Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
In the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah king of Judah Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years.Ch. 2 Kings 13:1-9. Reign of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, over Israel (Not in Chronicles)
1. In the three-and-twentieth year of Joash … king of Judah, Jehoahaz … began to reign] The chronology here seems inconsistent with verse 10. Jehoahaz’s seventeen years, according to the statement before us, would go on to the fortieth year of Joash king of Judah, whereas the successor of Jehoahaz is stated in verse 10 to have begun his reign in the thirty-seventh year of Joash. It is possible that seventeen years, according to Jewish reckoning, may really have been very little more than fifteen. Still that does not bring the dates into accord. Where the mistake may be is not easy to discover. The LXX. represents the same numbers, which it is clear cannot all be correct, though the error is not large. See Chronological Table in the Introduction.
Jehoahaz the son of Jehu] The first of the four generations for which God promised that the line of Jehu should continue.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.2. which made Israel to sin] R.V. wherewith he made, &c. As usual. The same change is needed below in verses 6 and 11 of this chapter. We must understand the language of this verse as referring not only to the days of Jehoahaz, but to those of his father Jehu, at least so far as the delivery of Israel into the hand of Hazael is concerned. For in 2 Kings 10:32 we have already been told that in the time of Jehu ‘the Lord began to cut Israel short, and Hazael smote them’. What the writer here wishes to represent is that in spite of the calamities which befel the nation from Hazael in the previous reign, the son was no better than his father, and so ‘the Lord’s anger was kindled’; He sent severer punishments on those whom His warnings had not moved, and Hazael not only inflicted blows on the power of Israel, but made them still more subject to him.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael, all their days.3. all their days] R.V. continually. The sense cannot be what is represented by A.V. For in the days of Benhadad (2 Kings 13:25) the son of Jehoahaz made conquests from Benhadad. Hence ‘all the days’ must mean the days of Jehoahaz, which accords with the statement of verse 22 below. So ‘continually’ must refer to the whole of this reign.
And Jehoahaz besought the LORD, and the LORD hearkened unto him: for he saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them.4. Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him] Just as in the case of punishment God does not always visit at once, even though an Ahab have sold himself to work wickedness, so in the case of mercy, the intervention of Jehovah is postponed to another generation. The Syrians are allowed to oppress Israel all the days of Jehoahaz, though we are told that his prayer had been heard. In the days of Jehoash, the next successor, some alleviation was afforded by the victories of that king over Benhadad (2 Kings 13:25), but it was not, as it seems, till the following generation that the full answer to the prayer came.
(And the LORD gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as beforetime.5. And the Lord gave Israel a saviour] The LXX, has σωτηρίαν ‘salvation’, ‘deliverance’. The two verses 5 and 6 are a parenthesis, and interrupt the connexion. The ‘saviour’ alludes to what is said of Jeroboam 2. (2 Kings 14:27). ‘The Lord saved Israel by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash’. This was the time when the prayer of Jehoahaz was truly answered, in the reign of his grandson. That passage is connected with this also by the language of the preceding verse (26) ‘The Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was bitter’.
so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians] Language like this must refer to some very great change in the relative positions of Syria and Israel. We have some indication of it in the statement (2 Kings 14:28) that Jeroboam recovered Damascus for Israel. By such a reverse the power of Syria must have been severely broken. We learn from the cuneiform inscriptions (1 Rawl. 35) that Damascus was about this time made subject to Assyria (Schrader p. 110; Eng. Trans. vol. 1. 203). It may be therefore that by the help of Assyria (which we have seen that Israel sometimes gained at the expense of liberty) the kings of Israel were able to shake off the thraldom of their nearer, and therefore more galling, oppressor, at first partially, then completely, so as to come from under his hand.
the children of Israel dwelt in their tents] The expression may refer to the peaceful state when the dwellers in the country could live safely out amid their flocks and crops, and not be constrained by the pressure of war to seek refuge in the towns. But it has been noted (see on 1 Kings 8:66) that ‘tents’ is used for ‘homes’. Hence the words of this verse may mean only that the people lived quietly at home, and were not constantly called forth to resist the inroads of the Syrians.
Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin, but walked therein: and there remained the grove also in Samaria.)6. and there remained the grove [R.V. Ashêrah] also in Samaria] On Ashêrah, by which is probably meant a wooden image of a goddess worshipped with similar rites to those of the god Baal, see note on 1 Kings 14:15. Jehu had not eliminated all that belonged to the Tyrian idolatry, and his successors were no more earnest to do so than himself.
