2 Kings 13: Death of Elisha
Years passed, and Elisha was soon to die. Elisha was sick, and the king, Joash, came to see him. We must read about the visit, and Elisha's last words and prediction to the king. (2 Kings 13:14-19)
Joash was still king of Judah living in Jerusalem—the one who had been saved from the cruelty of Athaliah and had been made king when seven years old, the same one who had repaired the temple. A son of Jehu was now king in Samaria in his father's place. Jehu, you remember, had killed Jezebel and the family of Ahab, and had put away the worship of Baal. However, Jehu had still worshiped the calves set up by Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan. So did this son of Jehu, Jehoahaz, who was king at the time that our story begins; and so did his son Joash or Jehoash who is king in the latter part of the lesson.
Suppose you write these names (and one more) in a column with the word Israel above it: Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II. Put the word Judah over another column and write there: Joash, and under it Amaziah, the name of the son who followed him. Make a third column for the kinks of Syria. The Syrian king in the days of Jehu and of Jehoahaz was Hazael, and after him was Ben-hadad III. You will remember that we learned of other Ben-hadads. How were these three kingdoms getting on among themselves? What were their kings doing?
Where did the Syrians live? What was their large city? They had at times taken from Israel the country east of Jordan and invaded the western country, going as far as Gath and threatening Jerusalem. In the days of Jehoahaz, they greatly oppressed Israel, taking towns away from them and allowing them to have only a small army - fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen. Jehoahaz prayed to the Lord because of this oppression from Syria, and deliverance came by the hand of his son Jehoash who followed him as king.
First, a sign of deliverance was given by the prophet Elisha. Elisha was sick and soon to die, and Jehoash came to see him. The king wept and said, “O my father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” Where have we heard these words before? Elisha himself used them when he saw Elijah taken up into heaven. (2 Kings 2:12) This ends the story of Elijah and Elisha, the two great prophets of the Lord who so bravely did the Lord’s work in the kingdom of Israel, rebuking the sins of the kings and of the people, and doing miracles by the Lord’s power. They were types of the Lord, Who would years afterward walk over these same paths, doing Divine works.
We ought to take a little time to recall what we have learned about Elijah, from the Lord’s first sending him to Ahab, his hiding by the Cherith and at Zarephath, his sacrifice on Mt. Carmel, his flight to Horeb, his rebuke to Ahab in Naboth's vineyard, his rebuke of Ahaziah for sending to an idol of Ekron, his being taken into heaven by a whirlwind.
In the same way, recall the story of Elisha, what we have learned of him from his first call by Elijah when he was plowing in the field, his seeing Elijah when he was taken up, healing the spring at Jericho, the widow's pot of oil, Elisha at the home in Shunem, the healing of Naaman, Elisha defended by the horses and chariots of fire, and other incidents which you may remember, the visit of the king to Elisha, and his death.
Read about the sign that was given by the king's bow and arrows, which gave promise of three victories over Syria. The first was at Aphek, perhaps the same place where years before Ben-hadad had been beaten by Ahab (1 Kings 20), in the eastern border of the great plain of Esdraelon. We are not told where the other two victories were gained. But the result of them was that the cities which Hazael had taken away from Jehoahaz were taken back by Jehoash from Ben-hadad.
Elisha was sick when the sign with the arrows was given and the promise of victories over Syria. Soon after that he died. One other thing is told us about his sepulcher which was no doubt a cave in the rock closed by a stone, like the sepulcher of Lazarus at Bethany, and like the sepulcher of the Lord. It was some time after Elisha's death, in the spring. Plundering bands of Moabites were in the land to carry off the early fruits and grains which were ripening in the fields. You will learn what happened as we read the story.
What became of the kingdom of Israel after Elijah and Elisha were gone? Four of Jehu's family were kings after him. One of them was named Jeroboam, and is called Jeroboam II. When have we known this name before? In a worldly way, he was a prosperous king and had a long reign of forty-one years, but he did not lead the people to the Lord, and the end of the kingdom of Israel was near.
We have a picture of Israel in the days of Jeroboam II in the prophecy of Amos, for at that time Amos was sent by the Lord from his home in Judah to rebuke the idol worship at Bethel and the oppression of the poor by the rich who were living in luxury in Samaria. Read Amos 1:1; 6:1-6; 7:7-15; 8. It was at this time also that the prophet Jonah lived. (2 Kings 14:25) One more lesson will tell us how the kingdom of Israel came to its end.
1. Tell me about the sign that was given at Elisha's bedside. What did the sign mean?
2. How were the sign and promise fulfilled?
3. What did the king of Israel call Elisha?
4. What miracle afterwards was done at Elisha's sepulcher?
“The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” Why should the Lord's prophet be described in this way? It was for the same reason that a chariot of fire and horses of fire were seen when Elijah was taken into heaven (compare the words spoken by Elisha at that time: 2 Kings 2:12), and that at another time the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. The prophet stands for the Lord’s Word. Horses represent the power of spiritual thought and understanding from the Word, and the fire is the love within it—the truth and love which everywhere shine in the Word for angels. When horses and chariots are associated with the prophet, they represent the power of Divine truth from the Lord's Word, and doctrine from the Word. The going of the king to the prophet and his exclamation represent a turning of the mind to the Lord’s Word with acknowledgment of the Divine truth as the source of strength. (A. 2762, 3321; E. 355)
A sign was given with the bow and arrows. Weapons of attack and defense represent truth used to expose and condemn evil and to protect good life. The bow is like a general principle of truth and the arrows like the many applications of the principle to particular wrongs. (A. 6421) We shoot with the prophet's hands upon our hands when we apply in this way the truth of the Lord’s commandments, with a sense of His presence and guidance.
To smite with the arrows three times upon the ground is to make but a little effort to use the Lord's truth in subduing and correcting the natural life. It represents rather the intellectual condemnation of a wrong while five or six times represents a more patient effort to correct the life. Five expresses fewness, but also something of the fullness which is expressed by ten. To smite five times is to resist all we can, with the acknowledgment that our best effort is but little. Six especially represents patience in experiences of temptation which makes victory complete. (A. 2686, 2709)
A natural reason for opening the window eastward may have been that the arrow might fly toward Syria. But does it not suggest the deeper thought, of opening the window of the soul toward the Lord, with prayer for His help in resisting wrong” (A. 101, 9668; E. 422)
The return of life to a man when his body touched the hones of Elisha teaches us of the power of the Lord's Word to give heavenly life to us, and to restore that life when it has been neglected and dies. The invasion of the Moabites, which caused the body to be thrown hastily into the prophet's sepulcher, suggests the attack of some outward evil which so often is the means of awakening us from careless indifference and forgetfulness, and of turning us to the Lord and to His Word for help. (A. 2916, 3812; E. 659)
Read the prophet Amos and Summary Exposition of Prophets and Psalms upon that prophecy.