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Further confirmation of Elisha’s new role as the chief prophet of God comes from his interaction with the kings of Israel and Judah in their warfare with rebellious Moab. The death of Ahab left a power vacuum and the King of Moab took the opportunity to try to break away from paying tribute to Israel. Jehoram acted completely independently of the Lord and self-confidently put together an alliance with Judah and Edom to try to bring Moab back into submission. But their short-sighted game plan did not take into account the rigors of travel in the desert and they were forced to turn to the Lord for deliverance when they ran out of water. God graciously responded by promising abundant provision and military victory through His prophet Elisha. But the allied troops failed to fully obey the game plan and fell short of completing the mission.

Donald Wiseman: The historian now selects an event which will show that Elisha’s word is as powerful and his prophecy as effective as had been another’s in similar circumstances (1 Kgs 22).

August Konkel: Elisha’s continuation of Elijah’s work is illustrated in the battle against Moab. It bears obvious similarities to the coalition of Jehoshaphat with Ahab in the battle against Ramoth Gilead (1 Kings 22). In both events there is an alliance between Jehoshaphat, the God-fearing king of Judah, and the apostate northern king following in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Jehoshaphat asks for the assistance of a true prophet of God. The confirmation of the prophetic word and the power of the God of Israel in the covenant are seen in the outcome of the events.

The similarity extends to the phrases used in the solicitation of the alliance (1 Kings 22:4; 2 Kings 3:7) and of the prophet (1 Kings 22:7; 2 Kings 3:11). These stories were a part of prophetic tradition expressed in its own distinct vocabulary and literary style. The war against Moab in prophetic history shows how political events concerning Israelite and Judean relations with surrounding nations accomplishes the work of Yahweh through the word of his prophets.


A. (:1) Selected Touchpoints of Jehoram’s Reign

1. Which Kingdom Did He Rule?

“Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria”

Ahaziah’s brother (1 Kings 22:51) – sometimes called Joram because Jehoshaphat also has a son called Jehoram

2. When Did He Reign?

“in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah,”

3. How Long Did He Reign?

“and reigned twelve years.”

B. (:2-3) Summary Evaluation of Jehoram’s Reign

1. (:2a) Characterization of His Reign

“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD,”

2. (:2b) Credit: Mitigating Positive Reform

“though not like his father and his mother;

for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made.”

MacArthur: This image was only put in storage, not permanently destroyed, because it reappeared at the end of Jehoram’s reign (10:26-27).

3. (:3) Charge: Overall Negative Practice

“Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,

which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them.”

Dale Ralph Davis: Do you feel the bristling impatience in this text? You see the dual point the text is making? On the one hand, the text recognizes degrees of evil. Jehoram suppressed at least some of the raw paganism of Baal worship; admittedly, it’s better to have someone ruling whose wickedness is not as lurid as Ahab and Jezebel’s. It’s not good, but, in a relative sense, it’s better. Yet Jehoram clung (note the strong verb, dābaq, used in Genesis 2:24 of the man clinging to his wife) to the refined paganism of Jeroboam’s cult (see 1 Kings 12:25–33). English translations rightly render the raq (‘only’) that begins verse 3 as ‘nevertheless’. ‘Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam.’ For all the qualification of verse 2, don’t you sense the impatience of the Bible’s ‘Nevertheless’ here? The Bible is never satisfied with anything less than total submission. It’s as if our writer throws his pen down in disgust and hollers, ‘That’s not enough! It won’t do to go around saying it’s not as bad as it could be. Anything less than thorough-going, faithful first-and-second-commandment worship just won’t cut it!’ . . . This impatience of the Bible that refuses to accept anything less than total fidelity is only a reflection of the intolerant God of the Bible who insists on having all your affections.


A. (:4-5) The Crisis – Rebellion by the King of Moab

1. (:4) Submission and the Payment of Tribute

“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.”

2. (:5) Rebellion and the Loss of Revenue

“But it came about, when Ahab died,

the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.”

