2 Chronicles 17 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Chronicles 17
Pulpit Commentary
And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself against Israel.
Verse 1. - Jehoshaphat. In 2 Chronicles 20:31 and 1 Kings 22:41, 42 we are told that Jehoshaphat was now thirty-five years of age. He must, therefore, have been born when Asa was in the sixth year of his reign, and presumably not under sixteen years of age. His reign extended to twenty-five years, i.e. from B.C. 914 to B.C. 889. The name signifies "whom God judges," or "pleads for." Ahab is now in the fourth year of his reign, and the symptoms he manifests (1 Kings 16:30-33) are those that the rather urge Jehoshaphat to strengthen himself, i.e. strengthen the defences of his kingdom on the Israel side.
And he placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.
Verse 2. - He placed forces; literally, he gave (Genesis 1:17) forces, or a force, or host, or army: חַיִל (Exodus 14:28; 2 Samuel 24:2). And set garrisons; again literally, he gave garrisons (נְאִיבִים); i.e. either the persons "set over," prefects or officers (1 Kings 4:19), or the military garrison itself "stationed" (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 13:3). A village in Judah also had the name Nezeb (Joshua 15:45). In the cities of Ephraim (see 2 Chronicles 15:8).
And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;
Verse 3. - The first ways of his father David. Although there would be no difficulty in reconciling this statement with history, yet probably the name David should not stand here. It is not in the Septuagint. The most natural and sufficient reference is to Asa. And sought not unto Ballim; literally, to the Baalim; i.e. to the various false gods of surrounding peoples (Judges 2:11), Baal-berith (Judges 8:33; Judges 9:4, 46), Baal-zebub (2 Kings 1:2), Baal-peor (Numbers 23:28, etc.; Numbers 25:3), according to the places where the idolatrous worship was carried on. (For the preposition לְ, "to," after "sought," in this and following verse, see again 1 Chronicles 22:19.)
But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
Verse 4. - After the doings of Israel. This expression probably marks the doings of the northern kingdom, as both the more typical throughout its whole history of the wrong, and also as the systematic beginning, "by a law," of idolatrous worship and images in the matter of the calves and so on.
Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance.
Verse 5. - All Judah brought presents to Jehoshaphat. These presents were, of course, voluntary gifts, though, like not a few others, custom may have taken off from them something of the bloom of spontaneousness (1 Samuel 10:27; 2 Samuel 8:2; 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 10:25; Psalm 72:10).
And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.
Verse 6. - And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord. Although the verb גָבַהּ often carries a bad sense with it, it quite as often carries with it a good one in the Old Testament, and the typical instance of the former (Psalm 131:1) is fully counterbalanced by Isaiah 52:13. The marginal "was enencouraged may be superseded with advantage by "took courage" (Isaiah 40:29-31). The groves. Supersede this incorrect rendering by the Asherim; and upon the seeming discrepancy, see again ch. 15:17, and "Introduction to Chronicles" there quoted.
Also in the third year of his reign he sent to his princes, even to Benhail, and to Obadiah, and to Zechariah, and to Nethaneel, and to Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.
Verses 7-9. - He sent; Hebrew, שָׁלַח. The Hebrew text distinctly says, he sent to his princes, not, "he sent his princes." The meaning is - he sent orders to his princes to see to it that Judah was taught (ver. 9) the book of the Law of the Lord (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 17:18), not, indeed, without their own personal aid in whatever way able to be given, but systematically and with authority by the Levites and priests (Deuteronomy 33:10). This deeper fathoming of the needs of the time, and of what constituted its real safety, was greatly to the spiritual credit of Jehoshaphat. The references (2 Chronicles 15:3; 2 Chronicles 35:2-4, 10-12) are full of point. None of these princes, or Levites and priests, are elsewhere mentioned by name.
And with them he sent Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, priests.
And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.
And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.
Verse 10. - The moral effect of this peaceful war of Jehoshaphat is manifestly great.
Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.
Verse 11. - The presents were probably enough in the nature of tribute, the "fixed rate" of which is sometimes alluded to (1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 10:25; 2 Samuel 8:2), but it is doubtful whether the word מַשָּׂא purports to say this. The word means "bearing" or "carrying," and then "a burden, load, or weight." The expression (2 Chronicles 20:25), "more than they could carry away," where this word is used, favours the idea that the meaning here is "silver of great weight." Probably the moral significance and historical interest, whether of this statement respecting the Philistines, or the following respecting the Arabians, lies in the fact that both of them brought, without more ado, their payments, and did not seek to slip out of their engagements with Judah and Judah's king. Note, for confirmation of this view, 2 Kings 3:4, 5.
And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.
Verse 12. - Castles. This rendering, better than "palaces" (margin), wound bear improving to the rather stronger word "fortresses," Hebrew, בִּירָנִיּות, found only here and in 2 Chronicles 27:4, plur. of בִּירָנִית connected with the Chaldee and later Hebrew, בִּירָה, of Ezra 6:2; Nehemiah 1:1; Esther 1:2; Daniel 8:2, Cities of store (see note under 2 Chronicles 8:4; see also 1 Kings 9:19; Exodus 1:11).
And he had much business in the cities of Judah: and the men of war, mighty men of valour, were in Jerusalem.
Verse 13. - Much business; Hebrew, מְלָאכָה. The meaning of the word is "service?' "labour bestowed;" and the verse reads, "And there was to him much labour in the cities of Judah, and men of war, mighty men of valour, in Jerusalem;" i.e. He bestoweth much pains on the cities of Judah, and had, etc. The word "were," Authorized Version italics, is incorrectly inserted. The former half of this verse would better constitute the end of ver. 12. Keil, however, maintains the rendering "substance;" "property," for מְלָאכָה: (Exodus 22:7, 10).
And these are the numbers of them according to the house of their fathers: Of Judah, the captains of thousands; Adnah the chief, and with him mighty men of valour three hundred thousand.
Verse 14. - This verse, with the following four, gives us the names of five captains, chiefs, princes, or military officers for the kingdom's service, with the numbers of the troops they severally commanded. The numbers of them (see note under 1 Chronicles 23:11); Hebrew, פקֻדָּתָם. The better English rendering to carry at once the signification would be, The muster of them, etc. The captains... the chief, In both cases the Hebrew is the familiar word for" prince" (שָׂר); in the former without article, in the latter with article. The numbers of this and following four verses are not only absolutely unreliable, but in themselves impossible. According to the house of their fathers; i.e. the quotation is drawn from an army catalogue, arranged carefully by fathers' houses (Numbers 1:18, 22, etc.).
And next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and fourscore thousand.
Verse 15. - The captain. So again read, the prince.
And next him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself unto the LORD; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valour.
Verse 16. - Amaziah, the son of Zichri. This man is not titled at all. The description of him as one who had willingly offered himself unto the Lord, not elucidated by the context or any effective parallel, will mark something honorable in his history. Possibly he comes from an unexpected quarter, and is a man of approved skill. Nothing further is known of these three men. Meantime it has been suggested (Professor Dr. J. Murphy, of Belfast, ' Handbook to Chronicles ') that the first of the three was for Judah proper the second for that contingent of Judah that hailed from Dan and the Philistines; and the third for that of Simeon and the Arabs.
And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him armed men with bow and shield two hundred thousand.
Verse 17. - Of Benjamin... armed men with bow and shield (see 2 Chronicles 14:8, and note thereunder).
And next him was Jehozabad, and with him an hundred and fourscore thousand ready prepared for the war.
Verse 18. - While Eliada of last verse was for Benjamin, Professor Dr. Murphy supposes that Jehozabad was for the annexed part of Ephraim. But no suppositions of this kind can avail to explain the numbers in the text, which is no doubt corrupt.
These waited on the king, beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities throughout all Judah.
Verse 19. - These waited; Hebrew, הַמְשָׁרְתִים, plur. piel part. of שָׁרַת. The verse states that this enormous fivefold army, with its five princes (counting, in our corrupt text, one million one hundred and sixty thousand), was the king's Jerusalem standing army, while other separate regiments or bands of troops were spread through all Judah, where they might be most needed for defence.

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