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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH--- ESTHER--- PSALMS 1-58--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons) DD
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD
The Reign Of Jehoshaphat (17.1-21.1).
As with his father Asa, Jehoshaphat’s reign was generally pleasing to YHWH. He continued with his father’s policy of eradicating the idolatrous high places (17.6), (something which was required continually as they soon sprang up again), and of building up the military strength of Judah (17.1-2, 12-19), both policies of good kings. As with his father, at least for the early part of Asa’s reign (15.9), YHWH was with him (17.3), and the fear of YHWH rested on the nations round about (17.10; 20.29). Furthermore he set about the reorganisation of the system of justice (19.5-11), and ensured that the teaching of the Law of YHWH extended throughout the land (17.7-9). All this was to his credit, and he continued to be held in high regard in Judah after his death (22.9).
Where he failed, however, was in associating with the kings of Israel in treaty arrangements, something for which he was twice roundly rebuked by the prophets (19.2-3; 20.37). The charge was not that he had not trusted in YHWH, but that he had involved himself in evil associations, including idolatrous associations. It was an involvement for which there was a price to pay. Judah would pay a heavy price for it in the thirteen years that followed Jehoshaphat’s death.
Nevertheless, when a powerful Moabite-Ammonite army came against Judah God heard Jehoshaphat’s plea and wrought deliverance for him (20.1-28). Furthermore no mention is made of the threatened retribution (‘wrath’) actually coming on him (19.2) except in regard to the destruction of the sailing ships which were made jointly with Israel with a view to a trading venture towards the end of his life (20.37), the latter being retribution for something totally different (a joint trading expedition with idolatrous Israel). This warns us against putting too much emphasis on the Chronicler’s supposed penchant for presenting sin as immediately followed by retribution. It is not to deny that the Chronicler does emphasis the connection of sin with retribution in many cases, (as do many other parts of the Old Testament), but it does bring home that it is not the motive spring of his account.
Note that in A he commences his reign and establishes his kingdom, and in the parallel his reign is summarised and comes to an end. In B he ventures with Ahab against the Arameans at Ramoth-gilead, and in the parallel the Aramenas retaliate through their Moabite-Ammonite allies. Centrally in C he establishes judges throughout Judah in accordance with his name which means ‘YHWH judges’.
Jehoshaphat Commences His Reign And Establishes The Strength Of His Kingdom In View Of The Threat Of Israel, And Sends Teachers Of The Law Throughout His Kingdom (17.1-19).
Significantly Jehoshaphat’s reign commences with the implied threat of an Israel seen as threatening Judah’s borders once again to such an extent that Jehoshaphat builds up his strength in readiness. Under Omri, and now under Ahab, Israel had become strong again. Indeed, the Moabite Stone tells us that Omri became strong enough to bring Moab into subjection, a situation initially continued by his son. He presumably left Judah alone because under Asa it was too strong for him.
Details of Jehoshaphat’s preparation are now given in these verses. And it was this implied threat by Israel which may explain why later on, when the opportunity offered, he sought to enter into a treaty relationship with Ahab, failing to recognise that such a treaty relationship with an idolatrous king of Israel went totally contrary to his determination to take God’s Instruction (Torah, Law) to his people. The Chronicler surely expects us to see that in doing so he was as guilty as Asa his father was when he entered into a treaty relationship with Aram (Syria), something for which Asa was strongly rebuked (16.7). The implication is that what Jehoshaphat should have done was trust YHWH to enable him to defend his borders. That was why YHWH had made him strong. And this is confirmed by the words of the prophet Jehu (19.2).
E Also in the third year of his reign he sent his princes, even Ben-hail, and Obadiah, and Zechariah, and Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah, and with them the Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah, the Levites, and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests (17.7-8).
Note that in A he established fortified cities throughout Judah, and set forces and garrisons in them, and in the parallel he had many works in the cities of Judah, and besides the forces he had set in them we have the forces established in Jerusalem. In B YHWH was with Jehoshaphat because of his faithfulness, and as a consequence in the parallel he became exceedingly strong. In C all Judah brought him tribute, and in the parallel surrounding nations brought him tribute. In D his heart was lifted up in the ways of YHWH, and in the parallel the hearts of the nations were fearful through the activity of YHWH. Centrally in E he sent out teachers among the people, and in the parallel they taught his people the book of the Law of YHWH.
2.17.1 ‘And Jehoshaphat his son reigned instead of him (Asa), and strengthened himself against Israel.’
When Jehoshaphat began his sole reign in around 873 BC his first act was to build up Judah’s defences against Israel. He clearly saw Israel as a potential threat. He thus set about strengthening his defences. He had good cause to do so. Judah were in possession of certain Ephraimite cities which Israel no doubt considered to be its own. Furthermore the Moabite Stone tells us that at that time Israel had become strong enough under the rule of Omri to bring Moab into subjection, a strength increased even more by Ahab who in 853 BC was able to field the largest chariot force in the coalition formed with Aramean and other states to drive back Assyrian advances under Shalmaneser III (described in the Kurkh Stele). The assumption must be that it was only the threat of Aram (Syria) on its northern borders, and later in Transjordan, and the strength of Judah itself, that prevented an attempt to take back the cities of Ephraim, which would perhaps have had wider repercussions for Judah.
2.17.2 ‘And he placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.’
What this probably means is that he placed large military units (‘forces’) in the fortified cities, and smaller military units (‘garrison’) throughout the land, including in the cities of Ephraim taken by his father Asa from Israel. In other words he set the whole land in readiness for a possible invasion by Israel. This massive availability of manpower is added to by verses 13-18 which describe the military units established in Jerusalem itself.
2.17.3-4 ‘And YHWH was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not to the Baalim, but sought to the God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.’
‘YHWH was with Jehoshaphat.’ A succint way of saying that his success was due to YHWH acting with him and on His behalf. In other words his success and his prosperity largely arose as a consequence of his faithfulness to YHWH.
‘The first ways of his father David’ is not suggesting that David changed course. Even at his worst there is no suggestion that David (or indeed Asa, except possibly indirectly in his dealings with physicians) sought to the Baalim. The Chronicler is making the point that the ways of his father David were ‘the first ways’ which were different from the ways of those who followed him, especially Solomon, Jeroboam, Omri and Ahab, who all in their own ways ‘sought to the Baalim’. On the other hand 14.5 also implicates Rehoboam and Abijah as well. In other words Jehoshaphat walked in ‘the first ways’ of the house of David. He did not seek to the Baalim (a plural term, either as a plural of majesty or as a reference to the numbers of Baals found around Judah). Rather he sought to the God of his father (in context David, although it could indicate Asa), and walked in God’s commandments and not after the doings of Israel who had rejected God’s commandments (e.g. 13.9). He had remained fully true to YHWH. And as a consequence ‘YHWH was with him’. As Azariah had said to Asa, ‘YHWH is with you while you are with Him’ (15.2). Thus because Jehoshaphat had remained true to YHWH, YHWH was with him. This indicated that while he truly sought YHWH, YHWH would continually act on his behalf, especially in defence of the realm.
This understanding of the text avoids the need to amend the text, or to see it as contradictory to the Chronicler’s earlier presentation of the life of David, as some have sought to do.
2.17.5 ‘Therefore YHWH established the kingdom in his hand, and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat tribute, and he had riches and honour in abundance.’
And it was because YHWH was ‘with him’ that He established the kingdom under his hand. The whole of the kingdom was solidly with him. There was little dissension. And what was more, the people gladly paid their taxes, always the sign of a contented people. (Some, however, see this ‘tribute’ in terms of voluntary gifts, thankofferings over and above the taxes. But whichever is true the point is clear). As a consequence he enjoyed both riches and honour. For a description of some of the tribute paid by all Israel to Solomon see 1 Kings 4.17-19, but all kings would have expected similar material support, even though they had royal lands on which they could draw. That he had ‘riches and honour in abundance’ was a sign that God was with him. ‘Riches and honour’ were regularly seen as the lot of those who wholly trust YHWH (see 1.12; 32.27; 1 Chronicles 29.12, 28).
2.17.6 ‘And his heart was lifted up in the ways of YHWH, and furthermore he took away the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.’
The heart can be lifted up in two ways, either in following the ways of YHWH or in pride and rebellion against YHWH (26.16; 32.25). We must each decide what we set our hearts on. It is a contrast of attitudes. Jehoshaphat chose to set his heart on following YHWH’s ways, on doing His will and pleasing Him, and as we shall discover that had a consequence for his people as well, for he also sought to turn their hearts into the way of YHWH.
And one of the results of this was that ‘he took away the high places and the Asherim out of Judah’. The high places were artificially lifted up places in cities and towns, and sanctuaries in the mountains which could be found everywhere scattered around Judah. These were set apart for the worship of Baal and his consort Asherah. They encouraged idolatrous worship and the accompanying gross sexual malpractice. The Asherim were either wooden poles or wooden images which represented Asherah. The task of taking these high places away was a huge one. It was not so difficult in cities and towns where they could be easily identified, but without local help, which would often not be forthcoming, it was almost impossible to discover all the mountain sanctuaries. And even when they were discovered the stone pillars and wooden images could be removed, but the actual sanctuary, whilst it could be defiled, could not be removed. It was part of the landscape and remained in the local memory. Thus the rooting out of such sanctuaries could not prevent them being established again once the destroyers had departed. Asa had spent his best efforts on the task. Jehoshaphat did the same. But in both cases they necessarily failed to accomplish what they sought to do. Thus it could be said of their reigns, ‘however the high places were not taken away’ (15.17; 20.33), not because they did not make the attempt, but because without the will of the whole people it was an impossible task. They continued on to plague Judah.
2.17.7 ‘Also in the third year of his reign he sent his princes, even Ben-hail, and Obadiah, and Zechariah, and Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.’
‘Also in the third year of his reign.’ The ‘first year’, from his coronation to the new year would be part of a year. The work commenced during ‘the third year’, which was thus not complete. Thus the task began within say eighteen months of the commencement of his reign, indicating the importance that he laid on it. The first eighteen months would have been utilised in consolidating his position and re-establishing his administration. Transposition from one king to another would inevitably require a certain number of changes, even though he had probably also been acting previously as his father’s prince regent (especially during Asa’s final years when he was impeded by foot disease).
Determining that he would ensure that his people truly followed YHWH, Jehoshaphat chose out five ‘princes’, tribal and clan leaders, to be personally involved in the implementation of the task of teaching in the cities of Judah. Their presence and authority would ensure that the people as a whole took notice of such a powerful deputation. The intention was that all should see that the deputation had the government’s backing. The names of these princes were Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah. But whilst some of these names will be familiar to us, the persons behind the names are not. They are otherwise unknown to us. They would, however, have been familiar to the people in Jehoshaphat’s day. He was wisely leaving nothing to chance.
And as we shall see, along with them Jehoshaphat sent Levites and priests, who would be seen by true Yahwists as the valid source from which to receive teaching concerning the Law of Moses. How far the princes themselves actually ‘taught’ it is vain to speculate. Their presence would, however, give an added authority to the teaching. And as that teaching would no doubt incorporate within it government policy it is very probable that they involved themselves, at least to some extent, with the teaching. That this mission was seen as central to the passage comes out in the chiasmus.
2.17.8 ‘And with them the Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests.’
Along with the princes were sent eight Levites and two priests. They would be seen as the Biblical authorities, and their names are given in detail. This provision of names provides good reason for our seeing this information as having come from a reliable contemporary resource. Elsewhere priests and Levites were seen as having the responsibility for teaching the Law and similarly disseminated the teaching of the Law in the days of Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah (35.3; Nehemiah 8.7-9). See also as backing for this ministry - 15.3; Leviticus 10.11; Deuteronomy 33.10; Hosea 4.6; Jeremiah 18.18.
2.17.9 ‘And they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of YHWH with them, and they went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught among the people.’
The chosen men went out throughout all the cities of Judah teaching the people from the Book of the Law of YHWH. In spite of converse opinion, whilst it cannot be proved from the external evidence, there is no good reason why this ‘book’ (composed of scrolls) should not be seen as virtually identical with the Pentateuch, as the Pentateuch presents itself. Compare also 12.1; 1 Chronicles 16.40; 22.12; Joshua 8.31, 32; 23.6; 1 Kings 2.3.
It is possible that they went as one deputation into each city one by one. Alternatively they may have divided into five groups under the five princes. But the fact that there were only two priests might be seen as confirming the former. This suggestion is supported by the undoubted fact that there would not be many ‘books of the Law of YHWH’ available.
It is noteworthy that they took ‘the book of the Law of YHWH’ with them, rather than teaching from memory. This would be take from the Temple. It was clearly intended to underline the fact that what was being taught was ‘the word of YHWH’. It presented something physical and sacred to counteract the physical symbols of Baal and Asherah.
There may be the deliberate intention here of present Jehoshaphat as fulfilling the ideals of Deuteronomy 17.15-20. It is also noticeable that mention of wives and horses is excluded from the whole narrative of his life, although he would probably have had many of both. This in contrast with Solomon (1.14, 16-17; 9.25, 28), Rehoboam (11.21) and Abijah (13.21).
2.17.10 ‘And the fear of YHWH fell on all the kingdoms of the lands which were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.’
As a consequence of Jehoshaphat’s godly activities YHWH was with him to such an extent that He made ‘the fear of YHWH’ fall on all the nations round about with the result that they made no war against Jehoshaphat and Judah. This description is regularly used to depict times when YHWH was positively acting on behalf of His people in order either to give victory or keep the peace. The same had happened in a more limited sense to Asa (14.14). But here it was more ‘universal’. Compare Exodus 15.14-16; Deuteronomy 2.25; 11.25; 28.10.
So in the same way as YHWH gave rest to Judah in the first few years of Asa’s reign (14.1, 5, 6), He did the same for Jehoshaphat.
2.17.11 ‘And some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; the Arabians also brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams, and seven thousand seven hundred he-goats.’
So impressive was Jehoshaphat’s power and might, and so effective was ‘the fear of YHWH, that nations round about actually sought to ensure his friendship by voluntarily bringing him tribute (unless it was continuing tribute arising from Asa’s activities in 14.14-15). It was reminiscent of the days of Solomon. Thus the Philistines on his western border brought him numerous gifts as well as silver, whilst the Arabians on his southern and south-western border brought him large flocks and herds of male sheep and goats, valuable for reproduction. (Israel were now strong and on his northern border, but were impressed enough to leave him in peace, whilst Moab to the east was in subjection to Israel as we know from the Moabite Stone). In the chiasmus this parallels the wealth flowing into Jehoshaphat’s coffers from the people of Judah.
The numbers of sheep and goats may simply be symbolic as indicating the ultimate divine perfection of the tribute (seven and seven repeated - seven is the number of divine perfection). Or they may indicate seven very large flocks of sheep headed by seven groups of rams, and seven very large flocks of goats headed by seven groups of he-goats. (Even if some Israelites could reckon in such large numbers, it is doubtful if Arabian tribesmen could).
2.17.12 ‘And Jehoshaphat grew exceedingly strong, and he built in Judah castles and cities of store.’
As with previous kings Jehoshaphat’s growing strength is depicted in terms massive building projects (see 8.1-6; 11.3-11; 14.6-7). These were, of course, essential for warding off the danger of invasion, and for containing the growing wealth of the nation. The fortresses he built were for defence. The store cities housed the abundance of provisions required by the king in order, among other things, to feed himself, his court, his local representatives and his standing army.
2.17.13 ‘And he had many works (or ‘much employment/store/property’) in the cities of Judah; and men of war, mighty men of valour, in Jerusalem.’
The word translated ‘works’ (melacah) can refer among other things to employment of labourers or craftsmen (but not forced labour), or to what is accomplished by such labourers or craftsmen, or to property or stores. Thus it might be seen as paralleling his men of war in Jerusalem with his army of labourers/craftsmen throughout the cities of Judah. Or it may be refer to soldiers who were building up the fortifications in the cities of Judah along with troops stationed in Jerusalem. Or it may refer to the king’s properties, or to what his servants had made. Whichever it means it brings out his increasing wealth. And along with his melacah in the cities of Judah were his valiant men of war in Jerusalem, which were additional to his men of war scattered throughout the land (verse 2). Thus the narrative which commences with a description of his armed forces throughout the land ends with a mention of his armed forces in Jerusalem. These armed forces will now be numbered.
The Enumeration Of The Armed Forces Of Jehoshaphat.
Whilst at first sight what follows appears to be an enumeration of Jehoshaphat’s armed forces in Jerusalem, ignoring those scattered throughout Judah, this appears unlikely. We would naturally expect an enumeration of all Jehoshaphat’s armed forces. And there are grounds for arguing that the figures that follow do indeed refer to all of Jehoshaphat’s armed force. This is so firstly because it would appear strange to ignore the tally of armed forces throughout Judah in enumerating his forces, and secondly because some of the terminology used in the passage is vague and open to interpretation.
For example, as we have seen, the melacah in verse 13 may refer to soldiers engaged in building up Judah’s defences, who are in the parallel in verse 13 seen as parallel with the armed warriors in Jerusalem. The two would form a natural parallel. ‘This was the number of them’ (verse 14) might then refer to both. Furthermore the ‘these’ of verse 19 who ‘waited on the king’, not a verb usually used of fighting men, may indicate the five top commanders of his armed forces and not the whole army in Jerusalem.
However, most scholars undoubtedly do see the enumeration as being of the armed forces retained in Jerusalem for use wherever required, given in order to emphasise Jehoshaphat’s might. They amounted in to 1,160 large military units (‘thousands’) under five commanders. Either way this number of military units which exceeds those of Abijah and Asa emphasises his strength. We are intended to see that if Abijah had defeated Israel with the help of YHWH, and Asa had defeated Zerah the Cushite with the help of YHWH, both with smaller numbers of military units, how much more could Jehoshaphat, with YHWH’s help and with his larger number of military units, defeat those who came against him, as long as he was faithful and true.
However we define a large military unit (and large in those days may have been considered small by us - a ‘thousand’ (eleph) may have been composed of fifty to a hundred men), the number of men is considerable in terms of those days. But, even if they were ‘in Jerusalem’, they may not have been quartered within the walls of Jerusalem itself (it would have overcrowded the Jerusalem of those days). They may rather have been established in camps around the city, and there may well have been provision for men to take time off in rotation to work their fields and see to their families.
2.17.14a ‘And this was the numbering of them according to their fathers’ houses.’
‘This was the numbering of them.’ Either the numbering of all Jehoshaphat’s armed forces in both the cities and garrisons of Judah and in Jerusalem, or of the numbers at Jerusalem itself. The numbers are divided between men of Judah and men of Benjamin (i.e. according to their fathers houses), who together made up wider Judah. This is an indication, not of a professional army, but of levies from the tribes.
The Commanders Of The Men Of Judah And The Number Of Their Units.
2.17.14b ‘Of Judah, the commanders of large military units (thousands),’
The names of the commanders of the military units of Judah are now given along with an enumeration of the units which they commanded. Between them they commanded seven hundred and eighty military units. As regularly with the Chronicler he gives descriptions which, whilst stated of one man or military unit, are to be applied to all. So the lack of such descriptions in verse 15 does not mean that those men were in any way lacking. Compare 1 Chronicles 12.23-38 where the same phenomenon occurs. All were ‘mighty men of valour’. All willingly offered themselves to YHWH. Note how the description as ‘mighty men of valour’ commences verse 14c and ends verse 16, thus encompassing the whole.
2.17.14c ‘Adnah the commander, and with him mighty men of valour, three hundred large military units (thousand),’
The first Judean commander was Adnah who commanded the largest fighting force. He had 300 large military units (‘thousands’) under his control. All were powerful warriors.
2.17.15 ‘And next to him Jehohanan the commander, and with him two hundred and eighty large military units (thousand),’
The second Judean commander was Jehohanan. He commanded 280 large military units (‘thousands’). The implication is that they too were ‘might men of valour’.
2.17.16 ‘And next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to YHWH, and with him two hundred large military units (thousand) mighty men of valour.’
The third Judean commander was Amasiah, the son of Zichri. This latter description suggests that he was from an important family. He commanded 200 large military units (‘thousands’). It is expressly stated of him that he willingly offered himself to YHWH, but the description is probably intended to apply to all the commanders. All had committed themselves to the service of YHWH. This was what made them invincible. Happy indeed is the one who can be described as having ‘willingly offered himself to YHWH’. He can be sure that he will gain the victory.
The Commanders Of The Men Of Benjamin And The Number Of Their Units.
We are now given information concerning the Benjamite contingent. This was divided into two sections, one section under Eliada which consisted of bowmen, and the other under Jehozabad which consisted of armed warriors. Being ‘prepared for war’ indicates being well armed, but probably not with the accoutrements of specialist soldiers and mercenaries.
2.17.17 ‘And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him two hundred large military units (‘thousands’) armed with bow and shield,’
The first was under Eliada, a powerful warrior. He commanded 200 large military units consisting of bowmen. The men of Benjamin were famed for their use of the sling and the bow (1 Chronicles 12.2). They would require their shields for protection against missiles directed at them.
2.17.18 ‘And next to him Jehozabad and with him a hundred and eighty large military units (thousand) ready prepared for war.’
The second Benjamite section was under Jehozabad. He was in command of the more general Benjamite warriors armed for war.
2.17.19 ‘These were they who waited on the king, besides those whom the king put in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.’
‘These’ probably refers to the commanders whose names are given. They would form part of the king’s military council, being superior to the commanders scattered throughout Judah. The term ‘waited’ (sharath) refers to ‘attending on’, not serving in war. Thus it may well not be the soldiery who were ‘besides those whom the king put in the fortified cities of Judah’, but the commanders.
Whichever way we take it, it is clear that Jehoshaphat is seen as having a powerful army at his disposal, superior to that of previous kings of Judah. He was blessed of YHWH.
Jehoshaphat Makes A Treaty With Ahab, King Of Israel, And Is Called On To Take Part In A Venture Against Ramoth-gilead, A City In Gadite Territory, Which Had Been Seized By The Arameans (Syrians), A Treaty For Which He Is Rebuked By A Prophet Of YHWH (18.1-19.3).
Jehoshaphat had begun his reign conscious of the ever present danger of a strong Israel, and much of his activity had been with that in mind. He had been helped by the fact that Israel were constantly under threat from Aram (Syria) with its capital city at Damascus. As a consequence of this continual threat it behoved Ahab, king of Israel, to seek to enter into a treaty with him in order to maintain a peaceful southern border and in order to seek his aid against Syria. Jehoshaphat meanwhile probably saw it as suiting his purposes very well. It would help to ensure peace in Judah. The two countries therefore at some stage entered into an alliance, and at some years prior to the incidents described below, the daughter of Ahab, king of Israel, married Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram (21.6), a regular feature of such treaties.
Unfortunately Jehoshaphat failed to recognise the fact that by doing so he was closely involving himself with those who practised idolatry, and who behaved excessively sinfully, and who were therefore under YHWH’s wrath. Furthermore it is made clear that he had no need to do so as he had ‘riches and honour in abundance’. Indeed it was because of this connection that he risked the freedom of the realm by taking part in activities against Aram (Syria). It was because of the unacceptability of the treaty that a prophet of YHWH declared to him that as a consequence of his action he had come under the wrath of God (19.2). There is a warning in this that Christians, whilst they should be friends of all, should beware of becoming too closely involved with those whose way and view of life are different from their own. It can lead into compromise and sin.
It will be noted that in verses 3-34 the narrative is virtually identical with 1 Kings 22.4-35 with minor amendments. The Chronicler may have called on Kings (which would be a confirmation of his use of sources), or alternatively both may have been from similar sources. The seeming minor amendments are mainly of such a nature as to count against direct copying.
We may rightly ask why a narrative like this which mainly concerns Israel should have been included in such depth by the Chronicler in his history of Judah. There were probably a number of reasons. Firstly it highlighted the fact that God still had His true witness in Israel who were willing to risk their lives for the truth. They were rightly there because God had put them there. Secondly it vividly brought home the wrongness of Jehoshaphat’s presence in Israel. He was wrongly there. As a result he was caught in the trap of having to follow the guidance of the false prophets because of his association with Ahab. In this he was in direct contrast with the bold and unswervable Micaiah. Thirdly it was to bring home that Jehoshaphat only survived his error by God’s mercy. The whole was in order to stress that whilst God still carried on His work outside Judah among the nations, the people of Judah were to maintain their independence from all idolatrous associations and were not to compromise, and that Jehoshaphat had been wrong in not doing so.
Jehoshaphat Is Persuaded By Ahab To Go With Him To Recapture Ramoth-gilead From The Arameans (Syrians) (18.1-28).
In spite of the wealth and honour that YHWH had given to Jehoshaphat, sufficient to enable him to maintain his independence, Jehoshaphat elected to align himself with the house of Ahab, presumably seeking greater status for his house, and would thus be inveigled into joining with Ahab in respect of the recapture of Ramoth-gilead, which would turn out to be grievous to YHWH.
Ramoth-gilead was a city in the Israelite territory of Gad. This would suggest that much of Israelite territory in Transjordan had been occupied by the Arameans (Syrians) during the spasmodic warfare between Israel and Aram (Syria), and was now in Aramean (Syrian) hands in spite of Ben-hadad’s agreement with Ahab to hand it back (1 Kings 20.34). It was understandably a sore point with Ahab, so that he took the opportunity of his alliance with Jehoshaphat in order to persuade him to help him recover Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans (Syrians). What follows is, apart from the opening verses, almost identical with the similar narrative in 1 Kings 22.4-29.
The Chronicler does, however, put a different slant on it, seeing it rather from the point of view of Jehoshaphat. He makes it quite clear that Jehoshaphat had freely chosen to enter into this dangerous relationship with Ahab, which was why such pressure could be put upon him, and his aim is to bring out the consequences for Jehoshaphat.
Analysis (apart from verse 1 and references to Syrians words in brackets are as found in Kings).
Note that in ‘a’ the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat plan to go up against Ramoth Gilead, and in the parallel they do so. In ‘b’ Jehoshaphat asks for the word of YHWH, and in the parallel Ahab has the prophet who brings it put in prison because he does not like what he says. In ‘c’ the king’s false prophets prophesy success for the king, and in the parallel, having been challenged by Micaiah, the false prophet Zedekiah smites him for claiming that it is he who has the Spirit rather than Zedekiah and the false prophets, to which Micaiah responds that the future will show the value of the prophecies. In ‘d’ Jehoshaphat enquires if there is no prophet of YHWH to speak to them, but Ahab complains that he only speaks evil concerning him, and in the parallel Micaiah says that YHWH has spoken evil concerning him. In ‘e’ the kings sit on their thrones at the gates of the city with all the false prophets gathered around them and in the parallel YHWH is pictured by Micaiah as sitting on His throne with the host of Heaven gathered around Him, and listening to a spirit who will put lies in the mouths of the prophets. In ‘f’ the false prophets vividly portray Ahab’s coming victory, and in the parallel the true prophet vividly portrays his death. In ‘g’ the king’s messenger adjures Micaiah to speak fair words to the king, and in the parallel the king adjures him to speak the truth to him. Centrally in ‘h’ Micaiah forecasts victory, which is possibly partly true, (we are not told the full result of the venture, only that the fighting ceased when Ahab died), apart from the small matter of the death of Ahab.
