Meet Jehoshaphat: King of Judah

He dared to do the right thing and earned favor with God

Jehoshaphat
Michelangelo's 'Asa-Jehoshaphat-Joram.' The man on the left is generally considered to be Jehoshaphat. Public Domain

Jehoshaphat, the fourth king of Judah, became one of the country's most successful rulers for one simple reason: He followed the commands of God. 

At age 35, Jehoshaphat succeeded his father, Asa, who was the first good king over Judah. He also did what was right in God's eyes and led Judah in a series of religious reforms.

When Jehoshaphat took office, about 873 BC, he immediately began to abolish the idol worship that had consumed the land.

He drove out the male cult prostitutes and destroyed the Asherah poles where the people had worshiped false gods.

To solidify devotion to God, Jehoshaphat sent prophets, priests, and Levites throughout the country to teach people God's laws. God looked with favor on Jehoshaphat, strengthening his kingdom and making him wealthy. Neighboring kings paid tribute to him because they feared his power.

Jehoshaphat Made an Unholy Alliance

But Jehoshaphat also made some bad decisions. He allied himself with Israel by marrying his son Jehoram to King Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Ahab and his wife, Queen Jezebel, had well-deserved reputations for wickedness.

At first, the alliance worked, but Ahab drew Jehoshaphat into a war that was against God's will. The great battle at Ramoth Gilead was a catastrophe. Only through the intervention of God did Jehoshaphat escape. Ahab was killed by an enemy arrow.

Following that disaster, Jehoshaphat appointed judges throughout Judah to deal fairly with the people's disputes.

That brought further stability to his kingdom.

In another time of crisis, Jehoshaphat's obedience to God saved the country. An enormous army of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites gathered at En Gedi, near the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat prayed to God, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, who prophesied that the battle was the Lord's.

When Jehoshaphat led the people out to meet the invaders, he ordered men to sing, praising God for his holiness. God set Judah's enemies upon each other, and by the time the Hebrews arrived, they saw only dead bodies on the ground. God's people needed three days to carry off the plunder.

Despite his earlier experience with Ahab, Jehoshaphat entered into another alliance with Israel, through Ahab's son, evil King Ahaziah. Together they built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir to collect gold, but God disapproved and the ships were wrecked before they could set sail.

Jehoshaphat, whose name means "Jehovah has judged," was 35 years old when he began his reign and was king for 25 years. He was buried at age 60 in the City of David in Jerusalem. According to tradition, Jehoshaphat was buried in a magnificent manner to mimic the actions of King David

Jehoshaphat's Accomplishments

Jehoshaphat strengthened Judah militarily by building an army and many forts. He campaigned against idolatry and for the renewed worship of the One True God. He educated the people in God's laws with traveling teachers. Jehoshaphat solidified peace between Israel and Judah. He was obedient to God. 

Strengths

A bold and faithful follower of Yahweh, Jehoshaphat consulted God's prophets before making decisions and credited God for every victory.

A victorious military leader, He was honored and made wealthy from tribute. 

Weaknesses

He sometimes followed the world's ways, such as making alliances with questionable neighbors. Jehoshaphat failed to foresee the long-term consequences of his bad decisions.

Life Lessons from King Jehoshaphat's Story

  • Obeying God's commands is a wise way to live.
  • Putting anything ahead of God is idolatry.
  • Without God's help, we can do nothing worthwhile.
  • Consistent dependence on God is the only way to succeed.

Hometown

Jerusalem

References to Jehoshaphat in the Bible

The history of Jehoshaphat's reign is told in 1 Kings 15:24 - 22:50 and 2 Chronicles 17:1 - 21:1. Other references include 2 Kings 3:1-14, Joel 3:2, 12, and Matthew 1:8.

Occupation

King of Judah

Family Tree

Father: Asa
Mother: Azubah
Son: Jehoram
Daughter-in-law: Athaliah

Key Verses

He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. (2 Kings 18:6, NIV)

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s." (2 Chronicles 20:15, NIV)

He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 20:32-33, NIV) 

Sources

  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor.
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor.
  • The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, editor.
  • Life Application Bible, Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan Publishing.