Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
THE MONARCHY UNDER JEHOAHAZ AND JOASH AND JEROBOAM II. IN ISRAEL, AND UNDER AMAZIAH IN JUDAH
2 KINGS 13–14
A.—The Reigns of Jehoahaz and Joash
2 KINGS 13:1–25
1IN the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over [became king of] Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. 2And 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. 3And 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 Ben-hadad the son of Hazael, all their [the] days [of Jehoahaz]. 4And Jehoahaz besought1 the Lord, [.] [(] And the Lord hearkened unto him: for he saw the oppression of Israel, because [that] the king of Syria oppressed 5them. ([omit(] 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. 2 6Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam who made Israel sin, 3 but walked therein: and there remained 7[stood] the grove [statue of Astarte] also in Samaria.) Neither did [For] he leave [had left] 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 [beneath one’s feet]. 4 8Now 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? 9And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they5 buried him in Samaria; and Joash his son reigned in his stead.
10In 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. 11And 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. 12And the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, and his might [,] wherewith [how] he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not writen in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel? 13And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.
14Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died [was to die].6 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! 15And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. 16And 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. 17And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The [an] arrow of the Lord’s [omit the Lord’s] deliverance [for Jehovah], and the [an] arrow of deliverance from [against] Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.7
18And 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. 19And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten8 five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice. 20And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the [marauding] bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in [commencement] of the year. 21And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men [marauders]; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down [came], and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.
22But [Now] Hazael king of, Syria [had] oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23[,] And [but] the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto [turned towards] them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet. 24So Hazael king of Syria died; and Ben-hadad his son reigned in his stead. 25And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities, which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by [in the] war. Three times did Joash beat him, and recovered the cities of Israel.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 13:1. In the three and twentieth year of Joash. This chronological statement is not consistent with the one in ver 10: “In the thirty-seventh year of Joash.” For, if Jehoahaz began to reign in the twenty-third year of Joash, and reigned for seventeen years, his son Jehoash cannot have followed in the thirty-seventh, but in the thirty-ninth, year of Joash of Judah. Again, if Jehoash of Israel became king in the thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah, then his father Jehoahaz must have come to the throne in the twenty-first, and not in the twenty-third year of Joash of Judah. The old expositors sought to do away with this difficulty by assuming that Jehoash of Israel shared the throne for two years with his father Jehoahaz. This assumption, however, is untenable, both for the general reasons assigned above (Pt. II., p. 88, e) and because it is clearly shown in 2 Kings 13:9 and 10 that Jehoash did not ascend the throne until after the death of Jehoahaz, and that he had not shared his authority before that. Only one of the two numbers, 23 and 37, can be correct, as is now generally admitted; but the question, which is correct? receives various answers. We start again, as we did above (Pt. II., p. 86), from the established chronological starting-point,9 884 B. C., when Jehu became king of Israel, and Athaliah became queen of Judah. Jehu reigned 28 years (2 Kings 10:36), that is, from 884 to 856; his son Jehoahaz 17 years (2 Kings 13:1), from 856–839; Jehoash, 16 years (2 Kings 13:10), 839–823. Athaliah ruled 6 years, and Joash became king in the “seventh year” (2 Kings 11:3, 4), that is, 884–877; Joash, 40 years (2 Kings 12:2), 877–837; Amaziah, 29 years, 837–808. It follows that the twenty-third year of Joash of Judah, in which Jehoahaz became king of Israel, according to 2 Kings 13:1, was the year 854, but this cannot be correct because his father Jehu ruled 28 years, and so died in 856. This would bring Jehoahaz’ accession into the twenty-first, not the twenty-third, of Joash. This is the statement of Josephus: εἰκοστῷ δὲ καὶ πρώτῳ ἔτει τῆς ’Ιωάσου βασιλείας. The thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah, in which, according to 2 Kings 13:10, Jehoash of Israel became king, is the year 840; in the second year of Jehoash of Israel, that is, in the year 838, Amaziah became king of Judah (2 Kings 14:1). According to this reckoning, the death of Joash, the father of Amaziah, does indeed fall in 837, but, in view of the Jewish mode of reckoning which is explained Pt. II., p. 86 sq., a discrepancy of a single year has no significance. Josephus says, in agreement with 2 Kings 13:10: ἕβδομον ἤδη καὶ τριακοστὸν ἔτος βασιλεύοντος ’Ιωάσου τῆς ’Ιούδα φυλῆς. If, on the other hand, we hold fast the “twenty-third year” in 2 Kings 13:1, and, in 2 Kings 13:10, read thirty-ninth for thirty-seventh, as Ewald, Thenius, and others desire, this thirty-ninth year will be 838, Jehu will only have 26 years, not 28 (2 Kings 10:36), and his son Jehoahaz’ reign, extending from 854 to 838, will amount to 16, not 17 years (2 Kings 13:1); moreover, if Jehoash of Israel did not ascend the throne until 838, and Amaziah became king in Judah in his second year (2 Kings 14:1), then the latter did not become king until 836, though his father did not live, at the utmost, beyond 837. If thirty-seventh is changed into thirty-ninth, then all the other numbers must be changed, and this is inadmissible. If then we let these numbers stand, we must suppose that the words: “in the twenty-third year,” in 2 Kings 13:1, are either a copyist’s error (כסססג for כא), or, that it is a mistake growing out of the confusion to which the Jewish mode of reckoning gave occasion (see above, Pt. II., p. 86 sq.). All the versions and all the editions have “thirty-seventh” except the Editio Aldina of the Sept. (1518), which has “thirty-ninth.” Keil justly observes that this variant is “nothing but an unfortunate emendation, adopted in order to bring about a reconciliation, but without any critical value.”
2 Kings 13:3. And the anger of the Lord was kindled. The sense and the connection of 2 Kings 13:3–7, are as follows: In the time of Jehu, who, contrary to all just expectations, clung to the calf-worship which Jeroboam had introduced, Jehovah had already commenced to “cut off” from Israel, and had given the land east of the Jordan into the hands of the Syrians (2 Kings 10:32 sq.). Since, however, Jehoahaz, Jehu’s successor, did not take warning, but, on the contrary, during his reign the worship of the image of Astarte was once more introduced (1 Kings 14:15), so that the abolition of idolatry which had been accomplished was rendered ineffectual, God’s anger (i. e., His justice, and His avenging, punishing, rigor) was kindled, so that one defeat followed upon another, until the might of Israel was reduced to a minimum. In his great distress, when he was on the brink of ruin, Jehoahaz at length turned to Jehovah, and besought Him, and the Lord, seeing the distress of His people, answered his prayer and sent a deliverer.—[That is the sense of the passage, but it does not account for the grammatical form and succession of the sentences. The best modern expositors agree with the English translators in making a parenthesis of 2 Kings 13:5 and 6. The only question is as to where it is to begin, and it seems best, with Thenius and Bunsen, to enclose all after the first clause of 2 Kings 13:4. The explanation then is as follows: Israel was defeated by the Syrians again and again during the reign of Jehoahaz. He turned in his distress to the Lord and sought him. There was no apparent response to this prayer during his lifetime, but the writer inserts a parenthesis to the effect that the prayer was nevertheless heard and answered, that God saw the distress of Israel and sent a champion for them, and yet that they persisted in their sins. The כִּי at the commencement of 2 Kings 13:7 then presents no further difficulty. It refers back to the first clause of 2 Kings 13:4. Jehoahaz besought the Lord, because He had left but, &c.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 13:3. All the days, i.e., of Jehoahaz, not of Hazael and Benhadad, as is clear from 2 Kings 13:22 [also 2 Kings 13:25 shows that, as a matter of fact, the success of the Syrians did not continue through “the days” of Benhadad.—W. G. S.].
2 Kings 13:5. A savior, cf. Judges 3:9, 15; Nehem. 9:27. This was Jeroboam II., the grandson of Jehoahaz, as we see clearly from וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם, 2 Kings 14:27, which has an evident reference to מוֹשִׁיעַ in this verse. He completed what had already been begun by Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:25). Reference is here made to him in order to show that he was sent in answer to Jehoahaz’ prayer, although he came so long afterwards. The words: they dwelt in their tents, describe the peaceful state of things which was brought about by the deliverer; in war they did not dwell in tents, but in strongholds and fortified places.
2 Kings 13:6 contains a restriction of what has just been said in 2 Kings 13:5. The peaceful state of things, which was brought about, was not a perfectly happy and satisfactory one, for the worship of Jeroboam’s calves still continued, and even the worship of Asherah (the statue of Astarte) did not cease entirely. Thenius understands עָֽמְדָה to mean that the worship of Asherah “very soon obtained a firm foothold” (i.e., under Jeroboam II.). Ewald also thinks that it was reintroduced at about his time. But the history of Jeroboam II., 2 Kings 14:23–27, contains no mention of it, and also the כִּי in 2 Kings 13:7 fixes the attention upon the time of Jehoahaz, when the incidents took place which are referred to in 2 Kings 13:7. [This כִּי does not refer to 2 Kings 13:6 at all. No connection can be established which will make good sense. It refers back to the first clause of 2 Kings 13:4, as shown above. Bähr’s interpretation, however, is correct, although it is difficult to understand, as Thenius says, how the Astarte-image survived Jehu’s reformation. עמדה is better translated “stood,” than “gained firm foot-hold.” האשׁרה has the article, and the form of statement of the first part of the verse is that the old apostasy of Jeroboam was still continued. If it had been intended to say that this old sin was continued, and that even the one which had been rooted up was reintroduced, it seems that some other word must have been used for עמדה which would have expressed this latter idea distinctly.—W. G. S.] 2 Kings 13:7 is a continuation of [the first clause of] 2 Kings 13:4. It shows how far the “oppression” of the Syrians had gone. Dathe and Houbigant are in favor of placing it between 2 Kings 13:4 and 5, but the close connection between these verses forbids this. [For he had left. The English translation: “Neither did he leave,” cannot be defended. It is necessitated by the supposed connection between this clause and the last clause of 2 Kings 13:4. It also seems to understand “the king of Syria” as the subject of הִשְׁאִיר, which does not make good sense. The subject of that verb is Jehovah, and the last half of 2 Kings 13:7 repeats the same statement substituting “the king of Syria” (who was the instrument by which it was accomplished), in the place of the ultimate agent. The passage may now be made clear, if we get rid of the parenthesis by putting 2 Kings 13:7 between the first and second clauses of 2 Kings 13:4, as follows: Jehoahaz besought the Lord, for He (the Lord) had left but, … for the king of Syria had destroyed them … and the Lord hearkened unto him, seeing the distress, and gave a deliverer, who delivered them, yet they persisted in their sins.—W. G. S.] The expression כֶּעָפָר לָדֻשׁ does not mean chaff, as Luther understands it, for עָפָר is not dust which floats in the air, but dust which lies upon the ground and is trodden under foot. The fundamental meaning of דּוּשׁ is, to tread under foot (Hab. 3:12; Micah 4:13). There is no reference to the barbarous usage of war referred to in Amos 1:3; 2 Sam. 12:31. [Literally the English for the words would be: dust for treading, i. e., dust which lies beneath one’s feet (see Grammatical note on the verse). It is an expression for utter defeat and destruction. They were reduced to utter helplessness and powerlessness. Thenius thinks that it refers to a definite defeat, and Hitzig, on Amos 4:10, suggests that the reference there may be to the same decisive defeat here alluded to.—W. G. S.]—On 2 Kings 13:10 see notes on 2 Kings 13:1. Jehoash’s war with Amaziah, mentioned in 2 Kings 13:12, is narrated at length in 2 Kings 14:8 sq. The concluding formula, 2 Kings 13:12 and 13, belongs properly after 2 Kings 13:25. It is given in this place only because it followed, in one of the authorities used by the author, directly upon 2 Kings 13:10 and 11, and he did not consider it necessary to dissever it from this connection.
2 Kings 13:14. Now Elisha was fallen sick, &c. The narrative in 2 Kings 13:14 to 21 is, without doubt, taken from a different original document from that to which the verses belong which immediately precede and follow. It is not inserted here merely because it belongs to the time of king Jehoash. The end of the great prophet of Israel, who had wrought so influentially upon its history, and whose acts had been so circumstantially narrated, could not be passed over in silence, especially since the accompanying incidents stood in such close connection with what had gone before, and with what was to follow. Jehoahaz had, according to 2 Kings 13:3–7, left the kingdom very much weakened. When Jehoash heard of Elisha’s illness, he went to him, and, weeping, called to him, as Elisha had once called to Elijah as he passed away (see Pt. II., p. 15, and cf. p. 69): O my father, my father! the Chariot of Israel and the Horsemen thereof! as much as to say: If now thou also, who hast so often shown thyself the strength and the protector of Israel, and hast helped by counsel and by act, if now thou also, in this time of distress, art about to depart, whence shall come help, and counsel, and deliverance from the hand of the powerful enemy? This humble and chastened spirit on his part leads the prophet to give him the declaration that the prayer of his father (2 Kings 13:4) had been heard, and that the deliverance should commence in his time. The fulfilment of this promise is then narrated in the following verses, 22–25.
2 Kings 13:15. And Elisha said unto him, &c. Elisha does not simply make known this promise to the king by words, but also, as a prophet, in that form which belongs to the essential character of the prophetical office, and is peculiar to prophetical announcements, that is, by means of a symbolic action (see note on chap. 11, 30 sq.). The declaration thereby receives the impress of a solemn and purely prophetical announcement. Here, as in all similar cases, the symbolic action precedes the words which explain it; thereby it represents the future event as a fact, as something which will come without fail. Inasmuch as it was the king himself who performed this symbolic action, and not the prophet, it became all the more a pledge to him of the fulfilment of the prophet’s words. The whole transaction consists of two acts; 2 Kings 13:15–17 give the first one; 2 Kings 13:18 and 19 the second, which is a continuation of the first. Each is followed by words of. the prophet, interpreting it. 2 Kings 13:15. Take bow and arrows. The prophet made use of these for his symbolic action, because the matter in hand was a warlike contest with enemies, and the king, or at least his attendants, were provided with these arms. The command: “Take bow and arrows,” signifies: Arm thyself for war against the Syrians I There is not the least reference to a method of soothsaying by means of arrows (Belomancy, cf. Ezek. 21:21), which was practised by many ancient heathen nations.
2 Kings 13:16. Put thine hand upon the bow; literally: Let thine hand ride upon the bow. In drawing the bow, it is held in a horizontal position in such a way that the left hand rests upon it. The prophet placed his hands upon those of the king “in token that the impulse which was to be given came, through the prophet’s hands, from the Lord” (Keil). The king’s act thereby becomes to a certain extent the act of the prophet, and so an act which is performed in the name and by the authority of Jehovah. Only in so far can the laying on of hands here be regarded as at once a consecration and a blessing, for that is not its primary significance here, as it is in other places where the hand is laid upon the head.
2 Kings 13:17. Open the window, that is, order the grating, which is in front of the window-opening, to be removed. The king could not open it himself, for he had both hands upon the bow. Eastward, i. e., toward the country east of the Jordan, which the Syrians had taken (2 Kings 10:33), and from whence they continually threatened the country this side the Jordan. The older expositors refer, by way of explanation of the words: And he shot, to the custom in ancient times of declaring war by shooting an arrow into the enemy’s territory (Virgil, Æneid, ix. 57), but that was not the significance of the arrow shot by the king in this case. The words which explain the symbolic act follow the discharge of the arrow: An arrow of deliverance for Jehovah, לַיהוָֹה, i. e., auctore Jehova. [The expression seems intended to interpret the arrow, thus discharged, on two sides, towards Jehovah, and towards the Syrians. It was an arrow of deliverance for, or in its relation to Jehovah, inasmuch as it represented the deliverance which He was determined to give; it was an arrow of deliverance against or upon the Syrians, as it signified the coming overthrow of their oppression.—W. G. S.] Let this arrow be a pledge to thee that Jehovah will help thee, and that thou wilt overcome the Syrians—at Aphek. Locus erat boni ominis (Menochius), for Jehovah had already once given Israel a great victory there (1 Kings 20:26–29). The words עַד־כַּלֵּה refer, in this verse, only to the Syrian army at Aphek; in 2 Kings 13:19, on the contrary, they refer to the entire Syrian military power.
2 Kings 13:18. Take the arrows. The second part of the symbolical action which here begins not only continues the preceding, but consists of an enhancement of it. The article in הַחִצִּים, which is wanting in 2 Kings 13:15, designates particular arrows, namely all, besides the one which had already been shot away, which remained in the quiver. הַךְ אַרְצָה does not mean: Smite the earth (Luther); nor: Smite upon the earth (De Wette); still less: Strike with the bundle of arrows in the direction of the earth [i.e., as if smiting an enemy to earth with it] (Thenius). The last interpretation has no support in the text; and arrows are not used for smiting enemies to the earth, or for striking upon the ground. נָכָה stands in contrast with יָרָה (2 Kings 13:17); it does not mean jacere (sagittas), to shoot arrows, but, ferire, to hit (1 Kings 22:34; 2 Kings 9:24; 1 Sam. 17:49). The arrow in 2 Kings 13:17 was only to be shot away through the window towards the east; the arrows in 2 Kings 13:18 were to hit down to the earth, i.e., in such a way that what was hit by them should be stretched upon the ground. As the king only shot to the earth thus three times and then stopped, did not, therefore, use up all the arrows which remained, the prophet was displeased (Sept. ἐλυπήθη) and said (2 Kings 13:19): Thou shouldest have smitten, &c. He meant: Thou hadst more than three arrows, and mightest have continued to hit; the fact, however, that thou hast ceased so soon, shows that thou lackest the zeal which is tireless, and which perseveres, trusting in the Lord; thou shalt indeed defeat the Syrians, but the complete destruction of their power will not come about through thee. The reason why the king shot three times and then stopped was that, according to the prevalent notion, that what was done thrice was done perfectly (Numb. 22:28, 32, 33; 24:10; Ex. 23:17), he supposed that this sufficed. It was not because he was afraid that, if he shot any more, the prophecies of Elisha would not come to pass (Starke), or because he did not dare to shoot more, “lest too extravagant demands might deprive him of all” (Von Gerlach). In the first part of the transaction (2 Kings 13:16 and 17), it is promised him that Jehovah will give him victory over the Syrians; in the second (2 Kings 13:18 and 19), he is exhorted to go on, trusting in Jehovah’s assistance, without hesitation; and putting forth all his energies, and so to make war upon the Syrians until he utterly destroys them.
2 Kings 13:20. And Elisha died, &c., וַיָּמָח evidently refers back to יָמוּח in 2 Kings 13:14. Vulg.: Mortuus est ergo Elisaeus et sepelierunt eum. This sentence closes the narrative which began with 2 Kings 13:14. It ought not, therefore, to be treated as a subordinate clause to what follows, as Luther understood it: “When Elisha was dead and they had buried him, the Moabites made an incursion.” Elisha must have reached a great age, for Jehoash did not come to the throne till 840–39, and Ahab, in whose reign Elisha was already a grown man (1 Kings 19:19), reigned from 919–897 (see above, Pt. II., p. 45). According to Jerome’s statement (Epitaph. Paulae), Elisha’s grave was in the neighborhood of Samaria, where he had a residence (2 Kings 5:9; 6:32). Krummacher locates it, without any definite reason, in the neighborhood of Jericho, and certainly raiding bands of the Moabites might much more naturally appear in the neighborhood of Jericho than near Samaria. בָּא שָׁנָה means literally: a year came. According to the Targum and the Rabbis this means: at the beginning of the year. They came at this season because then the country furnished pasture. It can hardly mean that they came every year (Ewald). Still less correct is the rendering of the Vulg. which Luther follows: in ipso anno, in the same year.—וַיַשְׁלִיכוּ, 2 Kings 13:21, is not to be understood of a rude and violent “throwing in,” but it is meant to describe the haste with which they opened the grave and deposited the corpse in it. It is not necessary to change וַיֵּלֶךְ, as Hitzig and Thenius do, into וַיֵּלְכוּ, i. e., they went away, for הלךְ “is used not only of the motion of lifeless objects, but also of the gradual progress of an action” (Keil). [It has great dramatic force, describing the gradual approach of the corpse to that contact which involved such momentous consequences.—W. G. S.] The Hebrews brought their dead to the grave, not in closed coffins, but on an open bier (Winer, R.-W.-B., ii. s. 16), “so that the corpse which was being brought to the sepulchre, on being hastily deposited there, might easily come in contact with the remains of Elisha” (Keil).
2 Kings 13:22. But Hazael, king of Syria, &c. The narrative here returns to 2 Kings 13:3–7. Seb. Schmidt: reassumitur hoc de Chasaele ad exponendum complementum prophetiae Elisae. In sense, לָחַץ is to be taken as a pluperfect. 2 Kings 13:23 contains a remark of the author: Israel had been brought by Hazael to the brink of ruin, but, for the sake of His covenant, Jehovah took pity upon His people once more: He did not as yet permit it to be destroyed, as He did later (2 Kings 17:6). Hazael died (2 Kings 13:24), and Jehoash defeated his son and successor three times, as the prophet had foretold. The cities of Israel (2 Kings 13:25) which Jehoash took away from Benhadad must have been “those which lay upon this side the Jordan, for Hazael had conquered the territory beyond Jordan during the reign of Jehu (2 Kings 10:32 sq.), and it is expressly stated that the cities which he now recovered were those which had been taken from his father Jehoahaz” (Thenius). Jeroboam II. was the first who restored the ancient boundaries (2 Kings 14:25).
