Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3148. B.C. 856.

The reign of Jehoahaz, who follows the sin of Jeroboam; is oppressed by Hazael, and relieved by prayer, 2 Kings 13:1-9 . Joash his son succeeds him in the kingdom, and in his idolatry, 2 Kings 13:10-13 . Elisha foretels to Joash three victories over the Syrians, and dies; Joash’s lamentation, 2 Kings 13:14-19 . A dead man, being cast into Elisha’s sepulchre, is restored to life, 2 Kings 13:20 , 2 Kings 13:21 . Hazael oppresses Israel and dies. Joash beats the Syrians three times, and recovers the cities which had been taken from his father, 2 Kings 13:22-25 .

Verse 3

2 Kings 13:3. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel Who, knowing the only living and true God to be a spirit, an eternal mind, an infinitely wise and mighty, just and holy, and absolutely perfect Being, besides all their other sins and abominations, still continued to change the glory of this their incorruptible God into the similitude of an ox, the truth of God into a lie, and, like the nations around them, to worship the work of their own hands. There could not be a greater reproach than the two idolized calves were, to a people acquainted with the nature and attributes of God, and intrusted with his lively oracles, in which he had given them rules, of his own appointment, to direct them how to worship him. Strange it is, indeed, that in all the history of the ten tribes, we never find the least shock given to that idolatry, but, in every reign, still the calf was their god! and that notwithstanding the many and repeated judgments executed upon them to reclaim them from that senseless and stupid practice. Well might the anger of God be kindled against them! And he delivered them into the hand of Hazael It had been the honour of Israel that they were taken under the special protection of Heaven: God himself was their defence, the shield of their help, and the sword of their excellency. But here again, as often before, we find them stripped of this glory, and exposed to the insults of all their neighbours. Surely never was any nation so often plucked and pillaged as Israel was: but this they brought upon themselves by their sins: and when they had provoked God to break down their hedge, the goodness of their land did but tempt their neighbours. So low was Israel brought in this reign, by the many depredations which the Syrians made upon them, that the militia of the kingdom, and all the force they could bring into the field, was but fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen, a despicable muster, 2 Kings 13:7. Are the thousands of Israel come to this? How is the gold become dim!

Verse 4

2 Kings 13:4. The Lord hearkened unto him Not for his sake, for God regards not the prayers of the wicked and impenitent, but for other reasons, expressed 2 Kings 13:23. For he saw the oppression of Israel His chosen and once beloved people. He now helps them because of his former and ancient kindness to them. Because the king of Syria oppressed them To wit, very grievously, as it is expressed 2 Kings 13:7. So that God helped them, not because they were worthy of his help, but because of the rage of their enemies, and the blasphemies which doubtless accompanied it. See Deuteronomy 32:27.

Verse 5

2 Kings 13:5. The Lord gave Israel a saviour Either Elisha, below, (2 Kings 13:14,) or rather, Jehoash the son of this Jehoahaz, (2 Kings 13:25,) and Jeroboam his son, 2 Kings 14:25. Both of these were instrumental in working out great deliverances for Israel, although they were wicked men, who still kept up the idolatry of the calves. Israel dwelt in their tents as before time In peace and security: not only in their strong cities, but even in their tents in the fields.

Verse 7

2 Kings 13:7. Neither did he leave, &c. That is, the king of Syria, who so terribly oppressed the Israelites. For this verse must be considered as connected with 2 Kings 13:4, 2Ki 13:5-6 being included in a parenthesis, as is done in our translation. By the people, of whom the king of Syria left so few, the Israelitish army, or men of war, are here meant, as the following words evince. For the king of Syria had destroyed them God gave them into his hand, to make this destruction among them, killing some, and carrying others captive. And had made them like the dust by thrashing Had broken, and, as it were, ground them to dust or powder, as the corn is many times broken by thrashing.

Verse 8

2 Kings 13:8. And his might For, though he had not success, he showed much personal valour and courage. Which is observed to intimate, that the Israelites were not conquered because of the baseness and cowardice of their king; but merely from the righteous and dreadful judgments of God, who was now resolved to reckon with them for their apostacy.

