Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XIII.
(1-3) THE REIGN OF JEHOAHAZ.
(1) In the three and twentieth year of Joash.—Josephus makes it the twenty-first year of Joash, but wrongly. According to 2Kings 12:1, Joash succeeded in the seventh year of Jehu, and Jehu reigned twentyeight years (2Kings 10:36).
Seventeen years.—This agrees with 2Kings 14:1.
(2) And he did.—See Notes on 2Kings 3:3.
(3) He delivered them into the hand of Hazael.—Comp. 2Kings 10:32, seq. The meaning is that Jehovah allowed Israel to be defeated in successive encounters with the Syrian forces, and to Suffer loss of territory, but not total subjugation. According to the Assyrian data, Shalmaneser warred with Hazael in 842 B.C. , and again in 839 B.C. (See Notes on 2Kings 8:15; 2Kings 9:2.)
All their days.—Rather, all the days, i.e., continually (not all the days of Jehoahaz, nor of Hazael and Ben-hadad). The phrase is an indefinite designation of a long period of disaster.
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) Besought.—Literally, stroked the face of; a metaphor which occurs in Exodus 32:11; 1Kings 13:6).
And the Lord hearkened unto him.—Not, however, immediately. (See 2Kings 13:7.) The Syrian invasions, which began under Jehu, were renewed again and again throughout the reign of Jehoahaz (2Kings 13:22), until the tide of conquest began to turn in the time of Joash (2Kings 13:15), whose incomplete victories (2Kings 13:17; 2Kings 13:19; 2Kings 13:25) were followed up by the permanent successes of his son Jeroboam II. (2Kings 14:25-28).
The parenthesis marked in 2Kings 13:5 really begins, therefore, with the words, “And the Lord hearkened.” The historian added it by way of pointing out that although the prayer of Jehoahaz did not meet with immediate response, it was not ultimately ineffectual.
The king of Syria.—Intentionally general, so as to include both Hazael and Ben-hadad III., his son (2Kings 13:24).
(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) A saviour.—Jeroboam II., the grandson of Jehoahaz, a vigorous and successful sovereign, of whom it is said that Jehovah “saved” Israel by his hand (2Kings 14:27).
They went out from under the hand.—Referring to the oppressive supremacy of Syria. From these words, and from those of 2Kings 13:22, it would appear that Israel was tributary to Syria during some part of this period.
Dwelt in their tents—i.e., in the open country. In time of war they were obliged to take refuge in strongholds and fortified cities.
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) Nevertheless they departed not.—The restoration of Divine favour did not issue in the abolition of the irregular worship introduced by Jeroboam I. as the state religion of the northern kingdom. This is written, of course, from the point of view of the Judæan editor of Kings, who lived long after the events of which he is writing in the period of the exile. It does not appear from the history of Elijah and Elisha, incorporated in his work, that either of those great prophets ever protested against the worship established at Bethel and Dan.
The house of Jeroboam—Some MSS., the Syriac, Targum, and Arabic omit “house.” But the specification of the dynasty is here very appropriate.
But walked therein.—Rather, therein they walked; the reading of the LXX. (Alex.),Vulg., and Targum being probably correct. It is the conduct of the nation that is being described.
And there remained the grove also in Samaria.—Rather, and moreover the Asherah stood (i.e., was set up) in Samaria. The Asherah was the sacred tree, so often depicted in Assyrian art. It symbolised the productive principle of nature, and was sacred to Ashtoreth. With the return of peace, and the renewal of prosperity, luxury also soon reappeared, and the idolatry that specially countenanced it lifted up its head again. (See the Note on 2Kings 17:16.)
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.—Rather, For he had not left to Jehoahaz (any) people (i.e., war folk; 1Kings 16:15). The subject appears to be Jehovah. The narrative returns, after the long parenthesis, to the statement of 2Kings 13:4, “and Jehoahaz besought Jehovah (for he had not left, &c.).” Or we might render, “one had not left,” i.e., “there was not left.”
Fifty horsemen, and ten chariots.—The mention of so small a number appears to indicate the result of the Israelite losses in some great battle, or in successive engagements. The destruction of these particular kinds of forces was equivalent to complete disarmament, and rendered further resistance hopeless, as the Syrians were especially strong in chariots and horsemen. (See Note on 2Kings 2:12.)
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?(8) And his might.—Or, prowess. The reference is to his wars with the Syrians.
And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash his son reigned in his stead.(9) Slept with his fathers.—Or, lay down (i.e., to sleep) like his fathers, i.e., as his fathers had done before him. The same phrase is used even of Amaziah, who came to a violent end (2Kings 14:22).
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.(10-25) THE REIGN OF JOASH, OR JEHOASH.ELISHA FORETELLS HIS SUCCESSES AGAINST THE SYRIANS.
(10) In the thirty and seventh year.—This does not agree with 2Kings 13:1. The Ald. LXX. reads,” thirty-ninth,” which is right.
Began . . . to reign, and reigned sixteen years.—The Hebrew is briefer, reigned sixteen years.
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.(11) But he walked therein.—Heb., in it he walked. The pronoun is collective in force.
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) And the rest.—This is repeated, 2Kings 14:15-16.
Wherewith he fought.—Or, how he fought. In 2Kings 14:15 and is prefixed, and should be restored here.
Against Amaziah.—See the account of 2Kings 14:8, seq.
And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.(13) Jeroboam sat upon his throne.—The variation from the stereotyped phrase, “and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead,” is remarkable. (See 2Kings 14:16.) The Talmud (Seder Olam) and Kimchi fancy that it is implied that Joash associated Jeroboam with himself on the throne, for fear of a revolt (!).
Buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.—So that there were “tombs of the kings” there, as at Jerusalem.
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 the dying Elisha.
This section is obviously derived from another documentary source than the preceding. What a fresh and life-like picture it presents in contrast with the colourless abstract which it follows!
(14) He died.—Rather, he was to die.
Wept over his face.—As he lay on the bed.
O my father, my father.—Comp, the Note on 2Kings 2:12. Joash laments the approaching loss of his best counsellor and helper. The prophet, by his teaching and his prayers, as well as by his sage counsel and wonder-working powers, had been more to Israel than chariots and horsemen.
And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows.(15) Take bow and arrows.—From one of the royal attendants.
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) Put thine hand upon the bow.—Rather, as margin. In drawing a bow, the left hand “rides” upon it, or closes round it, while the right grasps arrow and string.
Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands.—So as to invest the act of shooting with a prophetic character; and, further perhaps, to signify the consecration of the king to the task that the shooting symbolised. It is not implied that Elisha’s hands were on the king’s hands when he shot.
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) The window.—Or, lattice. Probably a lattice opening outwards.
Eastward.—In the direction of Gilead, which was occupied by the Syrians (2Kings 10:33).
Shoot.—The old illustration of declaring war by shooting an arrow into the enemy’s country (Æn. ix. 57) is not without bearing on this case, though it obviously does not exhaust the meaning of the act.
(17) And he said—i.e., Elisha said.
The arrow of the Lord’s . . . Syria.—Literally, An arrow of victory for Jehovah, and an arrow of victory over Aram!
Till thou have consumed them.—Literally, unto finishing. The annihilation of the opposing army at Aphek, not of the entire forces of Syria, is predicted. (See 2Kings 13:19.)
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) And he said.—LXX., “and Elisha said unto him,” which, as Thenius remarks, is more appropriate here, in introducing the account of the second symbolic action.
The arrows—i.e., the bundle of arrows.
Smite upon the ground.—Rather, smite (or, strike) earthwards; as if striking an enemy to the earth.
He smote thrice.—Three being a sacred number.
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 with him.—Because his present want of zeal augured a like deficiency in prosecuting the war hereafter. The natural irritability of the sick man may also have had something to do with it. Thenius well remarks on the manifestly historical character of the entire scene. It may be added that, to appreciate it fully, we must remember that βελομαυτεία, or soothsaying by means of arrows, was a practice of unknown antiquity in the Semitic world. Shooting an arrow, and observing where and how it fell, was one method of trying to fathom the secrets of that Power which overrules events and foreknows the future. The proceedings of David and Jonathan, recorded in 1Samuel 20:35, seq., appear to have been an instance of this sort of divination, which in principle is quite analogous to casting lots, a practice so familiar to readers of the Bible. The second process—that described in 2Kings 13:18—seems equally to have depended upon chance, according to modern ideas. The prophet left it to the spontaneous impulse of the king to determine the number of strokes; because he believed that the result, whatever it was, would betoken the purpose of Jehovah. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Elisha’s anger was the natural anger of the man and the patriot, disappointed at the result of a divination from which he had hoped greater things. In conclusion, it cannot be too often or too forcibly urged upon students of the true religion that the essential differences which isolate it from all imperfect or retrograde systems are to be found not so much in matters of outward organisation, form, and ritual, such as priesthoods and sacrifices, prophets and modes of divination, which were pretty much the same everywhere in Semitic antiquity; but in the inward spirit and substance of its teaching, in the vital truths which it handed on through successive ages, and, above all, in its steady progress from lower to higher conceptions of the Divine character and purposes, and of the right relations of man to God and his fellow-creatures.
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 the bands of the Moabites invaded.—Rather, And troops of Moabites used to invade. They took advantage of the weakened condition of Israel to revenge the devastation of their country described in 2Kings 3:25.
At the coming in of the year.—So the Targum and the LXX. The Syriac, Vulg., and Arabic understand,” in that (or, ‘the same’) year.” The preposition bě has probably fallen out of the Hebrew text: read, běbô shānāh, “when the year came in”—i.e., in the spring. (Comp. 2Samuel 11:1.)
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.—They—i.e., a party of Israelites. The story is told with vivid definiteness.
A band.—Rather, the troop. The particular troop of Moabites which happened to be making an inroad at the time.
They cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha.—Comp. Mark 16:3-4. In this case, we must suppose that the tomb was more easily opened, as the action was obviously done in haste.
And when the man was let down, and touched the bones.—Rather, and they departed. And the man touched the bones. The order of words in the original, as well as the sense, supports old Houbiganťs conjecture. If the meaning were, “and the man went and touched,” the subject in the Hebrew would have followed the first verb, not the second. Moreover, the verb would hardly have been hālak.
He revived.—Literally, and he lived. Thenius thinks that the sacred writer regarded this miracle as a pledge of the fulfilment of Elisha’s promise to Joash Bähr says: “Elisha died and was buried, like all other men, but even in death and in the grave he is avouched to be the prophet and servant of God.” Dante’s warning may not be out of place here:—
“O voi che avete gľintelletti sani,
Mirate la dottrina, che s asconde
Sotto il velame degli versi strani.”
Inf. 9:61, sqq.
But Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.(22) But Hazael . . . oppressed.—Rather, Now Hazael . . . had oppressed. The narrative returns to 2Kings 13:3.
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 the Lord was gracious.—The verse is a remark of the compiler’s, as is evident from the style, the reference to the Covenant, and the expression “as yet,” or rather, until now—i.e., the day when he was writing, and when the northern kingdom had finally perished.
So Hazael king of Syria died; and Benhadad his son reigned in his stead.(24) Ben-hadad—III., not mentioned in the As Syrian inscriptions. His reign synchronises with that of Samas-Rimmon in Assyria, who made no expeditions to the West (B.C. 825-812). The name Ben-hadad does not, of course, signify any connection with the dynasty overthrown by Hazael. It was a Divine title (Comp. Note on 2Kings 6:24.)
Benhadad was probably a feebler sovereign than Hazael. The rule, “Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis,” is perhaps as often contradicted as corroborated by actual experience.
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) The cities, which he had taken—i.e., which Hazael had taken. The cities referred to must have been cities on the west of Jordan (comp, 2Kings 13:3; 2Kings 13:7), for the trans-Jordan had been subdued by Hazael in the time of Jehu (2Kings 10:32, seq.). Jeroboam II, the son of Joash, restored the ancient boundaries of Israel (2Kings 14:25).
By war.—Or, in the war.
Beat him.—Rather, smite him (2Kings 13:19).