Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT WE MAY SUDDENLY FIND OURSELVES IN MOST SERIOUS PERIL. Judah does not seem to have done anything to provoke this attack, or to have had any reason to expect it. It came upon them like a clap of thunder in a clear sky. Such things do occur to nations, to Churches, to families, to individual men. In some wholly unexpected quarter a grave difficulty arises. That power which should have been an ally suddenly becomes an enemy; that very institution which had been the source of sustenance threatens to drag us down with itself into financial ruin; the very men who promised to be, and who were, our best friends on whom we could rely, turn into our opponents and thwart our purposes; the bright, the brilliant morning has become a clouded noon, and a severe storm impends. Unhappily all history, observation, and experience will furnish abundant proof that this is not a remarkably exceptional, but an occasional or even a frequent occurrence in human life. It is a possibility that has so much of probability about it that we do well to be prepared for it lest we should be called to face it.
II. THAT OUR TRUE REFUGE IS IN GOD.
1. But if that is to be so, we must be in a right relation to him. We must be able to say, with a deep significance, not only "O Lord God of our fathers," but also "Art not thou our God?" (vers. 6, 7). We must be true children of Abraham, who was himself the "friend of God" (ver. 7). We must be distinctly and definitely on the Lord's side; we must be with Christ and not against him (Matthew 12:30). We cannot look for the delivering grace of God if we have not been reconciled unto him through Jesus Christ, if we have remained amongst those whose "sin has separated between them and their God."
2. Then there must be a consciousness of rectitude under the special circumstances. Jehoshaphat could plead that he and his people were in the land as rightful possessors of the soil; they inherited from God himself (ver. 11), and these invaders were wholly in the wrong; their attack was utterly indefensible (ver. 10). The king could plead that the cause of Judah was just and right. This consciousness of integrity we also must have, if we would fall back on God. "If our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God" (1 John 3:21); but otherwise we cannot raise our hopes. We cannot ask him to intervene on behalf of a cause which is one of unrighteousness, or one in which we have been acting quite unworthily of our Lord and Leader.
3. We must bring to God the attitude of conscious dependence. "Our eyes are upon thee," we must be able to say, sincerely (Psalm 27:1; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 62:5, 6).
4. We should be united in our attitude and action. "All Judah stood before the Lord, with their wives and little ones" (ver. 13). It is not only the leaders or the representatives that should make their appeal to God. Let all the people, let the "little ones," whose presence and whose prayer might not seem to be so essential, appear before God and join in seeking his help.
III. THAT WE MUST MAKE DIRECT AND EARNEST APPEAL TO HIM. Jehoshaphat took active measures to enlist the intervention of Jehovah; he "set himself to seek the Lord" etc. (vers. 3-6). It behoves us, in the day of our trial and our peril, to take active measures to secure the merciful and mighty succour of our God. We must make our earnest and our persevering appeal to him, and be waiting upon while we wait for him. And our appeal will, at any rate, be threefold. We shall plead:
1. Our utter helplessness apart from his effectuating power. "We have no might," etc. (ver. 12). We shall, of course, be alert, diligent, energetic; we shall put forth all our skill and strength; but we shall feel that all will be wholly unavailing except our God works with us and through us.
2. His almighty power. (Vers. 6, 7.)
3. His Divine faithfulness. (Vers. 6-9.) We also, like the King of Judah, can plead the inviolable word of our Lord. He has promised to be with us, to provide for us, to guide us through all our journey, to give us the victory over our enemies, to reward our faithful labour with a blessed increase; "And none shall find his promise vain." - C.
I. A STARTLING REPORT. The safety of Jehoshaphat's empire was threatened by a formidable foe.
1. The composition of the enemy. (Ver. 1.)
(1) The children of Moab. Descendants of Lot and his elder daughter (Genesis 19:37). Their territory lay east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, and had for its northern boundary first the Jabbok (Deuteronomy 2:20), and afterwards the Amen (Numbers 21:13-26), the modern Wddy Mojeb, opposite Engedi. After the conquest a large portion of this region was occupied by the tribe of Reuben, which caused the Moabites to put forth long-continued efforts to recover their lost possessions. This they did soon after Joshua's death, and even acquired ascendancy over Israel until their yoke was broken by Ehud (Judges 3:12, etc.). In Saul's time troublesome, they were by David completely subdued (1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:2). Under Solomon or the first kings of Israel they must have again broken loose, for they were once more reduced by Omri, who, according to the Moabite inscription, "took the land of Medeba, and occupied it in his days and his son's days forty years" ('Records,' etc., 11:166). On the accession of Jehoram, Ahab's son, to the Israelitish throne, Mesha, the son of Chemoshgad, rebelled and successfully asserted his independence (2 Kings 3:5).
(2) The children of Ammon. Likewise descendants of Lot (Genesis 19:38). These originally occupied the same region as their kinsmen, the Moabites, but were eventually "obliged to retreat eastwards to the water-shed (Deuteronomy 2:37), where they remained in the mountains, in a district not annexed by Israel, in which their name is still preserved at Amman, the ancient Rabbath-Ammon (Numbers 21:24)" (Conder, 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 237). The Ammonites worshipped the supreme Being, under the name of Moloch or Milcom (1 Kings 11:7).
