Leave a Legacy

| 2 Chronicles 17:1-10

Week of August 25, 2019

The Point:  Godly living impacts future generations.

Jehoshaphat Reigns in Judah:  2 Chronicles 17:1-10.

[1] Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. [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 that Asa his father had captured. [3] The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, [4] but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. [5] Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. [6] His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah. [7] In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; [8] and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. [9] And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. [10] And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.  [ESV]

“The Reign of Jehoshaphat. The next king of Judah was Jehoshaphat (872-848). In general terms, the Chronicler presented this king as one whose fidelity resulted in tremendous blessing. Nevertheless, on two occasions Jehoshaphat involved himself with the sinful northern Israelite kingdom. Jehoshaphat’s reign therefore illustrated the blessings derived from fidelity and warned of troubles that come to anyone who compromised with the unfaithful. The Chronicler’s point of view on Jehoshaphat becomes evident when his record is compared with Kings (compare 2 Chr. 17:1-21:3 to 1 Kings 15:25-22:50). Although the Chronicler (as he usually did) omitted events in northern Israel found in 1 Kings, he more than doubled the size of material devoted to Jehoshaphat. 17:1-19 greatly expands 1 Kings 15:24 and gives examples of blessings which Jehoshaphat received during reforms in the first years of his reign. The Chronicler then followed Kings in its description of a battle with Syria [18:1-34 to 1 Kings 22:1-40]. The Chronicler added a second record of Jehoshaphat’s reforms and blessings [19:1-11] as well as another battle he faced [20:1-30]. Near the end, Chronicles returns to material in Kings to close Jehoshaphat’s reign [20:31-21:3 to 1 Kings 22:41-50]. Jehoshaphat’s reign divides into four main sections. Its opening [17:1-2] and closure [20:31-21:3]; the body of the reign separating into the king’s early years [17:3-19:3]; and his later years [19:4-20:30]. Opening of Jehoshaphat’s Reign [17:1-2]. In his usual fashion, the Chronicler began with a brief description of Jehoshaphat’s rise to power. The Chronicler included the information of 1 Kings 15:24. He also expanded this notice with an additional verse [17:2]. Jehoshaphat first strengthened himself. In the Chronicler’s vocabulary, for a king to ‘strengthen himself’ meant that he consolidated power so that opponents offered no genuine threat. In this case, the Chronicler specified that Jehoshaphat was secure against Israel. Conflict between Judah and northern Israel originated with Rehoboam [2 Chr. 11:1-4] and extended through the reigns of Abijah and Asa. Jehoshaphat, however, secured his borders against northern aggression. He not only placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah but also in the cities of Ephraim that Abijah and Asa had taken before him. By describing Jehoshaphat’s security as against Israel, the Chronicler immediately prepared his readers for relating this material to the next section of Jehoshaphat’s early years, namely his alliance with Israel against Syria [18:1-19:3]. The Chronicler made it clear that the king had nothing to fear from his northern kinsmen, but he nevertheless entered an alliance in which he helped northern Israel against a common foe. Jehoshaphat’s Earlier Fidelity [17:3-19]. Jehoshaphat’s reign begins with a record of the king’s early fidelity and blessing which appears only in Chronicles. This expansion of Kings reflects the Chronicler’s typical style and vocabulary on many occasions. The record of Jehoshaphat’s early fidelity divides into three parts. His strength is described [17:3-9], his international blessings appear [17:10-11], and then an elaboration closes the section [17:12-19]. The Chronicler formed these reports to explain and illustrate how Jehoshaphat was able to consolidate his strength in such a remarkable way. Jehoshaphat’s Strength Explained [17:3-9]. The Chronicler explained the king’s success by reporting his domestic blessings. The Chronicler first explained that the Lord was with Jehoshaphat [17:3]. The concept of God being ‘with’ a king usually bore the connotation that God was acting as his military leader. The context here is also one of military success. Jehoshaphat’s successful positioning of his troops against the North was evidence that God was on the side of Judah in his early years. The reason for this divine favor is stated explicitly. It was because Jehoshaphat walked in the earlier ways of his father David [17:3]. Comparing kings to David was a common technique in the book of Kings, but the Chronicler used this device less frequently. It is noteworthy, therefore, that Jehoshaphat’s early years were comparable to the ideal king David. The text catalogs a number of specific actions that made Jehoshaphat comparable to David. First, he sought the God of his father rather than the Baals. The Chronicler noted a number of times that David sought God [1 Chr. 16:11; 22:19; 28:8-9]. ‘Seeking’ God for direction and help was one of the Chronicler’s highest ideals. The rejection of the Baals contrasts Jehoshaphat with the syncretism taking place in the North under the influence of Jezebel [see 1 Kings 16:31-33; 18:4]. Second, the king’s heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord [17:6]. Whole-hearted commitment to the Lord frequently appears in Chronicles as a sincere service that is blessed by God. In this way as well, Jehoshaphat was likened to David whose sincere heart is highlighted a number of times [see 1 Chr. 22:7,9; 28:2,9; 29:17-19]. Third, Jehoshaphat took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah [17:6]. Just as David had been devoted to centralizing worship in Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat destroyed the high places. The destruction of pagan worship sites and objects appears frequently in Chronicles as a sign of devotion to God [14:3-5; 17:6; 29:16; 31:1; 33:15; 34:3-7]. As 20:33 indicates, however, Jehoshaphat did not continue with this level of devotion throughout his reign. As a result of the king’s zeal, the Lord established the kingdom in his hand [17:5]. Judah was strengthened because of Jehoshaphat’s fidelity and he was blessed with great riches and honor by gifts from all Judah. Wealth and honor are mentioned in connection only with a few kings. The use of this terminology here pointed out that Jehoshaphat’s early years reached a level of prosperity enjoyed by few. Moreover, the fact that this wealth and honor came from all Judah is another way the Chronicler exalted the king. The entire southern kingdom honored Jehoshaphat. After listing a number of ways in which Jehoshaphat had shown himself to be faithful like David, the Chronicler paused to point out the king’s most remarkable act of devotion [17:7-9]. In the third year [17:7], probably the king’s first year to reign after his father’s death, he sent officials to teach in the cities of Judah [17:7]. A number of Levites and priests accompanied these political leaders [17:8]. Levites and priests were designated as teachers of the people in the Law of Moses [Deut. 24:8; 27:14-26; 31:9-13]. Under the king’s direction, they took the Book of the Law (probably the Pentateuch) and taught among the people [17:9]. A similar event took place later in Jehoshaphat’s reign as well [19:4-12]. The Chronicler’s keen interest in the mutual support of king and temple personnel becomes evident here. The ideal kings David and Solomon concentrated on establishing the priests and Levites in their proper roles [1 Chr. 15:11-24; 16:4-6,37-42; 23:1-26:32; 2 Chr. 8:14-15]; Hezekiah also gave much attention to the temple personnel [29:1-36; 30:15-17,21-27; 31:2-21] as did Josiah [34:8-13; 35:1-19]. Here Jehoshaphat established the priests and Levites in their rightful place as teachers of the Law. The Chronicler used the example of Jehoshaphat to illustrate the means by which security and wealth could come to the people of God. His post-exilic readers desired these blessings, but they needed to be reminded of the kinds of actions that would lead to such positive results. Devotion to purity in worship and instruction in the Law were to be high priorities in their day. Jehoshaphat’s International Blessings [17:10-11]. In addition to domestic blessings that secured Judah against Israel, Jehoshaphat’s fidelity was also rewarded on the broader international front. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat to fight on his behalf. As a result, the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah [17:10]. The dread of God upon foreign nations is mentioned several times in Chronicles as a way of exalting certain kings [14:14; 17:10; 20:29]. The motif appears elsewhere in Scripture as an ideal for which Israel should hope [Ex. 15:16; 23:27; Deut. 2:25; 11:25; Josh. 2:9-11]. The nations feared because God was fighting for Jehoshaphat and giving him great victories. In fact, the presence of God with Jehoshaphat was so evident in his military strength that the nations around him made no war with him [17:10]. Instead, they brought presents and silver for tribute … rams and … goats [17:11]. This paragraph explains another reason why Jehoshaphat was able to fortify himself so strongly against northern Israel; he had no other enemies to worry him. All the nations, especially the Philistines to the west and the Arabs to the east [17:11], were pacified by their fear of Jehoshaphat’s God.” [Pratt, pp. 438-445].

