2 Kings 3 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Kings 3)

Verse 3

[3] Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.

The sins — The worship of the calves: which all the kings of Israel kept up as a wall of partition between their subjects and those of Judah. So that altho' he had a little religion, yet he had not enough to over-rule this policy.

Verse 4

[4] 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.

A sheep-master — A man of great wealth (which in those times and places consisted much in cattle) which enabled and emboldened him to rebel against his sovereign.

Verse 7

[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 horses.

He said — He joins 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 examples 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.

Verse 9

[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 followed them.

King of Edom — That is, the vice-roy under Jehosaphat, 1 Kings 22:47, here called king: because that word is sometimes used for any prince or chief ruler.

Seven days — Because they made a great army, which could move but slowly; and they fetched a greater compass than was usual, for some advantage which they expected by it.

No water — A frequent want in those parts; and now, it seems, increased by the extraordinary heat and dryness of the season.

Verse 11

[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.

Is there not, … — 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.

Poured water — 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.

Verse 12

[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 to him.

The word, … — He is a true prophet. Which Jehoshaphat might easily understand, because being a good man, many would be ready to inform him of.

Went — 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 giving him this honour, they might engage him to give them his utmost assistance.

Verse 13

[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.

What have I, … — I desire to have no discourse with thee.

Get thee — To the calves, which thou after thy father's example dost worship; and to the Baals which thy mother yet worshippeth by thy permission; let these idols whom thou worshippest in thy prosperity, now help thee in thy distress.

Verse 14

[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 see thee.

Jehoshaphat — Whom I reverence and love for his piety. It is good being with those who have God's favour, and the love of his people. Wicked men often fare the better, for the friendship and society of good men.

Verse 15

[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.

Minstrel — One that can sing and play upon a musical instrument. This he requires, that his mind which had been disturbed at the sight of wicked Jehoram, might be composed, and that he might be excited to more fervent prayer whereby he was prepared to receive the prophetic inspiration. Those that desire communion with God must keep their spirits quiet and serene. All hurry of spirit, and all turbulent passions, make us unfit for divine visitations.

The hand, … — The spirit of prophecy, so called, to note that it was no natural nor acquired virtue inherent in him; but a singular gift of God, given to whom and when he pleased.

Verse 19

[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.

Ye shall smite — And if this command seem severe, it must be considered, that the Moabites were a very wicked people, perfidious, cruel, implacable enemies to God's people upon all occasions, and now in a state of rebellion.

Verse 20

[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.

The meal-offering — That is, 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 publick 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.

Verse 21

[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.

The border — Of their country, to defend the passage.

Verse 25

[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 Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it.

Kir-haraseth — This was the royal city of the Moabites, into which the remnant of the Moabites were gathered, where also their king was with them.

The stones — The walls and buildings of this city only were left; their whole country being destroyed.

The slingers — Such as slung great stones against the walls to break them down, according to the manner of those times. Made breaches in the walls, by which they might enter the city, and take it.

Verse 26

[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.

To break thro' — That he might make an escape: which he chose to do on the king of Edom's quarter; because he thought his was the weakest side.

Verse 27

[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.

His son — Or rather, his own son: whom he sacrificed; partly, to obtain the favour of his god, according to the manner of the Phoenicians and other people in publick calamities; and partly, to oblige the Israelites to quit the siege out of compassion; or, as despairing to conquer (at least without greater loss of men than it was worth) him who was resolved to defend the city to the utmost extremity.

On the wall — That the besiegers might see it, and be moved by it.

There was, … — Or, great trouble or repentance upon Israel, the Israelitish king and people (who was the first cause of the war, and had brought the rest into confederacy with him) were greatly grieved for this barbarous action, and resolved to prosecute the war no farther.