2.18.1 ‘Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance; and he joined (his family) in marriage with (the family of) Ahab.’
In the light of the whole context, in which Jehoshaphat’s association with Ahab is condemned, the two parts of this verse should be seen as a contrast. In the first instance Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance. This was regularly seen as being a consequence of the blessing of YHWH. He prospered because YHWH was with him. And as a consequence he had all the riches and honour that he should have wanted. But like many who prosper he wanted more. He showed himself willing to compromise his devotion to YHWH by association with idolaters, in order to further increase his status.
Thus now comes a note of his descent into a foreign alliance. Like Solomon he married off his son to a powerful idolatrous ruler, presumably because he saw it as adding status to his house, not recognising the dangers that could arise. Humanly speaking it was a good move. At this stage Israel was in the ascendancy, and being united with the house of Ahab would thus only be seen by the world as enhancing Jehoshaphat’s status. But in doing so, as we shall see, he forfeited his right to act independently in a way that was pleasing to YHWH, and became willingly involved in a world of lying prophets and deceit. As a consequence he almost forfeited his own life, and came under the wrath of YHWH, and this in spite of his attempt to bring YHWH into the situation..
2.18.2 ‘And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people who were with him, and moved him to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead.’
The time note is deliberately vague. It was in fact around the seventeenth year of his twenty five year reign (1 Kings 22.42, 51). But the Chronicler is more concerned with what he did than with fitting the incident into the pattern of his reign. It was not to be seen as one of his achievements.
At this time he went down to Ahab in Samaria, associating with an idolater in the very home of his idolatry. Here also he received abundance, as in verse 1, but this was abundance heavily connected with idolatry. The sheep and oxen may well have been sacrificed to Baal. It was tainted abundance. Jehoshaphat had gone down in more ways than one. He was obtaining his abundance from a false source. We are not given details of why he went down, but the sequel suggests that it was at Ahab’s invitation because Ahab had a venture in mind for which he needed Jehoshaphat’s help. The verb translated ‘moved’ can also mean ‘enticed, persuaded’. The double entendre is possibly intended. Jehoshaphat was being enticed out of the way of YHWH.
Ahab’s idea was that Jehoshaphat and Judah should help him regain Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans (Syrians) who still held possession of it in spite of a promise to hand it back.
2.18.3 ‘And Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” And he answered him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in the war.”
Jehoshaphat’s response to Ahab was total. ‘I am as you are, and my people as your people.’ He saw his alliance as committing him to act in accordance with his treaty partner’s wishes. We note that there is at this stage no consultation with YHWH. The will of Ahab has replaced the will of YHWH. This was what his compromise had now led to. Thus the commitment was made. ‘We will be with you in the war’.
There is an interesting difference here between the text of Kings and the text of Chronicles. In the text of Kings Jehoshaphat added, ‘and my horses as your horses’, and omitted the verbal commitment which was left to be implied. This brings out an interesting point and that is that in all the descriptions of the strength of Asa and Jehoshaphat in Chronicles, unlike in the case of Solomon, there was no mention of horses. Clearly both would have had horses, if only in order to draw their chariots, but they are excluded from the narrative, and in this case very specifically. It may indicate one more attempt to align them with the model of kingship in Deuteronomy 17.15-20. Solomon dealt in many horses from Egypt, Rehoboam and Abijah multiplied wives, but neither Asa nor Jehoshaphat are portrayed as indulging in either.
2.18.4 ‘And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Enquire, I pray you, for the word of YHWH today.”
It was a sign of Jehoshaphat’s rightness of heart that he now partly redeemed himself from his rash commitment, making clear that he felt that they should first seek ‘the word of YHWH’. The request would be seen as reasonable. It was normal practise in ancient days to seek the will of the gods prior to entering into engagements. His view was that unless YHWH was with them they could not hope to prosper.
‘The king of Israel.’ It is noticeable that both in Chronicles and 1 Kings Ahab is spoken of simply as ‘the king of Israel’ and not by his name (the one exception is in the words of YHWH in Micaiah’s prophecy). This may have been a way of showing disapproval of Ahab, depicting him merely as ‘the anonymous king of Israel’, or it may have been emphasising that he was, as king of Israel, to be seen as the one who bore the full responsibility for what happened.
2.18.5 ‘Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” And they said, “Go up, for God will deliver it into the hand of the king.”
So ‘the king of Israel’ gathered his prophets together. There were four hundred of them. And we know from the record in Kings that they may have included prophets of Baal and Asherah (compare the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of Asherah in 1 Kings 18.19), although as the sequel shows they would include syncretistic prophets of YHWH from the sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan. Religion in Israel was very much polytheistic. It will be noted in their reply that they said ‘God (not YHWH) will deliver them into the hand of the king, although later all would echo their own false prophet Zedekiah and declare that it was the will of YHWH (verse 11; such was their syncretism). It was the common practise among such prophets to say what would please the king. But they and the people almost certainly saw their prophecies as doing more than this. The belief was that their ‘inspired words’ would help to bring about what was predicted. They considered that the more they ‘prophesied’ the more the chance of success, thus the large numbers.
So to Ahab’s request as to whether the venture would be successful their united reply was that ‘God will deliver them into the hand of the king’.
2.18.6 ‘But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here a prophet of YHWH besides, that we may inquire of him?”
Jehoshaphat was not, however, satisfied. Seemingly the way in which these prophets carried out their prophesying was contrary to all that he was familiar with. He wanted to hear a prophet who would roundly declare ‘the word of YHWH’. So he asked Ahab if such a prophet was available.
2.18.7a ‘And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may enquire of YHWH, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil. The same is Micaiah the son of Imla.”
The king of Israel acknowledged that there was such a one who was reachable, a prophet named Micaiah, the son of Imla, but he assured Jehoshaphat that he was not the kind of prophet to be consulted because he never prophesied the right thing. Concerning Ahab himself he only prophesied evil and not good. We have brought out here the difference between Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Ahab wanted prophets who would prophesy in accordance with what he wanted, regardless of the source of their prophecies, and he probably thought that Jehoshaphat would concur. Jehoshaphat on the other hand considered it of most importance to hear the genuine will of YHWH. Never had two more mismatched kings been brought together.
2.18.7b ‘And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”
Jehoshaphat made clear his disagreement with Ahab. He considered that it was more important to hear the word of YHWH from a true prophet of YHWH, than it was to hear prophecies tailored to what was required.
2.18.8 ‘Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, “Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.”
So the King of Israel sent a messenger to fetch Micaiah the son of Imla as quickly as possible. He was eager to get Jehoshaphat’s confirmation that he was agreeable to the project.
2.18.9 ‘Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were sitting in an open place at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them.’
We now have the first stage in a contrast brought out by the chiasmus. The writer depicts the scene on earth in glowing terms. The two kings sat on their royal thrones, robed in splendour, with all the prophets prophesying lies before them. He has in mind that later Micaiah will depict the scene in Heaven in similar terms, YHWH seated on his throne and all His servants speaking before Him. The contrast is vivid, and the earthly scene is seen as being the consequence of the Heavenly scene. It is indeed probable that Micaiah, as he looked around at this scene, deliberately drew the contrast.
2.18.10 ‘And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and said, “Thus says YHWH, With these will you push the Arameans (Syrians), until they be consumed.”
Meanwhile the false prophets, probably unaware that Micaiah was being called for, were making the most of their opportunity to impress the king and put him under obligation to them for their part in his ‘coming victory’. One of their number, Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, filled with prophetic fervour, made some horns of iron, and, possibly putting them on his head and acting out the part, declared that they would be YHWH’s instrument for ‘pushing the Arameans (Syrians)’ until they were consumed. Such acted out prophecies were seen as helping to bring about what they depicted. They thought that in some mysterious way the horns would become the horns of YHWH.
2.18.11 ‘And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper, for YHWH will deliver it into the hand of the king.”
Equally enthusiastically the prophets all joined in. By now they had probably reached an even higher state of ecstasy. And taking up Zedekiah’s words they declared as one man that the king could go to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, because YHWH would surely deliver it into the king’s hand. It is apparent that the prophets of Baal had no difficulty in aligning themselves with the Israelite version of YHWH.
2.18.12 ‘And the messenger who went to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Look, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one mouth. Let your word therefore, I pray you, be like one of theirs, and speak you good.”
Meanwhile the king’s messenger had found Micaiah, and probably with every good intention urged Micaiah to go along with the other prophets for his own good. In that way he would avoid the wrath of the king.
2.18.13 ‘And Micaiah said, “As YHWH lives, what my God says, that is what I will say.”
Micaiah’s firm reply was that as sure as YHWH lives he would only say what God gave him to say. It was, indeed, because YHWH was ‘the living God’ that the words of his prophets could be seen as true words spoken by him rather than self-incited words spoken by prophets whose gods had no life and were unable to speak.
2.18.14 ‘And when he was come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” And he said, “Go you up, and prosper, and they will be delivered into your hand.”
When Micaiah came before the king, the king asked him, whether they should proceed with the Ramoth-gilead venture, or refrain. Micaiah seemingly then confirmed the prophecies of the false prophets, declaring that he should go up and prosper and that the city would be delivered into his hand. It is, however, quite clear from Ahab’s response that he did it in such a way as to make it plain that it should not be taken at face value. Perhaps he said it sarcastically with a wave of the hand towards the false prophets. Perhaps he deliberately mimicked the false prophets, either in actions or in his way of expression. Whichever way it was the king clearly knew that Micaiah was not prophesying seriously and was hiding something.
It will be noted that 1 Kings rendering, ‘YHWH will deliver it into the hands of the king’ is her presented as ‘they will be delivered into your hand’. This may be due to the Chronicler or his source not wanting to put a false prophecy spoken by a true prophet into the mouth of YHWH, even though it is very probable that Micaiah was exactly mimicking the false prophets.
2.18.15 ‘And the king said to him, “How many times shall I adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of YHWH?”
The king recognised that he could not take Micaiah’s words at face value. Had he done so he would have turned to Jehoshaphat asking him if he was now satisfied. So he angrily put Micaiah on oath to tell him nothing but truth in the name of YHWH. He probably felt that Micaiah had humiliated him in front of Jehoshaphat.
2.18.16 ‘And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep who have no shepherd: and YHWH said, These have no master, let them return every man to his house in peace.”
Micaiah’s reply was stark and must have brought a chill to Ahab’s heart. In prophetic vision Micaiah had seen all Israel scattered on the mountains as sheep without a shepherd. In the circumstances that could only mean one thing, that the shepherd was dead. Ahab recognised it as a prophecy of his own death. Whilst the shepherd lived, the sheep would be kept together and guided into feeding grounds. It was only when something happened to the shepherd that the sheep would be scattered. And this was then confirmed, along with the certainty that there would be no final victory, in the words of YHWH as He declared, ‘these have no master, let them every one return to his home in peace.’ It was an indication that on the death of their master, Ahab, his warriors would cease fighting and make their way home, not necessarily defeated, but because there was no longer a leader to fight for.
For the imagery of scattered sheep compare Numbers 27.16-17; Isaiah 13.14; Zechariah 10.2; 13.7. Kings in those days regularly portrayed themselves as shepherds of their people.
2.18.17 ‘And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
At Micaiah’s words the king of Israel turned to Jehoshaphat somewhat triumphantly, and basically said, ‘see it is just as I told you. He never prophesies good concerning me, only evil.’
2.18.18 ‘And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear you the word of YHWH. I saw YHWH sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.”
It is significant that in the chiasmus this verse parallels verse 9, demonstrating a connection between them. And looking around at the sight before him, Ahab on his throne in grandeur, with his counsellors standing on his right hand and his left, and with the prophets probably leaping and cavorting before them (compare 1 Kings 18.26), Micaiah described what YHWH had told him in the form of a vivid picture based on what he saw.
He spoke of YHWH as seated in grandeur on His throne, surrounded by all the host of heaven, acting as His counsellors. He was reminding Ahab, and the listening people, that all Ahab’s grandeur paled in the light of the grandeur of YHWH.
2.18.19 “And YHWH said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one spoke saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.”
Then, just as Ahab had previously done when he had sought the guidance of his counsellors, although knowing what he intended to do, Micaiah depicted YHWH as consulting the heavenly council, even though He knew what He would do. Ahab’s question had basically been ‘shall we go up against Ramoth-gilead?’ So Micaiah depicts YHWH as intending to use Ahab’s purpose in order to bring about His own will by saying, ‘who will entice Ahab so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ In other words Micaiah was indicating by a vivid picture that Ahab’s plans, which appeared to come from his own mind, were merely part of YHWH’s plans, and that YHWH intended harm to him by it and not good. In other words YHWH was causing Ahab to plan what he did in order to bring about his death.
Note the vivid picture of heavenly counsellors discussing with each other and putting their points of view to YHWH, a picture which was based on earthly behaviour. This is in fact in line with what we see elsewhere concerning YHWH where He is depicted as discussing with heavenly counsellors about plans which He had determined to effect. See, for example, the ‘we/us’ in Genesis 1.26; 3.22; Isaiah 6.8 which would be seen by the ancients as referring to heavenly beings. It was not done in order to suggest that YHWH was dependent on heavenly counsel, but in order to bring YHWH more into contact with His creation as working along with it rather than as a distant despot. The deliberate parallel must be seen as indicating that what mattered was not what Ahab did on earth, but what YHWH did in Heaven.
2.18.20 “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before YHWH, and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And YHWH said to him, ‘How?’ ”
We can compare this vivid picture with the way Satan was depicted as coming before YHWH to bring His attention to an earthly situation with regard to Job in Job 1-2. It was a pictorial representation rather than intending to be taken literally.
