March 7, 2021

The Editor speaks: Jumping Jehoshaphat!

Pin It

colin-wilsonweb2Have you ever heard the expression “Jumping Jehoshaphat”?

I have but not for a very, very long time.

Until …….

Yesterday (Sat 17). It was Joan, my wife! She’s Caymanian and although she did live in England for around twelve years it wasn’t an expression used a there. In fact is comes from the US (who once belonged to Britain – I love saying that!).

Joan doesn’t know why she said it and where she last heard it but I was reading a police report and she exclaimed with “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”

So who was Jehoshaphat and why did he jump?

The answer is – no one really knows.

The best I can find is this and it is an interesting piece.

I think so but you might say “Jumping Jehoshaphat! It is rubbish!”

I don’t care.

From Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries

You have heard the song Great Jumping Jehoshaphat. I will explain why he ‘jumped’.

Jehoshaphat was a king of Judah (the kingdom of the Jews) some generations after the famous kings David and his son Solomon. After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam reigned, followed by Rehoboam’s son Abijah, then Abijah’s son Asa, and fourthly Asa’s son Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 12-22).

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah about 860 BC. This was after the time when the notorious Ahab was king of the neighbour kingdom of , with whom the prophet Elijah had a massive showdown on Mount Carmel.

It’s important to understand that the Jewish kingdom (Judah) was distinct and separate from the Israelite kingdom, comprising ten tribes. The Jews were in the south of ‘Palestine’; Israel was in the north and vastly outnumbered the Jews. The ten tribes of Israel got ‘lost’ in later history, after being conquered by Assyria, and as many of them blended in with them.

It’s vital to appreciate this distinction between Israel and Judah (Israelites and Jews) to understand what followed.

The biblical book of 2 Kings records a war in which Jehoshaphat was engaged. The king of Moab, a vassal state to Israel, had rebelled and refused to pay tribute or taxes. So, the king of Israel (Jehoram) was about to go to war against Moab. He thought he needed more forces, so he asked Jehoshaphat if he would be an ally. Jehoshaphat agreed, and together with troops from Edom they advanced towards Moab.

The location was the Wilderness of Edom (2 Ki 3:8). But there was no water for the horses or troops, and after seven days without confronting the Moabite army, they were about to completely fail from thirst. The king of Israel contemplated conceding defeat (2 Ki 3:9-10), but Jehoshaphat didn’t; he was a man of faith. He said: “Is there no prophet of God here, that we may inquire of God by him?” (v 11.)

At that point, a servant of Israel’s king remembered Elisha the prophet. So, the two kings, and the king of Edom, visited the prophet Elisha (2 Ki 3:12).

Elisha was none too pleased to see the wayward king of Israel, but because he was with Jehoshaphat, who obeyed God, Elisha agreed to ask God for input. When Elisha inquired of God, God responded and Elisha prophesied:

“Make this valley full of ditches, for thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’

” ‘And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand’ ” (2 Ki 3:16-18).
Talk about a sudden reversal of fortunes!

“Now it happened in the morning, when the grain offering was offered [note the importance of the principle of sacrifice], that suddenly water came by way of Edom, and the land was filled with water.” (2 Ki 3:20.)

When the Moabite army saw this lake glistening in the morning sun, they thought it was a huge pool of blood, and they rushed in to take the spoils, only to find the armies of Israel, Judah and Edom waiting for them. Moab was crushed!

Jehoshaphat’s victory was made possible by God, though few believe the biblical stories today, despite similar modern miracles such as Dunkirk in the 2nd World War.

Why is Jehoshaphat described as ‘jumping’? Was he ‘jumping for joy’?

It goes back to a prophecy which Israel’s king David uttered, explaining about how God works with people:
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With the blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
You will save the humble [afflicted] people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down.
(2 Samuel 22:26-28.)
That scripture is being fulfilled once again in our day in Iraq! But the above prophecy goes on:
For You are my lamp, O Lord;
The Lord shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
(2 Samuel 22:29,30.)
And that’s what Jehoshaphat did, metaphorically speaking. He ‘jumped’ on that occasion because of the supernatural help of God. Malcolm B Heap
(From MM Newsletter 21, May 2003)


And this one might even be better:

Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!”

By Paula Tohline Calhoun From Reflections from a cloudy mirror

I recently covered “J” words in a WW&P post, so I will dispense with my standard Wednesday form. However, I am obligated by the “A to Z Blogging Challenge for April” to regale you all today with something concerning that illustrious letter. So, to satisfy my own curiosity, I present you with the following:

Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!

Where on earth did that come from? That phrase has puzzled me, on and off, for years, although not enough to look it up. Now that I have, I’m sort of glad I didn’t waste a lot of my time, because no one really knows. The origins of most colloquialisms are difficult to pin down even in the easiest of circumstances. But if you are interested in some speculation, (and I decided that I was – at least as far as today’s post goes), here is some of that:

Most folks tend to agree that the phrase is one of many used as alliterative euphemisms – phrases to replace profane swearing or cussing. Instead of crying out, “Jesus!” or “Jesus Christ!” different words were substituted that had the same initial consonants. So for “Jesus!” folks might shout out “Jeepers!” or, for “Jesus Christ”, “Jiminy Cricket! and Jeepers Creepers!” are common substitutes. The list is endless. One of my favorites I first heard when we lived in the northwest corner of Vermont, in St. Albans. The favorite JC phrase there is “Jeesum Crow!”

As far as the name, “Jehosaphat” (also spelled Jehoshaphat, Jehosephat, and about as many different ways as you can think of) goes, he was a prominent King of Judah, the son of Asa. There are a number of stories concerning this mostly righteous and God-fearing king that can be found in scripture. Possibly the best known of the stories is found in 2 Chronicles, Chapter 20. It is a rather fun read – especially using “The Message” translation, which you can find here. What you won’t find there, or anywhere else in scripture is a reference to Jehosaphat doing any jumping. So, go figure.

I read an interesting suggestion of an origin for the phrase from a Jewish scholar, who seems to think that its origin is based on Midrashic commentary. According to Midrash most of the Kings of Judea and Israel were pretty rotten and evil (practiced idolatry and so forth). Jehosaphat was an exception and is praised as being one of the few Kings of Judea who was close to Hashem (Lord). One of the ways this was illustrated was (according to Midrash) when he would see or encounter a great Torah scholar or sage he would “jump” off his throne to greet and honor the wise man; ergo – “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!” – a phrase connoting joyful surprise.

While that sounds good, I failed to find any corroborative research. The phrase ‘Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!’ originated in the United States as a mild expletive or oath. Some sources say Jehoshaphat is a less-blasphemous euphemism for Jesus. Others say it substitutes for Moses. I searched for the first recorded use of that mystery expletive. The Dictionary of American Regional English cites S.A. Hammett’s “Sam Slick in Texas,” (1858) with the following:

“Jehosaphat!… Easy over the stones, Joe.”

So, there we see the name as an expletive in print for the first time, but he isn’t doing any jumpin’. Jehosaphat doesn’t start doing that, (in print anyway), until in a story by the Irish-American writer, Capt. Thomas Mayne Reid, called “The Headless Horseman,” in 1866:

“By the jumpin’ Geehosofat, what a gurl she air sure enuf!”

You will notice that “Jehosaphat” is given another spelling, (there are several!) but the alliterative sound is the same, so, it counts.

In the Jewish tradition, primarily Orthodox, it is considered blasphemous to write the name of the Almighty. Our word “God,” is written “G_d” or substituted with “Hashem” (Lord). It has also been suggested that “Jehosaphat” is a euphemism for “Jehovah,” which in turn is an Anglicization of יהוה‎ , the name of God (YHWH, or Yahweh) in the Hebrew Bible.

I think you get the idea. I bet that many of you have your own alliterative euphemisms. A favorite of my husband’s family, as a substitute for “Good Gracious God!” is “Good Granny Grunt!” My maternal grandmother’s substitute for “For God’s sake!” was “For garden seed!”

How about you, my Gentle Readers? Do you have some favorite profanity euphemisms to share? I’d love to read them. Until tomorrow, however, I’ll close in Mayne Reid style, with:

“By the jumpin’ Geehosofat, what a frase she air sure enuf!”


Which version do you prefer?

Jumping Jehoshaphat! Don’t say that me!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind