There was no love lost between Mesha, king of Moab, and Jehoram (Joram), king of Israel. For centuries, Israel had experienced an uneasy relationship with the Moabites, who were descendants of Lot’s oldest daughter. The Moabites tried to curse the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. During the time of the judges, one of the Moabite kings, Eglon, invaded Israelite territory. But, now the tables were turned – Moab was subject to the N.Kingdom of Israel – and Mesha was determined to do something about that.
During the reign of the infamous King Ahab (Jehoram’s father), Mesha had been forced to send a large annual tribute tax to Israel – of 100,000 lambs… along with the wool of 100,000 rams. Such an arrangement symbolized Israel’s status as an important regional power at that time. With the ascent of Jehoram, though, Mesha sensed a power vacuum and seized his opportunity to revolt.
The king of Israel, joined by the kings of Judah & Edom, decided to retaliate by invading Moab and putting Mesha in his place. What followed was an unusual story filled with strange twists of fortune:
1) The invading armies nearly died of thirst in the desert.
2) Desperate, they appealed to the prophet, Elisha.
3) Elisha announced the miraculous provision of water… though not before taunting
4) Mesha decided he would attack first… thinking the early morning sun shining red on the water God had provided was blood.
5) Mesha sent his forces into Israel’s camp… only to be overrun. During the rout, Mesha and 700 soldiers fled to a fortified city.
6) In one last unexpected twist, Mesha sacrificed his own son to Chemosh, the god of Moab – in full view of his enemies.
At this point, the Chronicler wrote, “The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land” (2Ki. 3:27). This vague statement may mean Israel panicked, fearing the power of Chemosh and not fully trusting in God to deliver the promised victory.
Mesha told this story from his perspective on an ancient artifact called the Moabite Stone (sometimes called the Mesha Stele). The stones corroborates the biblical account that Moab was subject to Israel at this time.
In any case, Mesha lived to fight another day.
All the kings survived… but they survived by doing almost opposite things!
When the coalition of kings got in trouble, they consulted a prophet of God and prayed to God. When Mesha got in trouble, he consulted a false god… and ended up sacrificing his oldest son!
When you get into trouble… feeling like you have been backed into a corner, how do you react? Doing what YOU think is right will often get you into trouble. Doing what GOD says is right is always the right thing to do!
You can read Mesha’s story in 2Kings 3:4-27.