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2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1 – Jehoshaphat

Summary

Jehoshaphat, as one of the Chronicler's favorite kings, embodies several of his desirable traits: piety, expressed in prayer and the removal of idols; establishment of the law; and concern for the Levites. His willingness to form alliances with the north, however, is problematic and depicted as such.

Analysis

In 1 Kings, Jehoshaphat is dealt with in summary fashion; Ahab, Jehoshaphat's northern contemporary, is deemed more important and dominates the narrative with only occasional references to Jehoshaphat. In Chronicles, however, Jehoshaphat is credited with faithful instruction of the people in God's law (2 Chronicles 17:7-9), the establishment of a judicial system (19:4-11), the construction of fortresses and storage cities (17:12b), an impressive army (17:13b-19), and military success and tribute from the Philistines and Arabs (17:10-11) as well as the Ammonites and Moabites (20:1-30). His only flaw involved a penchant for alliances with the northern kings. His alliance with Ahaziah resulted in the loss of his fleet (20:35-37). The alliance with Ahab (18:1-3)--in which Athaliah (the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) married Jehoram (Jehoshaphat's son)--resulted in the battle at Ramoth-gilead where Ahab was killed (18:28-34) and later threatened the extinction of the Davidic line in the reigns of Ahaziah, Athaliah herself, and Joash.

Jehoshaphat's name, "may Yahweh judge," may have suggested his role in the establishment of the judiciary to the Chronicler, who is well known for idealizing his heroes as well as reading back into history the institutions of his own time. In any event, this episode (19:4-11) is unique to Chronicles. If historical--and this episode may comport with Jehoshaphat's concern to educate the people in Torah (17:7-9)--the king has responded to Jehu's prophetic warning (19:2-3) with the creation of a double system of local tribunals and a central court in Jerusalem. While the system generally agrees with Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13, the segregation of sacral and civil law (2 Chronicles 19:11) is a postexilic development.

The battle account in chapter 20 forms the centerpiece of the Chronicler's account of the divided monarchy (2 Chronicles 10-28). All of the major theological themes make an appearance: Levitical leadership in worship (20:19-20), retributive justice (vv. 22-23, 30), dependence upon God (vv. 3-4, 12, 20), and condemnation of foreign alliances (v. 17), as well as the two pillars of the Chronicler's theology: God's rule (vv. 6-7, see also 1 Chronicles 17:12) and answered prayer (vv. 8-9, see also 2 Chronicles 7:14). Three main sections--Jehoshaphat's prayer (vv. 5-12), God's response through Jahaziel the prophet (vv. 14-19), and the battle report (vv. 20-27)--are framed by a dramatic contrast between Jehoshaphat's fear (vv. 1-4) and the fear of God that defeated the enemies of Israel (v. 29).

Seven occurrences of the key word "stand" (amad) appear in chapter 20 (vv. 5, 9, 13, 17, 20, 21 [appointed, NRSV], 23 [attacked, NRSV]). In addition, they appear at strategic points in the narrative; the beginning of the first and third main sections (vv. 5, 20) and, more significant, all three main sections feature a statement containing this key word that recalls significant moments in the history of the people:

  • Section one (vv. 5-13). Jehoshaphat's prayer centers on this phrase: "If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and save" (v. 9), recalling Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple and God's promise to hear (2 Chronicles 6:20, 28-30; 7:13-15).
  • Section two (vv. 14-19). God's response through the prophet Jahaziel advises the people to "stand still, and see the victory of the LORD" (v. 17), recalling Moses' admonition at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13).
  • Section three (vv. 20-27). The battle report describes the confusion that caused the enemy to destroy one another when "the Ammonites and Moab stood against [attacked, NRSV] the inhabitants of Mount Seir" (v. 23), recalling similar instances of "holy war," especially Judges 7:15-23).

2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1

Jehoshaphat’s Reign

17His son Jehoshaphat succeeded him, and strengthened himself against Israel. 2He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that his father Asa had taken. 3The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father;* he did not seek the Baals, 4but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the ways of Israel. 5Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. All Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honour. 6His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord; and furthermore he removed the high places and the sacred poles* from Judah.

7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. 8With them were the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them; they went around through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.