Neither did he leave of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing.7. Neither did he leave of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen] R.V. For he left not to Jehoahaz of the people save fifty horsemen. Not only does R.V. render the original here more exactly, but it indicates clearly where the parenthesis of the last two verses comes to an end. We have here the continuation of verse 4, and a picture of the character and extent of the Syrian oppression. When we call to mind that in David’s times (2 Samuel 24:9) the warriors of Israel were eight hundred thousand men, we can form some idea of the way in which Israel was now ‘cut short’.
the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them] The R.V. omits ‘had’ in both places. This is right, for the description refers to the time of Jehoahaz. Whether the destruction here mentioned was by making them slaves or by extermination, we cannot tell, but it is much the most probable that a warlike people like the Syrians would take soldiers prisoners and use them in their wars with Assyria and elsewhere.
like the dust by threshing] R.V. in threshing. The correct sense is given on the margin of R.V. ‘dust to trample on’. The Oriental manner of threshing is by the trampling of oxen’s feet, and the figure is used to signify the utter prostration of Israel. The LXX. also has the right idea, giving εἰς καταπάτησιν. For the word used thus of trampling under foot cf. Isaiah 25:10 ‘Moab shall be trodden down under him even as straw is trodden down’, where the margin gives twice over ‘threshed’. The reference in the margin of A.V. to Amos 1:3 where the cruelties of Damascus are described, ‘they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron’, probably does not apply to the account before us. All that is here meant is that Israel was utterly reduced and broken. The ‘dust in threshing’ of R.V. is an attempt to be literal and yet to avoid the implication of barbarity which is conveyed in A.V.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash his son reigned in his stead.
In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years.10–13. Reign of Jehoash king of Israel (2 Chronicles 25:17-24)
10. In the thirty and seventh year of Joash] See above on verse 1.
Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz] As in the case of Jehoash king of Judah (see 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Kings 12:19-20) so here the longer form, in the previous verse the shorter form of this name is written. This was the second of the four generations promised to Jehu.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin: but he walked therein.
And the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, and his might wherewith he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?12. his might where with he fought against Amaziah king of Judah] The story of Amaziah’s challenge to Jehoash is told in 2 Kings 14:8-14 and in 2 Chronicles 25. He was proud of his victory over Edom, and sent to the king of Israel saying, ‘Come let us see one another in the face’, and, in spite of the wise message of Jehoash, would come forth to battle and was defeated at Beth-shemesh. After his victory the king of Israel broke down a part of the wall of Jerusalem, and carried away the treasures and vessels both from the house of the Lord and from the king’s house.
And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.13. and Jeroboam sat upon his throne] i.e. Jeroboam the second, who was the third generation of the family of Jehu. This form of words concerning a royal succession is unusual. We generally have ‘reigned in his stead’. See below 2 Kings 14:16 for the usual form concerning this same king.
with the kings of Israel] Though Samaria was only built by Omri, Ahab’s father, yet by this time it had become the favourite city and the burial-place of the royal family.
Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.14–21. The visit of Joash to Elisha on his deathbed. Elisha’s prediction of victory over Syria. A dead body brought to life on touching Elisha’s bones (Not in Chronicles)
14. and wept over his face] R.V. over him. ‘Face’ in Hebrew is constantly used for ‘a person’, and it seems more suitable to omit the very literal rendering here. For examples cf. Genesis 19:21, ‘I have accepted thee’, margin ‘thy face’; Genesis 43:34, ‘He sent messes from before him’, margin ‘his face’.
It is manifest from this history that though Jehoash continued the worship of the calves, the worship of Jehovah can have met with no opposition from him, and Jehovah’s prophet was held in the highest esteem. Indeed the picture presented of the king leaving his palace to visit the house of the dying prophet, and weeping over the approaching loss which Israel was to suffer makes us wonder that Elisha’s influence had not the effect of banishing the calves. The political significance of these objects must have been very great to have outweighed the counsels which we cannot doubt Elisha gave for their abolition.
O my father, my father] R.V. omits ‘O’, which A.V. does not give in the corresponding passage 2 Kings 2:12. Elisha’s help had been so often given to Israel against their enemies, that the words seem to apply even better to him than to Elijah.
the chariot [R.V. chariots] of Israel] The word is meant to embrace the whole mounted host, the chariotry of the land. Hence the plural is the more correct rendering. See the note on 2 Kings 2:12.
And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows.15. Take bow and arrows] It is as if the prophet by this significant action directed and encouraged the king to enter on the war against Syria.
And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands.16. and Elisha put [R.V. laid] his hands upon the king’s hands] It will be seen from the marginal rendering of A.V. that the two verbs, both translated ‘put’, are not the same. Hence the need for change in the English. The first verb=make thine hand to ride, is expressive of the grasp of the archer. The action of the prophet in placing his feeble hands upon the king’s is meant to be symbolic, and to extend, through the prophet, God’s blessing to the undertaking which he has suggested.
And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the LORD'S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.17. And he said, Open the window] That there might be a free space for the arrow to be shot through. The command must be directed to some attendant, as the king was holding the bow ready to shoot when he was bidden. The windows of this time were merely open gratings, not filled with anything transparent.
eastward] Because eastward from Samaria lay the land of Gilead, the country on which the Syrians were so constantly making their attacks, and which they now had to a great degree in their possession.
The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance] R.V. The Lord’s arrow of victory. The R.V. represents more exactly the force of the Hebrew, which describes this arrow of victory as belonging to the Lord, i.e. as being specially directed by Him, and so assured of its result.
and the arrow of deliverance from Syria] R.V. even the arrow of victory over Syria. The sentence is in apposition with the previous clause. The former looks to the prompter of the battle, the latter clause to the result.
in Aphek] This is probably the place of that name which was on the east of the sea of Galilee. See note on 1 Kings 20:26. The region east of the Jordan was the constant battle-ground between Israel and Syria. See above on 2 Kings 10:32-33.
till thou have consumed them] This was the prophet’s thought and the purport of his message. The lack of zeal in Joash by the giving of only three strokes when Elisha hoped for five or six, diminished the completeness of the victory which God had promised.
