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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Second Kings

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3.1–27 :

The Moabite war and Elisha's prophecy initiate the complex of Elisha stories in which the author mixed prophetic tales with archival materials.

3.1–3 :

Introduction to the reign of Jehoram son of Ahab. The author notes to the king's credit his removal of the pillars of Baal made by his father. This is the first notice that such pillars had been constructed. See also 10.26 .

3.4–27 :

The rebellion of Mesha. The Mesha stele, found in 1868, provides a summary of this king's various achievements arranged in a rough chronological order. It notes the occupation of Moab in the days of Omri and his son, i.e., Ahab. It indicates that Mesha undertook actions against Israelites in occupied northern Moab before the death of Ahab. It may have been only after the death of Ahab that Mesha withheld tribute ( 1.1; 3.5 ), slaughtered people from the tribe of Gad in the city of Ataroth (noted on the stele), and moved aggressively north of the Arnon river.

7 :

King Jehoshaphat's interest in assisting Jehoram may have been to discourage Judah's vassal, Edom, from seeking its own independence (cf. 1 Kings 22.48 ). In addition to national interests, Jehoshaphat had married his son Joram to Ahab's daughter (2 Kings 8.18 ).

8 :

Jehoram's strategy was to march through Judah around the southern edge of the Dead Sea and approach Moab from the south. All of Mesha's activities, and presumably the majority of his forces, were north of the Arnon, but the core of his kingdom was south of the river up to the Edomite border.

9–10 :

The success of Jehoram's strategy was dependent on an adequate supply of local water. The inadequate supply leads him to think that it is part of a divine plan against his coalition.

11–14 :

Jehoshaphat, who wished to consult a prophet (cf. 1 Kings 22.7 ), knows of Elisha by reputation. Elisha, impolite and rude to the king of Israel (vv. 13–14 ), responds to the request for an oracle only because Jehoshaphat is also endangered by what may occur.

15 :

The musician helps produce the atmosphere conducive for a divine visitation (cf. 1 Sam 10.5–6 ).

16 :

The pools (Heb “gevim”) are natural sinkholes and fissures in the limestone floor of the wadis that retain large amounts of water after a runoff (cf. Jer. 14.3 ).

22 :

In the morning, the reflection of red sandstone mountains off the pooled waters is interpreted by the Moabites as blood.

24–25 :

The three armies pursue Moabites north from the border, destroying fields, stopping wells, and uprooting fruit trees in fulfillment of Elisha's prediction (v. 19 ). The Moabites take shelter in Kir‐hareseth, identified with modern el‐Kerak, a site on a high hill with deep gorges around its salient.

27 :

Mesha sacrifices his first‐born son in an extreme, powerful act. Perhaps Mesha interpreted his losses as punishment for some offense that angered his national deity Chemosh, an offense that could be atoned for through the offering of his son (cf. Mic. 6.7 ). Although interpreters are unsure what the author meant by a great wrath came upon Israel, it suggests that Mesha achieved his objective, and the human sacrifice was efficacious. The coalition abandoned the field and returned home.

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