2 Chronicles 17

2 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 17

Reign of Jehoshaphat (17:1 – 21:1)

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Jehoshaphat’s reign (871-849 BC) probably included three years as co-regent with Asa during his illness (see 20:31; 2 Kings 3:1; 8:16). The Chronicler’s account of his reign is much longer than that given in Kings, where Jehoshaphat plays a subordinate role to the northern kings Ahab (1 Kgs 22:4-5, 29-33) and Jehoram (2 Kings 3:4-27). The Chronicler passes over the Jehoram narrative and assigns Jehoshaphat a central significance in his own right, as one who strengthens his kingdom spiritually and militarily (2 Chron 17:1-19), organizes its system of courts (19:1-11), and demonstrates exemplary faith and leadership in the face of a terrible military threat (20:1-29). At the same time, Jehoshaphat is criticized for his alliances with the apostate northern kingdom (19:1-3; 20:37). Like his predecessors, Jehoshaphat is thus a mixture of good and bad qualities, with a preponderance of good.”

Judah’s King Jehoshaphat

      • Asa’s son Jehoshaphat succeeded him as king, and he strengthened himself against Israel. He stationed troops in all of Judah’s fortified cities and posted garrisons throughout the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim that his father Asa had captured.

      • Yahweh was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his ancestor David at the beginning of his reign. He didn’t seek the Baals. He sought the God of his ancestors and obeyed His commands, instead of following Israel’s practices. Yahweh established the kingdom under his control. All of Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat and he became very wealthy and highly respected. His heart was devoted to Yahweh’s ways, and he even removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah.

        • There is uncertainty regarding whether the text of v. 3 should indicate that Jehoshaphat followed the ways of his ancestor David at the beginning of David’s reign, or the ways of his father Asa at the beginning of Asa’s reign. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers says that a few Hebrew manuscripts and the LXX omit the name “David,” so the reference would be to Asa.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “Jehoshaphat’s actions at the start of his reign are directed toward reforming the nation’s religious life and strengthening its military capabilities, no doubt in view of the border conflicts with the northern kingdom that marked the previous reigns. As long as he continues in this attitude of faith in God and loyalty to the ways of David…his kingdom will enjoy security and prosperity. On later occasions, however, Jehoshaphat will be drawn into alliances through marriage or military and commercial arrangements with the northern kingdom, and all of these will lead to potentially disastrous consequences. The Chronicler’s characteristic theme of ‘seeking God’ is accompanied by obedience to God’s commandments. This is the first mention of the Baals in Chronicles. Under Ahab and his Tyrean wife Jezebel (contemporaries of Jehoshaphat), the northern kingdom adopted Canaanite Baal worship (1 Kings 16:31), leading to conflict with Elijah (1 Kings 19). The Lord established the kingdom in his hand, continuing the promise made to David (see 1 Chron 17:11). God acts in and through his people’s obedience to fulfill his word. Reform of worship is characteristic of faithful kings in Chronicles (see 14:3, 5; 15:8; 34:4).”

        • The statement in v. 6 regarding Jehoshaphat removing the high places is also problematic. In just a few more chapters (20:31-33), the Chronicler says he did not. The parallel passage to 2 Chronicles 20:31-33, 1 Kings 22:42, 43, agrees with chapter 20 and says that he did not. Commentaries are not much help here in my opinion. Perhaps this explanation on the hermeneutics stack exchange board offers the best reconciliation, “Asa removed the high places of the foreign gods, and the high places in cities in Judah (2 Chr 14:3, 5), but did not remove all the high places in Israel (1Ki 15:14, 2Chr 15:17). His son Jehoshaphat removed the remaining high places from Judah (perhaps those who had been built since his father removed them, or those which were outside of cities). Yet at the end of his reign ‘the high places were not taken away’ (2Chr 20:31-33) – a sin blamed on the people, not the king.”

        • I’ve followed the NLT Illustrated Study Bible rendering of “gifts” rather than “tribute” in vv. 5-6. Their commentary explains, “The word gifts is usually translated ‘tribute,’ such as conquering kings required of their vassals (e.g., Judg 3:15-18), but forced tribute is hardly the sense intended here. The people of Judah voluntarily made Jehoshaphat very wealthy. As with Uzziah (2 Chron 26:16) and Hezekiah (32:25), riches often result in pride. However, Jehoshaphat was deeply committed to the ways of the Lord. He was not proud of his own achievements; instead, his courage led him to remove idolatrous worship from the kingdom…”

Jehoshaphat’s Educational Plan

      • In the 3rd year of his reign Jehoshaphat sent his officials Ben Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah to teach in Judah’s cities. They were accompanied by the following Levites: Shemaiah Nethaniah. Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-Adonijah, as well as the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught throughout all of Judah. They took the Scroll of the Law of Yahweh with them, traveled around to all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.

