THE GOODNESS AND GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD REFLECT HIS ONGOING COVENANT LOYALTY TO ISRAEL DESPITE THE WICKED REIGNS OF JEHOAHAZ AND JEHOASH
With the death of Elisha the prophet, certainly the nation of Israel had cause to wonder if God would now completely forsake them. But time after time God demonstrated His goodness and graciousness despite their unwillingness to reject the idolatry of their fathers. God’s covenant loyalty brought deliverance in time of crisis, resurrection from the dead, and three successive victories over the Arameans as Israel was able to recapture some of their previously lost cities. There would be hope for the future despite the coming judgment and captivity because of their idolatry.
John Gates: This section demonstrates how insidiously sin entrenches itself and spreads in spite of repeated efforts to eradicate it.
Iain Provan: Yet there are hints now of a darker future, a future in which Israel will have to do without their great protector Elisha; a future of defeat and exile in a foreign land. It is the end of an era in which two mighty prophets have walked the land. What will happen now?
William Barnes: In any case, we truly know that God’s people have not been forgotten by their loving and gracious deity—that is the unequivocal message we can take away from the present chapter. And that is no small consolation to any contemporary reader of this ancient portion of the Word of God.
I. (:1-9) REIGN OF WICKED JEHOAHAZ IN ISRAEL –
GOODNESS OF GOD DID NOT LEAD TO REPENTANCE
A. (:1) Significant Touchpoints
1. When Did He Reign?
“In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah,”
2. Who Was His Father?
“Jehoahaz the son of Jehu”
3. Which Kingdom Did He Rule Over?
“became king over Israel at Samaria”
4. How Long Did He Reign?
“and he reigned seventeen years.”
B. (:2-3) Summary Evaluation and Divine Discipline
1. (:2) Summary Evaluation
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin; he did not turn from them.”
2. (:3) Divine Discipline
“So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.”
Peter Pett: The consequence of YHWH’s anger at Israel’s disobedience to His covenant resulted in a number of Aramaean invasions by Hazael and his son Benhadad (acting as Hazael’s commander-in-chief) in which Israel were badly mauled. Indeed we learn later that as well as being unable to recover Transjordan from Hazael (see 2 Kings 10:32-33), he also lost a number of cities to him west of Jordan (2 Kings 13:25).
C. (:4-7) Significant Event –
Deliverance from the Arameans but Persistent Idolatry
1. (:4) Crisis Entreaty
“Then Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Aram oppressed them.”
2. (:5) Gracious Deliverance from the Arameans
“And the LORD gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Arameans; and the sons of Israel lived in their tents as formerly.”
Constable: Aram’s oppression moved Jehoahaz to seek Yahweh’s help, which He graciously provided in spite of the king’s unfaithfulness. The deliverer God raised up (v. 5) was probably King Adad-Nirari III of Assyria (810-783 B.C.) who attacked Damascus as well as Tyre, Sidon, Media, Edom, and Egypt. The Arameans consequently stopped attacking Israel and turned to defending themselves against their neighbor to the east, Assyria. Another way God disciplined Israel at this time was by reducing her army through casualties (v. 7). This had begun in Jehu’s reign (10:32-36) but continued during Jehoahaz’s administration.
Peter Pett: Other saviours have been suggested such as Elisha on the basis of 2 Kings 13:14-20, Joash on the basis of 2 Kings 13:17; 2 Kings 13:19; 2 Kings 13:25, and even Jeroboam II on the basis of 2 Kings 14:27. But none of them really fit the situation unless we see the answer to prayer as very much delayed, which is not the impression we are given.
Paul House: Despite their release, the people fail to credit God for their peace and security. In return for the Lord’s goodness, the nation continues in Jeroboam’s cult and returns to Asherah worship. The futility of such worship is highlighted by the fact that Syria brought Israel to its knees by decimating its armies while they rebelled against the Lord. As in the times of Amos, it seems that the more the Lord does to change Israel’s habits the more the people choose a destructive path (cf. Amos 4:6–12). When Jehoahaz dies, he is replaced by his son Jehoash, who becomes the second descendant of Jehu to rule. God continues to be faithful to Jehu.
3. (:6) Persistent Idolatry
“Nevertheless they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained standing in Samaria.”
Wiersbe: Did the promised blessing of God change the king? Apparently not, for he didn’t remove the idols form the land (v. 6; 1 Kings 16:33) nor did he encourage the people to return to the Lord. Crisis faith is rarely deep or lasting. Once people see hope of deliverance and their pain eases up, they forget the Lord and return to their old ways until the next crisis.
4. (:7) Hamstrung Military
“For he left to Jehoahaz of the army not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Aram had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing.”
MacArthur: Syria was able to dominate Israel militarily because the Lord had left Jehoahaz only a small army with very few chariots. The army of Israel was so inconsequential, particularly when compared to the armies of Syria and Assyria, that it was likened to the dust left over after grain had been winnowed at a threshing floor.
D. (:8-9) Overall Summary of His Reign
1. (:8) Recorded Deeds
“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?”
2. (:9a) Death and Burial
“And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria;”
3. (:9b) Succession
“and Joash his son became king in his place.”
II. (:10-25) REIGN OF WICKED JEHOASH IN ISRAEL –
GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD DEMONSTRATED ONGOING COVENANT LOYALTY
A. (:10-13) Overall Summary of His Reign
1. (:10) Significant Touchpoints
a. When Did He Reign?
“In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah,”
b. Who Was His Father?
“Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz,”
Constable: Again two kings with the same name ruled over the Northern and Southern Kingdoms at the same time, though they ruled contemporaneously for only about two years (798-796 B.C.). Jehoash of Israel’s dates are 798-782 B.C., and Jehoash of Judah’s are 835-796 B.C.
c. Which Kingdom Did He Reign Over?
“became king over Israel in Samaria,”
d. How Long Did He Reign?
“and reigned sixteen years.”
2. (:11) Summary Evaluation
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not turn away from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin, but he walked in them.”
3. (:12) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did and his might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?”
4. (:13a) Death of Joash
“So Joash slept with his fathers,”
5. (:13b) Succession
“and Jeroboam sat on his throne;”
6. (:13c) Burial of Joash
“and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.”
Peter Pett: Because the prophetic author wished to keep the episode concerning Elisha’s death outside the regular regnal pattern, the life of Jehoash of Israel is summed up and closed off in the usual way, although in very abbreviated form, before the description of Elisha’s final acts, and the opening of Amaziah’s reign then follows the Elisha incident. We can compare the same pattern with regard to chapter 2, where the taking of Elijah and the establishment of Elisha as his successor takes place after the closing of Ahaziah’s reign but before the opening of Jehoram’s. Furthermore we may also note the fact that Jehoram of Israel’s reign (2 Kings 3:1 to 2 Kings 9:26) which incorporates the other Elisha material was never itself closed off with a closing formula. This deliberate exclusion from the lives of the kings highlights the ‘otherness’ of the death scene of Elisha, and the fact of its heavenly connection.
B. (:14-17) Symbolic Arrow of Gracious Victory at Aphek
1. (:14) Final Interaction with Elisha
“When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’”
MacArthur: Jehoash acknowledge through this metaphor that the Lord, through Elisha, was the real strength and power of Israel against all her adversaries.
Peter Pett: Significance = Will the death of Elisha bring to an end YHWH’s activity on behalf of Israel?
2. (:15-17) Final Instructions from Elisha
a. (:15-17a) Shoot the Arrow
“And Elisha said to him, ‘Take a bow and arrows.’
So he took a bow and arrows.
Then he said to the king of Israel, ‘Put your hand on the bow.’ And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands.
And he said, ‘Open the window toward the east,’
and he opened it.
Then Elisha said, ‘Shoot!’ And he shot.”
Peter Pett: In the first passage (in chapter 2) the message was one of hope, with Elijah being taken and Elisha entering Israel over the miraculously parted Jordan and advancing on Jericho and Bethel to take possession of the land. Now that period is over and Elisha is dying, but he wants Jehoash to recognise that the future is still one of hope if only he will trust in YHWH, and he does it by vivid symbolism which indicates that the chariots and horsemen of Israel and the armoury of God (represented by the arrow of YHWH’s victory) will still be with them if they are faithful to YHWH. . . Unlike the servant of Elisha previously (2 Kings 6:17), Elisha knew that the king was not spiritually attuned enough to see chariots and horses of fire at the ready to fight for Israel. Thus he gave him instead a visible sign of YHWH’s victory, one that he could understand and appreciate. And he was to see the arrows as the arrows of YHWH.
b. (:17b) Significance of the Arrow
“And he said, ‘The LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you shall defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.’”
Constable: The bow and arrows were symbols of the strength and victory God would give Jehoash. By taking them in hand the king was symbolically becoming God’s agent of power. Elisha put his own hands on the king’s to illustrate that the king’s power would come from Yahweh, whom Elisha represented. The east window opened toward Aram from Israel. By shooting the first arrow Jehoash was appropriating the victory symbolized by the arrow. As he shot, Elisha explained to him that the arrow represented victory over Aram at Aphek (cf. 1 Kings 20:30).
The prophet then instructed Jehoash to shoot the remaining arrows at the ground. The Hebrew makes this translation preferable. He was to strike the ground by shooting the arrows at it.
“It is … a symbolic action, like that of Joshua thrusting with a spear at Ai (Jos. 8:18).” Wiseman
Elisha was angry when Jehoash shot only three more arrows because in doing so the king was demonstrating weak faith. Jehoash knew what shooting the arrows signified (v. 17). Perhaps the king did not believe God could or would give him as much victory as Elisha had implied. He failed to trust God even though he knew what God had promised.
C. (:18-19) Symbolic Arrows of Failure to Appropriate Full Victory
1. (:18) Failure to Trust God for Full Victory
“Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and he took them.
And he said to the king of Israel, ‘Strike the ground,’ and he struck it three times and stopped.”
Tony Evans: Most of the time God’s promises are in your reach. They are not in your hand. Like Joshua, who had been promised every place the sole of his foot touched, and like this king, you have to go and get them. God’s promises for you don’t come about by you simply sitting around and waiting for them. They require you to act in faith, to live out the principles taught in His Word, and more—to align your life under God’s truth.
With the first arrow that Elisha called, “The lord’s arrow of victory,” the promise of victory for king Joash had been established. Yet the king was told to shoot more arrows out the window. We know that at a minimum he had at least six arrows in his quiver because of what Elisha said to him. But the king chose to shoot only three. Maybe he wanted to save his remaining arrows for the upcoming battle. Maybe he didn’t want them damaged, or maybe he didn’t want to have to retrieve them, or lose them altogether. The king was obviously covering himself in keeping back a few of his arrows. Yet for whatever reason, the prophet had given him an instruction, and he had held back. He quit long before he ever should have.
David Guzik: Elisha clearly asked Joash to do something that modeled prayer.
• Shooting the arrows required effort and aim.
• Shooting the arrows required instruction and help from the prophet of God.
• Shooting the arrows had to be done through an open window.
• Shooting the arrows had to be done without knowing the exact outcome ahead of time. The target was only fully known by faith.
• Shooting the arrows was ineffective because it was not repeated enough, reflecting a lack of confidence in the process.
• Shooting the arrows had its strategic moment, and when that moment passed it was gone.
• Failing to shoot the arrows hurt others, not only himself.
2. (:19) Frustration Expressed by Elisha
“So the man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.’”
David Guzik: We think of all the excuses that Joash could have made; yet none of them are valid.
• “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to be presumptuous and ask for too much.”
• “I stopped shooting because I’m not a very good archer.”
• “I stopped shooting because Elisha didn’t help me more.”
• “I stopped shooting because I thought three was plenty.”
• “I stopped shooting because I didn’t think it would do any good.”
• “I stopped shooting because I wasn’t in a shooting mood. I didn’t feel like it.”
• “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to get over-excited.”
Dale Ralph Davis: It is important, then, to see how verses 10–13 and verses 14–19 fit together. Verses 10–13 summarize Jehoash’s whole reign, but verses 14–19 capture his most crucial moment—standing before the word of Yahweh. Hence this latter vignette gets more space than the king’s whole ‘bio’ in verses 10–13. The text makes a value judgment: how a man responds to Yahweh’s word is more significant than all the achievements and honors of a lifetime.
D. (:20-21) Resurrection Impact of the Bones of Elisha
1. (:20a) Death and Burial of Elisha
“And Elisha died, and they buried him.”
