1 - 7 Jehoram King of Judah
1 Then Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place. 2 He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these [were] the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. 3 Their father gave them many gifts of silver, gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram because he was the firstborn. 4 Now when Jehoram had taken over the kingdom of his father and made himself secure, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and some of the rulers of Israel also. 5 Jehoram [was] thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6 He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab’s daughter was his wife), and he did evil in the sight of the LORD. 7 Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever.
When Jehoshaphat died, he was buried with his fathers in the city of David, that is Jerusalem (verse 1). That the city is called “the city of David” reminds us to the kingship of David, the man after God’s heart, and to the promises of eternal kingship in the great Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jehoshaphat is succeeded by his son Jehoram, who reigns from 848-841 BC. Jehoshaphat has more sons (verse 2). However, they are first referred to as “brothers” of Jehoram. This relationship is therefore emphasized.
Jehoshaphat gave his sons wealth and fortified cities (verse 3). Rehoboam did something similar (2Chr 11:23). It is hard to say whether Jehoshaphat’s policy was sensible. It may have contributed to Jehoram, who gets the kingship from him because he is the eldest son, seeing them as a danger to the undermining of his power. After all, his brothers all have an area over which they have authority.
Jehoram is an evil man. When he has come on the throne, he first does all that is necessary to strengthen his position as king (verse 4; cf. 2Chr 23:1). To strengthen his position, he may have given people important posts to ensure their support in exercising and maintaining his power. He will have done it with the plan in mind to kill all his brothers, a plan he then executes.
After the murder of his brothers (cf. Jdg 9:5), he also kills a number of rulers. Except that he sees them as competitors that threaten him in the exercise of his power, it may be that these men fear the LORD and address Jehoram about his evil path. We read from his brothers that they are better than he (verse 13). Such voices are definitively silenced.
Authorities do everything to strengthen and maintain their position. They eliminate anyone they see as a threat to their position. People who act like Jehoram, do so because they expect that they themselves will be treated this way by others. They want to prevent that.
Jehoram is an adult man when he becomes king and commits these murders (verse 5). He has been on the throne for eight years. What he does is the same as the kings of Israel do. The cause of this is his marriage to a daughter of Ahab (verse 6). Through this, Jehoshaphat’s house is connected to Ahab’s house. The murders he commits show the influence that his wicked wife has on him, who also perform a massacre herself (2Chr 22:10). That woman has her murderousness not of a stranger, but of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who will have been closely involved in her upbringing (1Kgs 18:4; 19:2; 21:7-15).
Despite this monstrous marriage and its monstrous manifestations, the LORD did not destroy the house of David. The reason for this is the covenant He made with Da-vid (2Sam 23:5; 1Chr 17:12; Isa 55:3). Man’s actions cannot destroy God’s faithfulness.
8 - 11 Rebellion of Edom and Libnah
8 In his days Edom revolted against the rule of Judah and set up a king over themselves. 9 Then Jehoram crossed over with his commanders and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck down the Edomites who were surrounding him and the commanders of the chariots. 10 So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time against his rule, because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers. 11 Moreover, he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot and led Judah astray.
Unfaithfulness to the Lord always brings with it loss of power over enemies. We see that here too. Edom, who is subject to Judah, rebels against the authority of Judah and establishes his own kingdom (verse 8). Jehoram doesn’t accept that. He tries to submit Edom to himself again (verse 9). He goes up against Edom and defeats them. However, the victory is not complete, because Edom continues to resist and has not been brought back entirely under the authority of Judah (verse 10).
Also Libnah, a priest city, withdraws from his power. The reason is: “Because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.” Possibly the priests revolted against this wicked king because he led the people to idolatry. Jehoram also makes high places (verse 11).
With this he goes further than his ancestors, of whom we read that they have not removed the high places. However, Jehoram not only lets idolatry exist, but even stimulates it, he encourages it. He causes the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the city which the LORD has chosen to make His Name dwell there, to play the harlot, which is idolatry (Exo 34:15-16). He seduces Judah to do that. This is outright rebellion against the LORD.
12 - 15 A Letter From Elijah
12 Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying, “Thus says the LORD God of your father David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, 14 behold, the LORD is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”
Then Elijah suddenly appears on stage in a letter. Here Elijah must already have gone to heaven, an event described in 2 Kings (2Kgs 2:1,11). How about a letter from him? It is a prophetic letter in which Elijah writes down events that have been announced to him by the LORD. The letter is handed over to Jehoram at the right time.
This letter from Elijah is noteworthy in the light of the area and the nature of his service. Elijah has served as a prophet in the ten tribes realm. That is the area of his service. The service he does through the letter is directed at the king of Judah and the situation there. His service has always been oral and now we read that he wrote something. It is the first time that we read of the writing of any prophet. It is a letter to this evil king.
The content of the letter does fit in with Elijah’s service, which was not only, but nevertheless mainly a service of judgment. The letter contains a word from the LORD, Who presents himself to Jehoram as “the LORD God of your father David”. The remembrance to David shows the great contrast between David and Jehoram. This way of presenting also makes it clear that the LORD is not the God of Jehoram.
The content of the letter is the announcement of judgment with its reasons. First the different reasons are given:
1. Jehoram did not go in the ways of his father Jehoshaphat and in the ways of his grandfather Asa;
2. on the contrary, he has gone in the ways of the kings of Israel;
3. he has caused the people to play the harlot as the house of Ahab has done with Israel;
4. moreover, he has killed his brothers, his own family, people who are better than him.
The judgment is in accordance with his grave sins. The list is detailed and leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. There will come great calamity about
1. his people,
2. his children,
3. his women,
4. his property and
5. himself. He himself will suffer severe sickness, a disease of his bowels. That disease will be so severe that his bowels come out because of the sickness. That will result in his death.
So first Jehoram is struck in what surrounds him, what he cherishes, where he sees his importance reflected, what serves his honor. Then he is taken out of this life by a two-year lasting terrible sickness.
16 - 17 The Discipline of the LORD
16 Then the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians; 17 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.
The word of the LORD to and over Jehoram is fulfilled; the judgment comes. The judgment comes first from outside, but comes from the LORD. The LORD stirs up an enemy against Judah (verse 16). The LORD stirs up the spirit, which means that He stimulates their spirit and sets them in motion to go up against Judah. He uses peoples who do not know Him and do not want to serve Him, and makes them tools to carry out His will. For this he brings together two peoples who live far apart. The Philistines live nearby, it is a neighboring country; the Arabs live on the border of Ethiopia.
The man who has killed his brothers to enjoy everything alone, now experiences that his sons and wives are killed (verse 17). However, God keeps the lamp burning even now (verse 7), no matter how weak the glow may be. The youngest son of Jehoram, Jehoahaz, remains. Jehoahaz is the same person as Ahaziah (2Chr 22:1), where in the name the prefix becomes the suffix, without changing the meaning of the name.
18 - 20 Death of Jehoram
18 So after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. 19 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. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
“So after all this”, that is to say after all the misfortune by means of enemies, the LORD strikes Jehoram with a sickness that runs slowly and for which no cure is possible (verse 18). As Elijah has predicted, it is a disease of its bowels. The word used here for ‘disease’ is only found in four other texts (Deu 29:22; Psa 103:3; Jer 14:18; 16:4). The chronicler, as it were, holds us up as a mirror the end of a wicked man. In the quoted texts in which the word ‘disease’ appears, Psalm 103:3 lights up comfortingly. If we suffer from such a disease and then resort to the LORD, He will provide a solution.
The slowness of the disease can be seen as a proof of God’s grace, giving him time to repent. Asa also fell ill at the end of his life (2Chr 16:12). Asa is a man who is faithful in his heart, but has gone the wrong way at the end of his life. This is illustrated by the fact that he gets sick at his feet. Jehoram is a man who is unfaithful in his heart. That is illustrated by the disease of his bowels. He who, so to speak ‘in his bowels’ has had no compassion for his brothers, is struck in his bowels. During his sickness he does not receive any support from women or children, because they have all been killed. He also receives no pity from the people.
No one has appreciated him during his life, no one regrets him when he dies. He goes, still quite young and after a rather short reign. This is a dark page in the history of God’s people in Judah. There will be a few more of these dark pages, until Joash becomes king and the darkness fades away a little.