        • Probably the first year of his reign alone (870 BC), following a three-year co-regency with his father (see 16:12; 20:31). Jehoshaphat’s reforms were not limited to worship but also included a mission by his officials, along with a number of Levites and priests, to instruct the nation in the Law of Moses. It was God’s intention from Israel’s beginning that his people be thoroughly conversant with the law (see Deut 6:6-9). Besides administering sacrifices, it was the duty of priests in particular to instruct people in the law (see Lev 10:11; Deut 33:10; Jer 18:18; Mal 2:7. On the role of the Levites in teaching the law, see Neh 8:7-9.”

        • HCSB adds, “The ‘book of the Lord’s instruction,’ or ‘book of the Torah of the Lord.’ Regardless of the translation, this is a clear reference to an authoritative document representing God’s will. The five books of Moses were beginning to be ‘published’ and distributed among the Levites for educational purposes…”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible also points out here that, “Some versions omit Tob-adonijah; it appears to be a scribal error of repetition.”

      • The fear of Yahweh fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so none made war with Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought gifts and silver to Jehoshaphat as tribute. The Arabs brought him 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “This tribute, together with statements of military fortifications (vv. 13, 19), makes clear that the southern kingdom now controls the caravan trade routes across the Arabah and Negev and on the Coastal Highway…providing a lucrative source of tax and tribute income for Jehoshaphat’s administration…”

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The blessings of peace with the neighboring nations, and tribute from them, are presenting as a consequence of the people’s faithfulness to the law. The significance of this for the Chronicler’s own relatively weak and impoverished community is clear. Arabians probably refers to tribes living to the south and southwest of Judah, close to the Philistines (see 21:16-17; 26:6-7).”

Jehoshaphat’s Military Strength

      • Jehoshaphat’s power kept increasing. He built fortresses and storage cities throughout Judah, and stored numerous supplies in Judah’s cities. He also stationed skilled warriors in Jerusalem. These are their numbers according to their ancestral families:

        • From Judah there were 300,000 troops divided into units of 1,000, under the command of Adnah.

        • Next in command was Jehohanan who commanded 280,000 troops.

        • Next was Zikri’s son Amasiah, who volunteered himself for Yahweh’s service, with 200,000 troops under his command.

        • From Benjamin there were 200,000 troops equipped with bows and shields, and they were under the command of Eliada, who was a skilled warrior.

          • Next was Jehozabad, who commanded 180,000 men armed for battle.

      • These were the men who served the king, besides those that he stationed in the fortified cities throughout all of Judah.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The description of Jehoshaphat’s military forces looks forward to the account of his alliance with Ahab in ch. 18. Large armies are regularly a sign of God’s blessing in Chronicles, but the author will show that they are no certain defense if priorities are wrong and faith is misplaced (cf Ps 33:16-19)…”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Jehoshaphat’s international status, building enterprises, and army characterized his great rule. Archaeological excavations have revealed a line of highway forts in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea dating to his time.”

        • However, the same source continues, “The number of troops in his army- totaling more than a million in Jerusalem- seems unreasonably high…The number of troops credited to Jehoshaphat is approximately triple those of Abijah (2 Chr 13:3), Asa (14:8), Amaziah (25:5), and Uzziah (26:11-15). It is comparable to the number of warriors at the time of David’s census (1 Chr 21:5), when soldiers from the northern tribes were counted…”

          • This number [300,000] and those which follow in 2 Chronicles 17:15-18, have been with good reason regarded as corrupt by most critics. For: (1) They imply a minimum population of 1,480 to the square mile, which is more than three times greater than that of any country in the known world (circa 1880’s). (2) they produce a total just double that of the next largest estimate of the military force of Judah, the 580, 000 of 2 Chronicles 14:8. (3) they are professedly a statement, not of the whole military force, but of the force maintained at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 17:13; compare 2 Chronicles 17:19). It is probable that the original numbers have been lost, and that the loss was supplied by a scribe, who took 2 Chronicles 14:8 as his basis.”

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