2 Kings 3

Who was Jehoram?
The son of Ahab (2 Kings 3:1).

He became king over Israel after the death of his brother Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:17).

He reigned twelve years (2 Kings 3:1) and did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 kings 3:2, 3), although not on the scale of that of his parents (2 Kings 3:2).

Note: Not one king who reigned over Israel (since the time of Jeroboam) was ever commended as good.

Jehoram “put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made” (2 Kings 3:2). See 1 Kings 16:32-33 for information on the location of the sacred pillar of Baal. Jehoram’s reforms, however, did not go far enough. His mother Jezebel was still living and probably continued to exert her strong evil influence over her son. Jehoram did not abolish the evil worship system instituted by Jeroboam (2 Kings 3:3).

Note: Jehoram’s attempts to reform the corrupt and idolatrous worship system in Israel are commendable. It was a step in the right direction. It was a reformation, however, that fell short. The evil shadow of Jeroboam continued to darken the reign of yet another of Israel’s kings. Someone has noted, “Nothing short of a thorough reformation can be acceptable to God. … Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can.”

What major political event did Jehoram have to deal with after the death of his father and brother?
After the death of Ahab, Moab (located east of the Jordan) rebelled against Israel (2 Kings 1:1 and 2:5). The Moabites had been vassals of Israel and paid a heavy annual tribute to the king (2 Kings 3:4). Moab was reputed to have good pasture, which would account for the abundance of sheep.

How did Jehoram deal with the problem?
He “mustered all Israel” (2 Kings 3:6).

He formed a military coalition with Jehoshaphat the king of Judah (2 Kings 3:7) and the king of Edom (2 Kings 3:8-9). Edom was south of Moab. Both the king of Israel and the king of Edom would have reason to be concerned about the situation in Moab.

What strategy did this coalition employ?
They decided to launch their attack from the south by way of the wilderness of Edom (2 Kings 3:8). Seven days into their campaign however, they ran out of water for both man and beast (2 Kings 3:9). Jehoram despaired and thought the campaign would end in disaster (2 Kings 3:10). Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, encouraged the coalition to turn to a prophet of God for direction and insight. A servant informed the kings that Elisha was in the vicinity. The three kings then journeyed to visit and inquire of Elisha (2 Kings 3:12).

Note: Notice the different responses of the kings. Jehoram despaired. He evidently found no comfort in his idolatrous religion. In a time of distress Jehoram was without resources. In fact, Jehoram accused the Lord of having put the kings in a posture for destruction (2 Kings 3:10). Jehoshaphat called for a prophet of the Lord (2 Kings 3:11). The man who believes in God knows where to turn for help.

What bold reproof did Elisha issue to the king of Israel?
Elisha told the king of Israel to go consult the powerless prophets (of Baal) of his father and mother (2 Kings 3:13). He did not neglect this opportunity to reprove Jehoram. Someone has noted, “The relation in which a man stands to God is decisive for his relation to other men.” Elisha and Jehoram stood worlds apart. Elisha served the living God while Jehoram bowed to the calf-god.

Elisha acknowledged that were it not for the presence of Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) he would not even look at or acknowledge the presence of the king of Israel (2 Kings 3:14). One commentator has noted, “God does not let the righteous perish with the unrighteous; it rather comes to pass that, for the sake of a single righteous man, many godless persons are saved and preserved.” And so, because of Jehoshaphat, Elisha agreed to consult the Lord.

What instructions did Elisha give to the three kings?

Elisha instructed the three kings to dig trenches in the valley (2 Kings 3:15-16). He told the kings that God would fill the trenches with water to satisfy both the thirst of man and beast (2 Kings 17-18). In addition, he told them that God would grant them victory over the Moabites ( 2 Kings 3:18) and that they should destroy their fortified cities and the surrounding environs (2 Kings 3:19). As told by Elisha, the trenches were filled with water which flowed into the valley from the eastern mountains of Edom the next morning (2 Kings 3:20).

What did the Moabites see when they mobilized for battle and looked into the valley?
The Moabites prepared for battle (2 Kings 3:21) and looked down into the valley the next morning (2 Kings 3:22). The water in the trenches looked as red as blood in the early morning light. Perhaps the water had been tainted as it flowed through the red sandstone hills of “Edom,” which means “red.” The Moabites reasoned that their enemies had probably turned against and slain one another thus leaving them to plunder the self-defeated army (2 Kings 3:23).

As soon as they arrived at the camp of the Israelites, however, they were met with a surprise attack (2 Kings 3:24). The coalition routed the Moabites and fulfilled the word of Elisha by striking their fortified cities, destroying their (fruit) trees, stopping the springs of water, and ruining their good land with stones (2 Kings 3:25).

Note: Many have been lured into destruction by appearances or optical illusions — a false glitter or impression or conclusion.

To what extreme measure did the Moabite king resort in an attempt to turn the tide of the battle?
The Moabite king was unsuccessful in a counter-attack with an elite group of swordsmen (2 Kings 3:26) so he sacrificed his oldest son (his heir) to the god Chemosh (the national deity of the Moabites) in full view of the besieging army. The act so unnerved the coalition that they returned to their own lands (2 Kings 3:27).

Practical Considerations

Partial reformations are not pleasing to God.
While Jehoram is to be commended for his efforts at reform in Israel, his reforms fell far short of the mark. As noted on page 8 of these notes, “Nothing short of a thorough reformation can be acceptable to God.Ê.Ê.Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can.” In like manner, we must be willing to forsake any and every thing in our lives that keeps us from following God. We must not forsake some things while clinging (2 Kings 3:3) to others. “Nothing short of a thorough reformation can be acceptable to God.”

We should turn to God in times of distress.
Jehoram had nowhere to turn when he felt the pressure of troubling circumstances. Jehoshaphat knew exactly where to turn in the same circumstances. Difficult circumstances have a way of revealing the strength of our theology. We must turn to God in times of distress.

Appearances can be deceiving.
The Moabites suffered great losses because they did not take the time to carefully verify what they thought they saw. They impetuously rushed to their deaths. All that glitters is not gold! We should take the time to prayerfully and carefully evaluate the things that seem too good to be true.

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