Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jehoshaphat Prays for Victory

Jehoshaphat Faces War

2 Chronicles 20

1Later the Moabites, Ammonites, and some Meunites came to start a war with
Jehoshaphat. 2Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A large army is coming
against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. They are already in
Hazazon Tamar!” (Hazazon Tamar is also called En Gedi.) 3Jehoshaphat was
afraid, so he decided to ask the LORD what to do. He announced that no one in
Judah should eat during this special time of prayer to God. 4The people of Judah
came together to ask the LORD for help; they came from every town in Judah.

5The people of Judah and Jerusalem met in front of the new courtyard in the
Temple of the LORD. Then Jehoshaphat stood up, 6and he said, “LORD, God of
our ancestors, you are the God in heaven. You rule over all the kingdoms of the
nations. You have power and strength, so no one can stand against you. 7Our
God, you forced out the people who lived in this land as your people Israel
moved in. And you gave this land forever to the descendants of your friend
Abraham. 8They lived in this land and built a Temple for you. They said, 9‘If
trouble comes upon us, or war, punishment, sickness, or hunger, we will stand
before you and before this Temple where you have chosen to be worshiped. We
will cry out to you when we are in trouble. Then you will hear and save us.’

10“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab, and Edom. You wouldn’t let
the Israelites enter their lands when the Israelites came from Egypt. So the
Israelites turned away and did not destroy them. 11But see how they repay us for
not destroying them! They have come to force us out of your land, which you
gave us as our own. 12Our God, punish those people. We have no power against
this large army that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do, so we look to you
for help.”

13All the men of Judah stood before the LORD with their babies, wives, and
children. 14Then the Spirit of the LORD entered Jahaziel. (Jahaziel was
Zechariah’s son. Zechariah was Benaiah’s son. Benaiah was Jeiel’s son, and Jeiel
was Mattaniah’s son.) Jahaziel, a Levite and a descendant of Asaph, stood up in
the meeting. 15He said, “Listen to me, King Jehoshaphat and all you people living
in Judah and Jerusalem. The LORD says this to you: ‘Don’t be afraid or
discouraged because of this large army. The battle is not your battle, it is God’s.
16Tomorrow go down there and fight those people. They will come up through
the Pass of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the ravine that leads to the
Desert of Jeruel. 17You won’t need to fight in this battle. Just stand strong in your
places, and you will see the LORD save you. Judah and Jerusalem, don’t be
afraid or discouraged, because the LORD is with you. So go out against those
people tomorrow.’”

18Jehoshaphat bowed facedown on the ground. All the people of Judah and
Jerusalem bowed down before the LORD and worshiped him. 19Then some
Levites from the Kohathite and Korahite people stood up and praised the LORD,
the God of Israel, with very loud voices.

20Jehoshaphat’s army went out into the Desert of Tekoa early in the morning.
As they were starting out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, people of
Judah and Jerusalem. Have faith in the LORD your God, and you will stand
strong. Have faith in his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21Jehoshaphat listened
to the people’s advice. Then he chose men to be singers to the LORD, to praise
him because he is holy and wonderful. As they marched in front of the army, they

“Thank the LORD,

because his love continues forever.”

22As they began to sing and praise God, the LORD set ambushes for the
people of Ammon, Moab, and Edom who had come to attack Judah. And they
were defeated. 23The Ammonites and Moabites attacked the Edomites, destroying
them completely. After they had killed the Edomites, they killed each other.

24When the men from Judah came to a place where they could see the desert,
they looked at the enemy’s large army. But they only saw dead bodies lying on
the ground; no one had escaped. 25When Jehoshaphat and his army came to take
their valuables, they found many supplies, much clothing, and other valuable
things. There was more than they could carry away; there was so much it took
three days to gather it all. 26On the fourth day Jehoshaphat and his army met in
the Valley of Beracah and praised the LORD. That is why that place has been
called the Valley of Beracah to this day.

27Then Jehoshaphat led all the men from Judah and Jerusalem back to
Jerusalem. The LORD had made them happy because their enemies were
defeated. 28They entered Jerusalem with harps, lyres, and trumpets and went to
the Temple of the LORD.

29When all the kingdoms of the lands around them heard how the LORD had
fought Israel’s enemies, they feared God. 30So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was not at
war. His God gave him peace from all the countries around him.

Jehoshaphat’s Rule Ends

31Jehoshaphat ruled over the country of Judah. He was thirty-five years old
when he became king, and he ruled in Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His
mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 32Jehoshaphat was good like his
father Asa, and he did what the LORD said was right. 33But the places where
gods were worshiped were not removed, and the people did not really want to
follow the God of their ancestors.

34The other things Jehoshaphat did as king, from the beginning to the end, are
written in the records of Jehu son of Hanani, which are in the book of the kings
of Israel.

35Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made a treaty with Ahaziah king of Israel,
which was a wrong thing to do. 36Jehoshaphat agreed with Ahaziah to build
trading ships, which they built in the town of Ezion Geber. 37Then Eliezer son of
Dodavahu from the town of Mareshah spoke against Jehoshaphat. He said,
“Jehoshaphat, because you joined with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what
you have made.” The ships were wrecked so they could not sail out to trade.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version

2 Chronicles 20

We have here, I. The great danger and distress that Jehoshaphat and his
kingdom were in from a foreign invasion (v. 1, 2). II. The pious course he took
for their safety, by fasting, and praying, and seeking God (v. 3-13). III. The
assurance which God, by a prophet, immediately gave them of victory (v. 14-
17). IV. Their thankful believing reception of those assurances (v. 18-21). V.
The defeat which God gave to their enemies thereupon (v. 22-25). VI. A solemn
thanksgiving which they kept for their victory, and for a happy consequences of
it (v. 26-30). VII. The conclusion of the reign of Jehoshaphat, not without some
blemishes (v. 31-37).


We left Jehoshaphat, in the foregoing chapter, well employed in reforming his
kingdom and providing for the due administration of justice and support of
religion in it, and expected nothing but to hear of the peace and prosperity of his
reign; but here we have him in distress, which distress, however, was followed by
such a glorious deliverance as was an abundant recompence for his piety. If we
meet with trouble in the way of duty, we may believe it is that God may have an
opportunity of showing us so much the more of his marvelous loving-kindness.
We have here,

I. A formidable invasion of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom by the Moabites, and
Ammonites, and their auxiliaries, v. 1. Jehoshaphat was surprised with the
intelligence of it when the enemy had already entered his country, v. 2. What
pretence they had to quarrel with Jehoshaphat does not appear; they are said to
come from beyond the sea, meaning the Dead Sea, where Sodom had stood. It
should seem, they marched through those of the ten tribes that lay beyond Jordan,
and they gave them passage through their borders; so ungrateful were they to
Jehoshaphat, who had lately put his hand to help them in recovering Ramoth-
Gilead. Several nations joined in this confederacy, but especially the children of
whom the rest helped, Ps. 83:6-8. The neighboring nations had feared
Jehoshaphat (ch. 17:10), but perhaps his affinity with Ahab had lessened him in
their esteem, and they had some intimation that his God was displeased with him
for it, which they fancied would give them an opportunity to make a prey of his

