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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

2 Chronicles 20

Verses 1-37

CRITICAL NOTES.] Narrative to 2 Chronicles 20:30 entirely additional to Kings. Invasion of Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:1-3); fast and supplication of king and people (2 Chronicles 20:3-13); the message of Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14-19); exhortation and victory of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:20-30); close of his reign (2 Chronicles 20:31-37), which runs parallel with 1 Kings 22:41-49.

2 Chronicles 20:1-2.—Invasion of Moabites. Ammonites, Sept., some of the Minœi, inhabitants of Maon (Mehunins), a town near Petra. 2 Chronicles 20:2. Sea, Dead Sea. Syria, probably Edom. Has.-tam, having come round southern extremity of Dead Sea and entered Judæa from Edom.

2 Chronicles 20:3-13.—Fast and supplication. Set himself, his face (resolved, cf. 2 Kings 12:18; Jeremiah 42:15). Seek, i.e., to turn to Jehovah to implore help (2 Chronicles 15:12-13). Fast, national, the first “proclaimed” by authority. New, one of the two courts in Solomon’s temple, renovated by Jehoshaphat or by Asa (2 Chronicles 15:8), known now as “the new court.” 2 Chronicles 20:6-12. The supplication. 2 Chronicles 20:6. An appeal to God, omnipotent, supreme, and irresistible. 2 Chronicles 20:7. To God’s covenant, who gave them possession of land. Friend, first historic use of this title, though repeated Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23. 2 Chronicles 20:8. To God as owner of temple. 2 Chronicles 20:9. A brief summary of cases described in Solomon’s prayer (ch. 2 Chronicles 6:22-39). 2 Chronicles 20:10-11. Invaders whom Israel were not permitted to touch (Edom, Deuteronomy 2:5; Moab, Deuteronomy 2:9; Ammon, Deuteronomy 2:19), have now entered the land to cast us out. 2 Chronicles 20:12. In despair God sought. Eyes, i.e., we look to thee for succour (cf. Psalms 25:15; Psalms 141:8).

2 Chronicles 20:14-19.—The Message of Jahaziel. A prophet not elsewhere mentioned, but his claim verified by message and results. 2 Chronicles 20:15. Words familiar to people and connected with great deliverances (Deuteronomy 1:21; Joshua 1:9, &c.) [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 20:16 : Cliff, ascent of Ziz (Hazziz) at end of brook, gully, or dry torrent course. 2 Chronicles 20:17. Stand still, directed to do nothing, watch the Lord’s course (Exodus 14:13-14; Numbers 14:9). 2 Chronicles 20:18. Reverent obedience in confidence and gratitude. 2 Chronicles 20:19. Praise from Kohathites in general, from Korhites, a branch of them, in particular.

2 Chronicles 20:20-21.—The March and Exhortation. Went forth early. Tekoa, ten or eleven miles from Jerusalem, southerly direction. Stood, exhorted them to be firm and confident. Singers, line of procession arranged, signal to move forward; Levites led van with musical instruments and song (Psalms 136:0). 2 Chronicles 20:22-30. Overthrow of the enemy. Ambush, liers in wait. Edomites intending to attack Jews, but through panic fell upon Moabites, and rest of enemy or angels employed by God to confuse the host and destroy it. 2 Chronicles 20:24. Work completed before Israel on the field, which was strewed with dead bodies. They had not to fight, but to collect and carry away spoil. 2 Chronicles 20:26. Set out on fourth day to return in same joyful mood as they came. 2 Chronicles 20:29. Fear salutary fell on surrounding kingdoms and brought blessings at home.

2 Chronicles 20:30-33.—Close of Jehoshaphat’s reign (1 Kings 22:41-50). Steadfast and consistently religions (2 Chronicles 15:18), yet people not wholly diverted from idolatry. In deference to popular prejudice all high places not taken away. Words of Jehoshaphat not elsewhere noticed, entered into the book of Kings of Judah, same apparently as the Chronicles of Kings of Judah, mentioned in Kings [Murphy].

2 Chronicles 20:35-37.—Alliance with Ahaziah, closely on death of Ahab, whom A. survived little more than a year (1 Kings 22:51; 2 Kings 3:1). Ships, combined fleet destined for Tartessus, but wrecked. Eliezer denounced the unholy alliance. Ahaziah attributed the disaster to unskilfulness of Jehoshaphat’s sailors; proposed to fit out another joint fleet with his own subjects. Jehoshaphat accepted the wreck as a judgment and declined the offer (cf. 1 Kings 22:0).

HOMILETICS

JEHOSHAPHAT’S WAR WITH MOABITES AND THEIR ALLIES.—2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Defeated in a great battle by Joram and Jehoshaphat, the Moabites sought to retaliate (2 Kings 3:0). Combined with their kinsmen, they entered Judah and defied its king.

I. The invading enemy. Formidable, near, and brought surprise.

1. In a spirit of boldness. Great in number of auxiliaries, far advanced, and most eager for the fight.

2. In a spirit of ingratitude. “Behold how they reward us” (2 Chronicles 20:11). Israel not permitted to touch them nor disturb them in the least in the march through wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 9:19). Jehoshaphat had lately helped them, now they seek to get the land for themselves. Cast Israel out, and thus to requite them evil for good! “O our God, wilt thou not judge them?” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

II. Jehoshaphat’s preparations to meet this army. Alarmed at the intelligence, the danger brings out his religious feeling. He is equal to the occasion, does not call his forces, but determines to seek God.

1. He proclaims a national fast. The people of Judah hasten to Jerusalem. The nation bowed before God and confessed their sins as one man. The scene touching and solemn, emergency great.

2. He implores God’s help. Prayer embraces every argument which king and people could urge; concluding with earnest appeal for God to protect them, (a) They are helpless. No power, “we have no might;” no plan, “neither know we what to do;” no allies, their wives and little ones only increased their anxiety (2 Chronicles 20:13). (b) God could help them. “In thine hand is there not power and might?” (2 Chronicles 20:6). God supreme and omnipotent, checks the enemy and defends his people, (c) They rely upon God. “Our eyes are up unto thee” in hope and earnest expectation.

III. The encouragement given. Help is promised. Words familiar and inspiriting fell from the mouth of the prophet, given by inspiration.

1. Fears are calmed. “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude” (2 Chronicles 20:15). Cowardice shall flee, and courage shall keep the field.

2. Assurance is renewed. “The Lord will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17). That should be sufficient for any contest!

3. Implicit trust is required. “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established” (2 Chronicles 20:20).

4. Specific directions are given. “To-morrow go ye down against them, ye shall find them at the end of the brook” (2 Chronicles 20:16).

IV. The method of attack. Great joy and relief at the prophet’s message. With humble confidence they prepared for assault.

1. They engaged in reverent worship. The king bowed to the ground, the people “fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:18).

2. They united in joyful praise. Singers were appointed to praise the Lord for his mercy (2 Chronicles 20:21).

3. They formed orderly procession. Officials and people united in ranks, and preceded by “singers,” marched till they came “to the watch-tower in the wilderness” (2 Chronicles 20:24).

4. They fought in confidence of victory. God had helped them in past (2 Chronicles 20:7); promised at dedication of temple that he would help them again (2 Chronicles 20:9). None trust him in vain.

V. The victory achieved. Easy, most signal, and wrought for them, not by them.

1. By divine agency. Whether by hosts of angels or ambushments of their own, we cannot eliminate divine agency.

2. By self-extermination. In confusion they fell upon their friends, whom they mistook for enemies. God turned them against themselves, and the army that came to fight Jehoshaphat destroyed itself. God can touch the reason of the king, rob the general of command, and blind the soldiers. A thousand ways at his disposal of which we know nothing. But victory sure to those who have him as leader. “The battle is not yours, but God’s.”

VI. The impression of the event on Jews and neighbours. Report spread in surrounding people; influence remarkable.

1. In giving security and peace to Judah. Nations feared to molest a people who worshipped a God who did such wonders. Idolators felt that he had justified claims to their homage. They were still satisfied among themselves. “So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet” (2 Chronicles 20:30).

2. In exercising salutary influence upon others. God’s victory ended wars; the fear of God fell on all kingdoms, restrained them from invading Judah. Probably now tribute was brought to Jehoshaphat from Philistines and Arabians (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 17:11). “For his God gave him rest round about.”

MAN’S EXTREMITY IS GOD’S OPPORTUNITY.—2 Chronicles 20:5-13

Learn—

I. That in the discipline of life we should expect dangers and extremities. These needful to touch and develop our powers. History in Old and New Testament full of instances. To know other resources we must learn the weakness of our own. “We have no might against this.”

II. That in these dangers and extremities God has many ways of deliverance. Human agency but a small part of holy ministry. Birds and beasts, insects, elements of nature, and hosts of angels under his command. Hence the folly of proscribing, measuring, or limiting in God’s work.

III. That in all dangers and extremities of life we should look to God for help. Depend not upon numbers, generalship, and human might; but spiritual force, prayer, and presence of God. Then war easy, loses character of conflict, and becomes a matter of spoil.

THE BATTLE IS NOT YOURS, BUT GOD’S.—2 Chronicles 20:15

The text addresses a word—

1. To all who are bearing Christian protest against evil.
2. To all who are undergoing severe temptation.
3. To all who are labouring for the good of the world.
4. To all who are engaged in controversy on behalf of Christian doctrine. If we had to defend everything and fight everything in our own strength, and for our own ends, the case would be perfectly different; but when God says to us, “Ye have this treasure in earthen vessels; the excellency of the power is of God, and not of man,” when he teaches us that we are servants and not masters, creatures and not creators, with no grasp of eternity, it becomes us patiently to wait, to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord [Dr. Parker, City Temple].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

2 Chronicles 20:5-9. Invocation of God as—I. The Ruler of the universe.

1. Seated in heaven. “God in heaven.”
2. Governing all nations. “Rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen?”
3. Secure in his dominions. “None is able to withstand thee.” II. The covenant God of Judah.

1. The friend of Abraham, the nation’s founder. “Ahab thy friend for ever” (2 Chronicles 20:7).

2. The guardian of the nation’s interests. “Thou didst drive out the inhabitants, &c.”
3. The centre of the nation’s worship. “A sanctuary therein for thy name.” “Jehoshaphat’s appeal is threefold—
1. ‘Art thou not the God omnipotent, and so able to help us?’
2. ‘Art thou not our God, who hast given us this land, and so art bound to help us against invaders?’ And

3. ‘Art thou not the God of this place, the temple, and so bound to help those who pray to thee here?’ ” [Speak. Com.].

2 Chronicles 20:7. Ab. thy friend.

1. By familiarity in devotion (cf. Genesis 18:23-33).

2. By promptitude in obedience.
3. By uprightness of life (cf. Genesis 17:1-22; Genesis 22:1-18).

2 Chronicles 20:17. Salvation of the Lord.

1. The deliverance, salvation. Reference always to evil, i.e., dangers in Old Testament, sins under the gospel.

2. Its greatness. “Of the Lord,” not by human power. So great “salvation” that every other is nothing; not only from evils, but to privileges.

3. Method of securing it. Stand still. Picture Israel at Red Sea. “Set yourselves” in hope and firm alliance; “stand still,” not in your power to do anything; “see,” wait in faith, watch God’s work for you. Wholly from him, not from you. “In thee, O God, do we put our trust; our souls wait on thee.”

2 Chronicles 20:20. Believe and be established. Faith in God’s presence, and God’s promise, confirms experience in God’s mercy, gives courage in conflict, and establishes peace and prosperity. Unbelief brings fear, frustrates God’s promise, and turns victory into defeat. Faith in God alone will overcome conflicts in heart and convulsions in the world.

2 Chronicles 20:21. Beauty of Holiness. Rich apparel and ornaments of old, typical of moral character and holy life. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

HOMILETICS

SONGS BEFORE VICTORY.—2 Chronicles 20:21

Anybody can sing the “Te Deum” when the battle is over. The difference between an ordinary man-of-war and a Christian is this: a Christian shouts before the victory, because he knows it is sure to come.
I. We learn here, first, a lesson of patriotism. The foreign policy of Ammon and Moab seemed very brilliant for a time. They carried everything before them, but in due time were overthrown. We must not trust in the numbers of our soldiers, in the boundless resources of our country, but in the beauty of holiness, in the justice of our cause, in the purity of our motive; in one word, in the blessing of our God. II. The special object of the lesson is to illustrate the history of the Christian Church, for the Christian Church is engaged in holy war. If we go forth to war we must do as Jehoshaphat; we must be clothed with the spirit of holiness. God came down to fill the hearts of his children; then they were ready for the great work. The Pentecostal blessing delivered the early Christians from the three hindrances to the progress of the Gospel—cowardice, selfishness, and ignorance. Catch the spirit of the Apostles, and you will save the whole world [H. P. Hughes].

JEHOSHAPHAT’S CHARACTER AND REIGN.—2 Chronicles 20:31-34

I. His general uprightness of character. “He walked in the way of Asa, his father,” earnestly and constantly. Regarded God’s approval and will, “doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord”. A prosperous and successful ruler, his kingdom flourished, and he died in peace.

II. His besetting sins. Leaned to his own understanding in momentous concerns; put policy before principle, and sowed seeds of evil which lived and fructified long after death.

1. In his son’s marriage with Ahab’s daughter.

2. In his guilty alliances with kings of Israel. Alliances in war, in commerce. The subtlety of worldly wisdom, and the spurious kindness of worldly liberality interfered with the simplicity of faith in God and love toward man. “As the dead fly, though only a little creature, gives ill-savour to most costly ointment; so even a small degree of folly mars a fair reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1).

THE WRECKED FLEET.—2 Chronicles 20:35-37

I. Notice first the disaster to Jehoshaphat’s shipping. The eastern arm of Red Sea, Gulf of Akabah, is much deeper than the western; a narrow, deep ravine, with steep and rocky sides, the valley of which it forms part stretching far away to the north, till where it holds in its trough the waters of the Dead Sea. Down through the mountain gorge swept the mad hurricane with resistless might, shattering the ships of Jehoshaphat to pieces, and leaving the grey morning to look upon only pitiful wreckage all along the shore.

II. Notice the cause of this disaster. A judgment from Heaven. The grand mistake and sin of Jehoshaphat lay in associating himself with the enemies of God. This the signal error of his life. If he had been an openly wicked man, a mere man of the world, probably this disaster would not have occurred, but God would not allow one of his own servants to prosper in such an undertaking.

III. The lesson which the disaster teaches is this—Do not choose your associates amongst those who do not fear the Lord. Always safest to keep under Christian influences. A man is rarely better than the company he keeps. Jehoshaphat may hope to bring Ahaziah up to his own level; but Ahaziah is much more likely to bring Jehoshaphat down. The lesson of the text bears also, and with peculiar point, upon all business alliances. You will do well even to sacrifice a measure of financial interest and worldly prospect rather than be associated in business with a man who is out of all sympathy with you in religion [J. Thain Davidson].

HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

2 Chronicles 20:20-21. I. The march to battle. With musical strains. In confidence of victory. Under divine command (2 Chronicles 20:26-27). II. The joyous return. In solemn order. In grateful spirit. In triumphant victory.

2 Chronicles 20:26-30. The valley of blessing. Wady Bereikut, two miles west of Tekoa. Jews assembled here after three days’ plunder, to arrange themselves, and return to worship in temple.

1. The place of terrible conflict.
2. Of awful defeat.
3. Of enthusiastic joy. Jehoshaphat means Jehovah judges, hence this valley the type of final conflict and final judgment, in which Jehovah will judge and overthrow (cf. Joel 3:2-12).

2 Chronicles 20:35-37. The wrecked fleet.

1. The cause from God, who reigns over elements of nature and minds of men (Spanish Armada).
2. The design to instruct. Jehoshaphat had formed worldly alliances; could not be weaned from them, nor see their folly. Disaster predicted (see history), yet refused good advice. Hence must teach that his blessing rests not upon men and ways which are contrary to his will.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 20

2 Chronicles 20:4. Seek. Seek God upon thy way, and he will come to thee [Schiller].

2 Chronicles 20:17-18. Stand ye. Prayer without watching is hypocrisy, and watching without prayer is presumption [Jay].

“Teach us in watchfulness and prayer

To wait for the appointed hour;

And fit us by thy grace to share

The triumphs of thy conquering power”.

2 Chronicles 20:35-37. Gold. Midas longed for gold, and insulted the Olympians. He got gold, so that whatever he touched became gold, and he with his long ears was little the better for it. Midas had insulted Apollo and the gods; the gods gave him his wish, and a pair of long ears, which also were a good appendage to it. What a truth in these old fables! [Carlyle].

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-chronicles-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.