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2 Chronicles 17-20

Introduction to 2 Chronicles
 
After Solomon the story of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, is a story about the difference between righteous and wicked kings. Immediately after Solomon, both kings Jeroboam and Rehoboam turned to idolatry. Their example was followed by many more idolatrous kings. The kingdom of Judah seemed to have more righteous kings than Israel. This is presumably the reason why they were not sacked as quickly, and not scattered as drastically as their northern neighbor.
 
For the purposes of Lesson 27, Jeroboam is the prototype of a wicked king; Jehoshaphat is the prototype of a righteous king. The former sets up idol worship, the latter punishes it. A good king would destroy all the places of idol worship, kill all the false priests, and punish the people unto death if they didn’t repent. This is the Biblical theme of the two and a half centuries after Solomon.
 
The following chart shows the kings, whether they were wicked or righteous. Wicked kings are in red; righteous kings black. Note that the northern kingdom has only one righteous king over a 250 year period—and even he wasn’t really true to the Lord.
 
Kings of Judah
Kings of Israel
Rehoboam
Jeroboam
Abijam
Nadab
Asa
Baasha
Jehoshaphat
Elah
Joram (also called Jehoram)
Zimri
Ahaziah
Omri
Athaliah
Ahab
Joash
Ahaziah
Amaziah
Jehu
Azariah (also called Uzziah)
Jahoahaz
Jotham
Jehoash
Ahaz
Jeroboam II
Hezekiah
Zechariah
Manasseh
Shallum
Amon
Menahem
Josiah
Pekahiah
Jehoahaz
Pekah
Jehoiakim
Hoshea
Jehoiachin
Northern Kingdom sacked by Assyria
Zedekiah
Southern Kingdom sacked by Babylon
“The southern kingdom of Judah endured nearly three and one-half centuries under the rule of 21 reigning monarchs. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, first occupied the throne of Judah. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Zedekiah are among the best known of this kingdom’s rulers who followed. The prophets Joel, Isaiah, Micah, and Jeremiah, among others, were the Lord’s consecrated representatives in Judah.
 
“The twin evils of idolatry and immorality similarly brought the eventual downfall of the southern kingdom, but some of the kings who were righteous and strong leaders were successful in forestalling the overthrow of the people and in effecting some reforms. In 587 B.C., during the reign of King Zedekiah, the wickedness of the people of Judah finally caused the destruction of Jerusalem, and they were taken captive by the Babylonians.” (Edward J. Brandt, “An Overview of History: Moses to Malachi,” Ensign, Oct. 1973, 15)
 
“Jumping Jehoshaphat”
 
“Jehoshaphat was a King of Judah (c. 873—849 B.C.). He’s all over the Old Testament—2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, and Joel—but he never jumps, not even once.

“The phrase ‘Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!’ originated in the United States as a mild expletive or oath. Some sources say Jehoshaphat is a less-blasphemous euphemism for Jesus. Others say it substitutes for Moses. Like any colloquialism, ‘Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat’ is tough to pin, and the best we can do is find the phrase’s earliest recorded use.” (http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/how_to/the_non-expert_jehoshaphat_alex_and_alex.php)
 
“The phrase is first recorded in the 1866 novel The Headless Horseman by Thomas Mayne Reid.” (http://yedda.com/questions/origin_phrase_jumping_jehosaphat_627871487382153/)
 
2 Chronicles 17:9 they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them… and taught the people
 
Moses taught the Israelites to teach their children (Deut. 6:7), but obviously they did not. We find the people of Jehoshaphat willing learners in a culture that had lost its religious identity. The people did not study the word of God. They didn’t know the Law. Their ignorance was one of their greatest shortcomings. How did they respond when Jehoshaphat empowered the priests to teach the people? “With this the whole multitude was so pleased, that they were not so eagerly set upon or affected with anything so much as the observation of the laws.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, 15:2)
 
Wilford Woodruff
We have a great variety of teaching and preaching, and I have sometimes thought that we have more preaching and teaching than any other people on the earth. I expect it is all right. I think we need it The world needs teaching, we ourselves need teaching; but I have thought that the Latter-day Saints have had more of the gospel of Christ proclaimed to them than any other generation that ever lived. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 23)
 
2 Chronicles 17:12 Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly
 
We already mentioned how Jeroboam invoked the curse for violating the Law of Moses (see commentary for 1 Kgs. 14:11). Let’s examine how Jehoshaphat reaped the blessings promised for obedience to the Law:
 
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle…
Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store…
The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto. (Deut. 28:3-8)
 
Jehoshaphat and his people reaped all these promised blessings for their righteousness.
 
2 Chronicles 20:9 we stand before this house, and in thy presence… and cry unto thee in our affliction
 
Jehoshaphat equates standing before the house of God with standing in the presence of God. Do we? When we go to the temple, we have the same privilege as Jehoshaphat declared, we are able to stand in the presence of God and cry unto him in our affliction. The only truly celestial places on earth, the only places which are part of God’s extended celestial kingdom are found in the Temple. The rest of this telestial sphere is unworthy of his presence. It is a misconception that the celestial kingdom is limited to some round orb in the immensity of space. The celestial kingdom is any space which abides the law of the celestial kingdom; it may extend to many places throughout the universe.
 
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory…
Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same…
And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law (i.e. God’s temples) is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same…
All kingdoms have a law given;
And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.
And unto every kingdom is given a law (D&C 88:22-38)
 
The temple is a truly celestial place which abides the established celestial law. God condescends to honor our temples, to accept them, so that when we pray to him “in our affliction,” we are very literally “before God, angels,” and witnesses.
 
If we want our prayers heard, we should keep the commandments—particularly the fast (Isa. 58:9)—and pray unto God in our beautiful temples.
 
“The temple is a house of prayer. We may receive answers to our heart-felt questions if we go to the temple with a sincere desire to obtain them. There, the Holy Ghost may grant us added light and knowledge and the privilege of receiving the answers to the problems and trials the world presents.
 
“How precious are the revelations of God to his people in the temple! Oh, the power to order our lives! The temple is called a ‘house of order.’ (D&C 88:119.) In the temple the truth about God is manifest. In the temple ordinances the power of God is manifest. ‘And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.’ (D&C 84:21.)
 
“In this world we may receive many gifts—cars, money, beautiful homes, educational degrees, and fame in our professions. But none of these compares to the light and revelation that comes to us in the temple.” (Harold Glen Clark, “Four Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 68-69)
 
2 Chronicles 20:20 believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper
 
Robert D. Hales
Jehoshaphat… gave very important counsel that we today would do well to obey. Indeed, just as the people of Judah, our lives may depend upon it—even our eternal lives: “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (2 Chr. 20:20; emphasis added).
 
As promised, the Lord protected the good people of Judah. As Jehoshaphat’s forces looked on, those armies which came to battle against them fought so fiercely among themselves that they completely destroyed one another before they ever reached the people of Judah. Listen to a prophet’s voice and obey. There is safety in following the living prophet.
 
A characteristic of prophets throughout the ages is that, regardless of the consequences, they have had the strength to speak the words of God with plainness and boldness…
 
With the restoration of the priesthood in 1829, there was a restoration of prophets in this dispensation. Living prophets are leading this church today. The greatest security of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from learning to listen to and obey the words and commandments that the Lord has given through living prophets. I would hope that the world would understand the importance of having a living prophet on earth today. (“Hear the Prophet’s Voice and Obey,” Ensign, May 1995, 15)
 
Joseph B. Wirthlin
The Lord has given us prophets to guide us and keep us from evil if we will accept and follow their instruction. The Lord would say to us today as he said to the ancient Israelites: "Be not afraid nor dismayed . . . for the battle is not yours, but God's. . . . Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe the prophets, so shall ye prosper." (2 Chronicles 20:15, 20.)
 
In our conferences, we sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. The Lord has appointed them as watchmen to warn the people (see Ezekiel 2:1-8; 33:6-7) and as the "servant[s] of all" (D&C 50:26). He declared, "Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38.)
 
One latter-day prophet, President George Albert Smith, said: "The spirit of the adversary is the spirit of destruction. There are two influences in the world. The one is the influence of our Heavenly Father and the other is the influence of Satan. We can take our choice which territory we want to live in, that of our Heavenly Father or that of Satan." President Smith then quoted his grandfather, who said, "There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord's territory. On the other side of the line is the devil's territory. . . . If you will stay on the Lord's side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line."
 
"What does that mean?" President Smith asked. "It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, keeping all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel." (Finding Peace in Our Lives [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 14)
 
Gordon B. Hinckley
I have known in a personal way Presidents Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, and Ezra Taft Benson. I have done work for each. I have served under each. I have known them, I have heard them pray, and I can testify that each has been an unusual and remarkable man, that each has been called of God after a long period of experience and tempering, of training and discipline to stand as an instrument of the Almighty in speaking to the people for their blessing and direction…
 
I go back to the words of Jehoshaphat: “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (2 Chr. 20:20.)
 
There are many little things that test our willingness to accept the word of the prophets. Jesus said, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37.)
 
So it has been through the history of mankind, and so it is today. In our own communities, even here in Utah, we have experienced some of this. President Grant carried to his grave a deep sense of sorrow that, contrary to his counsel, the people of Utah cast the final vote, in 1934, that repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
 
I am grateful to say that we had a different experience some years ago when we joined with other citizens in a campaign to control the distribution of liquor. There is no question in my mind that great benefits have come as a result of the overwhelming response to direction from our prophet. There was a similar result when it was proposed that an MX Missile site be located here. Under the leadership of President Kimball, we took a position on this matter. I believe that not only were we of this part of the country blessed because of that position, but also the entire nation, and perhaps the world.
 
Now again, as always, we are faced with public moral issues, this time concerning lotteries, pari-mutuel betting, and other forms of gambling. The Presidents of the Church have spoken clearly and unequivocally on these matters.
 
These are little things, but they are important things. They bring to mind the great contest between the prophet Elijah and the priests of Baal. Said Elijah on that occasion, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kgs. 18:21.)
 
Now in conclusion, may I repeat that I have worked with seven Presidents of this Church. I have recognized that all have been human. But I have never been concerned over this. They may have had some weaknesses. But this has never troubled me. I know that the God of heaven has used mortal men throughout history to accomplish His divine purposes. They were the very best available to Him, and they were wonderful. (“Believe His Prophets,” Ensign, May 1992, 53)