Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Several armies come against Judah: Jehoshaphat in his fear proclaimeth a fast, 2 Chronicles 20:1-4. His prayer, 2 Chronicles 20:5-13. Jehaziel’s prophecy, 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. The enemies are overthrown, 2 Chronicles 20:20-25. The people return in triumph, blessing God, 2 Chronicles 20:26-30. His reign: his navy miscarrieth, 2 Chronicles 20:31-37.
Other beside the Ammonites, to wit, the people that dwelt in Mount Seir, who were now confederate with them, as appears from 2 Chronicles 20:10,22,23. Or this is the name of a peculiar people, called either Mehumin, of whom you read 2 Chronicles 26:7 (and so there is only a transposition of two letters in the Hebrew word, which is not unusual in that language); or Minoceans, as the LXX. interpreters render this word; or Ammonium, or Mehaammonim, as it is in the Hebrew, (the two first letters being not prefixes, as they are commonly made, but part of the word or proper name of that people,) who, as it may seem, now dwelt in Mount Seir, being either of the old stock of the Edomites, or another nation since come in their stead or mixed with them. Others render the place thus, for (as the Hebrew vau is oft taken) with them (i.e. with the Moabites) were the Ammonites, or children of Ammon; which may be distinctly noted, either to show the largeness of the confederacy, in which not only the Moabites were engaged, who dwelt near Jehoshaphat’s kingdom, but the Ammonites also, who lived at a greater distance from him; or to intimate that the Ammonites being possibly instigated by the Syrians, their next neighbours, were the first beginners and chief promoters of the war, and engaged both the Moabites and the inhabitants of Mount Seir in their quarrel.
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.From beyond the sea, to wit, the Dead Sea, beyond which Mount Seir lay.
On this side Syria, or, and from 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, who thought by this means to revenge themselves on Jehoshaphat for joining with Ahab against them.
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.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.
Set himself to seek the Lord: the phrase notes his settled resolution, seriousness, and earnestness in it, and the preparing and fixing his heart for it.
Proclaimed a fast; partly in token of his humiliation and penitence for his sins, and partly to make 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,In the house of the Lord, largely so called, i.e. in one of the courts of the temple, even in the court of the people, and upon that brazen scaffold which Solomon had erected for such a purpose, 2 Chronicles 6:13.
Before the new court, i.e. besides and before the priests’ court; for there were but two courts belonging to the temple, as is noted 2 Kings 21:5 23:12. And Jehoshaphat stood in the one, which must be that of the people; and before the other, which therefore can be no other than that of the priests’, which is called the new court, because it had been lately renewed when the altar was renewed, 2 Chronicles 15:8, as the command of love is called a new command, John 13:34 1Jo 2:8, because it was so solemnly renewed, and revived, and reinforced by Christ.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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?i.e. To whom thou hast engaged thyself by covenant to be his friend, and the friend of his seed for ever, and therefore we trust thou wilt not forsake us his posterity.
And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The sword, judgment, or rather, the sword of judgment, or of vengeance, i.e. war, whereby thou judgest and punishest thy people for their sins. Compare Leviticus 26:25.
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;No text from Poole on this verse.
Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Thus he speaks, partly though he had great armies to be drawn together in due time upon great occasions, 2 Chronicles 17:14, &c.; yet he seems to have been surprised by these men before his forces were in readiness to oppose them; and partly because he well knew, and piously and wisely considered, that no human forces, though numerous and valiant, were able to defend him without God’s assistance, which he feared by his sins he had forfeited, and then he had really been as weak as water.
Our eyes are upon thee, looking to thee only for relief and succour.
And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.Whom they used to present before the Lord in times of great distress, partly to stir up themselves to more fervent and faithful prayers, that their eye, being upon their harmless and tender children, might affect their heart with a greater sense of their misery; and partly to move God to compassion, not as if he were capable of passions or changes upon such a sight, but because God hath declared himself 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;He was suddenly inspired by God with the following message.
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.God will fight for you, and he alone will do the work; you need not strike a stroke.
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.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: 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Bowed his head with his face to the ground, in token of his reverence to God and his message, his belief of the promise, and his thankfulness for so great a favour.
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.The Levites stood up, by Jehoshaphat’s appointment.
With a loud voice on high, i.e. with most loud voice, with heart and voice lifted up; whereby they showed their full assurance of the victory, as if it were already accomplished.
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.Believe his prophets, i.e. God’s promise delivered to us by this prophet, and consequently all other predictions of the prophets that either have been or shall be.
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.With the people, i.e. with the elders or chief of the people; partly to take their advice about the expediency of the thing; and partly that they might excite and prepare themselves, and the people under them, to this great work of praising God.
He appointed singers unto the Lord; to the honour and service of God.
The beauty of holiness, or, the glory, or magnificence, or majesty of holiness, i.e. (by a vulgar Hebraism,) the Holy Majesty; a periphrasis of God. Or, according to the beauty or magnificence of the sanctuary, i.e. in the same comely order and magnificent manner as they used to do it in the temple; where the following song was usually sung, as 2 Chronicles 5:13 7:3,6.
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.When they began to sing and to praise; so acceptable are the fervent prayers of God’s people to God, and so terrible to their enemies.
Ambushments, or, liers in wait; either,
1. The holy angels, who appeared in the shape of men, and possibly put on the appearances and visages of Moabites or Ammonites, and in that shape slew the rest, who supposing this slaughter to be done by a part of their own army, fell upon them, and so broke forth into mutual slaughters. Or,
2. God raised jealousies and animosities amongst themselves, which by degrees broke forth first into secret ambushments, which one party laid for another, and then into open hostilities and outrages to their utter destruction. 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 pleaseth 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Toward the watch-tower; which stood upon the cliff of Ziz, mentioned above, 2 Chronicles 20:16, or some other hill which looked toward the wilderness, where their enemies lay encamped, whose numbers, and order, and condition they could decry from thence.
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.Riches and precious jewels; which they brought with them, partly, to corrupt any of Jehoshaphat’s officers as they saw occasion; partly, to procure necessaries for their vast army from time to time; and partly, because they came as to a triumph rather than to a fight, being secure and confident of the victory because of their great 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.
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.The valley of Berachah, Heb. of blessing; so called from their solemn blessings and praises given to God in it upon this 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.To renew their praises in the court of the temple, the proper and usual place for it.
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.On all the kingdoms of those countries which were near, or which heard these things.
So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.The high places where not taken away; not fully nor universally; of which See Poole "2 Chronicles 17:6". 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 conveniency, or from their affection to their ancient custom, chose to worship him in the high places; which Jehoshaphat was forced to connive at, lest those people, being debarred from that dearly-beloved practice, should fall into a neglect of God and his worship.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:This is mentioned as an aggravation of his sin, after so great a favour and obligation laid upon him by God, and after he had been so sharply reproved and threatened by a prophet for the same thing, 2 Chronicles 19:2; 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 sweetness and 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 a war, as he did with Ahab, but in a peaceable way only, in a matter of trade and commerce. And yet God sharply reproves and punisheth him for it, 2 Chronicles 20:37, to show his great dislike and detestation of all friendly and familiar conversation of his servants and people with idolaters and professed enemies of God and of religion, as Ahaziah was, who is therefore thus stigmatized in the next words,
who did very wickedly. 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.To make ships to go to Tarshish; of which See Poole "1 Kings 10:22 22:48".
They made the ships in Ezion-gaber; of which see on 1 Kings 9:26.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.