2 Kings 3:1-27


In the last chapter, we saw Elijah being taken up to heaven.  It was a chapter that was full or prophecies and spiritual realities and a seeking for the Spirit of God.  As we come to this chapter, we are struck by the stark contrast.  This is a chapter or war and politics and dealings with kings and nations.  It brings us back to the “real world.”  The truth is that BOTH chapters deal with the “real world.”


God works, not only in the voices of His prophets and in the hearts of His followers, but also in the world of politics and kings and nations.  Remember that the next time you pick up a newspaper.  God is at work in His world.





1                       Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.

2                       He did evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made.

3                       Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them. (2 Kings 3:1-3).


Jehoram was the second son of Ahab (not to be confused with the son of Jehoshaphat by the same name).  The eldest son of Ahab had been Ahaziah who had died after a short reign of only two years.  Ahaziah had died childless and so now his younger brother came to the throne.


The good news is that Jehoram was not as bad as his father and mother had been.  He put away the sacred pillar of Baal and allowed people to return to the worship of Yahweh.  The bad news is that his return to the Lord involved a return to Jeroboam’s politically correct method of worshiping the Lord.  Jeroboam had set up golden calves at Dan and at Bethel.  These idols were utilized as a means of worshiping the Lord.





4                       Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and used to pay the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.

5                       But it came about, when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 And King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel.

7                       Then he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?”  And he said, “I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

8                       He said, “Which way shall we go up?”  And he answered, “The way of the wilderness of Edom.” (2 Kings 3:4-8).


The Moabites were descendants of Lot and his incestuous relationship with one of his own daughters.  Their homeland lay to the east of the Dead Sea and south of the Arnon River.


We saw in 2 Kings 1:1 that Moab initially rebelled against Israel upon the death of Ahab.  Prior to that time, the Moabites had paid an extensive annual tribute, but this had now stopped.  As Jehoram prepared to invade Moab, he sought the assistance of Jehoshaphat of Judah in this endeavor.  Their plan called for a southern approach, swinging south around the Dead Sea to come against Moab from the south.


Moab would be expecting any invasion to come from the north.  There were a series of military fortifications along the Arnon River to meet this threat.  But an attack from the south would be unexpected.


Jehoram was seeking victory through strategic planning and military might, not by trusting in the Lord.  His theory was that God fights on the side which has the largest artillery, so he did not need God.  Instead he trusted in his own military alliance.


Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah.  He had proved himself to be a godly king, calling for a return to the worship of the Lord.  But he proved to be unwise in his choice of alliances.  He consented to this alliance with the ungodly king of Israel.  An alliance with ungodliness always leads to trouble.





1.         The Problem - No Water.


9                       So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; and they made a circuit of seven days' journey, and there was no water for the army or for the cattle that followed them.

10                     Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” (2 Kings 3:9-10).


The invasion of Moab was undertaken by a confederation of three kings from Israel, Judah and Edom.  The king of Edom seems to have been a vassal to the king of Judah.


They marched around the southern end of the Dead Sea, coming at last to the Wadi Zered which flows into the southern end of the Dead Sea.  This brook was dry at this time of the year and the confederation found no water there.  What do you do when you experience a “no water” situation?  There is one of two possibilities:


a.         Blame God and act in unbelief.

This is the typical response of the man who ignores God before trouble comes and then who blames God once it does come.


b.         Turn to God in faith, seeking the salvation which He has promised.


Problems can either make you bitter or better.  It all depends upon your attitude toward the Lord.


2.         Request for a Prophet.


11                     But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?”  And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”

12                     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 3:11-12).


It is Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who asks for a prophet of Yahweh.  Notice the contrast between Jehoram versus Jehoshaphat.




King of Israel.

King of Judah.

Assumed that God had decreed the destruction of his confederation (3:10).

Asked for a prophet of the Lord (3:11).

Assumes the worst of God.

Seeks the voice of God.


Jehoshaphat not only recognizes the hand of the Lord in these events, he also asks for the Lord’s guidance.


The very fact that Elisha was present in the wilderness with these armies is indicative of God’s faithful sovereignty.  God had provided for the needs of His people BEFORE they even had needs for which to pray.  He had led Elisha into the wilderness to be available to Jehoshaphat’s request.


As Elisha comes before the confederation of kings, there is a contrast between this coming and the previous confrontation which Elijah had with Ahaziah.


Elijah prophesies the demise of Ahaziah, the eldest son of Ahab (2 Kings 1).


Elisha prophesies the deliverance of Jehoshaphat of Judah  and Jehoram, the younger son of Ahab (2 Kings 3).







Elijah passes the prophetic mantle on to Elisha (2 Kings 2)



What made the difference?  It was the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah who had resolved to lead his people in the proper worship of the Lord.


3.         Elisha’s Response.


13                     Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do I have to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.”  And the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the Lord has called these three kings together to give them into the hand of Moab.”

