II Chronicles 21



The matter of this chapter may be divided into four parts. The death and

burial of Jehoshaphat, and the number, names, and position of his sons

(vs. 1-3). The accession and wicked course of Jehoram, the eldest son

(vs. 4-11). The written warning and denunciation of Elijah, and the very

practical warning of the Philistines, etc. (vs. 12-17). The disease, death,

and burial of Jehoram (vs. 18-20).


1 “Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his

fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.”

The parallel for this verse is I Kings 22:50; and, with the exception

of one word, it is an exact parallel. To understand the questions

set in motion by the last clause of the verse, comparison must be made of

II Kings 1:17; 3:1; 8:16. For anything that appears here, we should take

for granted that Jehoram now first began to exercise any royal authority

and enjoy any royal dignity. But the first of the just-quoted passages says

Jehoram (of Israel) succeeded his wicked brother Ahaziah in the second

year of Jehoram (of Judah), son of Jehoshaphat. In the second of the

above-quoted passages, however, we are told that the same Jehoram (of

Israel) succeeded to the throne in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat,

which date tallies with our parallel of last chapter (I Kings 22:41), to

the effect that Jehoshaphat himself began to reign in Ahab’s fourth year,

and Ahaziah in Jehoshaphat’s seventeenth year. While, lastly, the third of

the above-quoted references says that in the fifth year of Joram (of Israel),

Jehoshaphat being then King of Judah” (which, however, is itself an

unfaithful rendering of what must be a corrupt text), his son Jehoram

began to reign.” It has therefore been conjectured that the royal name was

given Jehoram (of Judah) by his father in his father’s sixteenth year, and

that in his twenty-third year he further invested him with some royal power

(our v. 3 gives some plausibility to this conjecture), from which last date

Jehoram’s “eight years” (II Kings 8:17; here vs. 5, 20) must be reckoned;

this was not less than two years before the death of Jehoshaphat. Were it

not for the countenance that our third verse (describing the cut-and-dried

arrangements that the father made for his sons) gives to the tenableness

of the above conjectures, we should prefer the conjecture that the passages

commented upon are so much corrupt text.


2 “And he had brethren the sons of Jehoshaphat, Azariah, and Jehiel,

and Zechariah, and Azariah, and Michael, and Shephatiah: all these

were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel.”  Though in our version two

Azariahs appear among the six sons of Jehoshaphat here given, the Hebrew

text shows עֲזַרְיָה in the one place and עֲזַרְיָהוּ in the other. Nothing is known

of the previous history of these six, now so cruelly murdered by their eldest

brother. It will be observed that Jehoshaphat is styled King of Israel, probably

merely generically. Into this way the writer of Chronicles would run, at any

rate, more easily than the writer of Kings.


3 “And their father gave them great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of

precious things, with fenced cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave

he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn.”  The father’s foreseeing

care issued very differently from what he had thought, waking now the

greed and murderous intent of Jehoram.  Jehoshaphat, nevertheless, was

but following in the wake of the head of the separated kingdom of Judah,

Rehoboam (ch. 11:22-23), wherein he is said to have “dealt wisely;” even

the parallel (in the matter of one son Abijah, son of Maachah, the favorite

wife, being appointed king) obtaining there in an aggravated form, as he

was not the eldest son. This case, with those of Solomon and Jehoahaz

(by the favor not of the parent but of the people, II Kings 23:30), formed

the exceptions to the usual observance of and honor done to the principle

of primogeniture  (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).


4 “Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he

strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and

divers also of the princes of Israel.”  Slew all his brethren… and also

of the princes of Israel. It may be, as suggested by the genius of the last

clause of v.13, that Jehoram’s wicked heart prompted him the rather

because his own works were evil and his brothers’ righteous. He may have

thought their practical witness against him, and that of the “princes” who

shared their fate, would be growingly inconvenient, and would work in them

a necessary disloyalty (Judges 9:1-5). On the other showing, the “princes”

now cut down may have shown partiality and affection to the six brothers,

one or other of them.


5 Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and

he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.  He reigned eight years. This reign

dates to begin with the twenty-second or twenty-third year of the reign of

his father Jehoshaphat, according to note on v. 1, above. The parallel of

II Kings 8:17-21 may be consulted for our vs. 5-11; our vs. 11, 13 expound

in clearer detail the “evil” that Jehoram wrought than the narrative of Kings.


6 “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the

house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he

wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD.

The daughter of Ahab to wife. That is, Athaliah, called (ch. 22:2;

II Kings 8:26) the daughter, that is, granddaughter, of Omri.


7 “Howbeit the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because

of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised

to give a light to him and to his sons for ever.”  The covenant… a light…

his sons for ever (so II Samuel 7:12-13, 15-16; 23:5; I Kings 8:20, 24-25;

I Chronicles 22:10; Psalm 132:11-12; Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34).


8 “In his days the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of

Judah, and made themselves a king.  The expression, “in his days,” scarcely

fails intending to accentuate the mournful change now as compared with the

state of things depicted in our ch. 17:5-11.


9 “Then Jehoram went forth with his princes, and all his chariots with

him: and he rose up by night, and smote the Edomites which

compassed him in, and the captains of the chariots.”

With his princes. The parallel, II Kings 8:21, reads, “to

Zair.” Of any such place nothing is known, and it has been proposed to

supersede the word there by “Seir,” which a certain amount of similarity of

the Hebrew characters might countenance. Possibly by some mishap, not

so readily explainable by misoccurrence of characters simply, our words,

with his princes,” should stand in place of “to Zair.” It must be noted that

the two first clauses of the verse in the parallel become something

inconsequential (which is not the case with the reading of our text), in that

it says, “The king and chariots went forth to a place, and rose up by night,”

etc. The dislocation is, perhaps, not serious, but our text avoids it in

reading, “The king, princes, and chariots went forth, and rose up by night

and smote,” etc.


10 “So the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this

day. The same time also did Libnah revolt from under his hand;

because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”

Libnah… because he had forsaken. The parallel states the

revolt of Libnah also, but does not make the closing remark of our verse.


11 “Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah and

caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and

compelled Judah thereto.”  Caused… to commit fornication. Perhaps

the meaning is exclusively here the infidelity of idolatry, but at any rate

it includes this.



A Life Spent in Undoing (vs. 1-11)


For the quarter of a century Jehoshaphat spent all his individual power and

devoted all the weight of his royal office to the work of establishing piety,

justice, and (in consequence) real prosperity throughout his kingdom. And

right well he succeeded. When he died he left Judah much purer, stronger,

and richer than he found it. Then came his firstborn son in succession to

him. And what came with him? What else but a baneful and lamentable

undoing of all that he himself had doneall, at least, that his son had it in

his power to overturn?




Ø      Jehoram’s reign began in selfish cruelty. To secure his own position, he

murdered his six brethren; to avert a contingent evil to himself, he wrought

the last and worst evil to his own mother’s sons (v. 4).


Ø      It went on to personal apostasy. (v. 6.) He turned away from the God

of his fathers, from the worship of the God to whom he might and, indeed,

must have known that his throne was due, to serve Baal; and in so doing

he forsook the way of wisdom and of purity for paths of error and iniquity.


Ø      It led down to the abuse of royal power. For he not only made

Jerusalem to be partaker of his sin, but he tyrannically compelled Judah to

do the same (v. 11). He employed his royal authority (and probably his

standing army) to constrain his people to depart from the way of holiness,

from spiritual and moral integrity.


Ø      It issued in national disaster. In:

o        the loss of the Divine favor;

o        the consequent defeat of his troops and loss of a dependency;

o        the revolt of an important city (vs. 8-11).


Ø      It closed in an early and miserable death.


  • ITS MOST STRIKING CHARACTERISTIC. It went far to undo all

that a long and devoted life, all that a useful and brilliant reign, had done. It

pulled down a large part of that which had been so carefully, so

laboriously, so wisely constructed. How easily, and in how short a time,

can a bad man undo what his predecessor, with infinite effort, has

accomplished! The striking and the holding of a lucifer match may bring

the stateliest structure to a heap of ruin.  (James 3:5)  The deflection from

the way of rectitude on the part of one prominent life, the wandering from

God of one strong human spirit, may have the effect of bringing to naught

the labor of more than one lifetime. How true the proverb, “One sinner

destroyeth much good”!   (Ecclesiastes 9:18)  There are amongst us the

names of men who have reached that poor and most pitiful notoriety of

not having attempted to do any good, but of having dragged down with

themselves their family, their Church, their community, to a dark depth

of shame and ruin.