(3) The Ammonites. Probably the Mennites, or Maonites (2 Chronicles 26:7) - "a tribe whose head-quarters were the city of Maan, in the neighbourhood of Petra, to the east of the Wady Musa" (Keil); they are afterwards described as "inhabitants of Mount Seir" (vers. 22, 23).
2. The number of their army. "A great multitude" (ver. 2) had often before assailed Israel (2 Chronicles 14:11; Judges 6:5; Joshua 11:4), and afterwards did assail Judah (2 Chronicles 32:7). When Solomon spoke of Israel as a people like the dust for multitude (2 Chronicles 1:9), it was rhetoric.
3. The place of their entrapment. Hazazon-tamar, or "the pruning of the palm tree" (Genesis 14:7) - "a name probably preserved in that of the tract called Hasasah, 'pebbles' near 'Ain-Jidy" (Condor, p. 414) - otherwise Engedi, or "fountain of the kid," the modern 'Ain-Jidy - was situated on the west coast of the Dead Sea, about the middle and directly opposite the mountains of Moab. "Few landscapes are more impressive than the sudden unfolding of the Dead Sea basin and its eastern wall from the top of the pass of Engedi" (Tristram, in 'Picturesque Palestine,' 3:191). The allied forces had probably not crossed the lake (Josephus), but rounded its southern extremity.
II. AN UNEASY APPREHENSION. The fear felt by Jehoshaphat was justified by a variety of circumstances.
1. The character of the invasion. It was the first time Jehoshaphat's kingdom had been exposed to the horrors of war within its own borders. Heretofore Judah's campaigns had been beyond the limits of her own territory, as at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:28). Foreign wars are apt to be invested with a spurious glory; war at home discovers its repulsive features to all. When a land becomes a battle-field, then -
"All her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
2. The combination of powers. It was three against one; yet Jehoshaphat had no scruples in combining formerly with Ahab against Benhadad, or afterwards with Israel and Edom against Moab (2 Kings 3:7). "With what measure ye mete," etc. (Matthew 7:7), applies to kingdoms and kings no less than to private individuals.
3. The prediction of Jehu. Hanani's son had spoken of wrath upon Jehoshaphat for helping Ahab: was this invasion a fulfilment of that threatening? Jehoshaphat might well tremble as he turned his thoughts southward to Engedi.
III. A PRUDENT RESOLVE. In the sudden and dangerous emergency Jehoshaphat concluded to do three things.
1. To set himself to seek the Lord. So David had commanded Israel (1 Chronicles 16:10: Psalm 105:3) and Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:19), if they would prosper as people and sovereign. So had Oded's son, Azariah, directed Asa and his subjects if they would protect themselves against all future assailants (2 Chronicles 15:2). So Asa and his subjects did; and the Lord gave them rest round about. Jehoshaphat, perhaps recalling these details of national history, possibly also remembering how disastrously he had fared by going up against Benhadad without Jehovah's help, decided that the first thing to do was to draw more closely together the alliance between himself and Jehovah, by a more diligent observance of worship and a more faithful performance of duty. Like all sincere reformers, whether in Church or state, Jehoshaphat began with himself (Luke 4:23; Romans 2:21-23), and began in earnest, setting his heart in it as a work he delighted in and intended to carry through.
2. To proclaim a fast throughout all Judah. Fasting a usual accompaniment of religious exercises in Israel, especially in times of anxiety and distress, whether individual or national. Witness the cases of David (2 Samuel 12:16, 21), Esther (Esther 4:16), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4), Daniel (Daniel 9:3), Darius (Daniel 6:18), and of the Jews at Mizpeh (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6), the returning exiles at Ahava (Ezra 8:21), and the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5). It was intended as a sign of self-humiliation, an expression of sorrow, and a confession of guilt.
3. To hold a national convention at Jerusalem. Whether he actually summoned the heads and representatives of the people, as Asa previously did (2 Chronicles 15:9), is not stated; but the princes, chiefs of the fathers' houses, and principal men out of all the cities of Judah hastened to the capital to ask help of Jehovah in the crisis that had arisen.
1. The hostility of the world-powers to the Church of God, exemplified in this combination against Judah.
2. The distinction between fear and cowardice in front of danger, illustrated by the behaviour of Jehoshaphat.
3. The place and value of fasting in religion.
4. The best defence for a nation in the time of peril - prayer and piety.
5. The duty and advantage of kings and peoples standing shoulder to shoulder when their safety is threatened. - W.
I. THE SCENE.
1. The place.
(1) Jerusalem, the metropolis of the land, whose safety was imperilled.
(2) The house of Jehovah, the sanctuary on Mount Moriah, erected by Solomon as a dwelling-place for the God of Israel.
(3) The new court, the outer or great court of the temple (1 Kings 7:12). A quadrangle, this was probably called "new," because of having been restored or repaired by either Asa or Jehoshaphat.
2. The assembly.
(1) The inhabitants of Jerusalem with their wives and children.
