We have here a further account of Jehoshaphat’s great prosperity and the flourishing state of his kingdom.
I. He had good interest in the neighbouring princes and nations. Though he was not perhaps so great a soldier as David (which might have made him their terror), nor so great a scholar as Solomon (which might have made him their oracle), yet the fear of the Lord fell so upon them (that is, God so influenced and governed their spirits) that they had all a reverence for him, 2 Chron. 17:10. And, 1. None of them made war against him. God’s good providence so ordered it that, while the princes and priests were instructing and reforming the country, none of his neighbours gave him any molestations, to take him off from that good work. Thus when Jacob and his sons were going to worship at Bethel the terror of God was upon the neighbouring cities, that they did not pursue after them, Gen. 35:5; and see Exod. 34:24. 2. Many of them brought presents to him (2 Chron. 17:11), to secure his friendship. Perhaps these were a tribute imposed upon them by Asa, who made himself master of the cities of the Philistines, and the tents of the Arabians, 2 Chron. 14:14, 15. With the 7700 rams, and the same number of he-goats, which the Arabians brought, there was probably a proportionable number of ewes and lambs, she-goats and kids.
II. He had a very considerable stores laid up in the cities of Judah. He pulled down his barns, and built larger (2 Chron. 17:12), castles and cities of store, for arms and victuals. He was a man of business, and aimed at the public good in all his undertakings, either to preserve the peace or prepare for war.
III. He had the militia in good order. It was never in better since David modelled it. Five lord-lieutenants (if I may so call them) are here named, with the numbers of those under their command (the serviceable men, that were fit for war in their respective districts), three in Judah, and two in Benjamin. It is said of one of these great commanders, Amasiah, that he willingly offered himself unto the Lord (2 Chron. 17:16), not only to the king, to serve him in this post, but to the Lord, to glorify him in it. He was the most eminent among them for religion, he accepted the place, not for the honour, or power, or profit of it, but for conscience’ sake towards God, that he might serve his country,. It was usual for great generals then to offer of their spoils to the Lord, 1 Chron. 26:26. But this good man offered himself first to the Lord, and then his dedicated things. The number of the soldiers under these five generals amounts to 1,160,000 men, a vast number for so small a compass of ground as Judah’s and Benjamin’s lot to furnish out and maintain. Abijah could bring into the field but 400,000 (2 Chron. 13:3), Asa not 600,000 (2 Chron. 14:8), yet Jehoshaphat has at command almost 1,200,000. But it must be considered, 1. That God had promised to make the seed of Abraham like the sand of the sea for number. 2. There had now been a long peace. 3. We may suppose that the city of Jerusalem was very much enlarged. 4. Many had come over to them from the kingdom of Israel (2 Chron. 15:19), which would increase the numbers of the people. 5. Jehoshaphat was under a special blessing of God, which made his affairs to prosper greatly. The armies, we may suppose, were dispersed all the country over, and each man resided for the most part on his own estate; but they appeared often, to be mustered and trained, and were ready at call whenever there was occasion. The commanders waited on the king (2 Chron. 17:19) as officers of his court, privy-counsellors, and ministers of state.
But, lastly, observe, It was not this formidable army that struck a terror upon the neighbouring nations, that restrained them from attempting any thing against Israel, or obliged them to pay tribute, but the fear of God which fell upon them when Jehoshaphat reformed his country and set up a preaching ministry in it, 2 Chron. 17:10. The ordinances of God are more the strength and safety of a kingdom than its military force—its men of God more than its men of war.