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Deeper Commentary

2Ki 3:1 Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years-
We noted on 2 Kings 1:17 that both Israel and Judah had a king called Jehoram at this time. This was perhaps intentional, because Jehoshaphat's son had married Ahab's daughter. "The accession of the Israelite Jehoram (Ahab’s brother) took place, according to 2 Kings 3:1, in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat. Jehoram of Judah perhaps received the royal title from his father as early as his father’s sixteenth year, when he was about to join Ahab against the Syrians; the same year might then be called either the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat or the second year of Jehoram".

2Ki 3:2 He did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, but not like his father or his mother; for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made-
Even amongst those who ultimately fail, God recognizes degrees of sin, and graciously takes note of the good things they do. We see in all this His extreme sensitivity to human behaviour. And yet we also see that He judges the overall state of heart and spiritual thrust of a person's life, and occasional, isolated acts of righteousness [such as putting away the Baal pillar of Ahab] do not count for much, just as specific acts of failure likewise do not preclude God from saying that men like David and Jehoshaphat followed Him with all their hearts all their days.

2Ki 3:3 Nevertheless he held to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel to sin; he didn’t depart from them-
2 Kings 3:2,3 implies that Jeroboam did not actually worship Baal. Jehoram put away the image of Baal, but he cleaved to the sins of Jeroboam. The implication is that Jeroboam was not a Baal worshipper, which is what the majority of the wicked kings were guilty of. Instead he mixed true and false worship of Yahweh.

2Ki 3:4 Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder; and he rendered to the king of Israel the wool of one hundred thousand lambs, and of one hundred thousand rams-
This Mesha is mentioned on the very first line of the Moabite stone. Whilst the stone records history from the Moabite perspective, it is a powerful corroboration of the Biblical account here.

2Ki 3:5 But it happened, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel-
We last heard of Moab when David subdued them (2 Sam. 8:2). The Moabite stone states that Israel and Moab were in conflict in the time of Ahab's father Omri. Tired of paying the heavy tax of 2 Kings 3:4, Moab seized the opportunity when Ahab died suddenly and Israel were defeated by Syria at Ramoth Gilead (2 Kings 1:1).

2Ki 3:6 King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time, and mustered all Israel-
The 'going out' was to war. That it was the figure of speech means. "Mustered" is 'numbered' and we recall from David's numbering the people that Israel would be plagued whenever they were numbered and didn't pay the required temple tax. But the ten tribes had no temple, so we can assume this tax was not paid. And yet God gave Israel a victory at this time. God responds differently to the same sins being committed, because He weighs up the context and dimension of the sin in a way which we cannot. We are not to judge not least because we in fact cannot judge. We lack the huge and total background factoring which God alone has access to.

2Ki 3:7 He went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me against Moab to battle? He said, I will go up. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses-
This was the same request made to Jehoshaphat by Ahab, and he responds in the same positive way with the same language he used to him (1 Kings 22:4). And yet by doing that, he had incited the wrath of God against him for helping those who hated Yahweh (2 Chron. 19:2). He very nearly lost his life at Ramoth Gilead for doing this. But he didn't learn. So he was tested again by various requests from Ahaziah, Ahab's son, to do further joint ventures. He agreed, wrongly, and his ships were destroyed (1 Kings 22:48), Chronicles adding that this was because of God's wrath at his working with Ahaziah. After that Ahaziah made another such request, and it seemed Jehoshaphat learned his lesson and refused to work with him again (1 Kings 22:49). But he hadn't. For now he again works with Ahab's son. And yet he was finally counted righteous with God because his basic state of heart was for Him. We marvel again at God's patience with men. This means that we are to continue seeking the repentance of men and never cut them off, as is typically done by small minded churches 'disfellowshipping' people.  

Jehoshaphat agreed, partly because the sister of Jehoram had married his son, and partly because he himself had been attacked by Moab recently (2 Chron. 20:1). He allowed family pressures and the desire for personal security to override spiritual principle; and that in essence is our abiding temptation likewise. 

2Ki 3:8 He said, Which way shall we go up? He answered, The way of the wilderness of Edom-
This answer perhaps came from Jehoshaphat, who as noted on 1 Kings 22:47 had installed his own deputy in Edom. The idea was that supportive Edomite forces, or perhaps the garrison of Judah in Edom, would join this assault upon Moab. There were two ways to attack Moab, from the north or from the south, and Jehoshaphat advises from the south. The northern route would have been through Ramoth Gilead, where Jehoshaphat had nearly lost his life supporting Ahab. So it is understandable he wished to avoid that.

