2 Chronicles 19
We have here a further account of the good reign of Jehoshaphat,
I. His return in peace to Jerusalem,
2 Chronicles 19:1.
II. The reproof given him for his league with Ahab, and his acting in
conjunction with him,
2 Chronicles 19:2,3.
III. The great care he took thereupon to reform his kingdom,
2 Chronicles 19:4.
IV. The instructions he gave to his judges, both those in the country
towns that kept the inferior courts
(2 Chronicles 19:5-7),
and those in Jerusalem that sat in the supreme judicature of the
2 Chronicles 19:8-11.
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1 And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in
peace to Jerusalem.
2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and
said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and
love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from
before the LORD.
3 Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that
thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast
prepared thine heart to seek God.
4 And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again
through the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought
them back unto the LORD God of their fathers.
I. The great favour God showed to Jehoshaphat,
1. In bringing him back in safety from his dangerous expedition with
Ahab, which had like to have cost him dearly
(2 Chronicles 19:1):
He returned to his house in peace. Notice is taken of this to
(1.) That he fared better than he had expected. He had been in imminent
peril, and yet came home in peace. Whenever we return in peace to our
houses we ought to acknowledge God's providence in preserving our going
out and our coming in. But, if we have been kept through more than
ordinary dangers, we are in a special manner bound to be thankful.
There was but a step perhaps between us and death, and yet we are
(2.) That he fared better than he deserved. He was out of the way of
his duty, had been out upon an expedition which he could not well
account for to God and his conscience, and yet he returned in peace;
for God is not extreme to mark what we do amiss, nor does he withdraw
his protection every time we forfeit it.
(3.) That he fared better than Ahab king of Israel did, who was brought
home slain. Though Jehoshaphat had said to Ahab, I am as thou
art, God distinguished him; for he knows and owns the way of the
righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Distinguishing mercies are very obliging. Here were two kings in the
field together, one taken and the other left, one brought home
in blood, the other in peace.
2. In sending him a reproof for his affinity with Ahab. It is a great
mercy to be made sensible of our faults, and to be told in time wherein
we have erred, that we may repent and amend the error before it be too
late. The prophet by whom the reproof is sent is Jehu the son of
Hanani. The father was an eminent prophet in the last reign, as
appeared by Asa's putting him in the stocks for his plain dealing; yet
the son was not afraid to reprove another king. Paul would have his son
Timothy not only discouraged, but animated by his sufferings,
2 Timothy 3:11,14.
(1.) The prophet told him plainly that he had done very ill in joining
with Ahab: "Shouldst thou, a godly man, help the ungodly,
give them a hand of fellowship, and lend them a hand of assistance?"
Or, "Shouldst thou love those that hate the Lord; wilt thou lay
those in thy bosom whom God beholds afar off?" It is the black
character of wicked people that they are haters of God,
Idolaters are so reputed in the second commandment; and therefore it is
not for those that love God to take delight in them or contract an
intimacy with them. Do I not hate those, says David, that
Those whom the grace of God has dignified ought not to debase
themselves. Let God's people be of God's mind.
(2.) That God was displeased with him for doing this: "There is
wrath upon thee from before the Lord, and thou must, by repentance,
make thy peace with him, or it will be the worse for thee." He did so,
and God's anger was turned away. Yet his trouble, as recorded in the
next chapter, was a rebuke to him for meddling with strife that
belonged not to him. If he be so fond of war, he shall have enough of
it. And the great mischief which his seed after him fell into by the
house of Ahab was the just punishment of his affinity with that house.
(3.) Yet he took notice of that which was praiseworthy, as it is proper
for us to do when we give a reproof
(2 Chronicles 19:3):
"There are good things found in thee; and therefore, though God
be displeased with thee, he does not, he will not, cast thee off." His
abolishing idolatry with a heart fixed for God and engaged to seek him
was a good thing, which God accepted and would have him go on with,
notwithstanding the displeasure he had now incurred.
II. The return of duty which Jehoshaphat made to God for this favour.
he took the reproof well, was not wroth with the seer as his father
was, but submitted. Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a
kindness. See what effect the reproof had upon him.
1. He dwelt at Jerusalem
(2 Chronicles 19:4),
minded his own business at home, and would not expose himself by paying
any more such visits to Ahab. Rebuke a wise man, and he will be yet
wiser, and will take warning,
2. To atone (as I may say) for the visit he had paid to Ahab, he made a
pious profitable visitation of his own kingdom: He went out through
the people in his own person from Beersheba in the south to Mount
Ephraim in the north, and brought them back to the Lord God of their
fathers, that is, did all he could towards recovering them.
(1.) By what the prophet said he perceived that his former attempts for
reformation were well pleasing to God, and therefore he revived them,
and did what was then left undone. It is good when commendations thus
quicken us to our duty, and when the more we are praised for doing well
the more vigorous we are in well-doing.
(2.) Perhaps he found that his late affinity with the idolatrous house
of Ahab and kingdom of Israel had had a bad influence upon his own
kingdom. Many, we may suppose, were emboldened to revolt to idolatry
when they saw even their reforming king so intimate with idolaters; and
therefore he thought himself doubly obliged to do all he could to
restore them. If we truly repent of our sin, we shall do our utmost to
repair the damage we have any way done by it to religion or the souls
of others. We are particularly concerned to recover those that have
fallen into sin, or been hardened in it, by our example.
5 And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced
cities of Judah, city by city,
6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge
not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.
7 Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed
and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God,
nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.
8 Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and
of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for
the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies, when they
returned to Jerusalem.
9 And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of
the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.
10 And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren
that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law
and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them
that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon
you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.
