Who was King Jehoshaphat in Old Testament?

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Historical background

Jehoshaphat was the son of Asa and fourth king of Judah (1 Kings 15:24). His mother was Azubah (1 Kings 22:42). Jehoshaphat reigned with his father Asa for a period before his father’s death (1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 17–22).  And his children included Jehoram, who succeeded him as king.

Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years from 873 to 848 BC (1 Kings 22:42). He spent the first years of his rule strengthening his kingdom against the Kingdom of Israel. And the neighboring nations feared Judah and brought it tribute (2 Chronicles 17:10–19).

Jehoshaphat’s reforms against idolatry

Jehoshaphat’s godly zeal in overturning the idolatrous worship of the “high places” is praised in 2 Chronicles 17:6. In the third year of his reign Jehoshaphat appointed priests and Levites over his land to teach people God’s law (2 Chronicles 17:7–9) according to Deuteronomy 31:10–13. Jehoshaphat made reforms and set fair judges throughout the land to settle disputes among his subjects (2 Chronicles 19:4–11). For his devotion to God, his reign was blessed with peace and prosperity. Yet, there were still high places that had not been taken away (1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 33).

And “Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance.  And his heart took delight in the ways of the Lord; moreover he removed the [high places and wooden images from Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6).

Jehoshaphat’s unwise alliance with wicked Ahab

But Jehoshaphat made an alliance with the wicked King Ahab of the northern kingdom. His son Jehoram married Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. And in the eighteenth year of his reign, Jehoshaphat visited Ahab in Samaria, united with him to the siege of Ramoth-Gilead. However, King Ahab was killed but Jehoshaphat barely survived. And when he returned, he was reproached by the prophet Jehu, son of Hanani, about his unwise alliance with the evil king. Jehoshaphat repented, and returned to his former course of opposition to all idolatry (2 Chronicles 19:4–11).

1 Kings 22:41–50 and 2 Chronicles 20:35–37 tell us of another alliance between Israel and Judah for trade of gold with Ophir. Jehoshaphat wanted to unite with Ahab, but God warned him through a prophet. And the Lord God judged him and the fleet was destroyed. Thus, Jehoshaphat’s unwise investment with Ahaziah was fruitless.

He next joined Jehoram of Israel, in a war against the Moabites, who were under tribute to Israel. The Moabites were subjected. But Mesha’s (Moabite king) deed of offering his own son as a human sacrifice on the walls of Kir of Moab filled the Hebrew king with fear and he returned to his own land (2 Kings 3:4–27).

God gives Jehoshaphat great victory from the Moabites

According to 2 Chronicles, the Moabites formed a powerful alliance with the neighboring nations, and warred against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20). The allied powers gathered at Ein Gedi. And the king and his people were filled with great fear. So, the king went to the temple and prayed, “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do; but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Then, the Lord spoke through Jahaziel the Levite who declared that the following day the enemies will be defeated (v. 14-17). And it was so, for the enemy forces fought among themselves, and slew one another (v.22-23). And the people of Judah went and gathered the spoils of the dead (v. 25). Soon after this victory Jehoshaphat died after a reign of twenty-five years at the age of sixty (1 Kings 22:50).

Although Jehoshaphat was a godly king that worshiped the Lord and led his people to fear Him, the people backslid into idolatry. And his own son Jehoram did not follow the example of his father but did wickedness before the Lord and murdered his brothers. And he made a treaty with Ahab the king of Israel (2 Chronicles 21:4–6).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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