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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

2 Kings 13

Verses 1-9

Jehoahaz King Over Israel

After the history of Joash, king of Judah, in the previous chapter, we will now return to the ten tribes. We will study the history of the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes during the reign of the house of Jehu. This period of reign was the longest in the history of the ten tribes’ realm. It was a family reign of no less than five successive kings. It started with Jehu, who was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, then came the son of Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and after him, his son, Jerobeam II and finally Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II. But then it ended.

The reign of Jehu’s house had been limited to four generations after him because Jehu’s zeal had been limited or partial. He had done much that God has asked of him, but his heart had not been wholly with the LORD. He had allowed idolatry to persist in the land.

It has already been noted that the reign of the kings of the ten tribes is a picture of the development of church history given in Revelation 2-3. We recognize the phase of Jehu’s house in the history of the church in the letter to the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6). What is said to and of Sardis is a bright spot compared with Thyatira, as the history of Jehu was a bright spot after the history of the house of Ahab.

However, of Jehu and his descendants it was also said that they persisted in idolatry. That is why it says of these descendants that they did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (2Kgs 13:2). This resembles what must be said of Sardis, that they have the name to live, but in reality they are dead (Rev 3:1b).

Because of the infidelity of Jehoahaz, the LORD sent Hazael as a rod of discipline. Thereby He wanted to make them to return to Him. Hazael oppressed the people of God. That is why the prophet Elisha wept (2Kgs 8:11-12).

Then we read something of Jehoahaz that made him unique among the kings of Israel. For we read for the first and last time, and thus the only time of a king of Israel, that he entreated the favor of the LORD. Literally it says that Joahaz ‘caressed the face of the LORD’. That shows how intensely he prayed.

This prayer was not without an answer. The LORD gave a deliverer. It was as with Ahab that a little humiliation before God allowed God’s grace to flow (cf. 2Kgs 13:23; 1Kgs 21:27-29). It is not clear who the deliverer was and when the deliverance took place. Perhaps the writings point to Jehoash, the son of Joahaz, being this deliverer, as is written in 2Kgs 13:25. There we read that Jehoash defeated the Syrians three times. It is also possible that Jeroboam II is meant, of whom it is said that the LORD by his hand saved Israel (2Kgs 14:27). Unfortunately it must be said that, despite the deliverance, they persisted in idolatry (2Kgs 13:6).

2Kgs 13:7 connects to 2Kgs 13:4. Hazael inflicted a major blow on Jehoahaz’s army, reducing his power to a minimum. What remained of his power is described “in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel”, as well as “all that he did and his might”. After this mention follows the announcement of his death and funeral.

Verses 10-13

Jehoash King Over Israel

The historian is brief in his report on the reign of Jehoash. In this report we hear the refrain that sounds of all the kings of Israel. This refrain is a summary of the Holy Spirit of his history. No further description of his actions is given. About the power with which he fought against Amaziah, is mentioned in the following chapter, included in the description of Amaziah’s reign (2Kgs 14:8-15). Then the writer mentions the death and funeral of Jehoash. That seems to be the end of his history, except we get another report of a meeting he had with Elisha.

Verses 14-19

Jehoash Visits the Sick Elisha

Suddenly we meet Elisha again here. The last thing we have heard of him was related to the anointing of Jehu (2Kgs 9:1-4), almost forty-five years before this moment. All this time he had lived in secret. Elisha was now an old man and his end was approaching. He was sick and about to die of that illness.

By the way, we see here that the claim that a believer should not be ill is a lie. God can use a disease as a means in His hand, to take a believer to Himself. He did that here with Elisha. There is no trace that he was sick because of a sin or something like that. It is simply mentioned that he was sick because of the illness of which he would die.

Before he died, a few remarkable things happened that were also characteristic of his whole life. His end was as remarkable as the beginning and the whole course of his history. We read that the LORD told Elijah of Elisha that he would kill him who escapes the sword of Jehu (1Kgs 19:17). This was going to happen here, by the hand of Jehoash.

Jehoash came to visit Elisha. A young king came to an old, dying prophet. In a way, this can be compared to the combination of the young Elisha and the departing Elijah. Jehoash also used the words Elisha speaks when Elijah was taken from him (2Kgs 13:14; 2Kgs 2:12). Jehoash thus said the same as Elisha said about Elijah, that in this one man the whole power of Israel was concentrated and that the whole power was to be taken from Israel when Elisha died. The latter was not the case with Elijah, because Elisha followed him while his spirit rested on him. But if Elisha died, there would be no successor to continue in his power.

