Sunday, April 28, 2013

CXLIII - The Moabites Rebel

In the last post (II Kings 2) we saw Elijah taken to Heaven in a whirlwind, and on his understudy Elisha was bestowed the authority of "Prophet" to Israel.  Elisha's status was quickly affirmed by the three miracles he performed.

This post will deal with chapter 3 of II Kings.  The subject abruptly changes and focuses on Israel's trouble with Moab.  However, before Moab is mentioned in this chapter, it reports that Joram, Ahab's and Jezebel's son, became king of Israel in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat's reign in Judah.  Joram was not a good king like Jehoshaphat, but he was not as bad as his father and mother.

The Moabites were located east of the Dead Sea, south of Israel.  They were descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot, which made the Moabites distant relatives of the Israelites (Gen. 19:36-37).  Lot had impregnated two of his daughters with sons.  The oldest daughter named her son Moab, the father of the Moabite people.  (The younger daughter named her son Ben-Ammi, the father of the Ammonites.)  Lot separated from Abraham and always seemed to be drawn to the large Caananite cities, which were bound to have been an influence on Lot and his family members.  Moab had been defeated by Israel in war quite a number of years earlier, placing Moab under subjugation to Israel.  This meant that they would pay taxes to Israel.  The Moabites were mainly shepherds, with many large flocks.  Therefore their taxes would be (verse 4) a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams.  This tribute was to be paid to Israel every year.  Verse 5 tells us that after Ahab died, Mesha king of Moab, decided to rebel and get out from under their tax obligation to Israel.  {Mesha decided this was a good time to "test" Joram as the new king of Israel.  Evidently he knew that, due to Ahab's reputation, he and Jezebel would have responded with vicious aggression, but Joram was an unknown personality at this time.  Joram did the smart thing by recruiting help from Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and also the king of Edom.  These three armies would be too much for Mesha to deal with.

But verses 8-10 tells of a tacticle error.  The Scripture tells us that king Joram decided to attack the Moabites from the direction of the Desert of Edom.  (This is where he picked up the support of the king of Edom.)  But they did not prepare properly.  It says in verse 9, "After a roundabout march of seven days.....".  The term roundabout meant they marched in circles.  And as a result, they ran out of water for their soldiers and their horses.  The kings panicked and all but gave in to the Moabites, who could easily have defeated them had they been aware of their circumstances.  But as he did with Joram's father Ahab, Judah's king Jehoshaphat asked, "is there was a prophet through whom we could inquire of the Lord?"  It was reported by one of Joram's soldiers that Elijah was near.  Jehoshaphat was familiar with Elisha's reputation as evidenced by his response in verse 12, "The word of the Lord is with him."  So in the following verses the three kings went to find Elisha to ask him what the Lord's direction for them would be.  It's plain to see in the next two verses that Elisha thought little of Joram.  He actually said that he would not honor the request for Joram, but he would honor their request out of respect for Jehoshaphat.  {Although I've read this passage a number of times, I had never noticed in the Scripture that Elisha had a musician play a harp, during which time the Lord revealed His instructions to Elisha.  Interesting.}

In verse 16 the Lord through Elisha instructed them to have their soldiers fill the valley with ditches.  And although they would not see or hear any signs of rain, the ditches would be filled with water so that their soldiers and horses will have more than enough.  Elisha emphasized this is a light thing for God.  This was what the three kings needed to hear.  But Elisha had further word for them.  God had more blessings for them.  Elisha continued speaking and told them that they would be victorious in their battle with the Moabites, and gave detailed instructions.  They were to completely rout the Moabites, attacking every fortified city and major town.  They were to cut down all fruit-bearing trees, stop up all their water wells, and fill their crop-bearing fields with rocks.

Verse 20  -  The following morning at the time of their sacrifice, water started flowing from the direction of Edom, filling all the ditches with water.  {The "Meat Offering" was an early morning sacrifice, predetermined in the second Temple to be at the "first blush of dawn".  Also, it's important to note that God often uses weather (a miracle in itself) to perform many of His miracles.  I also believe that God uses weather to determine outcomes of battles and wars.  I could go on forever citing examples of this throughout recorded History.  The mountains of Edom are adjacent to the desert valley where they were camped.  I believe God sent a powerful rainstorm in those mountains (too far away for them to see).  This would have created a flash-flood, forcing the water into the valley, thus filling all of those hand-dug ditches with fresh rainwater.  The wisdom God uses is awe-inspiring.  Notice the kings and their soldiers must do their part in digging the ditches, which first of
all required faith.}

Verse 21-25  -  The Moabites Attack

The Moabites were aware that three kings had united against them and were going to attack Moab.  Therefore they put together as many men as they could to build an army to defend themselves.  They chose to fight rather than submit to continue the payment of tribute.  When the Moabites looked across the desert where the enemy soldiers were camped, they saw the ditches full of water, but the water appeared red to them, looking like blood.  They summized that the three armies began fighting each other, making such a blood bath that the blood could be seen from miles away.  {Remember, this was a desert where there was never any liquid of any kind.}  So Mesha, king of the Moabites ordered his army to attack and plunder what would have been a fraction of the three armies, all of which would be already battle weary and easy to defeat.  But when the Moabites reached the camp of the three armies, they found a massive number of soldiers, refreshed by the water and emboldened by the knowledge that the God of Israel had prophesied victory.  Needless to say the Israelites slaughtered the Moabites and obeyed all of the instructions handed down by God through Elisha.

The final verses in this chapter tell of the Moabite king Mesha being so desparate with the battle having gone bitterly against him and all of his cities being plundered and destroyed.  So desparate and so engulfed in paganism was he, that he offered his oldest son as a burnt offering to his pagan god (probably Melchor).  He performed this ritual on the wall of the city of Kir Hareseth.  This terrible ritual performed out of desparation was performed in the sight of the both the Israelite and the Moabite soldiers.  It suggests that the Moabite army was inspired and forced the Israelites into retreat.  One could also interpret this as the Israelite soldiers were so horrified at this terrible pagan ritual that they just wanted to get away from it.  I choose to agree with the latter.

Next post  -  Elisha's Ministry

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