Biblical Archaeology Review 37:1, January/February 2011

Strata: The Bible In the News: Did Jehoshaphat Really Jump?

By Leonard J. Greenspoon

Quick question: Who was Jehoshaphat? Quick answer: A ninth-century B.C.E. king of Judah, popularly known also as Jehosaphat.

Follow-up question: Why has he often been described as jumping?

For a follow-up answer, we turn to London’s Daily Mail: “Around the middle of the 19th century, his name was used in the United States as a mild oath, a euphemism for Jehovah or Jesus. The expression ‘Jumping Jehoshaphat’ is first recorded in 1866 in Headless Horseman, an adventure tale set in Texas by British author Mayne Reid—but it is probably older.”

But was Jehoshaphat indeed known for his jumping ability? No, according to London’s Guardian newspaper: The phrase was “used for alliterative effect, rather than because there is any record of his leaping about the place.”

Hold on. Not so fast. In a Washington Post story titled “Leaps of Faith: Praise Dancing Gets Foothold in Area Churches,” Reverend Betty Peebles, senior pastor at the Jericho City of Praise, is quoted as stating that “praise dancers originated in the Bible with King Jehoshaphat under attack.” According to Reverend Peebles, “God told Jehoshaphat, ‘Don’t carry any weapons into battle; just get yourself some praise dancers,’” citing a story about the king from 2 Chronicles 20.

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