Five people named Jehoshaphat are mentioned in the Bible (2 Sam 8:16; 1 Kings 4:17; 15:24; 2 Kings 9:2; 1 Chron 15:24). Of these the most important was the king of Judah who reigned in Jerusalem from 870 to 845 BC (1 Kings 22:42). He is noted for his reformation of Judah after the political and religious disorders that had arisen towards the end of the previous king’s reign. Jehoshaphat began his reforms by destroying the Baal shrines and removing the cult prostitutes (1 Kings 22:46; 2 Chron 17:6). He then taught the people God’s law by sending a teaching team of priests, Levites and civil administrators on a circuit of Judah’s towns and villages (2 Chron 17:7-9).

He was able to give his full attention to these programs because he had first of all strengthened Judah against any interference from hostile neighbours (2 Chron 17:2). In an effort to remove injustice, Jehoshaphat reorganized Judah’s judicial system. He wanted all citizens to receive fair treatment, regardless of their status. He set up courts and appointed judges in all the chief cities of Judah, with the chief court in Jerusalem. Some courts dealt specifically with religious matters, and these were under the control of the high priest. Others dealt solely with civil matters, and these were under the control of the chief governor (2 Chron 19:4-11).

Under Jehoshaphat, Judah’s defences were greatly strengthened (2 Chron 17:2,10-13). King Ahab of Israel was so impressed that he persuaded Jehoshaphat to join him in a battle against Syria (1 Kings 22:1- 4). Jehoshaphat, however, did not trust Ahab’s court prophets, who seemed more concerned with pleasing Ahab than with telling him God’s will. Only the prophet Micaiah told the truth (namely, that Israel would be defeated), but Ahab ignored his advice, went to war and was killed (1 Kings 22:5-36). A prophet rebuked Jehoshaphat for cooperating with the Israelite king, who was morally corrupt, a worshipper of Baal and an enemy of God (2 Chron 19:1-3). Later, Jehoshaphat joined with Ahab’s equally corrupt son in a commercial partnership involving a fleet of ships. By wrecking the ships, God showed Jehoshaphat once more that he was not to cooperate with the Baal-worshipping kings of Israel (2 Chron 20:35-37).

Jehoshaphat had now learnt his lesson (1 Kings 22:49). Jehoshaphat proved that faith in God, not cooperation with Israel, was the way to success when he won a great victory over a huge enemy invasion force. He called the people to the temple to pray (2 Chron 20:1-6,13) and in reply received God’s assurance of victory (2 Chron 20:14-17). God then intervened to overthrow the enemy. Jehoshaphat’s people plundered the defeated army and returned in triumph to Jerusalem to praise God for hearing their prayers (2 Chron 20:18-30).

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