“Royal Observance of Worship. Original Israelite Readers. The Chronicler pointed to the centrality of David’s throne and the temple by frequently noting how honorable kings of Judah devoted themselves to proper observance of temple worship. These notices appear in at least five different ways. First, the strikingly positive record of David and Solomon draws attention to their exemplary devotion to the temple and its worship. Out of twenty-one chapters devoted to David, seventeen concentrate on his preparations for Solomon’s temple [1 Chr. 13-29]. In fact, the largest uninterrupted addition the Chronicler made to David’s reign is exclusively concerned with his efforts on behalf of temple worship [1 Chr. 22-29]. Similarly, Solomon’s principal activity in Chronicles was the construction of the temple [2 Chr. 2-8]. Second, in the Divided and Reunited Kingdom the Chronicler focused on the extensive renovations and reforms of worship. Jehoshaphat, Asa, Joash, Hezekiah, Manasseh and Josiah are honored for their extensive worship reforms. Third, to stress the importance of devotion to proper temple worship the Chronicler highlighted the numbers of sacrifices and offerings which honorable kings made. In each case, his intention was to convey that righteous kings enthusiastically supported the temple and its services. Fourth, the Chronicler drew attention to the ways in which such kings often acknowledged the sanctity of the temple. This motif appears powerfully on many occasions in which kings insisted that temple personnel and the people consecrate themselves before approaching the temple. Fifth, Chronicles also notes the failure of some kings to give proper attention to temple worship. Two kings were not consistent in maintaining their reforms [15:17; 20:33]. Three kings actually built high places to other gods [21:11; 28:4; 33:3]. Beyond this, some kings defiled the temple and its services. The Chronicler condemned these actions in the strongest terms. These aspects of Chronicles spoke directly to the needs of post-exilic Judah. In the early years of return from Babylon much work had to be done to rebuild the temple. After that task was completed, the worship practices of the post-exilic temple were still in need of reform. The reforms of Judah’s kings in the past indicated not only the importance of the temple, but also stressed that proper temple worship was one of the chief responsibilities of the house of David in every age. Contemporary Christian Readers. The perfect example of the royal observance of worship comes from the great King Jesus. Christ ushered in the Kingdom of God with a passion for holy worship. Even as a child, He was devoted to the temple practices [Luke 2:46]. In His confrontation with Satan, Christ stated triumphantly that the only proper object of worship is God [Matt. 4:10]. He drove out thieves from the temple courts [Matt. 21:12-13; John 2:14-15]. Jesus’ passion for worship becomes clear in His conversation with the Samaritan woman. There He explained that genuine worship is not confined to a geographic location, but must be done in Spirit and in truth [John 4:20-24]. The importance of worship extends throughout the continuation of the Kingdom as the church seeks to follow the teaching of Christ. Paul urged all believers to present themselves as ‘living sacrifices’ as a ‘spiritual act of worship’ [Rom. 12:1]. It is the atoning work of Christ that enables believers to draw near and worship [Heb. 10:10]. Paul also identified the New Testament church as those ‘who worship by the Spirit of God’ [Phil. 3:3]. The royal observance of worship becomes the great motif of the consummation of the Kingdom. John’s revelation repeatedly portrays the worship of Christ the King [Rev. 5:14; 21:22]. Obedience to the command to ‘worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water’ will be the unbroken exercise of the children of God [Rev. 14:7]. The angelic hosts are portrayed as serving Him ‘day and night in his temple’ [Rev. 7:15].” [Pratt, pp. 29-31].

