The Israelites were promised blessings in exchange for their obedience to God’s commands. The first condition God stipulated was, “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 26:1). King Ahab violated this condition when “he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria” (1 Kings 16:32).
After Jehu killed all the Baal worshippers, and destroyed Baal out of Israel (2 Kings 10:28), his son Jehoahaz returned to worshipping two golden calves made by king Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28). Because of this, “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael, all their days (2 Kings 13:3).
By the time Hazael was finished with them, the army of Isreal had been reduced to “fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen” (2 Kings 13:7). Near the end of the reign of Jehoash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign in Samaria. Jehu’s grandson continued the practice of worshipping the two golden calves, but when Elisha became sick and was at the point of death, Jehoash the king of Israel visited him and asked for Elisha’s help (2 Kings 13:14).
Elisha gave Jehoash an opportunity to exercise his faith. “And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice and stayed” (2 Kings 13:18). The smiting of the arrows on the ground symbolized Jehoash’s victory over Syria. In spite of the desolation Hazael had caused Israel, Jehoash was less than enthusiastic about overcoming his enemy. Elisha rebuked Jehoash, “and said, Thou should have smitten five or six times, then had thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice” (2 Kings 13:19).
Even though Jehoash’s faith was small, his willingness to ask for God’s help delayed the Israelites from going into captivity. “And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (2 Kings 13:23).