In this chapter we have an event in which we see the place and power of prayer in the battle for LORD. Here we learn how the kingdom of God functions in the world. It shows us the picture of a praying and fighting church. It is a highlight in this book.
1 - 4 Jehoshaphat in Distress
1 Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).” 3 Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.
A powerful enemy comes to make ware against Jehoshaphat (verse 1). They are Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. Moabites and Ammonites are family of the Israelites. They descend from Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Gen 19:30-38; 12:5). In his prayer, Jehoshaphat calls the Meunites “the sons of … Mount Seir” (verse 10; cf. verses 22-23), which means that they are Edomites, or descendants of Esau. These peoples have always revealed themselves as enemies of God’s people. They represent people who have a certain relationship with God’s people, but hate God’s people and God’s truth. We must be wary of this enemy.
Jehoshaphat gets the message that the enemies are coming and he is told where they are at that moment (verse 2). He is not suddenly attacked by the enemy, but is a warned man. Although Jehoshaphat has a good and brave army, he does not place his trust in it. He realizes what is said in Psalm 33 (Psa 33:16,20).
The fear of the enemy drives him and all the people to God in fasting and prayer (verse 3). Fasting is voluntary renunciation of food – more generally, renunciation of things that are lawful – in order to pray more intensively. Fasting is making oneself small before God, it is humbling oneself.
All Judah is called together to seek help from the LORD (verse 4). From all the cities of Judah they come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD, to ask Him what they should do. Normally the people come to Jerusalem three times a year on the occasion of the three great feasts (Deu 16:16). But now they come to have fellowship in prayer, not because it is prescribed, but because they feel the need.
Jehoshaphat is the true spiritual leader of his people. Spiritual leadership is expressed in it that one does not want to be great, but wants to be small together with the people. Need brings the people together and on their knees (Acts 4:23-24a).
5 - 13 Prayer of Jehoshaphat
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, 6 and he said, “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 7 Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? 8 They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, 9 ‘Should evil come upon us, the sword, [or] judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver [us].’ 10 Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), 11 see [how] they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” 13 All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their infants, their wives and their children.
When the call is made by Jehoshaphat and the people have come, he himself takes the lead in prayer (verse 5). He leads in prayer while standing between the whole people of Judah and Jerusalem. He is one with His people. The place of prayer is “the house of the LORD before the new court”. He knows that God’s house is a house of prayer, and he makes an explicit appeal to this later (verses 9-10).
The chronicler also mentions that Jehoshaphat is ‘before the new court’. This may have something to do with the altar renovated by his father Asa (2Chr 15:8). It emphasizes what is new. Jehoshaphat is new and fresh in his approach to God. He is not approaching God from rut, but from a new arising desire.
Jehoshaphat prays orderly, there is coherence in his prayer. This is important for public prayer. He begins by addressing God as the “God of our fathers”, the God Who has been their God throughout the ages (verse 6). His dwelling place is not a limited place on earth, as it is for the idols, but He lives in the heaven that is stretched out all over the earth. Certainly He has chosen Jerusalem and the temple as His dwelling place on earth, but Solomon also said that this house and even the heaven of heaven cannot contain Him (2Chr 6:18).
Jehoshaphat describes God in His omnipotence and exaltation. He calls to the God Who rules over all kingdoms, including the hostile nations with their gods. The enemies that are raised up against him are in his hand, a hand in which is power and strength, so that no one can stand against Him.
Jehoshaphat knows how God used to act to give his people their land and reminds Him of that (verse 7). He knows that this happened according to his promise to “Abraham Your friend” (Isa 41:8; Jam 2:23; cf. Jn 15:14). Abraham is His confidant to whom He has made His thoughts known. Did He not give the land for ever to the descendants of Abraham? Then it cannot be that the enemies will drive them out of it. Jehoshaphat pleads with God on the basis of God’s promises. We can do the same.
The offspring has gone to live in the land and has built a sanctuary there for the name of the LORD (verse 8). It is as if Jehoshaphat presents the building of the sanctuary for the LORD as the great goal of living in the land. That is true. God’s goal with the deliverance of His people from Egypt is to dwell among His people. Moses has already pointed this out in the song he sings immediately after he has led the people out of Egypt (Exo 15:13,17).
Jehoshaphat recalls what Solomon said in his prayer at the dedication of the temple (verse 9; 2Chr 6:20-25). He and his people are now in a situation mentioned by Solomon. Solomon said that the LORD will hear and deliver when they cry unto him out of their distress. Is this not also a great encouragement for us to cry out to the Lord in our distress, pleading with Him on His promises to hear and to deliver?
Then Jehoshaphat points out the immediate danger to the LORD with the words “Now behold” (verse 10). He asks as it were whether the LORD wants to look closely at the danger in which they find themselves. The people who are coming to them now, the LORD did not allow to attack them at the time. And now the people whom they had to spare and leave in their own inheritance come, to drive them out of the inheritance which God gave his people (verse 11; Deu 2:8-9,19). This should not happen, should it? Surely, it will not be the case that their former obedience is now punished?
Jehoshaphat addresses “our God” and asks a question that already contains the answer (verse 12). Will God not judge them? Of course He will. After all, He knows that in Jehoshaphat and his people there is no strength against the great force of the enemy.
While he himself also has a large army and is powerful, Jehoshaphat declares his powerlessness. The fact that he has a large army indicates that he does not neglect his responsibility; he is ready for it. But when it comes down to it, he is also aware of the fact that without the LORD all these provisions will not benefit him and have no meaning. Therefore he and his people turn their eyes to the LORD. With this they say: “LORD, if there is help to come, it must come from you. That’s why we look at You.’
When Jehoshaphat prayed, the whole people stand in silence before the LORD, waiting for His reaction (verse 13). At this prayer also the little children are present. They occupy an important place to God (1Chr 25:8; 26:13; 2Chr 31:15; 2Kgs 23:2). It is an important and encouraging experience for them to see how the elderly seek the LORD. The fact that several categories of the people are mentioned by name shows that the whole people, young and old, men and women, is one of soul, one of thought, one of desire.
14 - 19 Answer of the LORD
14 Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph; 15 and he said, “Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You [need] not fight in this [battle]; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you.” 18 Jehoshaphat bowed his head with [his] face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. 19 The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
The answer of the LORD comes. He sends His Spirit in the midst of the church. He does not send His Spirit on Jehoshaphat, which we might expect, but on Jahaziel, a Levite from the sons of Asaph (verse 14). The Spirit is free in choosing His instrument to reveal the will of God.
Jahaziel will not have been “overwhelmed” by the fact that the Spirit comes upon him. That he is one of Asaf’s sons indicates that he is a singer. His task is to praise the LORD. This activity is a good preparation to be used by the Spirit for the benefit of God’s people in the midst of which he is.
The message that Jahaziel has for people and king is an encouragement (verse 15). He asks for special attention for it with the word “listen”. It is a word of the LORD Himself. The encouragement is that they do not have to be impressed by the enemy’s great multitude, because they do not have to fight against it themselves. God will fight for them. So they should not compare the power of the enemy with their own power, but with the power of God. And what does the enemy then represent?
That the battle is not of the people, but of God, goes like a chorus through the Old Testament. We hear it from the mouth of Moses when the people are at the Red Sea (Exo 14:14) and then we hear it from the mouth of David when he is opposite Goliath (1Sam 17:47). Now we hear it here when Jehoshaphat is facing a great hostile army. For us it is also the case. We can only fight the good fight if we realize that it is actually the Lord’s fight. Therefore the armor of God is also given to us for our battle (Eph 6:10-18).
Jahaziel says what has to be done (verse 16). God can defeat the enemy in many ways. However, he chooses a way that makes it clear to His people that the victory is His work. Jahaziel tells the people what they should do. They have to go down to the enemy tomorrow. He informs the people where the enemy is now and where the enemy will be tomorrow. God knows every movement of the enemy and also the way he goes.
What encouragement is that for His people to entrust themselves to Him for the battle. So God tells His people today through people whom He makes capable of doing so, where the enemy is, where they should be careful not to fall into a spiritual trap. The place where Jehoshaphat and the people will find the enemies is “at the end of the valley”. It points out that the humiliation and acknowledgment of one’s own incapacity, of which the valley is a picture, will end in a victory for the people.
The meeting with the enemy is not meant to wage a battle with them (verse 17). Once again Jahaziel points out that the people should not fight in this war. They just have to station, stand and watch. In this way they can learn how God intervenes for His people. He will make them see His salvation. His salvation is with them, with Judah and Jerusalem. There is no reason for fear and dismay, which may be imposed on them when they think that they will come face to face with the enemy. They can go up against the enemy without fear, “for the LORD is with you”. And what is there to fear or be dismayed when He is with us?
