2 Kings 3
We are now called to attend the public affairs of Israel, in which we
shall find Elisha concerned. Here is,
I. The general character of Jehoram, king of Israel,
2 Kings 3:1-3.
II. A war with Moab, in which Jehoram and his allies were engaged,
2 Kings 3:4-8.
III. The straits which the confederate army were reduced to in their
expedition against Moab, and their consulting Elisha in that distress,
with the answer of peace he gave them,
2 Kings 3:9-19.
IV. The glorious issue of this campaign
(2 Kings 3:20-25)
and the barbarous method the king of Moab took to oblige the
confederate army to retire,
2 Kings 3:26,27.
The house of Ahab is doomed to destruction; and, though in this chapter
we have both its character and its condition better than before, yet
the threatened ruin is not far off.
|The Reign of Jehoram.
||B. C. 895.|
1 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.
2 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.
3 Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of
Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
4 And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto
the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and a hundred
thousand rams, with the wool.
5 But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of
Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
Jehoram, the son of Ahab, and brother of Ahaziah, is here upon the
throne of Israel; and, though he was but a bad man, yet two commendable
things are here recorded of him:--
I. That he removed his father's idols. He did evil in many things, but
not like his father Ahab or his mother Jezebel,
2 Kings 3:2.
Bad he was, but not so bad, so overmuch wicked, as Solomon
Perhaps Jehoshaphat, though by his alliance with the house of Ahab he
made his own family worse, did something towards making Ahab's better.
Jehoram saw his father and brother cut off for worshipping Baal, and
wisely took warning by God's judgments on them, and put away the
image of Baal, resolving to worship the God of Israel only, and
consult none but his prophets. So far was well, yet it did not prevent
the destruction of Ahab's family, nay, that destruction came in his
days, and fell immediately upon him
(2 Kings 9:24),
though he was one of the best of the family, for then the measure of
its iniquity was full. Jehoram's reformation was next to none; for,
1. He only put away the image of Baal which his father had made,
and this probably in compliment to Jehoshaphat, who otherwise would not
have come into confederacy with him, any more than with his brother,
1 Kings 22:49.
But he did not destroy the worship of Baal among the people, for Jehu
found it prevalent,
2 Kings 10:19.
It was well to reform his family, but it was not enough; he ought to
have used his power for the reforming of his kingdom.
2. When he put away the image of Baal, he adhered to the worship of the
calves, that politic sin of Jeroboam,
2 Kings 3:3.
He departed not therefrom, because that was the state engine by
which the division between the two tribes was supported. Those do not
truly, nor acceptably, repent or reform, who only part with the sins
that they lose by, but continue their affection to the sins that they
3. He only put away the image of Baal, he did not break it in
pieces, as he ought to have done. He laid it aside for the present, yet
not knowing but he might have occasion for it another time; and
Jezebel, for reasons of state, was content to worship her Baal in
II. That he did what he could to recover his brother's losses. As he
had something more of the religion of an Israelite than his father, so
he had something more of the spirit of a king than his brother. Moab
rebelled against Israel, immediately upon the death of Ahab,
2 Kings 1:1.
And we do not find that Ahaziah made any attempt to chastise or reduce
them, but tamely let go his interest in them, rather than entertain the
cares, undergo the fatigues, and run the hazards, of a war with them.
His folly and pusillanimity herein, and his indifference to the public
good, were the more aggravated because the tribute which the king of
Moab paid was a very considerable branch of the revenue of the crown of
Israel: 100,000 lambs, and 100,000 wethers,
2 Kings 3:4.
The riches of kings then lay more in cattle than coin, and they thought
it not below them to know the state of their flocks and herds
themselves, because, as Solomon observes, the crown doth not endure
to every generation,
Taxes were then paid not so much in money as in the commodities of the
country, which was an ease to the subject, whether it was an advantage
to the prince or no. The revolt of Moab was a great loss to Israel, yet
Ahaziah sat still in sloth and ease. But an upper chamber in his house
proved as fatal to him as the high places of the field could have been
(2 Kings 1:2),
and the breaking of his lattice let into his throne a man of the more
active genius, that would not lose the dominion of Moab without making
at least one push for its preservation.
|The Expedition against Moab; Elisha Consulted.
||B. C. 895.|
6 And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and
numbered all Israel.
7 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
8 And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The
way through the wilderness of Edom.
9 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
10 And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the LORD hath called
these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of
11 But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the
LORD, that we may enquire 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.
12 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
13 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.
14 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
15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the
minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
16 And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of
17 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.
18 And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he
will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.
19 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.
