It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.2 Chronicles 20:1. It came to pass after this also, &c. — After Jehoshaphat had been so very well and zealously employed in reforming his kingdom, and providing for the due administration of justice, and the support of religion in it, and when one would have expected to hear of nothing but the peace and prosperity of his reign, he is interrupted in his good work, and brought into great perplexity, through a formidable invasion of his kingdom by several neighbouring nations: this, however, was permitted in order to such a glorious deliverance as was an abundant recompense for the distress he suffered. If we meet with trouble in the way of duty, we may believe it is in order that God may have an occasion of showing us so much the more of his marvellous loving-kindness.
Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.2 Chronicles 20:2. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat — That brought him the surprising intelligence of this invasion, when his enemies had already entered his kingdom. Saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea — The Dead sea, beyond which mount Seir lay; and from this side Syria — Largely so called, and so it includes the Moabites and Ammonites. And it may be thus expressed, to intimate that they came by the instigation of the Syrians, to revenge themselves of Jehoshaphat for joining with Ahab against them.
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.2 Chronicles 20:3. Jehoshaphat feared — Partly from human frailty, and partly from the remembrance of his own guilt, and the wrath of God denounced against him for it, 2 Chronicles 19:2. And set himself to seek the Lord — The phrase denotes his settled resolution, seriousness, and earnestness in it, and the preparing and fixing of his heart for it. And proclaimed a fast — Partly in token of his humiliation and penitence for his sins, and partly to render himself and his people more fervent in their prayers.
And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.2 Chronicles 20:4-5. Judah gathered themselves together — The people readily assembled, out of all the cities of Judah, in the court of the temple, to join in fasting and prayer to the Lord for help in this time of great danger and distress. And Jehoshaphat stood in the house of the Lord — Largely so called, that is, in the court of the people, upon that brazen scaffold which Solomon had erected. Before the new court — Before the priest’s court; which is called the new court, because it had lately been renewed when the altar was renewed.
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?2 Chronicles 20:6-7. And said, O Lord God, &c. — Jehoshaphat himself was the mouth of the congregation to God, and did not devolve the work upon his chaplains. For though the kings were forbidden to burn incense, they were allowed to pray and preach. Art thou not God in heaven, &c. — Which none of the gods of the heathen are. Is not thy dominion supreme, over kingdoms themselves, and universal, over all kingdoms, even those of the heathen, that know thee not? Art thou not our God? — In covenant with us? To whom should we seek, to whom should we trust for relief, but to him whom we have chosen for our God, and who has chosen us for his people? Who gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend — To whom thou didst engage thyself to be his friend, and the friend of his seed for ever, and therefore we trust thou wilt not forsake us, his posterity.
Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,2 Chronicles 20:8-9. Have built thee a sanctuary — He does not mention this under an idea that they had merited any thing at God’s hand by building it, for only of his own they had given him; but considers it as such a token of God’s favourable presence with them, as had encouraged them to hope he would hear and help them, when in their distress they cried to him before that house. If when evil cometh upon us, the sword, judgment — Or rather, the sword of judgment, or of vengeance, that is, war, whereby thou judgest and punishest thy people for their sins.
If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;2 Chronicles 20:10-11. Whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, &c. — Or give them any disturbance. He pleads the ingratitude and injustice of his enemies, and intimates that it would be for God’s glory to appear against them, and for the people whom they had so ill requited for the kindness shown them. We may comfortably appeal to God against those who render us evil for good. Behold how they reward us, to come and cast us out of thy possession — And seize our land for themselves, which indeed is thy land. Their crime was aggravated in this, that they made an attempt, not only upon the rights of the Israelites, but of God himself; whose land this was, which his people held of him as their Lord.
Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.2 Chronicles 20:12. O our God, wilt thou not judge them? — He appeals to the justice of God, the righteous Judge, who rights those that suffer wrong, especially when they have no helper. Wilt thou not give sentence against them, and execute it upon them? For to judge, in this place, signifies to punish, as it also does in many other passages. The justice of God is the refuge of those that are wronged. We have no might against this great company — It may seem strange that he should say they had no might, when he had so many hundred thousand men at command as are mentioned 2 Chronicles 17:14-16, &c. But it may be observed, that this was probably such a sudden invasion, that he had not time to gather any considerable body to oppose them; or rather, he distrusted the greatest army, and acknowledged it to be of no force if God were not with him, on whom he entirely relied, and not on the number and valour of his soldiers, though both were very great.
And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.2 Chronicles 20:13. All Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones — Whom they used to present before the Lord in times of great distress, to stir up themselves to more fervent prayers, their eyes being upon their harmless and tender children; and to move God to compassion, because God hath declared that he will be prevailed with by such methods as these.
Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;2 Chronicles 20:14. Upon Jahaziel came the Spirit of the Lord — It seems he was not a prophet before this time, but was now suddenly inspired by God with the following message, to comfort this great assembly with an assured hope of deliverance, before they stirred from the place where they had prayed. For it is never in vain to seek God; while they were yet speaking, God heard.
And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.2 Chronicles 20:15-17. Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid — You have admitted fear enough to induce you to have recourse to God: now do not give way to that fear which would drive you from him. The battle is not yours — It is not in your own cause, nor in your own strength, that you engage; the battle is God’s — And he doth and will interest himself in your favour, as you have desired, and will fight for you. To-morrow go ye down — From Jerusalem, where he and his army now were, which stood upon high ground. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle — The work shall be done to your hands, and you will not need to strike a stroke, nor shall you be the instruments, but only the spectators of the defeat of the enemy. O Judah and Jerusalem, fear not — Thus does he encourage them to trust in God, though the danger was very threatening, and to expect certain victory and deliverance.