Craig Scott: Jehoram’s first problem as king was to deal with Moab. They were a vassal nation to Israel. They were supposed to supply Israel with 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams with the wool. But Moab fortified their border and rebelled against Israel — 2 Kings 3:4-5.

This created many serious problems for the new king and the nation.

– First, it made Jehoram and the nation look weak.

– Second, Moab could become a lethal threat to Israel by joining up with Damascus and attacking Israel’s southern border.

– Third, economically, Moab’s rebellion would have negative impact on Israel’s textile and agricultural industry. It would be like Taiwan, Thailand or Japan shutting down business with us. The economic impact from this would bring shortages and high prices.

Notice the census taken in 2 Kings 3:6. Apparently, Israel did not feel confident enough to take Moab in a head-on battle. So Jehoram sought to make a league with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.

B. (:6-7) The Consultation – Rallying Powerful Forces

1. (:6) Rallying Forces from Israel – Jehoram Consults only with Himself

“And King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time

and mustered all Israel.”

2. (:7) Rallying Forces from Judah – Jehoram Consults with Jehoshaphat

“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.’”

3. No Consultation with the Lord

John Whitcomb: Jehoram, now coregent of Judah, was married to Joram’s sister Athaliah, so it seemed only right for Joram to ask King Jehoshaphat to go with him to punish Moab.

MacArthur: Mesha used Ahab’s death as an opportunity to cast off the political domination of Israel with its heavy economic burden. Moab’s rebellion took place in 853 B.C. during the reign of Ahaziah (1:1). Jehoram determined to put down Moab’s rebellion upon his accession to Israel’s throne in 852 B.C. He mobilized Israel for war (v. 6) and asked Jehoshaphat of Judah to join him in the battle (v. 7).

Iain Provan: Immediately, then, we are quite deliberately reminded of the earlier story and invited to make comparisons. This being so, we can hardly fail to notice that whereas, earlier, Jehoshaphat was very concerned to discover “the counsel of the Lord” before going off to war (22:5), he now moves directly from agreement to tactics (3:8, though it is not clear who is asking the question and who is answering it) and from tactics to action (v. 9). There is no prophet in sight. Is this the pious Jehoshaphat of earlier days? Why is he going off to war without consulting the Lord? Something seems amiss.

C. (:8-9) The Course of Action – Reversing the Approach

1. (:8) Strategic Evaluation

“And he said, ‘Which way shall we go up?’

And he answered, ‘The way of the wilderness of Edom.’”

MacArthur: This was the long and circuitous route by the lower bend of the Dead Sea, the arid land in the great depression S of the sea known as the Arabah, or an area of marshes on Edom’s western side. According to the Moabite Stone, Mesha’s army firmly controlled the northern approach into Moab. Therefore, an attack from the S had a much better chance of success. It was the most defenseless position and Mesha could not enlist help from the forces of Edom (v. 9).

2. (:9) Shortsighted Ending

“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.”

What did you think would happen after seven days in the desert?

Wiersbe: The two kings decided not to attack from the north because the northern border of Moab was heavily fortified and the Ammonites might interfere, but to make an attack from around the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. Joram’s army would march south through Judah and pick up Jehoshaphat’s men, and then both armies would march through Edom and join with the Edomite army at the more vulnerable southern border of Moab.

The plan was a good one. Joram’s army left Samaria and after a three-day march joined Jehoshaphat’s army in Judah, probably at Jerusalem. Then both armies proceeded south to Edom, a journey of about four days. So, after this seven-day march, the armies arrived at the alley at the southern end of the Dead Sea, between the mountains of Judah and Moab. Everything was going well except that they were out of water. The soldiers were thirsty and so were the baggage animals and the cattle brought along for food.

D. (:10) The Cry of Despair – Regretting the Course of Action

“Then the king of Israel said, ‘Alas! For the LORD has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.’”

Now Jehoram blames divine providence for his predicament even though he had not even considered consulting with the Lord for direction before deciding on his course of action.