  • THE EXPLANATION OF IT. Two factors were concerned in it and

account for it:


Ø      A foolish decision of his father. Jehoshaphat made one of his serious

mistakes — and he made more than one — when he married his son to

Ahab’s daughter (v. 6; ch. 18:1). He could not conceivably

have taken a more dangerous step; it was the very last thing a faithful

servant of Jehovah should have done. What was likely to happen when

the daughter of Jezebel was presiding at the court of Jerusalem? Thus

Jehoram’s father, with a fatuity at which we can but wonder, introduced a

blighting influence into the home and so into the heart of his son.


Ø      His own evil choice. These two things — unhealthy forces acting upon

us from without and our own false resolves — determine our character,

our course, our destiny. Let us be thankful for all holy influences; let us be

most solicitous to bring all and only good ones to bear on those for whom

we care. Let those who are young set before them the honorable ambition

of confirming the good work of their fathers; let them beware lest a bad

and selfish commencement lead down to a miserable and disgraceful end.




The Character of Jehoram (vs. 2-11)




Ø      The advantages Jehoram possessed.


o       A good father, Jehoshaphat, whose example should have led him,

whose instructions should have taught him (Proverbs 1:8), whose

prayers should have won him to walk in wisdom’s ways. But they

did not.  Piety is not hereditary:


§         Example often fails to impress,

§         instruction to convince,

§         prayer to save,


the children of godly parents. Numerous instances in Scripture

(I Samuel 2:12; 8:3; 15:1, etc.) and in ordinary life.


o        A good estate. As Jehoshaphat’s firstborn, he succeeded — whether

during his father’s lifetime (Keil) or at his father’s death (Bahr)

uncertain — to an exalted throne and a peaceful realm, became ruler

of a promising people and a growing empire. He had much to make

him contented with his lot and thankful for his mercies, to lead him

to think of God and devote himself to the practice of religion, as well

as to consecrate his talents to advancing the moral and material

interests of his subjects. Nevertheless, he neglected both his own

and his people’s salvation.


o        A good God, who had kept him alive for thirty-two years, when many

better men than he had been cut off in youth (v. 5); who had allowed

him time to mature in wisdom before calling him to assume the

burdensome responsibilities of the throne; who had promoted him

to his father’s crown, which might easily have been given to another

(v. 3); who bore with him in his wickedness for His servant David’s

sake (v. 7); who punished him by suffering the Edomites to revolt

 (v. 8), stirring up the Philistines and Arabians against him (v. 15),

and afflicting him with a mortal malady (v. 18), of which he was

forewarned by a letter from Elijah (v. 12). Yet for all this Jehoram

walked not in the ways of Jehoshaphat his father, or in

the ways of Asa his grandfather, but in the ways of Ahab,

the King of Israel (vs. 6, 12-13).


Ø      The disadvantages under which he labored.


o        A bad heart. That Jehoram, though belonging to Judah and a son of

Jehoshaphat, was not a child of grace, his whole subsequent career

attested.  All are not Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are

Abraham’s seed, are they all children” (Romans 9:6-7); “For he is

not a Jew, which is one outwardly:… but he is a Jew, which is

one inwardly”  (ibid. ch. 2:28-29). That Jehoram was not born good

was no excuse, since Jehovah’s grace was ready to assist him in

overcoming his natural corruption (Deuteronomy 30:6; I Kings 8:58;

Psalm 110:3).


o        A bad wife. Athaliah, though a king’s daughter (v. 6), was a wicked

woman. Exalted in station, beautiful in person, gifted with high

mental endowments, she may have been; nevertheless, she was

inwardly, essentially, and radically of depraved instincts. Like

her mother Jezebel, she was superstitious, profligate, bloodthirsty,

imperious, and resolute. She belonged to the type of woman of

which Herodias and perhaps Drusilla and Bernice were New

Testament examples, and to which should be assigned the

Shakespearean creations of Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra.  In

the hands of such women even strong men find it difficult to resist

the fatal influence of their superior natures, while feeble creatures

like Ahab and Jehoram are dragged like captives at their chariot-

wheels. The most dreadful calamity that can befall a weakling is to

wed such a spouse. A woman leagued with the devil will drag her

husband to PERDITION with a certainty and celerity that hardly

even the grace of God can prevent. In such a plight was Jehoram.


o        A bad environment. Though not everything, a man’s surroundings are

something. They help to make or mar him. If good, they will at least

hinder his deterioration; if bad, they will hasten it. Perhaps nothing

could have been worse for Jehoram than to have Ahab’s daughter

for a wife; it was no amelioration of his hard fate to have:


§         Ahab for a father-in-law,

§         Jezebel for a mother-in-law,

§         Ahaziah and Jehoram for brothers-in-law, and

§         the house of Omri generally as relatives and friends.


