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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 17:1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place-
Jehoshaphat means 'whom Jehovah judges'. And this is largely the point of his life. He made major mistakes in his relationships with Israel, incited the wrath of God against him (2 Chron. 19:2), died without removing the high places, and yet overall was judged as having a faithful heart before God (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Chron. 19:3). And so we have a parade example of how indeed 'Jehovah judges', factoring in the various dimensions of a man's life in a way in which we cannot. The lesson is indeed that we cannot judge, nor should we be tempted to judge a person according to the high and low points on their spiritual graph, nor upon the fact they may die with unconquered weaknesses.

And strengthened himself against Israel-
Yet 1 Kings 22:44 commends him that: "Jehoshaphat made peace with the king[s] of Israel". But the way to that peace was by clarifying boundaries.

2Ch 17:2 He placed forces 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-
This building or rebuilding of fortified cities at the start of a reign is a continuity between Asa, Jehoshaphat and Rehoboam. But in each case, those strengthened cities failed to protect them as they intended, but rather God's strength was needed. The later kings were clearly intended to learn from history as recorded, as we are.

2Ch 17:3 Yahweh was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and didn’t seek the Baals-
Many have struggled to reconcile the statement that David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14) with the fact that his life contains many examples not only of failure, but of anger and a devaluing of human life. He was barred from building the temple because of the amount of blood he had shed (1 Chron. 22:8). The figure of ‘shedding blood’ takes us back to the incident with Nabal, where David three times is mentioned as intending to “shed blood” (1 Sam. 25:26-33), only to be turned away from his sinful course by the wisdom, spirituality and charm of Abigail. David started out as the spiritually minded, humble shepherd, full of faith and zeal for his God. Hence Jehoshaphat is commended for walking “in the first ways of his father David” (2 Chron. 17:3). It seems to me that the comment that David was “a man after God’s own heart” refers to how he initially was, at the time God chose him and rejected Saul. But the trauma of his life, the betrayals, jealousies and hatred of others, led him to the kind of bitterness which so often surfaces in the Psalms and is reflected in several historical incidents where he lacks the value of others’ lives which we would otherwise expect from a man who walked so close with his God.

2Ch 17:4 but sought to the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not after the doings of Israel-
Yet Jehoshaphat allowed his son to marry Ahab's daughter (2 Chron. 18:1), and repeatedly failed in being as separate from Israel as he ought to have been. He nearly lost his life as a result of it. Yet God's overall judgment is that for all his social contact with Israel and failure to separate from them, he still did not himself 'walk' in their evil doings.

2Ch 17:5 Therefore Yahweh established the kingdom in his hand. All Judah brought to Jehoshaphat tribute; and he had riches and honour in abundance-
The tribute may refer to a revival of the taxation system of Solomon described in 1 Kings 4. Or possibly the reference may be to the tithes being brought to Jehoshaphat, as if he were a king-priest; see on :7. Or the reference may simply be to presents, brought to him when he ascended the throne as in 1 Sam. 10:27. In this case, the entire description of Jehoshaphat in :2-6 would specifically refer to the beginning of his reign.

2Ch 17:6 His heart was lifted up in the ways of Yahweh-
The phrase "lifted up" is nearly always used in a negative sense about pride. The idea was that he was proud of Yahweh and His ways.

Furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherim out of Judah-
Asa and Jehoshaphat removed the high places, but in a sense they didn't (1 Kings 15:14 cp. 2 Chron. 14:5; 17:6 cp. 20:33). We read of how the land was purged of Baal, Sodomites etc.; but in a very short time, we read of another purge being necessary. Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah all made major purges within a space of 80 years. Jeremiah therefore condemns the Jews who lived at the time of Josiah's reformation for not knowing God in their hearts. Asa gathered the gold and silver vessels back into the temple- and then went and used them to make a political treaty. He apparently treated them as God's riches, but then in reality he used them as his own (1 Kings 15:18, 15). Many a Western Christian has this very same tendency. We too must ask ourselves whether our spirituality is really just a product of the crowd mentality; as the crowd shouted one day "Hosanna to the Son of David", a few days later they wanted Jesus to be delivered rather than Barabbas, but within minutes they were persuaded to cry for the crucifixion of the Son of God. Church life, Bible studies, the breaking of bread... inevitably, there is a crowd mentality developed here. There is a feeling of devotion which wells up within us as a community, as an audience, as we sit there, as we stand in praise and worship together. But the real spirituality is far deeper than this. We must seriously ask whether our spirituality, our feelings of devotion, our true repentance, are only stimulated by these meetings?