With Elisha, God’s power was present. Wicked Jehoash was well aware of that. He used the same words as Elisha, but he did not have the same faith. That is clear from what followed. He was tested whether he wanted to have the spiritual power of Elisha, as Elisha had wanted from Elijah and had also received it.

The test consisted of the way he handled a bow and arrows. Jehoash had to get them for Elisha. When he had put his hand on the bow by order of Elisha, Elisha put his hands on Jehoash’s hands. This action shows that Jehoash was the instrument to break the power of Hazael, but he had to understand that his power lay in the power of Elisha. Of course, this was not physical strength, but the spiritual strength of this man of God. By Elisha placing his hands on the hands of Joash, what the LORD has said about them is fulfilled (1Kgs 19:17).

Jehoash was then instructed to open the window to the east. The east speaks of a new day, of new hope. Through that open window Jehoash had to shoot an arrow. The order to do so sounded with force from the mouth of the weak, dying prophet. Elisha declared that this arrow was “the LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram”. In this arrow the power of the LORD was present. Elisha added: “For you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed [them].” If he expected it from God’s power, he would bring about the deliverance of the enemy, Syria. From everything Elisha said, it became clear that all actions had a symbolic meaning.

After the education came the test to see if he had understood. Elisha told him to take the arrows in his hand and strike the ground. Jehoash did what Elisha said. From what he did it becomes clear that he had understood something about it, but that the essential message had passed him by. He should have empathized with this symbol (cf. 1Kgs 22:11) of victory. Then he would have struck many times. But he only struck three times. As a result, he was not able to completely destroy the enemy.

If we have little faith, little will come about. Just like Jehoash, we often lack the energy of faith that God will do a great work. We often remain passive. Jehoash received what he believed. He struck three times, and would achieve three victories (2Kgs 13:25).

Verses 20-21

Death of Elisha

Jehoash’s faith was weak, because he did not know the secret of life out of death. The power of God was also with Elisha in his death. Even in his death, that power remained present. Elisha remained a source of strength to live. The power of God that becomes visible in the resurrection, is the victory over death. It is about faith in the God who can give life out of death, even now, but then spiritually. We may know that true power lies in the grave of the Lord Jesus. In that grave also lies the beginning of the new life we have through His death.

Because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people, the enemies, the bands of Moab, were able to come and rob the land at the beginning of the year. In that situation God gave a wonderful testimony of the power of His grace, in the resurrection from the dead. The occasion was the burial of a man. While the man was taken to his grave, the company was attacked by a band. Forced by the emergency, the group threw the man into the nearest grave. It turned out to be the grave of Elisha.

As soon as the man in the grave touched Elisha’s bones, he came back to life. What happened here can be seen as a summary of the whole life of Elisha. He was the man who preached in the resurrection power of God. The other dead man made alive by Elisha lay, so to speak, in the same place, the bed of the man of God (2Kgs 4:21). We can see in this, the picture that those who became one with the Lord Jesus in His death have become alive through His death.

In a general sense, we can also see Elisha as a picture of every man of God. We know that where a man of God is working, new life will come. A man of God is in touch with the living God and passes on the life of God in all his service.

The man who came to life can be seen as a picture of the faithful remnant. Israel is currently dead, but the people will come to life by touching the Lord Jesus, that is, by faith in Him. When Israel is again accepted by God as His people, it is nothing but “life from the dead” (Rom 11:15). That life has its origin in the tomb of the Lord Jesus. By this touch the people will rise up “on their feet”. It will become an independent nation again and then walk in the way by God’s direction.

Verses 22-25

God Is Gracious to His People

In this section we find a final testimony of the grace of God. This grace could not be great because of the absence of repentance and conversion. Yet there was that grace. Grace finds its source in God Himself. The promises God has made to us are not because of our faithfulness, but because of, and based on the work of His Son.

It is remarkable that the manifestation of God’s grace is expressed in three different words: He was ‘gracious’ to them, He had ‘compassion’ on them, and He ‘turned’ to them. God has never finally rejected His people.

The effect of God’s grace was beneficial to Israel. God, in His grace, gave Jehoash the ability to take the cities of Israel from the power of the Syrians who possessed them. This will have been a real blessing for those cities themselves. This freed them from the yoke of oppression. It would also have been a blessing for the whole kingdom, which had been strengthened by the return of the cities under Israel’s flag.

By God’s grace Jehoash defeated the Syrians three times, just as often as he had struck the ground with the arrows (2Kgs 13:18-19). But then his victories came to an end.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.