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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, invade Judah, 2 Chronicles 20:1, 2 Chronicles 20:2. Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast, and gathers the people together to seek the Lord, 2 Chronicles 20:3, 2 Chronicles 20:4. His prayer to God, 2 Chronicles 20:5-12. Great and small, male and female, seek the Lord, 2 Chronicles 20:13. Jahaziel predicts the downfall of their enemies, 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. The king, the Levites, and the people take courage; praise and magnify God; and go forth to meet their enemies, 2 Chronicles 20:18-21. The enemies are confounded, and destroy each other, 2 Chronicles 20:22-24. The men of Judah take the spoil, praise the Lord, and return with joy to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 20:25-28. The fear of the Lord falls upon all their enemies round about; and the land has rest, 2 Chronicles 20:29, 2 Chronicles 20:30. Transactions and character of Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:31-34. He joins with Ahaziah, king of Israel, in building a fleet of ships to go to Tarshish, but they are wrecked at Ezion-geber, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37.
1It 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.
Children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites - Here there must be a mistake; surely the Ammonites are the same as the children of Ammon. Our translators have falsified the text by inserting the words "other beside," which have nothing properly to represent them in the Hebrew. Literally translated, the words are: "And it happened after this, the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them of the Ammonites:" and thus the Vulgate. The Syriac, which the Arabic follows, has felt the difficulty, and translated, Came together with warlike men to fight, etc. The Septuagint have given it another turn: Και μετ' αυτων εκ των Μιναιων, And with them people of the Minaites; which were a people of Arabia Felix near the Red Sea. The Targum has ועמהון מן אדומאי Ve-immehon min Edomaey, "And with them some of the Edomites." This is very likely to be the true reading, as we find from 2 Chronicles 20:10, 2 Chronicles 20:22, 2 Chronicles 20:23, that they procured men from Mount Seir; and these were the Idumeans or Edomites. We should, in my opinion, read the text thus: The children of Moab, and the children of common, and with them some of the Edomites.
2Then 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.
On this side Syria - Instead of מארם mearam, from Syria, I would read with one of Kennicott's MSS. (89) מאדם meedom, from Edom, which alteration brings it to truth and does not require the change of half a letter, as it consists in the almost imperceptible difference between ר resh and ד daleth. We do not read of any Syrians in this invasion, but we know there were Edomites, or inhabitants of Mount Seir.
Hazazon-tamar - "In the wood of palm trees, that is, in Engedi." - Targum. This is the meaning of the word, and it is probable that they lay hid here.
3And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Jehoshaphat feared - He found that he could not possibly stand against such a numerous army, and therefore could not expect to be delivered except by the strong arm of God. To get this assistance, it was necessary to seek it; and to get such extraordinary help, they should seek it in an extraordinary way; hence he proclaimed a universal fast, and all the people came up to Jerusalem to seek the Lord.
4And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
5And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
6And 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?
Jehoshaphat stood - What an instructive sight was this! The king who proclaimed the fast was foremost to observe it, and was on this occasion the priest of the people; offering in the congregation, 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.
7Art 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?
Art not thou our God - "Hast not thou, by thy Word, driven out." - Targum.
8And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
Therein for thy name - "For the name of thy Word." - Targum.
9If, 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.
For thy name is in this house - "Thy Majesty is in this house." Several of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., with the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, add נקרא nikra, "is invoked;" Thy name is invoked in this house - here thou dwellest, and here thou art worshipped.
10And 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;
11Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
They reward us - Six of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. add רעה evil: "Behold, they reward us Evil." This is also the reading of the Targum.
12O 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.
Wilt thou not judge them - That is, Thou wilt inflict deserved punishment upon them.
13And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
14Then 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;
15And 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.
For the battle is not yours, but God's - God will not employ you in the discomfiture of this great host; he himself will take the matter in hand, deliver you, and destroy them.
16To 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.
17Ye 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.
For the Lord will be with you - "The Word of the Lord shall be your Helper." - Targum.
18And 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.
19And 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.
20And 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 in the Lord your God - "Believe in the Word of the Lord your God, and believe in his law, and believe in his prophets; and ye shall prosper." Here the Word and the revelation are most pointedly distinguished; the Word being used personally.
21And 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.
22And 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.
The Lord set ambushments - "The Word of the Lord placed snares among the children of Ammon and Moab; and the inhabitants of the mountain of Gibla, who came to fight with Judah; and they were broken to pieces:" so the Targum.
Houbigant translates the place thus: "The Lord set against the children of Ammon and Moab ambushments of those who came from Mount Seir against Judah; and the children of Ammon and Moab were smitten: but they afterwards rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and utterly destroyed them; who being destroyed, they rose up one against another, and mutually destroyed each other." This is probably the meaning of these verses. Calmet's version is not very different.
23For 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.
24And 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.
25And 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.
Both riches with the dead bodies - For פגרים peparim, dead bodies, בגדים begadim, garments, is the reading of eight MSS. in the collections of Kennicott and De Rossi, and in several ancient editions. None of the versions have dead bodies except the Chaldee. The words might be easily mistaken for each other, as the פ pe, if a little faint in the under dot might easily pass for a ב beth; and we know that the ר resh and ד daleth, are frequently interchanged and mistaken for each other, both in Hebrew and Syriac. I believe garments to be the true reading; and as to the clause which they stripped off for themselves, it should be understood thus: Which they seized for themselves, etc.
26And 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.
Assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah - "The valley of Benediction;" and so in the latter clause. - Targum.
27Then 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.
Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them - He was their leader in all these spiritual, holy, fatiguing, and self-denying exercises. What a noble and persuasive pattern!
28And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.
29And 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.
The Lord fought - "The Word of the Lord made war against the enemies of Israel." - Targum.
30So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.
31And 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.
32And 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.
33Howbeit 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 were not taken away - The idolatry, as we have seen, was universally suppressed; but some of the places where that worship had been performed were not destroyed. Some of them still remained; and these, to such a fickle people, became the means of idolatry in reigns less propitious to truth and religion.
34Now 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.
In the book of Jehu - This is totally lost, though it is evident that it was in being when the books of Chronicles were written.
35And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:
36And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber.
To go to Tarshish - "In the great sea." - Targum. By which expression they always meant the Mediterranean Sea.
37Then 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.
The Lord hath broken, etc. - "The Word of the Lord hath broken." - Targum. Concerning Tarshish, Ezion-geber, and Ophir, and the voyage thither, see the notes on 1 Kings 10:22, and at 1 Kings 10:29 (note), and on 2 Chronicles 9:26-28 (note). The Tarshish here is called by the Chaldee Torsos in the great sea, some place in the Mediterranean. On this subject the reader has, no doubt, already seen a great variety of opinions.