Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Jehoshaphat's victory over the Moabites, Ammonites, and other nations; and the remaining items of information as to his reign. - Vv. 1-30. The victory over the hostile peoples who invaded Judah. In the succeeding time, the Moabites and Ammonites, in alliance with other tribes of Mount Seir, invaded Judah with the purpose of driving the people of God out of their country, and extirpating them (Ch2 20:1). On being informed of this invasion, Jehoshaphat sought help of the Lord, while he proclaimed a fast in the land, and in the temple before the assembled people prayed God for His help (Ch2 20:2-12); and received by the mouth of the prophet Jahaziel the promise that God would fight for Judah, and that king and people would next day behold the help the Lord would give (Ch2 20:13-18). And so it happened. On the following day, when the Judaean army, with the Levitic singers and players at their head, came into the wilderness Jeruel, their enemies had by the dispensation of God mutually destroyed each other (Ch2 20:19-24), so that Jehoshaphat and his people found the proposed battle-field full of corpses, and gathered spoil for three days, and then on the fourth day, in the Valley of Blessing, they praised the Lord for the wonderful deliverance; thereafter returning to Jerusalem with joy, again to thank the Lord in the house of God for His help (Ch2 20:25-30).
2 Chronicles 20:1
By אהרי־כן, postea, the war which follows is made to fall in the latter part of Jehoshaphat's reign, but certainly not in the last year in which he reigned alone, two years before his death, but only somewhat later than the events in 2 Chron 18 and Ch2 19:1-11, which occurred six or seven years before his death. Along with the Moabites and Ammonites there marched against Jehoshaphat also מהעמּונים. This statement is obscure. Since מן has unquestionably a partitive or local signification, we might take the word to signify, enemies who dwelt aside from the Ammonites (מן as in Sa1 20:22, Sa1 20:37), which might possibly be the designation of tribes in the Syro-Arabic desert bordering upon the country of the Ammonites on the north and east; and מארם in Ch2 20:2 would seem to favour this idea. But Ch2 20:10 and Ch2 20:22. are scarcely reconcilable with this interpretation, since there, besides or along with the sons of Ammon and Moab, inhabitants of Mount Seir are named as enemies who had invaded Judah. Now the Edomites dwelt on Mount Seir; but had the Edomites only been allies of the Ammonites and Moabites, we should expect simply אדם בּני or אדומים, or שׂעיר בּני (cf. Ch2 25:11, Ch2 25:14). Nor can it be denied that the interpretation which makes מהעמּונים to denote peoples dwelling beyond the Ammonites is somewhat artificial and far-fetched. Under these circumstances, the alteration proposed by Hiller in Onomast. p. 285 commends itself, viz., the change of מהעמונים into מהמּעוּנים, Maunites or Maonites, - a tribe whose headquarters were the city Maan in the neighbourhood of Petra, to the east of the Wady Musa; see on Ch1 4:41. Maan lay upon Mount Seir, i.e., in the mountainous district to the west of the Arabah, which stretches upwards from the head of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf, now called Jebl (Gebalene) in its northern part, and es-Sherah in the south. The Maunites were consequently inhabitants of Mount Seir, and are here mentioned instead of the Edomites, as being a people dwelling on the southern side of the mountain, and probably of non-Edomitic origin, in order to express the idea that not merely the Edomites took part in the campaign of the Ammonites and Moabites, but also tribes from all parts of Mount Seir. In Ch2 26:7 the מעוּנים are mentioned along with Arabs and Philistines as enemies of Israel, who had been conquered by Uzziah. These circumstances favour the proposed alteration; while, on the contrary, the fact that the lxx have here ἐκ τῶν Μιναίων for מהעמּונים proves little, since these translators have rendered העמּונים in Ch2 26:8 also by οἱ Μιναῖοι, there erroneously making the Ammonites Minaiites.
