Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
JEHU THE SON OF HANANI DENOUNCES THE ALLIANCE WITH AHAB.
The whole chapter is original, so far as regards the Book of Kings.
And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.(1) Jehoshaphat . . . returned to his house in peace.—A contrast with the fate of Ahab is suggested. (Comp. 2Chronicles 18:27; 2Chronicles 18:34; and ibid. 16.)
In peace.—In wholeness, soundness, i.e., unhurt.
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.(2) And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer.—The seer whose father had suffered for his reproof of Asa (2Chronicles 16:7-10), and who had himself already witnessed against Baasha, king of Israel (1Kings 16:1-7).
King.—The king. The prophets never shrank from facing the highest representatives of earthly power (comp. 1Kings 21:20).
Them that hate the Lord.—And haters of Jehovah lovest thou? (The particle le prefixed to the word for “haters” is characteristic of the chronicler’s style.)
Therefore is wrath upon thee.—See the same phrase, 1Chronicles 27:24. In the case of David, the Divine wrath was embodied in pestilence; what form did it take with Jehoshaphat? The following chapters seem to supply the answer. His land suffered invasion and his fleet shipwreck; his posterity was evil, and came to an evil end (2 Chronicles 20, 21, 22). There may be reference also to the failure of the campaign in which Jehoshaphat had engaged, and his inglorious return to his own land.
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.(3) Nevertheless.—Yet the Divine wrath will not pursue thee to destruction, for there are good things found in thee. (So 2Chronicles 12:12; comp. also 1Kings 14:13.)
Thou hast taken away the groves.—Thou hast consumed (or exterminated ) the Ashērahs. (Deuteronomy 13:6; 2Kings 23:24.) So Asa had done (2Chronicles 17:4). (Ashērôth, as equivalent to Ashērîm, recurs in 2Chronicles 33:3 and in Judges 3:7 only.)
And hast prepared.—Or, directed. The contrary was said of Rehoboam (2Chronicles 12:14.)
(4) And he went out again.—This refers to the former Visitation or Royal Commission for the instruction of the people in the sacred Law (2Chronicles 17:7-9).
From Beer-sheba, the southern, to the hill country of Ephraim, the northern limit of his dominions.
He went out.—Not necessarily in person, but by his accredited representatives.
Brought them back.—Made them return (2Chronicles 24:19).
Unto the Lord God of their fathers.—From the worship of the Baals and the illicit cultus of Jehovah. The local worship of the God of Israel “necessarily came into contact with the Canaanite service of Baal, and, apart from the fact that the luxurious festivals of the latter had a natural attraction for the sensuous Semitic nature of the Hebrews, there was a more innocent motive which tended to assimilate the two worships. The offerings and festivals of Jehovah were acts of homage in which the people consecrated to Him the good things of His bestowing. These were no longer the scanty products of pastoral life, but the rich gifts of a land of corn and wine . . . Thus, the religious feasts necessarily assumed a new and more luxurious character, and, rejoicing before Jehovah in the enjoyment of the good things of Canaan, the Israelites naturally imitated the agricultural feasts which the Canaanites celebrated before Baal. It is not, therefore, surprising that we find many indications of a gradual fusion between the two worships; that many of the great Hebrew sanctuaries are demonstrably identical with Canaanite holy places; that the autumn feast, usually known as the Feast of Tabernacles, has a close parallel in the Canaanite Vintage Feast, that Canaanite immorality tainted the worship of Jehovah; and that at length Jehovah Himself, who was addressed by His worshippers by the same general appellation of ‘Baal’ or ‘Lord’ which was the ordinary title of the Canaanite nature-god, was hardly distinguished by the masses who worshipped at the local shrines from the local Baalim of their Canaanite neighbours” (Prof. Robertson Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 38).
And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,(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).
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.(6) Ye judge not for man, but for the Lord.—’Tis not for man that ye will judge, but for Jehovah, as His vicegerents, and ministers of His will. (Comp. Romans 13:1-4.)
Who is with you in the judgment.—This rightly gives the sense of the brief words: “and with you in word of doom.” i.e., Jehovah will be present with you at the time of your giving sentence. (See on 2Chronicles 20:17, and comp. Psalm 82:1-4 : “God standeth in God’s Assembly; in the midst of gods (i.e., judges) He judgeth.”) The LXX. and Vulgate misunderstand the passage; but the Syriac renders: “Be strong, and judge true judgment, and the Lord will be with you for ever.” (Comp. also Deuteronomy 1:17 : “The decision belongeth to God”; and Exodus 21:6.) The name “Jehoshaphat” denotes Jehovah judgeth.
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.(7) Wherefore.—And.
The fear of the Lord.—A dread, or awe, of Jehovah. (See 2Chronicles 17:10.)
Take heed and do (a hendiadys, i.e., act heedfully. deal warily).
Iniquity—i.e., want of equity, unfairness, injustice i’avlah). To the marginal references add the prohibition, Deuteronomy 16:19. They who judge for Jehovah (2Chronicles 19:6) are bound to judge like Jehovah.
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.(8) Did . . . set.—Appointed some of the Levites.
Chief of the fathers.—Heads of the clans of families. (Comp. Exodus 18:21-26; Deuteronomy 1:15-17, where the judicial functions of the family ‘chiefs are said to have been ordained by Moses.) The 6,000 Levites set apart by David to be writers (shôterîm) and judges (1Chronicles 23:4) appear to have been intended to act as their assessors, as being professional experts in the Law. In this measure, it is probable that David merely systematised traditional usage. Jehoshaphat re-organised the administration of justice throughout the country, and established a superior tribunal, or High Court of Appeal, in the capital, such as Deuteronomy 17:8-12 prescribe.
For the judgment of the Lord.—Comp. 2Chronicles 19:11 : “For every matter of Jehovah,” i.e., for all ecclesiastical as opposed to civil causes. The latter are here called “controversies” (rîbh, strife, litigation), and in 2Chronicles 19:11, “every matter of the king.”
When.—And. There should be a full-stop at “controversies.” “And they returned to Jerusalem” refers to the return of the Royal Commission of 2Chronicles 19:4. So Syriac and Arabic, which make the clause begin 2Chronicles 19:9 : “And he returned to Jerusalem, charged them, and said to them.”
And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.(9) Thus.—Viz., as 2Chronicles 19:10 explains.
Them.—The members of the Superior Court; just as the ordinary judges had been charged (2Chronicles 19:6-7).
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.(10) And.—To wit.
Cause.—Rîbh, “controversy” (2Chronicles 19:8).
Shall come to you.—i.e., be referred to you as the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Of.—From your brethren—i.e., not your judicial brethren, but your fellow-countrymen.
That dwell in their cities.—In the various country towns, as opposed to the capital.
Between blood and blood.—See Deuteronomy 17:8. Questions growing out of cases of homicide—e.g., whether a given crime were murder or manslaughter.
Between law and commandment, statutes and judgments.—That is, questions about the interpretation and application of the different legal rules and principles. The phrase “commandment, statutes, and judgments,” is a sort of summary of the various kinds of law.
Ye shall even warn them that they trespass not.—Then ye shall instruct them, in order that, &.100
Warn.—Teach (Exodus 18:20) them the true sense and bearing of the law in the particular case.
Trespass.—Incur guilt; by giving false judgment.
And so wrath (2Chronicles 19:2) . . . brethren.—The miscarriage of justice would involve not only the immediate agents, but the whole people, in guilt and its penal consequences.
This do . . . trespass.—Thus shall ye do (2Chronicles 19:9), that ye may not incur guilt.
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.(11) And behold.—For the form of the sentence, comp. 1Chronicles 28:21.
Amariah the chief priest.—Rather, High Priest (ha-rosh), the Head (2Chronicles 24:6). Vulg., “sacerdos et pontifex vester.” In 1Chronicles 6:11 Amariah is the fifth from Zadok, the famous High Priest of David and Solomon’s time. As Jehoshaphat was the fifth king from David, the name Amariah probably denotes the same person in both places.
Over you in all matters of the Lord.—The High Priest was naturally declared the President of the Court in all spiritual cases (see on 2Chronicles 19:8).
Zebadiah the son of Ishmael (or, Zachariah the son of Shemaiah, Syr. and Arab.) “the ruler of the house of Judah,” the nagîd, emîr, or tribal prince, was appointed President of the Court in civil causes (“for all the king’s matters”).
Also the Levites shall be officers.—Literally. And Writers shall the Levites be; inferior officials of the Court, such as scribes and notaries.
Before you.—In your presence, and under your direction (2Chronicles 14:5).