Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 18-19


2 Kings 13:18-19. 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 now thou shall smite Syria but thrice.

IN this passage is recorded a conversation between King Joash and the Prophet Elisha. The prophet was dying; and the king, who had utterly neglected him before, now went to visit him, and was full of concern about the loss, which both he and all his people would sustain: the king even wept over him, and most pathetically exclaimed, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof [Note: This is the same expression as Elisha himself had used in reference to Elijah, 2 Kings 2:12. The people of Israel were forbidden to multiply chariots and horses, that they might look to God alone as their strength. And they were now so reduced by Hazael king of Syria, that they had only ten chariots and fifty horsemen left; ver. 7. But if they had attended to Elisha, they would not have needed any such protectors, because God himself would have defended them. This truth the king now acknowledged, feeling that he was about to lose the best support of his kingdom.]!” — — — Thus it is that the servants of the Lord are too generally treated: they are neglected and despised in their life; but, when they are no longer able to benefit the world, their loss is deeply felt.

On this occasion God put fresh honour upon his servant, and made him a messenger of glad tidings to the king. These tidings were conveyed under two symbolical representations; the shooting of an arrow towards Syria, and the smiting of a bundle of arrows upon the ground. But it seems that the king, though apprised of God’s gracious intentions towards him, was not by any means either so enlarged in his expectations, or so ardent in his desires, as he should have been: he was lukewarm; and by his lukewarmness he both displeased the prophet, and deprived himself of a great measure of that mercy which God had designed to bestow upon him.
Now this subject affords us a fit occasion to consider,


What messages of mercy God has sent to us—

Innumerable are the intimations which God has given us of a glorious deliverance from all our spiritual enemies: they have been given,


By significant emblems—

[What was the preservation of Noah and his family in the ark, but a representation to us of that deliverance which shall be vouchsafed to all who are found in Christ? All the rest of the world shall perish; but they shall be “saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation [Note: 1 Peter 3:20-21.].” What were the deliverances of God’s people from Egypt and Babylon, but typical exhibitions of that redemption which God has vouchsafed to us in Christ Jesus? In this light they are uniformly set forth in the holy Scriptures; and from them we learn never to despair [Note: Isaiah 40:4-5.] — — — What were all the miracles of our Lord, but so many emblems of the spiritual blessings which shall be imparted unto us by the Gospel [Note: Isaiah 35:5-6; John 9:39.] — — — Above all, what was the resurrection of our blessed Lord, but a pledge, yea, a shadowy representation also, of that restoration to a new and spiritual life, of which all shall partake who believe in Christ [Note: Compare Eph 1:19-22 with Ephesians 2:4-7.]? — — —]


By express promises—

[Where shall we begin, or where shall we end, our enumeration of the “exceeding great and precious promises” which are given us in the Gospel? Though we should confine ourselves to the precise idea of the text, and contemplate the promises solely as relating to our deliverance from spiritual enemies, we might easily collect passages almost without number [Note: Sin, Romans 6:14. Satan, Romans 16:20. Death, 1 Corinthians 3:22. Hell, Joh 3:15-16 or all in one, Luke 4:18.] — — — These are made, like that in our text, even to the most unworthy of mankind.]


By the declarations and examples of dying saints—

[Behold Jacob on his dying bed [Note: Genesis 49:18.]; or the aged Simeon with Jesus in his arms [Note: Luke 2:29.]: see St. Paul, in daily expectation of martyrdom; how bright his prospects, how heavenly his frame [Note: 2 Timothy 4:7-8.]! In such passages as these we see death entirely disarmed of its sting, and the triumphs of heaven, as it were, begun. But we need not go back to the days of old: we may hear for ourselves precisely similar declarations, if we will frequent the chambers of sick and dying saints. In all such instances, the departing saints bring the matter home to our own feelings, and “put, as it were, their hands upon ours,” to teach us how to shoot, and to encourage our efforts [Note: See ver. 16.]: and God himself instructs us, what we also may expect from him in a dying hour — — —]

Amidst so many gracious intimations from God, we should inquire,


Whence it is that we profit so little by them?

The fault is in ourselves alone, just as it was in the king of Israel—


Our desires are faint—

[We do not long for the blessings of redemption as we ought to do: we should “pant after them, as the hart after the water-brooks [Note: Psalms 42:1-2; Psalms 63:1-2; Psalms 84:2.].” But instead of this, we are satisfied with low attainments: and, if we can, as it were, just get within the door of mercy, we have no ambition either to glorify God on earth, or to obtain an augmented weight of glory in heaven. The people of this world put us utterly to shame: they are never satisfied: the more they obtain, the more their desires are enlarged. O that it were thus with us; and that we were determined “never to be satisfied, till we awake up after the perfect image of our God [Note: Psalms 17:15.]!”]


Our expectations low—

[We do not actually deny the truth of God in his promises; but we do not view them in their breadth and length, and depth and height. God says to us, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it:” but we have no enlargement in prayer. “We are not straitened in him; but we are straitened in our own bowels.” God tells us, that “according to our faith it shall be unto us:” but we, instead of raising our expectations in proportion to the ability of the Giver, are ever limiting his power and grace; and on every occasion we ask, Can he do this thing? or Will he do it for me? This is a fault even amongst eminent saints. It was for this that Jesus reproved the sisters of Lazarus: he had told them, that their brother should rise again: and, when he went to the grave to raise him, they thought that the circumstance of his having been dead four days was an insurmountable obstacle to his restoration to life: but Jesus replied, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” This reproof most justly belongs to us. If when we attended the ordinances of religion, or read the word of God, or opened our mouths in prayer, we really expected such manifestations of God’s power and love as he has given us reason to expect, what might we not obtain at his hands? But God does not perform, and, if we may so speak, cannot perform, all that he would for us, because of our unbelief [Note: Mat 13:58 with Mark 6:5.].]


Our exertions languid—

[When we come into the divine presence, the arrows are, as it were, put into our hands; but we are content with striking twice or thrice. We do not “stir up ourselves to lay hold on God:” we do not wrestle with him, and determine not to let him go, until he has bestowed a blessing on our souls. We should “give him no rest,” till he has manifested to us the acceptance of our prayers. But we perform all our duties in so cold a way as rather to offend God by our lukewarmness, than to please him by our zeal. The prophet was justly displeased with Joash for not shewing greater ardour in the cause of Israel: “Thou shouldest have smitten,” says he, “five or six times: then hadst thou smitten Syria, till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.” This prediction was exactly verified: “Joash did beat them only three times [Note: ver. 25.]:” and thus we find it in our own experience: we gain some victories, it is true; but they are only small and partial, because we war not with all our might — — —]


Improve the opportunities which God affords you by his ministers—

[Elisha ministered for above sixty years: yet Joash never availed himself of his instructions, till they were about to be for ever withdrawn. And is it not so wherever the faithful servants of God are sent? The generality, especially of the great and opulent, disregard their warnings, and despise their messages of mercy. O that it might not be found so in this place! If God has sent you the light, learn to walk in the light, whilst you have it; lest darkness come upon you, and “the word which ought to be a savour of life, become unto you a savour of death.”]


Trifle not with the impressions which are at any time upon your minds—

[Joash appeared to be now in a hopeful way; but he soon lost his good impressions, and died, as he had lived, an enemy of God. And are there not found amongst us many, whose “goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away?” Under the ordinances perhaps, or in a time of sickness, or under the prospect of some painful bereavement, you have been affected, and been made willing to obey the voice of God’s prophets: but you have soon forgotten all your vows, and “returned with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Truly should this be the case with you, “your latter end will be worse than your beginning: for it were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than after having known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto you.”]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.