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JEHOSHAPHAT (Heb. יְהוֹשָׁפָט), king of Judah, son of *Asa and Azubah, daughter of Shilhi (I Kings 22:42; II Chron. 20:31). Jehoshaphat ruled Judah for 25 years, during the second third of the ninth century B.C.E. He was a contemporary of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, kings of Israel. A vigorous personality emerges from the biblical accounts (I Kings 22; II Kings 3; II Chron. 17:1–21:3), a vigor manifested both in foreign policy and in the internal administration of the state.

Foreign Policy

Jehoshaphat's political system was characterized by his close alliance with the kingdom of Israel, a departure from the policy of his predecessors who were not reconciled to the division of the kingdom which had been united under David and Solomon. The turning point in Jehoshaphat's relations with Israel is I Kings 22:45: "Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel." This alliance between Judah and Israel was expressed in the former's participation on the side of *Ahab in the battle against Aram which took place at Ramoth-Gilead (I Kings 22; II Chron. 18). Jehoshaphat also took part in the military operation of *Jehoram, king of Israel, against Moab (II Kings 3:4–27). The alliance was reinforced by the marriage of Athaliah, in view of her formal title "Athaliah daughter of King *Omri of Israel" (II Kings 8:26), a sister or a daughter of Ahab, to Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram (this marriage took place in Jehoshaphat's lifetime). Another aspect of the alliance was the joint venture of Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah king of Israel "in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-Geber" (II Chron. 20:36; cf. I Kings 22:49–50). Jehoshaphat's reconciliation with the kings of Israel stemmed from his recognition that the balance of power had shifted in Israel's favor. The kingdom of Israel, under the rule of the house of Omri, achieved great stability and became an important political, military, and economic power in the area. Jehoshaphat understood that peace with the kingdom of Israel could bring political and economic benefit to his kingdom, whereas war with Israel would be disastrous for Judah. In addition, military and political cooperation between Judah and Israel was vital in view of the strengthened position of the eastern Transjordanian states, which threatened the borders of both Israel and Judah. Moab rebelled against Israel (II Kings 1:1; 3:4–5), and Edom was waiting for an opportune time to rebel against Judah. The account in II Chronicles 20:10, 22 of an invasion of Judah by "the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir" is historically improbable. Israel and Judah joined forces against Aram (I Kings 22; II Chron. 18) and against Moab (II Kings 3:4–27). Later, in an effort to repel an Assyrian invasion, Israel and Aram joined forces in the battle of Qarqar, but whether Jehoshaphat took part with his ally in this campaign is impossible to establish from the inscription of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria, which recounts the battle.

The alliance between Israel and Judah also had economic aspects. Clearly, while Judah dominated Edom (I Kings 22:48; II Kings 3:9–27), Jehoshaphat could exploit the copper mines in the Arabah and renew maritime trade in the Red Sea utilizing the port of Ezion-Geber. In establishing a commercial fleet he needed the aid of the Phoenicians, who were expert shipbuilders and sailors. Since Tyre was allied with Israel (see *Ahab), Judah became a third partner with Tyre and Israel. The Bible indicates that the joint enterprise to establish a fleet and maritime trade was unsuccessful and that Jehoshaphat disliked Ahaziah's interference. Perhaps Ahaziah was unable to force his will on Jehoshaphat. In any event, the triple alliance of Judah-Israel-Tyre brought about great commercial and economic vitality because the three states were contiguous and extended from the Mediterranean Sea in the southwest to the desert and the Red Sea in the southeast. Jehoshaphat's domination over Edom and Ezion-Geber gave Judah the land trade routes which connected Edom and the Red Sea with the Philistine port towns. These routes were traveled by caravans which carried valuable commodities (perfumes and spices) from Arabia to the countries of eastern Asia. The tribute which the Philistines and the Arab tribes brought to Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 17:11) can be understood only against this background of power and prosperity.

Internal Affairs

The Book of Chronicles provides an idealized description of the organization of the kingdom of Judah in the days of Jehoshaphat. He reorganized the army; II Chronicles 17:13–18 lists five senior unit commanders and the size of their units. The large numbers given indicate that the figures reflect both the standing army and the reserves which could be conscripted during crisis. The regular army, equipped with chariots, was garrisoned in the fortified cities and fortresses scattered throughout Judah, including the Judean Desert and the Negev (II Chron. 17:2, 12, 19).

Some scholars believe that Jehoshaphat's administrative reorganization of the kingdom of Judah in "Ephraim" – meaning Benjamin as part of the "hill country of Ephraim" (see II Sam. 20:1, 21) – conquered by Asa (II Chron. 17:2), is reflected in the list of towns allotted to Judah in Joshua 15. A unique measure taken by Jehoshaphat in the third year of his rule is described in II Chronicles 17:7–9. The king is said to have sent a delegation of ministers, levites, and priests to visit the towns of Judah and to teach the people the "book of the law of the Lord." Those who credit the chronicler's account in detail assume "the book of the law of the Lord" in question was the Book of *Deuteronomy, not in its final form, which was established only at the time of Josiah, but in a very early stage of its formulation. This assumption is based mainly on the great similarity between Deuteronomy 16:18–20; 17:8–13, which describes the appointment of judges in rural towns and the establishment of a high court in "the place which the Lord your God will choose" (Deut. 17:8), and the description in II Chronicles 19:5–11, which tells of the appointment of judges in all the fortified cities of Judah and the establishment of a high court in Jerusalem. Amariah, the chief priest, who was in charge of "all matters of the Lord," i.e., religious law, and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, who was in charge of "all the king's matters," i.e., secular-royal law (II Chron. 19:11), were members of the high court. Establishing teaching delegations in the towns and judges in all the fortified cities and Jerusalem indicates a tendency toward the consolidation of all authoritative institutions in Judah. Jehoshaphat's religious-legal reform is regarded as an attempt to institute a single legal system in order to centralize the ruling power. The entire account may be a midrash based on the name Jehoshaphat, "YHWH Judges."

Jehoshaphat's alliance with Phoenicia and Israel did not adversely affect Judah's religious-ritualistic practices. Although Jehoshaphat did not abolish the popular practice of sacrifice (to the Lord) at local cult places, he did abolish all rituals of which the Deuteronomist disapproved (see I Kings 22:44–47). He apparently perpetuated all that his father Asa had accomplished, and the Phoenician cult established by Ahab in Samaria under the influence of Jezebel only attained some importance in Jerusalem during the reign of Athaliah, after the death of Jehoshaphat (II Kings 11:18).


Aharoni, Ereẓ, 279ff.; idem, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1950), 94ff.; S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1960), 213ff., 240ff.; Z. Kalai, Gevuloteha ha-Ẓefoniyyim shel Yehudah (1960), 23ff., 64; Noth, Hist Isr, 236ff.; Albright, in: A. Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 61–82; Bright, Hist., 222–3, 228–9, 232–4; Cross and Wright, in: JBL, 75 (1956), 202–26; S. Yeivin, in: JQR, 50 (1960), 207ff.; idem, in: BIES, 25 (1961), 193–200; S. Talmon, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 335–83; H.L. Ginsberg, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), English section 91–93. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Cogan, I Kings (AB; 2000), 499–501.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.