Jehoshaphat – he reigns from 870-845 BC – is a king who on the one hand is faithful to the LORD and on the other hand is connected to the wicked Ahab and his family. In the first part of its history there is still a clear distinction between Jehoshaphat and Ahab. After his connection with Ahab it appears that he has more to fear from Ahab as a friend than as an enemy.
It also happens in the Christian’s life that, at the beginning of his being a Christian, he arms himself well against his dealings with the evil in which he has lived, but that he later becomes careless in it.
1 - 6 The Faithfulness of Jehoshaphat
1 Jehoshaphat his son then became king in his place, and made his position over Israel firm. 2 He placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had captured. 3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did. 5 So the LORD established the kingdom in his control, and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 He took great pride in the ways of the LORD and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah.
Jehoshaphat succeeds his father Asa as king (verse 1). He is one of the God-fearing kings of Judah. In this chapter we read about his faithfulness to the LORD and about his dedication to the people of the LORD. He starts well. He has a powerful influence not only on Judah, over which he is king, but also on Israel, over which Ahab rules. In Judah he lays armies and garrisons in all the fortified cities (verse 2). He does the same in the cities in Ephraim that his father Asa has conquered. Here Jehoshaphat is not yet connected to Ahab by family ties.
In the beginning Jehoshaphat walks in “his father David’s earlier days” (cf. 1Kgs 15:3,11; 2Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3), to which it is related that he does not seek the Baals (verse 3). One excludes the other. In the next verse the same is said, but by other examples (verse 4). In contrast to not seeking the Baal’s (verse 3) he seeks “the God of his father” and that he “followed His commandments”. This is linked to the fact that he “did not act as Israel did”.
Jehoshaphat has two fathers, his “his father Asa” (verse 2) and “his father David” (verse 3). With his father Asa he has seen what trust in daily life means. Going in the earlier ways of his father David shows that he remains faithful to what this man of God once instituted for the temple service. He remains on the old paths and does not seek renewal as if the old were no longer good. This sense of mind the LORD blesses. He confirms the kingship of Jehoshaphat (verse 5). Jehoshaphat is also confirmed by the people. He receives tribute from all Judah. By this Judah joyfully acknowledges that a king reigns who wants the right things for them. Thus he has great riches and honor.
Jehoshaphat may conclude from all this that God will bless him if he continues in this way. That he “took courage” (Darby Translation) in the ways of the LORD is a beautiful expression of his gratitude to Him (verse 6). His taking courage is not only an intention, but is also reflected in his actions. He proves his faithfulness by removing “the high places and the Asherim from Judah”.
7 - 13 Teaching of the Law and Fortifications
7 Then in the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; 8 and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. 9 They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. 10 Now the dread of the LORD was on all the kingdoms of the lands which [were] around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought gifts and silver as tribute to Jehoshaphat; the Arabians also brought him flocks, 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats. 12 So Jehoshaphat grew greater and greater, and he built fortresses and store cities in Judah. 13 He had large supplies in the cities of Judah, and warriors, valiant men, in Jerusalem.
Not only does Jehoshaphat remove the idolatrous heights, but he confirms the people in the Word of God, the only guarantee to remain free from idolatry (verse 7). He lets this service done by the Levites and priests (verse 8; Deu 33:10a). He gives them, as it were, the instruction: “Preach the Word” (2Tim 4:2). They must teach God’s Word in “all cities”, so without exception (verse 9).
The Levites teach the people the book of the law of the LORD on the spot and explain it. All hear the Word of God, again or for the first time. The teaching is not so much to correct the people because there are wrong practices, but to strengthen the good, to build up the faith. Its effect is visible not only with the people themselves, but also with the nations around them (verse 10; Gen 35:5; Jos 2:11; 5:1; Acts 2:42-43; 5:11).
Then surrounding peoples bring tribute to Jehoshaphat. The Philistines come from the west with gifts and silver and the Arabs come from the south with flocks (verse 11). It is a picture of what will happen in the thousand years kingdom of peace when the Lord Jesus reigns and all nations come to worship Him (Zec 14:16).
Because of everything that is brought to Jehoshaphat, he gets more and more prestige (verse 12). He handles his gifts and money well. His prosperity does not make him lazy and careless, but diligent. In the cities of Judah he is working hard (verses 12-13). Possibly there is much weakening there that needs to be strengthened, which he does by building fortresses and store cities. He makes Jerusalem an army base. He is working with a view on the future. He thinks about possible enemies and about the need that can arise and makes preparations with that in mind.
We too must use times of spiritual prosperity to strengthen our faith life and build up stocks of knowledge of the Word of God. We will need it at times when we have to fight for our faith, or when other circumstances prevent us from doing so.
A people with strong spiritual leaders and founded on the Word of God is a strong people. That’s the effect of listening to the Word. Maybe one is not aware of this effect, but it is perceived by others. Being founded on the Word of God is the best protection. This is still the way it works today. Spiritual power through the proclamation of the Word has great consequences. Others will also begin to dedicate themselves. The Word gives power.
14 - 19 The Valiant Warriors of Jehoshaphat
14 This was their muster according to their fathers’ households: of Judah, commanders of thousands, Adnah [was] the commander, and with him 300,000 valiant warriors; 15 and next to him [was] Johanan the commander, and with him 280,000; 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, who volunteered for the LORD, and with him 200,000 valiant warriors; 17 and of Benjamin, Eliada a valiant warrior, and with him 200,000 armed with bow and shield; 18 and next to him Jehozabad, and with him 180,000 equipped for war. 19 These are they who served the king, apart from those whom the king put in the fortified cities through all Judah.
The last verses of the chapter describe the character and abilities of five army commanders. A commander he is able to deploy his “valiant warriors” where necessary. The commanders are soldiers who have grown into leaders.
There are several commanders. Their cooperation is important. They stand shoulder to shoulder in the battle. We always read about “next to him” (verses 15,16,18). All of them “served the king” (verse 19). The king is the commander-in-chief. The cooperation of the commanders will run smoothly if each of them follows the instructions of the commander-in-chief. The mentioned commanders and their troops are not the only ones who are in the service of the king. Jehoshaphat also placed men in the fortified cities throughout Juda. His power is great!
The chronicler mentions something special about one of the commanders, Amasiah (verse 16). Amasiah is one “who volunteered for the LORD”. It seems to indicate an extra, a deeper motif. The others do their work well too, but with him it comes out strongly that he does it voluntarily and for the LORD. We can say that he first gave himself to the Lord and then to God’s people (2Cor 8:5b; Rom 12:1).