“Standards. Original Israelite Readers. As a covenanted nation, Israel lived under divine standards. These standards governed the Chronicler’s assessments of many situations in Israel’s history and guided the evaluations he held before his post-exilic readers. At least three major standards appear in Chronicles. First, the Chronicler relied heavily on the standard of Mosaic Law. In many cases, the actions of characters are approved or disapproved by appeals to the Law of Moses. Most often, these appeals focused on the regulations of worship. Occasionally, the contexts have other matters in view. While the Chronicler held forth the authority of Mosaic Law over the post-exilic community, he was not a pedantic legalist. On several occasions he wrote approvingly of times when extreme circumstances required actions which did not strictly conform to the Law of Moses [see 1 Chr. 21:28-22:1; 2 Chr. 5:11-12; 30:2]. Second, the Chronicler relied on many of David and Solomon’s arrangements as standards to be observed by his readers. He often spoke of conformity to Moses and David together. On a number of occasions the Chronicler upheld specific practices established by David and Solomon. For the most part, these references concerned practices of worship. At times, however, more general patterns are in view, especially when various kings are compared to David. Third, the Chronicler set forth prophetic revelation as a standard which God’s people must follow. As our discussion below indicates, the prophetic word was also an essential guide for life in the post-exilic period. The Chronicler relied heavily on these standards as he sought to instruct his readers. He explained that compliance with the guidelines of Moses, David, Solomon, and the prophets had led Israel to blessing, but violations of these standards brought judgment. The Chronicler pointed to this dynamic to motivate his post-exilic readers to be faithful to these standards in their day. Contemporary Christian Readers. These three standards of judgment are also reflected in the New Testament. First, the Mosaic Law is rigorously upheld as the moral standard for the Kingdom of Christ [Rom. 3:31; 1 Tim. 3:8]. Jesus denied coming to abrogate the Law. Instead, He came to fulfill and obey it [Matt. 5:17; Rom. 10:4]. When properly applied to the New Testament situation, the principles of the Law of Moses guide the people of God even today. Second, certain figures are exalted as standards for others to follow. Hebrews 11:2-40 portrays a variety of Old Testament heroes of the faith that provide for us a standard of faith. As with the Chronicler, David [Matt. 12:3] and Moses [Heb. 11:24] are offered as ideals by which one’s life should be patterned. As the final Moses and the last Son of David, Jesus provided the greatest standard of all. Third, the authority of prophetic revelation in Chronicles is mirrored in the New Testament by the infallible revelation of the apostles and prophets of the church [Eph. 2:20]. Their gospels and epistles are marked by revelatory character [John 21:24; 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Thess. 2:13] and represent divine standards for Christians.” [Pratt, pp. 44-45].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. It was a high honor for a later king to be compared favorably to King David. The Chronicler writes concerning Jehoshaphat: he walked in the earlier ways of his father David [3]. What specific actions made Jehoshaphat comparable to David [3-6]? What remarkable act of devotion did the Chronicler emphasize [7-9]?
  2. What did the Chronicler want his readers to learn from the reign of King Jehoshaphat?
  3. Why was the proper observance of temple worship of critical important to the Chronicler? Why was it important to the Chronicler that Jehoshaphat sent out officials, Levites, and priests to teach the people? What would this have shown the people of Judah about Jehoshaphat? What did the Chronicler want his readers to learn from the importance that King Jehoshaphat placed upon teaching the people the Law of God?

References:

1 & 2 Chronicles, Eugene Merrill, Kregel.

1 & 2 Chronicles, Richard Pratt, Mentor.

1,2 Chronicles, J. A. Thompson, NAC, B & H Publishers.