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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 3

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-3



2 Kings 3:1. Jehoram, the son of Ahab—See on chap. 2 Kings 1:17. The more distinctive name of this king, together with a helpful chronological statement, will be found in chap. 2 Kings 8:16. In character and conduct he was only comparatively better than his parents: bad, but not so bad as they.

2 Kings 3:2. He put away the image of Baal—There were “images” (chap. 2 Kings 10:26) in the house of Baal, which Ahab erected (1 Kings 16:32) in Samaria; but there was one distinctive (probably very vast) statue, called here, and in chap 2 Kings 10:27, “the image.” Probably those מצְּבוֹת were wooden images; whereas this מַצְּבַת הַבָּעַל was a statue in stone or metal.

HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 3:1-3


I. That partial reformation is brought about by association with the good (2 Kings 3:1). This verse reminds us of the intimacy existing between Jehoram, the son of the idolatrous Ahab, and the God-fearing Jehoshaphat. It was by the mediation of the latter monarch that the war-like rancour so long cherished between Israel and Judah was subdued, and more friendly intercourse encouraged (1 Kings 22:44). The company of the good, if it does not change the character of the wicked, greatly modifies their conduct. The influence of a holy life makes itself felt in the most abandoned society. Example is more potent than precept. The power of Jesus when on earth consisted more in what He did than in what He said—more in the significance of His conduct than in the fulness of His argument. “Far more of God was revealed in what He was, in what He did, and in what He suffered, than in what He taught.” If all the good withdrew from society, one of the most powerful moral restraints would be removed from the wicked, and the world would soon become a very Tophet of unbearable suffering.

II. That partial reformation is seen in the abolition of the grosser forms of sin. “He put away the image of Baal that his father had made” (2 Kings 3:2). The worship of the Tyrian Baal was encouraged by Ahab and Jezebel to such an extent as at once to degrade and disgust the people. It was a national scandal. Jehoram did his best to wipe out that disgrace, and to dry up that fountain of popular pollution. So far good. It is a gain to the community when vice is prevented from flaunting itself before the public gaze. If it cannot be at once abolished, let it be narrowed to the smallest space and reduced to the minimum of mischief. Partial reformation of abuses is better than leaving things as they are. The vice in our large cities, notwithstanding all attempts to hide and circumscribe it, is something appalling. It is said that there are in London 10,000 prostitutes—a procession a mile long, walking double file—all somebody’s daughters; and there are 20,000 thieves, making two more miles of that dread procession. What would be the effect on public morality if all these criminals were allowed unchecked and unrestricted scope?

III. That partial reformation does not deliver from sins which have become established by a generation of wicked examples. “Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam” (2 Kings 3:3). How prolifie is the progeny of a single sin—how tenacious the effects of one evil example! It requires more than ordinary courage to break away from sins that are hereditary and that have been fastened on a nation by long usage and enforced by kingly example and authority. No partial and half-hearted efforts will avail. “Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can.” Only by Divine help can a thorough and lasting reformation be effected.


1. Any efforts after sincere reformation are commendable.

2. Nothing short of a thorough reformation can be acceptable to God.

3. The evil of a bad example may be counteracted by a good one.


2 Kings 3:2-3. If we do in truth tear down a statue of Baal or two, and adhere nevertheless to the sins of Jeroboam, and to his calf images—to those ordinances which for political reasons have been introduced and established in the church contrary to the will of the Lord—what will it help us? He who, for himself, abstains from that which is opposed to God’s word and commandment, but continues to tolerate it in those who are connected with him, or subject to him, shows thereby that he is not in earnest in his own obedience to God, and that his principles are deduced only from external considerations and relations.—Lange.

2 Kings 3:2. A vacillating spirit. I. Weakens kingly authority. II. Is easily discouraged in a work of religious reform. III. Is hampered by the influence of evil parental example. IV. Never accomplishes anything great

—Even into the most wicked families it pleases God to cast His powerful restraints, that all are not equally vicious. It is no news to see lewd men make scruple of some sins. The world were not to live in, if all sins were affected by all. It is no thanks to Ahab and Jezebel that their son is no Baalite. As no good is traduced from parents, so not all evil; there is an Almighty Hand that stops the foul current of nature at His pleasure. No idolater can say that his child shall not be a convert.—Bp. Hall.

Verses 4-20


2 Kings 3:4. An annual tribute on Moab—The custom is common in the East to pay custom or taxes with the products of the land. For a Moabitish king, with rich pastures in his own territory, and also in the Arabian wilderness, this was but a small tribute to pay. 2 Kings 3:6-7. Confederation of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat—This was effected “at the same time” (2 Kings 3:6) as Jehoram began his reign and Moab rebelled; and the confederation was with the design of crushing Moab. The king of Israel “numbered,” or mustered, a considerable army from his subjects throughout “all Israel,” and invited the king of Judah to join him in the campaign.

2 Kings 3:8. The way through the wilderness of Edomi.e., not crossing the Jordan, but marching down by the Dead Sea to its southern extremity, and thence up through the wilderness, and over the mountains of Edom, approaching Moab from the south. Moab was best fortified on its northern boundary; besides which, to reach Moab by a northerly route they would have had to risk a collision with the Syrians, whereas Edom was at this time ruled by a deputy, whom Jehoshaphat had appointed (1 Kings 22:47).

2 Kings 3:9. Seven days’ journey—It was a weary route over the desert region south of the Dead Sea, while also “the deep rocky valley of Ashy” (Keil) was most difficult of penetration. They found, to their distress, that the Wady of this valley was dry. 2 Kings 3:10-11. Jehoram despairs; Jehoshaphat seeks a prophet of Jehovah.

2 Kings 3:11. Which poured water on the hands of Elijahi.e., “who was about Elijah daily as his servant, and who is certainly the most reliable prophet, since he [Elijah] is gone” (Thenius). The phrase, פֹה אֱלִישַׁע, “Here is Elisha,” means that he was in the camp or close at hand. Perhaps, as Keil suggests, the prophet, led by Divine impulse, had come near the armies to guide their kings in the hour of embarrassment and despair. Elisha’s ministry might now convert Jehoram from idolatrous sympathies, by showing him the true God.

2 Kings 3:13. Elisha said to Jehoram, “What have I to do with thee?”—Elisha meets him with sternness to rebuke his pride and impiety, and then ironically refers him to the idols for which he bad deserted Jehovah. “NAY”—אַל—i.e., not—not so; do not so answer and refuse me; or, It will not help me to go to the prophets of Baal.

2 Kings 3:15. Now bring me a minstrel—To soothe and elevate his mind into preparedness to heed the voice of God’s spirit within him. On יַד יְהֹוָה, “the hand of the Lord,” see Notes on 1 Kings 18:46.

2 Kings 3:19. Mar every good piece of land—כָּאַב, to inflict pain; grieve the land.

2 Kings 3:20. Came water by the way of Edom—Occasioned by sudden rains supernaturally given, which fell on the mountain heights of Edom, and quickly filled the Wady, and overflowed into the “ditches.”

HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 3:4-20


On the death of Ahab the Moabites rebelled against Israel, and refused any longer to pay the heavy tribute they had been accustomed to render. During the short and unwarlike reign of the unfortunate Ahaziah, nothing was done to chastise the Moabites for their revolt; but as soon as Jehoram seized the sceptre, he organized an expedition against Moab to compel the payment of the accustomed tribute. The whole undertaking would have ended in terrible disaster and loss, but for the timely intervention of the despised Elisha. It is in extremity that man discovers his own helplessness, and learns to venerate and love that God who is a present help in trouble.

I. That the most carefully planned enterprise may be unexpectedly reduced to great extremity (2 Kings 3:4-9). Israel, Judah, and Edom united their armies, and marched, a formidable host, against the revolted Moabites, led in person by the monarch of each nation. A route was selected which, by attacking the Moabites from the South, was intended to take them by surprise, as they would hardly expect an attack from Israel in that quarter. The plot was well laid—success was certain—the Moabites would be driven into immediate submission; when suddenly the advancing host found itself menaced by a danger more distressing than that of the mightiest army—there was no water for man or beast! Of what avail now was their multitude of warriors, and the imposing splendour of their equipment? Their numbers aggravated the suffering, and their proud display added to the ignominy of the failure. The most consummate strategist is often baffled by unlooked-for difficulties. History furnished a melancholy example in Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia and his disastrous retreat from Moscow.

II. That in a time of extremity the help of a good man is anxiously sought (2 Kings 3:10-12).

1. Heathenism is powerless to help in extremity. Jehoram yields at once to despair, and can see no possible way of deliverance (2 Kings 3:6). What an acknowledgment of the imbecility of his gods! Idolatry had no comfort for the sorrowing, no resources in times of difficulty. It breeds a spirit of sullen and forlorn fatalism.

2. The worshipper of Jehovah knows where to go for help (2 Kings 3:11). How different is the conduct of the two kings! Jehoram wrings his hands in utter helplessness; Jehoshaphat calls for a prophet. The believer in Jehovah has resources to fall back upon in adversity of which the world knoweth not. A tender-hearted doctor once said to a patient who was suffering excruciating pain, “It is a brave heart that bears all this so grandly.” “Ah! no, Doctor,” was the meek and gentle response, “it is not the brave heart at all; Jesus bears it all for me.”

3. In extremity goodness commands the homage of greatness. “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him” (2 Kings 3:12). They did not summon Elisha into the royal presence, as was the case with Micaiah (1 Kings 22:9). They were in distress. It was not a time to stand on ceremony, or to make a vain display of royal pomp and greatness. They eagerly and humbly sought the help of the man of God. True worth will triumph in the end, however much it may be ignored and vilified; and will command the respect even of its enemies.

III. That a time of extremity affords an opportunity for a good man to exalt the Lord.

1. He is fearless in reproving wrong. Elisha repudiates Jehoram’s claim to any consideration, and tells him to go “to the prophets of his father and to the prophets of his mother” (2 Kings 3:13). He has already discovered the powerlessness of his national idol; and keenly as he must have felt the rebuke of the man of God at this time, he could not but admit its justice. No opportunity for reproving wrong should be neglected, and circumstances sometimes arise in which such neglect would be specially reprehensible.

2. He acknowledges the good in whomsoever found. “Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I would not look towards thee, nor see thee” (2 Kings 3:14). One sovereign is condemned, while another is commended, as if to show that no disrespect is intended to the royal office, but that sin must be reproved, whether found in the person of the sovereign, or in that of the meanest subject. “What shall not be done for a Jehoshaphat? For his sake shall those two other princes, and their vast armies, live and prevail. It is in the power of one good man to oblige a world. We receive true though insensible favours from the presence of the righteous. Next to being good, it is happy to converse with them that are so; if we be not better by their example, we are blest by their protection.”

3. He recognizes the Divine source of all true help (2 Kings 3:15). Elisha calls for music to soothe and tranquillize his mind, and prepare himself for the reception of Divine communications. He was fully aware that God, and God only, could render help in such an extremity. Help is found, not in the multitude of an host, not in the power of the crown, not in the charms of song and the grandeur of sacrifice, not in the goodness and greatness of the individual instrument, but only in God. This cannot be too frequently iterated, or too constantly acknowledged.

4. He is favoured with revelations of the Divine intentions (2 Kings 3:16-19). Not only is water promised to relieve their present distress, but the kings are assured of victory over the Moabites. The good man is privileged to know more of the Divine mind than can be understood by the ungodly. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant” (Psalms 25:14).

IV. That Divine aid in extremity is not sought in vain (2 Kings 3:20). It seemed very unlikely that the dry channels of the Edom valley should be filled with water. The air was still, the sky was clear, not a shred of rain-cloud was visible; and the work of the busy multitude in digging trenches seemed a mockery. Faith in Elisha and in the God of Elisha was put to the test. Evening sank into night, and night gave place to morning. But “at the hour of the morning sacrifice, no sooner did the blood of that oblation gush forth, than the streams of water gushed forth into their new channels, and filled the country with a refreshing moisture. Elijah fetched down his fire at the hour of the evening sacrifice; Elisha fetched up his water at the hour of the morning sacrifice. How seasonably doth the wisdom of God pick out that instant wherein He might at once answer both Elisha’s prophecy and His people’s prayers.” The Lord will never disappoint His people’s confidence. It is in extremity that He most signally displays His power and goodness.


1. Extremity reveals the helplessness of man.

2. Calls for special Divine interference.

3. Teaches the most wholesome lessons.


2 Kings 3:4. When kings and lords fall away from God, then their subjects must fall away from them. And when the fathers are disobedient to God, the children and servants must also be disobedient to them, for their punishment.

2 Kings 3:10-11. What are the greatest monarchs of the world, if they want but water to their mouths! What can their crowns and plumes and rich arms avail them, when they are abridged but of that which is the drink of beasts? With dry tongues and lips do they now confer of their common misery. Jehoram deplores the calamity into which they were fallen; Jehoshaphat asks for a prophet. Every man can bewail a misery; every man cannot find the way out of it. Not without some specialty from God does Elisha follow the camp; else that had been no element for a prophet. Little did the good king of Judah think that God was so near him. Purposely was this holy seer sent for the succour of Jehoshaphat and his faithful followers when they were so far from dreaming of their delivery that they knew not of a danger. It would be wide with the best men if the eye of Divine Providence were not open upon them, when the eye of their care is shut towards it. How well did Elisha in the wars! The strongest squadron of Israel was within that breast; all their armour of proof had not so much safety and protection as his mantle.—Bp. Hall.

—In need and distress the state of a man’s heart is brought to light. Jehoram falls into despair, he does not know what counsel to take, nor how to help himself. Instead of seeking the Lord and calling to Him for help, he accuses Him and cast the reproach upon Him that He means to destroy three kings at once. Jehoshaphat, who had always bent his heart to seek God (2 Chronicles 19:3), does not wring his hands in despair, but is quiet and composed. He thinks within himself, The Lord has neither now, nor ever, withdrawn Himself from His people. Therefore he trusts, and asks for a prophet of the Lord.—Lange.

2 Kings 3:10. Despair. I. A natural fruit of idolatry. II. Shows the helplessness of man. III. Is ever ready to throw the blame of misfortune on others.

2 Kings 3:12. “The word of the Lord is with him.” A true prophet. I. Is easily recognized by all lovers of truth. II. Is invested with Divine authority. III. Is eagerly and humbly consulted in time of need.

—So long as men are free from distress and danger, they ask nothing about the ministers of the gospel, they take no notice of them, they wish to have nothing to do with them, they throw their faithful warnings to the wind; but when an accident or a death occurs, then they are glad to see the despised preacher, and they desire to make use of his services and his prayers. Three kings descend from their elevation and come humbly and with petitions to the man who was once a servant of Elijah, of whom they had not even known so much as that he had joined the expedition. So now emperors and kings bow the knee before Him who came to His own and His own received Him not, who did not have a place to lay His head, but who is now confessed to be the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.—Wurt. Summ.

2 Kings 3:13-14. The vain pretences of idolatry. I. Truthfully rebuked. II. Unmistakably apparent in times of difficulty. III. Invalidate all claim for help.

2 Kings 3:13. How sharply dares the man of God to chide his sovereign, the king of Israel! The liberty of the prophets was no less singular than their calling; he that would borrow their tongue must show their commission. As God reproved kings for their sakes, so did not they stick to reprove kings for His sake. Thus much freedom they must leave to their successors, that we might not spare the vices of them whose persons we must spare.—Bp. Hall.

—Elisha stood before the Lord, the living God; Jehoram before the calf-god. That was not only a difference in religious views and opinions, but also an entirely different standpoint in life. Where there is a life in God, there there can be no fellowship with those who have denied and abandoned the living God: the two ways diverge directly and decidedly. The relation in which a man stands to God is decisive for his relation to other men; it divides from some by a separation which is just as wide as the communion into which it brings him with others is close.—Starke.

2 Kings 3:14. He who has renounced God and His word can make no claim to esteem, even though he be a king. Fidelity to God and holding fast to His word are what make a man truly estimable, even though he were the poorest and lowliest. God does not let the righteous perish with the unrighteous; it rather comes to pass that, for the sake of a single righteous man, many godless persons are saved and preserved.—Lange.

2 Kings 3:15. The power of music. I. Soothes and tranquillizes the soul ruffled by contact with wrong. II. Prepares the heart for the reception of Divine blessing. III. Finds its loftiest use in the worship of God.

—Who wonders not to hear a prophet call for a minstrel in the midst of that mournful distress of Israel and Judah? Who would not have expected his charge of tears and prayers rather than of music? How unseasonable are songs to a heavy heart! It was not for their ears, it was for his own bosom, that Elisha called for music; that his spirits, after their zealous agitation, might be sweetly composed, and put into a meet temper for receiving the calm visions of God. None but a quiet breast is capable of Divine revelations; nothing is more powerful to settle a troubled heart than a melodious harmony.—Bp. Hall.

2 Kings 3:16-19. The Lord gives beyond what we pray for, beyond what we understand; He not only saves from need and danger, but He also gives the victory besides, out of pure undeserved grace. That is the fundamental feature of all Divine promises. The Lord not only does not deal with us according to our sins, but He gives us, besides that, the victory.—Lange.

2 Kings 3:16. Preparatory work. I. Necessary in all Divine arrangements. II. Must be done because commanded, not always because it is understood. III. Is an evidence of genuine faith. IV. Its value will be made apparent (2 Kings 3:20).

2 Kings 3:17-18. The methods of Divine relief. I. Often unseen and mysterious. II. Inevitably sure. III. Superabundant in supply (2 Kings 3:18).

2 Kings 3:19. This is by no means a mere prophecy, as Wordsworth says, a simple prediction of what the allied armies would inflict on Moab; but a command as plain and positive as that by which he had formerly authorized the destruction of the idolatrous Canaanites. So utter a destruction of the Moabites did the Lord now authorize, that He even suspended the law of Deuteronomy 20:19, which forbade the destruction of the fruit trees of the enemy. This felling of the good trees would be to the surviving Moabites a memorable woe. Their ruined cities they might speedily rebuild, and unstop their wells, or dig new ones, and clear the land of stones; but years must pass before new fruit trees could be reared.—Whedon.

Verses 21-27


2 Kings 3:23. This is blood—For the rancour between the kings of Israel and Judah was well known; hence the Moabites supposed they had slaughtered each other in some quarrel on their march. Thus deluded by the sight of the water—reddened by the sun’s rays, or with the colour of the earth into which they had dug (2 Kings 3:16), the Moabites hastened. unprepared, into the hands of their foes.

2 Kings 3:25. קּיר הֲרָשֶׂת—Called Kir Moab (Isaiah 15:1). It was the capital city, and fortified—now called Kerak.

2 Kings 3:27. Eldest son, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall—In the sight of the assailing armies; and this spectacle of horror roused in the allies of Israel such revulsion, because that their support of Israel had driven the king of Moab to this dreadful act, that they fell back from the siege, and left Israel to its own fortunes.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 3:21-27


I. Appearances may deceive those who fancy themselves well prepared for all contingencies (2 Kings 3:21). Moab was aware of the approach of the invading army, and made the most careful and elaborate preparation to withstand it. All who were capable of bearing arms were marched to the frontier, and the brave little nation, keenly watching every movement of the enemy, seemed determined to make a stout and desperate defence. It is important to prepare for the conflict of life; to be armed with the whole armour of God, and ever on our guard against the attack of our spiritual foes. But when we are best prepared we are liable to be misled by false appearances. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

II. Appearances may surprise the most cautious into committing a fatal blunder (2 Kings 3:22-24). The shining of the early morning sun upon the water that filled the red earth-pits newly dug in the valley was mistaken for blood, and the Moabite leader, without taking any pains to verify his impression, jumped to the conclusion that the invading army had qurelled, and what he saw shining in the sunlight was the blood of the slain. The word of command was given to advance, with the expectation that there was now nothing to do but to gather the spoil; but, too late to remedy it, the mistake of the Moabites was seen, and the compact little army that was strong and formidable when entrenched in its defences was speedily smitten and put to flight when it came into unexpected contact with the refreshed and well-armed Israelites. A false glitter did all the mischief. Alas! how many have been thus lured on to their destruction—the lover of strong drink, who has “looked upon the wine when it is red,” until he has been fascinated with its mocking sheen and whelmed in its intoxicating vortex; the insatiate seeker of pleasure, who has been captivated by beauteous forms and pleasant sounds, and lost in giddy mazes; the grasping money-getter, for whom the glare of wealth has had an irresistible charm that has robbed him of the love of home, of kindred, and of honour. Enchanted with the glamour of false appearances, the generous have become penurious—the modest, bold—the careful, recklessly extravagant—the virtuous, base.

III. Trusting to appearances is often followed by the most ruinous consequences (2 Kings 3:25-27). In this case we see an army utterly routed—a fruitful country made barren and desolate—and the only heir-apparent to a throne cruelly immolated by a distracted father. Many a promising nation has been brought to naught by yielding to the unholy lust of power, following the ignis fatuus of military glory, or craving for the crimsoned reputation of a tyrannical ascendency. The Sclavonians have a legend that a certain river was infested with a water-demon who had the power of assuming the shape of a cluster of red flowers waving and spreading themselves out in graceful and attractive forms on the surface of the water; but if the passer-by was tempted to put forth his hand to pluck one of the fragile blossoms, he was at once seized by invisible hands, dragged beneath the surface, and suffocated in the treacherous stream. It is perilous to trust to false appearances: it may lead to irreparable disaster. Many who have plucked the flower of pleasure have found it to contain a fatal sting.


1. Appearances have a great influence over us.

2. Are often false and fictitious.

3. Entice many into hopeless ruin.


2 Kings 3:22-25. They rise soon enough to beguile themselves. The beams of the rising sun, glistening upon those vaporous and unexpected waters, carried in the eyes of some Moabites a semblance of blood. A few eyes were enough to fill all ears with a false noise: the deceived sense miscarries the imagination. Civil broils give just advantage to a common enemy; therefore must the camps be spoiled, because the kings have smitten each other. Those who shall be deceived are given over to credulity: the Moabites do not examine either the conceit or the report, but fly in confusedly upon the camp of Israel, whom they find, too late, to have no enemies but themselves. As if death would not have hastened enough to them, they come to fetch it, they come to challenge it: it seizeth upon them unavoidably. They are smitten, their cities razed, their lands marred, their wells stopped, their trees felled, as if God meant to waste them but once.—Bp. Hall.

2 Kings 3:22-23. Optical illusions. I. May deceive the most wary. II. May lead to very serious mistakes. III. Should be carefully tested.

—The Divine aid by which the army of Israel was not only saved from destruction, but even obtained a complete victory over their enemies, consisted here not in a miracle of God surpassing the known laws of nature, but only in this, that God the Lord, as he had announced before by His prophet, introduced the laws of nature working to the determinate end in the predetermined way. As the suddenly appearing mass of waters was affected in a natural way by a violent rain in the distance, so also the illusion that was so fatal to the Moabites is explained in a natural way, indicated even in the text. From the red earth of the pits the water collected in them had assumed a red colour, which was considerably increased by the rays of the rising sun falling upon it, so that, seen from a distance, it must have appeared like blood. But the Moabites might be the less disposed to think of an optical illusion, as by their familiar acquaintance with the region they knew that the Wady had at that time no water, and they had seen or learned nothing of the rain which had fallen far from them in the Edomite mountains.—Keil.

2 Kings 3:23. The self-destruction of the allied armies of Moab, Ammon, and Edom (2 Chronicles 20:22-25) was still fresh in the minds of the Moabites; and knowing the enmity and jealousy existing between Judah and Israel, and confident that the Edomites were no fast friends of either party, they very naturally imagined, from the sight of what appeared so much blood, that the different kings had fallen out among themselves, and destroyed each other. They supposed it only remained for them to go, as did Jehoshaphat on that former occasion, and gather up the precious jewels and other spoil from among the dead bodies.

2 Kings 3:25. The terrible havoc of war. I. Sacrifices precious lives. II. Ruthlessly destroys the work of years. III. Exhausts the resources of a nation. IV. Checks national growth.