II. The preparation Jehoshaphat made against the invaders. No mention is
made of his mustering his forces, which yet it is most probable he did, for God
must be trusted in the use of means. But his great care was to obtain the favor of
God, and secure him on his side, which perhaps he was the more solicitous about
because he had been lately told that there was wrath upon him from before the
ch. 19:2. But he is of the mind of his father David. If we must be corrected,
yet let us not fall into the hands of man. 1. He feared. Consciousness of guilt
made him fear. Those that have least sin are the most sensible of it. The surprise
added to the fright. Holy fear is a spur to prayer and preparation, Heb. 11:7. 2. He
set himself to seek the Lord,
and, in the first place, to make him his friend. Those
that would seek the Lord so as to find him, and to find favor with him, must set
themselves to seek him, must do it with fixedness of thought, with sincerity of
intention, and with the utmost vigor and resolution to continue seeking him. 3.
He proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, appointed a day of humiliation and
prayer, that they might join together in confessing their sins and asking help of
the Lord.
Fasting from bodily refreshments, upon such extraordinary occasions,
is a token of self-judging for the sins we have committed (we own ourselves
unworthy of the bread we eat, and that God might justly withhold it from us), and
of self-denial for the future; fasting for sin implies a resolution to fast from it,
though it has been to us as a sweet morsel. Magistrates are to call their people to
the duty of fasting and prayer upon such occasions, that it may be a national act,
and so may obtain national mercies. 4. The people readily assembled out of all
the cities of Judah in the court of the temple to join in prayer (v. 4), and they
stood before the Lord, as beggars at his door, with their wives and children; they
and their families were in danger, and therefore they bring their families with
them to seek the Lord. “Lord, we are indeed a provoking people, that deserve to
be abandoned to ruin; but here are little ones that are innocent, let not them
perish in the storm.” Nineveh was spared for the sake of the little ones, Jonah
4:11. The place they met in was the house of the Lord, before the new court,
which was perhaps lately added to the former courts (that, as some think, which
was called the court of the women); thus they came within reach of that gracious
promise which God had made, in answer to Solomon’s prayer, ch. 7:15. My ears
shall be attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
5. Jehoshaphat himself
was the mouth of the congregation to God, and did not devolve the work upon his
chaplains. Though the kings were forbidden to burn incense, they were allowed
to pray and preach; as Solomon and Jehoshaphat here. The prayer Jehoshaphat
prayed, upon this occasion, is here recorded, or part of it; and an excellent prayer
it is. (1.) He acknowledges the sovereign dominion of the divine Providence,
gives to God the glory of it and takes to himself the comfort of it (v. 6): “Art not
thou God in heaven?
No doubt thou art, which none of the gods of the heathen
are; make it to appear then. Is not thy dominion, supreme over kingdoms
themselves, and universal, over all kingdoms, even those of the heathen that
know thee not? Control these heathen then; set bounds to their daring threatening
insults. Is there not in thy hand the power and might which none is able to
Lord, exert it on our behalf. Glorify thy own omnipotence.” (2.) He
lays hold on their covenant-relation to God and interest in him. “Thou that art
God in heaven art the God of our fathers (v. 6) and our God, v. 7. Whom should
we seek to, whom should we trust to, for relief, but to the God we have chosen
and served?” (3.) He shows the title they had to this good land they were now in
possession of; an indisputable title it was: “Thou gavest it to the seed of Abraham
thy friend.
He was thy friend (this is referred to, James 2:23, to show the honour
of Abraham, that he was called the friend of God); we are his seed, and hope to
be beloved for the father’s sake,” Rom. 11:28; Deu. 7:8, 9. “We hold this land by
grant from thee. Lord, maintain thy own grant, and warrant it against all unjust
claims. Suffer us not to be cast out of they possession. We are tenants; thou art
our landlord; wilt thou not hold thy own?” v. 11. Those that use what they have
for God may comfortably hope that he will secure it to them. (4.) He makes
mention of the sanctuary, the temple they had built for God’s name (v. 8), not as
if that merited any thing at God’s hand, for of his own they gave him, but it was
such a token of God’s favourable presence with them that they had promised
themselves he would hear and help them when, in their distress, they cried to him
before that house, v. 8, 9. “Lord, when it was built it was intended for the
encouragement of our faith at such a time as this. Here thy name is; here we are.
Lord, help us, for the glory of thy name.” (5.) He pleads the ingratitude and
injustice of his enemies: “We are such as it will be thy glory to appear for; they
are such as it will be thy glory to appear against; for, [1.] They ill requite our
ancient kindnesses. Thou wouldst not let Israel invade them, nor give them any
disturbance.” Deu. 2:5, 9, 19, Meddle not with the Edomites, distress not the
Moabites, come not nigh the children of Ammon,
no not though they provoke
you. “Yet now see how they invade us.” We may comfortably appear to God
against those that render us evil for good. [2.] “They break in upon our ancient
rights. They come to cast us out of our possessions, and seize our land for
themselves. O! our God, wilt thou not judge them? v. 12. Wilt thou not give
sentence against them, and execute it upon them?” The justice of God is the
refuge of those that are wronged. (6.) He professes his entire dependence upon
God for deliverance. Though he had a great army on foot, and well disciplined;
yet he said, “We have no might against this great company, none without thee,
none that we can expect any thing from without thy special presence and
blessing, none to boast of, none to trust to; but our eyes are upon thee. We rely
upon thee, and from thee is all our expectation. The disease seems desperate: we
know not what to do,
are quite at a loss, in a great strait. But this is a sovereign
remedy, our eyes are upon thee, an eye of acknowledgment and humble
submission, an eye of faith and entire dependence, an eye of desire and hearty
prayer, an eye of hope and patient expectation. In thee, O God! do we put our
trust; our souls wait on thee.

