Thursday, September 5, 2013

CLXXII - II Chronicles 17-20 - Jehoshaphat

In the last chapter of I Kings, we looked at Jehoshaphat in a little more detail, especially in his dealings with Ahab, who was the king of Israel during Jehoshaphat's reign in Judah.

Chapter 17 opens with Jehoshaphat succeeding his father Asa to the throne of Judah in Jerusalem.  Early in his reign he strengthened Judah's military, including placing garrisons in the cities in Ephraim that Asa had captured from Israel.  It also indicates that Jehoshaphat was equally aggressive against pagan worship practices in Judah, as he further eliminated the high places and pagan worship centers.  The Scripture also makes it clear that God blessed Jehoshaphat with both wealth and honor.  And Jehoshaphat deserved it, as he was uncompromising in his loyalty to God.  Then in verses 7-9, he did something very interesting.  Evidently the citizens of Judah had become weak in their knowledge of the Mosaic Law.  Jehoshaphat did a wise and bold thing by sending "teachers" throughout all of Judah to teach the people the Law.  {This is one of the brightest moves we will see by a king.  The concept is simple.  Make the people knowledgeable and everything becomes not only easier, but ensures God's continued blessing on the king and the kingdom.  Notice, he did not bring leaders and representatives from all cities into Jerusalem.  Instead he sent the teachers out to the cities.  I'm certain these teachers made certain that all people were exposed to the individual teachers to make sure everyone received the knowledge first hand.}  Then notice in verses 10-11 how God blessed Judah by making sure there were no attacks from foreign countries.  God did this by striking fear into the hearts of potential enemies.  So fearful were the Philistines that they brought gifts to Jehoshaphat to ensure peaceful relations.  Our previous studies have taught us the level of animosity the Philistines held for Israel and Judah.  During this time of peace, Jehoshaphat built a large and powerful army.  He also had individual groups of soldiers stationed at all of the fortified cities throughout Judah and Benjamin.

Chapter 18  -  Jehoshaphat, Ahab, and Micaiah

You might recall this story from when we covered it in I Kings.  Just for some background, Ahab was the king Israel, which included ten of the original tribes.  Ahab married the daughter of the king of Sidon.  Her name was Jezebel.  Jezebel, being born and raised in the heathen territory of Sidon, was of course a worshiper of Baal.  She poisoned Ahab's mind against the Mosaic Law early in their marriage.  Together, Ahab and Jezebel did more to turn the whole nation away from God than any before or after them.  Early in this chapter we see that Jehoshaphat had made an ally of Ahab and Israel.  Prior to this, Judah and Israel were enemies when they should have been protectors of each other.  To strengthen their alliance Jehoshaphat visited Ahab in Israel's capitol city of Samaria.  It was during this visit that Ahab requested Jehoshaphat to go to war with him against the Arameans in Ramoth Gilead.  {Ramoth Gilead was a city east of the Jordan River.  It was in the territory of Gad (Joshua 20:8). It was one of the refuge cities of escape for those who had killed someone. The judge had to say whether they were guilty or innocent. They could stay there until then (Joshua 21:38).  Also, Ramoth Gilead was on an important trade route, which was the reason the Arameans took it away from Israel to begin with.}  Ahab had already sought and gained the approval of the pagan priests to proceed with the attack against Ramoth Gilead.   {The pagan priests of Baal told Ahab and Jezebel anything they wanted to hear.}  But Jehoshaphat insisted on consulting with the Lord before he committed to sending Judah's soldiers into war.  He asked if there were any of the Lord's prophets available.  Ahab admitted there was one named Micaiah, but Ahab didn't like him because he never told Ahab anything he wanted to hear.  But Jehoshaphat insisted, so they sent for Micaiah.  {Micaiah is not to be confused with the prophet Micah.  Micah lived and prophesied over a hundred years later.}  So fearful of the ungodly king Ahab that the messenger instructed Micaiah to tell the kings the same thing the pagan priests told them.  But after a bout of sarcasm (vss 14-15), Micaiah prophesied against attacking Ramoth Gilead and went on to prophesy Ahab's death if they went to war.  Of course Ahab cast Micaiah in prison for telling him something he didn't want to hear.  {I didn't understand this when we were in I Kings, and it is not explained here in Chronicles either.  Jehoshaphat insisted on consulting with one of God's prophets before he would agree to go to war with Ahab against the Arameans in Ramoth Gilead.  So they brought forth Micaiah and he told them not to attack Ramoth Gilead.  But Jehoshaphat goes anyway.  The Scripture does not say why.}  I always pictured Jehoshaphat as a mild-mannered individual, wise and careful in his decisions.  But as he and Ahab prepare to go into battle, Ahab talks him into wearing clothing that will make the Arameans think he was Ahab.  As they went into battle, God protected Jehoshaphat from harm and Ahab was mortally wounded anyway, just as Micaiah had prophesied.

Chapter 19 is dedicated to paying tribute to the great king Jehoshaphat, telling of his turning the nation back to God, organizing the judicial system to a fair and equitable society, involving the Levite priests in all judicial matters.

Chapter 20  -  War

Jehoshaphat had enjoyed many peaceful years.  That was about to come to an end.  The Moabites, Ammonites, and the Meunites (Edomites) joined forces and marched against Judah.  This entire army came from the territory known as Edom, which was a territory to the east and south of the Dead Sea.  (The Edomites were descendents of Esau.  Remember him?)  It was reported to Jehoshaphat and the news of this large army made Jehoshaphat afraid. But he trusted God rather than his own army. He called on all the people in Judah to ask the Lord for help. He told the people not to eat any food but to pray to the Lord. The people came together from all the towns of Judah to pray.  In verses 5-9 the people came to the Temple in Jerusalem. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in front of them and led the people in a prayer to the Lord.  {One should try to envision this whole passage.  The king gathered the entire nation for prayer, which he led.  Jehoshaphat had a tremendously large army and could probably have defended his country, but instead he publicly turned to God.  Amazing.}  As a result, God Himself caused the defeat of this massive united army of Canaanites.  Interesting reading verses 22-28.  In verses 29-30 the news about the defeat of the men from Moab, Ammon and the people called Meunites went to all the countries around Judah. They knew that God had done this. So, they were too afraid of him to make war with Judah. So, there was again a time of peace for Judah and Jehoshaphat.  The remaining verses in this chapter 20 tell of the great job Jehoshaphat did as king of Judah, from military to economics.

Next post  -  Kings of Judah

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