Meditations on the Second Book of Chronicles (ch.1-20)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2 Chronicles 1-9 Solomon's Reign.
2 Chronicles 1 A King According to God's Counsels
2 Chronicles 2 Solomon and Huram (Hiram)
2 Chronicles 3-5 The Temple.
2 Chronicles 6-7 Solomon's Prayer
2 Chronicles 8-9 Solomon's Relations With the Nations
2 Chronicles 10-36 Solomon's Successors, The Era of the Prophets
2 Chronicles 10-12 Rehoboam
2 Chronicles 13 Abijah
2 Chronicles 14-16 .....Asa.
2 Chronicles 14 Rest and Strength
2 Chronicles 15 Strength and Purification
2 Chronicles 16 Asa's Decline
2 Chronicles 17-20 .....Jehoshaphat.
2 Chronicles 17 The Teaching of the Law
2 Chronicles 18 The Covenant with Ahab
2 Chronicles 19 Jehoshaphat and Jehu the Prophet.
2 Chronicles 20 War Again
2 Chronicles 21 Jehoram.
2 Chronicles 22 Ahaziah
2 Chronicles 23-24 .....Joash
2 Chronicles 23 The Accession of Joash to the Throne
2 Chronicles 24 The Reign of Joash
2 Chronicles 25 Amaziah.
2 Chronicles 26 Uzziah
2 Chronicles 27 Jotham
2 Chronicles 28 Ahaz.
2 Chronicles 29-32 .....Hezekiah
2 Chronicles 29 Purification
2 Chronicles 30 The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread
2 Chronicles 31 The Order of the House of God
2 Chronicles 32 Hezekiah's Three Trials.
2 Chronicles 33 Manasseh, Amon
2 Chronicles 34-35 .....Josiah
2 Chronicles 34 The Word of God Recovered
2 Chronicles 35 The Passover and Worship
2 Chronicles 36 The Last Kings
2 Chronicles 1-9
The second book of Chronicles continues on from the first book without transition; originally they formed a single account in the Hebrew manuscripts. We have previously remarked the same thing in the second book of Kings about these artificial divisions which are not part of the inspired Word. In fact, the account of the Chronicles is a continuous one until the end of Solomon's reign (2 Chron. 10), and if we are looking for a moral division in our subject, it will not properly be introduced until 2 Chron. 11.
Let us recall a truth, already mentioned many times in First Chronicles: in Chronicles God gives us, in the form of types, an overview of His counsels concerning Christ's royalty, counsels prefigured in the history of David and Solomon. Solomon himself symbolizes the future reign of wisdom and peace that will be inaugurated by the Lord's coming. This is why, as we have noted in 1 Chronicles in the history of David, Solomon's reign does not present any failures in Chronicles and even with the greatest carefulness, one cannot discover there the least allusion to the king's faults.
In the preceding book we have seen how Solomon was elevated to his father's throne before he was established on his own throne. These two facts speak very clearly to us of Christ's present heavenly kingdom and of His earthly kingdom which is yet to come. The account before us will present this latter to us, and here we will not find, as in Kings, a responsible and fallible sovereign, but rather the most perfect figure possible of a government of wisdom and of peace administered by the king according to the counsels of God.
2 Chronicles 1
A King According to God's Counsels
One cannot sufficiently emphasize, at the beginning of this book, that Solomon's reign in Chronicles has an entirely different character than that of Solomon in the book of Kings. His righteousness exercised in judgment on his father's enemies- Adonijah who had opposed David, Shimei who had insulted and mocked him, Joab whose acts of violence and unrighteousness he had tolerated without being able to rebuke them-all this is omitted in Chronicles (cf. 1 Kings 1-2). The incident of the two prostitutes (1 Kings 3: 16-28) is also passed over in complete silence, for if this scene shows us Solomon's wisdom, it shows us his wisdom in the service of righteousness in order to rule equitably. The king does not pursue the investigation further, and does not rebuke or cut off even the most guilty of these prostitutes. Chronicles does not present Solomon's reign according to the character we have just mentioned. It is above all a reign of peace, presided over by wisdom. It is no less true that during the millennium "every morning [He] will destroy all the wicked of the land," and that prostitution will be neither tolerated nor even mentioned; but peace will reign. It is this that constitutes the subject of the first chapters of this book.
From the very first words of our chapter (2 Chron. 1: 1), Solomon is presented to us as strengthening himself in his kingdom, whereas in 1 Kings 2: 46 the kingdom was established in his hand after the judgment of all the personal enemies of David. Solomon strengthens himself here with his full personal authority , but nonetheless he remains the dependent man, for if he were not, he would not be the type of the True King according to God's counsels. "Ask of me," He is urged in Psalm 2, "and I will give Thee...for Thy possession the ends of the earth." This is why in our passage we find: "And Jehovah his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly." So too, as long as He retains the kingdom, the Lord remains the dependent Man; when He shall have concluded its administration, He will faithfully give it up into the hands of the One who entrusted it to Him and "then the Son also Himself shall be placed in subjection to Him who put all things in subjection to Him" (1 Cor. 15: 28). Will any earthly kingdom ever resemble this marvelous reign during which for a period of a thousand years-without a single shortcoming, without one denial of justice, without any decrease of peace-Christ will reign over His earthly people and over all the nations?
Dear Christian reader, let's get used to considering the Lord in this way for His own sake, and not only for the resources which He gives to meet our needs. This is the most lofty form of contemplation to which we are called, for we are set, so to say, in the company of our God to take delight in the perfections of this adorable Person. How numerous are those passages of Scripture that reveal, not what we possess in virtue of the work of Christ, but rather, what Christ is for God in virtue of His own perfections. God opens heaven on this Man and says: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I have found My delight." And when He was obliged to close heaven to Him at the moment when He was making propitiation for our sins, He says: "But Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall have no end." And again: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom: Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions." In virtue of the perfection of His obedience and His humiliation, God "highly exalted Him, and granted Him a name, that which is above every name." This Man is "the Firstborn of all creation"; He has all glory and all supremacy (Col. 1: 15-20). It is because He laid down His life that He might take it again that the Father loves Him. In all this we find nothing of that which He has done for us. But in virtue of His accomplished work we are made capable of taking an interest in His Person and all His perfections. Let us cultivate this intimacy. Doubtless for our souls the outstanding trait of this adorable character is summed up in these words: "He loved me, and gave Himself for me"; whatever knowledge I may gain about Him, it always brings me back to His love. Thus, when He is presented to us as "the Prince of the kings of the earth," we cry out: "To Him who loves us!" But what I want to say is that what He is in Himself is an unfailing source of joy for the believer. Nothing else so effectively takes him out of his natural egoism and out of the petty preoccupations of earth; he has found the source of his eternal bliss in a perfect Object, with whom he is in intimate and direct relationship.
In verses 2 to 6, we have the scene at Gibeon, but without the imperfections which spoil its beauty in 1 Kings 3: 1-4. In our passage the "only" which denotes a fault has disappeared: "Only the people sacrificed in high places"; "Only he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places." Here the scene is legitimate, if I may so express myself, and Gibeon is no longer "the great high place" (1 Kings 3: 4); on the contrary, it is the place where "was God's tent of meeting which Moses the servant of Jehovah had made in the wilderness...and the brazen altar that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of Jehovah" (2 Chron. 1: 3-5). Not a shadow of anything that would discredit! Solomon sacrifices on the altar, the token of atonement, where the people could meet their God. Was there anything that could be reproached in that? Not at all. No, doubtless the place was only provisional while awaiting the construction of the temple; doubtless also, God's throne, the ark, was not to be found there, for from this time on it was established in the city of David; but in Chronicles Solomon comes to Gibeon with his people to inaugurate the reign of peace which God could introduce on the basis of sacrifice. Indeed, Second Chronicles, as we have already seen, speaks to us much more of the reign of peace than of the reign of righteousness.
In verses 7 to 12, Solomon asks God for wisdom, and here again our account differs significantly from that in Kings (1 Kings 3: 5-15). In our passage, Solomon is not "a little child" who "know[s] not to go out and to come in." There is no question that First Chronicles refers to him as a little child, but as we have noted in studying that book, from a typical point of view his youth corresponds to the position Christ occupies in heaven on His Father's throne before the inauguration of His earthly kingdom. In Kings, Solomon is ignorant and lacks discernment "between good and bad" (1 Kings 3: 9). In Chronicles this flaw has totally disappeared: the king says that he needs wisdom to go out and come in before the people and to govern them. For this he addresses the One who has made him king and upon whom he is entirely dependent; this will also be Christ's relationship as Man and King with His God. But what is still more striking is that in our passage the question of responsibility is completely omitted, in contrast to 1 Kings 3: 14: "If thou wilt walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments," says God, "then I will prolong thy days." In Chronicles, Solomon's responsibility is mentioned only once (1 Chron. 28: 7-10), to depict Christ's dependence as Man, and not in any way to suppose that he might be found at fault. The book of Kings is completely different (see 1 Kings 3: 14; 1 Kings 2: 2, 6, 9; 1 Kings 6: 11). Again, let us note that in 1 Kings God said to Solomon: "Because thou hast asked this thing...behold, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart" (1 Kings 3: 11, 12). In 2 Chronicles God gives him wisdom and understanding "because this was in thy heart." A type of Christ, he receives these things as man, but his heart did not need to be fashioned to receive them.
We shall not fail to see new proofs at every step of the marvelous precision with which the inspired Word pursues its object.
Verses 14-17. In the fact that Solomon accumulated much silver and gold at Jerusalem, and that his merchants brought him horses from Egypt, "and so they brought them by their means, for all the kings of the Hittites and for the kings of Syria," some have thought to see proof of Solomon's unfaithfulness to the prescriptions of the law in Deuteronomy 17: 16-17. The study of Chronicles causes us to reject such an interpretation. Here, Egypt is tributary to Solomon who treats it equitably. He lets foreign nations profit from the same advantages, and so it shall be under Christ's future reign. The same remark applies, as we shall see in 2 Chronicles 8: 11, to Pharaoh's daughter.
2 Chronicles 2
Solomon and Huram (Hiram)
Here, as in all these chapters, we find King Solomon portrayed from the standpoint of the perfection of his reign. The nations are subject to him. The men to bear burdens, the stone cutters, and the overseers are taken exclusively from among the Canaanites living in the midst of Israel, whom the people had not succeeded in driving out (2 Chron. 2: 1-2; 17-18; 2 Chron. 8: 7-9): "But of the children of Israel, of them did Solomon make no bondmen for his work." Thus a condition of things is realized under this glorious reign which, on account of the unfaithfulness of the people, had never existed previously. All their former mingling with the Canaanites has disappeared, and from now on the Lord's people are a free people that cannot be brought into servitude. Meanwhile the strangers whom unfaithful Israel had not exterminated from their land in time past are the only ones subjected to bondage, while the nations, possessing the riches of the earth and personified by the king of Tyre, are accepted as collaborators in this great work.
Here Solomon explains to Huram the meaning and significance of the construction of the temple, and he does so in a different way than in the book of Kings: "Behold, I build a house unto the name of Jehovah my God to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, and for the continual arrangement of the showbread, and for the morning and evening burnt-offerings and on the sabbaths and on the new moons, and on the set feasts of Jehovah our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel" (v. 4). Here the temple is the place where God is to be approached in worship, a place open not only to Israel, but also to the nations whom Huram represents. The temple is so much the place of worship in Solomon's mind, that only burnt offerings are mentioned here, without any reference to sin offerings; sweet incense of fragrant drugs, the symbol of praise, occupies the first place. When it is a question in Ezekiel 45 of the millennial service in the temple, whether for Israel, or for the "prince" of the house of David, Christ's viceroy on the earth, we find the sin offering, for all are in need of it. Here the thought is more general. Solomon declares to Huram that this great house which he is building is dedicated to the God of Israel "for great is our God above all gods. But who is able to build Him a house, seeing the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him?" Thus, this sovereign God, this God who is supreme and omnipresent, cannot limit His kingdom to the people of Israel. As for Solomon himself, he knows that he is only a weak human likeness of the King according to God's counsels: "Who am I," he says, "that I should build Him a house?" Nevertheless he is there "to burn sacrifice before Him." He presents himself as king and priest, without any mediator; he himself offers pure incense, as the people's mediator, a select incense which rises with the smoke of the burnt offering, a perfect, well-pleasing odor to God, and "This is an ordinance forever to Israel."
Solomon entrusts to Huram the direction of the work, while he himself is its executor, though confiding it into the hands of the nations. So it will be at the beginning of the millennium, according to what we are told about the temple in Zechariah 6: 15 and about the walls of Jerusalem in Isaiah 60: 10.
The sustenance of Huram's workers here depends entirely on the king: He is the one who offers and appoints it (v. 10), and Huram has nothing more to do than to receive it. It is otherwise in 1 Kings 5: 9-11 where Huram requests it and Solomon grants it.
Huram (v. 11) acknowledges in writing (That which is written is an abiding declaration and is always available for reference): "Jehovah loved His people" in establishing Solomon as king over them, and he blesses "Jehovah the God of Israel," but as Creator of the heavens and the earth-lovely picture of the praise of the nations who, in the age yet to come will submit themselves to the universal dominion of the Most High, Possessor of the heavens and the earth, represented by the true Son of David in the midst of His people Israel. Thus blessing will rise up to God Himself from those who, formerly idolaters, will be subjected to the dominion of Christ, the King of the nations.
Huram is prompt to execute all that the king requires, and is prompt also to accept Solomon's gifts. In Chronicles we do not see him disdainfully calling the cities which Solomon gives him "Cabul" (cf. 1 Kings 9: 13), and in this way the fault committed by Solomon in alienating the Lord's inheritance is passed over in silence. Here on part of the representative of the nations there is only thankfulness and voluntary submission; he is prompt to accept and to receive, for to refuse the gifts of such a king would be only pride and rebellion.