A. (:11-12) Seeking Counsel from Elisha = the True Prophet of the Lord

1. (:11) Identifying a True Prophet of the Lord

“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.’”

2. (:12) Inquiring of the True Prophet of the Lord

“And 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.”

Donald Wiseman: Jehoram despairs while Jehoshaphat looks to God. The lessons of the encounter at Ramoth-Gilead were remembered (1 Kgs 22:7–20) and Jehoshaphat demands assurance from his God. In ancient warfare it was customary to enquire (‘consult’) the divine will (v. 11) by oracle at different stages.

B. (:13-15) Seeking Deliverance from the Lord

1. (:13) Rejecting the Desperation of Faithless Jehoram

“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.’”

Mordecai Cogan: The expression mal-lî wālak means “What business can we have together?” (so, 1 Kgs 17:18) or “What have we in common?” (cf. 2 Sam 16:10; 19:23).

Dale Ralph Davis: Why this sudden interest, Elisha seems to say, in Yahweh’s word? Go to the Baal prophets your mother fed (1 Kings 18:19) or to the bootlickers your father kept at court (1 Kings 22:6–8). Apparently there was no seeking of Yahweh’s guidance before this military venture, but, now that Jehoram is in a jam, he seeks Yahweh. And all of a sudden Jehoram has this belief in the sovereignty of Yahweh (expressed again in v. 13b). (Always beware of folks who cite the sovereignty of God in order to excuse or accuse but not to worship and adore.)

Wiersbe: Once again, it is God’s covenant with David that introduces the grace of God and brings about God’s rescue of His people.

2. (:14-15) Accepting the Covenant Connection of Jehoshaphat

a. (:14) Explanation for Receptivity

“And 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.’”

Dale Ralph Davis: He is saying that Jehoram is beyond the help of Yahweh’s word—if it weren’t for Jehoshaphat. That is a frightening implication: you can place yourself beyond the point of receiving direction or help from God. How might you know if you are in danger of doing that? Well, if your pattern is to seek God, like Jehoram, only for your convenience, so that you are trifling with God. You may be interested only in escape from trouble not in the path of discipleship. That was Jehoram. He wanted to use the word of God in the moment but not to submit to it long-term. Jehoramites view the word of God as something for emergency only, but not for normal days. God is simply the airbag in the disasters of life—which you hope you never have to use. If that is your pattern, you may be placing yourself beyond the help of God’s word. That is the alarming danger of the word of God.

b. (:15) Preparation for Revelation

“’But now bring me a minstrel.’ And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.”

MacArthur: The music was used to accompany praise and prayer, which calmed the mind of the prophet that he might clearly hear the word of the Lord. Music often accompanied prophecies in the OT (cf. 1Ch 25:1).

Donald Wiseman: Music was one means of the hand (Heb. ‘hand, power’) of the Lord coming upon a person, whether to calm or control (as with Saul in 1 Sam. 16:16, 23).

John Gates: God answered by foretelling the success of the campaign. He would use it to show his people the abominable aspect of heathen worship.

C. (:16-19) Securing Deliverance from the Lord

1. (:16) Prescription that Defies All Reason

“And he said, ‘Thus says the LORD, Make this valley full of trenches.’”

Your soldiers are worn out and exhausted and dehydrated; I want them to work hard at digging a bunch of trenches.

Wiersbe: The kings were to command their soldiers to dig ditches or pits in the dry valley. God would send rain in the distant mountains, but the Moabite army wouldn’t know it because there would be no sound of wind or storm. The rain would create a flood that would move down form the mountains and cover the arid plain. Some of the water would collect in the pits or trenches and be available for the men and beasts to drink. But God would also use those pools to deceive and defeat the Moabite army. Elisha didn’t explain how.