2Ki 3:9 So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom; and they made a circuit of seven days’ journey-
I suggested on 1 Kings 22:47 ("There was no king in Edom: a deputy was king") that Jehoshaphat had installed a Jewish deputy over Edom, so this "king" was likely a Jew governing Edom for Jehoshaphat. See on :8. The language of making a circuit in the wilderness is to point up the similarities with Israel in the wilderness; for they were to be tested likewise, and saved by the prophet Elisha, just as they had been saved by Moses. See on 2 Kings 4:3.

There was no water for the army, nor for the animals that followed them-
The language recalls Israel's crisis after they had come out of the Red Sea into that same wilderness. Elisha had been raised up to be, potentially, another Moses, as explained on 2 Kings 2:21. This was why he accompanied them (:11). See on :21.

2Ki 3:10 The king of Israel said, Alas! For Yahweh has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab-
We note the idolatrous king of Israel speaks of "Yahweh". The ten tribes believed that Baal worship was a form of Yahweh worship, and never totally rejected Yahweh. He wrongly assumes that Yahweh had called them all together to attack Moab, when clearly the campaign had been on his initiative. Yahweh had not been inquired of at this point (:11). So we see the theme continued of men wrongly assuming they know the will of Yahweh, as Nathan thought when he told David to go ahead and build a temple. This is a warning to us too. Our gut feeling, what seems right, following our own hearts and native intuition... is just that, and we are playing God if we assume those things are the same as God telling us to do things. In this we see the huge value and necessity of the Bible as God's word to us.

2Ki 3:11 But Jehoshaphat said, Isn’t there here a prophet of Yahweh, that we may inquire of Yahweh by him? One of the king of Israel’s servants answered, Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah-
Jehoshaphat repeats, more or less, his words at the time of the expedition against Ramoth Gilead (1 Kings 22:7). He surely fears that he is about to almost lose his life as he did then. He sensed situations were repeating in his life, and didn't want to be disobedient to the prophetic word as he had been then. We too are intended to learn from situations which repeat in our lives. Jehoshaphat was apparently unaware that Elisha was present. For he seems to know Elisha (:12) but didn't realize he was with the army. As Elijah's personal assistant, 'pouring water on his hands', he would have been visible when Elijah had been.

2Ki 3:12 Jehoshaphat said, The word of Yahweh is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him-
To 'go down to' doesn't mean Elisha was somewhere else. They were all together in the desert, about to die of thirst. Typically men are spoken of going up to and down from Jerusalem. The idea is that the kings humbled themselves before God's prophetic word, and went down to His prophet from their higher estate in life. This needs to be our pattern every time we come to God's word, as we have it today in the Bible.

2Ki 3:13 Elisha said to the king of Israel, What have I to do with you?-
An idiom meaning 'go away' (Mk. 5:7; Lk. 8:28; Jn. 2:4). The next verse therefore says "Go [away from me] to the prophets of your father".

Go to the prophets of your father, and to the prophets of your mother-
He is recalling the 400 false prophets who had wrongly advised Ahab at the time of the campaign against Ramoth Gilead.

The king of Israel said to him, No; for Yahweh has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab-
"No" would seem to be a denial of Baal worship, although it could have been some kind of repentance. More likely he was still arguing that Baal worship was a form of Yahweh worship, and so he denied Elisha's attitude to him as being legitimate. This was and is always the problem for God's people- to worship the flesh in the name of serving God. Again Jehoram dogmatically assumes he knows Yahweh's plan, even though he has not inquired of His prophet.  

2Ki 3:14 Elisha said, As Yahweh of Armies lives, before whom I stand-
The very style and language of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1. Elisha was clearly imitating Elijah.

Surely, were it not that I respect the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward you, nor see you-
Elisha was accustomed to thinking of himself in terms of a man who stood before Yahweh, in His presence, before His face (Heb.- 2 Kings 3:14). Later, Naaman and his "company" 'stood before' Elisha (2 Kings 5:15,16). Remember that this was the Syrian army General, standing with a "company" in Israelite territory, at Elisha's house- at a time when 'companies' of Syrian soldiers carried out raids upon Israel (2 Kings 5:2). Any Israelite would've been terrified. But Elisha responds that he 'stands before' Yahweh. Elisha was so aware of how we live in God's presence, before His very face, that he wasn't the least phased by this. If only we can share this sense, of standing in God's presence... the most frightening of human situations will have little effective 'presence' because we know we are ultimately in God's presence, 24/7. See on 2 Kings 6:17.

