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2 Kings 3:2. He put away the image of Baal, &c.— It is a little strange, that his mother Jezebel, who brought this worship with her from the Sidonians, should suffer him to remove the image of her favourite god. See 1 Kings 16:31. But perhaps she might be a little daunted by the many disasters which had befallen her family, and was content with the privilege of having her idolatrous worship in private; nor is it unlikely, that Jehoshaphat might refuse to assist him in his wars against the king of Moab, unless he would consent to renounce his idolatry. See what we have said on 1Ki 12:28 respecting the sins of Jeroboam, 2 Kings 3:3.
2 Kings 3:4. An hundred thousand lambs, &c.— Though this is a very large number, we are to consider that these countries abounded with sheep, insomuch that Solomon offered a hundred and twenty thousand at the dedication of the temple, 2Ch 7:5 and the Reubenites drove from the Hagarites two hundred and fifty thousand, 1Ch 5:21 for, as Bochart observes, their sheep frequently brought forth two at a time, and sometimes twice a year; and he remarks further, that in ancient times, when the people's riches consisted in cattle, this was the only way of paying tribute. See Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 18: cap. 3. Hence Ludolph is of opinion, that this great number of cattle was not a tribute which the Moabites were obliged to pay to the Israelites every year, but upon some special occasion only; as for instance, upon the accession of a new king, or the like. See Lud. Ethiopic. Hist. lib. 2: cap. 3 and Scheuchzer on the place.
2 Kings 3:11. Which poured water on the hands of Elijah— This is a fine eastern expression, signifying to serve or minister to. Houbigant renders it, who gave water to the hands of Elijah.
2 Kings 3:17. Ye shall not see wind, &c.— See the note on 1 Kings 18:45. It is very common in the eastern countries, and particularly in the deserts of Arabia, to be in want of water, which is so scarce there, that travellers, and the beasts they carry with them, often perish with thirst. Their last resource for preserving their lives is, to cut open their camels, and get from their stomachs what water they contain. We cannot say whether these kings, from a want of precaution, had neglected to provide sufficiently for themselves and their army, or whether they remained upon the road longer than they had foreseen. From the text it is plain, that they wanted water, and that the army found itself so urged by thirst that both men and beasts were in danger of their lives. In this calamity the kings had recourse to Elisha; as in cases of emergency, we see men have recourse to the prayers of wise and pious persons, to whom they paid little regard at another time, but who, in the days of calamity, are resorted to by whole cities and nations. The prophet arrives; he reproves Jehoram for his impiety, and then foretels things superior to reason and the powers of nature, insomuch that the impious acknowledged and adored the assisting hand of the Almighty. He commands what is to be done, in order that so miraculous a succour may be of use to those who were thus pressed by necessity, and that it might not slip them too speedily. Thus saith the Lord, make this valley full of ditches, &c. These circumstances deserve attention, and furnish certain proofs of the miracle: after a long drought it commonly happens, especially in hot climates, that the rains are accompanied or preceded by winds, which collect together clouds, and break against each other the little bubbles of water which float in the air. See 1 Kings 18:41. Without rain, rivers never overflow. But here, without rain, without wind, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. It issued somewhere, by the order of God, from the bowels of the earth, and flowed into the camp of the allied princes. Who but God could, at a given period, have produced so marvellous an effect?
2 Kings 3:19. And mar every good piece of land with stones— Commentators seem to have been at no pains to account for this part of the punishment of the king of Moab's rebellion; though it does not appear very easy to conceive how the thing was to be done to any purpose; and, indeed, without giving as much trouble, or more, to Israel to gather these stones, and carry them on the lands of the Moabites, as to the latter to gather them up again, and carry them off. I would therefore propose it to the learned to consider, whether we may not understand the passage of Israel's doing that nationally, and as victors, which was done by private persons very frequently in these countries in ancient times, by way of revenge, and which is mentioned in some of the old Roman laws. Egmont and Hayman, who speak of the contentions and vindictive temper of the Arabs, tell us, they were ignorant however, "whether that people still retained the method of revenge formerly common among them, and which is called σκοπελισμος, mentioned in lib. ff. Digest. de extraord. Criminib. which contains the following account: 'In the province of Arabia there is a crime called σκοπελισμος, or fixing of stones; it being a frequent practice among them, to place stones in the grounds of those with whom they were at a variance, as a warning, that any person who dared to till that field should infallibly be slain by the contrivance of those who placed the stones there.' This malicious practice," they add, "is thought to have had its origin in Arabia Petraea." See their Travels through part of Europe, &c. vol. 2: p. 156. If the Israelites as victors, who could prescribe what laws they thought proper to the conquered, placed such stones in the best grounds of the Moabites, as interdicting them from tillage, on pain of their owners being destroyed, they without much trouble effectually marred such fields, as long as their power over Moab lasted, which had before this continued some time, and by the suppression of this rebellion might be supposed to continue long. As it was an ancient practice in these countries, might it not be supposed to be as ancient as the times of Elisha, and that he referred to it? Observations, p. 443.
