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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 17

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



JEHOSHAPHAT (2 Chronicles 17-20).


Jehoshaphat labours to strengthen his realm internally and externally.
This entire chapter is peculiar to the Chronicle.

Verse 1

(1) And Jehoshaphat . . . in. his stead.—The last words of 1 Kings 15:24. The name means Iah judgeth.

And strengthened himself against Israel.—As described in 2 Chronicles 17:2. Israel is here the northern kingdom. These defensive measures were taken in the early part of the reign, and before Jehoshaphat connected himself by marriage with the northern dynasty (2 Chronicles 18:1).

Verse 2

(2) And he placed forces.—Comp. 2 Chronicles 11:12.

The fenced cities.—‘Arê ha-bĕtsûrôth. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 11:5 sqq., 2 Chronicles 14:6-7.)

And set garrisons.Placed military posts or prefects (netsîbîm). (1 Chronicles 11:16; 2 Chronicles 11:11.) Syriac, “appointed rulers.”

The cities of Ephraim . . . had taken.—See on 2 Chronicles 15:8.

Verse 3

(3) He walked in the first ways.—The former or earlier ways of David, as contrasted with his later conduct—a tacit allusion to the adultery with Bathsheba and other sins of David committed in his later years (2 Samuel 11-24). A few MSS. and the LXX. omit David.

And sought not unto Baalim.And sought not the Baals (dârash lĕ, a late construction). The Baals were different local aspects of the sun-god. Here the term no doubt includes the illegal worship of Jehovah under the form of a bullock, as instituted by Jeroboam, and practised in the northern kingdom (“the doing of Israel” 2 Chronicles 17:4). Syriac, “and prayed not to images.”

Verse 5

(5) Therefore.And (so “also,” “so that,” in 2 Chronicles 17:7; 2 Chronicles 17:10).

The Lord stablished the kingdom in his hand.—Comp. 2 Kings 14:5.

Presents.Minchah. This word often means tributary offerings, as in 2 Chronicles 17:11, but here it obviously denotes the voluntary gifts of loyal subjects, usual at the beginning of a reign (1 Samuel 10:27).

And he had (or got) riches and honour in abundance.—Like David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:28; 2 Chronicles 1:12).

Verse 6

(6) And his heart was lifted up.Gabhah lçbh, which usually, like the phrase of Authorised version, has a bad meaning, as in 2 Chronicles 26:16. The margin is right here: “his courage rose high,” or “he grew bold” in the ways of Jehovah, i.e., in the path of religious reform. Vulg., “cum sumpsisset cor ejus audaciam propter vias Domini.”

Moreover.And again, further. Referring to 2 Chronicles 17:3. Not only did he not seek the Baals, but more than this, he removed the high places, &c. [This is the common explanation. But the sense may rather be: “And he again removed,” referring back to Asa’s reforms, 2 Chronicles 14:5.]

Groves.—’Ashêrim, “Asherahs.” (2 Chronicles 14:3.)

Verse 7


(7) He sent to his princes, even to Ben-hail . . . to Michaiah.—Rather, He sent his princes, Ben- hail and Obadiah . . . and Michaiah. (The le “to,” in the chronicler’s idiom, marking the object of the verb.) If, however, Authorised Version were correct, the construction would not be unique, as the Speaker’s Com mentary asserts. (Comp. 2 Kings 5:7, “this man sendeth to me to recover a man,” &c.)

Princes.—None of the personages mentioned in this and the following verse are otherwise known. The “five princes” were laymen of rank, and were accompanied by nine (eight) Levites and two priests.

Ben-hail.Son of valour. A compound proper name, only occurring here, but analogous to Ben-hur. Ben-deker, and Ben-hesed in 1 Kings 4:8-10. (The LXX. renders “the sons of the mighty.” Syriac, “the chiefs of the forces;” apparently reading bnê chail.)

Nethaneel.—Syriac, Mattanael; Arabic, Mattaniah, Michaiah. Syriac and Arabic, Malachiah.

Verse 8

(8) And with them he sent Levites.—Rather, And with them were the Levites. The construction being changed. So LXX. and the Syriac. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 16:41-42; 1 Chronicles 15:18, for the same mode of enumeration, which is characteristic of the style of the chronicler.

Zebadiah.—Some MSS. and Syriac and Arabic read Zechariah.

Shemiramoth.—So LXX. and Vulg. (see 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 15:18). The Heb. text is probably incorrect. Syriac and Arabic read instead Natûra.

Tob-adonijah.—This curious name occurs only here, and is perhaps a mere mistake arising out of the preceding Adonijah and Tobijah. The Syriac and Arabic omit it.

Priests.The priests.

The commission was a mixed one of civil and ecclesiastical persons (comp. 1 Chronicles 13:1-2; 1 Chronicles 23:2; 1 Chronicles 24:6.)

And had the book of the law of the Lord.And with them was the book of the law (teaching) of Jehovah. For the construction, compare 1 Chronicles 16:42. The writer evidently means the Pentateuch; and if this notice was derived by him from a contemporary source, e.g., the “words of Jehu the son of Hanani,” to which he refers as an authority for the reign (2 Chronicles 20:34), it would constitute an important testimony to the existence, if not of the five books, at least of an ancient collection of laws at this early date (circ. 850 B.C. ).

And taught the people.Taught among the people.

Verse 10


(10) The fear of the Lord.A dread of Jehovah (pachad), Revelation 14:13, 20:29. (Comp. Exodus 15:16; 1 Samuel 11:7; Isaiah 2:10. ) This phrase is not peculiar to the chronicler, as Keil and Bertheau assert. “The kingdoms of the lands” is so (2 Chronicles 12:8; 1 Chronicles 29:30).

They made no war.—The reward of Jehosha-phat’s piety (1 Chronicles 22:9; Proverbs 16:7): “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Comp. also Genesis 35:5)

Verse 11

(11) Broughti.e., continually. Such is the force of the participle.

Presents.An offering, i.e., tribute (minchah;. 2 Chronicles 17:5).

And tribute silver.—Rather, and silver, a load, or burden, i.e., a great quantity (massâ’), 2 Chronicles 20:25. As if, “silver as much as they could carry”—a natural hyperbole. Not all the five states of the Philistines were subject to Jehoshaphat. (Comp. 2 Samuel 8:1.)

The Arabians.—‘Arbî’im, here only equivalent to ‘Arbîyîm (2 Chronicles 26:7), and ‘Arbim (2 Chronicles 21:16). They are in each case grouped with the Philistines. The nomad Bedâwin conquered by Asa (2 Chronicles 14:15) appear to be meant here; or else some tribes which recognised the overlordship of Jehoshaphat after his reduction of Edom (2 Chronicles 20:22, sqq.).

Brought him flocks.—Comp. Mesha of Moab’s tribute to Ahab (2 Kings 3:4).

Verse 12

(12) And Jehoshaphat waxed great.—Literally, And Jehoshaphat was going on and waxing great, i.e., became greater and greater. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 11:9.)

Exceedingly.—‘Ad lĕmà’lah. This phrase occurs again in 2 Chronicles 16:12; 2 Chronicles 26:8, and nowhere else in the Old Testament. (See on 1 Chronicles 14:2.)

And he built.—Like his predecessors—Solomon, Rehoboam, Asa—he displayed his wealth and power in great public works. The records of the Assyrian and Babylonian sovereigns are largely taken up with similar accounts of temple and palace building.

Castles.Biranîyôth, a derivative from birah (1 Chronicles 29:1; 1 Chronicles 29:19; comp. Syriac here, birôthô). It only recurs at 2 Chronicles 27:4. It is an Aramaic term. (Comp. bîranyâthâ, which in the Targums means “palaces.”)

Cities of stores.—Comp. 2 Chronicles 8:4; 2 Chronicles 16:4; Exodus 1:11.

Verse 13

(13) Business.—Rather, much goods, or stores; literally, work (mĕlâkâh) and then produce. The Hebrew word is so used in Exodus 22:7; Exodus 22:10 (“His neighbour’s goods”). Stores of provisions and war material seem to be intended. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 11:11.)

And the man of war . . . were in Jerusalem.—Rather, and (he had) men of war . . . in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem.—Not the entire army corps whose numbers are given in 2 Chronicles 17:14-18, but simply their chiefs.

Verse 14

(14) And these . . . their fathers.And this is their muster (or census), according to their father-houses (clans), 1 Chronicles 24:3. The warriors were marshalled in the army according to clans, so that men of the same stock fought side by side with their kindred. Perhaps in the original document this heading was followed by a much more detailed scheme of names and divisions than that which the text presents.

Of Judah.To Judah (belonged) captains of thousands, viz., the three enumerated in 2 Chronicles 17:14-16 : Adnah, Jehohanan, and Amasiah. They were the principal officers, or generals, of the entire forces of Judah.

Adnah the chief—To wit, the captain Adnah. That Adnah was commander-in-chief is implied by his being named first, and his corps being the largest.

Verse 15

(15) Next to him.At his hand, i.e., beside him, and subordinate to him. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 25:2.)

Verse 16

(16) Amasiah.Iah carrieth (Isaiah 40:11); different from Amaziah (Iah is strong).

Who willingly offered himself unto the Lord.—(Judges 5:2; Judges 5:9.) An allusion to some noble act of self-devotion, which was doubtless more fully recorded in the source from which the chronicler has drawn this brief account. Such allusions, though no longer intelligible, are important as conducing to the proof of the historical value of the narratives in which they occur. LXX., ὁ προθυμούμενος τῷ κυρίῳ: Vulg., consecratus Domino.

Verse 17

(17) Armed men with bow and shield.—Literally, drawing bow and shield: i.e., as the Targum explains, “drawing bow and grasping shields.” (Comp. 1 Chronicles 12:2.) LXX., “Archers and peltasts;” Vulg., “Grasping bow and shield.” (Comp. also 1 Chronicles 8:40, for the arms of the Benjaminites.)

Verse 18

(18) Ready prepared for the war.Equipped for service. (See on 1 Chronicles 12:23-24; Numbers 31:5; Numbers 32:29.) The hoplites or heavy-armed infantry are probably meant.

Verse 19

(19) These waited on the king.—Rather, these are they that ministered unto the king, viz., the five generals above named.

Beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities—i.e., the commandants of the fortresses of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:11; 2 Chronicles 11:23). These latter, as well as the generals of the forces, are called the king’s “ministers” (mĕshârĕthîm)—a word which is not used of service in the field, but implies their presence at court (“in Jerusalem,” 2 Chronicles 17:13, as the royal staff).

According to the above list, the army of Jehoshaphat was organised in five grand divisions, corresponding perhaps to five territorial divisions of the southern kingdom. The totals are the largest assigned to the two tribes anywhere in the Old Testament; viz., Judah 780,000, and Benjamin 380,000; in all, 1,160,000. At David’s census Judah had 500,000 warriors (2 Samuel 24:9); and Israel 800,000. Again, in 2 Chronicles 14:8, Asa’s army consists of 300,000 men of Judah and 280,000 Benjaminites: clearly such an increase as our text indicates is unaccountable. At the same time, it is equally clear that the present numbers are not fortuitous results of clerical errors, for they follow each other in the order of relative strength: Judah, 300,000, 280,000, 200,000; Benjamin, 200,000, 180,000; and they are evidently not independent of the estimates of 2 Chronicles 14:8 above quoted.

In the absence of adequate data for modifying these certainly startling figures, it is well to bear in mind that we need not understand by them an army which ever actually mustered in the field or on parade, but simply an estimate of the total male population liable to be called out for the national defence; although, even upon that understanding, the total appears to be at least three times too great, considering the small extent of the country.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-chronicles-17.html. 1905.
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