Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Chronicles 19:1
The prophet Jehu's declaration as to Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab, and Jehoshaphat's further efforts to promote the fear of God and the administration of justice in Judah. - Ch2 19:1-3. Jehu's declaration. Jehoshaphat returned from the war in which Ahab had lost his life, בּשׁלום, i.e., safe, uninjured, to his house in Jerusalem; so that the promise of Micah in Ch2 18:16 was fulfilled also as regards him. But on his return, the seer Jehu, the son of Hanani, who had been thrown into the stocks by Asa (Ch2 16:7.), met him with the reproving word, "Should one help the wicked, and lovest thou the haters of Jahve!" (the inf. with ל, as in Ch1 5:1; Ch1 9:25, etc.). Of these sins Jehoshaphat had been guilty. "And therefore is anger from Jahve upon thee" (על קצף as in Ch1 27:24). Jehoshaphat had already had experience of this wrath, when in the battle of Ramoth the enemy pressed upon him (Ch2 18:31), and was at a later time to have still further experience of it, partly during his own life, when the enemy invaded his land (2 Chron 20), and when he attempted to re-establish the sea trade with Ophir (Ch2 20:35.), partly after his death in his family (2 Chron 21 and Ch2 22:1-12). "But," continues Jehu, to console him, "yet there are good things found in thee (cf. Ch2 12:12), for thou hast destroyed the Asheroth..." אשׁרות = אשׁרים, Ch2 17:6. On these last words, comp. Ch2 12:14 and Ch2 17:4.
2 Chronicles 19:4
Jehoshaphat's further arrangements for the revival of the Jahve-worship, and the establishment of a proper administration of justice. - The first two clauses in Ch2 19:4 are logically connected thus: When Jehoshaphat (after his return from the war) sat (dwelt) in Jerusalem, he again went forth (ויּצא ויּשׁב are to be taken together) among the people, from Beersheba, the southern frontier (see Ch1 21:2), to Mount Ephraim, the northern frontier of the kingdom of Judah, and brought them back to Jahve, the God of the fathers. The "again" (ישׁב) can refer only to the former provision for the instruction of the people, recorded in Ch2 17:7.; all that was effected by the commission which Jehoshaphat had sent throughout the land being regarded as his work. The instruction of the people in the law was intended to lead them back to the Lord. Jehoshaphat now again took up his work of reformation, in order to complete the work he had begun, by ordering and improving the administration of justice.
He set judges in the land, in all the fenced cities of Judah; they, as larger cities, being centres of communication for their respective neighbourhoods, and so best suited to be the seats of judges. ועיר לעיר, in reference to every city, as the law (Deu 16:18) prescribed. He laid it upon the consciences of these judges to administer justice conscientiously. "Not for men are ye to judge, but for Jahve;" i.e., not on the appointment and according to the will of men, but in the name and according to the will of the Lord (cf. Pro 16:11). In the last clause of Ch2 19:6, Jahve is to be supplied from the preceding context: "and Jahve is with you in judgment," i.e., in giving your decisions (cf. the conclusion of Ch2 19:11); whence this clause, of course, only serves to strengthen the foregoing, only contains the thoughts already expressed in the law, that judgment belongs to God (cf. Deu 1:17 with Exo 21:6; Exo 22:7.). Therefore the fear of the Lord should keep the judges from unrighteousness, so that they should neither allow themselves to be influenced by respect of persons, nor to be bribed by gifts, against which Deu 16:19 and Deu 1:17 also warns. ועשׂוּ שׁמרוּ is rightly paraphrased by the Vulgate, cum diligentia cuncta facite. The clause, "With God there is no respect of persons," etc., recalls Deu 10:17.
Besides this, Jehoshaphat established at Jerusalem a supreme tribunal for the decision of difficult cases, which the judges of the individual cities could not decide. Ch2 19:8. "Moreover, in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set certain of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chiefs of the fathers'-houses of Israel, for the judgment of the Lord, and for controversies (לריב)." From this clause Berth. correctly draws the conclusion, that as in Jerusalem, so also in the fenced cities (Ch2 19:5), it was Levites, priests, and heads of the fathers'-houses who were made judges. This conclusion is not inconsistent with the fact that David appointed 6000 of the Levites to be shoterim and judges; for it does not follow from that that none but Levites were appointed judges, but only that the Levites were to perform an essential part in the administration of the law. The foundation of the judicial body in Israel was the appointment of judges chosen from the elders of the people (Exo 18:21.; Deu 1:15.) by Moses, at Jethro's instigation, and under the divine sanction, David had no intention, by his appointment of some thousands of Levites to be officials (writers) and judges, to set aside the Mosaic arrangement; on the contrary, he thereby gave it the expansion which the advanced development of the kingdom required. For the simple relationships of the Mosaic time, the appointment of elders to be judges might have been sufficient; but when in the course of time, especially after the introduction of the kingship, the social and political relations became more complicated, it is probable that the need of appointing men with special skill in law, to co-operate with the judges chosen from among the elders, in order that justice might be administered in a right way, and in a manner corresponding to the law, made itself increasingly felt; that consequently David had felt himself called upon to appoint a greater number of Levites to this office, and that from that time forward the courts in the larger cities were composed of Levites and elders. The supreme court which Jehoshaphat set up in Jerusalem was established on a similar basis. For יהוה למשׁפּט we have in Ch2 19:11 דּבר־יהוה לכל, i.e., for all matters connected with religion and the worship and instead of קריב we have המּלך דּבר לכל, for every matter of the king, i.e., for all civil causes. The last clause, Ch2 19:8, ירוּשׁלים ויּשׁבוּ, cannot signify that the men called to this supreme tribunal went to Jerusalem to dwell there thenceforth (Ramb., etc.), or that the suitors went thither; for שׁוּב does not denote to betake oneself to a place, but to return, which cannot be said of the persons above named, since it is not said that they had left Jerusalem. With Kimchi and others, we must refer the words to the previous statement in Ch2 19:4, וגו בּעם ויּצא, and understand them as a supplementary statement, that Jehoshaphat and those who had gone forth with him among the people returned to Jerusalem, which would have come in more fittingly at the close of Ch2 19:7, and is to be rendered: "when they had returned to Jerusalem." The bringing in of this remark at so late a stage of the narrative, only after the establishment of the supreme tribunal has been mentioned, is explained by supposing that the historian was induced by the essential connection between the institution of the supreme court and the arrangement of the judicatories in the provincial cities, to leave out of consideration the order of time in describing the arrangements made by Jehoshaphat.
To the members of the superior tribunal also, Jehoshaphat gave orders to exercise their office in the fear of the Lord, with fidelity and with upright heart (שׁלם בּלבב, corde s. animo integro, cf. Ch2 15:17; Ch2 16:9). תעשׂוּן כּה, thus shall ye do; what they are to do being stated only in Ch2 19:10. The w before כּל־ריב is explicative, namely, and is omitted by the lxx and Vulg. as superfluous. "Every cause which comes to you from your brethren who dwell in their cities" (and bring causes before the superior court in the following cases): between blood and blood (בּין with ל following, as in Gen 1:6, etc.), i.e., in criminal cases of murder and manslaughter, and between law and between command, statutes, and judgments, i.e., in cases where the matter concerns the interpretation and application of the law, and its individual commands, statutes, and judgments, to particular crimes; wherever, in short, there is any doubt by what particular provision of the law the case in hand should be decided. With והזהרתּם the apodosis commences, but it is an anacolouthon. Instead of "ye shall give them instruction therein," we have, "ye shall teach them (those who bring the cause before you), that they incur not guilt, and an anger (i.e., God's anger and punishment) come upon you and your brethren" (cf. Ch2 19:2). הזהיר, properly to illuminate, metaphorically to teach, with the additional idea of exhortation or warning. The word is taken from Exo 18:20, and there is construed c. accus. pers. et rei. This construction is here also the underlying one, since the object which precedes in the absolute is to be taken as accus.: thus, and as regards every cause, ye shall teach them concerning it. After the enumeration of the matters falling within the jurisdiction of this court, תעשׂוּן כּה is repeated, and this precept is then pressed home upon the judges by the words, "that ye incur not guilt." Thereafter (in Ch2 19:11) Jehoshaphat nominates the spiritual and civil presidents of this tribunal: for spiritual causes the high priest Amariah, who is not the same as the Amariah mentioned after Zadok as the fifth high priest (Ch1 6:11); in civil causes Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the prince of the house of Judah, i.e., tribal prince of Judah. These shall be עליכם over you, i.e., presidents of the judges; and שׁטרים, writers, shall the Levites be לפניכם, before you, i.e., as your assistants and servants. Jehoshaphat concludes the nomination of the judicial staff with the encouraging words, "Be strong (courageous) and do," i.e., go to work with good heart, "and the Lord be with the good," i.e., with him who discharges the duties of his office well.
The establishment of this superior court was in form, indeed, the commencement of a new institution; but in reality it was only the expansion or firmer organization of a court of final appeal already provided by Moses, the duties of which had been until then performed partly by the high priest, partly by the existing civil heads of the people (the judges and kings). When Moses, at Horeb, set judges over the people, he commanded them to bring to him the matters which were too difficult for them to decide, that he might settle them according to decisions obtained of God (Exo 18:26 and Exo 18:19). At a later time he ordained (Deu 17:8.) that for the future the judges in the various districts and cities should bring the more difficult cases to the Levitic priests and the judge at the place where the central sanctuary was, and let them be decided by them. In thus arranging, he presupposes that Israel would have at all times not only a high priest who might ascertain the will of God by means of the Urim and Thummim, but also a supreme director of its civil affairs at the place of the central sanctuary, who, in common with the priests, i.e., the high priest, would give decisions in cases of final appeal (see the commentary on Deu 17:8-13). On the basis of these Mosaic arrangements, Jehoshaphat set up a supreme court in Jerusalem, with the high priest and a lay president at its head, for the decision of causes which up till that time the king, either alone with the cooperation of the high priest, had decided. For further information as to this supreme court, see in my bibl. Archol. ii. S. 250f.