2 Chronicles 19:5
And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,
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(5) And he set.Appointed, or stationed.

The fenced cities.—As being the chief centres of each district.

City by city.For every city, according to the Law, Deuteronomy 16:18, “in all thy gates.” (Comp. 1Chronicles 23:4; 1Chronicles 26:29.) The judges would be Levites, and probably also priests and family chiefs, as in the case of Jerusalem (2Chronicles 19:8).

2 Chronicles 19:5-6. He set judges in the land, city by city — In every city, for itself and the country adjacent, that justice might be administered with the most ease and convenience to the people, and they might not all be forced to go up to Jerusalem. And said to the judges, Take heed, &c. — Mind your business; take heed of making any mistakes; be afraid of misunderstanding any point of law, or the matter of fact. Judges, of all men, have need to be cautious, because so much depends on their understanding a matter right. For ye judge not for man, but for the Lord — You represent God’s person, to whom judgment belongeth; you have your commission from God, and not from man only; and your administration of justice is not only for man’s good, but also for God’s honour and service. Who is with you in judgment — Both to observe your carriage, and to defend you against all those enemies whom the impartial exercise of justice may provoke.

19:1-11 Jehoshaphat visits his kingdom. - Whenever we return in peace to our houses, we ought to acknowledge God's providence in preserving our going out and coming in. And if we have been kept through more than common dangers, we are, in a special manner, bound to be thankful. Distinguishing mercies lay us under strong obligations. The prophet tells Jehoshaphat he had done very ill in joining Ahab. He took the reproof well. See the effect the reproof had upon him. He strictly searched his own kingdom. By what the prophet said, Jehoshaphat perceived that his former attempts for reformation were well-pleasing to God; therefore he did what was then left undone. It is good when commendations quicken us to our duty. There are diversities of gifts and operations, but all from the same Spirit, and for the public good; and as every one has received the gift, so let him minister the same. Blessed be God for magistrates and ministers, scribes and statesmen, men of books, and men of business. Observe the charge the king gave. They must do all in the fear of the Lord, with a perfect, upright heart. And they must make it their constant care to prevent sin, as an offence to God, and what would bring wrath on the people.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. 2Ch 19:5-7. His Instructions to the Judges.

5-7. he set judges in the land—There had been judicial courts established at an early period. But Jehoshaphat was the first king who modified these institutions according to the circumstances of the now fragmentary kingdom of Judah. He fixed local courts in each of the fortified cities, these being the provincial capitals of every district (see on [443]De 16:18).

In every city, for itself and the country adjacent, that justice might be administered with the most ease and convenience to the people, and they might not all be forced to go up to Jerusalem.

And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,.... Inferior judges in lesser courts of judicature than that at Jerusalem, and that in every city, that judgment and justice might be executed everywhere; such were appointed by David, but had been neglected, and now restored, see 1 Chronicles 26:29. And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,
5. and he set judges] Cp. 2 Chronicles 19:11 “also the Levites shall be officers”; and Deuteronomy 16:18 “judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates.”

In the earliest days justice was administered in Israel, as among the Bedouin of to-day, probably by all heads of families and (in difficult cases) by the one head who was distinguished above the rest for impartiality and for knowledge of tribal custom. In later days when Israel was settled in Canaan the “elders of the cities” and the “elders of the priests” exercised the same functions.

Jehoshaphat’s measures were twofold, (1) to establish judges throughout the cities of Judah, (2) to establish (in accordance with Deuteronomy 17:8 ff.) a kind of court of appeal in Jerusalem itself.

As to the first measure no doubt the work consisted in removing evil judges and confirming the good in their office, rather than in appointing judges for the first time. The second measure, however, was probably altogether new; David (2 Samuel 14:4 ff; 2 Samuel 15:3) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:16) had kept judgment in their own hands. The prominent position assigned to the priests as judges is in accordance with Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 19:17.

Verse 5. - Judges... fenced cities. Jehoshaphat proceeds from direct religious reforms to that which is of importance only second in the life of a nation - reform in the matter of civil administration of justice. The skeleton here given of what should be the character of a judge, and why, harmonizes well with the uniform stress laid in Scripture upon "justice and judgment." It is hard indeed to see, rather impossible, upon what foundation a sure structure of civil growth and stability can be laid, except on that of positive religion. Note the positions and the succinct arguments of vers. 6, 7; and how unequivocally they are based upon faith in a personal God, and upon his revealed character. It can scarcely be that this was the first time of judges being set in the cities of Judah but possibly the meaning intended to be conveyed with emphasis is, that now, looking well round his kingdom, he took care that all the cities should be properly provided with the necessary judges, while of late some had been, and some had not, and some, though they had been officered with judges, had found them not what judges ought to be. The immense majority of the "six thousand" Levite "officers and judges" of David's regulation (1 Chronicles 23:4; 36:29) had, with their superiors, kings and prophets, gone astray. With our present passage may be compared Deuteronomy 16:18-20, where the original enactment of judges and officers is narrated. Fenced cities. Hebrew for "fenced," בְּצֻרות; kal passive part. plur. The word occurs twenty-six times from the Book of Numbers to the Book of the Prophet Zechariah, and is rendered in the Authorized Version "fenced" or "defenced" twenty-two times, "walled" twice, "strong" once, and "mighty" once. The "gates" of the original institution in Deuteronomy are now (probably still the gates of) fenced cities. 2 Chronicles 19:5He set judges in the land, in all the fenced cities of Judah; they, as larger cities, being centres of communication for their respective neighbourhoods, and so best suited to be the seats of judges. ועיר לעיר, in reference to every city, as the law (Deuteronomy 16:18) prescribed. He laid it upon the consciences of these judges to administer justice conscientiously. "Not for men are ye to judge, but for Jahve;" i.e., not on the appointment and according to the will of men, but in the name and according to the will of the Lord (cf. Proverbs 16:11). In the last clause of 2 Chronicles 19:6, Jahve is to be supplied from the preceding context: "and Jahve is with you in judgment," i.e., in giving your decisions (cf. the conclusion of 2 Chronicles 19:11); whence this clause, of course, only serves to strengthen the foregoing, only contains the thoughts already expressed in the law, that judgment belongs to God (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17 with Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:7.). Therefore the fear of the Lord should keep the judges from unrighteousness, so that they should neither allow themselves to be influenced by respect of persons, nor to be bribed by gifts, against which Deuteronomy 16:19 and Deuteronomy 1:17 also warns. ועשׂוּ שׁמרוּ is rightly paraphrased by the Vulgate, cum diligentia cuncta facite. The clause, "With God there is no respect of persons," etc., recalls Deuteronomy 10:17.
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