EVIL LEADERSHIP PUTS THE KINGDOM IN JEAPARDY BUT DOES NOT NULLIFY GOD’S COMMITMENT TO THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
Iain Duguid: The Chronicler presents Jehoram’s reign as a complete aberration, the reversal of the reigns of kings before him.
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler presents Jehoram’s reign as the unraveling of the accomplishments of Asa and Jehoshaphat. His handling of this king is a paradigm for his theology of immediate retribution. Each aspect of wrongdoing brought its inevitable consequence in loss of family, territory, and health. Though the writer of the Kings account would mention only that Jehoram died, the Chronicler elaborates at some length on the terrible death he endured as the result of his wickedness.
Irony permeates the account of Jehoram’s reign. Rather than enlarging the scope of his power through seizing his brothers’ cities, he loses control over Libnah and Edom; rather than securing the succession of his own children by slaughtering his brothers, he sees them suffer a similar fate; rather than securing life and happiness for himself, he suffers an agonizing and premature death; rather than gaining the devotion of his subjects, he dies unmourned and without the customary honors attending a royal funeral (McConville, 198). So it is for those who forget that the kingdom is God’s (1 Chr 10:14; 17:14; 28:5; 29:11; 2 Chr 13:8).
Andrew Hill: Jehoram is the first king to receive an entirely negative review by the Chronicler. As Japhet has observed, this is especially noticeable in the dark tone set for his reign by an emphasis on his fratricide at the onset of his rule (21:4) and his fatal illness cutting short his tenure on Judah’s throne (21:19). Two recurring themes are dominant in this entire unit:
– Judah’s affiliation with Baal because of the alliance with the “house of Ahab” (21:6; 22:3, 4, 7, 8), and
– The threat to the survival of the royal line of King David (21:7; 22:10).
Martin Selman: The kingdom of Judah suddenly enters a very dark phase (chs. 21-23). The reigns of Jehoram and Ahaziah (chs. 21-22) and their sequel in Athaliah’s overthrow and death (ch. 23), brought the nation to the brink of internal destruction. The chief cause was the insidious influence of the house of Ahab (21:6; 33:4, 5, 7, 8), which was known in contemporary non-Israelite documents as “the house of Omri” (cf. 22:2). Ironically, that dynasty had been introduced into Judah’s affairs by the godly Jehoshaphat (cf. 22:9), but the latter’s faith and courage were unfortunately no guarantee of his wisdom. The disastrous nature of his alliance with Ahab has been mentioned already (cf. 18:1-2; 19:1-3; cf. 20:35-37), but now its consequences begin to unfold. The wider story of the house of Ahab’s commitment to Baal worship and conflict with the prophets Elijah and Elisha is assumed to be known to the reader (1 Ki. 17 – 2 Ki. 11), leaving Chronicles to concentrate on their relationship with Judah.
Mark Boda: The Chronicler’s account of Jehoram reveals the discipline that awaits the king who disobeys Yahweh. Jehoram’s paranoid eradication of the royal house at the outset of his reign came back on his own head; by the end of this story his own court was left with only one heir to the throne. Elijah’s prophetic letter reveals that Jehoram was really a northern king within the Davidic dynasty, and the sickness he experienced revealed God’s deep displeasure with him. Yet, in spite of this, the Chronicler does not abandon the promise of an enduring dynasty for David, citing the promise of a lamp to born forever (21:7). It is important that the Chronicler notes this during the reign of Jehoram, for the following chapters will describe the descent of the dynasty into its greatest crisis yet.
I. (:4-7) RUTHLESSNESS OF JEHORAM’S REIGN MITIGATED BY GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS COVENANT PROMISES
Iain Duguid: Jehoram’s first action was ominous. The phrase translated “ascended” is commonly used in contexts of animosity, meaning “rise against” (e.g., Judg. 9:18; 1 Sam. 17:35), and so here the meaning is probably that he “rose against the kingdom of his father,” action to be repeated by Athaliah (2 Chron. 22:10). The killing of potential rivals was not uncommon (cf. Abimelech, Judg. 9:56; Solomon, 1 Kings 2) but was a foretaste of his doing “evil in the sight of the Lord”: he adopted the “way of the kings of Israel,” emphasized by the double mention of “Ahab.” The Chronicler’s hearers would have been familiar with the account in 1 Kings 17–2 Kings 10 of the house of Omri, with Omri’s son Ahab being the most notorious. The alliance with Tyre had led to militant expansion of the worship of Baal in the north, and the “daughter of Ahab” was representative of that pattern. The current ruler of the “house of David” had become no different from the “house of Ahab.”
A. (:4) Savage Tactics by Jehoram to Secure His Kingdom
1. Power of Assuming the Throne
“Now when Jehoram had taken over the kingdom of his father”
2. Priority of Securing His Kingdom
“and made himself secure,”
Frederick Mabie: As with Solomon (cf. 1:1), Jehoram “established himself firmly” over the kingdom. However, in the case of Solomon this description is tied to God’s presence and blessing, while in Jehoram’s case it is tied to his killing of all of his brothers (and/or half brothers).
3. Purging of All Potential Rivals
“he killed all his brothers with the sword,
and some of the rulers of Israel also.”
B. (:5) Age and Duration of Reign of Jehoram
“Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king,”
2. Duration of Reign
“and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.”
C. (:6) Moral Evaluation of Reign of Jehoram
1. Corrupted by Evil Influence of the House of Ahab
“And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel,
just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab’s daughter was his wife),”
2. Characterized as Evil
“and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.”
Frederick Mabie: Jehoram’s wickedness was enhanced and inspired by his close association with the apostate northern kingdom (the “house of Ahab”). Jehoram’s wife (Athaliah) was the daughter of the infamous Ahab and Jezebel of the northern kingdom (cf. 22:2; thus Athaliah was the granddaughter of Omri, founder of the Omride dynasty). The marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah was part of the political marriage treaty orchestrated by Jehoram’s father, Jehoshaphat. As noted above, such alliances show trust in human beings and political structures rather than complete trust in God and his ways. Moreover, such acts of spiritual compromise can have unexpected waves of consequences, as seen in the events of this chapter and the next. Athaliah, like her husband Jehoram (v. 4), will kill Davidic heirs to the throne (cf. 22:10).
D. (:7) Faithfulness of the Lord to the Davidic Covenant
1. Patient Forbearance
“Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David”
2. Promised Dynasty
a. Enacted Covenant
“because of the covenant which He had made with David,”
Raymond Dillard: Perhaps because of his entirely negative assessment of Jehoram as a Davidic successor, the Chronicler appears to be placing greater emphasis on the unconditionality of the promises to David and his successors, The analogies with his own historical moment are instructive: though Judah had been restored in the post-exilic period, under Persian rule there would appear no prospect of the restoration of the Davidic dynasty; it is precisely when things look at a low ebb that hope is directed to future generations (cf. Williamson, 305). . .
Jehoram is the first king in the Davidic succession of whom the Chronicler’s judgment is totally negative (Williamson, 303). Yet it is precisely at this nadir of religious fidelity that the Chronicler reiterates and elaborates on God’s promises to David (21:7). The Chronicler’s treatment of the validity of the Davidic covenant in the past no doubt spoke also to the dynastic aspirations of his post-exilic audience; it is hard to believe that the author would invoke God’s fidelity to this promise to David for the past unless hope of a dynastic restoration was also a feature of his own faith.
b. Enduring Promise
“and since He had promised to give a lamp
to him and his sons forever.”
J.A. Thompson: David’s “lamp” is a reference to 1 Kgs 11:36. A burning lamp in the home would indicate its occupancy by a resident. To have a lamp suggests that life would continue and the home would be occupied. The promise was that the Davidic line would not be extinguished until the time of the Messiah, who would occupy the throne forever.
II. (:8-11) UNRULY UPRISINGS AND ABOMINABLE APOSTASY OF JEHORAM’S REIGN PUT JUDAH IN JEOPARDY
Frederick Mabie: The perceived weakness of Jehoshaphat’s successor Jehoram (Joram) prompts Edom in the southeast and Libnah in the west to rebel against Judah (cf. 2Ki 8:20-22). Libnah (perhaps Tel Zayit or Tel Bornat) was located in the Shephelah about midway between Azekah and Lachish, near the border with Philistia. The Chronicler notes similar hostility from the Philistines to the west and the Arabians to the south (see vv. 16-17). Regardless of perceived weakness on the part of Judah, the ultimate theological reason for this upheaval is that “Jehoram had forsaken the Lord” (v. 10).
J.A. Thompson: Edom had been subservient to Judah. David had subdued Edom (2 Sam 8:13-14; 1 Kgs 11:15-17), but rebellion was brewing before Solomon’s death (1 Kgs 11:14-22). Under Asa and Jehoshaphat, Judah regained control. In the time of Jehoshaphat, Edom had been ruled by a royal deputy (1 Kgs 22:47; but see 2 Kgs 3:9). Then under Jehoram, Edom rebelled again and set up its own king. Jehoram responded by invading Edom with his officers and chariots but was not able to bring the Edomites under his control. On the contrary, Edomite forces surrounded Jehoram’s forces, although he broke out of the trap and escaped, a sign of God’s grace and faithfulness to David. There is no evidence that Edom was subdued by Jehoram again. Edom remained in rebellion “to this day.”
Libnah, possibly to be identified with Tell es-Safi to the west of Judah at the western end of the Valley of Elah, rebelled next, and Jehoram had revolts on two fronts. By Hezekiah’s time the city was regained (2 Kgs 19:8).
A. (:8-10) Unruly Uprisings
1. (:8-10a) Revolt of Edom
a. (:8) Initiation of Edom’s Revolt
“In his days Edom revolted against the rule of Judah,
and set up a king over themselves.”
b. (:9) Impotent Response to Edom’s Revolt
1) Military Campaign
“Then Jehoram crossed over with his commanders
and all his chariots with him.”
2) Merciful Escape from Desperate Situation
“And it came about that he arose by night and struck down the Edomites who were surrounding him and the commanders of the chariots.”
c. (:10a) Perpetuation of Edom’s Revolt
“So Edom revolted against Judah to this day.”
2. (:10b) Revolt of Libnah
“Then Libnah revolted at the same time against his rule,
because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”
B. (:11) Abominable Apostasy
1. High Places
“Moreover, he made high places in the mountains of Judah,”
Iain Duguid: Previous kings had sought to remove high places (14:3, 5; 17:6; cf. 20:33), but Jehoram was the first in Judah to “[make] high places.” The people worshiped there because he “led” them, he “made Judah go astray” (the condemnation in 21:10 had similarly been that “he had forsaken”). While previously the people had continued to worship at high places (20:33), here responsibility is laid on the king as he incited them to “whoredom” (the image of prostitution, being unfaithful in marriage, is a common OT description of idolatry; e.g., Jer. 3:1–5; Ezek. 16:15–43).
“and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot”
“and led Judah astray.”
III. (:12-20) DECREED DEMISE OF JEHORAM’S REIGN CONSISTENT WITH HIS SHAMEFUL LEGACY
A. (:12-15) Calamitous Prophecy of Elijah of Coming Judgment
“Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying,
‘Thus says the LORD God of your father David,’”
Frederick Mabie: It should be noted that this is the only appearance of Elijah in Chronicles, whose ministry efforts noted in Kings are directed against the wicked ways of the northern kingdom’s Omride dynasty, particularly Ahab. However, Elijah’s prophetic activity in the northern kingdom does not preclude his engagement with Judean kings, particularly if a king’s actions (as here, cf. vv. 6, 13) mimic that of the northern kings. Elijah likely spent some time in the southern kingdom during his flight to Mount Horeb (1Ki 19:3).
August Konkel: Elijah was witness to the sins of Jehoram though not personally present in Judah. The letter recounts the sins of Jehoram: he walked in the ways of Israel, led Judah into unfaithfulness, and killed his brothers who were better than him. The indictment of the letter follows the theology of the Chronicler. Jehoram will lose his family and possessions and will personally die of a painful disease. The letter recounts the sins of Jehoram in the first part of the narrative and pronounces the judgment that unfolds against Jehoram in the second part of the account.
Thomas Constable: It is significant that the prophet whom God sent to announce judgment on Jehoram was Elijah (v. 12), who was still alive at this time. Elijah’s ministry was to condemn Baalism in Israel, but God sent him to Jehoram because Jehoram shared the same guilt as the kings of Ahab’s house. This is the only record we have of a prophet from the Northern Kingdom rebuking a king of the Southern Kingdom. All the other prophets whom God sent to the Davidic kings were from Judah. This is also the only reference to a letter that either Elijah or Elisha wrote.
1. (:12-13) Reason for God’s Judgment
a. (:12b) Failed to Do Good
“Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat
your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah,”
b. (:13) Fermented Evil
1) Patterned Your Life after Wicked Kings
“but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel,”
2) Promoted Spiritual Harlotry
“and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot,”
3) Purged Your Family of Rivals to the Throne
“and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you,”
2. (:14-15) Revelation of God’s Judgment
a. (:14) Curse on Family and Possessions
“behold, the LORD is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives, and all your possessions with a great calamity;”
b. (:15) Curse on Personal Health
“and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.”
Andrew Hill: According to Elijah’s letter, God’s judgment will reach as far as Jehoram’s sin, impacting in reverse order the royal family and the people of Judah (2 Chron. 21:14). The king’s punishment, a hideous and lingering disease (21:15), strikes at the heart of Jehoram’s sin – his failure to recognize that kingship belongs to God and not to any human being. The humiliating malady exposes his mortality and mocks his dignity as royalty, calling to mind the admonition of the psalmist: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save” (Ps. 146:3).
John MacArthur: This event undoubtedly occurred in the early years of Jehoram’s co-regency with his father Jehoshaphat and shortly before Elijah’s departure to heaven, ca. 848 B.C. (cf. 2Ki 2:11, 12).
J.A. Thompson: The two consequences of Jehoram’s two sins are introduced by the climactic “so now,” Hebrew hinne, sometimes translated “behold.” The consequences are given in reverse order of the sins. As a result of Jehoram’s having murdered his own brothers, the Lord would strike down his sons, his family, and his possessions. The phrase “everything that is yours” is literally “and all your possessions,” employing a word (rekus) translated “equipment” in 20:25. There it refers to the plunder of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites God gave to Jehoshaphat in response to his faith. Here it refers to the “goods” (rekus) that the Philistines and Arabs would plunder form Jehoram (v. 17) in response to his wickedness. Jehoram himself would die with a disease of the bowels that would last (literally) “days upon days” until his bowels came out. As with most illnesses mentioned in the Old Testament, we are left to conjecture about the clinically imprecise vocabulary. Ulcers, colitis, chronic diarrhea, and dysentery have been proposed.
B. (:16-17) Campaign Waged against Jehoram by Philistine-Arab Alliance
1. (:16) Divine Judgment Using Pagan Nations
“Then the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians;”
2. (:17) Devastation and Despoiling
“and they came against Judah and invaded it,
and carried away all the possessions found in the king’s house together with his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him
except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.”
Raymond Dillard: For the Chronicler, if progeny is a measure of divine favor, their loss shows divine anger; see above, vv 2–3, 12–15.
J.A. Thompson: Jehoram’s inability to prevent the initial rebellions in these areas encouraged other rebellions. These renewed attacks reached as far as the king’s palace, from which the attackers carried off booty and took captive his sons and wives.
C. (:18-20) Conclusion of Jehoram’s Reign
1. (:18) Judged with Terminal Sickness
“So after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels
with an incurable sickness.”
Iain Duguid: His bowel sickness was humiliating and fatal (the exact illness is not specified).
2. (:19) Ignominious Passing
a. Painful Death
“Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain.”
b. Paltry Memorial
“And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers.”
3. (:20a) Age and Duration of Reign
“He was thirty-two years old when he became king,”
b. Duration of Reign
“and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years;”
4. (:20b) No Respect at His Death and Burial
a. No Respect at His Death – Good Riddance
“and he departed with no one’s regret,”
b. No Respect in His Burial
“and they buried him in the city of David,
but not in the tombs of the kings.”
Raymond Dillard: Perhaps it is the measure of the Chronicler’s contempt for Jehoram that for the first time he makes no mention of other sources the reader might consult for additional details regarding his reign.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown: A series of overwhelming calamities befell this wicked king; because, in addition to the revolts already mentioned, two neighboring tribes (see 2 Chron. 17:11) made hostile incursions on the southern and western portions of his kingdom; his country was ravaged, his capital taken, his palace plundered, his wives carried off, all his children slain except the youngest, himself was seized with a chronic and incurable dysentery, which, after subjecting him to the most painful suffering for the unusual period of two years, carried him off, a monument of the divine judgment; and, to complete his degradation, his death was unlamented, his burial unhonored, by his subjects. This usage, similar to what obtained in Egypt, seems to have crept in among the Hebrews, of giving funereal honors to their kings, or withholding them, according to the good or bad characters of their reign.