2 Kings 3
Clarke's Commentary
The reign and idolatry of Jehoram, king of Israel, 2 Kings 3:1-3. Mesha, king of Moab, rebels against Israel, 2 Kings 3:4, 2 Kings 3:5. Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom join against the Moabites, and are brought into great distress for want of water, 2 Kings 3:6-10. The three kings go to Elisha to inquire of the Lord; who promises them water, and a complete victory, 2 Kings 3:11-19. Water comes the next morning, and fills the trenches which these kings had made in the valley, 2 Kings 3:20. The Moabites arm against them; and suppose, when they see the sun shining upon the waters, which look like blood, that the confederate kings have fallen out, and slain each other; and that they have nothing to do but take the spool, 2 Kings 3:21-23. The Israelites attack and completely rout then, beat down their cities, and mar their land, 2 Kings 3:24, 2 Kings 3:25. The king of Moab, having made an unsuccessful attack on the king of Edom, takes his eldest son, and of offers him for a burnt-offering upon the wall; and there is great indignation against Israel, 2 Kings 3:26, 2 Kings 3:27.

Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.
And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.
He put away the image of Baal - He abolished his worship; but he continued that of the calves at Dan and Beth-el.

Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.
Was a sheepmaster - The original is נקד naked, of which the Septuagint could make nothing, and therefore retained the Hebrew word νωκηδ: but the Chaldee has מרי גיתי marey githey, "a sheepmaster;" Aquila has ποιμνιοτροφος; and Symmachus, τρεφων βοσκηματα; all to the same sense. The original signifies one who marks or brands, probably from the marking of sheep. He fed many sheep, etc., and had them all marked in a particular way, in order to ascertain his property.

A hundred thousand lambs - The Chaldee and Arabic have a hundred thousand fat oxen.

But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel.
And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.
My people as thy people - We find that Jehoshaphat maintained the same friendly intercourse with the son, as he did with the father. See 1 Kings 22:4.

And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.
Through the wilderness of Edom - Because he expected the king of Edom to join them, as we find he did; for, being tributary to Judah, he was obliged to do it.

So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them.
A compass of seven days' journey - By taking a circuitous route, to go round the southern part of the Dead Sea, they probably intended to surprise the Moabites; but it appears their journey was ill planned, as they at last got into a country in which it was impossible to obtain water, and they were brought in consequence to the utmost extremity.

And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab!
The Lord hath called these three kings together - That is, This is a Divine judgment; God has judicially blinded us, and permitted us to take this journey to our destruction.

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
Is there not here a prophet of the Lord - The kings of Judah still acknowledged the true God, and him only.

Poured water on the hands of Elijah - That is, was his constant and confidential servant.

And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
The word of the Lord is with him - He has the gift of prophecy.

And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.
Get thee to the prophets of thy father - This was a just, but cutting reproof.

Nay - The Chaldee adds here, I beseech thee, do not call the sins of this impiety to remembrance, but ask mercy for us; because the Lord hath called, etc. The Arabic has, I beseech thee, do not mention of our transgressions, but use kindness towards us. It is very likely that some such words were spoken on the occasion; but these are the only versions which make this addition.

And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.
Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat - He worshipped the true God; Jehoram was an idolater.

But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
Bring me a minstrel - A person who played on the harp. The rabbins, and many Christians, suppose that Elisha's mind was considerably irritated and grieved by the bad behavior of the young men at Beth-el, and their tragical end, and by the presence of the idolatrous king of Israel; and therefore called for Divine psalmody, that it might calm his spirits, and render him more susceptible of the prophetic influence. To be able to discern the voice of God, and the operation of his hand, it is necessary that the mind be calm, and the passions all in harmony, under the direction of reason; that reason may be under the influence of the Divine Spirit.

The hand of the Lord came upon him - The playing of the harper had the desired effect; his mind was calmed, and the power of God descended upon him. This effect of music was generally acknowledged in every civilized nation. Cicero, in his Tusculan Questions, lib. iv., says, that "the Pythagoreans were accustomed to calm their minds, and soothe their passions, by singing and playing upon the harp." Pythagoraei mentes suas a cogitationum intentione cantu fidibusque ad tranquillitatem traducebant. I have spoken elsewhere of the heathen priests who endeavored to imitate the true prophets, and were as actually filled with the devil as the others were with the true God. The former were thrown into violent agitations and contortions by the influence of the demons which possessed them, while the latter were in a state of the utmost serenity and composure.

