Melachim 2/Kings 2 Chapter 3: The war with Moav

1.      The reign of Yehoram:

  • His reign: Yehoram, the son of Achav, reigned over Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of reign of Yehoshafat the king of Yehuda. He reigned for a total of twelve years.
  • His evil ways: Yehoram performed evil in the eyes of Hashem, however, not like his father and mother, as he removed the monument of the Baal that his father had made. However, he did cling to the sins of Yeravam the son of Nevat [of having the Jewish people bow to the golden calves due to fear of them returning to Jerusalem and the kingdom of Yehuda[1]].

2.      The king of Moav and his rebellion against Israel

  • His tribute to the king of Israel: Meisha, the king of Moav, was a sheepman. He would send to the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and one hundred thousand rams with their wool.
  • His rebellion: However, when Achav passed away, the king of Moav rebelled against the king of Israel.

3.      A coalition is made with the king of Israel, Yehuda, and Edom, to battle Moav:

  • Taking a census: King Yehoram went out of Samaria on that day, and counted all the Jewish people.
  • Approaching the kingdom of Judah to join in the war against Moav: King Yehoram went and sent a message to Yehoshafat, the king of Yehuda, asking him to join him to wage war against the king of Moav who has rebelled against him. The king of Judah responded that he agrees to join him in his war efforts against Moav, and replied, “I will go up. I am like you, my people are like your people, and my horses are like your horses.” The king of Judah asked as to which road they shall take to wage the battle and he was told that they will travel through the Desert of Edom [as the king of Edom the drought: will also join them in the war[2]].

4.      The journey to battle is met with a drought:

  • The seven-day journey: The king of Israel and the king of Yehuda and the king of Edom went forth to wage war against Moav, and they traveled a journey of seven days.
  • The drought: There was no water available for the soldiers or for the animals that were with them.

5.      A prophet is sought who miraculously brings water:

  • The king cries in despair: The king of Israel exclaimed that alas, seemingly, G-d has summoned them, the three kings, in order to hand them over to the hands of Moav! [As if they do not have water, the soldiers will all disperse to search for water, and will be easily captured by Moav.[3]]
  • Elisha is sought to make a miracle with water: Yehoshafat inquired as to whether there was a prophet of Hashem present from whom they can ask Hashem through him. One of the servants of the king of Israel replied that indeed Elisha the son of Shaphat, who poured water on Eliyahu’s hands [by Mount Carmel and performed a great miracle there by having the water turned into a spring[4]] is available [here with us and perhaps he now can also make a miracle with water[5]]. [Elisha received a prophecy to go together with them in battle in order for a great miracle to occur through him and motivate the king of Israel to repent from his evil ways.[6]] Yehoshafat concorded with the suggestion and said that the word of Hashem is indeed with Elisha [as there is no other reason why he would come join us in battle[7]]. So, the king of Israel and Yehoshafat and the king of Edom, [descended from their chariots in his honor[8]] and went down towards Elisha.
  • Elisha chastises the king with his sins: Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do you want from me and what connection do we have? Why don’t you seek the advice of the prophets of your father and mother?” The king of Israel asked him to stop speaking that way [in bringing up their sins as they are standing before annihilation] as God has summoned us, the three kings, to deliver us into the hands of Moav [and bringing up one’s sins at this time causes extra divine persecution[9]]. Elisha responded that he swears in the name of Hashem Tzevaos whom he stands before, that if not for the respect that he has for Yehoshafat the king of Yehuda, he would not even look or pay attention to you the king of Israel.
  • Elisha prophesies through song: Elisha requested for a musician to be brought before him and have him play music in order so the prophecy of God may fall upon him [as due to his anger with the king of Israel, the spirit of God left him, and he needed to be rejoiced through song in order so the spirit of God come back upon him.[10]]
  • Elisha prophesies that there will be abundance of water: Elisha stated, “So says Hashem: This valley will be covered with pools of water, as so says Hashem, You shall not see wind nor rain, and nonetheless you will see that the valley will become filled with water, and you and your cattle and your animals shall drink.
  • Elisha prophesies of the annihilation of Moav: Elisha stated, “This miracle of the water will be considered slight in the eyes of Hashem, and He will do for you an even greater miracle and deliver Moav into your hands. You shall strike every fortified city and every chosen city, and you shall destroy every good tree, and you shall stop all the springs of water, and you shall clutter every good field with stones.”
  • Water appears in the morning: It was in the morning when the morning Tamid meal-offering was offered that behold water was witnessed to be coming from the road of Edom; and the land became filled with the water.

6.      The battle with Moav:

  • Moav prepares for battle: All of the Moavites heard that the kings had come up to wage war with them and so they all assembled, everyone old enough to gird a sword and older [which was all of their warriors[11]], and they stood at the border.
  • Moav sees water that appears like blood and is fooled to think that the enemy has been destroyed: The Moavites arose early in the morning, at the time that the sun shone on the water; and they saw the water from a distance, and the water appeared red like blood. They exclaimed to themselves that this blood must be the blood of their enemies as the kings who wanted to fight them have in the end fought against each other and have killed each other. “And now all of the spoils will go to Moav!”
  • Moav is annihilated: The Moavites arrived to the Israelite camp [unprepared for war, thinking that they were all already dead] and the Israelites arose and struck the Moavites, and they fled from before them; and they attacked them, and slew the Moavites. The Jewish people demolished their cities, and every soldier [uprooted stones from their walls[12] and] threw a stone on every fertile field and filled it up, and they stopped up every water spring and they chopped down every good tree. The only stones that were left over were the stones of the city called Charashe, and to destroy this wall they threw stone catapults at it until it was destroyed.
  • The king of Moav survives: The king of Moav saw that the men of war on the side of Israel were stronger than his side, and so he took with him seven hundred men with drawn swords to break through the lines of the camp and reach the king of Edom [to wage war against him[13]], however, they were unable. So instead, the king of Moav took his first-born son who was meant to reign after him, and brought him up for a burnt-offering on the wall. [Some learn that he took his own firstborn son and slaughtered him and offered him as a sacrifice to his idolatry, in order to mimic the action of Akeidas Yitzchak and receive divine assistance.[14] Others say that he sacrificed him to God and not to his idolatry.[15] Others, however, explain that the firstborn son of Edom was a captive of the kingdom of Moav, and the king of Moav slaughtered him as a sacrifice, and burnt him completely, in front of his father the king of Edom.[16]]
  • God is angered with the Jewish people: [The above actions of the king of Moav] caused a great wrath to fall upon Israel [as it caused God to remember that also his children Israel are guilty of idolatry[17]] and so all of the king withdrew from Moav and returned to their lands.


[1] Rashi 3:3

[2] Rashi 3:8

[3] Radak 3:10

[4] Rashi 3:11

[5] Rashi ibid

[6] Radak 3:11

[7] Radak 3:12

[8] Radak 3:12

[9] See Rashi, Metzudos David, Radak 3:13

[10] Rashi 3:15; Alternatively, the spirit of God had left him since he was in a state of mourning for his master Eliyahu, and the divine presence only rests upon a person who is happy. [Radak 3:15]

[11] Metzudos Dovid 3:20

[12] Rashi 3:25

[13] Metzudos Dovid 3:26

[14] Rashi 3:27

[15] Metzudos Dovid 3:27

[16] Radak 3:27

[17] Rashi 3:27; alternatively, the king of Edom got very angry with the Jewish people, as he had hoped to recover his son from the king of Moav, and instead he was sacrificed and burned in front of his eyes. [Radak 3:27]

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