In II Kings 13, Elisha tells the king of Israel to hit the ground with arrows. He never specifies beyond that, yet becomes angry when the king apparently doesn’t do it enough times. How should the king have known?

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In II Kings 13, Elisha tells the king of Israel to hit the ground with arrows. He never specifies beyond that, yet becomes angry when the king apparently doesn’t do it enough times. How should the king have known?

Post by Admin on Fri Jul 01, 2016 9:49 pm

First of all, to really understand this story, we need to see all the details. First of all, the story concerns the prophet Elisha’s interactions at the end of his life with the king of Israel. This is a time in Israel’s history where she is a divided nation. Following the death of King Solomon, Israel had divided into two nations: Israel (the 10 northern tribes with the capitol city of Samaria) and Judah (the 2 southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin with the capitol city of Jerusalem). While Judah enjoyed the reign of several God-fearing, righteous kings (Hezekiah being the greatest example), Israel had none who feared God (Ahab being one of the clearest examples of this). For most of them, the Bible records the same words with which it introduces the king of Israel at this point in Elisha’s life: In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them—II Kings 13:10-11. “Jeroboam son of Nebat” was the first king of Israel following the national split with Judah, and his legacy of sin became the legacy of every king that followed him—as well as the nation they all ruled. Yet this pagan, unrepentant king acknowledges what Elisha stood for as Elisha was coming to the end of his life; as the story goes, Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”—II Kings 13:14. As he looked at this dying man, he understood and even acknowledged that the God of Elisha’s ministry was the real power and strength of Israel—and never him. The story continues: Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands—II Kings 13:15-16. By this act, Elisha is trying to get the king to see God’s willingness to bless him completely—if he will embrace God completely.
Now, by identifying God’s willingness to come alongside the king with all His power and glory, Elisha commands, “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek”—II Kings 13:17. Note that Elisha identifies what the arrow means that the king shot: “the Lord’s arrow of victory” over an enemy that had continued to harass and confound them—in fact, a “complete” destruction of the enemy. Then, in that spirit, in which only one arrow is translated as a great victory, Elisha tells the king, “Take the arrows (the remaining arrows in his quiver),” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground (probably actually translated from the Hebrew as meaning to shoot the remaining arrows into the ground).” He struck it three times (shot three arrows) and stopped—II Kings 13:18. And what happened? The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times”—II Kings 13:19.
So why was Elisha angry? If one arrow meant a single victory (which Elisha had clearly explained), why not shoot all his arrows, believing that God would grant him as many victories as he had arrows? God was willing to tell the king through Elisha that much more victory would be available to him—through God’s enabling power. But the king appears to have doubted what Elisha was trying to get him to understand. His own feeble response would only bring a limited response by God. So much more was available—and turned down. No wonder Elisha was angry. The king turned down what he had been shown God was willing to promise.
The lesson: Is our faith based on our perception of “possible” or God’s? It is a profound question to consider. God has not changed. The amazing miracles that spill all over the Bible spring from an unchanging God who is as completely able to perform and amaze as He ever has been. As Jesus said, [W]ith God all things are possible—Jesus Christ, Matthew 19:26b. As Paul said, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—Philippians 4:13 (NKJV). What do we believe about Him? Do we “shoot all our arrows” out of faith and belief in all that He is able to do? This is also a story of claiming God’s vision as our own. We see how He sees; we feel how He feels. If we are being made into His Son’s image, the translation of Him into us needs to look like something. So think about it: What about us looks like God, like Jesus? What would the world say? What would God say?

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