The Word Made Fresh
1After these things, Moab and Ammon, along with another group of Ammonites, gathered to make war against Jehoshaphat. 2He was told that a huge army was coming against him from Aram, approaching from beyond the Dead Sea, and that they were already at En-gedi. 3Jehoshaphat was frightened and sought help from the LORD. He declared a time of fasting throughout Judah, 4and the people gathered from all the towns of Judah to ask the LORD for help.
5Jehoshaphat addressed all the people of Jerusalem and Judah, standing at the entrance to the temple in front of the new courtyard. 6He prayed, “LORD God of our ancestors, aren’t you the God in heaven? Don’t you rule over all the nations? You have power, and you are mighty, and no one can oppose you. 7Wasn’t it you, our God, who drove out all the people of this land before Israel? Didn’t you give the land forever to the descendants of Abraham whom you befriended? 8We have lived in this land and have built a temple for you, 9and whenever we are threatened by war or judgment or epidemic or famine, we gather before this temple and before your name that resides here, and call out to you in our trouble, and you hear us and save us. 10Behold us now! The people of Ammon and Moab and Mt. Seir, the very people you would not allow us to invade when we came out of Egypt, and so we avoided them, 11now they repay us by attacking us to drive us out of the land you gave us as our inheritance. 12Lord our God, will you not judge them? We are not strong enough to resist this numberless enemy attacking us. We don’t know what to do! We’re looking toward you!”
13There they all stood, the people of Judah, with their wives and children. 14Then the LORD’s spirit fell upon Jehaziel son of Zechariah son of Benaiah son of Jeiel son of Mattaniah, a Levite descended from Asaph, who was standing in the middle of the gathering. 15He called out, “Listen, Judah and Jerusalem and king Jehoshaphat: this is what the LORD says: ‘Do not fear! Do not worry about this great enemy! This is not your battle! This is God’s battle! 16Attack them tomorrow as they approach up the Ziz heights. You will find them where the valley ends in front of the Jeruel wilderness. 12This is not your battle! Take your stand and be still and watch the LORD fight for you, Judah and Jerusalem! Don’t be afraid and don’t worry; go out there tomorrow and the LORD will be right there with you!”
18Then Jehoshaphat knelt face down and the people of Judah and Jerusalem knelt with him, worshiping the LORD. 19The Levites – Kohathites and Korahites – stood and began to praise the LORD loudly.
20Early the next morning they gathered and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa, and Jehoshaphat addressed them, saying, “Listen to me, Judah and Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God. Believe the prophets of the LORD, and you will be victorious.”
21When he had encouraged the people he appointed singers to praise the LORD, dressed in sacred garments as they led the army out, singing, “Give thanks to the LORD, whose steadfast love lasts forever!” 22As they sang their praise the LORD sent a counterattack against their enemies, and they were routed. 23The Ammonites and Moabites had attacked Mt. Seir, destroyed the people there, and then turned on each other and destroyed one another.
24When Judah arrived at the watchtower and looked out over the wilderness, they saw corpses lying on the ground; none had escaped! 25Jehoshaphat and his army then came to plunder their enemies and took clothing and other valuable things in such quantity they could not have carried more. There was so much it took them three days to gather the spoils of battle.
26On the fourth day they gathered in Beracah valley and praised the LORD. That place has been known as the Valley of Blessing to this day. 27Then Jehoshaphat led all the people of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem, rejoicing because their enemies had been defeated. 28They gathered with harps and lyres and trumpets at the LORD’s temple. 29All the surrounding nations began to fear God when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel, 30and Jehoshaphat’s realm was quiet because the LORD gave him peace all around.
31Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when his reign began, and he reigned in Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 32He steadfastly followed the example of his father Asa, doing the right thing in the LORD’s sight. 33Even so, the hilltop shrines were not removed because the people had not yet turned their hearts wholly to the God of their ancestors.
34The record of Jehoshaphat’s reign from beginning to end is found in the Annals of Jehu son of Hanani, written in the records of the kings of Israel.
35After this victory Jehoshaphat teamed up with wicked king Ahaziah of Israel, 36building ships at Ezion-Geber to engage in trade with Tarshish. 37Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah told Jehoshaphat, “Because you have teamed up with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and never got to Tarshish.
1-4: The battle described in this chapter is not covered in 1 Kings. Moab and Ammon we’ve heard of before, but the “other Ammonites” mentioned here and at 26:1 in some manuscripts are referred to as Meunites, and that appellation appears nowhere else in the Bible. They join with Moab and Ammon and assemble their invasion force in Edom, across the Dead Sea from Judah. Jehoshaphat is alarmed and calls for a national day of fasting to seek help from the LORD.
5-12: Jehoshaphat stands before the temple and begs God’s help, invoking Solomon’s prayer from the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:44-45).
13-17: The whole citizenry is gathered in the temple court. Then a Levite named Jahaziel calls out from the middle of the crowd that the LORD will be victorious and all they will have to do is watch. He gives some details about where the battle will occur. How he would know such a thing is not revealed, but the “Ziz heights” is probably a common approach from Edom.
18-19: Everybody says “Hallelujah!”
20-23: Jehoshaphat leads his troops toward the encounter, with priests and Levites at the head of the column to sing and praise God. As they approach the battle zone, the alliance of Ammonites and Moabites falls apart and they begin to fight among themselves.
24-30: When the army of Judah arrives at the lookout point, they discover what has happened and spend three days gathering all the spoils of their enemies. This is presented as the last major threat to Judah during Jehoshaphat’s reign.
31-34: Jehoshaphat’s rule is summarized, and he is judged to have been a good king. The common peoples’ worship at the hilltop shrines, however, is persistent.
35-37: At the end of his reign Jehoshaphat enters into a joint venture with King Ahaziah of Israel to build ships to sail down the arms of the Red Sea and establish trade routes in that direction. In 1 Kings 22:48-49 it was said that the ships were of the “Tarshish type,” that is, designed for the high seas, and were to go to Ophir some 500 miles south of Ezion-Geber, but the ships are destroyed in a storm, and the venture fails. According to 1 Kings Jehoshaphat refuses the proffered alliance with Ahaziah, but here he is condemned for accepting the alliance. Curious.
The “hilltop” shrines have been removed time after time, but always seem to reappear. The worship of other gods will be Judah’s downfall. It is easy to slip into worshipping other gods without realizing it, while still seeming to worship the LORD. For a lot of the people of Judah, the LORD has become just one God among many gods. They think they are “hedging their bets” by sacrificing on the hilltop shrines, but they are really securing their doom. This is a lesson believers need to learn over and over again. God will tolerate unfaithfulness only so long.