2 Chronicles 17
Here begin the life and reign of Jehoshaphat, who was one of the first
three among the royal worthies, one of the best that ever swayed the
sceptre of Judah since David's head was laid. He was the good son of a
good father, so that, as this time, grace ran in the blood, even in the
blood-royal. Happy the son that had such a father, to lay a good
foundation in him and for him. Happy the father that had such a son, to
build so wall upon the foundation he had laid! Happy the kingdom that
was blessed with two such kings, two such reigns, together! In this
chapter we have,
I. His accession to and establishment in the throne,
2 Chronicles 17:1,2,5.
II. His persona piety,
2 Chronicles 17:3,4,6.
III. The course he took to promote religion in his kingdom,
2 Chronicles 17:7-9.
IV. The mighty sway he bore among the neighbours,
2 Chronicles 17:10,11.
V. The great strength of his kingdom, both in garrisons and standing
2 Chronicles 17:12-19.
Thus was his prosperity the reward of his piety and his piety the
brightest grace and ornament of his prosperity.
|Jehoshaphat Succeeds Asa.
||B. C. 914.|
1 And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and
strengthened himself against Israel.
2 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.
3 And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the
first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;
4 But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his
commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
5 Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and
all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and
honour in abundance.
6 And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover
he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.
7 Also in the third year of his reign he sent to his princes,
even to Ben-hail, and to Obadiah, and to Zechariah, and to
Nethaneel, and to Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.
8 And with them he sent Levites, even Shemaiah, and
Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and
Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah, Levites;
and with them Elishama and Jehoram, priests.
9 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.
Here we find concerning Jehoshaphat,
I. What a wise man he was. As soon as he came to the crown he
strengthened himself against Israel,
2 Chronicles 17:1.
Ahab, an active warlike prince, had now been three years upon the
throne of Israel, the vigour of his beginning falling in with the decay
of Asa's conclusion. It is probable that the kingdom of Israel had, of
late, got ground of the kingdom of Judah and began to grow formidable
to it; so that the first thing Jehoshaphat had to do was to make his
part good on that side, and to check the growing greatness of the king
of Israel, which he did so effectually, and without bloodshed, that
Ahab soon courted his alliance, so far was he from giving him any
disturbance, and proved more dangerous as a friend than he could have
been as an enemy. Jehoshaphat strengthened himself not to act
offensively against Israel or invade them, but only to maintain his
own, which he did by fortifying the cities that were on his frontiers,
and putting garrisons, stronger than had been, in the cities of
Ephraim, which he was master of,
2 Chronicles 17:2.
He did not strengthen himself, as his father did, by a league with the
king of Syria, but by fair and regular methods, on which he might
expect the blessing of God and in which he trusted God.
II. What a good man he was. It is an excellent character that is here
1. He walked in the ways of his father David. In the characters
of the kings, David's ways are often made the standard, as
2 Kings xiv. 3; xvi. 2; xviii. 3.
But the distinction is nowhere so strongly marked as here between his
first ways and his last ways; for the last were not so good as the
first. His ways, before he fell so foully in the matter of Uriah (which
is mentioned long afterwards as the bar in his escutcheon,
1 Kings 15:5),
were good ways, and, though he happily recovered from that fall, yet
perhaps he never, while he lived, fully retrieved the spiritual
strength and comfort he lost by it. Jehoshaphat followed David as far
as he followed God and no further. Paul himself thus limits our
imitation of him
(1 Corinthians 11:1):
Follow me, as I follow Christ, and not otherwise. Many good
people have had their first ways, which were their best ways, their
first love, which was their strongest love; and in every copy we
propose to write after, as we must single out that only which is good,
so that chiefly which is best. The words here will admit another
reading; they run thus: He walked in the ways of David his father
(Hareshonim), those first ways, or those ancient ways. He
proposed to himself, for his example, the primitive times of the royal
family, those purest times, before the corruptions of the late reigns
came in. See
The LXX. leaves out David, and so refers it to Asa: He walked in the
first ways of his father, and did not imitate him in what was amiss
in him, towards the latter end of his time. It is good to be cautious
in following the best men, lest we step aside after them.
2. He sought not to Baalim, but sought to the Lord God of his
2 Chronicles 17:3,4.
The neighbouring nations had their Baalim, one had one Baal and another
had another; but he abhorred them all, had nothing to do with them. He
worshipped the Lord God of his father and him only, prayed to
him only and enquired of him only; both are included in seeking him.