But this lying spirit is not to be seen as Satan, for as verse 21 shows this spirit is a lying spirit put in the mouths of false prophets. But certainly here is a spirit who is not the Spirit of Truth. It is a vivid way of showing that even the false prophesies of the false prophets finally had their source in YHWH Who is over all. We must not take the account too literally. Micaiah is taking great pains to present his message in a way that would speak to the people, many of whom would not follow a philosophically religious argument, and is presenting it in a folksy way, (as Biblical writers often do, consider the first chapters of Genesis which whilst true are presented in a non-technical folksy way). We are not to take this as a literal picture of Heaven, or even as suggesting that Micaiah thought that it was. He was rather portraying Heaven it in terms of earthly monarchy. Indeed, Scripture makes clear that most of its descriptions of God are metaphorical. God does not have arms, and hands, or even a throne, except when He is revealing Himself to men who think in those terms. As Jesus clearly declared, ‘God is Spirit’ (John 4.24). Whilst acting within it He is ‘outside’ physical reality.
2.18.21 “And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets’. And he said, ‘You will entice him, and will also prevail. Go forth, and do so.”
So in Micaiah’s vivid portrayal the spirit declared that he would go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets. To Micaiah the source of all things was God. Thus he saw the lying spirit speaking through the false prophets as from God. He then depicted God as approving of the idea of the lying spirit, and recognising that his plan would be successful. But he puts the whole thing in folksy terms. He is pointing out that even evil forces are finally under God’s control. Whether he had indeed had a vision in exactly these terms we cannot know. But it is doubtful if he saw his picture as literally in parallel with what occurred in Heaven. It was rather expressing God’s working in terms of the pictures of splendour in verse 9, which he would not doubt often have observed. This would not be the first time that Ahab had listened to false prophets when consulting with his counsel. (The same way of presenting God is found in the vivid representations in Revelation 4-5 which are also not to be taken literally).
2.18.22 “Now therefore, behold, YHWH has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, and YHWH has spoken evil concerning you.”
Micaiah then declared that it was YHWH Who had put the lying spirit in the mouth of the Ahab’s prophets (note that the prophets are said to be Ahab’s and not YHWH’s) and through them had spoke evil of Ahab. In the chiasmus this parallels the verse where Ahab declared that Micaiah would speak evil of him from YHWH. His words were thus now confirmed. Note that Micaiah emphasises that this is all YHWH’s doing. All has taken place under His command. Even Ahab’s vaunted prophets are but tools in the hand of YHWH.
We can compare with this how in 2 Samuel 24.1 it was YHWH who caused David to number Israel, whereas in 1 Chronicles 21.1 it was The Adversary (Satan). Scripture is not afraid to recognise that in the end all that happens is of God. It is part of the outworking of His purposes and cannot occur without His consent. The workers of evil are subject to His control, even though the direct causers of the evil act from their own free will.
2.18.23 ‘Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the Spirit of YHWH go from me to speak to you?”
The false prophets, who, of course, being misguided, saw themselves as the genuine prophets, were naturally offended at the implication that they were lying prophets, and one of them, Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, who was probably one of their leaders, was so incensed that he demonstrated his contempt for Micaiah by striking him on the cheek. This was a typical way of indicating contempt for what someone said. We can compare how during the preliminary examination of Paul, the High Priest commanded that he be struck on the cheek (Acts 23.2). Consider also what happened during the preliminary trial of Jesus (John 18.22).
“Which way did the Spirit of YHWH go from me to speak to you?” Zedekiah clearly considered that he had been inspired by the Spirit of YHWH. In his syncretistic worship he probably worked himself up into a frenzy and felt himself the mouthpiece of the gods of Israel, including YHWH, Who was syncretistically worshipped in Israel alongside Baal (we can compare the strange syncretistic views of the Elephantine Jews in the Elephantine papyri). Note his view that the Spirit of YHWH transferred Himself from one person to another, as though He was limited to speaking through one person at a time. He had a strange view of YHWH. His question indicated his doubt that Micaiah spoke through the Spirit of YHWH, in view of the fact that he saw himself as still possessed by the Spirit of YHWH.
His action would have emboldened Ahab, who saw him as being equally valid as Micaiah, but it should have acted as a warning to Jehoshaphat in view of thefact that Micaiah was an acknowledged prophet of YHWH. Jehoshaphat’s silence in all this, and his later capitulation to Ahab’s desire, brings great shame on him and illustrates how keeping close relationships with ungodly people can soon lead to compromise, and even disobedience. He should have withdrawn at this point.
2.18.24 ‘And Micaiah said, “Behold, you will see on that day, when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.”
Having spoken YHWH’s words Micaiah did not seek to justify himself. Rather he informed Zedekiah, and all who were listening, that the fact that he was inspired by the Spirit of YHWH would be brought home by the fulfilment of his prophecy, which would be so apparent that Zedekiah would hide himself in his inner chamber through shame. Both Zedekiah and the people would then know who had prophesied truly by the Spirit of YHWH.
2.18.25-26 ‘And the king of Israel said, “Take you Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son, and say, ‘Thus says the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with coarse bread and water (literally ‘with bread of affliction and with water of affliction’, that is, the kind given to prisoners), until I return in peace’ .”
Possibly convinced by Zedekeiah’s reaction, which would be supported by the other prophets, and also no doubt angry and to some extent afraid, Ahab, the king of Israel, ordered that Micaiah be put in prison and fed prisoner’s fare until Ahab himself returned alive ‘in peace’ (having achieved his objective), proving once for all that Micaiah was not a true prophet. At that point he would be dealt with summarily. Ahab’s partial restraint was possibly due to the presence of Jehoshaphat at whose request Micaiah had been called for. Once his prophecy had proved false Jehoshaphat would no doubt agree that he be punished. Holding men in prison awaiting further evidence would, in those days, have been seen as quite reasonable. Little regard was paid to the welfare of ‘common people’.
The charge to imprison him was given to the Governor of Samaria who would have control of the official state prison, and to ‘Joash the king’s son’ who probably had more direct responsibility for it. ‘King’s son’ is not necessarily to be taken literally. It could refer to a royal relative, or even to a public official who was close to the king. On the other hand Ahab would have had many sons who occupied official positions. It should be noted that Micaiah may well have been in custody when he was sent for (‘carry him back’), but was now to be put in an even more unpleasant custody. This was, for example, the view of Josephus, although some of his arguments were doubtful. It does, however, all bring out that being a true prophet of YHWH in Israel was often not a pleasant experience.
2.18.27a ‘And Micaiah said, “If you return at all in peace, YHWH has not spoken by me.”
Micaiah was unbending. He knew that what he had brought was YHWH’s word. So he calmly declared that if Ahab did return in peace, alive and having fulfilled his objective, it would certainly prove that YHWH had not spoken by him. But it was not just a matter of fact statement. It was a statement of calm certainty that what he had prophesied would occur.
2.18.27b ‘And he said, “Hear, you peoples, all of you.”
Thus he turned to all the people and cried out that all gathered should take heed to what he had said and note the consequences. The plural ‘peoples’ may have in mind that those present consisted of people from both Israel and Judah. Or it may include the thought that foreigners were also present, and that they too should note what happened so that they might learn to fear YHWH. They would add to Ahab’s uneasiness. That he was uneasy comes out in what follows.
These words are omitted in some Septuagint manuscripts but are found in both 1 Kings and here. They add force to Micaiah’s previous confident statement and there is therefore no reason for excluding them, especially as an imprisoned prophet would certainly want to seize the opportunity to proclaim the truth of YHWH. It was quite natural that having said what he did to Ahab, he would want all present to recognise and pay heed to what he had said..
2.18.28 ‘So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.”
These seemingly explanatory words, which at first sight only appear to declare the consequence of what has gone before, are in fact pregnant with significance. Note the emphasis on the name of Jehoshaphat, ‘God judges’. That the king of Israel went up was not surprising. He treated the word of YHWH as something that could be dismissed. But it should have been different for Jehoshaphat. He should have heeded it and acted accordingly. But we are brought up with astonishment to see that he accompanied Ahab in his failing venture and it was clearly because he was in an association that he did not feel that he could break in spite of the clear word of YHWH. Evil association produced an evil consequence.
Up to this point, apart from his association with the house of Ahab, Jehoshaphat had acquitted himself comparatively well. He had insisted on hearing the word of YHWH from one of His true prophets, and it could have been argued that his presence had therefore been for the good. But these words sound the death knell to that argument. For in spite of receiving the clear message of YHWH that the expedition would fail and that Ahab would die in the attempt, he continued to go along with it. It was a clear example of disobedience to the word of YHWH which could not be exonerated.
It is true that we cannot doubt that Ahab used every means to persuade him that what Micaiah had said should be ignored, but Jehoshaphat should have known better. It is clear that he yielded to the pressure of Ahab in spite of what YHWH had said. He blatantly went against the word of YHWH. This is what happens when we enter into close association with those who do not obey God. At some stage we will be persuaded to go against God’s will. In the words of Paul we should not be ‘unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 6.14) whether in marriage or in other close associations. Like Jehoshaphat we may justify ourselves. But it will bring us down in the end. The Chronicler will now let us know that it was only by God’s mercy that Jehoshaphat emerged comparatively unscathed.
The Failure Of The Expedition To Ramoth Gilead Which Results In Death For Ahab And Puts Jehoshaphat In Danger Of His Life (18.29-34).
The attempt to deliver Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans (Syrians) is mainly ignored in this description. The emphasis is rather on the threat to Ahab, which results in his death, and the deliverance of Jehoshaphat from a dangerous situation. Ahab’s danger and death is the envelope for the passage. The deliverance of Jehoshaphat is the centrepiece. We are not even informed about the result of the battle, although the account in 1 Kings suggests that it was neither a victory nor a defeat. The battle ceased, not because Israel were beaten, but because Ahab died. At that point Israel saw no point in continuing the battle and withdrew (1 Kings 22.36). The results of ancient battles were often dependent on the survival or otherwise of the king involved. Men saw themselves as fighting for their king rather than their country. It was in recognition of this fact that the mortally wounded Ahab sought to hold himself up in his chariot whilst the battle raged. He knew that once he was not seen to be there as the leader of his people, his army would cease to fight. In this he showed himself, whatever his deficiencies, to be a brave warrior.
It is, of course, true that in that Ramoth-gilead was seemingly not retaken the expedition was a failure. But it was not a case of Israel’s forces being defeated. They appear to have been able to withdraw in orderly fashion without any hint of flight, and there is no suggestion that the Judean forces were in tatters. Ramoth-gilead could await the arrival of another king of Israel. It must be seen as probable that it was the presence of the Arameans in Transjordan that enabled Mesha of Moab to deliver Moab from Israelite domination as described in the Moabite Stone.
Note that in A the king of Israel sought to avoid his prophesied death by disguising himself, and in the parallel he died as prophesied. In B the King of Aaram sought only the death of Ahab, and in the parallel his archer achieved the death of Ahab, Centrally in C the commanders of the Aramean chariots thought that Jehoshaphat was the king of Israel, and sought to kill him, and in the parallel they saw that he was not the king of Israel and ceased trying to kill him.
2.18.29 ‘And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself, and go into the battle, but as for you, put on your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into the battle.’
Both parties knew the reason for Ahab’s decision. In view of Micaiah’s prophecy it was simply an act of common sense, and we would say, of superstition. It was not a matter of cowardice but of defeating the prophecy. In ancient Mesopotamia it was believed that if a king abstained from wearing his royal robes he could divert evil activities on certain days of ill omen. It may well be that Ahab, steeped in such paganism, held the same view and believed that by putting off his royal robes he could escape the fulfilment of the prophecy.
On the other hand royal leadership needed to be visible so as to encourage the army. So the idea was that that visibility would be provided by Jehoshaphat. He would know that this made him a target, but no more so than would have been true anyway. Kings were always targets, although they would be surrounded by their bodyguard, some of the finest of the warriors. Neither of them was aware that Jehoshaphat was to be an unusually special target because of the instructions given by the king of Aram (Syria). Meanwhile Ahab in his disguise would be recognised by his men while being ‘invisible’ to the opposition, and the hope was that thereby he would prevent the fulfilment of the prophecy.
2.18.30 ‘Now the king of Aram (Syria) had commanded the commanders of his chariots, saying, “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.”
Meanwhile we are made aware of the command of the king of Aram (Syria) which put Jehoshaphat under unusual threat. For he had commanded his charioteers to concentrate solely on killing Ahab. He knew that if that was achieved it would disorientate the Israelite army, or even cause them to withdraw. His aim was the defence of Ramoth-gilead, not the destruction of the Israelite army. The Chronicler wants us to see how this had put Jehoshaphat in danger of his life because of his association with Ahab.
2.18.31 ‘And it came about, when the commanders of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, “It is the king of Israel.” Therefore they turned about to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and YHWH helped him, and God moved them to depart from him.’
When the charioteers saw someone in king’s attire leading the armies of Judah and Israel they quite reasonably assumed that it was the king of Israel. Thus they concentrated all their efforts in seeking to break through to him. But then Jehoshaphat ‘cried out’ (1 Kings omits the reference to YHWH’s help). We are not told what his cry was about. It may have been a war cry in view of the savage assault (e.g. ‘For Jehoshaphat and Judah’), or it may have been a call to his bodyguard to close up (e.g. ‘to me Judah’). Or it may have been a cry to YHWH (e.g. ‘Oh YHWH deliver your servant Jehoshaphat this day’ or ‘YHWH for Jehoshaphat and Judah’). Whichever it was it made the charioteers realise that they were after the wrong man.
