3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God Reveals His Plan 10: 2 Kings

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

“And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’” – 2 Kings 3:16

Today’s 3:16 verse is an example of God directly revealing His plan to His people. To better understand it, though, we need to consider it within the context of the entire chapter 3 of 2 Kings. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I’m going to summarize the story here.

Israel and Judah are separate nations due to a political split following King Solomon’s death. Civil war ensued for a time but they are no longer at war with each other. The kings of Israel were consistently bad by Biblical standards – in other words they consistently refused obedience to God. The kings of Judah were alternately good and bad – some seeking to obey God and some refusing to.

In the previous chapter, Elijah, a prophet of God, had just been taken away by God and his successor, Elisha, was confirmed. Chapter 3 begins with the announcement that Jehoram, son of Israel’s now dead king Ahab, had just taken the throne. Moab, a nation on the east side of the Jordan river who had been subdued by Israel and paying taxes to them, saw Ahab’s death as an opportunity to rid themselves of Israel’s control so their king refused the tax payment.

In retribution, Jehoram sought an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and another neighboring nation, Edom, to go to war against Moab. Jehoshaphat had fought in alliance with Israel before as well. On Jehoshaphat’s suggestion, the three kings and their combined armies gathered in the wilderness south of the Dead Sea in Edom’s territory, which was south of Moab.

After traveling and wandering for a week with no water, the kings began to get worried. Jehoram essentially said “We’re doomed!”, but Jehoshaphat, as was typical for him, said, “Let’s ask the Lord!” and sought out Elisha for guidance. At first Elisha was hesitant to intercede for them and inquire of God because of Jehoram’s parents (Ahab and Jezebel). But since Jehoshaphat was there, he agreed, knowing that Jehoshaphat was a godly man.

Elisha prayed about the situation and God answered him in verses 16-20.

And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’ For thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’ This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” The next morning, about the time of offering the sacrifice, behold, water came from the direction of Edom, till the country was filled with water.

Here we see God revealing His plan to provide water for the troops and then He did! Now, I find something particularly interesting about verse 16.

And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’ – 2 Kings 3:16

There is some discrepancy among Biblical scholars on how to translate this verse from its original Hebrew. You can see at Bible Gateway all the different ways that English translators have chosen to render this verse. Essentially, the discrepancy can be boiled down to two options:

  1. As the ESV quoted above renders it, God pronounces that He will make the streambed full of pools [of water]. This pronouncement is then repeated with a bit more detail in verse 17.
  2. The alternate (but frequently used) way to translate it is by indicating that God is commanding the armies to dig ditches in the valley, into which, according to verse 17, God will miraculously cause water to flow and collect.

The reason for this discrepancy is the lack of explanatory or modifying words in the original language. In the most literal rendition the verse reads “and he said, `Thus said Jehovah, Make this valley ditches — ditches;“. First of all, is God saying that He will fill the valley with ditches? He definitely says in the next verse that He will send water to the valley. Or, the second interpretation is that God is issuing a command to fill the valley with ditches. It seems to me that this is the more logical reading. The repetition of the word “ditches” is a typical Hebrew way of meaning “a lot” of something. For example, in the tabernacle the outer chamber is called the “holy” place, and the inner chamber (which we often call the Holy of Holies) is the “holy holy” place – meaning it is full of holiness.

Here’s why the rendering of this verse is important. Without question, based on verse 17, God is promising to miraculously send water for the relief of the armies of Israel. I believe that in verse 16 He is commanding the people to prepare for His provision and trust that He will come through . This is consistent with how God works throughout Scripture. Just a few examples are:

  • God promised a flood and expected Noah to spend years building the ark in preparation for it. – Genesis 6:13-22
  • God promised to heal Naaman once he completed washing in the river. – 2 Kings 5:6-14
  • God promised to part the waters of the Jordan river once the priests’ feet were placed in the water. – Joshua 3:7-17

In 2 Kings 3 God told the kings he would send water without any apparent cause or source. It makes sense that He would ask them to dig ditches or canals to hold the water. If they disobeyed, the blessing of water would just pass them by. The more ditches they dug, the more of the blessing would be retained. Furthermore, their obedience in this small thing ultimately provided them with their needed water AND provided them with the victory over Moab that they needed as well. The Moab army saw the sun reflecting off the water that next morning and misinterpreted it as blood overflowing from internal fighting within the camp. They came into the camp unawares and were defeated by the Israelites.

This has personal implications for us both on the small scale and the larger scale. First, God wants us to rely on Him for our daily provision. But He also expects us to use whatever resources we have to plan on receiving His provision. We should be living our lives in constant expectation to receive God’s blessings, but also work to make sure those blessings don’t pass us by.

In the larger picture, God spent hundreds and even thousands of years preparing and providing His word (the Bible) for us through His inspiration of the writers of the scriptures. In those Scriptures He has revealed our own destitute human condition and His plan to redeem us out of our sin. Likewise, he has testified that it is His son, Jesus, who provided the necessary sacrifice to pay the redemption cost for us to live eternally with God, and He has even told us the end of the story – how He will ultimately bring judgment on His adversaries (Satan and his followers) and will recreate a new universe as a place of cohabitation with us.

But He expects us to act upon those promises. Take whatever steps He is calling you to do to validate your faith and dependence on Him. Trust Him with your life, take that next step on the path He has set before you, prepare for the blessings that He desires to bring into your life. Believe Him!

Next week we’ll look at the 3:16 verse in Isaiah. Thanks for reading!

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