2. (:20b-21a) Burying a Man in the Grave of Elisha
“Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land
in the spring of the year.
And as they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha.”
3. (:21b) Dead Man Revived by the Bones of Elisha
“And when the man touched the bones of Elisha
he revived and stood up on his feet.”
MacArthur: A dead man returned to life after touching Elisha’s bones. This miracle was a sign that God’s power continued to work in relationship to Elisha even after his death. What God had promised to Jehoash through Elisha when he was alive would surely come to pass after the prophet’s death (cf. vv. 19-25) in the defeat of the enemy, the recovery of the cities that had been taken, and their restoration to the kingdom of Israel (vv. 22-25).
Constable: Why did the writer place the record of the resuscitation (vv. 20-21) within the story of the Aramean army’s defeat (vv. 14-25)? Probably he intended the resuscitation incident to illustrate the fact that God would also revive Israel by defeating Aram, as He had revived the dead man.
John Schultz: This miracle of Elisha’s after his death is more surprising than any of those which he performed during his lifetime. The Jews regarded it as his highest glory (compare Ecclesiaticus 48:13,14). It may be said to belong to a class of Scriptural miracles, cases, i.e. where the miracle was not performed through the agency of a living miracle-worker, but by a material object in which, by God’s will, ‘virtue’ for the time resided (compare Acts 19:12). The primary effect of the miracle was, no doubt, greatly to increase the reverence of the Israelites for the memory of Elisha, to lend force to his teaching, and especially to add weight to his unfulfilled prophecies, as to that concerning the coming triumphs of Israel over Syria. In the extreme state of depression to which the Israelites were now reduced, a very signal miracle may have been needed to encourage and reassure them.
Paul House: Not even death stops this prophet’s ministry. His predictions about Syria’s defeat live on, of course, but so do his miraculous powers. A group of men burying a corpse are interrupted by Moabite raiders, which forces them to throw the body in a tomb that just happens to be Elisha’s. The deceased man revives. This final Elisha story provides a fitting summary of the prophet and his ministry. Long says, “As he was a man of power in life (chaps. 2–7), moving and persuasive even in stories told about him (2 Kgs 8:1–6), so now his awesome powers continue working in death, confirming the prophet and foreshadowing the victory to come.” Elijah has gone to heaven without dying; Elisha has kept giving Israel life after he has died.
Dale Ralph Davis: You should remember that the Old Testament has no corner on bizarre episodes. The New Testament quite keeps pace with its ‘parallel’ in Matthew 27:51b–53:
(51b) And the earth shook, and the rocks were split, (52) and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (53) and when they came out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
Matthew places this right after he reports Jesus’ death (v. 50). Following J. W. Wenham we place a stop after ‘opened’. Many bodies of dead believers were raised (v. 52b) and verse 53 refers to this when it says they ‘came out of the tombs’ and that this occurred ‘after his resurrection’. So their ‘resurrection’ didn’t occur until after Jesus’ resurrection, but the tombs were opened at Jesus’ death. Naturally this raises a host of unanswered questions. I once heard a New Testament scholar say he didn’t know what to do with this passage. But, if it is strange to us, it is clear what Matthew intends. He wants us to understand that Jesus in his death has conquered death, that Jesus’ death gives us life. Jesus died and tombs were opened.
E. (:22-25) God’s Ongoing Covenant Loyalty to Israel
1. (:22) Israel Oppressed by Hazael
“Now Hazael king of Aram had oppressed Israel
all the days of Jehoahaz.”
2. (:23) God Gracious to Israel
“But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.”
Peter Pett: YHWH had not yet cast off Israel, for He still remembered His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in which Israel had a part. As a result of these promises He was gracious to Israel and had compassion on them (that is why He had sent them a ‘saviour’), and did not as yet destroy them or cast them off. Thus their main antagonist, Hazael, died, and YHWH began to revivify Israel. He had still not forgotten them.
3. (:24) Succession after Death of Hazael
“When Hazael king of Aram died,
Ben-hadad his son became king in his place.”
4. (:25) Limited Victories by Jehoash to Recover Cities of Israel
“Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken in war from the hand of Jehoahaz his father. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.”