Early in the morning they got up and left for the Wilderness of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, "Hear me, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be upheld; believe in His prophets, and you will succeed."
I. THE MARCH TO TEKOA. (Vers. 20, 21.)
1. The composition of the army.
(1) The king commanded in person (vers. 25, 27). Modern monarchs stay at home when their soldiers go to war, and even when they do not, seldom place themselves like Jehoshaphat in the forefront of their troops. Perhaps "discretion is the better part of valour;" but the arrangement commends itself as reasonable that kings and captains should share the perils of their subjects and followers.
(2) The inhabitants of Jerusalem contributed their contingent to the force. Probably the flower of the nation's troops, these may have served as the king's body-guard.
(3) The warriors of Judah completed the armament. The entire army mustered at and took its departure from Jerusalem.
2. The time of its setting forth. "Early in the morning," i.e. the next after Jahaziel's assurance. An indication of
(1) faith, since without this they had hesitated and delayed, if not sat still and trembled (Psalm 27:13);
(2) zeal, discovering the eagerness with which they entered on the path of duty once it had been pointed out (Psalm 119:33);
(3) courage, as being afraid of nothing with Jehovah as Leader and Commander (Psalm 27:1).
3. The address of its king. Standing in the city gate as regiment after regiment filed into line and sallied forth, Jehoshaphat exhorted them (successively) to calm confidence in the ultimate success of the campaign upon which they were entering.
(1) Two things he recommended - absolute faith in Jehovah as their covenant God, and perfect trust in his prophets as he bearers of his message.
(2) Two things he promised - the permanent establishment of their kingdom in spite of all attacks from without; its certain prosperity through being exempt from unbelief a sure but fatal source of weakness and division.
4. The arrangements or its march. Jehoshaphat made special preparations for encountering the foe.
(1) A consultation was held with the people. Besides exhorting them as above recorded (Bertheau, Keil), he took them into counsel with himself, in the disposition next made. This conference occurred before the army left Jerusalem rather than on its reaching Tekoa.
(2) Singers were appointed to march in front of the troops. Arrayed in sacred vestments, Levitical musicians were to praise the beauty of holiness, or to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness, saying, "Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever" (Psalm 136.). Their singing and praising most likely began as they left the capital, was discontinued on the way to Tekoa, and was again resumed on reaching the vicinity of the enemy (ver. 22).
5. The advance towards the foe. A singular method of warfare it must have seemed - as ridiculous as the march of Joshua's warriors round the walls of Jericho and the music of their rams' horns must have appeared to the inhabitants of that old Canaanitish fortress (Joshua 6:12-16).
II. THE SCENE FROM THE WATCH-TOWER. (Ver. 24.) This "watch-tower," a height in the wilderness of Tekoa which overlooked the desert of Jeruel, where the invading host lay encamped (ver. 16), was probably the conical hill Jebel Fureidis, or the Frank Mountain, from which a view can be obtained of the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab ('Picturesque Palestine,' 1:137). From this elevation Jehoshaphat and his soldiers beheld the whole ground strewn with corpses, and not the vestige of a living foe to be seen. The enemy had been:
1. Completely slaughtered. The dead bodies were so numerous that "to all appearance none had escaped" (Keil); but the Chronicler manifestly intended to describe a case of not apparent, but real extermination. Not merely all whom the men of Judah beheld prostrate on the field were dead, but of all who had come up against Judah none had escaped.
2. Self-destroyed. They had fallen on and annihilated one another. That perhaps was not remarkable; thieves, robbers, and wicked men in general often fall out and destroy one another. The pity is they do not always do so before attacking other people. In this case two things were remarkable - the time when and the mode in which it happened.
(1) It occurred when the army began to march and the Levites to sing and to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness (ver. 22). Exactly, then, when God's people were manifesting forth their obedience, faith, zeal, and holiness, their enemies were destroying one another. The same thing would happen in the experience of the New Testament Church were she in a similar fashion to confront her adversaries, first arraying herself in the sacred garments of holiness, next trusting in God for the victories he had promised - in fact, praising him beforehand on account of them, and then going forth to behold them and gather up their fruits; her enemies, too, would destroy themselves.
(2) It occurred through the direct instrumentality of God. Jehovah set against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (ver. 22) "liers in wait," supposed to have been angels or heavenly powers sent by God, and called insidiatores because of the work they did against the enemy (Bertheau, Ewald), but more probably "Seirites, greedy of spoil, who from an ambush made an attack upon the Ammonites and Moabites" (Keil) These, becoming alarmed for their safety, not only repelled the "liers in wait," but turned with fury upon the Seirites marching with them, and absolutely exterminated them; after which, growing suspicious of one another, they flew at each other's throats and rested not until they had completely destroyed one another.
III. THE GATHERING OF THE SPOIL. (Ver. 25.)
1. The articles.
(1) Riches - movable property, such as cattle, tents, etc., the usual wealth of nomads.
(2) Dead bodies, i.e. corpses of men and carcases of animals; the former with clothing and jewellery, the latter with harness and accoutrements. The reading "garments" (Bertheau, Clarke), though not unsuitable (Judges 8:26), is probably incorrect.
(3) Precious jewels, "vessels of desire," gold and silver ornaments like those Gideon's soldiers took from the Midianites (Judges 8:25).
2. The quantity. So abundant that three days were occupied in collecting it, and when collected it was found to be more than they could carry. The ear-rings taken by Gideon's warriors from the Midianites weighed seventeen hundred shekels of gold (Judges 8:26); that obtained by Hannibal's soldiers at the battle of Cannae was so great "ut tres modios aureorum annulornm Carthaginem mitteret, quos e manibus equitum Romanorum, senatorum et militum detraxerat" ('Eutropii Historia Romana,' 41.).
IV. THE MUSTERING AT BERACHAH. (Ver. 26.)
1. The place. The valley, afterwards named from the incident of which it was the scene, must have adjoined the battlefield. A trace of it has been recovered in the Wady Bereikut, to the west of Tekoa, near the road from Hebron to Jerusalem (Robinson, vol. 2. p. 189). There is no ground for identifying it (Thenius) with the upper part of the valley of Kidron, afterwards called the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2, 12).
2. The time. On the fourth day after their arrival at Tekoa, the three intervening days having been employed in collecting the spoil.
3. The business.
(1) To render thanks to Jehovah. National mercies should receive national acknowledgment, just as national sins require national confession. Full of gratitude for the marvellous deliverance they had experienced, Jehoshaphat and his people blessed Jehovah on the spot he had consecrated by so wondrous an interposition on their behalf. From this circumstance the valley afterwards came to be designated Emek-Berachah, or "the valley of blessing."
(2) To prepare for returning to Jerusalem, which they forthwith did.
V. THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM. (Vers. 27, 28.)
1. Without delay. After causing the wilderness to echo with anthems to him who had smitten great and famous kings (Psalm 136:17, 18), they had nothing to detain them from their homes.
2. Without loss. Though they had gained a glorious victory, not one of their company was left upon the battle-field. "Every man of Judah and Jerusalem' that marched to Tekoa returned to the capital.
3. Without disorder. The same solemn and orderly procession that had characterized their going forth now distinguished their coming back.
4. Without sorrow. Few returns from the battle-field are without saddening recollections; theirs was marked by unmixed joy, to which they gave formal expression with psalteries and harps and trumpets in the house of the Lord. Learn:
1. The best evidence of faith - prompt and cheerful obedience.
2. The true secret of national as of individual prosperity - belief in God and in God's Word.
3. The value of sacred song as a means of exciting religious feeling and sustaining religious fortitude.
4. The necessity of holiness in them who would command or lead the Lord's host.
5. The ease with which God could make the enemies of his people annihilate one another.
6. The rich spoil that belongs to faith.
7. The joyous home-coming of all God's spiritual warriors. - W.
Believe in the Lord your God.
(W. H. Bennett, M.A.)
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