If you asked me to sum up the key problem that Jehoshaphat had based on the Biblical record, I would have to say is that he entangled himself in faulty or poor alliances. I believe that this is why the Bible pays a lot of attention in the New Testament about making sure that false teaching is called out and that we separate from it.
Jehoshaphat and Ahab (1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18)
Marriages at the time of the Israelite kings, at the highest level, were often done for the purposes of allying two families or kingdoms. We see this played out in many accounts all the way up through the Middle ages. Many of the kings of Judah and Israel seemed to have wanted to join the two territories back together much like the current American Presidents all try for peace in the Middle East. Both seem to fail regularly, because it’s not the time.
Jehoshaphat takes Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter for a wife. Yes, that Ahab and Jezebel. I would argue that this is one of the foundational events in Jehoshaphat’s life that continues to lead him to make decisions that pull against what God would want him to do.
For one thing, his father Asa was known for rejecting Baashan and Israel. Jehoshaphat was the opposite, allying whenever he could. In the battle that would see the death of Ahab, the King of Israel asked the assistance of the King of Judah, and Jehoshaphat came to his aid. Jehoshaphat had a good influence on Ahab, refusing to listen to the prophets of Baal and instead wishing to hear from the prophet of God.
This is the famous story of a prophet of God telling the king what he wanted to hear, followed by telling him that god had sent lying spirits to him and that he would die((We’ll save the whole question of God telling people to lie when God always tells the truth for a latter discussion.)). Ahab thought that he could avoid God’s promise of death by having Jehoshaphat dress like a king while he dressed like a soldier. Now why Jehoshaphat would agree to this, maybe his faith in God was really great, because he was definitely being set up. During the battle, Jehoshaphat is captured, but eventually released, Ahab was struck by a random arrow and died.
With whom are we allying ourselves?
Paul instructs believes that they are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. This goes further than just in marriage, though that is the primary reference today. Whether marriage, business, or any kind of alliance, the people that we choose as friends and allies have significant impact on what we do and they may drag us into things that are not pleasing to God. We need to bathe decisions about alliances in prayer, so that we uniting with people that are pleasing to God.
Jehoshaphat and Jehoram (2 Kings 3)
When Kings turned over, many that used to pay tribute decided to test the new king. Ahab died and the Moabites, who were paying tribute, decided to see if Jehoram, Ahab’s son, would do anything if they stopped delivering their sheep. Jehoram enlisted the help of Jehoshaphat in the battle against the Moabites.
When things go awry, Jehoram panics, Jehoshaphat seeks God. The first thing they were faced with is not having water for their armies. Immediately, Jehoram blames God, saying that God has led them to defeat; however, Jehoshaphat wants to go to God to find direction.
They go to the prophet Elisha, who only talks to the kings because Jehoshaphat is there, and Elisha tells them that God will provide water, and victory over Moab, just to show how powerful He is. The reflection off the pools of water convince Moab that Israel and Judah have fought and left spoil, so they come out and are not ready for the attack from Israel and Judah.
What is our reputation?
Elisha knew the reputation of Jehoshaphat, that he followed God. Paul in the Gospel commends Pastors, Deacons, and by extension all believers, to be ones that are blameless and harmless. A good reputation is an outgrowth of a right relationship with God.
Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah (2 Kings 22:41-50, 2 Chronicles 20:35)
After this, Jehoshaphat aligned himself with Ahaziah, the next King of Israel who was wicked. This flaw of alliances is the main character flaw mentioned in his narrative. Because of this alliance, Eliezer the prophet is sent to tell Jehoshaphat that the boats that he built to go get gold at Ophir will be destroyed. Jehoshaphat tries to react by not letting Ahaziah go with him, but it is to no avail.
Our alliances can affect us in areas other than the immediate. Our families can control our lives and service to God. Our workplaces can vie for priority in our lives that should go to God-ordained things. We need to make sure that we make alliances that are pleasing to God and do not harm our relationship with Him.