11 And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all
matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler
of the house of Judah, for all the king's matters: also the
Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and
the LORD shall be with the good.
Jehoshaphat, having done what he could to make his people good, is here
providing, if possible, to keep them so by the influence of a settled
magistracy. He had sent preachers among them, to instruct them
(2 Chronicles 17:7-9),
and that provision did well; but now he saw it further requisite to
send judges among them, to see the laws put in execution, and to be a
terror to evil-doers. It is probable that there were judges up and down
the country before, but either they neglected their business or the
people slighted them, so that the end of the institution was not
answered; and therefore it was necessary it should be new-modelled, new
men employed, and a new charge given them. That is it which is here
I. He erected inferior courts of justice in the several cities of the
2 Chronicles 19:5.
The judges of these courts were to keep the people in the worship of
God, to punish the violations of the law, and to decide controversies
between man and man. Here is the charge he gave them
(2 Chronicles 19:6),
in which we have,
1. The means he prescribes to them for the keeping of them closely to
their duty; and these are two:--
(1.) Great caution and circumspection: Take heed what you do,
2 Chronicles 19:6.
And again, "Take heed and do it,
2 Chronicles 19:7.
Mind your business; take heed of making any mistakes; be afraid of
misunderstanding any point of law, or the matter of fact." Judges, of
all men, have need to be cautious, because so much depends upon the
correctness of their judgment.
(2.) Great piety and religion: "Let the fear of God be upon you,
and that will be a restraint upon you to keep you from doing wrong
and an engagement to you to be active in doing the duty of your place."
Let destruction from God be a terror to them, as Job speaks
and then they will be a terror to none but evil-doers.
2. The motives he would have them consider, to engage them to
faithfulness. These are three, all taken from God:--
(1.) That from him they had their commission; his ministers they were.
The powers that be are ordained by him and for him: "You judge not
for man, but for the Lord; your business is to glorify him, and
serve the interests of his kingdom among men."
(2.) That his eye was upon them: "He is with you in the
judgment, to take notice what you do and call you to an account if
you do amiss."
(3.) That he is the great example of justice to all magistrates:
There is no iniquity with him, no bribery, nor respect of
persons. Magistrates are called gods, and therefore must endeavour to
II. He erected a supreme court at Jerusalem, which was advised with,
and appealed to, in all the difficult causes that occurred in the
inferior courts, and which gave judgment upon demurrers (to speak in
the language of our own law), special verdicts, and writs of error.
This court sat in Jerusalem; for there were set the thrones of
judgment: there they would be under the inspection of the king
1. The causes cognizable in this court; and they were of two kinds, as
(1.) Pleas of the crown, called here the judgment of the Lord,
because the law of God was the law of the realm. All criminals were
charged with the breach of some part of his law and were said to offend
against his peace, his crown and dignity.
(2.) Common pleas, between party and party, called here
(2 Chronicles 19:8)
and causes of their brethren
(2 Chronicles 19:10),
differences between blood and blood (this refers to
between the blood of the person slain and the blood of the man-slayer.
Since the revolt of the ten tribes all the cities of refuge, except
Hebron, belonged to the kingdom of Israel; and therefore, we may
suppose, the courts of the temple, or the horns of the altar, were
chiefly used as sanctuaries in that case, and hence the trial of
homicides was reserved for the court at Jerusalem. If the inferior
judges did not agree about the sense of any law or commandment, any
statute or judgment, this court must determine the controversy.
2. The judges of this court were some of the Levites and priests
that were most learned in the law, eminent for wisdom, and of approved
integrity, and some of the chief of the fathers of Israel, peers of
the realm, as I may call them, or persons of age and experience,
that had been men of business, who would be the most competent judges
of matters of fact, as the priests and Levites were of the sense of the
3. The two chiefs, or presidents, of this court. Amariah, the high
priest, was to preside in ecclesiastical causes, to direct the court
and be the mouth of it, or perhaps to be last consulted in cases which
the judges themselves doubted of. Zebadiah, the prime-minister of that
state, was to preside in all civil causes,
2 Chronicles 19:11.
Thus there are diversities of gifts and operations, but all from the
same Spirit, and for the good of the body. Some best understand the
matters of the Lord, others the king's matters; neither can
say to the other, I have no need of thee, for God's Israel has
need of both; and, as every one has received the gift, so let him
minister the same. Blessed be God both for magistrates and ministers,
scribes and statesmen, men of books and men of business.
4. The inferior officers of the court. "Some of the Levites
(such as had not abilities to qualify them for judges) shall be
officers before you,"
2 Chronicles 19:11.
They were to bring causes into the court, and to see the sentence of
the judges executed. And these hands and feet were as necessary in
their places as the eyes and heads (the judges) in theirs.
5. The charge which the king gave them.
(1.) They must see to it that they acted from a good principle; they
must do all in the fear of the Lord, setting him always before
them, and then they would act faithfully, conscientiously, and with
a perfect upright heart,
2 Chronicles 19:9.
(2.) They must make it their great and constant care to prevent sin,
to warn the people that they trespass not against the Lord,
inspire them with a dread of sin, not only as hurtful to themselves and
the public peace, but as an offence to God, and that which would bring
wrath upon the people if they committed it and upon the magistrates if
they did not punish it. "This do, and you shall not trespass;"
this implies that those who have power in their hands contract the
guilt of sin themselves if they do not use their power for the
preventing and restraining of sin in others. "You trespass if you do
not keep them from trespassing."
(3.) They must act with resolution. "Deal courageously, and fear not
the face of man; be bold and daring in the discharge of your duty, and,
whoever is against you, God will protect you: The Lord shall be with
the good." Wherever he finds a good man, a good magistrate, he will
be found a good God.