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This chapter gives an account of the wicked reign of Jehoahaz son of Jehu king of Israel, and of the low estate he was brought into by the Syrians, ( 2 Kings 13:1-9), and of the reign of his son Joash, ( 2 Kings 13:10-13), and of the sickness and death of Elisha; of the visit Joash made him in his sickness; and of his prediction of the king’s success against the Syrians; and of the reviving of a dead man cast into the prophet’s sepulchre, ( Kings 13:14-21) and of the success of Joash against the Syrians, according to the prediction of the prophet, ( 2 Kings 13:22-25).
Ver. 1. In the twenty and third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah king of Judah , etc.] The same year he was so zealous and busy in repairing the temple, ( 2 Kings 12:6), Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria ; whereas Joash began to reign in the seventh year of Jehu, and Jehu reigned but twenty eight years, ( 2 Kings 10:36), and ( 2 Kings 12:1), this could be but the twenty first of Joash; to reconcile which it must be observed, that it was at the beginning of the seventh year of Jehu that Joash began to reign, and at the beginning of the twenty third of Joash that Jehoahaz began to reign, as the Jewish commentators observe: and reigned seventeen years ; the two last of which were in common with his son, as Junius, (see 2 Kings 13:10) Ver. 2 . And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord , etc.] Committed idolatry: and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin ; worshipping the golden calves: he departed not therefrom ; from the worship of them.
Ver. 3 . And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel , etc.] They doing as their kings did: and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael, all [their] days ; the word “their” should not be supplied, since it was not true that Israel was delivered into the hands of both those kings of Syria as long as they lived; for they were delivered out of the hands of Benhadad, ( 2 Kings 13:25), but the word “his” should be inserted for it as to be understood of the days of Jehoahaz, (see 2 Kings 13:22).
Ver. 4 . And Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him , etc.] He did not apply in his distress to the calves he worshipped, but to the Lord; who had a regard to his prayer, not for his sake, or any righteousness of his, or even his repentance and humiliation, which were only external; but for the sake of Israel, and because they were oppressed, who were his people, and he their God, though they had sadly departed from him: for he saw the oppression of Israel ; not only with his eye of omniscience, but with an eye of mercy and compassion: because the king of Syria oppressed them ; by his incursions upon them, and wars with them.
Ver. 5 . And the Lord gave Israel a saviour , etc.] Not an angel sent by him, nor a captain raised up among them, nor the prophet Elisha, who predicted their deliverance, nor Jehoahaz himself, but his son Joash, ( 2 Kings 13:25) so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians ; were not in subjection to them, nor harassed by them, nor in fear of them: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as before time ; in peace and safety.
Ver. 6 . Nevertheless, they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, but walked therein , etc.] Continued to worship the calves still, which was an instance of great ingratitude; the Syriac and Arabic versions read, “he departed not”; Jehoahaz the king: and there remained the grove in Samaria ; which Ahab made there, ( Kings 16:33), neither Jehu nor his son had it cut down, though Baal was destroyed.
Ver. 7 . Neither did he leave of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen , etc.] This is to be connected with ( 2 Kings 13:4), the verses ( Kings 12:5,6), being to be read in a parenthesis, as in our version, and to be understood of the king of Syria, who left no more to the king of Israel, not of the people of the land, but of his army, than fifty horsemen, all the rest being either taken and carried captive by him, or slain: and ten chariots ; military chariots, with the men they carried: and ten thousand footmen ; foot soldiers; to so small a number was his army reduced through wars with the Syrians: for the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing : as corn or chaff may be reduced to dust by too much threshing; or as mire and clay by treading on it.
Ver. 8 . Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might , etc.] Which he exerted against the Syrians, being a man of courage, though not successful, because the Lord was not with him, but against him: are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel ? where their acts, and the events of their reigns, were recorded.
Ver. 9 . And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers , etc.] Died, as they did: and they buried him in Samaria ; where Omri, and all the kings of Israel, that descended from him, were buried: and Joash his son reigned in his stead ; of whom a short account is given in the following verses.
