And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.
Jehoshaphat ... returned to his house in peace - With the battle of Ramoth-Gilead, and the death of Ahab, the war came to an end. The combined attack of the two kings having failed, their troops had been withdrawn, and the enterprise in which they had joined relinquished. The Syrians, satisfied with their victory, did not press on the retreating foe, or carry the war into their enemies' country.
And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.
Jehu ... went out to meet him - Compare 2 Chronicles 15:2. The monarch was therefore rebuked at the earliest possible moment, and in the most effective way, as he was entering his capital at the head of his returning army. Jehu, 35 years previously, had worked in the northern kingdom, and prophesied against Baasha 1 Kings 16:1-7, but had now come to Jerusalem, as prophet and historian (compare 2 Chronicles 20:34).
Shouldest thou help ... - As a matter of mere human policy, the conduct of Jehoshaphat in joining Ahab against the Syrians was not only justifiable but wise and prudent. And the reasonings upon which such a policy was founded would have been unexceptionable but for one circumstance. Ahab was an idolater, and had introduced into his kingdom a false religion of a new and most degraded type. This should have led Jehoshaphat to reject his alliance. Military success could only come from the blessing and protection of Yahweh, which such an alliance, if persisted in, was sure to forfeit.
Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.
And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the LORD God of their fathers.
Jehoshaphat, while declining to renounce the alliance with Israel (compare the 2 Kings 3:7 note), was careful to show that he had no sympathy with idolatry, and was determined to keep his people, so far as he possibly could, free from it. He therefore personally set about a second reformation, passing through the whole land, from the extreme south to the extreme north 2 Chronicles 13:19.
And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,
What exact change Jehoshaphat made in the judicial system of Judah Deuteronomy 16:18; 1 Chronicles 23:4, it is impossible to determine. Probably he found corruption widely spread 2 Chronicles 19:7, and the magistrates in some places tainted with the prevailing idolatry. He therefore made a fresh appointment of judges throughout the whole country; concentrating judicial authority in the hands of a few, or creating superior courts in the chief towns ("fenced cities"), with a right of appeal to such courts from the village judge.
And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.
Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.
Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies, when they returned to Jerusalem.
The "fathers of Israel" are the heads of families; the chief of the fathers" are the great patriarchal chiefs, the admitted heads of great houses or clans. They were now admitted to share in the judicial office which seems in David's time to have been confined to the Levites 1 Chronicles 23:4.
For the judgment of the Lord, and for controversies - By the former are meant disputed cases concerning the performance of religious obligations. In "controversies" are included all the ordinary causes, whether criminal or civil.
When they returned to Jerusalem - Rather, "and they returned to Jerusalem," a clause which if detached from the previous words and attached to 2 Chronicles 19:9, gives a satisfactory sense.
And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.
And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.
The Jews who "dwelt in the cities," if dissatisfied with the decision given by the provincial judges, might therefore remove the cause to Jerusalem, as to a court of appeal.
And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king's matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.
In religious causes, Amariah, the high priest, was to preside over the court; in civil or criminal causes, Zebadiah was to be president. And to Levites, other than the judges, he assigned the subordinate offices about the court.