II CHRONICLES 20:1-30
Background to the passage
1. The date of Jehoshaphat’s reign
2. The events of Jehoshaphat’s reign
II Chronicles 20:1-30
1. Jehoshaphat feared
2. Jehoshaphat had a relationship
3. Jehoshaphat was in earnest
4. Jehoshaphat led by example
5. Jehoshaphat prayed
6. Jehoshaphat received the Word of God
7. Jehoshaphat acted in faith
8. Jehoshaphat was rewarded
Appendix - Chronology of the kings of the United Monarchy, Israel and Judah
References and Sources
I’ve always wanted to straighten out the Church’s understanding of II Chr 20:1-30 since that first day I began to be uneasy about the teaching which was coming through many of those I heard speak, that it demonstrated how praise wins the victory over our enemies.
For the fellowship which I was attending, this meant that we devote more and more time to singing both choruses and hymns and that God would advance upon those problems which were confronting us and overcome them as a reaction to what we were doing.
In a very real sense, God does this - when we focus our attention upon God alone, we begin to be untroubled by earthly matters and, even though God might not defeat them, they become less of a worry and concern because we see the ‘big picture’ with God in control.
But to impose this teaching on the passage here being discussed is a travesty of Biblical interpretation - if we come to the passage with our own theology that we wish to impose upon the text, then we’ll surely get whatever we’re expecting to see but if we allow ourselves to be honest to what the writer recorded for us, we see something which is radically different and which sets praise in its proper place as being the response of a life to what both God will do and what He’s already done.
My first attempt at putting some notes together was almost twenty years ago and I’ve always had them in the back of a folder waiting to use - in fact, I never actually completed them, feeling that I wasn’t qualified at that time to complete my final point. Whether I’m ready to accurately record what God wants to say on the matter is still open to personal debate, by the way, for speaking about unqualified and unlimited victory is not something that I’d readily confess to!
To summarise my contention with the old way of interpreting this passage, we should note that praise is never described as a means towards an end but as a response to an established fact.
I guess I could have dealt with it all in an economy of words but, to those of you already familiar with this web site, when have I ever been guilty of doing that?! There seemed to be a number of other issues which needed commenting on - including a brief survey of Jehoshaphat’s character and some tactical military considerations - which have caused me to swell the notes to a length which might, at first, seem a little daunting.
I trust the reader will understand why it’s the whole of the notes which stand or fall together and which contribute to the overall message of II Chr 20:1-30.
Background to the passage
In order for us to understand the context of the passage under discussion, we need to think about how it fits into the framework of king Jehoshaphat’s reign as a whole and not limit ourselves only to the record of his behaviour in the incident.
As we will see in the next section when we begin to consider the dilemma which confronted the king, what had transpired before the invasion of a hostile army contributes to a good understanding of why Jehoshaphat felt that the control of the kingdom of Judah had been taken from him and why he got the response from God that he did.
1. The date of Jehoshaphat’s reign
To place Jehoshaphat into history, we should begin by defining the years of his reign - something which proves to be almost impossible to do without finding dissenters at all sides. I have opted for the years 869-849BC in my list of reigns in the Appendix which will be immediately countered by some as being too short because II Chr 20:31 (my italics - Pp I Kings 22:42) states decisively that
‘...He was thirty-five years old when he began to reign and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem...’
but, as is the case with a few of the kings recorded for us in both Kings and Chronicles, they may have reigned as co-regents with their fathers so that the period of the reign dates to the time also that they shared their rule. If one reads II Kings 1:17, it can be seen that, although Jehoshaphat was still the king in Judah, it’s Jehoram, his son, who’s noted as being the king of Judah at the time of his namesake’s accession to the throne of Israel. This is only possible if Jehoram had been appointed as co-regent.
In the case of Jehoshaphat, II Chr 16:12 is about the only hint the reader gets that king Asa may have been incapable of reigning as sole ruler but, if the relative dates are compared as they tie in with the northern kingdom of Israel (I Kings 22:41, II Kings 3:1, 8:16), one sees some solution needs to be offered to explain the reduced time period that they seem to give.
In Jehoshaphat’s case, the dates of significance are roughly given as
873BC - Became co-regent with his father Asa
869BC - Became sole ruler
852BC - Jehoram became co-ruler with Jehoshaphat
849BC - Jehoram became sole ruler
Jehoshaphat’s 25 year reign, therefore, seems to be calculated from the year of his first, temporary accession to the date of his death - from 873-849BC - with parts of years attributed accordingly (indeed, there seems to be no fixed manner in which part years were treated - either as a part which made a whole or as a part which was discounted. The problem is further complicated by the possibility that parts of years prior to the Jewish new year may have been attributed as full years and, subsequently, parts of years in the following one. Therefore, though we might say today that a monarch reigned 9 years and 4 months and define it either as a reign of 9 or 10 years, it could conceivably be calculated in ancient Israel as 11 if the 4 months fell partly in one year and partly in another!).
There’s more to these dates than meet the eye and there are some who speak of the Jews as calculating the regnal dates ‘according to the Egyptian method’ or ‘according to the Babylonian method’ - all that seems to be able to be definitively stated, however, is that even the clear statements of lengths of reign need to be worked on to make them come into one, unified list which will tie in comfortably with other known historical dates from independent sources.
The Appendix is offered solely for the reader to have a starting point and I shall take the dates of Jehoshaphat as becoming co-regent in 873BC, sole regent in 869BC and dying in 849BC according to our own modern chronology.
Even so, I should note in passing the various other dates offered by authorities - Knapp gives 914-891BC, Ungers c.875-850BC and Selman gives two from independent sources of 869-848BC (Thiele) 876-852BC (Hughes).
2. The events of Jehoshaphat’s reign
II Chr chapters 17-20, II Kings 3:4-27
I was intending to include a separate section covering the character of Jehoshaphat but realised before I’d even begun that the only way we can now attempt a reconstruction is by assessing the actions recorded for us in Scripture. Therefore, one must lead us to the other and vice-versa.
Maybe your ‘religious’ background is a whole lot different to my own but Jehoshaphat is a character who seems to have had very little bad press in the Church, one singer/songwriter I recall describing him with words to the effect that he was
‘...one of the truly righteous kings ever to emerge in the southern Kingdom...’
Certainly, if one selectively edits the record of his actions, we could see a man who was committed to do those things which were pleasing to God, even to the extent of using his own power and authority to encourage the nation back into a relationship with the God of their fathers and, more importantly, Jehoshaphat’s own God. However, as we will see, there was weakness in the king which was not only repeated in his life but which threatened the continuance of the Davidic line of kings after he’d died.
King Asa had died in rebellion to God (II Chronicles chapter 16) so that one might have expected that his son would continue where the father had left off. Whether Asa had finished by destroying those acts of faithfulness which had been part of his earlier reign is by no means certain and we might imagine that his change of heart was more of a minor one, borne out of political expediency in which the king failed to come to terms with the importance of relying and trusting upon YHWH even when there opened up to him an opportunity which appeared, superficially, to be advantageous.