Verse 10

2 Kings 13:10. In the thirty and seventh year of Joash, king of Judah, &c. A difficulty arises in comparing this with 2 Kings 13:1, where it is said, Jehoahaz began to reign in the twenty-third year of Joash, king of Judah, and reigned seventeen years: from whence it follows, that this Jehoash, son of Jehoahaz, began to reign, not in the thirty-seventh, but in the thirty-ninth or fortieth year of Joash, king of Judah. This difficulty, however, is solved by supposing, what is very probable, that Jehoahaz had made his son Jehoash king, jointly with himself, two or three years before his death. This is the more probable, because he was perpetually in a state of war, and consequently in danger of an untimely death; and because his son was a man of valour, as is implied, 2 Kings 13:12, and declared, 2 Chronicles 25:17-24.

Verse 13

2 Kings 13:13. And Joash slept with his fathers The sacred writer does not here conclude the history of Joash, for he afterward relates great things done by him. But having to speak of the sickness and death of Elisha, upon which those things depended, he introduces that before he proceeds further to relate his acts.

Verse 14

2 Kings 13:14. Elisha was fallen sick, &c. Elisha lived long; for it was now about sixty years since he was first called to be a prophet. It was a great mercy to Israel, and especially to the sons of the prophets, that he was continued so long a burning and a shining light. Elijah finished his testimony in a fourth part of that time. For God’s prophets have their day appointed them, longer or shorter, as infinite wisdom sees fit. The time of Elisha’s flourishing, however, was much less than the time of his living. During all the latter part of his life, from the anointing of Jehu, which was forty-five years before Joash began his reign, we find no mention made of him, nor of any thing he did, till we find him here upon his death-bed. He was, no doubt, useful to the last, yet, it seems, not so famous as he had formerly been. The king came down, and wept over his face While he leaned over him to kiss him. This was an evidence of some good in Joash, and that he had a value for a faithful prophet. So far was he from hating and persecuting him as a troubler of Israel, as Ahab had hated and persecuted Elijah, that he loved and honoured him, as one of the greatest blessings of his kingdom. Thus it has sometimes happened, that those who, like Joash, would not be obedient to the word of God, yet have been compelled to hold his faithful ministers in honour, fully convinced of their being upright and holy men of God. And said, O my father, my father, &c. Thus he laments over him in the same words which Elisha himself had used when he lamented the removal of Elijah. Probably he had heard or read of them, and judged them as applicable to Elisha as they had been to his predecessor: see on 2 Kings 2:12. Joash seems to have intended by these words to express Elisha’s fatherly care of Israel, the great authority he had maintained among them, that by his counsels, and prayers, and miracles, they had obtained great and glorious victories over their enemies; and that he and his kingdom would sustain an inestimable loss by his death.

Verses 15-17

2 Kings 13:15-17. Take bow and arrows This was to represent the wars he was to have with the Syrians. Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands To signify to him, that in all his expeditions against the Syrians, he must look up to God for direction and strength; must reckon his own hands insufficient for him, and must go on in dependance on the divine aid. Open the window eastward Toward Syria, which lay north-eastward from the land of Israel: the Syrians had also possessed themselves of the land of the Israelites beyond Jordan, which lay eastward from Canaan: this arrow is shot toward these parts, as a token of what God intended to do against the Syrians. The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance It is God that commands deliverance, and when he will effect it, who can hinder? Thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek Where they were now encamped, or where they were to have a general rendezvous of their forces. Till thou have consumed them Those of them that are vexatious and oppressive to thee and thy kingdom.

