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The Passing of The Mantle
by Wayne Blank
"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)
"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."
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)
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."