Bible Readings for October 31st
The death of Elisha is a tragedy in Israel. After this point, we do not read of another prophet whom Yahweh sends to the northern ten tribes, and very shortly, the entire nation of Israel will fall to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17. The end of Elisha’s life, then, signals the demise of Israel as their last prophet departs from the scene, but it also underscores the enduring, unshakable hope that God’s people have in Christ.
When Joash, king of Israel, visits Elisha at the prophet’s deathbed, he cries out, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kgs. 13:14), the same words Elisha spoke when he saw Elijah taken up into heaven in 2 Kings 2:12. In both cases, the expression mourns the loss of a great man in Israel whose loss is as terrible as the loss of all of Israel’s military defenses.
And in fact, Elisha goes on to prophesy specifically that Israel’s military will never gain lasting domination again. Elisha instructs Joash to shoot an arrow out of the window, and then he announces that the arrow symbolizes the victory that Yahweh will give to Joash over the nation of Syria (2 Kgs. 13:17). But, when Joash only strikes the ground three times and then stops, Elisha prophesies that Yahweh would only give him three victories over Syria; however, Israel would not put away Syria forever.
Then, when Elisha dies and is buried, some marauding Moabites throw the dead body of one of their own into the grave along with Elisha, but when the man’s body touches the bones of Elisha, the man rises up from the dead (2 Kgs. 13:21). There is one other time in the Bible that the dead rise up at the death of another, and that is when Jesus himself dies, according to Matthew 27:52.
The story of Elisha’s death anticipates the rest of Israel’s story in two ways. First, this story subtly emphasizes the fact that Yahweh’s people have completely rejected their prophets. Even when the prophets foretell military victories, the faith of Israel is so weak as to fail to lay hold of their victory to the degree that they should, leading directly to Israel’s looming exile.
And second, the rising of the dead points forward to the resurrection power of another prophet whom Yahweh would send. This prophet also will be opposed by the leaders of the day (as Elisha was), but he will nevertheless raise not only himself from the dead, and not only a few others at his death, but he will also raise up from the dead all those who look to him in faith—including Gentiles like the Moabite whom Elisha raised up.
Do not lay hold of Jesus with the half-hearted faith of Joash but rather as your only defense in life and in death.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.