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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Kings 3


A.M. 3108. B.C. 896.

The character of Jehoram, 2 Kings 3:1-12.3.3 . He and his allies invade Moab, 2 Kings 3:4-12.3.8 . Their distress and relief, 2 Kings 3:9-12.3.20 . Their success, 2 Kings 3:21-12.3.25 . The king of Moab sacrifices his son, and they retire, 2Ki 3:26 , 2 Kings 3:27 .

Verses 2-3

2 Kings 3:2-12.3.3. He put away the image of Baal It was much that his mother, who had brought this worship with her from the Zidonians, should suffer him to remove this image; but she was probably a little daunted at the many disasters which had befallen their family, and was contented with worshipping Baal in private. Nevertheless, he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam Though he put away the image and worship of Baal, resolving to worship Jehovah only, yet he continued to worship him under the representation of a calf, which was idolatry, though in a less degree. This kind of worship all the kings of Israel kept up, as a wall of partition between their subjects and those of Judah. They intended hereby to keep their people from going up to worship at Jerusalem, lest, if they did so, they might, by degrees, be brought to submit again to the kings of Judah. Thus Jehoram: he had a little religion, such as it was, but not enough to overrule his policy.

Verse 4

2 Kings 3:4. Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheep-master The riches, not only of private men, but also of kings, in ancient times, consisted much in sheep and cattle. And this king of Moab had abundance of them, which imboldened and enabled him to rebel against his sovereign. And rendered to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, &c. This was a prodigious number, and as they were rendered unshorn, they were the more valuable. But we are to consider that these countries abounded with sheep; insomuch that Solomon offered one hundred and twenty thousand at the dedication of the temple, 2 Chronicles 7:5; and the Reubenites drove from the Hagarenes one hundred and fifty thousand, 1 Chronicles 5:7.

Verses 6-8

2 Kings 3:6-12.3.8. King Jehoram went out and numbered all Israel As soon as he was settled in his kingdom, his first business was to raise an army to reduce Moab to obedience, and to engage Jehoshaphat to join him as an ally. And he said, I will go up Jehoshaphat unites with him in this war; because the war was just in itself, and convenient for Jehoshaphat, both in the general, that revolters should be chastised, lest the example should pass into his dominions, and the Edomites be encouraged to revolt from him, as they did from his son; and in particular, that the Moabites should be humbled, who had 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 now offered. He answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom Which Jehoshaphat chose, because he wished to have the assistance of the Edomites, who were his tributaries. And it is probable Moab was but weakly fortified on that side.

Verse 9

2 Kings 3:9. The king of Edom Properly speaking, there was no king at this time in Edom, as we read in the last chapter of the foregoing book, 1 Kings 22:47; but the viceroy, under Jehoshaphat, is here called king, that word being often used for any prince or chief ruler. Of seven days’ journey Because they made a great army, which could move but slowly; and they fetched a greater compass than usual, that they might come upon the backs of the Moabites, where they did not expect them, or for some other advantage which they hoped to reap by it. There was no water for the host A frequent want in those parts; and now, it seems, increased by the extraordinary heat and dryness of the season. And for the cattle that followed them Which drew their carriages.

Verses 10-11

2 Kings 3:10-12.3.11. The king of Israel said, Alas, &c. He did not cry to God for help, but only bewailed the straits into which they were fallen; which his own guilt made him imagine God had brought to pass for their destruction. Jehoshaphat said, 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. Here is Elisha, who poured water, &c. 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. Probably it was by a special direction from God that Elisha followed them, unasked, unobserved. Thus does God prevent us with the blessings of his goodness, and provide for those who provide not for themselves.

Verse 12

2 Kings 3:12 . The word of the Lord is with him He is a true prophet, and the Lord declares his will by him. Undoubtedly he had been informed how Elijah had chosen him his successor; how he had attended him till he was taken up into heaven, and what wonders he had already done. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, &c., went down to him To his tent, which was either in the camp or not far from it. They did not send for him, but went to him, that by paying him this respect, and thus honouring him, they might engage him to give them his utmost assistance.

Verse 13

2 Kings 3:13. Elisha said to the king of Israel, What have I, &c.? I desire not to have any discourse with thee. Get thee to the prophet of thy father, &c. Seek counsel and help of thy false prophets and of their gods, the calves, which thou, after thy father’s example, worshippest; and the Baals, which thy mother yet worships by thy permission. Let these idols, which thou servest in thy prosperity, now help thee in thy distress. The king of Israel said, Nay, &c. That is, I will not consult them; but do thou now give us counsel how we may be extricated from this great distress. For the Lord hath called, &c. He was sensible it was by the particular providence of the God of Israel that he was brought into this strait, and perhaps secretly he believed in Jehovah alone as the true God, though, for political reasons, he worshipped the calves.

Verse 14

2 Kings 3:14. Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat Whom I reverence and love for his piety, and therefore for his sake will inquire of the Lord for you all. It is good being with those who possess God’s favour and the love of his people. Wicked men often fare the better for the friendship and society of good men.

