Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:1
In the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat - This date agrees exactly with the statements that Jehoshaphat began to reign in the fourth year of Ahab Kg1 22:41, and Ahaziah in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat Kg1 22:51.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:2
On the "evil" done by Ahab, see especially Kg1 16:30-34. Jehoram, warned by the fate of his brother (Kg2 1:4 note), began his reign by a formal abolition of the Phoenician state religion introduced by Ahab - even if he connived at its continuance among the people Kg2 10:26-27; and by a re-establishment of the old worship of the kingdom as arranged by Jeroboam.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:4
Moab, the region immediately east of the Dead Sea and of the lower Jordan, though in part suited for agriculture, is in the main a great grazing country. Mesha resembled a modern Arab Sheikh, whose wealth is usually estimated by the number of his flocks and herds. His tribute of the wool of 100, 000 lambs was a tribute in kind, the ordinary tribute at this time in the East.
Mesha is the monarch who wrote the inscription on the "Moabite stone" (Kg2 1:1 note). The points established by the Inscription are:
1. That Moab recovered from the blow dealt by David Sa2 8:2, Sa2 8:12, and became again an independent state in the interval between David's conquest and the accession of Omri;
2. That Omri reconquered the country, and that it then became subject to the northern kingdom, and remained so throughout his reign and that of his son Ahab, and into the reign of Ahab's son and successor, Ahaziah;
3. That the independence was regained by means of a war, in which Mesha took town after town from the Israelites, including in his conquests many of the towns which, at the original occupation of the holy land, had passed into the possession of the Reubenites or the Gadites, as Baal-Meon Num 32:38, Kirjathaim Num 32:37, Ataroth Num 32:34, Nebo Num 32:38, Jahaz Jos 13:18, etc.;
4. That the name of Yahweh was well known to the Moabites as that of the God of the Israelites; and
5. That there was a sanctuary of Yahweh at Nebo, in the Trans-Jordanic territory, where "vessels" were used in His service.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:7
The close alliance between the two kingdoms still subsisted. Jehoram therefore sends confidently to make the same request with respect to Moab that his father had made two years before with respect to Syria (marginal reference). Jehoshaphat consented at once, notwithstanding that his former compliance had drawn upon him the rebuke of a prophet Ch2 19:2. Perhaps Jehoram's removal of the Baal-worship Kg2 3:2 weighed with him. He had himself been attacked by the Moabites in the preceding year; and though the attempt had failed, Jehoshaphat would feel that it might be renewed, and that it was important to seize the opportunity of weakening his enemy which now offered itself.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:8
The readiest and most natural "way" was across the Jordan near Jericho into the Arboth-Moab, and then along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea to Moab proper, the tract south of the Arnon. But the way chosen was that which led to the Edomite country, namely, round the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and across the Arabah, or continuation of the Jordan and Dead Sea valley. Thus would be effected a junction with the forces of Edom, which had resumed its dependence on Judah, though the year before it had been in alliance with Moab Ch2 20:22; and they would come upon the Moabites unprepared.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:9
Seven days' journey - The distance of the route probably followed is not much more than 100 miles. But the difficulties of the way are great; and the army might not be able to move along it at a faster rate than about 15 miles a day.
No water - The kings had probably expected to find sufficient water for both men and baggage animals in the Wady-el-Ahsy, which divides Edom from Moab, and which has a stream that is now regarded as perennial. But it was dried up - quite a possible occurrence with any of the streams of this region.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:11
A prophet of the Lord - i. e. of Yahweh. It was necessary to inquire thus definitely, as there were still plenty of prophets who were only prophets of Baal Kg2 3:13.
Here is Elisha - Jehoram appears to have been ignorant of his presence with the host, and one of his "servants," or officers, answered Jehoshaphat's inquiry.
Which poured water - An act signifying ministration or attendance (compare Joh 13:5 ff).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:13
Jehoram's humility in seeking Kg2 3:12 instead of summoning Elisha, does not save him from rebuke. His reformation Kg2 3:2 had been but a half reformation - a compromise with idolatry.
