Was Jehoshaphat King of Israel?

By Wayne Jackson

In 2 Chronicles 19:1, Jehoshaphat is called the “king of Judah,” but in 2 Chronicles 21:2, he is called “king of Israel.” Since the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel were of two different lines, is this a mistake in the Bible record?

No, it is not a mistake. It is an example of the flexibility of biblical language.

The expression “king of Israel” can be employed in either a specific sense (of a certain lineage) or in a generic sense (nationally). More technically, Jehoshaphat was a king of Judah, i.e., a king over the two principal tribes (Judah and Benjamin) that composed the southern kingdom of Judah. However, since the entire nation was “Israel” in a more general sense, it was not incorrect to speak of Jehoshaphat as “king of Israel.”

There was likely a spiritual reason for that designation in this passage. C. F. Keil noted: “Jehoshaphat is called king of Israel instead of king of Judah, because he as king walked in the footsteps of Israel, Jacob the wrestler with God, and was a true king of God’s people” (1978, 395).

Whenever there is a reasonable way to explain an alleged conflict between historical statements, that explanation should be considered, rather than frivously charging the record with a discrepancy. A genuine contradiction exists only when there is no possible way to reconcile accounts that appear to disagree.

Sources/Footnotes
  • Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsh. 1978. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.