Israel were God’s people, His 'world', and the other nations were "not a people"; effectively, they weren't people, in God's eyes (Dt. 32:21). Is this Biblical evidence for a social Gospel? These words are true of all those who are out of covenant relationship with Him, including those who have fallen away. Thus Elisha told the apostate king of Israel: "Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward you, nor see you" (2 Kings 3:14). We have an example here of how a man is positively dealt with by God for the sake of third parties with whom he is associated. The sick man was forgiven for the sake of his friends' faith (Mk. 2:5). This opens up huge responsibilities for us to intercede for others.

God 'looking toward' men means His salvation of them in Ps. 102:19,20; Is. 63:15 (s.w.). God 'looks toward' those who humbly tremble at His word (Is. 66:2), and not toward those who are sinners (Hab. 1:13 s.w.); and that person was Jehoshaphat and not Jehoram. But although God disapproved of Jehoshaphat's association with Jehoram, He doesn't practice 'guilt by association', and still responded to Jehoshaphat. There is a mutuality between God and man. The faithful look toward Him (s.w. Ps. 34:5; Is. 22:11; 51:1; Zech. 12:10; Jonah 2:4), and He looks toward them in salvation. 

2Ki 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. It happened, when the minstrel played, that the hand of Yahweh came on him-
It's unclear whether the "him" is the minstrel or Elisha. The sons of the prophets were musical (1 Sam. 10:5), and the hand of Yahweh coming upon a person effectively means they received a revelation of God's word (e.g. Ez. 33:22). "Minstrel" is a word multiple times used of David as he harped [LXX has "harper"] and sung his Psalms. So maybe this minstrel sung Psalms of David, which were then accompanied by this new prophetic revelation.

2Ki 3:16 He said, Thus says Yahweh, ‘Make this valley full of trenches’-
As with the woman told to borrow empty pots to have oil multiplied in them  (2 Kings 4:3), the extent of this miracle was controlled by the degree to which the people were obedient. The more ditches [LXX "pits"] were dug, the greater the amount of water would be provided, and the greater the effect of the illusion upon the Moabites. And in essence it is the same with us. The greater our faithful response, the further God works with us. God can do anything, but the extent of His working is in some sense limited by our faith and response, rather than His possibility- which is boundless. Hence when the man asks Jesus to help him "if You can do anything", the Lord replies that if he can believe, all things would be possible to him (Mk. 9:22,23).

The miracle is repeated in essence with the filling of the widow's pots in 2 Kings 4. The same word for "full" is used about the filling of the ditches and the filling of the pots. The scale of Elisha's work in 2 Kings 3 was national, saving the lives of thousands of soldiers and giving victory to God's people. Now the scale is different- one obscure widow woman. The same saving Divine hand at work amongst the nations is at work in one obscure life.


2Ki 3:17 For thus says Yahweh, ‘You will not see wind, neither will you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, and you will drink, both you and your livestock and your animals-
Wind after a drought usually preceded rain in Palestine, and it could be "seen" in that wind blew the dust. I see this as meaning that the provision of water was by a miracle and not some cloudburst (see on :22), although see on :20. The allusion is clearly to the way Elijah did see wind and the approach of rain in 1 Kings 18:41,45, again in response to his prayer. But God was working at a far greater extent through Elisha than He had done through Elijah. For now they would not see the rain or wind coming, but rain would come. And the rain came in response to Elijah's seven prayers for it, whereas there is no recorded, verbalized prayer here. God perceived their need and Elisha's presence as prayer, and responded even more mightily.

2Ki 3:18 This is but a light thing in the sight of Yahweh. He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand-
This is an example of answered prayer being above all we ask or think. God sees our unexpressed desires as prayer. He knew that they wanted victory over the Moabites as well as preservation from death by dehydration. Just as the desire of Mary and Martha was that Lazarus would be immediately resurrected, and not just at "the last day". Those desires weren't verbalized, but the power and nature of prayer doesn't depend upon our ability at verbalizing. For some can do this better than others. God sees our core desires as prayer, and responds. Perhaps this idea of a "light thing" inspired Hezekiah to have the spiritual ambition shown in 2 Kings 20:10.

