2 Chronicles 20 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Chronicles 20
Pulpit Commentary
It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.
Verse 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 מֲעונִים for עַמּונִים), i.e. the people of Maon, a town near Petra, no doubt Edomitish (see vers. 10, 22, 23), and possibly the same with the Septuagint Minoei (see also 2 Chronicles 26:7).
Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.
Verse 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."
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Verse 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; Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6; and for partial fasting, by semi-royal authority, that "proclaimed" by Jezebel (1 Kings 21:9, 12).
And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
Verse 4. - This verse expresses the response of all the kingdom to the proclamation of Jehoshaphat.
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
Verse 5. - The new court (see 2 Chronicles 4:9; 2 Chronicles 15:8).
And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
Verses 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, 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 (vers. 10, 11) states pointedly the case and complaint with its aggravations (Deuteronomy 2:4, 8, 9, 19; Numbers 20:21; Judges 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, Psalm 123:2.
Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Verse 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.
Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
Verse 14. - Jahaziel. This Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, is not mentioned elsewhere. His genealogy is traced to Mat-taniah, i.e. Nethaniah (1 Chronicles 25:2), who is parallel with Amariah of 1 Chronicles 6:11. It is very possible that Psalm 83, which is a psalm of Asaph, and which mentions the enmity of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, may be synchronous with this history.
And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.
Verse 15. - The battle is not yours, but God's; i.e. God will do the fighting (see ver. 17, first and third clauses); so also 1 Samuel 17:47.
To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
Verse 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 ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 500, edit. 1866), says it is applied to several localities in Palestine, viz.:

(1) The "Ascent of Akrabbim," i.e. scorpions (Numbers 34:4; Judges 1:36; Joshua 15:3), on the south border of Judah and probably the same as the Pass of Safeh.

(2) "The going up to (or of) Adummim," i.e. the "ascent of the Red," near Gilgal, on border of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 15:7; Joshua 18:17), probably the same with the "Pass of Jericho."

(3) The" going up to Gut" (2 Kings 9:27).

(4) Our present text.

(5) The "mounting up of Luhith" in Moab (Isaiah 15:5; Jeremiah 48:5). The word is also applied to the steep pass from Gibeon to Beth-heron (Joshua 10:10; 1 Macc. 3:16); to the road up the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30); and to the approach to the city in which Samuel anointed Saul (1 Samuel 9:11), i.e. "the hill up to the city." The passage, Judges 8:13, Authorized Version "before the sun was up," Revised Version "from the ascent of Heres," possibly designates a rising ground, named . 'the Ascent of the Sun," or, "of Heres." The following extract from Keil, with its quotations from Robinson, is interesting. "The wilderness Jezreel was without doubt the name of a part of the great stretch of fiat country bounded on the south by the Waddy El Ghar, and extending from the Dead Sea to the neighbourhood of Tekoa, which is now called El Hassasah, after a waddy on its northern side. The whole country on the west side of the Dead Sea," where it does not consist of mountain ridges or deep valleys, is high table-land sloping gradually towards the east, wholly waste, merely covered here and there by a few bushes and without the slightest trace of having ever been cultivated' (Robinson's 'Palest.,' sub voce). Our present ascent of Ziz, or Hazziz, has perhaps remained in the Waddy El Hassasah Robinson takes it to be the pass, which at present leads from Ain-jiddy to the table-land. Yet it is described by him as a 'fearful pass,' and it can hardly be thought of here even if the enemy like the Bedouins, now when on their forays, may be supposed to have marched along the shore of the sea, and ascended to the tableland only at Engedi; for the Israelites did not meet the enemy in this ascent, but above upon the table-land." Josephus translates הַצִּיצ by ἑξοχῆς, but with no legitimate justification. The end of the brook; i.e. rather the end of the brook-way, or course of the brook when there was water to make one.
Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
Verse 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.
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.
Verse 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!
And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
Verse 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."
And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
Verse 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.
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Verse 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 (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; Revised Version margin," in holy army "). Praise the Lord; Revised Version, give thanks to the Lord (2 Chronicles 5:13; 2 Chronicles 7:3, 6; Psalm 106; Psalm 136.).
And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
Verse 22. - Set ambushments. The Hebrew is נָתַן מְאָרְבִים, i.e. "set persons lying in wait," or "in ambush" (piel part. plur. of אָרַב). So Judges 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!
For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
Verse 23. - This verse proceeds to explain how this resulted in a kind of triangular duel on large scale.
And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
Verse 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 ver. 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.
And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.
Verse 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.
And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.
Verse 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.
Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies.
Verse 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 ver. 29.
And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.
And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.
Verse 29. - With this verse compare particularly vers. 10, 11 of ch. 17.
So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.
Verse 30. - His God gave him rest (so see 2 Chronicles 15:15).
And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
Verse 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.
And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.
Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.
Verse 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.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Jehu the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel.
Verse 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, 4) very possibly be one with the parallel, "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" (see our 'Introduction,' 1 Chronicles, pp. 7, 8.). 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 ch. 19:2.
And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:
Verse 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.
And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber.
Verse 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, 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.
Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
Verse 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 vers. 45-50 of 1 Kings 22, 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.

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