(2) The representatives of Judah from all the cities of the land - whether accompanied with their wives and children uncertain.
3. The suppliant. Jehoshaphat acted as the mouthpiece for himself and his people. Standing forth in the centre of the congregation, he offered "without form or any premeditation (?) one of the most sensible, pious, correct, and, as to its composition, one of the most elegant prayers ever offered under the Old Testament dispensation" (Adam Clarke).
II. THE PRAYER.
1. The Being addressed - Jehovah. Adored as:
(1) Personal and present. The God of Jehoshaphat and his people (vers. 7, 12). "He that cometh to God must believe that he is" (Hebrews 11:6).
(2) Ancestral and faithful. The God of their fathers (ver. 6), who had covenanted with these fathers (Deuteronomy 5:2), and would remain true to the engagements then undertaken (2 Chronicles 6:14; 1 Kings 8:57).
(3) Celestial and mundane. The God of heaven as well as of earth, who dwelt among the armies of light and ruled among the kingdoms of the heathen (Daniel 4:35).
(4) Universal and local. Not the God of Israel and Judah alone, but the God to whom all empires and sovereigns owed allegiance (Psalm 103:19; Psalm 135:5, 6; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Daniel 4:17; Malachi 1:14; Revelation 11:4).
(5) Omnipresent and omnipotent. Possessed of resistless power and might which no one could withstand (ver. 6).
2. The pleas offered.
(1) The covenant mercies of Jehovah in first gifting the land to his friend, their father Abraham, and to his seed for ever (Genesis 12:1; Genesis 13:17); second, driving out the inhabitants of the land before them (Exodus 33:2; Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 11:23; Psalm 44:2); and third, in establishing them in possession of the vacated territory, so that for centuries they had dwelt in it (Leviticus 25:18; Deuteronomy 12:10).
(2) The expectation of Judah, that Jehovah would hear and keep them when in danger they called upon his Name (ver. 9). In this hope the temple had been built, and in the belief that this hope would be realized they now stood before Jehovah's presence (Psalm 146:5).
(3) The ingratitude of the enemy, whom Israel on her way from Egypt had not been suffered to invade (Deuteronomy 2:4, 9, 19), and who now repaid her clemency by attempting to drive her from her land. Such ingratitude on the part of nations and individuals is by no means infrequent. The only things men find it easy to remember are insults and injuries; kindnesses remain with difficulty in the human memory (Genesis 40:23; 1 Samuel 23:5-12; Ecclesiastes 9:14-16; 2 Chronicles 24:22).
(4) The helplessness of Judah. Jehoshaphat and his people were without strength to contend with so great a company. Neither knew they in what direction to turn or what to do. No better plea can be laid before Heaven than a confession of human weakness (Psalm 6:2; Psalm 22:11), since God's strength is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
(5) The attitude in which they then stood. Their eyes were waiting upon Jehovah (Psalm 25:15; Psalm 121:1, 2; Psalm 123:1, 2), trusting, desiring, expecting. They had placed their hope in and anticipated their help from him, as in a similar crisis Asa had done (2 Chronicles 14:11; Psalm 121:1).
3. The petitions urged. That Jehovah would
(1) judge and defeat their enemies;
(2) hear and help them, the petitioners. The two requests were inseparable. Deliverance to Judah could only come through destruction of her adversaries. The Church of God may still conjoin the two petitions.
III. THE ANSWER.
1. From whom it proceeded. Jehovah (ver. 15), or the Spirit of Jehovah (ver. 14). No answers to prayer except from him. Human lips can reply for God only in so far as God puts his words into them (Isaiah 51:16; Ezekiel 3:17; Jeremiah 5:14).
2. Through whom communicated. Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph; a man of
(1) honorable pedigree, being the fifth in descent, not from the Hemanite Mattaniah, a contemporary of David (1 Chronicles 25:4, 16), but from Nethaniah the Asaphite (1 Chronicles 25:2, 12); the letter n having been accidentally changed into an (Movers, Keil, Bertheau);
(2) honourable rank, being a Levite, and therefore of priestly station; and
(3) honourable calling, being, as a son of Asaph, a leader of psalmody in the temple worship, and now suddenly invested with the dignity of the prophetic office. God can find prophets anywhere when he wants them, not being bound to prophetical any more than to apostolical succession - Elisha at the plough (1 Kings 19:19), Amos among the herdsmen (Amos 1:1).
3. To whom it was addressed. To all Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to Jehoshaphat, the persons in whose name and on whose behalf the prayer had been offered.
4. Of what it consisted.
(1) A dissuasive against fear. "Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude," similar to that given by Moses to the fleeing Israelites (Exodus 14:13), and for a similar reason, that the battle was Jehovah's more than theirs, and he would fight with and for them (Exodus 14:14; 1 Samuel 17:47). The same is true of the battle the Christian Church is summoned to maintain against the three powers of evil, known as the world, the flesh, and the devil (Matthew 10:28).
