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THE KING OF MOAB SACRIFICES HIS SON
2 Kings 3:27. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall.
GOD delights to honour prayer; and often withholds the blessings which he has purposed to bestow, till he shall have been “inquired of by us concerning them [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.].” In the preceding context we are informed that Moab had rebelled against Israel, and that the kings of Israel, of Judah, and of Edom united their forces in order to reduce them to their former state of subjection. In prosecution of this purpose they were left of God to adopt such measures as nearly proved fatal to the confederate armies. They attempted to pass through the wilderness of Edom, where they were in danger of perishing for want of water. Then, but not till then, did they think of making their application to Jehovah. Jehoshaphat, a pious king, proposed it, and the other two from the pressure of their necessity united in it. Elisha, doubtless by the gracious appointment of Providence, was in the camp at the time; and at the request of the three kings, undertook to lay their case before the Lord. The Lord bade him inform them that he would not only give them a miraculous supply of water, but would deliver the Moabites into their hands. The supply of water, without the intervention of any natural cause, was given; and the Moabites, mistaking the reflection of the sun upon the water for blood, supposed that the confederate armies had destroyed each other; and going therefore securely to take the spoil, were themselves destroyed. The remnant of them with their king taking refuge in a fortress, the king brought forth his eldest son, and offered him for a burnt-offering in the sight of all his enemies. We shall,
Inquire into the reasons of this extraordinary act—
Reduced to the greatest extremity, he resorted to this expedient,
To propitiate his gods—
[The gods of the heathen are supposed to delight in sacrifices, and to regard them in proportion to the worth and estimation of them in the minds of the offerers. Hence they are supposed above all to be pleased with human sacrifices: and hence their votaries have offered to them even their own sons and daughters, with the hope of conciliating their favour. Even the Israelites themselves, when they had departed from their God, practised these impious and cruel rites [Note: Psalms 106:37-38.]. The king of Moab, now looking to his gods for help, presented to them as an offering his own, his eldest son, as being confessedly of more value, and dearer to himself, than all that he possessed. Whilst we lament that Satan should have ever so blinded the eyes of men, we cannot but be filled with shame when we reflect, how little we have ever sacrificed to our offended God. We all know that he has abundant reason to be displeased with us: and we know that “a broken and contrite spirit is a sacrifice which he will never despise:” but how few of us are willing to offer it! how few are at all anxious about his favour, or will exercise any self-denial in order to obtain it! Will not that ignorant heathen rise up in judgment against us? — — —]
To intimidate his enemies—
[He offered his son “upon the wall” in the sight of all his enemies. What an idea did that give them of his determination to sacrifice every thing rather than surrender to his enemies, and to sell his life as dear as possible! We cannot doubt but that this act of his was publicly known amongst the besiegers as well as the besieged: and, methinks, it must strike them all with horror to reflect, that they had driven him to such an awful act of desperation; and no doubt it tended also to inflame the hatred of his own subjects against them to the uttermost. We are told indeed that this effect ensued; for “they had great indignation against Israel;” who being the principals in the war, (whilst the other two kings were only allies,) were the more immediate objects of their resentment [Note: The burning of Moscow by the Russians, on Buonaparte’s invasion of Russia in 1812, to prevent it from being serviceable to their enemies, was an act somewhat similar, and tended not a little to convince the French that the complete conquest of Russia would be no easy matter. In fact, it produced the same effect as the expedient of the king of Moab did; it caused his enemies to depart, without pursuing any further the advantages they had already gained.]. And certainly the expedient so far succeeded, that his victorious enemies “departed from him, and returned to their own land.”]
Having seen the reasons of that extraordinary act, we proceed to,
Suggest some reflections naturally arising from it—
We observe then,
How great are the calamities of war!
[Dreadful indeed were the evils inflicted on the land of Moab: “the cities were beaten down; every good piece of land was marred with stones; the wells were all filled up; and every good tree levelled with the ground.” True it is that these judgments were inflicted by the command of God; and therefore the agents who inflicted them were blameless: but the warfare which has so long desolated Europe, and especially that which has recently been carried on in its more northern states, has partaken much of the same spirit, and proved almost equally fetal to the happiness of millions. What reason then have we to bless our God, that, notwithstanding all the menaces of our enemies, this happy land has not been made the theatre of war! And with what alacrity should we contribute for the relief and comfort of our suffering allies! — — — Let us learn to sympathize even with our enemies, and to moderate our joy at the victories we obtain, by feelings of compassion for the miseries we inflict.]
How pitiable is the ignorance of the heathen!
[Who can forbear to pity that afflicted king, who had recourse to such an unnatural expedient as that of murdering his own son in order to pacify the deities he adored? Yet such are the methods by which the heathen almost universally endeavour to appease their gods. When once they begin to ask, “Wherewith shall I come before my god?” they proceed to say, “Shall I give my first-born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul [Note: Micah 6:7.]?” Even amongst our fellow-subjects in India, there are thousands, perhaps many thousands, sacrificed every year, under the idea that such offerings are pleasing to the gods whom they worship. Should we hear of such transactions then with indifference? Should not a holy zeal be stirred up within us, to turn the heathen, if possible, from those vanities, to serve the living and true God? O that we felt for the honour of God, and for the good of man, as we ought to do; and that they especially who call themselves ministers of Christ were more willing to spend and be spent in the service of their Lord! Alas! how few are those that are willing to forego their carnal ease and worldly interests, to save their benighted and perishing fellow-creatures! A call to accept a lucrative situation is soon acknowledged and easily obeyed: but God may call us long enough to go and labour among the heathen, and we neither regard his voice, nor listen to his proposals. If ever there was a time that peculiarly called for missionary exertions, methinks this is that time: for never was there such a zeal for disseminating the Holy Scriptures as at this time; never were so many societies raised up to consider the state both of Jews and Gentiles, as at this moment. This alone is a call from God to contribute, each according to his ability, to the advancement of our Redeemer’s kingdom, and to the salvation of a ruined world.]
How rich are the provisions of the Gospel!
[We all, as sinners, have reason to fear, that God is displeased with us. But we need not sacrifice an eldest son to avert his wrath: no: blessed be his name! he himself has given us “a Lamb for a burnt-offering,” even his only dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This sacrifice was once offered on Mount Calvary; and it was offered, not to intimidate, but encourage us; not to menace us with ruin, but to open for us a way of everlasting salvation. With this sacrifice he was well pleased: he smelled a sweet savour at the very instant it was offered; and from respect to it, he is reconciled to his most inveterate enemies. What thanks do we owe to God for such a wonderful provision as this! How delightful should it be to us to hear, that “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all!” Let us dwell upon the joyful sound: let us put away all those vain hopes which we are apt to substitute in the place of this: and let us look to Christ for all the ends and purposes for which he was sent. Are we afraid that God is angry with us? let us seek reconciliation with him through the blood of our adorable Redeemer. Are we desirous of repelling all our spiritual enemies? let us “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might:” let us “resist the devil” in the strength of Christ, and “he will flee from us.” In Christ there is all that we can stand in need of. We are expressly taught to say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “In him therefore let us rejoice alway;” for, as “in him we shall be justified, so in him we should glory [Note: Isaiah 45:24-25.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany