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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.

Jehoram ... in ... the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat - (cf. 1 Kings 22:51.) To reconcile the statements in the two passages, we must suppose that Ahaziah, having reigned during the 17th year and greater part of the 18th year of Jehoshaphat, was succeeded by his brother Joram or Jehoram, in the end of that 18th year, or else that Ahaziah, having reigned two years in conjunction with his father (see the notes at 2 Kings 1:17), died at the end of that period, when Jehoram ascended the throne. His policy was as hostile as that of his predecessors, to the true religion; but he made some changes. Whatever was his motive for this alteration-whether dread of the many alarming judgments the patronage of idolatry had brought upon his father, or whether it was made as a small concession to the feelings of Jehoshaphat, his ally-he abolished idolatry in its gross form, and restored the symbolic worship of God, which the kings of Israel, from the time of Jeroboam, had set up as a partition wall between their subjects and those of Judah.

Verses 2-3

And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.

Mesha king of Moab was a sheep-master, [ noqeed (H5349), a herdsman, a sheep-breeder (Amos 1:1). The Septuagint retains the original, Moosa basileus Mooab een Nookeed]. His dominions embracing an extensive pasture country, he paid, as annual tribute, the wool of 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams. It is still common in the East to pay custom and taxes in the fruits or natural produce of the land. It is probable, however, that so immense flocks were not paid as a regular yearly tribute, but only on some special occasion, as the accession of a new king to the throne of Israel.

Verse 5

But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.

King of Moab rebelled. This is a repetition of 2 Kings 1:1, in order to introduce an account of the confederate expedition for crushing this revolt, which had been allowed to continue unchecked during the short reign of Ahaziah.

Verse 6

And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel.

King Jehoram ... numbered all Israel - made a levy from his own subjects, and at the same time sought an alliance with Jehoshaphat, which, as on the former occasion with Ahab, was readily promised (1 Kings 22:4).

Verse 7

And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.

Which way shall we go? ... through the wilderness of Edom. This was a long and circuitous route, by the southern bend of the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat, however, preferred it, partly because the part of the Moabite territory at which they would arrive was the most defenseless, and partly because he would thereby enlist in the expedition the forces of the king of Edom. But in penetrating the deep, rocky valley of Ahsy, which forms the boundary between Edom and Moab, the confederate armies were reduced, both man and beast, to the greatest extremity for want of water. They were disappointed by finding the wady of this valley, the brook Zered (Deuteronomy 2:13-18) (Robinson), dry. Jehoram was in despair. But the pious mind of Jehoshaphat inquired for a prophet of the Lord; and, on being informed that Elisha was at hand, 'the three kings went down to him;'

i.e., to his tent, which was either in the camp or close by it. He had been directed there by the Spirit of God for this special purpose. They went to him, not only as a mark of respect, but to supplicate for his assistance, and knowing his stern temper.

Verses 9-10

So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.

Which poured water on the hands of Elijah - i:e., was his servant-this being one of the common offices of a servant; for the custom is not to plunge one's hands into a basin, but to hold them out, so that a servant may pour water on the hands of his master. One who is the servant of a holy Man 1:1 :e., a priest or dervish, is, on this account, highly esteemed (Joseph Wolff's 'Missionary Labours,' p. 493).

Verse 12

And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. The phrase is used here as synonymous with 'a true and eminent prophet,' who will reveal God's will to us.

Verse 13

And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.

What have I to do with thee ... Wishing to produce a deep spirit of humility and contrition, Elisha gave a stern repulse to the king of Israel, accompanied by a sarcastic sneer, in bidding him go and consult Baal and his soothsayers. He acknowledged Jehoshaphat king of Judah alone, because it was the theocratic kingdom, and he was descended from the royal dynasty, of David (see similar instances-Hosea, a prophet of Israel, dates his prophetic writings "in the days of Uzziah, etc., kings of Judah"). "What have I to do with thee?" - (see as to this elliptic phrase the note at 1 Kings 17:18.) Its import in this passage is, What have we in common, I a prophet of the true God, and thou the descendant of idolatrous Ahab, that thou shouldest ask counsel of me? But the distressed condition, especially the imploring language, of the royal suppliants, who acknowledged the hand of the Lord in this distress, drew from the prophet the solemn assurance, that solely out of respect to Jehoshaphat, the Lord's true servant, did he take any interest in Jehoram.

Verse 14

And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.