The Chronicler, however, wants us to see that Jehoshaphat’s deliverance was the work of YHWH, so he adds, ‘and YHWH helped him, and God moved them to depart from him.’ We are not told that his cry was a prayer, but we are intended to see that it was the means by which YHWH delivered him, and that his deliverance was an act of YHWH. In other words that, had it not been for YHWH’s mercy Jehoshaphat would have been slain.
The idea of YHWH ‘helping’ those whom He favours is fairly common in Chronicles, and is found in 14.11; 25.8; 26.7, 15; 32.8; 1 Chronicles 5.20.
2.18.32 ‘And it came about, when the commanders of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.’
Jehoshaphat’s cry in some way alerted the Aramean charioteers to the fact that Jehoshaphat was not the king of Israel, so they ceased to pursue him. This does not necessarily mean that Jehoshaphat was fleeing. More probably he had passed them in the battle charge and they had now turned to follow after him with their one aim in view. But on hearing his cry and recognising that he was not Ahab they turned their attention elsewhere. However, as we have seen, the Chronicler wants us to see that it was God Who had caused them to stop pursuing him.
2.18.33 ‘And a certain man drew his bow without any special aim in view (literally ‘in his simplicity’), and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the armour, for which reason he (Ahab) said to the driver of the chariot, “Turn your hand, and carry me out of the host, for I am sore wounded.”
Ahab had hidden himself from men, but he could not hide himself from God. Even as he fought, an unknown Aramean archer let loose an arrow at random which pierced the joints in his armour. The archers would, of course let loose a volley of arrows time and again, hitting soldiers at random, many of the arrows glancing off shields and armour. This one, unknown to himself, was fulfilling the king of Aram’s command, for his arrow ‘chanced’ to pierce the joints of Ahab’s armour. Armour in those days was not always able to provide protection against arrows. But the prophecy makes clear that it was not ‘chance’. The arrow had been directed by YHWH.
Recognising that he was badly wounded Ahab directed his chariot driver to take him out of the fighting, to the rear. He had a twofold aim. Firstly to deal with the wound, and secondly to ensure that he could still take up a position where he could be seen by his men. Whilst they saw that he was still alive they would know that they had to go on fighting. Once they thought that he was dead they would withdraw, having lost their commander-in-chief. They were not a professional army, but a militia brought together by the king to fulfil his purpose, and they wanted nothing better than to return to their fields. It was only the king’s authority that held them to their purpose. Besides, the king who followed might have different views on the matter. And anyway, without Ahab they would be gaining a hollow victory, for there would be no one to determine what followed. Unless thoroughly defeated the Arameans would not just withdraw.
2.18.34 ‘And the battle increased that day. However the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the evening, and at about the time of the going down of the sun he died.’
The battle grew more and more fierce, and the soldiers kept on fighting, for they could see their king standing in his chariot observing the battle. They little realised that he was severely wounded and bravely holding himself up by some means, whether by willpower or in some other way. For Ahab knew that the battle depended on his presence, and whatever he was he was a brave man. But finally when evening came his body could hold out no longer and he died. 1 Kings 22.36 tells us the sequel, that once they learned that evening that he was dead the army slowly evaporated and returned to their homes. Israel in West Jordan was in no danger of invasion, and they saw no point in spending more time over Ramoth-gilead. It had not been Israel’s for many years. But the Chronicler was not interested in the outcome of the battle and ignored the ending. All he was concerned with was the death of Ahab as prophesied by the prophet of YHWH, and the safe return of Jehoshaphat because YHWH sustained him.
Unlike Ahab Jehoshaphat Returns Home ‘In Peace’ Only To Be Rebuked By The Prophet Jehu For Associating With Evildoers (19.1-4a).
There is a deliberate contrast between Ahab who had hoped to return to his home in peace (18.26-27), and Jehoshaphat who did so (19.1). As we have seen the hand of YHWH had been with Jehoshaphat to keep him safe. However, that did not mean that YHWH was pleased with Jehoshaphat’s behaviour in uniting his own house with an evil house (18.1), the consequences of which will come out later (21.1-6), nor with his behaviour in entering into an alliance with a godless and evil king (19.2). In the latter case he is openly rebuked by the prophet Jehu, and warned that he has incurred the wrath of YHWH.
Note that in A Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, and in the parallel he dwelt at Jerusalem. In B the prophet charged Jehoshaphat with behaviour worthy of YHWH’s wrath, and in the parallel he commends him for behaviour which puts him in YHWH’s favour.
2.19.1 ‘And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.’
Unlike the king of Israel, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah returned to his house, and to Jerusalem, ‘in peace (well-being)’ (compare 18.16). It is an open as to what ‘returning in peace’ meant. It certainly signified returning alive, for its use of Ahab is connected with his death (18.26-27), and in that sense we could translate as ‘return in well-being’. But it also does raise the question as to whether it meant ‘in peace because victorious over the enemy’. If so it might indicate that Ramoth-gilead had once again become Israel’s possession. This is, however, open to question. Its main significance is therefore ‘in well-being’, in other words alive and well. Note the stress on Jerusalem in verses 1 and 4. This may be intended to indicate that Jerusalem, the centre of YHWH’s rule, was the place where he belonged. He had no part in Samaria. He was back where he should be.
2.19.2 ‘And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked, and love those who hate YHWH? For this thing wrath is on you from before YHWH.”
All must have seemed well to Jehoshaphat as he approached Jerusalem ‘alive and well’, possibly also with a clear conscience, and grateful to be still alive. He had clearly failed to consult with prophets of YHWH about his associations with the house of Ahab, and was unaware of what he had done and of how he had failed YHWH. He was not wholly excusable. He had after all failed to take sufficient notice of the warnings of Micaiah. But it was only now that he was forced to face up to what he had done. And it brought him up abruptly. For he and his party were met by Jehu, the son of Hanani, who was a recognised prophet of YHWH. And it was then that he learned that YHWH was displeased with much of what he had done. For Jehu charged him with ‘helping the wicked (in their wicked ways)’, and ‘loving’ (being in close relationship with) those who hated YHWH. The former referred to his participation in the venture to Ramoth-gilead, and the latter to his joining his son in marriage with the daughter of Ahab which had led on to his cosy treaty relationship with him. These things were seen as aligning Jehoshaphat with their wicked ways. Indeed it was so displeasing to YHWH that it brought Jehoshaphat under the wrath of God. That wrath would reveal itself eventually in what happened to his sons.
It is clear that in this case sin was not followed immediately by retribution. When invasion threatened YHWH wrought a miraculous deliverance. But it came finally in the assassination of most of Jehoshaphat’s sons, and the total failure of his eldest son. This should remind us that the Chronicler must not be seen as having a one track mind. He did not always see retribution as immediately following gross disobedience. Nevertheless he does bring out that retribution will necessarily follow in the end, as it always must on gross sin.
We must not misinterpret what this verse is saying. It is not saying that we should not help unbelievers or love them. As with ourselves it was Jehoshaphat’s godly duty to help all men in a way that was good for them, and to love all men with the right aim in view (Leviticus 19.18, 34). Jehoshaphat’s failure lay in assisting them in their evil schemes and having a treaty relationship that led to disobedience. He should never have been at Ramoth-gilead, nor should he have been seeking to bring it under the rulership of the idolatrous Ahab. Had the venture been successful Ramoth-gilead would have been no better off .They would simply have exchanged one idolatrous ruler for another. He was catering to Ahab’s pride.
2.19.3 “Nevertheless there are good things found in you, in that you have put away the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.”
However the news was not all bad, for Jehu pointed out that God had not overlooked the good that Jehoshaphat had done. He recognised the good things which were in Jehoshaphat as well as the bad. And these included the fact that Jehoshaphat had, as far as he could, put away the Asheroth (poles or images representing the female consort of Baal) out of the land as described in 17.6 (where they are called Asherim. im is usually the masculine ending, oth the feminine). It also included that he had also set his heart to seek God. He had wanted to worship YHWH truly and to bring his people into loving obedience to Him. The idea of the need to seek God is an emphasis of the Chronicler (7.14; 11.16; 12.14; 14.4; 15.2, 12, 13; 20.3, 4; 30.19; 31.21; 34.3; 1 Chronicles 16.10, 11; 22.19; 28.9), although clearly it is also found elsewhere (e.g. Deuteronomy 4.29), and is prominent in the Psalms.
2.19.4a ‘And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem.’
Having received his rebuke Jehoshaphat once again took up residence in Jerusalem, and rightly remained there fulfilling his responsibilities to YHWH. He had heeded the rebuke and was back where he should be. But his foolish association with the idolatrous house of Ahab would have bad repercussions for him later, and even more for his son. Forming too close relationships with unbelievers is a recipe for disaster.
Jehoshaphat Evangelises The People And Establishes Judges Throughout The Land To Judge In The Name Of YHWH (19.4b-11).
Being established once again in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat ‘again went out among the people -- and brought them back to the God of their fathers’. We should probably translate as ‘sought to bring them back’. Such a mission would inevitably only receive a partial response. The aim was to bring them back to God, but it would be only partially successful in the long run. Whilst there might be initial enthusiasm, it would soon dwindle.
The ‘again’ refers back to 17.7-9 when he had sent teachers out among the people to teach them the Instruction (Law/Torah) of YHWH. Thus the aim of this mission also was to spread and teach the word of God as it was then, and whilst many clearly responded, returning to true submission to the God of their fathers, not all would do so. As will always happen in such a case not all were brought back. There would be those whose hearts were hardened, so that later we read ‘neither as yet had the people set their hearts to the God of their fathers’ (20.33). The success had been limited.
This mission was then followed up by bringing about a new emphasis on justice throughout the land. New judges were appointed in all the fenced cities of Judah, and in Jerusalem itself certain priests, Levites and lay leaders (heads of fathers’ houses) were appointed to deal with controversies and determine the judgment of YHWH. There was a renewed stress on the need for honesty and fair play, and for them to remember that they were judging in the Name of YHWH. The smaller towns and cities would each already have their appointed elders operating as judges at the city gates.
We are not, of course, to see this as suggesting that there was no system of justice in the land previously. What it may be suggesting is that that system had become more lax. Indeed, we know that Moses had established a justice system by taking able men from among the people and making them heads over the people, over clans, sub-clans and wider families, so that they could act as judges among the people (Exodus 18.25; Deuteronomy 1.15-17). And this was extended further when in Deuteronomy 16.18 he gave the command that ‘judges and officers shall you make in all your gates, which YHWH your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.’ We have an example of the elders at the gate acting as judges and witnesses to a transaction in Ruth 4.2, 9. Furthermore Moses also made provision for dealing with controversies which the local judges were unable to deal with by appointing at the Central Sanctuary ‘the priests the Levites and the judge which shall be in those days’ (Deuteronomy 17.9). It will thus be noted that what Jehoshaphat did was based largely on the Mosaic ideas.
David had extended this system further by appointing ‘six thousand’ Levites to act as ‘judges and officers’, who no doubt assisted the lay judges in the carrying out of their duties (1 Chronicles 23.4). By the time of David justice had become much more complicated, with tribal distinctions breaking down and a more cosmopolitan situation to be dealt with as he ruled from Jerusalem over a larger empire. And it would become even more complicated under Solomon who divided Israel into administrative districts, largely ignoring tribal boundaries. This is quite possibly why, after a passage of time, a reorganisation needed to take place under Jehoshaphat.
There is no good reason to doubt such a setting up of a revised system of justice in Judah, initiated by a king who himself sought to ensure that it was carried out. Five hundred years before this an Egyptian king, Haremhab, had done a similar thing in Egypt, touring the country, appointing judges in large towns, exhorting to avoid bribery and corruption, and appointing cultic officials to participate in judgment. It was a process which would naturally be followed by any reformer, for law and religion were closely connected. Analysis.
Note that in A Jehoshaphat brought his people back to YHWH the God of their fathers, and in the parallel he called on the judges to deal courageously and on YHWH to be with the good. In B he set judges throughout the land, and in the parallel those judges are described. In C the judges are to consider that they are acting on behalf of YHWH, and in the parallel they are thus to act so as to avoid being guilty. In D they are to let the fear of YHWH be on them, and in the parallel they are to act in the fear of YHWH. Centrally in E judges were established in Jerusalem, and in the parallel they lived in Jerusalem.
The Sending Out Of Teachers.
2.19.4b ‘And he went out again among the people from Beer-sheba to the hill-country of Ephraim, and he brought them back to YHWH, the God of their fathers.”
No doubt Jehoshaphat mainly ‘went out among the people’ in the form of those whom he sent out to take God’s Instruction (Torah - Law) to the people, although we are probably intended to see in it a recognition also of his own personal involvement, especially in the large cities. He was himself eager to bring the people back to God. This was a continuation of the activity described in 17.7-9 with the aim of reviving obedience to God’s covenant. The activity covered the whole of his kingdom from the southernmost point in the Negev, to the northernmost point in the hill country of Ephraim, that part of Israel which had been taken by Asa and retained. His aim was to ‘bring them back to YHWH, the God of their fathers’. As always at such times some would respond gladly and would continue to respond fully, some would initially respond but later lose interest, and still others would only respond reluctantly. That this was the case comes out in 20.33. It is ever the case when the word of God is proclaimed that some respond and others refuse to hear. ‘Brought them back’ basically indicates intention rather than actual success. He faced them up with the truth.
‘YHWH the God of their fathers.’ This phrase was already found in Exodus 4.5; Deuteronomy 29.25; Judges 2.12 and was therefore ancient. It may well have been in the Chronicler’s sources. So whilst it is certainly found more often in Chronicles than anywhere else it is not unique enough to be limited to him or to be seen as evidence of his handywork.
