Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Fifty-Seven Years.
From The Death Of Ahab To The Captivity Of The Ten Tribes.
Hazael Makes An Expedition Against The People Of Israel And The Inhabitants Of Jerusalem. Jehu Dies, And Jehoahaz Succeeds In the Government. Jehoash The King Of Jerusalem At First Is Careful About The Worship Of God But Afterwards Becomes Impious And Commands Zechariah To Be Stoned. When Jehoash [King Of Judah] Was Dead, Amaziah Succeeds Him In The Kingdom.
1. NOW Hazael, king of Syria, fought against the Israelites and their king Jehu, and spoiled the eastern parts of the country beyond Jordan, which belonged to the Reubenites and Gadites, and to [the half tribe of] Manassites; as also Gilead and Bashan, burning, and spoiling, and offering violence to all that he laid his hands on, and this without impeachment from Jehu, who made no haste to defend the country when it was under this distress; nay, he was become a condemner of religion, and a despiser of holiness, and of the laws, and died when he had reigned over the Israelites twenty-seven years. He was buried in Samaria, and left Jehoahaz his son his successor in the government.
2. Now Jehoash, king of Jerusalem, had an inclination to repair the temple of God; so he called Jehoiada, and bid him send the Levites and priests through all the country, to require half a shekel of silver for every head, towards the rebuilding and repairing of the temple, which was brought to decay by Jehoram, and Athaliah and her sons. But the high priest did not do this, as concluding that no one would willingly pay that money; but in the twenty-third year of Jehoash's reign, when the king sent for him and the Levites, and complained that they had not obeyed what he enjoined them, and still commanded them to take care of the rebuilding the temple, he used this stratagem for collecting the money, with which the multitude was pleased.
He made a wooden chest, and closed it up fast on all sides, but opened one hole in it; he then set it in the temple beside the altar, and desired every one to cast into it, through the hole, what he pleased, for the repair of the temple. This contrivance was acceptable to the people, and they strove one with another, and brought in jointly large quantities of silver and gold; and when the scribe and the priest that were over the treasuries had emptied the chest, and counted the money in the king's presence, they then set it in its former place, and thus did they every day. But when the multitude appeared to have cast in as much as was wanted, the high priest Jehoiada, and king Joash, sent to hire masons and carpenters, and to buy large pieces of timber, and of the most curious sort; and when they had repaired the temple, they made use of the remaining gold and silver, which was not a little, for bowls, and basons, and cups, and other vessels, and they went on to make the altar every day fat with sacrifices of great value. And these things were taken suitable care of as long as Jehoiada lived.
3. But as soon as he was dead (which was when he had lived one hundred and thirty years, having been a righteous, and in every respect a very good man, and was buried in the king's sepulchers at Jerusalem, because he had recovered the kingdom to the family of David) king Jehoash betrayed his [want of] care about God. The principal men of the people were corrupted also together with him, and offended against their duty, and what their constitution determined to be most for their good. Hereupon God was displeased with the change that was made on the king, and on the rest of the people, and sent prophets to testify to them what their actions were, and to bring them to leave off their wickedness; but they had gotten such a strong affection and so violent an inclination to it, that neither could the examples of those that had offered affronts to the laws, and had been so severely punished, they and their entire families, nor could the fear of what the prophets now foretold, bring them to repentance, and turn them back from their course of transgression to their former duty.
But the king commanded that Zechariah, the son of the high priest Jehoiada, should be stoned to death in the temple, and forgot the kindnesses he had received from his father; for when God had appointed him to prophesy, he stood in the midst of the multitude, and gave this counsel to them and to the king: That they should act righteously; and foretold to them, that if they would not hearken to his admonitions, they should suffer a heavy punishment. But as Zechariah was ready to die, he appealed to God as a witness of what he suffered for the good counsel he had given them, and how he perished after a most severe and violent manner for the good deeds his father had done to Jehoash.
4. However, it was not long before the king suffered punishment for his transgression; for when Hazael, king of Syria, made an irruption into his country, and when he had overthrown Gath, and spoiled it, he made an expedition against Jerusalem; upon which Jehoash was afraid, and emptied all the treasures of God and of the kings [before him], and took down the gifts that had been dedicated [in the temple], and sent them to the king of Syria, and procured so much by them, that he was not besieged, nor his kingdom quite endangered; but Hazael was induced by the greatness of the sum of money not to bring his army against Jerusalem; yet Jehoash fell into a severe distemper, and was set upon by his friends, in order to revenge the death of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. These laid snares for the king, and slew him. He was indeed buried in Jerusalem, but not in the royal sepulchers of his forefathers, because of his impiety. He lived forty-seven years, and Amaziah his son succeeded him in the kingdom.