But Jehoshaphat, from the opening words of his reign, sets himself to do something not only to protect the security of the kingdom (II Chr 17:1-2) but to undermine the false religion that was taking place in the land (II Chr 17:6) and to establish faith in the God of Israel (II Chr 17:7-9).
Firstly, then, he (II Chr 17:1)
‘...strengthened himself against Israel’
by fortifying those places which were already built to stand against an attack and by building new places of defence both in Judah and in the lands which his father Asa had taken captive from the king of Israel. This wouldn’t have happened overnight but it appears that the building work was planned from a very early date in his reign and that it would have continued for a great many years. In the same chapter, we find that the garrisons of Judah were built also as places of storage (II Chr 17:12-13a) to feed the nation in case a lengthy siege came about from a foreign army, drawing men into his own army so that there was a strong military presence able to repel any military advance (II Chr 17:13b-19), this latter list representing those who
‘...were in the service of the king...’
and given as additional to the strength of his army in the land. Such a move also showed that he placed no confidence or trust in the northern kingdom - something that, as we’ll see below, seems to have changed later in his life. Internally, he created a spiritual vacuum in the nation by his removal of the Asherah and high places (II Chr 17:6) but filled the void by sending out spiritual teachers to bring back the nation to a purer worship of YHWH (II Chr 17:7-9).
In broad, general terms Jehoshaphat found that God’s hand was on him for good because he’d set himself to do that which was pleasing in His sight (II Chr 17:3-4,6a, 19:3), tribute being brought to him not only from the lands owned by Judah (II Chr 17:5) but from the nations which lay round about him (II Chr 17:11). Because Jehoshaphat had sought YHWH, the fear of God also descended upon the lands of those nations who might have thought to do Judah harm (II Chr 17:10).
II Chronicles chapter 17 speaks to the reader only of spiritual success and achievement where the outward demonstration of spiritual zeal confirms the fervour of the king who’s come to power. When we begin II Chronicles chapter 18, however, we find a totally different story which repeats itself in the other Scriptural records of Jehoshaphat’s reign.
Just what prompted the king to seek out an alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel is difficult to imagine - especially as it’s certain that political stability and peace had already been achieved through the simplicity of devoting himself to serve God (II Chr 17:10). I Kings 22:44 is also clear in its observation that
‘Jehoshaphat...made peace with the king of Israel’
Perhaps Jehoshaphat thought that he was ‘better safe than sorry’ and went about trying to cement the peace he already had through political ends - perhaps he even thought that he might win back the northern kingdom to the worship of YHWH by his association with them. Whatever the king’s precise thoughts on the matter, they go unrecorded for us in Scripture.
The chapter opens ominously with (II Chr 18:1) the observation that
‘...Jehoshaphat had great riches and honour; and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab’
a sentence which comes back to haunt the writer of the book in II Chr 21:6 (my italics) when he begins his description of the reign of Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son, stating that
‘...he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done; for the daughter of Ahab was his wife...’
giving the reason for the wickedness of the king as being his wife, the daughter of Jezebel. But this was only the beginning of the harvest of this marriage union for, in II Chr 22:10-12, the wife of Jehoram attempts to murderously end the Davidic line and to establish her own rule over the nation of Judah. And all this came about because Jehoshaphat decided that a marriage alliance with the northern kingdom would be beneficial to the rule of his own throne. Perhaps he would have been better advised to consider the words of Deut 7:1-5 in which Moses recorded the words of God as warning the people that the children of those who worship foreign gods
‘...would turn away your sons from following Me, to serve other gods; then the anger of YHWH would be kindled against you and He would destroy you quickly’
It certainly would appear that there was a certain blind spot in the king’s otherwise faithfulness towards God for the rest of II Chronicles chapter 18 (Pp I Kings 22:1-40,44) deals with an incident in which Jehoshaphat agrees to go out in war alongside king Ahab of Israel with the words (II Chr 18:3)
‘...I am as you are, my people as your people...’
a clarion call for the more ecumenical ‘unity at any price’ movement but which promotes a compromise of one’s position rather than a godly unity. Again, though, we must ask ourselves why the king should ever think of doing such a thing when his service to and devotion of YHWH had already achieved a peace in the land they were in (II Chr 17:10 - I will comment below that the incident of II Chr 20:1-30 may have been the defining moment when peace was ultimately established and which the words in II Chronicles chapter 17 are summarising) - but, again, we’re left with our own guesses.
All that we can truthfully say is that we should be safeguarded against doing the very same thing in our own lives when peace is granted us through our own commitment to the will of God. Earthly allegiances and agreements serve no purpose in establishing what comes directly from God Himself and it would appear that the spiritually weaker are fairly eager to be associated with the spiritually strong for the acquisition of the benefits which can be gained.
But Jehoshaphat didn’t get away with his error (II Chr 19:1-3), Jehu, the son of Hanani, meeting the returning king and asking him
‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate YHWH? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from YHWH...’
but further reminding him that it was in his destruction of the false gods and of his seeking out of what was pleasing to God that YHWH found pleasure in him. This seems to have been the catalyst that propelled the king to once more concern himself with his original intention, outlined in II Chronicles chapter 17, whereas a similar word of rebuke to his father Asa had caused that king to react in a totally different way and to harden himself against God (Hanani had spoken against King Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father - II Chr 17:7-10 - and had been thrown into prison because of it. Jehu, Hanani’s son, must have known that the same fate could befall him as he approached Asa’s son but put his fears aside, determining to do the will of YHWH regardless of the consequences). Knapp comments that
‘...he had lapsed spiritually and was now restored, repentant and doing the first works. The work of reformation is resumed on recovery’
and that just about sums it up. So, II Chr 19:4 (my italics) reads that
‘...he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to YHWH, the God of their fathers’
and appointed judges in all the fortified cities of Judah to give the people justice (II Chr 19:5-7). His earlier actions may have done something to turn the nation back to the worship of YHWH by removing the false gods and teaching them the ways of the one, true God, but the practicalities of bringing justice to the nation had largely not been enforced, relying upon the positive response of the people to the message which had gone out to them to heed and to order their lives accordingly.
With the appointment of judges in the land, YHWH’s judicial decisions might begin to be applied and the mind of the nation gradually be changed to see that a lifestyle against the commands of the Mosaic Law wasn’t going to pay. His concern appears to have been to bring justice to each individual of the nation as part of their God ordained right.
Additionally, he appointed judges in Jerusalem (II Chr 19:8-11) for the cases which appear to have been considered to have been too hard for the other judges scattered throughout the land. Even if there wasn’t the expertise to determine cases at the extremities of his kingdom, there was a central point at which the harder matters could be heard and decided upon. This set up, incidentally, appears to have been the embryonic form of the judicial system of what was in existence in the time of Jesus.
