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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Jehoram followeth the sin of Jeroboam; he, with Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom, goeth to battle against Moab, 2 Kings 3:1-8.

They, in distress for water, obtain it by Elisha, and a promise of victory, 2 Kings 3:9-20.

The Moabites, deceived by the colour of the water, coming to spoil, are overcome, 2 Kings 3:21-25.

The king of Moab, by sacrificing his eldest son, raiseth the siege, 2 Kings 3:26,2 Kings 3:27.

Verse 1

The eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat.

Quest. How can this be true, when Ahaziah, Jehoram’s predecessor, who reigned two years, began his reign in Jehoshaphat’s seventeenth year, 1 Kings 22:51?

Answ. Either Ahaziah reigned the greatest part of two years, to wit, of the seventeenth and eighteenth years of Jehoshaphat, (parts of years being oft called years in the computation of times, both in Scripture and other authors,) and Jehoram began his reign towards the end of his eighteenth year; or Ahaziah reigned part of this two years with his father, and the rest after him.

Verse 2

He put away the image of Baal; not from any principle of conscience (for that would have reached the calves also); but either because he was startled at the dreadful judgments of God inflicted upon his father and brother for Baal worship; or because he needed God’s help to subdue the Moabites, which he knew Baal could not do; or to gratify Jehoshaphat, whose help he meant to crave, which he knew he should never obtain without this; and for this reason, it seems, Jezebel was willing to connive at it, as a trick of state.

Verse 3

The sins of Jeroboam, i.e. the worship of the calves; which all the kings of Israel kept up as a wall of partition between their subjects and those of Judah. Thus he shows that his religion was overruled by his interest and policy.

Verse 4

A sheep-master; a man of great wealth, (which in those times and places consisted much in cattle,) which enabled and emboldened him to rebel against his sovereign lord.

Verse 5

See of this 2 Kings 1:1. It is here repeated to make way for the following story. Ahaziah did not attempt the recovery of Moab, either because he was a man of a low spirit and courage; or because his sickness, or the shortness of his reign, gave not opportunity for it.

Verse 6

Out of Samaria, to some place appointed for the rendezvous of his people.

All Israel, to wit, such as were fit for war.

Verse 7

Of which see on 1 Kings 22:4. He joins with him in this war, partly because the war was very just in itself, and convenient for Jehoshaphat, both in the general, that rebels and revolters should be chastised and suppressed, lest the example should pass into his dominions, and the Edomites should be hereby encouraged to revolt from him, as they did from his son; and in particular, that the Moabites should be humbled, who had with others invaded his land before this time, 2 Chronicles 20:1, and might do so again if they were not brought low, for which a fair opportunity was now offered to him; and partly because Jehoram had reformed some things, and Jehoshaphat hoped by this means to engage him to proceed further in that work.

Verse 8

He said; either Jehoshaphat; or rather, Jehoram; for the following answer may seem to be Jehoshaphat’s.

Through the wilderness of Edom; which though it was much the longer way, yet they thought it best; partly to secure the king or viceroy of Edom, of whom they might have some suspicion, from that passage, 2 Chronicles 20:22, and to carry both him and his soldiers along with them into the war, both to get their assistance, and to prevent them from, making a war of diversion against Judah, whilst Jehoshaphat was engaged against Moab; and partly that they might invade Moab on their weakest side, and where they least expected them. God also thus disposed their hearts to make way for the following miracle.

Verse 9

The king of Edom, i.e. the viceroy under Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings 22:47, here called king; either because he was so called and accounted by his own people, or because that word is sometimes used for any prince or chief ruler. See Deuteronomy 33:5; Judges 18:1; Judges 21:25; 1 Kings 20:1.

They fetched a compass, because they made a great army, which could move but slowly; and they fetched a greater compass than was usual, for some advantage which they expected by it.

There was no water; a frequent want in those hot and desert parts; and now, as it seems, increased by the extraordinary heat and dryness of the season.

Verse 10

So he chargeth his calamity upon God; and not upon himself, whose sins were the true and proper causes of it.

Verse 11

Is there not here a prophet? this he should have asked before, when they first undertook the expedition, as he did in a like case, 1 Kings 22:5, and for that neglect he now suffers; but better late than never. His affliction brings him to the remembrance of his former sin and present duty.

Which poured water on the hands of Elijah, i.e. who was his servant; this being one office of a servant; and this office was the more necessary among the Israelites, because of the frequent washings which their law required.

Verse 12

The word of the Lord is with him; we may inquire the mind of God by him, for he is a true prophet; which Jehoshaphat might easily understand, because being a good man, and a great favourer of the Lord’s prophets, he would diligently inquire, and many persons would be ready to inform him, of all things of that nature, and, amongst others, of Elijah’s calling of Elisha by casting his prophetical mantle over him, 1 Kings 19:19, and of Elijah’s translation and Elisha’s substitution in his place, and of the proof of it, 2 Kings 2:8,2 Kings 2:14.

Down to him; to his tent; which was either in the camp, or not far from it; for he went along with the army by the impulse of God’s Spirit for this very occasion. They did not send for him, but went to him, that by giving him this honour they might more effectually engage him to give them his utmost assistance; and because they had heard that he was a man of a rugged temper and carriage, who therefore was to be sweetened, and so disposed to pity and relieve them.

Verse 13

What have I to do with thee? I desire to have no discourse nor converse with thee.

To the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother, i.e. to the calves, which thou after thy father’s example dost worship; and to the Baals which thy mother yet Worshippeth by thy permission, and to which thy heart is yet inclined, though thou hast destroyed one of his images for politic reasons. Let these idols whom thou worshippest in thy prosperity now help thee in thy distress.

Nay, I renounce those false prophets and Baals, and will seek to none but God for help.

These three kings: if thou hast no respect for me, yet pity this innocent king of Edom, and good Jehoshaphat, who are involved in the same danger with myself.

Verse 14

Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, whom I reverence and love for his virtue and piety.

Verse 15

A minstrel; one that can sing and play upon a musical instrument. This he requires, that his mind, which had been disturbed and inflamed with holy anger at the sight of wicked Jehoram, might be composed, and cheered, and united within itself, and that he might be excited to the more fervent prayer to God, and joyfully praising him; whereby he was prepared to receive the prophetical inspiration. For although prophecy be the gift of God, yet men might do something either to hinder or further the reception of it; for which cause Paul bids Christians study to get the gift of prophecy, 1 Corinthians 14:1. And for this very end the colleges of the prophets were erected, wherein the sons of the prophets did use divers means to procure this gift, which also they did sometimes receive, as we see 2 Kings 2:3,2 Kings 2:5; and, amongst other means, they used instruments of music to exhilarate their spirits, &c., 1 Samuel 10:5. Of the great power of music upon the affections, See Poole "1 Samuel 16:16".

The hand of the Lord, i.e. the Spirit of prophecy; so called, to note that it was not from Elisha’s temper of body or mind; that it was no natural nor acquired virtue inherent in him; but a singular gift of God, given to whom and when he pleased. This phrase is used also Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14,Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1.

Verse 16

Which may receive the water, and hold it for the use of men and beasts.

Verse 17

Ye shall not see wind; any of those winds which commonly produce rain. And seeing is here put for perceiving or feeling, one sense for another, or for all, as Genesis 42:1; compare Acts 7:12; Exodus 20:18, and elsewhere.

Verse 18

This is but a small favour in comparison of what he intends to you for Jehoshaphat’s sake. He will give you more than you ask or expect. For they were so weakened and discouraged with the great drought, that they had no hopes of proceeding in the offensive war, and thought it sufficient, if it were possible, to defend themselves from the Moabites, 2 Kings 3:13.

Verse 19

This is either, first, A command; and then the last clause is an exception from that law, Deuteronomy 20:19, which being delivered by a prophet, might be obeyed. And if this command seem severe, it must be considered that the Moabites were a very wicked people, perfidious, cruel, implacable enemies to God’s people upon all occasions, and now in a state of rebellion. Or rather, secondly, A prediction of their success, that they should have so full and complete a victory, that they should be able to do all which is here expressed.

Verse 20

When the meat-offering was offered, i.e. the morning sacrifice; of which Exodus 29:39,Exodus 29:40, which doubtless was attended with the solemn prayers of God’s people, as the evening sacrifice unquestionably was, Acts 3:1, there being the same reason for substance for both times. At this time Elisha joined his prayers with the prayers of God’s people, especially those at Jerusalem, as Elijah had done at a like time, 1 Kings 18:29; and this time God chose to answer his and their prayers, and to work this miracle, that thereby he might determine the controversy between the Israelites and the Jews, about the place and manner of worship, and give a public testimony from heaven for the Jews, and against the Israelites.

There came water; miraculously produced out of some rock or vein of the earth.

By the way of Edom; from those parts which were towards Edom.

Verse 21

To put on armour, Heb. to gird on a girdle, i.e. a military girdle, to which the sword was fastened, 2 Samuel 20:8; 1 Kings 2:5.

In the border, or, in that border, to wit, of their country, which was towards Edom, which way they understood the kings came. Here they stood probably to defend the passages into their country.

Verse 22

Because of the morning sun, which meeting with the vapours that arose from the earth, and shining through them upon the water, gave it a reddish tincture. God also so ordered things, that their senses and fancies were disturbed, or the air so disposed, that it might seem of this colour. And they might more easily mistake this for blood, because they knew that that ground was generally dry, and without any trenches or streams of water, now especially in this dry season, there being no noise of wind and rain, 2 Kings 3:17. And they might justly think that the three kings being divided in their religion and interests, and discontented for want of water, might fall into dissensions, and heats, and mutual slaughters, of which they had a late example, 2 Chronicles 20:22,2 Chronicles 20:23.

Verse 23

They were so highly confident, that they send no scouts, but march thither with their whole army, and that in great disorder; wherein there was also a Divine hand, strengthening them in their mistakes, and hardening them to their destruction.

Verse 24

They pursued them to their own country, and entered it with and after them; the passes, which before the Moabites defended, being now open for them.

Verse 25

Cast every man his stone: the stones which haply had been with great care and pains picked out of the land, and laid in heaps after the manner, they dispersed again, and slew the people, who should have cleansed them again.

Kir-haraseth was the royal and strongest city of the Moabites, Isaiah 16:7,Isaiah 16:11, into which the remnant of the Moabites were gathered, where also their king was with them.

The stones thereof: the walls and buildings of this city only were left; other cities, and in a manner their whole country, being utterly destroyed.

The slingers; either, first, such as slung small stones against those that stood upon the wall to defend it; or rather, secondly, Such as slung great stones against the walls to break them down, according to the manner of those times.

Smote it, i.e. made breaches in the walls, by which they might enter into the city, and take it.

Verse 26

That being unable to defend the city longer, he might make an escape; which he chose to do on the king of Edom’s quarter, because he thought either that his was the weakest side, or that he would more willingly suffer him to escape, because he was not so hearty in the war as the rest, but only forced to it, and he might hereafter have some occasion of the king of Moab to join with him, as before he had, 2 Chronicles 20:22.

Verse 27

His eldest son; either, first, The king of Edom’s son; whom in this eruption he took, and then sacrificed. Compare Amos 2:1. But, first, That place speaks of the king, not of the king’s son; and of the burning of his bones, not of the offering of a living man for a burnt-offering. Secondly, This would not have made the besiegers to raise their siege, but to have followed it more warmly to revenge so barbarous an action. Thirdly, The following clause,

that should have reigned in his stead, agrees not so well to the Edomites, whose king was only Jehoshaphat’s viceroy, and therefore his son had no right to succeed him; as it doth to the Moabites, whose king was revolted from Israel, and intended to keep that kingdom to himself and children. Or rather, secondly, his own son; whom he sacrificed, partly to obtain the favour of his god, according to the manner of the Phoenicians and other people in grievous and public calamities; whereof we have manifest testimonies, both in Scripture, as Psalms 106:37; Ezekiel 20:31, and in heathen authors, as Porphyrius, Plutarch, and others; and partly to oblige the Israelites to quit the siege out of compassion, or as despairing to conquer (at least without greater loss of men than it was worth) him who was resolved to defend himself and city to the utmost extremity.

Offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall, that the besiegers might see it, and be moved by it.

Great indignation against Israel, or, great trouble or repentance upon Israel; i.e. the Israelitish king and people (who was the first cause of the war, and had brought the rest into confederacy with him) were greatly afflicted and grieved for this barbarous action, and resolved to prosecute the war no further, and so withdrew their forces, as also did their allies, and returned to their several homes; which they were the more willing to do, because the kingdom and country of Moab were so ruinated, both as to their men, and cities or villages, and lands, that they were all secure of any great annoyance from him.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-kings-3.html. 1685.
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