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The Passing of The Mantle

In ancient times, a mantle was an outer cloak worn over other clothing. While used primarily as a means to keep warm, it also served, for some people, as a symbol of authority. The English word mantle is used to translate 3 different Hebrew words of the Scriptures. The first (pronounced) sem-ee-caw, meaning a rug, was what Jael used to cover Sisera to hide him in her tent (see below). The second, (pronounced) meh-eel, meaning an outer garment, is used to describe a common outer cloak, as in the verses below involving Job, Saul, Samuel and Ezra. The third, (pronounced) add-deh-reth also means an outer garment, but is from a root word meaning power; it's used in the Scriptures to refer to the mantle of Eljiah.

"Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him"

In the time of Deborah, Jael used a mantle to hide Sisera. Her hospitality was merely a means to get him to drop his guard however - once asleep, she killed him by driving a tent peg through his skull. The killing was regarded as an act of war, not an act of murder i.e. "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite ... with the hammer she smote Sisera" (Judges 5:24,26 KJV)

Elijah's Mantle

"And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle." (Judges 4:18 KJV)

The tearing of Saul's mantle was used by Samuel as an analogy for the removal of power from him (Saul was succeeded by David)

"And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of The Lord, and The Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel."

"And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou." (1 Samuel 15:26-28 KJV)

The tearing of one's own mantle was used in ancient times as a means of displaying humility and sorrow:

"And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto The Lord my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens" (Ezra 9:5-6 KJV)

"Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of The Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." (Job 1:20-22 KJV)

Elijah's mantle is perhaps the most famous of the Bible. It was used as an actual article of clothing by Elijah - when God spoke to Elijah, he hid has face in his mantle:

"And it was so, when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:13 KJV)

Just as Moses used his rod as a symbol of his God-given authority, Elijah's mantle was used for the same purpose; Moses' rod was used in the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16), Elijah's mantle was used in the parting of the waters of the Jordan River (for other connections between Moses and Elijah, see The Forty Day Fasts)

"And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground." (2 Kings 2:8 KJV)

When the time came for Elijah to groom a successor, he used his mantle ceremonially with Elisha:

"So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him" (1 Kings 19:19 KJV)

When the time came for Elisha to succeed Elijah, Elijah's mantle, as a symbol of his God-given authority, was given to Elisha:

"And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee."

"And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." [see The Spirit and Power of Elijah]

"And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so."

"And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." [see Where Did Elijah Go?]

"And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces."

"He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is The Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over."

"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 2:8-15 KJV)

Fact Finder: What other articles of clothing did people wear during Bible History?
See Clothing In Bible Times

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