UNHOLY ALLIANCES COMPROMISE A SINCERE HEART FOR THE LORD BUT SALVATION CAN STILL COME AS WE SEEK HIM
Iain Duguid: Of all the accounts of the kings after Solomon, the account of Jehoshaphat’s reign is second in length only to Hezekiah’s (2 Chronicles 29–32), and only he, Hezekiah, and Josiah are likened to David (17:3; 29:2; 34:2). Jehoshaphat is presented as a prominent example of good leadership throughout the land, leading to prosperity and peace, but alongside this narrative is prophetic criticism of his alliance with the “wicked” northern kingdom. While he exhibits parallels with the reign of his father, Asa, Jehoshaphat’s reforms are greater, involving arrangements for teaching the “Law of the Lord” and for a justice system throughout the land (17:7–9; 19:5–11). His failings receive less censure because he “set [his] heart to seek God” (19:3; cf. 17:4; 20:32; 22:9).
Andrew Hill: Jehoshaphat is portrayed favorably as a man of faith and prayer and a religious reformer. The narrative in Chronicles is apparently intentionally shaped to demonstrate the parallels between the reigns of Jehoshaphat and his father Asa. His rule is not without problems, however, and like all the kings of Judah he receives a “mixed” theological review from the biblical historian (cf. 17:3-4, 6; 19:3; 20:33). Although the narrative summarizing Jehoshaphat’s kingship lacks a rigid chronological framework, the dates for his twenty-five-year reign are between 872 and 848 B.C. On the basis of comparative analysis of the date formulas for Jehoshaphat’s length of reign, it is generally understood he rules for three years as a coregent with his father prior to his own twenty-two-year tenure on the throne (from 869-848 B.C.; cf. 2 Kings 3:1; 8:16; 2 Chron. 20:31).
J.A. Thompson: The story of Jehoshaphat is presented in four phases:
(1) character and organization (17:1-19),
(2) alliance with the Northern Kingdom (18:1-34),
(3) God’s rebuke and Jehoshaphat’s reformation (19:1-11), and
(4) Jehoshaphat’s piety rewarded (20:1-37; 21:1).
I. (17:1-19) SINCERE HEART FOR THE LORD REFLECTED IN POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS SUCCESSES
Iain Duguid: The opening chapter has provided a comprehensive picture of success and strength, a combination of seeking God evidenced in religious reforms and a nationwide teaching strategy, strong defenses, and peace with surrounding peoples, all evidence that “the Lord was with Jehoshaphat.” This becomes the literary background for the surprising alliance with the northern kingdom that follows.
Deuteronomy warns of the danger of forgetting God when he has blessed (cf. Deut. 6:10–15); the tendency to pride, even arrogance, is only too common. Jehoshaphat provides a positive example of one whose “seeking the Lord” persisted after he received “riches and honor.” The “high” of God’s ways to which he set his “heart” is paralleled later by Paul’s exhortation, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above” (Col. 3:1–2).
Jehoshaphat’s organizing of teaching that went to where the people lived recognized that following God, worshiping him alone, is a matter not only of religious activity (sacrifices and corporate gatherings) but of all of life, how and where one “walks” (2 Chron. 17:3–4; John 8:12; Rom. 6:4; Eph. 4:1–3).
Raymond Dillard: The chapter is structured by further explicit elaborations on the general statements introduced in 17:1–6 (Williamson, 280):
– Jehoshaphat’s army and fortifications (17:2) are developed in 17:12b–19;
– his wealth and honor (17:5) are described in 17:10–12a;
– aspects of his religious devotion (17:3, 6) are elaborated in 17:7–9.
The Chronicler begins his account of Jehoshaphat by presenting him in an entirely favorable light. The chapter should be read with an eye to the author’s efforts to effect a parallel between Asa and Jehoshaphat. The Chronicler reminds his post-exilic audience once again that God never fails to reward fidelity. He calls attention to the importance of the public teaching of the law; the path to honor among the nations is found in obedience to it.
August Konkel: The last years of Asa’s reign were characterized by internal uprising and oppression. Jehoshaphat needed to consolidate his power within Judah to restore it to peace and stability. Israel had been an enemy during the days of Asa, but Jehoshaphat soon entered into alliance with Ahab (18:1–2). He established control over Israel (17:2), which included territory in Ephraim that Asa had taken over.
Jehoshaphat’s international status, building enterprises, and army characterized the greatness of his rule. Archaeological excavations have revealed extensive fortification in rural Judah. A line of highway forts in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea date to the time of Jehoshaphat (Mazar: 416-17; Japhet 1993: 751).
Geoffrey Kirkland: Thesis — What are proper priorities for a godly leader?
Jehoshaphat models 3 for us:
I. HE PRIORITIZED THE PROTECTION OF GOD’S PEOPLE (1-2, 10-19)
II. HE PRIORITIZED THE PURSUIT OF GOD’S GLORY (3-6)
III. HE PRIORITIZED THE PREACHING OF GOD’S WORD (7-9)
A. (:1-6) Political and Religious Mission —
Character and Rule of Jehoshaphat Modeled after His Godly Father
1. (:1-2) Political Mission — Strengthening the Kingdom Via Wise Measures
a. (:1) Establishing His Rule
“Jehoshaphat his son then became king in his place,
and made his position over Israel firm.”
b. (:2) Expanding His Defenses
“He placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah,
and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had captured.”
