Despite Jehoshaphat’s cry in chapter 18, his alliance with Ahab still needed to be accounted for – hence Hanani’s commentary on Jehoshaphat’s help of “the wicked” (v.2) and love for those who hate the LORD. This is very much allows us to see what it means for us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) – which is to pray for those who persecute you. It would appear that Jehoshaphat’s alliance did not include the heart to convert Ahab to following Christ; rather, Jehoshaphat’s oath to be with Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18:3 betrayed Jehoshaphat’s intentions.
Immediately thereafter, the narrator describes Jehoshaphat has appointing judges in the land of all the fortified cities of Judah (v.5), reminding them that they judge for the LORD and not for man. It is clear that the narrator intends not to merely focus on Jehoshaphat’s unholy alliance with Ahab, but rather recall the good which is found in Jehoshaphat (v.3) in setting his heart to seek God, as proven in his appointment of righteous judges. This is followed in v.8-11 by his appointment of certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel to give judgment for the LORD and to decide disputed cases – a further development of the justice under the banner of Jehoshaphat which should be done “in the fear of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with [their] whole heart…” (v.9; c.f. v.11).
Again, in fulfilment of Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6, Jehoshaphat is right to set his face to seek the LORD (v.3) in the oncoming invasion from the neighbouring nations. However, this is a far cry from the peace in the days of Asa when the law of the LORD pointed to the cross and instilled the fear of the LORD on even the neighbouring nations’ hearts. Now, the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites no longer have such fear, an indication of Jehoshaphat’s divided heart. It is at this time that a national fast is declared (v.3) and thus he prayed:
“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you – for your name is in this house – and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” (v.6-9)
Indeed, Jehoshaphat goes on to comment how these Ammonites, Moabites and people from Mount Seir were not attacked in the days of the exodus and yet they repay Israel with such aggression (v.10-11) – yet his hope does not lie in Israel’s brute strength (or lack of). Rather, his hope lies in the name of the LORD – for that is the only reason why they stand before the house of the LORD, the sanctuary, the temple. It is the same Name which the ancient Christians called upon (Genesis 4:26), the object of the Old Testament saints’ worship, which warrants the election of Abraham as God’s friend and Israel as the elected nation through which the promised Offspring shall come. And this reminder comes through the mouth of the Levite Jahaziel (whom God watches over) by the filling of the Holy Spirit, that the Israelites shall not be afraid nor dismayed. It is fitting that Jahaziel is described to have hailed from the lineage of Asaph, one of the leaders of David’s choir (1 Chronicles 6:39), bringing us again back to the LORD’s faithfulness to the house of David.
Further, the enemies shall go up by the ascent of Ziz (flower / branch) at the east of the wilderness of Jeruel (vision / founded by God) – and it is here that Israel need not even fight in this battle but merely to witness the salvation of the LORD on Judah and Jerusalem’s behalf. Is this not the same fight which Christ fought on our behalf on the cross and we merely need to stand our grand and witness this miracle of salvation? This is complemented by the beautiful image of Jehoshaphat the king, leading all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem to fall down before the LORD in worship, whilst the Levites, Kohathites and Korahites stood up to praise the LORD with a very loud voice – the combined silent obedience with uncontrolled praise. We are, for the first time since 2 Chronicles 7:6 in the times of Solomon brought to remember the LORD’s steadfast love (v.21); to believe his prophets.
It is in their bowed head in worship, their psalms of victory and praise, that the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir are defeated. They are defeated whilst the Christians are praising; this is no “army” of God – this is but a priesthood, a family of worshippers who simply believe that salvation is gifted to them through the mouth of the LORD and His prophets (v.20-22). Their initial fear evolves into unity as Christ-followers and people of the first Promise of the gospel in Genesis 3:15; which is juxtaposed against the initial false unity of the enemies which degraded into mass hysteria and mutual destruction (v.23). Is this not the picture of Old Testament worship – expecting Christ to be victorious on the cross? Although Christ has not yet achieved such victory, their praise and hymns are sung as if this ancient promise is already fulfilled (Revelation 13:8); and similarly, although Christ has not yet returned to take us home, we are already citizens of heaven in a very Spirit-led manner?
It is quite a literal picture of the meek inheriting the treasures of the earth in three days (v.24-25), a reminder once again of the treasure of salvation we have received in the short course of three days from Christ’s death to resurrection, leading to the fourth day of blessing at the Valley of Beracah (blessing). Yet, this blessing first came from the LORD and what they bless the LORD with is what the LORD had anyway – a picture of the perichoretic triune Christian community. For the first time since the days of Asa (2 Chronicles 14), the fear of God returned on all the kingdoms of the neighbouring countries once more. However, Jehoshaphat is again but a weak follower of Christ, with the narrator ending the description of his reign as having joined again with another wicked king of Israel (Ahaziah).
Despite Jehoshaphat’s holy efforts as king of Israel, his son did not walk in his way but rather in the way of the wicked king Ahab (v.1-6). Yet, the LORD’s steadfast love for Israel meant that the covenant He has made with David will not be destroyed because of traitors in the house of David (v.7) – the lamp of the Promised Seed shall not be extinguished even if Satan’s agents are hiding in the ancient church. Yet, due to Jehoram’s satanic walk, men of Edom, Libnah, Philistines, and Arabians no longer feared the LORD and revolted from the rule of Judah (v.8-10; v.16-17). Jehoram further led Judah and Jerusalem into whoredom, which evoked a disciplinary response from the LORD through the mouth of Elijah – that a plague shall strike Israel (v.14-15, 18-20) – Jehoram being one of the first kings of Judah to exceedingly stray from the covenant promise made to the Davidic household. Despite this response, we are reminded once again of the opening verses (v.6-7) – “…the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever“. Indeed, in spite of our lies and our deceit, our standing in Christ (Romans 3:4) – the lamp given to David’s lineage (Revelation 21:23) – secures us the salvation we do not deserve.