2 Chronicles 20:2
Then they came and announced to Jehoshaphat, sc. messengers or fugitives; the subject is indefinite, and is to be supplied from the context. "Against thee there cometh a great multitude from beyond the (Dead) sea." מארם also has no suitable sense here, since in the whole narrative nothing is said of enemies coming out of Syria; we should read מאדם with Calmet and others. As the enemy made their attack from the south end of the Dead Sea, the messengers announce that they were come from Edom. "Behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar," i.e., Engedi, the present Ain Jidy, midway along the west coast of the Dead Sea (see on Jos 15:62 and Gen 14:7), about fifteen hours from Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 20:3
This report filled Jehoshaphat with fear, and he resolved to seek help of the Lord. ??????? נתן = שׂוּם , cf. Kg2 12:18; Jer 42:15, to direct the face to anything, i.e., to purpose something, come to a determination. He proclaimed a fast in all Judah, that the people might bow themselves before God, and supplicate His help, as was wont to be done in great misfortunes; cf. Jdg 20:26; Sa1 7:6; Isa 2:15. In consequence of the royal appeal, Judah came together to seek of the Lord, i.e., to pray for help, by fasting and prayer in the temple; and it was not only the inhabitants of Jerusalem who thus assembled, for they came out of all the cities of the kingdom. מיהוה בּקּשׁ, to seek of the Lord, sc. help, is expressed in the last clause by את־יהוה בּקּשׁ to seek the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:5
When the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem had assembled themselves in the house of God, Jehoshaphat came forth before the new court and made supplication in fervent prayer to the Lord. The new court is the outer or great court of the temple, which Solomon had built (Ch2 4:9). It is here called the new court, probably because it had been restored or extended under Jehoshaphat or Asa. This court was the place where the congregation assembled before God in the sanctuary. Jehoshaphat placed himself before it, i.e., at the entrance into the court of the priests, so that the congregation stood opposite to him.
2 Chronicles 20:6
The prayer which Jehoshaphat directed to Jahve the God of the fathers, as the almighty Ruler over all kingdoms, consists of a short representation of the circumstances of the case. Jahve had given the land to His people Israel for an everlasting possession, and Israel had built a sanctuary to His name therein (Ch2 20:7 and Ch2 20:8); but they had in no way provoked the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites to fall upon them, and to drive them out of their land (Ch2 20:10 and Ch2 20:11). On these two facts Jehoshaphat founds his prayer for help, in a twofold manner: in respect to the first, calling to mind the divine promise to hear the prayers offered up to God in the temple (Ch2 20:9); and in reference to the second, laying emphasis upon the inability of Israel to fight against so numerous an enemy (Ch2 20:12). In his manner of addressing Jahve, "God of our fathers," there is contained a reason why God should protect His people in their present distress. Upon Him, who had given the land to the fathers for a possession, it was incumbent to maintain the children in the enjoyment of it, if they had not forfeited it by their sins. Now Jahve as a covenant God was bound to do this, and also as God and ruler of heaven and earth He had the requisite power and might; cf. Psa 115:3. להתיצּב עמּך אין, there is none with Thee who could set himself, i.e., could withstand Thee: cf. the similar phrase, Ch2 14:10; and for the thought, see Ch1 29:12. - On Ch2 20:7, cf. Jos 23:9; Jos 24:12; Exo 23:20., etc.; on Ch2 20:7, cf. Gen 13:15., Ch2 15:18, etc.; on אהבך, Isa 41:8.
2 Chronicles 20:8
In this land they dwelt, and built Thee therein a sanctuary for Thy name; cf. Ch2 6:5, Ch2 6:8. לאמר, saying, i.e., at the consecration of this house, having expressed the confident hope contained in the following words (Ch2 20:9). In this verse, the cases enumerated in Solomon's dedicatory prayer, in which supplication is made that God would hear in the temple, are briefly summed up. By referring to that prayer, Jehoshaphat presupposes that Jahve had promised that He would answer prayer offered there, since He had filled the temple with His glory; see Ch2 7:1-3. The name שׁפות, which occurs only here, between דּבר and חרב, denotes in this connection a punitive judgment.
2 Chronicles 20:10
ועתּה, and now, the contrary of this has occurred. Peoples into whose midst (בהם לבוא...אשׁר) Thou didst not allow Israel to come, i.e., into whose land Thou didst not allow Israel to enter when they came out of the land of Egypt, for they (the Israelites under Moses) turned from them and destroyed them not (cf. as to the fact, Num 20:14.; Deu 2:4; Deu 9:19); behold, these peoples recompense us by coming to cast us out of our possession which Thou hast given us (הורישׁ, to give as a possession, as in Jdg 11:24). There follows hereupon in Ch2 20:12 the prayer: "Our God, wilt Thou not judge," i.e., do right upon them, for we have not strength before (to withstand) this multitude? We know not what to do, sc. against so many enemies; but our eyes are turned to Thee, i.e., to Thee we look for help; cf. Psa 123:2; Psa 141:8.
2 Chronicles 20:13
Thus all Judah, with their king, stood praying before the Lord. They had, moreover, brought with them their little ones, their wives, and their sons, to pray for deliverance for them from the enemy; cf. Judith 4:9.
2 Chronicles 20:14
The Lord's answer by the prophet Jahaziel. - Ch2 20:14. In the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, and promised miraculous assistance to king and people. Jahaziel's descent is traced back for five generations to the Levite Mattaniah of the sons of Asaph. This Mattaniah is not the same person as the Mattaniah in Ch1 25:4, Ch1 25:16, who lived in David's time, for he belonged to the sons of Heman; but perhaps (as Movers conjectures, S. 112) he is identical with the Asaphite Nethaniah, Ch1 25:2, Ch1 25:12, since מ and נ might easily be confounded.
Jehaziel announced to the king and people that they need not fear before the great multitude of their foes; "for the war is not yours, but Jahve's," i.e., you have not to make war upon them, for the Lord will do it; cf. Sa1 17:47.
"To-morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the height Hazziz; and ye will find them at the end of the valley, before the desert Jeruel." The wilderness Jeruel was, without doubt, the name of a part of the great stretch of flat country, bounded on the south by the Wady el Ghr, and extending from the Dead Sea to the neighbourhood of Tekoa, which is now called el Hasasah, after a wady on its northern side. The whole country along the west side of the Dead Sea, "where it does not consist of mountain ridges or deep valley, is a high table-land, sloping gradually towards the east, wholly waste, merely covered here and there with a few bushes, and without the slightest trace of having ever been cultivated" (Robinson's Pal. sub voce). The name הצּיץ מעלה, ascent or height of Hazziz, has perhaps remained attached to the Wady el Hasasah. lxx have rendered הצּיץ by Ἀσσεῖς; Josephus (Antt. ix. 1. 2) has ἀναβάσεως λεγομένης ἐξοχῆς, in accordance with which Robinson (loc. cit.) takes the way "upwards from Ziz" to be the pass which at present leads from Ain Jidy to the table-land. Yet it is described by him as a "fearful pass,"
(Note: He remarks: "The path winds up in zig-zags, often at the steepest gradient which horses could ascend, and runs partly along projecting walls of rock on the perpendicular face of the cliff, and then down the heaps of dbris, which are almost as steep. When one looks back at this part from below, it seems quite impossible that there could be any pathway; but by skilful windings the path has been carried down without any unconquerable difficulties, so that even loaded camels often go up and down.")
and it can hardly be thought of here, even if the enemy, like the Bedouins now when on their forays, may be supposed to have marched along the shore of the sea, and ascended to the table-land only at Engedi; for the Israelites did not meet the enemy in this ascent, but above upon the table-land. Josephus' translation of הצּיץ by ἐξοχή is also very questionable, for it is not necessary that the ה should be the article (Ew. Gesch. iii. S. 475, der 2 Aufl.).
Ye have not to fight therein (בּזאת); only come hither, stand and see the help of the Lord (who is) with you. You need do nothing more, and therefore need not fear.
For this comforting assurance the king and people thanked the Lord, falling down in worship before Him, whereupon the Levites stood up to praise God with a loud voice. Levites "of the sons of Kohath, yea, of the Korahites," for they were descended from Kohath (Ch1 6:22).