‘From Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim.’ Compare ‘from Beersheba even to Dan’ in 30.5; Chronicles 21.2. But note the lack of ‘even’ here, possibly suggesting that the descriptions come from two sources rather than from the Chronicler himself.
The Appointment Of Judges.
2.19.5 ‘And he set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city,’
This is not to deny that there was already a system of justice throughout the land. There inevitably would be. Each city and town would have elders who met to carry out justice at the gates of the town or city, and there would presumably be higher judges operating in various places in accordance with Moses’ provisions (Exodus 18.25; Deuteronomy 1.15-17; 16.18). Furthermore, as we know, David had appointed 6,000 Levites as ‘judges and officers’ to supplement these judges (1 Chronicles 23.4). But things might well have grown lax, and judgments may well have been showing too much favouritism and become somewhat open to bribery, which would explain the necessity for the new appointments. These new appointments were therefore presumably intended to strengthen the system of justice and ensure that it was carried out strictly in accord with God’s requirements. The fortified cities would be the larger cities to which people round about could come to have their cases heard if they were not satisfied with the judgments of the local elders.
2.19.6-7 ‘And he said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you are not judging: for man, but for YHWH, and he is with you in the judgment. Now, therefore, let the fear of YHWH be on you. Take heed and do it, for there is no iniquity with YHWH our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of bribes.”
As Moses had before him, so now Jehoshaphat laid on these judges the necessity to see themselves as acting in the name of YHWH, walking in the fear of YHWH and avoiding anything in any way corrupt. They were to avoid respecting one person above another, taking bribes, or passing judgments for wrong reasons. They were to be totally straight and honest in order that they might be pleasing to God.
Note the threefold emphasis on YHWH. They were to judge for YHWH; they were to let the fear of YHWH be on them; and they were to recognise in making their decisions on His behalf that there was no iniquity in YHWH. In that way they could ensure that what they did was right.
Having ‘respect of persons’, treating the claims of the rich and powerful as more valid and carrying more weight than those of the poor, has been a problem in every age, and is by no means excluded today. Bribery has regularly been a means of distorting justice. Their prevalence comes out in the continual warnings against it (Exodus 23.6-8; Deuteronomy 1.16-17; 16.18-20; 1 Samuel 8.3; Psalm 15.5; 26.10; Proverbs 17.23; Isaiah 1.21-23; 5.22-23; 33.15; Micah 3.11; 7.3; Zechariah 7.9-10).
2.19.8 ‘Furthermore in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites and the priests, and of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel, for the judgment of YHWH and for controversies.’
In Jerusalem itself Jehoshaphat established supreme courts to deal with more controversial or difficult cases, both with respect to the written Law and in accordance with unwritten custom. These were composed of Levites, priests and heads of fathers’ houses, with the chief priest and the ruler of the house of Judah over them. Compare ‘the priests the Levites and the judge which shall be in those days’ (Deuteronomy 17.9). Jehoshaphat’s was clearly an expansion of this. The distinction between written law and unwritten custom was found in many places in those days. Both were seen as important.
Note how here ‘Levites’ are placed before ‘priests’ contrary to the Chronicler’s usual practise. This again suggests that he was closely following a source. The ‘heads of the fathers’ houses of ISRAEL’ is an indication that some were chosen from among the remnants of Israel who lived in Judah, as well as from Judah itself. They were seen as one nation together.
2.19.8b ‘And they returned to (or lived in’) Jerusalem.’
If we read as yeshubu (returned to) this may refer to those who were sent out by Jehoshaphat in verse 4, with verse 4 and this verse acting as an envelope for the description of the appointment of the judges (this is possible in spite of the singular verb in verse 4 for it clearly referred to a number of people). Probably the better alternative is to repoint yeshubu (returned to) as yeshbu (lived in) seeing it as referring to those appointed to act in Jerusalem as living in it.
Jehoshaphat’s Charge To The Judges In Jerusalem.
2.19.9 ‘And he charged them, saying, “Thus shall you do in the fear of YHWH, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.”
Note the threefold charge. They were to act in the fear (reverent awe) of YHWH. They were to act faithfully. And they were to do so with pure and unbiassed motives and intent. We have here a clear indication of what God requires of us in all our dealings.
2.19.10 “And whenever any controversy shall come to you from your brothers who dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them, that they be not guilty towards YHWH, and so wrath come on you and on your brothers. This do, and you will not be guilty.”
All judgments had to be made in the light of the will and requirements of YHWH, and they were to be such that they could come before YHWH satisfied that he would not find them guilty because of their decisions. In dealing with controversial cases from the different cities, especially cases involving family disagreements, or in relation to the Torah with its commandments, statutes and ordinances, they were to warn the combatants not behave in such a way as to be guilty in the eyes of YHWH lest their guilt bring wrath on both themselves and the judges. In other words they had to bring their cases fairly and honestly without any intent to deceive or to gain by dishonesty.
2.19.11 “And, look, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters concerning YHWH, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters, also the Levites will be officers before you. Deal courageously, and YHWH be with the good.”
Having overall responsibility in respect of matters concerning YHWH, involving, for example, interpretation of the Torah (Law) and religious matters, was Amariah, the chief priest. He and his fellow leading priests would have the expertise required for dealing with such matters. In contrast the king’s affairs would be more political and would require a knowledge of what the political customs were, and so having overall responsibility for the king’s matters, involving kingly decrees, ordinances and customs, was Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael, who was the ruler of the tribe of Judah. He would be on the king’s council and would have a knowledge of royal decisions and of how the royal court saw things. The Levites were to act as court officers, and possibly also as lower level appeal judges.
The distinction between religious and political must not be overpressed. All decisions would be seen as religious, for religion was involved in every part of life. The distinction rather lay in separating Temple from royal court, with each claiming YHWH’s will for their decisions. This would be of especial importance, for example, in determining which spoils of war belonged to the Temple and which belonged to the king, and who had jurisdiction where. Thus when Uzziah would later offer incense he was seen as breaching Temple Law, something which came out in his punishment by YHWH.
The Invasion Of Judah By Combined Forces from Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir Is Thwarted By YHWH In Response To The Prayers of Jehoshaphat And His People (20.1-30).
News of a large scale invasion by the combined forces of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir (south and east of Judah), probably instigated by Syria, was brought to Jehoshaphat and filled him with great concern, but he revealed his worthiness by immediately taking the matter to YHWH. Whether this invasion was to be seen as the consequences of the wrath of YHWH as described in 19.2 is not stated, but it seems very probable. It appears arbitrary to ignore this incident and look to occurrences further ahead. But if so it is an example of how YHWH’s wrath could be ameliorated through believing prayer and repentance (as indicated by fasting). It counteracts the idea that the Chronicler always sees everything in terms of sin followed by immediate unavoidable retribution.
Jehoshaphat was then assured by a prophet of YHWH that his prayer had been heard, and that Judah would not even have to do battle. Instead they would see how YHWH would so act that their enemies would destroy themselves. Half wild, indisciplined, independent tribesmen who were often suspicious of each other with their intertribal rivalries were not the best material for bringing cohesion to a large fighting force, and we have in the past previous examples of where such forces have started to fight with each other and have destroyed themselves. See for example Judges 7.22; 1 Samuel 14.20. Consider also the expectation of Moab (2 Kings 3.23) which suggests that such occurrences were not rare in Moab’s experience. Fear, suspicion, fierce independence, tribal rivalry and panic can all contribute to such happenings.
We can divide the narrative into four parts:
The Threatened Invasion By A Huge Army Comprised Of Warriors From Moab, Ammon And Mount Seir Causes Jehoshaphat And All Judah To Seek The Assistance Of YHWH (20.1-4).
Taking the text as it stands a wide-scale invasion by the combined forces of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir, instigated by Syria, possibly in response to the attack on Ramoth-gilead, in combination with retaliation for the previous inconclusive invasion of Moab (2 Kings 3.-27), threatened Judah and caused Jehoshaphat and all Judah to seek the help of YHWH. His rather foolish association with Ahab was now reaping is consequences.
Note that in A Judah’s enemies gathered themselves together to do battle against them, and in the parallel all Judah gathered themselves together to thwart them by seeking the help of YHWH. In B terrifying news reached the ear of Jehoshaphat, and in the parallel Jehoshaphat was filled with fear and sought YHWH.
2.20.1 ‘And it came about after this, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them some of the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.’
The first question here is as to the composition of the invading forces. The children of Moab and the children of Ammon are clearly the nations of Moab and Ammon. But we must then ask ‘who were “some of the Ammonites?” ’ The description appears to refer to the children of Ammon already mentioned. The position is further complicated by the description of these invaders as ‘the children of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir’ (verse 22). There are at least three possible solutions:
Whichever solution we select it is clear that the coalition was of a kind which could easily break up, Moab being the most stable part of it, and the tribesmen from Mount Seir the least stable. That, however, would not be as Judah saw it. They learned, either from scouts or from some who had fled before the approaching host, of this huge, unassessable army, consisting of a number of nations, which was on the point of invading Judah from the wilderness to the west of the Dead Sea. (The real facts would only come out afterwards).
2.20.2 ‘Then there came some who told Jehoshaphat, saying, “There comes a great multitude against you from beyond the sea from Aram (Syria), and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (the same is En-gedi).”
The reports probably lost nothing in the telling. Men arrived in panic in Jerusalem reporting these huge forces which were massed against Judah at the instigation of Aram (Syria), and which were already at Hazazon-tamar (Engedi). The threat was clearly serious. There is no good textual reason for altering Aram to Edom. ‘From beyond the sea’ would appear to confirm what we know of Engedi, which was on a wilderness road leading from the Dead Sea ford, and we know from the battle for Ramoth-gilead that the Syrians were powerfully effective in the Transjordan area. It is possible that they were awaiting news of how this invasion went before themselves invading Judah.
Engedi was an oasis connected with the western slopes of the Dead Sea. It would appear that the forces had forded the Dead Sea from Moab using the shallow ford opposite the Lisan, and had begun to ascend towards Hebron. The territory around Engedi rose steeply towards the hill country of Judah and was on the whole inhospitable and riddled with gorges through which with some difficulty such an army could make its way. Anyone looking down would see what appeared to be vast numbers of warriors spread out over a wide area making their way like ants through the barren wilderness towards the hill country of Judah. The whole land would appear alive with warriors, on whom in fact the immense heat would be taking its toll, making them fractious.
2.20.3 ‘And Jehoshaphat was afraid, and set himself to seek to YHWH, and he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.’
The news of what appeared to be a vast invading army bought fear to Jehoshaphat’s heart, and as a consequence he set himself to seek YHWH. Furthermore he sent out messengers and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. It was a time for repentance and prayer. Such fasts were frequently engaged in, in time of war (Judges 20.26; 1 Samuel 7.6; see also 1 Samuel 31.13; 2 Samuel 12.16-22). We need not doubt that he also took steps to avert the invasion by sending scouts to the area, and possibly troops. These, in conjunction with the local folk, may well have been the ambushers (liers-in-wait) whom YHWH set against the opposing forces (verse 22), who had such a devastating effect. But if so the Chronicler deliberately avoids mentioning them as he wants all the glory to go to YHWH.
2.20.4 ‘And Judah gathered themselves together, to seek help from YHWH, even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek YHWH.’
In response to Jehoshaphat’s messenger the whole of Judah (which would presumably include Benjamin and the conquered territory) gathered themselves together, presumably at Jerusalem, in order to seek the help of YHWH. This is then stressed by repetition. They came out of all the cities of Judah to seek YHWH.
The gathering would in fact have a dual purpose, for it also resulted in the warriors of Judah being mobilised ready to face the enemy (note the mention of ‘the army’ in verse 21). But the Chronicler’s aim was to concentrate attention on the seeking after YHWH. From beginning to end the whole affair was to be seen as the victory of YHWH in response to His people’s pleas. It was to be YHWH’s triumph, not Judah’s.
Jehoshaphat’s Prayer For Deliverance (20.5-13).
The basis for Jehoshaphat’s prayer was:
It was a proclamation of what YHWH is, of what He had promised to Abraham, of what He had promised with regard to the Sanctuary built to house His Name, and in the end of the fact that the situation had only arisen because He had chosen to spare Edom, Moab and Ammon. Note how it assumes a reasonable knowledge of the history of Israel.
Note that in A Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly before YHWH, and in the parallel the whole of Judah stood before YHWH. In B YHWH is ruler over all things in heaven and earth, and has great power, and in the parallel He is called on to act as ruler/judge on Judah’s behalf because they have little power. In C God drove out the inhabitants of the land before His people, but in the parallel He commanded the sparing of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. Centrally in D he points out God’s people had built a sanctuary in His Name, and asks to be heard because His Name was in the House.
2.20.5 ‘And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of YHWH, before (in the face of) the new court,’
The leading men of Judah and Jerusalem gathered at the great court of the Temple (4.9) with Jehoshaphat taking the central place before them. They were there to seek YHWH with Him and to say their Amen to his prayer. ‘The new court’ may indicate that the great court had been refurbished, or alternately that the Court of the Priests which was ‘in front of’ the great court, and therefore before which they stood, had been refurbished. Either way it was ‘new’ in the time of the Chronicler’s source, an indication that YHWH’s king and people were looking after His Temple, and that He therefore should look after them.
