At the beginning of the reign of Ahab, king of Israel, the good king Asa ruled over Judah (1 Kings 16:29). Asa died during Ahab’s reign, and Asa’s son Jehoshaphat became ruler of the southern kingdom (15:24). As we have seen, relations were mostly good between Ahab and Jehoshaphat, for Jehoshaphat joined with Ahab against Syria (2 Chron. 18). Jehoshaphat, in fact, was one of the better kings of Judah, as we see in today’s passage.
Like his father, Asa, Jehoshaphat was dedicated to the Lord, walking in the ways of David, the model king of ancient Israel. Jehoshaphat continued the religious reforms of his father, tearing down the high places as well as the Asherim—wooden images of Asherah, the consort goddess of Baal, and other images associated with the pagan fertility cults of the ancient Near East (17:1–6; see 14:1–4). Note that the text says the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the ways of David, obeying his Creator (17:3). When we obey God, the Lord will be with us also (Lev. 26:1–13).
Today’s passage notes the civil and military power of Jehoshaphat. Because the Lord was with him and he obeyed God, Jehoshaphat amassed a fortune and had a large army (2 Chron. 17:10–18). Many of these successes are the kinds of blessings that were promised to the old covenant community if they obeyed the Lord (Deut. 28:1–14). Additionally, we read about the judges whom Jehoshaphat appointed throughout Judah. Jehoshaphat wanted to put the right kind of judges in place, so he admonished them to judge in the fear of the Lord, following His law and not showing partiality or taking bribes (2 Chron. 17:7–9; 19:4–11; see Ex. 23:8; Deut. 1:17). Later generations of God’s people who read the Chronicler’s account were to follow this model in making sure that just and righteous leaders and judges were in place in the land. Today, the church must strive to put into leadership only those who fear God and love His law.
Yet, Jehoshaphat was not perfect. Jehu the prophet condemned him for his alliance with Ahab against Syria because it meant joining with those who hated the Lord (2 Chron. 19:1–3). Remember that Ahab offered state support of Baal worship, so this was a charge against joining with idolaters (1 Kings 16:29–34). Israel was part of the covenant community and professed faith in Yahweh but had followed other gods as well. The people of God are not to be united to those who profess His name but actually reject Him.