2 Chronicles 3-5
2 Chronicles 3 and 2 Chronicles 4 correspond to 1 Kings 6 and 1 Kings 7, but with the difference that here the temple has a special significance. Whereas in Kings it is on the one hand the place where God dwells with His own, and on the other hand the center of His government in the midst of Israel, in Chronicles, as we have already noted, it is the place where one approaches God in order to worship Him, the "house of sacrifice" (2 Chron. 7: 12). In speaking of a place of approach we are not alluding to the sinner who comes by the blood of Christ to be justified before God; we are thinking of the worshipper who enters by that same way into the sanctuary. Thus in the Epistle to the Romans we see the sinner justified by Christ's blood, whereas the Epistle to the Hebrews introduces us into the most holy place by that same way. The fact that the temple is presented as the place of approach explains all the details of this chapter. Here we again find the brazen altar and the veil (2 Chron. 3: 14; 2 Chron. 4: 1), omitted in the description of the temple in the book of Kings; on the other hand, the priests' dwellings mentioned in Kings are missing in Chronicles. The prophet Ezekiel, who does not give us the typical picture but rather the actual description of Christ's millennial reign, in his description of the temple (Ezek. 40-45) brings together the characters of the books of Kings and Chronicles. There we find the altar, the door of the sanctuary, the dwelling places of the priests, and the attributes of God's government all together (Ezek. 40: 47; Ezek. 41: 22; Ezek. 41: 6; Ezek. 41: 18). In fact, Ezekiel's temple sets forth Jehovah, Christ, dwelling in the midst of a people of priests, exercising His righteous government, and become the center of worship for both Israel and the nations; whereas the books of Kings and Chronicles, in order that we may better appreciate His glories, present them to us one after the other.
Other striking details confirm what we have just said. Chronicles mentions neither the sin offering nor the trespass offering; there the altar is solely the place of burnt offerings and peace offerings. Ezekiel, by contrast, insists upon the sin offering as the preparation for all the other offerings (Ezek. 43: 25-27), and then names them not omitting even one (Ezek. 45: 25).
A few more words about the brazen altar: This altar of Solomon's has a very important place in Chronicles. It is not the altar of the wilderness, kept at Gibeon, figure of the way in which God comes to meet the sinner and remains just while justifying him; but rather, it is the altar of burnt offering without which one may not approach Him. The dimensions of the altar at Gibeon are quite different from those of Solomon's altar: the first is five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high. Solomon's altar (2 Chron. 4: 1) is twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and ten cubits high. The two principal dimensions are exactly the same as those of the most holy place (2 Chron. 3: 8; 1 Kings 6: 20; Ezek. 41: 4). The altar, Christ, is perfectly suited to the sanctuary; the glories of the most holy place correspond to the greatness and perfection of the sacrifice represented by the altar. Moreover, as we have said, the altar being especially the expression of worship here, it also has the same measurements as the sanctuary; without being perfect in all its dimensions, it is worthy, in the highest degree, of the millennial scene which it represents.
Everything pertaining to Christ's millennial government and even to the emblems of this government is completely absent in Chronicles; for example, the house of the forest of Lebanon, seat of the throne of judgment, as well as the king's palace, and also the cherubim, special symbols of government which are found throughout the book of Kings, on the walls of the temple and even on the vessels of the courtyard.
Even when it is a question of Solomon's person and his deeds, the description which Chronicles gives is intentionally simplified. There the king is presented to us, not increasing in greatness, as in the book of Kings, but established on the throne according to God's counsels, endowed with perfect wisdom, surrounded by riches and glory. Not a single detail is given us about the exercise of his wisdom, whether in discerning evil, whether in judging, or whether in teaching that which is good by his words and writings (see 1 Kings 3: 16-28; 1 Kings 4: 29-34). Solomon is set before our eyes on his throne, in a posture, so to say, unchangeable; peace reigns, the counsels of God concerning His King are fulfilled, and this King Himself is God.
This scene of peace and well-being has its starting point on Mount Moriah, a detail, let us carefully note, which is missing in the book of Kings: "And Solomon began to build the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem on mount Moriah, where he appeared to David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite" (2 Chron. 3: 1). It was at Moriah, first of all, that Abraham had offered Isaac on the altar and received him again in figure by resurrection; there, all that the holiness of God demanded had been provided. Next, it was at Moriah where, on the occasion of David's failure, grace gloried over judgment. Solomon's reign of peace is thus established after resurrection, on the principle of grace, just as the future reign of the risen Christ will be based entirely on the grace that triumphed at the cross. Following the sacrifice of Moriah and in virtue of the sovereign monarch's personal perfection, the latter may from this time forward enter his temple. The eternal gates will lift up their heads to let the King of glory pass. He will have a rich entry into His own kingdom. Only in Chronicles do we find the immense height of this porch (2 Chron. 3: 4; cf. Ps. 24: 7, 9; Mal. 3: 1; Hag. 2: 7; 2 Peter 1: 11, 17).
One more characteristic detail: here we see only palm trees and chains on the walls of the house; palm trees are the symbols of triumphant peace; the chains, which also ornament the pillars here, are not mentioned anywhere else except on the shoulder pieces and the breastplate of the high priest. They firmly unite the various parts and appear to symbolize the solidity of the bond uniting the people of God. There are no more partially opened flowers, symbol of a reign that is beginning to blossom out, as in the book of Kings; here the reign is definitely established; there are no more cherubim hidden under the gold of the walls; they appear only on the veil; there are no more secret thoughts, no more hidden counsels of God; they are now made manifest in the person of Christ, but fixed on the veil-His flesh delivered to death. In the most holy place, two cherubim standing with wings extended face "toward the house" (2 Chron. 3: 13), a fact mentioned only here, and contemplate the order of the people of God established from henceforth on. The pillars Jachin and Boaz ("He shall establish" and "In Him is strength") are essential to this scene, emblems of a reign established from this time on and dependent entirely on the power which is in Christ.
Another interesting detail: Solomon "made ten tables, and placed them in the temple, five on the right hand and five on the left" (2 Chron. 4: 8). 1 Kings 7: 48 mentions only one. Is it not striking to see the loaves of shewbread thus multiplied tenfold? Solomon is viewed as seated "on the throne of Jehovah" (1 Chron. 29: 23); Israel increases under his reign; they ever remain the same tribes, but infinitely increased in the eyes of God, who beholds them and governs them. The true Solomon, Christ Himself, is the author of this multiplication (2 Chron. 4: 8). In the millennium Israel will be complete, as presented to God by Christ, an offering well-pleasing to God.
In 2 Chronicles 5 the ark is brought up from the city of David to the magnificent house which Solomon has prepared for it. The tabernacle and all its vessels, which were at Gibeon, rejoin the ark in the temple: thus the remembrance of the wilderness journey ever remains before God. We are not told of the vessels of the court; most importantly, we are not told of the brazen altar that was set up by Moses and where God in grace came to meet a sinful people. This wilderness altar is replaced by Solomon's altar, itself corresponding to the altar David set up on the threshing-floor of Ornan. Solomon's altar is mentioned in passing in the book of Kings only when all has been finished (1 Kings 8: 22). Kings, as we have said, has another object in view than worship. The ark has at last found a place of rest, but the millennial scene, which these chapters pre-figure, is not the eternal, final rest for God's throne. The staves have not disappeared, although their position denotes that the ark will no longer journey. The entire scene of millennial blessing described here will end when the new heavens and the new earth are established.
The passage from verse 11 to 14 of our chapter is missing in the book of Kings: "And it came to pass when the priests were come out of the holy place (for all the priests that were present were hallowed without observing the courses; and the Levites the singers, all they of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, clad in byssus, with cymbals and lutes and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets),-it came to pass when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one voice to be heard in praising and thanking Jehovah; and when they lifted up their voice with trumpets, and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised Jehovah: For He is good, for His loving-kindness endureth forever; that then the house, the house of Jehovah, was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not stand to do their service because of the cloud; for the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of God." This is the appropriate picture of millennial worship when the "song of triumph and praise" shall be sounded (cf. 2 Chron. 20: 22). There the Lord is praised "for He is good, for His loving-kindness endureth forever." (As to this song, see also: 1 Chron. 16: 41; 2 Chron. 7: 3, 6; Ps. 106: 1; Ps. 107: 1; Ps. 118; Ps. 136; Jer. 33: 11). All the instruments of music resound, just as in Psalm 150 which describes the same scene. Here we have properly the dedication of the altar (2 Chron. 7: 9) preceding the feast of tabernacles, but only Chronicles shows us the glory of the Lord filling the house twice. In fact, there were two feasts, one of seven days, the dedication of the altar, and one of eight days, the dedication of the house or the feast of tabernacles (2 Chron. 7: 9). Both are found here, with the same hymn and the same presence of God's glory in His temple, a subject most appropriate to this book which speaks of worship and of the fulfillment of God's counsels concerning His reign.
In Chronicles the dedication of the altar takes the place of the great day of atonement (cf. Lev. 23: 26-36), while in Zechariah this day must precede the establishment of the messianic reign. Here it is not a question of afflicting their souls as on the day of atonement (Lev. 16: 29), but of rejoicing, for by means of the altar God's loving-kindness which endures forever has ultimately brought the people to Himself.
The song: "His loving-kindness endureth forever," so characteristic of the beginning of the millennial reign, is repeated in this book of Chronicles both times when the glory of Jehovah fills the temple; this hymn is completely absent in 1 Kings. The scene is much more complete here: the counsels of God as to the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth are in type at last accomplished. "The glory of Jehovah had filled the house of God " (cf. 1 Kings 8: 11). The name of God often replaces that of Jehovah in these chapters, an allusion to His relationship with the nations which acknowledge the God of Israel as their God.
In conclusion let us say that in the presence of all the differences in details between 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, every believer will be convinced of the wisdom and divine order which invariably preside in these accounts. The smallest omission as well as every word added in the sacred text are the fruit of an overall plan destined to display the various glories of Christ. We are far from having exhausted the enumeration of these differences; others may discover additional differences with real profit for their souls.
2 Chronicles 6-7
Many important particulars differentiate this portion of our book from the corresponding chapter of Kings-1 Kings 8. In the latter chapter, the feast, although prolonged for fourteen days, in actual fact corresponds only to the feast of tabernacles. It is called "the dedication of the house" (cf. 1 Kings 8: 63); but on the eighth day, the great day of the feast, the king sent the people away (1 Kings 8: 65, 66). The passage in Chronicles goes much further: it insists on the fact that "on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly" (2 Chron. 7: 9); thus it introduces the type of ultimate general rest connected with the day of resurrection which the eighth day prefigures. In this way, the blessing is not restricted to the people of Israel alone, but belongs to all who have part in the day of resurrection.
Our passage in Chronicles offers another very interesting observation: Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord, in the presence of the whole congregation of Israel, "and spread forth his hands. For Solomon had made a platform of bronze, five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and upon it he stood, and he kneeled down on his knees before the whole congregation of Israel" and spread forth his hands towards the heavens. The entire portion of this passage within the quotation marks is lacking in the book of Kings. The platform Solomon made and on which he stood in the presence of all the people had exactly the same dimensions as the brazen altar in Exodus 27: 1. "And thou shalt make," the Lord had said to Moses, "the altar of acacia wood, five cubits the length, and five cubits the breadth; the altar shall be square; and the height thereof three cubits."
The wilderness altar was, as we have already said, one of the vessels not mentioned as having been brought from Gibeon to the temple (2 Chron. 5: 5 & 1 Kings 8: 4), for a new altar had been constructed there. But could the first altar be absolutely excluded? That was impossible! The altar of Moses represented solely the place where God could meet the sinner. A type of the cross, it was there that God could manifest Himself as righteous in justifying the guilty, and it was there that His love was in perfect accord with His righteousness to accomplish salvation. The brazen altar formed the basis of all of the Lord's relationships with his people; it was, so to speak, the first door of access to the sanctuary. Nevertheless our book passes over it in silence (not over its memorial, as we shall see) for the work introducing the reign of the King of peace is considered here as completely finished. The altar of the tabernacle, the altar of atonement, in Chronicles is merely the starting point for leading the people to the altar of the temple, that is to say, to the altar of worship, the essential characteristic of Solomon's altar in this book. Thus the first altar of bronze has disappeared, only to reappear here in form of a platform, as a pedestal on which Solomon is placed in the sight of all the people. The place where the sin offering was sacrificed becomes the place where Solomon-Christ-is glorified. "Now," says the Lord, speaking of the cross, "is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 13: 31). This altar, representing final salvation forever for every believer-for for us there is no more sin offering: the cross of Christ henceforth remains void of its burden of iniquity-this altar has yet another meaning: it is the basis upon which the Son of man's glory is established. Because of His sacrifice the reins of government are placed in His hands, and He is presented as the Leader of His people.
But something else strikes us here: Solomon on his platform in reality is much more an intercessor, an advocate for Israel, than a king. There, on the platform he bows the knee and spreads forth his hands in supplication toward heaven. And remarkably, here he is not, as in 1 Kings 8: 54-61, a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, blessing God on behalf of the people and blessing the people on behalf of God, rising from before the altar to stand and bless: no, on his platform which once was an altar he assumes only the place of an intercessor, praying for the people who through their future conduct, their sin already to be seen, would bring to naught all God's counsels, if indeed His counsels could be brought to naught.
This role that Solomon filled on behalf of Israel is the very role the Lord fills today on our behalf. "If any one sin, we have a patron with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world" (1 John 2: 1-2). His office as Advocate is based on the propitiation which He has accomplished, just as Solomon's intercession was inseparable from this platform, mysterious and marvelous figure of the altar.
At the end of Solomon's prayer we find (2 Chron. 6: 41-42) these words which are absent in the book of Kings: "And now, arise, Jehovah Elohim, into Thy resting-place, Thou, and the ark of Thy strength: let Thy priests, Jehovah Elohim, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in Thy goodness. Jehovah Elohim, turn not away the face of Thine Anointed: remember mercies to David Thy servant." These words are taken from Psalm 132. In this song, the object of David's afflictions was to find a habitation for the Mighty One of Jacob. This habitation had now been found, but in the imperfection which Solomon's request reveals. God in that Psalm then responds to the king's desire expressed in Chronicles. He shows him Zion, His house, His priesthood, His Anointed, as He sees them in their eternal perfection in answer to sufferings of Christ, the true David. God's rest is still to come, but here Solomon shows us that scene we anticipate.
Next in 2 Chronicles 7 we find in verses 1-3 and 6-7 a passage which is lacking in the book of Kings. "The fire came down from the heavens and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of Jehovah filled the house." God sets His seal and His approval on the inauguration of this reign of peace; His glory fills the house which has been prepared for Him; all the people bow themselves with their faces to the ground, and extol the Lord with worship and praise. This passage tallies with and admirably harmonizes with the character of the millennial worship, as presented in Chronicles!
