2 Kings 3: Israel and Judah Subdue Moah
Asa had died, who had been king many years in Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat, his son, was now king. (1 Kings 15:24) A message came to Jehoshaphat from Jehoram, who was king of Israel, living in Samaria, a son of Ahab, whom you remember in the stories of Elijah and Elisha. What did the king of Israel want of the king of Judah? He asked him to make war with him against the king of Moab. Why? Because the king of Moab had been paying each year a large tax of sheep or fleeces of wool to the kings of Israel, and he now refused to do so. (Moab was a pasture country where they raised many sheep.) The king of Judah said, “I will go.” (Have you found Moab on the map?) “Which way shall we go?” The king of Israel seems to have asked this question. “The way through the wilderness of Edom,” was the answer. So their armies went together, and the king of Edom went with them. There was not water, and they were thirsty.
“Is there not here a prophet of the Lord?” the king of Judah asked, and a man of Israel answered, “Here is Elisha, the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.” It was our friend Elisha, who was Elijah's servant and the prophet after him. From the Spirit of the Lord he promised water and also victory over Moab. In the morning, the water came from the way of Edom, a great plenty. The Moabites also, who were guarding the border of their country, saw the water in the sunrise light and it looked to them red like blood. They thought their enemies had been fighting among themselves and that they would have an easy victory. But the armies of Israel and Judah and Edom, refreshed by the water, drove back the men of Moab and spoiled their country. By the help of Elisha the prophet it was a victory for Israel and Judah.
When Ahab died, his son Ahaziah became king of Israel. He had reigned but two years when he died from the effects of a fall. Then his brother, another son of Ahab whose name was Jehoram, became king. Jehoshaphat was still king in Judah, though his son, another Jehoram, was perhaps reigning with him. (2 Kings 1:17) Jehoram, king of Israel, was not a good king. He was better than Ahab and Jezebel, for he put away the image or pillar of Baal which Ahab had made; but he still followed the worship of idols which Jeroboam had set up.
Can you show me the land of Moab on the map? It lies on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, and from the land of Judah, you see the blue hills of Moab across the water. We learned about Moab when the children of Israel passed that way to come into the land of Canaan. It was said at that time that the Amorites had lately driven Moab southward, so that the brook Arnon which runs into the Dead Sea at about the middle of its length was their northern boundary. (Num. 21:26) This seems to have been their home through the rest of the story, east of the Dead Sea and south of the Arnon. The country of Moab is a fine pasture land, with deep gorges in which brooks run, and large green uplands. There are many trees and flowers.
Who were the Moabites? They were descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and so were related to Israel. For that reason the children of Israel on their journey were not allowed to fight with them. Afterward, David had war with Moab and conquered the country. (2 Sam. 8:2) Now at the time of our story Mesha was king of Moab, and through many years he struggled against Israel. The story of his wars is preserved carved on a stone, which was found in the ruins of a city in Moab, and is called the “Moabite Stone.” In this inscription, Mesha boasts of successes against Omri, Ahab's father. Our story tells us that he rebelled at Ahab's death, and refused to give the large tribute that had been paid each year from the flocks; for you remember that Moab was a pasture country and its wealth was in its flocks.
Jehoram undertook to subdue again the land of Moab. He asked Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to go with him, as Ahab had done when he went against Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed to go and answered in almost the same words with which he had answered Ahab. Jehoram asked advice of the older king in regard to the way by which they should go to Moab, and they took the way around the southern end of the Dead Sea, through the land of Edom. The king of Edom also joined them. The country is called the wilderness of Edom. It is a mountain country and parts of it are very wild and barren. They found no water as they journeyed. Jehoshaphat asked for a prophet of the Lord. You remember that he had done the same when he went to war with Ahab. There was a prophet near at hand. It was no longer the prophet Elijah, for he had been taken into heaven, but Elisha who had taken up Elijah’s mantle and was prophet in his place.
Notice what Elisha said to Jehoshaphat in the 14th verse. (1 Kings 22:43) Elisha called for a minstrel, and as the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon the prophet and he spoke his message. This will remind you of the story of Saul and David. Elisha promised water; he promised also that they would prosper in the war with Moab. The water came “by the way of Edom,” perhaps running down the mountain valley from showers that had fallen far away, and the country was filled with water. The army of Israel and Judah was refreshed. The water was also the means of giving them victory over Moab; for the Moabites saw the water colored red by the sunrise light, and called it blood, and thought that Israel and Judah had been fighting with each other. They came expecting to find spoil, but the Israelites drove them back and went on smiting them as they chased them into their own country.
They also spoiled the land, stopping up the wells of water and cutting down the good trees and throwing stones upon the fields. One large strong city they did not overthrow, although they surrounded it. The city is called Kir-haraseth, probably the same city which is called Kir of Moab in another place, near the middle of the country. The king of Moab tried with chosen men to cut through the besieging host but could not. Then he offered his eldest son as a sacrifice to his idols, and made the offering on the wall where the Israelites could see it. After this, they turned away and left the country. Perhaps this sign of the extreme distress in which the king of Moab was, showed that it was needless to carry the war further.
1. What two sons of Ahab were kings of Israel?
2. Where was Moab? Who were the Moabites? Why was there war between Moab and Israel?
3. What good king was with Jehoram in this war? What other king was with them?
4. What is said in the story about water and blood?
Edom and Moab were both related to Israel. Both in a good sense represented goodness of an external kind, Moab such goodness with no truth, and Edom such goodness with truth adjoined. Notice in our story that water came by the way of Edom. (A. 3322) This is the meaning of Moab and Edom when they are friendly to Israel. The help of external ways of innocence and goodness is represented by Moab's tribute of sheep and wool. (A. 3519, end) As an enemy of Israel and withholding its tribute, Moab represents external states become evil and not helping the spiritual life. It needs then to be conquered by the spiritual life, and partly or wholly condemned. Note David's treatment of the Moabites. (2 Nam. 5:2) In our present lesson, the condemnation of the false principles and evil developments of such life is represented by stopping the wells and casting stones upon the fields. Consider the league of Israel and Judah and Edom against Moab.
Notice Elisha's regard for the presence of Jehoshaphat (verse 14). For the sake of one or of a few righteous, the Lord could give His help.
The lack of water by Israel and Judah represents the need for clear knowledge to correct the evils of life which Moab represents. Water came at Elisha's word, as the truth comes to us from the Lord through His Word. But the water looked like blood to the Moabites, which means that truth is turned to falsity by those who are in evil. Remember the water of Egypt turned to blood. (A. 731 7, 7326)
Molech was the god of Ammon, and Chemosh was the god of Moab, whom Mesha also mentions on the Moabite Stone, to whom they sacrificed sons and daughters. Sons and daughters represent births of truth and good, and Chemosh represents falsities and Molech the filthy loves by which they are destroyed. See A. 2468, a long and interesting number about Moab.