II Kings 3. II Chronicles 17–20.
Jehoshaphat's Policies, Domestic and Foreign.
Key Notes: Jehoshaphat took good care of Judah. His alliances with Israel were disastrous. He prayed and God answered.
This lesson picks up from IKings 22-IIK.2.
I Kings gives scant attention to Jehoshaphat, summarizing his life in half a chapter. (IK.22:41–50). The Chronicler gives this remarkable man the attention he deserves. We will try to understand his thinking, his successes and failures. The majority of the text is from II Chronicles, with additions from II Kings 3. We will also find "pearls", simple expressions that even a child can understand.
IIChr.17:1–9 Jehoshaphat was the son of a godly king, Asa, and followed the Lord even more fully.
"His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord...."
He destroyed high places and Asherim (sacred poles) from Judah and sent out princes, Levites and priests to teach the Law in all the cities. This leads us to believe that the Law (Gen.--Deut. at least) was available in multiple copies for use by teachers in 860BC, and that at least once in Israel's 500 years of monarchy, the word of God was made available to everyone. In a verbal culture, much spoken information would be remembered.
17:10–19 In the Old Testament, God rewarded righteousness with prosperity. Jehoshaphat's kingdom was free of wars. He was able to fortify Judah and collect an army of over a million men. Of one officer, Amasiah, it was said that he served the Lord with a willing heart.
18:1–34 This chapter repeats the remarkable--and deplorable--alliance that Jehoshaphat made with Ahab of Israel against the Syrians that we read about in IK.22. The texts are almost identical and raise again the question why Jehoshaphat would say "I am as you are; my people as your people. We will be with you in the war". Certainly the prophet Micaiah said God had no use for Ahab. Jehoshaphat narrowly escaped death himself.
19:1–3 When he returned to Jerusalem, the prophet Jehu, son of Hanani rebuked him: "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" Nevertheless, God recognized his destruction of idols as a good thing.
19:4–11 Jehoshaphat did more to bring his people back to God. He established judges in the cities and priests, levites and elders in Jerusalem to hear disputed cases, a kind of appeals court. He charged the judges to act in the fear of God, with no perversion of justice, no partiality and no bribes. If they failed, they would incur guilt on themselves.
20:1–4 Later Jehoshaphat was challenged by a huge army of Moabites and Ammonites (and Meunites) at Engedi, on the central east shore of the Dead Sea. He called a fast and assembled all Judah to Jerusalem. He evidently did not have the standing army of former years.
20:5–13. Jehoshaphat prayed in the temple court:
O God, you have the power and no one can resist you.
Did you not drive out the Canaanites and give this land forever to the descendants of Abraham?
Did not Solomon pray (at the dedication of the Temple), begging you to hear in our affliction?
Now Ammon, Moab and Edom are trying to drive us out, although You would not let us invade them when we were trying to the enter Canaan. See how they reward us!
Execute judgment on them. We are helpless against this mass of men. We do not know what to do. Our eyes are on you.
The whole family of Judah, men, women and children, stood with him.
Comment: This is a remarkable prayer, in public, with echoes of Solomon's prayer (IK.8:23–53), suggesting that he knew it. He reminded God that Ammon and Moab, descendents of Lot (Gen.19:30–38), and Edom / Esau, Jacob's brother, were protected by God from Israel when she was entering the Promised Land. (Deut.2:8,9,19). The events of 600 years before were still relevant.
20:14–21. Jahaziel, a Levite of the singers, stood up and prophesied: Judah should not fear. The battle belongs to the Lord. They should go and take positions, then stand still and wait for God to give them the victory. Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground and all of Judah fell down and worshiped. In the morning, with Jehoshaphat's encouragement, they went out singing.
20:22–30. Ammon and Moab apparently ambushed Edom, and then fought each other. There was nothing left to do except to take the spoil for four days--more than they could carry. They returned to Jerusalem and the Temple, singing. After that, the other nations were afraid to fight, and Judah had peace.
20:31–36 Jehoshaphat's reforms were incomplete because the hearts of the people had not turned to God. However, he got rid of cult prostitutes. IK.22:46
20:37 In another act of foolish relations with Israel, Jehoshaphat tried to get a joint merchant fleet in league with Ahaziah. Eliezer prophesied against this alliance and the ships were wrecked. IK.22:49 says Jehoshaphat was "not willing" to share sailors. Perhaps there was an effort to get a second fleet going after a storm wrecked the first.
IIK.3:1–27 (Note text shift back to II Kings.)
During the reign of Jehoram of Israel, he joined forces to fight against Moab "I will go; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses are your horses". (He had not learned from his experience with Ahab and repeated the same expression of sympathy.) The armies exhausted their supply of water. Elisha rescued them for the sake of Jehoshaphat. He had no regard for Jehoram.
Some pearls--memorable phrases which can be taken out of context:
"Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" (IIChron.19:2)
"Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord." (IIChron.19:6)
"We do not know what to do but our eyes are upon you." (IIChron.20:12).
"The battle is not yours but God's." IIChron.20:15)
"Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets and you will succeed." (IIChron.20:20)
Jehoshaphat shows a striking contrast between his domestic and foreign policies.
At home, he
•purged Judah of idols.
•got rid of sacred prostitution
•established justice and a judicial system.
•sent preaching / teaching missions around to all the cities.
•won a successful war with Ammon, Edom and Moab, by prayer without firing a shot.
He was a shepherd to his people, and an effective spiritual leader.
Toward Israel, he
•made a marriage alliance of his son Jehoram with the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah. The consequences were horrible.
•fought a war jointly with Ahab and barely escaped with his life.
•made a merchant-marine treaty with Ahaziah of Israel that ended in ruin.
•fought a war with Jehoram of Israel and narrowly escaped the loss of his army.
We puzzle at a king who was so successful in his domestic policies and a miserable failure in his foreign policies. He appears to have been trying to reunite the two countries. In this he ignored the will of God, who made the division in the first place. His interests were fraternal, political, perhaps economic. God's interests were spiritual. It was God who thwarted his foreign policies. God created the schism, discounting the prosperity and safety of Israel in order to reward good and punish evil.
How do these cases guide our foreign policy? "Do you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" This theme may have been in the minds of our founding fathers. Three policies guided our Country in its first hundred years.
1. Isolation. No "entangling alliances."
2. Neutrality. We would not take part in other countries' disputes.
3. Non-interference. The Monroe Doctrine forbade European countries from involvement in America.
In the recent past, we can see results in foreign policy like Jehoshaphat's.
•Our support of Saudi Arabia helped fund the Wah-habi sect of Islam which seeds its violent hatred of Israel and the West with little conspiratorial cells even in our own Country.
•We supported Osama ben Laden against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, only to discover his murderous hatred of us years later.
•We supported Saddam Hussein against the Iranian revolution. We knew then that he was a ruthless dictator.
Other examples could be cited in South America.
It would be tempting to withdraw back into isolation, but the world is small and we have the resources to make peace in many parts of the world. Our interests are everywhere. America has become part of the World and the World has become part of us, something the Founding Fathers could not have imagined.
We shall say with Jehoshaphat: "We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You." That prayer applies to our private lives, our church and our Country. Pray for our Country.
"What do we do when we don't know what to do? We pray".