2 kings 13:21

וַיְהִי הֵם קֹבְרִים אִישׁ, וְהִנֵּה רָאוּ אֶת-הַגְּדוּד, וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אֶת-הָאִישׁ, בְּקֶבֶר אֱלִישָׁע; וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּגַּע הָאִישׁ, בְּעַצְמוֹת אֱלִישָׁע, וַיְחִי, וַיָּקָם עַל-רַגְלָיו.

The word in question literally means "and he went". But the problem is that the corpse was not yet raised from the dead (as it hasn't yet touched Elisha's corpse) so he couldn't have walked! Alternatively, if it's describing the people who were burying the dead as walking away then the word should have been in plural, like the beginning of the verse.

The NIV and many others completely ignore the word וַיֵּלֶךְ and make believe it doesn't exist!

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. -- [and he went] -- When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

The KJV however tries to rectify this by translating "and when the man was let down" (referring to the dead corpse), which is hardly convincing. The NJPS on the other hand translates to "made off" (referring to the the people burying), which, as I have pointed out before, raises the question why it is in singular.

I was thinking is it possible that the word וַיֵּלֶךְ should really be at the end of the verse, and that it was inserted between אֱלִישָׁע and וַיִּגַּע through a scribal error?

וַיְהִי הֵם קֹבְרִים אִישׁ, וְהִנֵּה רָאוּ אֶת-הַגְּדוּד, וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אֶת-הָאִישׁ, בְּקֶבֶר אֱלִישָׁע; (וַיֵּלֶךְ) וַיִּגַּע הָאִישׁ, בְּעַצְמוֹת אֱלִישָׁע, וַיְחִי, וַיָּקָם עַל-רַגְלָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ.

Thus, instead of having the corpse stand up and do nothing (this has always bothered me), the text would describe the corpse standing up and walking away. This would explain why the word וַיֵּלֶךְ is in singular, and would also complete the action of the corpse in the end of the verse!

Any thoughts or evidence to support this?

2 Answers 2


According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, הָלַךְ indicates any kind of movement; to go or to come which can include walking.

It is used to describe the movement of people and things and even the growth of plants or branches, etc. For example (from BDB):

  • Nah 2:12 the walk of lions
  • Jer 50:6 the wandering of sheep
  • Gen 3:14 the slithering of a snake on its belly
  • Eccl 1:7 the flowing of a river
  • Joel 4:18 hills of flowing milk
  • Song 7:10 of wine going down smoothly
  • Job 38:35 lightening that "darts"
  • Job 41:11 violent breathing of a crocodile
  • Hosea 14:3 branches spreading
  • Josh 17:7 a boundary that went unto ... (this is a thing that does not actually move!!) Compare Josh 16:8
  • 2 Kings 13:21 of a body as it went into (ie let down into) the grave

Therefore, the use of the verb הָלַךְ as it applies to a dead body is entirely consistent with the meaning of this verb in 2 kings 13:21 because while the body was dead, it was being either thrown into or being let down into a cave. But it was moving nonetheless.


A few commentaries or lexicons state that הָלַךְ in this or other verses can serve to illustrate the event. HALOT: “הלך illustrates the event.”1 Keil: “וַיֵּלֶךְ only serves as the picturesque depiction of the thought, that the dead man became alive as soon as he touched Elisha’s bones.”2 And as mentioned elsewhere, it can also be used for inanimate objects.3


        1 HALOT, p. 246, הלךְ, 3. To “illustrate” the event means to shed light upon it. הלךְ does so by prolonging the act and thus drawing the reader’s attention. Could the author have conveyed the action by simply writing וַיִּגַּע (“and he touched”)? Certainly.
        2 Keil, p. 281: „וַיֵּלֶךְ dient nur zur malerischen Darstellung des Gedankens, daß der Todte so wie er bis an die Gebeine Elisa’s gelangte, lebendig wurde.“
        3 Exo. 9:23: “and the fire went (וַתִּהֲלַךְ) to the ground”

The idea, then, is that those alive cast “the man” (i.e., the corpse of the man) into the sepulcher where the man went and touched, albeit passively, Elisha’s bones and instantly revived. Although there was no intent on the part of the corpse, there was still movement, hence the appropriate use of the verb הָלַךְ (יָלַךְ).

Radak, in his commentary on this verse, wrote,

רוצים לקברו מתעסקים בקבורתו, וכיון שפתחו פי המערה השליכוהו שם ונתגלגל האיש עד שנגע בעצמות אלישע

Intending to bury him, they were occupied with his burial, and as soon as they opened the entrance of the cave, they threw him there, and the man rolled until he touched Elisha’s bones.


Keil, Carl Friedrich. Biblischer Commentar über das alte Testament. Zweiter Theil: prophetische Geschichtsbücher. Zweiter Band: die Bücher Samuels. 2nd ed. Leipzig: Dörffling and Franke, 1875.

Koehler, Ludwig; Baumgartner, Walter. A Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Trans. Richardson, M. E. J. Ed. Baumgartner, Walter; Stamm, Johann Jakob. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

  • @Bach—Added the answer to that by editing footnote 1. Jul 7, 2020 at 1:48
  • Interesting. It's still kinda weird. If it was so simple, as you and Dottard imply, why is the NIV ignoring this word, and why are others interpreting this word as referring to those alive running away (creating the singular/plural problem). This word clearly poses a problem, and I very much see why. Nevertheless +1 for your helpful answer.
    – bach
    Jul 7, 2020 at 2:03
  • @Bach—It presents a problem because the man was dead, and you suppose the verb should not be used with a dead subject? Jul 7, 2020 at 2:09
  • @Bach—Radak didn't seem to have a problem with it. Included his commentary at the bottom. Jul 7, 2020 at 2:25
  • it's more than that. The word ויגע is used exactly in this way but I'm not bothered by it. I guess it's the way it's usually used (walking/going) that's not appropriate in connection with a corpse, and that's what throws me off.
    – bach
    Jul 7, 2020 at 2:35

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