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This chapter gives the character of Jehoram king of Israel, ( 2 Kings 3:1-3), relates the rebellion of the king of Moab against him, ( 2 Kings 3:4,5), the war that he and his allies entered into on that account, ( <120301> Kings 3:6-9) the distress the combined army were in for want of water, their application upon this to Elisha, who promised them water, and they had it in a wonderful manner, ( 2 Kings 3:10-20) and the chapter is concluded with the rout of the Moabites, and the barbarity of their king to his eldest son, ( 2 Kings 3:21-27).
Ver. 1 . Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah , etc.] So that the two years of the reign of his brother Ahaziah were not complete, only part of the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth of Jehoshaphat, since he began to reign in his seventeenth year, at the beginning of that, and died towards the close of the eighteenth, when Jehoram succeeded him, (see 1 Kings 22:51), and reigned twelve years.
Ver. 2 . And he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord , etc.] Was guilty of idolatry: but not like his father, and like his mother ; his father Ahab, and his mother Jezebel: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made ; he did not destroy it, only removed it from the temple of Baal where it was set, that it might not be worshipped, at least publicly, (see 1 Kings 16:31,32) this he did, either moved to it by his own conscience, observing the sudden deaths of his father and brother, which he might suppose was for their idolatry; or in order to obtain success in his war with Moab he was entering into; or being instigated by Jehoshaphat to do it, or otherwise he might refuse to join him.
Ver. 3 . Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin , etc.] He closely adhered to the worship of the calves set up by him: he departed not therefrom : that being a piece of state policy, to keep up the division of the two kingdoms.
Ver. 4 . And Mesha king of Moab was a sheep master , etc.] With which his country abounded; he kept great numbers of them, and shepherds to take care of them; he traded in them, and got great riches by them; his substance chiefly consisted in them: and rendered unto the king of Israel : either as a present, or as an annual tribute: an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool ; that is, upon them, unshorn, and so the more valuable; and it was usual for tributary nations to pay their tribute to those to whom they were subject in such commodities which they most abounded with; so the Cappadocians, as Strabo relates, used to pay, as a tribute to the Persians, every year, 1500 horses and 2000 mules, and five myriads of sheep, or 50,000; and formerly, Pliny says, the only tribute was from the pastures.
Ver. 5 . But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel .] Who then was Ahaziah; but either through the pusillanimity of his temper, or the sickness that attended him, or the shortness of his reign, he took no steps to the reduction of him, or to oblige him to pay his tribute, which he neglected to do, and is meant by his rebellion.
Ver. 6 . And King Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time , &e.] As soon as he came to the throne: and numbered all Israel ; who were fit to bear arms, got them together at some certain place, and mustered them, and prepared for a war with Moab, to reduce them.
Ver. 7 . And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, the king of Moab hath rebelled against me , etc.] By refusing to pay him tribute: wilt thou go up with me against Moab to battle? and he said, I will go up ; which he agreed to, partly to encourage in the reformation of religion which he had begun, and partly to chastise the Moabites for their invasion of his country, ( 2 Chronicles 20:1). I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses ; the same answer he returned to Ahab, (see Gill on “ 1 Kings 22:4”).
Ver. 8 . And he said, which way shall we go up etc.] That is, Jehoram said so to Jehoshaphat, consulting with him which was the best way to take to the land of Moab, whether the shortest way, over Jordan; or some other: and he answered, the way through the wilderness of Edom ; which bordered upon it, and the same through which the Israelites passed; for Kadesh was on the extreme border of Edom, whither they came, ( Numbers 20:1,16) and this Jehoshaphat proposed, partly that they might come upon Moab unawares, and attack them where they were weakest, and not on their guard; and partly, to take the king of Edom with them, who was no other than Jehoshaphat’s deputy, and so be assisting to them, and prevent him from revolting, which otherwise he might take this opportunity of doing.
Ver. 9 . So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah , etc.] The way of the wilderness of Edom, proposed by the latter: and the king of Edom ; whom they took with them in their way, who was not properly a king, but a viceroy or deputy, (see 1 Kings 22:47) and they fetched a compass of seven days journey ; they went round the Dead Sea, and through the wilderness of Edom, and so to the borders of Moab: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them ; neither for the soldiers in the army, nor the cattle that drew the carriages, being in a wilderness.
Ver. 10 . And the king of Israel said, alas! etc.] Lamenting their sad case, as being desperate; and the rather he was the more concerned, as he was the principal who had drawn the other kings into this affair, though he throws it upon the Lord and his providence: that the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hands of Moab ; into whose hands they must inevitably fall, if they could have no water to refresh them; since they would be so weak as not to be able to stand a battle with them, and be dispersed here and there in search of water, and so fall into their hands. Extreme thirst is intolerable. It is reported of Lysimachus, that he delivered himself and his army into the hands of the enemy for a draught of water. Leo Africanus relates, that in the desert of Azaoad stand two marble pillars, testifying that a rich merchant bought of a carrier of wares a cup of water at the price of 10,000 ducats; but there not being water sufficient neither for the one nor the other, they were both died with thirst.