It was hardly surprising that in after-years Jehoram, the King of

Judah, had no moral resemblance to Jehoshaphat’s son.




Ø      The names of Jehorams brothers. Six in number; they had excellent



o        Azariah, “whom Jehovah helps.” “Happy is the man that hath the

God of Jacob for his Help” (Psalm 146:5). This name may have

been given by Jehoshaphat to his second and his fifth sons —

distinguished slightly by the spelling, Azarjah and Azarjahu

to emphasize that all hope for stability in his house and prosperity

in his kingdom depended on and proceeded from the assistance

of Heaven.


o        Jehiel, “God liveth.” Perhaps this truth was impressed upon

Jehoshaphat’s heart by the birth of his third son (Psalm 127:3),

as it was upon David’s, by His continued preservation from the

hand of Saul (II Samuel 22:47; Psalm 18:46).


o        Zechariah, “whom Jehovah remembers.” Probably given by

Jehoshaphat to his son after Zechariah, the father of Jahaziel, who

predicted the overthrow of the Moabites (ch. 20:14). Or,

Jehoshaphat may have counted his fourth son a happy proof that

Jehovah had not forgotten him, but was still mindful of His



o        Azariah (see above).


o        Michael, “who is like unto God?” A great thought for a young man to

carry about with him on life’s journey, and one that might stir him to

noble deeds as well as lead him into pleasant ways. This thought was

familiar to Moses (Exodus 8:10), to David (Psalm 86:8), to Ethan the

Ezrahite (Psalm 89:6), and to Isaiah (Isaiah 40:18).


o        Shephatiah, “whom Jehovah defends.” The name of one of David’s

sons (II Samuel 3:4), and probably for this reason bestowed upon



Ø      The ranks of Jehorams brothers. Princes of the blood royal, they were

well provided for and well placed by their father, whose crown fell to

Jehoram as heir-apparent. Great gifts of silver, gold, and other precious

things were bestowed upon them, while they were appointed, as

Rehoboam’s sons had been (ch. 11:23), commandants of fortresses in the

different fenced cities of Judah. Thus they had no need to be discontented

with their lot, and most likely were not.


Ø      The characters of Jehorams brethren. They were better than he (v. 13).

Presumably in every way — physically, mentally, morally, religiously.

This last, perhaps, specially intended. Jehoshaphat’s piety had exercised

upon them more influence than upon him; they disapproved of the

idolatrous behavior and wicked policy generally of him and his wife.


Ø      The murder of Jehorams brethren. Whatever the motive — cupidity or

a desire to appropriate their wealth, fear or a dread of being insecure upon

his throne while they lived, or hatred of their persons because they shunned

his evil ways — it was a hideous deed of blood, which has seldom been

paralleled amongst Oriental kings. “Upon the death of Selimus II. (1582).

Amurah III., succeeding to the Turkish empire, caused his five brothers —

Mustapha, Solymon, Abdalla, Osman, and Sinagar — without pity or

commiseration, to be strangled in his presence and burned with his dead

father” (Whitecross, ‘Anecdotes on the Old Testament,’ p. 190). Along

with his brethren, he put to death a number of the princes of Israel, and for

probably a similar reason, because they disapproved of his conduct and

sympathized with his brethren.




Ø      An apostate in religion. To be sure, he never had religion in reality. Yet,

as Judah’s sovereign and Jehoshaphat’s son, he ought to have upheld the

true worship of Jehovah. But instead he became a devotee of Baal, a

favorer of the false gods his half-heathen wife patronized, building high

places for them in the mountains of Judah — thus practically reversing the

work of his devout father (ch. 17:6) and grandfather (ch. 14:2), and causing

the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, i.e. to practice idolatry

(Isaiah 23:17; Ezekiel 16:29; Revelation 19:2); yea, compelling Judah by

violence to go astray (Deuteronomy 13:6-11).


