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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The affairs in Judah are here dropped for the moment as this chapter takes up the progress of corruption in Israel. “This chapter represents how insidiously sin entrenches itself and spreads in spite of repeated efforts to check it.”(F1) “Here we find the glory of Israel in ashes, buried and lost and turned into shame. How unlike does Israel appear here to what it had been and what it might have been. Here her crown is profaned and her honor dragged in the dust. It was the honor of Israel that they worshipped the One True God; but by changing the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of an ox and the truth of God into a lie, they had lost their glory and their honor and leveled themselves with the nations who worshipped the work of their own hands.”(F2)

The first reign mentioned here is that of Jehoahaz the son of Jehu, and, “The story of his reign is one of unrelieved gloom. During the whole of it, Israel was under the domination of Syria and was reduced to a state of complete helplessness.”(F3) The apostate nation actually deserved to be cast off forever, but the heavenly Father, out of regard for his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spared them yet awhile.

Verses 1-9


“In the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and followed the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael continually. And Jehoahaz besought Jehovah, and Jehovah hearkened unto him; for he saw the oppression of Israel, how that the king of Syria oppressed them. (And Jehovah gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as beforetime. Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin, but walked therein: and there remained the Asherah also in Samaria). For he left not to Jehoahaz of the people, save fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash his son reigned in his stead.”

“In the three and twentieth year of Joash” Cook wrote that this should be corrected to the “one and twentieth year on the basis of what is written in 2 Kings 13:10.”(F4)

“He… followed the sins of Jeroboam” We cannot accept the allegations that the calf worship set up by Jeroboam I at Dan and Bethel was anything other than outright rebellion against God. It is disgusting to this writer how one liberal scholar after another lines up to claim that there was in any manner whatever a suggestion of the true worship of God in all that calf business. For example, Auld wrote that, “The shrines at Bethel and Dan were in fact a part of Yahweh worship.”(F5) Ridiculous! They were no such thing. The worship of those calves was sinful, reprobate, licentious and totally wicked. Some appeal to the fact that Aaron did it in the wilderness with his Golden Calf. All right, go back to that episode and see what happened!

God Himself declared that the people “had corrupted themselves” (Exodus 32:7). Some claim that they were, in fact, “worshipping God”; but God himself said that, “They have made a calf and worshipped it and that they sacrificed to it”! (Exodus 32:8). There was absolutely no worship of God whatever in that reversion ` to paganism.

Under heavenly orders from God Himself, three thousand persons were put to death that day for their departure from the truth (Exodus 32:27-28). “The almost universal combination of unchastity with pagan rituals raises a suspicion that those who frequented the calf shrines in Dan and Bethel were not innocent of impurity.”(F6) The wickedness of that calf worship indicates that nothing whatever in it entitled it to be considered any less wicked than the outright worship of Baal. The apologists for that calf worship are totally in error.

Note especially the words in Exodus 32:6, where it is stated that, “They sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” There was nothing innocent in that “playing.” It is called “dancing” in Exodus 32:19; but whatever it was, it precipitated the fierce anger of God Himself. There was nothing innocent about it. The slaughter of three thousand people compels us to equate what happened in Exodus 32 with what happened in Numbers 25, where the reason for the slaughter of a similar high number of the so-called `worshippers’ sheds much more light on what happened.

“Continually” “Israel during this period was little more than a vassal of Syria.”(F7)

“Jehoahaz besought Jehovah… And Jehovah gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hands of the Syrians” The terrible oppression of Syria upon Israel forced Jehoahaz to turn to God in prayer. “He had forgotten God, forsaken him and betrayed him. But now that he is at his wits’ end, he turns to him. This is the only kind of religion some people know. As long as all goes well, they manage all right without religion; but let calamity bend them low, and they cry to God in prayer.”(F8)

“Jehovah gave Israel a saviour” Scholars differ about who that saviour was. Dentan thought he was, “Adad-nirari III, an Assyrian ruler who subjected Damascus and crippled Syria’s military domination of Israel.”(F9) However, LaSor rejected that interpretation on the basis that, “The date of Adad-nirari who subjected Damascus in 805 BC does not fit Biblical chronology.”(F10) Perhaps the safest opinion is that of Keil who wrote that, “The saviour was neither an angel nor the prophet Elisha, but the two successors of Jehoahaz, namely, Joash and Jeroboam II.”(F11) Hammond thought that perhaps, “The prophet Jonah, who prophesied the great deliverance by Jeroboam II, might also have been in mind.”(F12)

“And there remained the Asherah also in Samaria” Some have expressed surprise at an Asherah being in Samaria; but no surprise is in order. It was a thoroughly pagan city. As a matter of fact they even had their gold calf just like Dan and Bethel (See Hosea 8:6).(F13)

“He left Jehoahaz… ten chariots” This indicates that Hazael had forbidden Jehoahaz to maintain any kind of an armed force except for a small token for use on state occasions. “During the reign of Ahab, Israel had over 2,000 chariots; but now they were reduced to ten”!(F14) What had become of all those soldiers of Ahab? The next clause tells us.

“The king of Syria destroyed them and made them like the dust in threshing” Yes, this is a metaphor, perhaps; but it also described a merciless and brutal type of destroying defeated enemies after a battle. Amos referred to this as follows: “I will not turn away the punishment of Damascus; because they threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron” (Amos 1:4). This was accomplished by making the defeated troops lie down; and then their conquerors drove iron threshing instruments over them to slay them. Those instruments were something that resembled harrows.

