Jehoshaphat

JEHOSHAPHAT (jē-hŏsh'a-făt, Heb. yehôshāphat, Jehovah is judge; shortened to Joshaphat in 1Chr.15.24; Gr. Jōsaphat [Matt.1.8, kjv Josaphat])

1. One of the seven priests who blew trumpets before the ark of the Lord in David’s time (1Chr.15.24, niv Joshaphat).

2. Son of Ahilud, and recorder or chronicler in the time of David (2Sam.8.16; 2Sam.20.24).

3. Son of Paruah, appointed by Solomon as officer of the commissariat over the tribe of Issachar (1Kgs.4.17). He had to provide the household of the king with food one month of every year.

4. Son and successor of King Asa on the throne of Judah. He reigned for twenty-five years, including five years of rule with his father. He began to reign about 871 b.c. His mother was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. For the account of his reign, see 1Kgs.22.1-1Kgs.22.53; 2Chr.17.1-2Chr.17.19-2Chr.20.1-2Chr.20.37. Jehoshaphat was the second of the five kings of Judah who were outstanding for godliness, the later ones being Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah. He took away the high places and Asherah poles from Judah (2Chr.17.6), though he apparently was not able to keep the people from using certain high places in worshiping the Lord (1Kgs.22.43). One of the first men to sense the importance of religious education for the people, he sent out in the third year of his reign princes and priests and Levites to teach the people the law of the Lord. They went throughout the cities of Judah in doing this work (2Chr.17.7-2Chr.17.9). Because of Jehoshaphat’s godliness, “the fear of the Lord ” fell on the surrounding nations, and even the Philistines and the Arabs brought him tribute. With all this godliness, he seems, however, to have been lacking in spiritual discernment, for he made the great and almost fatal mistake of associating with the wicked King Ahab of the northern kingdom; so much so that his son Jehoram married Athaliah, who was almost as wicked as her mother Jezebel.

Ahab made a great show of hospitality to Jehoshaphat during a visit to Samaria and then asked him if he would be his ally in a campaign to recover Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat suggested that they first determine the will of God. Ahab agreed and asked his prophets for their advice, and they all prophesied good success for the venture. Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and asked if there were not a real prophet of the Lord present. They sent for Micaiah, a man of God, whom Ahab hated. He told them the truth, that God had put a spirit of delusion in the minds of all the prophets, so that Ahab might be doomed. Ahab partly believed this and arranged a trick, pretending to give Jehoshaphat the glory, but Ahab was killed. Jehoshaphat died at the age of sixty, about the year 850 b.c. His son Jehoram succeeded to the throne.

5. The son of Nimshi, and father of Jehu who destroyed the house of Ahab (2Kgs.9.2, 2Kgs.9.14).


JEHOSHAPHAT jĭ hŏsh’ ə fət (יְהוֹשָׁפָ֥ט, Jehovah judges, LXX ̓Ιωσαφάτ, G2734). Sixth king of the Davidic kingdom, fourth of Judah after secession of the northern tribes, reigned twenty-five years 873-849 b.c., contemporary to reigns (in whole or part) of Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah and Jehoram, kings of Israel—the entire Omride dynasty and contemporary to the prophets Elijah and Elisha.


This article will follow the literary order of the main section wherein Jehoshaphat’s story appears in 2 Chronicles 17-20.

His military policy (2 Chron 17:1, 2).

The Heb. text of v. 2 indicates a policy of strong defense against expected inroads from the N. Omri, founder of the current dynasty at Samaria had been a military commander-in-chief (1 Kings 16:16); his son Ahab, Jehoshaphat’s opposite number in Samaria, while not courageous, was strong. The reign of Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father, had been one of uninterrupted warfare with the kings of Israel (2 Chron 16:1ff.; 1 Kings 15:32). As a patriotic and foresighted head of state, Jehoshaphat placed armed men in all the “cut off” (i.e. protected by heights, walls, moats, towers, gates, etc.), cities of Judah and garrisons of soldiers in lesser towns. The warfare of the time offered small protection to rural village folk. At the approach of enemy forces they simply drove their livestock ahead of them to the fortified cities and moved in. Under such circumstances warfare tended to be siege warfare unless there was professional military organization and soldiery to drive invading forces from the field. Jehoshaphat believed: “In time of peace prepare war.”