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’.
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 shalt smite Syria but thrice.19. the man of God was wroth] We must think of sorrow as well as anger. We can see through all Elisha’s life, that the welfare of his country was very dear to him. Hence his desire that the king should accept God’s announcement of victory with eagerness, and his grief that he did not.
And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.20. And [R.V. Now] the bands of the Moabites invaded the land] If Elisha died in Samaria, and was buried in that neighbourhood, we must suppose Moab to have made great inroads upon Israel if the bands of plunderers could advance close to the royal city. Probably the great devastations of the Syrians on the east of Jordan (2 Kings 10:32-33) made it easier for the Moabites to cross the Jordan and to ravage the lands of Israel to the west of the river.
at the coming in of the year] We can see from such passages as 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22; 1 Kings 20:26; 1 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Chronicles 36:10, that there was a season of the year at which alone it was usual, and perhaps, on account of the climate, possible, for an army to take the field. The general expression is ‘when the year was expired’: but this is very much the same as ‘at the coming in of another year’.
And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.21. as they were burying a man] i.e. Some Israelites had brought a dead body to the burial-place. The body was carried on a bier, and was not enclosed in a coffin (cf. Luke 7:12-14), so that when cast into the grave it would touch any other body which had been deposited there before. In the East the graves are usually excavated in the rock, and closed by a stone at the mouth. The bodies were laid there, but there was no covering them with earth as in burials among western nations.
behold they spied a band of men] The R.V. omits the italics. The band was a band of the marauding Moabites, at whose approach the Israelites were terrified, and so made all haste to dispose of the corpse they were carrying.
unto the sepulchre of Elisha] This must have been nearer at hand than the grave which they intended to use. The distance from which the Moabites were visible allowed the bearers to open the first grave they came to, and there to lay down their burden, but gave time for nothing more. Josephus says that it was the robbers who had killed a man and that they cast him into Elisha’s grave (Ant. IX. 8. 6).
and when the man was let down and touched] R.V. and as soon as the man touched. It will be seen from the margin of R.V. that the Hebrew means ‘and when the man went and touched’; a very unusual kind of expression, but which does not warrant the idea conveyed by the A.V. that the body was lowered into the tomb.
the bones of Elisha] We need not press the literal sense of ‘bones’, as though a long time had elapsed since Elisha died. The lying prophet of Bethel (1 Kings 13:31), speaking of his own death and burial, says ‘Lay my bones beside his bones’.
he revived and stood up on his feet] The record of this miracle seems intended to set forth that it was nothing in the prophet himself which had given him the great powers he manifested in his lifetime. Through his dead body God could work a miracle also. ‘Israel shall well see that He lives, by whose virtue Elisha was, both in life and death, miraculous. While the prophet was alive, the impetration might seem to be his, though the power were God’s; now that he is dead, the bones can challenge nothing, but send the wandering Israelites to that Almighty agent to whom it is all one to work by the quick or dead.’ (Bp. Hall.)
But Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.22–25. Hazael’s oppression of Israel. God has compassion on them. The victories of Jehoash over Ben-hadad (Not in Chronicles)
22. But [R.V. And] Hazael … oppressed Israel] In these four verses we have a recapitulation of the attitude of Syria toward the Israelites in the two reigns of Jehoahaz and his son. The oppression lasted all the days of the former king, but yet, as in answer to his prayer (verse 4), Israel was not allowed to be destroyed. In the next reign came a greater relief.
And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.23. And [R.V. But] the Lord was gracious unto them] Cf. for the sentiment, Malachi 3:6, ‘I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’
as yet] The writer of Kings was living at the time of the captivity. He therefore knew that the grace and compassion had been shewn in vain, and that the kingdom of Israel had at last been utterly destroyed.
So Hazael king of Syria died; and Benhadad his son reigned in his stead.24. Ben-hadad his son] Hazael has given to his son the name which had previously been common in the Syrian royal family. This is the third Ben-hadad on the throne of Damascus. (Cf. Schrader, p. 109.) Nothing is known of him from the inscriptions.
And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities, which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash beat him, and recovered the cities of Israel.25. And Jehoash … took again … the cities] Ben-hadad must have been a very different monarch from his father. The fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen (verse 7) must have been allowed to increase very rapidly to effect so complete a change in the relations between Syria and Israel as is here represented. We are forced to think again of Assyrian help to Israel before we can realize the altered state of things.
Three times did Joash beat [R.V. smite] him] The history is introduced that the prophecy of Elisha may be pointed out as fulfilled. By these three victories Syria must have been driven from the west side of the Jordan, the land which had been conquered by Hazael in the reign of Jehoahaz. The eastern side of Jordan was already in the hand of Syria before Jehoahaz came to the throne. It had been conquered by Hazael in the days of Jehu (2 Kings 10:32-33).