Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 3:16

He said, "Thus says the Lord , ‘Make this valley full of trenches.'
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Armies;   Moabites;   Water;   Thompson Chain Reference - Elisha;   Jehoshaphat;   Miracles;   Preparation;   Prophet's;   Readiness-Unreadiness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Valleys;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Mesha;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Moab;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Elisha;   Jehoram;   Jehoshaphat;   Moabite Stone;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Dibon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Brook of Zered;   Ecstasy;   Elisha;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Kir-Hareseth;   Mesha;   Oracles;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Edom, Edomites;   Jehoshaphat;   Medeba;   Mesha;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Joram, Jehoram;   Mesha ;   Miracles;   Moab, Moabites ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Kirharaseth;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Armor;   Arms;   Jehoshaphat;   Mesha;   Moab;   Samaria;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Eli'sha;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Moab;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ditch;   Elisha;  
Devotionals:
Faith's Checkbook - Devotion for November 4;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Make this valley full of ditches - The word נחל nachal may be translated brook, as it is by the Vulgate and Septuagint. There probably was a river here, but it was now dry; and the prophet desires that they would enlarge the channel, and cut out various canals from it, and reservoirs, where water might be collected for the refreshment of the army and of the cattle; and these were to be made so wide that the reflection of the sun's rays from this water might be the means of confounding and destroying the Moabites.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-kings-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ditches - Or “pits” Jeremiah 14:3. They were to dig pits in the broad valley or wady, wherein the water might remain, instead of flowing off down the torrent course.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-kings-3.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Kings 3:16

Make this valley full of ditches.

Preparation for revival

In this story there were no less than three powerful kings, surrounded by numerous hosts of valiant men, marching forth, as they supposed, to easy victory., but when the water failed they themselves had failed in their enterprise. Moab may well be feared when there is no water for Israel, and for Judah, and for Edom. But oh, beloved, this is only a picture of the Church which has not constant supplies of God’s refreshing grace, and of the Christian community from which the favour and the Spirit of the living God have been withdrawn. There may be riches and learning, there may be numbers and influence, there may be talent and organisation, but if there be not the Spirit of all grace, and the helpful influences that come from Him, these other things may prove but hindrances instead of helps. I notice in the story that though the kings were powerless, they were not prayerless. There is hope for any heart that has not forgotten the way to the mercy-seat, and for any child that still believes in, and practises the holy art of prayer.

I. It is man’s part to make the trenches. He set all the people of Israel, and Judah, and Edom to dig the ditches, that presently His power might be seen in filling them.

1. It is God’s wont to use ordinary instruments. Sometimes, indeed, He goes out of His own beaten track, He is not necessarily confined to any one course; still, He is a God of order, and does everything accordingly. Nor have I forgotten that when Jesus was amongst men, He acted on the same principle exactly. He took the loaves and fishes of the lad, and multiplied them into a sufficient meal for the multitude.

2. Moreover, preparation for the coming blessing is essential. Suppose in this instance God had sent the water, but there had been no previous preparation for conserving it, it would have been virtually wasted. If there had been no trenches dug, the water would have speedily disappeared; there would have been a momentary refreshing, but nothing more. God will not have His gifts wasted. He outpours His blessings that they may secure the best possible results. This trench-making is not an inapt illustration of Christian effort. I know there are some hearts that will not receive God’s blessing until there has been a good deal of digging in them first. There is nowhere to store it, no place to contain it. Their prejudices must be dug away, their doubts and fears must be uprooted. Digging is hard and difficult work, especially for those who are not used to it. I have found digging to be hard back-breaking work, but it is not so hard as is the labour of trying to get men’s hearts right before God. There is something delightfully individual about this digging, inasmuch as every one can have a hand in it. You may not all be able to lead the hosts, but you can all have your spade and mattock with which to dig a ditch in your own immediate neighbourhood. It is humble work this; it is not like storming a citadel, or rushing on the foe, but it is just as necessary. Pick and shovel can be consecrated as surely as sword and spear. Do not be ashamed of delving for Christ, and of digging for Jesus.

II. It is God’s part to fill the trenches with water. Do not omit your duty; but do not attempt His. There are some who go to this extreme. They want to “get up” a revival. Revivals that are worth having are not got up, they are brought down; they are the work of the Spirit of God.

1. Mark how mysteriously the water came. There was no sound of wind which generally precedes the rainstorm. There was no falling of the rain overnight. From whence did the water come? Was there some rock in the desert, struck as by the hand of God, that gushed its waters forth, as Horeb’s did long years ago? When and where He pleases He does His sovereign will. I notice that the water came by the way of Edom--a most unlikely source. Let it come by way of Edom if it will, so long as it comes from God.

