Who was Jehoshaphat in the Bible?


Jehoshaphat was the son of King Asa, and his mother was Azubah. Jehoshaphat came into power after the death of his father. He was the fourth king of Judah. Jehoshaphat is most remembered for his reforms and his outstanding victory in a battle over the Edomites, the Moabites and the Ammonites in the wilderness of Tekoa.

We are introduced to Jehoshaphat’s story in 1 Kings 22:41-50, but the details of his life are found in 2 Chronicles 17-21.

Jehoshaphat’s reforms

  • When Jehoshaphat came into power, many people in Judah “offered and burnt incense in the high places.” But “he took away the high places and idol poles out of Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:6).
  • Jehoshaphat also took out those practicing prostitution, “which remained in the days of his father Asa” (1 Kings 22:46).
  • After removing the temptations to Idolatry and prostitution from Judah, Jehoshaphat proceeded to teach the people the word of God (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).
  • Jehoshaphat also instituted and maintained efficient courts of justice, which were based on God’s Word (2 Chronicles 19:5-7).

As a result of these reforms, God was with Jehoshaphat, “And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 17:10, NKJV).

Jehoshaphat’s enemies attack

However, the peace didn’t last forever. One day, the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites came against Jehoshaphat to battle (2 Chronicles 20:1, 20).

He did all he could to prepare himself for war. He placed forces in his fortified cities and set garrisons in the land of Judah. Jehoshaphat had grown exceedingly great and built fortresses and storage cities. He also had a strong army with mighty men of war (2 Chronicles 17:1,2,12,13).

But even with all his preparations, Jehoshaphat still decided to totally depend on God as if he had no other option. This is how the events played out:

  • Prayer and fasting. Jehoshaphat first called for a national day of prayer and fasting for all of Judah. “Little ones, their wives, and their children, so Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:4,13, NKJV).
  • The encouragement of the prophets. God answered their prayers, and through the prophets, the people were encouraged not to fear because the battle was the Lord’s. The leaders encouraged them to go and fight and see the salvation of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:14-17).
  • Worship and praise. Jehoshaphat then guided the people in worshipping and praising God for the answered prayer (2 Chronicles 20:19).
  • Encouragement of the king. He then encouraged the people to believe in God and His prophets. Jehoshaphat assured the people that if they did this, they would be established and prosper (2 Chronicles 20:20).
  • Preparation for war. After some consultation and having encouraged the people, the leaders and people put all their hope in the Lord. Then Jehoshaphat placed singers before the army to sing praises to God.
  • The enemy’s self-destruction. After this wonderful demonstration of faith, “the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (2 Chronicles 20:22,23). The enemy destroyed one another and Judah didn’t even have to fight but only had to collect the spoils of war. There were so many treasures in the enemies’ camp that it took the Israelites three days to gather it all (2 Chronicles 20:24-26).

What mistakes did Jehoshaphat make?

  • Jehoshaphat “made a marriage alliance with the house of Ahab” (2 Chronicles 18:1).
  • Jehoshaphat joined Ahab for war at Ramoth-Gilead against the Lord’s advice through the prophet Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18:2,3,16).
  • Jehoshaphat made ships for business in collaboration with Ahaziah King of Israel who was very wicked (2 Chronicles 20:35,36).

What lessons do we learn from his story?

  • Reforms begin with creating a good environment for spiritual growth. And this comes by removing all things that can tempt us, just as Jehoshaphat removed idols throughout Judah.
  • True reforms in our lives come through study of God’s word and obedience to His commands.
  • Courts of justice can serve the people best if the leaders judge according to godly principles.
  • It is good to come together for prayers and fasting when faced by difficulties.
  • True prosperity comes from believing in God and His prophets.

The story of Jehoshaphat provides lessons about dependence on God, believing his word and obeying it. If we are faced with difficulties as individuals, families or as a nation, we can turn to Him and He will deliver us from our crisis no matter how tough it may be.