1 - 3 Jehoshaphat Rebuked
1 Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. 2 Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so [bring] wrath on yourself from the LORD? 3 But there is [some] good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God.”
Jehoshaphat’s save homecoming is in sharp contrast with Ahab’s end (2Chr 18:27a,34). Jehoshaphat returns “in safety to his house in Jerusalem” (verse 1). With that he gets more than he earns. For he has said, “I am as you are” (2Chr 18:3). He did not go the way of the righteous, but that of the wicked. In that way he should have perished: “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish” (Psa 1:6).
Still impressed by what happened – that the word of the prophet Micaiah became true – there comes a message from God. Back home Jehoshaphat is visited by a prophet, Jehu (verse 2). This is the son of Hanani, who prophesied to Asa and therefore ended up in prison (2Chr 16:7-10). His son Jehu, however, did not become afraid of this, and fearlessly prophesied to Asa’s son when he had been on the wrong path. Here a faithful father has a faithful son. Jehoshaphat reacts differently than his father (Pro 15:5,32).
The prophet speaks clear language (verse 2). Prophets call things by their name. He speaks to Jehoshaphat that he has turned things completely upside down by supporting the wicked in his bad work and showing love for those who hate the LORD. He has been the opposite of the LORD and His judgment of sin. That’s why “wrath … from before the LORD” is resting on Jehoshaphat. The LORD cannot rejoice about him who is the king of His people. On the contrary. Jehoshaphat was not like David who did choose the LORD’s side against evil and the evil ones (Psa 139:21; cf. Jam 4:4; Lk 16:13).
After his solemn admonition Jehu also talks about the good things that are present with Jehoshaphat. A true prophet also has love for the one to whom he speaks and also calls the good (verse 3). The Lord knows the good of everyone who loves Him. The lesson for us from all this is that we should only love what God loves.
The good Jehoshaphat did consists of two things. The first is that he has removed the Asheroth from the land. This is an external action. Secondly, this action proves that his heart is in order before God. He had set his heart to seek God. This is an inner mind, which is also an action of Jehoshaphat. Both are pleasing to God and are noticed and appreciated by Him.
4 - 11 Jehoshaphat Restores Judgment
4 So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 5 He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. 6 He said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD who is with you when you render judgment. 7 Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.” 8 In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ [households] of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 9 Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and wholeheartedly. 10 Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the LORD, and wrath may [not] come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty. 11 Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to the LORD, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and the LORD be with the upright.”
Jehoshaphat lives again in Jerusalem (verse 4). This indicates that he is again in the presence of the LORD. He continues on the right way. Now that he himself is back in the right place, he also brings the people “back to the LORD, the God of their fathers”. This is better than what he has done before, when he took the people on the wrong path in his cooperation with Ahab. Jehoshaphat has converted and does his “first works” here (Rev 2:5; 2Chr 17:1-4,7-9).
As in 2 Chronicles 17, he regulates justice among the people by appointing judges “in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city” (verse 5). It is striking how emphatically the places where Jehoshaphat appoints the judges are described. It is not just general “in the land”, but “in all the fortified cities of Judah” and then also “city by city”. It indicates that Jehoshaphat takes his task seriously. He has become wiser through experience.
The fact that he takes his task seriously is not only demonstrated by the appointment of judges. It is also evident from what he says to the judges. He impresses upon them that they should remember well that they represent the LORD as the supreme Judge (verse 6). He is present at all rendering judgment. On his behalf they speak justice and not for people. Paul is aware that the judgment of his service does not depend on people, but on the Lord (1Cor 4:3-4), and we should also think of that.
Jehoshaphat not only lets the word preach, but also ensures that people live up to it. The judges must decide how to proceed in cases where disputes have arisen. They know the law of the LORD and must apply it correctly. Jehoshaphat binds them to the heart that they will fulfill their duty “in the fear of the LORD” (verse 7). That will keep them from speaking what people like to hear or what suits them best. They will also be preserved for taking a bribe.
So should we also do if there are disputes between believers (1Cor 6:5; Mt 18:15-20). If we know ourselves responsible, how careful we will be with our statements among God’s people. Judges are people who know God’s will in difficult cases. They are wise men who, in practical difficulties, speak the right word from God’s Word.
Justice must be spoken that answers to Who God is, in a way that justice reflects His features. He is righteous and completely consistent in His judgment. He is “the righteous Judge” (2Tim 4:8). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice? (Gen 18:25, literal translation). He is the God Whom we call upon as Father and Who “impartially judges according to each one’s work” (1Pet 1:17).
Jehoshaphat also establishes a higher court, formed by some Levites and priests from Judah, to which he also adds some heads of families from Israel (verse 8). This court is located in Jerusalem. There the “judgment of the LORD” is done, that is, in His Name. That’s where it all starts. Then we read about judging “disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. It is about them, it concerns them.
The judges of this court, like their colleagues in the cities of Judah van Jehoshaphat, are commanded to judge “in the fear of the LORD” (verse 9; cf. verse 7). Jehoshaphat adds that they will do their work “faithfully and wholeheartedly”. Faithfulness is an important condition in every work we do for the Lord. It is even the most important measure for judging our service (1Cor 4:2). We can only prove this faithfulness if our heart is all for the Lord.
For the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the court is the ordinary court of justice. For the inhabitants of the other cities, it seems more like a higher court where they can go for justice if they cannot find a solution in their own place of residence (verse 10; cf. Deu 17:8). The judges have a great responsibility to deal with any dispute in such a way that both themselves and the persons they judge are not found guilty before the LORD.
The highest judges are mentioned (verse 11). There are two of them. There is the “chief priests ... for every matter [that] concerns the LORD”, that is to say in the things that are in connection with worship and temple service. Also there is “the leader of the house of Judah for every case [that] concerns the king”. This applies more to all state and administrative matters. These issues are very much intertwined in Israel.
The chief priest and the ruler of Judah are together a picture of the Lord Jesus as King-Priest. Finally, every member of God’s people must be accountable to Him. We will have to answer to the Lord Jesus for every decision we make.
After his extensive explanation of what is expected of the judges, Jehoshaphat says that they should get to work. He also spoke one last word of encouragement to them. He encourages them to act resolutely. This means to act in accordance with the will of the LORD. If they do, they will at upright and may they be sure that the LORD is with them. “The upright” is the one who does what is right in the eyes of God and who lives from the Word of God.