Ø      A weakling in government. Under him the Edomites, who had in

Jehoshaphat’s reign been tributary to Judah (II Kings 3:9), becoming

restive, achieved their independence. According to Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 9:5.1),

they first slew their king, who had yielded to Jehoshaphat, and

afterwards elected one who raised the standard of revolt. A feeble attempt

to reduce them to subjection proved abortive. At Zair, on the way to Edom

not to be identified with Zoar (Ewald), which belonged to Moab, but

perhaps with the modern ruin Zueirah, on the south-west of the Dead Sea

(Conder) — he, with all his princes and chariots, encountered the rebels;

but whether he defeated them (Jamieson), or only cut his way through

them when they had encompassed him (Keil), is obscure, though even on.

the former supposition his success was not permanent or decisive. Either

then or soon afterwards the Edomites completely renounced the yoke of

Judah. About the same period also, Libnah — a city in the district of

Eleutheropolis (Eusebius), though as yet unknown — succeeded in

establishing its freedom.


Ø      A pigmy in manhood. Apart from the plague which struck him in his last

days, while yet in middle life (v. 15) he was obviously a poor and

contemptible creature. When he died nobody lamented him — at least,

nobody among his subjects. “He departed without being desired” (v. 20).

Men were glad to see the last of him. They would not burn a burning for

him, as they did for his good father and pious grandfather when they died.

His rotten carcass they buried in the city of David; they would not

desecrate with it the sepulchers of the kings.



  • LEARN:


Ø      The necessity of personal religionno man may trade upon

his father’s piety.

Ø      The duty of parents to provide for their children — exemplified by

Jehoshaphat’s donations to his sons.

Ø      The bitterness of sin’s fruit when fully developed: “Sin, when it is

finished, bringeth forth death” in its worst forms — murder, fratricide, etc.

Ø      The value of a good wife — inferred from the calamity of a bad one.

Ø      The mercy of God to great sinners, even when they do not repent —

illustrated by God’s tolerance of Jehoram.

Ø      The essential weakness of sin — as shown by the Edomite revolt against


Ø      The pestilential influence of sin in high places: “One sinner destroyeth

much good.”


12 “And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying,

Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast

not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways

of Asa king of Judah,”  - A writing. The Hebrew is מִכְתָּב, noun, from verb כָתַב.

This noun does not occur very frequently, but is found in the following

passages, viz.: Exodus 32:16; 39:30; Deuteronomy 10:4; here, ch. 35:4; 36:22;

Ezra 1:1; Isaiah 38:8. A note in Grove’s interesting article, “Elijah” (Smith’s

‘Bible Dictionary’ vol. 1. p. 580), says that the word is almost identical with

the Arabic word of the present day, while the ordinary Hebrew word for a “letter”

is סֵפֶד oftener rendered “book.” There came. That this is the precise language

used rather helps the persuasion that it was the well-known Prophet Elijah of Israel,

who, not resident in Judah, and perhaps very near the end of his life, and in sight

of his translation, was taught and directed divinely to send this message of

rebuke and terror for Jehoram. Elijah the prophet. Some hold that it

certainly was not the well-known prophet of the northern kingdom who is

here intended. “Time, place, and circumstance,” says Professor Dr. James

G. Murphy, of Belfast (‘Handbook to the Books of Chronicles,’ p. 127),

difference him “from the Tishbite.” And he confidently considers him (with

Cajetan) another Elijah (Ezra 10:21), or Eliah (I Chronicles 8:27;

Ezra 10:26; for the form rendered so), or Eliyahu, in which form the

Hebrew name appears (אֵלִיָּה. or אֵלִיָּהיּ, being the forms of the name

found), on the grounds that the Tishbite was translated in the time of

Jehoram’s father Jehoshaphat (II Kings 3:11); that his sphere was in the

northern kingdom, and himself more of one who wrought mighty works

and spoke otherwise than as a prophet; and that the designation “the

prophet” need by no means denote him exclusively. He adds that a

writing” from a prophet is nothing strange, which may be easily conceded

but poorly instanced by I Chronicles 28:19; better by Jeremiah 36:1-2, 6.

On the other hand, Grove (in article above quoted) and others

find no invincible difficulty in accepting this Elijah for the famous prophet.