Verses 12 to 22 of 2 Chronicles 7 differ little from the account of Kings. Nevertheless it should be noted that here, as in 2 Chronicles 1: 7, the Lord's appearance to Solomon has a character perhaps more direct than in the book of Kings, for it is not said that God appeared to him "in a dream" (v. 12). The house which the Lord had chosen is called "a house of sacrifice" according to its character as a place of worship which we have observed all through this book. God's free choice in grace is also emphasized more in our chapters: God chose Jerusalem, chose David, chose the house (2 Chron. 6: 6; 2 Chron. 7: 12). In response to the office of advocate and intercessor which Solomon had taken in the preceding chapter, God gives him a full answer (vv. 13-14) which is absent in Kings. The consequences of the responsibility of the people and their leaders are exposed completely in this passage, as they had been in Solomon's prayer, but also the certainty that, by virtue of this intercession, God would forgive their sin and heal their land. And He assures His Beloved by this single word, omitted in the book of Kings: "Now mine eyes shall be open," etc. From the moment Solomon appears before God, the answer to his intercession is sure and, however delayed it must be on account of the people's unfaithfulness, it is no less real a fact granted at the request of the Lord's anointed.
For the second time in these books, Solomon's responsibility is mentioned (vv. 17-18. See 1 Chron. 28: 7); but with the great difference that Chronicles in no way shows, as does the first book of Kings, that Solomon failed therein. Thus in our book his responsibility remains a responsibility to the glory of God, so that in type we see absolutely nothing lacking in the king of the counsels of God.
2 Chronicles 8-9
Solomon's Relations With the Nations
These two chapters describe King Solomon's relations with the Gentiles. 2 Chronicles 2 has already referred to the Canaanites and to Huram, king of Tyre, but only in relation to the construction of the temple, the work to which all were called to contribute. The first event related is the peaceful conquest, taking possession of and subjugating all the cities of the surrounding nations. Here we find a detail which is very interesting for understanding Chronicles. The first book of Kings (2 Chron. 9: 11-14) tells us that Solomon gave Hiram, the king of Tyre, "twenty cities in the land of Galilee." Hiram despised this gift and called these cities the "land of Cabul" (good for nothing); and we have noted that if, on the one hand, the territory of the promised land never had any value for the world, on the other hand Solomon committed positive unfaithfulness in alienating Jehovah's land. As always in this book, Solomon's sin is passed over in silence. Such omissions, repeated over and over again, ought to show rationalists the futility of their criticisms in presence of a design of which they seem unconscious of. Instead of seeing Solomon giving cities to Huram, in verse 2 we see the latter giving cities to Solomon. A day is coming when the world, which Tyre represents in the Word, will come with its riches and acknowledge itself tributary to Christ, and offer its finest cities as dwelling places for the children of Israel. Solomon fortifies them, surrounds them with walls, equips them with gates and bars-in a word, prepares them for defense. There, too, he concentrates his armed forces, not to use them for warfare, but, knowing the unsubmissive heart of the nations, he prepares this power so that peace can rule. During his long reign of forty years we never see Solomon engaged in any war of conquest, but the weight of his scepter must be felt so that the nations will submit. The Word tells us, speaking of Christ: "Thou shalt break them with a scepter of iron." During the millennium no nation will dare to lift the head in presence of the King, and He will have many other means, too, of making them feel the weight of His arm (see Zech. 14: 12-16).
All the Canaanites remaining in the land of Israel also are subjected to Solomon (vv. 7-10), whereas the children of Israel are men of war and free, but free to serve the King.
Verse 11 tells us of Solomon's relations with Pharaoh's daughter: "And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David to the house which he had built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy to which the ark of Jehovah has come." Many have thought that Solomon's union with the daughter of the king of Egypt was an act of unfaithfulness to the prescriptions of the law. Forgetfulness of the typical meaning of the Word may lead to such mistakes. Would we say that Joseph was unfaithful in marrying Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On (Gen. 41: 50)? that Moses was unfaithful in marrying Zipporah, daughter of the priest of Midian (Ex. 2: 21)?
Always in their relations with the Canaanites, even long before Israel's entrance into the Promised Land, the Pharaohs had given their daughters to various kings of these countries. For the king of Egypt it was a means of subjecting them, for they paid tribute to Pharaoh in exchange for the honor of being his sons-in-law. But never did the king of Egypt give his own daughter to the kings of the neighboring nations; to them he granted his concubines' daughters who had no right to the throne of Egypt and who were not of royal blood through their mothers. "The daughter of Pharaoh" was the daughter of the queen, his legitimate wife, and according to the Egyptian constitution she had the right to the throne in the absence of a son and heir. This daughter, the daughter of Pharaoh-not "one of his daughters"-was given to Solomon. Such a union was the affirmation of Solomon's eventual rights to the land of Egypt. It subjected Pharaoh's royalty to that of Israel's king who could thus become the ruler to whom Egypt must submit; evident proof that the most ancient of earth's kingdoms was consenting to submit to the yoke of Israel's great king. This fact has very real importance as one of the features of Christ's millennial dominion. A word added here is not found in the book of Kings: Solomon said, "My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy to which the ark of Jehovah has come." A daughter of the nations, however ancient and powerful her people might be, could not live there where the ark had even momentarily dwelt. Despite the union of the King of Peace with the nations, they could not enjoy the same intimacy with him as the chosen people. The ark was Jehovah's throne in relation to Israel; God had never chosen Egypt, but He had chosen Israel as His inheritance, Jerusalem as His seat, the temple as His dwelling place, and David and Solomon to be the shepherds of His people.
This people, today despised and rejected on account of their disobedience, will one day on account of the election by grace again find earthly blessing in Christ's kingdom, and in the Lord's presence. The great nations of the past, Egypt and Assyria, will receive a generous portion, but not that of absolute nearness (Isa. 19: 23-25); they will be called the Lord's people and the work of the Lord's hands, but not His inheritance, as is Israel. Doubtless the fierce oppressors of God's people in former days will have a place of privilege and blessing during Christ's reign, but it will be becoming to the glory of the King, once scorned and set at naught by the nations who oppressed His people, that His people receive highest honors in the presence of their former enemies. And will it not be the same for the faithful Church, when those of the synagogue of Satan will come to bow down at her feet and acknowledge that Jesus has loved her?
Verses 12-16 mention all the religious and priestly service as set before the eyes of the subjected nations and as having great importance for them. Everything is regulated according to the commandment of Moses and the ordinance of David. Sacrifices are offered ("as the duty of every day required"), but only the burnt offerings are mentioned. This is in accord with the design of the book, as we have already said more than once. This passage (vv. 13-16) is absent in the first book of Kings.
In verses 17-18 we once again find the king of Tyre's contribution to the splendor of Solomon's reign. It is no longer just a matter of his collaboration in the work of the temple, but one of contributing to the outward opulence of this glorious reign under which gold was esteemed as stones in Jerusalem.
In 2 Chron. 9 the history of the queen of Sheba, so full of instruction and already dealt with in meditations on the book of Kings, closes the account of Solomon's intimate relations with the nations. We will limit ourselves to a few additional remarks.
Huram placed himself at Solomon's disposal out of affection for David, the king of grace, whom he had personally known; the Queen of Sheba is attracted by the wisdom and fame of the King, whose glorious and peaceful reign is the object of universal admiration. The word of others convinces her to come and see with her own eyes. She "heard of the fame of Solomon." 1 Kings 10: 1 adds: "in connection with the name of Jehovah"; but here Solomon, seated "on the throne of Jehovah" (1 Chron. 29: 23), concentrates, so to say, the divine character in his person. We find the same thing in verse 8: "Blessed be Jehovah thy God, who delighted in thee, to set thee on His throne, to be king to Jehovah thy God!" whereas 1 Kings 10: 9, the corresponding passage, simply says, "to set thee on the throne of Israel." Thus it is Jehovah whom Solomon represents in Chronicles. One could multiply such details to show that they all work together, harmonizing in the smallest shades of difference in the picture given us here of Christ's millennial reign.
The Queen of Sheba needed nothing beyond what she had heard to make her hasten to Jerusalem; nevertheless she "gave no credit to their words" until she had come and her eyes had seen (2 Chron. 9: 6). This will indeed be characteristic of believers in the days yet to come; their faith will spring from sight, whereas today, "Blessed they who have not seen and have believed" (John 20: 29).
If the queen's joy was deep in presence of the splendors of this great reign, can her joy be compared to ours in the present day? Is it not said of us: "Whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom though not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory" (1 Peter 1: 8)?
All the details of this incomparable reign are of interest to the Queen of Sheba; she rejoices in all, sees all, enumerates all-from the apparel of his servants to the marvelous ramp built by Solomon to connect his palace with the temple. Every treasure flows to Jerusalem, the center to which the king was drawing the riches of the entire world. "All the kings of Arabia" and the governors of various districts bring him gold, spices (which played such a considerable role in oriental courts), precious stones, and rare sandalwood. Gold in particular, that emblem of divine righteousness, came from all parts; the very footstool of the throne was made of gold (2 Chron. 9: 18). The king's feet rested on pure gold when he sat on the throne of his kingdom. "Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of thy throne," Psalm 89: 14 tells us (cf. Ps. 97: 2); but it also adds: "loving-kindness and truth go before thy face." It was his presence which all the kings of the earth sought after, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart (v. 23). "To behold the face of the king" was the supreme privilege; whoever was admitted to his presence could count himself happy. "Happy...thy servants," said the queen, "who stand continually before thee." "Blessed," it says again, "is the people that know the shout of joy: they walk, O Jehovah in the light of Thy countenance" (Ps. 89: 15). To see the king's face is to be admitted to his intimacy. Supreme honor for the nations of the future, but so much the more our present day privilege! Ah, how such favor humbles us! We feel our nothingness before this glorious presence; we bow in the dust before such righteousness, wisdom and goodness. But here is what is said to us: "Happy", says the queen, "are these thy servants, who...hear thy wisdom." It is not the voice of great waters and loud thunder, but a voice more gentle than the myrrh-scented breeze; a voice that goes through us; the voice of the Beloved, of Jedidiah, the voice of love! All these sentiments come from seeking His face and being admitted to His presence. And as happened with the queen of Sheba, there will be no more spirit in us. There is wonder and worship in the presence of such wisdom, holiness, righteousness, and glory; a very humble love, for it immediately senses that it is not to be compared with this love; the whole heart is ecstatic and longs only to lose itself in the contemplation of its cherished object. Such were the thoughts of the Shulamite when she contemplated the most perfect of the sons of men. Her eyes saw the King in his beauty (Isa. 33: 17).
Verses 27-28, repeating what was told us in 2 Chronicles 1: 15, 17 (cf. 1 Kings 10: 27-29), describe the reign as it was established from its beginning and as in Chronicles it remains until the end. According to the character of this book, it has come up to all that God was expecting of it. One sees from verse 26 that Solomon's chariots and horses were not an infraction of the law of Moses (Deut. 17: 16), but a means of maintaining his reign of peace over all the nations: "He ruled over all the kings from the river as far as the land of the Philistines, and up to the border of Egypt" (2 Chron. 9: 26). These limits of the kingdom of Solomon in Israel correspond to those which God's counsels had assigned to His people in Joshua 1: 4; they had never before been attained nor have they ever been since. They will only be realized, and that in even greater measure, in the future reign of Christ.
Thus in these chapters we have seen the Canaanites, Tyre, the kings of Arabia, all the kings from the River to the border of Egypt, the Queen of Sheba, and lastly, all the kings of the earth converging upon the court of the great king. Thus ends the history of Solomon, without any alloy whatsoever tarnishing the pure metal of his character as Chronicles presents it. If we have alluded to his love, let us recall however that this is here not so much the hallmark of his reign as are wisdom and peace, but that Jehovah is celebrated on account of His loving-kindness which endures forever. Even his righteousness is presented in Chronicles only in the government of the nations; his throne is described (2 Chron. 9: 17-19) because it has to do with the kingdom, but the house of the forest of Lebanon where the throne is found in its judicial character, is completely absent here (cf. 1 Kings 7: 2-7). In that which is presented to us everything is perfect, and it is astonishing that writings of pious people can affirm the very opposite. No doubt this is because these persons confuse the books of Kings and Chronicles. As a type, the Word can go no further, but let us remember that it cannot give us a picture of perfection when it uses the first Adam as an example unless it passes over his imperfections and serious sins in absolute silence.
At this point in our account we must notice the absolute omission in Chronicles of 1 Kings 11: 1-40: Solomon's sin which was not forgiven; his love for many foreign women; the idolatry of his old age; God's wrath aroused against him; the adversaries raised up against him, Hadad the Edomite, and Rezon the son of Eliada (1 Kings 11: 14-25); the judgment pronounced on his kingdom (1 Kings 11: 11); and lastly, Jeroboam's revolt. Now such omissions make the purpose and general thought of our book shine out before our eyes.
The Era of the Prophets
2 Chronicles 10-36
2 Chronicles 10 marks the second division of Chronicles. Its first division has embraced the history of David and Solomon. Until the end of our book we now have the history of the kingdom of Judah, the counterpart of the kingdom of Israel taken up in the books of the Kings. But before studying Solomon's successors, we must give a brief exposition of what makes their history special.
We have said that Chronicles presents the picture of God's counsels with regard to the kingdom. These counsels have been accomplished in type, but only in type, under the reigns of David and Solomon. David, the suffering and rejected king, has become, in his Son, the king of peace, the king of glory who sits upon the throne of Jehovah. However, although Chronicles is careful to omit Solomon's faults entirely, he was not the true king according to God's counsels. The words "I will be his father, and he shall be My son" (2 Sam. 7: 14) could not find their complete fulfillment in him. The decree "Thou art My Son; I this day have begotten thee" (Ps. 2: 7), did not relate to him, but directed hope to One greater and more perfect than he. But, in order that this future Son might be "the offspring of David," David's line must be maintained until His appearing; this is why God had promised David "to give to him always a lamp, and to his sons" (2 Chron. 21: 7). Now, how was this lamp going to shine in the royal house until the appearing of the promised Son? How was it to pass through man's poisoned air and moral darkness without being extinguished-which would have made David's true Heir's appearing impossible? Satan understood this. If he could succeed in extinguishing the lamp, all of God's counsels concerning the "Just Ruler over men" would come to naught. But, despite all the enemy's efforts to suppress this light, the Son of David appeared in the world, won the victory over Satan, and became for the Church the Yea and Amen of all God's promises. Yet this subject, revealed in the New Testament, is not what is in question here; as we have seen, Chronicles deals only with the earthly kingdom of Christ over Israel and the nations. This kingdom was contested to the end by Satan. When the King whom the magi worshipped appeared as a small Child, the enemy sought to cut Him off through the murder of the children at Bethlehem. At the cross where he thought to make an end of Him, he could not prevent Him from being declared king of the Jews in sight of all by Pilate's inscription; and, when the enemy thought he was victorious, God resurrected His Anointed and made Him Lord and Christ before the eyes of the whole house of Israel.