Nay: for the Lord hath called ... - The force of this reply seems to be - "Nay, reproach me not, since I am in a sore strait - and not only I, but these two other kings also. The Lord - Yahweh - is about to deliver us into the hand of Moab. If thou canst not, or wilt not help, at least do not reproach."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:15
Music seems to have been a regular accompaniment of prophecy in the "schools of the prophets" (marginal reference), and an occasional accompaniment of it elsewhere Exo 15:20.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:16
Ditches - Or "pits" Jer 14:3. They were to dig pits in the broad valley or wady, wherein the water might remain, instead of flowing off down the torrent course.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:17
No rain was to fall where the Israelites and their enemies were encamped; there was not even to be that all but universal accompaniment of rain in the East, a sudden rise of wind (compare Kg1 18:45; Psa 147:18; Mat 7:25).
Cattle, and your beast - The former are the animals brought for food. The latter are the baggage animals.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:19
Ye shall fell every good tree - This is not an infringement of the rule laid down in Deu 20:19-20. The Israelites were not forbidden to fell the fruit trees in an enemy's country, as a part of the ravage of war, when they had no thoughts of occupying the country. The plan of thus injuring an enemy was probably in general use among the nations of these parts at the time. We see the destruction represented frequently on the Assyrian monuments and mentioned in the inscriptions of Egypt.
And stop all wells of water - The stoppage of wells was a common feature of ancient, and especially Oriental, warfare (compare Gen 26:15-18).
Mar ... with stones - The exact converse of that suggested in Isa 5:2. The land in and about Palestine is so stony that the first work of the cultivator is to collect the surface stones together into heaps. An army marching through a land could easily undo this work, dispersing the stones thus gathered, and spreading them once more over the fields.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:20
When the meat offering was offered - i. e. about sunrise, when the morning sacrifice was offered. Compare Kg1 18:29.
There came water by the way of Edom - The Wady-el-Ahsy drains a considerable portion of northern Edom. Heavy rain had fallen during the night in some part of this tract, and with the morning a freshet of water came down the valley, filling the pits.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:21
And stood in the border - On the north side of the wady, ready to defend their territory.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:23
The sun had risen with a ruddy light, as is frequently the case after a storm (compare Mat 16:3), nearly over the Israelite camp, and the pits, deep but with small mouths, gleaming redly through the haze which would lie along the newly moistened valley, seemed to the Moabites like pools of blood. The preceding year, they and their allies had mutually destroyed each other Ch2 20:23. It seemed to them, from their knowledge of the jealousies between Judah, Israel, and Edom, not unlikely that a similar calamity had now befallen their foes.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:25
Kir-Haraseth, also Kir-Hareseth, is identified almost certainly with the modern Kerak, a strong city on the highland immediately east of the southern part of the Dead Sea. It was the great fortress of Moab, though not the capital, which was Rabbath or Rabbah. It was an important strong-hold at the time of the Crusades, and is still a place of great strength. Kir seems to have meant "fortress." It is found in Cir-cesium, Car-chemish, etc.
Kir-Haraseth resisted all the attempts to dismantle it; but the slingers found places on the hills which surrounded it, from where they could throw their stones into it and harass the garrison, though they could not take the town.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:26
To break through, even unto the king of Edom - Either because he thought that the king of Edom would connive at his escape or to take vengeance on him for having deserted his former allies (Kg2 3:8 note).
4 Kings (2 Kings) 3:27
Compare the marginal reference. Mesha, when his sally failed, took, as a last resource, his first born son, and offered him as a burnt-offering to appease the manifest anger of his god Chemosh, and obtain his aid against his enemies. This act was thoroughly in accordance with Moabitish notions.
And there was great indignation against Israel - Either the Israelites were indignant with themselves, or the men of Judah and the Edomites were indignant at the Israelites for having caused the pollution of this sacrifice, and the siege was relinquished.