JEHOSHAPHAT, je-hesh'a-fat: Fourth king of Judah, son and successor of Asa. His dates, according to the old chronology, are 914-893 B.C.; according to Kamphausen, 876-852 B.C.; according to Duncker, 869-848 B.C.; according to Curtis (DB, i. 401), 876-851 B.C. He was an energetic ruler, whose extensive preparations for war and prudent measures (II Chron. xvii. 2, 12-13) induced Ahab of Israel to seek an alliance in view of the strained relations between Israel and the Syrians, and of the dangers arising from the pressure from the rising power of Assyria (e.g., the victory of Shalmaneser II. at Karkar; see ASSYRIA, VI., 3, § 8). Good relations with Israel were also desired by Jehoshaphat; accordingly he became only too intimate with the heathenized court of Samaria and sealed his friendship by arranging a marriage between his son Joram and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. This alliance had its first test in an unsuccessful campaign against the Syrians, the object of which was to recapture the fortress of Ramoth in Gilead, which was important as the center of the country east of the Jordan (I Kings xxii. 1 sqq.). When Jehoshaphat returned he received a severe rebuke from the prophet Jehu, son of Hanani for entering into relations with those whom the Lord hated (II Chron. xix. 1 sqq.; cf. II Chron. xx. 34). Nevertheless, moved by his continued desire for a closer connection with the northern kingdom, he was ready to undertake, in company with Joram (q.v.), another campaign against the Moabites, who had revolted from Israel (II Kings iii.). This expedition, to which Edom was also forced to furnish aid, marched through the desert of Edom around the southern end of the Dead Sea, and was threatened with defeat through the lack of water in this region, when Elisha, for Jehoshaphat's sake, gave counsel and promised rescue and victory. King Mesha, besieged in his fortress Kir-hareseth (the modern Kerak), in his dire extremity offered his son as a sacrifice to the national god, Chemosh, whereupon, according to the mysterious statement in II Kings iii. 27, "there was great indignation against Israel" (i.e. on the part of Chemosh) and the allies were forced to turn back, so that they returned home without having accomplished their task. The Chronicler, who omits this story and does not allude to the activity of the prophet Elisha, speaks (II Chron. xx.) of a defensive, but more successful, expedition of Jehoshaphat against the Ammonites, Moabites, and Meunim (cf. II Chron. xx. 1, R.V. margin, but read Mehamme'unim). As this expedition is mentioned only by the Chronicler, many critics maintain that his story is a readjustment of the events related in II Kings iii., and credit it with no historic value. Nevertheless, in view of the great difference in all the principal details, it is best regarded as an account of an independent act of Jehoshaphat.
Both earlier and later sources praise Jehoshaphat's piety and his reforming tendencies (I Kings xxii. 43, 46; II Chron. xvii. 3, 6, xix. 3). According to the Chronicler he was a zealous reformer of legal procedure (II Chron. xix. 5 sqq.), and sought to impress his judges with a true sense of their responsibilities. In each city of the land he established a court of justice, and in Jerusalem a supreme tribunal composed of the chiefs of the families, of Levites and of priests, entrusted with decision in the most difficult cases. In this tribunal a priest presided when the religious cases were tried, and a prince when the action was a civil one. Both sources tell of an unsuccessful mercantile venture of Jehoshaphat, though the narratives are not altogether concordant (I Kings xxii. 48; II Chron. xxi. 35, 37). He endeavored to reestablish the traffic to Ophir from Ezion-geber, but the newly equipped ships were wrecked by a storm.
The picture of Jehoshaphat, although not without its shadows, is still the brightest presented by the house of David after Solomon's time. The land was densely populated (II Chron. xvii. 14 sqq.) and highly prosperous; little Judah was respected beyond her boundaries because of the wisdom and bravery of her king (II Chron. xvii. 10-11). Justice and religion flourished and developed, the sacred writings were carefully guarded and enriched. The king himself, another David in his piety, submitted to the sharp reproach of the prophets, was far-sighted, endowed with a noble, generous nature, and displayed tireless energy in his care for his people's welfare. That the condemnation of the well-meaning efforts of Jehoshaphat for a closer connection with the idolatrous royal house of Israel did not spring from narrow fanaticism was only too well proved immediately after his death, since the marriage of his son with Athaliah bore the worst possible fruits and robbed the land of the blessings which Jehoshaphat's reign had bestowed upon it.
The sources are I Kings xxii.;
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