Craig Scott: “Make this valley full of ditches” – 2 Kings 3:16. Do you know how hard it is to dig trenches in the hot arid lands of Moab? It is filled with rocks. The troops were already suffer from thirst. This was not just a few holes. God said, make “this valley full of ditches.” God often asks us to step out on faith before there are any results. He may be calling you to do something that is very difficult. He promises you that it will get you out of your predicament, but from your stand point it will take a miracle.

2. (:17) Promise of Abundant Provision

“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.’”

3. (:18) Power of God Demonstrated in Unimaginable Victory

“And this is but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD;

He shall also give the Moabites into your hand.”

Dale Ralph Davis: ‘This is too trivial a matter in Yahweh’s eyes—so he will give Moab into your hand.’ ‘This’ refers to Yahweh’s supplying water for the whole famished army. Elisha is saying that rehydrating Israel’s parched troops and pack animals is a ‘piece of cake’ for Yahweh, or, more accurately, ‘small potatoes.’ So Yahweh will not limit himself to such trivial work but also hand Moab over as well. This is the typical tendency. Yahweh not only addresses the immediate dilemma but has the penchant to do far more than was asked. This is vintage Yahweh. You come to him seeking grace and you receive ‘grace on top of grace’ (John 1:16). Yahweh’s goodness tends toward extravagance—even for the likes of Jehoram (vv. 13–14). Water plus Moab is an equation highlighting both the generosity and omnipotence of God. Watering a languishing army? That’s simply not grand nor lavish enough for Yahweh!

4. (:19) Plan to Wipe out the Moabites for the Long-Term

“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.”


A. (:20) Delivering Abundant Water

“And 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.”

B. (:21-23) Deceiving the Moabites

1. (:21) Anticipating a Rout

“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.”

2. (:22) Assessing the Situation

“And 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.”

MacArthur: As the Moabites looked down at the unfamiliar water in the ditches dug in the valley below them, the combination of the sun’s rays and the red sandstone terrain gave the water a reddish color, like pools of blood. Unaccustomed to water being in those places and having heard no storm (see v. 17), the Moabites thought that the coalition of kings had slaughtered each other (v. 23) and so went after the spoils. The coalition army led by Israel defeated the Moabites, who had been delivered into their hands by the Lord (see vv. 18, 24).

3. (:23) Assuming the Battle was Over

“Then they said, ‘This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!’”

Constable: The border where the Moabites were stationed early in the morning was the boundary between Moab and Edom east and south of the Dead Sea. Not expecting water, the Moabites assumed that the water shining in the sunlight was blood. So the Moabite army erroneously concluded that the Israelites, Judahites, and Edomites had had a falling out and had slaughtered each other—not an unrealistic possibility. Rather than advancing with weapons drawn for battle they ran to plunder the “dead” soldiers’ armor and weaponry. But instead, they ran into the waiting ranks of their enemies. Defenseless, the Moabites . . . fled before the Israelites. The Israelites, and presumably their allies with them, invaded Moab, slaughtered the people, destroyed many towns, and did to the fields, springs, and trees what God had instructed (cf. 2 Kings 3:19). But Kir Hareseth, the major city, could not be taken. It was situated at the end of a valley and successfully resisted the attacks of the stone slingers surrounding it.

C. (:24-25) Defeating the Moabites and Destroying All but the Capital City

1. (:24) Slaughter of the Moabites

“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.”

2. (:25a) Spoiling the Cities, the Land, the Water Supplies and the Trees

“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,”

3. (:25b) Siege of the Capital City

“until in Kir-hareseth only they left its stones;

however, the slingers went about it and struck it.”

William Barnes: covered … stopped up … cut down . See 3:19, where these same aggressive actions are listed in reverse order, with only minor variations in vocabulary. The Hebrew imperfect forms of the verbs used in the present verse vividly denote the actions as ongoing in nature, and thus convey “a graphic picture of the progress of the battle” (Cogan and Tadmor 1988:46, citing Driver).

D. (:26-27a) Desperate Measures by the King of Moab

1. (:26) Foiled Attempt to Seek Help from Edom

“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.”

