Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
JEHOSHAPHAT(2 Chronicles 17-20).
PROPHETIC MINISTRY OF MICAH THE SON OF IMLAH AND JEHU THE SON OF HANANI.
Jehoshaphat labours to strengthen his realm internally and externally.
This entire chapter is peculiar to the Chronicle.
And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself against Israel.(1) And Jehoshaphat . . . in. his stead.—The last words of 1Kings 15:24. The name means Iah judgeth.
And strengthened himself against Israel.—As described in 2Chronicles 17:2. Israel is here the northern kingdom. These defensive measures were taken in the early part of the reign, and before Jehoshaphat connected himself by marriage with the northern dynasty (2Chronicles 18:1).
And he placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.(2) And he placed forces.—Comp. 2Chronicles 11:12.
The fenced cities.—‘Arê ha-bĕtsûrôth. (Comp. 2Chronicles 11:5 sqq., 2Chronicles 14:6-7.)
The cities of Ephraim . . . had taken.—See on 2Chronicles 15:8.
And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;(3) He walked in the first ways.—The former or earlier ways of David, as contrasted with his later conduct—a tacit allusion to the adultery with Bathsheba and other sins of David committed in his later years (2 Samuel 11-24). A few MSS. and the LXX. omit David.
And sought not unto Baalim.—And sought not the Baals (dārash lĕ, a late construction). The Baals were different local aspects of the sun-god. Here the term no doubt includes the illegal worship of Jehovah under the form of a bullock, as instituted by Jeroboam, and practised in the northern kingdom (“the doing of Israel” 2Chronicles 17:4). Syriac, “and prayed not to images.”
Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance.(5) Therefore.—And (so “also,” “so that,” in 2Chronicles 17:7; 2Chronicles 17:10).
The Lord stablished the kingdom in his hand.—Comp. 2Kings 14:5.
Presents.—Minchah. This word often means tributary offerings, as in 2Chronicles 17:11, but here it obviously denotes the voluntary gifts of loyal subjects, usual at the beginning of a reign (1Samuel 10:27).
And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.(6) And his heart was lifted up.—Gabhah lēbh, which usually, like the phrase of Authorised version, has a bad meaning, as in 2Chronicles 26:16. The margin is right here: “his courage rose high,” or “he grew bold” in the ways of Jehovah, i.e., in the path of religious reform. Vulg., “cum sumpsisset cor ejus audaciam propter vias Domini.”
Moreover.—And again, further. Referring to 2Chronicles 17:3. Not only did he not seek the Baals, but more than this, he removed the high places, &c. [This is the common explanation. But the sense may rather be: “And he again removed,” referring back to Asa’s reforms, 2Chronicles 14:5.]
Groves.—’Ashêrim, “Asherahs.” (2Chronicles 14:3.)
(7) He sent to his princes, even to Ben-hail . . . to Michaiah.—Rather, He sent his princes, Ben- hail and Obadiah . . . and Michaiah. (The le “to,” in the chronicler’s idiom, marking the object of the verb.) If, however, Authorised Version were correct, the construction would not be unique, as the Speaker’s Com mentary asserts. (Comp. 2Kings 5:7, “this man sendeth to me to recover a man,” &c.)
Princes.—None of the personages mentioned in this and the following verse are otherwise known. The “five princes” were laymen of rank, and were accompanied by nine (eight) Levites and two priests.
Ben-hail.—Son of valour. A compound proper name, only occurring here, but analogous to Ben-hur. Ben-deker, and Ben-hesed in 1Kings 4:8-10. (The LXX. renders “the sons of the mighty.” Syriac, “the chiefs of the forces;” apparently reading bnê chail.)
Nethaneel.—Syriac, Mattanael; Arabic, Mattaniah, Michaiah. Syriac and Arabic, Malachiah.
And with them he sent Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, priests.(8) And with them he sent Levites.—Rather, And with them were the Levites. The construction being changed. So LXX. and the Syriac. (Comp. 1Chronicles 16:41-42; 1Chronicles 15:18, for the same mode of enumeration, which is characteristic of the style of the chronicler.
Zebadiah.—Some MSS. and Syriac and Arabic read Zechariah.
Tob-adonijah.—This curious name occurs only here, and is perhaps a mere mistake arising out of the preceding Adonijah and Tobijah. The Syriac and Arabic omit it.
And had the book of the law of the Lord.—And with them was the book of the law (teaching) of Jehovah. For the construction, compare 1Chronicles 16:42. The writer evidently means the Pentateuch; and if this notice was derived by him from a contemporary source, e.g., the “words of Jehu the son of Hanani,” to which he refers as an authority for the reign (2Chronicles 20:34), it would constitute an important testimony to the existence, if not of the five books, at least of an ancient collection of laws at this early date (circ. 850 B.C. ).
And taught the people.—Taught among the people.
(10) The fear of the Lord.—A dread of Jehovah (pachad), aps. 14:13, 20:29. (Comp. Exodus 15:16; 1Samuel 11:7; Isaiah 2:10. ) This phrase is not peculiar to the chronicler, as Keil and Bertheau assert. “The kingdoms of the lands” is so (2Chronicles 12:8; 1Chronicles 29:30).
They made no war.—The reward of Jehosha-phat’s piety (1Chronicles 22:9; Proverbs 16:7): “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Comp. also Genesis 35:5)
Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.(11) Brought—i.e., continually. Such is the force of the participle.
Presents.—An offering, i.e., tribute (minchah;. 2Chronicles 17:5).
And tribute silver.—Rather, and silver, a load, or burden, i.e., a great quantity (massā’), 2Chronicles 20:25. As if, “silver as much as they could carry”—a natural hyperbole. Not all the five states of the Philistines were subject to Jehoshaphat. (Comp. 2Samuel 8:1.)