10 The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands around Judah, and they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. 11Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. 12Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built fortresses and storage cities in Judah. 13He carried out great works in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty warriors, in Jerusalem. 14This was the muster of them by ancestral houses: Of Judah, the commanders of the thousands: Adnah the commander, with three hundred thousand mighty warriors, 15and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with two hundred and eighty thousand, 16and next to him Amasiah son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the Lord, with two hundred thousand mighty warriors. 17Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty warrior, with two hundred thousand armed with bow and shield, 18and next to him Jehozabad with one hundred and eighty thousand armed for war. 19These were in the service of the king, besides those whom the king had placed in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.

Micaiah Predicts Failure

18Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honour; and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab. 2After some years he went down to Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and for the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. 3King Ahab of Israel said to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, ‘Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?’ He answered him, ‘I am with you, my people are your people. We will be with you in the war.’

4 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord.’ 5Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred of them, and said to them, ‘Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?’ They said, ‘Go up; for God will give it into the hand of the king.’ 6But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?’ 7The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favourable about me, but only disaster.’ Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let the king not say such a thing.’ 8Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.’ 9Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes; and they were sitting at the threshing-floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 10Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and he said, ‘Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ 11All the prophets were prophesying the same and saying, ‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’

12 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favourably.’ 13But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.’

14 When he had come to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?’ He answered, ‘Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand.’ 15But the king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’ 16Then Micaiah* said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd; and the Lord said, “These have no master; let each one go home in peace.” 17The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favourable about me, but only disaster?’

18 Then Micaiah* said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing to the right and to the left of him. 19And the Lord said, “Who will entice King Ahab of Israel, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” Then one said one thing, and another said another, 20until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, “I will entice him.” The Lord asked him, “How?” 21He replied, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Then the Lord * said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.” 22So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.’

23 Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah came up to Micaiah, slapped him on the cheek, and said, ‘Which way did the spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?’ 24Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out on that day when you go in to hide in an inner chamber.’ 25The king of Israel then ordered, ‘Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; 26and say, “Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water until I return in peace.” 27Micaiah said, ‘If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Hear, you peoples, all of you!’

Defeat and Death of Ahab

28 So the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 29The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. 30Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, ‘Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.’ 31When the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘It is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him, 32for when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 33But a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armour and the breastplate; so he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.’ 34The battle grew hot that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening; then at sunset he died.

19King Jehoshaphat of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. 2Jehu 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 the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord. 3Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the sacred poles* out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.’

The Reforms of Jehoshaphat

4 Jehoshaphat resided at Jerusalem; then he went out again among the people, from Beer-sheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 5He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, 6and said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing, for you judge not on behalf of human beings but on the Lord’s behalf; he is with you in giving judgement. 7Now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking of bribes.’

8 Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgement for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. 9He charged them: ‘This is how you shall act: in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart; 10whenever a case comes to you from your kindred who live in their cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or ordinances, then you shall instruct them, so that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come on you and your kindred. Do so, and you will not incur guilt. 11See, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters; and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the good!’

Invasion from the East

20After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites,* came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2Messengers* came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from Edom,* from beyond the sea; already they are at Hazazon-tamar’ (that is, En-gedi). 3Jehoshaphat was afraid; he set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the towns of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer and Victory

5 Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6and said, ‘O Lord, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven? Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In your hand are power and might, so that no one is able to withstand you. 7Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it for ever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8They have lived in it, and in it have built you a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9“If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgement,* or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before you, for your name is in this house, and cry to you in our distress, and you will hear and save.” 10See now, the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession that you have given us to inherit. 12O our God, will you not execute judgement upon them? For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.’

13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly. 15He said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you: “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.’

18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. 19And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established; believe his prophets.’ 21When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendour, as they went before the army, saying,
‘Give thanks to the Lord,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever.’
22As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23For the Ammonites and Moab attacked the inhabitants of Mount Seir, destroying them utterly; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

24 When Judah came to the watch-tower of the wilderness, they looked towards the multitude; they were corpses lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the booty from them, they found livestock* in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They spent three days taking the booty, because of its abundance. 26On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord; therefore that place has been called the Valley of Beracah* to this day. 27Then all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat at their head, returned to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had enabled them to rejoice over their enemies. 28They came to Jerusalem, with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.

The End of Jehoshaphat’s Reign

31 So Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 32He walked in the way of his father Asa and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. 33Yet the high places were not removed; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their ancestors.

34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, from first to last, are written in the Annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.

35 After this King Jehoshaphat of Judah joined with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did wickedly. 36He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish; they built the ships in Ezion-geber. 37Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.’ And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.

Jehoram’s Reign

21Jehoshaphat slept with his ancestors and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David; his son Jehoram succeeded him.

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10 February 2011

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