3. That he walked in God's commandments, not only worshipped the
true God, but worshipped him according to his own institution, and
not after the doings of Israel,
2 Chronicles 17:4.
Though the king of Israel was his neighbour and ally, yet he did not
learn his way. Whatever dealings he had with him in civil matters, he
would not have communion with him, nor comply with him in his religion.
In this he kept close to the rule.
4. His heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord
(2 Chronicles 17:6),
or he lifted up his heart. He brought his heart to his work, and
lifted up his heart in it; that is, he had a sincere regard to God in
it. Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul. His heart was
enlarged in that which is good,
He never thought he could do enough for God. He was lively and
affectionate in his religion, fervent in spirit, serving the
Lord, cheerful and pleasant in it; he went on in his work with
alacrity, as Jacob, who, after his vision of God at Bethel, lifted
up his feet,
margin. He was bold and resolute in the ways of God and went on
with courage. His heart was lifted up above the consideration of the
difficulties that were in the way of his duty; he easily got over them
all, and was not frightened with winds and clouds from sowing
Let us walk in the same spirit.
III. What a useful man he was, not only a good man, but a good king. He
not only was good himself, but did good in his generation, did a great
deal of good.
1. He took away the teachers of lies, so images are called
the high places and the groves,
2 Chronicles 17:6.
It is meant of those in which idols were worshipped; for those that
were dedicated to the true God only were not taken away,
2 Chronicles 20:33.
It was only idolatry that he abolished. Nothing debauched the nation
more than those idolatrous groves or images which he took away.
2. He sent forth teachers of truth. When he enquired into the state of
religion in his kingdom he found his people generally very ignorant:
they knew not that they did evil. Even in the last good reign
there had been little care taken to instruct them in their duty; and
therefore Jehoshaphat resolves to begin his work at the right end,
deals with them as reasonable creatures, will not lead them blindfold,
no, not into a reformation, but endeavours to have them well taught,
knowing that that was the way to have them well cured. In this good
work he employed,
(1.) His princes. Those about him he sent forth; those in the country
he sent to teach in the cities of Judah,
2 Chronicles 17:7.
He ordered them, in the administration of justice, not only to correct
the people when they did ill, but to teach them how to do better, and
to give a reason for what they did, that the people might be informed
of the difference between good and evil. The princes or judges upon the
bench have a great opportunity of teaching people their duty to God and
man, and it is not out of their province, for the laws of God are to be
looked upon as laws of the land.
(2.) The Levites and priests went with the
princes, and taught in Judah, having the book of the law with
2 Chronicles 17:8,9.
They were teachers by office,
Teaching was part of the work for which they had their maintenance. The
priests and the Levites had little else to do. But, it seems, they had
neglected it, pretending perhaps that they could not get the people to
hear them. "Well," says Jehoshaphat, "you shall go along with the
princes, and they with their authority shall oblige the people to come
and hear you; and then, if they be not well instructed, it is your
fault." What an abundance of good may be done when Moses and Aaron thus
go hand in hand in the doing of it, when princes with their power, and
priests and Levites with their scripture learning, agree to teach the
people the good knowledge of God and their duty! These itinerant judges
and itinerant preachers together were instrumental to diffuse a blessed
light throughout the cities of Judah. But it is said, They had the
book of the law of the Lord with them.
[1.] For their own direction, that thence they might fetch all the
instructions they gave to the people, and not teach for doctrines
the commandments of men.
[2.] For the conviction of the people, that they might see that they
had a divine warrant for what they said and delivered to them that only
which they received from the Lord. Note, Ministers, when they go to
teach the people, should have their Bibles with them.
IV. What a happy man he was.
1. How happy he was in the favour of his God, who signally owned and
blessed him: The Lord was with him
(2 Chronicles 17:3);
the word of the Lord was his helper (so the Chaldee paraphrase);
the Lord established the kingdom in his hand,
2 Chronicles 17:5.
Those stand firmly that have the presence of God with them. If the
beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, that will establish
the work of our hands and establish us in our integrity.
2. How happy he was in the affections of his people
(2 Chronicles 17:5):
All Judah brought him presents, in acknowledgment of his
kindness in sending preachers among them. The more there is of true
religion among a people the more there will be of conscientious
loyalty. A government that answers the end of government will be
supported. The effect of the favour both of God and his kingdom was
that he had riches and honour in abundance. It is undoubtedly
true, though few will believe it, that religion and piety are the best
friends to outward prosperity. And, observe, it follows immediately,
His heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord. Riches and
honour in abundance prove to many a clog and a hindrance in the ways of
the Lord, an occasion of pride, security, and sensuality; but they had
a quite contrary effect upon Jehoshaphat: his abundance was oil to the
wheels of his obedience, and the more he had of the wealth of this
world the more was his heart lifted up in the ways of the
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10 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
11 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.
12 And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in
Judah castles, and cities of store.
13 And he had much business in the cities of Judah: and the men
of war, mighty men of valour, were in Jerusalem.
14 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.
15 And next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him
two hundred and fourscore thousand.
16 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.
17 And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him
armed men with bow and shield two hundred thousand.
18 And next him was Jehozabad, and with him a hundred and
fourscore thousand ready prepared for the war.
19 These waited on the king, beside those whom the king put
in the fenced cities throughout all Judah.
We have here a further account of Jehoshaphat's great prosperity and
the flourishing state of his kingdom.
I. He had good interest in the neighbouring princes and nations. Though
he was not perhaps so great a soldier as David (which might have made
him their terror), nor so great a scholar as Solomon (which might have
made him their oracle), yet the fear of the Lord fell so upon
them (that is, God so influenced and governed their spirits) that
they had all a reverence for him,
2 Chronicles 17:10.
1. None of them made war against him. God's good providence so
ordered it that, while the princes and priests were instructing and
reforming the country, none of his neighbours gave him any
molestations, to take him off from that good work. Thus when Jacob and
his sons were going to worship at Bethel the terror of God was upon the
neighbouring cities, that they did not pursue after them,
2. Many of them brought presents to him
(2 Chronicles 17:11),
to secure his friendship. Perhaps these were a tribute imposed upon
them by Asa, who made himself master of the cities of the Philistines,
and the tents of the Arabians,
2 Chronicles 14:14,15.
With the 7700 rams, and the same number of he-goats, which the Arabians
brought, there was probably a proportionable number of ewes and lambs,
she-goats and kids.
II. He had a very considerable stores laid up in the cities of Judah.
He pulled down his barns, and built larger
(2 Chronicles 17:12),
castles and cities of store, for arms and victuals. He was a man
of business, and aimed at the public good in all his undertakings,
either to preserve the peace or prepare for war.
III. He had the militia in good order. It was never in better since
David modelled it. Five lord-lieutenants (if I may so call them)
are here named, with the numbers of those under their command (the
serviceable men, that were fit for war in their respective districts),
three in Judah, and two in Benjamin. It is said of one of these great
commanders, Amasiah, that he willingly offered himself unto
(2 Chronicles 17:16),
not only to the king, to serve him in this post, but to the Lord, to
glorify him in it. He was the most eminent among them for religion, he
accepted the place, not for the honour, or power, or profit of it, but
for conscience' sake towards God, that he might serve his country,. It
was usual for great generals then to offer of their spoils to the Lord,
1 Chronicles 26:26.
But this good man offered himself first to the Lord, and then his
dedicated things. The number of the soldiers under these five generals
amounts to 1,160,000 men, a vast number for so small a compass of
ground as Judah's and Benjamin's lot to furnish out and maintain.
Abijah could bring into the field but 400,000
(2 Chronicles 13:3),
Asa not 600,000
(2 Chronicles 14:8),
yet Jehoshaphat has at command almost 1,200,000. But it must be
1. That God had promised to make the seed of Abraham like the sand of
the sea for number.
2. There had now been a long peace.
3. We may suppose that the city of Jerusalem was very much enlarged.
4. Many had come over to them from the kingdom of Israel
(2 Chronicles 15:19),
which would increase the numbers of the people.
5. Jehoshaphat was under a special blessing of God, which made his
affairs to prosper greatly. The armies, we may suppose, were dispersed
all the country over, and each man resided for the most part on his own
estate; but they appeared often, to be mustered and trained, and were
ready at call whenever there was occasion. The commanders waited on the
(2 Chronicles 17:19)
as officers of his court, privy-counsellors, and ministers of
But, lastly, observe, It was not this formidable army that
struck a terror upon the neighbouring nations, that restrained them
from attempting any thing against Israel, or obliged them to pay
tribute, but the fear of God which fell upon them when Jehoshaphat
reformed his country and set up a preaching ministry in it,
2 Chronicles 17:10.
The ordinances of God are more the strength and safety of a kingdom
than its military force--its men of God more than its men of war.