“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz” These words are a kind of formula repeated in connection with all of the kings whose lives are reported in 1 Kings and 2 Kings, and their verbatim repetition time after time in the exact words, “Indicates that both 1and 2 Kings are by one author and that they form only one book.”(F15)

Verses 10-13


“In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin; but he walked therein. Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, and his might wherewith he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.”

Many scholars consider the balance of this chapter as a kind of afterthought on the part of the author, because he suddenly remembered these important particulars connected with the life and death of Elisha. The sacred verdict on the life of Joash king of Israel was simple enough. “He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah.” It is interesting that Josephus flatly declared that, “Joash was a good man,”(F16) an opinion that Josephus might have formed from the kindness Joash showed to Elisha in his terminal illness (2 Kings 13:14 ff). We do not believe that Josephus’ opinion was correct; but if it should be allowed, then Joash is the only one of the kings of Northern Israel who was ever so-called a “good man.”

King Jehoash is called “Joash” in 2 Kings 13:12; and thus we have a king Joash in both Israel and Judah. “These two kings Joash were contemporary for a period of about three years.”(F17) Facts like this add to the confusion one encounters in trying to keep the records of all these kings in the proper perspective.

Verses 14-19


“Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died: and Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over him, and said, My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof! And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows, and he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thy hand upon the bow; and he put his hand upon it. And Elisha laid his hands upon the king’s hands. And he said, Open the window eastward; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot; and he shot. And he said, Jehovah’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Syria; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows; and he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground; and he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, “Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times: then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it; whereas thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.”

This was the last recorded prophecy of Elisha, and it was exactly fulfilled as recorded in 2 Kings 13:22-25 below. This was another of those enacted prophecies which are so characteristic of those by the great prophets of the O.T. The arrow shot from the window eastward was a prophecy of the defeat of Syria.

“My father! my father! the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof” (See our comment on this greeting under 2 Kings 13:2:12, above, in which Elisha had greeted Elijah with these same words.) Elijah had appointed Elisha as his successor; but Elisha left no one to take his place. The day of grace for Israel was rapidly running out.

“The king of Israel… wept over him” The KJV definitely leaves the impression that the tears of Joash fell upon Elisha; and the king of Israel had every incentive to weep. The dying prophet was the last vestige of hope for apostate Israel. Joash’s unusually thoughtful act in calling upon the dying prophet received its immediate reward in Elisha’s promise of great victories over Syria. But even in this final interview, the king of Israel failed to measure up to what the prophet expected of him.

Elisha must have been very old at the time of this event. Cook estimated that, “he was about ninety.”(F18)

“He smote thrice, and stayed” Cook’s comment here catches the spirit of what actually happened. “The unfaithfulness of man limits the goodness of God. Joash did the prophets bidding, but without any zeal or fervor, and in all probability without any earnest belief in the efficacy of what he was doing.”(F19) That this was surely the case is evident from the fact that Elisha was angry with Joash for his insufficient and half-hearted obedience.

Whitcomb was of the opinion that Joash, by his quotation of the exact words with which Elisha had long previously addressed Elijah was actually suggesting to Elisha that, “I want to be your successor and inherit the portion of the firstborn as you inherited it from Elijah.”(F20)

If such a suggestion has any truth in it, Joash’s listless obedience to the great prophet’s command frustrated any willingness Elisha might have had to grant the petition. “So, far from being a qualified successor to Elisha’s prophetic office, Joash was not even qualified to fulfill his own kingly office.”(F21)

Verses 20-21


“And Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man,, that, behold, they spied a band; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.”

This is undoubtedly one of the greatest wonders of the O.T., but it is not an inappropriate thing that is thus attributed to the bones of that most remarkable prophet.

Many have discussed the kind of tomb in which Elisha had probably been buried. It appears to have been a rather large tomb cut into a rock, entered horizontally, and closed with a large stone rolled against the opening. Such burial places were easily opened merely by rolling aside the stone shutter. That is why Pilate sealed the grave of Jesus which was a similar burial place. At any rate, when that ancient burial party saw the marauding Moabites, they opened the first tomb they came to and thrust the body of the dead man inside. That happened to be the tomb of Elisha with the result here recorded.

There is little wonder that, “The Jews regarded this miracle as the greatest glory of Elisha.”(F22)

Verses 22-25


“And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But Jehovah was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither did he cast them from his presence, as yet. And Hazael king of Syria died; and Benhadad his son reigned in his stead. And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash smite him, and recovered the cities of Israel.”

The last sentence here records the exact fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy of a triple victory of Joash over Syria.

We also have here a recapitulation. 2 Kings 13:22 refers back to 2 Kings 13:3, and 2 Kings 13:23 refers back to 2 Kings 13:4-5.

“As yet” (`until now’ in margin) These are among the most significant words in the passage. “The author here had in mind that the Northern Israel would ultimately be cast away, rejected, and removed out of God’s sight (2 Kings 17:18-23), but, as yet, there still remained an interval of about a century before the blow would fall and the northern kingdom would end.”(F23)

2 Kings 13:25 may be read to mean that Benhadad had captured those cities which Joash recovered. However, strictly speaking, Hazael is the antecedent of the pronoun “he.” But, if Benhadad was Hazael’s general in the conquering campaign, then, Hazael, as king, had taken those cities from Jehoahaz, or Benhadad his son and commanding general had done so.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-kings-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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