The Arabians.—‘Arbî’im, here only equivalent to ‘Arbîyîm (2Chronicles 26:7), and ‘Arbim (2Chronicles 21:16). They are in each case grouped with the Philistines. The nomad Bedâwin conquered by Asa (2Chronicles 14:15) appear to be meant here; or else some tribes which recognised the overlordship of Jehoshaphat after his reduction of Edom (2Chronicles 20:22, sqq.).
Brought him flocks.—Comp. Mesha of Moab’s tribute to Ahab (2Kings 3:4).
And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.(12) And Jehoshaphat waxed great.—Literally, And Jehoshaphat was going on and waxing great, i.e., became greater and greater. (Comp. 1Chronicles 11:9.)
And he built.—Like his predecessors—Solomon, Rehoboam, Asa—he displayed his wealth and power in great public works. The records of the Assyrian and Babylonian sovereigns are largely taken up with similar accounts of temple and palace building.
Castles.—Biranîyôth, a derivative from birah (1Chronicles 29:1; 1Chronicles 29:19; comp. Syriac here, birôthô). It only recurs at 2Chronicles 27:4. It is an Aramaic term. (Comp. bîranyâthâ, which in the Targums means “palaces.”)
And he had much business in the cities of Judah: and the men of war, mighty men of valour, were in Jerusalem.(13) Business.—Rather, much goods, or stores; literally, work (mĕlākāh) and then produce. The Hebrew word is so used in Exodus 22:7; Exodus 22:10 (“His neighbour’s goods”). Stores of provisions and war material seem to be intended. (Comp. 2Chronicles 11:11.)
And the man of war . . . were in Jerusalem.—Rather, and (he had) men of war . . . in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem.—Not the entire army corps whose numbers are given in 2Chronicles 17:14-18, but simply their chiefs.
And these are the numbers of them according to the house of their fathers: Of Judah, the captains of thousands; Adnah the chief, and with him mighty men of valour three hundred thousand.(14) And these . . . their fathers.—And this is their muster (or census), according to their father-houses (clans), 1Chronicles 24:3. The warriors were marshalled in the army according to clans, so that men of the same stock fought side by side with their kindred. Perhaps in the original document this heading was followed by a much more detailed scheme of names and divisions than that which the text presents.
Of Judah.—To Judah (belonged) captains of thousands, viz., the three enumerated in 2Chronicles 17:14-16 : Adnah, Jehohanan, and Amasiah. They were the principal officers, or generals, of the entire forces of Judah.
Adnah the chief—To wit, the captain Adnah. That Adnah was commander-in-chief is implied by his being named first, and his corps being the largest.
And next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and fourscore thousand.(15) Next to him.—At his hand, i.e., beside him, and subordinate to him. (Comp. 1Chronicles 25:2.)
And next him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself unto the LORD; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valour.(16) Amasiah.—Iah carrieth (Isaiah 40:11); different from Amaziah (Iah is strong).
Who willingly offered himself unto the Lord.—(Judges 5:2; Judges 5:9.) An allusion to some noble act of self-devotion, which was doubtless more fully recorded in the source from which the chronicler has drawn this brief account. Such allusions, though no longer intelligible, are important as conducing to the proof of the historical value of the narratives in which they occur. LXX., ὁ προθυμούμενος τῷ κυρίῳ: Vulg., consecratus Domino.
And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him armed men with bow and shield two hundred thousand.(17) Armed men with bow and shield.—Literally, drawing bow and shield: i.e., as the Targum explains, “drawing bow and grasping shields.” (Comp. 1Chronicles 12:2.) LXX., “Archers and peltasts;” Vulg., “Grasping bow and shield.” (Comp. also 1Chronicles 8:40, for the arms of the Benjaminites.)
And next him was Jehozabad, and with him an hundred and fourscore thousand ready prepared for the war.(18) Ready prepared for the war.—Equipped for service. (See on 1Chronicles 12:23-24; Numbers 31:5; Numbers 32:29.) The hoplites or heavy-armed infantry are probably meant.
These waited on the king, beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities throughout all Judah.(19) These waited on the king.—Rather, these are they that ministered unto the king, viz., the five generals above named.
Beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities—i.e., the commandants of the fortresses of the kingdom (2Chronicles 11:11; 2Chronicles 11:23). These latter, as well as the generals of the forces, are called the king’s “ministers” (mĕshārĕthîm)—a word which is not used of service in the field, but implies their presence at court (“in Jerusalem,” 2Chronicles 17:13, as the royal staff).
According to the above list, the army of Jehoshaphat was organised in five grand divisions, corresponding perhaps to five territorial divisions of the southern kingdom. The totals are the largest assigned to the two tribes anywhere in the Old Testament; viz., Judah 780,000, and Benjamin 380,000; in all, 1,160,000. At David’s census Judah had 500,000 warriors (2Samuel 24:9); and Israel 800,000. Again, in 2Chronicles 14:8, Asa’s army consists of 300,000 men of Judah and 280,000 Benjaminites: clearly such an increase as our text indicates is unaccountable. At the same time, it is equally clear that the present numbers are not fortuitous results of clerical errors, for they follow each other in the order of relative strength: Judah, 300,000, 280,000, 200,000; Benjamin, 200,000, 180,000; and they are evidently not independent of the estimates of 2Chronicles 14:8 above quoted.
In the absence of adequate data for modifying these certainly startling figures, it is well to bear in mind that we need not understand by them an army which ever actually mustered in the field or on parade, but simply an estimate of the total male population liable to be called out for the national defence; although, even upon that understanding, the total appears to be at least three times too great, considering the small extent of the country.