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. In regard to the reign of King Jehoahaz, we have but scanty records; the Chronicle does not mention him at all. The kingdom had declined very much during the last years of Jehu (2 Kings 10:31–33), but, under this king, it sank still lower in every respect. The worship of the calves, which his father had retained, still continued; also the licentious worship of Astarte was once more practised. The entire revolution mentioned in chaps. 9 and 10, the overthrow of the House of Ahab, the foundation of a new dynasty, the abolition of idolatry, thus proved fruitless and vain. The divine judgments and chastisements which had begun under Jehu therefore increased, so that the kingdom came nigh to ruin. Jehoahaz, therefore, turned and prayed to God in anxiety and despair, and He once more had pity on His people. Schlier justly says of Jehoahaz: “His prayer was the best thing that he bequeathed to his successor.” The state of things during his reign is a proof that worship of images always leads to worship of false gods, and that there is only one step from the one to the other (see 1 Kings 12:25–33, Hist. § 2). It shows how, universally, the weeds of religious error, when they have taken root amongst a people, although they may be pulled up again and again, nevertheless strike root again and spread, and endure more storm and hard usage than good and useful plants. Is it not true that even Christian nations cling more stubbornly to the errors which have fastened upon Christian doctrine, than to Christian truth itself? On the other hand, God, who guides the destinies of Israel, appears here as one whose wrath is indeed kindled at the sin and apostasy of His people, but who does not remain angry forever. He never ceases to be pitiful and gracious, kind and faithful (Ex. 34:6; Ps. 103:8–9). When His people, call upon Him, He hears the cry, and in due time sends a deliverer.
2. There is no mention made of the prophet Elisha from the anointing of Jehu in 884 to the reign of Jehoash (839), that is, for a period of at least forty-five years, whereas we should have expected that his influence would be especially wide and great under a dynasty which he put upon the throne. The fact that Jehoash called him “Father” and the “Chariot of Israel and the Horsemen thereof” shows that he enjoyed high honor and esteem, and it would be very astonishing, if Elisha had not even given a sign of his existence for forty-five years. We are therefore compelled to infer either that the original documents used by our author were silent in regard to his activity, or that some of the incidents mentioned in chap. 4 sq. belong to this period (see Pt. II., p. 45). It cannot be proved, as Ewald asserts, that “all the incidents, in which he appears as standing in high estimation with the king of the northern kingdom, belong to the times of the house of Jehu,” that is to say, especially chaps. 5 and 6 It is far more probable that it was he who warned and threatened king Jehu (2 Kings 10:30), and also induced king Jehoahaz to humble himself and turn to God in prayer (2 Kings 13:4). He shows himself once more on his death-bed in his full and distinctive prophetical character. He appears here in his last hours in the character which was peculiar to him as compared with Elijah, i. e., as the one who built up, rescued from distress, and preserved (see Pt. II., p. 24). He departs from the world with a great promise of deliverance to his people, with the announcement of coming release from the oppression of the arch-enemy. “Salvation and Victory from Jehovah!” is his last prophetic oracle. While the young and vigorous king, despairing of deliverance, stands crushed and tearful before him, the prophet, oppressed by disease, and age, and approaching death, raises himself up from his death-bed, spiritually full of life and strength, and gives orders to the king to do this and that, in the tone of one who has set up and deposed kings, and whose calling it has been to break in pieces and to destroy, to build and to plant (Jer. 1:10). He commands the king to execute the significant operation, not because he himself was too weak to talk much (Thenius), but because the king was to be the actor, was to be filled with courageous faith, and was to be assured of the victory he should win. It must have made a deep and solemn impression upon him and upon all who stood about, that he himself executed this symbolic action with the hands of the prophet laid upon him. When the prophet’s wrath was kindled against the king for desisting from shooting, it was not a sinful ebullition, but a wrath which sprang from love, because the king did not secure still more of the promise for himself and his people.
3. The story of the restoration to life of a man who was laid in Elisha’s grave stands in close connection with what precedes, not only historically, but also as respects its significance, and its moral. This is sufficient to show that it cannot have, as Ephraim Syrus and some other church fathers suppose, the general moral, that “Elisha, even in the grave, surpassed Elijah in miraculous power,” nor, as Theodoret says: ὡς διαπλασίαν τοῦ διδασκάλου τὴν χάριν ἐδέξατο [that he had a double portion of his master’s spirit]. This notion rests upon the erroneous interpretation of 2 Kings 2:9 (see notes thereon). Elisha is nowhere placed superior to Elijah. According to the opinion which is now generally received, and which was proposed by Seb. Smith, the object of this miracle of resuscitation was to “impress the seal of the Divine confirmation upon the prediction of the dying prophet in regard to Jehoash’s victory over the Syrians” (Keil), or, “to give a pledge of the fulfilment of the promise which had been given” (Thenius). But the resuscitation of a dead man has no essential connection with the contents of this prediction, and the miracle would then be a mere display of supernatural power, having no special significance, and presenting no reason why this rather than any other form of supernatural work should have been chosen. The incident is connected, not with the victory over the Syrians, but with the death and burial of the prophet, which are mentioned just before. Its significance is this: Elisha died and was buried as all men are, but even in the grave testimony was borne to his character as a prophet and servant of God. The spirit (רוּחַ) of Jehovah, which made him, as well as his master, prophets (2 Kings 2:9, 15), and which is the principle of all prophetical life and work, made itself manifest in him even in the grave. It manifested itself, moreover, in a manner which corresponds exactly to the form of activity of this prophet, who was a preserver, savior, and life-giver (see Pt. II., p. 24). Salvation and life proceed from him, by the spirit of God, which makes alive, and is the fountain of life (Ezek. 37:1–14; Hos. 6:2; Deut. 32:39), even after he is in the grave. This interpretation is confirmed by the passage Sirach 48:1–15. The praises of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha are there pronounced, and especial reference is made to the end of each. The translation of Elijah is mentioned in 2 Kings 13:9, and then, in 2 Kings 13:13, with which the panegyric of Elisha begins, the author refers back to it again: “Elijah was enveloped in a storm-cloud, and Elisha was filled with his spirit. During his life he feared before no ruler, and no one ever imposed restraint upon him. He yielded to no compulsion, καὶ ἐν κοιμήσει ἐπροφήτευσε τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ. During his life he performed wonders, καὶ ἐν τελευτῇ θαυμάσια τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ.” Whereas, in 2 Kings 13:1—8, Elijah’s separate deeds are particularly described, Elisha’s activity is only delineated in general outline; on the contrary his end, like that of Elijah, is noticed especially. This shows that, in the time of Sirach, this incident was considered important and significant. Taken in connection with the context the sense is: as the greatest of all prophets, Elijah, the second Moses, was marvelously glorified at the close of his career; so was his successor, Elisha, also. Though his end was not like that of his master, yet it was not without divine testimony to his prophetical