King Jehoshaphat - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Jehoshaphat - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Jehoshaphat
Previous King: Asa   Next King: Jehoram


Contents

Summary
Jehoshaphat's Early Reforms
The Death of King Ahab
Jehoshaphat's Later Reforms
Invasion!
Jehoshaphat's Merchant Shipping Disaster
The Moabite Rebellion
For Discussion

Summary

The story of King Jehoshaphat's 25-year reign simply glows with his devotion to the LORD. He never once fell into the pagan religion or practices that plagued neighboring Israel, and many of Judah's kings as well. Much of his story is a record of his religious reforms, detailed below.

Jehoshaphat's most shining moment came when his nation was under attack by an alliance of three vast armies. Recognizing his totally helpless position, the king hosted a nationwide day of prayer. When the LORD, answering the prayers, told Jehoshaphat he would defeat this enemy without fighting, he trusted the LORD so completely that he dispatched an army — not of soldiers, but of singers, singing praise to God. When this army came upon the invaders, they discovered them completely destroyed by internal fighting.

Jehoshaphat was a man of great diplomatic skill, and his biggest weakness was his habit of forming alliances with evil men — first with Israel's King Ahab, then later with Ahab's son King Ahaziah, and finally with Ahab's son King Jehoram. The LORD soundly reprimanded him for supporting sin in that way.

In spite of this weakness, Jehoshaphat must be remembered as one of the great heroes of faith, completely dedicated to God.

Where to read Jehoshaphat's story: 1 Kings 22:1-50; 2 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 17:1 - 21:3

Jehoshaphat's Early Reforms

Jehoshaphat came to the throne in the wake of a time of war at the conclusion of his father King Asa's reign. For this reason, among his first actions were border fortifications, especially on the border with Israel.

From the beginning, he also instituted religious reform. He never once participated in the prominent Baal cult or the other idol-based religions that had snared Israel and Judah. He removed the Asherah shrines.

In his third year, Jehoshaphat established a traveling school, open to the public — a rare innovation in his day. It was staffed by 16 well trained men, and toured the land, teaching the law of the LORD to the population.

Jehoshaphat's leadership was so effective, and God's blessing so rich, that internal peace and military security became the rule. Even the Philistines, longtime adversaries, became a tribute paying vassalage.

Source: 2 Chronicles 17

The Death of King Ahab

King Jehoshaphat had, by his diplomatic prowess, established good relations with Israel, a previously threatening neighbor. To achieve good relations, he had arranged a marriage between his son Prince Jehoram and Princess Athaliah, daughter of Israel's King Ahab. This was certainly against the LORD's wishes, for God forbids marriages — and indeed all partnerships — between his people and people committed to evil.

During a meeting between the two kings, Israel's King Ahab expressed his desire to recover territories taken from him by Syria. Jehoshaphat agreed to join him in this venture, on the condition that they first seek the LORD's approval.

The LORD did not approve. The prophet Micaiah foretold that Ahab would be killed in this battle. However, Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to fight anyway, with the added precaution that Ahab would enter the battle incognito, to sidestep the prophecy, and Jehoshaphat would take Ahab's place at the head of the army.

The Syrian king, who held a grudge against Ahab, had instructed his men to focus solely on killing Ahab, ignoring every other battle objective. When these men saw a king at the head of Israel's army, they assumed it was Ahab, surrounded him, and fought fiercely. Jehoshaphat, realizing he was in serious trouble, shouted to the LORD for help. Hearing this, the enemy realized it couldn't possibly be Ahab, for with his lifelong commitment to paganism, Ahab would never call out to the LORD. So they abandoned the chase and began looking elsewhere for Ahab, and Jehoshaphat was saved.

Ahab was killed by a random arrow, and retreated to die near his palace at Jezreel. When Jehoshaphat returned home, a prophet named Jehu informed him that the LORD was angry with him for entering the battle against the LORD's instructions, given by the prophet Micaiah. The partnership between godly Jehoshaphat and wicked Ahab was repulsive to God. However, because this was an aberration from Jehoshaphat's usual stance of faith and obedience, the LORD did not punish Jehoshaphat.

Source: 1 Kings 22:1-40; 2 Chronicles 18:1 - 19:3

Jehoshaphat's Later Reforms

King Jehoshaphat instituted another round of reforms, this time in the field of justice. He appointed judges in every major city and took precautions against judicial corruption. He took steps to educate the judges, the disputants in court, and the public at large, in the law of the LORD.

He also continued his religious reforms, including touring schools for the public, and elimination of pagan religion and practice.

Source: 1 Kings 22:41-47; 2 Chronicles 19:4-11

Invasion!

King Jehoshaphat faced his greatest crisis — indeed, it threatened to exterminate the nation — when three nations joined, forming a vast army, and launched an invasion. Scouting reports revealed the enemy was already nearby, and Judah was far overpowered.

In alarm, Jehoshaphat organized a national day of prayer. The entire population assembled at Jerusalem, fasting and praying. The king himself prayed a beautiful prayer expressing God's might, his history and promise of aid to his people, and their present helplessness, ending his prayer with the words, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

As the people waited, the LORD spoke through the prophet Jahaziel, instructing the army to march against the invaders without fear, take up their battle positions, and watch the LORD fight this battle; the army would not have to fight at all. In great relief, king and people worshipped the LORD.

Early the next morning, Jehoshaphat assembled his army. But God had told him they wouldn't have to fight — so the army was led, not by the bravest soldiers, as was customary, but by the temple choir! They marched to meet the enemy, singing praises to God. As the enemy heard the army of Judah approaching them, singing, they were thrown into confusion. The three armies began bickering with each other, then killing each other. By the time Jehoshaphat's army reached the battlefield, there was no sign of a single survivor.

The entire army was organized into a work force to carry away everything of value. It is a measure of just how outnumbered Jehoshaphat was, that it took this work force three days to collect all the plunder!

The battle was followed by intense celebration, and as the news spread, the nearby kingdoms were so struck with dread that no one waged war against Judah for the rest of Jehoshaphat's reign.

Source: 2 Chronicles 20:1-29

Jehoshaphat's Merchant Shipping Disaster

After the death of King Ahab, Jehoshaphat formed an alliance with Ahab's son and successor, King Ahaziah. Together they built a fleet of ships, intending to embark on the international shipping trade.

However Ahaziah, like Ahab, was wholeheartedly committed to evil, and God found the alliance repugnant. A prophet told Jehoshaphat that the LORD would destroy the ships, and in fact they were shipwrecked before their first voyage.

Ahaziah urged Jehoshaphat not to give up, but to rebuild and try again. Jehoshaphat, however, listened to the LORD and refused.

Source: 1 Kings 22:48-49; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37

The Moabite Rebellion

King Jehoshaphat joined Jehoram, now Israel's king, in a war against Moab. Moab had been subdued in King Ahab's time, but was now arming itself against Israel. King Jehoram, like his father Ahab and his brother King Ahaziah, rejected the LORD, clinging to the religion of the golden calf idols. Obtaining also the aid of the king of Edom, the three kings with their armies set out together across the desert.

A week into their journey, they faced mortal crisis when they exhausted their supply of water, finding no new supply in the desert. Jehoram blamed the LORD for this disaster, but godly Jehoshaphat inquired if there were a clergyman nearby, so they could seek advice from the LORD. Learning the prophet Elisha was in the area, Jehoram and Jehoshaphat set out together to meet with him.

Elisha, having previously become disgusted with wicked Jehoram, was about to refuse to meet them, but changed his mind out of consideration for Jehoshaphat. Elisha requested music, and while he listened the LORD gave him this message: they were to dig the valley full of ditches, and the LORD, without benefit of inclement weather, would fill the ditches with water. Furthermore, the LORD would give them victory over Moab, and they were to impair Moab's future ability to arm themselves for war by destroying their timber, wells, and farm fields.

They dug ditches, and the next morning a flood ran through the valley, filling the ditches with water. So the armies were rescued from death by dehydration.

That same morning, the army of Moab looked out over the valley where the three armies had camped the night before. In the light of the rising sun, the water-filled ditches looked like blood-covered fields, and the Moabites concluded that the three armies had quarreled and slaughtered each other. Rushing without caution to collect the plunder, they ran unarmed into Israel's camp, and were routed.

Source: 2 Kings 3

For Discussion


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