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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

Second Kings - Chapter 13

Jehoahaz’ Reign - Verses 1-7

Old king Jehu died the same year in which Joash finally got the temple repair underway in Jerusalem. While the kingdom of Judah had enjoyed revival and now maintained at least a semblance of worship of the Lord things had got no better in the northern kingdom of Israel. It seems that Jehu would have drawn close to the Lord, but it has been shown that he reverted to the worship of Jeroboam’s calves in Bethel and Da Jehu’s son Jehoahaz succeeded him, and for his seventeen

years of rule he continued to favor the calves of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Again appears the familiar refrain, "Which made Israel to sin." This is the eternal epitaph of wicked Jeroboam, and the saddest part of it all is that every single king who succeeded him on Israel’s throne patterned his worship after that evil man. It was a direct violation of God’s commandment (De 12:30), and men still follow in the same paths (Matthew 23:2-3).

Old Hazael, the king of Syria, wrought havoc in Israel, as the Lord used him (and later his son, Ben-hadad), to chastise Israel. So easy did Hazael find it to defeat Israel, as seen in the last chapter of the commentary, he pressed on to the Philistine cities and to Jerusalem in his conquests. This is what made Elisha weep in anticipation when he revealed to Hazael that he would become king (2 Kings 8:11-13).

However, Jehoahaz did a unique thing among the kings of the northern kingdom. He became so distressed by the depredations of the Syrians that he sought the will of the Lord. The manner in which he sought Him is not revealed, but it is apparent that he did so in an outward sense only. He had no change of heart. Nevertheless the Lord had mercy on Israel and relieved the oppression of Syria, in what way again is not revealed. It is simply recorded that the Lord gave Israel a savior, by whom they went out from under the power of Syria. Who the savior was is not revealed. He brought blessing and restoration to Israel, and they were able to inhabit their cities and houses once more.

It is probable that the "savior" refers to the mighty Assyrian armies, who were pushing out and enlarging the empire of Nineveh, located far north on the Tigris River. But Israel’s savior was a "savior" with a "little s", whereas they needed the Savior with a "capital S", the Lord. Even though King Jehoahaz sought the Lord, and was blessed by it, he did not turn from the worship of the calves, nor did the people of Israel turn back to Him. Israel remained a very weak and distraught nation. The Syrians left them with only fifty cavalry, ten war chariots, and 10,000 infantry. The Scripture says they were destroyed as the dust of threshing.

Verses 8-13

Joash’s Reign - Verses 8-13

The only thing worthy of inspiration in the reign of Jehoahaz seems to have been his seeking relief from Syria through the Lord. Like a lot of people in every generation, when he got what he wanted he did not feel any further need of God. The account of his reign passes over his seventeen years quite briefly, recording his death, mentioning his record in the chronicles of the kings of Israel, and stating that he was buried in Samaria.

Jehoahaz was succeeded by his son, Joash, not to be confused at all with the Joash, studied earlier, who was king of Judah. He was considerably younger than Judah’s Joash. In fact, he began his reign when the Joash of Judah had been king in Jerusalem for thirty-seven years, three years before his assassination, studied above.

Joash reigned in Samaria for sixteen years, and continued in the path of Jeroboam’s religion. He seems to have gone his predecessors even one better by naming his own son Jeroboam, after the wicked first king of Israel, "which made Israel to sin." The inspired chronicler seems to desire to pass over this evil king as quickly as possible, proceeding at once to summarize his reign and record his death. Mention is made of his war with Amaziah king of Judah, but this is passed over here, reserving the details of that conflict for treatment along with the reign of the king of Judah, Amaziah. There was one incident involving Joash in the northern kingdom which the writer will now relate. (Proverbs 2:22)

Verses 14-19

Joash Visits Elisha - Verses 14-19

Elisha had come to the end of his long ministry. Elijah had cast the prophet’s mantle on his shoulders away back during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. For more than sixty years Elisha had preached and represented the true God of Israel through the reigns of six wicked kings.

It may have seemed to him that little had been accomplished, for Israel was not revived, had not turned again to worship of the Lord. Yet the prophet had fulfilled God’s mission for him and had never given up; he went down in the annals of inspired writ as one of God’s great men.

Elisha was sick and soon to die, and Joash the king heard of it. Why that idol-worshipper decided to pay the old prophet a visit is not revealed, but there is evidence for conjecture from his words of greeting when he arrived at Elisha’s house. He came in weeping, and saying, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." He was repeating the words of Elisha exclaimed by him when he observed the rapture of Elijah by fiery chariot. At at that time Elisha had received a requested double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

Joash may not have expected Elisha to go up to heaven in a fiery chariot like Elijah had done, but he may have thought being near the great man of God he might acquire some of that spirit. Of course the wicked king had no right to expect a special gift of the spirit from the Lord, but he had no understanding of ’such things. This may have been his thought.

Elisha had some parting information for the king, a message from the Lord of good blessing on Israel. The king was instructed to take bow and arrows and put his hands to them.

Then Elisha put his own hands on those of the king, instructed the opening of an east window, and had the king shoot the arrow out the window.

East was the direction of the Syrian enemy who continued to ravage the land of Israel. Elisha told King Joash that this shot arrow was the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance from Syria. Joash would smite the Syrians at Aphek, east of Chinnereth (Sea of Galilee, as called later), until he had consumed them.

Next Elisha instructed the king to take the arrows from the quiver and smite them on the ground. The king did so, but smote only three times, for which Elisha was angrily displeased with him. The enthusiasm of the promised blessing of the Lord in defeat of Syria should have made Joash strike over and over with the arrows.

The angry prophet scolded the king, saying he should have smitten five or six times, in which case Syria would have been totally consumed.

But now Israel would win but three times, allowing a resurgence of the old enemy. Lack of zeal and half-hearted obedience have lost many a battle for the Lord’s people (cf. Hosea 10:2).

Verses 20-25

Two Deaths - Verses 20-25

No particulars of Elisha’s death and burial are recorded, but an amazing incident involving him posthumously is recorded. Although God granted Israel a measure of relief from the Syrians, saving them from absolute destruction in the reign of Jehoahaz, the enemies were soon back at their old trouble-making. Since the time of Ahab they had liked to send marauding patties into Israel raiding and pillaging-the towns and countryside. This time, however, it was the Moabites who were marauding. They even broke up a funeral procession.

Some Israelites were on their way to burial of a dead man when they observed one of the Moabite bands coming toward them. They quickly looked about them for a place to dispose of the dead, dropping him into a tomb (probably a cave) already occupied by a body. It was Elisha’s tomb, and when the dead man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up. Even after his ministry the Lord was verifying His word to Israel as it had been preached by His prophet. Here was demonstrated the mighty power of God, not only to the apostate Israelites, but to the pagan Moabites as well.

God possesses the power of life, and this incident of life coming out of a tomb was a prelude to a far more significant and eternally efficient life, stemming from another tomb. Jesus Christ is the way of life (John 14:6; John 10:10). He came forth from the tomb, as the old preachers used to say, "triumphant over death, hell, and the grave" (Colossians 2:13-15). And so, He ever lives to make intercession for the believer (Hebrews 7:25), assuring them that every one shall also have life from the tomb (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Old King Hazael of Damascus never relented his warfare against Israel. Yet the Lord would not allow the destruction of the nation for a while longer, because of His covenant with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He granted them grace and compassion during Jehoahaz’ time and continued it to even greater degree under Joash, his son. But finally old Hazael died, after a long reign, and was succeeded by his son Ben-hadad. His son was named after the old king and predecessor of Hazael, whom Hazael had assassinated by smothering him in his sick bed (2 Kings 8:15). Probably Hazael’s wicked deed was never known by the people, for he had given his son the name of the old king in a seeming act of hypocrisy.

Under the young Ben-hadad God’s prophetic promise through Elisha on his deathbed began to come to pass. Joash was able to defeat the Syrians and to recapture the cities which Hazael had wrested from them. He won just three times, as Elisha said he would, because he had smitten the arrows on the ground just three times in a demonstrable lack of zeal.

Lessons to be learned from chapter 13: 1) God has mercy on and blesses even the unrepentant in manifold ways; 2) some wicked persons show utter contempt for God by their open defiance of His known will; 3) many ignorant of the Lord’s way think to win His favor by pious words and Biblical quotations; 4) the world’s leaders pass by opportunities for good of their countries by their disbelief in the power of God; 5) the truth of God’s preached word will never die; 6) God’s word is accurate and sure, in spite of man’s doubt and unconcern therewith.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-13.html. 1985.
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