(2) A command to advance. "Go ye down against them" (ver. 16), exactly as Moses was instructed to speak unto the children of Israel that they should go forward (Exodus 14:15). Little as God's people can or could do if left to themselves, they are not at liberty to play the coward in face of the foe (Deuteronomy 31:6; 2 Samuel 10:12; Mark 15:43; Acts 9:27; 2 Peter 1:5), to subside into despair or take to their heels. Their duty is to stand fast, quit themselves like men, be strong, and persevere.
(3) A direction where to find the enemy. "Behold, they come up by the cliff [or, 'ascent'] of Ziz, and ye shall find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel" (ver. 16). This a part of the flat country extending from the Dead Sea to the neighbourhood of Tekoa, and called El Husasah, from a wady on its northern side (Robinson, vol. 2. p. 243). The ascent or mountain-road, Hazziz, led towards it from Engedi.
(4) An instruction what to do on meeting them. To set themselves in battle array - stand still and see the salvation of God (ver. 17). They would not require to fight. Jehovah would do the rest. Compare again the orders of Moses to the Israelites (Exodus 14:13). The instruction here given has its counterpart in that given by the gospel to sinners: "To him that worketh not, but believeth," etc. (Romans 4:5)
(5) An encouragement to hope for victory. "The Lord would be with them" (Ver. 17) and fight for them as he did for Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13) and at Gibeon (Joshua 10:14), as Moses promised he would do every time they faced their enemies (Deuteronomy 20:4), and as Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:20) afterwards believed he did. The same presence is enjoyed by the Church of God still (Matthew 27:20).
IV. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
1. By the king. "Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground" (ver. 18), in token of humility and reverence, as well as of adoration and submission (2 Chronicles 29:30; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 24:26; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 34:8; Joshua 23:7).
2. By the people. "All Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord," in a solemn act of worship.
3. By the Levites. Those belonging to the children of the Kohathites and the children of the Korahites "stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with an exceeding loud voice," adding notes of thanksgiving and rejoicing to those of adoration and self-humiliation which Jehovah's gracious answer inspired. Learn:
1. The sorest need of man - a God to flee to in the hour of trouble and day of calamity.
2. The highest glory of God - that he can hear prayer and rescue the perishing.
3. The greatest peril of the Church's enemies - the fact that Jehovah fights against them.
4. The surest guarantee of victory for the Church of Jesus Christ - the fact that the battle is the Lord's.
5. The brightest hope for an anxious sinner - that he only needs to stand still and see the salvation of God. - W.
1. Before Jesus came to reveal God to our race as he did reveal him, the Eternal One was known and worshipped chiefly as the Almighty One, or as the Creator of all things, or as the Divine Sovereign, whose rule we are bound to obey. Not exclusively; for he was known as the Father of men (see Deuteronomy 32:6; 1 Chronicles 29:10; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Psalm 103:13). Here also he is spoken of as a Friend (and see Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). But it is evident that it was only in a restricted sense, and by a very limited number, that God was thus apprehended.
2. It was Jesus Christ that revealed the Father as the Father of souls; it was he who taught us to address him as such, to think and speak of him as such, to approach him and to live before him as such.
3. It is Jesus Christ also who has enabled us to think and to feel toward God as our Friend. "I have called you friends," he said to his disciples (John 15:15). And he has so related himself to us that in him we can recognize God as our Divine Friend; as One of whom we may rightly speak, and toward whom we may venture to feel and to act as our Friend indeed. But on what ground and in what respects? On the ground of -
I. RECIPROCATED LOVE; including, what all true love must include, both affection and trust. God loves us. He loves us with parental affection, as his children who were once indeed estranged from him, but are now reconciled unto him; as those who have become endeared to him, both by his great sacrifice for their sake, and by their seeking after him and surrender of themselves to him. And God trusts us. He does not treat us as slaves, but as sons; he does not lay down a strict and severe code of rules by which our daily conduct is to be regulated; he gives us a few broad principles, and he trusts us to apply them to our own circumstances. We, in return, love and trust him. Not having seen him, but having understood his character and his disposition toward us in Jesus Christ, having realized how great and all-surpassing was his kindness toward us in him (Titus 3:4), we love him in response (1 John 4:19). And in him, in his faithfulness and in his wisdom and in his goodness, we have an unfaltering trust. Thus we have the reciprocal love of friendship.
II. CLOSE RESEMBLANCE OF CHARACTER AND SYMPATHY. There cannot be friendship worthy of the name where there is not this. Our character and our sympathies must be essentially alike, must be substantially the same. And so it is with the Divine Lord and those who worthily bear his Name. His character is theirs; his principles are theirs; his sympathies are theirs. What he loves and what he hates, they love and they hate. Towards all that to which (and towards all those to whom) he is drawn, they are drawn; that which repels him repels them. Here is the true basis of friendship, and even that distance of nature that separates the Divine from the human is no barrier in the way. Being so essentially like Christ as his true followers are, they are his friends and he is theirs.