Let us return to our book. If for the reasons above it does not show us Satan's maneuvers during Solomon's reign, it speaks of them in an all the more striking manner during the subsequent reigns. The enemy seduces the king and his people to lead them into idolatry; he uses violence in an effort to destroy and wipe out the royal line. But God's watchful care reaches the people's conscience and, when everything seems lost, the Spirit's breath comes to revive the wick that is going out. There are situations where a Joram, an Ahaziah, an Ahaz are so reprobate that they are delivered up to consuming fire, for God Himself, always mindful of "good things," can no longer acknowledge any good in these kings, and everything, absolutely everything, must be judged. The lamp is extinguished; deepest darkness reigns; Satan triumphs, but only in appearance. God preserves a feeble shoot of this reprobate trunk in the person of Ahaziah-yes, but this single shoot spared from the murder of the royal race, is himself found to be a dry branch destined for the fire. Anew the entire line is annihilated. Is it completely destroyed now? No, there it is-reborn in the person of Joash, and the Spirit of God is once again able to find in him "good things." In this manner the royal succession continues, so that David's line is not wiped out by these reprobates (see Matt. 1). Thus Satan's struggle against God results in Satan's confusion. What, then, is the reason for his defeat? One thing explains it: the only thing that Satan, who knows so much, has never thought of nor could think of. The secret which he is ignorant of is grace, for his so cunning intelligence is completely impervious to love. This entire second portion of Chronicles could thus be entitled The history of grace in relation to the kingdom of Judah. When grace can revive the flame so as to maintain the light of testimony, it does not fail to do so; when, in the face of the willful hardening of heart of the kings, it can produce nothing, it still raises up to them a posterity from which it can expect some fruit.
Thus we shall witness Satan's desperate struggle against God's counsels and, at the same time, the triumph of grace. This entire period is summarized in the words of the prophet: "Who is a God like unto Thee, that forgiveth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in loving-kindness. He will yet again have compassion on us; He will tread under foot our iniquities: and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7: 18-19).
Nevertheless a time comes when the ruin appears irremediable, when in the struggle Satan's triumph seems assured. The kingdom sinks under waves of judgment; although, as we have seen in the genealogies (1 Chron. 3: 19, 24), feeble representatives of the royal line, without titles, without prerogatives, without authority and without a realm continue to exist. After them, the line-ever more obscure and brought low-perpetuates itself in silence until we reach a poor carpenter who becomes the reputed father of the "woman's Seed." Christ is born!
Thus nothing has been able to thwart God's counsels-neither Satan's efforts, nor the unfaithfulness of the kings. No doubt, these counsels have been hidden for a time until the coming of the Messiah, depicted beforehand in the person of Solomon. The throne remained empty, but empty only in appearance, until the King of righteousness and peace could sit on it. Here He is! This little Child, lowly, rejected from the time of His appearance, possesses every title to the kingdom. But see Him, hear Him! The crowds seek Him to make Him king; He hides Himself and withdraws; He forbids His disciples to speak of His kingdom. This is because before He receives it, He has another mission, another service to accomplish. He declares Himself king before Pilate and this leads to His execution, but He goes to lay hold of a kingdom which is not of this world. He abandons all His rights-not reserving a single one of them-to the hands of His enemies; He is silent, like a sheep before its shearers. This is because He must carry out a completely different task, the immense work of redemption which leads Him to the cross.
Having accomplished this work, He receives, in resurrection, the heavenly sphere of the kingdom. Like Solomon of old He is seated on His Father's throne while waiting to be seated on His own throne. This moment will come for Him, the true King of Israel and of the nations, but it has not yet arrived. He awaits only a sign from His Father to take the reins of earthly government in hand.
From the moment of His appearing as a little Child, there is no more need of a royal succession. Note: We say "succession" because we would not forget that the "prince" or viceroy of Ezekiel is of royal seed (cf. Ezek. 46: 1-18; Ezek. 48: 21). The King exists, the King lives, the King is enthroned in heaven today; soon He will be proclaimed Lord of all the earth and the offspring of David for His people Israel. But until His appearing, to maintain His line of descent, there is, as we have said, but one means: grace. This is why we have the remarkable peculiarity in Chronicles that everything, even in the worst of kings, that could be the fruit of grace, is carefully recorded. Everywhere that God can do so, He points it out. So, too, this account is not, as we find in Kings, the portrayal of responsible royalty, but the portrayal of the activity of grace in these men. The Spirit of God works even in the dreadfully hardened heart of a Manasseh in order to prolong the royal line of descent a little longer in an offspring (Josiah) who rules according to God's heart. Despite these momentary revivals, the ruin becomes increasingly accentuated. Differing in this from Kings and the prophet Jeremiah, Chronicles scarcely stoops to register Josiah's successors in a few verses before hastening to reach the end: the return from captivity, shining proof of God's grace toward this people.
In order to accomplish the work of grace which would at last bring in the triumph of the kingdom in the person of Christ, it was necessary that the dispensation of the law, without being abolished, undergo an important modification. Under the kings, the system of law continued, for it did not end until Christ; the system of grace had not yet begun, for it finds its full expression at the cross; but during the period of the kings God intervened in an altogether new way in order to manifest His ways of grace under the system of law. He did this by having prophets appear.
Not that this appearing was restricted to the system begun by the kings, for it became evident from the moment that Israel's history was characterized by ruin. Thus we see the first prophets (not mentioning Enoch, then Moses) appearing when the ruin was complete in Israel. In the book of Judges, when the entire people failed, we see the prophetess Deborah arising (Judges 4: 4), and later a prophet (Judges 6: 7-10). Later on, when the priesthood was in ruin Samuel was raised up as a prophet (1 Sam. 3: 20). In the books of Kings and Chronicles, at last, when kingship failed, prophets appeared and multiplied beyond our ability to count them.
Note: List of the prophets cited in the second book of Chronicles:
Nathan (2 Chron. 9: 29);
Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chron. 9: 29; 2 Chron. 10: 15).
Iddo the seer (2 Chron. 9: 29; 2 Chron. 12: 15; 2 Chron. 13: 22).
Shemaiah the man of God (2 Chron. 11: 2; 2 Chron. 12: 5, 15).
Azariah the son of Oded (2 Chron. 15: 1), and Oded (v. 8).
Hanani the seer (2 Chron. 16: 7).
Micah (or Micaiah) the son of Imlah (2 Chron. 18: 7).
Jehu the son of Hanani, the seer (2 Chron. 19: 2; 2 Chron. 20: 34).
Jahaziel the son of Zechariah (2 Chron. 20: 14).
Eliezer the son of Dodavah (2 Chron. 20: 37).
Elijah the prophet (2 Chron. 21: 12).
Several prophets and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24: 19, 20).
A man of God (2 Chron. 25: 7).
A prophet (2 Chron. 25: 15).
Zechariah the seer (2 Chron. 26: 5).
Isaiah the son of Amoz (2 Chron. 26: 22; 2 Chron. 32: 32).
Oded (2 Chron. 28: 9).
Micah the Morasthite (Jer. 26: 18).
Some seers (or prophets) (2 Chron. 33: 18-19, cf. 2 Kings 21: 10).
Huldah the prophetess (2 Chron. 34: 22)
Jeremiah (2 Chron. 35: 2 Chron. 25; 2 Chron. 36: 12, 21).
Messengers and prophets (2 Chron. 36: 15, 16); cf. Uriah the son of Shemaiah (Jer. 26: 20).
They inaugurated a new dispensation of God, become necessary when all was ruined, when the law had shown itself powerless to rule and keep in check the corrupt nature of man; when even combined with mercy (when the tables of the law were given to Moses a second time) it had in no way improved this condition. It was then that God sent His prophets. On certain occasions they announce only impending judgment, the last effort of divine mercy to save the people, through fire as it were; on other much more numerous occasions they are sent to exhort, to restore, to console, to strengthen, to call to repentance, while at the same time bringing out the judicial consequences for those who do not give heed. Thus the prophet simultaneously has a ministry of grace and of judgment: of grace because the Lord is a God of goodness, of judgment because the people are placed under law and prophecy does not abolish the law. On the contrary, it rests on the law while at the same time loudly proclaiming that at the least little returning to God, the sinner will find mercy. It is no doubt an easing of the law: God grants the sinner all that is compatible with His holiness, but, on the other hand, He cannot deny His own character in face of man's responsibility. Prophecy does not abolish one iota of the law, but rather it accentuates, more than God had ever done up till now, the great fact that He loves mercy and forgiveness and takes account of the least indication of return towards Himself. "When the prophets come on the scene," a brother has said, "grace begins to shine anew." The very fact of their testimony was already grace toward a people who had violated the law. If they came looking for fruit and found nothing but sour grapes, nonetheless they announced God's promises in grace to the elect-grace as a reparation of the things which the people had spoiled. The gospel, which came afterwards, speaks of new creation, of a new life, and not of a reparation. In Isaiah 58: 13-14 we see the different character of the law and of prophecy in the way in which they present the Sabbath: "If thou..." says the prophet, "call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of Jehovah, honorable; and thou honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking idle words; then shalt thou delight thyself in Jehovah."
Thus a special characteristic of God is expressed by the prophets. It is not the law, given at Sinai, still less is it the grace revealed in the gospel. It is rather a God who, while He shows His indignation against sin, takes no pleasure in judgment and whose true character of grace will always triumph in the end; a God who says: "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people" when they have "received...double for all [their] sins." Under pure law judgment triumphs over iniquity; under prophecy, grace and mercy triumph when judgment has been executed; and finally under the gospel, grace is exalted over judgment because love and righteousness have kissed each other at the cross. The judgment executed on Christ has caused grace to triumph. Judgment fell on Him instead of on us-grace in its fullness, love, God Himself has been for us.
The entire role of prophecy is expressed in the passage from the prophet Micah cited above (Micah 7: 18-19). It is impossible, and this is what the prophet announces here, for God to deny Himself, whether with regard to His judgments, or whether with regard to His promises of grace.
Such is the role of the prophets in Chronicles. If at first they appear singly, as in the Judges and then under the reign of Saul, of David, and of Solomon, they then multiply in the measure in which iniquity grows in the kingdom. This is what the Lord expresses in Matthew 21: 34-36. After the few servants at the beginning, of whom the husbandmen beat one, killed another, and stoned a third, the householder sent other servants, more than the first, and the husbandmen treated them in the same way. At last He sent His Son.
2 Chronicles 10-12
Here we reach the dividing line in Chronicles separating the reign of David and Solomon from those of their successors. As we have said above, the subject we will take up will no longer present us the counsels of God regarding the kingdom, but rather the work of grace to maintain it until the appearance of the Messiah, in whom these counsels will be realized. Thus we have here the history-ordinarily distressing, sometimes comforting-of the kings of Judah, for the kings of Israel are not mentioned except in relation to Judah and Jerusalem. This is exactly the counterpart of the account in Kings.
It is a remarkable fact--and one confirming everything we have said particularly concerning David and Solomon, types of royalty according to God's counsels--that here the Word not only omits Solomon's sins at the end of his career, but it even omits their consequences, as it did earlier in the first book of Chronicles with the chastening that came on David because of Uriah: evident proof that David and Solomon occupy a special place in these books. The accession of Jeroboam to the throne and the division of the kingdom are here presented as the consequence of Rehoboam's sin, and not that of his father; likewise, Ahijah's prophecy to Jeroboam is fulfilled, not because Solomon sinned, but because "[Rehoboam] hearkened not to the people" (2 Chron. 10: 15). Moreover, we see in this same passage referred to in 1 Kings 11: 31-33, that God does not intend to hide Solomon's faults, but that rather the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to omit them.
The establishment of Jeroboam the son of Nebat on the throne of Israel is also passed over in silence, which is important, for the history here is uniquely that of Judah, and not that of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 12: 20). For the same reason our account omits Jeroboam's establishment of idolatry, the story of the old prophet, the illness of Abijah the son of Jeroboam, and Ahijah's prophecy on this occasion (1 Kings 12: 25 to 14: 20).
Rehoboam's history spans chapters 10 to 12, whereas Kings summarizes it in a few verses (1 Kings 14: 21-31); but-the detail is characteristic-this latter passage presents the darkest picture of the condition of the people, whereas our chapters record the good which grace produces in the king's heart, though it is said of him (2 Chron. 12: 14): "And he did evil, for he applied not his heart to seek Jehovah." 2 Chronicles 11 tells us two important facts: Rehoboam had thought to bring the ten tribes back under the yoke of obedience, but in doing so he would have been opposing God's governmental dealings with Judah. The prophet Shemaiah turns him from a decision which would have led to his ruin and would have had the most serious consequences for the tribe of Judah, on which the eyes of the Lord were still resting, despite His judgments. Grace acts in the hearts of the people; he listens to the exhortation and does not follow through on his dangerous plan. From henceforth Rehoboam's only task was to build a system of defense against the enemies from without, enemies who were his own people and who had formerly been under his governing authority. Rehoboam surrounds the territory of Judah and Benjamin with fortresses (2 Chron. 11: 5-12). His only duty was to preserve that which was left to him, but how could he do so when evil was already present within and ravaging the kingdom? However his responsibility to guard the people was in no way diminished by evil which was already irreparable. This principle is of great importance for us. Christendom's state of irremediable ruin in no way changes our obligation to defend souls against the harmful principles which are at work. We have the sad task of raising up strongholds against a world similar to the ten tribes, which called on the name of the Lord while giving themselves over to idolatry-against a world which decks itself out with the name of Christ while abandoning itself to its lusts. We are to make Christendom understand and feel that there is a separation between true Christians and mere professors whom God ranks with His enemies. This hostility brought on the conflict between Judah and Israel, and was bound up with the idolatrous worship which Jeroboam established and imposed on the ten tribes. Public and official maintenance of the worship of God in Judah had very blessed consequences: "The priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their districts; for the Levites left their suburbs and their possessions, and came to Judah and Jerusalem...and after them, those out of all the tribes of Israel that set their heart to seek Jehovah the God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to Jehovah the God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 11: 13-16). All those who had an undivided heart for God, even though they had been caught up for the moment in the revolt of the ten tribes, understand that their place in not in the midst of these tribes and they leave this defiled ground in order to come to Judah and settle there. This is how faithful testimony, holy separation from the world, produces fruit in believers who have hitherto been detained by their circumstances in a sphere which the Lord no longer acknowledges, and how they are moved to join their brothers who gather around the Lord. If this gathering together soon lost its character, was it not because Judah and her kings abandoned the divine ground that they might themselves sacrifice to idols? Indeed, this testimony of separation from evil lasted only a short time: "For during three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon," and during this period "they strengthened the kingdom of Judah" (v. 17). For three years! Why didn't they continue! This was the path of blessing for Judah and her king, and is it not likewise for us? Blessing might have been complete even amidst the ultimate humiliation inflicted on Israel. It proved to be only temporary.
