2 Kings 13:10-25; 14:8-16
Contemporary Prophet: Jonah (?)
“A man shall not be established by wickedness; but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.”—Proverbs 12:3
“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” (2 Kings 13:10). It is evident from a comparison of the figures of this verse with those given in verse one of same chapter, and first verse of the chapter following, that Joash (Jehoash, abbreviated) reigned jointly with his father (a thing not uncommon in ancient times) during the last two years of the latter’s life. This readily explains an otherwise inexplicable chronological difficulty, and it is quite likely that the seeming discrepancies of chronology in Scripture (those most difficult of solution) could—excepting a few which undoubtedly owe their origin to errors of transcription— be as simply and as satisfactorily explained.
“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 to sin: but he walked therein.” Josephus calls him a “good man” (Ant. ix. 8, § 6). This misjudgment of the character of Joash is probably based on the incident of his visit to the dying prophet Elisha. A little manifestation of religious, or even semi-religious, sentiment goes a long way, with some persons, in accounting people “good.” It has been supposed by some that Joash reformed, or repented, toward the end of his life (founded partly, perhaps, on his mild treatment, toward the close of his reign, of Amaziah, when he had it in his power to take that combative meddler’s life—see Amaziah), and that Josephus refers to this latter period of his reign. But the words, “
He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam,” forbid all thought of any real, or lasting repentance at any period of his life. God is more anxious to record, than any of His people are to read, any good in any of these monarchs’ lives. He has noted none in Joash’s; and where He is silent, who will dare to speak?
The episode of Joash’s visit to the dying prophet has been alluded to; we quote it here in full: “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. And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thy hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands. 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 (even, N. Tr.) the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. 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. 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.”
The application of all this is simple. Joash could not but realize that the prophet’s departure from them would be a serious loss to the nation. And in calling him “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof,” he meant that the prophet’s presence in their midst was to them what chariots and horsemen were to other nations—their main defence.23 And by putting his dying hands upon those of the king, Elisha meant him to understand the truth of what God said more than three hundred years later, through the prophet Zecha- riah, “Not by might [or forces, or army], nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). “Without Me, ye can do nothing,” this would be in New Testament phraseology. The shooting of the arrow eastward, toward the territory conquered by Syria, signified Joash’s victory over Ben-ha-dad’s forces at Aphek (“on the road from Syria to Israel in the level plain east of Jordan; a common field of battles with Syria.”—
Fausset). See 1 Kings 20:26. Only Joash’s lack of faith, manifested in his halfhearted smiting the ground with arrows but thrice, prevented his destroying the Syrians utterly. And it was unto him according to his faith. “And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Ben-hadad 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.”
Like Asa [see], he had the opportunity given him to end the power of Syria (2 Chron. 16:7), which from its beginning had been such a plague to both Judah and Israel. But, like Asa, he let it pass, and the work was left to the Assyrian, who destroyed both it (Syria) and them (Israel and Judah).
“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? And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.”
23 The whole narrative here brings vividly to mind the departure of Elijah, when the chariot and horses of fire bore him away as by a whirlwind to heaven, and Elisha exclaimed, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!” King Joash (fully acquainted, no doubt, with the circumstances of Elijah’s carrying away to heaven) repeats Elisha’s very words at the taking away of his master, Jehovah’s faithful and honored servant. Like many another disobedient heart unreconciled to God, king Joash has a sense of the loss that Elisha’s death would be to the kingdom—Jehovah’s defence, as well as His reproofs, was departing. Yet Elisha (like Elijah dropping his mantle) would leave a blessing and help for poor Israel, limited only by Israel’s and their king’s unbelief.— [Ed.