King Jehoahaz of Israel
1Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in the twenty-third year of Joash's rule in Judah. Jehoahaz ruled 17 years from Samaria 2and disobeyed the Lord by doing wrong. He never stopped following the example of Jeroboam, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
3The Lord was angry with the Israelites, so he let King Hazael of Syria and his son Benhadad rule over them for a long time. 4Jehoahaz prayed to the Lord for help, and the Lord saw how terribly Hazael was treating the Israelites. He answered Jehoahaz 5by sending Israel a leader who rescued them from the Syrians, and the Israelites lived in peace as they had before. 6-7But Hazael had defeated Israel's army so badly that Jehoahaz had only 10 chariots, 50 cavalry troops, and 10,000 regular soldiers left in his army.
The Israelites kept sinning and following the example of Jeroboam's family. They did not tear down the sacred poles that had been set up in Samaria for the worship of the goddess Asherah.
8Everything else Jehoahaz did while he was king, including his brave deeds, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel. 9Jehoahaz died and was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoash became king.
King Jehoash of Israel
10Jehoash became king of Israel in the thirty-seventh year of Joash's rule in Judah, and he ruled 16 years from Samaria. 11He disobeyed the Lord by doing just like Jeroboam, who had caused the Israelites to sin.
12Everything else Jehoash did while he was king, including his war against King Amaziah of Judah, is written in The History of the Kings of Israel. 13Jehoash died and was buried in Samaria beside the other Israelite kings. His son Jeroboam then became king.
Elisha the Prophet Dies
14 Some time before the death of King Jehoash, Elisha the prophet was very sick and about to die. Jehoash went in and stood beside him, crying. He said, “Master, what will Israel's chariots and cavalry be able to do without you?”
15-16“Grab a bow and some arrows,” Elisha told him, “and hold them in your hand.” Jehoash grabbed the bow and arrows and held them. Elisha placed his hand on the king's hand 17and said, “Open the window facing east.” When it was open, Elisha shouted, “Now shoot!” Jehoash shot an arrow and Elisha said, “That arrow is a sign that the Lord will help you completely defeat the Syrian army at Aphek.”
18Elisha said, “Pick up the arrows and hit the ground with them.” Jehoash grabbed the arrows and hit the ground three times, then stopped. 19Elisha became angry with the king and exclaimed, “If you had struck it five or six times, you would completely wipe out the Syrians. Now you will defeat them only three times.”
20Elisha died and was buried.
Every year in the spring, Moab's leaders sent raiding parties into Israel. 21Once, while some Israelites were burying a man's body, they saw a group of Moabites. The Israelites quickly threw the body into Elisha's tomb and ran away. As soon as the man's body touched the bones of Elisha, the man came back to life and stood up.
Israel Defeats Syria
22Israel was under the power of King Hazael of Syria during the entire rule of Jehoahaz. 23But the Lord was kind to the Israelites and showed them mercy because of his solemn agreement with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, he has never turned his back on them or let them be completely destroyed.
24Hazael died, and his son Benhadad then became king of Syria. 25King Jehoash of Israel attacked and defeated the Syrian army three times. He took back from Benhadad all the towns Hazael had captured in battle from his father Jehoahaz.
Though Elisha has been silent for most of the past 40 years, he still has huge influence over, and respect from, those in power. We see this as King Jehoash visits Elisha on his deathbed.
The scene raises questions about Elisha. Was he:
- just a curiosity – floating ax heads, curing food poisoning and raising the dead?
- merely a crazy prophet or mystic – asking people to participate in bizarre object lessons to make a point?
- a neutral, but internally conflicted, party – spying on Syria but also visiting its sick king? Or was he a revolutionary initiating regime change on both sides of the border?
- a super weapon – complementing a depleted army, revealing the enemy’s conversations, and being called on when military might wasn’t enough?
However Israel’s kings viewed Elisha, they couldn’t deny that he was a godly compass, never wavering in his commitment to truth despite antagonistic and idol-worshiping governments. Kings like Jehoash, who continually failed to heed God’s commands, honoured Elisha.
Today, we see the same thing. Political leaders and culture-makers often respect unwavering contemporary models such as Billy Graham and Mother Theresa, who condemn their acts. Dr. James Orr says it is easy “to have great respect for God’s servants, to appreciate their worth to the community, and to weep over and deeply regret their loss, and yet not do the things that they say.”
Elisha’s life translates well into our modern context. Today, many believers are afraid to challenge the culture, believing they will lose face or be pushed to the margins. In the end, we are not responsible for how our leaders and culture respond to what we say or what we model. Like Elisha, we are only responsible for living out our beliefs consistently within our culture.
Everlasting King, you reign from generation to generation. It’s not easy following you today. Help me live in a way that directs attention to you. May you be my primary audience and source of authority, that the culture around me may learn to fear your name. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.