14                     Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you. (2 Kings 3:13-14).


The wisdom of the world would have told Elisha to “butter up” the king of Israel.  After all, you can get a lot more with honey than with vinegar.  But Elisha did not pull any punches.  He is a defender of the truth and he speaks it openly.  He is a prophet of Yahweh.  And he is confronting the son of Ahab and Jezebel in the same way that his predecessor once confronted the king’s predecessor.


“The prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother” is a reference to the prophets whom Elijah ordered put to death.  Elisha is suggesting that Jehoram follow those prophets to the grave.


There is a principle here.  It is that there are times when God does not answer prayer.  He makes no promise to answer the prayer of an unrepentant heart.


            Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.

            But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2).


The only reason that Elisha has consented to come before Jehoram is for the sake of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.


4.         Request for a Minstrel.


            “But now bring me a minstrel.”  And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Kings 3:15).


Elisha is going to prophesy.  He will receive a message from God and he will deliver that message to these kings.  But first he calls for a minstrel.  Why?  There seems to be some connection between the playing of the minstrel and the hand of the Lord coming upon Elisha.  What is the connection?  I am not certain.  But there IS something in music which speaks to the heart of a man.  That is why music is to be a part of our worship and our praise to the Lord.  We are called to speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).


5.         The Promise of Water.


            He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts.’ 18 This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also give the Moabites into your hand.  19  Then you shall strike every fortified city and every choice city, and fell every good tree and stop all springs of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.’” (2 Kings 3:16-19).


The three invading armies were without water in a dry land.  There was no sign of rain.  And there would be no sign of rain.  Yet the valley in which they were presently camped would soon be full of water.


They are called to dig trenches.  The purpose for these trenches will be to catch the water which is promised.  Without the trenches, the water will merely flow down the wadi and out into the Dead Sea.  They have to dig the trenches BEFORE the water comes.  This will be an act of faith.


God’s promises are often like that.  He gives us a promise and then He calls upon us to act on that promise BEFORE we are able to see the fulfillment of the promise.





20                     It happened in the morning about the time of offering the sacrifice, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.

21                     Now all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them.  And all who were able to put on armor and older were summoned and stood on the border.

22                     They rose early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood.

23                     Then they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!”

24                     But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites arose and struck the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land, slaughtering the Moabites.

25                     Thus they destroyed the cities; and each one threw a stone on every piece of good land and filled it. So they stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees, until in Kir‑hareseth only they left its stones; however, the slingers went about it and struck it. (2 Kings 3:20-25).


We are not told the source of the water — only that it came by way of Edom.  It may have rained in the mountains many miles to the south and this water flowed downhill toward the Dead Sea Depression.  The result was that the pits which had been dug by the armies of Israel and Judah were filled with water.  In the early morning sun, the water shone red with the reflection of the sunrise.  The army of Moab mistakenly thought this to be blood.  After all, there had been no rain.  There had been a long dry spell - so dry that the Zered Brook had dried up.  It was still dry.  And so, the only possible explanation was that this was the red blood of their enemies.


As Moab attacked, they raced headlong into a trap.  The three armies of the Israelite confederation were waiting for them.  And the victory turned into a total rout.  In the ensuing campaign, the Israelite Confederation wrecked havoc upon the land of Moab.  Fruit trees were cut down.  Wells were filled up.  Farmlands were littered with rocks.  The land was made a ruin.





26                     When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not.

27                     Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land. (2 Kings 3:26-27).


The god of Moab was Chemosh.  He corresponded to Molech, the god of the Ammonites.  In his old age, Solomon had erected high places both for the worship of both of these gods in Israel (1 Kings 11:7).

One of the hallmarks of worship of these deities was child sacrifice.  Such a practice was forbidden in the Law.


            Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:21).


This rite of child sacrifice involved throwing an infant child into the burning furnace at the foot of the idol.  It was a rite which had been practiced among the pagans in the surrounding nations and, because these hellish practices had been permitted to take root in Israel, the kings of Judah and Israel were intimidated by them.


As they now witness this rite, that intimidation takes root in their heart and they disregard the promises of God so recently given and turn their steps toward home.  Defeat is snatched from the very jaws of victory.


Why are we given such a story?  It is an account of great defeat.  Frankly, it would seem a bit depressing if that were the end of the story.  It isn’t.  This narrative is given to prepare us to see a wonderful contrast.  By seeing this defeat of God’s people, we are prepared to see an eventual victory.


This narrative tells of a victory turned to defeat by a pagan king offering up his son as a sacrifice upon the walls of the city.  By contrast, we are reminded of how God offered up His own Son outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem and thereby gained the ultimate victory over sin.  Instead of bringing great wrath to the people of God, Jesus took God’s great wrath upon Himself and paid the penalty for our sins that we might come home, not in defeat, but in eternal victory.


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