message. She was so angry that she tried to get people to kill Elijah.

God always took care of Elijah. When Elijah was tired, the Lord would show him where shade trees were. Once, when Elijah was very sad and tired, God sent an angel to take care of him while he rested. Once, God even showed Elijah a nice warm cave to hide in so he would be safe.

Elijah spent many years running away from Jezebel. It was lonely having to go from place to place all of the time. God told Elijah to go to a place where a man named Elisha was ploughing a field. Elisha would be Elijah’s new helper. Elijah put his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders to show that he had been chosen to follow Elijah and learn to be a prophet.

Elijah and Elisha travelled around the country together giving people messages from the Lord. Elijah taught Elisha everything he needed to know to be a prophet. Elijah knew that someday Elisha would be the prophet in Elijah’s place.

Elijah knew that the time was coming when he would no longer be a prophet. He knew that the Lord had a special plan for him. Elijah took Elisha with him and they travelled around to visit all of the other prophets one last time.

When it came time for Elijah and Elisha to cross the Jordan River, Elijah performed a miracle. He threw down his cloak and hit the river water. When he did this, the river broke into two parts and dry land appeared. Elijah and Elisha were able to walk right across the river on dry land.

Elijah knew that the time had come for something special to happen. He told Elisha that he was going away.

“Elisha, is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”

Elisha answered, “You could give me your special gifts from God. I want to be a prophet just like you. I want to be able to do miracles and great things for God.”

Elijah knew that only God could give someone the power to do miracles. He told Elisha, “Here is how you will know if God wants you to have my powers: If you see me leaving, then you will know that God has given you the same gifts that I have.”

After Elijah said this something amazing happened! A chariot with horsemen appeared from nowhere. It was as if they were on fire but they did not burn up. Elijah was on one side of the fire and Elisha was on the other. As Elisha watched, a whirlwind came and took Elijah up into heaven. The only thing that was left of Elijah was his cloak.

Elisha took Elijah’s cloak and hit the Jordan River with it. The water divided just like it had with Elijah. Now Elisha knew that the Lord had passed Elijah’s gift of miracles on to him. Elisha went on teaching people about God. He gave them messages from God just like Elijah had done.
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Review Questions:

  1. When Elijah was running away from evil Queen Jezebel, what did God do to take care of him? Showed him where a shade tree was, sent an angel to take care of him, showed him a cave to hide in (and more)
  2. Who was the man whom Elijah taught to be a prophet? Elisha
  3. What happened when Elijah hit the Jordan River with his cloak? The river parted
  4. How did Elijah get to heaven? He was taken up in a whirlwind in the presence of a flaming chariot and horses.
  5. What did Elisha do with Elijah’s cloak that he left behind? He divided the Jordan River, too
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Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):

  • Use finger-paints or string painting to draw a whirlwind.
  • If it is a clear day, go outside and look at the clouds as you tell the story. See if children can spot clouds that resemble things in the story (whirlwind, chariot, robe, etc.)
  • Purchase a helium balloon. After telling the story, talk about how Elisha must have felt when Elijah rose up into the sky. Draw a stick simple stick figure or face on the balloon to represent Elijah and then release the balloon. Watch until the balloon disappears.
  • Look up and sing one of the many songs in the church songbook about Heaven.
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Online Resources:

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