REFLECTIONS.—War being resolved, Jehoram musters his forces, and, to strengthen himself the more,
1. Solicits and obtains the assistance of Jehoshaphat. At a council held, Jehoshaphat advises to fall upon the Moabites, not by the nearest way over Jordan, but through the wilderness of Edom, in order to surprise them.
2. The advice was followed, but it had nearly proved fatal to their army; and no wonder, when they had not consulted God about their way. The want of water parched them with thirst; and Jehoram, with murmurs against Providence, is ready to despair through fear of being attacked by the king of Moab in this dispirited and weakened situation. Note; (1.) If we keep company with sinners, we shall be in danger of smarting under their rod. (2.) They who will not consult God to direct their way, will yet quarrel at his providence, when involved in difficulties, into which their own imprudence has brought them.
3. Jehoshaphat now reflects on his error, and, to amend it before it be too late, inquires after a prophet. In a camp he was little to be expected; but so God ordered it, who foresaw these difficulties, that Elisha should attend the army; and though the kings knew not of him, a godly Israelite of their servants had been favoured with his company, and could give them information concerning him. Hereupon, the kings immediately wait on him in his tent, to state their deplorable case, and to beg his prayers and direction. Note; (1.) Afflictions drive those to God, who in their prosperity neglected him. (2.) God's mercy towards us is not only beyond our desert, but often foreruns our desires.
4. Elisha, with just indignation at Jehoram's idolatry, sends him to his father's prophets for direction: but these Jehoram knew were unable to help; therefore he humbles himself, and begs him, for the sake at least of the kings his confederates, to intercede for them. Hereunto Elisha consents; yet, testifying his high displeasure against him, and declaring, that but for Jehoshaphat's sake he would not deign to look upon or answer him. A minstrel is called for to soothe his ruffled spirit, provoked with Jehoram's presence, and to prepare his mind for prophetic inspiration; and when with sounds of heavenly melody the sweet musician sung, straight his enraptured spirit felt the present Deity. He bids them dig trenches, and without wind or rain God should fill them with water, and their lives be not only thus preserved, but victory succeed, and Moab be made desolate by them. Note; (1.) The greatest are not too high for rebuke. (2.) The wicked fare the better for their connections with God's people. (3.) God will not leave his people in distress, when they cry to him, though their own follies have brought them into it. (4.) When God gives, he gives like himself, more than we dare ask or think.
2 Kings 3:27. Took his eldest son—and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall.— Not only the holy Scriptures, but several heathen writers, assure us, that in cases of great extremity it was customary among various people to sacrifice to their gods whatever was most dear to them. Caesar 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.
REFLECTIONS.—The event answers the prediction.
1. The water came in a torrent by the way of Edom, at the time of the morning sacrifice. Probably then Elisha prayed openly, with his face towards the temple, that they might be assured whence this relief was sent. Note; (1.) Every mercy that we receive is owing to the efficacy of the blood of the Lamb which was slain. (2.) Every prayer must proceed on that foundation.
2. The Moabites, beholding the water as the morning-sun arose, and persuaded that there could be no water there, presently conclude that the confederates had quarrelled, and this was the blood of the slain: therefore they march as to certain victory, every man who was able to bear arms having been summoned to oppose the invasion. But how terrible their disappointment, when, tumultuously rushing on the spoil, the confederate army fell upon them with dreadful slaughter, routed them, wasted their country, ruined their cities, and left only the metropolis standing, which was soon besieged, and the breaches ready to be stormed. Note; (1.) Whom God will destroy, he often previously infatuates. (2.) Rebellion must not hope to prosper.
3. In this extremity, the king of Moab attempts, with a select band, to break through the quarters of Edom where he expected least resistance, but is repulsed. When rendered desperate by his danger, he seeks by the inhuman and most precious sacrifice of his eldest son, as his last effort, to appease his idol god Chemosh; or, by such a shocking scene on the walls, he thought to move the compassion of the besiegers; or, perhaps, to intimate his determined resolution to die with all his family, rather than yield. The seeing their king reduced to such distress, roused the indignation of the remainder of the Moabites; and when the Israelites saw them thus made resolute by despair, they raised the siege and retired. Note; (1.) Despair sometimes does more than the most determined courage. (2.) Let us bless God for deliverance from idolatry. Our God delights not in the blood of the slain, but the living sacrifices of the heart devoted to his will.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany