Joash and Elisha
2 Kings 13:8-19
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might…

Jehoahaz reigned for seventeen years, and was succeeded by his son Jehoash, or Joash. In this reign, after a long interval, Elisha again appears.

I. ACCESSION OF JOASH. The change of rulers was in some respects a gain for Israel. Joash was a man of better disposition than his father, and under his reign the kingdom, which has been so sorely broken down, was again partially built up. But he still adhered to the cardinal sin of the nation - the calf-worship-so that of him also the formula has to be employed, "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord." That is, notwithstanding military successes, and some signs of respect for and attention to Elisha's monitions, things still remained on a fundamentally false basis in the kingdom. So Herod feared John the Baptist, and observed him, and, when he heard him, did many things, and heard him gladly, yet remained a bad man (Mark 6:20). God's judgment on men is not according to superficial characteristics, but according to the fundamental bent of their minds.


1. Elisha's sickness. Elisha by this time was a very old man. He was Elijah's attendant in the reign of Ahab; he was a prominent figure in the reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram; he gave the commission to Jehu to overthrow the incurably corrupt dynasty of Ahab, and lived through the twenty-eight years of that king's reign; he witnessed the troubles of the reign of Jehoahaz, and was perhaps the means of that monarch being led to humble himself before God; now, in Joash's reign, he is still alive. From the time of Jehu's accession he seems to have taken little part in the political life of the nation; at least, no accounts of his activity remain to us. When the curtain again lifts he is lying on his deathbed. It was not to be with him as with Elijah. He must pay the common debt to nature, experience the infirmities of age, be smitten with sickness, and succumb to death. The longest and most useful life thus comes to its close. It is well when, on a deathbed, one can look back on a life which has been spent in the service of God.

2. The visit of Joash. To the bedside of the dying Elisha came the King of Israel, apparently drawn thereto by sincere reverence and respect for the aged prophet. He came to him, it is said, and wept, saying, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" This language speaks to former relations of intimacy and friendship between the king and prophet. Probably Elisha had been the counselor of his youth, and had guided and encouraged him in his duties as king. It is to be remembered also that the promised deliverance from the Syrians was not yet begun. The kingdom was still in humiliation and distress, and Joash may have felt as if, with the death of Elisha, the last spark of hope for the nation would be extinguished. We see how, in the hour of extremity, good men are felt, even by the ungodly, to be a tower of strength to the state. Their presence and prayers are its truest bulwark. The full extent of the loss sustained by their removal is only realized when they are taken away. We see also how possible it is to have great respect for God's servants, to appreciate their worth to the community, and to weep over and deeply regret their loss, and yet not do the things that they say. Joash shows fairly well in this narrative, but his conduct as a whole is stamped as "evil in the sight of the Lord."

III. THE ARROW OF DELIVERANCE. Once and again had mighty deliverances for Israel been announced through Elisha. The last was to be the greatest of all.

1. The pledge of deliverance. Raising himself up on his bed, prophetic fire gleaming in his eye, Elisha bade the young and stalwart king take his bow and arrows. Joash did as the prophet required, not yet understanding his meaning, but no doubt forecasting some encouraging message. Elisha then bade him put his hand upon his bow, and placing his own hands on the king's, told him further to open the window eastward, and shoot. This was done. Then the symbolic action was explained. That arrow he had shot into the air was the arrow of the Lord's deliverance, an arrow pledging deliverance from the yoke of Syria. It was shot eastwards, because the Syrian ravages were com-inertly from that quarter (2 Kings 10:32, 33). The action declares:

(1) That deliverance in trouble is from God only. As he alone can give it, so he is the true Source from which to seek it.

(2) God employs human agency in his deliverances. The bow and arrows were the symbols of the human instrumentality. Joash had to put his hands upon the bow. It was he who shot the arrow. It was he who was to smite the Syrians. Man has his part given him in all God's works of deliverance on earth.

(3) The human agent could only succeed as God strengthened him. Elisha put his hands upon Joash's, signifying that the power to gain the predicted victories came from God. His hands were to be "made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob" (Genesis 49:24). It is on God's power we must always rely for victory. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us," etc (Psalm 115:1).

2. The victories in detail. The symbol was not yet complete. Joash's quiver was yet full, minus that one arrow, and the prophet bade him shoot other arrows, this time to the ground, as if smiting something down to it. Joash took his arrows and began to smite. He shot once, and twice, and thrice, then stayed. The prophet was wroth at this, and told him he should have gone on smiting, then would the Syrians have been wholly consumed, whereas now he would only gain three victories over them. These successive smitings, therefore, represented the victories in detail which Joash would gain over the Syrians. One is at a loss at first to see why the prophet should have dealt so severely, with the king for what may have been a perfectly natural mistake. But the stopping with the third arrow no doubt brought to light a certain weak line in Joash's character - a want of perseverance, a tendency to be satisfied with partial results, to stop short of the ultimate goal of effort. And one can see how that may have hindered his complete success over the Syrians. We learn:

(1) Very trivial actions often reveal a great deal of character.

(2) We often have not from God because we ask not. These shootings of the arrows were at once prayers for victories from God, and pledges of victories. Joash, as it were, asked for only three victories, and he only got three. Had he asked for more, he would have got more. Had Abraham not ceased pleading for Sodom when he did, he might have got a yet further extension of grace for that doomed city (Genesis 18:32, 33). It is never in God we are straitened in our prayers; it is only in ourselves.

(3) It displeases God that we do not ask more from him. His controversy with us is not that we ask too much, but that we do not ask enough. Joash missed the full blessing by stopping in his asking. - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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?

WEB: Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might, aren't they written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

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