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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–13
Verses 1–13

We left Jehoshaphat, in the foregoing chapter, well employed in reforming his kingdom and providing for the due administration of justice and support of religion in it, and expected nothing but to hear of the peace and prosperity of his reign; but here we have him in distress, which distress, however, was followed by such a glorious deliverance as was an abundant recompence for his piety. If we meet with trouble in the way of duty, we may believe it is that God may have an opportunity of showing us so much the more of his marvellous loving-kindness. We have here,

I. A formidable invasion of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom by the Moabites, and Ammonites, and their auxiliaries, 2 Chron. 20:1. Jehoshaphat was surprised with the intelligence of it when the enemy had already entered his country, 2 Chron. 20:2. What pretence they had to quarrel with Jehoshaphat does not appear; they are said to come from beyond the sea, meaning the Dead Sea, where Sodom had stood. It should seem, they marched through those of the ten tribes that lay beyond Jordan, and they gave them passage through their borders; so ungrateful were they to Jehoshaphat, who had lately put his hand to help them in recovering Ramoth-Gilead. Several nations joined in this confederacy, but especially the children of Lot, whom the rest helped, Ps. 83:6-8. The neighbouring nations had feared Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 17:10), but perhaps his affinity with Ahab had lessened him in their esteem, and they had some intimation that his God was displeased with him for it, which they fancied would give them an opportunity to make a prey of his kingdom.

II. The preparation Jehoshaphat made against the invaders. No mention is made of his mustering his forces, which yet it is most probable he did, for God must be trusted in the use of means. But his great care was to obtain the favour of God, and secure him on his side, which perhaps he was the more solicitous about because he had been lately told that there was wrath upon him from before the Lord, 2 Chron. 19:2. But he is of the mind of his father David. If we must be corrected, yet let us not fall into the hands of man. 1. He feared. Consciousness of guilt made him fear. Those that have least sin are the most sensible of it. The surprise added to the fright. Holy fear is a spur to prayer and preparation, Heb. 11:7. 2. He set himself to seek the Lord, and, in the first place, to make him his friend. Those that would seek the Lord so as to find him, and to find favour with him, must set themselves to seek him, must do it with fixedness of thought, with sincerity of intention, and with the utmost vigour and resolution to continue seeking him. 3. He proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, appointed a day of humiliation and prayer, that they might join together in confessing their sins and asking help of the Lord. Fasting from bodily refreshments, upon such extraordinary occasions, is a token of self-judging for the sins we have committed (we own ourselves unworthy of the bread we eat, and that God might justly withhold it from us), and of self-denial for the future; fasting for sin implies a resolution to fast from it, though it has been to us as a sweet morsel. Magistrates are to call their people to the duty of fasting and prayer upon such occasions, that it may be a national act, and so may obtain national mercies. 4. The people readily assembled out of all the cities of Judah in the court of the temple to join in prayer (2 Chron. 20:4), and they stood before the Lord, as beggars at his door, with their wives and children; they and their families were in danger, and therefore they bring their families with them to seek the Lord. “Lord, we are indeed a provoking people, that deserve to be abandoned to ruin; but here are little ones that are innocent, let not them perish in the storm.” Nineveh was spared for the sake of the little ones, Jonah 4:11. The place they met in was the house of the Lord, before the new court, which was perhaps lately added to the former courts (that, as some think, which was called the court of the women); thus they came within reach of that gracious promise which God had made, in answer to Solomon’s prayer, 2 Chron. 7:15. My ears shall be attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 5. Jehoshaphat himself was the mouth of the congregation to God, and did not devolve the work upon his chaplains. Though the kings were forbidden to burn incense, they were allowed to pray and preach; as Solomon and Jehoshaphat here. The prayer Jehoshaphat prayed, upon this occasion, is here recorded, or part of it; and an excellent prayer it is. (1.) He acknowledges the sovereign dominion of the divine Providence, gives to God the glory of it and takes to himself the comfort of it (2 Chron. 20:6): “Art not thou God in heaven? No doubt thou art, which none of the gods of the heathen are; make it to appear then. Isa. not thy dominion, supreme over kingdoms themselves, and universal, over all kingdoms, even those of the heathen that know thee not? Control these heathen then; set bounds to their daring threatening insults. Isa. there not in thy hand the power and might which none is able to withstand? Lord, exert it on our behalf. Glorify thy own omnipotence.” (2.) He lays hold on their covenant-relation to God and interest in him. “Thou that art God in heaven art the God of our fathers (2 Chron. 20:6) and our God, 2 Chron. 20:7. Whom should we seek to, whom should we trust to, for relief, but to the God we have chosen and served?” (3.) He shows the title they had to this good land they were now in possession of; an indisputable title it was: “Thou gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend. He was thy friend (this is referred to, Jas. 2:23; to show the honour of Abraham, that he was called the friend of God); we are his seed, and hope to be beloved for the father’s sake,” Rom. 11:28; Deut. 7:8, 9. “We hold this land by grant from thee. Lord, maintain thy own grant, and warrant it against all unjust claims. Suffer us not to be cast out of they possession. We are tenants; thou art our landlord; wilt thou not hold thy own?” 2 Chron. 20:11. Those that use what they have for God may comfortably hope that he will secure it to them. (4.) He makes mention of the sanctuary, the temple they had built for God’s name (2 Chron. 20:8), not as if that merited any thing at God’s hand, for of his own they gave him, but it was such a token of God’s favourable presence with them that they had promised themselves he would hear and help them when, in their distress, they cried to him before that house, 2 Chron. 20:8, 9. “Lord, when it was built it was intended for the encouragement of our faith at such a time as this. Here thy name is; here we are. Lord, help us, for the glory of thy name.” (5.) He pleads the ingratitude and injustice of his enemies: “We are such as it will be thy glory to appear for; they are such as it will be thy glory to appear against; for, [1.] They ill requite our ancient kindnesses. Thou wouldst not let Israel invade them, nor give them any disturbance.” Deut. 2:5, 9, 19, Meddle not with the Edomites, distress not the Moabites, come not nigh the children of Ammon, no not though they provoke you. “Yet now see how they invade us.” We may comfortably appear to God against those that render us evil for good. [2.] “They break in upon our ancient rights. They come to cast us out of our possessions, and seize our land for themselves. O! our God, wilt thou not judge them? 2 Chron. 20:12. Wilt thou not give sentence against them, and execute it upon them?” The justice of God is the refuge of those that are wronged. (6.) He professes his entire dependence upon God for deliverance. Though he had a great army on foot, and well disciplined; yet he said, “We have no might against this great company, none without thee, none that we can expect any thing from without thy special presence and blessing, none to boast of, none to trust to; but our eyes are upon thee. We rely upon thee, and from thee is all our expectation. The disease seems desperate: we know not what to do, are quite at a loss, in a great strait. But this is a sovereign remedy, our eyes are upon thee, an eye of acknowledgment and humble submission, an eye of faith and entire dependence, an eye of desire and hearty prayer, an eye of hope and patient expectation. In thee, O God! do we put our trust; our souls wait on thee.”