The Story of Elijah: The Ascension
Israel camps at Gilgal when it first enters the land, and there the Israelite men are circumcised and Israel celebrates the first Passover in the land (5:1–12). Bethel is associated with the city of Ai and was destroyed along with Ai during the conquest (8:9, 12, 17), and Jericho, of course, is the site of the great battle where the walls tumble down. Each of these cities, in short, is associated with Joshua’s conquest. Under the idolatrous Omride dynasty, Israel moves, as it were, backward in time, as the Omride kings promote the worship of Canaanite gods, particularly Baal. With his departing itinerary Elijah demonstrates this reversal, preenacting the exile of Israel and Judah on the far side of the Jordan. Like the exile later in Israel’s history, however, this reversal of the conquest sets the stage for a new conquest.