Jehoshaphat
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Kings of Judah

Jehoshaphat

II Chronicles  18-20

Lesson audio

(Note: 2nd Chronicles 17 details the rise of Jehoshaphat to the throne after the death of Asa. It’s full of good news, but we’ll skip to the conflict).

Seeking the Lord

2 Chronicles 18:1-34 NASB (1) Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab. (2) Some years later he went down to visit Ahab at Samaria. And Ahab slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. (3) Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, "Will you go with me against Ramoth-gilead?" And he said to him, "I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in the battle." (4) Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Please inquire first for the word of the LORD." (5) Then the king of Israel assembled the prophets, four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king." (6) But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?" (7) The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imla." But Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." (8) Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, "Bring quickly Micaiah, Imla's son." (9) Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, and they were sitting at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. (10) Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are consumed.'" (11) All the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, "Go up to Ramoth-gilead and succeed, for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." (12) Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, "Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. So please let your word be like one of them and speak favorably." (13) But Micaiah said, "As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak." (14) When he came to the king, the king said to him, "Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?" He said, "Go up and succeed, for they will be given into your hand." (15) Then the king said to him, "How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?" (16) So he said, "I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd; And the LORD said, 'These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'" (17) Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" (18) Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right and on His left. (19) "The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. (20) "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'How?' (21) "He said, 'I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.' (22) "Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you." (23) Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, "How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?" (24) Micaiah said, "Behold, you will see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself." (25) Then the king of Israel said, "Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; (26) and say, 'Thus says the king, "Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely."'" (27) Micaiah said, "If you indeed return safely, the LORD has not spoken by me." And he said, "Listen, all you people." (28) So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up against Ramoth-gilead. (29) The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you put on your robes." So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. (30) Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, saying, "Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone." (31) So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, "It is the king of Israel," and they turned aside to fight against him. But Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him. (32) When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. (33) A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of the chariot, "Turn around and take me out of the fight, for I am severely wounded." (34) The battle raged that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot in front of the Arameans until the evening; and at sunset he died.

A little history and a glance at a map disclose the problem Jehoshaphat, and his father Asa, had to solve. To wit:

  • The kingdom of Israel is much larger and more populous than that of Judah.
  • Both nations acknowledge that they are intrinsically one, the Hebrew people.
  • The legitimate dynasty, the House of David, rules in Judah. A series of dynasties, imposed by force of arms, rules in Israel. This makes invading Judah the hereditary occupation of the kings of Israel. This therefore makes the kings of Israel the problem of Judah.

It’s not the only problem; we have Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites and any other number of folks around for whom the rule of “see plunder and steal it” is a major preoccupation. Being the king is no bed of roses.

This is the second solution attempted. Asa tried to solve this problem by bribing the king of Aram (to the north of Israel). It worked for a while, but ultimately built up the strength of Aram and weakened the kingdoms of Judah and Israel – opening them up to conquest by Aram.

Jehoshaphat is thus faced with a different situation – and he comes up with an equally bad solution. He forms an alliance with Ahab, king of Israel, in the hopes of keeping Ahab off his back, keeping Aram at bay and thus enabling him to deal with the various other people.

Seeking advice

Making an alliance is one thing; going to war another. Jehoshaphat is a cautious man; he wants good advice. Ahab provides it for him. There are plenty of prophets in Israel; he rounds them up and asks them their opinion. They are uniformly favorable; just like stock brokers before the crash. The crowd has spoken, let’s go whip those people.

Jehoshaphat seeks a second opinion. He doesn’t take it, but he remembers it. Apparently he’s just too far in to this alliance to back out now. Worse yet, he’s a sucker for Ahab’s advice. Ahab will go in camouflaged; Jehoshaphat will go in looking like a king. “Looking like a king” has another meaning: target.

Results

In examining what comes next we must not take too rosy a view. Consider the fate of Micaiah, the prophet. He knows what awaits him if he doesn’t go along with the crowd. It would be nice to assume that after the battle he is respectfully released from prison – but I think not. The kings of Israel were not the kindly sort.

Ahab thinks he has the matter all set up. Jehoshaphat will be the target; Ahab will slink through – and perhaps after Jehoshaphat’s death take over the throne of Judah as well. But notice two things:

  • First, Jehoshaphat’s release from danger comes when he cries out to the Lord. It is well to remember who is the God of battles.
  • Second, it appears that Ahab is killed by some anonymous GI, firing at random.

If you can’t see Providence in this, you’re not looking. As we shall see, Jehoshaphat learns some lessons from this.

Heeding the warning

2 Chronicles 19:1-11 NASB (1) Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem. (2) Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD? (3) "But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God." (4) So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. (5) He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. (6) He said to the judges, "Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD who is with you when you render judgment. (7) "Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe." (8) In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers' households of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (9) Then he charged them saying, "Thus you shall do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and wholeheartedly. (10) "Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the LORD, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty. (11) "Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to the LORD, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and the LORD be with the upright."

The alliance with evil often seems not only convenient but the only possible answer. But consider; is it really?

  • It helps the wicked, if only indirectly. It strengthens them in that they no longer need contend with the righteous, and now have their help against some common enemy.
  • Worse, it shows those who love the Lord that their leaders love the wicked – and you can scarcely blame the simpletons in the pews for concluding that the wicked are now approved.[1]
  • And just in case you’re not convinced, God is not mocked. His wrath is ready for those who side with his enemies.

Amazingly, Jehoshaphat gets the message. More to the point, he acts on it.

Repentance

Jehoshaphat puts his money where his mouth is. He leads what can only be described as a revival campaign in Judah. This might not be the brightest of Judah’s kings, but he’s on solid ground.

Revival campaigns by a king carry with them a drawback. Everybody’s head is going to nod correctly – but what about their hearts? How do you convince the people that you mean it?

Jehoshaphat gives a brilliant answer: he reforms and reestablishes the system of justice.[2] In his reform we can see what makes for a solid system of justice – and perhaps why ours is breaking down this day.

Elements of justice

Here are the elements of justice as seen in Jehoshaphat’s reform:

  • “You judge for the Lord.” You are not there to give victory to the slickest lawyer, nor the richest litigant. You are working for the Lord Almighty, even if the king pays your salary. It is his justice you render.
  • Fear of the Lord. The judge must know that God will act upon what the judge does. Two particular actions are condemned: the first is bribery, which is clearly a perversion of justice. The second is partiality – even if it’s partiality to the poor, the downtrodden or the ecologically correct.
  • The judge must perform his work faithfully and wholeheartedly. It is a matter of craftsmanship – a worker approved, as it were.
  • The judge must perform his work according to the commandments and the law. It’s not his justice; it’s God’s justice he is dispensing.

Think what a revolution such justice would be in our time.

The Invasion

2 Chronicles 20:1-30 NASB (1) Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. (2) Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi)." (3) Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. (4) So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD. (5) Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court, (6) and he said, "O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. (7) "Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? (8) "They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary there for Your name, saying, (9) 'Should evil come upon us, the sword, or judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You (for Your name is in this house) and cry to You in our distress, and You will hear and deliver us.' (10) "Now behold, the sons of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom You did not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), (11) see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. (12) "O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You." (13) All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their infants, their wives and their children. (14) Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph; (15) and he said, "Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. (16) 'Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. (17) 'You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you." (18) Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. (19) The Levites, from the sons of the Kohathites and of the sons of the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice. (20) They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed." (21) When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, "Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." (22) When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. (23) For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. (24) When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped. (25) When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found much among them, including goods, garments and valuable things which they took for themselves, more than they could carry. And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much. (26) Then on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore they have named that place "The Valley of Beracah" until today. (27) Every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. (28) They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres and trumpets to the house of the LORD. (29) And the dread of God was on all the kingdoms of the lands when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. (30) So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God gave him rest on all sides.

Tactics

Jehoshaphat now faces another trial – invasion by an alliance from the deserts to the east. A glance at the map shows where these people are coming from.

 

map

(A larger version is found in the previous lesson.) The people of the eastern deserts now descend on Judah by way of the Dead Sea. Once having achieved naval supremacy, they can land anywhere they want to. There are several convenient valleys which will take them up towards the area of Jerusalem. They choose to do so by landing at En-gedi, about half way up the Dead Sea from the south. The hope is that Jehoshaphat is dumb enough to come down from the hills and attempt to assault their army on the narrow plain next to the Dead Sea. Using sea power the invaders can put their army between Jehoshaphat and Jerusalem and destroy him.

It doesn’t work. Jehoshaphat waits at Tekoa. They have to come up one of those valleys, and Tekoa sits at the end of a broad one. It looks like a good route.

 

map

A glance at the topography shows the advantages of the position at Tekoa. The invaders landed at En-gedi, on the coast, and marched up valleys that possessed streams. A glance at the end of the valley, however, shows a natural ambush position.

Prayer

Jehoshaphat doesn’t respond at all the way expected. He assembles all of Judah at the Temple for prayer. It is indeed as instructed through Solomon; Jehoshaphat is doing things God’s way. His prayer is interesting:

  • First, he begins by acknowledging who God is. He knows that his own power is not sufficient – but that God’s power is much more than sufficient.
  • Next, he claims the promises God made to Solomon concerning the building of the Temple. This is where God listens to Judah.

The answer provokes envy; how nice it would be to have a prophet at hand to give you God’s answer. Surely we would love it. But would we surely follow it? Even if answered by other methods, will we follow?

Be still

God sees things a little differently than we do. We see the horde coming; he sees the fragile coalition whose tendons are always weak – weak because of the character of the wicked. This coalition is formed with the idea of plundering the kingdom of Judah. The members of this coalition would just as easily plunder each other if it seemed feasible. The power of the wicked is not as great as it seems, nor can they hold it together long. Their character is shown all too easily here.

The end of the matter is that Jehoshaphat and kingdom wind up with more plunder than they can carry – which should keep these folks at bay as well as strengthen Jehoshaphat’s kingdom. Hard times test us; it seems that good times are more likely to destroy us, as we shall see.

Postscript

After all this, you’d expect that Jehoshaphat would be the model of piety, trusting the Lord. You’d be wrong.

2 Chronicles 20:35-37 NASB (35) After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. (36) So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. (37) Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, "Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works." So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish.

Where the heck is Tarshish, anyway, Jonah? Well, it turns out that it’s in Spain. It was noted as a trading center where you could get tin – a critical ingredient in high quality bronze. Much of that tin came from Cornwall, in England – so you can see the profit in being at the end of one trade route and the start of another. Perhaps Jehoshaphat thought it would be good to form an alliance with evil for the sake of money, as long as it didn’t involve power. He was wrong.

God reminds him of that, and in a way reminds us as well. Like the battle, wealth belongs to God. It’s well for us to remember that.


[1] For example, the attitude Americans took toward the Soviet Union during and just after World War II.

[2] A comparison with Henry II of England makes a good example.

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