2.20.6 ‘And he said, “O YHWH, the God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? And are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? And in your hand is power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”
His initial cry was to ‘YHWH, the God of our fathers’. It is especially apposite here as Jehoshaphat will be appealing to the fact that God gave the land to the seed of Abraham His friend and will be pointing out what He had done for their fathers in the past. For the use of this title compare Deuteronomy 26.7, and note David’s reference to ‘the God of our fathers’ in 1 Chronicles 12.17. The parallel ‘YHWH the God of their fathers’ was a phrase already found in Exodus 4.5; Deuteronomy 29.25; Judges 2.12 and was therefore ancient. It may also well have been in the Chronicler’s sources. So whilst it is certainly found more often in Chronicles than anywhere else it is not unique enough to be limited to him or to be seen as evidence of his handywork, although he certainly favoured it. He and the returned Exiles too looked back to what God had done for their fathers. Here then Jehoshaphat is using a name honoured in antiquity and relevant at every stage of Israel’s history.
Note the threefold description of YHWH as ‘God in Heaven’, as ‘Ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations’ and as the irresistible One Whom none can withstand. He is exalted in Heaven, He is all-authoritative on earth, He is all-powerful. Thus He is able to do what He will with regard to the threat facing Judah.
2.20.7 “Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it to the seed of Abraham your friend for ever?”
His first sub-point is twofold. Firstly that God had revealed what He could do by driving out the inhabitants of the land before His people Israel, (something which He could now do again for Judah by driving out the invading army), and secondly that God had given the land to the seed of Abraham His friend for ever. He had given them the land because they were the seed of Abraham who had been so special to Him, and He had given it to them ‘for ever’. Was He not then committed to ensuring that they retained it?
2.20.8-9 “ And they dwelt in it, and have built you a sanctuary in it for your name, saying, ‘If evil come upon us, the sword, judgment, (or ‘the sword of judgment’) or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and will cry to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save’.”
His next sub-point is that the land had not only been given to them, but that they had dwelt in it. They had taken possession of it. They had taken God at His word and settled in it, confident of His protection. And as evidence of what God had done, and of His rule over them, they had built a Sanctuary in it for His Name. They had housed the Ark of YHWH in which was His Name, the Ark which was the visible evidence of His presence among them as Lord and King, and of His covenant with them. If they were driven out or destroyed, who else among all the nations would uphold His Sanctuary and His Covenant Ark in purity?
Furthermore in building that Sanctuary they had entered into further covenant with Him. Citing in summary form the content of the prayer of Solomon he reminded God that they had put all their dependence in Him, relying on His covenant mercy. They had expressed their confidence that if evil came on them, including the sword of judgment, they would be able to come before His House, and before the Ark in which was His Name, and call on Him in the certain hope that He would hear them and deliver them. And He had expressed His agreement to that covenant in 7.12-14 and by descending in glory on the Temple. And now that point had arrived, and so let Him now hear and save them.
The words are a brief summary of the prayer of Solomon as found in 6.21-39 (especially verses 28, 34-35); 1 Kings 8.29-53 and demonstrate how the sentiments expressed in that prayer had become rooted in the thoughts of the nation.
‘The sword of judgment.’ Whilst the form of the word used for ‘judgment’ (shphwt) is almost unique, it is found also in the plural in Ezekiel 23.10, whilst the root from which it is taken (shpht) is common. There is therefore no need (with LXX) to alter the text to signify ‘flood’. The emphasis on the sword of judgment is very apposite here.
2.20.10-11 “And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom you would 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 your possession, which you have given us to inherit.”
Jehoshaphat now turned God’s attention to the identity of the invaders. They were comprised of Ammon, Moab and the inhabitants of Mount Seir (regularly identified with Edom). It was these very people whom God had forbidden Israel to invade when they were approaching the promised land because of their original blood relationship with them (see Deuteronomy 2.5, 9, 19). Edom were seen as the sons of Esau; Moab and Ammon as the sons of Lot, Abraham’s nephew (Genesis 19.35-38). Now they were rewarding Israel’s forbearance by attacking Judah their ‘brother tribe’. The prime idea would seem to be that it was unjust of them, something of which a just God should take notice as he now brings out.
We are not necessarily to see Edom as involved in the invasion, only that some from Mount Seir were so involved. As we have seen they were possibly rogue Ammonites, or Meumites. But by being in Mount Seir they were seen as a part of Edom. Geographical distinctions were vague in those days.
2.20.12 “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no might against this great company who come against us, nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
In view of what he has pointed out he calls on God to judge these nations. Let Him consider their treachery and ingratitude and treat them accordingly. And indeed it was important that He should do so, for Judah were powerless to meet the threat posed by the invaders. As a consequence they found themselves helpless and not knowing what to do. Thus, he stressed, in view of their helplessness their eyes were on God Who alone could save them.
We are never told the size of the invading forces, but the general impression given is that it was seen as too large for Judah, with all its armed might (1,160 large fighting units in 17.13-19), to be able to cope with. Composed of the armed might of two Transjordanian nations, with Aram also threatening in the background it might well have been.
The prayer might be seen as a model prayer. It commenced with a recognition of What God was and what He could do. It considered what God had done in the past, and reminded Him of His promises. It brought to His attention the injustice of what was happening to Judah. And it ended with a recognition of total weakness and powerlessness, with a consequent throwing of themselves on God.
2.20.13 ‘And all Judah stood before YHWH, with their little ones, their wives, and their sons.’
The passage closed as it had opened with the whole of Judah standing before YHWH, and it is stressed that their number included not only the men of Judah, but also their little ones, their wives and their teenage children. All were gathered to plead before YHWH. The whole nation was expressing its reliance on Him.
The Prophet Jahaziel Assures Jehoshaphat Of YHWH’s Coming Deliverance In Response To His Prayer (20.14-26).
YHWH’s response was immediate. He sent the prophet Jahaziel to proclaim to Jehoshaphat and to Judah that He Himself would disperse the enemy without their assistance. All they would have to do was stand and watch. At this Jehoshaphat and all Judah bowed down and worshipped Him. They did not doubt that He would do what He had promised. Jehoshaphat then arranged for Temple musicians to go before the army as they made their way to where the invasion was taking place. Such a tactic was commonplace in ancient times. Like the drums of the British army, and the bagpipes of the Scots army, their rams’ horns, lyres and cymbals, with vocal accompaniment, were designed to disturb the enemy. Its relentless approach would throw fear into their hearts as it brought home to them the confidence of those who were approaching to oppose them. It may well have helped to bring about the panic that ensued, which ensured victory for Judah.
Note that in A all Judah were told not to be afraid nor dismayed because the battle was God’s, and in the parallel they all assembled themselves in the Valley of Beracah and blessed (barak) YHWH for the victory. In B they were to go against the enemy whom they would find at the end of the valley in the Wilderness of Jeruel, and in the parallel they came to the watchtower of the wilderness and found the enemy all dead leaving great spoil. In C they were informed that they would not be required to do battle but would stand still and see the salvation of God, and in the parallel the enemy destroyed themselves. In D Jehoshaphat and all Judah fell on their faces worshipping YHWH, and in the parallel it was as they sang and praised YHWH that their enemies’ self-destruction began. In E the Levites stood up to praise YHWH with a very loud voice, and in the parallel they went before the army singing to YHWH and giving praise and rejoicing in His faithfulness to the covenant. Centrally in F all Judah were called on to trust in YHWH and His prophets.
2.20.14 ‘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 YHWH in the midst of the assembly,’
It is important not to trivialise this event. This was not just ‘cultic prophecy’. Jahaziel was a Micaiah, not a Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah. There was no reason why a YHWH Who chose a herdsman from Tekoa (Amos) to be His prophet should not similarly choose a Levite from Jerusalem. The Spirit of YHWH came on Jahaziel as he had on Azariah the son of Oded (15.1). This is not legitimising cultic prophecy. It is indicating that YHWH chooses whom He will as His true prophets. Note Jahaziel’s pedigree taking his line back to the time of David, and connecting him with Asaph the leading musician. He was clearly seen as a worthy man. But he was different in this, that through him spoke the Spirit of YHWH. Note that he fulfilled the requirements of a true prophet. What he prophesied came about in detail.
2.20.15 ‘And he said, “Hear you, all Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you king Jehoshaphat, Thus says YHWH to you, ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed by reason of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s’.”
Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been associated with Jehoshaphat in his prayer (verse 5). Now they were associated with him in God’s response. God had heard not only Jehoshaphat, but the cries of all the people. And now they were all assured that they need not be afraid, nor dismayed, at the size of the forces that had come against them. For the battle would not be theirs, but would be God’s. There are echoes in these words of Joshua 1.9, which is constantly a pattern for such assurances. We can also compare here the priest’s exhortation to those going forth to battle in Deuteronomy 20.3-4.
This theme that God can act to bring about His will in the face of overwhelming odds is a theme of the Chronicler. Compare the account of the invasion by the Cushites where there were also overwhelming odds in the time of Asa in 14.9-15, and the similar invasion of Judah by Israel where there was the same situation (13.4). It is clearly a message which the Chronicler sought to get across, and encouraged the returned Exiles with the thought that however large the odds might appear to be against them, one day a righteous king would arise who would deliver them. In other words it pointed to the coming king of the house of David promised in 1 Chronicles 17.14 Who would one day establish His everlasting kingdom..
2.20.16 “Tomorrow go you down against them. Behold, they come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel.”
He then instructed them that on the morrow they should make their way down from the hill country of Judah to face the approaching hordes, who were ascending the Judean hills from the Dead Sea through the wilderness by the Ascent of Ziz. The probable route of the Ascent of Ziz goes down the mountains from Tekoa to the oasis of Engedi, and then onwards to the Dead Sea The wilderness of Jeruel is unidentified. But given the size of the approaching forces they would be spread over a wide area, and much of the eastern slopes of the Judean hills is composed of barren wilderness.
2.20.17 “You will not need to fight in this battle. Set yourselves, stand you still, and see the salvation of YHWH with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for YHWH is with you.”
YHWH then assured them through His prophet that they would not have to do any fighting. It would all be done for them. All they would have to do was stand still and watch YHWH’s deliverance. Again they were assured that they need not be afraid or dismayed. Thus they could safely go out against their enemy on the morrow knowing that YHWH was with them.
It is important to notice that God did not tell them to sit back and do nothing because all was in hand. He rather made clear that they had to mobilise their army and move forwards. The fact that God is with us does not mean that we can sit back and be idle. Rather it signifies that we should act in the way that He shows us, whilst leaving the rest to Him. God’s sovereign activity is never an excuse for laziness. We have to act in faith, trusting Him to do the rest.
2.20.18 ‘And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before YHWH, worshipping YHWH.’
The news of YHWH’s participation was naturally welcome to those who heard it, and those who heard it, along with Jehoshaphat himself, fell down and worshipped before Him full of praise and gratitude.
2.20.19 ‘And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, (that is) of the children of the Korahites, stood up to praise YHWH, the God of Israel, with an exceedingly loud voice.’
The singling out of the Korahites, who were Kohathites (1 Chronicles 6.22) may be because it was these who had been chosen to lead the forces into battle on the morrow. Aware of their privilege they were in the fore in praising God, and ‘they stood up to praise YHWH, the God of Israel, with an exceedingly loud voice’. They saw their choice as a privilege.
Note the description of YHWH as the ‘God of Israel’. This may be emphasising their ancestor Israel (Jacob) with whom the promises of YHWH had been renewed. But it also emphasised that Judah saw itself as the microcosm of all Israel, containing as it did within itself large numbers from all the tribes (11.13-14, 16;15.9).
2.20.20 ‘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 you inhabitants of Jerusalem. Believe in YHWH your God, so will you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper.”
The next morning the fighting men of Judah (‘the army’ - verse 22) left Jerusalem and went to the wilderness of Tekoa, urged on by Jehoshaphat who called on them to believe in YHWH and to believe His prophets, as a consequence of which they would be established and prosper. They were to have confidence in YHWH. They were to have confidence in YHWH’s prophets.
The plural prophets does not necessarily indicate that they had heard more than one prophet. It was simply a generalisation contained in a general exhortation. Judah were at all times to hear YHWH and His prophets. That was to be their attitude of heart. There is no reason for seeing it as indicating that singers were seen as prophets in the sense in which the term is used in this passage (in spite of 1 Chronicles 25.1 where ‘prophesy’ has a weak sense of those who sing prophetic material e.g. the Psalms).
2.20.21 ‘And when he had deliberated with the people, he appointed those who should sing to YHWH, and give praise in holy array (in the beauty of holiness), as they went out before the army, and say, “Give thanks to YHWH, for his covenant love endures for ever.”
Who should lead the army into battle was an important choice, and Jehoshaphat thus ‘deliberated with the people’. This can only mean that he consulted with their leaders who would no doubt be aware of their people’s sentiments. And then he appointed those who would lead the way, singing and giving praise in holy garments as they went out before the army. These were probably the above-mentioned Korahites. This is not to be thought of as an unusual tactic. Such a group probably always led Judah’s armies into battle, blowing on ram’s horns, clanging cymbals, playing harps and lyres, thus encouraging the troops, as well as hoping to spread fear among their enemies (compare 13.12; Judges 7.18-10; Job 38.19-25). The British army used drummers in a similar way, and the Scots used bagpipes. And as they marched forward these singers cried out, ‘Give thanks to YHWH, for His covenant love endures for ever’. They were a rallying point for the troops, and a guarantee that YHWH and His covenant love were with them.
We can compare how the priests with rams’ horns went before the Ark as the army marched around Jericho in a similar situation to this, where YHWH acted on behalf of His people before a blow had been struck (Joshua 6.13).
2.20.22 ‘And when they began to sing and to praise, YHWH set liers-in-wait (ambushers) against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, who were come against Judah, and they were smitten.’
In confident hope the appointed musicians began to sing and praise YHWH, blowing or playing on their instruments, with the army at their back. And as a consequence of this YHWH acted. He ‘set ambushers’ against the coalition forces who had come against Judah, and as a consequence they were smitten. But it was not the ambushers who smote them, but animosities among the coalition partners themselves, although seemingly these animosities were aroused by the ambushers.
