Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jehoshaphat succeeds his father Asa, and reigns piously, and is particularly blessed, Ch2 17:1-6. He establishes an itinerant ministry, for the instruction of the people, through all the cities of Judah, which produces the most beneficial effects, Ch2 17:7-10. The Philistines and Arabians bring him gifts, Ch2 17:11. His greatness, Ch2 17:12, Ch2 17:13. The commanders of his troops, Ch2 17:14-19.
2 Chronicles 17:1
Jehoshaphat - and strengthened himself against Israel - The kingdoms of Israel and Judah were rivals from the beginning; sometimes one, sometimes the other, prevailed. Asa and Baasha were nearly matched; but, after Baasha's death, Israel was greatly weakened by civil contentions, and Jehoshaphat got the ascendancy. See Kg1 16:16-23.
2 Chronicles 17:2
The cities of Ephraim - This conquest from the kingdom of Israel is referred to, Ch2 15:8; but when it was made we do not know.
2 Chronicles 17:3
The Lord was with Jehoshaphat - "The Word of the Lord was Jehoshaphat's Helper." - Targum.
2 Chronicles 17:7
To teach in the cities of Judah - "To teach the fear of the Lord in the cities of Judah." - Targum.
In these verses we find a remarkable account of an itinerant ministry established by Jehoshaphat; and in this work he employed three classes of men:
1. The princes.
2. The Levites.
3. The priests.
We may presume that the princes instructed the people in the nature of the civil law and constitution of the kingdom; the Levites instructed them in every thing that appertained to the temple service, and ritual law; and the priests instructed them in the nature and design of the religion they professed. Thus the nation became thoroughly instructed in their duty to God, to the king, and to each other. They became, therefore, as one man; and against a people thus united, on such principles, no enemy could be successful.
2 Chronicles 17:9
Had the book of the law of the Lord with them - This was their text book: it was the book of God; they taught it as such, and as such the people received it. Its laws were God's laws, and the people felt their obligation, and their consciences were bound. Thus they were obedient to the laws of the land, on the principle of religion. In this they were encouraged and confirmed by the example of all, both in Church and state. The princes were not only pious, but were teachers of piety; the Levites showed them the worth and excellence of their ritual institutions; and the priests showed them the moral use they were to make of the whole: and thus the people became obedient to God as well as to the king, and kept all the civil ordinances, not merely for the sake of a good king, but for the sake of a good and gracious God. By these means the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity; and all insurrections, seditions, and popular commotions, were prevented. The surrounding nations, perceiving this, saw that there was no hope of subduing such a people, so they made no war with Jehoshaphat, Ch2 17:10. And they took care not to provoke such a people to fall on them; therefore, it is said, The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms and lands that were round about Judah. Such an itinerant ministry established in these kingdoms for upwards of fourscore years, teaching the pure, unadulterated doctrines of the Gospel, with the propriety and necessity of obedience to the laws, has been the principal means, in the hand of God, of preserving these lands from those convulsions and revolutions that have ruined and nearly dissolved the European continent. The itinerant ministry, to which this refers, is that which was established in these lands by the late truly reverend, highly learned and cultivated, deeply pious and loyal John Wesley, A.M., formerly a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, whose followers are known by the name of Methodists; a people who are an honor to their country, and a blessing to the government under which they live.
2 Chronicles 17:11
The Philistines brought - presents - They and the Arabians purchased peace with the king of Judah by paying an annual tribute. The Philistines brought silver, and no doubt different kinds of merchandise, The Arabs, whose riches consisted in cattle, brought him flocks in great abundance, principally rams and he-goats.
2 Chronicles 17:13
He had much business in the cities - He kept the people constantly employed; they had wages for their work; and by their labors the empire was both enriched and strengthened.
2 Chronicles 17:14
Adnah, the chief - He was generalissimo of all this host. These are the numbers of the five battalions: under Adnah, three hundred thousand; Jehohanan, two hundred and eighty thousand, Amasiah, two hundred thousand; Eliada, two hundred thousand; Jehozabad, one hundred and eighty thousand; in all, one million one hundred and sixty thousand.
2 Chronicles 17:19
These waited on the king - They were disposable forces, always at the king's command; and were independent of those by which the cities of Judah were garrisoned.
There is not a sovereign in Europe or in the world but might read this chapter with advantage.
1. It shows most forcibly that true religion is the basis of the state, and that, wherever it prospers, there the state prospers.
2. It shows also that it is the wisdom of kings to encourage religion with all their power and influence; for if the hearts of the subjects be not bound and influenced by true religion, vain is the application of laws, fines, imprisonments, or corporal punishment of any kind.
3. A religious nation is ever a great nation; it is loved by its friends, it is dreaded by its enemies.
4. It is ever a peaceable and united nation: the blessings of religion, and a wholesome and paternal government, are so fully felt and prized, that all find it their interest to preserve and defend them. Harmony, peace, piety, and strength, are the stability of such times. May Britain know and value them!