Ver. 11 . But Jehoshaphat said, is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him ? etc.] This the good king should have done before be set out, but had neglected it; however, it was not too late: and one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said ; who might be one that feared the Lord, and was intimate with Elisha, or however had knowledge of him, as appears by what follows: here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah ; or ministered to him, as the Targum; was his menial servant, waited on him, and assisted him when he washed his hands f31 ; some Jewish writers understand it of his pouring water on the hand of Elijah at Carmel, when the altar and trench were filled with it, and when a miracle was wrought, as they fancy, and the fingers of Elijah became as fountains of water.
Ver. 12 . And Jehoshaphat said, the word of the Lord is with him , etc.] To give them an answer, which he concluded from his being a servant and disciple of Elijah, whom he succeeded in his office, and of whom he had, doubtless, heard; and from his following the camp, and being in it, which he easily imagined was not to fight, but to assist by his advice and counsel, and by his prophecies, as there might be occasion for them: so the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him ; descended from their chariots, and went to the tent in the camp where he was; they did not send for him to come to them, but, in honour of him, went to him themselves.
Ver. 13 . And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, what have I to do with thee ? etc.] An idolater; I can hold no discourse nor have any conversation with thee, nor give thee any advice or assistance: get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother ; the prophets of Baal, and of the groves: and the king of Israel said unto him, nay ; meaning, he would not apply to them, who he was sensible could give him no relief, only to the Lord God, from whom this affliction was, and therefore begs he would pray to him to have mercy on them; so the Targum, “I beseech thee remember not the sins of that wickedness, pray for mercy for us:” for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab ; signifying, that he should not perish alone, but the other two kings with him, who had no connection with the prophets of his father and mother in their idolatry, and therefore hoped for their sakes mercy would be shown.
Ver. 14 . Elisha said, as the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand , etc.] Whose minster and prophet he was, to whom he prayed, and whose service he was ready to perform: surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah ; revere him not only as a king, but as a pious prince, and a worshipper of the true God: I would not look toward thee, nor see thee ; give him no countenance at all, pay no regard to his request, not so much as to look at him in a civil way; but turn away his face from him with contempt and disdain, as unworthy to be conversed with by a prophet of the Lord.
Ver. 15 . But now bring me a minstrel , etc.] A piper, a man that knows how to play upon the harp, as the Targum; according to Procopius Gazaeus, this was one of the Levites he ordered to be fetched, who was used to the spiritual melody of David, and could play on musical instruments as he directed. This he did to allay his passion, and compose his spirits, ruffled at the sight of Jehoram, and to fit him to receive prophetic inspiration, which sometimes came upon the Lord’s prophets when thus employed, (see 1 Samuel 10:5). Some think the music the prophet called for is that sort the Greeks call “harmony”, which is the gravest and saddest, and settles the affections: and it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him ; the spirit of prophecy, as the Targum, which came by the power of God, and as a gift from his hand.
Ver. 16 . 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.
Ver. 17 . For thus saith the Lord, ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see the rain , etc.] Neither perceive the south wind blow, which usually brings rain, nor clouds gathering in the heavens, as portending it, nor any filling from thence: yet that valley shall be filled with water ; and all the ditches dug in it: that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and all your beasts ; there would be such a quantity as would be enough for them all, the soldiers, the horses they rode on, and the beasts that drew their wagons.
Ver. 18 . And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord , etc.] To give them such a plenty of water in such an extraordinary manner: he would do for them what was greater, not only save them from falling into the hand of Moab, which they feared, but he wilt deliver the Moabites into your hands ; which was more than was asked for, or expected.
Ver. 19 . And ye shall smite every fenced city and every choice city , etc.] That is, the inhabitants of them with the sword, and demolish them also, ( 2 Kings 3:25), and shall fell every good tree; which seems contrary to the law in ( Deuteronomy 20:19), but that may respect trees belonging to a city when besieged only, or only to Canaanitish cities; or the law was now dispensed with, and that for this time only, to make the punishment of Moab the greater, for their rebellion and other sins: and stop all wells of water ; which must be very distressing to those that survived the calamity of the sword: and mar every good piece of land with stones ; as that it could not be ploughed and sowed, nor anything spring up and grow upon it.
Ver. 20 . And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered , etc.] At Jerusalem; which always went along with the daily burnt offering of the lamb, which might not indeed be offered before break of day, yet quickly after; for no sacrifice could be offered before that, (see Gill on “ Exodus 29:39”), that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom ; not from the heavens, but it may be out of some rock, rolling along on the earth from the hills and mountains, down into the valleys, where the armies were: and the country was filled with water ; all round about them. Who has not heard of the “thundering” legion, as it was called by the Emperor M.
Aurelius, who, when the army under him was about to engage with the Germans and Sarmatians, and sadly distressed with thirst, fell down on their knees and prayed, upon which a large shower of rain came down to the refreshment of the army, and thunder bolts, which annoyed and put the enemy to flight f33 ? at the battle of the Romans with Jugurtha, a sudden and unexpected shower of rain fell, to the refreshment of the Romans, in intolerable thirst f34 .
