King Jehoshaphat - Story and Lessons from This Israelite King
- Hope Bolinger SEO Editor
- 2020 4 Dec
We know of many good kings of Israel because we name our children after them: David, Josiah, Jedidiah (Solomon). But what about Jehoshaphat? This king did great things in the name of the Lord, and yet, we don’t christen any children after this king from the kingdom of Judah.
King Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, reigned for 25 years once he took the throne at the age of 35. He attempts to make peace with the northern kingdom of Israel but ends up getting tangled in some bad friendships along the way. In this article, we’ll explore the life of Jehoshaphat (the good and the bad), we’ll lightly touch on a place known as “the valley of Jehoshaphat,” and discuss what lessons we can learn from the fourth monarch from the kingdom of Judah.
Jehoshaphat Name Meaning
Jehoshaphat’s name means “Jehovah judged.” This is similar to Daniel’s name of “may God be my judge.” Both were very godly men. What may come as a surprise to readers is we run into Jehoshaphat’s name more than once in the Bible, and the instances don’t always refer to the king of Judah. Let’s explore some of these verses.
1 Chronicles 11:43: “Hanan son of Maakah, Joshaphat the Mithnite.”
This chapter lists King David’s bodyguards, a variant form of the name Jehoshaphat within the mix.
1 Chronicles 15:24 “Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer the priests were to blow trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-Edom and Jehiah were also to be doorkeepers for the ark.”
A number of priests move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, including another Jehoshaphat. He blew a trumpet as they carried the ark of God toward the city.
Some other examples include a recorder for both king David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:16) and a purveyor for Solomon (1 Kings 4:17). Unlike today, many mothers in Ancient Israel decided to name their children Jehoshaphat. But the one we want to focus on today reigns a little after the time of Solomon and David, long after the kingdom splits into two.
Who Was Jehoshaphat?
Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, takes the throne about halfway through his life. He seeks after God’s own heart throughout his reign. Previous kings had sought the help of foreign gods such as Baal. Instead, Jehoshaphat removes places of worship to foreign gods such as Asherah poles, and he fortifies Israel’s defenses against their enemies. He builds many forts and attempts to help the kingdom prosper in a financial sense.
Nevertheless, Jehoshaphat has one moral weakness, similar to his father who came before him. Asa, his father, followed in the footsteps of God until the end of his reign. He concluded with a foot disease instead of a bang on the throne.
Jehoshaphat stumbles as well. He makes a bad alliance by marrying his son to the wicked king of Israel’s daughter. Ahab, the father of the daughter, attempts to draw king Jehoshaphat into a war that God does not approve of. Although God protects Jehoshaphat, the king should not have made this friendship in the first place. After all, bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).
How Did Jehoshaphat Die?
Jehoshaphat led a mostly prosperous life. He improved the military and financial prowess of the southern kingdom. More importantly, he undid the pagan rituals and monuments other kings who came before him had practiced and worshipped. He did have the best of intentions, only skewing wayward when it came to friendships. But how did he die, if God protected him in the war in which Ahab drew him into?
The Bible doesn’t really say, but we can assume he died of old age. “Wait a minute! He died at 60? That’s old?” Indeed, in ancient times, life expectancies didn’t really exceed much beyond the age of 50. We can assume, from the lack of gory details, that he ended his life in peace and passed away from natural causes.
This is significant if we compare this with how many other Israelite kings passed away. Many died in battle, or as is the case with King Asa, due to a painful foot disease. Considering Jehoshaphat lived for a long time, according to the standards of his day, this meant that God really wanted him to rule for a long period of time. Because this king had God's interests at heart, for the most part, his reign was prosperous.
Where Is the Valley of Jehoshaphat?
Joel 3:2: “I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.”
Joel 3:12 “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.”
It appears to be a judgment ground for any nation who came up against God’s people, in a plot of land situated between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives or Kidron Valley. Theologians have squabbled over this issue for centuries, and since the passage in Joel is prophetic in nature, we can’t definitely say we know what it means. But the Valley of Jehoshaphat does seem to be a judgment stomping ground for the enemies of God’s people. This makes sense given Jehoshaphat’s very name has judgment in the definition.
Lessons to Be Learned from Jehoshaphat
We can learn a great deal from this Old Testament king who we sadly do not learn enough about in Sunday school classes or in sermons.
First of all, the king shows us that we all can make mistakes of judgment. Scripture tells us to exercise discernment, especially with those in whom we place our trust. Jehoshaphat made a bad alliance with King Ahab, one of the most wicked kings in Israel’s history. Although Jehoshaphat didn’t die from the friendship, he made a massive mistake by trusting the wrong person.
Secondly, Jehoshaphat teaches us the importance of breaking the familial cycle of mistakes. Although Asa didn’t worship the idols placed throughout Judah, he didn’t do a whole lot to tear them down. Jehoshaphat starts the process by getting rid of Asherah poles.
Finally, Jehoshaphat shows us that God can start new parts of his plan for our lives at any time. Jehoshaphat’s life was half over by the time he took the throne, but that didn’t stop God from moving in his life. He accomplishes a great deal in the last 25 years of his life, ushering Israel into a time of prosperity and military fortitude.
Jehoshaphat may have needed a lesson on how to make smart political alliances. After all, the dangerous one he made almost got him killed. But we also know that only some good kings came from the Kingdom of Judah, Jehoshaphat being one of them. We may not name our children after this king, but we can certainly look to his example and his trust in God during his reign.
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, literary agent at C.Y.L.E., and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in October of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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