Frederick Mabie: While Jehoshaphat’s military efforts in the tribal area of Ephraim might be seen as provocative, the relationship between the northern kingdom and southern kingdom is characterized as one of peace solidified via a political marriage alliance.
2. (:3-6) Religious Mission — Succeeding Via Divine Blessing
a. (:3-4) Divine Blessing Because of His Sincere Heart for the Lord
“And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did.”
b. (:5) Divine Blessing Reflected in Power, Influence and Riches
“So the LORD established the kingdom in his control,
and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat,
and he had great riches and honor.”
Raymond Dillard: Wealth, honor, and fame are part of the repertoire of themes which show divine favor in Chronicles. Not only do David and Solomon enjoy these tokens of God’s pleasure (1 Chr 29:2–5, 28; 2 Chr 9:13–27), but so do Jehoshaphat (17:5; 18:1), Uzziah (26:8, 15), and Hezekiah (32:27).
c. (:6) Sincere Heart for the Lord Reflected in Attack on Idolatry
“And he took great pride in the ways of the LORD and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah.”
Iain Duguid: The interplay of human and divine action is seen in the statement that “The Lord established the kingdom in his hand” (2 Chron. 17:5), balancing the opening statement that Jehoshaphat “strengthened himself” (v. 1). It is God’s “kingdom,” and the Lord placed it “in the hand of the sons of David” (13:8)—until God later gave it “into [the] hand” of the “king of the Chaldeans” (36:17). The statement that “His heart was courageous” (lit., “His heart was high”) elsewhere describes negatively the pride and arrogance of Uzziah and Hezekiah after they had become strong and enjoyed benefits (26:16; 32:25, 26; cf. Ps. 131:1; Prov. 16:5). What stands out uniquely regarding Jehoshaphat is that after he received “great riches and honor,” his “pride” was “in the ways of the Lord” as he removed the “high places”.
B. (:7-9) Priority Mission = National Indoctrination in the Law of God
“Then in the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; 8 and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. 9 And they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.”
Iain Duguid: Early in his reign, Jehoshaphat initiated a broad program of teaching, involving lay officials (who would represent royal authority), Levites, and priests in an itinerant task “through all the cities of Judah.”
Adam Clarke: We may presume that the princes instructed the people in the nature of the civil law and constitution of the kingdom; the Levites instructed them in everything that appertained to the temple service, and ritual law; and the priest instructed them in the nature and design of the religion they professed. Thus the nation became thoroughly instructed in their duty to God, to the king, and to each other. They became, therefore, as one man; and against a people thus united, on such principles, no enemy could be successful.
Andrew Hill: The curriculum consists of the “Book of the Law,” presumably some form of the Pentateuch – perhaps more specifically the Covenant Code (Ex. 19-24) or even what we now know as the book of Deuteronomy. . . The verb “to teach” (lmd; 2 Chron. 17:8, 9) is a common word for instruction in the Old Testament (cf. Deut. 4:10; 5:1). It implies that education is a process of assimilation, not the dumping of information. The teacher stimulates the learner to imitate the desired action or behavioral response by word and example. The program appears to have been one of unrestricted access to religious education, as the “people” of Judah are the target audience of this “tuition-free” instruction (2 Chron. 17:9).
Geoffrey Kirkland: The priorities in the teaching:
1. Instruct the MIND — teach/instruct/impart/preach/proclaim
2. Engage the PEOPLE — all the cities, in Judah, of Judah
3. Know the WORD — had the Law WITH THEM**
4. Teach the WORD — they taught… they taught… they were teaching…
5. Keep the MISSION — they *went* throughout ALL the cities
6. Maintain the PRIORITY — they were teaching the people (didn’t get sidetracked or distracted)
Frederick Mabie: It is noteworthy that these individuals go out to teach God’s Word (in analogy to the going forth built into the Great Commission; cf. Mt 28:19-20), rather than expecting the people to come to them.
C. (:10-11) Political Influence — Motivated and Manifested
1. (:10) Motivated by Divine Dread that Restrained Aggression
“Now the dread of the LORD was on all the kingdoms of the lands which were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.”
2. (:11) Manifested in Generous Gifts from Surrounding Kingdoms
“And some of the Philistines brought gifts and silver as tribute to Jehoshaphat; the Arabians also brought him flocks, 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats.”
Iain Duguid: A sign of blessing is the response of the “kingdoms of the lands that were around” (cf. 1 Chron. 29:30). When others see physical signs that God is with his people, the “fear of the Lord” is often the response. While commonly following military victory (2 Chron. 14:14; 20:29; 1 Chron. 14:17; cf. Josh. 2:8–11), such response may also flow from blessings that accompany walking in God’s commandments (2 Chron. 7:4; cf. Deut. 4:5–8; Matt. 5:16). Here “tribute” is brought that reflects the life of the peoples: “presents and silver” from the coastal Philistines and “rams and goats” from the Arabian herdsmen to the south (cf. 2 Chron. 26:6–8; contrast 21:16–17). Like David (1 Chron. 11:9), Jehoshaphat grows in prominence.
Frederick Mabie: The tribute brought from Philistines and Arabs, together with statements of military fortifications, implies that the southern kingdom now has hegemony over the caravan routes across the Arabah and Negev to the Coastal highway.
This control provides a lucrative source of tax and tribute income for the southern kingdom during Jehoshaphat’s administration. This economic and political stability in turn allows for further military strengthening, building projects, and governmental expansion (see 17:12-19). The Arabs noted here are likely seminomadic tribes in the desert regions to the south of the Judean Negev and portions of the Sinaitic and (perhaps) Arabian Peninsulas.
D. (:12-19) Military Might
1. (:12a) Expanding Power and Prestige
“So Jehoshaphat grew greater and greater,”
2. (:12b) Fortified Cities
“and he built fortresses and store cities in Judah.”
3. (:13) Large Supplies and Valiant Warriors
“And he had large supplies in the cities of Judah, and warriors, valiant men, in Jerusalem.”
4. (:14-19) Impressive Roster of Leaders and Troops
“And this was their muster according to their fathers’ households: of Judah, commanders of thousands, Adnah was the commander, and with him 300,000 valiant warriors; 15 and next to him was Johanan the commander, and with him 280,000; 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who volunteered for the LORD, and with him 200,000 valiant warriors; 17 and of Benjamin, Eliada a valiant warrior, and with him 200,000 armed with bow and shield; 18 and next to him Jehozabad, and with him 180,000 equipped for war. 19 These are they who served the king, apart from those whom the king put in the fortified cities through all Judah.”
II. (18:1 – 19:3) UNHOLY ALLIANCE WITH AHAB PUTS PRESSURE ON GOD’S PROPHET AND UNLEASHES DIVINE WRATH
Raymond Dillard: The narrative is structured primarily by its series of repartee paragraphs which constitute one of the longest dialogues in the OT; these paragraphs can be classified by their respective types:
– proposal/response (18:4–5, 12–13, 15–22, 28–29),
– question/answer (3, 6–7, 14, 23–24),
– command/execution (8, 25–27, 30–32).
Avoiding foreign alliances was for the Chronicler one aspect of the central demand of the covenant that Israel show exclusive loyalty to Yahweh her God. The Chronicler’s frequent introduction of this theme into his history must have had rhetorical relevance for the post-exilic community: though facing opposition and afforded many opportunities to trust in foreign powers or alliances, Judah in the restoration period was urged to trust in her God alone.
Iain Duguid: Throughout Chronicles the people of God are always more than Judah, but here is a warning to postexilic hearers against alliances that compromise their distinctive identity as God’s people. The wider unity of Israel is to be based on common allegiance to the Lord. Prosperity and peace are to be found through trusting in him, not in political (or later, trading; 20:35–37) partnerships. Jeroboam’s alliance in battle continues as a salutary example of a man seeking to be loyal to God but getting drawn into actions one knows are contrary to God’s revealed Word. Such is the grace of God, however, that even there he delivers as one cries to him.
J.A. Thompson: This chapter describes Jehoshaphat’s failed policy toward the Northern Kingdom and in so doing underscores a significant theological theme for the Chronicler. Jehoshaphat apparently could not bring himself to recognize the depth of the Northern Kingdom’s apostasy. Perhaps he harbored ideas that since they were all Israelites then they ought to get along well and be in an alliance together. He may even have supposed that this could bring about the reunification of the nation. Therefore he not only went to war alongside the northern forces but he also entered into a commercial alliance with them (20:35-37) and even married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab. Disaster came from all three efforts, and yet Jehoshaphat never seemed to realize how dangerous it was to say, “I am as you are, and my people as your people” (18:3). The point for the Chronicler was that there could be only one king and one temple for the people of God. The point for us is that flirtation with those in apostasy is flirtation with catastrophe. The requirement to show Christian affability and fellowship must be balanced with discernment and fidelity to God’s truth.
A. (18:1-7) Unholy Alliance Pursued in Multiple Spheres
1. (:1) Sphere of Marriage
“Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor;
and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab.”
Iain Duguid: Ahab, son of Omri, was an influential king in the northern kingdom, well known for his military exploits to the northeast1 and even more, through his marriage to the Tyrian Jezebel, for the explosion of Baal worship in the north and subsequent influence in Judah that marked his reign.
Andrew Hill: His reshaping of this introduction implicitly indicts Jehoshaphat on three counts:
– his marriage alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel,
– his pride (incited by the lavish reception he receives in Samaria), which clouds his sensibilities for decision=-making, and
– his agreement to participate in a military campaign with King Aha.
This introduction anticipates the prophetic condemnations of Jehoshaphat for his foolishness in allying himself with the apostate Ahab (cf. 19:1-3).
Geoffrey Kirkland: Profile of the Apostate & Wicked King Ahab:
• a liar/deceiver
• a flatterer/manipulator
• an idolater
• an apostate (God-hater)
• a hater (of God’s Word/Truth)
• a self-lover/self-worshiper (had 400 yes-men//prophets who only spoke well of the king)
• an unbeliever (rejected the prophetic Words)
• a harsh man (feed the prophet sparingly)
• a persecutor (put him in jail/prison)
• under God’s wrath (18:33-34)
• a wicked man (19:2)
2. (:2-3) Sphere of Military Alliance
“And some years later he went down to visit Ahab at Samaria. And Ahab slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. 3 And Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, ‘Will you go with me against Ramoth-gilead?’ And he said to him, ‘I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in the battle.’”
August Konkel: Ramoth Gilead was a fortress city in the eastern portion of the tribal territory of Gad (Josh 20:8). This was one of the cities of refuge for inadvertent homicide and an important administrative center in Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kings 4:13). It was an important fortress, protecting the eastern trade routes. Following the great battle at Qarqar, where Ahab had allied with the Arameans in successfully stopping the advance of the Assyrians under Shalmanezer III (853 BCE), the Arameans tried to regain control of an important trade route to the south, the King’s Highway. Ahab needed an ally against the superior Aramean forces to regain control of a city critical to his kingdom.
3. (:4-7) Sphere of Religious Guidance
a. (:4) Godly Goal – Seeking Divine Guidance
“Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel,
‘Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.’”
b. (:5) Ungodly Counsel of 400 False Prophets
“Then the king of Israel assembled the prophets, four hundred men, and said to them, ‘Shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?’ And they said, ‘Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.’”
c. (:6-7) Discerning Skepticism
“But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?’ 7 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imla.’ But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say so.’”
B. (18:8-17) Unholy Alliance Puts Pressure on God’s Prophet
1. (:8-11) False Prophets Create Toxic Environment
a. (:8) Call for God’s Prophet Micaiah
“Then the king of Israel called an officer and said,
‘Bring quickly Micaiah, Imla’s son.’”
b. (:9-11) Counsel of False Prophets Favorable to Israel
1) (:9-10) Favorable Counsel of Zedekiah
“Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 10 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, ‘Thus says the LORD, With these you shall gore the Arameans, until they are consumed.’”
Frederick Mabie: The kings gather at a threshing floor to hear the counsel of the prophets (v. 9). The open flat area of threshing floors facilitated their use as a meeting place for ancient communities, in an analogous way to how a city gate functioned on a larger scale.
2) (:11) Favorable Counsel of All the False Prophets
“And all the prophets were prophesying thus, saying,
‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and succeed,
for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.’”
2. (:12-17) Faithful Prophet Resists the Pressure of Coercion
a. (:12-13) Coercion of Peer Pressure Met with Conviction of God’s Prophet
1) (:12) Coercion of Peer Pressure
“Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, ‘Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. So please let your word be like one of them and speak favorably.’”
2) (:13) Conviction of God’s Prophet
“But Micaiah said, ‘As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak.’”
b. (:14) Sarcastic Response of Micaiah
“And when he came to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?’ He said, ‘Go up and succeed, for they will be given into your hand.’”
c. (:15-17) Faithful Response of Micaiah
1) (:15) Demand for the Truth by the King of Israel
“Then the king said to him, ‘How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”
2) (:16) Description of Israel’s Defeat
“So he said, ‘I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd; And the LORD said, These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.’”
3) (:17) Dejection and Despair of the King of Israel
“Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?’”
C. (18:18-27) Unholy Alliance Subjects God’s Prophet to Persecution
1. (:18-22) Exposure of False Prophets
“And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. 19 And the LORD said, Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said this while another said that. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said to him, How? 21 And he said, I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. Then He said, You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so. 22 Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; for the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.’”
Iain Duguid: God’s sending a “lying spirit” (v. 21) may seem contrary to God’s character and yet is consistent with actions elsewhere toward those who persist in rejecting a clear word, whether in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 7:3–5, 13–14, 22, etc.) or in his rejection of the prophets in Ezekiel 14:7–10. Paul speaks of “those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:10–12). Micaiah’s words were Ahab’s last chance to avoid judgment. Ahab had complained that Micaiah’s words to him in the past were always “evil” (Hb. raʻah; 2 Chron. 18:7, 17), and now, tragically, that was repeated: the message was one of “disaster” (again raʻah; v. 22).
2. (:23-27) Expulsion of True Prophet
“Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, ‘How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?’ 24 And Micaiah said, ‘Behold, you shall see on that day, when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.’ 25 Then the king of Israel said, ‘Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son; 26 and say, Thus says the king, Put this man in prison, and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.’ 27 And Micaiah said, ‘If you indeed return safely, the LORD has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Listen, all you people.’”
D. (18:28 – 19:3) Unholy Alliance Releases Divine Wrath
1. (18:28-34) Perfidy of Ahab Overturned by Divine Providence
“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. 29 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you put on your robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. 30 Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, saying, ‘Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone.’ 31 So it came about when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, ‘It is the king of Israel,’ and they turned aside to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him. 32 Then it happened when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. 33 And a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of the chariot, ‘Turn around, and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.’ 34 And the battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died.”
Iain Duguid: Ahab was a picture of delusion. He knew that Micaiah’s oracle was probably true (v. 16), yet he brazenly expected to “return in peace” (v. 26) and sought to avoid the message of death by a stratagem of disguise. Instead, an action that was humanly “at random” led to his death. The stratagem almost led to Jehoshaphat’s death, but in his first stated initiative since insisting on a prophet of the Lord, he “cried out”—the Chronicler adds “and the Lord helped him; God drew them away from him” (v. 31).
August Konkel: Ahab’s defiance of God is further revealed in his careful preparations for self-protection (2 Chron 18:28-34). His immediate concern was the Aramean army, though he knew he had violated God’s will and was therefore subject to the consequences. This is a further indication of his disregard for the God of Israel, believing that he could defy divine judgment against him. His error was fatal for him. The Chronicler here adds his own note to indicate the divine protection of Jehoshaphat (v. 31), which is not found in his Vorlage [Vorlage, p. 68]. The Lord helped Jehoshaphat by luring the Aramean soldiers away from the king. This is a reference back to verse 2, where Ahab had lured Jehoshaphat into battle in the first instance. The enticement of Ahab proved to be fatal for him; in turn, the Lord reversed this deception in providing deliverance to Jehoshaphat.
2. (19:1-3) Prophecy Explaining Basis for God’s Wrath
Raymond Dillard: These verses represent the key to the Chronicler’s use of the Micaiah narrative; the story provided him with a further parallel between Asa and Jehoshaphat and the opportunity to underscore the evil of foreign alliances and the failure to trust Yahweh.
a. (:1) Deliverance of Jehoshaphat
“Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem.”
b. (:2) Justification for God’s Wrath
“And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD?”
c. (:3) Mitigation Due to Godly Actions
“But there is some good in you,
for you have removed the Asheroth from the land
and you have set your heart to seek God.’”
McConville: A Christian’s attachment to God is necessarily expressed in the kind of atmosphere in which he prefers to live and move and have his being. Company, pursuits, ambitions will all bear upon them the mark of a love of God. This is by no means to put an embargo upon normal social intercourse with those who are not basically like-minded. It has to do with the sort of life pattern which one chooses to construct. The task of construction is no easy one, and the temptation is to model oneself upon the ‘architects’ about us. This was Jehoshaphat’s fault, and his error calls us to consistency in exhibiting the characteristics which are truly Christian. (See further Rom. 12:1f.; Gal. 5:16-26.)
(19:4) TRANSITION — REVIVAL LED BY JEHOSHAPHAT
“So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers.”
Frederick Mabie: The city of Beersheba, located in the Negev, was the administrative seat of the southern region. Beersheba was also the common designation used to refer to the southern extent of Judah, as implied here. Notice that Jehoshaphat’s itinerant ministry also includes those situated in part of the northern tribal area of Ephraim.
III. (19:5-11) JUDICIAL REFORMS SEEK TO ELIMINATE CORRUPTION
Raymond Dillard: Some centralization of judicial authority must be presumed during Israel’s transition from a tribal confederacy to a centralized monarchy. The practices described could have antedated Jehoshaphat in the ancient Near East by many centuries; there is no compelling reason to deny the historicity of the account. It should also be noted, however, that the judicial reform of Jehoshaphat may not have instituted new or heretofore unseen practices in Israel—transition to a centralized judiciary could well have preceded him—but could be understood simply as a reform to eliminate corruption in judicial practice.
The Chronicler may well have been seeking to cite a precedent or to otherwise legitimate practices in his own day, but this does not automatically undercut his use of historically reliable information.
Iain Duguid: The reform was structured in two similar blocks:
(a) appointment of “judges” in the “fortified cities of Judah” (19:5), followed by exhortation (vv. 6–7); and
(b) appointment of people to “give judgment” in Jerusalem (vv. 8, 11a), again with exhortation (vv. 9–10, 11b).
August Konkel: The description of judicial reform is composed of two symmetrical paragraphs (vv. 5-7 and 8-11), patterned with an action and admonition. In the second paragraph, some of the reform measures are included in the exhortation, providing balance to the accounts. Local court officials were appointed in the fortified cities, and a central court was established in Jerusalem. The reform is a realization of the law of Deuteronomy (16:18 – 17:13), but in this context only judges are appointed and only in fortified towns. Every citizen had obligations toward the king and toward God; this dual loyalty was fully consistent with covenant obligation. There may have been a lower and higher court in Jerusalem, one that served as the ordinary jurisdiction for citizens, and an appeals court for all the lower courts. Priests and Levites had some judicial role in the Jerusalem court, but no such role is mentioned for them in the local courts.
A. (:5-7) Appointment of Judges in Fortified Cities
1. (:5) Appointment – Locally in Each Fortified City
“And he appointed judges in the land
in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.”
2. (:6) Motivation – Judge for the Lord
“And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing,
for you do not judge for man but for the LORD
who is with you when you render judgment.’”
3. (:7) Charge – Avoid Corruption
“Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you;
be very careful what you do,
for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”
Raymond Dillard: Judicial authority in Israel was not the prerogative of autonomous power; rather it depended upon and expressed the rule of Yahweh and was to reflect his own attributes of righteousness, justice, and fairness. Judges acted in behalf of kings or other men only in a derivative sense—in reality they were the agents of Yahweh who was present at their decisions. Yahweh loves and is known by his justice (Ps 9:16; 11:7). The frequent biblical injunctions against bribery attest to the extent and persistence of the practice; the poor who could not afford the bribe were in this way the prey of the rich (Exod 23:6–8; Deut 1:17; 16:18–20; 1 Sam 8:3; Ps 15:5; Prov 17:23; Isa 1:21–23; 5:22–23; Mic 3:11; 7:3; Zech 7:9–10).
B. (:8-11) Appointment of Levites and Heads of Households for Judgment in Jerusalem
1. (:8) Appointment
“And in Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
2. (:9-10) Motivation
a. (:9) All-In Commitment Grounded in the Fear of the Lord
“Then he charged them saying, ‘Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and wholeheartedly.’”
Andrew Hill: In addition to hearing cases and rendering fair verdicts, the judge must also warn (or instruct) the citizenry who come before the bench not to commit further sin against the Lord, lest the “wrath” of God come against them and their family (19:9-10). This “fear of the Lord” is understood as a deterrent to further criminal activity (19:9); it permits all the citizens of Judah to enjoy the protection afforded by the law. In addition, the just application of the law to everyday life will lead to an equitable society – the ideal social dynamic of the covenant community.
b. (:10a) Address All Grievances to Avoid Divine Wrath
“And whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them that they may not be guilty before the LORD, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren.”
c. (:10b) Avoid Culpability
“Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty.”
Raymond Dillard: The speeches of Jehoshaphat as recorded in Chronicles reflect a large body of biblical teaching regarding the concern of God with justice. Justice will always be subject to perversion, until he who is the Just is also the Judge (Rev 20:11–15; 1 Pet 2:23).
3. (:11a) Support and Oversight
a. Role of Amariah
“And behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you
in all that pertains to the LORD;”
b. Role of Zebadiah
“and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king.”
c. Role of Levites
“Also the Levites shall be officers before you.”
Frederick Mabie: The particular appointment of Amariah and Zebadiah implies differing areas of responsibility pertaining to the executive branch (matters concerning the king) and the judicial-legal branch (matters concerning the Lord). The Levites function in a more generic role, perhaps akin to judicial clerks.
4. (:11b) Charge
“Act resolutely, and the LORD be with the upright.”
IV. (20:1-30) SALVATION FROM INVADING ENEMIES COMES BY SEEKING THE LORD
Iain Duguid: The importance of this narrative is enhanced by the way each aspect is intensified: the enemy was a “great multitude/horde” (20:2, 12, 15, 24); “all Judah” was involved, including “their little ones, their wives, and their children” (vv. 4, 13); praise was “with a very loud voice” (v. 19); afterward, “none [of the enemy] had escaped” (v. 24) and the bounty was such that “they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much” (v. 25); and, finally, “Fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries” (v. 29). God-given victory is emphatically linked with piety, centered in trusting praise.
Frederick Mabie: The Meunites were an Arabian tribe living in the southern region of Transjordan and parts of the Sinai, a tribe of people who were able to control some of the trade routes stemming from the southern portion of the King’s highway. . . There is alarm in Judah when it is reported that the eastern coalition has reached En Gedi (only twenty-five miles southeast of Jerusalem). Nonetheless, this rebellion is thwarted by infighting prompted by Yahweh, who subsequently gives Jehoshaphat rest all around (vv. 22-30).
Geoffrey Kirkland: When the Unexpected & Enormous Moment Invades Your Life, Learn How to Respond like Jehoshaphat!
• The Sudden Battle (1-4) (INVASION)
• The Steadfast Petition (5-13) (PETITION)
• The Spirit-Given Assurance (14-19) (REVELATION)
• The Sure Victory (20-34) (CONSECRATION)
• The Sinful Alliance (35-37) (CAUTION!)
A. (:1-4) Invasion by a Powerful Eastern Coalition Spurs Judah to Seek the Lord
1. (:1) Invasion by a Powerful Coalition
“Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab
and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites,
came to make war against Jehoshaphat.”
Iain Duguid: The Moabites probably initiated the attack, joined by their northern neighbors on the Transjordanian plateau, the Ammonites. The third group accompanying them are commonly read as “Meunites,” following the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text’s repetition of “Ammonites.” They were possibly associated with Maʻan, which was south of Petra and so loosely matching “Mount Seir” (vv. 10, 23), a general description of the region of Edom and the southern borders of Judah (cf. 26:7; 1 Chron. 4:41). Later it was this third group on which the others turned (2 Chron. 20:23). The attacking armies came from the southeast.
2. (:2) Urgency of the Danger Reported
“Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying,
‘A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea,
out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).’”
3. (:3) Response of Jehoshaphat
a. Natural Response
“And Jehoshaphat was afraid”
b. Spiritual Response
“and turned his attention to seek the LORD;”
c. Physical Response
“and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
4. (:4) Response of the People
“So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD;
they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.”
B. (:5-12) Invoking the Help of God via Prayer and Faith
August Konkel: In this instance, Jehoshaphat followed the petitions of Solomon’s prayer (2 Chron 20:3-13; cf. 6:34-35). In time of war, he gathered the people together to seek deliverance from God. The prayer of Jehoshaphat does not appeal to compassion or divine favor; it was a petition that God would keep his promises against the attack of his adversaries. Powerful and treacherous invaders had taken advantage of a powerless and righteous people. The prayer has typical elements of lament; it includes a lengthy invocation, a confession, a statement of assurance, and the petition itself.
(:5) Audience with Lord at the Temple before the People
“Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem,
in the house of the LORD before the new court,”
1. (:6) Praise for God’s Sovereign Power
“and he said, ‘O LORD, the God of our fathers,
art Thou not God in the heavens?
And art Thou not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations?
Power and might are in Thy hand so that no one can stand against Thee.’”
2. (:7-9) Praise for the Promised Land and Temple
“Didst Thou not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and give it to the descendants of Abraham Thy friend forever? 8″And they lived in it, and have built Thee a sanctuary there for Thy name, saying, 9 ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before Thee (for Thy name is in this house) and cry to Thee in our distress, and Thou wilt hear and deliver us.’”
3. (:10-11) Perplexity of Unjust Attack
“And now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom Thou didst not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), 11 behold how they are rewarding us, by coming to drive us out from Thy possession which Thou hast given us as an inheritance.”
4. (:12) Plea for Deliverance
“O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee.”
Iain Duguid: The current situation, however, was one of injustice: the Israelites had obeyed God and not invaded the territories of Moab, Ammon, and Edom (Deut. 2:1–19; Judg. 11:15–18), but now these peoples were seeking to “drive us out,” the language again focusing on what God had said and done in the past. This prayer in an emergency is not penitential but exudes confidence in God, appealing to him to “execute judgment.” The pairings are explicit: at one level a “great horde” was facing a “powerless” people, but the prayer affirms the reality that treacherous invaders had come against a just God who “rules over all the kingdoms of the nations.” There was thus expectancy: “our eyes are on you” to see what God would do.
C. (:13-19) Instructions on Receiving God’s Salvation
1. (:13-17) Revelation of Promised Salvation
J.A. Thompson: Having laid their concerns before the Lord, the people waited humbly on him. The expression to “stand before the Lord” is found frequently in Scripture (cf. Gen 19:27; Lev 9:5; Deut 4:10; 2 Chr 18:20). The divine response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer came by way of Jahaziel, a Levite with an unusually long genealogy reaching back to Asaph in the days of David. He addressed King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah and Jerusalem with an oracle of salvation containing three main components:
• the addressees,
• a “fear not” element at the beginning and again at the end (cf. v. 3), and
• the substantiation (“the battle is not yours, but God’s”; cf. 1 Sam 17:47; 1 Chr 5:22).
Here was the perspective of the “holy war” and the speech of the priest before battle (Deut 20:2-4). The literary forms of the salvation oracle and the holy war are woven together in one speech. Even if there was a disparity in the forces, with the Lord fighting for Israel they were assured of success. The substance of the oracle is restated in v. 17 with a quotation from Exod 14:13. The God who had parted the Red Sea had not changed in hundreds of years, and he is still the same today (cf. Isa 52:10; Zech 9:9). The assurance of God’s presence was more than a theological statement; it was to be a source of strength.
a. (:13) Standing before the Lord Awaiting His Revelation
“And all Judah was standing before the LORD,
with their infants, their wives, and their children.”
b. (:14) Spirit Filled Prophet Delivers God’s Word
“Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph;”
c. (:15-17) Salvation Comes from the Lord
“and he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you.’”
2. (:18-19) Response to Promised Salvation = Worship and Praise
a. (:18a) Response of Jehoshaphat
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground,”
b. (:18b) Response of the People
“and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.”
c. (:19) Response of the Levites
“And the Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”
D. (:20-30) Improbable Victory
1. (:20-23) Keys to Victory
a. (:20) Trust in the Lord and in His Revelation
“And they rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God, and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.’”
b. (:21) Give Thanks to the Lord in Praise and Worship
“And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”
Raymond Dillard: The modern historian may be tempted “to poke fun at Jehoshaphat in Chronicles for sending out the temple choir to meet an invading army; it is still funnier when the choir puts the foe to flight and causes great slaughter with a few well-directed psalms” (W. Stinespring, JBL 80  209). Though the role of the musicians may be enlarged or enhanced in the eyes of a modern historian, one must not forget the role of music in warfare ancient and modern; armies through the millennia have gone into battle to musical cadence. Particularly within Israel’s tradition of holy war music has been assigned an important function (13:11–12; Josh 6:4–20; Judg 7:18–20; Job 39:24–25); music accompanies the appearance of the divine warrior to execute judgment (Ps 47; 96; 98). Yahweh marches at the head of the armies of heaven and Israel (Deut 33:2–5, 26–29; Josh 5:13–15; Judg 5; Ps 68:8–13; 2 Kgs 6:15–19; 7:6; Isa 13:1–13; 4:9–12]; Hab 3); his appearance on the Day of Yahweh is marked by a trumpet blast (Exod 19:16, 19; Isa 18:3; 27:13; Amos 2; 2; Zeph 1:14–16; Zech 9:14; Matt 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52; Rev 8–9; 10:7; 11:15).
