The war against Moab

Chapter 3

The war against Moab

v1 Ahab’s son Joram became the king of *Israel in Samaria. That happened in the 18th year when King Jehoshaphat was ruling over *Judah. Joram ruled for 12 years. v2 He *sinned against the *Lord. However, he was not as bad as his father or his mother. Joram’s father had made an image that was like *Baal. Joram removed that image. v3 But he *sinned like Nebat’s son Jeroboam, who led *Israel into *sin. Joram did not stop that *sin.

Joram was a bad man. However, he removed an *idol that his father had set up. That *idol was for the false god called *Baal. The *worship of *Baal was an evil religion that Elijah had done much to oppose. We do not know when or why Joram removed that *idol. Perhaps he did it to please Elisha, because Elisha helped the king on several occasions (3:12-19; 6:8-23).

So Joram was not as bad as his father (Ahab) or his mother (Jezebel). But Joram still followed a false religion. Earlier, Jeroboam had set up images that were like young *bulls. Joram continued to *worship those images.

v4 Mesha, the king of Moab, kept sheep so that they would produce young sheep. Every year, he had to give 100 000 young sheep to the king of *Israel. And he also had to give the wool from 100 000 male sheep. v5 But after Ahab died, Mesha *rebelled against *Israel. v6 At once, King Joram left Samaria and he gathered all his soldiers. v7 He sent a message to King Jehoshaphat of *Judah. ‘The king of Moab has *rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?’

‘I will go with you,’ Jehoshaphat replied. ‘I, my people and my horses will all be on your side. We belong with you.’

v8 ‘By which route shall we attack?’ asked Joram.

‘We will attack through the desert that is in Edom,’ Jehoshaphat replied.

Moab’s king Mesha had to pay a very large tax to *Israel’s king every year. When Mesha *rebelled, Joram’s older brother Ahaziah did nothing. Now Joram, however, prepared to attack. He asked the king of *Judah to help him. The king of *Judah was King Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was a good king who was loyal to God. But Jehoshaphat had established a close relationship with the wicked kings of *Israel, who belonged to Ahab’s family. Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, married Athaliah who was Joram’s sister. In the end, this close relation with wicked people would cause great troubles in *Judah.

So the two kings agreed that they would be on the same side. Their armies would be united in the battle. And they made their plans for the battle. They intended to attack Moab from behind. *Judah’s king advised Joram to go through the desert in Edom. This would mean that they would ask the ruler of Edom to help them. It seems that *Judah controlled Edom at this time (1 Kings 22:47). So there would be three armies to oppose the army from Moab.

v9 So *Israel’s king went with *Judah’s king and Edom’s king. After they had marched for 7 days, the army had no more water. There was none for themselves or their animals.

v10 ‘We will die!’ said the king of *Israel. ‘The *Lord has put us three kings together. Now the king of Moab will defeat all three of us.’

v11 But Jehoshaphat gave this answer. ‘Is there a *prophet of the *Lord here? Such a *prophet could ask the *Lord what we should do.’

A servant of *Israel’s king answered him. ‘Elisha, Shaphat’s son, is here. He used to serve Elijah.’

v12 Jehoshaphat said, ‘He is a genuine *prophet of the *Lord.’ So the three kings went to Elisha.

The armies had expected to find water, but the stream in the area was dry. They were very desperate. There were three armies and many animals, so they needed plenty of water.

The king of *Israel was afraid. He thought that the *Lord had decided to act against *Israel, *Judah and Edom. He thought that the *Lord had arranged for the armies to be in this hopeless situation. When they were weak, the army from Moab could defeat them easily.

So the king of *Israel was without hope. But King Jehoshaphat was not without hope. He probably realised that his actions had been very foolish. He had agreed to support an evil king in battle. (This was not the first time that he made this error – 1 Kings chapter 22.) Jehoshaphat had taken his army into a desert. That was a dangerous place for a large group of people to be. In addition, Jehoshaphat did not ask the *Lord for advice when he did all that. So Jehoshaphat made many mistakes, but he was still loyal to God. And Jehoshaphat trusted God. So Jehoshaphat knew that God is kind. He is pleased to help his people. He wants to forgive.

At last, Jehoshaphat was ready to ask God for advice. And a servant of *Israel’s king told the three kings that Elisha was there. God had arranged that his servant, the *prophet, would be there to help them.

So the kings went to see him. By that simple action, they showed that they were humble. Usually a king would order a *prophet to come. (Compare 2 Kings 1:9-17). But these three kings went to Elisha’s tent.

v13 ‘There seems to be no reason why I should help you,’ Elisha said to the king of *Israel. ‘Go to your mother’s and father’s *prophets.’

‘No,’ Joram replied. ‘The *Lord has put us three kings together. He wants the king of Moab to defeat us.’

v14 Elisha said this. ‘I promise this as surely as the *Lord lives. He is the *Lord that I serve. I respect Jehoshaphat, the king of *Judah. Otherwise, I would not even want to see you. v15 But now bring me a musician.’

