Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies
Confronting a Crisis with God-given Peace and Confidence
Part 1: Understanding God’s Word
Bible Commentary on 2 Chronicles 20
When l first gave my life to the Lord, one of my mentor’s told me about the victory of King Jehoshaphat against a triple enemy attack on his kingdom of Judah.
After reading the chapter myself, what resonated with me was the heart attitude that Jehoshaphat displayed in seeking the Lord despite his personal fears, as well as entreating his people to trust Him as well. Jehoshaphat’s praise of God on the battlefield taught me the importance of thanking God in advance for His victories and to always step out in faith, even when the presence of trouble and strife are determined to convince you of defeat.
Additionally, the peace that Jehoshaphat and the Judeans experienced during this crisis gave me revelation that God is our calm during the storms of life. We can have the peace that Jesus offers us in the face of adversity (John 14:27), if we stop trying to fight with our own finite strength, and instead, let God fight for us with His infinite power.
Lastly and most importantly, this biblical chapter taught me that God declares promises to His people and He keeps these promises – and more. God promised the people of Judah victory over the triune of enemies that were on the march to destroy them, and He delivered this promise to them, as well as blessing them with the rich spoils of their defeated enemies.
We hope that the following analysis of 2 Chronicles 20 will encourage you to seek God when trouble arises, to trust Him with the outcome of your situation and to thank Him in advance for a favorable outcome.
We also pray that you receive a revelation of the peace that Jesus offers us, secure in the knowledge that God keeps His promises of victory and blessings, even in the darkest of situations.
An Unexpected Military Assault Threatens the Future of Judah
2 Kings 20 begins with King Jehoshaphat, the ruler of Judah, receiving disturbing intelligence: the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites, who occupy territories to the west and south-west of Judah respectively, have formed a military coalition against Jehoshaphat and his people. In fact, they are already in the vicinity of Hazazon-tamar, having crossed the Dead Sea from Edom, and are ready to embark in battle against Judah.
The Moabites and the Ammonites derived from the union of Lot with his two daughters (Genesis 19:37-38). The Meunites were the descendants of Meunim and occupied territory to the south-east of the Dead Sea on the eastern border of Edom. Though not Edomites, they were commonly identified as belonging to the latter, due to their cordial relations with each other.
Why this triune chose Judah as their target is unknown; however, the fact that they could creep up on Judah certainly indicates that the surrounding 10 tribes, who Jehoshaphat had helped in requiring Ramoth-Gilead, had betrayed their friendship to the Judean king and allowed this terrible threesome safe passage through their territories, in order that they may arrive unchallenged in Judah.
Perhaps the reason for the neighboring nation’s betrayal was Jehoshaphat’s alliance through marriage to King Ahab of Israel in the north. Ahab and more so his wife, Jezebel, were infamous for their cruel leadership and idol worship. Jehoshaphat was essentially feared amongst his neighbors (2 Chronicles 17:10), however maybe entering into a closer association with Ahab had lessened the surrounding nation’s respect for him, and as a result, they grew bold in their attempts to destroy the Judean King, as they doubted whether God’s favor was still upon him. What is certain though, is that other tribes had joined the military axis to aid in the defeat of Judah (Psalm 83:6-8).
Whatever the reason, the people of Judah are facing an unexpected crisis through a triple enemy threat. How they chose to respond will determine their survival.
Seeking God’s Presence Amidst Fear
When Jehoshaphat receives the information that not only one army, but three armies and their auxiliaries are literally on his doorstop ready to attack, he is naturally afraid.
Jehoshaphat’s fear may have been intensified due to the following reasons:
- He barely survived a battle to claim Ramoth-Gilead in which Ahab died, and is consequently aware of his own mortality.
- Jehoshaphat is shocked that God allowed Judah to be threatened after he obediently implemented national reforms throughout the nation to bring the people back to God (2 Chronicles 19:4-11).
Jehoshaphat’s initial reaction of fear is natural, especially as the threat to his kingdom is a complete sucker punch. However, what he does next is instrumental in determining the survival of Judah – he seeks God.
Jehoshaphat deliberately turns his mind away from the imminent danger he is in, and instead, gives God his full attention and consideration – not only with his mind, but with his heart. Instead of seeking the counsel of his military advisors on how best to retaliate to the inevitable battle, he will ask for help from the Almighty Himself. His enemies may have formed an alliance against him, but Jehoshaphat knows that the most formidable ally he has is God.
So great is Jehoshaphat’s determination in hearing from God, that he summons the entire nation of Judah together to seek God’s presence through prayer and fasting as a united front. As this crisis is one that involves all Judeans, it is only right that all residents of the kingdom should be involved in asking for God’s help. Having the people pray and fast together would also reinforce the spiritual teachings and reforms he had previously introduced in 2 Chronicles 19:4-11.
Jehoshaphat’s request for a national appeal to God was unusual for a King to make in ancient times: The people would have been more accustomed to being summoned to mobilize themselves for war and not be summoned for the purpose of prayer and fasting.
This act demonstrates Jehoshaphat’s recognition of his limited human capabilities, as well as his humility and faith in seeking the One who has the divine power to deliver Judah from their enemies. Instead of feeling indignant or frustrated that God allowed this situation to occur, Jehoshaphat is going to approach God with sincerity, thanks and praise, which we will read in the upcoming verses.
Pray First, Act Later
We have established that Jehoshaphat’s recognition of Judah’s peril leads him to seek God before he takes any action. Therefore, instead of organizing his army, he organizes a time of national prayer and fasting in Jerusalem.
The whole of Judah assembles in the temple to pray, in an area which some scholars believe to have been the women’s court. Although priests were the only ones permitted to burn incense and perform other sacramental duties, as a King, Jehoshaphat could pray and preach.
Jehoshaphat’s prayer can be divided into 6 parts:
1. Acknowledgement of God’s sovereign power (2 Chronicles 20:6)
The Moabites, Ammonites, and surrounding nations such as the Philistines worshiped local deities. Jehoshaphat begins his prayer by giving praise to God and His almighty power, and acknowledges His supremacy over all other gods and nations, as well as His absolute sovereignty as the ruler of heaven and earth.
2. Reminding God of His help in the past (2 Chronicles 20:7)
Jehoshaphat reminds God of His help in freeing the Israelites from their enemies in the past, and His promise that Abraham’s descendants will continue to inherit the land He has given them. If God has helped His people before, Jehoshaphat is confident that He will help them again in their current hour of need.
3. The temple is holy and a place where God answers prayers (2 Chronicles 20:8-9)
The temple grounds in Jerusalem have borne witness to many petitions and answered prayers in the past. King Solomon for example gave a prayer and dedication to the temple on the very same spot where Jehoshaphat is standing now (2 Chronicles 6:12-42), and God responded to him (2 Chronicles 7:1).
Jehoshaphat wants to remind God that His people built the temple at His bequest as a place to not only worship Him, but to seek refuge and help in their times of need. As God answered the prayers of their predecessors, Jehoshaphat is confident that God will answer Judah’s prayers in this holy place now.
4. Jehoshaphat pleads vindication at the injustice of his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:10-11)
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land after wandering 40 years in the desert, God forbade them from invading the territories of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (Deuteronomy 2:8-9, Deuteronomy 2:19). Israel obeyed God and left these nations in peace.
Now Jehoshaphat is reminding God of Israel’s former obedience and how it would be unjust of the enemy triune to be allowed to conquer them and take away the land, which God had promised would always be in their possession.
5. Jehoshaphat expresses public humility and Judah’s need for God (2 Chronicles 20:12)
As a typical ancient King of the Near East, Jehoshaphat is looked up to and viewed as a role model and source of inspiration by his people. Maintaining a public image as a fearless, formidable leader was imperative in those times for upholding the respect of their allies and arousing fear in their enemies. It was also politically advantageous for a king to always present his most courageous, positive side to his people.
However, Jehoshaphat openly and publicly admits his fear in this last part of his appeal to God. Although he is a king and is expected to have a solution to their predicament, he is not ashamed to confess, that this time, he doesn’t know what to do. Jehoshaphat’s fear that God might not answer if he doesn’t go all in with this prayer is greater than what his people think of him.
Though Jehoshaphat doesn’t know how to save his nation, he knows that God and God alone can deliver them from this crisis. Therefore, all of Judah will look to God and put their faith and trust in Him for a favorable outcome.
6. Worship God while you wait (2 Chronicles 20:13, 2 Chronicles 20:18-19)
After Jehoshaphat finishes praying, the gathered assembly wait for God to answer, including the women and children. It is not certain how long they have to wait, but it appears that God answers the people quite promptly.
Even after God replies to their petition, the people of Judah worship Him as they wait for the manifestation of His promises, which we will read about in the upcoming sections.
God Commands Judah to Trust Him and Not Fight
God answers Jehoshaphat’s prayer through Jahaziel, who is one of the sons of Asaph, a guild of Levites assigned to sing in the tabernacle choir. It is not certain whether Jahaziel is a validated prophet, nor why he is chosen amongst those gathered to speak, yet the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he relays a heartening, yet unexpected response from God.
Firstly, God consoles His people that the battle they are about to experience belongs to Him, not to them. Therefore, they should not fear.
Secondly, God gives the Judeans precise instructions to go down to the battle on the morrow and even reveals the exact location of the enemy, who will come up by the ascent of Ziz and position themselves at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
Thirdly, the army of Judah will not fight in this battle: Instead, God informs them that they are to joyfully bear witness to the victory that He will bring to them, for His glory, the next day. All they need to do is stand still and trust that He is with them.
This last command is certainly encouraging, albeit, unusual. Jehoshaphat has a significant army (2 Chronicles 17:12-19), and yet they will not be required to fight. Furthermore, instead of remaining in Jerusalem and having God relay the good news to them after the battle is over, the Judean army is required to mobilize and position themselves on the battlefield with the sole intention of getting a front row seat to the showdown between God and the enemy coalition. This act of participation is necessary from Judah to seal a faith partnership with God.
Judah Thanks God for Their Victory Before the Battle Even Begins
As we read earlier, Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah bow their heads and fall to the ground in thanks at the encouraging answer to their prayers. Additionally some of the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Kohen raise their voices in praise to God.
This reaction is expected, but what l love about this section of 2 Chronicles 20 is that Jehoshaphat and his people continue to give thanks and praise God for His promise of victory – even right up to the moment before the battle begins.
Trust and belief are always established before gratitude: The Judeans display this by waking up early on the morning of the battle and executing the commands that God had spoken through Jahaziel the day before. There is no mention of weaponry in this section, for their weapons are faith and Jehoshaphat’s reminder of God’s promises to them.
Jehoshaphat consults his people regarding the delegation of the singers and worshipers for the battle, thus proving his hitherto wise sovereignty. He understands that this current crisis not only affects him directly, but also his people. For that reason, it is only fair that they should have a say in who gets to praise and worship God on the battlefield, especially as deep faith is required to march out before their army and thereby expose themselves blatantly to the enemy lines.
Once they’re in sight of their adversaries, the people of Judah sing and give God praise clad in priestly robes: The promise of victory is enough for them to rejoice and give thanks, for they already believe. This act of praise may indeed be an unusual tactic to embrace, however it empathizes Jehoshaphat’s reliance on God, his eagerness to please Him (Psalm 51:16-17), as well as his desire to motivate their own soldiers. It also doesn’t hurt that their opponents would also get confused by unarmed singing and dancing civilians!
God Makes the Enemy Coalition Turn Upon Themselves
As the singers lead the Judean army into battle, God simultaneously sets ambushes on the enemy coalition of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir.
Confusion arises in the enemy ranks, and the Ammonites and Moabites turn against the Meunites, suspecting betrayal. After the men of Mount Seir are slain, the Ammonites and Moabites turn on each other. Not one member of the three tribes survive.
Imagine the incredulity and amazement from the Israelites when they reach the enemy camp and see the multitude of fallen soldiers! God has won the battle for Judah without them having to engage in warfare themselves. He has kept His promise of victory! Hallelujah!
