2 Chronicles 17-20: Jehoshaphat

2 Chronicles 17-20: Jehoshaphat

Original Publication Date
March 11, 2017
Feb 25, 2023 5:00 PM
2 ChroniclesChapter StudyAmmonMoabJehoshaphatDivision of IsraelReconciliation
Bible References
2 Chronicles 17-20
Table of Contents
This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on March 11, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


Asa's son Jehoshaphat not only follows God, but seeks out peace with the northern kingdom. He is a devout king that brings much good to Judah during his 25 year reign. Jehoshaphat takes the throne at 35 years old. The passages in 2 Chronicles 17-20 are paralleled in 1 Kings 22.


When Jehoshaphat takes over the throne, he is determined to keep Israel on the path of righteousness. He even sends princes and Levites to teach the law of God in different cities. Due to his faithfulness, the kingdom experiences peace during his reign. No one dared attack, and the Philistines and Arabians even send gifts in his honor. Faithfulness does not prevent Jehoshaphat from building an army, however. We are given an outline of the mighty captains who led the army, which was largest army Judah had seen thus far.

Jehoshaphat had removed "groves" or idols from Judah, though he does not remove the "high places" or altars. God did not want idolatry among His people and was likely very proud of Jehoshaphat for destroying such things.

Jehoshaphat sets judges over the cities. He warns them, even then, about judging a person; that is God's job alone. We can discern the right actions and tell someone when they are in the wrong, but we cannot judge the soul of the person. We are told that Amariah was the chief priest at the time.

Another function of judges is to decide how to right a wrongβ€”for instance, if I accidentally broken a vase that’s been in your family for years, how should I make amends? The judge’s job was to ensure the person received restitution but also that it was fair and not extortionist.

Healing the Rift

Jehoshaphat recognized that the Israelites of the north were the same people as those of the south and tried to repair the bonds between the two kingdoms. While meeting with the king of the north, Ahab, he agrees to go to war with Syria, despite a prophet of the LORD proclaiming their defeat.

The entire exchange about the battle is quite weird. Following the exchange, it is obvious that God wanted Ahab to go into the battle to meet his demise. Jehoshaphat understood that God wants Ahab to go into this battle and therefore complies. During the battle Ahab disguises himself which almost gets Jehoshaphat killed. However, when Jehoshaphat calls on God, God protects him. There is a lot to think about here. On one hand, this could be an indication that Jehoshaphat was not in the wrong when he went to battle, because God spared him. On the other hand, this could be a lesson in choosing our acquaintances wisely. Ahab essentially set Jehoshaphat up for death. Had Jehoshaphat not called on God, he would have died in the battle. God knows that we will make mistakes, so we are fortunate that when we call to Him for help that He will answer. However, we should remember that when we closely associate with ungodly people we are more likely to end up in ungodly situations.

Jehoshaphat survives the battle, but Ahab does not. While we will see continued attempts to heal the rift between Israel and Judah, I can't imagine this situation helping the relation. Imagine, the reaction of Israel that their "enemy" Judah had agreed to go to battle with them, but Israel's king dies in battle and Judah's king walks away free. I'm sure conspiracy theorists of the time had a field day with that.

Jehoshaphat Condemned

In 1 Kings we never see a reaction from God or Judah about Jehoshaphat's attempt to make peace with Israel. Since God told Rehoboam not to fight his brothers, it seems reasonable to assume God would be pleased with Jehoshaphat's actions. However, a prophet of God condemns Jehoshaphat for associating with those that hate theΒ LordΒ (re: Ahab). In the same chapter, Jehoshaphat is praised for his actions in following God. This adds to the confusion of which lesson we are to take from this scenario.

Today we often make the mistake of believing God wants peace at all cost, including compromise of His word. This is not true. Now that the northern kingdom had fallen so deeply into idolatry, they were just as dangerous as the pagan nations to Judah's relationship with God. God may not have wanted them fighting each other, because there was always hope for Israel's return, but He didn't want His holy nation joining with a disobedient and pagan nation, either.


In 2 Chronicles 19 we read about Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael was over the house (or tribe) of Judah. I find this interesting considering the rift that existed and still exists between the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael. Clearly there was an intermarriage that placed Zebadiah in this position. God forbade the Israelites from intermarrying with the Canaanites (which they did anyway), or the other pagan nations, but we see plenty of examples where people from these nations committed to follow God and were accepted into the nation. This reiterates the fact that we all have an equal opportunity to be accepted into God's nation.

Back when I wrote this, I left out the possibility of a second Ishmael. The statements above reflect the belief that Ishmael must be the son of Abraham but names are often reused within cultures. There is evidence of this in the Bible; if you read the lineage of Cain and the lineage of Abel in Genesis 4-5, you will see the same name in each list, but it is not the same person. Some names were more popular than others (e.g., Mary or Miriam). With Ishmael meaning β€œGod hears,” it seems very plausible that this name was more widely used than the one instance.

Moab and Ammon Attack

When the Moabites and the Ammonites come against Judah, Jehoshaphat's reaction is to seek God. He even proclaims a fast throughout the kingdom. This is what God expected of his people and is in stark contrast to the kings who sold the treasures of God to buy allies from pagan nations during times of distress (even Jehoshaphat's father Asa fell prey to this mentality). God fights the war for Israel, causing the allied armies to turn against themselves and kill one another.


Overall Jehoshaphat is described as a great, God-fearing king. However, near the end of his reign, he joins himself with Ahab's son Ahaziah who does evil. God does not allow the works of their collaboration to prosper. It is important to choose our friends and collaborators carefully.


I always wondered where the phrase β€œjumpin’ Jehoshaphat” came from; reading these chapters I expected to see why jumping was associated with this king. When I couldn’t find the connection, I asked Google and found an article that suggested it was part of the early American attempt to eliminate profane words and phrases with β€œfamily friendly” language.

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