And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself against Israel.2 Chronicles 17:1. Jehoshaphat strengthened himself against Israel — Against the king and people of Israel, who had molested the kingdom of Judah with wars all the days of Asa, after that sin of his, mentioned 2 Chronicles 16:2, &c. Ahab had now been three years upon the throne of Israel, an active, warlike prince. The vigour of the beginning of his reign falling in with the decay of the conclusion of Asa’s, it is probable the kingdom of Israel had of late gained ground of the kingdom of Judah, and become formidable to it; so that Jehoshaphat wisely judged that the first thing he had to do was to strengthen himself on that side, and check the growing greatness of the king of Israel; which he did so effectually, and without bloodshed, that Ahab soon courted his alliance, (so far was he from giving him any disturbance,) and proved more dangerous as a friend, than he could have been as an enemy.
And he placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.2 Chronicles 17:2. And set garrisons in the cities which Asa had taken — We do not read of any cities which Asa took; but Abijah his father possessed himself of several, which Asa kept and took for his own, 2 Chronicles 13:19. And, it appears, Jehoshaphat put such forces in them as might secure them to himself.
And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;2 Chronicles 17:3-4. He walked in the first ways of his father David — His ways before he fell so foully, in the matter of Uriah, which were good ways. David, indeed, recovered from that fall, but, perhaps, never, while he lived, fully retrieved the spiritual strength and comfort which he had lost. Jehoshaphat followed David as far as he followed God, and no farther. St. Paul himself thus limits our imitation of him, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Follow me, as I follow Christ, and not otherwise. The first ways of many pious people have been their best ways, and their first love their strongest love: which, however, ought not to be the case: for the last ought to be more than the first, Revelation 2:19. But in every copy we propose to write after, as we ought to single out that only which is good, so that chiefly which is best. The original words here are literally rendered, He walked in the ways of David his father, הראשׁונים, hareshonim, those first, or ancient ways. He proposed to himself, for his example, the primitive times of the royal family, those purest times, before the corruptions of the late reigns came in. See Jeremiah 6:16. The LXX. leave out David, and so refer this to Asa: He walked in the first ways of his father Asa, and did not imitate him in what was amiss in him toward the latter end of his time. It is well to be cautious in following the best men, lest we step aside after them. And sought not unto Baalim — The neighbouring nations had their Baalim: one had one Baal, and another had another; but he abhorred them all, and had nothing to do with any of them. He sought the Lord God of his father, and him only; prayed to him only; and inquired of him only.
But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance.2 Chronicles 17:5-6. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand — Those stand firm that have the presence of God with them. If the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, that will stablish the work of our hands, and establish us in our integrity. And all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents — As subjects, in those times and places, used to do to their kings, in token of their respect and subjection to them. The more there is of true religion among a people, the more conscientious loyalty there will be. A governor, that answers the end of government, will be supported. And he had riches and honour in abundance — The effect of the favour both of God and his people. It is undoubtedly true, though few will believe it, that religion and piety are the best friends to outward prosperity. And his heart was lift up in the ways of the Lord — Riches and honour in abundance prove to many a clog and a hinderance in the ways of the Lord, an occasion of pride, security, and sensuality: but they had a quite contrary effect upon Jehoshaphat: his abundance was oil to the wheels of his obedience; and the more he had of the wealth of this world, the more cheerfully and resolutely he went on in the ways of the Lord. His heart also was lifted up above all discouragements, difficulties, and fears, by which men’s hearts are wont to be cast down. He was valiant and resolute for God and his ways. He took away the high places and groves — That is, those in which idols were worshipped; for those that were dedicated to the true God only were not taken away, chap. 2 Chronicles 20:33. And though Asa had done the same before, yet either he did not do it thoroughly, or the people, who were mad upon their idols, had secretly made new ones, in the latter part of his reign, when he grew more infirm in body, and more remiss in God’s cause.
And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.
Also in the third year of his reign he sent to his princes, even to Benhail, and to Obadiah, and to Zechariah, and to Nethaneel, and to Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.2 Chronicles 17:7. He sent to his princes — to teach in the cities of Judah — To inform the people of their duty, and of the king’s pleasure. As judges teach or instruct the people in the laws of the land, when they deliver their charges upon the bench; so did these princes, in the king’s name, admonish and require the people to observe and obey the laws of God, which were the municipal laws of that land: the particular explication and enforcement whereof they left to the Levites and priests here following, who were sent for this end, and accordingly taught the people, 2 Chronicles 17:9.
And with them he sent Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, priests.
And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.2 Chronicles 17:9. And they taught in Judah, &c. — The Levites and priests were teachers by office, Deuteronomy 33:10. It was a part of the work for which they had their maintenance, and indeed had little else to do. But, it seems, they had neglected it, pretending, probably, that they could not get the people to hear them. Jehoshaphat, therefore, sends them with the princes, who, by their authority, might require the people to assemble together to receive instruction in the laws of God and their duty. “What a great deal of good,” says Henry, “may be done, when Moses and Aaron thus go hand in hand in the doing of it; when princes with their power, and priests and Levites with their Scripture-learning, agree to teach the people the good knowledge of God, and their duty. These itinerant judges, and itinerant preachers together, were instrumental to diffuse a blessed light throughout the cities of Judah.” And had the book of the law of the Lord with them — 1st, For their own guidance, that from thence they might draw all the instructions they gave to the people, and not teach for doctrines the commandments of men. 2d, For the conviction or the people, that they might see these priests and Levites had a divine warrant for what they said, and delivered to them only that which they had received from the Lord.
And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.2 Chronicles 17:10. The fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms, &c. — Justly concluding, from his singular piety, that God would eminently appear for him; for even the heathen could not but observe, that the kings of Judah were either prosperous or unhappy, according as they served God or forsook him. So that they made no war against Jehoshaphat — God’s good providence so ordered it, that while the princes and priests were instructing and endeavouring to reform the country, none of his neighbours gave him any molestation, to take him off from that good work.
Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.2 Chronicles 17:11. Some of the Philistines brought presents — They had been subject to Judah ever since David’s time; but, it seems, had neglected this duty in the times of his predecessors, but were now moved by their own fears to perform it. And the Arabians brought him flocks — Either because he had upon some just occasion waged war against them, and subdued them; or because they voluntarily put themselves under his protection, in recompense whereof they sent him these presents; or only as a free acknowledgment of their respect for him.
And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.
And he had much business in the cities of Judah: and the men of war, mighty men of valour, were in Jerusalem.2 Chronicles 17:13. He had much business in the cities of Judah — To repair and fortify them, and furnish them with provisions; and to purge out all the relics of idolatry and injustice, which were more secretly and craftily managed in the cities than in the country, and which were first and most prevalent in the cities, and thence spread their infection into the country around them.
And these are the numbers of them according to the house of their fathers: Of Judah, the captains of thousands; Adnah the chief, and with him mighty men of valour three hundred thousand.
And next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and fourscore thousand.
And next him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself unto the LORD; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valour.
And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him armed men with bow and shield two hundred thousand.
And next him was Jehozabad, and with him an hundred and fourscore thousand ready prepared for the war.
These waited on the king, beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities throughout all Judah.2 Chronicles 17:19. These waited on the king — These above-mentioned were the trained bands, or auxiliaries; whose chief officers waited on the king to receive his commands, and to raise and bring in all, or part of their forces, to the service of the king, as need required. A vast number for so small a compass of ground to furnish out and maintain. But we may consider, that God had promised to make the seed of Abraham like the sand of the sea for number; that there had now been a long peace; that many were come to them from the kingdom of Israel; and that Jehoshaphat was under a special blessing of God. They were doubtless dispersed all the country over, every one residing on his own land; only they were ready at call, whenever there was occasion.