To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.2 Chronicles 20:18-19. Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground —
In token of his reverence for God and his message, his belief of the promise, and his thankfulness for so great a favour. The Levites stood up to praise the Lord — By Jehoshaphat’s appointment. With a loud voice on high — With heart and voice lifted up, whereby they showed their confidence in God, and assurance of the accomplishment of the prophet’s prediction.
And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.2 Chronicles 20:20. Believe in the Lord your God — Believe God’s promise delivered to us by this prophet, and consequently all other predictions of the prophets. So shall ye prosper — Take heed lest by your unbelief you frustrate God’s promise.
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.2 Chronicles 20:21. When he had consulted with the people — That is, with the elders and heads of the tribes, who represented the rest. He called a council of war, and it was resolved to appoint singers to go out before the army, who had nothing 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 good old doxology, which eternity itself,” as Henry says, “will not wear threadbare, Praise the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever.” By this strange advance to the field of battle, Jehoshaphat showed his firm reliance on the word of God, which enabled him to triumph before the battle, to animate his own men, and confound the enemy.
And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.2 Chronicles 20:22. When they began to sing and to praise — So acceptable are the fervent prayers and praises of God’s people to him, and so terrible to their enemies! The Lord set ambushments — Hebrew, מארבים, mearebim, insidiantes, persons lying in wait, or plotting, and laying snares. The meaning seems to be, as appears from the next verse, that God raised jealousies and animosities among their enemies themselves, which by degrees broke forth, first into secret plots, snares, and ambushments, which one party contrived and laid for another, against which they had conceived some grudge; and then into a general confusion, and open hostilities and outrages, to the destruction of one another throughout the whole army. So vain are all men’s attempts against God, who needs none to destroy his enemies but themselves, and their own mistakes and passions, which he can, when he pleases, arm against them.
For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.2 Chronicles 20:23-24. The children of Ammon and of Moab, &c. — These fell foul upon the Edomites, and cut them off; and then fell out with one another, and cut one another off. Thus God often makes wicked people instruments of destruction to one another. When Judah came toward the watch-tower — Which stood upon the cliff of Ziz, mentioned 2 Chronicles 20:16, and looked toward the wilderness, where their enemies lay encamped, whose numbers, and order, and condition, they could descry from thence. They looked unto the multitude, and behold they were dead bodies — 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. And none escaped — Or rather, none remained, because those who were not killed, made the best of their way home; for it cannot be supposed that they were absolutely all killed.
And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.2 Chronicles 20:25. They found among them in abundance both riches and jewels, &c. — Which they had brought with them to corrupt any of Jehoshaphat’s officers as they saw occasion: to procure necessaries for their vast army from time to time: and because they came as to triumph rather than to fight, being confident of the victory on account of their numbers, and especially because they thought to surprise Jehoshaphat ere he could make any considerable preparations against them; God also permitting them to be puffed up to their own destruction. See how rich in mercy God is to them that call upon him in truth, and how often he out-does the prayers and expectations of his people. Jehoshaphat prayed to be delivered from being spoiled by the enemy, and God not only did that, but enriched them with the spoils of the enemy. 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, to be a disturbance to their reformation, but it proves to be a recompense of it.
And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.2 Chronicles 20:26. On the fourth day, &c. — Undoubtedly many thanksgivings were offered to God immediately, and perhaps even a day of praise was kept in the camp, before they drew their forces out of the field: but in the fourth day they assembled in a valley, and blessed God with so much zeal and fervency, that a name was thereby given to the place, and the remembrance of that work of wonder perpetuated for the encouragement of succeeding generations to trust in God. Of Berachah — Hebrew, of blessing, so called, from the solemn blessings and praises given to God on that occasion.
Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies.2 Chronicles 20:27-28. Jehoshaphat in the fore-front of them — They marched all in a body, in solemn procession, and Jehoshaphat at their head, that the country, as they passed along, might join with them in their praises. To go again to Jerusalem with joy — That they might give thanks for the mercy there, where by prayer they had obtained it. Unto the house of the Lord — To renew their praises in the court of the temple, the proper and usual place for it. 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 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.
And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.
And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.2 Chronicles 20:29-30. The fear of God was on all the kingdoms, &c. — Which were near, or which heard these things. They were afraid to attack or molest the worshippers of a God who was able to help his people in so wonderful a manner. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet — 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 ought to be worshipped, and in that way which himself had appointed. So that they were quiet among themselves; and they were also quiet from the fear of insults or injuries from their neighbours, God having given them rest round about.
So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.
And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.
Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.2 Chronicles 20:33. Howbeit, the high places were not taken away — Not universally; the fault was not in Jehoshaphat, but in the people, who, though they did worship the true God, yet would not be confined to the temple; but, for their own convenience, or from their affection to their ancient customs, chose to worship him in the high places.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Jehu the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel.
And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:2 Chronicles 20:35. After this did Jehoshaphat join him with Ahaziah — This is mentioned as an aggravation of his sin, after so great an obligation laid upon him by God, and after he had been so sharply reproved by a prophet, yet he relapsed into the same sin; which proceeded partly from that near relation which was contracted between the two families, and partly from the easiness of Jehoshaphat’s temper, which could not resist the solicitations of others, in such things as might seem indifferent. For he did not join with him in war, as he did with Ahab, but in a peaceable way only, in a matter of trade and commerce. And yet God reproves and punishes him for it, (2 Chronicles 20:37,) to show his great dislike of all familiar conversation of his servants and people with professed enemies of God and of religion, as Ahaziah was. Who did very wickedly — Or, who did industriously, and maliciously, and constantly, work wickedness, as the Hebrew phrase implies, giving himself up to idolatry, and all wickedness.
And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber.
Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.