GOD’S PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO CONSISTENTLY FOLLOW HIS WAYS
This seems like a strange place to finish off the book of 1 Kings. Not much happening of significance in this short account of the reign of Jehoshaphat in Judah and of Ahaziah in Israel. Actually, the breaking point is more due to how much material could fit on one scroll. The books of 1 and 2 Kings should be understood as a unified whole. But we have here a good contrast between the occasional good king in the South and the persistent reign of evil in the North.
William Barnes: Seow (1999:198) contrasts the legacy of Jehoshaphat in 22:50 (“buried with his ancestors in the City of David”) with that of Ahaziah in 22:53 (“provoked the anger of the Lord … just as his father [Ahab] had done”). One king’s legacy is relatively positive, the other utterly negative. But the real difference between the two is that one of them was heir to the throne of David, the other was not; and this was due only to the sovereign will of God. (Our legacies, likewise, depend much on God’s utter sovereignty and the resulting parental legacy we inherit.) This will be the burden, not so much of the brief discussions found in the final 13 verses of the present chapter (22:41–53), but of the entirety of the next. “Is there no God in Israel?” (2 Kgs 1:3, 16) is the question repeated therein. Thus, in conclusion, we need to realize that we cannot control either our parental legacies or our birthright, but we can control our theological responses to whatever setting they may place us in (cf. 2 Kgs 3:2 about Ahab’s other son, Joram). And we are indeed responsible for those responses. This very biblical message is something we can and must take away from the present short passages about Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahaziah of Israel.
I. (:41-50) JEHOSHAPHAT’S GOOD REIGN IN THE SOUTH
A. (:41-42) Selected Touchpoint of Jehoshaphat’s Reign
1. (:41a) Which Kingdom Did He Govern?
“Now Jehoshaphat the son of Asa became king over Judah”
John Schultz: With this section we return to the kingdom of Judah and the reign of Jehoshaphat. If we want a fuller account of Jehoshaphat’s reign we have to turn to the book of Second Chronicles, where four chapters are dedicated to him.
2. (:41b) When Did He Become King?
“in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.”
Constable: Jehoshaphat began ruling over Judah as coregent with his father Asa (873- 870 B.C.). When Asa died, he reigned alone for 17 more years (870-853 B.C.). He concluded his 25-year reign with another period of coregency with his son Jehoram that lasted five years (853-848 B.C.). For all but Ahab’s first year on Israel’s throne, Jehoshaphat ruled over Judah. Jehoshaphat became Judah’s sole ruler in Ahab’s fourth year (v. 41).
3. (:42a) How Old Was He When He Became King?
“Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king,”
4. (:42b) How Long Did He Reign?
“and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem.”
5. (42c) Who Was His Mother?
“And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.”
Peter Pett: As was usual with the kings of Judah his mother’s name is given, demonstrating that he was a true ‘son of David’. The queen mother appears to have held a high position in Judah.
J. A. Macdonald: He came of a good stock.
(1) He was “of the house and lineage of David.” The traditions of that house were in many respects a glorious inheritance. David was a “man after God’s own heart.” In no instance was he found inclining to idolatry.
(2) He was the son of Asa. Of his mother we have this significant mention: “And his mother’s name was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi. And he walked in the ways of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” This suggests the healthiness of his mothers moral influence. The reference here to Asa, too, is highly honourable.
(3) The blessing of pious parents is inestimable. It works beneficially in example, in precept, in solicitude. This last is most effectual in prayer to God. Those who are favoured with godly parents should praise God evermore. Wicked children of pious parents are doubly culpable.
B. (:43-44) Summary Evaluation of Jehoshaphat’s Reign
1. (:43a) Overall Positive Summary
“And he walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the LORD.”
2. (:43b-44) Mitigating Negative Details
a. (:43b) Problem with Worship on the High Places
“However, the high places were not taken away;
the people still sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places.”
Peter Pett: There was now the Temple and there were legitimate high places (such as formerly on Mount Carmel – 1 Kings 18:32) where the worship was kept pure by the priests and prophets, but along with these there were many syncretised high places, which were ancient local sanctuaries, often also containing a Baal pillar and an Asherah pole/image, where the worship became a mixture of Yahwism and Baalism. These did not retain the purity of worship of the Temple and the legitimate high places, and would in fact later lead the people of Judah into grosser sin. But Jehoshaphat’s position was complicated, as we might have expected when considering such a complicated situation. And it would appear from 2 Chronicles 17:6; 2 Chronicles 19:3-4 that he did make an effort to remove those which had become too obviously syncretistic, and came to his attention. What was lacking was a full-scale purge.
b. (:44) Problem with Compromise with Israel
“Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.”
