Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Achab. Joram succeeded his brother, chap. i. 17.
Ver. 2. Baal. This happened after his victory over Moab, ver. 13. (Calmet) — Salien thinks rather that Josaphat refused to assist him, except he would destroy what had been lately introduced by his parents, as the league with Achab had been blamed. See 2 Paralipomenon xix. 2. The golden calves were of an older standing, and could not be so easily taken from the people. (Menochius) — Joram was not so wicked as might have been expected. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Nourished. Hebrew noked, a term which the Septuagint leave untranslated, means literally, “marked” with some colour by the master.
Aut pecori signum, aut numeros impressit acervo. (Georg. i.)
Sheep, Symmachus, “large cattle.” — Fleeces; is it commonly supposed every year. This mode of tribute was more usual than paying money. The Moabites were chiefly employed in feeding sheep and cattle; so that it is not wonderful that they should have such great numbers. Dejotarus is represented not only as “a noble Tetrarch, but also as a diligent husbandman and herdsman,” pecuarius: (Cicero) which last is the idea which some attach to Mesa.
Ver. 7. He entered cordially into this war, as he perceived that if Moab succeeded, Edom would follow the same plan. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Edom though more circuitous (Calmet) than to cross over the Jordan at Galgal, as the enemy might thus be taken unawares, (Menochius) and fresh recruits might be procured from the tributary king of Edom, ver. 9. (Haydock) Yet the want of water made this road more dangerous.
Ver. 11. Elias, a proverbial expression to denote that he waited upon him, though the prophet’s rough manner of living would require but little attendance. So John the Baptist speaks of untying our Saviour’s shoes, Matthew iii. (Calmet) — Providence had sent Eliseus to attend the army (Haydock) contrary to his custom. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. With him. I am content. (Haydock) — Others read with an interrogation, as if the reputation of Eliseus was not yet established. (Menochius) — Him: they go to his tent. No one ever supported the character of God’s envoy, or shewed his authority over the most haughty, better than Eliseus. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Mother, whom thou supportest. This is not an order, but a sarcasm (Haydock) which the king deserved. (Calmet) — Christ said to Judas, what thou dost, do quickly, John xiii. 27. (Haydock) — With what liberty does the prophet speak to an impious king! shewing himself worthy to succeed Elias, and actuated by the like zeal for God.
Ver. 14. Reverence, (erubescerem) “blush at,” may imply a degree of censure at Josaphat’s being again found in such bad company, ver. 2. (Haydock) — Hebrew, “If I did not receive (Calmet) or regard the face.” (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Minstrel. The priests and Levites, who officiated in the temple, accompanied the army. Eliseus wants no profane music, (Calmet) but, by this request, shews his respect for the true religion, (Haydock) and by sounding forth the divine praises, in some of David’s psalms, wishes to obtain of God the favour which was desired. (Theodoret) (Menochius) — He had felt some emotion at the sight of Joram, and was sensible that God required a calm. (Calmet) — He dwells not in a violent wind, &c., 3 Kings xix. 11. (Haydock) — The surprising effects of ancient music to calm the passions are well attested, 1 Kings xvi. 17. By this means St. Francis was raised to the contemplation of heavenly things; and St. Augustine says of himself: “How I wept when I heard thy hymns and canticles, being greatly moved at the delightful harmony of thy church:” suavesonantis Ecclesiæ tuæ vocibus commotus acriter. (Conf. ix. 6. de C. xiv. 24.) — Upon him, so that he experienced that enthusiasm which shewed that he was actuated by the divine spirit, to speak with all the authority requisite. The pagans strove to imitate the true prophets, but the difference was very evident; no less than the spirit with which they were filled; the former were agitated in a furious manner; the latter were composed and majestic. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Ditches. It was then quite dry; the water which should come in the night, would both refresh the army, and bring on the ruin of the Moabites.
Ver. 19. Tree. This was an exception from the general law; (Deuteronomy xx. 19.; Calmet) or it might only regard the land of Chanaan, which the Hebrews should occupy. (Menochius) (Worthington) — Stones, which had been gathered off into heaps, Isaias v. 1. Persius calls a field thus cleared, Exossatus ager; (Calmet) as if the bones were taken out. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Offered, at sun-rise, Exodus xxix. 38. — Water, produced miraculously, without any rain being seen; (ver. 17.; Calmet) though it might fall at a distance in Idumea. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Upon them. Hebrew, “and upward,” both soldiers and those who were usually exempt from service.
Ver. 22. Blood. The clouds have frequently a reddish colour at sun-rise, which would be reflected in the waters: the sand might also be red. As the Moabites knew that no water could be expected there at that season of the year, and as some examples had occurred of people turning their arms one against another in the night, (Judges vii. 11., and 1 Kings xiv. 20.) they concluded that what they saw was blood. (Calmet) — God had also destined them for slaughter, (Abulensis, q. 21.) and suffered their imagination and judgment to be deluded. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Moab. Hebrew adds, “even in the country.”
Ver. 25. Brick walls. It was the proper name of the city of the Moabites. In Hebrew, Kir-Charaseth. (Challoner) — Isaias xv., and xvi. 7. It was also called Ar, or Arcopolis. — Remained. Hebrew adds, “with the stones unmolested.” They laid siege to it. (Haydock) — Slingers. Grotius would understand those who attended the machines designed to throw stones, &c. But the slingers kept off the enemy, while others undermined the walls. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Edom, hoping that he would favour their escape, or because that part seemed the weakest.
