2 Chronicles 17 – Features of Jehoshaphat’s Reign
A. How King Jehoshaphat pleased God.
1. (1-4) The personal spiritual commitment of King Jehoshaphat.
Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place, and strengthened himself against Israel. And he placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken. Now the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel.
a. Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place: Asa was generally a good king (though he did not finish well) and Jehoshaphat his son followed in his footsteps and the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David.
i. “In the first ways, which David walked in before he fell into those horrid sins of murder and adultery.” (Trapp)
ii. “Have you never noticed the career of David? What a happy life David’s was up to one point!…. But that hour when he walked on the roof of his house, and saw Bathsheba, and gave way to his unholy desires, put an end to the happy days of David…. You recognise him as the same man, but his voice is broken; his music is deep bass, he cannot reach one high note of the scale. From the hour in which he sinned he began to sorrow more and more. So will it be with us if we are not watchful.” (Spurgeon)
b. Strengthened himself against Israel: Jehoshaphat recognized that the northern kingdom was a danger to Judah militarily, politically, and especially spiritually. He therefore strengthened the defenses against this threat and specifically walked…not according to the acts of Israel.
i. In his presentation of the history of the kings of Judah, the Chronicler constantly brings the contrast and the challenge before the readers of his day and ours: “Your destiny, as an individual and as a nation, can either be like that of Judah or Israel. You should follow the example of those who walked…not according to the acts of Israel.”
2. (5-6) The blessing upon his reign.
Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.
a. Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand: This was no small accomplishment. In those days kings and kingdoms were fragile and under constant threat. Yet if the descendants of David would seek God first, He promised to take care of their security – and God makes the same promise to His people today (Matthew 6:33).
b. All Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance: Because Jehoshaphat trusted God, God lifted him up and exalted him as a king. As his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD, the LORD gave him the desires of his heart (Psalm 37:4).
c. Moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah: 1 Kings 22:43 says that Jehoshaphat did not remove the high places. Adam Clarke explains: “In 2 Chronicles 17:6, it is expressly said, that he did take away the high places. Allowing that the text is right in 2 Chronicles the two places may be easily recognised. There were two kinds of high places in the land: 1. Those used for idolatrous purposes. 2. Those that were consecrated to God, and were used before the temple was built. The former he did take away, the latter he did not.”
i. “They may also witness to the deep hold of the Canaanite and syncretic forms of religion on ordinary Israelites. Popular views and practices are often quite different from pronouncements by religious authorities.” (Selman)
B. The strength of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom.
1. (7-10) The spiritual strength of the kingdom: Jehoshaphat brings the word of God to the people.
Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent Levites: Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people. And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.
a. To teach in the cities of Judah: These “teaching priests” have been mentioned by the Chronicler before (2 Chronicles 15:3). They had the important role of bringing the word of God to the people, especially those who lived outside of Jerusalem.
b. They taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people: This was the wisest and best policy a security-conscious king of Judah could promote. Because Jehoshaphat sought God first, God sent fear upon the neighboring kingdoms, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.
i. “By this little band of princes, Levites and priests, sixteen in all, Jehoshaphat did more toward impressing the surrounding nations with a sense of his power than the largest and best-equipped standing army could have secured to him.” (Knapp)
ii. “The method adopted was what in these modern times we might describe as the holding of Special Missions throughout the cities of Judah, for the specific purpose of proclaiming and interpreting ‘the book of the law of Jehovah.’” (Morgan)
iii. “No better service can be rendered to the nation than that of proclaiming the Word of Jehovah to the people, in cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. By such proclamation the heart of the people may be turned to Jehovah, and so He be enabled to do for them all that is in His heart.” (Morgan)
iv. “Thus the nation became thoroughly instructed in their duty to God, to the king, and to each other. They became, therefore, as one man; and against a people thus united, on such principles, no enemy could be successful.” (Clarke)
v. Clarke observed how a similar itinerant ministry in the days of John Wesley and his followers impacted Britain: “Such an itinerant ministry established in these kingdoms for upwards of fourscore years, teaching the pure, unadulterated doctrines of the Gospel, with the propriety and necessity of obedience to the laws, has been the principal means, in the hand of God, of preserving the lands from those convulsions and revolutions that have ruined and nearly dissolved the European continent.”
vi. “It is said (2 Chronicles 17:2) Jehoshaphat placed forces in all the fenced cities; yet it is not said thereupon that ‘the fear of the Lord fell upon the neighbour nations.’ But when he had established a preaching ministry in all the cities, then his enemies had a fear, and made no war.” (Trapp)
2. (11-19) The international strength of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom.
Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. So Jehoshaphat became increasingly powerful, and he built fortresses and storage cities in Judah. He had much property in the cities of Judah; and the men of war, mighty men of valor, were in Jerusalem. These are their numbers, according to their fathers’ houses. Of Judah, the captains of thousands: Adnah the captain, and with him three hundred thousand mighty men of valor; and next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and eighty thousand; and next to him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to the LORD, and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valor. Of Benjamin: Eliada a mighty man of valor, and with him two hundred thousand men armed with bow and shield; and next to him was Jehozabad, and with him one hundred and eighty thousand prepared for war. These served the king, besides those the king put in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.
a. Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks: Jehoshaphat’s commitment to personal and public godliness meant that God exalted his kingdom above the neighboring nations, even as God promised in Deuteronomy 28:1-13.
b. These served the king: The true treasure of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was not numbered only in security or material things, but also in the dedicated and courageous men he had surrounding him, these mighty men of valor.
i. Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to the LORD: “Amasiah is a man of whom we do not know anything beyond this – he ‘willingly offered himself unto the Lord.’ There must have been a turning-point in his career, a time when first he knew the grace of God, which wrought such a change in him. There must have been a waking up to the feeling that God deserved his love and his life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Amasiah was a ready servant of the Lord; this is particularly notable because he did it in an otherwise secular calling.
· No one had to press him into service.
· No one had to seek him out for service.
· No one had to look after him once he had begun serving.
· No one had to lead him.
iii. “There is no lawful occupation in which a man cannot thoroughly serve the Lord. It is a great privilege and blessing to be set apart to the work of winning souls; but we must never separate that work from all the rest of the callings of life, as though it alone were sacred, and all the rest were secular and almost sinful. Serve God where you are.” (Spurgeon)