2 Kings 3:26-27. No onsets are so furious as the last assaults of the desperate. The king of Moab, now hopeless of recovery, would be glad to shut up with a pleasing revenge. With seven hundred resolute followers, he rushes into the battle towards the king of Edom, as if he would bid death welcome might he but carry with him that despited neighbour, and now, mad with repulse, he returns; and, whether as angry with his destiny, or as barbarously affecting to win his cruel gods with so dear a sacrifice, he offers them, with his own hands, the blood of his eldest son in the sight of Israel, and sends him up in the smoke to those hellish deities. Oh, prodigious act, whether of rage or of devotion! What a hand had Satan over his miserable vassals! What marvel is it to see men sacrifice their souls in an unfelt oblation to these plausible tempters, when their own flesh and blood have not been spared! There is no tyrant like to the prince of darkness.—Bp. Hall.

2 Kings 3:26. Bravery. I. Called forth by the stress of circumstances. II. Challenges admiration irrespective of the cause it champions. III. Often unavailing.

2 Kings 3:27. The offering was doubtless made to the Moabitish god Chemosh, not to the God of Israel. Mesha supposed that his misfortunes were owing to the vengeance of his gods, whom he had in some way offended, and by this costly sacrifice he sought to propitiate them. Human sacrifices were common among many of the ancient heathen nations. The story of Iphigenia sufficiently shows the existence of the practice among the Greeks. It prevailed, also, among the Carthaginians and Phœnicians, and most of the nations in and around Palestine. Causing children to pass through the fire to Molech (chap. 2 Kings 13:10; Deuteronomy 18:10) is an allusion to this abominable custom. Diodorus Siculus relates that when Agathocles was going to besiege Carthage, the people, seeing the extremities to which they were reduced, ascribed their misfortune to the anger of their god, in that they had latterly spared to offer him children nobly born, and had fraudulently put him off with the children of slaves and foreigners. To make an atonement for this crime, two hundred children of the best families in Carthage were at once offered in sacrifice, and no less than three hundred of the citizens voluntarily sacrificed themselves. Philo, in a fragment preserved by Eusebius, says: “It was a custom among the ancients, on occasions of great distress, for the rulers of a city or nation, instead of leaving the entire population to destruction, to sacrifice the beloved of their children as a ransom to the vengeful deities.—Whedon.

—Various accounts of the origin of human sacrifice have been given, but all are necessarily conjectural. It seems to us that the practice grew out of the notion that whatever was most costly and precious must needs be most acceptable as an offering to the gods; and it being established that the life of an animal was an acceptable offering, perverse ingenuity reasoned that the life of the human creature—the noblest of creatures—and his life-blood the most precious on earth, must be still more acceptable to heaven, still more valuable in the sight of the gods. This being the case, it further followed that the more illustrious, the more pure or exalted the person whose life was offered, the more proper still was the offering, and the more cogent its force in gratifying, soothing, or rendering propitious the stern powers that ruled the destinies of man. As to the precise object, it appears to us that in all, or nearly all, the cases fully known, these offerings were propitiatory at least, if not expiatory.—Kitto.

The inhuman cruelty of heathenism. I. Immolates the choicest human victims. II. Is prompted by despair. III. Rouses the indignation of the righteous. IV. Is specially offensive to God.

—The departure of the Israelitish army in consequence of the human sacrifice of the king of Moab is a very remarkable sign of the difference between the fundamental opinions of the Israelites and of the heathen. Whereas, amongst almost all heathen peoples, sacrifice culminates in human sacrifice, and this is considered the most holy and most effective, in the Mosaic system, on the other hand, it is regarded as the greatest and most detestable abomination in the sight of God. It is forbidden, not merely from considerations of humanity, but also because, as the law declares with special emphasis, the sanctuary of the Lord is thereby defiled and His Holy Name profaned (Leviticus 20:1-5; Leviticus 18:21). Human sacrifice stands in the most glaring contradiction to the revelation of God as the Holy One, in which character He was known in Israel alone; hence it was to be punished, without respite, by death. From the preceding narrative we see how deep roots the detestation of human sacrifice had struck in the conscience of the people. Neither the cultus founded by Jeroboam, nor that of Baal which Ahab had imported, with all its barbarism, had been able even to weaken this detestation. It was still so strong that a victorious army allowed itself to be led thereby to withdraw again from a land it had already subdued.—Lange.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-kings-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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