Does the author view this development as primarily good or bad? It is a complicated question.
Constable: The peace that existed between Israel and Judah (v. 44) gained strength through the marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, and Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah (2 Kings 11). A prophet rebuked Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Israel (2 Chron. 19:2).
Peter Pett: Jehoshaphat was also the first king to officially establish peace with Israel. This was mentioned because it was always YHWH’s desire that His people be one in spirit. That had been the reason for the Central Sanctuary among diverse tribes from the beginning. But the author makes no mention here of his marrying of his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel as a ‘treaty wife’ (see 1 Kings 8:18; 2 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 21:6). The prophetic author appears to have approved of the idea of peace, but like the Chronicler he did not approve of the marriage, especially in view of its results (1 Kings 8:18).
Dale Ralph Davis: The cooperative commercial venture was a product of Jehoshaphat’s statecraft (v. 44). He had made peace with the king of Israel, certainly with Ahab (22:1–40) but also with Ahaziah his son. I think the writer of Kings views that alliance negatively, as a perilous precedent. Certainly Chronicles does; there prophets read the riot act to Jehoshaphat for teaming up with such apostate kings (2 Chron. 19:2–3; 20:37). But Kings is critical as well, if not so directly. The previous narrative had already rehearsed Jehoshaphat’s insane naivete (22:29–33) when he had locked arms with Ahab. A few chapters later Kings will inform us that nuptials provided the cement for the alliance: Ahab’s daughter became the wife of Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son (2 Kings 8:18). Hence Jehoram aped Ahab rather than Jehoshaphat, as did Jehoram’s son Ahaziah (8:18a, 25–27). In 2 Kings 11 our writer(s) will show that redemptive history almost ended in 841 bc. Why? Because Ahab’s daughter remained very much alive after the deaths of Jehoram and Ahaziah, and, as queen mother of Judah, nearly wiped out the whole divinely-chosen Davidic line of kings. How did such a tragedy ever get afoot? Because godly king Jehoshaphat imagined one could practice ecumenism with apostates (1 Kings 22:44). ‘Now Jehoshaphat made peace with the house of Israel.’ It was not astute but asinine. Look how it nearly decimated Yahweh’s redemptive plan.
The Pulpit Commentary: One great feature of his reign was this: that the hostility which had lasted, even if it sometimes slumbered, between the two kingdoms for seventy years, from the date of their separation to the time of Asa’s death, gave way to peace and even alliance. Judah now recognized the division of the kingdom as an accomplished fact, and no longer treated Israel, even theoretically, as in rebellion.
C. (:45) Recorded Deeds of Jehoshaphat
“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might which he showed and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?”
D. (:46-49) Additional Positive Highlights
1. (:46) Positive Reformation
“And the remnant of the sodomites who remained in the days of his father Asa, he expelled from the land.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Purging the land of remaining male cult prostitutes (or sodomites, v. 46; see 14:24 and 15:12) shows Jehoshaphat was no paper reformer.
2. (:47-49) Learning Not to Compromise
a. (:47) Power Vacuum in Edom
“Now there was no king in Edom; a deputy was king.”
Dale Ralph Davis: But why three verses about ships? Verse 47 explains how it was that Jehoshaphat could aspire to shipping entrepreneur: Edom’s power was in eclipse just then. Edomite politics boasted no king, only a deputy acting as such. Edom was subservient, probably to Jehoshaphat and Judah (cf. 2 Kings 3 and 2 Chron. 20). Hence Jehoshaphat had unhindered access to ply his maritime pursuits from Ezion-geber on the Gulf of Aqaba. Shipbuilders found full employment, and the government, it was hoped, would enjoy lucrative commerce (v. 48a). But the latter was not to be; the ships were smashed up while still in port (v. 48b). Perhaps the writer wants to portray Jehoshaphat as aspiring to Solomon-level ventures (9:26–28) while falling far short of Solomon-like success. In this way he could imply that the days of glory have given way to an era of decline. But I doubt it. I think the writer mentions the naval fiasco because Ahaziah of Israel was mixed up in it (v. 49). It may be that when the fleet was bashed to bits Ahaziah had suggested they try again with a greater Israelite contribution. But Jehoshaphat had had enough (v. 49). This understanding would mesh with the parallel in 2 Chronicles 20:35–37.
b. (:48) Aborted Attempt at Marine Commerce
“Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber.”
c. (:49) Attempt by Ahaziah to Revive the Joint Venture
“Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Let my servants go with your servants in the ships.’ But Jehoshaphat was not willing.”
MacArthur: Jehoshaphat controlled Edom, which gave him access to Ezion-geber. He sought to emulate Solomon’s fleet and wealth (9:26-28), but was unsuccessful. According to 2Ch 20:36, 37, the Lord destroyed his fleet because of Jehoshaphat’s alliance to build it with Ahaziah, king of Israel. First Kings 22:49 apparently refers to a subsequent attempt by Ahaziah to continue the joint venture after the disaster.
Mordechai Cogan: the Chronicler was able to reorder and reinterpret the entire episode: the initiative for the joint venture issued from Jehoshaphat, who was condemned by the prophet Eliezer son of Dodavahu for joining up with Ahaziah, a condemnation that was followed by YHWH’s wrathful destruction of the ships (2 Chr 20:35–37).
The Pulpit Commentary: We are told in … 2 Chronicles 20:37 that the ships were broken, according to a prophecy of Eliezer, the son of Dodavah, because Jehoshaphat had joined himself with Ahaziah. The explanation is that the fleet had been built by the two kings conjointly, and manned by the subjects of Jehoshaphat exclusively; and that, after the disaster, Ahaziah proposed either to repair the injured vessels, or to construct a second fleet, which should then be partly manned by sailors of the northern kingdom, ‘men probably accustomed to the sea, perhaps trained at Tyre’ …. This proposal was declined by the king of Judah, not so much on account of the ‘reflection on his subjects’ skill contained in it,’ as because of the prophecy of Eliezer, and the evidently judicial disaster which had befallen the fleet already built.
J. A. Macdonald: His friendship with Ahaziah.
(1) This son of Ahab was no more a companion fit for Jehoshaphat than Ahab. For Ahaziah “walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.”
(2) Yet Jehoshaphat formed a trade alliance with Ahaziah. They jointly fitted out a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Red Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. But for this God rebuked him, and “the ships were broken” in the port (see 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Let no money consideration, no gold of Ophir, induce godly young men to enter into trade partnerships with the ungodly.
(3) This judgment of God had a salutary effect upon Jehoshaphat. For when Ahaziah would renew the attempt at Ezion-Geber, Jehoshaphat declined (ver. 49). Let us be careful never to repeat a blunder.
E. (:50) Final Summary
1. Death and Burial of Jehoshaphat
“And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of his father David,”
“and Jehoram his son became king in his place.”
II. (:51-53) AHAZIAH’S EVIL REIGN IN THE NORTH
A. (:51) Selected Touchpoints of Ahaziah’s Reign
1. Which Kingdom Did He Govern
“Ahaziah the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria”
2. When Did He Become King
“in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah,”
3. How Long Did He Reign
“and he reigned two years over Israel.”
David Guzik: Ahab reigned 22 years, but his son only reigned two years. Though his repentance was shallow, when Ahab repented after an announcement of judgment in 1 Kings 21, God relented from the immediate judgment and promised to bring judgment in the days of Ahab’s son. Ahaziah’s short reign was a fulfillment of this prophecy in 1 Kings 21:29. . . With this, the Book of 1 Kings ends on a low note. It began with the promise of the twilight of Israel’s greatest king, David. It ends with the sad reign of one of the most wicked kings over one of the kingdoms coming from the divided tribes of Israel.
B. (:52-53) Summary Evaluation of Ahaziah’s Reign
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger according to all that his father had done.”
John Schultz: Jezebel’s evil influence sealed the doom of the Northern Kingdom. Israel would never recover from the idolatry that was introduced during the reign of Ahab. Israel would be taken into captivity by Assyria and never return.
Dale Ralph Davis: Ahaziah embraced all the perversion and paganism that had accumulated in Israel to date, both the syncretism of Jeroboam and the Baalism of his parents. Lest we pass over the latter the writer specifically underscores it in verse 53a: ‘So he served Baal and bowed down to him.’ This is sheer rebellion; there can be no doubt about the destiny of such a kingdom.
The writer hints at Ahaziah’s end in his very last line: ‘so he provoked [traditional translation] Yahweh the God of Israel in line with all his father had done’ (v. 53b). ‘Provoked’ is the verb kā‘as again. The writer means that Ahaziah’s godlessness aggravated, galled, indeed goaded Yahweh to anger in order to destroy Ahaziah. It is almost as if Ahaziah has flaunted his wickedness, defying Yahweh to judge him. Had he any sense of his danger?