It’s in this context of repentance, restoration and in the active pursuance of what was pleasing to God that our passage II Chronicles chapter 20 is set and it, perhaps, would have been good if the events of the life of Jehoshaphat had ended immediately afterwards. Unfortunately, they don’t!
The king is recorded in II Chr 20:35-36 and I Kings 22:48-49 as making the repeated mistake of allying himself with the king of the northern kingdom of Israel who, by this time, was Ahaziah. His brief reign of two years also shows us that the incident must have been begun at a very early point in the king’s rule for it needed the time for the ships to be constructed, something which certainly took several months - if not a more extensive time if a fleet is being described as it would appear to be.
By putting the two passages together we can probably be accurate to say that the original alliance between the kings to build and sail ships of ‘Tarshish’ (a word which is often taken as a destination located somewhere on the Mediterranean and which is all the more unexpected because they were being constructed at Ezion-geber on the shores of the Red Sea. It has been suggested that the designation ‘Tarshish’ may not refer to a port or city but to a type of ship construction and this certainly seems preferable in the passages under consideration) to collect gold from Ophir.
However, before the ‘fleet’ could sail, the ships were wrecked - perhaps through a storm or some other severe weather. Before this event took place, there came a prophesy through Eliezer to the king which announced that
‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, YHWH will destroy what you have made’
so that, when Ahaziah appealed to Jehoshaphat to
‘Let my servants go with your servants in the [other] ships’
(I’ve added the word ‘other’ because the context of the passage in I Kings chapter 22 seems to demand it), he’s recorded as not being willing, having learned that God’s hand wasn’t in the alliance - as, indeed, it never was whenever the king tried to reach out to the northern kingdom.
Again, one would have liked to have thought that Jehoshaphat had learnt by his mistakes - but, no! A third time he makes an alliance with the king of Israel in II Kings 3:4-27 who’s also joined with the king of Edom to fight against Moab. This time, it’s Jehoram, the brother of Ahaziah, son of Ahab who came to power after Ahaziah died (II Kings chapter 1) with whom the allegiance has been made.
Jehoshaphat’s words are still the same, too. In II Kings 3:7, he repeats the phrase from II Chr 18:3 (with a further addition for emphasis)
‘...I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses...’
The king once more forms an ecumenical unity, failing to realise or to learn that light has no union with darkness. This was Jehoshaphat’s greatest weakness that remained with him throughout his reign and we might think that, by this third occurrence, it was less of a ‘mistake’ and more of a deliberately disobedient act.
We could, perhaps, give the king the benefit of the doubt for the incidents each occur with different kings and, once rebuked (in this third incident, the words of Elisha in II Kings 3:14 are not a direct rebuke but Jehoshaphat would surely have realised the implications of the prophet’s words), he seems to learn his lesson until the end of that particular king’s reign. But, so determined is he to restore the unity of the nation that he keeps returning to it.
It would have been beneficial, no doubt, had II Cor 6:14-18 have been both written and brought to him to meditate on and Knapp is understating the position when he writes that
‘These compromising entanglements appear to have been a specific weakness with Jehoshaphat’
II Chronicles’ conclusion or summary of Jehoshaphat’s rule offers one final insight into the general state of the nation upon his death (II Chr 20:31-33 Pp I Kings 22:41-46). The writer observes, firstly, that the king both set his life to follow and obey God and that he didn’t deviate from it throughout his entire life (a statement which makes us tend towards the interpretation that his alliances with the three Israelite kings were incorrect assessments rather than direct acts of disobedience) but then goes on to note (my italics) that
‘The high places, however, were not taken away; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their fathers’
Jehoshaphat is not being blamed here that the people’s heart hadn’t turned back to YHWH but commended for what provision he’d made that they were able to serve Him freely if they chose to. Similarly, we shouldn’t blame the evangelist in today’s society because he’s not been able to win the hearts of the people to devote themselves to follow Jesus Christ but, rather, record the fact that at least he tried.
In all, then, Jehoshaphat’s reign was a successful one in the sense that he remained faithful to God throughout but that it also teetered on the brink of collapse through the alliances which he made with the three kings of Israel and which, ultimately, brought great distress and trouble upon the nation of Judah through both Jehoram, his son, and through the violent accession of queen Athaliah upon his death.
One final point needs to be made. The first three kings of Israel (the united monarchy, that is) were all appointed and chosen by God as prince over His people - Saul (I Samuel 9:16, 10:1), David (I Chr 11:2, II Samuel 5:2) and Solomon (I Chr 29:22) - a label which means ‘leader’ in this context.
Each of these kings, then, were appointed as ‘princes’ or ‘leaders’ in civil, military and religious contexts to be the one who was to promote the nation’s welfare and prosperity. Although the word ‘prince’ isn’t used in connection with Jehoshaphat, nevertheless his reign demonstrated the fulfilment of God’s original intention in having a king.
The king showed himself as a civil leader in his reappointment of judges throughout Israel (II Chr 19:4-11), something which appears to have not been in existence before the king moved for the benefit of his people. As a military leader, he strengthened his kingdom by both renewing the fortifications which were already built and by the construction of new ones, summoning men together to form a band of warriors who could offer the nation protection (II Chr 17:2,12-19, 20:20). And, as a religious leader, he came against those places which were pulling the nation away from a sincere and pure devotion to God and brought to the population’s attention the requirements which YHWH had laid upon the nation through Moses (II Chr 17:6-9, 19:4).
Civil, military and religious - Jehoshaphat epitomised by his actions what God had originally intended the king over his people to be for them.
II Chr 20:1-2
The Bible opens the passage about the attack on Judah by recording that, after the acts of faithfulness of placing judges throughout the land of Judah to give the nation justice in their dealings with their fellow man, a vast army came against them
‘...from Edom (the more likely reading is ‘Aram’ which would indicate that Jehoshaphat was being told that the army was coming ‘from the east’ rather than that they were Arameans who were attacking from a place north-east of Jerusalem. It’s possible that the one Hebrew manuscript which bears this location is interpretative rather than being accurate to the original wording), from beyond the [Dead] sea...’
and that they had first been seen now that they’d reached Engedi on the western shores of the Dead Sea, some twenty miles as the crow flies from Jerusalem (though the exact route would have been much longer - and much slower than if one man was making his way there). Although there’s no definitive statement as to the intention of the invading army other than to dispossess the Jews of their land (II Chr 20:11), we might surmise that, being so close to the capital of the kingdom, they were planning to overrun the city and kill the king to gain the upper hand in their acquisition of the entire area for themselves.
But we’re going a little too fast here and we need to think about what had happened before the point at which they’d been observed as being in Engedi, presumably to refresh themselves and their animals before one final push into the uplands of Judah - Engedi being one of the more abundant oases in the region which could support numerous people. Zondervan notes that
‘Because of the oppressive heat of the Dead Sea valley, there can never have been any large population here’
and goes on to estimate the population of the place in NT times as around 1,000 from Josephus’ mention of the place in War 4.7.2. However, the author notes that the Sicarii who took the ‘small city’ slaughtered around 700 of the women and children who weren’t able to run away from the invading band and it would, therefore, appear that the number should be set as high as 3,000.
Nevertheless, Zondervan may be incorrect in their assessment of the area in Jehoshaphat’s day for Joshua 15:61-62, when apportioning out the land to the tribe of Judah gives them places in the wilderness (my italics)
‘...Betharabah, Middin, Secacah, Nibshan, the City of Salt and Engedi: six cities with their villages’
so that there appears to have been a significant number of people here for Engedi not only to be called a ‘city’ but to be noted that certain villages were associated with it. Whether there was a large population here in the time of Jehoshaphat is impossible to say but we should note that Engedi’s resources were obviously sufficient to be able to supply the army’s need before their final advance on the kingdom of Judah.
The group of people who are coming against the kingdom are recorded initially (II Chr 20:1) as being
‘...the Moabites and Ammonites and with them some of the Meunites...’
The first two peoples are fairly easy to tie down geographically in broad terms. The Ammonites were a people whose southern boundary roughly corresponded with a line drawn due east from the northern tip of the Dead Sea and which extended northwards along the lands to the east of the Jordan river (a good map would be beneficial to the reader at this point!). The Moabites lay almost due south of the Ammonites bounded on the west by the Dead Sea and, to the south, by the kingdom of Edom.
The Meunites are somewhat of a puzzle. Selman observes that the people
‘...are sometimes linked with the Arabs...and lived in the south-western area of Judah’
which, as we’ll see below, is hardly reasonable. The identification with this area is probably in part due to the identification of Mount Seir in this area. Dillard, however, is no more believable when he notes that their geographic location is probably preserved in the name of the village Ma’an which is
‘...twelve miles south east of Petra...’
and which would make them approximately a hundred miles south of the southern end of the Dead Sea. Zondervan, however, describes them as
‘...a minor desert tribe of uncertain origin’
which would hint at the possibility that they were perhaps even a people within another people or peoples and that they were more like Bedouins than seen as ruling over a specific geographic area. For this reason, they could be expected to pop up in different places and this is, perhaps, the best interpretation of who they were.
The Meunites here referred to, however, seem to have been those who were settled around the mountainous hill range of Mount Seir which Edom ruled over - a term which could become synonymous with the Kingdom of Edom - because II Chr 20:23 (Cp II Chr 20:10,22) refers to the multitude of people once more at the time of their self-destruction as being
‘...the men of Ammon and Moab [who] rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir...’
where ‘Meunites’ seems to be definitively defined as those in a specific geographic location. They weren’t Edomites, however, and it seems fairly certain that they wouldn’t have taken part in the military campaign from II Kings 3:9 where they’re recorded as having formed an allegiance with Israel and Judah to attack their neighbours Moab. It’s also unlikely that the Meunites should be residents of the Negev (southern Judah) because Jehoshaphat notes that the land from which they were coming was a place (II Chr 20:10) which God
‘...would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt and whom they avoided and did not destroy’
If they had been residents of the Negev, this statement would have been incorrect.
The advance of the army, then, seems to have been due south from the land of Ammon and on the eastern side of both the Dead Sea and the kingdom of Judah, joining with the forces of Moab (whether pre-arranged or spontaneously agreed upon, it doesn’t matter) and picking up some of the Meunites in their number as they swung westwards, across the southern tip of the Dead Sea and, finally, north along the western shores until they arrived at Engedi.
But why didn’t they join forces at the borders of Israel at the northern tip of the Dead Sea where there are numerous oases and then march almost due west to attack Jerusalem, a journey which, as the crow flies, was only 15 miles compared with the 20 or so distance from Engedi? The point is that, in order for them to attack Jerusalem, they would have had to have marched close to other fortified cities which lay to the north and east of the capital, alerting the king to the invasion and drawing upon themselves battles which would hinder them from conclusively overthrowing Jerusalem before the nation could muster its military might.
Jehoshaphat’s strengthening of his defences in the early part of his reign (II Chr 17:1-2) seem to have been carried out because of the recognition that the main line of attack was expected to come either directly from the north or from the north-east by the northern kingdom of Israel. Not fearing an advance upon the land from the south or east would have compelled him to expend most of his efforts in areas which the invading army wouldn’t encounter.
The journey round the southern tip of the Dead Sea - although adding significantly to the journey - was tactically astute and meant that they would have been already in the land before news could have got through to the king of their assumed intentions. There was also a known trade route from Jerusalem which passed through Ammonite controlled Rabbah towards Damascus and any advancing army would have easily have been spotted by Jewish traders.
I’ve assumed above that the generally accepted expanse of the Dead Sea in today’s textbooks is what would have been in existence in Jehoshaphat’s day but, according to a recent article in the Nov/Dec 2001 issue of BAR (‘The Rise and Fall of the Dead Sea’ by Amos Frumkin and Yoel Elitzur), significant variations in the sea level can be determined from the surrounding area.
Although I would only tentatively suggest that what I’m about to write is ‘fact’, during the reign of Jehoshaphat (which we set as 873-849BC), the authors note that it wasn’t at it’s highest point in history and that it could well be possible that the southern half of the area was completely dry - dry enough for the ground underfoot to have been solid rather than marshy.
In other words, the Ammonites, Moabites and Meunites could have taken the opportunity to invade Judah when they were able to cross the usually wet lake at a point which was less than 10 miles due south of Engedi (at a point which is actually north of Masada), cutting some thirty miles off their journey and arriving from the territory of Moab and into Judah in the space of just one day - especially if they’d chosen a day on which there was more sunlight than during winter.
The speed of such an advance would have meant that abundant supplies wouldn’t have been needed if the longer journey had been undertaken. Although this is no more than supposition, it does indicate how the army could have suddenly appeared in Engedi and had the initiative against Judah.
The strength of Jehoshaphat’s army garrisoned in Jerusalem is numbered in II Chr 17:13-18 as being 1,160,000 but this figure may not be an accurate representation of those who were ready at any single time to rise up and fight at a moment’s notice. Even if it was, such an army would still have been at a disadvantage numerically from the observation of the men who told the king that there was a ‘great multitude’ coming against them (II Chr 20:2), implying something equivalent to an entire nation uprooting themselves from their territory to march upon the land. This supposition is enforced by the observation in II Chr 20:25 that the Jews
‘... found cattle in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much’
To take such possessions as these into battle (the existence of cattle is fairly significant even though it would appear that it’s only the Greek manuscripts which bear this information) would point towards a people who were carrying with them items that they didn’t anticipate returning to - and, therefore, that they had the sole intention of settling in the land to which they were now advancing.