2 Chronicles 20:20
The fulfilment of the divine promise. - Ch2 20:20. On the next morning the assembled men of Judah marched, in accordance with the words of the prophet, to the wilderness of Tekoa. As they marched forth, Jehoshaphat stood, probably in the gate of Jerusalem, where those about to march forth were assembled, and called upon them to trust firmly in the Lord and His prophets (האמינוּ and תּאמנוּ, as in Isa 7:9). After he had thus counselled the people (אל יוּעץ, shown himself a counsellor; cf. Kg2 6:8), he ordered them to march, not for battle, but to assure themselves of the wonderful help of the Lord. He placed singers of the Lord (ל before יהוה as a periphrasis for the genitive), singing praise in holy ornaments, in the marching forth before the army, and saying; i.e., he commanded the Levitic singers to march out before the army, singing and playing in holy ornaments (להדרת־ק, clad in holy ornaments, = בּהדרת in Ch1 16:29; cf. Ew. 217, a), to praise the Lord for the help He had vouchsafed.
2 Chronicles 20:22
And at the time when they (having come into the neighbourhood of the hostile camp) began with singing and praising, Jahve directed liers in wait against the sons of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who were come against Judah, and they were smitten. מארבים denotes liers in wait, men hidden in ambush and lying in wait (Jdg 9:25). Who are here meant cannot be ascertained with certainty. Some of the older commentators, Ew. and Berth., think it refers to powers, angels sent by God, who are called insidiatores, because of the work they had to do in the army of the hostile peoples. But the passages where the interposition of heavenly powers is spoken of are different (cf. Kg2 6:17; Kg2 19:35), and it is not probable that heavenly powers would be called מארבים. Most probably earthly liers in wait are meant, who unexpectedly rushed forth from their ambush upon the hostile army, and raised a panic terror among them; so that, as is narrated in Ch2 20:23., the Ammonites and Moabites first turned their weapons against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and after they had exterminated them, began to exterminate each other. But the ambush cannot have been composed of men of Judah, because they were, according to Ch2 20:15 and Ch2 20:17, not to fight, but only to behold the deliverance wrought by the Lord. Probably it was liers in wait of the Seirites, greedy of spoil, who from an ambush made an attack upon the Ammonites and Moabites, and by the divine leading put the attacked in such fear and confusion, that they turned furiously upon the inhabitants of Mount Seir, who marched with them, and then fell to fighting with each other; just as, in Jdg 7:22., the Midianites were, under divine influence, so terrified by the unexpected attack of the small band led by Gideon, that they turned their swords against and mutually destroyed each other. שׂ בּיושׁבי וּככלּותם, and when they had come to an end (were finished) among the inhabitants of Seir, when they had massacred these, they helped the one against the other to destruction (משׁחית is a substantive, as Ch2 22:4; Eze 5:16, etc.).
2 Chronicles 20:24
Now, when Judah came to the height in the wilderness (מצפּה, specula, watch-tower, here a height in the wilderness of Tekoa, whence one might look out over the wilderness Jeruel, Ch2 20:16), and turned, or was about to turn, against the multitude of the enemy (ההמון referring back to Ch2 20:12), behold, they saw "corpses lying upon the earth, and none had escaped," i.e., they saw corpses in such multitude lying there, that to all appearance none had escaped.
2 Chronicles 20:25
So Jehoshaphat, with his people, came (as Jahaziel had announced, not to fight, but only to make booty) and found among them (בּהם, among or by the fallen) in abundance both wealth and corpses and precious vessels. The mention of פּגרים as part of the booty, between רכוּשׁ and the precious vessels, is somewhat surprising. Some Codd. (4 Kennic. and 3 de Rossi) and various ancient editions (Complut., the Brixenian used by Luther, the Bomberg. of date 1518 and 21, and the Mnster) have, instead of it, בּנדים; but it is very questionable if the lxx and Vulg. have it (cf. de Rossi Variae Lectt. ad h. l.). בּגדים, garments, along with רכוּשׁ, moveable property (cattle, tents, etc.), seems to suit better, and is therefore held by Dathe and Berth. to be the correct and original reading. Yet the proofs of this are not decisive, for פגרים is much better attested, and we need not necessarily take רכוּשׁ to mean living and dead cattle; but just as רכוּשׁ denotes property of any kind, which, among nomadic tribes, consists principally in cattle, we may also take פּגרים in the signification of slain men and beasts - the clothes of the men and the accoutrements and ornaments of the beasts (cf. Jdg 8:26) being a by no means worthless booty. Garments as such are not elsewhere met with in enumerations of things taken as booty, in Jdg 8:26 only the purple robes of the Midianite princes being spoken of; and to the remark that the before-mentioned פּגרים has given rise to the changing of בּגדים into פּגרים, we may oppose the equally well-supported conjecture, that the apparently unsuitable meaning of the word פגרים may have given rise to the alteration of it into בּגדים. חמדות כּלי are probably in the main gold and silver ornaments, such as are enumerated in Jdg 8:25. And they spoiled for themselves משּׂא לאין, "there was not carrying," i.e., in such abundance that it could not be carried away, removed, and plundered in three days, because the booty was so great. The unusually large quantity of booty is accounted for by the fact that these peoples had gone forth with all their property to drive the Israelites out of their inheritance, and to take possession of their land for themselves; so that this invasion of Judah was a kind of migration of the peoples, such as those which, at a later time, have been repeated on a gigantic scale, and have poured forth from Central Asia over the whole of Europe. In this, the purpose of the hostile hordes, we must seek the reason for their destruction by a miracle wrought of God. Because they intended to drive the people of Israel out of the land given them by God, and to destroy them, the Lord was compelled to come to the help of His people, and to destroy their enemies.
2 Chronicles 20:26
On the fourth day the men of Judah gathered themselves together, to give thanks to God the Lord for this blessing, in a valley which thence received the name בּרכה עמק (valley of blessing), and which cannot have been far from the battle-field. Thence they joyfully returned, with Jehoshaphat at their head, to Jerusalem, and went up, the Levites and priests performing solemn music, to the house of God, to render further thanks to the Lord for His wondrous help (Ch2 20:27.). The ancient name בּרכה still exists in the Wady Bereikut, to the west of Tekoa, near the road which leads from Hebron to Jerusalem. "A wide, open valley, and upon its west side, on a small rising ground, are the ruins of Bereikut, which cover from three to four acres" (Robinson's New Biblical Researches, and Phys. Geogr. S. 106; cf. v. de Velde, Memoir, p. 292). Jerome makes mention of the place in Vita Paulae, where he narrates that Paula, standing in supercilio Caphar baruca, looked out thence upon the wide desert, and the former land of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Reland, Pal. illustr. pp. 356 and 685). There is no ground, on the other hand, for the identification of the valley of blessing with the upper part of the valley of Kidron, which, according to Joe 3:2, Joe 3:12, received the name of Valley of Jehoshaphat (see on Joe 3:2). - On Ch2 20:27, cf. Ezr 6:22; Neh 12:43.
2 Chronicles 20:29
The fame of this victory of the Lord over the enemies of Israel caused the terror of God to be spread abroad over all the kingdoms of the surrounding lands, in consequence of which the kingdom of Judah had rest (cf. Ch2 17:10). On the last clause of Ch2 20:30, cf. Ch2 15:15. This wonderful acts of the Lord is made the subject of praise to God in the Korahite Psalms, Psa 46:1, Psa 47:1, and Psa 48:1, and perhaps also in Ps 83, composed by an Asaphite, perhaps Jahaziel (see Del. Introduction to these Psalms).
