2 Kings 13 – The Death of Elisha
A. The reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoash, Kings of Israel.
1. (1-4) A summary of the reign of Jehoahaz and an answer to prayer.
In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin. He did not depart from them. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Ben-Hadad the son of Hazael, all their days. So Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord, and the Lord listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them.
a. Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu became king over Israel: This was the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise made to Jehu, recorded in 2 Kings 10:30. God promised him that his descendants would sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. This dynasty – though founded on a violent overthrow of the previous royal house – continued, because Jehu came to the throne doing the will of God.
b. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed in the sins of Jeroboam: His father Jehu also continued in the idolatry of Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:31). Jehoahaz followed in the footsteps of both Jeroboam and his father Jehu.
c. He delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria: The northern kingdom of Israel still had its own name and king, but they were a tributary and subservient nation to Syria.
i. In the general history of this time, the Assyrian Empire kept the Syrians weak and unable to expand their domain into Israel. But there was a period when internal problems made the Assyrians bring back their troops from the frontiers of their empire, and the Syrians took advantage of this time of Assyrian distraction.
d. So Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord, and the Lord listened to him: Jehoahaz was an ungodly man, and this prayer did not mark a lasting or real revival in his life. Yet God listened to his prayer because of His great mercy and because of His care for Israel.
i. “The term ‘pleaded with the Lord’ comes from a word meaning ‘to be sick,’ implying weakness and dependency. Jehoahaz was at the end of his rope.” (Dilday)
ii. “This restoration to prosperity began under Joash son of Jehoahaz, and culminated during the reign of his grandson Jeroboam II. So prayer is frequently answered after the petitioner has passed away.” (Knapp)
2. (5-9) The rest of Jehoahaz’s reign.
Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before. Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin, but walked in them; and the wooden image also remained in Samaria. For He left of the army of Jehoahaz only fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers; for the king of Syria had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Jehoahaz rested with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. Then Joash his son reigned in his place.
a. Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer: This reminds us of the pattern often seen in the Book of Judges. Israel slipped into apostasy, God allowed them to be humbled under the enemies, they cried out to the Lord, and then He sent a deliverer, and Israel escaped from under the hand of the Syrians.
i. We don’t know the name of this deliverer, but he is well known in heaven. One does not need a great name to do a great work for the Lord.
b. Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam: Though God answered their prayer and sent a deliverer, Israel continued in their false worship of the true God. Men often consider this to be a small and inconsequential sin, and excuse the idolatry under the claim of good intentions.
i. “Israel’s repentance was only half-hearted; they repented because they suffered. They repented because of the suffering rather than because of the sin. They went back to the sin after they escaped from the sorrow.” (Spurgeon)
c. He left of the army of Jehoahaz only fifty horsemen: Israel was delivered; they were apostate; and they were weak. Their lack of fellowship with the true God made them weak; or actually, God made them weak because of their lack of true relationship.
3. (10-13) Summary of Jehoash’s reign over Israel.
In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, but walked in them. Now the rest of the acts of Joash, all that he did, and his might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Joash rested with his fathers. Then Jeroboam sat on his throne. And Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.
a. Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria: He was the grandson of King Jehu, founder of this dynasty. He continued in the same sins as his father and grandfather.
b. His might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah: The reign of Jehoash saw a civil war among the people of God, with the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel in war.
i. “This war with Amaziah may be seen in ample detail in 2 Chronicles 25; it ended in the total defeat of Amaziah who was taken prisoner by Joash, and afterwards slain in a conspiracy at Lachish.” (Clarke)
B. The death of Elisha.
1. (14a) Elisha’s sickness unto death.
Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die.
a. Elisha had become sick: Even men of faith and miracles are not immune to sickness and disease. This great man became sick like others whom he had healed as a channel of the power and blessing of God.
b. With the illness of which he would die: Though God used Elisha on many occasions to heal others, God appointed this illness to be the means of taking Elisha from this world. God has no one single way that He does this; it is a mistake to believe that all the godly die in their sleep without a hint of prior illness.
2. (14b-17) King Joash and his final audience with Elisha the prophet.
Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!” And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.”
a. Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face: This reaction of the king of Israel might seem strange, having just read the description of the sin and evil that marked his reign. However, it is important to remember that Joash was not a worshipper of the false gods; he was a false worshipper of the true God. He had some respect for the true God, and therefore some regard and honor for Elisha.
i. “Dear friends, let us seek so to live that even ungodly men may miss us when we are gone.” (Spurgeon)
b. The chariots of Israel and their horsemen! Elisha said these words to Elijah at the end of the elder prophet’s days on this earth. When he said this to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:12, he recognized the true strength of Israel. He knew that the strength of Israel was really in the presence of the prophet of God. Now Joash sees the same strength slipping from this earth and mourns it.
c. Take a bow and some arrows: Joash was concerned that the true strength of Israel was about to depart from this earth. Therefore, Elisha used this illustration of the arrow shot through the window to show him that the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance was still present, and all Joash had to do was to shoot the arrow in faith.
d. For you must strike the Syrians at Aphek: Elisha made it clear that there was a connection between the shooting of the arrows towards the east and a strike against the Syrians that would bring deliverance to Israel.
i. “The window was opened eastward toward Syria and specifically toward Aphek, the most strategic site between Damascus and Samaria. Aphek was the city where Ahab had defeated the Syrians years earlier (1 Kings 20:26).” (Dilday)
ii. “It was an ancient custom to shoot an arrow or cast a spear into the country which an army intended to invade. . . . The dart, spear, or arrow thrown, was an emblem of the commencement of hostilities.” (Clarke)
3. (18-19) King Joash fails to fully take the opportunity.
Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”
a. Take the arrows: Joash just heard Elisha make the connection between the arrows shot through the window and coming victory over the Syrian army. He knew that these arrows represented the Lord’s deliverance of Israel against Syria.
b. Strike the ground: Joash timidly received this invitation of the prophet to shoot the arrows at no particular target so that they hit the ground. He shot three arrows and stopped, not sensing what he should have – that the arrows represented victories in battle over the Syrians, and he should have received the prophet’s invitation more boldly.
i. The phrase “Strike the ground” can be for shot arrows hitting the ground. Elisha asked Joash to shoot the arrows through the window at no particular target, not to pound them on the floor.
ii. Elisha clearly asked Joash to do something that modeled prayer.
· Shooting the arrows required effort and aim.
· Shooting the arrows required instruction and help from the prophet of God.
· Shooting the arrows had to be done through an open window.
· Shooting the arrows had to be done without knowing the exact outcome ahead of time. The target was only fully known by faith.
· Shooting the arrows was ineffective because it was not repeated enough, reflecting a lack of confidence in the process.
· Shooting the arrows had its strategic moment, and when that moment passed it was gone.
· Failing to shoot the arrows hurts others, not only our self.
c. The man of God was angry with him: Because King Joash did not seize the strategic moment, Israel would enjoy only three victories over the Syrian army, instead of the many more they could have enjoyed.
i. “The prophet himself did not yet know how many victories Jehoash should obtain against the Syrians, but God had signified to him that he should learn that by the number of the king’s strokes.” (Poole)
ii. There are many situations in which we should keep “shooting the arrows,” but we content ourselves with a small effort. “He should have continued smiting till the prophet had said, Enough.” (Trapp)
· Keep shooting in the battle against sin.
· Keep shooting in the attainment of Christian knowledge.
· Keep shooting in the attainment of faith.
· Keep shooting to do more for the kingdom of God.
· Keep shooting because the world, the flesh, and the devil will not stop their shooting.
iii. When God invites us to take something by faith, we must receive it boldly – and ask Him knowing that He is a great king and giver who is honored by bold, reverent requests.
iv. “Only Joash’s lack of faith, manifested in his half-hearted smiting the ground with arrows but thrice, prevented his destroying the Syrians utterly. And it was unto him according to his faith.” (Knapp)
d. But now you will strike Syria only three times: As it happened, life and death depended on how many arrows Joash shot to the ground. When King Joash had the opportunity to shoot the arrows, it probably seemed to be a small thing to him. He did not know that God’s plan for a nation and his seemingly small actions were vitally connected.
i. “It is a fact that God has purposed all things both great and little; neither will anything happen but according to his eternal purpose and decree. It is also a sure and certain fact that, oftentimes, events hang upon the choice of men. Their will has a singular potency.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We think of all the excuses that Joash could have made; yet none of them are valid.
· “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to be presumptuous and ask for too much.”
· “I stopped shooting because I’m not a very good archer.”
· “I stopped shooting because Elisha didn’t help me more.”
· “I stopped shooting because I though three was plenty.”
· “I stopped shooting because I didn’t think it would do any good.”
· “I stopped shooting because I wasn’t in a shooting mood. I didn’t feel like it.”
· “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to get over-excited.”
iii. “So there be some who think that hearing the gospel is a little thing. Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown, may hang upon the preaching and hearing of a sermon. To hear attentively, and not be disturbed in the sermon, may seem a very insignificant thing; and yet upon the catching of the word may result either the attainment of faith or the absence of faith, and so the salvation that comes by faith.” (Spurgeon)
4. (20-21) The continuing power of God at work in Elisha, even after his death.
Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
a. The Elisha died: Perhaps he expected or hoped that he would be carried up into heaven after the dramatic pattern of his mentor Elijah. Yet that was not God’s plan or will for Elisha. Like many others, he simply became old, sick, and then died.
b. When the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet: This is one of the more strange and unusual miracles in the Bible. There is little explanation and the silence of the record suggests that there was not inherent power in the bones of Elisha to resuscitate others. This seems to be a unique, one-time miracle to bring honor to the memory of this great prophet.
i. “This is the first, and I believe the last, account of a true miracle performed by the bones of a dead man; and yet on it and such like the whole system of miraculous working relics has been founded by the popish Church.” (Clarke)
ii. We can also be brought to life by our contact with these dead prophets.
C. God’s mercy unto Israel.
1. (22-23) God’s kindness to Israel.
And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence.
a. Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel: This was allowed – even planned – by God as a way to discipline this wayward nation. 2 Kings 8:12 records Elisha’s prior knowledge of the calamity Hazael would bring upon Israel.
b. But the Lord was gracious to them: Israel deserved this discipline, yet God refused to forsake them. He gave them many blessings and saved them from many problems and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence.
2. (24-25) The victories of King Joash against the Syrians.
Now Hazael king of Syria died. Then Ben-Hadad his son reigned in his place. And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz recaptured from the hand of Ben-Hadad, the son of Hazael, the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times Joash defeated him and recaptured the cities of Israel.
a. Three times Joash defeated him: Elisha had promised Joash these three victories over the Syrians. We can supposed that especially after the third victory King Joash wished he had shot more arrows through the window at the invitation of Elisha.
© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission