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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
The narrative in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 is entirely additional to Kings; in 2 Chronicles 20:31-37, it runs parallel with 1 Kings 22:41-49.
1It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.
The present Hebrew (and English) text mentions the Ammonites twice over. Hence, some adopt a different reading and translate "the children of Ammon, and with them certain of the Maonites," etc. Compare 2 Chronicles 20:10, note; Judges 10:12, note; 1 Chronicles 4:41, note.
2Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.
Translate, "from beyond the sea, from Edom." The "sea" intended is, of course, the Dead Sea. "Syria" (Aram) is probably a mistake of a copyist for "Edom" (compare 2 Samuel 8:12 note).
On Engedi, see 1 Samuel 23:29 note.
3And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
General fasts had been previously observed by the Israelites (e. g. Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6); but we do not hear of any fast having been "proclaimed" by authority before this.
4And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
5And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
The new court - In Solomon's Temple there were two courts. One of these had probably been renovated by Jehoshaphat or by his father, Asa 2 Chronicles 15:8, and was known as "the new court."
6And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
Jehoshaphat's appeal is threefold:
(1) to God omnipotent 2 Chronicles 20:6;
(2) to "our God;"
(3) the God especially "of this house" the temple.
7Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
Abraham thy friend - Historically, this is the first use of this remarkable expression, afterward repeated (marginal references). The ground of the expression is to be found principally in Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham spoke with God as a man with his friend (compare Exodus 33:11).
2 Chronicles 20:8, 2 Chronicles 20:9
The appeal recalls Solomon's prayer (marginal references), which God had formally accepted by sending down fire from heaven to consume the accompanying offering.
8And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
9If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
10And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
The Maonites of 2 Chronicles 20:1 are here, and in 2 Chronicles 20:22-23, called the "children" or inhabitants "of mount Seir." Hence, we may gather that they were a tribe of Edomites, the inhabitants, probably of a city Maon (now Ma'an) on the eastern side of the Wady el-Arabah.
11Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
12O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
13And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
14Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
"Mattaniah" is thought to be a corrupt reading for "Nethaniah," who is mentioned among the sons of Asaph in 1 Chronicles 25:2, 1 Chronicles 25:12.
15And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.
The prophet uses words familiar to the people, and connected with several great deliverances (see the marginal references).
16To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
By the "cliff (or, rather - as in the margin - ascent) of Ziz," we must understand the mountain path which leads up from Engedi across the elevated tract still known as El-Husasah, in the direction of Tekoa 2 Chronicles 20:20.
At the end of the brook - Rather, "at the end of the gulley," or dry torrent-course. No name like Jeruel has been as yet found in this district.
17Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
18And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.
19And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
20And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
Tekoa (2 Samuel 14:2 note) lay on the borders of the desert which skirts the highlands of Judaea toward the east. The town was built on a hill of a considerable height.
21And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Praise the beauty of holiness - Some render, "in the beauty of holiness" - i. e. in rich apparel and ornaments suitable to a holy occasion. Compare Psalm 29:2.
22And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
The Lord set ambushments - These liers in wait have been regarded as angels employed by God to confuse the host and cause its destruction, so that the Moabites and Ammonites first united to destroy the Edomites, and then turned upon each other.
23For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
24And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
The march of Judah from Jerusalem would take five or six hours. By the time they reached the watch-towers in the wilderness of Jeruel all was over.
25And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.
Riches with the dead bodies - Several manuscripts give another reading: "riches, and garments."
26And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.
The valley of Berachah - Probably, the Wady Bereikut, which lies at a short distance from Tekoa toward the northwest.
27Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies.
28And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.
29And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.
30So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.
31And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.
32And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.
33Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.
The latter clause of this verse helps to reconcile the first clause with the statement that Jehoshaphat "took away the high places" (see 2 Chronicles 15:17 note).
34Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Jehu the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel.
Who is mentioned ... - Words which are now generally thought to mean "whose work was inserted into the Book of the Kings."
Of Israel - "Israel" is probably used here inexactly for "Judah" (compare 2 Chronicles 12:6; 2 Chronicles 21:2, 2 Chronicles 21:4).
35And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly:
After this - Jehoshaphat's history had been formally completed 2 Chronicles 20:34. Consequently we can lay no stress on the note of time contained in the words "after this," which are detached from the context to which they originally referred. On the history 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, see marginal references and notes.
36And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongeber.
37Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.