The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was—water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water. Now all the Moabites had heard that the kings had come to fight against them; so every man, young and old, who could bear arms was called up and stationed on the border. When they got up early in the morning, the sun was shining on the water. To the Moabites across the way, the water looked red—like blood. “That’s blood!” they said. “Those kings must have fought and slaughtered each other. Now to the plunder, Moab!” But when the Moabites came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and fought them until they fled. And the Israelites invaded the land and slaughtered the Moabites. They 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. Only Kir Hareseth was left with its stones in place, but men armed with slings surrounded it and attacked it. – 2 Kings 3:20-25
My mom used to tell us a saying about the weather…” red in the morning sailors take warning”. This saying would seem to apply to the Moabites. God showed up during the night and surprised both the Israelites and the Moabites.
When the Moabites saw the rising sun reflected in the pools of water filling the valley it apparently shone like blood. I have seen sunrises and sunsets that looked like this…beautiful, but the Moabites did not see a beautiful sunrise reflected on the water…they saw blood. They jumped to the conclusion that it was Israelite blood and that the armies of the three kings had “fought and slaughtered each other”.
The fact that the Moabites jumped to this somewhat bizarre conclusion and interpretation of the sunrise tells us something about the Moabites, and the reputation of the Israelites among the Moabites. The Moabites were a cobbled together army of “every man young and old who could bear arms”. They were probably not so excited to be fighting against three armies of seasoned warriors. Perhaps they saw the blood in the water because they wanted to believe that the Israelites had imploded into internecine slaughter so they would not have to fight them.
The reaction of the Moabites also suggests that, at least among the Moabites, the Israelites have a reputation of infighting and conflict. This is born out by the division of the kingdom of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms. This makes me wonder about the reputation of the modern Christian church. Would someone seeing the equivalent of “blood on the water” come to a similar conclusion about many of our Christian churches? Are we known for our love or our conflict?
The incorrect interpretation of the rising sun cost the Moabites dearly. They invaded the Israelite camp and found it still occupied. The Moabites were slaughtered, the springs were stopped up, towns were destroyed, and the farm fields were “spiked” with rocks. Interestingly, in the future an incorrect interpretation of another “rising son”, Jesus, will trip up both Jewish and non-jewish leaders.
Prayer: God help us to love one another so that we are known for our love, rather than our conflict with one another,