VERSES 14-19

We have here God’s gracious answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer; and it was a
speedy answer. While he was yet speaking God heard: before the congregation
was dismissed they had assurance given them that they should be victorious; for
it is never in vain to seek God. 1. The spirit of prophecy came upon a Levite that
was present, not in any place of eminency, but in the midst of the congregation,
v. 14. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where and on whom he listeth. He was of
the sons of Asaph, and therefore one of the singers; on that office God would put
an honour. Whether he was a prophet before this or no is uncertain, most
probably he was, which would make him the more regarded. There needed no
sign, the thing itself was to be performed the very next day, and that would be
confirmation enough to his prophecy. 2. He encouraged them to trust in God,
though the danger was very threatening (v. 15): “Be not afraid; you have
admitted fear enough to bring you to God, do not now admit that which will drive
you to God, do not now admit that which will drive you from him again. The
battle is not yours;
it is not in your own strength, not for your own cause, that
you engage; the battle is God’s: he does and will, as you have desired, interest
himself in the cause.” 3. He gives them intelligence of the motions of the enemy,
and orders them to march towards them, with particular directions where they
should find them. Tomorrow (the day after the fast) go you down against them, v.
16, 17. It is fit that he who commands the deliverance should command those for
whom the deliverance is to be wrought, and give the necessary orders, both for
time and place. 4. He assures them that they should be, not the glorious
instruments, but the joyful spectators, of the total defeat of the enemy: “You shall
not need to strike a stroke; the work shall be done to your hands; only stand still
and see it,” v. 17. As Moses said to Israel at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:13), “God is
with you,
who is able to do his work himself, and will do it. If the battle be his,
the victory shall be his too.” Let but the Christian soldier go out against his
spiritual enemies, and the God of peace will tread them under his feet and make
him more than a conqueror. 5. Jehoshaphat and his people received these
assurances with faith, reverence, and thankfulness. (1.) They bowed their heads,
Jehoshaphat first, and then all the people, fell before the Lord, and worshipped,
receiving with a holy awe and fear of God this token of his favour, and saying
with faith, Be it unto us according to thy word. (2.) They lifted up their voices in
praise to God, v. 19. An active faith can give thanks for a promise though it be
not yet performed, knowing that God’s bonds are as good as ready money. God
hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice,
Ps. 60:5.

VERSES 20-30

We have here the foregoing prayer answered and the foregoing promise
performed, in the total overthrow of the enemies’ forces and the triumph (for so it
was rather than a victory) of Jehoshaphat’s forces over them.

