1 - 9 Jehoahaz King over Israel
1 In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu became king over Israel at Samaria, [and he reigned] seventeen years. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 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. 8 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? 9 And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria; and Joash his son became king in his place.
After the history of king Joash of the two tribes realm in the previous chapter, we are now back at the ten tribes. We are in the history of the ten tribes realm during the reign of the house of Jehu. This period of reign is the longest in the history of the ten tribes realm. It is a family reign of no less than five successive kings. It starts with Jehu, who is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, then comes the son of Jehoahaz, Jehoash, then the son of Jehoash, Jerobeam II and finally Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II. But then it is over.
The reign of Jehu’s house has been limited to four generations after him because Jehu’s zeal has been limited or partial. He has done much that God has asked of him, but his heart has not been complete with the LORD. He has allowed idolatry to exist.
It has already been noted that the reign of the kings of the ten tribes is a picture of the development of church history given in Revelation 2-3. We recognize the phase of Jehu’s house in the history of the church in the letter to the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6). What is said to and of Sardis is a bright spot in comparison with Thyatira, as the history of Jehu is a bright spot after the history of the house of Ahab.
However, of Jehu and his descendants also said that they persist in idolatry. That is why it says of these descendants that they do “evil in the sight of the LORD” (verse 2). This resembles what must be said of Sardis, that they have the name to live, but that in reality they are dead (Rev 3:1b).
Because of the infidelity of Jehoahaz, the LORD sends Hazael as a rod of discipline. Thereby He wants to make them to return to Him. Hazael oppresses the people of God. This is why the prophet Elisha wept (2Kgs 8:11-12).
Then we read something of Jehoahaz that makes him unique among the kings of Israel. For we read for the first and last time and thus the only time of a king of Israel that he entreats the favor of the LORD. Literally it says that Joahaz ‘caressed the face of the LORD’. That shows how intensely he prayed.
This prayer is not without an answer. The LORD gives a deliverer. It is as with Ahab that a little humiliation before God allows God’s grace to flow (cf. verse 23; 1Kgs 21:27-29). It is not clear who the deliverer is and when the deliverance took place. Perhaps with this deliverer is meant the son of Joahaz, Jehoash, as is written in verse 25. There we read that Jehoash defeats the Syrians three times. It is also possible that Jeroboam II is meant, of whom it says that the LORD by his hand saved Israel (2Kgs 14:27). Unfortunately it must be said that, despite the deliverance, they persist in idolatry (verse 6).
Verse 7 connects to verse 4. Hazael inflicted a major blow on Jehoahaz’s army, reducing his power to a minimum. What remains of his power is described “in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel”, as well as “all that he did and his might”. After this mention follows the announcement of his death and funeral.
10 - 13 Jehoash King over Israel
10 In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria, [and reigned] sixteen years. 11 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. 12 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? 13 So Joash slept with his fathers, and Jeroboam sat on his throne; and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.
The historian is brief in his report on the reign of Jehoash. In this report we hear the refrain that sounds of all the kings of Israel. This refrain is a summary of the Holy Spirit of his history. No further description of his actions is given. About the power with which he fought against Amaziah, something is said in the following chapter, in the description of the reign of Amaziah (2Kgs 14:8-15). Then the writer mentions the death and funeral of Jehoash. That seems to be the end of his history. But then we get another report of a meeting he had with Elisha.
14 - 19 Jehoash Visits the Sick Elisha
14 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!” 15 Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 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. 17 He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened [it]. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed [them].” 18 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. 19 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.”
Suddenly we meet Elisha again here. The last thing we have heard of him is related to the anointing of Jehu (2Kgs 9:1-4). That is at that moment almost forty-five years ago. All this time he has lived in secret. Elisha is now an old man and his end is approaching. He is sick and he will die of that illness.
By the way, we see here that the claim that a believer does not have to be ill is a lie. God can use a disease as a means in His hand to take a believer to Himself. He does that here with Elisha. There is no trace that he would be sick because of a sin or something like that. It is simply mentioned that he is sick because of the illness of which he will die.
Before he dies, a few remarkable things happen that are also characteristic of his whole life. His end is as remarkable as the beginning and the whole course of his history. We read that the LORD tells Elijah of Elisha that he will kill him who escapes the sword of Jehu (1Kgs 19:17). This is going to happen here, by the hand of Jehoash.
Jehoash comes to visit Elisha. A young king comes to an old, dying prophet. In a way, this can be compared to the combination of the young Elisha and the departing Elijah. Jehoash also uses the words Elisha speaks when Elijah is taken from him (verse 14; 2Kgs 2:12). Jehoash thus says the same as Elisha says about Elijah, that in this one man the whole power of Israel is concentrated and that the whole power is taken from Israel when Elisha dies. The latter is not the case with Elijah, because Elisha follows him while his spirit rests on him. But if Elisha dies, there is no successor who will continue in his power.
With Elisha, God’s power is present. Wicked Jehoash sees that well. He uses the same words as Elisha, but he does not have the same faith. That is clear from what follows. He is tested whether he wants to have the spiritual power of Elisha, as Elisha wanted from Elijah and has also gotten it.
The test consists of the way he will handle a bow and arrows. Jehoash has to get it for Elisha. When he has put his hand on the bow by order of Elisha, Elisha puts his hands on the hands of Jehoash. This action shows that Jehoash is the instrument to break the power of Hazael, but that he must realize that his power lies in the power of Elisha. Of course, this is not the physical strength, but the spiritual strength of this man of God. By placing his hands on the hands of Joash, what the LORD has said about Elisha and Hazael is fulfilled (1Kgs 19:17).
Jehoash is then instructed to open the window to the east. The east speaks of a new day, of new hope. Through that open window Jehoash has to shoot an arrow. The order to do so sounds with force from the mouth of the weak, dying prophet. Elisha declares that this arrow is “the LORD’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram”. In this arrow the power of the LORD is present. Elisha adds: “for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed [them].” If he expects it from God’s power, he can bring about the deliverance of the enemy, Syria. From everything Elisha says, it becomes clear that all actions have a symbolic meaning.
After the education comes the test if he has understood. Elisha tells him to take the arrows in his hand and strike the ground. Jehoash does what Elisha says. From what he does becomes clear that he has understood something about it, but that the essential message has passed him by. He should have empathized with this symbol (cf. 1Kgs 22:11) of victory. Then he would have struck many times. Now he strikes only three times. As a result, he was not able to completely destroy the enemy.
If we have little faith, little will come about. Just like with Jehoash, we often lack the energy of faith that God will do a great work. We often remain passive. Jehoash gets what he believes. He has struck three times, and will achieve three victories (verse 25).
20 - 21 Death of Elisha
20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.
Jehoash’s faith is weak, because he does not know the secret of life out of death. The power of God is also with Elisha in his death. Even in his death, that power remains present. Elisha remains a source of strength to live. It is the victory of death, that is the power of God that becomes visible in the resurrection. It is about faith in the God who can give life out of death, even now, but then spiritually. We may know that the true power lies in the grave of the Lord Jesus. In that grave lies also the origin of the new life we have through His death.
Because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people, the enemies, the bands of Moab, can come into the land at the beginning of the year to rob. In that situation God gives this wonderful testimony of the power of His grace in the resurrection from the dead. The occasion is the burial of a man. While the man is being taken to his grave, the company is being attacked by a band. Forced by the emergency people throw the man into the nearest grave. That turns out to be the grave of Elisha.
As soon as the man in the grave comes into contact with Elisha’s bones, he becomes alive again. What is happening here can be seen as a summary of the whole life of Elisha. He is the man who preached in the resurrection power of God. The other dead man made alive by Elisha lies, so to speak, in the same place, the bed of the man of God (2Kgs 4:21). We can see in this the picture that those who became one with the Lord Jesus in His death have become alive through His death.
In a general sense, we can also see Elisha as a picture of every man of God. Then we know that where a man of God is working, new life comes. A man of God is in connection with the living God and passes on the life of God in all his service.
The man who comes to life can be seen as a picture of the faithful remnant. Israel is currently dead, but the people will come to life by touching the Lord Jesus, that is, by faith in Him. If Israel is again accepted by God as His people, it is nothing but “live from the dead” (Rom 11:15). That life has its origin in the tomb of the Lord Jesus. By this touch the people will rise up “on their feet”. It will become an independent nation again and then walk in the way God shows it.
22 - 25 God Is Gracious to His People
22 Now Hazael king of Aram had oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 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. 24 When Hazael king of Aram died, Ben-hadad his son became king in his place. 25 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.
In this section we find a final testimony of the grace of God. This grace cannot be great because of the absence of repentance and conversion. Yet there is that grace. Grace finds its source in God Himself. The promises God has made to us are not because of our faithfulness, but because of and based on the work of His Son.
It is remarkable that the manifestation of God’s grace is expressed in three different words: He is ‘gracious’ to them, He has ‘compassion’ on them, and He ‘turns’ to them. God has never rejected His people definitively.
The effect of God’s grace is beneficial to Israel. God, in His grace, gives Jehoash the power to take the cities of Israel out of their power of the Syrians who possessed them. This will have been a real blessing for those cities themselves. This frees them from the yoke of oppression. It will also have been a blessing for the whole kingdom, which has been strengthened by the return of the cities under the flag of Israel.
By God’s grace Jehoash defeated the Syrians three times, just as often as he had struck the ground with the arrows (verses 18-19). But then his victories stop.