As the musician played his instrument, the *Lord’s power came to Elisha. v16 Elisha said, ‘Dig ditches all over this valley. v17 The *Lord says this. “You will not see wind or rain, but I will fill this valley with water. You will have plenty to drink. So will your cows and your other animals.” v18 That is an easy thing for the *Lord to do. He will also give you success against the people that live in Moab. v19 You will *conquer all their strong cities and important towns. You will cut down all their trees that produce fruit. You will cover their springs (places where fresh water comes up from the ground). And you will cover their fields with stones.’

v20 The next morning, about the time when people used to offer the *sacrifice, water flowed. It came from the direction of Edom. And it covered the land.

Elisha made it clear that he did not approve of the king of *Israel. That king’s father (Ahab) and mother (Jezebel) had introduced false gods to *Israel. And the king himself belonged to a false religion. Of course, Elisha did not really mean that the king of *Israel should pray to false gods. Elisha was showing the king that those gods were without power. And the king had to agree that only the *Lord, the real God, could help him now.

But Elisha did approve of Jehoshaphat, the king of *Judah. Jehoshaphat, like Elisha, *worshipped the real God. And Jehoshaphat was trusting God to help him. So Elisha explained that he would pray on behalf of Jehoshaphat.

Elisha asked a musician to play. That would make Elisha’s *soul quiet. Then he would receive God’s message.

So Elisha began to pray. Then he felt God’s power upon him. And God gave him a message for the kings. God would do two things. Firstly, he would provide plentiful water for them, their armies and their animals. And secondly, they would win the battle against Moab. That water would supply proof that they would win the battle. They would overcome Moab completely. And these things would show the kings that the *Lord is the only real God.

Elisha told the kings to order their soldiers to dig ditches for the water. In Jerusalem, the priests offered the first *sacrifice daily soon after dawn. At that same time, water came from Edom into the desert where the armies were camping. However, nothing else showed that it might have rained. Perhaps there was a storm in the mountains that were in Edom. And the result was a sudden flood. It was a great relief for the armies when they got the water. Soon afterwards, their success in the battle would be even better news for them.

v21 The people in Moab heard that the three kings had come to attack them. So young people and old people alike came to fight. Everyone who could use weapons (military arms) came. The people from Moab stood on their country’s borders. v22 When they got up in the morning, the sun was shining on the water. The people from Moab thought that the water seemed as red as blood. v23 ‘That is blood,’ they said. ‘Perhaps the kings have quarrelled. And their soldiers have killed each other. Let us go to steal goods from the camp.’

v24 But when the people from Moab reached the camp, the *Israelites attacked them. So they ran away. The *Israelites followed the people from Moab into their country. And the *Israelites killed them. v25The *Israelites destroyed the towns in Moab. They passed fields where crops could grow well. As they passed such a field, each *Israelite would throw a stone into it. In the end, they had covered all the fields with stones. They covered all the springs (places where fresh water comes up from the ground). And they cut down all the trees that produced fruit. They left only the city called Kit Hareseth. However, men with *slings surrounded it and they attacked it as well.

v26 The king of Moab saw that he was losing the battle. So he took 700 soldiers who carried swords. And he tried to get through to the king of Edom. But he and the soldiers failed to do that. v27 So he took his oldest son, who would be the next king after him. He offered that son as a *sacrifice upon the city’s wall.

The *Israelites were very afraid. They started to go away from the city and they went back to their own country.

Water came early in the morning. The sun was red at that time, and it was shining on the water. The people from Moab did not expect to see any water there. And they thought that the water was blood. They imagined that the three armies had fought each other.

The people from Moab hurried in to take the goods from the camp. But then their enemies, the *Israelites, attacked them. The *Israelites chased them back into Moab, into their own cities. The *Israelites destroyed the cities. And they made it impossible to get water. The people in Moab could not dig the ground either because of the stones in their fields.

The *Israelites did not destroy the city called Kit Hareseth, which was the capital of Moab. But they surrounded it and they attacked it.

The king of Moab tried to escape from the city. Perhaps he hoped to persuade the king of Edom to help him. Or perhaps he thought that Edom’s army would be weaker than the other armies. But the king of Moab failed in that. His situation was very desperate. So he took his oldest son. That son would have been the next king of Moab. But the king of Moab killed that son, in public. He did it on the city wall where everyone could see, including the surrounding armies. That was how the king *sacrificed his oldest son to his god called Chemosh.

The king of Moab hoped that in this way he would get help from his god. But it was a very terrible thing to do. It frightened the *Israelites so much that they went back to their own country. Perhaps they were afraid of what Chemosh might be able to do. Or perhaps they were afraid of what God would do as a result.