2 Kings 13-14: The LORD for the hearts of men

II Kings 13:

1 In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years.

2 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them.

3 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.

4 Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them.

5 (Therefore the LORD gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.

6 Nevertheless, they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained in Samaria.)

7 For there was not left to Jehoahaz an army of more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen, for the king of Syria had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing.

8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz and all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

9 So Jehoahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria, and Joash his son reigned in his place.

Often the king’s actions lead to the nation’s victory or demise – and that tradition of the kings of Israel is still very much apparent up to the 13th chapter of the second book of Kings.  He sinned in the way of Jeroboam; and thus the LORD continued to give them into the hand of Hazael; yet, when he sought His favour, the LORD listened and sent a savior; instead of granting Jehoahaz victory, the LORD anointed another savior.

10 In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years.

11 He also did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them.

12 Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did, and the might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

13 So Joash slept with his fathers, and Jeroboam sat on his throne. And Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.

Like his father, Joash too walked in the way of the sins of Jeroboam.  Yet, this king of Israel, also like his father, understood the LORD’s role in their lives.  They knew that without the LORD, they would not be able to secure any victories against Syria or any other nation.  Joash’s pleading to Elisha (as his “father”) in v.14 is focused on the “chariots of Israel and its horsemen”, as if highlighting the need for Elisha to bless his warfare.  Elisha’s response is typically prophetic:

14 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”

15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows.

16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands.

17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.”

18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped.

19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

The LORD’s arrow of victory is but the equivalent to the war bow placed in the heavens (Genesis 9:13).  The window opened eastward was towards the country beyond Jordan, which Hazael had taken from the Israelites (c.f. Adam Clarke’s commentary).  The LORD’s arrow of victory struck the ground but three times; if moreso, then Syria would have been ended.  Yet, the bow in the heavens, the sign of the covenant between man and God, faced upward towards God Himself.  The victory of Joash is but temporary – by human means.  Although Syria may be destroyed even when Joash struck the ground five or six times, yet the true victory lies in conquering the hearts rather than numbers of enemies.

20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year.

21 And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

22 Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.

23 But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

The fear of death and loss pervades much of the reasoning behind both Jehoahaz and Jehoash’s actions as kings.  As people not following Christ, they do not see that victories of this world are first and foremost subject to the victory already achieved by Christ.  Yet, we have this abrupt account of Elisha’s death, through which a man was brought back to life (v.21); a keen reminder that Elisha’s wisdom is built on life after death; our baptism to death through the arrow piercing Christ, so that we rise again just as He is risen today (v.21; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12).  Instead of clinging onto the God of Elisha, Jehoash sought only to defeat the Syrians and recover the cities of Israel – his sights sorely earthly and without divine intentions.  The life of the man touching Elisha’s bone is but a shadow of our resurrection by drinking of the waters of life through Christ.

24 When Hazael king of Syria died, Ben-hadad his son became king in his place.

25 Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities that he had taken from Jehoahaz his father in war. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.

II Kings 14:

1 In the second year of Joash the son of Joahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem.

3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done.

4 But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.

5 And as soon as the royal power was firmly in his hand, he struck down his servants who had struck down the king his father.

6 But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.”

The woman whom Jehovah adorns, Jehoaddin, is the mother of the next king of Judah, Amaziah (the strength of the LORD).  Although not walking like David his father (a sign that the Messiah, once again, has not yet come), he still did what was right in the eyes of the LORD – striking down his servants who had struck down the king his father (v.5).  It is interesting to compare the lives of the kings of Israel in the previous chapter, seeking external victory and glory, summed up in Jehoash’s words to Elisha – “the chariots of Israel an its horsemen!”, to the kings of Judah.  Here, the life of Amaziah is first described in terms of the high places which were not removed, and him ensuring that the king’s household is not filled with wicked counsel, earmarked by his compliance with the Mosaic law that each shall die for their own sins (Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:4).  That is the law of Moses; and yet, this law points us to the grace, that Adam’s crime is therefore, indeed, our crime (Hebrews 7:10).  Indeed, unless Christ takes on Adam’s sin, and thus gifts us His righteousness as our righteousness, then this law would otherwise be broken.  In God’s salvific economy, this law remains testimony to God’s fulfillment of it – though, here, not yet.

Instead, Amaziah is looking on the immediate conduct of the children’s fathers, just as Amaziah should not be put to death because of his father’s failure to follow Christ; again, this is a contrasting picture between spiritual fatherhood and physical fatherhood; between our spiritual father Christ, and our physical father – whether they cling to Christ or not.  Here, Amaziah looks on the children and sees them innocent with regards to their father’s conduct; yet, like their fathers, they are born in sin.  Unless they cling onto Christ to inherit his righteousness as ours (Isaiah 61:11), then indeed our father’s sins are our sin.

7 He struck down ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm, and called it Joktheel, which is its name to this day.

Thus, instead of merely pleading to Elisha, it is Amaziah’s walk with God which secured his victory over the capital of Edom, the rock, Sela – and give due glory to the LORD by the name Joktheel (“subdued by God”).  This is more clearly laid out in 2 Chronicles 25:5-13, where Amaziah follows the counsel of a man of God, reminding him of the LORD’s power to lift up or cast down:

O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites.

8 But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.

8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.”

9 And Jehoash king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle.

10 You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

11 But Amaziah would not listen. So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah.

12 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home.

13 And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate.

14 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.

15 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoash that he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel, and Jeroboam his son reigned in his place.

17 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel.

18 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

19 And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there.

20 And they brought him on horses; and he was buried in Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David.

21 And all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah.

22 He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers.

Yet, despite comparing Amaziah’s more apparently virtuous life with Jehoash, we are immediately informed that Amaziah’s arrogance against Jehoash has led to the demise of Judah and the wall of Jerusalem, in the battle at the house of the sun (Beth-shemesh).  This defeat of Judah and the breaching of Jerusalem is an unfitting victory for a man who follows in the path of Jeroboam.  However, this is not described in 2 Kings but in 2 Chronicles 25:

14 After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them.

15 Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?”

16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.

 

Instead of destroying the objects that captured the hearts of the Edomites, he merely destroyed the Edomites.  That is contrary to the mandate to be a priesthood to all nations, for the LORD does not grant true victory except the victory through circumcision of the heart (Exodus 19:6).  He forgot that the LORD, though lifting him up in the victory over Edom, can equally destroy Amaziah because of setting up the Edomite gods and worshipping them.

Although the LORD is not with Jehoash, Amaziah’s fall and explicit denial of the man of God (who, if at all, is more suited to be a royal counselor than anything else) is a reminder that the true king of Israel – the true Messiah – is to heed wisdom from mere men not of immediate royal presence or stature.  In the downfall of Judah is the ironic death of Amaziah in the same manner as his father (2 Kings 12:20), even more ironically so dying in the Canaanite city Lachish (“invincible”).  Thus becomes the appointment of Azariah (“whom the LORD helps”), the son of Amaziah, whose first notable work was restoration of Elath to Judah.

23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years.

24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.

26 For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.

27 But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

According to Jesus, the Word Who spoke by his servant Jonah from the winepress of the well (Gath-hepher), even the LORD would use a man such as Jeroboam to restore the border of Israel.  This again is the LORD’s mercy, to ensure that not only Judah but the whole of Israel is maintained until the day that the LORD uses the Satan to also lift the curse of death by causing the death of the Christ on the cross.  Such is the irony – yet, follows closely with what the man of God stated:  “God has power to help or to cast down”.

28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechariah his son reigned in his place.

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2 Kings 13-14: The LORD for the hearts of men

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