I. Never was army drawn out to the field of battle as Jehoshaphat’s was. He
had soldiers ready prepared for war (ch. 17:18), but here is no notice taken of
their military equipment, their swords or spears, their shields or bows. But
Jehoshaphat took care, 1. That faith should be their armour. As they went forth,
instead of calling them to handle their arms, and stand to them, to keep ranks,
observe orders, and fight valiantly, he bade them believe in the Lord God and
give credit to his word in the mouth of his prophets, and assured them that they
should prosper and be established, v. 20. That is true courage which faith
inspires a man with; nor will any thing contribute more to the establishing of the
heart in shaking times than a firm belief of the power, and mercy, and promise of
God. The heart is fixed that thus trusteth in the Lord, and is kept in perfect peace.
In our spiritual conflicts, this is the victory, this is the prosperity, even our faith.
2. That praise and thanksgiving should be their vanguard, v. 21. Jehoshaphat
called a council of war, and it was resolved to appoint singers to go out before
the army,
to charge in the front, who had nothing else to do but to praise God, to
praise his holiness, which is his beauty, to praise him as they did in the temple
(that beauty of holiness) with that ancient and good doxology which eternity
itself will not wear thread-bare, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.
By this strange advance towards the field of battle, Jehoshaphat intended to
express his firm reliance upon the word of God (which enabled him to triumph
before the battle), to animate his own soldiers, to confound the enemy, and to
engage God on their side; for praise pleases God better than all burnt offering
and sacrifice.

II. Never was army so unaccountably destroyed as that of the enemy; not by
thunder, or hail, or the sword of an angel, not by dint of sword, or strength of
arm, or any surprising alarm, like that which Gideon gave the Midianites; but the
Lord set ambushments against them, either hosts of angels, or, as bishop Patrick
thinks, their own ambushments, whom God struck with such confusion that they
fell upon their own friends as if they had been enemies, and every one helped to
destroy another,
so that none escaped. This God did when his people began to
sing and to praise
(v. 22), for he delights to furnish those with matter for praise
that have hearts for it. We read of his being angry at the prayers of his people
(Ps. 80:4), but never at their praises. When they did but begin the work of praise
God perfected the work of their deliverance. What ground there was for their
jealousies one of another does not appear, perhaps there was none; but so it was
that the Ammonites and the Moabites fell foul upon the Edomites and cut them
off, and then they fell out with one another and cut one another off, v. 23. Thus
God often makes wicked people instruments of destruction to one another; and
what alliances can be so firm as to keep those together whom God designs to
dash in pieces one against another? See the mischievous consequences of
divisions which neither of the contending parties can give any good account of
the reason of. Those are wretchedly infatuated, to their ruin, that fall foul upon
their friends as if they were enemies.

III. Never was spoil so cheerfully divided, for Jehoshaphat’s army had nothing
to do besides; the rest was done for them. When they came to the view of this
vast army, instead of finding living men to fight with, they found them all dead
men, and their carcasses spread as dung upon the face of the earth, v. 24. See how
rich God is in mercy to those that call upon him in truth, and how often he out-
does him in truth, and how often he out-does the prayers and expectations of his
people. Jehoshaphat and his people prayed to be delivered from being spoiled by
the enemy; and God not only delivered them, but enriched them with the spoil of
the enemy. The plunder of the field was very great and very rich. They found
precious jewels with the dead bodies, which yet could not save them from being
loathsome carcasses. The spoil was more than they could carry away at once, and
they were three days in gathering it, v. 25. Now it appeared what was God’s end
in bringing this great army against Judah; it was to humble them and prove them,
that he might do them good in their latter end. It seemed at first a disturbance to
their reformation, but it proved a recompence of it.