His mention here is, of course, exceedingly interesting. as the only mention

of him in Chronicles — a fact which very remarkably falls in with the

abstinence as well as the fullness of the compiler of Chronicles. Josephus

pronounces that the letter was sent during Elijah’s life (‘Ant.,’ 9:5. § 2),

surmises to the contrary having been made. While Elijah’s translation

seems to have taken place before Jehoshaphat’s death, from what we read

of Elisha (II Kings 3:11), we may well account that Elisha had begun

his ministry before his master’s translation. Not only the other passages

that confirm, but in especial the passage (II Kings 1:17) which tells of

Jehoram’s being, before his father’s death, on the throne of Judah at the

time of Elijah’s interview with Ahaziah (a passage that occurs immediately

preceding the account of Eiijah’s last acts), might have led us to suppose

that Elijah’s letter was before Jehoshaphat’s death, during the joint reign,

but for the mention of the slaying of his sons. Bertheau, in our text in his

Chronik,’ points out the resemblance which the “writing” shows to the

matter of the speeches of Elijah, while in certain respects of style, and the

very insulated sort of introduction it has here, it greatly differs from the

narrative in which it is now set. Although the calculation may seem rather a

fine one, the circumstances described accurately point to the “writing” of

Elijah reaching Jehoram before the chronologically misplaced translation of

Elijah as given in II Kings 2:1-11. This question may be instanced as

one of the interesting moot points by no means compassed with

insuperable difficulty, but challenging careful study and patient comparison

of chronological and historical passages.


13 “But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made

Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the

whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren

of thy father’s house, which were better than thyself:”

See note in previous verse on Jehoram’s slaying of his brethren, and the

conclusive proof this statement allows that Elijah’s letter must have been

subsequent to the death of Jehoshaphat. The better than thyself probably

points to the fact that they had not fallen into idolatrous



14 “Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and

thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods:”  A great plague; Hebrew,

מַגֵּפָה, Out of the twenty-six occurrences of this word, it is rendered

(Authorized Version) twenty-three times by the word “plague,”

twice by the word “slaughter” (II Samuel 17:9; 18:7), and once “stroke”

(Ezekiel 24:16). It is not the word (גֶגַע) which about sixty times

(chiefly in Leviticus) describes the physical plague, but both of the words

are applied to the plagues, e.g. of Pharaoh, and to the suffering that came

of any severe smiting of the people. As no physical affliction in the shape

of disease visited, so far as we know, the people, wives, and children of

the king, and as his goods are reckoned in for the great plague, the general

opinion is probably the correct one, that the invasions spoken of (vs. 16-17)

fulfilled the punishment now announced.


15 “And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until

thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.”

Therefore against Jehoram and Judas Iscariot and Herod was it

decreed that their very bowels should bear witness.



The Letter of Elijah (vs. 12-15)


  • THE AUTHOR OF THE WRITING. Various suggestions.


Ø      Elisha, who entered on the duties of his calling before the death of

Jehoshaphat (II Kings 3:11), and who accordingly would be the most

likely party from whom should proceed such a communication as Jehoram

received. In this case the name of Elijah must have been substituted in the

text for that of Elisha (Kennicott, Jamieson).


Ø      A later historian, “who describes the relation of Elijah to Joram in few

words, and according to his conception of it as a whole” (Bertheau); but

this judgment rests on dogmatic grounds, and flows from a principle

which refuses to recognize any supernatural prediction in the prophetic

utterances” (Keil).


Ø      Elijah, the author named in the text. Besides being in the text, the word

occurs in all existing Hebrew manuscripts and in all the Oriental versions.


  • THE DATE OF THE WRITING. Again different explanations.


Ø      After Elijahs translation. The notions that either Elijah sent the letter

from heaven by an angel (Grotius), or spoke it from the clouds (Menken),

may be discarded as conjectures wanting in support from any intelligible

analogies (Keil).


Ø      Before Elijahs translation. Here two views emerge.


o        After Jehoram had ascended the throne (Keil, Rawlinson). This

assumes that Elijah was alive at the commencement of Jehoram’s reign

(II Kings 1:17), and may have learned of the assassination of

Jehoshaphat’s sons — the knowledge of which crime may have moved

him to send its perpetrator the divinely given announcement of his

death this letter contains. The fact that Elisha accompanied Jehoshaphat

to the Moabitish war (II Kings 3:11) does not prove that Elijah had then

been translated, since Elijah was alive in the second year of the conjoint

reign of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat his father (II Kings 1:17; 3:1).


o        Before Jehoram had ascended the throne (Buddaeus, Clarke). Nothing

impossible in the suggestion that Elijah had the wickedness of Jehoram

revealed to him before it occurred, as previously he had been informed

of the elevation of Jehu to the throne of Israel, and of the accession of

Hazael to that of Syria, before these events happened (I Kings

19:16-17).  Either explanation is admissible, though the latter is

probably more correct.




