2 Kings 3

CHAPTER III

The reign and idolatry of Jehoram, king of Israel, 1-3.

Mesha, king of Moab, rebels against Israel, 4, 5.

Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom join against the

Moabites, and are brought into great distress for want of

water, 6-10.

The three kings go to Elisha to inquire of the Lord; who

promises them water, and a complete victory, 11-19.

Water comes the next morning, and fills the trenches which

these kings had made in the valley, 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, 21-23.

The Israelites attack and completely rout then, beat down their

cities, and mar their land, 24, 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, 26, 27.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 2. He put away the image of Baal] He abolished his

worship; but he continued that of the calves at Dan and Beth-el.

Verse 4. Was a sheepmaster] The original is naked, of

which the Septuagint could make nothing, and therefore retained

the Hebrew word νωκηδ: but the Chaldee has 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, &c., 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.

Verse 7. My people as thy people] We find that Jehoshaphat

maintained the same friendly intercourse with the son, as he did

with the father. See 1Ki 22:4.

Verse 8. 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.

Verse 9. 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.

Verse 10. 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.

Verse 11. 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.

Verse 12. The word of the Lord is with him.] He has the gift of

prophecy.

Verse 13. 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, &c. 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.

Verse 14. Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat]

He worshipped the true God; Jehoram was an idolater.

Verse 15. 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 behaviour 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 endeavoured 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.

Verse 16. Make this valley full of ditches.] The word 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.

Verse 17. 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.

Verse 19. Shall fell every good tree] Every tree by which your

enemies may serve themselves for fortifications, &c. But surely

fruit trees are not intended here; for this was positively

against the law of God, De 20:19, 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.

Verse 20. 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.

Verse 22. 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, Jud 7:22, and the

Philistines lately, 1Sa 14:20.

Verse 23. Therefore, Moab, to the spoil.] Thus they came on in a

disorderly manner, and fell an easy prey to their enemies.

Verse 25. 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

Isa 16:7, 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.

Verse 26. 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 endeavoured 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.

Verse 27. 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] al hachamah. Rab. Sol. Jarchi says

that the letter vau is wanting in this word, as it should be

written chomah, to signify a wall; but 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."

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