5.73 2 Kings -- The Rise and Fall of Moab
Elisha at once entered into the chaotic political and military situation of the Middle East. Ahab and Jezebel were gone, but their son was on the throne of Israel. He was Joram, younger brother of the dead Ahaziah. The Bible's verdict on him was that he was evil, but not as bad as his parents. After the death of Ahab, the king of Moab, who was a tributary of Israel, rebelled. Joram went to war against Moab (2 Kings 3).
Here we see an example of the shifting alliances of this period. Joram sought help from the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, who had previously joined with Ahab against Aram. Jehoshaphat joined with Joram, as did the king of Edom. It is unclear what gain there was to Judah or Edom by assisting Israel. Moab was not seeking to invade their lands, but to break the yoke of servitude under Israel. Nevertheless, they became allies of Israel, and marched off to attack Edom.
This was an ill-considered campaign. No one sought God's guidance before starting off. No one developed a plan of battle that took into account the distance to march and the type of land they travelled through. As a result, they embarked on a suicide mission -- marching thousands of men and horses into the desert. Only when they could not find water did they think to inquire of God. And then, "what a coincidence" that Elisha was part of the baggage train, stuck in the desert somewhere east of the Dead Sea! God was looking out for these three kings, who were obviously not of the caliber of Saul or David as military leaders. No doubt He prompted Elisha to go along with the army, "just in case" someone decided they needed divine assistance.
Joram, facing disaster, immediately blamed God, though he never asked God for direction ahead of time:
"Has the Lord called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?" (2 Kings 3:10)
The gall of this son of Ahab, to put the blame on a God he did not serve, for his own foolish and ill-planned schemes!
But again, the man who (belatedly) turned to God for help was Jehoshaphat of Judah. He it was who had demanded that Ahab call a "prophet of the Lord" before attacking Aram (1 Kings 22:7). Then Micaiah came forth and foretold Ahab's death if they went into battle. Now, he again asked for a prophet of God, and Elisha showed up.
Elisha ignored the king of Edom, but showed respect for Jehoshaphat. He asked for a musician, and when the man played (presumably a psalm),
"the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha" (2 Kings 3:15).
The end result was that God sent a miraculous supply of water (not by rain), the Israelites were restored, they vanquished the Moabites, and trashed the land. Why they felt it was necessary to pollute the springs and destroy the farmland is unclear. However, excessive retaliation seems to be the nature of war, ancient and modern.
The only thing that stopped the allied invasion was an act of ultimate desperation on the part of the king of Moab: burning his own son as an offering on the city wall. (The capital city of Moab was Dibon, and its god was Chemosh).
"There came great wrath upon Israel" (2 Kings 3:27).
This pagan abomination had no spiritual power over the Israelites, but the horror of the act may have disturbed them at the same time as it stirred up the fury of the Moabites. In any case, the Israelites recoiled and left Moab.