2 Kings 13:18
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.
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(18) And he said.—LXX., “and Elisha said unto him,” which, as Thenius remarks, is more appropriate here, in introducing the account of the second symbolic action.

The arrowsi.e., the bundle of arrows.

Smite upon the ground.—Rather, smite (or, strike) earthwards; as if striking an enemy to the earth.

He smote thrice.—Three being a sacred number.

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.

13:10-19 Jehoash, the king, came to Elisha, to receive his dying counsel and blessing. It may turn much to our spiritual advantage, to attend the sick-beds and death-beds of good men, that we may be encouraged in religion by the living comforts they have from it in a dying hour. Elisha assured the king of his success; yet he must look up to God for direction and strength; must reckon his own hands not enough, but go on, in dependence upon Divine aid. The trembling hands of the dying prophet, as they signified the power of God, gave this arrow more force than the hands of the king in his full strength. By contemning the sign, the king lost the thing signified, to the grief of the dying prophet. It is a trouble to good men, to see those to whom they wish well, forsake their own mercies, and to see them lose advantages against spiritual enemies.Smite upon the ground - Some prefer to render - "Shoot to the ground;" i. e. "Shoot arrows from the window into the ground outside, as if thou wert shooting against an enemy." 15-18. Take bow and arrows—Hostilities were usually proclaimed by a herald, sometimes by a king or general making a public and formal discharge of an arrow into the enemy's country. Elisha directed Joash to do this, as a symbolical act, designed to intimate more fully and significantly the victories promised to the king of Israel over the Syrians. His laying his hands upon the king's hands was to represent the power imparted to the bow shot as coming from the Lord through the medium of the prophet. His shooting the first arrow eastward—to that part of his kingdom which the Syrians had taken and which was east of Samaria—was a declaration of war against them for the invasion. His shooting the other arrows into the ground was in token of the number of victories he was taken to gain; but his stopping at the third betrayed the weakness of his faith; for, as the discharged arrow signified a victory over the Syrians, it is evident that the more arrows he shot the more victories he would gain. As he stopped so soon, his conquests would be incomplete. Smite upon the ground: the former sign portended victory, and this was to declare the number of the victories.

And he said, take the arrows, and he took them,.... The rest of them:

and he said unto the king of Israel, smite upon the ground; the floor of the room in which the prophet lay:

and he smote thrice, and stayed; made a stop, ceased smiting; he might think this action trifling, and beneath him, only was willing to please the prophet, but did not do it with a good will, and therefore smote no more; though this was an emblem of his smiting the Syrians, which he might not understand.

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.
18. Take the arrows] By the previous symbolical act, the prophet has directed the king to go eastward with courage against the enemy, assured that the Lord will be with his arrows, and will regard them as His own. He now proceeds to test the zeal of Joash.

Smite upon the ground] The Hebrew indicates the direction of the blows ‘towards the ground’. It appears as though the prophet wished blows to be aimed as if intended to strike down a foe. So the sense is equivalent to ‘strike (some one) down to the ground’. It does not seem that there was to be any shooting of the arrows in this second figurative action, but only a series of blows made with them as they were grasped, and aimed at some imaginary enemy who was to be brought down.

And he smote thrice, and stayed] On ‘stayed’ in this sense of ‘ceased’ cf. on 2 Kings 4:6 above. The act, which was intended to be an index of his earnestness, is very feebly performed, and so the promise is curtailed: ‘now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice’.

Verse 18. - And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. Elisha bade the king take into his band the remainder of the arrows which the quiver contained. This the king did, and held them in a bunch, as archers do when they have no quiver. And he said unto the King of Israel, Smite upon the ground. It is disputed what this means The LXX. translate Πάταξον εἰς τὴν γῆν "Strike upon the ground;" and so Ewald, De Wette, and Thenius, who regard the order as one to strike with the arrows against the ground (i.e. the floor) or in the direction of the ground. Keil and Bahr, on the contrary, think that the order was to shoot the arrows down from the window and hit the earth with them. But some contrast seems to be intended between the "shoot" (יְרַה) of ver. 19 and the "strike" (חַך) of the present passage. Ewald's explanation is thus to be preferred. And he smote thrice, and stayed. Joash struck with the arrows against the floor three times, and then paused, thinking he had done enough. He did not enter into the spirit of the symbolical act, which represented the smiting and slaying of enemies. Perhaps he had not much faith in the virtue of the symbolism, which he may even, with the arrogance of a proud and worldly minded man, have thought childish. 2 Kings 13:18"Take-said Elisha to Joash-bow and arrows, ... and let thy hand pass over the bow" (הרכּב), i.e., stretch the bow. He then placed his hands upon the king's hands, as a sign that the power which was to be given to the bow-shot came from the Lord through the mediation of the prophet. He then directed him to open the window towards the east and shoot, adding as he shot off the arrow: "An arrow of salvation from the Lord, and an arrow of salvation against the Syrians; and thou wilt smite the Syrians at Aphek (see at 1 Kings 20:26) to destruction." The arrow that was shot off was to be a symbol of the help of the Lord against the Syrians to their destruction. This promise the king was then to appropriate to himself through an act of his own. Elisha therefore directed him (2 Kings 13:18) to "take the arrows;" and when he had taken them, said: ארצה הך, "strike to the earth," i.e., shoot the arrows to the ground, not "smite the earth with the bundle of arrows" (Thenius), which neither agrees with the shooting of the first arrow, nor admits of a grammatical vindication; for הכּה, when used of an arrow, signifies to shoot and to strike with the arrow shot off, i.e., to wound or to kill (cf. 2 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 22:34). The shooting of the arrows to the earth was intended to symbolize the overthrow of the Syrians. "And the king shot three times, and then stood (still)," i.e., left off shooting.
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