Jehoram has no sooner got the sceptre into his hand than he takes the
sword into his hand, to reduce Moab. Crowns bring great cares and
perils to the heads that wear them; no sooner in honour than in war.
Now here we have,
I. The concerting of this expedition between Jehoram king of Israel and
Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Jehoram levied an army
(2 Kings 3:6),
and such an opinion he had of the godly king of Judah that,
1. He courted him to be his confederate: Wilt thou go with me
against Moab? And he gained him. Jehoshaphat said, I will go up.
I am as thou art,
2 Kings 3:7.
Judah and Israel, though unhappily divided from each other, yet can
unite against Moab a common enemy. Jehoshaphat upbraids them not with
their revolt from the house of David, nor makes it an article of their
alliance that they shall return to their allegiance, though he had good
reason to insist upon it, but treats with Israel as a sister-kingdom.
Those are no friends to their own peace and strength who can never find
in their hearts to forgive and forget an old injury, and unite with
those that have formerly broken in upon their rights. Quod initio
non vulvit, tractu temporis invalescit--That which was originally
destitute of authority in the progress of time acquires it.
2. He consulted him as his confidant,
2 Kings 3:8.
He took advice of Jehoshaphat, who had more wisdom and experience than
himself, which way they should make their descent upon the country of
Moab; and he advised that they should not march against them the
nearest way, over Jordan, but go round through the wilderness of
Edom, that they might take the king of Edom (who was tributary to
him) and his forces along with them If two be better than one, much
more will not a three-fold cord be easily broken. Jehoshaphat
had like to have paid dearly for joining with Ahab, yet he joined with
his son, and this expedition also had like to have been fatal to him.
There is nothing got by being yoked with unbelievers.
II. The great straits that the army of the confederates was reduced to
in this expedition. Before they saw the face of an enemy they were all
in danger of perishing for want of water,
2 Kings 3:9.
This ought to have been considered before they ventured a march through
the wilderness, the same wilderness (or very near it) where their
ancestors wanted water,
God suffers his people, by their own improvidence, to bring themselves
into distress, that the wisdom, power, and goodness of his providence
may be glorified in their relief. What is more cheap and common than
water? It is drink to every beast of the field,
Yet the want of it will soon humble and ruin kings and armies. The
king of Israel sadly lamented the present distress, and the imminent
danger it put them in of falling into the hands of their enemies the
Moabites, to whom, when weakened by thirst, they would be an easy prey,
2 Kings 3:10.
it was he that had called these kings together; yet he charges
it upon Providence, and reflects upon that as unkind: The Lord has
called them together. Thus the foolishness of man perverteth
his way, and then his heart fretteth against the Lord,
III. Jehoshaphat's good motion to ask counsel of God in this exigency,
2 Kings 3:11.
The place they were now in could not but remind them of the wonders
of which their fathers told them, the waters fetched out of the
rock for Israel's seasonable supply. The thought of this, we may
suppose, encouraged Jehoshaphat to ask, Is there not here a prophet
of the Lord, like unto Moses? He was the more concerned because it
was by his advice that they fetched this compass through the
2 Kings 3:8.
It was well that Jehoshaphat enquired of the Lord now, but it would
have been much better if he had done it sooner, before he engaged in
this war, or steered this course; so the distress might have been
prevented. Good men are sometimes remiss and forgetful, and neglect
their duty till necessity and affliction drive them to it.
IV. Elisha recommended as a proper person for them to consult with
2 Kings 3:11.
And here we may wonder,
1. That Elisha should follow the camp, especially in such a tedious
march as this, as a volunteer, unasked, unobserved, and in no post of
honour at all; not in the office of priest of the war
or president of the council of war, but in such obscurity that none of
the kings knew they had such a jewel in the treasures of their camp,
nor so good a friend in their retinue. We may suppose it was by special
direction from heaven that Elisha attended the war, as the chariot
of Israel and the horsemen thereof. Thus does God anticipate his
people with the blessings of his goodness and provide his oracles for
those that provide them not for themselves. It would often be bad with
us if God did not take more care of us, both for soul and body, than we
take for ourselves.
2. That a servant of the king of Israel knew of his being there when
the king himself did not. Probably it was such a servant as Obadiah was
to his father Ahab, one that feared the Lord; to such a one
Elisha made himself known, not to the kings. The account he gives of
him is that it was he that poured water on the hands of Elijah,
that is, he was his servant, and particularly attended him when he
washed his hands. He that will be great, let him learn to minister: he
that will rise high, let him begin low.
V. The application which the kings made to Elisha. They went down to
him to his quarters,
2 Kings 3:12.
Jehoshaphat had such an esteem for a prophet with whom the word of the
Lord was that he would condescend to visit him in his own person and
not send for him up to him. The other two were moved by the straits
they were in to make their court to the prophet. He that humbled
himself was thus exalted, and looked great, when three kings came to
knock at his door, and beg his assistance; see
VI. The entertainment which Elisha gave them.
1. He was very plain with the wicked king of Israel
(2 Kings 3:13):
"What have I to do with thee? How canst thou expect an answer of
peace from me? Get thee to the prophets of thy father and
mother, whom thou hast countenanced and maintained in thy
prosperity, and let them help thee now in thy distress." Elisha was not
imposed upon, as Jehoshaphat was, by his partial and hypocritical
reformation; he knew that, though he had put away the image of Baal,
Baal's prophets were still dear to him, and perhaps some of the were
now in his camp. "Go," said he, "go to them. Get you to the gods
whom you have served,
The world and the flesh have ruled you, let them help you; why should
God be enquired of by you?"
Elisha tells him to his face, in a holy indignation at his wickedness,
that he can scarcely find in his heart to look towards him or to
2 Kings 3:14.
Jehoram is to be respected as a prince, but as a wicked man he is a
vile person, and is to be condemned,
Elisha, as a subject, will honour him, but as a prophet he will cause
him to know his iniquity. For those that had such an extraordinary
commission it was fit (though not for a common person) to say to a
king, Thou art wicked,
Jehoram has so much self-command as to take this plain dealing
patiently; he cares not now for hearing of the prophets of Baal, but is
a humble suitor to the God of Israel and his prophet, representing the
present case as very deplorable and humbly recommending it to the
prophet's compassionate consideration. In effect, he owns himself
unworthy, but let not the other kings be ruined for his sake.
2. Elisha showed a great respect to the godly king of Judah,
regarded his presence, and, for his sake, would enquire of
the Lord for them all. It is good being with those that have God's
favour and his prophet's love. Wicked people often fare the better for
the friendship and society of those that are godly.
3. He composed himself to receive instructions from God. His mind was
somewhat ruffled and disturbed at the sight of Jehoram; though he was
not put into a sinful heat or passion, nor had spoken unadvisedly, yet
his zeal for the present indisposed him for prayer and the operations
of the Spirit, which required a mind very calm and sedate. He therefore
called for a musician
(2 Kings 3:15),
a devout musician, one accustomed to play upon his harp and sign psalms
to it. To hear God's praises sweetly sung, as David had appointed,
would cheer his spirits, and settle his mind, and help to put him into
a right frame both to speak to him and to hear from him. We find a
company of prophets prophesying with a psaltery and a tabret before
1 Samuel 10:5.
Those that desire communion with God must keep their spirits quiet and
serene. Elisha being refreshed, and having the tumult of his spirits
laid by this divine music, the hand of the Lord came upon him,
and his visit did him more honour than that of three kings.
4. God, by him, gave them assurance that the issue of the present
distress would be comfortable and glorious.
(1.) They should speedily be supplied with water,
2 Kings 3:16,17.
To try their faith and obedience, he bids them make the valley full
of ditches to receive the water. Those that expect God's blessings
must prepare room for them, dig the pools for the rain to fill,
as they did in the valley of Baca, and so made even that a well,
To raise the wonder, he tells them they shall have water enough, and
yet there shall be neither wind nor rain. Elijah, by prayer,
obtained water out of the clouds, but Elisha fetches it nobody knows
whence. The spring of these waters shall be as secret as the head of
the Nile. God is not tied to second causes. Ordinarily it is by a
plentiful rain that God confirms his inheritance
but here it is done without rain, at least without rain in that place.
Some of the fountains of the great deep, it is likely, were
broken up on this occasion; and, to increase the miracle, that
valley only (as it should seem) was filled with water, and
no other place had any share of it.
(2.) That supply should be an earnest of victory
(2 Kings 3:18):
"This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord; you shall
not only be saved from perishing, but shall return in triumph." As God
gives freely to the unworthy, so he gives richly, like himself, more
than we are able to ask or think. His grants out-do our requests
and expectations. Those that sincerely seek for the dew of God's grace
shall have it, and by it be made more than conquerors. It is
promised that they shall be masters of the rebellious country, and they
are permitted to lay it waste and ruin it,
2 Kings 3:19.
The law forbade them to fell fruit-trees to be employed in their sieges
but not when it was intended, in justice, for the starving of a country
that had forfeited its fruits, by denying tribute to those to whom
tribute was due.
|The Defeat of the Moabites.
||B. C. 895.|
20 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.
21 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.
22 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:
23 And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain,
and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the
24 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
25 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
Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers
went about it, and smote it.
26 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.
27 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.
