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“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?

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  • 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 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. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 30 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 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” – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 31 at 0:02
  • Out of the two choices, you mean. – user21676 Jan 31 at 0:12
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2 Kings 3:27 Did Israel depart in victory or flee without the spoils?

I think it was a case of take your accumulated profits and cut your current minor losses and go home.

2 Kings 3:27

Then 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.

so they withdrew
וַיִּסְעוּ֙ (way·yis·‘ū)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Consecutive imperfect - third person masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 5265: To pull up, the tent-pins, start on a journey

The verb indicates some kind of orderly withdrawal.

Elisha prophecied earlier starting in verse 18b

he will also deliver Moab into your hands. 19You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.”

It was quickly fulfilled in

25They destroyed the towns, and each man threw a stone on every good field until it was covered. They stopped up all the springs and cut down every good tree.

This was where the allied forces, Edom, Israel, and Judah took their spoils.

The alliance was not so tight and strong and withdrew in verse 27 with at least some of the winning spoils.

Some centuries later, a final prophecy appears in Jeremiah 48

46Woe to you, Moab!
The people of Chemosh are destroyed;
your sons are taken into exile
and your daughters into captivity.
47“Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moabin days to come,” declares the Lord.
Here ends the judgment on Moab.

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    Where does it say they took spoils? – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 24 at 18:04
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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.

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  • 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. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 24 at 21:12

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