2. The Lord sent this blessing in spite of the sinners that were in the camp. They often hinder God’s work, but sometimes He seems to set them aside, as if to say, “My time to work is come, and even Jehoram and the abominations of Baal shall not prevent, and for Jehoshaphat’s sake, I will save this people, and do them good.”

3. How copious was the supply, when it did come. It filled the whole of the valley; the deepest trenches were filled to the brim, and the longest had enough to fill them from end to end. Oh, that some such favour might come to us, till heart and home are filled with blessing, and the whole Church rejoices in the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts, and in the saving power of His grace, effecting wonders far and wide.

4. And this, mind you, was only the beginning of good things. God called it “a little thing” to fill the valley with water. “He will deliver the Moabites also into your hands,” the prophet said. There are surprises in store for those who trust in God, and do their part.

5. Remember also, when this blessing came! It was in the early morning when the meat offering was offered. God wrought many of His marvellous acts when either the morning or the evening sacrifice was being offered. ‘Twas then that Elijah called upon his God, who answered him by fire. ‘Twas then that Ezra rose up from his heaviness. It was then that Daniel was touched by the hand of Gabriel. Nor can I forget that when Jesus Christ was sacrificed, our offering for sin, the rocks rent, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and many that slept arose out of their graves. Ah! there is a lesson for us here. The blessing comes at the time of sacrificing. (T. Spurgeon.)

Make this valley full of ditches

Many useful lessons might be gathered from this narrative if we had but time. Upon the very surface we are led to observe the weakness of man when at his utmost strength. Three kings, with three armies well-skilled in war, were gathered to subdue Moab, and lo, the whole of the leaguered hosts were brought to a dead-lock and a standstill by the simple circumstance that there was a want of water. How easily can God nonplus and checkmate all the wisdom and the strength of mankind! We may also learn here how easily men in times of difficulty which they have brought upon themselves, will lay their distress upon providence rather than honestly see it to be the result of their own foolish actions. Hear the King of Israel cast the blame upon Jehovah: “For the Lord has called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” Providence is a most convenient horse to bear the saddles of our folly.

I. Our present position. The armies of these kings were in a position of abject dependence; they were dying of thirst; they could not supply their need; they must have from God the help required, or they must perish. This is just the position of every Christian church. So dependent is the Christian Church upon the Holy Ghost, that there never was an acceptable sigh heaved by a penitent apart from him; never did holy song mount to heaven except he gave it wings; never was there true prayer or faithful ministry except through the power and might of the Holy Ghost. Sinners are never saved apart from the Spirit of God.

II. Our duty as the prophet tells it to us. The prophet did not tell the kings that they were to procure the water--that, as we have already said, was out of their power--but he did say, “Make this valley full of ditches,” that when the water came there might be reservoirs to contain it. If we expect to obtain the Holy Spirit’s blessing, we must prepare for his reception. Before the Nile begins to rise, you see the Egyptians on either side of the banks making ready first the deep channel, and then the large reservoir, and afterwards the small canals, and then the minor pools, for unless these are ready the rising of the Nile will be of little value for the irrigation of the crops in future months; but when the Nile rises, then the water is received and made use of to fertilise the fields; and so, when the treasury of the Spirit is open by His powerful operations, each one of us should have his trench ready to receive the blessed flood which is not always at its height. Have you never noticed the traders by the river’s side? If they expect a barge of coals, or a vessel laden with other freight, the wharf is cleared to receive it. Have you not noticed’ the farmer just before the harvest-time--how the barn is emptied, or the rick yard is made ready for the stacks? Men will, when they expect a thing, prepare for the reception of it; and, if they expect more than usual, they say, “I will pull down my barns and build greater, that I may have where to bestow my goods.” The text says to us, “Prepare for the Spirit of God.” Do not pray for it, and then fold your arms and say, “Well, perhaps He will work”; we ought to act as though we were certain He would work mightily--we must prepare in faith.

1. Prepare for a blessing: prepare largely. “Make this valley full of ditches,” not make one, trench, but as many as possible. For God, when He worketh, worketh like a God. Expect great things from a great God. “Make this valley full of ditches.” Have a holy covetousness of the Divine blessing. Never be satisfied with what God is doing in the conversion of souls; be grateful, but hunger after more.

