Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 CHRONICLES 20
GOD DELIVERED JEHOSHAPHAT AND ISRAEL FROM AN INVASION;
A COALITION OF ENEMIES CAME AGAINST ISRAEL
And it came to pass after this, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them some of the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea from Syria; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (the same is En-gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek unto Jehovah; and he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to seek [help] of Jehovah: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek Jehovah.
The great significance of this is found in the faith of all the people of Judah who joined their king in the fervent plea for the help of the Lord.
And with some of the Ammonites
(2 Chronicles 20:1). This is an accurate rendition of the Hebrew as attested by the marginal reference; but it sounds awkward, so the RSV has changed it to read, Some of the Meunites; but based upon a various reading,F1 which has certain of the Ammonites, this writer views the change in the RSV to be unnecessary. The meaning is clear enough as it is. The whole strength of the Moabites was mobilized, but only certain of the Ammonites. Later in the chapter, it is revealed that the Edomites (those of Mount Seir) were also a part of this coalition against Israel.
JEHOSHAPHAT LEADS THE WHOLE NATION IN PRAYER
And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of Jehovah, before the new court; and he said, O Jehovah, the God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and art not thou ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? and in thy hand is power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee. Didst not thou, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and give 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 evil come upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before thee, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, and thou wilt hear and save. 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 aside from them, and destroyed them not; behold, 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 out eyes are upon thee. And all Judah stood before Jehovah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Although Jehoshaphat did not quote verbatim from Solomon's dedicatory prayer, some of the thought here clearly reflects the sentiments Solomon expressed in that prayer. This was not Jehoshaphat's prayer alone, but a great assembly from all Judah were silent participants in it. The king was leading prayer for all of them.
THE PROPHETIC ANSWER TO JEHOSHAPHAT'S PRAYER
Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite, of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of Jehovah in the midst of the assembly; and he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat: Thus saith Jehovah unto you, Fear not ye, neither be dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. To-morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the ascent of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. Ye shall not need to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of Jehovah with you, O Judah and Jerusalem; fear not, nor be dismayed: to-morrow go out against them: for Jehovah is with you. And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before Jehovah, worshipping Jehovah. And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites, stood up to praise Jehovah, the God of Israel, with an exceeding loud voice.
Here we have the picture of a worshipping, praying Israel as the background of a most remarkable deliverance of God's people from the ravages of a hostile invasion. There cannot be any doubt that many such deliverances of God's people were similarly preceded by this same kind of a spiritual awakening of God's people, and by their most fervent prayers and supplications.
There was one exceedingly unfortunate result of these many divine deliverances of Israel. Long after the nation as a whole had lost all faith in God and were indulging themselves in the most shameful immoralities, when they were threatened, as here, they pleaded for God's deliverance; and the frequency of those rescues led eventually to a conviction in Israel that, regardless of their gross sins and immoralities, God would always rescue them, solely upon the basis of who they were, namely, the seed of Abraham the friend of God.
Even after Israel rejected the Messiah, God's Only Begotten Son, and during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, the last High Priest, comforted and encouraged the people with his declaration that they had nothing to fear, "Because," he said, "The Messiah has not yet come." They truly believed that no matter what they did, God would still bless them at the expense of the whole Gentile world, whom they hated, supposing that when the Messiah came he would either kill all the Gentiles or subject them to Jewish rule, as in the days of their beloved Solomon.
The events of this chapter reveal that, at this time, there still remained an effective reservoir of faith among the Chosen People.
THE ENEMIES OF ISRAEL DESTROY EACH OTHER
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 Jehovah your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed them that should sing unto Jehovah, and give praise in holy array, as they went out before the army, and say, Give thanks unto Jehovah; for his lovingkindness [endureth] for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, Jehovah set liers-in-wait against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, that were come against Judah; and they were smitten. 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.
What happened here reminds one of the victory of Gideon over the Midianites in Judg. 7, in which the invading forces destroyed themselves.
GOD'S PEOPLE HAVE ONLY TO RECOVER THE SPOIL LEFT BY THE FALLEN ARMIES
And when Judah came to the watch-tower of the wilderness, they looked upon the multitude; and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and there were none that escaped. And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches and dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Beracah; for there they blessed Jehovah: therefore the name of that place was called The valley of Beracah unto this day. Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for Jehovah had made them to rejoice over their enemies. And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of Jehovah. And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of the countries, when they heard that Jehovah fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet; for his God gave him rest round about.
"On the main road between Hebron and Jerusalem, near Tekoa, there is even today a valley that bears a form of the ancient name Beracah,"F4 the same being a very strong evidence of the historicity of this event.
A SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT
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. And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah. Howbeit the high places were not taken away; neither as yet had the people set their hearts unto the God of their fathers. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the history of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is inserted in the book of the kings of Israel.
The last line here indicates that everything the Chronicler has written was taken from the authentic records of the Jewish people. (See our introduction to Chronicles for a list of those records which are quoted in Chronicles.)
Although, in the general sense, Jehoshaphat did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, there were nevertheless some failures on his part. His failure to remove the high places (which had been removed, of course, but had been rebuilt by the people, again and a again), and his alliance with Ahaziah (mentioned in the final paragraph here) were two examples. A third, which we should mention, was his choice of a wife for his son and heir Jehoram. Jehoshaphat evidently hoped to promote peace between Israel and Judah by arranging for the marriage of Jehoram to the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab. This might not have been considered a sin by some, but it was an unqualified disaster, nevertheless; and it resulted in great sorrows for God's people.
JEHOSHAPHAT REJECTS PARTNERSHIP WITH AHAZIAH
And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel; the same did very wickedly: and he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish; and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, Jehovah hath destroyed thy works. And the ships were broken, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.
1 Kings 22:49-50 is parallel with these three verses. The account in Kings speaks of Ahaziah's attempt to continue as a partner with Jehoshaphat in that ship-building venture; but it is to the great credit of Jehoshaphat that, acting upon the warning of the prophet, he refused to allow it.
Footnotes for 2 Chronicles 20
1: Cross-reference Bible, p. 769
2: Marginal note reads" and garments." See RSV.
3: Beracahmeans blessing. E.W.G. Masterman in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 439.