Ver. 10 . In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah, began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria , etc.] But inasmuch as his father began to reign in the twenty third of Joash, and reigned seventeen years, ( 2 Kings 13:1) this king must begin to reign in the thirty ninth or fortieth of Joash; for the reconciling of which it may be observed, that two of the years of his reign may be supposed to be imperfect; or rather that his son reigned two or three years in his lifetime, being raised up before his father’s death to be a saviour of Israel from the Syrians; and so his father lived to see his prayer answered, ( 2 Kings 13:4,5), and reigned sixteen years .
Ver. 11 . And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord , etc.] As his father did, and his character is described in the same words, (see Kings 13:2,6).
Ver. 12 . And the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did , etc.] Though none of his acts as yet are recorded, but his sinful ones: and his might ; or valiant actions in war with the Syrians, ( 2 Kings 13:25), and wherewith he fought against Amaziah king of Judah ; of which there is an account in the following chapter: are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel ? in the history of the transactions of their reigns.
Ver. 13 . And Joash slept with his fathers , etc.] Or died: and Jeroboam sat upon his throne ; who was his son; it is not said that he began to sit on it, or to reign, nor to reign in his father’s stead; hence it is concluded, as by Kimchi and others, that his father set him on his throne in his lifetime; and the Jewish chronology expressly asserts that he reigned with him one year: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel ; (see 2 Kings 13:9), the history of his life and actions does not cease here, but, after an account of the sickness and death of Elisha, it is reassumed, which was necessary to interpose to lead on to it.
Ver. 14 . Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died , etc.] The prophets do not live for ever; this sickness was unto death; Elisha died, and was not translated as Elijah was: and Joash the king came down unto him ; from his palace to the prophet’s house, to visit him in his sickness; which was an instance of great condescension and respect, and especially in a wicked prince that could not be reformed by him: and wept over his face ; held his head over him, and wept, perceiving he was near his end, and sensible that his death would be a public loss; the nation having often reaped the benefit of his prayers, though his counsel and advice were neglected and despised: and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof ; the same words Elisha said to Elijah, as he went up to heaven, which very probably Joash had heard of; (see Gill on “ 2 Kings 2:12”), and here, as there, the Targum is, “my master, my master, who was better to Israel by his prayers than chariots and horsemen.”
Ver. 15 . And Elisha said unto him, take bow and arrows , etc.] The usual instruments of war in those days: and he took unto him bow and arrows; which though they might not be had in the house of the prophet, he could have some from his guards that attended him.
Ver. 16 . And he said unto the king of Israel, put thine hand upon the bow, and he put his hand upon it , etc.] His left hand: and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands ; on both his hands, which were put, the one on the bow, the other on the arrow f135 ; hereby signifying, that though the king would draw the bow in battle, the Lord, whom the prophet represented, would give the success; and that it would be by his help, and through his blessing on his arms, that he would obtain victory over his enemies.
Ver. 17 . And he said, open the window eastward , etc.] Syria lying east of the land of Israel, as the Jewish commentators in general observe, and for which they quote ( Isaiah 9:12), but it lay northeast, or rather more to the north; wherefore this may respect the eastward part of the land of Israel, which the Syrians had got possession of, and should be recovered, as this sign showed, (see 2 Kings 10:33), and he opened it: then Elisha said, shoot, and he shot ; the arrow, out of the window, being opened: and he said, the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria ; meaning, that that arrow was a sign of the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from the Syrians, by whom they had been sadly oppressed, and reduced very low: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek till thou hast consumed them ; not the whole nation, but that army they should bring thither; which was a city in the land of Israel, where the Syrians were routed in Ahab’s time; 100,000 were slain near it on one day, and 27,000 by the fall of the wall of it, ( 1 Kings 20:26,29,30) hence some read the words here, “as in Aphek.”
Ver. 18 . And he said, take the arrows, and he took them , etc.] The rest of them: and he said unto the king of Israel , smite upon the ground; the floor of the room in which the prophet lay: and he smote thrice, and stayed ; made a stop, ceased smiting; he might think this action trifling, and beneath him, only was willing to please the prophet, but did not do it with a good will, and therefore smote no more; though this was an emblem of his smiting the Syrians, which he might not understand.