2 Chronicles 20:31
Concluding notes on Jehoshaphat's reign, which are found also in Kg1 22:41-51, where they, supplemented by some notes (Kg1 22:45, Kg1 22:48, and Kg1 22:49) which are wanting in the Chronicle, form the whole account of his reign. In the statements as to Jehoshaphat's age at his accession, and the length and character of his reign, both accounts agree, except that the author of the Chronicle has, instead of the stereotyped formula, "and the people still sacrificed and offered incense upon the high places," a remark more significant of the state of affairs: "and the people had not yet determinedly turned their heart to the God of their fathers" (Ch2 20:33). The notice that Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel (Kg1 22:45) is not found in the Chronicle, because that would, as a matter of course, follow from Jehoshaphat's having joined affinity with the royal house of Ahab, and had been already sufficiently attested by the narrative in 2 Chron 18, and is so still further by the undertaking spoken of in Ch2 20:35. For the same reason, the clause introduced in Kg1 22:46 about the valiant acts and the wars of Jehoshaphat is omitted in the Chronicle, as these acts have been specially narrated here. As to Jehu's speeches, which were put into the book of Kings, see the Introduction. Further, the remark on the driving out of the remaining Sodomites (קדשׁ) from the land, Kg1 22:47, which refers back to Kg1 15:12, is wanting here, because this speciality is not mentioned in the case of Asa. Finally, the remark that Edom had no king, but only a viceroy or deputy, serves in Kg1 22:48 only as an introduction to the succeeding account of Jehoshaphat's attempt to open up anew the sea traffic with Ophir. But on that subject the author of the Chronicle only recounts in Ch2 20:35-37 that Jehoshaphat allied himself with the godless Ahaziah the king of Israel to build in Ezion-gaber ships to go to Tarshish, was censured for it by the prophet Eliezer, who announced to him that Jahve would destroy his work, and that thereupon the ships were broken, doubtless by a storm, and so could not go upon the voyage. אהרי־כן does not definitely fix the time (cf. Ch2 20:1), but only states that the alliance with Ahaziah took place after the victory over the Ammonites and Moabites. Ahaziah ascended the throne in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat, and reigned scarcely two years, and the enterprise under discussion falls in that period. אתחבּר is an Aramaic form for התחבּר.
The last clause of v. 38, "he did wickedly," Bertheau refers to Jehoshaphat: he did wrong; because the context shows that these words are intended to contain a censure on Jehoshaphat for his connection with the king of the northern kingdom. But this remark, though substantially correct, by no means proves that הוּא refers to Jehoshaphat. The words contain a censure on Jehoshaphat on account of his alliance with Ahaziah, even if they describe Ahaziah's conduct. We must, with the older commentators, take the words to refer to Ahaziah, for הרשׁיע is much too strong a word for Jehoshaphat's fault in the matter. The author of the Chronicle does indeed use the word הרשׁיע of Jehoshaphat's grandson Ahaziah, Ch2 22:3, in the clause, "his mother, a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was for הרשׁיע his counsellor," but only that he may characterize the acts of the Ahabic house. Jehoshaphat allied himself with the wicked Ahaziah to build ships תּרשׁישׁ ללכת, to go to Tarshish; and they built ships at Ezion-gaber, i.e., on the Red Sea. Instead of this, we have in Kg1 22:49 : Jehoshaphat built Tarshish ships to go to Ophir for gold. Hence it is manifest that in both passages the same undertaking is spoken of, and the expression "Tarshish ships" is paraphrased in the Chronicle by "ships to go to Tarshish." This periphrasis is, however, a mistake; for Tarshish ships are merely ships which, like those going to Tarshish, were built for long sea voyages, for Jehoshaphat merely desired to renew the voyages to Ophir. With the exception of this erroneous interpretation of the words, Tarshish ships, the two narratives agree, if we only keep in mind the fact that both are incomplete extracts from a more detailed account of this enterprise. The Chronicle supplies us with an explanatory commentary on the short account in Kg1 22:49, both in the statement that Jehoshaphat allied himself with Ahaziah of Israel for the preparation of the ships, and also in communicating the word of the prophet Eliezer as to the enterprise, which makes clear to us the reason for the destruction of the ships; while in Kg1 22:49 merely the fact of their destruction is recorded. Of the prophet Eliezer nothing further is known than the saying here communicated. His father's name, Dodavahu, is analogous in form to Hodavya, Joshavya (see on Ch1 3:24), so that there is no good ground to alter it into דּודיּהוּ, friend of Jahve, after the Doodi'a of the lxx. As to Mareshah, see on Ch2 11:8. The perfect פּרץ is prophetic: Jahve will rend thy work asunder. The words which follow record the fulfilment. עצר as in Ch2 13:20; Ch2 14:10. With this the chronicler's account of this enterprise concludes; while in Kg1 22:50 it is further stated that, after the destruction of the ships first built, Ahaziah called upon Jehoshaphat still to undertake the Ophir voyage in common with him, and to build new ships for the purpose, but Jehoshaphat would not. The ground of his refusal may easily be gathered from Ch2 20:37 of the Chronicle.