His general religious policy (2 Chron 17:3-6).

The Mosaic commonwealth of Israel was no democracy in matters of religion. Obedience to the law of Moses was not optional for anyone. It was the duty of magistrates and priests to practice the Mosaic faith and to see that all citizens at least outwardly and publicly did the same. Jehoshaphat was outstanding in the way in which as head of state he put the religious laws into effect. He heartily embraced the ancestral religion (17:3), following the example of David. Two striking expressions underscore this fact: “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord” (17:6) and the comment of Jehu the seer: “You...have set your heart to seek God” (19:3). The success of the public measures taken to restore the practice of Mosaic faith to the entire nation is summarized viz: “And he 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” (19:4).

Special measures employed for restoring Mosaic religion (17:7-9).


Prosperity of his reign (2 Chron 17:5b, 10-19; 19:4).

His military and religious measures were successful: “The fear of the Lord fell upon all...and they made no war against Jehoshaphat” (17:10). He brought the nation back, at least formally, to “the God of their fathers” (19:4).

The new policy of conciliation with Israel (2 Chron 18:1-19:3; cf. 1 Kings 22).


His judicial reforms (2 Chron 19:5-11).

Judicial laws and procedures prescribed by Pentateuchal laws provided mainly for courts at the local level. There was really no distinction between civil laws and courts on the one hand and religious on the other. To the present day in the Near East, including the new secular-religious state of Israel the distinctions are frequently obscure. But with the institution of the monarchy with its claims of taxes and services as well as manpower upon the population there was need to expand the judicial system. Hence the “chief priest” was made head of the system of religious courts (“Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord,” 2 Chron 19:11) while a separate non-Levite became head of a court dealing strictly with secular matter (“Zebadiah...the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters”). These national courts were not courts of appeal for plaintiffs dissatisfied with rulings of local courts, but rather as courts of referral for local judges who ruled themselves incompetent for some reason (Deut 17:8). Equity was a matter, in the main, for courts of local elders and appears not to have been involved in Jehoshaphat’s reforms.

Foreign invasion from the East and its miraculous repulse in the wilderness of Tekoa (2 Chron 20:1-30).

There appears to be only one reference to this quite amazing incident in the Book of Kings and that a very oblique statement to the effect that Jehoshaphat successfully conducted certain undescribed wars (1 Kings 22:43). 2 Chronicles 20:11 represents the invaders (Moabites, Ammonites and Meunim, 20:1, cf. 26:7 and ASVmg. note) as seeking actually to dispossess the Jews of their land rather than mere conquest. Precisely because the invaders expected to stay and brought along families, flocks, and goods, the Jews reaped the large and valuable booty reported. The locale is the desert border area SE of Bethlehem and NE of Hebron. The present road between these two cities skirts the western edge of the territory involved in this incident.

Assessment of his reign.

Although he attained a moderately advanced age (sixty years) and enjoyed twenty-five years of prosperous reign, and although personally loyal to the ancestral faith and pure of life and motive, Jehoshaphat’s greatest failures lay in the precise areas of his greatest success—international relations and religious reformation (2 Chron 20:31-37). He could not root out the unlawful (viz. Deut 12, esp. vv. 5-7) and prob. clandestine high place worship, for the people had not “yet set their hearts upon the God of their fathers” (2 Chron 20:33). His diplomacy by intermarriage of his own house with that of Ahab brought all his gains to ruin within a few years of his death. Already in his lifetime it was bearing unwanted and bitter fruit (1 Kings 22:48, 49; cf. 2 Chron 20:35-37) in a futile joint naval venture with Ahaziah of Israel.

His death and succession (2 Chron 21:1).

To the laconic statement of Scripture, Josephus adds: “He was buried in a magnificent manner in Jerusalem, for he had imitated the actions of David” (Antiquities. IX. iii. 2).

2. “The son of Ahilud was recorder [chronicler or analyst]” (2 Sam 8:16). The fact that such an officer functioned officially in David’s court is of greater interest than the man, himself, about whom nothing else is known (cf. Esth 6:1).

