|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:6-19 The king of Israel laments their distress, and the danger they were in. He called these kings together, yet he charges it upon Providence. Thus the foolishness of man perverteth his way, and then his heart fretteth against the Lord, Pr 19:3. It was well that Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord now, but it had been much better if he had done it before he engaged in this war. Good men sometimes neglect their duty, till necessity and affliction drive them to it. Wicked people often fare the better for the friendship and society of the godly. To try their faith and obedience, Elisha bids them make the valley full of pits to receive water. Those who expect God's blessings, must dig pools for the rain to fill, as in the valley of Baca, and thus make even that a well, Ps 84:6. We need not inquire whence the water came. God is not tied to second causes. They that sincerely seek for the dew of God's grace, shall have it, and by it be made more than conquerors.
Verse 19. - And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city. The LXX. omit the second clause, perhaps because they could not reproduce in Greek the assonance of the Hebrew, where the words for "fenced" and "choice" (מִבְצֶר and מִבְחור) have nearly the same sound. And shall fell every good tree. It has been said that the Law forbade this, and argued
(1) that Elisha did not here utter a command, but only a prediction (Pool), not bidding the Israelites to cut down the trees, but only telling them they would do so;
(2) that Elisha intentionally excepted the Moabites from the merciful provision of the Law (Deuteronomy 20:19, 20), having authority to do so, and regarding the Moabites as exceptionally wicked (Keil); and
(3) that the Mosaic Law was not observed under the kings, and that Elisha himself had forgotten the provision about fruit trees (Geddes). But a careful examination of the passage in Deuteronomy will show
(1) that there is no general prohibition of the cutting down of fruit trees, but only a prohibition of their being cut down for siege works;
(2) that the prohibition rests on prudential, not on moral, grounds, and is thus practically limited to cases where the conquest of the country attacked, and its occupation by the conquerors, are looked forward to. The words are, "When thou shalt besiege a city.... thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them." The destruction of the fruit trees in an enemy's country was a common feature of the wars of the period, and was largely practiced, both By the Assyrians and the Egyptians (see Layard's 'Monuments of Nineveh,' first series, p. 73; second series, pl. 40; 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 588; and 'Records of the Past,' vol. 2. pp. 5, 51, etc.). And stop all wells of water. The stoppage of springs and wells was another common practice in ancient times, often employed against enemies and aliens. The Philistines stopped the Hebrew wells in the days of Isaac (Genesis 26:18). Hezekiah stopped the springs of water outside Jerusalem, when he expected to be besieged By the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32:3, 4). The Scythians, when Darius invaded their country, stopped all their own wells as they retired before him (Herod., 4:120). Arsaces III. partly stopped, and partly poi-ached, the Persian wells in his war with Antiochus the Great (Polyb., 10:28. § 5). The practice was regarded as quite legitimate. And mar every good piece of land with stones; literally, grieve every good piece of land. To clear the stones off a piece of ground was the first step towards preparing it for cultivation in the stony regions on either side of the Jordan. The clearance was generally effected by collecting the stones into heaps. When it was wished to "mar the land," the stones were there to be spread over it afresh.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And ye shall smite every fenced city and every choice city,.... 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.
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