It was the first (and last) time that any army had ever tried to come against Judah in Jehoshaphat’s reign because (II Chr 17:10)
‘...the kingdoms of the lands that were around about Judah...made no war against Jehoshaphat’
even though the king is recorded on at least two occasions as being the aggressor in a military campaign (II Kings chapter 3 and II Chronicles chapter 18). Apart from the geographic locations mentioned in this article, the other places such as ‘the ascent of Ziz’ (II Chr 20:16), ‘the wilderness of Jeruel’ (II Chr 20:16) and the ‘valley of Berachah’ (II Chr 20:26) were all well-known to the contemporaries but have probably since been used as labels for areas where it’s generally thought that the events took place.
II Chronicles 20:1-30
And so, finally, we come to the main body of the passage in question!
What’s preceded should be sufficient to set the scene and to answer most of the questions which arise in these short sections if the reader wonders where I get the statements which seem to go unsupported.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive commentary of the event but, rather, a few short observations which are intended to point the reader towards the underlying principles of the passage and to correct the often stated and incorrect assertion that Jehoshaphat used praise to overcome the enemy and win the victory.
1. Jehoshaphat feared
‘Some men came and told Jehoshaphat
“A great multitude is coming against you from Edom...”
Then Jehoshaphat feared...’
II Chr 20:2-3
Jehoshaphat wasn’t a timid person (II Tim 1:7) as can be seen from his allegiance in war with Ahab (II Chr 18:3) even though such an action was rebuked by a prophet of God (II Chr 19:1-2). Even the history of the kings of the northern kingdom (I Kings 22:45) records Jehoshaphat concerning
‘...his might that he showed and how he warred...’
and directs the reader’s attention to the chronicles of the southern kingdom to learn of them (presumably what we now call I and II Chronicles). Neither was Jehoshaphat a man pleaser in his commitment to remove the high places and the Asherah from out of the land of Judah (II Chr 17:6).
It’s clear, then, that he didn’t live his life with the fear of his opponents flooding his consciousness, so living at their mercy rather than in accordance with the known will of God (Is 51:12-13). When the report of the multitude came to him, he’d already been strengthening Judah’s defences against an expected attack to safeguard the people (II Chr 17:2, 12-13) - the only problem being that they were predominantly being fortified ‘against Israel’ which lay in the north, while the direction of the present attack was from the east.
So the king isn’t someone who we’d naturally expect to fear. But, when he learnt that a vast multitude had gained access into Judah’s land, his natural reaction would have to have been one of fear for, in real terms, the kingdom had as good as fallen as noted previously above.
Yet, even though the king feared, he didn’t run away into exile and forsake God’s people - with an alliance between himself and Israel, this was, no doubt, a real possibility in which he could safeguard his own children but leave the land open to invasion.
Rather than turning his back on everything that he’d been seeking to build, he turned his fear into trust in God (Ps 56:3, Prov 29:25) where the modern day proverb equally holds true which says that
‘Courage is not the absence of fear but the pressing on regardless’
Earlier in his life, he’d had to call upon YHWH to deliver him when the army of Syria had turned their attentions towards him in battle, thinking that he was Ahab, king of Israel. God had delivered him at that time (II Chr 18:31) and what He did then for himself as an individual, Jehoshaphat now looked to Him to do for the entire nation.
When the twelve spies returned from spying out the land of Canaan at the point when the nation could have immediately gone in to get control of their Promised Land, ten of them came back with fear dominating their lives (Num 13:31-33). The other two, however, came back with their lives dominating whatever fear they felt (Num 14:6-9) and determined to believe what God had to say on the matter rather than to let what their eyes had seen rob them of the opportunity that lay before them.
The apostle Paul also noted on at least a couple of occasions that he felt fear (I Cor 2:3, II Cor 7:5), in the latter of these passages speaking about having
‘...fighting without and fear within’
What he felt because of the situation around him seemed only to compel him to do battle against those forces which seemed to be threatening to overwhelm.
Jehoshaphat’s fear resulted in the throwing of himself upon God’s mercy, on seeking God to know what to do in the situation. There was no longer any fear when he knew that the victory was ensured - that is, when God’s Word came to him for, when a man knows that God is for them and will fight against their enemies, there no longer remains anything to fear (Ps 27:1-3, 56:10-11, 118:6).
When God finally spoke into the situation, He included a specific word for every individual who, like the king, feared what seemed to be inevitable. He said (II Chr 20:15)
‘Fear not and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for [because] the battle is not yours but God’s’
and, again (II Chr 20:17)
‘Fear not and be not dismayed...’
What God was about to ask them to do needed there to be a calmness and peace in their lives rather than a trepidation in the events of the following day as they were to unfold.
2. Jehoshaphat had a relationship
‘YHWH was with Jehoshaphat...
[he] sought the God of his father and walked in His commandments...
his heart was courageous in the ways of YHWH’
II Chr 17:3,4,6
Jehoshaphat had a relationship with God that saved him in a time of trouble. He didn’t use God as a last resort or run to Him only when trouble arose. Scripture is very plain that it’s important that we seek God in the ‘good and easy’ times before He’ll deliver us in the day of trouble. When Jehoshaphat turned to seek YHWH, he already had a relationship established with God.
On the positive side, Scripture encourages (Ps 32:6)
‘...every one who is godly [to] offer prayer to Thee; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him’
and (Ps 91:9-10) that
‘Because you have made YHWH your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent’
On the negative side, Scripture goes on to comment that, if we don’t want God in the easy times, He won’t be with us in the difficult situations that will, sooner or later, come against us. Although written about the personification of Wisdom, Prov 1:20-33 (see also Is 1:15) is worth reading here which states that
‘Because I called and you refused to listen...I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you’
Jesus also taught His disciples in the story of the wise and foolish builder (Mtw 7:24-27) that it was only the one who applied His words to his own life and who built his entire livelihood and safety upon His teachings that was to be saved on the day of calamity.
When trouble came Jehoshaphat’s way, he had God to rely on because he’d sought Him in the times when things went well. God wants a people who, in this respect, will seek Him for Himself and even when they don’t appear to need Him - not just for His favours when times of adversity descend upon them.
3. Jehoshaphat was in earnest
‘Jehoshaphat...set himself to seek YHWH
and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah’
II Chr 20:3
‘Jehoshaphat...set himself (determinedly, as his vital need) to seek YHWH’
II Chr 20:3 (Amplified)
Jehoshaphat didn’t presumptuously expect God to be with him if he was to go to battle but realised that he needed to hear from God extremely quickly and afresh to know what to do in the situation. Like David before him, when confronted by a situation which would have naturally stirred him up to unsheathe his sword and pursue the aggressor (I Sam 30:1-5), he finds strength from God (I Samuel 30:6) and instead turns to YHWH to ask what is the best plan of action (I Samuel 30:7-8).
Jehoshaphat was neither half-hearted nor indifferent to seek God but he ‘set himself’ firmly to find out God’s mind in the situation he was in and not to rely upon his own judgment (Prov 3:5).
To seek God, I repeat, is not a last resort but a way of life. Jehoshaphat’s whole life was one of seeking after Him determinedly (II Chr 17:4, 19:3, 22:9). It only became urgent when the situation arose in which it was necessary to hear from God immediately - but it’s the continual search for God in our own lives that’s important. To follow after God, to seek after Him, to make our only prize a deeper realisation and discovery of Himself is all that He expects from us.
In the words of the personification of Wisdom (Prov 8:17), we can hear God’s words echoing to His people that He loves those
‘...who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me’
Yet, with all our hearts, all our being, we need to seek YHWH to show Him that we’re desperate to hear from Him in a particular situation (Jer 29:13). We have to show that to hear from Him is our food - even to the point that natural food merely wastes time in our search for Him.
Jesus taught that, if we ask it will be given to us (Mtw 7:7-8). Sometimes we need to keep asking when we don’t seem to receive, keep seeking when we don’t at first find and keep knocking until we get the reply that we need (Luke 18:1-8).
4. Jehoshaphat led by example
set himself to seek YHWH...
and Judah assembled to seek help from YHWH’
II Chr 20:3-4
To understand why the people of Israel followed the king’s lead means that we need to look at the original intention of God in anointing a king. Up to and including the reign of Jehoshaphat, only three kings were specifically appointed by God to be king according to Scripture - Saul, David and Solomon.
Each of these three are also recorded as being expected to fulfil the role of a ‘prince’ (as in the RSV), an unfortunately poor translation of the Hebrew word being employed - but at least it’s consistent unlike the AV (Strongs Hebrew number 5057). Strongs notes of this word that it rightly means
‘...commander...civil, military or religious...’
and that it comes from a root word which means ‘front’. It therefore signifies not someone who stands behind the people and tries to direct them the way they should go, but one who walks ahead and encourages them to follow their lead (a trait which, I hasten to point out, seems to be so far removed from political leaders whenever they fall short of the very laws that they vote in).
TWOTOT parallels this meaning, giving the application of leadership to the
‘governmental, military and religious’
Each of the three previously mentioned kings were mentioned as being expected to fulfil the role of ‘prince’ - Saul (I Samuel 9:16, 10:1), David (I Chr 11:2, II Samuel 5:2 - where there is a clear distinction being made between a pastor and a leader) and Solomon (I Chr 29:22 - a ‘prince for YHWH’).
Their commission, then, was given by God to be the nation’s earthly leader in all things civil (or governmental), military and religious - each of them was called to lead a life worthy of the calling and so had to live as an example to the nation under and, more importantly, behind them.
When the leader committed sin, therefore, it had far more encompassing effects that if someone else had done it. If the king did it, the nation both witnessed the deed and followed after his example. God, therefore, has to judge leaders with far greater strictness, and it seems to be the case generally that, throughout the time of the kings, if the leader went after foreign gods, so did the people.
Jehoshaphat was expected to be all things to all men, so to speak, but definitely to display godly leadership in the civil, military and religious matters of the nation, one who would be an example to all Judah and from whom they could learn. He wasn’t faultless as we’ve previously noted (Cp II Chr 18:1 with 21:6 and the subsequent fall of Judah) but he did fulfil the role of a leader civilly (II Chr 19:5-11 - the appointment of judges), militarily (II Chr 17:2,12 - defence of Judah, 18:28, 20:20 - with Judah in battle) and religiously (II Chr 17:3-6 - personal commitment, 17:7-9 - proclamation of God’s written word, 19:4 - pastoral guidance).
So, when Jehoshaphat (II Chr 20:3)
‘...set himself to seek YHWH...’
Judah (II Chr 20:4)
‘...assembled to seek help from YHWH; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek YHWH’
They followed the king’s leadership through the witness of action in his own life where he was the one in the front leading them forward rather than the man at the back pushing them into a way that he hadn’t already tried out. All good leadership says ‘do what I do’ and become examples to the flock rather than those who seek to domineer those who’ve been put under their charge (I Peter 5:3).
5. Jehoshaphat prayed
‘And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem
in the house of YHWH, before the new court
II Chr 20:5
YHWH wants His people to pray because they have His interests at heart.
Examples are the prayers of Moses when he interceded for Israel (Ex 32:9-14, Num 14:11-19). Each time, Moses was promised honour if the Israelites were judged and destroyed but he proved his unselfishness, wisdom and love for God because he realised the consequences of that line of action. After all, the nations would surely hear of it and would say that He was unable to bring them through the wilderness or, even, that He’d broken covenant with them. It was for God’s glory, then, that Moses prayed the way he did.
Jehoshaphat prayed similarly though not exactly the same.
a. II Chr 20:6
Jehoshaphat recognised and acknowledged God’s sovereignty.
b. II Chr 20:7
Jehoshaphat reminded God of His covenant with Abraham by noting that He’d given it
‘...forever to the descendants of Abraham’
He held God to His Word that the land was rightfully theirs.
c. II Chr 20:8-9
Jehoshaphat noted that part of the covenant included the expected deliverance of His people from out of the hand of trouble.
These first three points are the basis upon which the petition Jehoshaphat is about to make are based - the king expects God to act sovereignly against the invading army and as a reaction to the threat that they were bringing to the people of the land in their undermining of the promise of God.
d. II Chr 20:10-11
Jehoshaphat stated the problem - that a multitude was coming against them to dispossess the nation of what God had covenanted to give them.
e. II Chr 20:12a
Jehoshaphat petitioned God to sovereignly judge those nations who came against them because of the covenant of promise. If the nations were to dispossess Judah of the land then what would that say about an omnipotent God? Namely, that God was either unable to protect them or that He’d broken covenant.
f. II Chr 20:12b
Jehoshaphat realised that in his own strength he was unable to defeat the multitude that was coming against them - he was powerless even though he’d refortified Judah to withstand an enemy attack. Also, he didn’t know what to do - his schemes were of no use to him.
Therefore, Jehoshaphat was entirely relying upon God to act in the situation that they found themselves in where his words
‘We do not know what to do but our eyes are upon Thee’
are closely paralleled in the words of the psalmist (Ps 25:15 see also Ps 127:1) which run
‘My eyes are ever toward YHWH for He will pluck my feet out of the net’
One final point needs to be made at this point. Jehoshaphat never used grounds of Judah’s righteousness before God to petition Him to act. If that had been what they’d relied on, they wouldn’t have been saved at all (Deut 9:4-5). It was only because of the covenant of promise that they had any grounds upon which they could pray.
6. Jehoshaphat received the Word of God
‘And the Spirit of YHWH came upon Jahaziel...
and he said...
“Thus says YHWH to you...”’
II Chr 20:14-15
YHWH answered not with the written word but by His anointed Word - God gave them His Word for the situation in which they found themselves. Both the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) and God’s living Word (Heb 4:12) are the anointed Word of God, both Spirit and word, power and intention united into one (see my notes on ‘The Word of God’).
Before the message is spoken, the Scripture records (II Chr 20:14) that
‘The Spirit of YHWH came upon...’
a servant of God and anointed the words that He also caused him to speak amongst the people. Without God’s anointing in our own lives, we may even speak what’s Scriptural but not what’s powerful. God’s written word we most definitely need to learn but it’s God’s anointed Word that we need to both seek and hear.
As we read and learn God’s written word, meditate upon it and study it, so God brings to remembrance the right Scripture at the right time for the right situation. But to randomly snatch words from Scripture - even words which fit the context of our situation - and declare that they’re God’s Word to us at that point in time is only presumption.
If this was all that Jehoshaphat had to do, why didn’t he simply cite those Scriptures about God’s sovereignty and His promise to the nation about the land? Why did he have to pray for a specific Word from God if he knew already what God had to say on the matter from the Scriptural record?
There’s a word in God’s reply to the nation that’s as surprising as it is frightening. In II Chr 20:16, the person prophesying tells them what action to take but precedes the command with the word ‘tomorrow’. Judah stood on the verge of annihilation with a vast multitude expected to attack at any time and God says, in effect
‘Calm down - it’s My battle. Now go to bed and get some rest. Then in the morning go and march out against them’
That, I’m sure, was a test of both their patience and faith. God’s Word was going to come to pass tomorrow and, until that time came, they had to wait and do nothing! God’s message rested on the fact (I Chr 20:15) that
‘The battle is not yours but God’s...’
because the issue was more than that a nation was coming up to fight against a few cities - they were actually coming to drive Judah out of their God-given inheritance. In other words, the real issue was a multitude coming against God’s covenant of promise - the multitude were coming against God Himself. Therefore, the battle lines had been drawn up by the invading army against Him and it was God who was to go out to war against them.
Had Judah broken the covenant it would have been very different (Deut 28:58,64) but God was actively making sure that He kept his side of the covenant. As Paul pointed out in Rom 8:31
‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’
and, in Ps 118:6, the writer observes that
‘With YHWH on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?’
There no longer remained anything to fear or worry about. God said that He was with them and they only had to believe. Therefore the congregation (II Chr 20:18)
‘...fell down before YHWH, worshipping YHWH’
and the Levites (II Chr 20:19)
‘...stood up to praise YHWH, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice’
Finally, on a more reflective note, I wonder how they actually knew it was a Word from God and not some message that someone in the gathered multitudes had dreamed up with his own mind and in his own strength? I don’t mean to be flippant or trivialise the message which came but it’s my experience that, in today’s Church, we have a multitude of pronouncements from God but very little that ever comes to pass.
What does that mean about our present day fellowships, then? That we don’t move in the same sort of relationship with God that the people gathered at that time in Israel did? That, when the Word of God comes, we don’t actually believe and act upon it? That God isn’t actually speaking to us at all but that we’re ‘running on empty’?
I have no answer to give to the reader, unfortunately, but we should note from the passage that they needed just the one voice to speak, that when it came they believed it and that they didn’t go around looking either for signs or other messages which confirmed it.
7. Jehoshaphat acted in faith
‘...he appointed those who were to sing to YHWH
and praise Him in holy array
as they went before the army...’
II Chr 20:21
And so we come to the real crux of the passage as told by a good few preachers. Is what Jehoshaphat does the reason why the victory is won? Or is there some other reason why God goes out against the advancing enemy?
As we’ve seen above in the previous sections, we must be honest to the passage and realise that it was not praise that won the victory at all. Jehoshaphat received the Word which came from God through one of His servants and acted upon it - that is, he demonstrated faith in God - so that, instead of sending his military men out in the front line which would have been an act more of unbelief than anything, he sent out the singers to give praise to God for what He had already promised to do. It was his faith that had turned the promise of God’s deliverance into the reality of a victory, but his belief in the Word of God had secured the inevitability of deliverance.
So, if praise didn’t win the victory, can we ascertain from the passage that it actually did something? That is, did praise have a bearing on the final outworking of the promise of God that it’s lack wouldn’t have achieved?
The answer to that question, however, is ‘yes’ - praise did accomplish something which had been unexpected. In II Chr 20:16-17, God had told Jehoshaphat and Judah that the multitude would
‘...come up by the ascent of Ziz...’
and that they would (my italics)
‘...see the victory of YHWH’
He told them, then, that they were to watch Him fight for them against their enemy - or, rather, that they would see God fight against His own enemy and deliver them in the process. But, in II Chr 20:24, it’s recorded that this isn’t what actually happened - by the time they arrived at the watchtower of the wilderness, God had already fought and defeated them.
The reason is recorded in II Chr 20:22. It reads that
‘When they began to sing and praise, YHWH set an ambush...’
It was when they began to sing and praise, then, that God brought the victory forward before the appointed time. It’s His people’s reactions to the Word of God, then, that determine the time at which what He has said will come to pass.
The victory was won when the promise of God’s spoken Word was met with faith in the hearers the day before in the Temple - but the victory was received at an earlier point in time than it might otherwise have been when the faith of the hearers translated itself into the response of praise.
So, too, in the Church. It’s only as we respond to God’s anointed Word in our own lives that we’ll know the victory that He’s promised us - and the time of receipt can be significantly altered as we allow our faith to be outworked in praise and by the negation of those things (such as the demoting of the military men in the face of an advancing, hostile army) that one might have expected would have been important.
Alas, though, our reactions often betray our own beliefs - but the fact remains that it’s our reactions that prove our faith (James 2:14-26).
8. Jehoshaphat was rewarded
‘They were three days in taking the spoil
it was so much’
II Chr 20:25
The end of the matter is that the Judahites despoiled the enemy which had come to dispossess them of their land. I’ve already noted previously that the presence of cattle along with ‘precious things’ indicates that the multitude of people had brought them with them from the lands from which they’d departed, the indication being made more sure that it wasn’t simply a raid on the eastern flank of the kingdom but an attempt at removing them fully from the land by force and of resettling the cities with their own people.
But what they’d intended to be used for their own material prosperity in their new home became the possession of those they were seeking to remove.
The principle is one that the Church has seldom realised when confronted by an aggressive force seeking to annihilate its very existence - that is, that the power and resources should be expected to be handed over to them when they’re defeated, something which brings even more rejoicing before YHWH (II Chr 20:27).
It would appear that the previous statement of II Chr 17:10 that the nations which were round about Judah made no war against them came about from this incident, for II Chr 20:29-30 concludes the incident by noting the same.
The one and only declaration of war against the kingdom, then, had been turned into a crushing defeat with the people of God becoming more prosperous and secure than they ever could have done. It’s also significant to note that the military strengthening of the land which Jehoshaphat had undertaken (II Chr 17:1-2,12-19) had no effect whatsoever in the defeat of the Ammonites, Moabites and Meunites but, rather, it was the presence of God in their midst that had defended their cause.
