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Jehoshaphat and Ahab | Mark P. Spinks

Part II

“And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the LORD God of their fathers.”* (2 Chronicles 19:4)

After the awful experience with Ahab, it seems that King Jehoshaphat has learned something. He has apparently accepted the admonition of Jehu, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.”* (2 Chronicles 19:2)

So the Lord blessed him, and he profited. The fear of God was on him, and the effects of his affinity with Ahab seemed part of the swiftly receding past. We soon read that God delivered Jehoshaphat and his people from the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir. It would seem that this tragic affinity experience was behind him.

But wait—what do we read next? “And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-gaber.”* (2 Chronicles 20:35-36) The affinity was not over. Jehoshaphat joined himself with Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, the new king of Israel, who also “did very wickedly.”

One looks in amazement at this record which God has left for our learning. How could Jehoshaphat do this yet again? We readily see that it takes some real digging, some real dying, some real laying hold on God, an absolutely unshakable and unrelenting desire to clear ourselves, and a real “readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled,”* (2 Corinthians 10:6) in order to break lose from our besetting sins and to find deliverance.

God was faithful (again) to Jehoshaphat. We are not told a great deal about this episode of affinity with that which is wrong, but the Lord caused it to fall apart (2 Chronicles 20:37); “The LORD being merciful to him,”* (Genesis 19:16) just as He had been to Lot.

What we do in our lives is not confined to our own soul alone, but our life affects the lives of others around us, especially our children. And, as we read on in this sacred history, we see yet again that the story of Jehoshaphat’s sin was not over. It did not end with himself.

A righteous man’s life should leave a legacy of right things, a respect and appreciation for that which is holy and pure. We read that Jehoshaphat had seven sons, and that they were sons whom their father loved and doted on. “And their father gave them great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn.”* (2 Chronicles 21:3) It is not hard to see from this scripture that Jehoshaphat had great hopes and high aspirations for his boys. He desired them to be bulwarks of good things, noble and upright. Under a righteous king, virtuous people are encouraged. There were other noble families in Judea who shared in these holy objectives. There was good reason to anticipate that good things would continue to increase in the kingdom.

Alas, it was not to be. “Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel.”* (2 Chronicles 21:4) The firstborn of the righteous king’s family murdered not only all his brothers, but other leaders in Israel as well! In a short period of slaughter and mayhem, he destroyed much of King Jehoshaphat’s legacy.

Why? What happened? What would cause a young man, raised as he was, the king’s firstborn, to commit such horrible abominations?

“And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab; for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife.”* (2 Chronicles 21:6) Here we see. We see the terrible results of Jehoshaphat’s affinity with Ahab. By God’s mercy, Jehoshaphat’s trifling did not prove fatal to him, but it proved fatal to all of his sons, including the one who did the killing. It also proved fatal to a number of the princes of Israel. What do you think? Did Jehoram kill the most virtuous and principled of the kingdom, or did he kill the most sinful? An evil influence poisoned his mind and heart—the influence of Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah. This woman had learned well the lessons of her mother and father. Just as Jezebel stirred up Ahab (1 Kings 21:25), so Athaliah stirred up Jehoram. The reader can trace the pagan ruthlessness and the pagan charm which infiltrated the leadership of the people of God through these evil women. How weighty the words of the scripture, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”* (Colossians 2:8) It is impossible to enter into an affinity with the Ahabs without entering into an affinity with the Jezebels. They go together; they are married. If it does not prove fatal to you, because of the mercy of God to you, what about your sons and daughters? Again the Bible speaks with profound authority, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”* (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Surely all can see that Jehoram would have been vastly less likely to have married Jezebel’s daughter if his father had abhorred Ahab’s doings. He did not have to hate Ahab to abhor what he was and what he did. We can abhor the evil that is in people while carrying a burden for their soul, realizing the extreme contagiousness of certain kinds of sin. “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”* (Jude 1:23)

Our fear of evil itself should be such that will make us extremely careful to go about the salvation of others with the utmost care. It will put a watchfulness in us and a consideration of others, lest we also should be tempted. But if we just do as seems good to us, blithely assuming that it will turn out all right somehow in the end, we should not be surprised to find that the spirit of Jezebel working through Ahab is free, unimpeded, and wreaking havoc upon us and ours.

The best thing that Jehoshaphat could have done for everyone—his sons, his kingdom, Ahab, and even Jezebel herself—was to obey the Lord and live right, forming no affinity with that which was wrong. Had he done this, he, his sons, and his kingdom would have been protected. God knows how to keep us safe. If we carefully obey, we and ours will be spared much trouble and heartache. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”* (1 Corinthians 15:33) If there were no danger of deception in these matters, then why did the apostle emphasize it?

The story of Jehoshaphat’s affinity was not nearly over. When Jehoram died under the judgment of God, his son Ahaziah (the son of Athaliah the daughter of Jezebel) took the kingdom and “also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.”* (2 Chronicles 22:3) It went on and on, this affinity of Jehoshaphat with Ahab, though both of them were long dead now. The closeness was such that a boy in one family had been named after the other. And when Ahab’s son Jehoram was sick, Jehoshaphat’s grandson Ahaziah came to visit him. But even here, the true awful depths do not appear in Judea until after Ahaziah was cut off by the judgment of God. Then, “when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.”* (2 Chronicles 22:10) Here is manifest the full blown, ripened fruit of the friendship between Jehoshaphat and Ahab. Here is what finally came out of those little visits by the king of Judah to the king of Israel. Here is the result of their fleshly affinity.

“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”* (1 Corinthians 10:11)