New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 19:1 Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem-
After the very close shave with death recorded in 2 Chron. 18, we can assume he returned shaking. But at peace with God.

2Ch 19:2 Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Should you help the wicked, and love those who hate Yahweh? Because of this, wrath is on you from before Yahweh-
This was major criticism. And yet when he dies, we read that "He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he didn’t turn aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh" (1 Kings 22:43).  Again we marvel at God's positive overall opinion of Jehoshaphat. For he rejected Yahweh's word in going to fight at Ramoth Gilead, and was condemned by God for working together with those who hated Him, and "therefore is wrath on you from before Yahweh". A man may fail repeatedly, as Jehoshaphat did in his relations with Ahab and allowing his son to marry Jezebel's daughter, and even experience God's wrath. And yet finally be judged as having done what was right in God's eyes. That doing of right may refer therefore not to a spotless track record of behaviour, but rather to a basic faith in God, repentance and what the New Testament calls "abiding in Him". It is not the dramatic ups and downs on the graph of human spirituality over time which are significant to God. It is the overall state of the heart. And we can take courage from this in our own lives, and be guided therefore not to think too highly of those who at specific points show great commitment, nor to think too lowly of those who fail in specific points of their journey. We also learn that some men die with weaknesses, such as not taking away the high places. But this does not necessarily tip the balance towards their condemnation. This needs to be factored in to our thinking about the spiritual fate of those who die committing suicide. 

He was too close to Israel. His son married a daughter of Ahab (2 Chron. 18:1), and his insistence on supporting Ahab was seen as loving those who hated Yahweh, and the wrath of God was upon him because of it. And yet he is commended for having peace with the kings of Israel (1 Kings 22:44), even though  that desire for peace with them led him into major sin. But he was judged as having a heart right with God (2 Chron. 19:3). We sense God weighting Jehoshaphat's sins with his relations with Israel against his genuine desire for peace within God's people. And overall, as he was judged on the state of his heart, his desire for unity and peace was judged as his dominant desire. We simply cannot factor in or weight all the dimensions in a man's heart. Only God can. And the reason we are not to judge is because in fact we cannot judge, in that we don't have access to human hearts. See on :10.  

2Ch 19:3 Nevertheless there are good things found in you, in that you have put away Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God-
This is the basis upon which he was judged positively at the end of his life (1 Kings 22:43). For all the ups and downs of his spiritual graph (see on :3), his heart basically was with God.  His "set" or 'prepared' heart could be seen as a fulfilment of Solomon's prayer in 1 Chron. 29:18, where He asks God to keep the hearts of His people focused upon the temple, keeping it "in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and prepare their heart unto You". We see how God weighs up human hearts and actions. It is not that some "good things" outweigh bad things. That would be too simplistic, and ends up giving undue weight to works. So the emphasis is that good things were "found in you", within him, in his heart; and this is paralleled with setting his heart to seek God. It was this state of heart which more than counterbalanced his external sins of weakness in connection with Ahab.

2Ch 19:4 Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. He went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to Yahweh, the God of their fathers-
We recall how not so long ago, the people were rejoicing in giving the death sentence to any who didn't seek Yahweh (2 Chron. 15:13). I suggested this was on the cusp of religious extremism, and they were hypocritically uncommitted themselves. We note that he went out personally to appeal to the people, which is the best way of appeal. We note "Mount Ephraim" was the northern border of Judah, with Beersheba forming the southern border. However, Mount Ephraim was in Ephraim, and it could be that Jehoshaphat went there too, appealing even to the ten tribes. 

2Ch 19:5 He set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city-
David had planned for 6000 Levitical "officers and judges" throughout Israel (1 Chron. 23:4). But clearly the Levites had failed to be as they should have been, and the system of judges had failed; this is another indication that David's final plans for the new religious system based around the temple never really worked out in practice.

2Ch 19:6 and said to the judges, Consider what you do. You don’t judge for man, but for Yahweh; and He is with you in the judgment-
This suggests that Jehoshaphat was installing new judges; it's not that there were no judges before this time. Priests were to represent God, and to come before them was to come “before the Lord” (Dt. 19:17). The Lord Jesus was presented as a baby “before the Lord” (Lk. 2:22)- i.e. before the priest. Yahweh was "with" them in the judgment in that their judgments were to be guided by His revealed word, which was a source of His presence amongst them- as it is now.


2Ch 19:7 Now therefore let the fear of Yahweh be upon you. Be careful and do so; for there is no iniquity with Yahweh our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of bribes-
This had presumably been a problem with the previous judges whom Jehoshaphat was now replacing (see on :6). This setting up of judges may have been in obedience to Dt. 16:18, whereas before this perhaps the judgment was done as in most primitive societies, by the heads of families. But that was bound to be open to "respect of persons" and bribes.

2Ch 19:8 Moreover in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed Levites and priests, and of the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, for the judgment of Yahweh, and for controversies-
The idea was that they judged cases which were handed up to them by the system of local judges described in :5-7. But LXX "And to judge the inhabitants of Jerusalem". "The judgment of Yahweh" may refer to interpretation of the Mosaic law, and "controversies" to interpersonal disputes. We note that "Levites" were to be part of this higher system of judges, and they are here differentiated from the priests. Levites were servants to the priests, but here they are invested with high authority. Those of the servant class were elevated to positions of senior judgment, and Paul has the same spirit in view in 1 Cor. 6:4. See on 2 Chron. 20:14.

David (2 Sam. 14:4; 15:3) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:16) appear to have concentrated all judgment in themselves, setting themselves up effectively as both king and priest, for the "judge" was to be a priest. Jehoshaphat reformed this by placing the power of judgment in the hands of a group of Levites, priests and heads of families as the higher court in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 19:7). But still Jehoshaphat didn't appoint a singular senior judge, as required in Dt. 17:9. We note from Dt. 19:17 that this singular priestly supreme judge is called "Yahweh", because he was to be Yahweh's supreme representative when it came to judgment. But it seems even the best kings of Judah preferred to keep that office in their own power.

They returned to Jerusalem-
LXX "And to judge the inhabitants of Jerusalem". If we follow the AV, then this was after Jehoshaphat's reforming tour of his land which began in :4.

2Ch 19:9 He commanded them saying, Thus you shall do in the fear of Yahweh, faithfully, and with a perfect heart-
"Perfect heart" may mean as in 1 Chron. 12:38, a united heart amongst all the judges. 

2Ch 19:10 Whenever any controversy shall come to you from your brothers who dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances-
Judging between "blood and blood" (Dt. 17:8) may refer to judging whether between murder and manslaughter. Judgment between "law and commandment" may mean deciding which particular Mosaic law was appropriate in a given case.

You shall warn them, that they not be guilty towards Yahweh, and so wrath come on you and on your brothers-
We have just read this phrase in :2, where wrath came upon Jehoshaphat for his actions. Perhaps in humility because of this, he now hands over the judiciary to a system of judges rather than continuing to be the personal judge of Israel, as previous kings had been (see on :8).

Do this, and you shall not be guilty-
The idea seems to be that the judges would not be guilty if they judged according to information given which was in fact false. But those who made false testimony would have been warned that doing so meant facing Yahweh's judgment.

2Ch 19:11 Behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of Yahweh-
This may refer to Amariah, "Yah has spoken", who was to finally judge over all matters of interpretation of the Mosaic law.

And Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters. The Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and may Yahweh be with the good-
Levites were servants to the priests, but here they are invested with high authority. Those of the servant class were elevated to positions of senior judgment, and Paul has the same spirit in view in 1 Cor. 6:4. Although the idea may be that they were waiting to operationalize the judgments handed down.