calling, for the spirit of Jehovah made itself manifest in him even in the grave. It was not the dead bones which brought the dead to life, but the living God. The resuscitation of the dead man was only “brought about by contact with the bones of the dead prophet, because God desired thereby to show to His people that the divine energy, which had been active in Elisha, had not, by his death, disappeared from Israel” (Keil Commentar, Ed. of 1845). This shows that it is as great an error to charge the writer with ascribing to the bones of Elisha a magical, miraculous power, as to refer to this narrative as a proof of the miraculous efficacy of relics. “This instance,” says Starke, “proves nothing in behalf of the relics of saints and their misuse in the Romish Church, for it was not the bones of Elisha, but the power of God, which made this dead man live. The Church did not then, and has never since, dug up the bones of Elisha, much less encased them in gold and silver, and given them to the people to kiss and reverence, as is done under the papacy, in order to gain favor with God, for which there is neither precept nor example in the Scriptures.” Neither is it necessary to have recourse to the typical and allegorical method of interpretation. J. Lange says: “The chief object (of this miracle) was to affirm the doctrine of the future, universal resurrection of the dead. Elisha was, therefore, in this point, a type of Christ.” In like manner, Krummacher says, basing his view on Sir. 48:13, that the corpse of Elisha prophesied of the “flowing, new-creating, life-giving, miraculous power, which was to be poured out in the world through the death of his great anti-type, Jesus Christ.” This latter notion is inapt, because life and resurrection proceed, not from the crucified and dead, but from the risen, Christ. Cassel (Der Prophet Elisa, s. 162 sq.) even finds the prophetical spirit represented in the (dead) Elisha, and the people of Israel in the dead man restored to life. He says: “When the spirit of the prophets breathed over Israel like an evening wind, then the nation rose again, became living, and made all live whom its word touched. All the dead who fall upon prophecy rise again to life. Elisha is the prophetic law, whosoever in Israel believes on it experiences the resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ. The miracle at Elisha’s grave is a type—but since all, Jews and heathen, alike become living at the grave of Christ through repentance and faith, no dead man’s bone any longer restores to life.” It is not necessary to show that such interpretations have no foundation in the text. [Scarcely a better means of exposing their frivolity could be found than to translate them. They are inflated, rhetorical inventions. When they are translated literally, they appear to be scarcely more than ridiculous and incoherent jargon. The principal utility of quoting them is to keep before us a warning of the pitfalls which environ the science of interpretation.—W. G. S.] Finally, the naturalistic interpretation of this incident, according to which “an apparently dead man, when he was thrown into the grave of Elisha, was restored to life by the violent shock of the fall” (Exeget. Handbuch on the passage; Baur, Hebr. Mythologie, ii. s. 197; Jahn, Einleitung in’s A. T. ii. 1. s. 261) may be regarded as antiquated and abandoned. Thenius says: “The incident may have occurred very naturally,” but does not tell how. Knobel’s remark: There is something analogous in the legend that the ground, where Amphiaraus lay buried, prophesied (Cicero, De Divin. i. 40),” rests upon an entire misconception of the aim and significance of the miracle.
[This might be regarded as a test case among the Old Testament miracles. It is very doubtful if many readers will find themselves satisfied with the above discussion of it. The notion that Elisha was a “constructive” prophet, in contrast with Elijah, who was “destructive,” is a mere whim. The fondness for historical parallels and contrasts seduces many into finding coincidences, correspondences, and contrasts where none exist out of the imagination of the writer. Elijah and Elisha differed somewhat in character, it is true, but they must be taken together as two men who worked with the same general method, under very similar circumstances, and towards the same ends. There is no ground for any such contrast as is here affirmed. Yet this contrast is made to be, in Bähr’s explanation of the miracle, after all verbiage is stripped from it, the motive of this wonderful event. God bore testimony to Elisha’s calling even after his death, and this testimony took the form of the restoration of a dead man to life by physical contact with the bones of the dead prophet, because Elisha had been a constructing, life-giving prophet. Of course, an affirmed miracle would not be disproved, if we did not see the necessity for it, but no miracle recorded in Scripture would seem more superfluous than one which was intended to ratify the calling of Elisha as a prophet of Jehovah, after his death. As for the authority of Sirach, it is not worth while to go into it. His panegyric is poetical and rhetorical in form, and when he says, for instance, that “the body (of Elisha) prophesied in the tomb,” although there is a reference to this passage, and although it is a perfectly justifiable thing for him to refer to it in this poetical strain in the course of such a composition as that he was making, yet it is difficult to see how these words could be reduced to any statement which would be available for critical and exegetical purposes. The attempts to lend significance to this incident, on one side and on the other, are all failures. The simple statement of the text is that an incursion of Moabites interrupted a funeral. The corpse was hastily thrown into the sepulchre of Elisha, and when it touched the bones of the prophet, the man returned to life. The remarkable dramatic minuteness of the description in 2 Kings 13:21: “when the dead man came and touched the bones of the prophet, he revived,” shows that the resuscitation was dependent on, and, we may say, caused by the physical contact, according to the conviction of the writer of the narrative. Different persons will receive this story in different ways, according to their theological and philosophical prepossessions. Some will see in it a popular legend or myth which insisted on glorifying the prophet by ascribing miraculous efficacy to his bones after his death, a mere legend which grew up in the course of time, but had no historical foundation. Others will simply take the story as it is given as an indisputable fact, and will go no farther than the record goes. It is not stated that the bones of the prophet were ever tested again to see if they would repeat the miracle, or that any other persons than this one were ever restored, and it is not stated why the miracle was performed at all. Those who adopt this second course must decline to speculate on these questions. They must assume that, for some reasons unknown, God, on a single occasion, attached to the bones of the prophet this efficacy. They must decline to deduce general inferences from this incident. Others again will go still farther, and infer that the sanctity of the man was due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that this became physically inherent in the remains of his body, that his bones, therefore, had miraculous efficacy, and that the bones of other individuals of equal sanctity will have equal efficacy. It is a development and extension of the second view, and it elevates the isolated instance into a law. In this way the story is made to lend support to the use of relics. It is remarked above, in reference to this, that it was not the prophet’s bone, but the power of God, which wrought the miracle. No one would assert anything else of the use of any relic. It is clearly stated that the resuscitation depended upon the physical contact with the physical object, and the latter had mysterious and supernatural efficacy inherent in it, which it could only have acquired as part of the body of a man who had been marked by extraordinary spiritual superiority. That, however, is the principle which lies at the root of the use and veneration of relics.—W. G. S.]
4. King Jehoash did not indeed renounce the worship of Jeroboam’s calves, but he was one of the best among the kings of the northern kingdom. This much is clear from the story of his interview with Elisha, if from nothing more. We do not hear that any other one of the four kings, under whom the prophet lived, stood in similar relations to him. Even though the tears which he shed at the prophet’s death-bed were not tears of penitence, and of a “lively regret for his past behavior towards the prophet” (Krummacher), yet they certainly show how deeply he was touched by the distress of Israel, and how helpless he felt at the departure of the prophet. By his exclamation: “My Father!” &c., he proclaimed to all who stood by that the prophet was more to him than all the military force which still remained. He then goes on to do what the prophet commands him, as a servant obeys his master. He desisted after shooting three times, not, as Krummacher thinks, from fear of condescending below his royal dignity, but from shame and fear of demanding too much [or rather, because what was done three times was thought to be completely done. See Exeg. note on 2 Kings 13:19] He took courage, and soon showed himself a bold and victorious soldier, both in his war with Syria, and in that with Amaziah (see chap. 14).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 13:1–13. See Histor. and Eth. The history of the kingdom of Israel under Jehoahaz shows us (a) God’s severity, and (b) God’s goodness. Rom. 11:22; cf. Sirach 5:6 sq.; 16:12.—STARKE: Men who have a personal interest in deeply rooted customs or traditions, are very loath to see them overthrown and abandoned, although they often thereby draw down God’s judgments by their own hands.
2 Kings 13:3 and 4. How hard it often is to bring a man, who has turned away from the living God and from His word, to seek the Lord’s face. Jehoahaz had to be pushed to the last extremity by the enemy, and to be most deeply humiliated, before he called upon the Lord and saw where help is to be found in all distress (Isai. 26:16).
2 Kings 13:4 and 5. BERLEB. BIBEL: The Lord heard him and thereby showed distinctly how easily He may be moved to show mercy, if we will only bring ourselves to ask Him in humility and sincere penitence.—STARKE: Faithful Christian! If God heard Jehoahaz, how much more will He hear thee, if thou callest upon Him.—The Lord gave Israel a deliverer, but Jehoahaz did not live to see him. God hears the cries of those who earnestly call upon Him, and helps them, but the time and place and manner of His aid are retained in His own discretion. Do not despair if thy prayer does not seem to be heard, and the Lord delays His assistance. He knows the fitting seasons and knows what is useful for us.
2 Kings 13:5 and 6. The Lord gave Israel a temporal saviour in its hour of physical need; to us He has given a spiritual Saviour, who can and will save us out of the hands of the greatest of all enemies: sin, death, Satan, and Hell (Luke 1:69–71). What can we expect, if it must be said of us also: Yet they did not renounce their sins.—RICHTER: Many a one prays, like Jehoahaz, in his time of distress, and when the trouble is past, the good impulses quickly disappear again. 2 Kings 13:7. WÜRT. SUMM.: No nation is so great and mighty that God cannot take away its might and make it so small and slight that it is only like dust which the wind scatters (Ps. 18:42). Therefore, ye godless! plume yourselves not so much upon your strength (Ps. 75:5). Look at the chaff, how quickly it is scattered; so shall it be with your strength. 2 Kings 13:14–21. Elisha’s End. (a) His death-bed, 2 Kings 13:14–19. (b) His grave, 2 Kings 13:20–21. 2 Kings 13:14–17. KRUMMACHER: The sick-bed. (a) Elisha in illness; (b) bewailed by the king; (c) but a prophet until his latest breath.
2 Kings 13:14–19. King Jehoash at the death-bed of Elisha. (a) He weeps and laments; (b) He is consoled and strengthened.—How did Elisha pass away from earth? Sick and weakened by age—(his lot was the ordinary one of mortals; he also had to pass away into darkness and death, however much he had wrought and fought and labored, Ps. 90:10 and 12. God has ordained sickness before death, that we may set our house in order, may seek refuge in the mercy of God, and may ponder what is our sole consolation, in life and in death)—yet, as a man of God. (In spite of weakness and physical decay, he is strong and firm; he asks no help from men, but he, the dying one, consoles and strengthens the living. His last word is a promise of victory. The words of Isaiah [40:29–31] are verified in him.)
2 Kings 13:14. It is rarely recognized how great and irreparable is the loss of a true man of God, a great benefactor, and a faithful servant, until he is gone.—King Jehoash was not ashamed to come to the dying prophet, and to confess with tears his own helplessness; but how many shun such holy men, and are glad if they never need have anything to do with them.