Ø      A twofold accusation.


o        A charge of aggravated idolatry. Not only had Jehoram himself

forsaken the way of Jehoshaphat and of Asa, i.e. the worship of

Jehovah, and turned aside into the way of the kings of Israel, i.e.

worship of Baal and other idols, but he had corrupted the whole

house of Judah, and caused them to commit spiritual whoredom,

like the house of Ahab.


o        An indictment of infamous murder. He had slain all his brethren, the

children of his father’s house, who were better than himself.


Ø      A twofold retribution.


o        A great stroke upon his people, upon his house (his wives and

children), upon his property (his goods or substance). As prosperity

was a usual concomitant of piety, so adversity was wont, under

Jehovah’s government of Israel, to dog the heels of impiety.


o        A greater stroke upon himself, in the shape of a slow, but sure,

loathsome and mortal disease which should seize upon his bowels.

That it should continue for two years before terminating fatally

(Bertheau) can hardly be made out from the expressions

day by day,” or “days upon days.” The prophet could speak with

confidence, since diseases are God’s messengers who come and go

at his command (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 28:60; Psalm 103:3).




Ø      The invasion of Jehorams kingdom. (v. 16.)


o        The prime mover was Jehovah, as Elijah’s letter predicted. “The Lord

stirred up the spirit of the Philistines,” as formerly, on two several

occasions, He had stirred up an adversary to Solomon (I Kings 11:14,

23), and afterwards stirred up Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) King of Assyria,

against Pekah King of Israel (II Kings 15:29; I Chronicles 5:26).

God is said to do what, for the accomplishment of His own wise

and sovereign purposes, he permits to be done, and hence is

represented as working all things according to the counsel of His

will (Job 9:12; Psalm 66:7; 115:3; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11).


o        The acting instruments were the Philistines, an ancient enemy of Israel

(Judges 10:7; I Samuel 4:1) on the west; and the Arabians near the

Ethiopians, i.e. the middle Arabians, exactly south of Palestine

(Schurer). This juxtaposition of the Philistines and Arabians occurs

in two more places in this book (ch. 17:11; 26:7).


o        The extent is indicated by the details given. The savage hordes broke

into Judah. That they captured the capital seems a natural inference

from the plunder they carried off (Bertheau), though, had Jerusalem

been sacked, “the treasures of the palace as well as of the temple

would have been mentioned” (Keil). In any case, they carried off

all the substance found in the king’s house,” which may signify

all the property of the palace (Bertheau), or all the king’s property

found in the country, in the cities, villages, and castles of Judah

(Keil). Along with this, they made prisoners of the king’s wives

and. sons, except Jehoahaz, or Ahaziah. What they did

with the former is not recorded; the latter they slew (ch. 22:1).


Ø      The affliction of Jehorams body. Whatever the malady, a violent

dysentery, or some disease of the intestines, it was


o        sudden“Jehovah struck him,” pointing to a mysterious and

inexplicable infliction difficult to trace to any immediate physical

cause, and therefore ordinarily ascribed to a supernatural origin

(ch. 26:20; Acts 12:23);

o        painful — the diseases were sore;

o        protracted — his sickness continued two years;

o        loathsome — his bowels fell out towards the end of that period;

o       mortal — he succumbed beneath his ailment, and “died.”


  • LEARN:


Ø      God’s knowledge of the histories, characters, and actions of men

(Proverbs 15:3).

Ø      God’s ability to foresee and reveal to men the nature and tendency of

their or others’ acts (Genesis 18:17; 41:28; I Samuel 9:15).

Ø      God’s determination to be avenged of them that do wickedly without

respect of persons (Psalm 34:16; 37:38).

Ø      God’s resources for executing His purposes of judgment or mercy.


16 “Moreover the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the

Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians:”

The moreover of this verse is simply the conjunction “and;” it

is not the m of v. 11, for instance. Our Authorized Version “moreover”

obscures the purport of the verse. Better the simple “and,” as in the

Revised Version. The Lord stirred up. Reference may again be made to

ch.17:10-12. The things then gained are now being lost. The

Arabians… near the Ethiopians. The Ethiopians, i.e. Cushites, fully

fifteen centuries before the date of those original treatises from which the

writers of Kings and Chronicles respectively borrowed their materials, or

some of them, are recorded both genealogically and geographically in

Genesis 10:6-8. They had their location very early in the south of

Arabia, as also to the south of Egypt, speaking generally, with the Red Sea

on the east, the Libyan desert on the west, and Abyssinia on the south,

whilst Syene marked conspicuously a site on the line of the northern

bounds between them and Egypt (Ezekiel 29:9-11; Isaiah 18:1-2;

45:14; Zephaniah 3:10). They are almost invariably connected with

Africa, from whence it is now that stress is laid upon those of them to

whom the Arabians, on the other side of the Red Sea, were contiguous.


