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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 13

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Three and twentieth year There is a discrepancy between this verse and 2 Kings 13:10. If Jehoahaz began to reign in the twenty-third, and his son Jehoash in the thirty-seventh year of Joash, king of Judah, Jehoahaz must have reigned, not seventeen years, as says this verse, but fourteen, or at most fifteen, years. To meet the difficulty some assume that there is an error in the text, and that we should read one and twentieth, or two and twentieth year. Others suppose that Jehoahaz associated his son with him as co-regent two or three years before his death. There are no sufficient data to decide the question. Wordsworth remarks: “In the latter years of the kingdom of Israel the dates of the accession of the sovereigns are fluctuating. This was a natural consequence of the precarious tenure of their rule. It often happened, by reason of the confusion and dissolution of their polity, that it was a matter of doubt whether a king was really king or no at any given time. No wonder, therefore, that the dates are variously given.”

Verse 3

3. All their days Rather, all his days; literally, all the days; that is, all the days of Jehoahaz. Compare 2 Kings 13:22.

Verse 4

4. Jehoahaz besought the Lord The oppression of the Syrian kings humbled his spirit, and led Jehovah to give temporary deliverance; but there was no reformation deep enough to lead to any permanent or great results.

Verse 5

5. A saviour According to 2 Kings 13:22, this saviour could not have saved Israel in the days of Jehoahaz; so it is hardly satisfactory to refer it to some unknown temporary deliverer during the reign of this king. This saviour came not in Jehoahaz’s days, but, after his death in the person of his son Jehoash, who, according to 2 Kings 13:25, recovered from the then Syrian king the cities which his father had lost by war. The deliverance was still further secured under Jeroboam, the son of Joash. Compare 2 Kings 14:27. Others have supposed, but with little reason, that this saviour was an angel, or perhaps Elisha.

Dwelt in their tents That is, at peace in their homes, not disturbed by constant rumours of war, and invasion by foreign armies.

Verse 6

6. The grove Rather, the Asherah, the great statue erected to this goddess in Samaria. See notes on 1 Kings 14:15; 1 Kings 15:13.

Verse 7

7. Neither did he leave of the people Literally, for he left not to Jehoahaz a people, except, etc. The connexion is most natural with 2 Kings 13:4, and 2 Kings 13:5-6 are properly put in parenthesis, as in the English version.

Made them like the dust by threshing The king of Syria had oppressed and destroyed them almost to annihilation. Perhaps he had actually destroyed many with threshing instruments of iron, as, according to Amos 1:3, he did the inhabitants of Gilead. See also 2 Samuel 12:31, note.

Verses 10-13


The record here given of Joash’s reign is very brief, but is supplemented by the account of his visit to the dying prophet Elisha, (2 Kings 13:14-19,) and his victories over Ben-hadad, (2 Kings 13:25.) Though he walked too much after the evil examples of his predecessors, his reign was not without some redeeming and commendatory features. His visit to Elisha showed profound reverence for that prophet; and his successful wars against the Syrian oppressor showed him to be a God-sent saviour to Israel, though he failed to accomplish complete deliverance. 2 Kings 13:5, note. His war with Amaziah is narrated in 2 Kings 14:8-15, and 2 Chronicles 25:17-24. His name is written both Joash and Jehoash, the former being only a contraction of the latter.

Verse 14


14. Elisha was fallen sick The last notice of this prophet was where he sent one of his disciples to anoint Jehu king. 2 Kings 9:1-3. During all the bloody period that had intervened he seems to have retired from public affairs.

Joash… came down unto him The mortal sickness of this distinguished prophet was soon known throughout the land, and touched the heart of the king. Joash knew that his grandfather Jehu had been anointed by authority from this prophet, and he could not but have the highest reverence for him.

Wept over his face That is, wept as he bent over the prostrate form of the man of God as he lay sick upon his couch.

My father! the chariot of Israel See note on 2 Kings 2:12. Joash, by that deathbed, seemed to feel that a power was passing away from Israel mightier than horses and chariots. He had been to Israel better than weapons of war against Syria.

Verse 15

15. Take bow and arrows To make his last oracle more impressive, the prophet uses a memorable symbol.

Verse 16

16. Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands To indicate the approval of the prophet and his God of the war against Syria.

Verse 17

17. Open the window eastward Israel’s relation to Syria was now a subject of the greatest concern to both king and prophet, and therefore uppermost in their minds.

The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance That is, this arrow, shot towards the enemy’s country, signifies the deliverance which the Lord will soon grant Israel from the Syrian yoke. The casting of a spear or shooting of an arrow into an enemy’s country was a common signal for the beginning of hostilities. Thus Alexander the Great is said to have hurled a dart into his enemy’s land when he came to the borders of the Persian territory.

Thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek To the symbol he adds a verbal prophecy. At Aphek the Syrians had previously suffered defeat. 1 Kings 20:26-30.

Verse 19

19. Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times And therefore his smiting but three times symbolized that lack of determination and perseverance whereby he would fail to overthrow, effectually, the Syrian power.

Verse 20

20. Buried him Josephus says he was honoured with a magnificent funeral, in every respect worthy of a personage so saintly and beloved.

Bands of the Moabites Marauding parties seeking for plunder. The Moabites had partially recovered from the severe losses they suffered at the beginning of Elisha’s career. Chap. 3.

At the coming in of the year When the early crops were ripening appropriate season for a nomadic invasion. Apparently the next year after Elisha’s death. This invasion of the Moabites is mentioned to introduce the miracle wrought by the instrumentality of Elisha’s bones, recorded in the next verse.

Verse 21

21. They spied a band of men That is, a band of those marauding Moabites just mentioned. The sight of the invaders caused the haste with which they cast the dead man into the wrong sepulchre.

When the man was let down Literally, The man went and touched against the bones of Elisha. That is, his body was thrust into the tomb, so that it came in contact with the bones of Elisha. “Among the Israelites the dead were neither enclosed in coffins nor covered with earth, but only wrapped in linen cloth and laid in tombs, so that one body might touch another, and, on returning to life, would not be hindered from moving. It was not the dead body of Elisha, but the living God, that gave life again to the dead; and Omnipotence worked by contact with the dead Elisha to show that the Divine efficiency that was in the prophet had not disappeared from Israel with his death. The special object of the miracle was to convince most effectually people and king that the promise of victory over the Syrians was sure, and would come to pass just as the dying Elisha had announced to king Joash by the laying of his hands upon the hands of the king. The historian intimates this object when, immediately after the account of this miracle, he records the historical fulfillment of that promise. 2 Kings 13:22-25.” Keil.

On the contrast between Elijah and Elisha, see note at the beginning of chap. 4. “It was Elijah,” says the son of Sirach, “who was covered with a whirlwind; and Elisha was filled with his spirit; whilst he lived he was not moved by any prince, neither could any bring him into subjection. No word could overcome him, and after his death his body prophesied. He did wonders in his life, and at his death were his works marvellous.”

The miracle of Elisha’s bones has been the subject both of criticism and of allegory. The rationalist, of course, admits no miracle. In his view the deceased was a person only apparently dead, fallen into a trance, perhaps, but suddenly brought to his senses again by the shock of being roughly cast into Elisha’s tomb. Others admit a real miracle, but seem to look upon it with suspicion. “This,” says Clarke, “is the first, and, I believe, the last, account of a true miracle performed by the bones of a dead man. And yet on it, and such like, the whole system of miracle-working relics has been founded by the popish Church.” “Elisha’s works,” says Stanley, “stand alone in the Bible in their likeness to the acts of mediaeval saints. There alone, in the sacred history, the gulf between biblical and ecclesiastical miracles almost disappears. In this, as in so much besides, his life and miracles are not Jewish but Christian.” By others the miracle is made a type of Jesus’s power to raise to life by his own death and burial those who are dead in trespasses and sins. “So, too,” says Wordsworth, “the apostles and evangelists being dead yet speak to all the world in the Gospels and Epistles, and by the word of God in them they raise souls to life eternal.”

Verse 22


22. All the days of Jehoahaz So, though the Lord heard the prayer of this king of Israel, he did not answer it by sending a saviour until after his death. See 2 Kings 13:4-5, notes.

Verse 23

23. As yet There was a tender sympathy which bound Jehovah to the covenant people with whose backslidings he had borne so long, and yet he shows compassion.

Verse 24

24. Hazael… died This was the beginning of deliverance, for the death of this fierce warrior removed from Israel a source of constant terror. All the evil which Elisha foresaw he would do to Israel (see note on 2 Kings 8:12) had doubtless been done.

Verse 25

25. Three times did Joash beat him And so proved himself to be a “saviour” to Israel, (2 Kings 13:5;) but instead of following up his victories to the utter annihilation of the Syrian power, he was content with these three triumphs, and so justified the rebuke, and fulfilled the prophecy, of the dying Elisha. 2 Kings 13:19. Israel soon fell back into most bitter afflictions and extremity, (2 Kings 14:26,) and another saviour was raised up in Jeroboam the son of Joash. 2 Kings 14:27.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-kings-13.html. 1874-1909.
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