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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-27

2 Kings 3:1 . Jehoram began to reign the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat. There is a small difficulty here in regard to the chronology of those times. It is said that Ahaziah began to reign the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat. 1 Kings 22:51. To reconcile the variation, it is supposed that either Jehoshaphat or Ahaziah began to reign before his father was dead, as was the case with Solomon.

2 Kings 3:2 . He put away the image of Baal. This god was becoming unpopular, for he had not, like Jehovah, sent fire from heaven; neither had he shielded Ahab nor Ahaziah from the piercing arrow.

2 Kings 3:11 . Which poured water on the hands of Elijah, was his disciple, and joyfully attended him as a servant.

2 Kings 3:13 . Get thee to the prophets of thy father. There is great majesty in these indignant words: and how will the wicked bear to be sent to their idols in a dying hour! Go to thy physicians, go to thy harlots, go to thy clubs!

2 Kings 3:22 . The sun shone upon the water. The morning sun, says rabbi Abulensis, with rays of rouge, which the waters reflected. There is however another opinion, that the red earth disturbed by convulsion, had tinted the water with red.

2 Kings 3:26 . Break through to the king of Edom, hoping that he would spare their lives. Though it be not named here; yet the Israelites took the king of Moab, and burned his bones to lime. These cruelties are severely reproved by the prophet Amos 2:1. Our surgeons carry the practice of dissection to profane excess.


Two hundred thousand sheep and lambs driven annually into the land of Israel, were a considerable tribute for Moab to pay, and a great augmentation of Ahab’s revenue. We need not be surprised therefore, that on his death they threw off the yoke. Ahaziah, because of affliction, could not reduce them to obedience; and the task was left for his brother Jehoram, who began his reign by removing the long degraded altar of Baal, but retained the calves of Jeroboam. And how many sinners, under certain circumstances, will part with one vice, and retain another. Do they think that God will ever compound with his enemies, or resemble a tradesman who barters for services by an advance or a reduction of wages? Let us learn to be wholly the Lord’s, and he will be wholly ours.

The Moabites, in the fury of revolt, having burnt Mesha alive in the limepits, and probably all the collectors of the tribute they could seize, exposed themselves by those atrocities to the wrath of heaven, and the allied vengeance of Israel. Amos 2:1. Therefore Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, and the new viceroy of Moab, marched against the rebels. But taking a circuitous route, the three kings and the whole army were on the point of perishing for want of water. God leads man into straits that he may lead him to devotion, and to the counsel and advice of religion: then he has compassion on the poor and needy when they seek water, and when their tongue faileth them for thirst.

Humiliation and piety are essential, in seeking communion with God. Jehoshaphat, having enquired for a prophet, humbly stooped to go to him in person; and Elisha took a minstrel for psalmody, that his passions might be composed, and his soul aim at abstraction to receive with greater clearness the high communications of his God. This was a practice often honoured by divine revelations. 1 Samuel 10:5-6. How compassionate was the Lord to save the armies from death by a torrent of water, as he saved their fathers at Horeb; especially as the gift of water was accompanied with the promise of victory. The wicked often fare the better for being connected with the righteous. The king of Israel and all his host had surely now perished, had it not been that the king of Judah was in covenant with the Lord. We cannot but regard this miracle as a most signal indulgence of heaven, and more for the entire conversion of Israel, than for the salvation of the army. May all the special mercies of providence for our safety and comfort make us more pious, and more obedient.

Great crimes we see are often punished with great severity. Moab, by so horribly burning her king, had placed herself in the most awful situation. The law forbade the fruit-trees to be cut down. Deuteronomy 20:19. But in this case the whole land was devoted, for the expiation of so much innocent blood. Learn then, young men, to shun political and fanatical factions, which lead to riot, to sedition, and blood; for God will one day surely requite every outrage committed against the innocent. The very waters which saved Israel, muddy with the ruddy earth, having, when the sun shone, an appearance of blood, were made the cause of alluring the bloody Moabites to destruction. So it often happens, that the power which defends the righteous fights against the wicked.

We have lastly, the extremities to which this people was reduced. The new and desperate king, closely besieged in his capital, having tried in vain to cut his way through the assailants, and unable to obtain terms, obeyed a sort of standing oracle among the heathen, to offer in time of sore famine or war, whatever was most precious. It being thought, in extreme cases, that the life of man must go to save the life of man, this king offered up to Chemosh the god of Moab, his firstborn, whom he had designated to the throne; and the deeper to impress the Israelites with the horrors of the sacrifice, he burnt him on the wall. Here the heart of Jehoshaphat gave way; here the pity of the assailants, aided by terror of conscience, was excited; and it is more than probable that the wrath of God afflicted the camp with disease. Hence they abandoned the siege; for God who pities the errors of man, would not suffer the whole of Moab to be cut off.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/2-kings-3.html. 1835.
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