Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 17

2 Kings 13:17

We have here a picture of the old generation in contact with the new. We see the old testing the new and teaching the new.

I. If we were to measure the hopes of Joash's life from the attitude which he holds towards the old man, we must admit that everything promises well. Here is one in whose heart and mind the instinct of hero-worship is very strong. But the old prophet is not satisfied. He would fain test this young man's ardour, and see of what mettle he was. In the scene before us we have the test. After letting fly the arrow of the Lord's deliverance, he was to strike upon the ground. Having struck thrice, he stayed, with a hesitating self-consciousness, waiting for some gesture or directions from the prophet, and the old man was wroth. He had applied the test, and the king had failed to bear it, and he saw weakness written there. Joash lacks the two qualities which make up greatness: (1) the spirit of thoroughness, and (2) the glorious power of imagination. A man cannot achieve practical work unless he has the prosaic instinct that does not shrink from the drudgery of it. This Joash has not. He strikes feebly thrice, and then looks round for instructions. Self-consciousness, a weak dependence upon others, the eye askance to see how far he may go, a feebleness within the mind, are his, and he has no power of living by individual heroism and devotion.

II. The prophet is not merely one to test, but also one to teach. He teaches the king to realise himself and to realise God. He sets before him these two things: the insight to see the power of God and action to discharge the duties of life. As one of our own prophets has taught us, what is wanted to make a hero is, not a great soul, but simply a God-begotten soul that is true to its own origin. The heroes and the saints of old were great, but we must remember that the power which made them great was the spirit which was within.

Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Oxford Review, May 6th, 1885.

References: 2 Kings 13:17 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 65. 2 Kings 13:18 , 2 Kings 13:19 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 79. 2 Kings 13:19 . J. Baines, Sermons, p. 255; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 569; R. C. Trench, Brief Thoughts and Meditations, p. 109.

Verses 18-19

2 Kings 13:18-19

You have here a man in extreme debility, with his natural strength ebbing away from him. The man of war, the man of action, in his flush of hope, comes to him; and the dying prophet rallies him with his faith and clear views, and lays his thin fingers upon him, through which the king feels the electric power which comes from the prophet, giving him new strength. The dying saint is the stronger of the two.

I. Let us consider whence comes this strength. Not through self-confidence. Not through the splendour of any actions he has done. Not through the cool, deliberate, and iron will which gives the cold, calculating intellect of man power over the mighty forces of nature. Self-confidence is one thing; faith is another.

II. We are not to abuse self-confidence. It is not the brazen courage which challenges the homage of the world. You cannot watch the career of public men or read biography without facing the forces which self-confidence has raised.

III. But having said this, we must remember that there is a limit to the natural resources of this power. By reason of your self-confidence being contracted within the narrow outline of yourself, you have no security for your own personal well-being or the triumph of your cause in that great future which lies beyond sight. On the other hand, by faith you attach yourself to a Power outside of you, to a Power which is infinite. You acquire a command over resources which are inexhaustible. You cast in your fortunes with One who is eternal.

IV. From this line of thought we may draw these practical directions. (1) As to the way in which we are to try the revelations of the truth of God. God has revealed certain truths to us. If we then decline any part of a truth which He reveals, we so far fall short of our knowledge of Him. As children in our Father's house, we take the crumbs while we are bidden to sit down with the saints at the supper of our Lord. (2) If God gives us implements, resources, and material instruments, our claim on His assisting grace may be assured, for we are to make use of them to the utmost.

C. W. Furse, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 42.

Reference: 2 Kings 18:19 . H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 544, and Old Testament Outlines, p. 80.

Verses 20-21

2 Kings 13:20-21

We Protestants do not attach much virtue to relics in the ordinary sense of the term, but there is a sense in which we may reasonably do so. Relics are remains; and while we believe that no virtue resides in the material remains of a good man, we do not therefore exempt from efficacy his mental or spiritual remains. If he has left behind him in writing the effusions of a devout mind, we believe that these writings, by which "he, being dead, yet speaketh," often exercise an influence for good upon readers long after he himself has passed away, and that thus the miracle wrought by the bones of Elisha is continually repeating itself in the experience of the Church.


I. The power of devotional reading. (1) The power of devotional reading may be seen from considering the effect which constant association with the wise and good would naturally exert upon the mind. It is an axiomatic truth which has passed into a proverb, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." (2) Spiritual reading has to a certain extent taken the place of preaching. This has come about in the order of God's providence, which has ordained the diffusion of literature in the press, just as it has ordained many less important movements. The reading of spiritual books may be regarded, and ought to be regarded, more or less in the light of a Divine ordinance.

II. Some suggestions may be given as to the conduct of this exercise. (1) A discrimination must be used in the choice of books. (2) Prayer or devout aspirations must be mingled with the reading. (3) Carefully avoid all dissipation in the method of reading.

E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 88.

References: 2 Kings 13:20 , 2 Kings 13:21 . A. Edersheim, Elisha the Prophet, p. 318; H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 886, and Old Testament Outlines, p. 79.

Verse 21

2 Kings 13:21

I. This narrative teaches us that the influence of faithful workers for the kingdom of God extends beyond the grave, and that frequently a cause for which men have laboured and spent themselves is advanced by the departure from amongst us of those who have taken it in hand. Contact with the death of such a worker not unfrequently imparts life the life of earnestness, the life of devotion, the life of Christian self-sacrifice to those who did not possess it, or who possessed it only imperfectly and inefficiently before.

II. It is not very difficult to discover why it should be so. Independently of the fact that when a gap is made by the fall of a leader many others may feel that more effort and devotion is required of themselves, there is a contagion about one who has gone to the extremest length of self-sacrifice that is possible in man. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And as it is the dying of the Saviour which draws His followers round Him and makes Him the centre of their adoration and their love, so it is the dying of men in the cause they have espoused which kindles the enthusiasm of other spirits and makes them willing to rush forward and take the banner from the fallen warriors' failing grasp.

G. Calthrop, Penny Pulpit, No. 730.

References: 2 Kings 13:21 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 155; W. Walters, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 189. 2 Kings 13:0 Parker, vol. viii., p. 228. 2 Kings 14:25 . Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 161. 2 Kings 14:0 Parker, vol. viii., p. 239. 2 Kings 15:5 . E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 117. 2 Kings 15:10 . Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 259. 2 Kings 15:19 . E. H. Plumptre, Ibid., 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 230. 2 Kings 15:0 Parker, vol. viii., p. 250. 2 Kings 17:1 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 83. 2 Kings 17:1-14 . Ibid., vol. xix., p. 105. 2 Kings 17:4 , 2 Kings 17:5 . E. H. Plumptre, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., pp. 316, 318. 2 Kings 17:41 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1622; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 94. 2 Kings 17:0 Parker, vol. viii., p. 263. 2 Kings 18:1-37 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 92. 2 Kings 18:3 . E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 221. 2 Kings 18:3-7 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 162.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". "Sermon Bible Commentary".