Verses 18-19

2 Kings 13:18-19. Smite upon the ground The former sign portended victory: and this was to declare the number of the victories. He smote thrice, and stayed Through his inattention to, or unbelief of, the sign just given, concerning war with, victory over, and deliverance from Syria, or through indifference about that deliverance. The man of God was wroth with him Whether Joash, before this interview with Elisha, was acquainted or not with the nature of those parabolic actions, whereby the prophets were accustomed to represent future events, he could not but perceive, by the comment which Elisha made upon the first arrow, which he calls the arrow of deliverance, that his shooting was a symbolical action, and intended to prefigure his victories over that nation; and, therefore, he might easily understand that this second action, of striking the ground with the arrow, was to portend the number of victories he was to obtain. And if, added to this, we may suppose, with the generality of interpreters, that the prophet had apprized him beforehand that such was the symbolical intent of what he now put him upon, that the oftener he smote upon the ground, the more would be the victories which his arms should obtain; and that thus, in some measure, his success in the war was put into his own power; the king’s conduct was utterly inexcusable, if, diffident of the prophet’s promise, and considering the great strength of the kings of Syria, more than the power of God, he stopped his hand after he had smote thrice, supposing that the prediction would never have been fulfilled, had he gone on and smote upon the earth oftener. Upon the whole, therefore, the prophet had just reason to be offended at the king for not believing God, who had done so many signal miracles in favour of the Israelites; for not believing him, who, according to his own acknowledgment, had been a constant defender of the state, and now, in his dying hours, was full of good wishes and intentions for his country. See Dodd, Le Clerc, and Patrick.

Verse 20

2 Kings 13:20. Elisha died, and they buried him In or near Samaria. The spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha, and yet he is not conveyed to heaven in a fiery chariot as Elijah was, but goes the common way of all flesh out of the world, and is visited with the visitation of all men. If God honour some above others, who yet are not inferior to them in gifts or graces, who shall find fault? May he not do what he will with his own? The bands of the Moabites invaded the land The mentioning this, immediately on the death of Elisha, intimates, that the removal of God’s faithful prophets is a presage of judgments approaching.

Verse 21

2 Kings 13:21. As they were burying a man Carrying him to his grave; they spied a band of men A party of Moabites coming toward them, but at some distance; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha This sepulchre being near the place where they then were, they removed some stone, or opened some door, and hastily flung down the dead corpse into it; fearing lest, if they proceeded to the place where a grave was prepared, they should fall into the hands of the Moabites. And when the man was let down His body, or the coffin in which it was put; and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood upon his feet Which great miracle, wrought, not by the bones of Elisha, in which there could be no innate power to produce any such effect, but by the almighty power of God, was doubtless intended for divers important purposes; as, 1st, To do honour to that great and holy prophet; and a singular honour it was, not much inferior to that conferred on Elijah when he was translated. Elijah was honoured in his departure; Elisha after his departure. Thus God dispenses honours as he pleases. 2d, To seal and confirm his doctrine and prophecies, and thereby confute the false doctrine and worship of the Israelites. 3d, To strengthen the faith of Joash and the Israelites in the promises which he had given them of success against the Syrians. And, 4th, In the midst of all their calamities to comfort such Israelites as were Elisha’s followers, with the hopes of that eternal life, whereof the reviving of this dead man was a manifest pledge, and to awaken the people to a due care about, and preparation for it. According to Calmet, this was further a symbol and prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with this difference, and a mighty one it is, that Elisha raised a dead body without raising himself, while the Lord Jesus not only raised himself, but gives life to all those that believe in him.

Verse 23

2 Kings 13:23. The Lord had compassion, and would not destroy them as yet The several expressions, of nearly the same import, used in this verse, call upon us to admire the triumphs of divine goodness in the deliverance of such a provoking people. He foresaw they would destroy themselves at last; but, as yet, he would reprieve them, and give them space to repent. The slowness of God’s processes against sinners must be construed to the advancement of his mercy, not the impeachment of his justice. Neither cast them from his presence as yet From the land of Canaan, to which the peculiar presence of God, and his public and solemn worship, were now confined.

Verse 25

2 Kings 13:25. And Jehoash took again the cities, &c. This was a great kindness to the cities themselves, which were hereby rescued from the yoke of oppression, and to the whole kingdom, which was much strengthened by the reduction of those cities. Three times did Joash beat him Just as oft as he had struck the ground with the arrows, and then a full stop was put to the course of his victories. Many have repented, when it was too late, of their unbelief, distrust, and the straitness of their desires.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". Benson's Commentary. 1857.