Was Jehoshaphat King of Israel?
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.
Scripture references: 1 Chronicles 19:1; 1 Chronicles 21:2
- Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsh. 1978. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.