JEHORAM, JEHOSHAPHAT AND MOAB
Jehoram, Ahab's son, reigned, over Israel 12 years and followed the sinful example of Jereboam, though not doing so wickedly as Ahab, for he got rid of the idolatrous pillar of Baal that Ahab had made.
Moab had been put under tribute to Israel, the Israelites requiring from Moab 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams, regularly, no doubt every year (v.4). But when Ahab died the king of Moab rebelled against Israel, evidently refusing to render the yearly tribute (v.5).
Jehoram therefore prepared to attack Moab, but feeling some inadequacy, wanted the help of Judah, a stronger company. Just as Ahab had asked Jehoshaphat to help him in battle, so Jehoram asked him the same (v.7).
Why had Jehoshaphat not learned from his previous experience? But believers too easily allow their kindly feelings to lead them into wrong situations, and Jehoshaphat yielded, compromising himself, his people and his armies. The more prominent one is, the more harm he will do by his bad example. Israel was engaged in the false worship of idols, and Jehoshaphat's friendliness with Jehoram was unfaithfulness to God.
While Jehoshaphat's agreement to go with the king of Israel to fight against Moab was a serious compromise of any devotion to God, yet the Lord bears with much that is not according to His will. The question is asked, "Which way shall we go up," and the answer was "By way of the wilderness of Edom" (v.8). Edom is a type of the flesh, so they go up by way of the barrenness of the flesh, a contrast to being led by the Spirit of God. No wonder that, after seven days' march they found no water either for themselves or their animals. The flesh can provide no true refreshment. Having not been led by God, what else could they expect? Jehoram was stricken by apprehension. How could he say that the Lord had called these kings together? (v.10). He had not consulted the Lord, nor had Jehoshaphat.
But Jehoshaphat at least now recognised their need of the Lord, and asked if there was a prophet of the Lord available to be consulted (v.11). It so happened that Elisha was in the area, so Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and the king of Edom (who had evidently joined them) went to Elisha (v.12). That prophet had a biting message for Jehoram, asking him why he did not go to the idolatrous prophets of his father and mother (v.13). No doubt Jehoram realised that those prophets could do no good in a case of serious emergency, and he told Elisha these three kings were in imminent danger of being overcome by Moab.
Elisha responded by telling him that if Jehoshaphat had not been with him, Elisha would have no regard whatever for Jehoram (v.14). God does make a difference between believers and unbelievers, though at this time Elisha did not reprove Jehoshaphat for his friendliness with Jehoram. Yet Jehoshaphat should surely have had serious twinges of conscience when he heard Elisha's wards.
Because the whole situation was a compromising one, Elisha asked for a musician (v.18). A disturbed spirit need the soothing ministry of the Word of God (of which the music speaks) to find the quietness of the Lord's presence. As the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha, and he gave the Lord's message, "Make this valley full of ditches" (v.16). Though they would not observe wind or rain, yet those ditches would be filled with water for the men and animals to drink. More than this, the Lord said He would also deliver the Moabites into their hands (v.18). He would show His faithful care for Israel, His people, in spite of their low and disobedient condition.
Because Moab stands for what is opposed to the character of the God of Israel, Israel is told to attack every city of Moab, cut down every good tree, stop up every spring of water and ruin, every good piece of land with stones (v.19). Moab is typical of the principle of religious self indulgence. "Moab has been at ease from his youth; he has settled all his dregs, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed" (Jeremiah 48:11). This principle must be zealously destroyed by Israel.
But Israel ought to have learned by this not to be like Moab in any way. Indeed, Israel's practices had too sadly followed the practices of Moab, so that Moab was an object lesson. If the principle of evil should be judged, then certainly the practices should be also.
As the Lord had promised, the next morning the land was filled with water (v.20), coming at the time the meal offering was offered. Thus the thirst of men and animals also was relieved. But the water served a two-fold purpose. As the Moabites came to fight against Israel, the early morning sun shining on the water made it appear as red as blood (v.22). The Moabites knew that this was not an area where water was normally found, and concluded they were observing blood, thinking it was the blood of their enemies, apparently shed in fighting against one another (v.23). Thus, expecting no opposition, they approached to take the spoil.
What a surprise for them to find themselves attacked by the armies they thought were dead! Moab fled before Israel and many of their troops were killed. Israel entered the land of Moab and destroyed their cities. They covered every good piece of land with stones, stopped up the springs of water and cut down all the good trees (v.25). How effective this would prove in disturbing the smug self-satisfaction of Moab, having "been at ease from his youth"! Moab would be left with hard work rather than ease.
The king of Moab, being desperate, took 700 swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they were repulsed. Being thus frustrated, the king of Moab took his oldest son and offered him as a burnt offering to his idolatrous god, as though this foolish measure would change the tide of war! But such is the folly of unbelief. It is added, "there was great indignation against Israel" (v.27). Israel had gained the victory and had slaughtered many Moabites, but did this encourage the Moabites to again render tribute to Israel? Nothing is said about this, but if tribute was resumed, it would certainly be resumed grudgingly.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany