By Rodney W. Francis
In the Bible we have a very short account of two kings who (at different times in history) got into shipbuilding to further their kingdoms, power and wealth. Their names were Solomon and Jehoshaphat. Both men chose the same seaport of Ezion-Geber to build and launch their ships.One succeeded and one failed. Why?
Let’s look more closely and see what we can discover and then learn from.
Solomon built ships that withstood every circumstance that came against them. Was there a secret to his success?
"And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon" (KJV).
"And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon" (NASB).
"And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon" (AMP.).
"King Hiram supplied experienced sailors to accompany Solomon’s crews" (TLB).
"And Hiram sent his men – sailors who knew the sea – to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men" (NIV).
"For this fleet Hiram sent men of his, sailors who knew the sea, to serve with Solomon’s men" (Jerusalem Bible).
"King Hiram sent some experienced seamen from his fleet to serve with Solomon’s men" (GNB).
MEN WHO HAD KNOWLEDGE OF THE SEA.
In 1 Kings 9:27 a key word is knowledge. "Knowledge" here is from the Hebrew word "yada" meaning:
1. To perceive, to be sensible of, by sight, Isaiah 6:9; by touch, Genesis 19:33; but chiefly in the mind; hence to understand, observe, Judges 13:21; to consider, to mark and observe with a purpose; that which comes unexpectedly or suddenly, men are said not to know, Job 9:5; to see to.
3. To know, as that which was not known before.
4. To know, be acquainted with.
5. To know, to understand, to know how.
6. Absolutely, to know, to be wise. In Hebrew, words of knowledge imply also the exercise of the affections: Psalm 1:6; Psalm 31:7; Proverbs 24:23; Job 34:19; to know implies faith, Job 19:25 cf John 17:3. With inference, know certainly, of a surety, for a certainty, for certain, diligent to know" (Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies).
This knowledge is a prophetic knowledge – a seeing, perceiving, understanding knowledge.
Ezion-geber was the most important seaport of Old Palestine (4367 – Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible). "Ezion-geber" or "Ezion-gaber" means "backbone of a mighty one" or "counsel of a man."
In about 992 B.C. Solomon (1 Kings 9:26-28; 2 Chronicles 8:17-18) succeeded in the building of a fleet of ships there. Those ships passed all the tests within the harbour at Ezion-geber, then left the shelter of the harbour and went out on the high seas (where the real storms of life are encountered). Solomon’s ships accomplished what they were built for! They brought back gold (1 Kings 9:28; 2 Chronicles 8:18), 420-450 talents of it (approx. 10.3 tons). Just one talent was worth approx. $US26,280.00 or $NZ50,000.00! (That was a lot of money back in those days).
A key to Solomon’s success:
He used experienced shipmen who had knowledge of the sea.
Many years later (B.C. 897?) King Jehoshaphat tried building ships at Ezion-geber to follow the example that Solomon had set (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). However, he was not successful. Before they even left the safety of the harbour, God caused them to be broken. How come that Jehoshaphat, even with the benefits of Solomon’s success, could build ships in the same place, with the same working conditions, obstacles, etc., and yet be a failure?
Was there a reason as to why he failed?
"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber" (KJV).
"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber" (NASB).
"Jehoshaphat ordered ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber" (AMP.).
"King Jehoshaphat built great freighters to sail to Ophir for gold; but they never arrived, for they were wrecked at Ezion-geber" (TLB).
"Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail – they were wrecked at Ezion Geber" (NIV).
"And King Jehoshaphat built a ship of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but his ship never reached there: it was wrecked at Ezion-geber" (Jerusalem Bible).
"King Jehoshaphat built ocean-going ships to sail to the land of Ophir for gold; but they were wrecked at Eziongeber and never sailed" (GNB).
How sad. A whole lot of time and work for nothing!
2 CHRONICLES 20:35-37 gives us the reason as to why Jehoshaphat’s ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber:
"And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-gaber. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish" (KJV).
The word "wickedly" is from the Hebrew "rasha" meaning:
And after this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, "Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the Lord has destroyed your works." So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish" (NASB).
To be "allied" to someone, means to be:
That was a fairly heavy and binding agreement that Jehoshaphat entered into.
"After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, building them in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because you have joined Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy your works. So the ships were wrecked and unable to go to Tarshish" (AMP.).
But at the close of his life, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, went into partnership with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who was a very wicked man. They made ships in Ezion-geber to sail to Tarshish. Then Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, telling him, "Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the Lord has destroyed your work. So the ships met disaster and never arrived at Tarshish" (TLB).
Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, who was guilty of wickedness. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer . . . prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made." The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade" (NIV).
"After this, Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who led him into evil ways. He combined with him to build ships that would sail to Tarshish; they built them at Ezion-geber. Eliezer . . . then made a prophecy against Jehoshaphat. ‘Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah,’ he said ‘Yahweh has broken your work.’ The ships broke up and were never fit to sail for Tarshish" (Jerusalem Bible).
At one time King Jehoshaphat made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did many wicked things. At the port of Eziongeber they built ocean-going ships. But Eliezer . . . warned Jehoshaphat, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have built." And the ships were wrecked and never sailed" (GNB).
A reason for Jehoshaphat’s failure:
He joined affinity to King Ahaziah of Israel, who was a very wicked man.
The picture is clear. Jehoshaphat made a bad, dumb decision to go into partnership with an ungodly man – a man who carried no convictions of right and wrong. There would have been "no way" that Ahaziah would have seen the need for the right, experienced men of knowledge who could see what was ahead, who knew how to prepare, etc. Instead Jehoshaphat compromised Ahaziah’s way. God had to send a prophetic word through Eliezer that brought a collapse to the whole venture.
What a lesson! The principles still apply today:
"Do not be unequally yoked up with unbelievers – do not make mis-mated alliances with them, or come under a different yoke with them [inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light fellowship with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, AMP.).
"Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together?" (GNB).
Jehoshaphat paid a high price for breaking that Biblical principle.
And so do we!
Watch carefully who you go into any partnership with!
They do and will influence you according to what is in their heart.
Ahaziah’s influence and knowledge was not of the prophetic kind, which put Jehoshaphat at a distinct disadvantage. Ahaziah’s lifestyle was not God-honouring, thus putting Jehoshaphat into a compromising position. God had to send a prophet with a word of rebuke. Jehoshaphat paid a high price for his compromise. His ships never fulfilled the purpose for which they were created. They never even left the safety of the Ezion-geber harbour!
What another lesson here there is for us.
These ships can represent our Christian life.
They can represent our vision and calling.
They show us that there is a right and wrong way to do things in the Kingdom of God.
The right way is to use experienced prophetic people, who can see where we’re going in life; who have been out on the high seas themselves and have survived a few storms. People who have the right kind of knowledge which sees, feels and knows what to look out for when the storms are raging.
The wrong way is to involve people in positions of authority and responsibility who do not have a proven track record. They don’t strongly hold to the principles of God and therefore compromise their convictions, their separation to God, their standard of holiness, and use those high positions to try to get gain. Just because Ahaziah was a king didn’t mean he had "what it takes" to enable Jehoshaphat to fulfil his vision.
Because Jehoshaphat did not use prophetic people “who had knowledge of the sea,”he was defeated even before he was able to leave the quietness and security of an inner harbour! No shipbuilder would continue getting new orders to build if his boats sank in the harbour!
On the other hand, Solomon had learned a few things from his father David. He saw how David had succeeded in getting on the throne of Israel. He had built around him "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chronicles 12:32, KJV).
"Men of understanding." That is men who were able "to separate, to distinguish; hence, to discern, to mark, to understand, all which depend on the power of separating, distinguishing, discriminating; specially to discern, perceive; to discern mentally, to understand" (Wilson’s). They had a spiritual, discerning understanding. This caused them to "know what Israel ought to do." The word "know" in this verse is the same Hebrew word "knowledge" is translated from in 1 Kings 9:27!! It is a knowledge that comes from perception and discernment, a spiritual knowledge.
Spiritual perception, discernment, knowledge and understanding (it also includes wisdom) enable us to make good decisions for that which is ahead. Solomon’s sailors functioned in it and enabled the ships to come home again laden with gold. Because Jehoshaphat did not have that "knowledge," he made a bad decision that only led to a "fruitless" ministry and then a total disaster of his works!
For us Christians, we are called first and foremost to serve God: to listen to Him and obey His call. When we listen to, and build (our lives, ministries, future) on His voice and Word, then we shall have good success.
If we don’t listen and do things God’s way, we will finish up being "torpedoed" before we even get out of the inner, quiet and peaceful harbour. Sailing on the high seas will only be a dream . . . and will eventually turn into a nightmare! That is because the disappointment and discouragement of knowing we have disobeyed the Lord makes our lives very miserable. No one can fight against God and be happy!
We must continually examine our own heart and motives if we are to succeed out on the high seas. We have to make very sure that we are doing what God wants us to do. It is much easier to "go with the flow" of popular opinion (even church and current Christian), but if we want eternal fruit and results, we will be wise to listen to the call of Jesus our Master. The challenge is: "Will we build God’s way, or our way?"
Ezion-geber is spiritually the place that discovers what we’re made of. If we cannot endure the safety of its inner harbour, we will never survive if we ever reach the open high seas. But the high seas are where our destiny is!
DOING WHAT JESUS SAYS:
It is a very sobering thing to realize that Jesus summed up His teachings on "The Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew Chapters 5 to 7) with the illustration of a wise and a foolish man. How amazing that both men heard exactly the same words directly out of the mouth of Jesus, yet one finished up a real success and the other a complete failure (Matthew 7:24-29).
Solomon represents the wise man and Jehoshaphat represents the foolish man. We either build according to the pattern Jesus gives us, or we, too, will be swept away with the storms of life that eventually come to everyone.
Ezion-geber is the place where we discover whether or not we have a backbone (the name means "backbone of a mighty one"). A backbone holds the body together. Just think how well you would function if you suddenly lost yours! You would collapse in a heap. Praise God for those in the Kingdom who have backbone! One of the meanings of "backbone" is "strength of character; courage" (Collins Dictionary).
Ezion-geber represents the training ground of our future. If we cannot survive sailing around the inner harbour, we will never survive outside the harbour on the high seas. Those ships were made for the purpose of sailing out on the high seas to gather up the gold to prosper Solomon and Jehoshaphat.
Which brings us to an important, personal challenge:
Your Christian walk with Jesus Christ right now . . .
How well are you doing?
Where is your focus?
What motivates you?
Are you a God pleaser, or a man pleaser?
Are you listening to, and seeking to cultivate the voice of Jesus in your life?
The only way we can be obedient to Jesus is for us to hear what He says to us.
There is no other way.
Ezion-geber is spiritually the place that discovers what we’re made of.
Let’s make sure we launch out properly prepared, and with the right, spiritually perceptive people around us.
Then . . . we will have the joy of bringing home the gold!