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IV. A NEW AND SUCCESSFUL PLAN (vers. 29–31). It was a contribution-box. Every person could have a part in the work.
Illustrate from shares in a mill or railroad, by which many persons can have part. So by giving we have shares in the missionary work, in the church, in aid of the poor, in temperance reform, in the progress of Christ's kingdom.
It is important to dwell on this privilege and duty. The liberality and power of the church to carry forward broad schemes of benevolence, to deepen and open channels for Christian work and influence in the next half-century, yes, for all time, depends much upon the fidelity of the teaching of the present time upon this very subject; and the time for scholars to form fixed habits of real beneficence is while they are in the primary department. As soon as a child can understand the feeling of ownership, it can be taught the luxury of giving. — Faith Latimer.
LESSON V. – Nov. 1.
TIME. – Elisha died about B.C. 838, aged 90 years. Eighteen years after the repairs on the temple, of the last lesson, and soon after the death of King Joash of Judah. It was at the very beginning of the sole reign of Jehoash (or Joash) over Israel.
PLACE. – The interview described in this lesson took place in Samaria, the capital of Israel, where both the king and the prophet dwelt. The king " came down” from his palace to see the dying Elisha. To the east of Samaria lay Syria, and on the main road to Damascus, six miles east of the Sea of Galilee, lay Aphek, now called Fik, where Joash smote the Syrians three times, according to the prophecy of Elisha. - S. S. T'imes.
RULERS. — Joash, king of Israel, B.C. 841-825. Amaziah, king of Judah, B.C. 839– 810. Benhadad III., son of Hazael, king of Syria, B.C. 839.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — A phěk; Běnhā'dăd; Hăz'áčl; Jěho'ăsh; Jěho'ăbăz; Moabitěs.
INTRODUCTION. The history now returns to the kingdom of Israel. Jehu died just about the time of the repairing of the temple, and was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, who reigned 17 years. The revolution which attended his elevation to the throne, and the disorders which followed it, so weakened the nation that the Syrians, who had found in Hazael a warlike and ambitious monarch, were able to wrest from the Israelites most of their possessions on the east of the Jordan. During the whole 17 years of the reign of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, the Syrians continued to gain victories and advantages over the Israelites, till the kingdom was at its lowest ebb of misfortune and misery. This was the state of things when Jehoahaz died, and Jehoash his son succeeded him on the throne. The first impulse of the young king, beginning his reign in such critical circumstances, was to seek the counset and help of the prophet Elisha, of whom, since the anointing of Jehu, forty-five years previous, there has been no mention. — Todd.
EXPLANATORY. 1. The Young King. - Ver. 1. Jehoash (gift of God), usually shortened to Joash, the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu. He had reigned two years in conjunction with his father, and had just become sole ruler about the time of Elisha's death. His king. dom had been greatly weakened in the previous reign, on account of the sins of his father and grandfather. The Syrians were the chief enemies, and they had taken from Israel their possessions east of the Jordan (2 Kings 10:32, 33), and had desolated and devastated the kingdon, and so reduced its resources that the king had but 50 horsemen and 10 chariots in his army (2 Kings 13:7). Little is said of the reign of Joash except that what he did was evil. Almost all that was worth recording was in connection with the prophet Elisha. He reigned sixteen years, and his epitaph was, “ He repeated the sins that his fathers had sinned."
II. Elisha the Prophet. — Ver. 14. The early history of Elisha is given in Lesson II., Third Quarter. His home was at the capital. Nothing is recorded of him for 45 years after his anointing Jehu to be king. But the testimony of Joash shows that Elisha was
14. 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 1 of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
15. And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows.
16. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon 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 arrow of the LORD'S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria : for thou shalt smite the Syrians in 2 Aphek, till thou have consumed them.
12 Kings 2: 12. 2 Kings 20: 26.
of great value in the kingdom, more than horses and chariots. He was the foremost subject in the land. There is a mighty power in that quiet influence which puts its hands on the very helm of the government while it is yet unrecorded in history. Who can tell how much worse the kingdom might have been but for the influence of Elisha ? — P. Fifty years of holy living and humble praying in such a man as he were not spent in vain, even though no earthly record was made of them. — Lowrie. Though the nine recorded miracles of Elisha often affected only individuals, and his days passed in the quiet of ordinary life, his influence was wide and powerful. Elijah had lamented at the end of his career the disappointment of his hopes; Elisha's life, if it knew no moments of supreme exaltation, closed amidst universal veneration. Nor did the veneration in which he was held cease with his life. A splendid monument raised over his grave near Samaria was shown with reverence in after ages, and funeral dances were celebrated periodically in his honor round the sacred spot where he lay. - Geikie. Now at the age of 90, sick and dying, he offers a parting blessing to the king and to his country.
