Jehosh'aphat (Heb. Yehoshaphat', יַהוֹשָׁפָט, Jehovah judged, i.e. vindicated; Sept. Ι᾿ωσαφάτ); sometimes in the contracted form JOSHAPHAT (יוֹשָׁפָט, Yoshaphat', 1Ch 11:43; 1Ch 15:24; Ι᾿ωσαφάτ, A. Vers. in the latter passage "Jehoshaphat;" N.T. Ι᾿ωσαφάτ, "Josaphat," Mt 1:8; Josephus Ι᾿ωσάφατος), the name of six men.
1. A Mithnite, one of David's famous bodyguard (1Ch 11:43; Heb. and A.V. "Josaphat"). B.C. 1046.
2. One of the priests appointed to blow the trumpets before the ark on its removal to Jerusalem (1Ch 15:24; Heb. "Josaphat"). B.C. cir. 1043.
3. Son of Ahilud, and royal chronicler (q.v.) under David and Solomon (2Sa 8:16; 2Sa 20:24; 1Ki 4:3; 1Ch 18:15). B.C. 1014.
4. Son of Paruah and Solomon's purveyor (q.v.) in Issachar (1Ki 4:17). B.C. circ. 995. SEE SOLOMON.
5. The fourth separate king of Judah ("Israel" in 2Ch 21:2, last clause, is either a transcriber's error or a general title), being son of Asa (by Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi), whom he succeeded at the age of thirty-five and reigned twenty-five years, B.C. 912-887 (1Ki 22:41-42; 2Ch 20:31). He commenced his reign by fortifying his kingdom against Israel (2Ch 17:1-2); and, having thus secured himself against surprise from the quarter which gave most disturbance to him, he proceeded to cleanse the land from the idolatries and idolatrous monuments by which it was still tainted (1Ki 22:43). Even the high places and groves which former well-disposed kings had suffered to remain were by the zeal of Jehoshaphat in a great measure destroyed (2Ch 17:6), although not altogether (2Ch 20:33). In the third year of his reign, chiefs, with priests and Levites, proceeded from town to town, with the book of the Law in their hands, instructing the people, and calling back their wandering affections to the religion of their fathers (2Ch 17:7-9). The results of this fidelity to the principles of the theocracy were, that at home he enjoyed peace and abundance and abroad security and honor. His treasuries were filled with the "presents" which the blessing of God upon the people, "in their basket and their store," enabled them to bring. His renown extended into the neighboring nations, and the Philistines, as well as the adjoining Arabian tribes, paid him rich tributes in silver and in cattle. He was thus enabled to put all his towns in good condition, to erect fortresses, to organize a powerful army, and to raise his kingdom to a degree of importance and splendor which it had not enjoyed since the revolt of the ten tribes (2Ch 17:10-19).
The weak and impious Ahab at that time occupied the throne of Israel; and Jehoshaphat, after a time, having nothing to fear from his power, sought, or at least did not repel, an alliance with him. This is alleged to have been the grand mistake of his reign and that it was such is proved by the consequences. Ahab might be benefited by the connection, but under no circumstances could it be of service to Jehoshaphat or his kingdom, and it might, as it actually did, involve him in much disgrace and disaster, and bring bloodshed and trouble into his house. Jehoshaphat's eldest son Jehorain married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. It does not appear how far Jehoshaphat encouraged that ill-starred union. The closeness of the alliance between the two kings is shown by many circumstances: Elijah's reluctance when in exile to set foot within the territory of Judah (Blunt, Und. Coinc. 2, § 19, p. 199); the identity of names given to the children of the two royal families; the admission of names compounded with the name of Jehovah into the family of Jezebel, the zealous worshipper of Baal; and the alacrity with which Jehoshaphat accompanied Ahab to the field of battle. Accordingly, we next find him on a visit to Ahab in Samaria, being the first time any of the kings of Israel and Judah had met in peace. He here experienced a reception worthy of his greatness; but Ahab failed not to take advantage of the occasion, and so worked upon the weak points of his character as to prevail upon him to take arms with him against the Syrians, with whom, hitherto, the kingdom of Judah never had had any war or occasion of quarrel. However, Jehoshaphat was not so far infatuated as to proceed to the war without consulting God, who, according to the principles of the theocratic government, was the final arbiter of war and peace. The false prophets of Ahab poured forth ample promises of success, and one of them, named Zedekiah, resorting to material symbols, made him horns of iron, saying, "Thus saith the Lord, with these shalt thou smite the Syrians till they be consumed." Still Jehoshaphat was not satisfied; and the answer to his further inquiries extorted from him a rebuke of the reluctance which Ahab manifested to call Micah "the prophet of the Lord." The fearless words of this prophet did not make the impression upon the king of Judah which might have been expected; or, probably, he then felt himself too deeply bound in honor to recede. He went to the fatal battle of Ramoth-gilead, and there nearly became the victim of a plan which Ahab had laid for his own safety at the expense of his too-confiding ally. He persuaded Jehoshaphat to appear as king, while he himself went disguised to the battle. This brought the heat of the contest around him, as the Syrians took him for Ahab; and, if they had not in time discovered their mistake, he would certainly have been slain (1Ki 22:1-33). Ahab was killed and the battle lost; but Jehoshaphat escaped and returned to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 18). B.C. 895. SEE AHAB.
On his return from this imprudent expedition he was met by the just reproaches of the prophet Jehu (2Ch 19:1-3). The best atonement he could make for this error was by the course he actually took. He resumed his labors in the further extirpation of idolatry in the instruction of the people and the improvement of his realm. He now made a tour of his kingdom in person, "from Beersheba to Mount Ephraim," that he might see the ordinances of God duly established and witness the due execution of his intentions respecting the instruction of the people in the divine law. This tour enabled him to discern many defects in the local administration of justice, which he then applied himself to remedy (see Selden, De Synedr. 2, ch. 8, § 4). He appointed magistrates in every city for the determination of causes civil and ecclesiastical; and the nature of the abuses to which the administration of justice was in those days exposed may be gathered from his excellent charge to them: "Take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you, take heed and do it; for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts." Then he established a supreme council of justice at Jerusalem, composed of priests, Levites, and "the chiefs of the fathers," to which difficult cases were referred and appeals brought from the provincial tribunals. This tribunal also was inducted by a weighty but short charge from the king, whose conduct in this and other matters places him at the very head of the monarchs who reigned over Judah as a separate kingdom (2Ch 19:4-11).
The activity of Jehoshaphat's mind was next turned towards the revival of that maritime commerce which had been established by Solomon. The land of Edom and the ports of the Elanitic Gulf were still under the power of Judah and in them the king prepared a fleet for the voyage to Ophir. Unhappily, however, he yielded to the wish of the king of Israel and allowed him to take part in the enterprise. For this the expedition was doomed of God and the vessels were wrecked almost as soon as they quitted port. Instructed by Eliezer, the prophet, as to the cause of this disaster, Jehoshaphat equipped a new fleet, and, having this time declined the cooperation of the king of Israel, the voyage prospered. The trade, however, was not prosecuted with any zeal and was soon abandoned (2Ch 20:37; 1Ki 22:48-49). B.C. 895. SEE COMMERCE.
After the death of Ahaziah, king of Israel, Jehoram, his successor, persuaded Jehoshaphat to join him in an expedition against Moab. B.C. cir.
