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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

2 Chronicles 20

 

 

Verses 1-37

EXPOSITION

Of this chapter, with its thirty-seven verses, only the six verses (31-36) find any duplicate or parallel in Kings (1 Kings 22:41-49). The chapter is occupied with a statement of the invasion of Judah by Moabites and Ammonites and certain problematical others (2 Chronicles 20:1, 2 Chronicles 20:2); with an account of the way in which the king and people prepared to meet the crisis (2 Chronicles 20:3-13); with the prophecy of Jahaziel the Levite as to how, under certain conditions, things would go (2 Chronicles 20:14-19); and with the narration of the victory, and the manner of it (2 Chronicles 20:20-30); while the remaining verses partly summarize and then conclude the account of the life, character, and reign of Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 20:1

The children of Moab. In 2 Kings 3:5-27 we read of a rebellion on the part of Moab, and of the victory of Israel's king Joram, together with Jehoshaphat and the King of Edom, over Moab, now probably in quest of revenge. Beside the Ammonites. The reading of our Authorized Version here cannot stand. The Septuagint gives us some guidance in the name "the Minoei." By the mere transposing of one Hebrew character in the name Ammonites, we obtain the name Maonites (read מֲעוֹנִים for עַמּוֹנִים), i.e. the people of Maon, a town near Petra, no doubt Edomitish (see 2 Kings 3:10, 2 Kings 3:22, 2 Kings 3:23), and possibly the same with the Septuagint Minoei (see also 2 Chronicles 26:7).

2 Chronicles 20:2

Beyond the sea on this aide Aram (Syria); i.e. south-east of the Salt Sea, and something west of Edom (the right reading in place of Aram, where a resh had turned out a daleth), Hazon-tamar … Engedi; i.e. the place Engedi (Ain-jiddy), a living "spring of water" from a lime-cliff, half-way up the west coast of the Salt Sea, "in the midst of palms" (interpalmas), the compound word "Hazazon-tamar" meaning literally, "the division of the palm."

2 Chronicles 20:3

Proclaimed a fast. This is the first recorded occasion of a general fast by royal proclamation, and of individual fasting it is remarkable that there is no record before the time and the act of Moses (as e.g. Exodus 34:28); after which, for individual fasting, come occasions like those of David (2 Samuel 12:16) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8); for general fasting, occasions like those of Joshua 7:6; 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6; and for partial fasting, by semi-royal authority, that "proclaimed" by Jezebel (1 Kings 21:9, 1 Kings 21:12).

2 Chronicles 20:4

This verse expresses the response of all the kingdom to the proclamation of Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 20:5

The new court (see 2 Chronicles 4:9; 2 Chronicles 15:8).

2 Chronicles 20:6-12

The recorded prayers of Scripture are indeed what they might be expected to be, model prayers, and the present a model instance of the same (see homiletics). The prayer before us invokes the one God "in heaven;" claims him the God "of our fathers;" recites his universal authority above, below; pleads his former conduct of the "people Israel," in especial his stablishing of that people in their present land; most touchingly recalls his covenant of condescending, everlasting "friendship" with Abraham, the grand original of the people (Genesis 18:17-19,Genesis 18:33; Genesis 17:2; Exodus 33:11); makes mention of the consecration of the land by the sanctuary, and in particular of the very service of consecration and the special foreseeing provision in that service for a crisis like the present (1 Kings 8:33-45; 2 Chronicles 6:24-35; 2 Chronicles 7:1); and then (2 Chronicles 20:10, 2 Chronicles 20:11) states pointedly the case and complaint with its aggravations (Deuteronomy 2:4, Deuteronomy 2:8, Deuteronomy 2:9, Deuteronomy 2:19; Numbers 20:21; 11:18), and with a parting appeal, confession of their own weakness, ignorance, and dependence unfeigned, commits the cause of the alarmed people to God. Our eyes are upon thee. So, with a multitude of other passages, that supreme pattern one, Psalms 123:2.

2 Chronicles 20:13

If the whole narration called for one more touch, it has it in the pathetic, Brief, telling graphicness of this verse. Their little ones. The familiar Hebrew word ( טַפָם ) is expressive of the quick, tripping step of the young and of women. Gesenius would regard it in this passage as designating the whole family as distinguished from the head of it, and as amplified by "wives" and "children" instanced afterward, quoting the very insufficient support of Genesis 47:12. Our text occurs again in 2 Chronicles 31:18.

2 Chronicles 20:14

Jahaziel. This Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, is not mentioned elsewhere. His genealogy is traced to Mattaniah, i.e. Nethaniah (1 Chronicles 25:2), who is parallel with Amariah of 1 Chronicles 6:11. It is very possible that Psalms 83:1-18; which is a psalm of Asaph, and which mentions the enmity of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, may be synchronous with this history.

2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not yours, but God's; i.e. God will do the fighting (see 2 Chronicles 20:17, first and third clauses); so also 1 Samuel 17:47.

2 Chronicles 20:16

The cliff of Ziz. Read with Revised Version, the ascent of Ziz (or probably Hazziz), a place named only here. The Hebrew word here rendered "cliff ' is the familiar מַעֲלֵה, meaning "an ascent," or "a rising ground." It is replaced in the Septuagint by both ἀνάβασις and πρόσβασις. Stanley, in an interesting note on the word, says it is applied to several localities in Palestine, viz.:

2 Chronicles 20:17

Stand … and see the salvation of the Lord with you. The grand original of these words (Exodus 14:13) would be known to both Jahaziel and Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 20:18

The infinite relief to the mind of Jehoshaphat and his people finds now fit expression in simple adoration. Would that such first gratitude were but sustained to the end more frequently than it is common to find the case!

2 Chronicles 20:19

Of the children of the Korhites; i.e; with Revised Version, of the Korahites, who were the best of the Kohathite family (1 Chronicles 6:22; also at head of Psalm 42-49; Authorized Version and Revised Version). Keil would translate, "Of the sons of Kohath, yea, of the Korahites."

2 Chronicles 20:20

The wilderness of Tekoa. The king and people, army and prophet and Levite singers, start early for the wilderness of Tekoa, not less than ten miles' distance south of Jerusalem, and from it a waddy running to the Dead Sea. So shall ye be established. (So Isaiah 7:9.) Jehoshaphat's own faith and zeal make him nervously anxious that his people should not fall behind him, and fall short of their duty and the grandeur of the occasion.

2 Chronicles 20:21

And when he had consulted with the people; i.e. possibly simply "conferred with" those who were over the singers, as to who should be the most prominent in leading the service of praise, or as to what should be the words sung and other like matters of detail; or more probably, considering the exact form of language used, the reference is to what we are told Jehoshaphat had just done, to wit, counselled well the people and given good advice to them. Praise the beauty of holiness. The rendering should no doubt be in the beauty of holiness, i.e. in garments of beauty. Praise the Lord; Revised Version, give thanks to the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:22

Set ambushments. The Hebrew is נָתַן מְאָרְבִים, i.e. "set persons lying in wait," or "in ambush" (piel part. plur. of אָרַב ). So 9:25, but kal participle with apparently future equivalent meaning occurs eighteen times in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Ezra, Jeremiah, and Lamentations. Who the persons were, supernatural or not, or what their mode of operation, is not told, and is not plain. The effects are quite plain—that first the two confederates, Moab and Ammon, thought they saw reason to fall on them "of Mount Seir," and secondly, having this done, to fall on one another to the end of mutual extermination. They were smitten. The marginal, "they smote one another," may be better, but it is not at all necessary, the meaning being that collectively they became the smitten instead of the smiters!

2 Chronicles 20:23

This verse proceeds to explain how this resulted in a kind of triangular duel on large scale.

2 Chronicles 20:24

The watch-tower. See 2 Chronicles 26:10, where, however, the ordinary מִגְדָּל, and not the present word (only found, except as a proper name, here and Isaiah 21:8 ), is employed. It is scarcely likely that a built watch-tower is intended even here, but rather a lofty site and point of view from which a large number of people could see. The proper names Mitzpeh (Mizpeh) and Mitzpah (Mizpah) are of course familiar. They looked unto the multitude. Judah and its army and heralding Levite singers would see now in new significance the thing said by Jahaziel in our 2 Chronicles 26:16, "Ye shall find them at the end of the brook-course, before the wilderness of Jeruel." And none escaped; i.e. "without an exception.

2 Chronicles 20:25

Both riches with the dead bodies. The Hebrew text reads literally, both riches and dead bodies (no article). The וּפְגָרִים of the text, however, appears in several ("old authorities," Revised Version) manuscripts, as וּבְגָדִים ("garments"), and the versions of both Septuagint and Vulgate lend their authority to this reading. Jewels. The Hebrew term is כְלֵי, the most frequent rendering of which is "vessels," so rendered, that is, a hundred and sixty times out of about three hundred and eight times in all of its occurrence. It is, however, a word of very generic quality, and is rendered as here "jewels" about twenty-five other times. It would seem nugatory to tell us that there were "dead bodies," in the bald rendering of "and dead bodies." Our Authorized Version rendering, "riches with the dead bodies," of course both ingeniously glosses the difficulty and makes a sufficiently good meaning.

2 Chronicles 20:26

Berachah. This is just the Hebrew fern. subst, from a verb. It is used in 1 Chronicles 12:3 as the name of a man. The present name of the valley survives in the Waddy Bereikat on the Hebron road, beyond, therefore, the date unto this day of the writer.

2 Chronicles 20:27

The Lord had made them to rejoice. Note the extremely similar and almost identical language of Ezra 6:22 and Nehemiah 12:43, and add also to the comparison the last sentence of our Nehemiah 12:29.

2 Chronicles 20:29

With this verse compare particularly 2 Chronicles 20:10, 2 Chronicles 20:11 of 2 Chronicles 17:1-19.

2 Chronicles 20:30

His God gave him rest (so see 2 Chronicles 15:15).

2 Chronicles 20:31

With this verse recommences the parallel of 1 Kings 22:41-50. In this verse we find the addition in the parallel very naturally to be accounted for, of "began to reign in the fourth year of Ahab King of Israel." Otherwise the verses are almost identical. Of Azubah nothing more is heard.

2 Chronicles 20:33

Howbeit the high places … the people had not prepared. The statements so precisely made in this verse evidently serve the purpose of distinguishing between the wishes and orders of the king and the unequal conduct of his people.

2 Chronicles 20:34

The rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, etc. These "acts of Jehoshaphat" are said in this verse to find their record in the book of Jehu … mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel. The parallel has, "in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah." For our "mentioned," note margin, literal, made to ascend and Revised Version "inserted." The "book of the kings of Israel" may (note also the remarkable apparent misnomers of our writer, as illustrated by 2 Chronicles 12:6; 2 Chronicles 21:2, 2 Chronicles 21:4) very possibly be one with the parallel, "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah". Of this larger collected cyclopaedia of royal biography, Jehu's account ( דִּבְרֵי ) of Jehoshaphat was one component part. Though Jehu's ( דִבְרֵי) book is not mentioned elsewhere, he himself is particularly in 1 Kings 16:1, as well as in our 1 Kings 19:2.

2 Chronicles 20:35

And after this. The historical episode of these three verses (35-37) is evidently misplaced. As Ahaziah succeeded his father Ahab in Jehoshaphat's seventeenth year, we of course are at no loss to fix the time of Jehoshaphat's "joining himself with Ahaziah." He had "joined himself" with Ahab, and had smarted for it, and yet "after" that, he "joined himself" with his son Ahaziah. We do not doubt that the "who" of this verse refers to Ahaziah, not, as some think, to Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 20:36

This verse tells us the object with which Jehoshaphat had joined himself with Ahaziah, and 1 Kings 22:49 tells us how at last, by a point-blank refusal to Ahaziah, he withdrew from the very brief commercial alliance after he had not merely been witnessed against by the Prophet Eliezer spoken of in our next verse, but more decisively witnessed against by the shattering of his ships. To go to Tarshish. This clause, even if the text is not corrupt, yet cannot mean what it seems to say; but in the word "to go" (Hebrew, לָלֶכֶת ) must mean, of the sort that were wont to go to Tarshish, i.e. that were used for the Tarshish trade. We are guided to some such explanation by 1 Kings 22:48, where it is said the ships were "ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir" (1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 8:18). That the ships could not be to go to Tarshish is plain from the fact of the place, Ezion-geber (2 Chronicles 8:17, 2 Chronicles 8:18; 1 Kings 9:26), on the Red Sea, where they were built. Some, however, have suggested that some other Tarshish (e.g. in the Gulf of Persia)than that of Spain (Tartessus) may conceivably be meant. The clear statement of the parallel saves the necessity of any such supposition, however.

2 Chronicles 20:37

Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah. Nothing beside is known of this prophet. For Mareshah, see 2 Chronicles 11:8, and note there. The ships were broken; i.e. presumably by some storm. One general remark may be made upon these verses (34-37), together with verses 45-50 of 1 Kings 22:1-53; viz. that the dislocation of both manner and matter, observable in both, of them, probably betrays something out of order for whatever reason or accident, in the more original source, from which both drew, the apparently disjointed mixture of matter in the parallel being the more patent of the two.

HOMILETICS

2 Chronicles 20:1-37

The last chapter in Jehoshaphat's career.

The aspects in which the character of Jehoshaphat offers itself to our view, in the last seen of him, are now to be considered. Few men there are who bear themselves well in prosperity, especially if the prosperity be great; and many there are who fail to submit well to the discipline of adversity. Of this latter weakness of human nature it can scarcely be said that Jehoshaphat was an illustration. The punishment that had been foretold, that solemn consequence, at any rate, of "helping the ungodly, and loving them that hate the Lord; therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord" (2 Chronicles 19:2), now impended; and almost the entirety of what remains to be recorded respecting Jehoshaphat is occupied with the subject in this chapter, of the manner in which Jehoshaphat met his evil days. He did not defy them, he did not aggravate them, he did not make them a case of hopeless repining; he met them in a calm, brave, religious spirit. The indications and the proofs of this are noticeable as follows.

I. THE ALARM OF WHAT WAS COMING IS ATTENDED TO AT ONCE, AND IS AT ONCE PREPARED FOR. (2 Chronicles 20:1-4.)

II. THE IMMEDIATE FIRST PREPARATION IS THE RESORT TO PRAYER. In the presence of all "the congregation of Judah and Benjamin, in the house of the Lord," when "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children" (2 Chronicles 20:5, 2 Chronicles 20:13), prayer is made to God—prayer that recounts his great attributes; that claims his Fatherhood as vouchsafed by promise and covenant of old; that rehearses his mighty works; that lays faith's clinging hold upon the comparatively recently built and consecrated and dedicated temple, with all that it involved; that finds an argument, even, in the specially ungrateful turpitude of the foe, who now is the attacking party; and that closes with an unreserved and a beautiful expression of confidence in God and utter self-distrust (2 Chronicles 20:5-12).

III. THE PROMISE, BY WHICH THAT PRAYER IS ANSWERED, IS TAKEN HOLD OF, IS GRATEFULLY GRASPED, IS UNFALTERINGLY BELIEVED. The promise is a very gracious one, a most liberal one, conveyed in a very inspiriting and encouraging manner, and Jehoshaphat is overwhelmed with the impression of it (2 Chronicles 20:18).

IV. JEHOSHAPHAT AND THE PEOPLE AND THE LEVITES, ALL WITH ONE ACCORD ACCEPT IT WITH SUCH FAITH, THAT JOY AND PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING ARE ALL RENDERED BY ANTICIPATION. (2 Chronicles 20:14-19.) The inspired Levite had communicated the promise, and had added to it all encouragement and exhortation, in the first place; but we read that Jehoshaphat himself took up after him both these ministries in the presence of the people, and in his great desire to keep them thoroughly up to the mark (2 Chronicles 20:20, 2 Chronicles 20:21).

V. WHEN THE PROMISE IS FULFILLED TO THE MOST SIGNAL EXTENT, THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF IT, AND DUE THANKSGIVING FOR IT, ARE NOT FORGOTTEN, AND ARE NOT STINTED; BUT TO THE MEASURE OF HUMAN ABILITY CORRESPOND WITH IT. The testimony of this is explicit and repeated, while the description of it is exceedingly graphic (2 Chronicles 20:26-28).

VI. THE FINAL TESTIMONY TO THE CONSISTENT, HONEST ENDEAVOUR OF THE LIFE OF JEHOSHAPHAT, THE SOLIDITY OF HIS WORK, AND THE BLESSING THAT RESTED UPON IT FROM ABOVE. It is most true that the work of Jehoshaphat had not been absolutely perfect, inasmuch as he had not absolutely succeeded (2 Chronicles 20:33) in what nevertheless he had earnestly and conscientiously endeavoured (2 Chronicles 17:6). And it is most true that his character and life and work had not been absolutely perfect, inasmuch as his defection in regard of his intimacy with Ahab—now strangely repeated in the lesser instance of Ahaziah and "the ships of Tarshish" (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)—stands against him. This latter also met with its punishment (2 Chronicles 20:37); but we may judge that it was acknowledged and repented of in the best way, by being forsaken (1 Kings 22:49). Yet we cannot be wrong to follow, with the tenor of the testimony of the mingled faithfulness and graciousness of Scripture biography, and say that, like its ultimate Inspirer and Author, it loves to "forgive transgression," and to "cover sin," and that the last note of Jehoshaphat is that his heart was right, that he "did that which was right," and that he and his work were graciously accepted of God.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 20:1-13

The source of safety in the hour of peril.

Very suddenly does the scene change in these chronicles of the kingdom of Judah. From the peaceful and pleasant duty of completing the arrangements for securing justice throughout the land, Jehoshaphat was driven to consider the alarming intelligence that a powerful combination of enemies was threatening the independence of his kingdom. We learn from these facts—

I. THAT WE MAY SUDDENLY FIND OURSELVES IN MOST SERIOUS PERIL. Judah does not seem to have done anything to provoke this attack, or to have had any reason to expect it. It came upon them like a clap of thunder in a clear sky. Such things do occur to nations, to Churches, to families, to individual men. In some wholly unexpected quarter a grave difficulty arises. That power which should have been an ally suddenly becomes an enemy; that very institution which had been the source of sustenance threatens to drag us down with itself into financial ruin; the very men who promised to be, and who were, our best friends on whom we could rely, turn into our opponents and thwart our purposes; the bright, the brilliant morning has become a clouded noon, and a severe storm impends. Unhappily all history, observation, and experience will furnish abundant proof that this is not a remarkably exceptional, but an occasional or even a frequent occurrence in human life. It is a possibility that has so much of probability about it that we do well to be prepared for it lest we should be called to face it.

II. THAT OUR TRUE REFUGE IS IN GOD.

1. But if that is to be so, we must be in a right relation to him. We must be able to say, with a deep significance, not only "O Lord God of our fathers," but also "Art not thou our God?" (2 Chronicles 20:6, 2 Chronicles 20:7). We must be true children of Abraham, who was himself the "friend of God" (2 Chronicles 20:7). We must be distinctly and definitely on the Lord's side; we must be with Christ and not against him (Matthew 12:30). We cannot look for the delivering grace of God if we have not been reconciled unto him through Jesus Christ, if we have remained amongst those whose "sin has separated between them and their God."

2. Then there must be a consciousness of rectitude under the special circumstances. Jehoshaphat could plead that he and his people were in the land as rightful possessors of the soil; they inherited from God himself (2 Chronicles 20:11), and these invaders were wholly in the wrong; their attack was utterly indefensible (2 Chronicles 20:10). The king could plead that the cause of Judah was just and right. This consciousness of integrity we also must have, if we would fall back on God. "If our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God" (1 John 3:21); but otherwise we cannot raise our hopes. We cannot ask him to intervene on behalf of a cause which is one of unrighteousness, or one in which we have been acting quite unworthily of our Lord and Leader.

3. We must bring to God the attitude of conscious dependence. "Our eyes are upon thee," we must be able to say, sincerely (Psalms 27:1; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 62:5, Psalms 62:6).

4. We should be united in our attitude and action. "All Judah stood before the Lord, with their wives and little ones" (2 Chronicles 20:13). It is not only the leaders or the representatives that should make their appeal to God. Let all the people, let the "little ones," whose presence and whose prayer might not seem to be so essential, appear before God and join in seeking his help.

III. THAT WE MUST MAKE DIRECT AND EARNEST APPEAL TO HIM. Jehoshaphat took active measures to enlist the intervention of Jehovah; he "set himself to seek the Lord" etc. (2 Chronicles 20:3-6). It behoves us, in the day of our trial and our peril, to take active measures to secure the merciful and mighty succour of our God. We must make our earnest and our persevering appeal to him, and be waiting upon while we wait for him. And our appeal will, at any rate, be threefold. We shall plead:

1. Our utter helplessness apart from his effectuating power. "We have no might," etc. (2 Chronicles 20:12). We shall, of course, be alert, diligent, energetic; we shall put forth all our skill and strength; but we shall feel that all will be wholly unavailing except our God works with us and through us.

2. His almighty power. (2 Chronicles 20:6, 2 Chronicles 20:7.)

3. His Divine faithfulness. (2 Chronicles 20:6-9.) We also, like the King of Judah, can plead the inviolable word of our Lord. He has promised to be with us, to provide for us, to guide us through all our journey, to give us the victory over our enemies, to reward our faithful labour with a blessed increase; "And none shall find his promise vain."—C.

2 Chronicles 20:7

Friendship with God.

"Abraham thy friend."

1. Before Jesus came to reveal God to our race as he did reveal him, the Eternal One was known and worshipped chiefly as the Almighty One, or as the Creator of all things, or as the Divine Sovereign, whose rule we are bound to obey. Not exclusively; for he was known as the Father of men (see Deuteronomy 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Psalms 103:13). Here also he is spoken of as a Friend (and see Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). But it is evident that it was only in a restricted sense, and by a very limited number, that God was thus apprehended.

2. It was Jesus Christ that revealed the Father as the Father of souls; it was he who taught us to address him as such, to think and speak of him as such, to approach him and to live before him as such.

3. It is Jesus Christ also who has enabled us to think and to feel toward God as our Friend. "I have called you friends," he said to his disciples (John 15:15). And he has so related himself to us that in him we can recognize God as our Divine Friend; as One of whom we may rightly speak, and toward whom we may venture to feel and to act as our Friend indeed. But on what ground and in what respects? On the ground of—

I. RECIPROCATED LOVE; including, what all true love must include, both affection and trust. God loves us. He loves us with parental affection, as his children who were once indeed estranged from him, but are now reconciled unto him; as those who have become endeared to him, both by his great sacrifice for their sake, and by their seeking after him and surrender of themselves to him. And God trusts us. He does not treat us as slaves, but as sons; he does not lay down a strict and severe code of rules by which our daily conduct is to be regulated; he gives us a few broad principles, and he trusts us to apply them to our own circumstances. We, in return, love and trust him. Not having seen him, but having understood his character and his disposition toward us in Jesus Christ, having realized how great and all-surpassing was his kindness toward us in him (Titus 3:4), we love him in response (1 John 4:19). And in him, in his faithfulness and in his wisdom and in his goodness, we have an unfaltering trust. Thus we have the reciprocal love of friendship.

II. CLOSE RESEMBLANCE OF CHARACTER AND SYMPATHY. There cannot be friendship worthy of the name where there is not this. Our character and our sympathies must be essentially alike, must be substantially the same. And so it is with the Divine Lord and those who worthily bear his Name. His character is theirs; his principles are theirs; his sympathies are theirs. What he loves and what he hates, they love and they hate. Towards all that to which (and towards all those to whom) he is drawn, they are drawn; that which repels him repels them. Here is the true basis of friendship, and even that distance of nature that separates the Divine from the human is no barrier in the way. Being so essentially like Christ as his true followers are, they are his friends and he is theirs.

III. ONENESS OF AIM AND ACTION. Friendship is established and nourished by a common aim and by fellow-labouring. They who join heart and hand in any noble enterprise become united together in strong bonds of true companionship. It is so with our Master and ourselves. He is engaged in the sublime task of recovering a lost world to the knowledge, the love, the likeness of God; so are we. He has laboured and suffered to achieve that most glorious end; so do we. We are "workers together with him." His cause is ours; he and we are bent on the fulfilment of the same great purpose; and while he works through us and in us, he also works with us in this greatest and noblest of all earthly aims. "We are labourers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9); "We then, as workers together with him" (2 Corinthians 6:1). We are his friends. Let us:

1. Realize how high is the honour he has thus conferred upon us.

2. See that we walk worthily of such a lofty estate.

3. Take care that we never do that or become that which will make us forfeit so great a heritage. Let us be found faithful as the friends of God.—C.

2 Chronicles 20:14-19

Before the battle: lessons.

Having made their appeal to the Lord God of their fathers, Judah now waited for God. Nor had the king and his subjects to wait long. We have here an instance of—

I. GOD'S READINESS TO ANSWER THE PRAYER OF HIS PEOPLE. "In the midst of the congregation," while they were still before the Lord, in the very act and attitude of prayer, an answer was vouchsafed to them. While they were yet speaking, God heard (Isaiah 65:24). Though he does not constantly grant us so speedy a response, yet we may be quite sure that he always hearkens and heeds; and if there be such reverence and faith as there were on this occasion, we may be sure that God always purposes at once to send us the best kind of deliverance, even if he does not at once start the train of events or forces that will bring it to pass.

II. THAT WE NEED NOT BE GREATLY AFFECTED BY MERE MAGNITUDE. "Be not afraid by reason of this great multitude" (2 Chronicles 20:15). We are in no little danger of overestimating the worth of numbers, whether they be on our side or against us. It is a great mistake to imagine we are safe because we are in a large majority. There is no king and there is no cause "saved by the multitude of an host" (Psalms 33:16). History has shown again and again that the presence of a vast number of people (soldiers or supporters) often begets confidence, and confidence begets carelessness and negligence, and these lead down to defeat and ruin. Besides, it is never quantity but quality, never size but spirit, never numbers but character, that decides the day. Better the small band of fearless men under Gideon's command, than the large numbers of the faint-hearted who were left behind, or even than the innumerable host of the Midianites. We may not trust in the number of our friends, and we need not fear the hosts of our enemies. If the "battle is not to the strong," it certainly is not to the multitudinous.

III. THAT IT IS EVERYTHING TO HAVE GOD ON OUR SIDE. We may be sure that when the people of Judah had this assurance from Jahaziel, they were not only calmed and comforted, but they had a sense that all would be well with them.

1. That God had made their cause his own. "The battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chronicles 20:15).

2. That God's presence would be granted to them. "The Lord will be with you" (2 Chronicles 20:17).

3. That God had promised them his salvation, and would therefore work on their behalf. "The salvation of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 20:17). This was enough even for the timid and the fearful-hearted. This should be enough for us. Conscious that the battle we fight is that of the Lord himself, and is not ours only or chiefly; knowing that he will be with us, and assured that he will work out a blessed issue, we may be calm, and even confident, though the enemy is advancing.

IV. THAT WE MUST BE READY TO TAKE OUR PART AND TO DO OUR WORK, whatever that may be. "Go ye down against them" (2 Chronicles 20:16); "Set yourselves, stand ye still" (2 Chronicles 20:17). To do this may have been too much for the inclination of the cowardly or the indulgent; it may have been too little for the active and the militant among the people; but it was enough for the obedient and the trustful. God will have us bring our contribution of activity as well as devotion to the great spiritual campaign. But it may not be just that kind or just that measure which we should select if we had our choice. We must let him choose our service as well as our inheritance (Psalms 47:4) for us; and whether that be high or humble, greater or smaller, we should be more than content that he is calling us to the field in which Christ is our Captain.

V. THAT A SPIRIT OF REVERENT GRATITUDE IS ALWAYS BECOMING. (2 Chronicles 20:18, 2 Chronicles 20:19.) Before the shouts of victory are in the air, while we are going forth to the battle in which God is leading us, while we are serving under a Divine Saviour, while we are anticipating the issue, so long as we are trustful in him and not confident in ourselves, we do well to let our hearts be filled and to let our songs be heard with reverent joy.—C.

2 Chronicles 20:23-37

At and after the battle: lessons.

Armed with a holy trust in God, the king and his people advanced to meet their multitudinous enemies with bounding heart and tuneful lip. Nor were they unwarranted in so doing; the event completely justified their hopes. We learn—

I, THAT OUR ENEMIES SOMETIMES DISPOSE OF ONE ANOTHER. (2 Chronicles 20:23.) We sometimes find that the enemy is best "left well alone." Let Shimei "cast stones" at us; even though they be words of false accusation, they will do him much more harm than they will do us. Let the enemy blaspheme; his profanities will be a dead weight in his own balances. Let men make virulent attacks on our holy religion; they will answer one another; we can better spend our time (as a rule) in positive endeavours to build up the kingdom of God.

II. That, under God's hand, THE EVIL WE FEAR IS MORE THAN BALANCED BY THE GOOD WE GAIN. When the Jewish army returned from the wilderness of Tekoa, richly laden with spoil (2 Chronicles 20:25), they would doubtless have said that it was much better for them to have had their agitation followed by their success than not to have had any invasion of the enemy. They certainly congratulated themselves upon the entire incident, and, in their hearts, blessed those Moabites and Ammonites for giving them such an opportunity of enrichment. When God is on our side we may expect that our dangers will disappear, and that from the things that threaten us we shall ultimately derive blessing. Such is now and ever "the end of the Lord" (John 5:11; Job 42:10). Only we must make quite sure that God is on our side; and this we can only do by making a full surrender of ourselves to him and to his service, and by seeing to it that we choose the side of righteousness and of humanity, and not that of selfishness and of guilty pride.

III. THAT GOODNESS OF HEART SHOULD FIRST TAKE THE FORM OF GRATITUDE. Whither but to "the house of the Lord" should that jubilant procession move? (2 Chronicles 20:28). Gladness finds its best utterance in sacred song, its best home in the sanctuary of God. Thus and there it will be chastened; it will be pure, it will be moderated, it will leave no sting of guilty memories behind. Moreover, if we are not first grateful to God for our mercies, but rather gratulatory of ourselves, we shall nurse a spirit of complacency that is likely to lead us astray from the humility which is our rectitude and our wisdom.

IV. THAT IT IS WELL WHEN OUR TRIUMPH IS LOST IN THE FURTHERANCE OF THE CAUSE OF GOD. It was much that Jerusalem was safe; but it was more that "the fear of God was on all the kingdoms" (2 Chronicles 20:29). We may heartily rejoice that our own person, our own family, our own country, has been preserved; we may much more rejoice when the cause and kingdom of Christ has been greatly advanced. This should be the object of our solicitude and of our rejoicing.

V. THAT REST IS THE RIGHTFUL PURCHASE OF LABOUR AND OF STRIFE. (2 Chronicles 20:30.) The country that has won its religious liberty by heroic suffering and strife (as with Holland) may well settle down to a long period of rest and peace. The man who has gone through several decades of anxious and laborious activity may well enjoy a long evening of life when the burden is laid down and the sword is sheathed. The quieter service of the later years of life seems a fitting prelude to the peaceful and untiring activities which constitute the rest of immortality.

VI. THAT THE WORTHIEST HUMAN LIVES DO NOT CORRESPOND TO OUR IDEAL. If we were to construct an ideal human life, we should not introduce another unwise combination (2 Chronicles 20:37)add a disastrous expedition to cast a shadow on its closing years. Yet this was the case with Jehoshaphat. Our lives, even at their best, do not answer to our conceptions of what is perfectly beautiful and complete. We must not look for this, for we shall very seldom find even the appearance of it. We must take the good man as God gives him to us, with a true soul, with a brave spirit, with a kind and faithful heart, with a character that is very fair and perhaps very fine, but that leaves something to be desired; with a ]ire that is very useful and perhaps very noble, but that bears marks of blemish even to the end.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 20:1-4

An alarm of war-an invasion from the East.

I. A STARTLING REPORT. The safety of Jehoshaphat's empire was threatened by a formidable foe.

1. The composition of the enemy. (2 Chronicles 20:1.)

2. The number of their army. "A great multitude" (verse 2) had often before assailed Israel (2 Chronicles 14:11; 6:5; Joshua 11:4), and afterwards did assail Judah (2 Chronicles 32:7). When Solomon spoke of Israel as a people like the dust for multitude (2 Chronicles 1:9), it was rhetoric.

3. The place of their entrapment. Hazazon-tamar, or "the pruning of the palm tree" (Genesis 14:7)—"a name probably preserved in that of the tract called Hasasah, 'pebbles' near 'Ain-Jidy"—otherwise Engedi, or "fountain of the kid," the modern 'Ain-Jidy—was situated on the west coast of the Dead Sea, about the middle and directly opposite the mountains of Moab. "Few landscapes are more impressive than the sudden unfolding of the Dead Sea basin and its eastern wall from the top of the pass of Engedi" (Tristram, in 'Picturesque Palestine,' 3.191). The allied forces had probably not crossed the lake (Josephus), but rounded its southern extremity.

II. AN UNEASY APPREHENSION. The fear felt by Jehoshaphat was justified by a variety of circumstances.

1. The character of the invasion. It was the first time Jehoshaphat's kingdom had been exposed to the horrors of war within its own borders. Heretofore Judah's campaigns had been beyond the limits of her own territory, as at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:28). Foreign wars are apt to be invested with a spurious glory; war at home discovers its repulsive features to all. When a land becomes a battle-field, then—

"All her husbandry doth lie on heaps,

Corrupting in its own fertility.

Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,

Unpruned dies," etc.

('King Henry V.,' act 5. sc. 2.)

2. The combination of powers. It was three against one; yet Jehoshaphat had no scruples in combining formerly with Ahab against Benhadad, or afterwards with Israel and Edom against Moab (2 Kings 3:7). "With what measure ye mete," etc. (Matthew 7:7), applies to kingdoms and kings no less than to private individuals.

3. The prediction of Jehu. Hanani's son had spoken of wrath upon Jehoshaphat for helping Ahab: was this invasion a fulfilment of that threatening? Jehoshaphat might well tremble as he turned his thoughts southward to Engedi.

III. A PRUDENT RESOLVE. In the sudden and dangerous emergency Jehoshaphat concluded to do three things.

1. To set himself to seek the Lord. So David had commanded Israel (1 Chronicles 16:10 : Psalms 105:3) and Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:19), if they would prosper as people and sovereign. So had Oded's son, Azariah, directed Asa and his subjects if they would protect themselves against all future assailants (2 Chronicles 15:2). So Asa and his subjects did; and the Lord gave them rest round about. Jehoshaphat, perhaps recalling these details of national history, possibly also remembering how disastrously he had fared by going up against Benhadad without Jehovah's help, decided that the first thing to do was to draw more closely together the alliance between himself and Jehovah, by a more diligent observance of worship and a more faithful performance of duty. Like all sincere reformers, whether in Church or state, Jehoshaphat began with himself (Luke 4:23; Romans 2:21-23), and began in earnest, setting his heart in it as a work he delighted in and intended to carry through.

2. To proclaim a fast throughout all Judah. Fasting a usual accompaniment of religious exercises in Israel, especially in times of anxiety and distress, whether individual or national. Witness the cases of David (2 Samuel 12:16, 2 Samuel 12:21), Esther (Esther 4:16), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4), Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Darius (Daniel 6:18), and of the Jews at Mizpeh ( 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6), the returning exiles at Ahava (Ezra 8:21), and the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5). It was intended as a sign of self-humiliation, an expression of sorrow, and a confession of guilt.

3. To hold a national convention at Jerusalem. Whether he actually summoned the heads and representatives of the people, as Asa previously did (2 Chronicles 15:9), is not stated; but the princes, chiefs of the fathers' houses, and principal men out of all the cities of Judah hastened to the capital to ask help of Jehovah in the crisis that had arisen.

LESSONS.

1. The hostility of the world-powers to the Church of God, exemplified in this combination against Judah.

2. The distinction between fear and cowardice in front of danger, illustrated by the behaviour of Jehoshaphat.

3. The place and value of fasting in religion.

4. The best defence for a nation in the time of peril—prayer and piety.

5. The duty and advantage of kings and peoples standing shoulder to shoulder when their safety is threatened.—W.

2 Chronicles 20:5-19

The prayer of Jehoshaphat.

I. THE SCENE.

1. The place.

(1) Jerusalem, the metropolis of the land, whose safety was imperilled.

2. The assembly.

3. The suppliant. Jehoshaphat acted as the mouthpiece for himself and his people. Standing forth in the centre of the congregation, he offered "without form or any premeditation (?) one of the most sensible, pious, correct, and, as to its composition, one of the most elegant prayers ever offered under the Old Testament dispensation" (Adam Clarke).

II. THE PRAYER.

1. The Being addressed—Jehovah. Adored as:

2. The pleas offered.

3. The petitions urged. That Jehovah would

III. THE ANSWER.

1. From whom it proceeded. Jehovah (2 Chronicles 20:15), or the Spirit of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 20:14). No answers to prayer except from him. Human lips can reply for God only in so far as God puts his words into them (Isaiah 51:16; Ezekiel 3:17; Jeremiah 5:14).

2. Through whom communicated. Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph; a man of

3. To whom it was addressed. To all Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to Jehoshaphat, the persons in whose name and on whose behalf the prayer had been offered.

4. Of what it consisted.

IV. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

1. By the king. "Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground" (vers18), in token of humility and reverence, as well as of adoration and submission (2 Chronicles 29:30; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 24:26; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 34:8; Joshua 23:7).

2. By the people. "All Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord," in a solemn act of worship.

3. By the Levites. Those belonging to the children of the Kohathites and the children of the Korahites "stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with an exceeding loud voice," adding notes of thanksgiving and rejoicing to those of adoration and self-humiliation which Jehovah's gracious answer inspired.

Learn:

1. The sorest need of man—a God to flee to in the hour of trouble and day of calamity.

2. The highest glory of God—that he can hear prayer and rescue the perishing.

3. The greatest peril of the Church's enemies—the fact that Jehovah fights against them.

4. The surest guarantee of victory for the Church of Jesus Christ—the fact that the battle is the Lord's.

5. The brightest hope for an anxious sinner—that he only needs to stand still and see the salvation of God.—W.

2 Chronicles 20:20-30

A victory without a blow.

I. THE MARCH TO TEKOA. (2 Chronicles 20:20, 2 Chronicles 20:21.)

1. The composition of the army.

2. The time of its setting forth. "Early in the morning," i.e. the next after Jahaziel's assurance. An indication of

3. The address of its king. Standing in the city gate as regiment after regiment filed into line and sallied forth, Jehoshaphat exhorted them (successively) to calm confidence in the ultimate success of the campaign upon which they were entering.

4. The arrangements or its march. Jehoshaphat made special preparations for encountering the foe.

5. The advance towards the foe. A singular method of warfare it must have seemed—as ridiculous as the march of Joshua's warriors round the walls of Jericho and the music of their rams' horns must have appeared to the inhabitants of that old Canaanitish fortress (Joshua 6:12-16).

II. THE SCENE FROM THE WATCH-TOWER. (Verse 24.) This "watch-tower," a height in the wilderness of Tekoa which overlooked the desert of Jeruel, where the invading host lay encamped (verse 16), was probably the conical hill Jebel Fureidis, or the Frank Mountain, from which a view can be obtained of the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab ('Picturesque Palestine,' 1:137). From this elevation Jehoshaphat and his soldiers beheld the whole ground strewn with corpses, and not the vestige of a living foe to be seen. The enemy had been:

1. Completely slaughtered. The dead bodies were so numerous that "to all appearance none had escaped" (Keil); but the Chronicler manifestly intended to describe a case of not apparent, but real extermination. Not merely all whom the men of Judah beheld prostrate on the field were dead, but of all who had come up against Judah none had escaped.

2. Self-destroyed. They had fallen on and annihilated one another. That perhaps was not remarkable; thieves, robbers, and wicked men in general often fall out and destroy one another. The pity is they do not always do so before attacking other people. In this case two things were remarkable—the time when and the mode in which it happened.

III. THE GATHERING OF THE SPOIL. (Verse 25.)

1. The articles.

2. The quantity. So abundant that three days were occupied in collecting it, and when collected it was found to be more than they could carry. The ear-rings taken by Gideon's warriors from the Midianites weighed seventeen hundred shekels of gold ( 8:26); that obtained by Hannibal's soldiers at the battle of Cannae was so great "ut tres modios aureorum annulornm Carthaginem mitteret, quos e manibus equitum Romanorum, senatorum et militum detraxerat" ('Eutropii Historia Romana,' 41.).

IV. THE MUSTERING AT BERACHAH. (Verse 26.)

1. The place. The valley, afterwards named from the incident of which it was the scene, must have adjoined the battlefield. A trace of it has been recovered in the Wady Bereikut, to the west of Tekoa, near the road from Hebron to Jerusalem. There is no ground for identifying it (Thenius) with the upper part of the valley of Kidron, afterwards called the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, Joel 3:12).

2. The time. On the fourth day after their arrival at Tekoa, the three intervening days having been employed in collecting the spoil.

3. The business.

V. THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM. (Verses 27, 28.)

1. Without delay. After causing the wilderness to echo with anthems to him who had smitten great and famous kings (Psalms 136:17, Psalms 136:18), they had nothing to detain them from their homes.

2. Without loss. Though they had gained a glorious victory, not one of their company was left upon the battle-field. "Every man of Judah and Jerusalem' that marched to Tekoa returned to the capital.

3. Without disorder. The same solemn and orderly procession that had characterized their going forth now distinguished their coming back.

4. Without sorrow. Few returns from the battle-field are without saddening recollections; theirs was marked by unmixed joy, to which they gave formal expression with psalteries and harps and trumpets in the house of the Lord.

Learn:

1. The best evidence of faith—prompt and cheerful obedience.

2. The true secret of national as of individual prosperity—belief in God and in God's Word.

3. The value of sacred song as a means of exciting religious feeling and sustaining religious fortitude.

4. The necessity of holiness in them who would command or lead the Lord's host.

5. The ease with which God could make the enemies of his people annihilate one another.

6. The rich spoil that belongs to faith.

7. The joyous home-coming of all God's spiritual warriors.—W.

2 Chronicles 20:31-37

The biography of Jehoshaphat.

I. JEHOSHAPHAT'S PARENTAGE.

1. His father. Asa, a good king who enjoyed a long and honoured reign. Though good fathers have sometimes bad sons, as in the case of Jehoshaphat himself, yet there is a presumption in favour of a parent's piety being reproduced in the son. "Lord! I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations.

I see, Lord, from hence that my father's piety cannot be entailed: that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary: that is good news for my son".

2. His mother. Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. Otherwise unknown, she was, nevertheless, the wife of a good man, the consort of a pious king—alas! also the mother of a wicked son. She was probably herself a woman of worth, and to her credit her name has been transmitted to posterity rather as her father's daughter and her husband's spouse than as her son's mother. In her case the hand of Providence has drawn a veil over her misfortune.

II. JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN.

1. When it began. When he was thirty-five years old. There was no room in this case for the royal preacher's woe (Ecclesiastes 10:16).

2. How long it continued. Twenty-five years—a quarter of a century; during which time he and his people experienced much of the Divine favour and blessing.

3. When it ended. When he was sixty years of age; i.e. before he reached the allotted space of three score years and ten (Psalms 90:10), and after a shorter life than was afterwards enjoyed by some of his less worthy successors, e.g. Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:3) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:1)—a proof that the promise of long life as a reward for piety was not intended, even under the Old Testament, to be accepted universally and without exception.

III. JEHOSAPHAT'S REALM.

1. Its extent. He reigned over Judah, the southern kingdom.

2. Its condition. Quiet. With the exception just mentioned it had suffered no invasion. It was disturbed by no internecine feud or civil strife.

3. Its Protector. Jehovah. "God gave him rest round about."

IV. JEHOSHAPHAT'S NEIGHBOURS.

1. Their attitude. They stood in awe of Jehoshaphat and his people. Compare the terror of the peoples through the midst of whom Jacob passed on his flight from Shechem to Hebron (Genesis 35:5), and the fear which fell upon the city of Jerusalem on beholding the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:43).

2. The reason of it. They heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel (verse 29). So Miriam expected the report of Jehovah's victory over Pharaoh would paralyze the surrounding peoples through whom the ransomed host had to pass (Exodus 15:14-16).

V. JEHOSHAPHAT'S CHARACTER.

1. Pious. Like his father Asa, he walked in the way of the Lord.

2. Persevering. He departed not from doing right in the sight of Jehovah, i.e. in the matter of worship.

3. Defective. Not perfect in the sense of being faultless, he allowed the high places dedicated to Jehovah to remain, though other similar high places dedicated to idols were removed (2 Chronicles 17:6); and though he was better than his people, whose hearts were not prepared for a thorough-going reformation, he yet in a blameworthy spirit of complaisance yielded to their demands and permitted the unhallowed altars to stand.

VI. JEHOSHAPHAT'S ACTS.

1. Those recorded by the Chronicler.

2. Those written in the book of Jehu, Hanani's son. (2 Chronicles 19:2.) These deeds of Judah's king are lost. How much of every life drops into oblivion, even though set down in a biography! Only that history which God writes lives for ever.

VII. JEHOSHAPHAT'S FAULTS.

1. Plentiful. Good as Jehoshaphat was, both as man and sovereign, he committed grievous blunders, and indeed fell into aggravated sins. The three worst were:

2. Punished. None of these offences were overlooked by Jehovah. The alliance of Jehoram with Athaliah avenged itself in the depravation of Jehoram's character. The Syrian war, besides exposing him to imminent peril, brought upon him the Moabitish invasion. The fleet which he and Ahaziah made was wrecked in the Red Sea, and never went to Tarshish. So Eliezer, the son of Dodavah of Mareshah, predicted it would happen—because Jehoshaphat had a second time joined himself with the house of Omri.

3. Pardoned. Though chastised for his errors, Jehoshaphat was not abandoned to wrath. A child of the covenant and an heir of the promise, he was rebuked but not rejected, corrected but not condemned. So God deals with believers when they err (1 Corinthians 11:32).

VIII. JEHOSHAPHAT'S END.

1. His death was peaceful. "He slept with his fathers" (2 Chronicles 21:1).

2. His burial was honourable. He was entombed in the city of David, in the sepulchre of the kings of Judah.

3. His throne was confirmed. His son Jehoram reigned in his stead.

Learn:

1. The fallibility of good men.

2. The infallibility of God's Word.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 20:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-20.html. 1897.

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