I. We have here the divine gift of both those things which God had
promised by Elisha--water and victory, and the former not only a pledge
of the latter, but a means of it. God, who created, and commands, all
the waters, both above and beneath the firmament, sent them an
abundance of water on a sudden, which did them double service.
1. It relieved their armies, which were ready to perish,
2 Kings 3:20.
And, which was very observable, this relief came just at the time of
the offering of the morning sacrifice upon the altar at
Jerusalem, a certain time, and universally known. That time Elisha
chose for his hour of prayer (it is likely looking towards
the temple, for so there were to do in their prayers when they were
going out to battle and encamped at a distance,
1 Kings 8:44),
in token of his communion with the temple-service, and his expectation
of success by virtue of the great sacrifice. We now cannot pitch upon
any hour more acceptable than another, because our high priest is
always appearing for us, to present and plead his sacrifice. That time
God chose for the hour of mercy to put an honour upon the daily
sacrifice, which had been despised. God answered Daniel's prayer just
at the time of the evening sacrifice
for he will acknowledge his own institutions.
2. It deceived their enemies, who were ready to triumph, into the
destruction. Notice was given to the Moabites of the advances of the
confederate army, to oppose which all that were able to put on
armour were posted upon the frontiers, where they were ready to
give the Israelites a warm reception
(2 Kings 3:21),
promising themselves that it would be easy dealing with an army
fatigued by so long a march through the wilderness of Edom. But see
(1.) How easily they were drawn into their own delusions. Observe the
steps of their self-deceit.
[1.] They saw the water in the valley where the army of Israel
encamped, and conceited it was blood
(2 Kings 3:22),
because they knew the valley to be dry, and (there having been no rain)
could not imagine it should be water. The sun shone upon it, and
probably the sky was red and lowering, a presage of foul
weather that day
and so it proved to them. But, this making the water look red, their
own fancies, which made them willing to believe what made for them,
suggested, This is blood, God permitting them thus to impose
[2.] If their camp was thus full of blood, they conclude, "Certainly
the kings have fallen out (as confederates of different interests are
apt to do) and they have slain one another
(2 Kings 3:23),
for who else should slay them?" And,
[3.] "If the armies have slain one another, we have nothing to do but
to divide the prey. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil." These
were the gradual suggestions of some sanguine spirits among them, that
thought themselves wiser and happier in their conjectures than their
neighbours; and the rest, being desirous it should be so, were forward
to believe it was so. Quod volumus facile credimus--What we wish we
readily believe. Thus those that are to be destroyed are first
and none are so effectually deceived as those that deceive
(2.) How fatally they thereby ran upon their own destruction. They
rushed carelessly into the camp of Israel, to plunder it, but were
undeceived when it was too late. The Israelites, animated by the
assurances Elisha had given them of victory, fell upon them with the
utmost fury, routed them, and pursued them into their own country
(2 Kings 3:24),
which they laid waste
(2 Kings 3:25),
destroyed the cities, marred the ground, stopped up the wells, felled
the timber, and left only the royal city standing, in the walls of
which they made great breaches with their battering engines. This they
got by rebelling against Israel. Who ever hardened his heart against
God and prospered?
II. In the close of the chapter we are told what the king of Moab did
when he found himself reduced to the last extremity by the besiegers,
and that his capital city was likely to fall into their hands.
1. He attempted that which was bold and brave. he got together 700
choice men, and with them sallied out upon the intrenchments of the
king of Edom, who, being but a mercenary in this expedition, would not,
he hoped, make any great resistance if vigorously attacked, and so he
might make his escape that way. But it would not do; even the king of
Edom proved too hard for him, and obliged him to retire,
2 Kings 3:26.
2. This failing, he did that which was brutish and barbarous; he took
his own son, his eldest son, that was to succeed him, than whom nothing
could be more dear to himself and his people, and offered him for a
burnt-offering upon the wall,
2 Kings 3:27.
He designed by this,
(1.) To obtain the favour of Chemosh his god, which, being a devil,
delighted in blood and murder, and the destruction of mankind. The
dearer any thing was to them the more acceptable those idolaters
thought it must needs be if offered in sacrifice to their gods, and
therefore burnt their children in the fire to their honour.
(2.) To terrify the besiegers, and oblige them to retire. Therefore he
did it upon the wall, in their sight, that they might see what
desperate courses he resolved to take rather than surrender, and how
dearly he would sell his city and life. He intended hereby to render
them odious, and to exasperate and enrage his own subjects against
them. This effect it had: There was great indignation against
Israel for driving him to this extremity, whereupon they raised the
siege and returned. Tender and generous spirits will not do that,
though just, which will drive any man distracted, or make him