IV. Never was victory celebrated with more solemn and enlarged
thanksgivings. 1. They kept a day of praise in the camp, before they drew their
forces out of the field. Many thanksgivings, no doubt, were offered up to God
immediately; but on the fourth day they assembled in a valley, where they
blessed God with so much zeal and fervency that that day’s work gave a name to
the place, the valley of Berachah, that is, of blessing, v. 26. The remembrance of
this work of wonder was hereby perpetuated, for the encouragement of
succeeding generations to trust in God. 2. Yet they did not think this enough, but
came in solemn procession, all in a body, and Jehoshaphat at the head of them, to
Jerusalem, that the country, as they passed along, might join with them in their
praises, and that they might give thanks for the mercy where they had by prayer
obtained it, in the house of the Lord, v. 27, 28. Praising God must not be the work
of a day only; but our praises, when we have received mercy, must be often
repeated, as our prayers were when we were in the pursuit of it. Every day we
must bless God; as long as we live, and while we have any being, we must praise
him, spending our time in that work in which we hope to spend our eternity.
Public mercies call for public acknowledgments in the courts of the Lord’s
Ps. 116:19.

V. Never did victory turn to a better account than this; for, 1. Jehoshaphat’s
kingdom was hereby made to look very great and considerable abroad, v. 29.
When they heard that God fought thus for Israel, they could not but say, There is
none like unto the God of Jeshurun,
and Happy art thou, O Israel! It begat in the
neighbours a reverence of God and a cautious fear of doing any injury to his
people. It is dangerous fighting against those who have God with them. 2. It was
made very easy and quiet at home, v. 30. (1.) They were quiet among themselves.
Those that were displeased at the destroying of the images and groves were now
satisfied, and obliged to own that since the God of Israel could deliver after this
sort he only is to be worshipped, in that way only which he himself has
appointed. (2.) They were quiet from the fear of insults from their neighbours,
God having given them rest round about. And, if he give rest, who can give

VERSES 31-37

We are now drawing towards the close of the history of Jehoshaphat’s reign,
for a further account of which those who lived when this book was published
were referred to an authentic history of it, written by Jehu the prophet (ch. 19:2),
which was then extant, v. 34. This was the general character of his reign, that he
did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, kept close to the worship of God
himself and did what he could to keep his people close to it. But two things are
here to be lamented:—1. The people still retained a partiality for the high places,
v. 33. Those that were erected to the honour of strange gods were taken away
(ch. 17:6); but those where the true God was worshipped, being less culpable,
were thought allowable, and Jehoshaphat was loth to disoblige the people so far
as to take them away, for as yet they had not prepared their hearts to serve the
God of their fathers. They complied with Jehoshaphat’s reformation because they
could not for shame do otherwise, but they were not hearty in it, did not direct
their hearts to God in it, did not act in it from any good principle nor with any
zeal or resolution: and the best magistrates cannot bring to pass what they would,
in reformation, when the people are cool in it. 2. Jehoshaphat himself still
retained a partiality for the house of Ahab, because he had married his son to a
daughter of that family, though he had been plainly reproved for it and had like
to have smarted for it. He saw and knew that Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, did very
wickedly, and therefore could not expect to prosper; yet he joined himself with
him, not in war, as with his father, but in trade, became his partner in an East
India fleet bound for Ophir, v. 35, 36. There is an emphasis laid upon the time—
after this, after God had done such great things for him, without any such
scandalous and pernicious confederacies, given him not only victory, but wealth,
yet after this to go and join himself with a wicked king was very ungrateful. After
God had given him such a deliverance as this should he again break God’s
commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations?
could he expect but that God should be angry with him? Ezra 9:13, 14. Yet he
sends to him, to show him his error and bring him to repentance, (1.) By a
prophet, who foretold the blasting of his project, v. 37. And, (2.) By a storm,
which broke the ships in the port before they set sail, by which he was warned to
break off his alliance with Ahaziah; and it seems he took the warning, for, when
Ahaziah afterwards pressed him to join with him, he would not, 1 Kings 22:49.
See how pernicious a thing it is to join in friendship and society with evil-doers.
It is a hard matter to break off from it. A man may much better keep himself from
being taken in the snare than recover himself out of it.

Matthew Henrys Commentary on the Old Testament

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