2 Kings 13:1-7 . JEHOAHAZ'S WICKED REIGN OVER ISRAEL.
1-3. Jehoahaz . . . reigned seventeen years--Under his government, which pursued the policy of his predecessors regarding the support of the calf-worship, Israel's apostasy from the true God became greater and more confirmed than in the time of his father Jehu. The national chastisement, when it came, was consequently the more severe and the instruments employed by the Lord in scourging the revolted nation were Hazael and his son and general Ben-hadad, in resisting whose successive invasions the Israelitish army was sadly reduced and weakened. In the extremity of his distress, Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and was heard, not on his own account ( Psalms 66:18 , Proverbs 1:28 , 15:8 ), but that of the ancient covenant with the patriarchs ( 2 Kings 13:23 ).
4. he saw the oppression of Israel--that is, commiserated the fallen condition of His chosen people. The divine honor and the interests of true religion required that deliverance should be granted them to check the triumph of the idolatrous enemy and put an end to their blasphemous taunts that God had forsaken Israel ( Deuteronomy 32:27 , Psalms 12:4 ).
5. a saviour--This refers neither to some patriotic defender nor some signal victory, but to the deliverance obtained for Israel by the two successors of Jehoahaz, namely, Joash, who regained all the cities which the Syrians had taken from his father ( 2 Kings 13:25 ); and Jeroboam, who restored the former boundaries of Israel ( 2 Kings 14:25 ).
7. made them like the dust in threshing--Threshing in the East is performed in the open air upon a level plot of ground, daubed over with a covering to prevent, as much as possible, the earth, sand, or gravel from rising; a great quantity of them all, notwithstanding this precaution, must unavoidably be taken up with the grain; at the same time the straw is shattered to pieces. Hence it is a most significant figure, frequently employed by Orientals to describe a state of national suffering, little short of extermination ( Isaiah 21:10 , Micah 4:12 , Jeremiah 51:33 ). The figure originated in a barbarous war custom, which Hazael literally followed ( Amos 1:3 Amos 1:4 ; compare 18:31 , Judges 8:7 ).
2 Kings 13:8-25 . JOASH SUCCEEDS HIM.
8. his might--This is particularly noticed in order to show that the grievous oppression from foreign enemies, by which the Israelites were ground down, was not owing to the cowardice or imbecility of their king, but solely to the righteous and terrible judgment of God for their foul apostasy.
12, 13. his might wherewith he fought against reign occurs rather early, and is again repeated in the account given of the reign of the king of Judah ( 2 Kings 14:15 ).
14-19. Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died--Every man's death is occasioned by some disease, and so was Elisha's. But in intimating it, there seems a contrast tacitly made between him and his prophetic predecessor, who did not die.
Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face--He visited him where he was lying ill of this mortal sickness, and expressed deep sorrow, not from the personal respect he bore for the prophet, but for the incalculable loss his death would occasion to the kingdom.
my father, my father! seem to have been a complimentary phrase applied to one who was thought an eminent guardian and deliverer of his country. The particular application of them to Elisha, who, by his counsels and prayer, had obtained many glorious victories for Israel, shows that the king possessed some measure of faith and trust, which, though weak, was accepted, and called forth the prophet's dying benediction.
15-18. Take bow and arrows--Hostilities were usually proclaimed by a herald, sometimes by a king or general making a public and formal discharge of an arrow into the enemy's country. Elisha directed Joash to do this, as a symbolical act, designed to intimate more fully and significantly the victories promised to the king of Israel over the Syrians. His laying his hands upon the king's hands was to represent the power imparted to the bow shot as coming from the Lord through the medium of the prophet. His shooting the first arrow eastward--to that part of his kingdom which the Syrians had taken and which was east of Samaria--was a declaration of war against them for the invasion. His shooting the other arrows into the ground was in token of the number of victories he was taken to gain; but his stopping at the third betrayed the weakness of his faith; for, as the discharged arrow signified a victory over the Syrians, it is evident that the more arrows he shot the more victories he would gain. As he stopped so soon, his conquests would be incomplete.
20, 21. Elisha died--He had enjoyed a happier life than Elijah, as he possessed a milder character, and bore a less hard commission. His rough garment was honored even at the court.
coming in of the year--that is, the spring, the usual season of beginning campaigns in ancient times. Predatory bands from Moab generally made incursions at that time on the lands of Israel. The bearers of a corpse, alarmed by the appearance of one of these bands, hastily deposited, as they passed that way, their load in Elisha's sepulchre, which might be easily done by removing the stone at the mouth of the cave. According to the Jewish and Eastern custom, his body, as well as that of the man who was miraculously restored, was not laid in a coffin, but only swathed; so that the bodies could be brought into contact, and the object of the miracle was to stimulate the king's and people of Israel's faith in the still unaccomplished predictions of Elisha respecting the war with the Syrians. Accordingly the historian forthwith records the historical fulfilment of the prediction ( 2 Kings 13:22-25 ), in the defeat of the enemy, in the recovery of the cities that had been taken, and their restoration to the kingdom of Israel.