Bring me a minstrel. The effect of music in soothing the mind is much regarded in the East; and it appears that the ancient prophets, before entering on their work, commonly resorted to it as a preparative, by praise and prayer, and sometimes by ascetic exercises, to their receiving the prophetic afflatus (see as to the condition of the prophets when about to deliver their prophecies, Hengstenberg, 'Christology,' 1:, p. 294; Henderson, 'On Inspiration,' p. 19). The mind of Elisha was in all probability agitated and vexed by the scene that was enacted around him; and he desired something to soothe and tranquillize his passions. "A minstrel" [ mªnageen (H5059)] - a player on a stringed instrument (cf. 1 Samuel 16:16; Psalms 33:3) [Septuagint, psallonta]. The minstrel who played before the prophet was probably in the train of the king of Israel; for it was a common custom for kings to have a band of musicians attendant upon them (1 Samuel 16:23; Daniel 3:4-5; Daniel 6:18).

The hand of the Lord - a phrase significantly implying that the gift of prophecy was not a natural or inherent gift, but conferred by the power and grace of God.

Verse 16

And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

Make this valley full of ditches, [ `Aasoh (H6213) hanachal (H5158) hazeh (H2088) geebiym (H1356) geebiym (H1356)] - Make in this wady ditches, (i:e., many tanks or cisterns), capable of holding water. These trenches were dug at nightfall, before which time there was no appearances of water.

Verse 17

For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.

Ye shall not see wind. It is common in the East to speak of seeing wind, from thee clouds of straw, dust, or send, that are often whirled into the air after a long drought.

Verse 18

And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 19

And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.

Ye shall smite every fenced city ... and shall fell every good tree, [ Towb (H2896), good, i:e., prolific, tree]. The destruction of fruit trees was expressly prohibited by the Mosaic law (see the notes at Deuteronomy 20:19-20). But a special permission was granted by God to the Israelites to do it on this occasion, as a punishment to Moabites (cf. Jeremiah 18:11-12), who were to be destroyed by extraordinary judgments of heaven, for their great wickedness.

And mar every good piece of land with stones - by strewing the fields with heaps of small stones, so as to render them waste and incapable of tillage (cf. Job 5:23).

Verse 20

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.

When the meat offering was offered - i:e., at the time of the morning sacrifice, accompanied, doubtless, with solemn prayers; and these led, it may be, by Elisha on this occasion, as on a similar one by Elijah (1 Kings 18:36).

Behold, there came water by the way of Edom. Far from the Israelite camp, in the eastern mountains of Edom, a great fall of rain, a kind of cloud-burst, took place, by which the wady was at once filled, without their either seeing the wind or the rains. The divine interpretation was shown by introducing the laws of nature to the determined end, and in the pre-determined way (Keil). It brought not only aid to the Israelite army in their distress, by a plentiful of water, but destruction on the Moabites, who, perceiving the water, under the refulgent rays of the morning sun, red like blood, concluded the confederate kings had quarrelled, and deluged the field with their mutual slaughter; so that, rushing to their camp in full expectation of great spoil, they were met by the Israelites, who, prepared for battle, fought, and pursued them. Their country was laid waste in the way which has always been considered the greatest desolation in the East (2 Kings 3:24).

Verse 21

And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.

They gathered all that were able to put on armour [ mikol (H3605) chogeer (H2296) chªgoraah (H2290) waama`ªlaah (H4605), they came together of all who girded on a girdle, and upward - i:e., who were capable of bearing arms. The Septuagint (Alexandrine) renders the Hebrew literally, kai anebeesan ek pantos periezoosmenoi zooneen kai epanoo; but the Vatican edition has deviated in a strange manner, kai aneboeesan ek pantos periezoosmenoi zooneen kai eipon, Oo, and they cried out ... and said, Oh!]

Verses 22-24

And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 25

And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it.

In Kir-haraseth, [ ba-Qiyr-Charaaset (H7025), in the fortress of Haraseth, or Kirheres-fortress of brick (Isaiah 16:7; Isaiah 16:11; Jeremiah 48:31; or Kir Moab, Isaiah 15:1)] - (now Kerak), castle of Moab, then probably the only fortress in the land (Porter's 'Handbook,' p. 59; Robinson, 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 296). Since the Hebrews, in reducing this place, 'left the stones thereof,' the name, from being kareseth, a potsherd or earthen vessel, was changed into hares, brick, from the baked bricks of which its wall was built (cf. Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 3:, sec. 2).

Verse 26

And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.

When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, [ chaazaq (H2388), strong, violent, obstinate]. For a time he sustained a siege, but perceiving the imminent peril in which his city was placed, and the alarming advances the besiegers were making, he determined to attempt a sally. Putting himself at the head of his 700 men [ sholeep (H8025) chereb (H2719), drawing sword - i:e., armed warriors], he endeavoured to break through the enemy's camp at a point where; as Josephus says, 'the watch seemed to be negligently kept.'