2. (:27a) Final Attempt to Seek Help from Chemosh by Sacrificing His Oldest Son

“Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall.”

Donald Wiseman: The human sacrifice of the crown-prince publicly on the wall of the capital was a rare practice (Judg. 11:31, 39) used to appease the national god Chemosh ‘who was angry with his land’ (Moabite Inscrip.) and had showed his displeasure in their calamitous defeat.

E. (:27b) Diversion of the Troops from Their Final Objective

1. Wrath Against Israel

“And there came great wrath against Israel,”

Identify whose wrath is in view here and the nature of that wrath —

Possible view:

Difficult to determine whose wrath is in view here. The phrase usually refers to Yahweh’s wrath. Here it is directed specifically against Jehoram and the Israelite troops of the Northern Kingdom – probably for their lack of faith despite the Lord’s gracious dealings in this battle. But according to this view there does not seem to be a direct connection to the preceding account of the human sacrifice – except for its testimony to the futility and abomination of heathen paganism and idolatry.

Alternate view:

we contend that “the great wrath against Israel” was the wrath of the Moabites. The text never says that the wrath was God’s wrath. Instead, after seeing such a great and terrible display of human sacrifice, this most likely galvanized the Moabites into fighting even harder against Israel, causing Israel to withdraw. After seeing the king’s son killed, they fought even more fiercely against Israel.

(2 King 3:27) Did God have anger at Israel for this Moabite human sacrifice?

R. D. Patterson: Keil (in loc.) suggests that God’s fury was against Israel because of the lengths to which their pressure had driven the Moabite kings.

MacArthur: It seems best to understand that the king’s sacrifice inspired the Moabites to hate Israel more and fight more intensely. This fierceness perhaps led Israel to believe that Chemosh was fighting for the Moabites. Thus, the indignation or fury came from the Moabites.

Dale Ralph Davis:

View one points out that qeṣep usually refers to Yahweh’s wrath. Moreover, whenever one meets the phrase ‘great wrath’ (qeṣep gādôl, used here) elsewhere, it refers to Yahweh’s wrath. If the text refers to Yahweh’s anger, why is he angry? Seow suggests divine anger is ‘for the violation of the deuteronomic prohibition of the scorched-earth policy in war’. But we have already rejected the view of verse 19 on which his suggestion is based.

View two agrees with view one that the wrath is divine but assigns it to a different divinity. In this view, the wrath belongs to Chemosh, the god of Moab. Mesha sacrifices, Chemosh becomes angry and causes Israel to flee in panic from the land. A little polytheism anyone? Did a crypto-Chemoshite sneak in and doctor a biblical text? Are such scholars serious? Yes, they are. But this view is untenable even on the suppositions many Old Testament critics have about the books of Kings. They hold that Kings was edited (probably more than once) by ‘Deuteronomists’, vigilant theologians who shaped the Kings material in line with their point of view. They were death on paganism, abominated syncretism, and pressed exclusive Yahwism. If 3:27 refers to Chemosh’s wrath and ‘activity’, one cannot explain how that could ever have gotten past the alleged Deuteronomic censors. They would have nailed it. A gremlin would have had to have broken into the redaction factory and given tranquilizers to all the Deuteronomists working there for such a text with such a meaning to survive. Of course I don’t buy this Deuteronomistic theory, so I am content to say that no convinced Yahwist would have allowed Chemosh even one square inch of Yahweh’s sovereignty.

View three holds that the wrath or fury is that of the Moabites themselves, so that Mesha’s troops ‘respond to this desperate act with a superhuman fury that carried them to victory’. Seeing how their king was driven to such an extreme measure so enraged the Moabite army that they drove Israel from the field.

View four agrees with view three that the ‘wrath’ is human but assigns it to Israel rather than Moab. This view takes the preposition ‘al as ‘upon’ rather than ‘against’ (it can mean either depending on the context). If the indignation is ‘upon’ Israel, it can mean that Israel has or manifests the indignation. The text then refers to the indignation, horror, or repugnance Israel felt at Mesha’s act. Hence they quit the field without total victory.