The word of the prophet has a wonderful effect on Jehoshaphat and the people. They are deeply impressed by the word of the LORD. They all fall down before the LORD and bow before Him (verse 18). Here is nothing to be found of an unconsciously ‘falling in the Spirit’. Such a thing is completely alien to Scripture. What happens here is done consciously by every person present.
While Jehoshaphat and the people are in worship before the LORD, “the Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice” (verse 19). The Kohathites are Levites whose task is to take care of the most holy things (Num 4:4). The Korahites are descendants of the Kohathites (Num 16:1; 1Chr 6:38). Korah rebelled against the LORD and is judged (Num 16:1-2,31-33), but grace spared some children of Korah (Num 26:11). Those who know the holy of holies (descendants of Kohath) and those who know what grace is (descendants of Korah) realize in this situation that it is appropriate to praise the LORD “with a very loud voice”.
The prayer meeting has been changed into a praise, and this without any more enemy being defeated. What a just and wonderful tribute to Him Who is worthy of all honor and Who is most honored when we honor Him for what is yet to come.
20 - 30 The LORD Defeats the Enemy
20 They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”
21 When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised [Him] in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said,
“Give thanks to the LORD,
for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
22 When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. 23 For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying [them] completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24 When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they [were] corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found much among them, [including] goods, garments and valuable things which they took for themselves, more than they could carry. And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much. 26 Then on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore they have named that place “The Valley of Beracah” until today. 27 Every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres and trumpets to the house of the LORD. 29 And the dread of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God gave him rest on all sides.
The next day, the day after all the encouraging promises, they get up early and go out to the wilderness of Tekoa (verse 20). Possibly because yesterday’s overwhelming impressions have weakened somewhat, Jehoshaphat stands and addresses the people just before departure. He calls them to listen to him, for he has two more powerful encouragements for them.
His first encouragements is to trust in the LORD, Whom they know as their God. If they do, and only then, they will stand before the enemy and not shudder. The second encouragements is to trust the prophets of the LORD, for they have spoken His words to them. And has any word ever remained unfulfilled that the LORD has spoken? Well, if they trust His prophets, that is, if they trust His Word, they will prosper and win.
After his encouraging speech Jehoshaphat consults with the people (verse 21). The result of the consultation is that they appoint singers for the LORD to praise Him “in holy attire”. It is as if the hymn of the previous day still resounds in their ears and hearts and they want to continue with it. The praise of the LORD gives strength.
The singers go out before the army. The weapons will not be used, for the LORD has said that he will fight. That the men are armed is not to fight, but to confirm victory. Praise goes out for victory. Victory follows the praise. The contents of the hymn of praise “give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting”, is the great chorus of the kingdom of peace (Psa 136:1-26).
At the same time that cheers and praises sound, the LORD defeats the enemies through ambushes (verse 22). The following verse shows how victory is achieved (verse 23). The LORD lets the enemies fight against each other. Without any intervention of a human being victory is achieved.
Thus the Lord Jesus also achieved the victory on the cross and we may reap the fruits of it. It is not necessary for Christians to eradicate an outward, false religion. Such a religion eradicates itself because it carries in itself the seed of its own destruction.
What Israel only has to do is look at the result and reap the fruits. They see the result at “the lookout of the wilderness” (verse 24). From there they only see dead enemies. No one has escaped, just as no one will escape the final judgment of God. That victory is only God’s work is not common, because God usually uses His people to defeat enemies. However, God is not bound by certain methods. His choice is always such that He is glorified in the result.
In this case Jehoshaphat and the people may take for themselves of the spoil (verse 25). That too is not self-evident (Jos 6:18; 1Chr 18:11). Here God allows it. They take from the spoil as much as they can carry. They can’t carry everything at once, there’s so much there. The spoil is so big that they spend three days to take it.
After three days of taking of the spoil, the people gather on the fourth day in “the valley of Beracah”, which means “the valley of praise” (verse 26). The valley of praise gets its name here. The meeting takes place here and not in Jerusalem near the temple. In an application to us, it reminds us that God wants to receive praise outside the meeting of the church as soon as there is reason to do so. We don’t have to wait for that to happen until we meet as a church, where there is a special place for it, when we meet at the Lord’s Table to proclaim His death in the use of His Supper.
After this spontaneous expression of praise for the victory, the men, with Jehoshaphat at the head, return to Jerusalem full of joy (verse 27). The reason for their joy is what the LORD has done with their enemies. Arriving in Jerusalem they go to the house of the LORD (verse 28) under musical accompaniment. From there they left and there they return.
For us, too, the church is the place of departure for everything we may do for the Lord and the place to which we return after we have been allowed to do something for the Lord (cf. Acts 14:26-27). In this way we may share with the ‘home church’ what the Lord has done and glorify Him together for it.
The news of the LORD’s victory over the enemies of Israel has the effect that there is “the dread of God … on all the kingdoms of the lands” that hear of it (verse 29). This is always the result when God works with and for His people. It does not mean that the peoples start to seek God. It is more so that they will think twice before they go to war against Israel, against a people with such a mighty God. The result is that through this intervention of God the kingdom of Jehoshaphat has rest on all sides (verse 30).
It is worth noting that this history also has a prophetic meaning. In the same way as the Spirit of the LORD comes upon Jahaziel (verse 14), so according to Joel 2 the Spirit will come upon all Israel in the end time, that is to say, upon the faithful remnant that is then all Israel (Joel 2:28-29; cf. Rom 11:25-26). In Joel 3 there are two references to this history (Joel 3:2,12). The “valley of Jehoshaphat” mentioned there is probably the same as “the valley of Beracah” (“valley of praise”) in this chapter (verse 26). In Joel 2 we see the same preparation for meeting the enemy as here (Joel 2:15-17).
31 - 34 End of the Reign of Jehoshaphat
31 Now Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He [was] thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. And his mother’s name [was] Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 32 He walked in the way of his father Asa and did not depart from it, doing right in the sight of the LORD. 33 The high places, however, were not removed; the people had not yet directed their hearts to the God of their fathers. 34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first to last, behold, they are written in the annals of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel.
The kingship of Jehoshaphat is a finite kingship. The chronicler has come to the end with his description of it. He concludes by saying that Jehoshaphat has reigned over Judah (verse 31). He also gives some general information about the age of Jehoshaphat, the duration of his reign and who is his mother. He reminds us that Jehoshaphat did not deviate from the way his father Asa went – not thinking of the failure we also saw with Asa – and that he did what was “right in the sight of the LORD” (verse 32). This is the general impression that the Spirit of God gives of Jehoshaphat’s life. It’s good to remember that when we think about Jehoshaphat’s life.
However, that general impression does not blind him to the fact that the high places have remained (verse 33) and that he has not been able to change the direction of the heart of the people. The altitudes of sacrifice are a danger to the people, for they work to forget the place where the LORD dwells. That is also the case today. There is one place of worship. If this is thought up, it will prevent someone from setting up a place of worship on his own initiative.
What Jehoshaphat did more during his reign is written down by Jehu, Hanani’s son. This prophet described the history of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom and works, from beginning to end. This description is not part of Holy Scripture, but is included in the book describing the lives of the kings of Israel. It is not inconceivable that on the day we are all revealed before the judgment seat of Christ (2Cor 5:10) it will also serve as testimony for the judgment of the life of Jehoshaphat.
35 - 37 Another Wrong Alliance
35 After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. 36 So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. 37 Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.” So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish.
It is as if the chronicler suddenly remembers an event from Jehoshaphat’s later life which he also wants to mention. Of course this happens under the guidance of God’s Spirit. Yet it is remarkable that the chronicler mentions this after he has completed his account of the life of Jehoshaphat. It shows that we can reach a moment when we can look back on a fulfilled life, but as long as we live there is a danger that we will fall into an old sin again.
The sad announcement is made of the third wrong alliance Jehoshaphat made (verse 35). After his military alliances, first with Ahab (2Chr 18:3) and later with Jehoram, the son of Ahab (2Chr 3:6-7), he now enters into a trade alliance with Ahaziah, the king of Israel. This Ahaziah is a man who acts wickedly in everything he does.
Jehoshaphat takes the initiative for a business relationship with this wicked man. He does so because he sees a gain in the alliance (verse 36). Together they make ships in Ezion-geber. According to his calculations, the money involved in making the ships will not only be recouped, but will also generate a lot of profit. That will have been his expectation.
Jehoshaphat however calculated without calculating with the LORD. The LORD sends Eliezer to him with a prophecy. The prophet tells him that of all his calculations nothing will be left. His works will be broken by the LORD because of his alliance with the wicked Ahaziah. This alliance is a dishonor to the LORD. He must break this unequal yoke (2Cor 6:14). God’s discipline comes over Jehoshaphat. The ships are shipwrecked even before they sail to Tarsis. As it were, they have only just been launched or they sink.
For us, it contains the lesson that we should not go together with the world for profit. This only results in losses for both parties.