Natural defences, therefore, are of little consequence to a child of God. While they might give the mind rest while they exist, it takes an incident like the one of II Chr 20:1-30 to make us realise that God still has to go out to war against an advancing enemy so that we might be secure.
Appendix - Chronology of the kings of the United Monarchy, Israel and Judah
Lists of dates of the entire set of kings who ruled over both Judah and Israel are not easy to find - and, judging by the variation in even one king’s reign (that of Jehoshaphat as noted above), there will be numerous differences in any chosen two. What I’ve here done is to use Zondervan’s list as a starting point and checked out the dates to see whether they ‘work’, then altering and adding some of the dates to bring them in line with what I understand to be a fairly close chronology.
Someone, somewhere will, no doubt, object to my dates here listed but, at the very least, it gives the reader something to fix the characters of the Bible into a historical framework.
The additions and alterations to the dates as printed in Zondervan have the following annotations:
‡ = no date is given in the article referred to.
c = Possible co-regents. The kings recorded for us in both Kings and Chronicles may have reigned as co-regents with their fathers so that the period of the reign dates to the time also that they shared their rule - but there’s no way of telling from Scripture apart from the indication that this might be so from the differing lengths of reigns. The dates here given are the ones when full and sole power over the nation was received through the death of the predecessor.
(x) = Dates added or altered where the date seems wrong or not given.
To these dates, I’ve added my own notations to try and give some further descriptions of the kings here mentioned along with the primary passages where their reign and actions can be read:
R = A king generally considered in Scripture to have been righteous.
U = A king generally considered in Scripture to have been unrighteous.
R/U = A king who began his reign as righteous but who ended as unrighteous.
U/R = A king who began his reign as unrighteous but who ended as righteous.
The period of time in parentheses after these descriptors indicates the period attributed to the king’s reign - if a king of Judah, the figure from Chronicles is used but, if a king of Israel, Kings is used.
Son = A relation to the previous king in the list or to someone specifically stated.
d = End of a dynasty when another, unrelated person, begins to reign.
1. United Monarchy
1043 - Saul - U (42 years? Cp I Samuel 13:1, Acts 13:21) - I Samuel 9-31 - God’s choice
1003 - David - R (40 years) - II Samuel, I Kings 1:1-2:12, I Chr 11-29 - God’s choice
The date of 1003 is assuming that Ishbosheth is considered in the length of the reign of Saul. David began reigning in Hebron in 1010, in Jerusalem in 1003
970 - Solomon - R/U (40 years) - I Kings 1:38-11:43, II Chr 1-9 - Son
2. Kingdom of Judah
930 - Rehoboam - R/U (17 years) - II Chr 10-12 - Son
913 - Abijah - U (3 years) - II Chr 13 - Son
910 - Asa - R/(U) (41 years) - II Chr 14-16 - Son
869c - Jehoshaphat - R (25 years) - II Chr 17-20 - Son
Jehoshaphat became co-regent with his father c.873
(849c) - Jehoram - U (8 years) - II Chr 21 - Son
(841)‡ - Ahaziah - U (1 year) - II Chr 22:1-9 - Son
841 - Athaliah (Queen) - U (6 years) - II Chr 22:10-23:21 - Mother
835 - Jehoash - R/U (40 years) - II Chr 24 - Son of Ahaziah
796 - Amaziah - R/U (29 years) - II Chr 25 - Son
782c - Uzziah - R/U (52 years) - II Chr 26 - Son
739c - Jotham - R (16 years) - II Chr 27 - Son
736c - Ahaz - U (16 years) - II Chr 28 - Son
726c - Hezekiah - R (29 years) - II Chr 29-32 - Son
697 - Manasseh - U/R (55 years) - II Chr 33:1-21 - Son
642 - Amon - U (2 years) - II Chr 33:21-25 - Son
640 - Josiah - R (31 years) - II Chr 34-35 - Son
609 - Jehoahaz - U (3 months) - II Chr 36:1-4 - Son
609 - Jehoiakim - U (11 years) - II Chr 36:5-8 - Brother, Josiah’s son
598 - Jehoiachin - U (3 months) - II Chr 36:9-10 - Son
597 - Zedekiah - U (11 years) - II Chr 36:11-21 - Brother, Jehoiakim’s son
586 - Fall of Jerusalem
3. Kingdom of Israel
930 - Jeroboam I - U (22 years) - I Kings 11:26-14:20 - Ephraimite
910 - Nadab - U (2 years) - I Kings 15:25-26 - Son d
909 - Baasha - U (24 years) - I Kings 15:27-16:4 - Issacharite
886 - Elah - U (2 years) - I Kings 16:8-10 - Son d
885 - Zimri - U (7 days) - I Kings 16:11-20 - d
885 - Omri - U (12 years) - I Kings 16:21-28
874 - Ahab/Jezebel (Queen) - U (22 years) - I Kings 16:29-22:50 - Son
853 - Ahaziah - U (2 years) - I Kings 22:51-II Kings 1:18 - Son
852 - Joram - U (12 years) - II Kings 3, 9:1-26 - Brother, Ahab’s son d
(841)‡ - Jehu - (R)/U (28 years) - II Kings 9-10 - Jehoshaphat’s son but no relation to the king of the same name
814 - Jehoahaz - U (17 years) - II Kings 13:1-9 - Son
798 - Joash - U (16 years) - II Kings 13:10-14:22 - Son
782 (793c) - Jeroboam II - U (41 years) - II Kings 14:23-29 - Son
753 - Zachariah - U (6 months) - II Kings 15:8-12 - Son d
752 - Shallum - U? (1 month) - II Kings 15:13-16 - d
752 - Menahem - U (10 years) - II Kings 15:17-22
742 - Pekahiah - U (2 years) - II Kings 15:23-26 - Son d
740 - Pekah - U (20 years) - II Kings 15:27-31 d
Pekah reigned from 752 in Gilead but had full power in 740 for a final 8 years
732? - Hoshea - U (9 years) - II Kings 17:1-6 d
722 - Fall of Samaria
References and Sources
BAR - Biblical Archaeology Review, a bi-monthly periodical published by the Biblical Archaeology Society
Dillard - ‘2 Chronicles’ by Raymond B Dillard in the Word Biblical Commentary Series, Word Books
Knapp - ‘The Kings of Judah and Israel’ by Christopher Knapp, Loizeaux Brothers
Selman - ‘2 Chronicles’ by Martin J Selman in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series, Inter-Varsity Press
Strongs Heb/Gk number xxxx (or Strongs) - ‘Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible’, James Strong
TWOTOT - Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (2 volumes), R Laird Harris (Editor), The Moody Press
Ungers - Ungers Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger, The Moody Press
Zondervan - ‘The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopaedia of the Bible’, The Zondervan Corporation, First Edition.