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.2 Kings 3:2-3. He put away the image of Baal — It was much that his mother, who had brought this worship with her from the Zidonians, should suffer him to remove this image; but she was probably a little daunted at the many disasters which had befallen their family, and was contented with worshipping Baal in private. Nevertheless, he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam — Though he put away the image and worship of Baal, resolving to worship Jehovah only, yet he continued to worship him under the representation of a calf, which was idolatry, though in a less degree. This kind of worship all the kings of Israel kept up, as a wall of partition between their subjects and those of Judah. They intended hereby to keep their people from going up to worship at Jerusalem, lest, if they did so, they might, by degrees, be brought to submit again to the kings of Judah. Thus Jehoram: he had a little religion, such as it was, but not enough to overrule his policy.
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.2 Kings 3:4. Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheep-master — The riches, not only of private men, but also of kings, in ancient times, consisted much in sheep and cattle. And this king of Moab had abundance of them, which imboldened and enabled him to rebel against his sovereign. And rendered to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, &c. — This was a prodigious number, and as they were rendered unshorn, they were the more valuable. But we are to consider that these countries abounded with sheep; insomuch that Solomon offered one hundred and twenty thousand at the dedication of the temple, 2 Chronicles 7:5; and the Reubenites drove from the Hagarenes one hundred and fifty thousand, 1 Chronicles 5:7.
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.2 Kings 3:6-8. King Jehoram went out and numbered all Israel — As soon as he was settled in his kingdom, his first business was to raise an army to reduce Moab to obedience, and to engage Jehoshaphat to join him as an ally. And he said, I will go up — Jehoshaphat unites with him in this war; because the war was just in itself, and convenient for Jehoshaphat, both in the general, that revolters should be chastised, lest the example should pass into his dominions, and the Edomites be encouraged to revolt from him, as they did from his son; and in particular, that the Moabites should be humbled, who had invaded his land before this time, (2 Chronicles 20:1,) and might do so again if they were not brought low; for which a fair opportunity now offered. He answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom — Which Jehoshaphat chose, because he wished to have the assistance of the Edomites, who were his tributaries. And it is probable Moab was but weakly fortified on that side.
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.
And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.
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.2 Kings 3:9. The king of Edom — Properly speaking, there was no king at this time in Edom, as we read in the last chapter of the foregoing book, 1 Kings 22:47; but the viceroy, under Jehoshaphat, is here called king, that word being often used for any prince or chief ruler. Of seven days’ journey — Because they made a great army, which could move but slowly; and they fetched a greater compass than usual, that they might come upon the backs of the Moabites, where they did not expect them, or for some other advantage which they hoped to reap by it. There was no water for the host — A frequent want in those parts; and now, it seems, increased by the extraordinary heat and dryness of the season. And for the cattle that followed them — Which drew their carriages.
And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab!2 Kings 3:10-11. The king of Israel said, Alas, &c. — He did not cry to God for help, but only bewailed the straits into which they were fallen; which his own guilt made him imagine God had brought to pass for their destruction. Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet — This he should have asked before, when they first undertook the expedition, as he did in a like case, (1 Kings 22:5,) and for that neglect he now suffers; but better late than never: his affliction brings him to the remembrance of his former sin, and present duty. Here is Elisha, who poured water, &c. — Who was his servant: this being one office of a servant: and this office was the more necessary among the Israelites, because of the frequent washings which their law required. Probably it was by a special direction from God that Elisha followed them, unasked, unobserved. Thus does God prevent us with the blessings of his goodness, and provide for those who provide not for themselves.
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.
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.2 Kings 3:12. The word of the Lord is with him — He is a true prophet, and the Lord declares his will by him. Undoubtedly he had been informed how Elijah had chosen him his successor; how he had attended him till he was taken up into heaven, and what wonders he had already done. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, &c., went down to him — To his tent, which was either in the camp or not far from it. They did not send for him, but went to him, that by paying him this respect, and thus honouring him, they might engage him to give them his utmost assistance.
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.2 Kings 3:13. Elisha said to the king of Israel, What have I, &c.? — I desire not to have any discourse with thee. Get thee to the prophet of thy father, &c. — Seek counsel and help of thy false prophets and of their gods, the calves, which thou, after thy father’s example, worshippest; and the Baals, which thy mother yet worships by thy permission. Let these idols, which thou servest in thy prosperity, now help thee in thy distress. The king of Israel said, Nay, &c. — That is, I will not consult them; but do thou now give us counsel how we may be extricated from this great distress. For the Lord hath called, &c. — He was sensible it was by the particular providence of the God of Israel that he was brought into this strait, and perhaps secretly he believed in Jehovah alone as the true God, though, for political reasons, he worshipped the calves.
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.2 Kings 3:14. Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat — Whom I reverence and love for his piety, and therefore for his sake will inquire of the Lord for you all. It is good being with those who possess God’s favour and the love of his people. Wicked men often fare the better for the friendship and society of good men.
But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.2 Kings 3:15. Now bring me a minstrel — One that can sing and play well upon an instrument of music. This he requires, that his mind, which had been disturbed at the sight of idolatrous Jehoram, might be composed, and that he might be excited to more fervent prayer, and thereby be prepared to receive the prophetic inspiration. See on 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 16:16. Those that desire communion with God, must keep their spirits quiet and serene. All hurry of spirits, and all turbulent passions, make us unfit for divine visitations. The hand of the Lord came upon him — The spirit of prophecy, so called, to note that it was no natural or acquired virtue inherent in him, but a singular gift of God, given to whom and when he pleased.