Verse 15

2 Kings 3:15. Now bring me a minstrel One that can sing and play well upon an instrument of music. This he requires, that his mind, which had been disturbed at the sight of idolatrous Jehoram, might be composed, and that he might be excited to more fervent prayer, and thereby be prepared to receive the prophetic inspiration. See on 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 16:16. Those that desire communion with God, must keep their spirits quiet and serene. All hurry of spirits, and all turbulent passions, make us unfit for divine visitations. The hand of the Lord came upon him The spirit of prophecy, so called, to note that it was no natural or acquired virtue inherent in him, but a singular gift of God, given to whom and when he pleased.

Verses 16-17

2 Kings 3:16-12.3.17 . Make this valley full of ditches Which may receive the water and retain it, for the use of men and beasts. They that expect God’s blessings, must prepare room for them. Ye shall not see wind Any of those winds which commonly bring rain. Seeing is here put for perceiving or feeling; the words belonging to one sense, being frequently applied to another. Neither shall ye see rain Elijah, by prayer, obtained water from the sea and clouds: but Elisha fetches it nobody knows whence. God is not confined to second causes. Ordinarily it is by a plentiful rain that he refreshes his inheritance: but here it is done without any such means. Yet that valley shall be filled with water That valley only, it seems, and no other place, however near or adjoining, which greatly increased the miracle.

Verse 18

2 Kings 3:18. This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord But a small favour in comparison of what he intends to do for you, for Jehoshaphat’s sake. He will give you more than you expect or ask. For they were so weakened and discouraged by 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

2 Kings 3:19. Ye shall smite, &c. If this command seem severe, it must be considered that the Moabites were a very wicked people, perfidious, cruel, and implacable enemies to God’s people upon all occasions, and now in a state of rebellion. But these words are rather to be considered as a prediction of their success, than as a command, enjoining them to do all these things; and thus understood, they imply that their victory should be so full and complete, that they should have it in their power to lay the country of the Moabites waste with fire and sword.

Verse 20

2 Kings 3:20. In the morning when the meat-offering was offered That is, at the time of the morning sacrifice, which doubtless was attended with the solemn prayers of God’s people. At this time Elisha joined his prayers with the prayers of God’s people, especially those at Jerusalem. And this time God chose to answer 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. God, that commands all the waters both above and beneath the firmament, sent them abundance of water on a sudden.

Verse 21

2 Kings 3:21 . All that were able to put on armour and upward That is, from youths, that were but just able to put on armour, to those that were far advanced in life; so that none were exempted. And stood in the border

Of their country, intending to defend themselves, but not to march out of their country to give the enemy battle.

Verses 22-23

2 Kings 3:22-12.3.23. The sun shone upon the water, &c. They stood in such a situation, when they looked at the water, that those rays of the sun which gave a red colour, were reflected from the water to their eyes; or the light of the morning sun shining upon the water, through the vapours that arose from the earth, gave it a reddish appearance; so that they imagined it to be blood, which they were the more inclined to suppose, because they knew very well there was no water there before. And they said The kings are surely slain, &c. As they concluded what they saw could be nothing but blood, so they could not conceive it could be any other blood than that of the army of the three kings, who they thought had fallen out among themselves, vexed at the straits into which they had brought one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil Easily believing what they wished, they imagined they had nothing to do but to go and take the spoil, having no need to fight at all. Therefore they sent no scouts, but marched thither with their whole army, and that in great disorder: wherein, also, there was a divine hand, strengthening them in their mistakes, and hardening them to their destruction.

Verse 24

2 Kings 3:24. They went forward, smiting the Moabites, even in their country They pursued them to their own country, and entered it with and after them; the passes, which the Moabites had before defended, being now open to them.

Verse 25

2 Kings 3:25. They stopped all the wells of water, &c. These, in all probability, are hyperbolical expressions, signifying the great devastation which they made. Only in Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof This was the royal city of Moab, into which the remnant of the Moabites were gathered, and where also their king was with them. The wall and buildings of this city only were left; their whole country being destroyed. Howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it By slinging stones, they drove those from the wall who defended it, and by raising batteries against it, made great breaches therein, by which they might enter the city and take it.

Verse 26

2 Kings 3:26. He took with him seven hundred men to break through, &c. He made a sally with seven hundred stout men, upon the quarter of the king of Edom, which he thought the weakest side, hoping to break through and escape. But they were repulsed, and compelled to retreat.

Verse 27

2 Kings 3:27. He took his eldest son and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the walls “Not only the Holy Scriptures, but several heathen writers assure us, that in case of great extremity, it was customary among various people to sacrifice to their gods whatever was most dear to them.” Eusebius and Luctantius mention several nations who used these sacrifices. And “Cesar, in his war with the Gauls, tells us that when they were afflicted with grievous diseases, or in time of war or great danger, they either offered men for sacrifices, or vowed that they would offer them; because they imagined that their gods could never be appeased unless one man’s life was given for another’s. In conformity with this horrid custom, and to appease, no doubt, as he thought, the anger of his idol Chemosh, the king of Moab made this costly sacrifice of his eldest son; a deed which, it is plain from the text, was held in the greatest abhorrence by the Israelites.” Dodd. For so, it seems, we are to understand the following words, which should be rendered, not, There was great indignation against Israel, but, There was great trouble, or repentance upon ( in or among) Israel: that is, they were extremely grieved on account of this barbarous sacrifice, and wished they had not pushed on a war so far, which ended in such a horrid action. They departed from him, and returned to their own land They resolved to prosecute the war no further; but raised the siege, by common consent, and returned home, for fear any such thing should be done again.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Benson's Commentary. 1857.