Ver. 27. Wall, to Chamos, the idol of Moab; (Menochius) or to Moloc, to appease the wrath of the gods. Horrible blindness! The pagans believed, that the most precious thing ought to be sacrificed in very imminent dangers. (Philo Biblius, following Eusebius, præp. iv. 16.) — The Phœnicians offered such victims to Saturn. Many devoted themselves to death for the safety of the Roman republic; and some were ready to do so, to preserve the lives of Caligula and Nero, before they had given proof of their evil dispositions. (Seutonius xiv.) — It is thought that Sennacherib intended to treat his two sons in this manner, if they had not prevented him. (Abulensis, in 4 Kings xix. 37.) — Some imagine that Mesa sacrificed his son to the God of Israel, in imitation of Abraham; (Josephus; Grotius) others, that he slew the son of the king of Edom, out of revenge. (Kimchi, in Amos ii. 1.) — The Hebrew is ambiguous. (Amama) — But interpreters generally believe, that the heir of Mesa fell a victim (Calmet) to his father’s mistaken zeal, or to his desire to make the enemy retire, when they saw him reduced to such a state of desperation. It had, at least, this effect. (Haydock) — Indignation, at such a cruel action. (Menochius) — Septuagint, “there was great repentance” and sorrow. The text may also imply, that God was displeased at Israel for pushing the king to such an extremity; or, they became an object of horror to the surrounding nations. (Calmet) — The first explanation seems the best; as the Israelites thought the king had been sufficiently punished, and therefore retired. They had no reason to suspect that he would have given way to such madness, nor were they to blame for it. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The kings of Israel, Juda, and Edom, fight against the king of Moab. They want water, which Eliseus procureth without rain; and prophesieth victory. The king of Moab is overthrown: his city is besieged: he sacrificeth his first-born son: so the Israelites raise the siege.
1 And Joram, the son of Achab, reigned over Israel, in Samaria, in the eighteenth year of *Josaphat, king of Juda. And he reigned twelve years.
2 And he did evil before the Lord, but not like his father and his mother: for he took away the statues of Baal, which his father had made.
3 Nevertheless, he stuck to the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nabat, who made Israel to sin, nor did he depart from them.
4 Now Mesa, king of Moab, nourished many sheep, and he paid to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and a hundred thousand rams, with their fleeces.
5 And when Achab was dead, he broke the league which he had made with the king of Israel.
6 And king Joram went out that day from Samaria, and mustered all Israel.
7 And he sent to Josaphat, king of Juda, saying: The king of Moab is revolted from me: come with me against him to battle. And he answered: I will come up: he that is mine, is thine: my people are thy people: and my horses, thy horses.
8 And he said: Which way shall we go up? But he answered: By the desert of Edom.
9 *So the king of Israel, and the king of Juda, and the king of Edom, went, and they fetched a compass of seven days journey, and there was no water for the army, and for the beasts, that followed them.
10 And the king of Israel said: Alas, alas, alas, the Lord hath gathered us three kings together, to deliver us into the hands of Moab.
11 And Josaphat said: Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may beseech the Lord by him? And one of the servants of the king of Israel answered: Here is Eliseus, the son of Saphat, who poured water on the hands of Elias.
12 And Josaphat said: The word of the Lord is with him. And the king of Israel, and Josaphat, king of Juda, and the king of Edom, went down to him.
13 And Eliseus said to the king of Israel: What have I to do with thee? go to the prophets of thy father, and thy mother. And the king of Israel said to him: Why hath the Lord gathered together these three kings, to deliver them into the hands of Moab?
14 And Eliseus said to him: As the Lord of hosts liveth, in whose sight I stand, if I did not reverence the face of Josaphat, king of Juda, I would not have hearkened to thee, nor looked on thee.
15 But now bring me hither a minstrel. And when the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon him, and he said:
16 Thus saith the Lord: Make the channel of this torrent full of ditches.
17 For thus saith the Lord: You shall not see wind, nor rain: and yet this channel shall be filled with waters, and you shall drink, you and your families, and your beasts.
18 And this is a small thing in the sight of the Lord: moreover, he will deliver, also, Moab into your hands.
19 And you shall destroy every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall cut down every fruitful tree, and shall stop up all the springs of waters, and every goodly field you shall cover with stones.
20 And it came to pass in the morning, when the sacrifices used to be offered, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.
21 And all the Moabites hearing that the kings were come up to fight against them, gathered together all that were girded with a belt upon them, and stood in the borders.
22 And they rose early in the morning, and the sun being now up, and shining upon the waters, the Moabites saw the waters over-against them red, like blood,
23 And they said: It is the blood of the sword: the kings have fought among themselves, and they have killed one another: go now, Moab, to the spoils.
24 And they went into the camp of Israel: but Israel, rising up, defeated Moab, who fled before them. And they being conquerors, went and smote Moab.
25 And they destroyed the cities: And they filled every goodly field, every man casting his stone: and they stopt up all the springs of waters: and cut down all the trees that bore fruit, so that brick walls only remained: and the city was beset by the slingers, and a great part thereof destroyed.
26 And when the king of Moab saw this, to wit, that the enemies had prevailed, he took with him seven hundred men that drew the sword, to break in upon the king of Edom: but they could not.
27 Then he took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall: and there was great indignation in Israel, and presently they departed from him, and returned into their own country.
1: Year of the World 3108, Year before Christ 896.
9: Year of the World 3109, Year before Christ 895.