The idea of a double portion in the Bible is one of a double blessing. It was typically used in the Old Testament to refer to the birthright, or the inheritance received by the oldest son. For example, Deuteronomy 21:17 says, “He shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.”
Hannah’s husband gave her a double portion because of his love for her and because she could not have children (1 Samuel 1:5). Isaiah 61:7 promises a double portion of blessing upon Israel. After his sufferings, Job received twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10). Revelation 18:6 speaks negatively of a double portion of judgment.
The request by Elisha for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit in 2 Kings 2 referred likewise to being doubly blessed in his life and ministry. Interestingly, Scripture records exactly twice as many miracles through Elisha (28 miracles) as took place through Elijah (14 miracles).
When Elisha first made his request, Elijah answered, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10). After Elisha watched Elijah taken up to heaven, he picked up Elijah’s cloak. Returning to the Jordan River, he called out to the Lord and struck the water with the cloak. The water opened up, and Elisha walked across on dry ground. This act affirmed the transition of the prophetic office from Elijah to Elisha as well as the fulfillment of Elisha’s request.
The miraculous crossing of the Jordan was witnessed by men from the school of prophets. “Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him” (2 Kings 2:15). From that point forward, these men appear to have followed Elisha as their spiritual leader (2 Kings 4:38–41).
Two other miracles soon follow the parting of the Jordan River to conclude this section of Scripture. First, Elisha turned bad water into clean water (2 Kings 2:19–22). Second, he cursed a group of young men who mocked him, and two bears came from the woods and attacked them (verses 23–24).
The taking of Elijah to heaven, the parting of the water, the response of the company of prophets, and the two additional miracles recorded immediately afterwards all affirm that Elisha’s request for a double portion was both honorable and granted by the Lord. Elisha’s ministry was one of the most influential in the Bible and continues to be remembered today.