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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

2 Chronicles 20

 

 

Verses 1-37

THREE ENEMIES AITACKING

(vv.1-2)

The Lord now allowed a further test of the faith of King Jehoshaphat. Armies of Moab and Ammon came against Judah, and others were added in this attack. Moab speaks of self-satisfied religion (Jeremiah 48:11), and reminds us that a smug, self-complacent attitude is a bad enemy for any of us. Let us not dare to submit to it! Ammon (meaning "peoplish") pictures the falsehood of evil doctrine, its king in David's time being named "Nahash," which means "a serpent" (2 Samuel 10:2). So also, we must not for a moment submit to deceptive teaching.

When Jehoshaphat was told of a great multitude coming against him from beyond the sea (the sea of Galilee), he realised this was a strong enemy and he would require more than human strength for the battle. He feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah (v.3). Fasting speaks of self-denial, which is the negative side of faith, for faith in the Living God gives Him the positive place of pre-eminence and therefore puts self in the negative place of unimportance.

JEHOSHAPHAT'S PRAYER

(vv.3-12)

Verse 4 therefore introduces the positive side, when Jehoshaphat gathered the people of Judah together to seek the intervention of God. He then stood in the house of the Lord to address God in earnest prayer (v.5).

In beginning his prayer Jehoshaphat asked four questions that he knew were to be answered with a resounding "Yes!" "Are you not God in heaven?" "Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations?" "In Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?" "Are you not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of the land before Your people Israel and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?" Of course these are absolute facts that Jehoshaphat himself felt necessary to be reminded of and his speaking this way would be refreshing to the heart of God.

He reminded God also that Israel had dwelt in the land and had built a sanctuary for God's name (v.8). This refers to Solomon's building of the temple, and also he refers to Solomon's prayer at its dedication, "If disaster comes upon us ¾ sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine ¾ we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple) and cry out in our affliction, and You will hear and save."

"And now" a specific case had arisen (v.10). The people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir (who had been spared by Israel when on their way to Canaan) were attacking Judah with the object of dispossessing them of the land God had given them. Therefore Jehoshaphat rightly expects God to judge them and pleads in this way (v.12). Deeply feeling the weakness of Judah as compared to the power of the enemy, he acknowledged that they not only lacked power, but did not know what to do. Their one and only resource was therefore the God of Israel. "Our eyes are upon You," he says.

Jehoshaphat had prayed in confiding faith to God, and God answered by choosing a Levite, Jehaziel to give the message of God in clear, decided terms, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord. Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but the God's. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the ascent of Zig, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed, tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you" (vv.15-17). Who could doubt that this was the plain answer of God to the prayer of Jehoshaphat?

But how good it is to see the effect this had on the godly king. He bowed his head before the Lord, and this influenced Judah to do the same, worshipping the Lord. This humble worship was followed by the standing up of the Levites to praise the Lord God of Israel with loud and strong voices. If we have prayed for God's intervention in any matter, do we remember to really thank God when He answers our prayer?

In firm decision of faith the people rose early in the morning to meet their enemies. On their way, however, Jehoshaphat stood and addressed them simply and pointedly, " Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established: believe His prophets, and you shall prosper" (v.28). But then he did something most unusual for the benefit of an army going to war. Consulting with the people, with whom he desired to be in concord, he appointed singers who would praise the beauty of holiness, emphasising the words of the psalm, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever" (v.21). These went before the army, a beautiful testimony of faith in the living God.

The Lord always responds to faith and He did so very remarkably on this occasion. He set ambushes against the three enemies, evidently ambushes of their own people, so that they were confused as to who was for them and who was against them. Moab and Ammon evidently thought that those of Mount Seir (Edomites) were Israelites, and vigorously destroyed them. Then in the heat of battle the Moabites and Ammonites turned against one another, possibly also confused in thinking the other army was that of Israel (v.23). It was a simple matter for God to cause this confusion, and as He had foretold, Israel would not have to fight!

Finding all their enemies dead, Israel was enriched by a great abundance of spoil that took them three days to transport from the battlefield (vv.24-25). Not only were they spared from the cruel ravages of war, but they profited greatly by the attack of the enemy! True faith will always find it this way. May we dependently cling to the Lord and calmly watch Him work against every threatening enemy.

But in leaving the scene of battle they did not forget to thank God for His great grace toward them. They assembled in the valley of Berachah (which means "a blessing"), and there expressed their thanksgiving together in blessing the Lord. They did this before they actually returned to Jerusalem. With great joy, with stringed instruments and harps and trumpets they came to the temple, the house of God (vv.27-28). How fitting a recognition of God's honour at this time!

Other nations also heard of this marvellous occasion of God's manifest intervention in the destruction of three nations who sought to attack Israel, and this put the fear of God into them (v.29), not the fear of Israel.

JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN ENDING IN PEACE

(vv.30-37)

The victory God had given Jehoshaphat had such lasting effect that the rest of his reign was quiet, with no more efforts of the enemy to molest him. It was God who gave him rest (v.30). We are told that he was 35 years of age when he took the throne over Judah, and he reigned 25 years, thus was only 60 at his death. His mother's name is mentioned too, an indication she must have been a godly woman to have son so devoted to the Lord. He walked in the way of his father Asa, whose earlier years were admirable, though Asa acted badly near the end in putting God's prophet in prison, which was not true of Jehoshaphat.

Yet there was one blemish that remained in the history of Jehoshaphat. He did not take the high places away. The high places indicated a desire for the recognition of men in the worship of God. just as human religion wants a church steeple that stands out in the community. How different was the character of the apostles at the beginning of Christianity! ¾ as Paul says, "we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless," etc. (1 Corinthians 4:9-11). More than this, he took the attitude of destroying the high places when he wrote, "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We have read of much that was good in the history of Jehoshaphat, but other acts of his also were recorded in the book of Jehu, son of Hanani, which is not available today. But this man evidently appreciated Jehoshaphat, since he recorded his actions, but not those of Asa, who had persecuted his father (ch.16:10).

However, in spite of all the good that Jehoshaphat had done, he did not learn well enough from his experience of humiliation when he allied himself with Ahab, nor from the words of God in reproving him through Jehu (ch.19:2-3), who asked him "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" Did these words not burn into his heart when he allied himself with Ahaziah, the wicked son of a wicked father and mother, Ahab and Jezebel? (v.35). But he joined with Ahaziah in a business venture, building ships to go to Tarshish.

This time the Lord did not only reprove him, but sent another prophet, Eliezer to announce to him that because he had allied himself with Ahaziah, the Lord had broken his works (v.37). That word was backed up immediately by God's intervention in wrecking his ships before any voyage to Tarshish. Nothing is said of how Jehoshaphat received this message and action against him, but we are surely reminded that God is no respecter of persons. He will not excuse sin in even the most godly persons.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 20:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/2-chronicles-20.html. 1897-1910.

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