To break through even unto the king of Edom. His object was not to effect his escape through the Edomite lines into the desert, though Josephus represents that as his motive ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 3:, sec. 2), but to be avenged on the king of Edom alone. Against that foe his irrepressible rage was directed, because, having been a former ally, he had forsaken him, and joined confederacy with the kings of Israel and Judah against him. Hatred and revenge, when they are roused, commonly discharge their intensest violence against former friends or allies. Mesha, however, in his effort to penetrate to the king of Edom, met with a disastrous repulse; and now, findings himself reduced to the last extremities, he resolved on an act which, among the ancient Rephaites and Phoenicians, betokened the depth of desperation.

Verse 27

Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

Then he took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering, [ Waya`ªleehuw (H5927) `olaah (H5930)] - and offered an ascension offering. The most natural way of understanding this act is, that it was done by Mesha, king of Moab, who immolated his own son to Chemesh, the tutelary deity of his kingdom. And so Josephus regarded it ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 3:, sec. 2). [The Septuagint, however, has: kai elabe ton huion autou ton proototokon, took his oldest (first-born) son, not heautou (G1438) (his own), but autou (G847) (his); i:e., the king of Edom's son, who had been captured during the siege, and whose life was to be sacrificed in the most cruel manner, in revenge for the union of Edom with the allied assailants of Moab.] This is the opinion of Theodoret and several modern scholars, who further refer 'the great indignation against Israel' to Edom, who was unwillingly dragged into the war as a tributary of Judah, and thereby suffered the calamitous loss of the king's son. The former view, however-namely, that which regards Mesha as offering his son for a burnt offering upon the wall-appears to be the most obvious. It was done in accordance with the fierce fanaticism of the Moabite nation; and if, as Michaelis thinks, this act is referred to, Amos 2:1, the king seems to have carried his vindictive feelings beyond the grave, and through the impulse of implacable enmity, to have violated the sanctity of the tomb, by raising the corpse of the king of Edom for posthumous dishonour on a funeral pile.

They departed from him, and returned to their own land. By this deed of horror to which the allied army drove the king of Moab, a divine judgment came upon Israel-that is, the besiegers feared the anger of God, which they had incurred, by giving occasion to the human sacrifice forbidden in the law (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:3), and hastily raised the siege, and dispersing, returned to their respective countries. In order to convey an idea of the real import of this act of the king of Moab, it is necessary to observe that it was not only intended as a sacrifice of propitiation to the cruel gods of his country, but a murder in terrorem hostium, the memory of which would haunt and blast them in all time coming.

Sanchoniathon relates it as a custom among the ancient Rephaim, when their country was on the verge of being ruined by the ravages of war, to bring out, with the national consent, the heir-presumptive to the throne, adorned in all the insignia of rovalty, and in presence of the assembled chiefs, offer him as a substitutionary victim, to propitiate the gods. The Moabites, who succeeded to the land, inherited also the social as well as religious usages of the Emim (Rephaim), and this malignant superstition among others, as the incident recorded in the text clearly proves. But this act, besides being a propitiatory sacrifice to Chemosh, was intended at the same time to appall the enemy, by a horrid scene, the sight of which, if allowed by their hostile persistence to be enacted, would have a baneful influence on the life and prosperity of all who witnessed it. Judging from the traditional usages of the Brahmins in India, the prevalence of such an idea is of ancient date; and the whole circumstances of the transaction, as narrated in this passage, show that the object was to horror-strike the enemy. Not only did the king of Moab prepare to offer his son on the wall, i:e., publicly, but the whole process-the youthful and richly-attired victim, the wood, the fire, the bloody knife - all were designed to deter them from prosecuting the siege; and if it had not that effect, then the crimson tide, the dark column of smoke from the burnt offering, would show that the spirit of the substitute had fled, and his manes would trouble, terrify, and pursue each one of them through life.

This view affords a natural explanation of a difficulty which appears insoluble in any other way-namely, the cause of the great indignation against Israel, of the sudden termination of the siege, and of the hasty return of the allies to their homes. For on the hypothesis above stated, the king of Moab not only offered this sacrifice as a means of imploring the interposition of his gods, but of terrifying his enemies; and that the sight of his public preparations for the solemn offering of a human sacrifice did produce such an appalling effect, through the deep and wide spread influence of Phoenician superstition in Edom, in Israel, and perhaps to some extent in Judah also, is evident from the fact that, hastily breaking up their camp, they "departed from him, and returned to their own land."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-3.html. 1871-8.
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