Devotion 19 in the series All In: A Study of Elisha: 2 Kings 13:14-25

2 Surprising Ways You Can Change the World: The Death of Elisha

2 Surprising Ways to Change the World_young woman standing on log in creek, arms outstretched, happy, looking slightly up

Who doesn’t want to change the world? We long to know that our lives have meaning. There has to be more to this life than washing dishes, doing laundry, crunching numbers, and selling products.

In 2 Kings 13, we reach the end of Elisha’s life, and in this account we find two powerful ways we can change the world.

Game-Changer #1:

Walk so closely with the Lord that His light rubs off on the people around us.

Earlier this week, my day was brightened by a cheerful cashier at a drive-through window and a telemarketer willing to laugh with me on the phone. What could have been mundane parts of my day actually became highlights. My whole countenance changed.

Do I do that for other people? When my life intersects with someone else’s, is their life made better, happier, more faith-filled?

In 2 Kings 13:20-21, we run across one of the strangest events in the Bible:

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.

This is bizarre. It defies human reasoning. It cracks me up that many Bible commentators skip over it, presumably because there is no logical or theological way to explain it, although several make the good case that this was God’s way of showing King Joash that God would be with Israel even after Elisha’s death.

So what are we to do with this strange event? What can it possibly mean for our lives? I propose we ask, Are we walking so closely with the Lord that His light rubs off on the people around us?

Elisha’s bones held no power, and neither do our bodies. But the Holy Spirit living in us? Now that packs power.

Game-Changer #2:

Go for it! Live out your calling fully and passionately.

Has God ever asked you to do something–and you knew He had–but you ended up going at it halfheartedly?

Elisha, knowing God was willing to entirely deliver the Israelites from the Syrians, told Joash to strike the ground with arrows. Joash responded in a halfhearted manner by striking the ground only three times. He didn’t really understand why Elisha asked him to do it, and he didn’t believe that God could deliver his nation.

As a result, Joash won three battles, but he did not win as many battles against the Syrians as God had been willing to give him.

Do I do that? Do I keep God’s benevolence in check because I am not willing to fully trust Him or give it my all?

Dear Lord, help us! Help us to walk so closely with you that your light rubs off on the people around us, and help us to carry out our callings fully and passionately. Thank you for your forgiveness that knows no boundaries. Where we are weak in faith, make us strong. Amen.

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Check out today’s account from the Bible, and then treasure the time with the Lord as you work through the Digging Deeper questions.

2 Kings 13:14-25 (ESV)

The Death of Elisha

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.”

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.

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.

Digging Deeper: Change the World

Enjoy this precious time with the Lord. Reflect on or journal about the following questions, listening for what God has to say to you.

1. Have you at times wondered if all life has to offer is dishes, laundry, and work? That is a lie of Satan. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” If you were to describe an abundant life, what would that look like for you? Write it down or enter it into a note-taking app. Be sure to consider spiritual aspects that make up an abundant life.

2. Talk with God about your ideas in #1. Listen for any changes, edits, or bigger dreams God speaks to you. How would letting Jesus work that abundant life in you change the world?

3. In what ways would you need to develop or grow in order for your responses in questions 1 and 2 to come to fruition? For example, God has really been working on me to become more easy-going and gregarious. Those are almost antonyms of my personality. What a game-changer that would be for me and the people around me if I were able to take steps in that direction! It would change the world, or at least my corner of it. Note: This isn’t about self-help or personal improvement: There is a spiritual aspect behind this that requires development.

4. About Joash and the arrows: Think about the things God has called you to do. These might be relational (marriage, parenting), work-related, or ministry-related. Consider whether you are going at any of these callings in a halfhearted way. Now consider how you would change the world if you recommitted to fulfilling these callings passionately and wholly.

5. The danger in these questions is that we will start to think it is all about us. It is not. It is all about God. He alone calls us, guides us, and equips us to change the world. The changes are of His making, and they are for His glory. Let’s finish this devotion by recognizing God’s rightful place:

You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

Oh, we serve a good and gracious God.


Congratulations on making it to the last devotion in our series on Elisha! This has been such a special series to me. God has shown me things I did not know were in His Word. Elisha has become a model for me of courage, faith, compassion, and insight. Above all, he opened his life to God for God to work fully through him. Elisha was all in. May it be so for me as well.

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Extra Info!

Order of Events

In case you are an overachiever and want to read all of chapters 8 to 13, verses 14-25 of chapter 13 (our passage today) tell of events that occurred before verse 13. The author tells of the death of Elisha outside of the accounts of all of the reigns of the kings.

Summary of Chapters 8 to 12

Between the previous devotion from 2 Kings 8 and today’s passage from 2 Kings 13, God’s plan for the nation of Israel, as communicated to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-18, was carried out. We started this whole series on Elisha back in 1 Kings 19, where God asked Elijah to anoint Elisha. You might remember that God also asked Elijah to anoint Hazael and Jehu, but Elijah did not do so.

In our last devotion, Elisha informed Hazael that he would be king of Syria. In chapter 9, Elisha asked one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel.

Through these kings, all of evil King Ahab’s descendants were wiped out, the ministers of the false god Baal were killed, and God pared back the nation of Israel.

In fact, it is my interpretation that 1 Kings 19:18 (“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him”) alludes to the result of 2 Kings 10:32 (“In those days the Lord began to cut off parts of Israel”). That is, God promised to preserve the seven thousand Israelites who had not bowed down to Baal.

Catch the gospel: Despite the destruction that is evident in chapters 8 to 12, God’s plan to redeem Israel and the world, for that matter, was continuing (verse 23, ESV):

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.

All Those Confusing Names!

Several names in 2 Kings 8-12 are confusing:

  • The Ben-hadad that Hazael killed was Ben-hadad II. When Hazael died, his son, Ben-hadad became king. Huh? Yes, Hazael’s son was also called Ben-hadad, but he was Ben-hadad III. “Ben-hadad seems to have become a general designation for the kings of Syria (Amos 1:4 Jeremiah 49:27)” (from this source).
  • Joash is called Jehoash in some translations. He was hidden shortly after birth and became king of Judah at age 7. He repaired the temple, but the “high places” were not removed (12:3).
  • There was also a King Joash over Israel, and he was also sometimes called Jehoash, even in the same verse. Confusing! It is this king with whom Elisha interacted in today’s passage, 2 Kings 13.
  • For long but good summaries of these chapters, see this link  and this one, too!

About Those Arrows

From Barnes’ Notes:

Though Joash did the prophet’s bidding, it was without any zeal or fervour; and probably without any earnest belief in the efficacy of what he was doing. Compare Mark 6:5-6. God had been willing to give the Israelites complete victory over Syria 2 Kings 13:17; 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.

Why Did the Corpse Come to Life?

For a very interesting take on the account Elisha’s death, see this link. This pastor’s interpretation is that Joash (Jehoash) was concerned that with the death of Elisha, Israel’s security would end (they wouldn’t have access to the angel armies), and that the miracle of the corpse coming to life was to prove to Joash that Elisha’s words from God could still be trusted: In fact, God gave Israel victory over Syria 3 times, just as Elisha said.

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