Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 13:1
Reign of Jehoahaz. - Jehu was followed by Jehoahaz his son, "in the twenty-third year of Joash of Judah." This synchronistic statement is not only at variance with Kg2 13:10, but cannot be very well reconciled with Kg2 12:1. If Jehoahaz began to reign in the twenty-third year of Joash king of Judah, and reigned seventeen years, his son cannot have followed him after his death in the thirty-seventh year of Joash of Judah, as is stated in Kg2 13:10, for there are only fourteen years and possibly a few months between the twenty-third and thirty-seventh years of Joash; and even if he ascended the throne at the commencement of the twenty-third year of the reign of Joash and died at the end of the thirty-seventh, they could only be reckoned as fifteen and not as seventeen years. Moreover, according to Kg2 12:1, Joash of Judah began to reign in the seventh year of Jehu, and therefore Athaliah, who ascended the throne at the same time as Jehu, reigned fully six years. If, therefore, the first year of Joash of Judah coincides with the seventh year of Jehu, the twenty-eighth year of Jehu must correspond to the twenty-second year of Joash of Judah; and in this year of Joash not only did Jehu die, but his son Jehoahaz ascended the throne. Consequently we must substitute the twenty-second year of Joash, or perhaps, still more correctly, the twenty-first year (Josephus), for the twenty-third.
(Note: On the other hand, Thenius, who follows des Vignoles and Winer, not only defends the correctness of the account "in the twenty-third year of Joash," because it agrees with the twenty-eight years' reign of Jehu (Kg2 10:36), but also holds fast the seventeen years' duration of the reign of Jehoahaz on account of its agreement with Kg2 14:1; for 6 years (Athaliah) + 40 years (Joash) = 46 years, and 28 years (Jehu) + 17 years (Jehoahaz) = 45 years; so that, as is there affirmed, Amaziah the son of Joash ascended the throne in the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz. But to arrive at this result he assumes that there is an error in Kg2 13:10, namely, that instead of the thirty-seventh year we ought to read the thirty-ninth year there, according to the edit. Aldina of the lxx. But apart from the fact that, as we have shown above in the text, the datum "in the twenty-third year of Joash" does not harmonize with the twenty-eight years' reign of Jehu, this solution of the difference is overthrown by the circumstance that, in order to obtain this agreement between Kg2 13:1 and Kg2 13:14, Thenius reckons the years of the reigns not only of Athaliah and Joash, but also of Jehu and Jehoahaz, as full years (the former 16 + 40, the latter 28 + 17); whereas, in order to bring the datum in Kg2 13:1 (in the twenty-third year of Joash) into harmony with the emendation proposed in Kg2 13:10 (in the thirty-ninth year of Joash), he reckons the length of the reign of Jehoahaz as only sixteen years (instead of seventeen). For example, if Jehoahaz reigned seventeen years, supposing that he ascended the throne in the twenty-third year of Joash of Judah, he died in the fortieth year of Joash (not the thirty-ninth), and his son began to reign the same year. In that case Amaziah would have begun to reign in the first year of Jehoash of Israel, and not in the second, as is stated in Kg2 14:1. - The reading of the lxx (ed. Ald. v. 10), "in the thirty-ninth year," is therefore nothing but a mistaken emendation resorted to for the purpose of removing a discrepancy, but of no critical value.)
If Jehu died in the earliest months of the twenty-eighth year of his reign, so that he only reigned twenty-seven years and one or two months, his death and his son's ascent of the throne might fall even in the closing months of the twenty-first year of the reign of Joash of Judah. And from the twenty-first to the thirty-seventh year of Joash, Jehoahaz may have reigned sixteen years and a few months, and his reign be described as lasting seventeen years.
As Jehoahaz trod in the footsteps of his forefathers and continued the sin of Jeroboam (the worship of the calves), the Lord punished Israel during his reign even more than in that of his predecessor. The longer and the more obstinately the sin was continued, the more severe did the punishment become. He gave them (the Israelites) into the power of the Syrian king Hazael and his son Benhadad כּל־היּמים, "the whole time," sc. of the reign of Jehoahaz (vid., Kg2 13:22); not of the reigns of Hazael and Benhadad, as Thenius supposes in direct opposition to Kg2 13:24 and Kg2 13:25. According to Kg2 13:7, the Syrians so far destroyed the Israelitish army, that only fifty horsemen, ten war-chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers were left.
In this oppression Jehoahaz prayed to the Lord (יי פּני חלּה as in Kg1 13:6); and the Lord heard this prayer, because He saw their oppression at the hands of the Syrians, and gave Israel a saviour, so that they came out from the power of the Syrians and dwelt in their booths again, as before, i.e., were able to live peaceably again in their houses, without being driven off and led away by the foe. The saviour, מושׁיע, was neither an angel, nor the prophet Elisha, nor quidam e ducibus Joasi, as some of the earlier commentators supposed, nor a victory obtained by Jehoahaz over the Syrians, nor merely Jeroboam (Thenius); but the Lord gave them the saviour in the two successors of Jehoahaz, in the kings Jehoash and Jeroboam, the former of whom wrested from the Syrians all the cities that had been conquered by them under his father (Kg2 13:25), while the latter restored the ancient boundaries of Israel (Kg2 14:25). According to Kg2 13:22-25, the oppression by the Syrians lasted as long as Jehoahaz lived; but after his death the Lord had compassion upon Israel, and after the death of Hazael, when his son Benhadad had become king, Jehoash recovered from Benhadad all the Israelitish cities that had been taken by the Syrians. It is obvious from this, that the oppression which Benhadad the son of Hazael inflicted upon Israel, according to Kg2 13:3, falls within the period of his father's reign, so that it was not as king, but as commander-in-chief under his father, that he oppressed Israel, and therefore he is not even called king in Kg2 13:3.
"Only they departed not," etc., is inserted as a parenthesis and must be expressed thus: "although they departed not from the sin of Jeroboam."
"For (כּי) he had not left," etc., furnishes the ground for Kg2 13:5 : God gave them a saviour, ... although they did not desist from the sin of Jeroboam, ... for Israel had been brought to the last extremity; He (Jehovah) had left to Jehoahaz people (עם, people of war), only fifty horsemen, etc. For החטי instead of החטיא (Kg2 13:6), see at Kg1 21:21. The suffix בּהּ in Kg2 13:6 refers to הטּאת, just as that in ממּנּה in Kg2 13:2 (see at Kg2 3:3). "And even the Asherah was (still) standing at Samaria," probably from the time of Ahab downwards (Kg1 16:33), since Jehu is not said to have destroyed it (Kg2 10:26.). וגו וישׂמם "and had made them like dust for trampling upon," - an expression denoting utter destruction.
Close of the reign of Jehoahaz. Jehoahaz had probably shown his might in the war with the Syrians, although he had been overcome.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 13:10
Reign of Jehoash or Joash of Israel. - On the commencement of his reign see at Kg2 13:1. He also walked in the sins of Jeroboam (compare Kg2 13:11 with Kg2 13:2 and Kg2 13:6). The war with Amaziah referred to in Kg2 13:12 is related in the history of this king in Kg2 14:8-14; and the close of the reign of Joash is also recorded there (Kg2 14:15 and Kg2 14:16) with the standing formula. And even here it ought not to be introduced till the end of the chapter, instead of in Kg2 13:12 and Kg2 13:13, inasmuch as the verses which follow relate several things belonging to the reign of Joash. But as they are connected with the termination of Elisha's life, it was quite admissible to wind up the reign of Joash with Kg2 13:13.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 13:14
Illness and Death of the Prophet Elisha. - Kg2 13:14. When Elisha was taken ill with the sickness of which he was to die, king Joash visited him and wept over his face, i.e., bending over the sick man as he lay, and exclaimed, "My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and horsemen thereof!" just as Elisha had mourned over the departure of Elijah (Kg2 2:12). This lamentation of the king at the approaching death of the prophet shows that Joash knew how to value his labours. And on account of this faith which was manifested in his recognition of the prophet's worth, the Lord gave the king another gracious assurance through the dying Elisha, which was confirmed by means of a symbolical action.
"Take-said Elisha to Joash-bow and arrows, ... and let thy hand pass over the bow" (הרכּב), i.e., stretch the bow. He then placed his hands upon the king's hands, as a sign that the power which was to be given to the bow-shot came from the Lord through the mediation of the prophet. He then directed him to open the window towards the east and shoot, adding as he shot off the arrow: "An arrow of salvation from the Lord, and an arrow of salvation against the Syrians; and thou wilt smite the Syrians at Aphek (see at Kg1 20:26) to destruction." The arrow that was shot off was to be a symbol of the help of the Lord against the Syrians to their destruction. This promise the king was then to appropriate to himself through an act of his own. Elisha therefore directed him (Kg2 13:18) to "take the arrows;" and when he had taken them, said: ארצה הך, "strike to the earth," i.e., shoot the arrows to the ground, not "smite the earth with the bundle of arrows" (Thenius), which neither agrees with the shooting of the first arrow, nor admits of a grammatical vindication; for הכּה, when used of an arrow, signifies to shoot and to strike with the arrow shot off, i.e., to wound or to kill (cf. Kg2 9:24; Kg1 22:34). The shooting of the arrows to the earth was intended to symbolize the overthrow of the Syrians. "And the king shot three times, and then stood (still)," i.e., left off shooting.
Elisha was angry at this, and said: "Thou shouldst shoot five or six times, thou wouldst then have smitten the Syrians to destruction; but now thou wilt smite them three times." להכּות: it was to shoot, i.e., thou shouldst shoot; compare Ewald, 237, c.; and for הכּית אז, then hadst thou smitten, vid., Ewald, 358, a. As the king was told that the arrow shot off signified a victory over the Syrians, he ought to have shot off all the arrows, to secure a complete victory over them. When, therefore, he left off after shooting only three times, this was a sign that he was wanting in the proper zeal for obtaining the divine promise, i.e., in true faith in the omnipotence of God to fulfil His promise.
(Note: "When the king reflected upon the power of the kings of Syria, since he had not implicit faith in Elisha, he thought that it was enough if he struck the earth three times, fearing that the prophecy might not be fulfilled if he should strike more blows upon the ground." - Clericus.)
Elisha was angry at this weakness of the king's faith, and told him that by leaving off so soon he had deprived himself of a perfect victory over the Syrians.
Elisha then died at a great age. As he had been called by Elijah to be a prophet in the reign of Ahab and did not die till that of Joash, and forty-one years elapsed between the year that Ahab died and the commencement of the reign of Joash, he must have held his prophetical office for at least fifty years, and have attained the age of eighty. "And they buried him must as marauding bands of Moabites entered the land. And it came to pass, that at the burial of a man they saw the marauding bands coming, and placed the dead man in the greatest haste in the grave of Elisha," for the purpose of escaping from the enemy. But when the (dead) man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life again, and rose up upon his feet. וגו מואב וּגדוּדי is a circumstantial clause. The difficult expression שׁנה בּא, "a year had come," can only have the meaning given by the lxx and Chald.: "when a year had come," and evidently indicates that the burial of Elisha occurred at the time when the yearly returning bands of Moabitish marauders invaded the land. Ewald (Krit. Gramm. p. 528) would therefore read בּוא, a coming of the year, in which case the words would be grammatically subordinate to the main clause. Luther renders it "the same year," in ipso anno, after the Vulgate and Syriac, as if the reading had been שׁנה בּהּ. הם, they, the people who had just buried a man. ישׁליכוּ, not threw, but placed hastily. ויּגּע ויּלך: and the man went and touched. ויּלך serves as a pictorial delineation of the thought, that as soon as the dead man touched the bones of Elisha he came to life. הלך is not only applied to the motion of inanimate objects, but also to the gradual progress of any transaction. The conjecture of Thenius and Hitzig, ויּלכוּ, "and they went away," is quite unsuitable. The earlier Israelites did not bury their dead in coffins, but wrapped them in linen cloths and laid them in tombs hewn out of the rock. The tomb was then covered with a stone, which could easily be removed. The dead man, who was placed thus hurriedly in the tomb which had been opened, might therefore easily come into contact with the bones of Elisha. The design of this miracle of the restoration of the dead man to life was not to show how even in the grave Elisha surpassed his master Elijah in miraculous power (Ephr. Syr. and others), but to impress the seal of divine attestation upon the prophecy of the dying prophet concerning the victory of Joash over the Syrians (Wis. 48:13, 14), since the Lord thereby bore witness that He was not the God of the dead, but of the living, and that His spirit was raised above death and corruptibility. - The opinion that the dead man was restored to life again in a natural manner, through the violent shaking occasioned by the fall, or through the coolness of the tomb, needs no refutation.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 13:22
The prophecy which Elisha uttered before his death is here followed immediately by the account of its fulfilment, and to this end the oppression of the Israelites by Hazael is mentioned once more, together with that turn of affairs which took place through the compassion of God after the death of Hazael and in the reign of his son Benhadad. לחץ is a pluperfect: "Hazael had oppressed" (for the fact itself compare Kg2 13:4 and Kg2 13:7). For the sake of the covenant made with the patriarchs the Lord turned again to the Israelites, and would not destroy them, and did not cast them away from His face עתּה עד ("till now"), as was the case afterwards, but delivered them from the threatening destruction through the death of Hazael. For in the reign of his son and successor Benhadad, Joash the son of Jehoahaz took from him again (ויּשׁב is to be connected with ויּקּה) the cities which he (Hazael) had taken from Jehoahaz in the war. These cities which Hazael had wrested from Jehoahaz were on this side of the Jordan, for Hazael had conquered all Gilead in the time of Jehu (Kg2 10:32-33). Joash recovered the former from Benhadad, whilst his son Jeroboam reconquered Gilead also (see at Kg2 14:25).