August Konkel: It is not normally good military strategy to meet a mighty foe with a choir, yet this is the appropriate method of divine warfare. In this case the prophets were the Levitical musicians, such as Jahaziel; musical praise for the battle march was itself prophetic. Through the millennia music has had a vital role in warfare, but in the context of divine warfare, it was a declaration that God was at the head of the army. As at Jericho, the battle belonged to the Lord; the task of the human army was simply to stand still and wait for the outcome of the battle. The battle cry was replaced by a chorale. The Lord set ambushes against the enemy. The Chronicler is saying that the heavenly army confused the enemy armies so they turned on each other in the rough terrain. The army of Jehoshaphat returned to the temple, confirming the answer to prayer; they ended where they began.
c. (:22-23) Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord
“And when they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. 23 For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely, and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”
2. (:24-25) Plundering the Slaughtered Enemy
a. (:24) Complete Slaughter
“When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped.”
b. (:25) Captured Spoil
“And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found much among them, including goods, garments, and valuable things which they took for themselves, more than they could carry. And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much.”
3. (:26-28) Rejoicing in God-Granted Victory
“Then on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore they have named that place ‘The Valley of Beracah’ until today. 27 And every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. 28 And they came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres, and trumpets to the house of the LORD.”
Frederick Mabie: Without any action on the part of Jehoshaphat’s army, the eastern coalition is destroyed. The plundering of enemies is one of the ways in which God showed his sovereignty over the nations and favor for his people (cf. Ex 12:35-36; Hag 2:22). It is likely that the location of the valley where the army assembled to praise God for his blessings was renamed Valley of Beracah (= Valley of Blessing) in the light of the victory given by God.
4. (:29-30) Rest and Peace from Enemies
“And the dread of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God gave him rest on all sides.”
Raymond Dillard: The rhetorical question of Jehoshaphat’s prayer had been answered (20:6)—Yahweh does rule over the kingdoms of the nations. Two tokens of divine blessing in the Chronicler’s theology are prominent in these verses.
(1) The righteous king enjoys victory over the nations, is held in awe by them, and receives their tribute (1 Chr 14:17; 18:2, 6; 2 Chr 9:22–23; 17:10; 32:23).
(2) Rest from enemies and times of peace are rewards for righteousness (14:4, 6 [5, 7]; 15:15; 1 Chr 22:9).
(20:31 – 21:3) CONCLUSION OF JEHOSHAPHAT’S REIGN
A. (20:31-34) Summary of Jehoshaphat’s Reign
1. (:31a) Age and Duration of Reign
“Now Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah.
He was thirty-five years old when he became king,
and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years.”
2. (:31b) Mother
“And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.”
3. (:32-33) Moral Evaluation
“And he walked in the way of his father Asa and did not depart from it, doing right in the sight of the LORD. 33 The high places, however, were not removed; the people had not yet directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.”
4. (:34) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first to last, behold, they are written in the annals of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.”
B. (20:35-37) Disastrous Maritime Venture Highlights Ongoing Danger of Unholy Alliances
J.A. Thompson: Ahaziah, king of Israel, offered help in a joint venture, which Jehoshaphat at first refused (1 Kgs 22:48-49). Yet once again Jehoshaphat was drawn into an alliance with the king of Israel. He sought a human ally and not God. There is no mention of the Lord’s help. Jehoshaphat agreed on an alliance to make ships to go to Tarshish (a fleet of trading ships). Jehoshaphat’s devout life did not sanctify this venture; rather, Ahaziah’s corrupt life defiled it.
1. (:35-36) Ship Building Venture = Another Unholy Alliance
“And after this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. 36 So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber.”
2. (:37-38) Shipwrecked Venture
“Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, ‘Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.’ So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish.”
Frederick Mabie: Previous lucrative maritime trade from this port during the time of Solomon no doubt prompted Jehoshaphat’s ill-fated attempt to restart maritime trade from this port through yet another ill-advised alliance with an ungodly northern kingdom king.
In short, this episode amounts to another example of faith compromise on the part of Jehoshaphat that reveals a heart not fully aligned with the ways of God. This prompts a prophetic rebuke from an otherwise unknown prophet (Eliezer), who announces God’s coming judgment on this upstart maritime alliance. The connection with the time of Ahaziah of Israel places this maritime project in ca. 853 or 852 BC (cf. Thiele, 98-99).
C. (21:1-3) Final Conclusion to Reign of Jehoshaphat
Andrew Hill: The addendum to the succession formula (21:1) naming the seven sons of Jehoshaphat (21:2) and providing rationale for the succession of Jehoram as the firstborn son (21:3) serves both as a prelude to the report of King Jehoram’s reign and as a memorial to those sons murdered by their brother Jehoram (21:4).
1. (:1a) Death and Burial of Jehoshaphat
“Then Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers
and was buried with his fathers in the city of David,”
2. (:1b) Succession = Jehoram His Son
“and Jehoram his son became king in his place.”
3. (:2) Brothers of Jehoram
“And he had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael, and Shephatiah. All these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel.”
4. (:3) Distribution of Inheritance
“And their father gave them many gifts of silver, gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram because he was the first-born.”