|Rulers of Judah|
Jehoshaphat (pronounced //, alternately spelled Jehosaphat, Josaphat, or Yehoshafat; Hebrew: יְהוֹשָׁפָט, Modern Yehoshafat Tiberian Yəhôšāp̄āṭ ; " Jehovah has judged"; Greek: Ἰωσαφάτ; Latin: Josaphat) was the fourth king of the Kingdom of Judah, and successor of his father Asa. His children included Jehoram, who succeeded him as king. His mother was Azubah Historically, his name has sometimes been connected with the Valley of Jehosaphat, where, according to Joel 3:2, the God of Israel will gather all nations for judgment.
Jehoshaphat took the throne at the age of thirty-five and reigned for twenty-five years. William F. Albright has dated the reign of Jehoshaphat to 873 – 849 BC. E. R. Thiele held that he became coregent with his father Asa in Asa's thirty-ninth year, 872/871 BC, the year Asa was infected with a severe disease in his feet, and then became sole regent when Asa died of the disease in 870/869 BC, his own death occurring in 848/847 BC. Thiele's chronology for the first kings of Judah contained an internal inconsistency that later scholars corrected by dating these kings one year earlier, so that Jehoshaphat's dates are taken as one year earlier in the present article: coregency beginning in 873/871, sole reign commencing in 871/870, and death in 849/848 BC.
Jehoshaphat spent the first years of his reign fortifying his kingdom against the Kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 17:1-2). The Bible lauds the king for overcoming sexual corruption (1 Kings 22:46), and for destroying the cult images or "idols" of Baal in the land. In the third year of his reign Jehoshaphat sent out priests and Levites over the land to instruct the people in the Law (2 Chronicles 17:7-9), an activity that was commanded for a Sabbatical year in Deuteronomy 31:10-13. The author of 2 Chronicles generally praises his reign, stating that the kingdom enjoyed a great measure of peace and prosperity, the blessing of God resting on the people "in their basket and their store."
Jehoshaphat also pursued alliances with his contemporaries ruling the northern kingdom, the first being with Ahab, which was based on marriage: Jehoshaphat married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18). This alliance led to much disgrace, and brought disaster on his kingdom (1 Kings 22:1-33) with the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead. While Jehoshaphat safely returned from this battle, he was confronted by the prophet Jehu, son of Hanani, (2 Chronicles 19:1-3) about this alliance. We are told that Jehoshaphat repented, and returned to his former course of opposition to all idolatry, and promoting the worship of God and in the government of his people (2 Chronicles 19:4-11).
Again he entered into an alliance with Ahaziah, the king of Israel, for the purpose of carrying on maritime commerce with Ophir. But the fleet that was then equipped at Ezion-Gever was immediately wrecked. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48-49).
He subsequently joined Jehoram, king of Israel, in a war against the Moabites, who were under tribute to Israel. This war was successful. The Moabites were subdued, but seeing Mesha's act of offering his own son in a human sacrifice on the walls of Kir-haresheth filled Jehoshaphat with horror, and he withdrew and returned to his own land (2 Kings 3:4-27).
Victory over Moabite alliance
The last notable event of his reign occurred when the Moabites formed a great and powerful confederacy with the surrounding nations, and marched against Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20). The allied forces were encamped at Ein Gedi. The king and his people were filled with alarm, and dedicated themselves to God in prayer and fasting. The king prayed in the court of the temple, "O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do; but our eyes are upon you." Amid the silence that followed, the voice of Jahaziel the Levite was heard announcing that the next day all this great host would be overthrown. So it was, for they quarreled among themselves, and slew one another, leaving to the people of Judah only to gather the rich spoils of the slain. This was recognized as a great deliverance wrought for them by God. Soon after this victory Jehoshaphat died after a reign of twenty-five years at the age of sixty (1 Kings 22:50). According to some sources (such as the Jewish commentator Rashi) he actually died two years later, but gave up his throne earlier for unknown reasons.
The calendars for reckoning the years of kings in Judah and Israel were offset by six months, that of Judah starting in Tishri (in the fall) and that of Israel in Nisan (in the spring). Cross-synchronizations between the two kingdoms therefore often allow narrowing of the beginning and/or ending dates of a king to within a six-month range. For Jehoshaphat, the Scriptural data allow the narrowing of the beginning of his sole reign to some time between Tishri 1 of 871 BC and the day before Nisan 1 of the 870 BC. For calculation purposes, this should be taken as the Judean year beginning in Tishri of 871/870 BC, or more simply 871 BC. His death occurred at some time between Nisan 1 of 848 BC and Tishri 1 of that same BC year, i.e. in the Judean regnal year 849/848 BC, which for calculation purposes can be taken as 849 BC. These dates are one year earlier than those given in the third edition of Thiele's Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, thereby correcting an internal consistency that Thiele never resolved, as explained in the Rehoboam article.
The king's name in the oath jumping Jehosaphat was likely popularized by the name's utility as a euphemism for Jesus and Jehovah. The phrase is first recorded in the 1866 novel The Headless Horseman by Thomas Mayne Reid. The longer version "By the shaking, jumping ghost of Jehosaphat" is seen in the 1865 novel Paul Peabody by Percy Bolingbroke St. John.
Another theory is that the reference is to Joel 3:11-12, where the prophet Joel says, speaking of the judgment of the dead:
Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
Jehosaphat is one of the "mighty ones" who has come down to judge the wakened heathens (or he is one of the wakened himself, thus, a "ghost".)
- 2 Chronicles 17:1
- 1 Kings 22:42
- J. D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1965) 604)
- Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983) 96, 97, 217.
- "Jumping Jehosaphat", World Wide Words.
- Paul Peabody p. 355: Google Books
- Jewish Encyclopedia: "Jehoshaphat"
|King of Judah
Coregent with Asa: 873–871 BC
Sole reign: 871–849 BC