2 Chronicles 19:4-11
And Jehoshaphat dwelled at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim…
I. AN OLD WORK RESUMED. The reformation of religion (ver. 4).
1. The reformer. Jehoshaphat. Whether the work was done by special plenipotentiaries, as in the former instance (2 Chronicles 17:7, 8), or by the king in person, or, as is most probable, by both, the mainspring of this movement, as of the former, was Jehoshaphat; and for a sovereign of Judah it was certainly much more becoming occupation than feasting with Ahab or fighting with Benhadad. Such as are kings and priests unto God should study to walk worthy of their name and vocation (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27), and, for them, furthering the interests of religion amongst themselves and others, at home and abroad, is nobler employment (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; Titus 3:1; 3 John 1:8) than revelling and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and jealousy (Romans 13:14), after the example of the world.
2. The reformed. The people from Beersheba to Mount Ephraim. The king's efforts, though doubtless beginning at, were not limited to Jerusalem, but extended through the whole country from its southern to its northern limit. So Christ commanded his apostles, though beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), to go into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature (Mark 16:15).
3. The reformation. A return to the worship of Jehovah, the God of their fathers. This work, auspiciously begun some time before (2 Chronicles 17:3-9), but interrupted by the Ramoth-Gilead expedition, was now resumed by the humbled, presumably also enlightened and repentant, monarch. A good work in itself, it was likewise a right work, since he and his people were pledged by covenant to worship Jehovah (2 Chronicles 15:12); a necessary work, if the kingdom was to be established and prosper; and a work which should neither be interrupted nor delayed, but completed with convenient speed.
II. A NEW WORK BEGUN. The establishment of courts of justice in the laud (vers. 5-11).
1. Provincial courts.
(1) The seats of the judges. The fortified cities throughout the land, because these were "the central points for the traffic of the districts in which they were situated" (Bertheau).
(2) The work of the judges. To administer justice, not for man, but for Jehovah, i.e. to dispense not merely what man might reckon equity, but what was truly such in God's sight - cases submitted to them to decide, not at man's dictation, or in compliance with man's wishes, but "in the name and according to the will of the Lord" (Keil).
(3) The duty of the judges. To act conscientiously, as in Jehovah's sight, having the fear of Jehovah and the dread of offending him constantly upon their spirits (Exodus 18:21; 2 Samuel 23:3), especially shunning injustice and corruption, remembering that with Jehovah is no respect of persons or taking of bribes (Deuteronomy 10:17; Job 8:3; Job 34:19; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17).
(4) The Keeper of the judges. Jehovah. As the judgment they should give should be practically his judgment (Proverbs 29:26), it must be beyond suspicion, commend itself to all who heard it as righteous (Psalm 129:137), and be accepted by them to whom it was delivered as final (Romans 3:4; Romans 9:14; Revelation 16:5; Revelation 19:2). Hence, if they entered on their duties in a right spirit, Jehovah would be with them to guide them in forming, speaking, and maintaining their judgments (Psalm 25:9; Psalm 46:5; Proverbs 2:8; Proverbs 3:6).
2. A supreme tribunal.
(1) Its locality. Jerusalem, the capital of the country, the proper seat of such a court.
(2) Its object. For the judgment of the Lord and for controversies (ver. 8), or for "all matters of Jehovah," and "for all the king's matters" (ver. 11); i.e. for the hearing of appeals, and the settlement of disputes referred to it from the lower courts concerning religious or ecclesiastical affairs, as e.g. causes depending on decisions "between law and commandment, statutes and judgments," or on the interpretation and application of the laws of Moses; and, again, for similar verdicts in purely civil cases, as e.g. cases of murder and manslaughter, of consanguinity and inheritance, etc., all of which may be included in the phrase "between blood and blood."
(3) Its constitution. Three orders of members - Levites, priests, heads of fathers' houses. Its courts two - an ecclesiastical, or religious, and a civil. Its presidents two - in the ecclesiastical court, Amariah the high priest, "described in 1 Chronicles 5:37 as the fifth high priest from Zadok, the contemporary of David" (Bertheau), though this is doubtful (Keil); in the civil court, Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the prince of the house of Judah, i.e. the tribal prince of Judah. Its assistants and servants, the Levites, i.e. such of them as had not been elected judges.
(4) Its working. When a cause came before the judges, these were to warn the litigants not to trespass against Jehovah (which would practically be the same thing as putting them on oath to tell the truth), lest by sinning against Jehovah they should bring wrath upon themselves and their brethren; whilst the judges were themselves to dispense judgment in the fear of the Lord, or reverentially, faithfully, with a perfect heart or sincerely, and courageously - four qualities indispensable for an ideal judge - in which case the Lord would be with them to uphold their verdicts. Learn:
1. The precedence that belongs to religion even in a commonwealth. Jehoshaphat cuts down idol-groves before he erects courts of law.
2. No administration of justice can be trusted that is not based on religion and the fear of God.
3. He that sits in a judicial chair should be sage, saint, and soldier, learned, devout, and courageous, all in one.
4. No system of dispensing equity can command confidence that does not admit of appeal from inferior to superior courts.
5. Judges should remember that they themselves also must one day be judged.
6. How much the jurisprudence of modern times is indebted to the Bible! - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.