“Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.” ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭3:27‬ ‭

How does the text read most accurately?

  • Based on the context, it is extremely unreasonable to suggest that they fled; maybe you meant 'had doubts'? Elisha's initial demeanor to the king of Israel would not make this impossible(or maybe 2Chr 20) but it is an entirely unnecessary inference drawn from the text; it simply says they returned(though that the grammar itself allows for a Moabitic retreat must in the least I think be acknowledged).
    – user21676
    Jan 30, 2021 at 23:16
  • @user21676 I’m not going to address your objections, otherwise I might as well answer my own question, which would be my suggestion, maybe expand your comment into an answer because as it stands it doesn’t have sufficient merit. Jan 30, 2021 at 23:43
  • An answer would be adequate for a question that would present the reasonable possibilities, which is why this is a comment.
    – user21676
    Jan 30, 2021 at 23:48
  • @user21676 How does the text read most accurately? this is a broad enough question to allow for an answer of all “reasonable possibilities” Jan 31, 2021 at 0:02
  • Out of the two choices, you mean.
    – user21676
    Jan 31, 2021 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


The Hebrew clause in 2 Kings 3:27:

וַיְהִ֥י קֶצֶף־גָּדֹ֖ול עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל

Is literally, "And there was great wrath upon Israel".

Note what we are NOT told: we are not told the origin of the wrath (who was angry with whom). Was it Moab that was angry or God, or someone else? There are essentially two possibilities:

  1. It was the wrath of Moab upon Israel (perhaps obviously??)
  2. It was the wrath of the men of the attacking armies that fell upon Israel because of the appalling act it had forced the king of Moab to perform. See the Cambridge Commentary, the Pulpit Commentary, Benson, Barnes, Matthew Poole and Gill
  3. It was the wrath of God upon Israel - this is the usual use of the word translated "wrath", eg, 2 Chron 19:10, 24:18. See Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
  4. It was the wrath of Chemosh upon Israel (see Ellicott), ie, the men feared Chemosh's wrath because of the sacrifice of the King of Moab.

In any case, the juxtaposition of the appalling act of the king of Moab sacrificing his son on the wall appears to be the cause of the wrath.

It is apparent that the commentaries are far from united on this matter - what was the origin of the wrath. I presume that in a large coalition (three kings and their forces) that the ideas were equally far from uniform and people had mixed feelings. The differences between the above options were often quite blurred in the minds of the ancients and it may have been a mixture of all four.

In any case, the purpose of the expedition was not plunder but submission - the coalition of armies was to remedy the rebellion of Moab (2 Kings 3:5) and thus to reinstate the regular tribute (2 Kings 3:4). No plunder was sought and no plunder was taken.

  • Appreciate the response. > With respect to plunder consider that the whole expedition revolved around tributes “Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.” ‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭3:4-5‬ it was submission via tributes. What’s the purpose of submission if it has no benefit? They were no seeking to exterminate Moab, they were seeking to reinstate tribute, someone else raising their lambs and cashmere wool for them, for free. Jan 24, 2021 at 21:12

It seems to me that this Hebrew phrase (qetseph-Gadol) refers always to divine wrath whenever it appears in the Bible (Concordance- https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7110.htm). So I would go with the interpretation that Chemosh's wrath is forcing the Israelites to retreat.

  • 1
    Hi Daniel, welcome to Stack Exchange - thanks for contributing! This looks like the beginning of a great answer, but falls below the quality standards for the site. Perhaps it could be improved by demonstrating some of those similar uses, or cite a reputable source that supports this view. Don't forget to take the Site Tour to learn more about how the site works.
    – Steve can help
    Mar 7, 2023 at 13:01
  • I've added a link to a concordance Apr 26, 2023 at 12:37

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