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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–9
Verses 1–9

This general account of the reign of Jehoahaz, and of the state of Israel during his seventeen years, though short, is long enough to let us see two things which are very affecting and instructive:—

I. The glory of Israel raked up in the ashes, buried and lost, and turned into shame. How unlike does Israel appear here to what it had been and might have been! How is its crown profaned and its honour laid in the dust! 1. It was the honour of Israel that they worshipped the only living and true God, who is a Spirit, an eternal mind, and had rules by which to worship him of his own appointment; but by changing the glory of their incorruptible God into the similitude of an ox, the truth of God into a lie, they lost this honour, and levelled themselves with the nations that worshipped the work of their own hands. We find here that the king followed the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kgs. 13:2), and the people departed not from them, but walked therein, 2 Kgs. 13:6. There could not be a greater reproach than these two idolized calves were to a people that were instructed in the service of God and entrusted with the lively oracles. In all the history of the ten tribes we never find the least shock given to that idolatry, but, in every reign, still the calf was their god, and they separated themselves to that shame. 2. It was the honour of Israel that they were taken under the special protection of heaven; God himself was their defence, the shield of their help and the sword of their excellency. Happy wast thou, O Israel! upon this account. But here, as often before, we find them stripped of this glory, and exposed to the insults of all their neighbours. They by their sins provoked God to anger, and then he delivered them into the hands of Hazael and Benhadad, 2 Kgs. 13:3. Hazael oppressed Israel 2 Kgs. 13:22. Surely never was any nation so often plucked and pillaged by their neighbours as Israel was. This the people brought upon themselves by sin; when they had provoked God to pluck up their hedge, the goodness of their land did but tempt their neighbours to prey upon them. So low was Israel brought in this reign, by the many depredations which the Syrians made upon them, that the militia of the kingdom and all the force they could bring into the field were but fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and 10,000 footmen, a despicable muster, 2 Kgs. 13:7. Have the thousands of Israel come to this? How has the gold become dim! The debauching of a nation will certainly be the debasing of it.

II. Some sparks of Israel’s ancient honour appearing in these ashes. It is not quite forgotten, notwithstanding all these quarrels, that this people is the Israel of God and he is the God of Israel. For, 1. It was the ancient honour of Israel that they were a praying people: and here we find somewhat of that honour revived; for Jehoahaz their king, in his distress, besought the Lord (2 Kgs. 13:4), applied for help, not to the calves (what help could they give him?) but to the Lord. It becomes kings to be beggars at God’s door, and the greatest of men to be humble petitioners at the footstool of his throne. Need will drive them to it. 2. It was the ancient honour of Israel that they had God nigh unto them in all that which they called upon him for (Deut. 4:7), and so he was here. Though he might justly have rejected the prayer as an abomination to him, yet the Lord hearkened unto Jehoahaz, and to his prayer for himself and for his people (2 Kgs. 13:4), and he gave Israel a saviour (2 Kgs. 13:5), not Jehoahaz himself, for all his days Hazael oppressed Israel (2 Kgs. 13:22), but his son, to whom, in answer to his father’s prayers, God gave success against the Syrians, so that he recovered the cities which they had taken from his father, 2 Kgs. 13:25. This gracious answer God gave to the prayer of Jehoahaz, not for his sake, or the sake of that unworthy people, but in remembrance of his covenant with Abraham (2 Kgs. 13:23), which, in such exigencies as these, he had long since promised to have respect to, Lev. 26:42. See swift God is to show mercy, how ready to hear prayers, how willing to find out a reason to be gracious, else he would not look so far back as that ancient covenant which Israel had so often broken and forfeited all the benefit of. Let this invite and engage us for ever to him, and encourage even those that have forsaken him to return and repent; for there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared.