“Should you help the wicked,” asked the prophet of the defeated and humiliated king upon his return to Jerusalem, “and love those who hate the LORD?” The prophet was Jehu. The king was Jehoshaphat. The occasion was the aftermath of a crushing defeat inflicted by the Syrians on the allied armies of Israel and Judah.
Jehoshaphat was a godly man; one of the few good kings Judah ever had. But in spite of this, he made a major spiritual and strategic mistake in seeking alliance with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. I Kings 22 and 2 Chron. 18 provide the details of the alliance. Jehoshaphat went on a state visit to see Ahab in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. During the visit, Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to join him in a grand alliance of Israel and Judah and to make war against the Syrians, all for the purpose of recapturing for Israel territory that had been lost to Syria earlier. In other words, it was an Old Testament version of a crusade against the infidel.
Jehoshaphat made several errors that led to his defeat. The first of which was that he, apparently, did not consult the Lord before traveling to Israel to meet with Ahab. The Scriptural record shows no evidence of Jehoshaphat ever seeking the Lord’s counsel as to whether he should go to Samaria. It appears that he did this on his own.
Jehoshaphat’s second mistake was not heeding the voice of the Lord when it became clear that the military alliance would end in disaster. The prophet Michiah plainly told Ahab in Jehoshaphat’s hearing that the offensive against Syria would fail miserably. His words were, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd” (I Kings 22:17). Jehoshaphat heard all of this, and yet followed Ahab into battle anyway.
In all this, Jehoshaphat also managed to serve as Ahab’s dupe. Ahab reacted angrily to Michiah’s prophesy of defeat at the hands of Syria, but he had the good sense to hedge his bets. When Ahab and Jehoshaphat went into battle, Ahab disguised himself, but told Jehoshaphat to wear his royal robes. Jehoshaphat did so, and nearly lost his life when the Syrians mistook him for the king of Israel, against whom they had been ordered to fight.