III. ONENESS OF AIM AND ACTION. Friendship is established and nourished by a common aim and by fellow-labouring. They who join heart and hand in any noble enterprise become united together in strong bonds of true companionship. It is so with our Master and ourselves. He is engaged in the sublime task of recovering a lost world to the knowledge, the love, the likeness of God; so are we. He has laboured and suffered to achieve that most glorious end; so do we. We are "workers together with him." His cause is ours; he and we are bent on the fulfilment of the same great purpose; and while he works through us and in us, he also works with us in this greatest and noblest of all earthly aims. "We are labourers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9); "We then, as workers together with him" (2 Corinthians 6:1). We are his friends. Let us:
1. Realize how high is the honour he has thus conferred upon us.
2. See that we walk worthily of such a lofty estate.
3. Take care that we never do that or become that which will make us forfeit so great a heritage. Let us be found faithful as the friends of God. - C.
I. GOD'S READINESS TO ANSWER THE PRAYER OF HIS PEOPLE. "In the midst of the congregation," while they were still before the Lord, in the very act and attitude of prayer, an answer was vouchsafed to them. While they were yet speaking, God heard (Isaiah 65:24). Though he does not constantly grant us so speedy a response, yet we may be quite sure that he always hearkens and heeds; and if there be such reverence and faith as there were on this occasion, we may be sure that God always purposes at once to send us the best kind of deliverance, even if he does not at once start the train of events or forces that will bring it to pass.
II. THAT WE NEED NOT BE GREATLY AFFECTED BY MERE MAGNITUDE. "Be not afraid by reason of this great multitude" (ver. 15). We are in no little danger of overestimating the worth of numbers, whether they be on our side or against us. It is a great mistake to imagine we are safe because we are in a large majority. There is no king and there is no cause "saved by the multitude of an host" (Psalm 33:16). History has shown again and again that the presence of a vast number of people (soldiers or supporters) often begets confidence, and confidence begets carelessness and negligence, and these lead down to defeat and ruin. Besides, it is never quantity but quality, never size but spirit, never numbers but character, that decides the day. Better the small band of fearless men under Gideon's command, than the large numbers of the faint-hearted who were left behind, or even than the innumerable host of the Midianites. We may not trust in the number of our friends, and we need not fear the hosts of our enemies. If the "battle is not to the strong," it certainly is not to the multitudinous.
III. THAT IT IS EVERYTHING TO HAVE GOD ON OUR SIDE. We may be sure that when the people of Judah had this assurance from Jahaziel, they were not only calmed and comforted, but they had a sense that all would be well with them.
1. That God had made their cause his own. "The battle is not yours, but God's" (ver. 15).
2. That God's presence would be granted to them. "The Lord will be with you" (ver. 17).
3. That God had promised them his salvation, and would therefore work on their behalf. "The salvation of the Lord" (ver. 17). This was enough even for the timid and the fearful-hearted. This should be enough for us. Conscious that the battle we fight is that of the Lord himself, and is not ours only or chiefly; knowing that he will be with us, and assured that he will work out a blessed issue, we may be calm, and even confident, though the enemy is advancing.
IV. THAT WE MUST BE READY TO TAKE OUR PART AND TO DO OUR WORK, whatever that may be. "Go ye down against them" (ver. 16); "Set yourselves, stand ye still" (ver. 17). To do this may have been too much for the inclination of the cowardly or the indulgent; it may have been too little for the active and the militant among the people; but it was enough for the obedient and the trustful. God will have us bring our contribution of activity as well as devotion to the great spiritual campaign. But it may not be just that kind or just that measure which we should select if we had our choice. We must let him choose our service as well as our inheritance (Psalm 47:4) for us; and whether that be high or humble, greater or smaller, we should be more than content that he is calling us to the field in which Christ is our Captain.
V. THAT A SPIRIT OF REVERENT GRATITUDE IS ALWAYS BECOMING. (Vers. 18, 19.) Before the shouts of victory are in the air, while we are going forth to the battle in which God is leading us, while we are serving under a Divine Saviour, while we are anticipating the issue, so long as we are trustful in him and not confident in ourselves, we do well to let our hearts be filled and to let our songs be heard with reverent joy. - C.
I. THE MARCH TO TEKOA. (Vers. 20, 21.)
1. The composition of the army.
(1) The king commanded in person (vers. 25, 27). Modern monarchs stay at home when their soldiers go to war, and even when they do not, seldom place themselves like Jehoshaphat in the forefront of their troops. Perhaps "discretion is the better part of valour;" but the arrangement commends itself as reasonable that kings and captains should share the perils of their subjects and followers.
(2) The inhabitants of Jerusalem contributed their contingent to the force. Probably the flower of the nation's troops, these may have served as the king's body-guard.
(3) The warriors of Judah completed the armament. The entire army mustered at and took its departure from Jerusalem.
2. The time of its setting forth. "Early in the morning," i.e. the next after Jahaziel's assurance. An indication of
(1) faith, since without this they had hesitated and delayed, if not sat still and trembled (Psalm 27:13);
(2) zeal, discovering the eagerness with which they entered on the path of duty once it had been pointed out (Psalm 119:33);
(3) courage, as being afraid of nothing with Jehovah as Leader and Commander (Psalm 27:1).
3. The address of its king. Standing in the city gate as regiment after regiment filed into line and sallied forth, Jehoshaphat exhorted them (successively) to calm confidence in the ultimate success of the campaign upon which they were entering.
(1) Two things he recommended - absolute faith in Jehovah as their covenant God, and perfect trust in his prophets as he bearers of his message.
(2) Two things he promised - the permanent establishment of their kingdom in spite of all attacks from without; its certain prosperity through being exempt from unbelief a sure but fatal source of weakness and division.
4. The arrangements or its march. Jehoshaphat made special preparations for encountering the foe.
(1) A consultation was held with the people. Besides exhorting them as above recorded (Bertheau, Keil), he took them into counsel with himself, in the disposition next made. This conference occurred before the army left Jerusalem rather than on its reaching Tekoa.
(2) Singers were appointed to march in front of the troops. Arrayed in sacred vestments, Levitical musicians were to praise the beauty of holiness, or to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness, saying, "Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever" (Psalm 136.). Their singing and praising most likely began as they left the capital, was discontinued on the way to Tekoa, and was again resumed on reaching the vicinity of the enemy (ver. 22).
5. The advance towards the foe. A singular method of warfare it must have seemed - as ridiculous as the march of Joshua's warriors round the walls of Jericho and the music of their rams' horns must have appeared to the inhabitants of that old Canaanitish fortress (Joshua 6:12-16).
II. THE SCENE FROM THE WATCH-TOWER. (Ver. 24.) This "watch-tower," a height in the wilderness of Tekoa which overlooked the desert of Jeruel, where the invading host lay encamped (ver. 16), was probably the conical hill Jebel Fureidis, or the Frank Mountain, from which a view can be obtained of the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab ('Picturesque Palestine,' 1:137). From this elevation Jehoshaphat and his soldiers beheld the whole ground strewn with corpses, and not the vestige of a living foe to be seen. The enemy had been:
1. Completely slaughtered. The dead bodies were so numerous that "to all appearance none had escaped" (Keil); but the Chronicler manifestly intended to describe a case of not apparent, but real extermination. Not merely all whom the men of Judah beheld prostrate on the field were dead, but of all who had come up against Judah none had escaped.
2. Self-destroyed. They had fallen on and annihilated one another. That perhaps was not remarkable; thieves, robbers, and wicked men in general often fall out and destroy one another. The pity is they do not always do so before attacking other people. In this case two things were remarkable - the time when and the mode in which it happened.
(1) It occurred when the army began to march and the Levites to sing and to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness (ver. 22). Exactly, then, when God's people were manifesting forth their obedience, faith, zeal, and holiness, their enemies were destroying one another. The same thing would happen in the experience of the New Testament Church were she in a similar fashion to confront her adversaries, first arraying herself in the sacred garments of holiness, next trusting in God for the victories he had promised - in fact, praising him beforehand on account of them, and then going forth to behold them and gather up their fruits; her enemies, too, would destroy themselves.
(2) It occurred through the direct instrumentality of God. Jehovah set against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (ver. 22) "liers in wait," supposed to have been angels or heavenly powers sent by God, and called insidiatores because of the work they did against the enemy (Bertheau, Ewald), but more probably "Seirites, greedy of spoil, who from an ambush made an attack upon the Ammonites and Moabites" (Keil) These, becoming alarmed for their safety, not only repelled the "liers in wait," but turned with fury upon the Seirites marching with them, and absolutely exterminated them; after which, growing suspicious of one another, they flew at each other's throats and rested not until they had completely destroyed one another.
III. THE GATHERING OF THE SPOIL. (Ver. 25.)
1. The articles.
(1) Riches - movable property, such as cattle, tents, etc., the usual wealth of nomads.
(2) Dead bodies, i.e. corpses of men and carcases of animals; the former with clothing and jewellery, the latter with harness and accoutrements. The reading "garments" (Bertheau, Clarke), though not unsuitable (Judges 8:26), is probably incorrect.
(3) Precious jewels, "vessels of desire," gold and silver ornaments like those Gideon's soldiers took from the Midianites (Judges 8:25).
2. The quantity. So abundant that three days were occupied in collecting it, and when collected it was found to be more than they could carry. The ear-rings taken by Gideon's warriors from the Midianites weighed seventeen hundred shekels of gold (Judges 8:26); that obtained by Hannibal's soldiers at the battle of Cannae was so great "ut tres modios aureorum annulornm Carthaginem mitteret, quos e manibus equitum Romanorum, senatorum et militum detraxerat" ('Eutropii Historia Romana,' 41.).
IV. THE MUSTERING AT BERACHAH. (Ver. 26.)
1. The place. The valley, afterwards named from the incident of which it was the scene, must have adjoined the battlefield. A trace of it has been recovered in the Wady Bereikut, to the west of Tekoa, near the road from Hebron to Jerusalem (Robinson, vol. 2. p. 189). There is no ground for identifying it (Thenius) with the upper part of the valley of Kidron, afterwards called the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 12).
2. The time. On the fourth day after their arrival at Tekoa, the three intervening days having been employed in collecting the spoil.
3. The business.
(1) To render thanks to Jehovah. National mercies should receive national acknowledgment, just as national sins require national confession. Full of gratitude for the marvellous deliverance they had experienced, Jehoshaphat and his people blessed Jehovah on the spot he had consecrated by so wondrous an interposition on their behalf. From this circumstance the valley afterwards came to be designated Emek-Berachah, or "the valley of blessing."
(2) To prepare for returning to Jerusalem, which they forthwith did.
V. THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM. (Vers. 27, 28.)
1. Without delay. After causing the wilderness to echo with anthems to him who had smitten great and famous kings (Psalm 136:17, 18), they had nothing to detain them from their homes.
2. Without loss. Though they had gained a glorious victory, not one of their company was left upon the battle-field. "Every man of Judah and Jerusalem' that marched to Tekoa returned to the capital.
3. Without disorder. The same solemn and orderly procession that had characterized their going forth now distinguished their coming back.
4. Without sorrow. Few returns from the battle-field are without saddening recollections; theirs was marked by unmixed joy, to which they gave formal expression with psalteries and harps and trumpets in the house of the Lord. Learn:
1. The best evidence of faith - prompt and cheerful obedience.
2. The true secret of national as of individual prosperity - belief in God and in God's Word.
3. The value of sacred song as a means of exciting religious feeling and sustaining religious fortitude.
4. The necessity of holiness in them who would command or lead the Lord's host.
5. The ease with which God could make the enemies of his people annihilate one another.
6. The rich spoil that belongs to faith.
7. The joyous home-coming of all God's spiritual warriors. - W.
II. That, under God's hand, THE EVIL WE FEAR IS MORE THAN BALANCED BY THE GOOD WE GAIN. When the Jewish army returned from the wilderness of Tekoa, richly laden with spoil (ver. 25), they would doubtless have said that it was much better for them to have had their agitation followed by their success than not to have had any invasion of the enemy. They certainly congratulated themselves upon the entire incident, and, in their hearts, blessed those Moabites and Ammonites for giving them such an opportunity of enrichment. When God is on our side we may expect that our dangers will disappear, and that from the things that threaten us we shall ultimately derive blessing. Such is now and ever "the end of the Lord" (John 5:11; Job 42:10). Only we must make quite sure that God is on our side; and this we can only do by making a full surrender of ourselves to him and to his service, and by seeing to it that we choose the side of righteousness and of humanity, and not that of selfishness and of guilty pride.
III. THAT GOODNESS OF HEART SHOULD FIRST TAKE THE FORM OF GRATITUDE. Whither but to "the house of the Lord" should that jubilant procession move? (ver. 28). Gladness finds its best utterance in sacred song, its best home in the sanctuary of God. Thus and there it will be chastened; it will be pure, it will be moderated, it will leave no sting of guilty memories behind. Moreover, if we are not first grateful to God for our mercies, but rather gratulatory of ourselves, we shall nurse a spirit of complacency that is likely to lead us astray from the humility which is our rectitude and our wisdom.
IV. THAT IT IS WELL WHEN OUR TRIUMPH IS LOST IN THE FURTHERANCE OF THE CAUSE OF GOD. It was much that Jerusalem was safe; but it was more that "the fear of God was on all the kingdoms" (ver. 29). We may heartily rejoice that our own person, our own family, our own country, has been preserved; we may much more rejoice when the cause and kingdom of Christ has been greatly advanced. This should be the object of our solicitude and of our rejoicing.
V. THAT REST IS THE RIGHTFUL PURCHASE OF LABOUR AND OF STRIFE. (Ver. 30.) The country that has won its religious liberty by heroic suffering and strife (as with Holland) may well settle down to a long period of rest and peace. The man who has gone through several decades of anxious and laborious activity may well enjoy a long evening of life when the burden is laid down and the sword is sheathed. The quieter service of the later years of life seems a fitting prelude to the peaceful and untiring activities which constitute the rest of immortality.
VI. THAT THE WORTHIEST HUMAN LIVES DO NOT CORRESPOND TO OUR IDEAL. If we were to construct an ideal human life, we should not introduce another unwise combination (ver. 37)add a disastrous expedition to cast a shadow on its closing years. Yet this was the case with Jehoshaphat. Our lives, even at their best, do not answer to our conceptions of what is perfectly beautiful and complete. We must not look for this, for we shall very seldom find even the appearance of it. We must take the good man as God gives him to us, with a true soul, with a brave spirit, with a kind and faithful heart, with a character that is very fair and perhaps very fine, but that leaves something to be desired; with a ]ire that is very useful and perhaps very noble, but that bears marks of blemish even to the end. - C.
I. JEHOSHAPHAT'S PARENTAGE.
1. His father. Asa, a good king who enjoyed a long and honoured reign. Though good fathers have sometimes bad sons, as in the case of Jehoshaphat himself, yet there is a presumption in favour of a parent's piety being reproduced in the son. "Lord! I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations.
(1) Roboam begat Abia; i.e. a bad father begat a bad son.
(2) Abia begat Asa; i.e. a bad father a good son.
(3) Asa begat Josaphat; i.e. a good father a good son.
(4) Josaphat begat Joram; i.e. a good father a bad son.
I see, Lord, from hence that my father's piety cannot be entailed: that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary: that is good news for my son" (Thomas Fuller, ' Good Thoughts in Bad Times,' p. 43).
2. His mother. Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. Otherwise unknown, she was, nevertheless, the wife of a good man, the consort of a pious king - alas! also the mother of a wicked son. She was probably herself a woman of worth, and to her credit her name has been transmitted to posterity rather as her father's daughter and her husband's spouse than as her son's mother. In her case the hand of Providence has drawn a veil over her misfortune.
II. JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN.
1. When it began. When he was thirty-five years old. There was no room in this case for the royal preacher's woe (Ecclesiastes 10:16).
2. How long it continued. Twenty-five years - a quarter of a century; during which time he and his people experienced much of the Divine favour and blessing.
3. When it ended. When he was sixty years of age; i.e. before he reached the allotted space of three score years and ten (Psalm 90:10), and after a shorter life than was afterwards enjoyed by some of his less worthy successors, e.g. Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:3) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:1) - a proof that the promise of long life as a reward for piety was not intended, even under the Old Testament, to be accepted universally and without exception.
III. JEHOSAPHAT'S REALM.
1. Its extent. He reigned over Judah, the southern kingdom.
2. Its condition. Quiet. With the exception just mentioned it had suffered no invasion. It was disturbed by no internecine feud or civil strife.
3. Its Protector. Jehovah. "God gave him rest round about."
IV. JEHOSHAPHAT'S NEIGHBOURS.
1. Their attitude. They stood in awe of Jehoshaphat and his people. Compare the terror of the peoples through the midst of whom Jacob passed on his flight from Shechem to Hebron (Genesis 35:5), and the fear which fell upon the city of Jerusalem on beholding the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:43).
2. The reason of it. They heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel (ver. 29). So Miriam expected the report of Jehovah's victory over Pharaoh would paralyze the surrounding peoples through whom the ransomed host had to pass (Exodus 15:14-16).
V. JEHOSHAPHAT'S CHARACTER.
1. Pious. Like his father Asa, he walked in the way of the Lord.
2. Persevering. He departed not from doing right in the sight of Jehovah, i.e. in the matter of worship.
3. Defective. Not perfect in the sense of being faultless, he allowed the high places dedicated to Jehovah to remain, though other similar high places dedicated to idols were removed (2 Chronicles 17:6); and though he was better than his people, whose hearts were not prepared for a thorough-going reformation, he yet in a blameworthy spirit of complaisance yielded to their demands and permitted the unhallowed altars to stand.
VI. JEHOSHAPHAT'S ACTS.
1. Those recorded by the Chronicler.
(1) The establishment of garrisons throughout the land (2 Chronicles 17:2).
(2) The appointment of an itinerant ministry for the religious education of the people (2 Chronicles 17:7).
(3) The fostering of commerce in the cities of Judah (2 Chronicles 17:13).
(4) The creation of courts of justice (2 Chronicles 19:5).
(5) The reformation of religion (2 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 19:4).
(6) The marriage of his son with Ahab's daughter (2 Chronicles 18:1).
(7) The war at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:28).
2. Those written in the book of Jehu, Hanani's son. (2 Chronicles 19:2.) These deeds of Judah's king are lost. How much of every life drops into oblivion, even though set down in a biography! Only that history which God writes lives for ever.
VII. JEHOSHAPHAT'S FAULTS.
1. Plentiful. Good as Jehoshaphat was, both as man and sovereign, he committed grievous blunders, and indeed fell into aggravated sins. The three worst were:
(1) The marriage of his son Jehoram with Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab - the mating of a lamb with the cub of a tigress.
(2) The war with Benhadad which he entered on to please Ahab, without thinking whether he would thereby please God.
(3) The joining of Ahaziah, Ahab's successor, in making a fleet to go to Tarshish, or a fleet of Tarshish ships in Ezion-geber.
2. Punished. None of these offences were overlooked by Jehovah. The alliance of Jehoram with Athaliah avenged itself in the depravation of Jehoram's character. The Syrian war, besides exposing him to imminent peril, brought upon him the Moabitish invasion. The fleet which he and Ahaziah made was wrecked in the Red Sea, and never went to Tarshish. So Eliezer, the son of Dodavah of Mareshah, predicted it would happen - because Jehoshaphat had a second time joined himself with the house of Omri.
3. Pardoned. Though chastised for his errors, Jehoshaphat was not abandoned to wrath. A child of the covenant and an heir of the promise, he was rebuked but not rejected, corrected but not condemned. So God deals with believers when they err (1 Corinthians 11:32).
VIII. JEHOSHAPHAT'S END.
1. His death was peaceful. "He slept with his fathers" (2 Chronicles 21:1).
2. His burial was honourable. He was entombed in the city of David, in the sepulchre of the kings of Judah.
3. His throne was confirmed. His son Jehoram reigned in his stead. Learn:
1. The fallibility of good men.
2. The infallibility of God's Word. - W.
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