1 - 3 Jehoram King over Israel
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.
Jehoram became king after the death of his brother Ahaziah who was childless. Though he does what is evil in the sight of the LORD, he still puts away an abomination that his father has made. This does not go unnoticed by the LORD.
Although his wickedness was less bad than that of his parents, he “clung to the sins of Jeroboam. His perseverance in sin is underlined by the remark at the end of the verse: “He did not depart from them.” He remains an unbeliever.
4 - 5 Moab Rebels
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 when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
The Moabites are great cattle farmers and have been subject to the kings of Israel for many years. This allows them to pay a large tribute. The death of Ahab is the reason for Mesha, king of Moab, to withdraw from the power of Israel (2Kgs 1:1).
Moab is a picture of (the lusts of) the flesh. He submits, but only for a short time and then rebels. That is always what the flesh does. Our flesh does not subject itself to God (Rom 8:7). It always desires wealth, power, prestige, pleasure. When the flesh comes to assert itself, we are losers.
Israel loses a lot when Moab rebels. These animals and their wool are blessings that God gives. If these blessings are enjoyed apart from God, they serve the flesh. If they are sanctified for God, they can be used to the glory of God. When Moab, the flesh, asserts itself, the lambs, the rams and the wool, the sacrifices, are lost for the service to God. In spiritual application, this means that the resemblance to the Lord Jesus (lambs) and the devotion that is beneficial to others (rams’ wool) disappear. Wool also speaks of being cleansed of sins (Isa 1:18b).
6 - 8 Jehoshaphat Is Willing to Help Jehoram
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.”
The loss of income due to the Moab rebellion leads Jehoram to mobilize an army. He wants to subject the Moabites to himself again. He also appeals to Jehoshaphat to go to battle with him. Josafat responds supportive to this request. In the same way, he also responded earlier to a request from Ahab to go along with him. He promises his cooperation with the same words he also spoke to Ahab (1Kgs 22:4).
Jehoshaphat seems not to have learned anything from what he experienced with Ahab. Believers learn difficultly from their experiences. Abraham and Isaak also made the same mistake twice. We are only surprised if we know ourselves badly.
Jehoram asks which way they shall go up. The not-spiritual believer Josafat advises to take a detour along the south side of Moab to attack him from that side. This also obliges the king of Edom, who at that time was subject to Jehoshaphat, to participate.
The answer to subject this rebellious king to the authority of the king of Israel again is not in the united armies of these three kings. In application this means that the flesh cannot be controlled by the flesh. That is a useless and damaging waste of time. They must learn to call to God. This is where they will be brought to.
9 - 12 Elisha Is Consulted
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.” 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.
The three kings set off together. Then something happens that they haven't taken into account at all: after seven days there is a lack of water. If a believer goes out with unbelievers, this can only lead to a lack. On such a way God cannot give a blessing.
Jehoram reproaches the LORD about this. He never takes God into account, but if things go wrong, he blames God. That’s how many people are today. Without water it is impossible to overcome Moab, the flesh. This is the situation in which the greater part of Christianity finds itself. They try to subject all kinds of expressions of the flesh that cause destruction. Without the water of God’s Word, however, that is impossible.
Then it turns out that Jehoshaphat is a believer and thus distinguishes himself from Jehoram. He asks for a prophet of the LORD. Not Jehoram gives the answer, but one of his servants, one of the common people. Jehoram himself apparently does not know of the presence of a prophet of the LORD. The servant refers to Elisha who apparently has been gone with the army. The LORD will have made it clear to Elisha to join in.
Jehoshaphat knows him and knows that the word of the LORD is with him. The three kings go to him. Elisha hasn’t been a target of kings, like Elijah. It is more so that their fate depends on him and that they come to him. We see that here. Elisha is not called upon to appear before those men. It is the other way around. The great men of the earth go to the man of God.
13 - 19 Elisha Counsel
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. 15 But now bring me a minstrel.” And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16 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.’”
Elisha is a man without fear. Without any respect for the high company he says to the king of Israel that he has nothing to do with him. There is no spiritual connection. He even says sarcastic that Jehoram should go to the prophets of his parents. Jehoram’s answer is what he said earlier that the situation he is in, has been worked out by the LORD.
Elisha says once more and now more strongly that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jehoram. The man remains wicked. The acknowledgement that the LORD has brought about the situation has not led him to repentance. All he wants is to get out of this miserable situation, nothing more. It is because Jehoshaphat is in this company that Elisha doesn’t turn around and leaves. It seems, however, that he is so indignant by Jehoram’s attitude and also by that of Jehoshaphat, that his mind must first come to rest. For this he needs melodious, soothing music.
