Who was King Jehoshaphat in the Bible? What did he do? What’s his story?
Jehoshaphat is one of the famous God-fearing kings of Judah. When Jehoshaphat was king Israel was divided into two different kingdoms; the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel.
Jehoshaphat ruled over Judah while King Ahab (husband to wicked queen Jezebel) ruled the rest of Israel. That alone sets the stage for a pretty interesting story.
What did Jehoshaphat do in the Bible that earned him the title of God-fearing king?
This article serves as a basic Jehoshaphat character study. We’re visit the history of Jehoshaphat in the Bible, examine his character, explore his story to see what we can learn about God, people, and the hope of the gospel.
Let’s start with the basics – where can I find Jehoshaphat in the Bible?
Where Can I Find the Story of Jehoshaphat In the Bible?
As far as I can tell there is only on Jehoshaphat mentioned in the Bible. He’s listed among the kings of Israel in the historical books of the Old Testament.
Exactly where is the story of Jehoshaphat in the Bible?
Jehoshaphat is mentioned for the first time in the Bible in 1 Kings.
He isn’t mentioned again until 2 Chronicles. This is because 1&2 Kings was meant to serve as just that, a record of the kings of Israel. To get their stories (in most cases) you have to go to their Chronicles (which we know as 1&2 Chronicles).
The story of Jehoshaphat can be found in 2 Chronicles chapters 17-20.
What Did Jehoshaphat Do In the Bible?
Jehoshaphat became king of Judah after the death of his father, King Asa.
Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel.
2 Chronicles 17:1
Why would Jehoshaphat want to strengthen himself against Israel? I mentioned earlier how the kingdom of Israel had split in two.
There was the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom. The southern kingdom was ruled by King Jehoshaphat and was made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
The northern kingdom consisted of the other 10 tribes of Israel and was ruled by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Not only did Ahab and Jezebel want to rule all of Israel, they wanted to bring pagan worship and all its influences into Judah.
King Asa had already done a lot to cleanse Judah from idolatry that had crept in (2 Chronicles 15:8-10). He even lead the Judah back into a covenant relationship with God.
Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their hearts and with all their soul; and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
2 Chronicles 15:12
When Jehoshaphat became king, He followed his father steps preparing the people to live for God (2 Chronicles 17:3):
- He sought God and followed God’s commandments (2 Chronicles 17:4).
- Removed pagan altars and built idols (2 Chronicles 17:6)
- He sent leaders and priests into the city to teach the people about God’s laws (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).
And God blessed Jehoshaphat and his kingdom because of it. They experienced years of peace, prosperity, and protection (2 Chronicles 17:10 and 12).
Jehoshaphat Goes to War
Throughout biblical history their were different conflicts between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. During King Jehoshaphat’s reign there were none.
The two kingdoms remained at peace with each other and God protected Jehoshaphat from wars and catastrophes.
When Jehoshaphat does finally go to war, it’s not against the norther kingdom, but as allies of them. Here’s a quick Jehoshaphat Battle summary.
King Ahab wanted to attack Ramoth Gilead. He needed allies. Though the two kingdoms were divided and not always on perfect terms with each other; they had one thing in common. They’re heritage.
When looking for allies, what better place to go than family? So King Ahab approaches King Jehoshaphat.
So Ahab King of Israel said to Jehoshaphat King of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?”
And he answered, “I am as you are, and your people as my people, we will be with you in war.”
2 Chronicles 18:3-4
There was just one catch. Before Jehoshaphat went “all in” he wanted to consult God.
Two Kings; Two Different Gods; Two Different Battle Opinions
Having God weigh in on whether going to battle with Ramoth Gilead was a good idea or not presented an interesting predicament.
These two kings served two different gods. Who were they to consult? What if they didn’t agree? Either way Jehoshaphat was determined to hear from the Lord before going into battle.
Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire of the word of the Lord today.”
2 Chronicles 18:4
So King Ahab called 400 of his prophets and asked if they should go to war with Ramoth Gilead and if they would have victory. Ahab’s prophets assured him that they would.
Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. Knowing Ahab served a false god and had kingdom of false prophets likely made it hard to be confident in the words of the prophet. So King Jehoshaphat requested to hear from a prophet who served the true living God.
Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here that we could inquire of him?”
2 Chronicles 18:6
There was… but King Ahab didn’t like him. He had a habit of giving accurate prophetic words that usually didn’t play out in King Ahab’s favor (2 Chronicles 18:7). This instance was the same. The prophet of the Lord told King Ahab,
“…I saw Israel scattered on the mountain as sheep that had not shepherd, and the Lord said, these have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.”
2 Chronicles 18:16
The two kings sought two different gods and got two very different battle opinions.
Ahab and Jehoshaphat In the Bible Go To Battle
In case God’s prophet wasn’t clear enough the first time, about NOT going to war with Ramoth Gilead, he further clarified with this statement.
Then 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 hand and His left.
And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’
The Lord said to him, ‘In what way? So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’
Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.”
2 Chronicles 18:18-20
As you can imagine, the disagreement didn’t go over well. Micaiah was thrown in prison for the word He brought to King Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:26) and King Ahab and King Jehoshaphat went into battle anyway.
Even though Jehoshaphat disobeyed God by going into battle, God protected him.
How Did God Protect Jehoshaphat?
They didn’t go in without out a plan.
King Ahab had every intention of returning from battle victorious.
And the King of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle; but you ut on your robes.”
2 Chronicles 18:29
Somehow he had convinced himself that a disguise would remove the giant target on his back. Unfortunately for him it didn’t work that way. His plan worked for a moment.
When the captains of the Syrian armies came out to fight, they saw Jehoshaphat and mistook him for the Ahab King of Israel (2 Chronicles 18:31).
When Jehoshaphat realized he was trapped he turned to the only source that could truly protect Him.
…Jehoshaphat cried out and the Lord helped him, and God diverted them from him.
2 Chronicles 18:31
How did God answer Jehoshaphat’s prayer?
God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer by leading the Syrian armies our of his path. And just like the prophet Micaiah prophesied, the war ended with the death of King Ahab.
Now a certain man drew a bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor… and about the time of sunset he died.
2 Chronicles 18:33-34 (paraphrased)
Jehoshaphat Turns Back to God
While most people would see King Ahab’s death as the end of the story, I think the most important of lessons from the story of Jehoshaphat comes after the battle when God sends a prophet to confront Jehoshaphat about his disobedience.
And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said the King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the the wrath of the Lord is upon you.”
2 Chronicles 19:2
God rebuked King Jehoshaphat for going into battle to aid the selfish ambitions of a King who openly hated and rejected the Lord. In the next sentences God acknowledges all that Jehoshaphat has done to bring righteousness to Judah.
Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.
2 Chronicles 19:3
King Jehoshaphat made a foolish decision joining King Ahab in a needless battle. But I love that God saw that Jehoshaphat’s poor judgement wasn’t a reflection of what was in his heart. Jehoshaphat loved God and He had shown it through the way he lead and shepherded the people of Judah.
King Jehoshaphat took God’s correction and put it to work in his life and the leadership of Judah.
Jehoshaphat’s story is one of the many good stories about repentance in the Bible.
A Battle Won By Prayers
It wasn’t too long after that the the people of Moab, Ammon, and others in Syria brought war back to kingdom of Judah. This time the kingdom was afraid.
Instead of letting fear tempt him away from God, King Jehoshaphat used this opportunity to encourage the people to seek God. This was Jehoshaphat’s prayer.
“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?
Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying,
If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’
And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.
O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
2 Chronicles 6-12
God heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer and He answered. When the day for battle came, Jehoshaphat’s army didn’t even have to fight.
Instead of fighting, they sang praises to God. And as they sang, the Lord set ambushes against the enemy armies and defeated them (2 Chronicles 20:21). When Jehoshaphat and his army got to the battle grounds, all they saw before them was dead bodies.
Lessons to Be Learned From Jehoshaphat
There are so many lessons to be learned from the Jehoshaphat story in the Bible.
We saw the impact that King Ahab’s faith had on his son as he assumed the throne in Judah.
We learned practical action steps for spiritual reformation.
Through the story of Jehoshaphat we witnessed how compromise tempted Jehoshaphat to dismiss God’s warnings and partner with an evil king who was looking out for no one but himself.
We saw how God’s kindness and correction lead King Jehoshaphat to repent for the compromises he made.
And we learned how the prayer of the righteous avails much (James 5:16)!
Jehoshaphat Prayer Prompts
Jehoshaphat’s prayer is a reminder that we serve a God who listens and who sees. It’s a bold prayer that has inspired many. Are you facing a situation that requires bold prayers?
Use these 5 prayer prompts for Jehoshaphat’s prayer to pray a bold prayer of your own.
- Praise God for being the true God, who holds the world and all of creation in His hands.
- Thank Him for all the trials, battles, and impossible situations He’s carried you through before.
Remind Him (and yourself) that He is the one you put your confidence in. It’s Him you are seeking and His voice you are listening for.
- Share your circumstance with Him.
- Commit to following His lead.
- Praise Him for His faithfulness.
Find more examples of prayers to pray in hard times here.
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