Melachim Bet

We just can't stop learning! ...The Bekiut Nach class of 5766 in a quest to complete Nevi'im Rishonim

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Yehoshafat (King of Yehuda) is a fascinating character who raises surprisingly contemporary dilemmas.

Sefer Melachim has sparse detail regarding Yehoshafat. The main information may be gleaned from Divrei Hayamim. And yet, as an exercise in close reading, it is worthwhile to focus on the pesukim here in order to learn how to extract significant information from a minor phrase in the Tanach.

First, Sefer Melachim tells us (v.44) how Yehoshafat acted in a manner which is ישר בעיני ה' – in other words, he did not succumb to Avoda Zara. In addition, it refers to a widespread campaign to rid the country of the Kadesh (v.47) which was around in the reign of his predecessor and father. In other words, Yehoshafat made special efforts to eradicate any traces and trappings of idolatrous culture.

Second, Sefer Melachim refers to the peace with the Northern Kingdom (v.45).

Third. We can tell that this was a period of enormous prosperity and extensive political hegemony over the region. There are a number of clues here: Yeshoshafat's control of Etzion Gaver (Eilat v.48) and the ability to raise a fleet of אניות תרשיש - ships that are strong enough to withstand a lengthy sea voyage – is a sign of wealth and power. Only the kings who had absolute regional control could mount such a project. Furthermore, v.48 tells us that Israel had stationed a נצב as king in Edom, (the desert leading to Eilat) in other words, Yehuda dominated Edom.

So we gain quite a solid picture of the events of Yehoshafat's life from a careful reading of the details here in Melachim.

One thing is left as an open question. Passuk 50 describes how Achazyahu offered to assist Yehoshafat, but that he was rebuffed, and the offer turned down. One wonders why. Divrei Hayamim has some answers.

Divrei Hayamim

Please do read דברי הימים ב' פרק י"ז-כ' which gives a far more extensive and detailed insight into the reign of Yehoshfat. Since this blog is supposed to be relatively brief AND since we are studying Melachim, not Div. Hayamim, I will do a minimal analysis.

Divrei Hayamim desribes many aspects of Yehoshafat's reign: (all in ch.17 there)
Wealth: 17:5
Torah Learning 17:7-9
Regional Power 17:10-11
Building projects 17:12
Industry and GNP 17:!3
Army 17:14-19

In other words, Yehoshafat's reign is reminiscent of Shlomo's. (Except that he didn't afll at all into the trap of Avoda Zara.) Maybe this also explains his desire to unify the nation with his alliance with Achav and later Achazyahu. He saw the country returning to its heyday, and the natural thing to do in this environment was to unify… hence his son's marriage to Achav's daughter

And yet the Nevi'im criticize him again and again for associating with the idolatrous Northern Kings. Regarding Achav, the Navi confronts him with the accusation: הלרשע לעזור ולשונאי ה' תאהב (י"ט:ב') and his response is to launch a new campaign (19:4-11) of spreading Torah by appointing Judges, and boosting the place of Law and Torah nationwide. (Note the emphasis on Mishpat with YehoSHAFAT!) . Likewise see 20:37 where Yehoshafat engages in a joint naval project at Eilat with Achazyahu. Apparently a storm takes place damaging the ships. The Navi explains that this is a punishment for his alliance with Achazyahu. And this solves our question from Sefer Melachim. Indeed after the ships were broken, Yehoshafat decides to take a break from his cooperation with Achazyahu, king of the Northern Kingdom.

So, is it always wrong to create Achdut, if the other side are acting against Torah? Could it not be correct to create unity despite the difference in religious orientation? Or perhaps, Achav and Achazyahu were so potentially harmful that in THIS case it was inadvisable. It is difficult to figure this one out. When do we overlook religious differences and unite, and when do we act discriminatingly?

In the final analysis, Yehoshafat is a powerful story of how a king follows God impeccably, and that when he does so, God vanquishes his enemies. See Chapter 20 - the incredible story of how Hashem rewards Yehoshafat with an unbelievable victory and how they respond with Hallel to Hashem … and how the nations see that God is fighting for Israel!