3. One of seven who blew trumpets in connection with worship at the central sanctuary in transfer of the Ark from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David (1 Chron 15:24).

4. One of twelve officers in charge of collection of foodstuffs for Solomon’s court, each in charge of a certain area and presenting his collections in rotations during one of the twelve months of the year. Presumably these collections were agricultural payment in kind—chiefly grain, oil and wine. Archeology has produced many examples of containers designated with Israelitish kings’ distinctive mark in several parts of Pal. This man’s district was the tribe of Issachar (1 Kings 4:17).

5. Father of King Jehu of Samaria (2 Kings 9:2, 14).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(yehoshaphaT, "Yahweh has judged"):

(1) King of Judah. See separate article.

(2) Son of Ahilud. He was recorder under David (2Sa 8:16; 20:24; 1Ch 18:15) and Solomon (1Ki 4:3).

(3) Son of Paruah, and Solomon’s overseer in Issachar to provide victuals for the royal household for one month of the year (1Ki 4:17).

(4) Son of Nimshi, and father of Jehu, king of Northern Israel (2Ki 9:2,14). His name is omitted in 9:20 and 1Ki 19:16, where Jehu is called "son of Nimshi."

(5) the King James Version (but not Hebrew) in 1Ch 15:24; the Revised Version (British and American) correctly JOSHAPHAT (which see).

David Francis Roberts


The 4th king of Judah, son of Asa. His mother was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi, of whom nothing further is known. He was 35 years of age at his accession, and reigned 25 years, circa 873-849 BC. Th e history of his reign is contained in 1Ki 22:41-50 and in 2Ch 17:1-21:1. The narrative in 1Ki 22:1-35 a and in 2Ki 3:4 ff belongs to the history of the Northern Kingdom. The absence from Ki of the details contained in 2 Chronicles affords no presumpt against their truth. Neither do high numbers, embellished statements, and the coloring of the writer’s own age destroy the historical perspective.

1. His Religious Policy:

The reign of Jehoshaphat appears to have been one of unusual religious activity. It was, however, characterized not so much by striking religious measures as it was by the religious spirit that pervaded every act of the king, who sought the favor of Yahweh in every detail of his life (2Ch 17:3,4). He evidently felt that a nation’s character is determined by its religion. Accordingly, he made it his duty to purify the national worship. The "sodomites," i.e. those who practiced immorality in the worsh ip of Yahweh in the temple precincts, were banished from the land (1Ki 22:46). The Asherim were taken out of Judah (2Ch 17:6; 19:3), and "the people from Beer-sheba to the hill-country of Ephraim were brought back unto Yahweh, the God of their fathers" (2Ch 19:4). Because of his zeal for Yahweh, Jehoshaphat is rewarded with power and "riches and honor in abundance" (2Ch 17:5).

2. His System of Public Instruction:

Believing that religion and morals, the civilization, suffer from ignorance, Jehoshaphat introduced a system of public instruction for the whole land (2Ch 17:7 ). He appointed a commission, composed of princes, Levites and priests, to go from city to city to instruct the people. Their instruction was to be based on the one true foundation of sound morals and healthy religious life, "the book of the law of Yahweh" (2Ch 17:7-9).

3. His Judicial Institutions:

Next in importance to Jehoshaphat’s system of public instruction, was his provision for the better administration of justice. He appointed judges to preside over courts of common pleas, which he established in all the fortified cities of Judah. In addition to these local courts, two courts of appeal, an ecclesiastical and a civil court, were established at Jerusalem to be presided over by priests, Levites, and leading nobles as judges. At the head of the ecclesiastical court of appeal was the high priest, and a layman, "the ruler of the house of Judah," headed the civil court of appeal (2Ch 19:4-11). The insistence that a judge was to be in character like Yahweh, with whom there is "no iniquity .... nor respect of persons, nor taking of bribes" (2Ch 19:7), is worthy of note.

4. His Military Defenses:

According to 2Ch 17:2, Jehoshaphat began his reign with defensive measures against Israel. Furthermore, he built castles and cities of store in the land of Judah, "and he had many works," probably military supplies, "in the cities of Judah" (17:13). He appears to have had a large standing army, including cavalry (1Ki 22:4; 2Ch 17:14 ). However, the numbers in 2Ch 17:14 ff seem to be impossibly high.

5. His Foreign Policy:

Godliness and security at home were followed by respect and peace abroad. The fact that the Philistines and the Arabians brought tribute (2Ch 17:11), and that Edom had no king (1Ki 22:47), but a deputy instead, who possibly was appointed by Jehoshaphat, would indicate that he held the suzerainty over the nations and tribes bordering Judah on the South and West Holding the suzerainty over the weaker nations, and being allied with the stronger, Jehoshaphat secured the peace for the greater part of his reign (1Ch 17:10) that fostered the internal development of the kingdom.

6. His Alliance with Ahab:

In contrast to the former kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat saw greater benefit in an alliance with Israel than in civil war. Accordingly, the old feud between the two kingdoms (1Ki 14:30; 15:6) was dropped, and Jehoshaphat made peace with Israel (1Ki 22:44). The political union was cemented by the marriage of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Shortly after the marriage, Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in a campaign against Syria (2Ch 18:1-3). In view of the subordinate position that Jehoshaphat seems to take in the campaign (1Ki 22:4,30), and in view of the military service rendered to Jehoram (2Ki 3:4 ), Judah seems to have become a dependency of Israel. Nevertheless, the union may have contributed to the welfare and prospity of Judah, and it may have enabled Jehoshaphat to hold the suzerainty over the neighboring nations. However, the final outcome of the alliance with the house of Omri was disastrous for Judah. The introduction into Judah of Baalism more than counterbalanced any political and material advantage gained, and in the succeeding reigns it indirectly led to the almost total extinction of the royal family of Judah (2Ki 11:1 ).

7. His Alliance with Jehoram:

In spite of the denunciation of the prophet Jehu for his expedition with Ahab, thus "help(ing) the wicked" (2Ch 19:2), Jehoshaphat entered into a similar alliance with Jehoram of Israel (2Ki 3:4 ). On the invitation of Jehoram to join him in an expedition against Moab, Jehoshaphat was ready with the same set speech of acceptance as in the case of Ahab (2Ki 3:7; compare 1Ki 22:4). For the details of the expedition see Jehoram, (1).

8. Victory over the Moabites and Ammonites:

The Chronicler has given us a very remarkable account of a victory gained by Jehoshaphat over the Moabites and Ammonites. No doubt he made use of a current historical Midrash. Many find the historical basis of the Midrash in the events recorded in 2Ki 3:4 ff. However, the localities are different, and there a defeat is recorded, while in this case we have a victory. The story in outline bears the stamp of probability. 1Ki 22:45 seems to suggest wars of Jehoshaphat that are not mentioned in Kings. The tribes mentioned in the account are represented as trying to make permanent settlement in Judah (2Ch 20:11). In their advance through the South of Judah, they were doubtless harassed by the shepherd population of the country. Jehoshaphat, according to his custom, sought the help of Yahweh. The invading forces fell to quarreling among themselves (2Ch 20:23), and destroyed one another. The spoil was great because the invaders had brought all their goods with them, expecting to remain in the land.

9. Destruction of Jehoshaphat’s Fleet:

The destruction of Jehoshaphat’s fleet is recorded in 1Ki 22:48,49 and in 2Ch 20:35-37. However, the two accounts are quite different. According to Kings, Jehoshaphat built ships of Tarshish to sail to Ophir for gold, but the vessels were wrecked at zion-geber. Thereupon Ahaziah offered to assist Jehoshaphat with seamen, but Jehoshaphat refused to enter into the alliance. According to Chronicles the alliance had been formed, and together they built ships at Ezion-geber, which were destroyed because Jehoshaphat had made an alliance with the wicked king of Israel. In view of Jehoshaphat’s other alliances, the Chronicler may be in the right. Chronicles, however, misunderstood the term "ships of Tarshish."

10. His Death:

Jehoshaphat died at the age of 60. Josephus says (Ant., IX, iii, 2) that he was buried in a magnificent manner, for he had imitated the actions of David. The kingdom was left to Jehoram, who inaugurated the beginning of his reign by causing the massacre of his brethren.