2 Kings 3:5 [T]he king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
The Moabites were forced to pay a yearly tax to Israel of a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams (2 Kings 3:4). But when the king of Israel died, the king of Moab asserted his independence by refusing to pay the tax.
Joram, the new king of Israel, recruited the kings of Judah and Edom to help him subdue the Moabites. But on their way across the desert, these three armies ran out of water. Then they consulted the prophet Elisha, who assured them of God’s help.
For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink (2 Kings 3:17). The following morning the water flowed until all the land was filled. But God was doing even more.
When the Moabites saw the water on the reddish soil, in the light of the morning sun, it looked like blood to them. They thought the armies had turned on each other, and filled the land with their blood. They rushed to the plunder, only to be slaughtered by the Israelites, who were very much alive. Israel then advanced to conquerer many towns.
2 Kings 3:26-28 When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him . . . . he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.
The conclusion to this story is completely unexpected. The Israelites were victorious until the king of Moab sacrificed his son to a pagan god. Then his army rallied, and Israel had to retreat. Moab’s god seemed to defeat the God of Israel, and Moab remained independent.
This was not the preferred outcome, but it gives credibility to the whole account. If the story was fictitious, it would have a different ending. By including the embarrassing facts, the writer gives us reason to believe the whole story, including God’s supply of water in the desert.
This story is also supported by an artifact known as the Moabite Stone. It is an engraved rock about four feet high, two feet wide, and two inches thick. It has a curved top, and is housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The inscription includes an account of this battle, including Moab’s victory. It mentions other people and places in the Bible, and belongs to this period of time. It is widely received as corroborating documentation of the biblical record from the king of Moab himself.
The Bible authenticates this story by including embarrassing facts, and the king of Moab authenticated this story by writing it in stone. The Bible is reliable in all its parts because it is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
2 Kings 4:1 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.
This dear woman was in a difficult situation. In spite of her husband’s commitment to God, he had not prospered financially. His devotion, in fact, may have kept him from earning as much as could. Or, he may have been so generous that he became poor. Then he found himself in debt, and died prematurely, leaving his family in financial distress.
All this woman had in her house was a little jar of olive oil, so Elisha told her to borrow as many empty jars as she could. Then she was to go into her house, and pour the oil from her little jar into all the other jars, until they were all full.
2 Kings 4:6-7 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, Bring me another one. But he replied, There is not a jar left. Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.
God knows the burden of crushing debt, and is able to deliver us. The fault may belong to us, or to someone else, or it may be circumstantial. In any case, we should pray for God’s help, and do all we can to pay our debts.
But there is another debt that we can never repay: the debt of sin. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), said Jesus. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17), wrote James. Every bad thing we do, and every good thing we fail to do, puts us further into God’s debt.
This is the problem the gospel is meant to solve. What we could not do for ourselves, Jesus did for us. We owed a debt we could not pay; he paid a debt he did not owe. As the oil was poured out to pay the widow’s debt, so the blood of Christ was poured out to pay our debt of sin. Instead of being in debt forever, Christ has made us eternally rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
2 Kings 4:8 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat.
The woman and her husband built a guest room for Elisha, but all was not well. She was childless, and he was old. It was only a matter of time before this wealthy woman became a lonely widow. Elisha informed the woman that she would give birth, and within a year she was holding a baby. But a few years later, the boy developed a headache and died. So Elisha went to his room to raise him from the dead.
2 Kings 4:34-35 Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Resurrections in the Bible are not very common, but they are very important because they anticipate the general resurrection at the end of the age (John 5:28-29). Jesus raised three people from the dead, and even raised himself (John 10:18). The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25), he said.
At the moment of death, all who believe in Jesus Christ go to be with him in heaven. [We] prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), wrote Paul. But this is an in-between stage before we are raised physically. [H]e will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21), wrote Paul again.
This is a wonderful promise for anyone who has ever wanted a glorious body. How strong do you want to be? How smart do you want to be? How attractive do you want to be? How well do you want to sing or dance? We believe in the resurrection of the body, and everlasting life in the age to come (Apostles Creed, paraphrased).
Reflection and Review
Why is the Moabite Stone important?
How can we pay our debt of sin?
Should believers look forward to a glorious body?