Five or Six Times: The Death of Elisha

I have that feeling again, of being on the edge of something immensely profound. It’s hard to describe, like a lamp lit in the corner of my mind. Each encounter like this blows me back in my seat. I have to sit a minute and catch my mental breath.

In 2 Kings 13, God recounts the death of Elisha, that powerful prophet who prefigures Jesus Christ. And at this point in the text, we haven’t seen Elisha for a while. He last appeared in 2 Kings 8 and 9, in a series of stories involving the Shunammite woman, Hazael the treacherous officer of Aram, and the anointing of Jehu, the king of Israel who kills Jezebel.

Though there have been moments of hope, then, God has allowed Hazael (symbol of the antiChrist) to terrorize the tribes of Israel for a time. And now comes Joash, king of Israel to the bedside of Elisha, at the exact time God appointed, “when Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die.” In his grief, Joash speaks the words Elisha also called out at Elijah’s ascension.

“My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsement!”

At this, Elisha tells the king to take up a bow and arrows, and putting his own prophetic hands over Joash’s own hands, he instructs him to open the window and shoot towards the east. A single arrow of victory, a symbol of God’s perfect, flawless plan over the Evil One, a sign that God would not leave His people until He, the Creator of the Universe, had done all He had promised (Gen. 28:15).

But look here, see how the plan takes shape, see God’s marvelous mystery coming even more into view. Elisha tells Joash to take the arrows and this time to strike the earth. So Joash “struck it three times and stopped,” and the man of God was angry.

“You should have struck five or six times,
then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it.
But now you shall strike Aram only three times.”
2 Kings 13:19

There is a world of wonder in these words. In a flash, God carries us back to Creation, His five acts of creative power and then the sixth, bringing man to life from the dust of the earth (Gen. 1).

And not just back but forward in time, hundreds of years, to Mary’s relative Elizabeth, who “kept herself in seclusion for five months” until the sixth month, when “the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth” to Mary, Mother of God (Luke 1:24-26).

And fittingly, Elisha’s words to Joash carry us even to Jesus Himself, who meets the Samaritan woman by the well and surprises her with His knowledge of things she has never told Him. That she has “five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:7-30).

Why was Elisha angry at Joash? Perhaps Joash would never understand in his lifetime why he would strike Aram only three times, a victory that would be made full another day. But look how God changes his name, how Joash becomes Jehoash, which means “Yahweh has given” (2 Kings 13:25).

We who have the whole Word of God can see, if we look, if we ask, that in these few words of Elisha, God gives us the history of the whole world. Creation to new creation, beginning to end and beyond to new beginning.

Three: Our Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. A victory He shares with us now (Eph. 2:5-7).
Five: Our time of waiting, when Satan roams the earth, troubling us for a time, though He will never snatch us from our Father’s hand (Rev. 9:5).
Six: The day God created mankind. And the day when the Son of Man will come again in victory. That day when, just as Paul came before his accusers in Acts 24:1, we too will all come before the judgement throne.
And Seven: That day of perfect rest, of no sadness, of NO VIRUSES, no death, and no sin for those whose God is the LORD. The day of the marriage feast of Christ and His Bride the Church.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 
13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 
14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 
15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 
16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 
18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 
19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 
20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Revelation 1:12-20


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