What is a mantle in the Bible?Question: "What is a mantle in the Bible?"
Answer: Although there are variations of the meaning of mantle in the Bible, the main idea is that of a covering such as a cloak or other article of clothing. The New American Standard Bible uses the word mantle in Joshua 7:21 and Hebrews 1:12. In the former passage, the ESV translates the word as “cloak” and, in the latter, “robe.” In biblical times, a mantle was typically a large, loosely fitting garment made of animal skin, probably sheepskin. Several people are mentioned as wearing a mantle, including Job (Job 1:20) and Ezra (Ezra 9:5).
Prophets were known for wearing mantles as a sign of their calling from God (1 Kings 19:13). The prophet Samuel wore a mantle (1 Samuel 15:27). The prophet Elijah “threw his cloak around [Elisha]” as a symbol of Elijah’s ministry being passed on to Elisha. The prophet’s mantle was an indication of his authority and responsibility as God’s chosen spokesman (2 Kings 2:8). Elisha was not confused as to what Elijah was doing; the putting on of his mantle made his election clear.
Some theologians see the mantle as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. For example, in 2 Kings 2:14 Elisha takes the mantle that had “fallen” from Elijah, similar to how Jesus received the Spirit “descending” on Him at His baptism (Matthew 3:16). The audible voice of God in Matthew 3:17 confirms Jesus as God’s chosen servant (cf. Isaiah 42:1). We see a similar “falling” of the Spirit in Acts 8:15–16 and Acts 10:44. It’s only after Elisha takes the fallen mantle that he performs miraculous works (2 Kings 2:14, 21, 24). The Holy Spirit is the Person who empowers God’s people to do God’s work (Micah 3:8; Matthew 12:28; Ephesians 3:16).
The mantle served the practical purpose of keeping people warm and protecting them from the elements. It also served a symbolic purpose, in the case of the prophets, showing they were wrapped in God’s authority. Like all imagery in the Old Testament, the mantle presents a visible representation of a New Testament principle. The mantle can be seen as a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit whom God so graciously gives to all Christians, the people of His choosing (1 Thessalonians 1:5–6; 1 Peter 2:9).
Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns
More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!
What is a prophet in the Bible?
What was a seer in the Bible?
What is the meaning of sackcloth and ashes?
What is the balm of Gilead?
Why did God take Enoch and Elijah to Heaven without them dying?
Miscellaneous Bible Questions
What is a mantle in the Bible?