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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-27

God’s victory over the Moabites ch. 3

Even though Jehoram was better spiritually than Ahab (2 Kings 3:2), he was still so much of an idolater that Elisha had no use for him (2 Kings 3:13-14).

Mesha had rebelled against Israel earlier (2 Kings 3:3), but he continued to do so. This uprising led to the alliance and battle the writer described in this chapter. Jehoram evidently sought an alliance with Jehoshaphat because he wanted to cross Judean territory to get to Moab. [Note: Stigers, p. 343.] The southern approach to Moab through Edom apparently did not have as strong defenses as Moab’s northern border (2 Kings 3:8). Edom was at this time under Judah’s authority. Jehoram regarded the water shortage as a judgment from Yahweh (2 Kings 3:10). Elisha used to serve Elijah by pouring water on his hands as Elijah washed them, a menial task, as well as in other ways (2 Kings 3:11; 1 Kings 19:21). Music sometimes facilitated prophetic revelations (cf. 1 Samuel 16:23).

"It is more likely amid these calamitous circumstances Elisha simply wanted soothing music played so that he might be quieted before God and thus to be brought to a mood conducive for God to reveal to him his will." [Note: Leon J. Wood, The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, p. 118.]

Elisha conceded to help because Jehoshaphat had humbled himself by seeking Yahweh’s assistance (2 Kings 3:12). God provided water (refreshment) supernaturally to His people, but He brought defeat and lack of fertility and productivity on Moab for opposing Israel. He began the deliverance at the time of the Israelites’ daily sacrifice when they symbolically dedicated themselves anew to God (2 Kings 3:20). God’s deliverance was supernatural (2 Kings 3:22-23) and showed everyone present that Israel’s victory was not her own doing.

"The dried-up river bed (probably the Wadi Hesa; River Zered) was to have many trenches (Heb. ’trenches trenches’) dug to retain the flash-flood (Arab. sayl) which would result from rain falling out of sight on the distant Moabite hills. This form of irrigation is still common in central and southern Arabia." [Note: Wiseman, p. 201.]

Kir-hereseth (modern Kerak) stood on an easily defended hill. In the ancient Near East nations generally viewed defeat in battle as a sign that they had offended their gods who were punishing them. For this reason Mesha offered the supreme sacrifice, his heir to the throne, to Chemosh, the Moabite god (2 Kings 3:27). Mesha’s sacrifice of his son was an integral part of an age-old Canaanite tradition of sacral warfare. It virtually guaranteed, from his point of view, that his god would save the lives of the entire population under siege. [Note: Baruch Margalit, "Why King Mesha of Moab Sacrificed His Oldest Son," Biblical Archaeology Review 12:6 (November-December 1986):62-63. Cf. Montgomery, p. 363.]

This sacrifice expressed Mesha’s great wrath against Israel. The battle meant everything to him. Nevertheless it was not that important to the members of the alliance that opposed him. All they wanted to do was keep Moab from revolting. Therefore the allies departed from Mesha and returned home having won the battle even though they could not take Mesha’s stronghold.

"The object of the campaign had been attained; the power of Moab was broken, the rebellion suppressed, and the country again placed under the scepter of the king of Israel." [Note: F. W. Krummacher, Elisha, p. 45.]

The Moabite Stone, a significant archaeological find, contains Mesha’s own record of this battle and other battles with Israel. On it he claimed to have won with Chemosh’s help. Though he lost the battle he did not lose his life or his capital.

This chapter shows that God was willing to give Israel victory because she allied with Jehoshaphat who humbled himself under God (cf. 2 Kings 2:23-25). God in His grace sometimes allows His blessings for obedience to spill over to those who are less worthy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-kings-3.html. 2012.
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