God Rewards Judah For their Reliance on Him
As if a victory against their enemy isn’t enough, God continues to richly reward the nation of Judah for their reliance on Him in their time of peril.
With the enemy camp compromised and their possessions lying around, the Judeans help themselves to the spoils. In fact, there are so many goodies to divide up, such as cattle, precious gems, garments and more, that the victors need three days to gather everything and take home!
Thank God In All Circumstances Not Just In Emergencies
On the fourth day after the battle, the nation of Judah assembles in the Valley of Beracah, which becomes known as the Valley of the Blessing after the blessings they give the Lord for His deliverance from their enemies.
The Judeans continue with their thanks and praise as they enter Jerusalem with joy in their hearts and songs bursting from their lips. Accompanied by harps, lyres, and trumpets, the enter the temple and continue to bless the Lord.
This outward expression of thanks displays the importance that the Judeans lay in not only acknowledging public acts of mercy with public gratitude, but also provides an excellent example of how giving thanks to God in all circumstances is important to them – not only in their time of need, but also as well in their moment of victory (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Giving God praise and glory for His mercy and grace also shows the surrounding nations on whom the Judeans lean on and trust in for support. With such a formidable divine ally, the neighbors who may have supported the enemy coalition earlier in the chapter or may still have aggressive intentions towards Judah now hold her in reverential fear and consequently leave her in peace.
Break Bad Behavioral Patterns By Constantly Renewing Your Mind and Refusing to Compromise
Despite God’s undisputed help and victory over their enemies, Jehoshaphat and his people are still vulnerable to falling into old patterns of bad behavior and compromising their beliefs.
Although they bore witness to God’s miraculous intervention, there remain those amongst the people of Judah, who are still not prepared to wholeheartedly follow God. Thus despite the national reforms he made in 2 Chronicles 19:4-11, Jehoshaphat compromises with the people by tolerating the practice of idol worship in his land.
He also slips back into the old habit of making unholy alliances like the one he made with Ahab in 2 Chronicles 18.
Jehoshaphat enters into a trade alliance with Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, who has succeeded his father as King of Israel after the latter’s untimely death (2 Chronicles 18:28-34). They aim to build ships in Ezion-geber, to sail to Tarshish, which was a pivotal trading city for iron, tin, and gold (Ezekiel 27:12).
However, this time, Jehoshaphat withdraws from the alliance. God sends a prophet by the name of Eliezer, who declares that God will destroy Ahaziah’s and Jehoshaphat’s endeavors.
This warning is enough to renew Jehoshaphat’s mind of the previous mercy and goodness of God, recall to him the guilt he experienced during his first alliance with Ahab, and to place fear in him of God and His consequential wrath if he doesn’t end this agreement. It’s a good thing that he does withdraw, as God destroys the ships designated for Tarshish.
We hope you have enjoyed reading Part 1 of our Bible Study on 2 Chronicles 20.
If you would like to learn how you can integrate the lessons of this chapter into your own life and experience peace and godly confidence even in the midst of trouble, then join us next month for “Part 2 – Living God’s Word – How to Confront a Crisis with God’s Peace and Confidence”.
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Stay safe and blessed, and we look forward to have you join us for Part 2 of our Bible Study!
Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and Faith Love Life Designs. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.
Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.
abarim-publications.com, “Meunites meaning“
biblicalarchaeology.org, “Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible?”
enduringword.com, “2 Chronicles 20 – Jehoshaphat’s Victory”
desiringgod.org, “What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?”, John Piper.
bible.org, “Lesson 7: The Man Who Won a War Without Fighting (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”
gotquestions.org, “Who was the Asaph mentioned in the Book of Psalms?”
studylight.org, “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible – 2 Chronicles 20”
thelampstand.com., “Tarshish, Cornwall, and Tin and Gold Trade in the Ancient World”
bible.org, “Lesson 4: Confidence in The Crisis (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)”
christianity.com, “Matthew Henry Bible Commentary (complete)”
forgodsfame.org, “The Prayer of Jehoshaphat”, Tim Bell.