Ver. 21 . And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them , etc.] The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom: they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward ; that were of an age capable of that, and all who were more grown; or “girt on a girdle” f35 , a military one, with which the sword was girt, who were at age to wear and knew how to wield a sword: and stood in the border; of their land, between Edom and them, to defend themselves and their country against these invaders.
Ver. 22 . And they rose up early in the morning , etc.] To watch the motions of their enemies, and be upon their guard against them: and the sun shone upon the water ; with which the valley was filled: and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood ; so it appeared through the rays of the sun reflected on it.
Ver. 23 . And they said, this is blood , etc.] They were very confident of it, having no notion of water, there having been no rain for some time; and perhaps it was not usual to see water at any time in this place: the kings are surely slain ; they and their forces: and they have smitten one another ; having quarrelled either about their religion, or about want of water, and the distress they were come into through it, laying the blame of their coming out to war, or of their coming that way, on one another; and the Moabites might rather think something of this kind had happened, from what had lately been done among themselves, and their allies, ( 2 Chronicles 20:23) now therefore, Moab, to the spoil ; having no occasion to fight, or prepare for it; all they had to do was to march directly to the enemy’s camp, and plunder it.
Ver. 24 . And when they came to the camp of Israel , etc.] Not in an orderly regular manner, in rank and file, as an army should march, but in a confused manner, everyone striving who should get thither first, and have the largest share of the booty: the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them ; being prepared for them, they fell upon them sword in hand, and soon obliged them to flee: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country ; they pursued them closely, and slew them as they fled, and followed them not only to their borders, but into their own country: though Schultens f36 , from the use of the word hbn in the Arabic language, renders the passage, “and they blunted their swords in it (in that slaughter), even by smiting the Moabites”.
Ver. 25 . And they beat down the cities , etc.] Demolished the walls of them, and houses in them, wherever they came: and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it ; which they had taken out of the walls and houses they pulled down; or which they picked up in the highway, as they passed along, being a stony country; or which being laid in heaps, gathered out of the fields, they took and scattered them all over them: and they stopped all the wells of water ; with stones and dirt: and felled all the good trees ; fruit bearing ones; (see Gill on “ 2 Kings 3:19”), only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof ; not able to demolish it, it being a strong fortified city, the principal of the kingdom, and into which the king of Moab had thrown himself, and the remains of his forces; of which (see Isaiah 16:7,10), howbeit, the slingers went about it, and smote it ; smote the soldiers that appeared upon the walls of it; though Kimchi, and other Jewish writers, understand it of engineers, who cast out large stones from a sort of machines then in use, to batter down and break through the walls of cities.
Ver. 26 . And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him , etc.] The siege was so close, the slingers or engineers did so much execution, that he saw the city would soon be taken, and he be obliged to deliver it up: he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords ; men expert in war, bold and daring: to break through even unto the king of Edom ; through his quarters, and so escape, he lying nearest to the city, and perhaps the weakest body of men with him; or he might think he was not so hearty in the cause of the kings, and would make but a feeble resistance, and let him pass: but they could not ; break through they met with a greater opposition than was expected perhaps the Edomites remembered how they had lately used them, which made them fight more desperately against them, (see Chronicles 20:23).
Ver. 27 . Then he took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead , etc.] Not the eldest son of the king of Edom, whom the king of Moab had in his hands before, which made the king of Edom the more willing to join in this expedition for the recovery of his son, as Joseph Kimchi thinks; or whom he took now in his sally out upon him, as Moses Kimchi and Ben Gersom, proceeding upon a mistaken sense of ( Amos 2:1) for the king of Edom could have no son that had a right, or was designed to succeed him, since he was but a deputy king himself; and besides, the sacrificing of him was not the way to cause the kings to raise the siege, but rather to provoke them to press it the more closely: it was the king of Moab that took his son and heir to the crown, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall ; that it might be seen by the camp of Israel, and move their compassion; or rather this was done as a religious action, to appease the deity by an human sacrifice so dear and precious, to give success, and cause the enemy to break up the siege; and was either offered to the true God, the God of Israel, in imitation of Abraham, as some Jewish writers fancy f37 , or to his idol Chemosh, the sun; and Jarchi observes, out of an exposition of theirs, that “vau” is wanting in the word for wall, and so may be interpreted of the sun, towards which this burnt offering was offered; and it is observed, from various Heathen authors, that it was usual with the Heathens, when in calamity and distress, to offer up to their gods what was most dear and valuable to them; and particularly the Phoenicians f38 , and from them the Carthaginians had this custom, who at one time offered up two hundred sons of their nobility, to appease their gods f39 : and there was great indignation against Israel ; not of the king of Edom against them, for not rescuing his son, or because they were the means of this disaster which befell him; but of the king of Moab, who was quite desperate, and determined to hold out the siege to the utmost extremity: and they departed, and returned to their own land; the three kings, the one to Edom, the other to Israel, and the third to Judah; when they saw the Moabites would sell their lives so dear, and hold out to the last man, they thought fit to break up the siege; and perhaps were greatly affected with the barbarous shocking sight they had seen, and might fear, should they stay, something else of the like kind would be done.