2 Kings 13:15 sq. From the example of Elisha, we see how one who can say: “The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation” (Ps. 118:14). stands before the gates of eternity; proclaiming salvation, extending blessings, sure of victory. There is no greater thing than a man who, in the face of death, can cry: “O death! where is thy sting,” &c. (1 Cor. 15:55, 57).—KRUMMACHER: Here we see Elisha’s patriotism. If we would know what true love of one’s fatherland is, let us ask the prophet. In his case it received a divine consecration. It is truly touching to see with what tenderness the prophets enfold in their hearts their country and people, even when they see in them little but spiritual death, decay, and corruption, and experience from their fellow-countrymen little but bitterness, hate, and persecution.
2 Kings 13:18–19. BERLEB. BIBEL: Cease not to shoot arrows of love into the heart of God, so shall one arrow of deliverance after another come back to thee from the Lord, and be given to thee in the word of truth. So shalt thou smite thy spiritual foes and tread them under foot even more completely than Jehoash did the Syrians.—ROOS: The cowardly unbelief of men causes that God cannot reveal His glory in some places as he gladly would (Mark 6:5), and that their way is not made so easy for them as God would be willing to make it (Prov. 4:12). The measure of the victory depends upon the measure of the faith. The Lord said to the centurion of Capernaum: “As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee” (Matt. 8:13). He who is called to execute a work for God may not stop and desist according to his own good judgment, but must go on in it tirelessly and faithfully, till the Lord commands him to cease.—CALW. BIBEL: Many enemies are to be conquered, many tests to be endured. Faith must hold firm until the end. When one battle is won, the conflict is not over. How much is it to be regretted when one only half believes, half obeys, or when one, after a good beginning, desists.
2 Kings 13:20 and 21. The Miracle at the Grave of Elisha; its Object and its Significance, (a) for the prophet himself; (b) for us all (see Hist. § 3). VON GERLACH: The Lord showed thereby that He was not a God of the dead, but of the living; that the dead in Him live for Him (Matt. 22:32); that the spirit of life which proceeds from Him spreads life and blessing everywhere where it comes, and that it is superior to death and decay.—The dead cannot make the dead to live; the spirit of the Lord alone penetrates even into the place of corruption, and changes it into a place of life (Ezek. 37:1 sq.). We, therefore, rest our confidence and hope, not upon dead men’s bones, but upon the God who makes all things to live, and who raised up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep. If we are buried with Him, we have this consolation: the God who raised Him will also raise us to life through His might (1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4).—BERLEB. BIBEL: The precept and example of men of God can have power, even after their death, to the resuscitation of those who are spiritually dead, if the latter will only study and follow them (Hebr. 13:7). This is the way in which the bones of the dead are truly efficacious. If thou art dead in sin, cast thyself into the tomb of the Saviour in humility and self-renunciation, so shalt thou revive and rise to life again as He did, for he who truly grasps the virtue of the death of Christ (comes into contact with that Dead One) is thus revived to the true life of his soul.
2 Kings 13:23 sq. CALW. BIBEL: When God turns Himself from us, then we are given over to wretchedness; when He turns back to us again, then we find salvation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for a thousand years, and yet their blessing was efficacious.—WÜRT. SUMM.: God does not take pleasure in our ruin, but remembers, even in the midst of His anger, His promised grace and the covenant which He has made with us (Luke 1:72 sq.).—CRAMER: Tyrants are rods by means of which God chastises His people; but finally the tyrants themselves are chastised by God and cast into the fire.
2 Kings 13:25. STARKE: It was unjustly obtained and quickly lost. Unrighteous wealth rarely comes to the third generation (Jes. 33:1).—RICHTER: Israel is to-day, as it was then (2 Kings 13:23), a covenant people of God, and is not rejected entirely and forever (Rom. 11).
2 Kings 13:4.—[חִלָּה אֶת־פְּנֵי. See 1 Kings 13:6.]
[כִּתְמוֹל שִׁלשׁוֹם, “as yesterday and day before,” i.e., as before. Cf. Gen. 31:2, 5; Ex. 5:7, 14; 1 Sam. 21:6.]
2 Kings 13:6.—[The א is omitted in the chetib on account of the א which immediately follows. Cf. 2 Sam. 5:2; 1 Kings 21:21. Böttcher, §§ 414, and 1080, 1.
2 Kings 13:7.—[כֶּעָפָר לָדֻשׁ, literally “like dust to tread upon.”]
2 Kings 13:9.—[וַיִּקְבְּרֻהוּ,—the plural, as in English, for the passive, equivalent to the active singular with indefinite subject. (Germ. man, Fr. on). Cf. 2 Kings 7:13; 1 Kings 1:1; 9:9; 18:10.]
2 Kings 13:14.—[The imperfect tense in יָמוּת has its proper force of the future, and is equivalent to the perfect of the Latin periphrastic conj. in rus. Ewald, § 136, d.]
2 Kings 13:17.—[עַד־כַּלֵּה, lit. “until consuming,” gerund form, = until thou consume, finish destroying, them.
2 Kings 13:19.—[לְהַכּוֹת; the infinitive is used like the Latin participle in dus: “It was to be smitten,” i.e., thou shouldest have smitten. Ewald, § 237, c. In the conclusion we have a perfect in the sense of the pluperfect conjunctive. Cf. Gen. 18:12; 1 Sam. 13:18. Böttcher, § 947, d.—W. G. S.]
See the Appendix on the Chronology. For the purpose of the calculation here made, it is immaterial whether this date is correct or not, but it is certainly wrong to call it “an established chronological starting-point.”—W. G. S.
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.