Time-traveling Jehoshaphat!

June 2, 2008

It seems that there are many times in the Bible where the story is telling events as they come along in a chronological order, or the author might be stepping back and revisiting events to prove something, or point something out, or because he’s crazy. You pick which one you want.

So we have an event here in 2 Chronicles that spans chapters 17 through 20 that is quite long and involving, so I will only pick out a few things that I find interesting. The event that I want to point out mostly though is the sending out of judges and the Book of the Law into the people, to teach them the fear of the Lord. Now this event either happens twice, or it is merely repeated twice here:

17:7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah to teach in the cities of Judah. 17:8 They were accompanied by the Levites Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-Adonijah, and by the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 17:9 They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the scroll of the law of the Lord. They traveled to all the cities of Judah and taught the people.

And:

19:4 Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem. He went out among the people from Beer Sheba to the hill country of Ephraim and encouraged them to follow the Lord God of their ancestors. 19:5 He appointed judges throughout the land and in each of the fortified cities of Judah. 19:6 He told the judges, “Be careful what you do, for you are not judging for men, but for the Lord, who will be with you when you make judicial decisions. 19:7 Respect the Lord and make careful decisions, for the Lord our God disapproves of injustice, partiality, and bribery.”19:8 In Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed some Levites, priests, and Israelite family leaders to judge on behalf of the Lord and to settle disputes among the residents of Jerusalem. 19:9 He commanded them: “Carry out your duties with respect for the Lord, with honesty, and with pure motives. 19:10 Whenever your countrymen who live in the cities bring a case before you (whether it involves a violent crime or other matters related to the law, commandments, rules, and regulations), warn them that they must not sin against the Lord. If you fail to do so, God will be angry with you and your colleagues; but if you obey, you will be free of guilt. 19:11 You will report to Amariah the chief priest in all matters pertaining to the Lord’s law, and to Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the leader of the family of Judah, in all matters pertaining to the king. The Levites will serve as officials before you. Confidently carry out your duties! May the Lord be with those who do well!”

 A little information might be needed though as we look at what happens between these two “events” stated. Chapter 17 starts out the story of Jehoshaphat and how he walked in the way of the Lord and sent out the judges and priests to teach the ways of the Lord. He was greatly blessed for doing this and the fear of the Lord falls upon the other nations surrounding Judah (since Israel and Judah had by this time split). Then Ahab, the Israelite king who hunted down a great white whale named Moby Dick, gives one of his daughters to Jehoshaphat in marriage and a few years later Ahab and Jehoshaphat come together to do battle against the Arameans. This whole event also has some really interesting things going on as a prophet prophesies against the kings, we have a scene in heaven with the Lord talking to the angels, then back down to the kings again, some people get slapped, a king gets shot and dies, and Jehoshaphat returns to Judah defeated; sounds like alot. So we then have chapter 19 where the event of the sending out the judges and priests to teach the Book of the Law to the people is talked about again. A little more detail is given this time and Jehoshaphat actually states what the judges are to do. Now the question arises though whether this is a retelling of the sending of the judges, or another time when the judges are sent. Does Jehoshaphat do it twice? Or is the author attempting to show us something else?

An interesting thing too is that in chapter 20 Jehoshaphat goes out to war once again, but this time the people of Judah come before the Lord and ask Him what to do about the people attacking them. And this time they actually do what God tells them to do.

So it goes like this: the judges are sent out, Jehoshaphat goes to war and loses because he didn’t listen to the prophet of the Lord. The judges are sent out, Jehoshaphat goes out to war and wins because he listens to the prophet of the Lord. But is each sending of the judges a different time, or the same? And what might the author be telling us by doing this?