This momentary blessing through which the kingdom of Judah was strengthened and Israel established itself became a snare for Rehoboam. The flesh uses even God's favors as an occasion to depart from Him. "And it came to pass when the kingdom of Rehoboam was established, and when he had become strong, that he forsook the law of Jehovah, and all Israel with him" (2 Chron. 12: 1). It is enough that one man, commissioned by the Lord to shepherd His people, turn aside: his example will be followed by all the rest. What a responsibility for him! Chastening soon follows: "And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, because they had transgressed against Jehovah, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, with twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen...and he took the fortified cities that belonged to Judah, and came to Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 12: 2-4). Judah did not fall prey to their brother Israel, against whose religion they rightfully defended themselves; they fell, a much deeper downfall, into the hands of a world from which God had once redeemed them by a strong hand and stretched-forth arm-and, as of old, they were brought under subjection to the king of Egypt.
God's purpose in chastening them is proclaimed in the prophecy of Shemaiah, the prophet: "That they may know My service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries" (v. 8). They could henceforth compare their three years of liberty and free blessing with the bondage of Egypt. As a result of the words of Shemaiah, the prophet: "Ye have forsaken Me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak," there was a real work of conscience in the heart of the king and his princes, for they "humbled themselves; and they said, Jehovah is righteous," and this humbling of themselves preserved Judah from complete destruction. "And when Jehovah saw that they humbled themselves, the word of Jehovah came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves: I will not destroy them, but I will grant them a little deliverance; and My wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they shall be his servants" (v. 7). This is grace, but, I repeat, Judah is obliged to suffer the consequences of having abandoned the word of God. All this work of repentance, the fruit of grace, is lacking-and with just cause-in 1 Kings 14. We shall see this same thing constantly repeated in the course of this book.
What shame for Rehoboam! Solomon's beautiful temple has existed but thirty years when it is stripped of its ornaments and all its treasures. Their worship has lost the splendor of its past; Shishak, we are told, took all. All! but nevertheless one thing still remains: the altar is there, God is there. For faith, amid desolation and humiliation this was much more than all the gold taken away by the king of Egypt. Is it not the same today? Christians are called upon to assess everything they are lacking as a result of the Church's unfaithfulness; and they must add, The Lord is righteous; but they may also say, God is a God of grace and has not turned aside from us. We find a very touching word for our hearts here: When Rehoboam "humbled himself, the anger of Jehovah turned away from him, that He would not destroy him altogether; and also in Judah there were good things" (v. 12). Few things, perhaps-and this is exactly what this term gives us to understand-but in the final analysis, something that God could acknowledge. Final judgment was deferred because of these few favorable little things that were pleasing to God. Let us apply ourselves, each one individually, to maintain these good things before Him. May those around us notice some measure of devotion to Christ, some measure of love for Him, some measure of fear in the presence of His holiness, some measure of activity in His service. We may be sure that He will take it into account and that as long as it continues He will not remove the lamp from its place.
How fair our God is in His judgments, even in the presence of a state of which He says: "He did evil, for he applied not his heart to seek the Lord" (v. 14). It is marvelous grace indeed that while not tolerating any evil at all, is pleased to acknowledge that which is good, and that discerns it when man's eye is incapable of seeing it, whether within or without himself. Think of this with regard to 1 Kings 14: 22-24: "Judah did evil in the sight of Jehovah, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins which they committed more than all that their fathers had done. And they also built for themselves high places, and columns, and Asherahs on every high hill and under every green tree; and there were also sodomites in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that Jehovah had dispossessed before the children of Israel." Reading these words, we marvel all the more at God's infinite goodness which, on account of a few righteous persons, was not willing entirely to destroy this people as He had once destroyed Sodom.
Let us mention yet one more detail before closing these chapters. The great number of Rehoboam's wives and concubines is an imitation of Solomon's sin which led to the ruin of his kingdom. It would seem that the relationship between the conduct of son and father ought to be mentioned. But nothing is said. In 2 Chronicles, Solomon, as we have often said, is looked at as being without fault, and judgment is directed toward Rehoboam alone. Nevertheless, even amidst this disorder and when Rehoboam raises the daughter of Absalom, the rebel, and Abijah, this woman's son, to the first place, God is pleased to acknowledge that Rehoboam "dealt wisely" in dispersing his sons throughout all the lands of Judah in order to avoid discord in the kingdom (2 Chron. 11: 18-23). This is similar to the praise of "the unrighteous steward because he had done prudently" (Luke 16: 8).
2 Chronicles 13
The events related in this chapter are passed over in silence in 1 Kings 15. The latter limits itself to mentioning that there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life and that the same thing was so between Abijah and Jeroboam. It adds that Abijah "walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as the heart of David his father. But for David's sake Jehovah his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem; because David did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15: 3-5). In this passage, it is on account of David that God gives a godly successor to Abijah in the person of Asa, his son, and also on account of Jerusalem which God had chosen as the city of His Anointed. Here, there is nothing of the kind. As always, in this part of Chronicles it is grace ruling in spite of everything. At most, Abijah's conduct is characterized in verse 21 as that in which he imitated King Solomon's walk as the book of Kings reveals it to us: "But Abijah...took fourteen wives, and begot twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters."
The battle between Abijah and Jeroboam, omitted in the book of Kings, gives us serious, solemn instruction as to Abijah's moral condition. Jeroboam, twice as strong as Abijah, had 800,000 chosen men against Judah's 400,000. We find the same proportion in Luke 14: 31: "Or what king, going on his way to engage in war with another king, does not, sitting down first, take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him coming against him with twenty thousand?" Only Abijah does not sit down here to calculate. He counts on his religion which is the true one to resist Jeroboam with his false religion. His speech on Mount Zemaraim, for he had already invaded the territory of the ten tribes, proves it. The argument with which he opposes Jeroboam (vv. 5-12) is composed of five points in which Judah was perfectly justified:
1. The Lord's covenant with Judah, through David, was for ever. God's counsels concerning the royal line could never be reversed. Abijah was right to claim the unchangeable counsels of God against his enemy.
2. The ten tribes through their king were in open rebellion against the seed of David, the Lord's Anointed: "But Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord. And vain men, sons of Belial, gathered to him and strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, and Rehoboam was young and faint-hearted, and did not show himself strong against them" (vv. 6-7).
3. Moreover, they were idolaters and were counting on their false gods to gain the victory: "And now ye think to show yourselves strong against the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David; and ye are a great multitude, and ye have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods." (v. 8).
4. And furthermore, they had completely abandoned the worship of Jehovah; they had driven away the priests, and had established new ones according to their liking. "But as for us," Abijah adds, "Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken Him." All this condemned Israel and her king; all this was true.
5. Judah, for her part, had God at her head, and His priests, and His trumpets which were used to assemble the people; and in fact, what Jeroboam was doing was making war against God. Once again, all this was true. What was Judah lacking? Only this: Judah had the true religion, but without realizing her sin and disgrace. What she lacked was an awakened conscience.
Is it not the same in our day? One may, for example, be a Protestant, have God's Word, have knowledge of the true God, understand perfectly what is lacking in Catholicism, that semi-idolatrous religion, be able to refute its errors victoriously, possess all the truths that make up Christianity-and nevertheless be very far from God, without strength to withstand the twenty thousand. One has not first sat down to deliberate upon his own forces. Everything that Abijah brought forth was insufficient and could not give him the victory. He lacked something: an affected conscience; the realization of his own guilt, not in comparison to others and their errors, but rather by himself having to do with God.
The rest of this account bears this out. Jeroboam's 800,000 men are able to completely surround Abijah's 400,000 men. The result is that Judah is lost; it had to begin there. "And Judah looked back, and behold, they had the battle in front and behind; and they cried to Jehovah, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. And the men of Judah gave a shout" (vv. 14-15). It is only from this point: I am lost, that the loud-sounding trumpets can sound against the enemy (v. 12). Instead of confiding in his trumpets against the adversaries it is necessary to cry out to God for himself, and it is only then that the trumpets can resound, that is to say, that the testimony can be effective. Salvation can only come from Him and not from even the most orthodox forms of religion. We must always begin with our own condition, not with that of others; we then find that the cross is our only resource and, having found this for ourselves, we can apply it to all those who have as urgent a need of it as we. "Out of the depths do I call upon Thee, Jehovah," says the Psalmist. "Lord, hear my voice; let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. If Thou, Jah, shouldest mark iniquities, Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared..." and only then does he cry: "Let Israel hope in Jehovah...He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities" (Ps. 130).
If this is so for the testimony, it is the same for the combat. From the moment we realize our lost condition and cry to the Lord, victory is ours. Judging others can not save ourselves; the secret of victory is in the conviction that sin robs us of all strength and makes us incapable of withstanding the enemy. This victory is not due to any effort on our part, since we are incapable; it can only come from God Himself: "God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah; and God delivered them into their hand" (vv. 15-16). From this moment on, the children of Judah no longer relied on their religion: "[They] were strengthened, because they relied upon Jehovah the God of their fathers" (v. 18). From that moment on all Jeroboam's strength dwindled, "and Jehovah smote him, and he died" (v. 20).
The realization of their complete lack of power brings Abijah and his people something even more important than victory: they recover Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron-but especially Bethel, the place where the faithful God had given promises to Jacob. Indeed, the way to acquire God's promises is to begin by recognizing one's self to be lost and crying out to the Lord. Our unfaithfulness has separated us from the place of promises, but if we acknowledge ourselves as lost and cry out to God, we will recover them all, for Christ has secured them for us, He, the Yea and Amen of all the promises of God. Without Bethel, Judah was morally decapitated, as it were. Moreover, Bethel was the place where one could not present himself before God without having buried his false gods (Gen. 35: 2-4). It was therefore a momentary restoration of this poor people and their poor king-a very partial restoration, for Abijah still continued to follow a path (v. 21) which had brought on the division of the kingdom.
2 Chronicles 14-16
2 Chronicles 14
Rest and Strength
We come to the account of Asa's happy reign, introduced by the pure grace of God, as it is said in 1 Kings 15: 4: "But for David's sake Jehovah his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem" in the person of Asa. All is blessing for Asa in the first part of his reign-and we shall see the cause for this-but in 2 Chronicles 16 we shall also find the cause of his decline.
We find much piety in Asa. He removes every trace of idolatry from Judah, including the high places which the kings who preceded him and even Solomon had tolerated-although it is not the purpose of Chronicles to mention the fault of the latter. In 2 Chronicles 15 we shall see that Asa did not maintain this energetic attitude to the end. But in Judah he was the first king who, at the beginning of his reign, passed judgment on the high places and broke them down, whereas Jeroboam had made them a religious institution for the ten tribes, and had even established a special priesthood there (2 Chron. 11: 15) in opposition to the worship of the Lord at Jerusalem. This is always the consequence of abandoning God who has revealed Himself in His Word. Man can not live without religion: if he does not have the religion of the true God, he will invent a false religion to satisfy his conscience and answer to his instincts. Atheism itself is a religion which delivers man, bound hand and foot, to superstition, that is to say, to the worship of demons and to anarchy. When man's own will becomes his god, Satan masters him and triumphs. What trouble, what agitation, what despair, what fatal sorrow gets hold of the fool who has said in his heart, "There is no God!" And, on the other hand, what rest there is in separation from evil and in the worship of the holy God, the true God! The Word insists on this point here: "In his days the land was quiet ten years" (v. 1). "The kingdom was quiet before him" (v. 5). "The land had rest...Jehovah had given him rest" (v. 6). "Jehovah...has given us rest on every side" (v. 7).
How did Asa make use of this rest? He did not act like David who thought of resting while his own were in the field; on the contrary, he availed himself of this quiet which God granted him to defend himself against the enemy from without: "He said to Judah, Let us build these cities, and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars, while the land is yet before us; for we have sought Jehovah our God, we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side. And they built and prospered" (vv. 6-7).
What instruction Asa's attitude gives us! When God gives us rest, it is so that we may concentrate all our activities to forearm ourselves against the attacks of the enemy. The latter will not be slow to return. Our means of defense and our fortresses are the Word and nothing but the Word. Let us use the time when we are not assailed by storms to ground ourselves in the Word and draw from it our strength to withstand. However, the fortified cities-entry to which is forbidden the enemy-are not enough; Asa possesses an army inured to war. "And Asa had an army that bore targets and spears: out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bore shields and drew the bow, two hundred and eighty thousand: all these, mighty men of valor" (v. 8). To avoid defeat in battle it is necessary to bear arms on the right hand and on the left, and above all to know how to use the two-edged sword which is the Word of God. It is only thus that we may, after having overcome all, stand firm when conflict arises.
Then comes the attack of Zerah the Ethiopian, passed over in silence in the first book of Kings. What will Asa do? He is in the same situation as his father was in relation to Jeroboam (2 Chron. 13); with 580,000 men he must fight Zerah who has a million at his command. But instead of relying like Abijah on the merits of his religion to win the battle, Asa first of all sits down and deliberates whether he with 10,000 men can withstand him who is coming against him with 20,000. The result of his deliberation leaves him no doubt; he goes out against the enemy. What, then, is the source of his confidence? His being right? His religion, giving him the assurance, as it gave his father Abijah, that God must be with him? That is not where Asa's secret lies. Asa is a man of faith, who has learned in God's presence that he can have no confidence in the flesh, but that there is strength outside himself to which he may ever resort. His daily connection with the temple of God at Jerusalem caused him to know this; before his eyes at the entrance of the sanctuary he had the column of Boaz which means: "In Him is strength!" And so with what assurance, when it came to combat, he addresses Jehovah: "Jehovah, it maketh no difference to Thee to help, whether there be much or no power: help us, O Jehovah our God, for we rely on Thee, and in Thy name have we come against this multitude. Jehovah, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee" (v. 11). It is in this spirit that Asa undertakes the struggle; he recognizes great strength in the enemy, none in himself, but he goes forth in the name of the Lord, depending on Him, and in no way disturbed by his own weakness, because therein the strength of God is displayed. This entire passage is the lesson of our strength; the most powerful enemy has no strength against God, and it requires only faith to make this experience. Satan himself was obliged to acknowledge this when his hatred attacked Christ: at the cross where he thought he was at last rid of Him, he met God's power in the weakness of God.
The Ethiopians flee; "they could not revive." This was because Israel was not Asa's army but God's army: "They were crushed before Jehovah and before His army" (v. 13). This victory of Asa's involved not only the defeat of the enemy, but also the positive conquest of cities, spoil, flocks, and riches (vv. 14-15). So for us every victory over the Enemy, based on self-judgment, is the source of new, precious acquisitions, drawn out of the treasure of the unfathomable riches of Christ.
After the victory, Asa and his people "returned to Jerusalem." There, in the city of God, close to Jehovah's temple, in fellowship with Him, they go on to renew their strength.
Secular history tells us nothing of this memorable combat. Zerah and his one million men are but a fable in the eyes of unbelievers. The monuments, so they tell us, do not mention this extraordinary combat. For the believer, this silence is very simple. Asa cannot claim his own victory over the Ethiopian; it is up to God, whose victory it is, to record it; therefore we cannot find this document save in the written Word. And do you think that Zerah would proclaim his defeat? Have you ever found an inscription of Egypt, Syria, Moab, or Assyria where their kings recorded a defeat? On their part there is absolute silence. Later the king of Moab will proclaim his victories (on the Moabite stone), but not the defeat that preceded them. Such is the confidence that we can place in the authenticity of history written by man.
2 Chronicles 15
Strength and Purification
At this period of Asa's history, the prophet Azariah the son of Oded comes to encourage and exhort the king. The prophets of Judah, compared to those of Israel, are distinguished by their great number. Even Hosea and Amos, prophets of Israel, have a special mission for Judah. It is true that Elijah and Elisha, those great prophets, were sent exclusively to Israel, but their ministry was a very special one. When the prophets of Baal and the false prophets were multiplying, they performed miracles in the midst of an apostate people fallen into idolatry. Their miracles were given for unbelievers and not for those who worshipped the true God. We have remarked elsewhere that we rarely see a prophet of Judah performing a miracle such as, for example, that of Ahaz's sundial. The first prophets of Judah speak; their successors write their prophecies. Under Rehoboam, the prophet Shemaiah, under Abijah the prophet Iddo, under Asa other prophets are not yet writing; it is only beginning with the reign of Uzziah that the major and minor prophets with their writings appear. In Israel, Elijah is a prophet of judgment; Elisha brings grace in the midst of a scene that is judged; the prophets of Judah announce judgments, but exhort the king and the people to repentance so that they may find mercy, for they persist in grace. Only in their written prophecies do they predict a future day when the counsels of God concerning the kingdom will be accomplished; oral prophecy does not go so far, announcing events near at hand, whereas written prophecy has another range: "The scope of no prophecy of Scripture is had from its own particular interpretation" (2 Peter 1: 20).
Here the prophecy of Azariah, or rather that of Oded his father whose messenger he is (v. 8), bears the character of all spoken prophecy. It addresses the king first of all, then the two faithful tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Azariah presents the conditions of the covenant of law: "Jehovah is with you, while ye are with Him; and if ye seek Him He will be found of you, but if ye forsake Him He will forsake you" (v. 2). It was necessary that this covenant be observed by both sides; on Jehovah's side it is always observed, for He is faithful, whereas Israel, if they were to be unfaithful, would of necessity fall under the judgment of God who must forsake them. Azariah then recalls the former days when all the people had been unfaithful; alluding particularly to the time of the Judges, when through Israel's disobedience the most complete disorder had reigned: "Now for a long while Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law, but in their trouble they turned to Jehovah the God of Israel, and sought Him, and He was found of them. And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great disturbances were amongst all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was broken against nation, and city against city; for God disturbed them with all manner of distress" (vv. 3-6). God, the priesthood, and the law had disappeared, so to speak; every man had been a law to himself. It was the reign of iniquity. Then how many times the people in their anguish had cried out to the Lord and returned to Him! And each time they had found God to be a Deliverer. There is "no peace" in forsaking God-no rest, no peace for the wicked, says Isaiah-but trouble upon trouble; on the contrary, from the moment the king returns again, as Asa did, there was peace and rest (cf. 2 Chron. 14: 1).
Azariah does not speak of the ten tribes; he considers Judah and Benjamin the people of God; Israel is already conclusively given up as a testimony of the Lord, although centuries must yet pass before her final rejection.
After the exhortation we find encouragement: "But as for you, be firm and let not your hands be weak: for there is a reward for your deeds" (v. 7). Do not we also, though we are under the regime of grace, need to pay heed to this exhortation? According to God's government, now hidden, but which exists no less in all its reality, there is a present reward, not only a future one, for our acts. This reward is peace, rest, and strength. This is what Asa had experienced, but the continuation of his history will show us just how much he needed to be exhorted-and all we together with him.
As soon as Asa had heard the words of this prophecy, "he took courage." Here we find a new characteristic of strength, which does not consist, as previously, of victory over the Ethiopians, but rather in practical purification. Asa "put away the abominations out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities that he had taken from mount Ephraim" (v. 8). So it must be for us too: Everything that is abominable in the sight of God, every defilement, must be resolutely banished from our lives so that we may enjoy unmingled fellowship with Him. This can only take place through the strength and energy of faith, that energy which the apostle Peter calls "virtue." The Christian life does not allow letting things go. The prophet tells us, "Be firm." We have at our disposal the strength, the power of the Spirit of God, based on His Word. We lack nothing; therefore let us make profitable use of our strength.
Asa does not confine himself, as he had done previously (2 Chron. 14: 3-5), to purifying the cities of Judah: he also put away the abominations "out of the cities that he had taken from mount Ephraim." After the king's victory God had enlarged his sphere of activity (2 Chron. 14: 14), and he was now responsible that the same principles of holiness be adopted there as in the territory of Judah. But that was not sufficient: Asa "renewed the altar of Jehovah" (v. 8). I have no doubt that here it is a matter, as in many other passages, of renewing the sacrifices regularly offered on the altar according to the law. This altar, built by Solomon, was still whole and did not need to be renewed, as when ungodly Ahaz substituted another altar in its place (2 Kings 16). In brief, Jehovah's worship according to the prescriptions of the Word-this worship, already neglected under the preceding reigns-was re-established according to God's mind. Wherever we find true and energetic separation from the defilement of the world, it does not take long for the worship of God's children to resume its honored place.
Another result of Asa's faithfulness was the regathering of Israel: "And he assembled all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon; for they fell away to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that Jehovah his God was with him" (v. 9). Worship having been re-established, Israel's unity is realized in the feeble measure befitting a time of division and ruin: the sight of God's favor manifested toward His faithful people acted upon the consciences of those who up till now had formed part of the ten tribes and who from their origin were found associated with Jeroboam's idolatry.
"And they assembled themselves at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they sacrificed to Jehovah in that day, of the spoil that they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep" (vv. 10-11). The results of the victory are here consecrated to the Lord, and so it should always be. If our successes lead us to depend on ourselves, to be self-satisfied, to increase our own well-being, victory will become a snare for us and will turn us aside from God instead of bringing us closer to Him.
The renewal of the covenant following the revival brought on by the prophetic word is accompanied by great joy, for they "sought [Jehovah] with all their heart; and He was found of them" (v. 15). Every renewal of the covenant accompanies a true work of conscience in the people. They had broken the covenant, they acknowledge it and humble themselves, they return to it and feel the blessing immediately. It was likewise under Hezekiah, Joash, Ezra, and Nehemiah-however we must add that the covenant was violated anew each time, for the man who still does not know himself must learn what he is on the basis of responsibility. Be that as it may, joy is the result of every restoration, even of one that is partial and temporary. Jehovah "was found of them," and never, even in the darkest moments of man's history, has He hidden Himself from those who seek Him. To find the Lord! What a treasure! Why should they not rejoice! What rest when He is found! "Jehovah gave them rest round about." In the preceding chapter we saw the strength that follows rest; in our present chapter we see the rest that follows strength, and so it is that in a faithful life, strength and rest are continually renewed, the one by the other.
Asa does not content himself with repelling evil publicly; he purifies his own house. These two things must be accomplished together, otherwise our Christian life will be only an empty show. "And also Maacah, the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol for the Asherah; and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burned it in the valley Kidron" (v. 16). Actually Maacah was Asa's grandmother who had probably been called to be regent with the title of queen at the time of Abijah's death. With what energy Asa passes over natural ties, making no allowance for them when the honor of his God is involved! Nothing stops him; he takes away all hope of Maacah's exercising any influence whatever over God's people, and in the sight of all treats her as an enemy of Jehovah. May we imitate him! We are altogether too apt to treat Satan cautiously when it is a matter of sin in our own families, and this often obliges us to do the same when it is a matter of the family of God. We excuse evil while at the same time blaming it; we try to avoid spreading it about in order, so we think, not to produce scandal; we put up with doctrines contrary to God's Word and Christ's honor to avoid offending those who are circulating them and who perhaps are close to us, and thus evil spreads and defiles many. If the people had seen Asa tolerating idolatry in his own house while condemning it everywhere else, would they not have been led to follow his example, or at least not to deal too carefully with it?
All these decisions were to Asa's credit, yet nevertheless he failed in one detail which seemed insignificant. The Word tells us (2 Chron. 14: 5) that "he removed out of all the cities of Judah the high places," but we learn in 2 Chronicles 15: 17 that they "were not removed from Israel," that is to say, I would believe, from the cities of Israel which he had conquered (v. 8). This seemed to be of little importance, for he had removed all the abominations from these same cities. But when it is a matter of separation from evil, nothing is unimportant. Beyond doubt Asa's heart is depicted as being "perfect all his days" (v. 17), a heart that was intelligent concerning what was befitting the Lord's holiness, but he failed to fully realize this in practice. This toleration of the high places was a grain of sand, compared to his overall activity, but a grain of sand can stop even the best constructed of machines; a flaw in an iron beam will cause the most solid bridge to break; and Judah's full security was based on Asa's scrupulous faithfulness to His God. From this moment on, after ten years of rest and prosperity, we notice decline in this man of God. Up till now Asa's faithful conduct had been the magnet attracting not only Judah to the Lord, but also to a certain degree, Israel, at a time when without this conduct Ephraim's loose ways would have brought a corrupting element into the midst of the two tribes. In his zeal Asa had not been a pleasant man according to the flesh; his attitude toward his grandmother proves this, for he might have been content with removing her idol, without publicly proclaiming its fall. This was an honorable deed of Asa's; he knew that worldly amiability never wins hearts to God and that it only smiles at hearts that are carnal. Love is quite different from amiability; it comes from God and shines out from Him onto all men, passing through the heart of the one who loves Him. Amiability is a pleasant characteristic of the natural heart, has no divine source, and never produces anything for God.
What we have seen up to this point was the effect of grace in the king's heart. God had prepared him long ago so that he might be an instrument of blessing, a lamp at Jerusalem for David's sake. The following chapter will show us how this lamp loses its brightness.
2 Chronicles 16
Up to this point, as we have seen, Asa's heart had been "perfect" in two directions. In presence of the enemy he had acknowledged that he was without strength, and he had relied on the Lord to find strength in Him. In presence of idolatry he had given proof of real energy to purify the land and re-establish the worship of the Lord in every place. In one point only, no doubt yielding to some political notion, he had dealt in a somewhat compromising way with the cities he had acquired in Israel and perhaps also with the Israelites who had joined Judah: "The high places were not removed from Israel." Cautions like this never have the results the Christian was hoping for.
Our chapter immediately mentions the measures Baasha took against Judah in the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign. Note: This date may be a simple copyist's error. Baasha, deprived of several of his cities, built Ramah in order to prevent any contact from that time forth, "in order to let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah" (v. 1). Unable to attack Asa without exposing himself to danger, he wanted in future to prevent his subjects from leaving him and joining God's testimony, and to prevent Asa from carrying out among his people what he considered to be a campaign of propaganda directed against himself and his influence. This principle occurs again and again: those who, like Baasha, still maintain a profession of true religion, though mixed with deadly errors, cannot tolerate near them a testimony which attracts souls. Alas! through a certain toleration of evil Asa presented an occasion for this hostility. Could not Baasha have thought: Asa claims to be closer to God than we are and yet he does the same things we do when they favor his ambitious views! Asa fears Baasha; since he has given way on one point, he can no longer esteem the world as a system with which he can make no compromise and from whom he can ask no aid. He is well aware of his lack of strength, as at the time of the Ethiopian's attack, but he no longer has the same assurance that all his strength is in God. The speck of dust in the machinery had done its work and, however insignificant it might appear, it had weakened Asa's confidence in Jehovah alone as the source of his strength. He turns to the king of Syria; he calls a power to his assistance that is allied with Ephraim and, consequently, his own enemy. This is diplomacy and, no doubt from the human point of view, good politics, just as maintaining the high places had been. So it has been time and again; one tries to break an alliance and win one of the adversaries to one's own side. When faith has grown weak, it seems easier to depend on man than simply to trust in the One who is our pillar "Boaz." What foolishness-especially for one who had once experienced this miraculous strength!
At first Asa's unfaithfulness seems to bear excellent fruit. Ben-hadad accepts silver and gold brought out of the house of the Lord as tribute, breaks his alliance with Baasha and takes advantage of the occasion to smite the cities of Ephraim and make himself master of the store cities of Naphtali. Baasha leaves off building Ramah; Asa and his people carry its stones away to build fortresses against Israel. The king seems to have escaped a great disaster by following this path, but all the blessing of a walk of faith is lost to him, and he is going to make sad proof of this. Oh! how much happier he was when he felt himself to be without strength and yet withstood the innumerable army of Zerah!
Then Hanani the prophet is sent to Asa (vv. 7-10). Later Jehu, the son of this same Hanani, will be sent to Baasha to announce judgment without mercy (1 Kings 16: 1-4). Here too Hanani announces judgment but, mourning and full of deep pity, he has to recognize that Asa's heart is no longer perfect before God. Judgment must begin at the house of God and with His people, for it is above all to those who serve Him that He shows He is a holy God.
The principal accusation that Hanani brings is that Asa had not relied on the Lord: "Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on Jehovah thy God, therefore has the army of the king of Syria escaped out of thy hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army, with very many chariots and horsemen? but when thou didst rely on Jehovah, He delivered them into thy hand. For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro through the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him" (vv. 7-9).
Asa had behaved foolishly in this; "From henceforth," the prophet adds, "thou shalt have wars." He had lost his strength; now he loses his rest, the two great blessings at the beginning of his reign. But instead of humbling himself at the word of God conveyed by the prophet, Asa becomes angry and puts Hanani in prison. Alas! Together with him, he was imprisoning his own conscience. The king's heart was no longer perfect; it had been with respect to idols, but not with respect to the world. One cannot hope for blessing when, even while maintaining one of the great principles of Christian holiness, one abandons the other. Joy, peace, and strength are lost. And much more: in seeking the help and friendship of the world, Asa became an enemy of the word of God in the person of the one who was its bearer. He sinks lower still: "Asa oppressed some of the people," no doubt those who were attached to the prophet and deplored the ways of this king who had been so faithful to the Lord till now. Oh! how true it is that one quickly goes downhill when the heart is no longer perfect before God!
But God has not said everything yet. Precisely because he is dear to Him, Asa personally becomes the object of His discipline. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign for two years he was "diseased in his feet, until his disease was extremely great." Sad to say, this discipline did not produce fruit! Having lost communion with God, having rejected His word, angered against the prophet and those who are faithful to him, he falls into moral hardening: "Yet in his disease he did not seek Jehovah, but the physicians." That which had been inflicted on him to bring his heart closer to God is used as a pretext to depart even further. When it is a matter of his own health, he confides in weak, fallible instruments. The grace of God no longer speaks to his heart; There is no more place for repentance or humiliation, the fruit of grace. What a sad end-but this occurs more commonly than we would think-for a believer who was once so faithful!
"And they buried him in his own sepulchre, which he had excavated for himself in the city of David, and laid him in a bed filled with spices, a mixture of divers kinds prepared by the perfumer's art; and they made a very great burning for him" (v. 14). In his death, although much incense was lavished on him, there was nothing of sweet-smelling savor for God. Spices serve to cover or to delay the putrefaction of a cadaver and the world's incense cannot take the place of God's favor. Is this not often so with Christians who have sought the favor of men? Men praise them after their death in proportion to the confidence they have placed in men and refused to God. Eulogies which would never be expressed around the casket of one who is faithful abound in proportion to the unfaithfulness mixed into his career. Such incense is only testimony given to a believer's weaknesses; and if the world appreciates these eulogies because they tend to vindicate it in its own opinion, nevertheless God rejects all this incense as a foul odor before Him!
2 Chronicles 17-20
2 Chronicles 17
The Teaching of the Law
The reign of Jehoshaphat offers many instructive details. First, like his predecessors, he "strengthened himself against Israel." The true means of being at peace with the adversary is by organizing resistance against him in an efficient way. From that moment on, Satan leaves us in peace, but we must never treat him as anything other than an adversary. Jehoshaphat's subsequent history teaches us that he did not always retain this attitude, and this was very detrimental to him. To be at peace with the king of Israel while yet defending one's self against him is quite different from seeking an alliance with him, as Jehoshaphat later did to his own confusion. At the beginning of his reign all was according to the mind of God: "And Jehovah was with Jehoshaphat, for he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto the Baals; but he sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. And Jehovah established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave gifts to Jehoshaphat; and he had riches and honor in abundance. And he took courage in the ways of Jehovah; moreover, he removed the high places and Asherahs out of Judah" (vv. 3-6).
The first book of Kings (1 Kings 22: 43) seems to say the opposite: "Only, the high places were not removed: the people offered and burned incense still on the high places." This passage, which seems to be contradictory, appears to be confirmed even in our book which says: "Only the high places were not removed; and as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 20: 33). This only proves that at the beginning of his reign Jehoshaphat undertook to abolish them and maintained this personally; but that the people, whose consciences had not been reached, quickly fell back into these idolatrous practices against which Jehoshaphat, weakened by his alliance with the king of Israel, was unable to exercise his authority so as to lead the people in the right way. So it had been with Asa, too: In 2 Chronicles 14: 5 we have seen that he "removed out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the sun-images"; then, in 2 Chronicles 15: 17 that "the high places were not removed from Israel." Elsewhere again, he "put away the abominations out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities that he had taken from mount Ephraim" (2 Chron. 15: 8); then, in the first book of Kings (1 Kings 22: 46) we learn that there were sodomites remaining in the days of Asa, and that Jehoshaphat "put [them] away from out of the land." All this can easily be explained. Let us remember that God never contradicts Himself. Under the reign of these kings, purification had been only partial and temporary; evil sprang up again everywhere because the conscience of the people had never really been reached.
But these verses 3 to 6 teach us yet another truth, in harmony with the character of Chronicles. This book which emphasizes grace as the only means of maintaining the royal line of descent, at the time of the complete decline of the kingdom always highlights the good which grace has produced, even if it be only for a moment, and shows that grace covers a multitude of sins. It is different when it is a matter of responsibility, as in the book of Kings. Then God reveals the evil in its full extent and shows us why it was necessary to execute judgment.
Here then, Jehoshaphat's faithfulness is especially noted and God brings it out, not only to exalt His own grace, but also in order to show us the consequences of faithfulness and of returning to God. Strength and rest had been the outcome at the beginning of Asa's reign; the establishment of the kingdom, peace, riches, and honor were the consequences of Jehoshaphat's faithfulness (v. 5).
But Jehoshaphat does not stop at separating himself from evil; he has at heart the establishment of that which is good, and this can only be through understanding the mind of God. It was necessary that the law, the Word of God, should be taught in every place and that the people should become familiar with it. Princes, Levites, and priests busied themselves in this with great zeal everywhere (vv. 7-9). Israel, with its mixed religion, does not seem to have been won over by the understanding of the law which they saw in Judah, and in fact, the same thing takes place all the time. It is more difficult to convince those of the truth who, in the midst of their error, have preserved a few scraps of truth, for this understanding, mixed up though it be, maintains their illusion that they possess the truth. The nations, on the other hand, who had no ties or relationship with the people of God, are convinced by the power which the Word possesses, and submit themselves to him. They acknowledge the people of God; there were even Philistines who hastened to declare themselves tributary to the king of Judah (vv. 10-11). Likewise, when the Corinthians prophesied, unbelievers could be seen falling upon their faces and acknowledging that God was truly in the midst of the assembly (1 Cor. 14: 25). Faithfulness to the Word of God brought about the establishment of Jehoshaphat's kingdom. Besides all his prosperity, he possessed an immense army compared to that of Asa, his father. One of its leaders, Amasiah, "willingly offered himself to Jehovah" (v. 16), and God testifies about him of this. This was no doubt one of the fruits of the teaching of the law in Judah. The need to dedicate one's self to the Lord springs up in the heart when one has tasted how good He is, and the revelation of this goodness is given us in the Word (1 Peter 2: 2-3). Then one acknowledges His authority and knows that He has the right to expect the full consecration of our hearts.
2 Chronicles 18
The Covenant with Ahab
We have little to say about this chapter which is the exact reproduction of 1 Kings 22, already meditated upon elsewhere.
Jehoshaphat's prosperity is a snare to him; for possessing earthly goods, even when given by God, easily orients our natural hearts towards the world and its alliances. Then, when our conscience reproves us of this unfaithfulness we try to quiet it by the thought that, after all, this world, like the ten tribes of old, has not denied the religious forms which it originally had. Thus Jehoshaphat allies himself by marriage to Ahab, the wicked king of Israel; no doubt, not that he contracts this union himself, but he allows it and perhaps causes his son Jehoram to contract it (2 Chron. 21: 6). Such alliances profoundly mar our spiritual vision: we begin by excusing those who are, in fact, the enemies of God and of His people; then we act in concert with them! Jehoshaphat suffers the consequences of his unfaithfulness; his disguise causes him to be mistaken for the king of Israel by the archers; they pursue him relentlessly; Jehoshaphat cries out; we see here to whom he cries out-a detail omitted in Kings; "Jehoshaphat cried out, and Jehovah helped him; and God diverted them from him" (v. 31). This detail is characteristic of Chronicles. Jehoshaphat cries out to Jehovah as Abijah had done before him (2 Chron. 13: 14-15), for he realizes that God is his only resource. At this moment everything, absolutely everything-alliances, political motives, diplomacy, interests to which he has sacrificed that which was most precious, that is, fellowship with his God-all this loses its value and gives way before the prospect of death. His soul again finds the Lord whom he should never have forgotten in order to obtain worldly advantage. The "depths" swallow up Jehoshaphat; he cries out to his God. Ah! If He should mark iniquities, should He not deliver him up to death? Then the Lord, the ever-faithful God who cannot deny Himself, hears the cry of His servant. He stops the impetuous onrush of his enemies; without their becoming aware of it He changes the direction of their thoughts, doing this at the very moment when the royal garments Jehoshaphat is wearing draw every eye to him.
What are we to think of Ahab's egoism, exposing his ally to every danger in order to protect himself? If we seek the world's friendship, we will never reap anything other than egoism, for the world can only have its "I" as the center of its thoughts. It will never give us that which is contrary to its own interests. How could Jehoshaphat have been so foolish as to seek something other than that which God had given him freely: peace, riches, and honor? Weren't these gifts enough for him? Poor carnal heart of the believer, led to its ruin by vain imaginations, when in the presence of divine blessings it ought to have been crying out: "I lack nothing!" Nonetheless, as always in Chronicles, grace triumphs, even using Jehoshaphat's unfaithfulness. He had to come to this extremity to learn to know the love and deliverance and infinite resources of his God. Ahab, hidden from men's eyes under his borrowed clothing, does not escape God's eye or His judgment. An archer drawing a bow at a venture hits him. To the world it was chance, but that chance was God!
2 Chronicles 19
Jehoshaphat and Jehu the Prophet
The scenes described in chapters 19 and 20 are completely absent from the book of Kings, which takes up the thread of its narrative again at verses of 2 Chronicles 20: 35-37 (1 Kings 22: 49-50). Furthermore, it is important to note that Chronicles omits Jehoshaphat's second major act of unfaithfulness when, after having made an alliance with Ahab against the king of Syria, he again fell into the same sin, allying himself with Jehoram, the son of Ahab, against Moab (2 Kings 3). Thus, as usual in Chronicles, God omits as much as possible the sins of the kings of Judah which are stigmatized in the book of Kings.
The words of verse 1 of our chapter: "And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem," historically come after the war against Moab, not mentioned here, but the Spirit of God in Chronicles connects them with the alliance with Ahab against the king of Syria.
After the great deliverance accorded to Jehoshaphat, he apparently enjoys a peace which his unfaithfulness certainly did not merit; yet God is a holy God and the moment comes when the king finds himself before His judgment seat and is obliged to acknowledge God's judgment on ways that offend His holiness. The prophet Jehu who comes out to meet him is the son of that Hanani who had prophesied to Asa, Jehoshaphat's father, when he had called Syria to his aid in resisting Baasha. Now the situation had changed and Jehoshaphat had relied on Israel to conquer Syria. Pure politics, ever opposed to God's thoughts! Be it this way or that, one relies on man according to the interests of the moment; and without hesitation one changes his alliance in order to fight his former allies. God is nowhere considered in these schemes. At best we see a faithful heart, like Jehoshaphat's, consulting Him after getting involved in a path of self-will. But at last the moment comes when God through the prophet's mouth expresses His disapproval of such a walk and the motives for it.
Jehu accuses Jehoshaphat of two things: "Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate Jehovah?"
The second phrase is even more serious than the first. Loving the world involves associating one's self with it, becoming jointly liable with it in its enmity against God. "Adulteresses," says James, "know ye not that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (James 4: 4). "No servant can serve two masters," says Jesus, "for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will cleave to the one, and despise the other" (Luke 16: 13). In spite of all our explanations and excuses, this is in fact how God considers things. Let us carefully hold on to this truth; may it prevent us from linking ourselves with the world under any pretext whatever, for whatever work, however attractive it may appear to be. If we pay no attention to these things, how shall we escape the judgment that will fall on the world? Grace, no doubt, can and will save us, but do we want to share the fate of Lot who was saved "but so as through the fire"? If it were only a question of our responsibility in the day of judgment, we would be lying among the dead; yet come what may, grace is pleased to see in the believer embarked on a wrong path anything that corresponds to its holiness and righteousness, and grace always takes account of this. This is the consoling thought continually recurring in Chronicles. Let us hear what the prophet says: "Therefore is wrath upon thee from Jehovah. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee; for thou hast put away the Asherahs out of the land, and hast directed thy heart to seek God" (vv. 2-3). The Spirit of God had already presented this same truth in regard to Rehoboam (2 Chron. 12: 12). In seeking alliance with Ahab, Jehoshaphat had feared the Lord and had insisted on seeking Him, but this in no way excused him (2 Chron. 18: 6). It was only one point answering to God's thoughts and He takes account of it. Must we not say, What a God is ours!
Jehoshaphat says nothing in reply to the prophet; he accepts the judgment, yet not without having learned his lesson. Instead of answering, he acts. He again takes up the task begun in Judah of teaching the people the law (2 Chron. 17: 7-9), a task so wretchedly interrupted by his relations with Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18. Now he applies himself to producing an awakening among the people and in all classes of the nation so that they may serve God and return to Him: "And Jehoshaphat dwelt in Jerusalem; and he went out again among the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back to Jehovah the God of their fathers" (v. 4). In order to maintain the character of a holy people consecrated to Jehovah (for his predominant thought is interest in God's people) he establishes judges in Judah, city by city. "And he said to the judges, Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for Jehovah, who will be with you in the matter of judgment. And now, let the terror of Jehovah be upon you; be careful what ye do, for there is no iniquity with Jehovah, nor respect of persons, nor taking of presents" (vv. 6-7). He who had so sadly walked in the ways of man (2 Chron. 18: 3), puts the judges under obligation to judge for Jehovah, not for man: proof that his conscience had been reached by the divine reproof. He to whom God had said, "Therefore is wrath upon thee," says to the judges, "Let the terror of Jehovah be upon you!" because he himself had experienced it. Nothing is more powerful in exhorting our brethren than to have had dealings ourselves with God's discipline, and to have learned our lesson to the end, that is, until there is full deliverance. So it was that the apostle Peter, who had only a short while previously denied his Savior, could say: "Ye denied the holy and righteous One."
Often there is no need to express in words the fact that we have learned our lesson of God-deeds speak more forcefully than words to show our repentance. If "there is no iniquity with Jehovah, nor respect of persons," can there be such with us? Thanks be to God, Jehoshaphat is now far from the alliance with Ahab or with Jehoram!
The priests and the elders are engaged in this work of righteous government of the people: "And moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set some of the Levites and priests, and of the chief fathers of Israel, for the judgment of Jehovah and for causes.-And they returned to Jerusalem. And he charged them saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of Jehovah faithfully and with a perfect heart. And what cause soever comes to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against Jehovah, and so wrath come upon you and upon your brethren: this do and ye shall not trespass...Be strong and do it, and Jehovah will be with the good" (vv. 8-11).
How beautiful are the king's words which we have italicized! There had been wrath upon Jehoshaphat; he does not want it to be upon his people. Without murmuring he accepts God's displeasure upon him so that Judah may be spared. This reminds us of David's words at Ornan's threshing floor (1 Chron. 21: 17). Such also was Christ's character, only the Lord took the judgment upon Himself, having merited only His Father's "good pleasure." Jehoshaphat took the judgment upon himself, as having merited God's wrath, and as having been the cause of the evil from which he wished to spare the people.
In verse 11 the king introduces order into the government of the people: the chief priest for the matters of Jehovah; a prince of Judah for all the king's matters; the Levites over the people's matters. God is a God of order and is concerned that order be maintained in His house. This important truth is developed in the first epistle to the Corinthians. Disorder is contrary to our God's nature and we must carefully be on guard against it. Wherever we see it rising up among God's people we are responsible to intervene so that we can rightly lay claim to the character of the One to whom we belong. This order demands that every class of servants have its own place and function, recognized by all.
What the prophet said to Jehoshaphat found an echo in his conscience and in his heart. Notwithstanding the announcement of judgment, he was comforted by the Lord's encouragements: "There are good things found in thee...thou...hast directed thy heart to seek God." Now he can exhort his people to a vigorous, faithful walk, for he knows that "Jehovah will be with the good" (v. 11).
2 Chronicles 20
In considering Jehoshaphat's reign as it has been presented to us up to this point, we see it characterized at first by special blessings as a consequence of the king's obedience. After having abolished the idols and the high places, he felt the need of instructing the people, and his faithfulness was rewarded by the submission of all the neighboring nations. But from the time of his unfaithfulness in forming an alliance with Ahab to make war on the king of Syria, the wrath of God must overtake him, and the prophet Jehu announces this to him. Jehoshaphat humbles himself under this judgment and by his deeds shows that he not only acknowledges its righteousness, but also that he desires to substitute God's order for the disorder in the life of the people. We do not have to wait long for the consequence of his return to God. It is not peace, but war. We may be sure we will expose ourselves to this when we return from a wrong path, for repentance-which makes us recover fellowship with God-cannot suit Satan whose desire is to separate us from Him. When Jehoshaphat's spiritual state had been prosperous, the enemy, reduced to silence, had been humbled; but he patiently waited, lying in wait until the moment when having committed an irreparable error, the king would incur Jehovah's anger and be lost. As always, Satan did not take account of God's grace which had found good things in Jehoshaphat, nor of the work which grace had produced in the king's conscience; he could not understand that God would make use of the inevitable judgment, unleashed by war, to establish his servant and break the snares of the enemy. So it has ever been. During the first centuries of the Church when, having left her first love, she was threatened with judgment that would remove her lamp from its place, she was thrown into a furnace and underwent tribulation for ten days. God permitted this in order to restore His Assembly; along with Philadelphia, Smyrna became the only church where the Lord had no need to pronounce further warnings. The situation is the same here: war breaks out, judgment is let loose, wrath runs its course, but we witness a completely different scene: that which grace produces in favor of the people and their king.
Let us look at the elements composing the enemy army. First, there was Moab. When we turn to 2 Kings 3 we learn the reason for Moab's hatred. Jehoshaphat had gone up against Moab with Jehoram, the king of Israel, and even though it seems that actually it was Israel alone that fought against Moab, Moab held a particular grudge against Judah. This is often the case; an alliance with the professing world becomes a disadvantage in particular to believers. Moab takes vengeance for the humiliation she has undergone, by attacking--not Israel--but Judah, comparatively so weak. But let us remember the primary reason for this hostility: Judah represented the true God and He it was who proud Moab, instigated by Satan, was targeting.
Moab's allies are the children of Ammon, whom David had once so humiliated and defeated, and a portion of Edom,* the very same Edom which had briefly become the ally of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat against Moab (2 Kings 3: 9), and which was now Moab's ally against Jehoshaphat.
Note: The Meunim or Maonites belonged to the territory of Edom, i.e. to mount Seir (v. 10). Today there still exists a city called Maan to the east of the Wadi-el-Arabah in this region. At the time of Chronicles, besides, Edom was no longer a compact kingdom (1 Kings 22: 47).
As we have said, the attack of this confederation was the consequence of the king's error, an error which he had acknowledged by his actions, but whose inevitable result was God's judgment. We are also told (v. 3): Jehoshaphat feared. But this godly king cannot stop there, although he had indeed merited God's judgment. He does the only thing possible: "[He] feared, and set himself to seek Jehovah." In seeking Jehovah, will he meet with wrath? In no way; he meets with grace, the main subject of this entire portion of our book. Meanwhile, while seeking the Lord, he "proclaimed a fast throughout Judah" (v. 3); this is humiliation and brokenness in spirit, recognizing the righteousness of the blow which has been dealt to both him and his people but counting on a God who is rich in compassion. Judah gathers together in the same spirit "to ask help of Jehovah: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek Jehovah" (v. 4). The spirit animating the king spreads, and the people follow his example. Then Jehoshaphat is able to present himself on behalf of them all before God in His temple.
He reminds the Lord that He is the God of their fathers, God in the heavens, whose power none can withstand, who rules over the nations and who had dispossessed them in order to give their kingdoms to His people. He returns to God's character as it was at the beginning-and God cannot change; this was Israel's security. Back then He had acknowledged their father Abraham as His friend. In the beginning they themselves had taken Him as their God, building Him a sanctuary. There God had accepted Solomon's supplication; considering, not Jehoshaphat, but the intercession of the king according to His counsels--the one He could not fail to hear. In times past in obedience to God they had spared Edom, mount Seir, but Seir in a time of declension had taken advantage of Judah's low condition to avenge themselves and return evil for good to them. Would God stand for this? Would He not judge them? Doubtless, if He were to take into account their present condition, it would be themselves, Judah, whom He ought to judge; but would He count all His past grace for nothing? Never! Nevertheless, it was in order for them to take the place before Him that their humiliation which was so right called for, as did also their faith. Jehoshaphat does not say as before (2 Chron. 19: 11): "Be strong and do it," but rather: "We have no might in presence of this great company which cometh against us, neither know we what to do." He reasons like his father Asa in the days when he was faithful (2 Chron. 14: 11), but he also knows, as did his father, that no force can withstand the Lord. His one and only resource thus is: "Our eyes are upon Thee!" Is this not the thought expressed in Psalm 123? "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes are directed to Jehovah our God, until He be gracious unto us!"
All Judah, as later in Nehemiah's time, is present at this scene. "With their little ones, their wives, and their sons," they all associate themselves with Jehoshaphat's supplication. Then they receive the Spirit of God's wonderful answer through Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah: "Be attentive, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat! Thus saith Jehovah unto you: Fear not, nor be dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them: behold, they come up by the ascent of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. Ye shall not have to fight on this occasion: set yourselves, stand and see the salvation of Jehovah who is with you! Judah and Jerusalem, fear not nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and Jehovah will be with you" (vv. 15-17).
Isn't it remarkable that we find no reproach here, not even a remote allusion to the unfaithfulness of the people and their king? All is grace. Sin has been swallowed up, as it were, by grace. Ah! this reassuring word, twice repeated: "Fear not, nor be dismayed," is breathed by the Spirit of Jesus. How often in the Gospels in the presence of sinful man, He would say, "Fear not." He would have us trust in His power and goodness. His goodness is His glory, as He said to Moses and as we see in Psalm 63. Three times He encourages them with these words: "Go down, set yourselves, go out against them," and twice He tells them, "Jehovah will be with you!"
God requires only one thing of His people: faith in His word. This must be evidenced before they receive what this word promises them. Faith must anticipate victory, for it is the confirmation of things not yet seen; it must count entirely on God without any confidence in man; faith must understand that this battle is not theirs, but the Lord's, that the battle is against Satan who would thwart God's counsels concerning His people. They had only to stand there to see the salvation of Jehovah, the very same expression which Moses had spoken to the people when they went out of Egypt (Ex. 14: 13).
As soon as the promise of salvation is given, it is a sure thing for faith although it has not yet been obtained. "He will swallow up death in victory," says the prophet, and the apostle adds: "But thanks to God, who gives us the victory by our Lord Jesus Christ." Then the king and the people fall on their faces before Jehovah to worship Him and the Levites stand up to praise Him (vv. 18-19).
After this thanksgiving for anticipated blessing the people go out toward the wilderness of Tekoa. Jehoshaphat stands before the people and says: "Believe in Jehovah your God, and ye shall be established; believe His prophets, and ye shall prosper!" The only thing necessary is faith; faith in God, faith in His Word, represented by the prophets. As of old, so it is today and so it ever shall be in a time of ruin: the Word is the supreme resource; it is to the Word that the people are always referred.
In the face of fully equipped enemy troops, praise resounds a second time: "Give thanks to Jehovah; for His loving-kindness endureth for ever!" No other song recurs more frequently than this one in the Old Testament. Usually it is the proclamation of grace which alone can introduce the reign of glory, but here it is the song of triumph before the victory is won, because to faith this victory is sure.
This triumph is from a source entirely divine: "Jehovah set liers-in-wait against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir." Man has no part in it, whereas on other occasions he is called on to act and to fight. Just as at the beginning of their history, God today wants to cause His people to realize their own powerlessness and the power that fights for them.
The enemies destroy one another and Judah sees their defeat from on high, just as we do when we enter the sanctuary of our mighty God; only in our chapter we see a conclusive victory, whereas faith alone realizes it today while we wait for the God of peace to bruise Satan under our feet.
The "song of triumph" anticipated victory (v. 22); now victory has come, and Judah celebrates it in the valley of Berachah, which means "blessing," a picture of the place where God will be praised forever for the victory He has won for us. All this scene is in figure the accomplishment of God's counsels toward His people by the judgment of their enemies. After this the people return to Jerusalem with joy, Jehoshaphat at their head. All the instruments of praise, as in Psalm 150, celebrate Jehovah's triumph (v. 28). This is the prelude to the rest that remains for the people of God: "And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet; and his God gave him rest round about" (v. 30). "And the terror of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands, when they had heard that Jehovah fought against the enemies of Israel" (v. 29).
In all these details it is impossible not to recognize the portrayal of Christ's future millennial reign and the events by which it will be introduced. Israel's humiliation, being reduced to a feeble remnant, their return to God, the Lord's direct intervention in their favor, the conclusive victory won by the Lord Himself over the enemy of the end times, the reign of peace this will introduce, the king of Israel himself leading his people to Jerusalem, the uninterrupted chords of joyful praise before God, and the kingdom's final rest. Solomon's reign sets us right into the midst of full millennial blessing; the end of Jehoshaphat's reign describes the manner in which it will be established.
Let us note yet that we find the very same expressions at the beginning and at the end of Jehoshaphat's reign: "And the terror of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands" (2 Chron. 17: 10; 2 Chron. 20: 29). In the beginning this terror was the fruit of the king's faithfulness, fruit which could not endure; at the end it is the fruit of God's faithfulness when everything on man's side has failed, and this fruit endures forever. This entire scene, a type of the accomplishment of God's counsels, because it is this, has no place in the book of Kings.
In verses 31-37 we find, by contrast, a brief picture and a sort of summary of Jehoshaphat's reign from the aspect of his responsibility, a picture differing from the usual perspective of Chronicles. This aspect seems to have the aim of introducing us to the terrible reigns of Jehoram and of Ahaziah where only their responsibility comes before us without the possibility of grace intervening, except to spare them an offshoot. And this is not on their account, but on account of the promises made to David and in view of the future reign of Christ. This passage turns back so as briefly to describe the events that took place under the reign of Ahaziah, king of Israel, and which preceded the victory over Moab described in our chapter. It corresponds to 1 Kings 22: 42-44, 48. Under the regime of responsibility, Jehoshaphat failed to abolish the high places (v. 33), whereas in 2 Chronicles 17: 6 where he is presented under the regime of grace acting in his heart, the high places are removed. We have already explained this fancied contradiction. One more detail is added here: the state of Judah itself did not measure up to God's thoughts: "The people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers" (v. 33).
Lastly, our passage records a commercial alliance between Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, but without the correlative statement which the first book of Kings (1 Kings 22: 49) supplies. In this latter passage we see indeed that after the destruction of his fleet at Ezion-geber, Jehoshaphat, having understood the warning Jehovah gave him, refused to renew the enterprise with Ahaziah. Here, there is nothing of the kind. Only God's judgment upon Jehoshaphat on the first occasion is recounted. If it were here a matter of the results of grace in the king's heart, the special characteristic of Chronicles, Jehoshaphat's refusal to enter into a new partnership could never have been omitted. The prophet Eliezer the son of Dodavah's intervention, omitted in Kings, confirms the point we are seeking to bring out: that is, that this brief passage speaks only of responsibility and departs from the usual character of this book. Indeed, Eliezer pronounces judgment without the softening which we have observed in Jehu's prophecy (2 Chron. 19: 3). He says: "Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, Jehovah has broken thy works," and the ships were broken, and could not go to Tarshish.
In all this Jehoshaphat was indeed very guilty. What need did he have of riches acquired at the price of alliance with the leader of a people whose judgment was already decreed, and concerning whom he knew God's mind through his own experience? Had not the Lord given him abundance of riches at the faithful beginning of his career (2 Chron. 17: 5; 2 Chron. 18: 1)? Why did he want to draw from another source? Poor Jehoshaphat! poor in God's sight since he neither appreciated nor valued the riches that God gives and found himself poor enough to covet the riches that God did not give!
All this is very instructive for us. If we have realized that we cannot associate with the world to fight God's enemy, are we any more authorized to seek such association to better our temporal situation? We will certainly fail to find what we are looking for. We cannot love God and "the mammon of unrighteousness" at the same time, for that would be serving two masters. It is not possible to love the one without hating the other; therefore we must choose and refuse resolutely any offer the world makes to this end, as Jehoshaphat did on this occasion in the book of Kings. We must understand that to seek for gain together with the world is no better than to attempt to fight evil at its side. This spirit is only too common among God's children. If they have any intelligence at all, they cannot think that they can cause the gospel to triumph by fighting against Satan together with his own slaves. But perhaps they do not view association with the world in order to satisfy their need of riches in the same way. May God preserve us from both these dangers! And if He judges it well to give riches to His servants, may they come from Him alone, so that they may not be used for themselves but be administered in the service of the Master to whom they belong.