All that over, ‘great wrath/indignation was upon Israel.’ On balance, I follow view four. The wrath or indignation is not explicitly said to be God’s. If it were, one would expect some indication of its basis (which is absent). Moreover, the clause comes immediately after the report of Mesha’s sacrifice and so likely depicts a reaction to that gruesome event. . .

Verse 27 is a picture of ‘seeking god’ in paganism. You have to coerce and manipulate—perhaps in the most costly way (cf. Micah 6:6–7). Even not very faithful Israelites are repulsed and horrified. Do you see the message for Israel here? It’s as if Yahweh says: ‘See where pagans go in their desperation? See where paganism leads? Do you savvy at all the matchless gift you have in a God who lives and hears and speaks and delivers without bribery?’ It’s as if the writer is pleading: ‘O Israel, do you realize the treasure that you have in Yahweh? You never need to resort to stuff like this.’ In Moab you can bash your head against the wall or sacrifice your son on it. Both are equally futile. But to Israel Yahweh has given prophets through whom one can receive the light and help one needs (see Deut. 18:15–22 in light of 18:9–14). Here is the easy yoke of the word of God. What a relief biblical religion is! If you don’t believe it, try paganism.

John Whitcomb: This was the supreme act of devotion to a pagan deity, and Jehovah had long since warned Israel against such abominations (Deut. 12:31; Micha 6:7). The superstitious (and increasingly polytheistic) Israelites were so terrified at the prospect of what Chemosh, the god of Moab, would do in response to this supreme sacrifice, that they gave up the siege and returned to their own land! And so it was, as in the days of Elisha’s predecessor, that the nation continued to halt between two opinions as to who their God really was.

2. Withdrawn Troops

“and they departed from him and returned to their own land.”

Identify the pronouns here and their antecedents –

Possible view:

The other two kings witnessed the wrath of Jehovah against Jehoram and departed from him and left the battlefield so the victory was incomplete.

Alternate view:

All 3 kings departed from fighting against the king of Moab so the victory was incomplete.

Wiersbe: Twice Joram had questioned whether Jehovah could or would do anything (vv. 10, 13), and Elisha made it clear that he wasn’t paying any attention to the apostate king (vv. 13-14). Yet Joram was sharing in a great victory because of the faith of the king of Judah! Perhaps the Lord demonstrated His wrath against the army of Israel alone to teach Joram a lesson, just as He sent drought and fire from heaven to teach his father, Ahab, a lesson. When Israel had to leave the field, the other two kings left with them, and this ended the siege. The capital city was not destroyed and the Moabite king and his forces were neither captured nor killed, so it was an incomplete victory. However, for the sake of the house of David, God in His grace gave victory to the three kings.

August Konkel: The final outcome of the campaign fails to regain control over the territory and restore the tribute of Moab. Neither the presence of Jehoshaphat nor the word of Elisha can turn the tide of judgment against Israel. In spite of the rout of the Moabites through divine intervention, Joram cannot achieve his goal to subjugate Mesha; rather, he is forced to retreat precipitately.

Peter Pett: As a result of YHWH’s activity this was accomplished quite easily, until it was suddenly brought to a halt (with Moab meanwhile having been devastated) when in a last ditch attempt to save what was probably his capital city Mesha sacrificed his firstborn son and heir as a burnt offering on the wall (presumably to Chemosh, the god of Moab) in full view of the besieging enemy. The horror of this in Israelite eyes so disturbed the armies of Israel that they recognized in it a signal that YHWH’s anger would be directed on them if they proceeded further, and they thus immediately withdrew from the siege and returned to their own country, their mission on the whole accomplished.

John Gates: The author seems to be asking: If Israel was so deeply moved in this case, why was she not shocked enough to forsake her own idolatry? But idolatry continued in Israel and in Judah.