2 Kings 3
Moab’s Last Stand
Ahab’s son, the king1King Ahab’s son, Joram, became king of the northern Jewish nation of Israel. By that time, Jehoshaphat was into his 18th year as king of Judah. Joram reigned a dozen years.
2In God’s eyes, Joram was a poor excuse of a king. But Joram wasn’t as wretched and evil as his parents, Ahab and Jezebel. Joram tore down the Baal pillar  his father built. 3Still, he continued King Jeroboam’s long tradition of sinning.
Moab stops paying Israel4King Mesha of Moab bred sheep. When King Ahab was alive and Israel was powerful, Mesha had to pay him to live in peace. Mesha gave Ahab 100,000 lambs and wool from 100,000 sheep. 5But Ahab was dead now. So, Mesha was done with that. He declared his independence by refusing to make those payments.
Israel declares war6King Joram mustered his army, pulling fighters in from all over Israel. They marched out of Samaria. 7Along the way, Joram sent a message to King Jehoshaphat in Judah: “Moab’s king has rebelled. Will you join the battle with me and fight Moab?” Jehoshaphat said, “I will. We are one. My people are your people. My horses are your horses. 8Which way should we go?” Joram said, “We’ll attack from the south, from Edom’s desert.”
9Israel, Judah, and Edom joined forces against Moab. Armies of Israel and Judah marched around the southern tip of the Dead Sea, into Edom territory. It was a seven-day march through badland territory, with no water to drink.
Israel’s army in the wasteland10That week in the wild left Israel’s king moaning, “This is terrible. The LORD brought us all the way over here just to give us to Moab—all three kings and our armies?
11Jehoshaphat said, “Isn’t there any prophet of the LORD around here so we can ask the LORD what to do?” One of the king’s servants said, “Elisha’s  here, the son of Shaphat. He was an apprentice for Elijah.” 12Jehoshaphat said, “Yes, he’s a genuine prophet who speaks for the LORD.” So all three kings went to consult Elisha—kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom.
Music to lull a prophet to the LORD13Elisha told the king of Israel, “I don’t want anything to do with you. Go see your own prophets, those leftovers from your father and mother.” Israel’s king said, “No, this campaign is the LORD’s doing. He’s the one who called us here only to hand us all over to Moab.”
14Elisha said, “If it weren’t for the respect I have for King Jehoshaphat, I’d ignore you. You wouldn’t exist to me. Just so we’re clear. 15Now get me a musician.”  While the musician played, the LORD gave Elisha a message to deliver.
16Elisha said, “Here’s what the LORD says: Do you see this dry streambed? I’m going to add pools of water. 17I won’t send any wind or rain, but I will fill the streambed with enough water for your army and their animals. 18There’s nothing hard about this for the LORD. He’ll give you water, then he’ll give you Moab.
19You’re going to win everywhere you go. You’ll overrun every walled city and every important town. You’ll cut down every tree worth cutting. You’ll plug every spring of water. You’ll fill every plowed field with stones.”
Water in the desert20About 9 o’clock the next morning, the time when priests offer the morning sacrifice, water started filling the streambed. It began rushing in from Edom’s direction.  Before long, water overflowed the stream, and it was everywhere.
21When the people in Moab heard that three armies were coming, they armed themselves. From the youngest who were able to fight, to the oldest, they dressed for battle. Then they waited at the edge of their border.
22When they woke on the morning the water came, the morning sun made the water look bloodred. 23They said, “Look at all that blood. Armies of those three kings must have gotten into a fight. Let’s go pick them clean—take whatever spoils of war we want.” 24So Moab’s fighters walked into Israel’s camp expecting little or no resistance. Israel surprised them, ran them off, chased them down, and pressed the attack throughout the nation of Moab. 25Israel’s coalition army overran Moab’s cities, filled the plowed fields with rocks, plugged every spring of water they found, and cut down every tree worth the trouble. Only one city remained unconquered: Kir-hareseth. Israel surrounded that town with mobile artillery: slingers  firing rocks at Moab’s defenders.
26Moab’s king saw he was losing the city. So, he took 700 swordsmen and tried to punch through Edom’s line and scatter the enemy. He failed and had to retreat. 27Then he killed his oldest son, who would have succeeded him as king. He burned the body on top of the city wall as a sacrifice for everyone to see. Israel saw it, too. Angry and disgusted, they went home. 
The Baal pillar is a mystery. People erected memorial pillars. Absalom built one to honor himself (2 Samuel 18:18). Canaanite religion, featuring Baal the chief god, included ritual poles. These may have been trees or poles meant to represent trees, as symbols of the Canaanite fertility goddess Asherah, goddess of motherhood. She was the love interest of Baal. Canaan is now known as Israel and Palestinian Territories.
What was Elisha doing in Edom’s wasteland? Or was he somewhere else, and the kings went to meet him? The writer doesn’t say. Before becoming a prophet, Elisha lived in the town of Abel-meholah, in the Jordan River Valley just south of the Sea of Galilee (1 Kings 19:16). Maybe he followed the army into battle, as a link to the LORD. Guess.
This is perhaps the Bible’s best example of a technique prophets used to connect with the LORD. It seems Elisha used music to mellow out and to open up so he could hear from the LORD. But it’s not clear this is what was happening. Scholars guess that prophets connected with God in different ways: vivid dreams called visions of the night (Genesis 28:10-22), trances (Acts 10), celestial beings in physical form (Genesis 18), and a burning bush (Exodus 3).
Rain somewhere in the far distance can send runoff rainwater pouring downstream into the wadis, as the usually dry streambeds are called. Flash floods under a dry sky can surprise people who are using the trail as a walking path.
Israelites used slings as an ancient form of artillery. An experienced slinger could send an aerodynamically smooth stone 100 yards/meters in a second. The tribe of Benjamin once had a corps of 700 slingers who reportedly could cut a hair in half (Judges 20:16).
That’s an end of the story that leaves everyone guessing. Why did Israel leave? The only clue is one Hebrew word: qesep. It can mean: anger, fury, wrath. But who was angry? It’s not clear. Did the people of Moab get fighting angry and drive off the invaders in a Battle of Moab’s Last Stand? Or did Israel get angry and so upset that they went home? It might make more sense for Israel to stay and fight if they got mad. Or maybe they got mad because they knew a sacrifice that dramatic and powerful would demoralize Israel’s army.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.