It is an open question as to who these ambushers were. The vague description may in fact suggest that the Chronicler did not know. There are a number of possibilities:
2.20.23 ‘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.’
The ambush set a whole train of reactions in process. Full of blood lust and stirred in the extreme heat the children of Ammon and Moab saw the contingent from Mount Seir as responsible for the ambush and retaliated against them, intending to destroy them for their ‘treachery’. And as will happen when indisciplined troops begin to slaughter their fellows they then began to look wider, and the opportunity to revenge previous slights and feuds may have resulted in them looking wider to avenge themselves against fellow Ammonite tribes, with the more sophisticated Moabites similarly caught up in the rivalry, possibly because they sought to interfere. Such a scenario could well explain what happened. We must remember that many of these troops were men to whom fighting was almost a sport. Once aroused they would not worry whom they killed, and they would fight to the last man.
2.20.24 ‘And when Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked on the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and there were none who escaped.’
And the consequence of this inter-fighting was that when Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, a frontier observation post, they looked out and saw, not the troops whom they expected, but a mass of dead bodies in the place where the enemy hordes had been. ‘There were none who escaped.’ This was almost certainly hyperbole. It is rare indeed for no one to escape from even the worst of slaughters. The point was that the invaders were so decimated that they were no longer in a position to continue the invasion. And so YHWH’s promise was fulfilled. The battle was not Judah’s but God’s.
2.20.25 ‘And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil from 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.’
The victory having been accomplished by YHWH Judah now enjoyed the benefits. They spread out and over a period of three days gathered a huge amount of spoil from the corpses, indeed so much that some had to be left behind. None liked better to adorn themselves with jewellery than half-wild tribesmen who carried their treasures on them, and it was all gratefully gathered
2.20.26 ‘And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Beracah; for there they blessed YHWH. Therefore the name of that place was called The valley of Beracah to this day.’
Then on the fourth day the men of Judah regathered in a local valley which from then on was known as ‘the Valley of Berachah (blessing/prosperity)’. It would be remembered into perpetuity as the place where YHWH had given Judah the blessing of victory and had rewarded them with great prosperity.
‘To this day.’ Probably found in the Chronicler’s source, although it could be that even in the Chronicler’s day the Valley of Beracah was still a landmark and greatly celebrated as a memorial of YHWH’s activity on behalf of His people.
All Judah Praise YHWH For His Assistance And All The Nations Recognise In What Had Happened The Hand Of YHWH (20.27-30).
The effect of what had happened was that Jehoshaphat and his people returned to Jerusalem full of joy and worship, with the singers and instrumentalists leading the worship, whilst those round about became in awe of YHWH when they learned what God had done. And as a consequence Jehoshaphat enjoyed a period of peace.
But it must be recognised that this nationwide worship and praise was a thing of the moment, offered at a time of great deliverance. Sadly many of their hearts were not truly with YHWH, as is made clear in 20.33 where we read, ‘However, the high places were not taken away, nor as yet had the people set their hearts to the God of their fathers.’ Like so many national rejoicings it was temporary and superficial. It was only among the ‘remnant’ that the worship was real and from a heart which continued in covenant obedience..
Note that in A Jehoshaphat and his people were filled with joy and rejoiced over their enemies, whilst in the parallel they enjoyed peace and quiet because God gave him rest round about. In B Jerusalem and Judah rejoiced on their instruments as they came to the house of YHWH, whilst in the parallel the surrounding nations were filled with awe.
2.20.27 ‘Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy, for YHWH had made them to rejoice over their enemies.’
As a consequence of their victory the whole of Judah returned with Jehoshaphat to Jerusalem filled with joy because YHWH had made them rejoice over their enemies. It must have been a great wonder to them that God had delivered them from a powerful invasion force without them having even to lift a hand. Note the emphasis in the fact that every man in Judah and Jerusalem participated. It was a total assembly of the nation at Jerusalem. It would almost inevitably have resulted in the offering of thankofferings and peace offerings, with a consequent great feast. But the emphasis here is on the joy and rejoicing. A huge burden had been lifted from their shoulders.
It was, however, to quite a large extent superficial, for many of them continued to worship idols in the high places and their hearts were not permanently set towards YHWH, the God of their fathers (verse 33). There was still the underlying unbelief which would continue to drag Judah down.
2.20.28 ‘And they came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets to the house of YHWH.’
Previously the harps and lyres and trumpets had been ready to lead them into battle (verse 21). Now they led them into the House of YHWH full of praise and worship. What a contrast between the two scenes. The first a mixture of faith, hope and trepidation. The second a scene of total joy, because YHWH had given them total victory over their enemies. And whilst no doubt the Levite ‘singers’ were the main instrumentalists, it can hardly be doubted that others also produced harps, lyres and trumpets in order to join in the celebrations.
2.20.29 ‘And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of the countries, when they heard that YHWH fought against the enemies of Israel.’
Meanwhile the noise and joyous celebrations of Judah were in contrast to the effect on surrounding nation. On them there was the hush of awe as they learned that YHWH had fought against the enemies of Israel. Like nations before them they had to face up to the truth concerning YHWH’s power and might. Compare 14.14; 17.10; Exodus 15.14-16; Deuteronomy 2.25; Joshua 2.9; 9.25. Furthermore in his prayer Jehoshaphat had asked, ‘are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations?’ Now that had been proved to be true. Note the mention of ‘Israel’ rather than Judah. At this time Judah itself summed up the whole of faithful Israel, for it contained within it the believing remnants of the tribes of Israel (11.13-14, 16;15.9), and God was the God of all Israel (verse 19), something especially important to the Chronicler and those to whom he was writing.
2.20.30 ‘So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest round about.’
The final consequence of what had happened was that from then on, under Jehoshaphat, Judah enjoyed a long period of peace and quiet. The nations round about were quiescent as far as Judah were concerned and left them severely alone. And that this was as a result of the activity of God is emphasised in the words ‘GOD gave him rest’. It was God Who brought it about. Such rest was ever a symbol that God was pleased with His people (14.6; 15.15; compare 2 Samuel 7.1, 11; etc).
A Summary Of Jehoshaphat’s Reign (20.31-34).
This summary of Jehoshaphat’s reign is somewhat similar to the brief summary in 1 Kings 22.41-43, but differs by not referring to the people as sacrificing and burning incense in the high places, and replacing it with the fact that they did not set their hearts to the God of their fathers. This may have been due to his source, or it may have been because he felt that that statement better expressed what he wanted to say in the light of his own day when his people were not likely to turn again to worship in the high places (they had learned their lesson from the Exile), but might quite possibly refrain from really setting their hearts of he God of their fathers. The summary here also names his source somewhat differently.
Note that in A we have the commencement of Jehoshaphat’s reign and in the parallel the cessation of that reign. In B Jehoshaphat himself did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, but in the parallel not all the people followed his example.
2.20.31 ‘And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty five years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.’
These details mirror the information contained in 1 Kings 22.41 that Jehoshaphat commenced his reign over Judah when he was thirty five years old and reigned for twenty five years in Jerusalem as the representative of the house of David. 2 Kings, however, suggests a different length for his reign. In 2 Kings 3.1 Jehoram of Israel commenced his rein in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, and in 2 Kings 8.16 Jehoram of Judah began to reign in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel. If Jehoshaphat died in that year that would give a reign for him of around twenty two years. But we should note that, 1) Jehoshaphat did not necessarily die in the year that Jehoram became king of Judah for 2 Kings 8.16 suggests that he was still living, with Jehoram thus becoming co-regent for two to three years. 2). that the twenty five years in 1 Kings 22.41 may have included a three year co-regency with Asa over the period when Asa was immobilised with his feet problem. If either be the case the difficulty disappears.
Note the supplying of his mother’s name, something which regularly occurs in both Kings and Chronicles. Thus suggests that the queen mother was seen as holding a position of considerable authority (compare 15.16).
2.20.32 ‘And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the eyes of YHWH.’
What we could call Jehoshaphat’s obituary highly commends him. It tells us that ‘he walked in the way of Asa his father’, of whom it was said that he ‘did what was good in the eyes of YHWH his God’ (14.1) and ‘the heart of Asa was perfect all his days’ 15.17). It is true that both Asa and Jehoshaphat did to some extent fail YHWH, but the point is that on the whole their hearts were set towards God, unlike other kings who came far short of such a commendation. Furthermore the obituary adds that Jehoshaphat did no turn aside from that way, but continually (with lapses) did what was right in the eyes of YHWH. His heart was steadfast and true.
2.20.33 ‘However, the high places were not taken away, nor as yet had the people set their hearts to the God of their fathers.’
This is not a criticism of Jehoshaphat (note its impersonal nature) but a statement of fact. Despite all Jehoshaphat’s best efforts the high places were not taken away. The worship at the high places would recur again and again. Indeed the removal of the high places was an impossible task in which no king would succeed, for the worship in the high places was something deeply imbedded in the hearts of those who were not true believers, and the sites of the high places in the mountains were common knowledge among them. Baal pillars could be removed, Asherah images burned, but there was no way in which the sites themselves could disappear. Until the people fixed their hearts firmly on YHWH the old worship would still remain, carried out secretly at recognised sites in the mountains. And the truth was that despite all Jehoshaphat’s best efforts to teach them, and all that YHWH had done for them, the people as a whole had not yet set their hearts to the God of their fathers, preferring the ancient gods who were no gods. It will always be so. That is why only a remnant will be saved.
2.20.34 ‘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 Chronicler now refers us for further information to ‘the history of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is inserted in the record of the kings of Israel’. This is enlightening as it informs us that prophetic histories were sometimes recorded in the record of the kings of Israel. 1 Kings 22.43 speaks of ‘the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah’. It is an open question as to whether it was the same book (the Chronicler regularly speaks of Israel meaning Judah). Neither referred to the book we know of as Kings.
The Chronicler makes it apparent that a number of prophets wrote ‘books’ of history (12.15; 13.22), one of whom was Jehu the son of Hanani mentioned here. This Jehu was the one who rebuked Asa for collaborating with Ahab (19.2). He also prophesied against Baasha, the king of Israel (1 Kings 16.1, 7, 12). When he wrote the history of Jehoshaphat he must have been a very old man. Jehu’s father Hanani was a seer in the time of Asa, who was cast into prison for his courage in rebuking Asa because he relied on Syria (19.2; 1 Kings 16.1, 7). This informs us that sometimes a son might follow his father as a prophet, but it does not necessarily mean that they were cult prophets (although there is no reason why God could not use a cult prophet as His mouthpiece). Jehu prophesied in both Israel and Judah , something which discounts him as a cult prophet. Cult prophets would be connected to one Sanctuary.
Postscript To The Life Of Jehoshaphat (20.35-37).
This postscript informs us of an incident towards the end of Jehoshaphat’s life which was prejudicial to his record. Earlier he had arranged for his son Jehoram to marry Ahab’s daughter, probably in order to establish a treaty-relationship between them, and as a consequence he had taken part in the ill-fated venture against the Syrians at Ramoth-gilead for which he came under YHWH’s anger. Now this would lead on to an equally ill-fated venture with Ahab’s son Ahaziah, this time a trading venture. Furthermore the later consequences of the relationship would be even more dreadful as Ahab’s daughter led Jehoram seriously astray. The house of Jehoshaphat paid a heavy price for its flirtation with the house of Ahab. Its story is a stark warning against being ‘unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 6.14).
Note the parallel ‘joined himself with’ (Ahaziah), and the contrast between intention (to go to Tarshish) and consequence (not able to go to Tarshish). And the idea behind the whole is that Jehoshaphat should not have joined himself with someone who behaved wickedly. Compare the similar idea with regard to his relationship with Ahab (19.2). The idea of ‘behaving wickedly’ includes the idea of worshipping idols.
2.20.35 ‘And after this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined himself with Ahaziah king of Israel; the same did very wickedly.’
The phrase ‘after this’ is vague and merely indicates a time towards the end of his life. But the idea is that at that time he entered into a trade association with a king who ‘behaved wickedly’, in other words one who was an idolater, and behaved like one. In this there is an implied criticism also of Solomon, who did a similar thing. The difference lay in the fact that Ahaziah was an apostate, his family having rejected YHWH, whilst Hiram was simply an unbeliever. That increased Ahaziah’s wickedness.
2.20.36 ‘And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber.’
The nature of the business relationship was simple. They would build ships together at Ezion-geber, in order to engage in a trading expedition to Tarshish. This paralleled Solomon’s earlier activity described in 8.17-18, 21. He too had traded with Tarshish from Ezion-geber in a trade association with an idolatrous king. Ezion-geber was an Edomite port on the Red Sea, clearly at this stage under the control of Jehoshaphat (compare 21.8). It thus enabled sea trade with Arabia and North Africa. The ‘Tarshish’ spoken of could have been in either. The name was given to a number of far off trading places from which ores were obtained .
2.20.37 ‘Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined yourself with Ahaziah, YHWH has destroyed your works.” And the ships were broken, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.’
But this time the trading venture was not to be allowed to go ahead. YHWH sent His prophet Eliezer, the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah to prophesy against Jehoshaphat, informing him that because he had united himself with Ahaziah of Israel in his trading venture, YHWH would destroy his efforts. As a consequence the ships were broken up, presumably due to a storm, so that they were unable to go to Tarshish (see also I Kings 22.48-49, where there is no mention of Ahaziah’s participation in the first instance, but where it is made clear that Jehoshaphat had learned his lesson so that he refused an offer from Ahaziah to make another attempt).
Thus Jehoshaphat’s life ended on a dark note, reminding us that even the best of men can find themselves temporarily going astray.
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