The marriage alliance between Jehoshaphat, king of Judah and Ahab, king of Israel was formed primarily to ensure that neither kingdom would be wiped out by Syria. Although the kingdom of Israel was considered to be the dominant partner in the agreement, Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was a great asset because Ahab knew the LORD’s judgment upon him would eventually come to pass.
After Ahab made a covenant with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, he was told by a prophet of God, “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (1 Kings 20:42). Then, Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard and received a visit from Elijah, the prophet with a reputation for pronouncing judgment and executing those who defied God.
Elijah’s message to Ahab was clear, his entire household would be wiped out. Because Ahab humbled himself before the LORD, his punishment was postponed, but not retracted. According to the word of the LORD, “because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (1 Kings 21:29).
Not knowing what would happen after his death, Ahab may have planned for his son-in-law, Jehoram to take over as king of Israel when all Ahab’s sons were killed. Since Jehoram was from the tribe of Judah and his father, Jehoshaphat was right with God, it was likely his marriage to Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah would secure the kingdom’s future. Unfortunately, Ahab’s wicked influence on his son-in-law caused Jehoram to turn away from the LORD. It says in 2 Chronicles 21:10 that Jehoram “had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”
The word translated forsaken in 2 Chronicles 21:10 is azab. “This word carries a technical sense of ‘completely and permanently abandoned’ or ‘divorced'” (5800). Jehoram’s abandonment of his relationship with the LORD after marrying Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, brought judgment on the kingdom of Judah. As a result, both dynasties were wiped out.
The only survivor of the royal family in Judah was a baby by the name of Joash, the grandson of Jehoram. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber…And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah reigned over the land” (2 Chronicles 22:12).