1 KINGS 3
Verses 1-3 are a summary of Jehoram’s reign in Israel. The writer tells us 3 things:
1. he was evil, though not as evil as his father and mother;
2. he put away Baal worship; but
3. he continued the false worship of Jeroboam with the golden calves.
Verses 4-10 tell the story of Moab’s rebellion and Jehoram’s attempt to stop it. Moab had been under the dominion of Israel since King David defeated and subjugated it. Moab paid tribute to Israel in sheep. Moab decided Israel had become weak and rebelled. It probably quit paying tribute when Ahab died, hence the reference in 2 Kings 1:1. Ahaziah injured himself and was unable to do anything about it. But Jehoram decided to quell the rebellion by force.
Notice that Jehoram did not seek God in this decision. He just forged ahead, just as Ahab would have done.
Jehoram had two problems, though. Moab lay south of Israel and the approach from the North was more difficult than the approach from the south west. The Mesha Steele, or Moabite Stone, stated that the northern part of the country was under the control of Moab’s army. So, Jehoram sought an alliance with Judah. An alliance would allow him safe passage through Judah and Edom since Edom was under Judah’s domain, an easier attack route from the south west and additional troops from Judah. Therefore he sought Jehoshaphat’s help.
Although Jehoshaphat’s father, Asa, would not make a treaty with Israel, Jehoshaphat would. He did it before. It almost cost him his life. But here he does it again.
Jehoram’s plan turned out to be a bad one and his leadership worse. They got lost and ran in circles for 7days in the Desert of Edom. They had no water. Both the men and horses began to fail. It reminds me of Proverbs 14:12, which says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (ESV)
Rather than take responsibility, Jehoram blamed it on God (10). He said God called the kings to be defeated by Moab.
There is no evidence that God called them to do this. Jehoram certainly did not consult God, but neither did Jehoshaphat, even though he was a godly king.
This is typical sinful human failure. We want our own will. We will take credit when we succeed rather than glorify God, but blame him when we fail.
Verses 11-12 show Jehoshaphat realizing it is time to consult the LORD. He asked if there was a prophet around. He learned they were not far from Elisha’s home. “Poured water on the hands of Elijah” means he was Elijah’s servant and disciple. Jehoshaphat acknowledged that God’s word was with Elisha, that he was God’s prophet. Remember he sought the LORD through the prophet Micaiah about the battle against the Syrians in 1 Kings 22:7.
It shows Jehoshaphat’s humility that he went to Elisha rather than summon Elisha to himself. Jehoram likely went along to keep Jehoshaphat happy, since Jehoram would have viewed Elisha as an enemy, as his family viewed Elijah.
Verses 13-14 Elisha’s Disdain for Jerhoram
Elisha also viewed the house of Omri and Ahab’s family in particular as enemies of the LORD. In verse 13, he says he wanted nothing to do with them. He told him to go seek Baal. But Jehoram continued to invoke the name of the LORD over the venture.
Elisha only sought the LORD on their behalf because he had regard for Jehoshaphat.
Verses 15-19 The LORD’s Word
The LORD gave Elisha a word: the LORD would deliver water supernaturally, and he would give them victory over Moab. He also accomplished this supernaturally. He instructed them to ruin the land as they went, sewing it with stones. This time they would use God’s battle plan, not Jehoram’s.
Verses 20-27 The LORD Kept His Word
The next morning, water began to flow in the trenches. God abundantly provided: the land was full of water. The water was not from rain. When the Moabiltes saw the water, they thought it was blood from infighting between Israel and Judah. Moab’s arm swept down to finish them off and were struck down. They followed the Lord’s instructions.
The king of Moab first tried to break through the lines of Edom, but could not. He then retreated to a walled city and sacrificed his oldest son on the wall. This was a sacrifice to Chemosh, their god. This was to appease Chemosh, figuring he was mad at them and made them suffer defeat. It provoked great fury in the troops. It is interesting that even the cultures that rebelled against the LORD retained the idea of the sacrifice of one to save the many.
When Jehoshaphat and Jehoram saw this, and the determination of Moab, they retreated. They had accomplished their task of bringing Moab under control. They did not, however, follow the LORD’s instructions fully, as he told them to attack every fortified city (19).
We again see God accomplish many things with one set of actions. Here he:
1. exposed man’s weakness by letting the kings fail in their own plan;
2. manifested his own power and sovereignty by providing water to save them and victory over the enemy;
3. he demonstrated again that Elisha was a prophet embued with power from God; and
4. he punished the pagan Moabites for their unbelief and rebellion against himself; and
5. he preserved the line of Judah and its kings that would bring forth the Messiah.