Ver. 19 . And the man of God was wroth with him , etc.] Because he ceased smiting, and smote no oftener; for it was revealed to the prophet, by an impulse upon his mind, that by the number of times he smote on the ground, it would be known how often he should get the victory over his enemies; but this was to be left to the king’s own will, how often he would smite, and thereby the prophet would know also with what spirit he would pursue his victories, and the advantages he would gain: and said, thou shouldest have smitten five or six times, then hadst thou smitten Syria until thou hadst consumed it ; as a nation, as well as routed their several armies: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice ; beat them only three times in battle, according to the number of his smitings on the ground.
Ver. 20 . And Elisha died, and they buried him , etc.] In Samaria.
Epiphanius says f136 , in Sebastopolis of Samaria, Samaria itself was called Sebaste in later times; though the Jews say he was buried in Mount Carmel, in the cave of Elijah; according to the Jewish chronology f138 , he died in the tenth year of Joash, and he prophesied more than sixty years; sixty six, as Abarbinel, since he began to prophesy in the nineteenth year of Jehoshaphat; and, according to Clemens of Alexandria, when he was forty years of age; but it seems rather, as Kimchi observes, that he died in the beginning of the reign of Joash, and even before his father’s death, when he was a partner with him in the throne, and before any salvation or deliverance from the Syrians was wrought: and the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year ; at the spring of the year, when there was fruit on the earth, those troops of robbers came to plunder and spoil; several of the Jewish writers observe, that in the word for “coming”, h is instead of a , and so may be rendered “in that year”, in that selfsame year that Elisha died; and so read the Syriac, Arabic, and the Vulgate Latin versions.
Ver. 21 . And it came to pass, as they were burying a man , etc.] That is, as they were going to bury him; for as yet they were not come to the place they designed to bury him at, as appears by what follows: that, behold, they spied a band of men ; one of the bands of the Moabites, which came to rob and plunder, and which was about the place where they intended to bury the man; or they supposed would be there by that time they got to it, or at least before they could bury him, and therefore being frightened stopped: and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha ; that being nearest, they opened it, or rather rolled away the stone from it, and threw the body in great haste: and when the man was let down, and touched the bone’s of Elisha ; or “went and touched” f140 ; that is, as Kimchi interprets it, being cast in, he rolled till he came to the body of the prophet, and touched it: he revived, and stood upon his feet ; which might serve to confirm the faith of Joash in the predictions of the prophet concerning his victories; is a proof of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal life, and an emblem of our being quickened through the death of Christ. The Jews say this man was Shallum the son of Tikvah, and husband of Huldah the prophetess, and was a good man, much given to alms, for which he was rewarded; and they further say, he went to his own house, and lived many years, and begat children, and particularly Hananeel, mentioned in ( Jeremiah 32:7), which is not likely; though others say he was a wicked man, Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, ( 1 Kings 22:24) and therefore not suffered to continue in the prophet’s grave; but the former is more probable; and, according to Josephus f143 , it was the band of robbers that left this man, whom they had murdered, in the grave of Elisha. This grave seems to have been in the field, where the Jews of old, and in later times, buried, as in the field of Hebron, the potter’s field, etc. so the Greeks, as Pausanias relates f144 , and the Romans also f145 , buried by the wayside.
Ver. 23 . And the Lord was gracious to them , etc.] To Israel, notwithstanding their apostasy from him, and the idolatry of the calves they were guilty of: and had compassion on them ; being in oppression and distress: and had respect unto them ; looked upon them with an eye of pity and mercy: because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ; made so long ago he still remembered: and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet ; or suffered them to be carried captive into another land, as he afterwards did in the times of Hoshea.
Ver. 24 . So Hazael the king of Syria died, and Benhadad his son reigned in his stead .] This was Benhadad the third; the first of this name was of the Damascene kings; but though the kingdom was now in another family, yet this name, being respectable with the Syrians, was retained in it.
Ver. 25 . 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 , etc.] Which were in the countries of Gilead and Bashan, and belonged to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, ( 2 Kings 10:33), three times did Joash beat him : in so many pitched battles, but where is not said, no doubt one of them was in Aphek, at least, ( 2 Kings 13:17), and perhaps the other two on the other side Jordan; this agrees with the three times he smote the ground, significant thereof, ( 2 Kings 13:18) and recovered the cities of Israel ; those before mentioned; otherwise, if those had not been recovered, not ten tribes, only seven and a half, would have been carried captive by the king of Assyria; whereas Josephus says expressly, the ten tribes were carried captive.