2Ki 3:19 You shall strike every fortified city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all springs of water, and spoil every good piece of land with stones’-
Here we have an example of how prophecy merges into commandment, and if that commandment isn't fulfilled, then the prophecy doesn't have its fulfilment. The apparent prophecy of a temple in Ez. 40-48 is likewise more command than prediction, and most of it was not obeyed. The command to fell good trees presumably refers to fruit trees, for that was how a tree was defined as "good". A good tree brings forth fruit (Mt. 3:10; 7:17). But fruit trees were not to be cut down in military operations (Dt. 20:19). I see this as an example of where within the Biblical text, Divine laws can be overridden or changed according to situation. Even within the structure of the Mosaic law there are examples of this, and the Lord points out the apparent tension between the Sabbath laws and the need at times to work on the Sabbath. These tensions are not a case of situational ethics, whereby we allow situations to change ethics; but rather to demonstrate that God is not a literalist or legalist and neither should we be. The apparent conflicts within the Divine legal code are to elicit an appreciation of the spirit of the law. And we must note that it is God not man who can make these ammendments to Divine law.   

2Ki 3:20 It happened in the morning, about the time of making the offering, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water-
It could be implied by :17 that the water was totally miraculously provided, and not from any cloudburst. However it is possible in that mountainous region that there was a cloudburst the other side of a mountain, unseen by them, which resulted in water pouring towards them from the direction of Edom. But we note that the fulfilment of the promise was at the time of the morning daily sacrifice. The promise was potential, and required their continuance in regular daily obedience. 

2Ki 3:21 Now when all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, they gathered themselves together, all who were able to put on armour, young and older, and stood on the border-
This matches the way Israel had gathered themselves together for this conflict (:6). "The border" may refer to the Arnon river (Jud. 11:18; Num. 21:13,15). The more spiritually minded would have recalled that God had won a great victory against Moab in the time of the wilderness journeys, associated with the waters which formed their border (Num. 21:13-15). That victory was won by Moses, and so this would be another encouragement to Elisha that he was being used as a new Moses. This had been God's intention with Elijah, but Elijah lacked the meekness of Moses; see on :9. Now Elisha was being led to fulfil that potential. 

2Ki 3:22 They rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water over against them as red as blood-
This was a time of major drought, so they would have been sure this was not water, as there had been no rain. This confirms the suggestion that the water was provided by a total miracle and not be an observable cloudburst. See on :20. The redness of the soil combined with the rays of the sun at dawn would have created the optical illusion they experienced. 

2Ki 3:23 They said, This is blood. The kings are surely destroyed, and they have struck each other. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!-
In this spirit, they ran towards the Israelites in an undisciplined way, each soldier bent on only personal gain rather than obedience to military formation or command. They were therefore very vulnerable to an orderly Israelite attack.

2Ki 3:24 When they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and struck the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land smiting the Moabites-
"The camp of Israel" may refer specifically to that of the ten tribes under Jehoram, as the camp of Edom is mentioned separately in :26. 

2Ki 3:25 They beat down the cities; and on every good piece of land they cast every man his stone, and filled it. They stopped all the springs of water, and felled all the good trees, until in Kir Hareseth only they left its stones; however the men armed with slings surrounded it, and struck it-
I will suggest on :27 that this destruction of the Moabites' land was the maximum judgment God had decreed upon Moab. The kings are to be commended for doing just this, and nothing further, even when it was in their power to do so. See on :19 for the issue of felling the "good trees".

2Ki 3:26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too severe for him, he took with him seven hundred men who drew sword, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not-
He may have considered that the Edomite contingent was the weakest out of the three kings. But he was wrong. I suggested on :8 that the king of Edom was in fact an Israelite deputy, and the soldiers with him were perhaps the garrison of Judah in Edom.

2Ki 3:27 Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place, and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. There was great wrath against Israel, who departed from him, and returned to their own land
Perhaps he was trying to imitate Abraham offering Isaac, in an attempt to desperately turn to Israel's God. As a Moabite, Abraham was also his ancestor. We wonder why Israel departed from him. Perhaps they were awed by God's grace, and realized that the destruction of Moabite land and property was the extent of judgment God required, and they should not go beyond that. Maybe the sight of the man sacrificing his son was so tragic that they realized he had been punished enough and it would be inappropriate to press further the man's judgment. Anything further than what they did in destroying Moabite land would have been personal bloodlust rather than Divine judgment.