2Ch 17:7 Also in the third year of his reign he sent his princes, even Ben Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah-
The sending of princes along with Levites (:8) could imply some idea of a joint king-priesthood, which we saw possibly hinted at in :5, if we understand the "tribute" given to Jehoshaphat as king as being the tithes due to the Levites. 

2Ch 17:8 and with them the Levites, even Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests-
The idea was that the two priests were sent to teach Judah the law (:9), for that was the function of the priests. But in practical terms they were assisted by a group of Levites and princes (:7). We would rather imagine the priests as being listed first, and then those subservient to them coming afterwards. But the priests were true servant leaders and are listed last, as being "with the Levites" [the servants of the priests] rather than the other way around.

2Ch 17:9 They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of Yahweh with them. They went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught among the people-
This is a tacit admission that the local priests were not teaching the people. 2 Chron. 15:3 had reminded Asa of the similarity of his times with those of the judges: "Now for a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law". It seems that sad situation continued. The statements about Judah's faithfulness and loyalty to Yahweh were therefore very generous; for in an illiterate society, they would have been unaware of the majority of details in the Mosaic law if they weren't taught it by the local priests. Although priests from the ten tribes had emigrated to Judah, it seems they were not teaching the people as intended. Their identity with Yahweh religion was therefore more cultural than based upon accurate awareness of His ways. But despite this lack of knowledge, God still counted them as loyal to Him, just as He counted weak kings like Asa as loyal to Him in their hearts. Yahweh's generosity in judgment of His people is one of the themes which comes through in the historical records.  

2Ch 17:10 The fear of Yahweh fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat-
A similar situation repeated itself in 2 Chron. 14:14. The record constantly stresses that the victory was from God. The fear of Yahweh coming upon Gentiles was the promised reward for obedience (Dt. 11:25), and recalls the terror which fell upon the cities around Jacob at the time of Gen. 35:5, "so that they made no war against" Jacob. But that terror didn't come because Israel were righteous at that time; in fact the opposite. For they had just massacred Shechem. Likewise here, these blessings were by grace, for Judah were not so righteous at this time; and reflected Yahweh's extreme sensitivity to any faith and obedience toward Him. And it was surely the same in Jehoshaphat's time.

2Ch 17:11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute. The Arabians also brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams, and seven thousand seven hundred male goats-
Remember that 'hundred' and 'thousand' are not always to be taken as literal numbers, but can refer to groups. It was these same groups of Philistines and Arabians whose spirit Yahweh stirred up (for He can work directly upon the human mind) to break away from Judah in Jehoram's time (2 Chron. 21:16).

2Ch 17:12 Jehoshaphat grew great exceedingly; and he built in Judah fortified and store cities-
See on :2. "Store cities" implies he anticipated the possibility of a siege from enemies.

2Ch 17:13 He had many works in the cities of Judah; and men of war, mighty men of valour, in Jerusalem-
Many works" is unclear. GNB for :12,13 offers: "Throughout Judah he built fortifications and cities, where supplies were stored in huge amounts. In Jerusalem he stationed outstanding officers".

2Ch 17:14 This was the numbering of them according to their fathers’ houses. Of Judah, the captains of thousands: Adnah the captain, and with him mighty men of valour three hundred thousand-
Remember that 'hundred' and 'thousand' are not always to be taken as literal numbers, but can refer to groups. The "them" could refer specifically to the officers or soldiers quartered in Jerusalem (:13). 

2Ch 17:15 and next to him Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and eighty thousand-
We note that the names of all the captains in this section include God's Name.

2Ch 17:16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself to Yahweh; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valour-
His being so willing to offer himself to Yahweh was noted, as in Jud. 5:9. Human initiative in serving God is indeed valuable to Him; not because He saves according to works, but because He recognizes and values freewill human expressions of love toward Him.

2Ch 17:17 Of Benjamin: Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him two hundred thousand armed with bow and shield-
There is a significant increase in numbers from his father's time, when the army was exactly half the size of that recorded in this section (2 Chron. 14:8). The total then was 580,000; but here in :14-18 it is exactly double (1,160,000), Judah 780,000, Benjamin 380,000. This suggests that again, numbers are not being used in the literal sense which modern readers are accustomed to.

2Ch 17:18 and next to him Jehozabad; and with him one hundred and eighty thousand prepared for war-
This group were ready for immediate deployment.

2Ch 17:19 These were those who waited on the king, besides those whom the king put in the fortified cities throughout all Judah
This is a very large number to continually serve the king. The same phrase is used in 1 Chron. 27:1, where they served their king through a rotation system of monthly service.