2. Moreover, prepare at once--trot dig trenches in a month’s time, but “make this valley full of ditches” now.

3. Furthermore, prepare actively. Ditchmaking is laborious work; God is not to be served by child’s-play, or sham work with no toil in it. When a valley is to be trenched throughout its whole length, all the host must give themselves to the effort, and none must skulk from the toil. I believe with all my heart in the Spirit of God; but I do not believe in human idleness. Celestial power uses human effort. The Spirit of God usually works most where we work most. “Make this valley full of ditches,” a little more plainly and pointedly. If we are to have a blessing from God, we are every one of us to have a trench ready to receive it. “Well, how shall I have mine ready?” one says. My answer is, have large desires for a blessing: that is one trench you can all dig. Next, add to these desires, faithful, vehement, and importunate prayers. Furthermore, if desires and prayers are good, yet activity is even more so. Every Christian who wanteth to have a blessing for himself or for others, must set to work by active exertion, for this is the word, “Make this valley full of ditches.” One thing more, and I leave this point. With all the work that the Church does in making the valley full of ditches, we must take care that we do it in a spirit of holy confidence and faith. These ditches were to be dug, not because the water might come, but because they were sure it would come.

III. Divine operations. Observe how sovereign the operations of God are. When Elijah wanted rain, there was a cloud seen, and he heard a sound as of abundance of rain, and by and by the water descended in floods; but when God would send the water to Elisha, he heard no sound of rain, nor did a drop descend. I know not how it was that the trenches were filled. Whether adown some deep ravine, the ancient bed of a dried-up torrent, God made the mighty flood to return, as He did along the bed of Kishon of old, I do not know, but by the way of Edom the waters came obedient to the Divine command. God is not tied to this or that mode of form.

1. As the blessing comes sovereignly, so it comes sufficiently: there was enough for all the men, for all the cattle, and all the beasts. They might drink as they would, but there was quite enough for all.

2. Observe, that this flood came very soon, for the Lord is a punctual paymaster. Moreover, it came certainly; there was no mistaking it, no doubting it; and so shall God’s blessing wait upon the earnest prayers and faithful endeavours of Christian people--a blessing such as the greatest sceptic shall not be able to deny, such as shall make the eyes of timidity to water, while he says to himself, “Who hath begotten me these?”

IV. The Lord bade His servant tell them that not only should there be water, but he said, “This is but a light thing in the sight of God. He will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.” Greater things are behind, and are to be expected. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Kings 3:16". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-kings-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he said, thus saith the Lord, make this valley full of ditches. In which the allied army lay encamped, that they might be ready to receive large quantities of water, sufficient for the whole army and cattle, when it came.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Make this valley full of ditches — capable of holding water.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Kings 3:16 And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

Ver. 16. Make this valley full of ditches,] Heb., Ditches, ditches, sc., to receive the water which shall fall by a miracle. Thus God for the most part, saith Mr Diodate here, first prepareth the vessels which are to receive his grace, which is never limited nor hindered but only by man’s incapacity.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-3.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-kings-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.Make this valley full of ditches — More literally, Make this valley pits, pits. The valley was one of the broad water courses at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and was at that time dry. These pits were to catch and hold the water which was about to come from the distant hills of Edom.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-3.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ditches. It was then quite dry; the water which should come in the night, would both refresh the army, and bring on the ruin of the Moabites.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-kings-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

valley = a dry watercourse.

ditches = trenches. Hebrew ditches ditches. Figure of speech Epizeuxis (App-6) = full of.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.

Make this valley full of ditches, [ `Aasoh (Hebrew #6213) hanachal (Hebrew #5158) hazeh (Hebrew #2088) geebiym (Hebrew #1356) geebiym (Hebrew #1356)] - Make in this wady ditches, (i:e., many tanks or cisterns), capable of holding water. These trenches were dug at nightfall, before which time there was no appearances of water.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Make.—Right (infinitive, equivalent to an energetic imperative).

Valley.—Nahal, wady, torrent-bed, gully. According to Thenius, “the brook Zered” of Deuteronomy 2:13 is meant; the present Wady el-Ahsy, (or el-Hasa) which forms the natural southern boundary of Moab, and from which several gorges lead up into the Moabite highlands. (See Isaiah 15:7.)

Full of ditches.—Literally, pits, pits. (Comp. Genesis 14:10 : “Wells, wells of bitumen.”) The pits were to gather the water, which otherwise would soon have run away in the bed of the torrent (Jeremiah 14:3-4). The style of the oracle is stamped with the liveliness and originality of historic truth.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.
Make this valley
4:3; Numbers 2:18,16-18
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 17:14 - thus saith;  2 Kings 5:10 - wash;  Psalm 107:35 - turneth

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 3:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-3.html.