Jehoshaphat promotes religion in Judah, His prosperity.
- Jehoshaphat found his people generally very ignorant, and therefore endeavoured to have them well taught. The public teaching of the word of God forms, in all ages, the great method of promoting the power of godliness. Thereby the understanding is informed, the conscience is awakened and directed. We have a particular account of Jehoshaphat's prosperity. But it was not his formidable army that restrained the neighbouring nations from attempting any thing against Israel, but the fear of God which fell upon them, when Jehoshaphat reformed his country, and set up a preaching ministry in it. The ordinances of God are more the strength and safety of a kingdom, than soldiers and weapons of war. The Bible requires use to notice the hand of God in every event, yet this is little regarded. But let all employ the talents they have: be faithful, even in that which is little. Set up the worship of God in your houses. The charge of a family is important. Why should you not instruct them as Jehoshaphat did his subjects, in the book of the law of the Lord. But be consistent. Do not recommend one thing, and practise another. Begin with yourselves. Seek to the Lord God of Israel, then call upon children and servants to follow your example.
2 Chronicles 17:1-6 . JEHOSHAPHAT REIGNS WELL AND PROSPERS.
1. Jehoshaphat . . . strengthened himself against Israel--The temper and proceedings of the kings of Israel rendered it necessary for him to prepare vigorous measures of defense on the northern frontier of his kingdom. These consisted in filling all the fortresses with their full complement of troops and establishing military stations in various parts of the country, as well as in the cities of Mount Ephraim, which belonged to Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 15:8 ).
3-5. he walked in the first ways of his father David--He imitated the piety of his great ancestor in the early part of his reign before he made those unhappy lapses which dishonored his character.
and sought not unto Baalim--a term used for idols generally in contradistinction to the Lord God of his father.
4. and not after the doings of Israel--He observed with scrupulous fidelity, and employed his royal influence to support the divine institutions as enacted by Moses, abhorring that spurious and unlawful calf-worship that now formed the established religion in Israel. Being thus far removed, alike from gross idolatry and Israelitish apostasy, and adhering zealously to the requirements of the divine law, the blessing of God rested on his government. Ruling in the fear of God, and for the good of his subjects, "the Lord established the kingdom in his hand."
5. all Judah brought . . . presents--This was customary with the people generally at the beginning of a reign ( 1 Samuel 10:27 ), and with the nobles and high functionaries yearly afterwards. They were given in the form of voluntary offerings, to avoid the odious idea of a tax or tribute.
6. his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord--Full of faith and piety, he possessed zeal and courage to undertake the reformation of manners, to suppress all the works and objects of idolatry and he held out public encouragement to the pure worship of God.
2 Chronicles 17:7-11 . HE SENDS LEVITES TO TEACH IN JUDAH.
7-11. Also in the third year of his reign he sent to his princes, . . . to teach in the cities of Judah--The ordinary work of teaching devolved on the priests. But extraordinary commissioners were appointed, probably to ascertain whether the work had been done or neglected. This deputation of five princes, assisted by two priests and nine Levites, was to make a circuit of the towns in Judah. It is the first practical measure we read of as being adopted by any of the kings for the religious instruction of the people. Time and unbroken opportunities were afforded for carrying out fully this excellent plan of home education, for the kingdom enjoyed internal tranquillity as well as freedom for foreign wars. It is conformable to the pious style of the sacred historian to trace this profound peace to the "fear of the Lord having fallen on all kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah."
9. the book of the law--that is, either the whole Pentateuch or only the book of Deuteronomy, which contains an abridgment of it.
11. Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver--either they had been his tributaries, or they were desirous of securing his valuable friendship, and now made a voluntary offer of tribute. Perhaps they were the Philistines who had submitted to the yoke of David ( 2 Samuel 8:1 , Psalms 60:8 ).
the Arabians--the nomad tribes on the south of the Dead Sea, who, seeking the protection of Jehoshaphat after his conquest of Edom, paid their tribute in the way most suitable to their pastoral habits--the present of so many head of cattle.
2 Chronicles 17:12-19 . HIS GREATNESS, CAPTAINS, AND ARMIES.
14. these are the numbers--The warriors were arranged in the army according to their fathers houses. The army of Jehoshaphat, commanded by five great generals and consisting of five unequal divisions, comprised one million one hundred and sixty thousand men, without including those who garrisoned the fortresses. No monarch, since the time of Solomon, equalled Jehoshaphat in the extent of his revenue, in the strength of his fortifications, and in the number of his troops.