And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.2 Kings 3:16-17. Make this valley full of ditches — Which may receive the water and retain it, for the use of men and beasts. They that expect God’s blessings, must prepare room for them. Ye shall not see wind — Any of those winds which commonly bring rain. Seeing is here put for perceiving or feeling; the words belonging to one sense, being frequently applied to another. Neither shall ye see rain — Elijah, by prayer, obtained water from the sea and clouds: but Elisha fetches it nobody knows whence. God is not confined to second causes. Ordinarily it is by a plentiful rain that he refreshes his inheritance: but here it is done without any such means. Yet that valley shall be filled with water — That valley only, it seems, and no other place, however near or adjoining, which greatly increased the miracle.
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.
And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.2 Kings 3:18. This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord — But a small favour in comparison of what he intends to do for you, for Jehoshaphat’s sake. He will give you more than you expect or ask. For they were so weakened and discouraged by the great drought, that they had no hopes of proceeding in the offensive war, and thought it sufficient, if it were possible, to defend themselves from the Moabites, 2 Kings 3:13.
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.2 Kings 3:19. Ye shall smite, &c. — If this command seem severe, it must be considered that the Moabites were a very wicked people, perfidious, cruel, and implacable enemies to God’s people upon all occasions, and now in a state of rebellion. But these words are rather to be considered as a prediction of their success, than as a command, enjoining them to do all these things; and thus understood, they imply that their victory should be so full and complete, that they should have it in their power to lay the country of the Moabites waste with fire and sword.
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.2 Kings 3:20. In the morning when the meat-offering was offered — That is, at the time of the morning sacrifice, which doubtless was attended with the solemn prayers of God’s people. At this time Elisha joined his prayers with the prayers of God’s people, especially those at Jerusalem. And this time God chose to answer their prayers, and to work this miracle, that thereby he might determine the controversy between the Israelites and the Jews, about the place and manner of worship, and give a public testimony from heaven for the Jews, and against the Israelites. God, that commands all the waters both above and beneath the firmament, sent them abundance of water on a sudden.
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.2 Kings 3:21. All that were able to put on armour and upward — That is, from youths, that were but just able to put on armour, to those that were far advanced in life; so that none were exempted. And stood in the border —
Of their country, intending to defend themselves, but not to march out of their country to give the enemy battle.
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:2 Kings 3:22-23. The sun shone upon the water, &c. — They stood in such a situation, when they looked at the water, that those rays of the sun which gave a red colour, were reflected from the water to their eyes; or the light of the morning sun shining upon the water, through the vapours that arose from the earth, gave it a reddish appearance; so that they imagined it to be blood, which they were the more inclined to suppose, because they knew very well there was no water there before. And they said — The kings are surely slain, &c. — As they concluded what they saw could be nothing but blood, so they could not conceive it could be any other blood than that of the army of the three kings, who they thought had fallen out among themselves, vexed at the straits into which they had brought one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil — Easily believing what they wished, they imagined they had nothing to do but to go and take the spoil, having no need to fight at all. Therefore they sent no scouts, but marched thither with their whole army, and that in great disorder: wherein, also, there was a divine hand, strengthening them in their mistakes, and hardening them to their destruction.
And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.
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.2 Kings 3:24. They went forward, smiting the Moabites, even in their country — They pursued them to their own country, and entered it with and after them; the passes, which the Moabites had before defended, being now open to them.
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.2 Kings 3:25. They stopped all the wells of water, &c. — These, in all probability, are hyperbolical expressions, signifying the great devastation which they made. Only in Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof — This was the royal city of Moab, into which the remnant of the Moabites were gathered, and where also their king was with them. The wall and buildings of this city only were left; their whole country being destroyed. Howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it — By slinging stones, they drove those from the wall who defended it, and by raising batteries against it, made great breaches therein, by which they might enter the city and take it.
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.2 Kings 3:26. He took with him seven hundred men — to break through, &c. — He made a sally with seven hundred stout men, upon the quarter of the king of Edom, which he thought the weakest side, hoping to break through and escape. But they were repulsed, and compelled to retreat.
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.2 Kings 3:27. He took his eldest son — and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the walls — “Not only the Holy Scriptures, but several heathen writers assure us, that in case of great extremity, it was customary among various people to sacrifice to their gods whatever was most dear to them.” Eusebius and Luctantius mention several nations who used these sacrifices. And “Cesar, in his war with the Gauls, tells us that when they were afflicted with grievous diseases, or in time of war or great danger, they either offered men for sacrifices, or vowed that they would offer them; because they imagined that their gods could never be appeased unless one man’s life was given for another’s. In conformity with this horrid custom, and to appease, no doubt, as he thought, the anger of his idol Chemosh, the king of Moab made this costly sacrifice of his eldest son; a deed which, it is plain from the text, was held in the greatest abhorrence by the Israelites.” — Dodd. For so, it seems, we are to understand the following words, which should be rendered, not, There was great indignation against Israel, but, There was great trouble, or repentance upon (in or among) Israel: that is, they were extremely grieved on account of this barbarous sacrifice, and wished they had not pushed on a war so far, which ended in such a horrid action. They departed from him, and returned to their own land — They resolved to prosecute the war no further; but raised the siege, by common consent, and returned home, for fear any such thing should be done again.