Cameos of the Kings (2): King Jehoshaphat

The reign of Jehoshaphat illustrates the folly of an unequal yoke. The exhortation of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” is followed by five questions that all expect the answer, “none,” all enforcing the leading exhortation. William Rodgers suggests that these five questions successively hint at our business, social, political, matrimonial, and religious life. Jehoshaphat entered into each of these unequal yokes. The Chronicler records four of them.

There was a matrimonial unequal yoke when his son Jehoram married Athaliah, the wicked daughter of wicked parents, Ahab and Jezebel (18:1). That unequal yoke led to a social yoke years later when sheep and oxen were killed in abundance for Jehoshaphat and those with him (18:2).

That led into a third unequal yoke, a religious one, in going with Ahab against the Syrians for Ramothgilead because it was a Levitical city and a city of refuge (18:3). After Ahab died, Jehoshaphat made a business yoke with Ahab’s son, Ahaziah (20:35-37). The last unequal yoke (not recorded in 2Chron) was political. In 2 Kings 3:6-12 Jehoshaphat went with Jehoram (another son of Ahab) and the king of Edom with their men to try to break the growing power of Moab.

There were other, far-reaching consequences of the matrimonial unequal yoke, both for Jehoshaphat personally and for Judah nationally. Mercifully, Jehoshaphat did not live to see Jehoram slay “all his brethren with the sword” (2Chron 21:4). God blessed Judah for the 25 years of Jehoshaphat’s reign; the next 15 years, however, were disastrous because of this one wicked woman, Athaliah. We read of Jehoram that for eight years, “he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab; for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). For one year Jehoram’s son Ahaziah reigned and we read, “He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). When Ahaziah died, his mother Athaliah killed all the royal seed including her own grandchildren (except one, which Jehoshabeath hid), and Athaliah reigned for six years (22:10-12).

Jehoshaphat began well as we read that he “strengthened himself against Israel” (17:1). Ahab the king of Israel (the 10 northern tribes) excelled in wickedness (1Kings 16:30-33) and we read, “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up” (21:25). Jehu the son of Hanani rebuked him (2Chron 19:2), “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” That was opposite to Jehoshaphat’s thinking : “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people” (18:3).

Jehoshaphat responded very well to Jehu’s rebuke. He did not answer, but his actions show that he was truly repentant. The result of his repentance was all the good done in the rest of chapter 19 and 20:1-34. These verses record the best of Jehoshaphat’s reign.

“Chapter 20 is a thrilling chapter to read, especially the first 34 verses. The deeply moving prayer in verses 5-13 of Jehoshaphat is one of the most remarkable events ever recorded. Chapter 20 contains one of the most outstanding stories not only in 2 Chronicles but also in the whole Bible. It describes, first of all, a unique Israelite victory. Though on other occasions God enabled Israelite forces to be victorious, here the credit is due entirely to God while the army is reduced to the level of spectators … even the triumphs of other kings (e.g. 13: 3-39; 14: 9-15; 20: 6-15) pale into insignificance in comparison to what is achieved here” (Selman).

Some commentators believe that the invasion was the expression of God’s wrath of which Jehu spoke in 19:2, “Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.” If that is so, then “This is a fine instance of a guilty servant seeking refuge in the bosom of the very God who is justly smiting him” (Williams).

In chapter 20:1-4 Judah is invaded by a great multitude. No figures are given for the invading army, but the people of Judah clearly believed that it had overwhelming numbers, which led to fear and fasting.

Jehoshaphat feared and quickly decided his only hope was in the Lord. His remarkable prayer is recorded in verses 5-13. Jehoshaphat stood “praying for the nation, appealing to the promise, the glory and the reputation of God which were at stake since He was identified with Judah” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary).

Jehoshaphat makes a specific request only at the end of his prayer. They had no power, no plans, and because their eyes were on the Lord, no panic. “The final phrase, ‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You,’ is one of the most touching expressions of trust in God to be found anywhere in the Bible” (Selman).

God gave an encouraging answer through the Spirit of the Lord coming on Jahaziel. Twice he encourages them with these words, “Go ye down (go down) against them” (vv16-17). Twice he tells them “the Lord will be with you” (v17). Twice he said, “The battle is not yours, but God’s”(v15, cp v17). People with anxious hearts most appreciate the repetition of assuring words.

His final appeal in verse 12, “Our eyes are upon Thee,” is heard. As we are reminded in Psalm 123:2, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” Verse 18 describes the positive response of praise and worship that Jehoshaphat and the people had to Jehaziel’s message. That response was as important as the military preparation. The men of Seir were smitten first, possibly because they were suspected of some treachery (v23).

Jehoshaphat’s victory was astounding (vv22-30): “When they did but begin the word of praise, God perfected the work of deliverance” (Matthew Henry).