891. This alliance was, however, on political grounds, more excusable than the two former, as the Moabites, who were under tribute to Israel, might draw into their cause the Edomites, who were tributary to Judah. Besides, Moab could be invaded with most advantage from the south, round by the end of the Dead Sea; and the king of Israel could not gain access to them in that quarter but by marching through the territories of Jehoshaphat. The latter not only joined Jehoram with his own army, but required his tributary, the king of Edom, to bring his forces into the field. During the seven days' march through the wilderness of Edom the army suffered much from want of water, and by the time the allies came in sight of the army of Moab they were ready to perish from thirst. In this emergency, the pious Jehoshaphat thought, as usual, of consulting the Lord, and, hearing that the prophet Elisha was in the camp, the three kings proceeded to his tent. For the sake of Jehoshaphat, and for his sake only, deliverance was promised and it came during the ensuing night in the shape of an abundant supply of water, which rolled down the exhausted wadys and filled the pools and hollow grounds. Afterwards Jehoshaphat took his full part in the operations of the campaign till the armies were induced to withdraw in horror by witnessing the dreadful act of Mesha, king of Moab, in offering up his eldest son in sacrifice upon the wall of the town in which he was shut up (2Ki 3:4-27). SEE JEHORAM.
This war kindled another much more dangerous to Jehoshaphat. The Moabites, being highly exasperated at the part he took against them, turned all their wrath upon him. They induced their kindred, the Ammonites, to join them, obtained auxiliaries from the Syrians, and even drew over the Edomites, so that the strength of all the neighboring nations may be said to have been united for this great enterprise. The allied forces entered the land of Judah and encamped at Engedi, near the western border of the Dead Sea. In this extremity Jehoshaphat felt that all his defense lay with God. A solemn fast was held and the people repaired from the towns to Jerusalem to seek help of the Lord. In the presence of the assembled multitude, the king, in the court of the Temple, offered up a fervent prayer to God, concluding with, "O our God, wilt thou not judge them, for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee." He ceased; and in the midst of the silence which ensued, a voice was raised pronouncing deliverance in the name of the Lord, and telling them to go out on the morrow to the cliffs overlooking the camp of the enemy, and see them all overthrown without a blow from them. The voice was that of Jahaziel, one of the Levites. His words came to pass. The allies quarrelled among themselves and destroyed each other; so that when the Judahites came the next day they found their dreaded enemies all dead, and nothing was left for them but to take the rich spoils of the slain. This done, they returned with triumphal songs to Jerusalem. This great event was recognized even by the neighboring nations as the act of God; and so strong was the impression which it made upon them, that the remainder of Jehoshaphat's reign was passed in quiet (2 Chronicles 20). B.C. 890. His death, however, took place not very long after this, at the age of sixty, after having reigned twenty-five years, B.C. 887. He left the kingdom in a prosperous condition to his eldest son Jehoram, whom he had in the last years of his life associated with him in the government. SEE JEHORAM, 5.
"Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart," was the character given to this king by Jehu, when, on that account, he gave to his grandson an honorable grave (2Ch 22:9). This, in fact, was the sum and substance of his character. The Hebrew annals offer the example of no king who more carefully squared all his conduct by the principles of the theocracy. He kept the Lord always before his eyes, and was in all things obedient to his will when made known to him by the prophets. Few of the kings of Judah manifested so much zeal for the real welfare of his people, or took measures so judicious to promote it. His good talents, the benevolence of his disposition, and his generally sound judgment, are shown not only in the great measures of domestic policy which distinguished his reign, but by the manner in which they were executed. No trace can be found in him of that pride which dishonored some and ruined others of the kings who preceded and followed him. Most of his errors arose from that dangerous facility of temper which sometimes led him to act against the dictates of his naturally sound judgment, or prevented that judgment from being fairly exercised. The kingdom of Judah was never happier or more prosperous than under his reign; and this, perhaps, is the highest praise that call be given to any king. His name (Ι᾿ωσαφάτ, "Josaphat") occurs in the list of our Savior's ancestors (Mt 1:8). SEE JUDAH, KINGDOM OF.
6. The son of Nimshi and father of king Jehu of Israel (2Ki 9:2,14). B.C. ante 883.