In the story the Israelites are attacking their perennial enemies, the Moabites. And the Israelites get the upper hand:
2 Kings 3.24-27 (NRSV)Facing defeat the Moabite king does something desperate. He offers a child sacrifice--To whom?--and that sacrifice saves Moab. After the sacrifice the NRSV reads "and a great wrath came upon Israel" causing them to retreat:
But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and attacked the Moabites, who fled before them; as they entered Moab they continued the attack. The cities they overturned, and on every good piece of land everyone threw a stone, until it was covered; every spring of water they stopped up, and every good tree they felled. Only at Kir-hareseth did the stone walls remain, until the slingers surrounded and attacked it.
When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.Where did this wrath come from? The text doesn't really say. Some translations leave in the ambiguity while others tilt toward a human origin:
ESV:The ASV, NRSV, and the ESV keep the source of the wrath vague. The KJV and the NIV seem to suggest that the wrath comes from the onlooking Moabites. That is, seeing their king sacrifice his son fills the Moabites with "fury" and "indignation" which rekindles their fighting spirit to throw back the Israelite advance.
And there came great wrath against Israel
And there was great indignation against Israel
And there was great wrath against Israel
The fury against Israel was great
But the text doesn't actually say that. It doesn't say that the Moabites got angry or that they rose up against the Israelites in anger. It simply says that in response to the child sacrifice a "wrath came up against Israel" and that "Israel withdrew."
Basically, if you read between the lines the god of Moab--Chemosh (Num. 21.29; Jer. 48.7, 13, 46)--seems to be implicated. First, a child sacrifice is made by the king of Moab. This wouldn't have been to YHWH but to Chemosh. And after the sacrifice to Chemosh a "great wrath" comes upon the Israelites, causing them to withdraw. It seems reasonable to assume that Chemosh found the sacrifice acceptable and moved against Israel.
Of course, Chemosh isn't directly mentioned. One wonders if a direct mention of the Moabite god was removed from the original story in light of the developing monotheism of Israel.
If this story contains a trace of Chemosh it is one of the few stories, and the only one I'm aware of as I consult my memory, where a god other than YHWH has a causal impact on human events in the Old Testament.