5. In the one and twentieth year of the reign of Jehoash, Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, took the government of the Israelites in Samaria, and held it seventeen years. He did not [properly] imitate his father, but was guilty of as wicked practices as hose that first had God in contempt: but the king of Syria brought him low, and by an expedition against him did so greatly reduce his forces, that there remained no more of so great an army than ten thousand armed men, and fifty horsemen. He also took away from him his great cities, and many of them also, and destroyed his army. And these were the things that the people of Israel suffered, according to the prophecy of Elisha, when he foretold that Hazael should kill his master, and reign over the Syrians and Damcenes. But when Jehoahaz was under such unavoidable miseries, he had recourse to prayer and supplication to God, and besought him to deliver him out of the hands of Hazael, and not overlook him, and give him up into his hands. Accordingly God accepted of his repentance instead of virtue; and being desirous rather to admonish those that might repent, and not to determine that they should be utterly destroyed, he granted him deliverance from war and dangers. So the country having obtained peace, returned again to its former condition, and flourished as before.
6. Now after the death of Jehoahaz, his son Joash took the kingdom, in the thirty-seventh year of Jehoash, the king of the tribe of Judah. This Joash then took the kingdom of Israel in Samaria, for he had the same name with the king of Jerusalem, and he retained the kingdom sixteen years. He was a good man, (17) and in his disposition was not at all like his father. Now at this time it was that when Elisha the prophet, who was already very old, and was now fallen into a disease, the king of Israel came to visit him; and when he found him very near death, he began to weep in his sight, and lament, to call him his father, and his weapons, because it was by his means that he never made use of his weapons against his enemies, but that he overcame his own adversaries by his prophecies, without fighting; and that he was now departing this life, and leaving him to the Syrians, that were already armed, and to other enemies of his that were under their power; so he said it was not safe for him to live any longer, but that it would be well for him to hasten to his end, and depart out of this life with him. As the king was thus bemoaning himself, Elisha comforted him, and bid the king bend a bow that was brought him; and when the king had fitted the bow for shooting, Elisha took hold of his hands and bid him shoot; and when he had shot three arrows, and then left off, Elisha said,
"If thou hadst shot more arrows, thou hadst cut the kingdom of Syria up by the roots; but since thou hast been satisfied with shooting three times only, thou shalt fight and beat the Syrians no more times than three, that thou mayest recover that country which they cut off from thy kingdom in the reign of thy father."
So when the king had heard that, he departed; and a little while after the prophet died. He was a man celebrated for righteousness, and in eminent favor with God. He also performed wonderful and surprising works by prophecy, and such as were gloriously preserved in memory by the Hebrews. He also obtained a magnificent funeral, such a one indeed as it was fit a person so beloved of God should have. It also happened, that at that time certain robbers cast a man whom they had slain into Elisha's grave, and upon his dead body coming close to Elisha's body, it revived again. And thus far have we enlarged about the actions of Elisha the prophet, both such as he did while he was alive, and how he had a Divine power after his death also.
7. Now, upon the death of Hazael, the king of Syria, that kingdom came to Adad his son, with whom Joash, king of Israel, made war; and when he had beaten him in three battles, he took from him all that country, and all those cities and villages, which his father Hazael had taken from the kingdom of Israel, which came to pass, however, according to the prophecy of Elisha. But when Joash happened to die, he was buried in Samaria, and the government devolved on his son Jeroboam.
(17) This character of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, that
"he was a good man, and in his disposition not at all like to his father,"
seems a direct contradiction to our ordinary copies, which say (2 Kings 13:11) that
" he did evil in the sight of the Lord; and that he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: he walked therein. "
Which copies are here the truest it is hard positively to determine. If Josephus's be true, this Joash is the single instance of a good king over the ten tribes; if the other be true, we have not one such example. The account that follows, in all copies, of Elisha the prophet's concern for him, and his concern for Elisha, greatly favors Josephus's copies, and supposes this king to have been then a good man, and no idolater, with whom God's prophets used not to be so familiar. Upon the whole, since it appears, even by Josephus's own account, that Amaziah, the good king of Judah, while he was a good king, was forbidden to make use of the hundred thousand auxiliaries he had hired of this Joash, the king of Israel, as if he and they were then idolaters, 2 Chronicles 25:6-9, it is most likely that these different characters of Joash suited the different parts of his reign, and that, according to our common copies, he was at first a wicked king, and afterwards was reclaimed, and became a good one, according to Josephus.