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

For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.
Ye shall not see wind - There shall be no wind to collect vapours, and there shall be no showers, and yet the whole bed of this river, and all the new made canals, shall be filled with water.

And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.
Shall fell every good tree - Every tree by which your enemies may serve themselves for fortifications, etc. But surely fruit trees are not intended here; for this was positively against the law of God, Deuteronomy 20:19, Deuteronomy 20:20 : "When thou shalt besiege a city - thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof - for the tree of the field is man's life - only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down."

Stop all wells of water - In those hot countries this would lead sooner than any thing else to reduce an enemy.

Mar every good piece of land with stones - Such a multitude of men, each throwing a stone on a good field as they passed, would completely destroy it.

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.
When the meat-offering was offered - This was the first of all offerings, and was generally made at sun-rising.

There came water - This supply was altogether miraculous, for there was neither wind nor rain, nor any other natural means by which it could be supplied.

And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.
And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:
Saw the water on the other side as red as blood - This might have been an optical deception; I have seen the like sight when there was no reason to suspect supernatural agency. The Moabites had never seen that valley full of water, and therefore did not suspect that their eyes deceived them, but took it for the blood of the confederate hosts, who they thought might have fallen into confusion in the darkness of night and destroyed each other, as the Midianites had formerly done, Judges 7:22, and the Philistines lately, 1 Samuel 14:20.

And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.
Therefore, Moab, to the spoil - Thus they came on in a disorderly manner, and fell an easy prey to their enemies.

And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.
And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it.
On every good piece of land - On all cultivated ground, and especially fields that were sown.

Only in Kir-haraseth - This was the royal city of the Moabites, and, as we learn from Scripture, exceedingly strong; (see Isaiah 16:7, Isaiah 16:11); so that it is probable the confederate armies could not easily reduce it. The slingers, we are informed, went about the wall, and smote all the men that appeared on it, while no doubt the besieging army was employed in sapping the foundations.

And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.
Seven hundred men - These were no doubt the choice of all his troops, and being afraid of being hemmed up and perhaps taken by his enemies, whom he found on the eve of gaining possession of the city, he made a desperate sortie in order to regain the open country; and supposing that the quarter of the Edomites was weakest, or less carefully guarded, he endeavored to make his impression there; but they were so warmly received by the king of Edom that they failed in the attempt, and were driven back into the city. Hence he was led to that desperate act mentioned in the following verse.

Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.
Took his eldest son - The rabbins account for this horrible sacrifice in the following way: -

When the king of Moab found himself so harassed, and the royal city on the point of being taken, he called a council of his servants, and asked them how it was these Israelites could perform such prodigies, and that such miracles were wrought for them? His servants answered, that it was owing to their progenitor Abraham, who, having an only son, was commanded by Jehovah to offer him in sacrifice. Abraham instantly obeyed, and offered his only son for a burnt-offering; and the Israelites being his descendants, through his merits the holy blessed God wrought such miracles in their behalf. The king of Moab answered, I also have an only son, and I will go and offer him to my God. Then he offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall.

Upon the wall - על החמה al hachamah. Rab. Sol. Jarchi says that the letter ו vau is wanting in this word, as it should be written חומה chomah, to signify a wall; but חמה chammah signifies the sun, and this was the god of the king of Moab: "And he offered his first-born son for a burnt-offering unto the sun." This is not very solid.

There was great indignation - The Lord was displeased with them for driving things to such an extremity: or the surrounding nations held them in abomination on the account; and they were so terrified themselves at this most horrid sacrifice, that they immediately raised the siege and departed. In cases of great extremity it was customary in various heathen nations to offer human sacrifices, or to devote to the infernal gods the most precious or excellent thing or person they possessed. This was frequent among the Phoenicians, Romans, and Greeks; and it was the natural fruit of a religious system which had for the objects of its worship cruel and merciless divinities. How different the Christian system! "Wilt thou that we shall bring down fire from heaven and destroy them? Ye know not what manner of spirits ye are of; the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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