III. The Visit of the King to the Dying Prophet. — Vers. 14–19. 14. The king of Israel came down. From the palace to Elisha's house. The prophet's home was in Samaria, at no great distance from the royal residence. It was an unusual act of condescension for the king to visit a private dwelling. – Todd. And wept over his face. The king began to appreciate the greatness of the blessing his kingdom had in the prophet. He could no longer reprove him, and “the blessing brightened as it took its flight.” O my father. Expressing the kind and loving interest the aged prophet took in the young king. The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. The prophet of God was of more value for the defence of the kingdom than an army with chariots and cavalry. Joash knew the past history of Elisha, and recognized his power. And having been left with only 10 chariots and so horsemen (2 Kings 13:7), he felt the value of such a defence. — P. The virtuous lives, the earnest prayers, the faithful testimony of the people of God do more to conserve the State than armies and navies. No amount of wealth or power can save a nation which is morally corrupt. - N. Hall.
15. Take bow and arrows. This was a symbolical action, by which the prophet intended to represent the victory which he was about to promise the king of Israel against the Syrians, his greatest and most dangerous enemy, who had already done the kingdom so much evil. It was an ancient custom to shoot an arrow or cast a spear into the country which an army intended to invade. Justin says that as soon as Alexander the Great had arrived on the coasts of Ionia he threw a dart into the country of the Persians. The dart, spear, or arrow thus thrown was an emblem of the commencement of hostilities. Virgil represents Turnus as giving the signal of attack by throwing a spear:
“Who first,' he cried, ' with me the foe will dare?'
Then hurled a dart, the signal of the war." - Burder, in Bush's Ill. of S. S., p. 210.
16. Put thine hand upon the bow. That is, bend it, and prepare to shoot with it. The king was to hold the bow, because he was the one who was to defeat his enemies. Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. To signify that it was divine power operating through the king, which was to be the real cause of his success. — Todd. In all we do, let us ask God to put his hand on ours. Let us do nothing in which we cannot expect God's help. Let us put our hand to nothing in our own strength, but depending on him to give success. — Lewis.
17. Open the window. The window was simply an opening in the wall covered with
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.
lattice-work, which allowed the air to come in while shutting out the sun (Judg. 5:28). When the lattice was thrown back the window was entirely open. — Todd. Eastward. Syria of Damascus lay partly east, but still more north, of the Holy Land. The capital Damascus was north-east, and one could look toward it from an eastward window. The window was to be opened, and the arrow shot eastward, not so much against Syria itself as against the scene of the recent Syrian successes, Gilead (2 Kings 10:33), which was also to be the scene of Joash's victories over them. — Cook. The arrow of the Lord's deliverance. This was said to explain to Joash the meaning of the symbolical action and the one to follow. It meant deliverance from the power of Syria. Aphek. A town now called Fik, six miles east of the Sea of Galilee, on the road to Damascus. It was in the Palestine border of the country the Syrians had taken from the kingdom of Israel. The scene of former defects was to become that of triumph.
JOASH'S TRIAL. So far the scene is preliminary to the real test of Joash which was to follow. He was not condemned at last for not understanding obscure symbols and hidden meanings, but the nature of the trial was expressly set before him. “Your shooting means victory. The promise is large and free; take the blessing." And it was evident of itself that the more arrows he shot, the greater deliverance, the more victories, would he obtain.
18. And he said, Take the arrows. That is, those left in the quiver. Smite upon the ground. Shoot them one after another to the ground out of the same eastward window. “He was not merely to shoot, he was to hit.” And he smote thrice, and stayed. He had so little faith, so little earnestness, he was so weakly unbelieving and unperceiving, that instead of shooting till the prophet told him to stop, or till every arrow was gone, saying, “This means victory," " Another arrow of triumph from the Lord,” he sped three arrows and basely stayed his hand. — P.
19. And the man of God was wroth. He was indignant that when such blessings were offered, when such deliverance for his native land was almost thrust upon him, such a noble and splendid career was opened before him, the young king should be so weak, so blind, so wicked as to throw away his opportunity, and, like the swine, trample such pearls under his feet. — P. Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times. You should have shown zeal, and faith, and earnestness by shooting more arrows. Now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice. Gain only three victories instead of entire deliverance from the foreign yoke. Elisha's promise (ver. 17) shows that God had been willing to give the Israelites complete victory over Syria. But Joash, by his non-acceptance of the divine promise in its fulness, had checked the outflow of mercy, and the result was that the original promise could not be fulfilled. -- Cook.
Why should so little a thing as the failure to shoot a few arrows be the cause of losing such great blessings? Because it was a sign and evidence of his want of fitness for the victory. He was neither strong, nor religious, nor faithful to God; and for God to give the blessings that belong to goodness and faith to such a man would be to reward and encourage unbelief and sin. It must be done unto us according to our faith. God cannot, even by his providence, say “ Well done, good and faithful servants" to those who have not done well. - P. The Master asks always, “ Believest thou that I am able?” And from every one of his servants to the end of time, if you give them the Capernaum measure of faith, you shall have from them Capernaum measure of works and no more. — Ruskin.
IV. The Prophet's Tomb. – Vers. 20, 21. 20. And they buried him. As Josephus says, with a magnificent funeral. “ He also obtained a magnificent funeral, such a one indeed as it was fit a person so beloved of God should have.” – Josephus. According to Jerome's statement Elisha's grave was in the neighborhood of Samaria, where he had a residence. Others think he was buried near Jericho, a favorite city of his. This agrees with what follows, for then his grave would be on the frontiers of the kingdom toward Moab, most easily reached by the marauding bands of Moabites. The bands of the Moabites. The descendants of Moab, one of the sons of Lot. They occupied the mountainous region east 21. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men, and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha : and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.
22. But 'Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.
23. 2 And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and 3 had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his 4 presence as yet.
12 Kings 8: 12.
2 2 Kings 14:27.
3 Ex. 2: 24, 25.
4 Ex. 33: 13.
of the Dead Sea. — Todd. Invaded the land. They took advantage of the weakened condition of the kingdom, which, being attacked by Syria on the north, could spare little of its small army for defending the south. It was probable a species of marauding, or of border warfare, was continually going on between these nations even in times of professed peace. They might not, however, have been sanctioned by the leading powers of the land, but existed, like the modern brigands, in Greece and Italy. - Tayler Lewis. At the com. ing in of the year. In spring, that is, the Jews beginning their year at the vernal equinox, This was the natural season for incursions, as then in Palestine the crops began to be ripe. -- Cook. It means the spring after the death of Elisha.
21. And it came to pass, as they. The Israelites of that region. They spied a band. One of these roving, marauding bands of Moabites. They cast (or thrust) the man into the sepulchre of Elisha. They did not dare to carry the body to the place prepared for it; and, as the tomb of Elisha happened to be near at hand, they hastily threw the body into it, and fled. — Todd. The graves of the Jews were not pits dug in the ground, like ours, but caves or cells excavated in the side of a rock, the mouth of the cave being ordinarily shut by a heavy stone. - Cook. And touched the bones of Elisha. According to the Jewish and Eastern customs, 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. —-7., F. and B. He revived. Came to life again.
THE DESIGN OF THIS MIRACLE. (1) Its significance is this: Elisha died and was buried as all men are, but even in the grave testimony was borne to his character as a prophet and servant of God, and in a manner which corresponds exactly to the form of activity of this prophet, who was a preserver, saviour, and life-giver. - Lange. (2) To impress the seal of divine attestation upon the prophecy of the dying prophet concerning the victory of Joash over the Syrians.— K'eil. (3) God wished thereby to show his people that the Divine efficiency that was at work in Elisha had not disappeared from Israel with his death. — Keil. (4) It was another testimony to the people that their God was the living and true God, the God of life, and help, and salvation, and worthy of their perfect trust and obedience. (5) The Lord showed thereby that he was not a God of the dead, but of the living; that the dead in him live for him (Matt. 22: 32), and do not perish with the body. It was a testimony to the reality of another life.
V. The Prophecy Fulfilled. — Vers. 22–25. 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.
22. Hazael . . . oppressed. Better, had oppressed (see 2 Kings 13:4-7). All the days of Jehoahaz. The father of Joash. He reigned 17 years (B.C. 856-839).
23. And the Lord was gracious unto them. God had chosen them as his people, and they were heirs to the promises given to the fathers; therefore he bore long with them, and did all that was possible to bring them back to his service and blessing. God wants all to repent and return to him, and is full of gracious tenderness and loving-kindness toward them to induce them to come to him. His covenant with Abraham. That God would be the God of his descendants, and that they should be a great nation, as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that in them all nations should be blessed (see Gen. 17:4-8; 22: 15-18). These promises were certain of fulfilment, and the Israelites of the ten tribes could have part in them if they would. If they refused, the promise would be fulfilled through others. But God was long-suffering to them, desiring that they should not lose so great a blessing. Neither cast he them from his presence as yet. He had not rejected them from being his peculiar people and from having a part in the covenant blessings prom.
24. So Hazael king of Syria died; and Ben-hadad his son reigned in his stead.
25. And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad 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.
ised to Abraham's seed. This was not done to them as a nation till the final captivity of Israel (B.C. 721), more than a hundred years later. Till then God strove with them in vain to bring them to repentance.
24. So Hazael . . . died. About the same time as Jehoahaz (B.C. 839). This wa: , the beginning of deliverance, for his son was probably not so great nor so cruel a soldier as Hazael. Ben-hadad. The third of that name.
25. The cities, which he (Hazael) had taken. We cannot say what cities exactly these were. Probably they were cities west of the Jordan, since the tract east of that river was conquered mainly, if not wholly, in the reign of Jehu (2 Kings 10:33).- Cook. Three times did Joash beat him. Or “smite him.” The prophecy was fulfilled. Instead of following up his victories to the utter annihilation of the Syrian power, he was content with these three triumphs, and so justified the rebuke of the dying Elisha. Israel soon fell back into most bitter amictions and extremity (chap. 14: 26). - Whedon. And Joash himself not only followed the sins of Jeroboam, but he attacked Jerusalem, and carried the temple treasures to Samaria, the capital of his own kingdom (2 Kings 14:12-14).
LESSONS FROM THE LAST DAYS OF ELISHA.
I. God has ordained sickness before death, that we may set our house in order, and may seek refuge in the mercy of God. — Lange. Sickness is also a blessed physical preparation for death.
2. Elisha's death-bed was that of a true man of God. Even in death he thought more of others than of himself, and his last act was one of help and hope for his country.
3. From the patient, cheerful submission of a suffering believer, from the sustaining, elevating power of religious principles in times of severest trial, from the glad and bold testimony given to the divine faithfulness by dying lips, and from the earnest longings to depart, and the happy anticipations of glory to be revealed, are useful influences sent forth from a sick-bed, such as an active life cannot render; and feeble, dying hands often shoot the arrow of the Lord's deliverance. — Lowrie.
4. God has great and countless natural blessings in store for man, waiting for his earnest seeking and fitness to receive. All the inventions and discoveries of this age are but a few grains from the great harvest, a few dawning rays of the day ready to break upon us.
5. So God has offered in his promises vast and countless spiritual blessings for man, — riches of his Word, success of the Gospel, power of the Spirit, holy lives, communion with God, truth, character, joy, peace, — to which all we have yet received are but as a few sprays from the great ocean.
6. God is testing us continually as to our willingness and fitness to receive. In little things, in daily life, in the use of what has already been given, by open doors of usefulness, God is testing and fitting us to receive greater blessings.
7. God is most honored and pleased with the largest requests. He is never indignant when our prayers are importunate and our petitions great. He is angry only when we ask little things while he desires to give us great things, when we ask carelessly and weakly what all heaven feels to be worthy of the most intense seeking. His ear is wearied not by large and unceasing prayers, but by straining to hear our feeble, inconstant voices. His hand is wearied not by holding out the largest blessings, but by offering them to those who will put forth scarcely their little fingers to take them.
8. We put our own limit to the blessings we receive. According to our faith is it done unto us. All that we will wisely use, all that we are capable of receiving and valuing, God gives to us.
9. The influence of our lives does not die with us. We not only live in heaven beyond the grave, but we also live upon earth, and are doing good or evil among men long after our bodies have returned to the dust.