Spiritual minded believers are not able to speak a word of the Lord in all circumstances. Sometimes such unrest may have arisen in the mind that it is necessary to come to rest first. There must be harmony in a situation of disharmony. This rest can sometimes be obtained by a melodious instrument. Christ is the heavenly harp player Who rest peace to troubled minds. Christ is the keynote to which every need in our lives can be attuned, so that the need can be borne and there is the prospect of a solution.
While the music sounds, Elisha comes to rest and the LORD’s hand can come over him. Then he starts to speak and says what needs to be done. In the valley, a picture of the place of humility, trenches must be dug so that the trenches can be filled with water. Digging trenches so that they can be filled with water while there is drought speaks of faith. Digging speaks of taking away earth. Dirt that prevents water from entering the trenches must be removed.
Everything that can prevent water from flowing must be removed. In picture this means that room must be made for the Word of God, of which water is a picture (Eph 5:26: Jn 15:3). The water is also a picture of the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:37-39). Room for the Word of God also means room for the Spirit. Word and Spirit always work together.
When trenches have been dug, they can be filled with water to save the kings and their armies and cattle. The more trenches, the more water. In that way they will be able to defeat Moab. What a lot of ‘earth’ sometimes needs to be removed from our lives and the local church before the living water of the Word can flow into our lives and the local churches.
The digging does not fill the trenches with water. All we can do is make room for the water. By a miracle of the LORD, by the faith with which the trenches are dug, these trenches shall be filled with water. There are no accompanying, impressive signs, but when obstacles are removed, the way is cleared for the blessing of God. He will miraculously fill our lives, if they are lived in humility, with His presence.
The filling of the trenches with water is seen as a matter that is “a slight thing in the sight of the LORD” (verse 18). The grace of God goes even further. He will give Moab into their hand. If our lives are lived in the power of God’s Word and God’s Spirit, the result will be that the flesh is overcome. The victory will be total. God does not do half a job.
20 - 27 Moab Slaughtered
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. 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.
The water begins to flow around the time that the morning grain offering is brought in Jerusalem. All blessings that God allows to flow are always based on the value that the Lord Jesus, of Whom the grain offering speaks, has for Him, and connected with Him. All things in the world are counted accordingly.
The Moabites only see what the Israelites do. They have no idea what is really happening. That can only be perceived by faith. The Moabites believe that the Israelites are getting ready to attack. That is why they are mobilizing all those who can fight, even if it is a little bit. They do not realize that this will make them beaten all the more profoundly. When they get up in the morning, they see the color of the water as the color of blood. They draw the wrong conclusion from this and think that they will achieve an easy victory and a lot of booty.
The waters that mean life for the three kings mean death for the Moabites. Thus the Passover in Egypt was a feast for Israel, but for the Egyptians it meant the judgment. In the same way, during the exodus from Egypt the cloud was light for Israel, but darkness for the Egyptians. The world and the flesh know nothing of the things of God (1Cor 2:14). What is refreshment for God’s people is death for the world.
The Moabites have exposed themselves and have become inattentive. When they discover what is really going on, it is too late. For them there is no escape from defeat. The Israelites do with Moab and his fields, water sources and trees according to the word of Elisha in verse 19. Through the refreshment of the water they can destroy Moab’s power sources. The offspring of the flesh, which comes forth from the flesh, also dies. The only way to get the flesh down is through the Word of God-applied by the Spirit of God.
The king of Moab still tries to break through to reach the Edomites and possibly with them to form an alliance. However, he does not succeed in breaking through. He even comes into such need that he sacrifices his successor to the throne, perhaps a young man, to his god Chemosh. Perhaps he could be softened by this sacrifice in order to offer a solution.
The great wrath it causes against Israel comes from the LORD. The cause of this is the Israelites’ desire for revenge, which is so great that Mesha comes to this atrocity. They have forgotten that the LORD has proven mercy to them. They take revenge in a disproportionate way and thereby present the God of His people as an unmerciful God. This false representation of God cannot go unpunished. How His wrath is expressed is not mentioned. However, it becomes clear to the people that they no longer must stay in Moab and return to their own country.
There is much ‘death’ in this chapter: a student prophet (verse 1); the husband of the Shunammite, in his dead body (verse 14); the son of the Shunammite (verse 20); death in the pot (verse 40). There is also a lot of life in this chapter, because death is always followed by life. Not death has the last word, but life.