17 “And they came up into Judah, and brake into it, and carried away

all the substance that was found in the king’s house, and his sons also, and

his wives; so that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest

of his sons.”  Brake into it; Hebrew, kal future of בָּקַע (compare the other

four significant and expressive occurrences of this exact form, Judges 15:19;

II Samuel 23:16; I Chronicles 11:18; Isaiah 48:21). The elementary idea of the

root is to divide; and it occurs in one conjugation or another fifty-one times,

there being no more typical occurrence than that of Genesis 7:11. Carried away.

The Hebrew uses the word “carried captive” (וַיִּשְׁבּוּ); possibly the order of

v. 14 is inadvertently neglected, which puts the living beings before all the

substance, or, goods (כָּל־הָרְכוּשׁ;). His sons also. From ch. 24:7 we note that

the sons were not punished for their father’s sins alone, but for their own.

Jehoahaz. This person is called Ahaziah  in v.1 of the next chapter (the

syllables of the name being reversed) and Azariah in ibid. v. 6,

which cannot be explained, but must be supposed an error. The Jehoiachin

of ch. 36:9 is written Jeconiah, or Jechoniah, in I Chronicles 3:16-17;

Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24, etc.; and Jechoniah, here in ch. 24:1, etc. The

two parts of the word combined in either order make the same meaning.

On account of the express mention of the camp in ch. 22:1, some think that the

slaughter and the plunder were all such as might have been wrought in the royal

quarters there; others that we are to infer the taking by assault of Jerusalem itself

and what was therein.


 18 “And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an

incurable disease.”  An incurable disease; i.e. it was so severe that it was in this

case incurable.


19 “And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two

years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of

sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the

burning of his fathers.”  After the end of two years. That “two years’”

space began at the end of nearly two years after his father’s death. Two years’

warning and space for repentance subsequent Jehoram had turned to no

account, and even affliction and suffering brought him no ‘amendment.

No burning (see our note on ch. 16:14).


20 “Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he

reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being

desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in

the sepulchers of the kings.”  Departed without being desired; literally,

without desire.  The closing commentary, so quietly written, becomes the

more pathetically mournful The “desire” spoken of is the desiderium of

Horace, of nearly nine centuries later (‘Odes,’ L 24). But there was now no

desiderium tam cari capitis,” for want of room for this latter description.

They buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchers of the kings

 (see again our note on ch. 16:14; and compare ch. 24:25; 28:27).




A Reign of Unmitigated Shame (vs. 1-20)


 To the career of Jehoshaphat of almost exemplary excellence, that of

Jehoram, his son, forms a contrast most humiliating.  Obviously it is not the

least painful feature of this latter that it so inevitably forces into our

memory the parental fault, which, if it were not the cause and very

foundation of an eldest son’s abandoned character and course of conduct,

could not fail to have given opportunity for it, and could not fail to incur

the responsibility before all the world of having lent the occasion. This

chapter teaches us significantly:




OWN FAULTS AND SINS. No disposition in his will, no disposition of

the gifts of his property on the part of Jehoshaphat, sufficed to avert these

in this instance (vs. 3-4).





This is an indication of the great mercy that lies in the limited measure of

the powers of human nature. To be hunted and goaded by the forces of

memory from behind, and at the same time terrified by the only too just

apparitions of anticipation, and the pictures of what awaits us in front, even

in this life, — how dreadfully might they at times add to the misery of life!

How often might they induce remorse, and the despair that comes of remorse!




VICTORY, WITHOUT CONQUEST. (vs. 8, 10, 16-17.) It is the

Sisyphus of kings and rulers and nations, and Jehoram was the Sisyphus of

this time and history. But it involves also misery and a scourge for the

nation cursed with such rulers.



AND CROWDED THE END FOR JEHORAM. Forewarned by the great

Prophet Elijah, perhaps the very last, certainly among the very last, of the

acts of his ministry:


Ø      a horror of a bodily disease;

Ø      a plague for his people, his children, his wives, and his goods;

Ø      the slaughter of all his sons save one — the one necessary to

carrying on the line of Judah;

Ø      an unhonored death, and the forfeiting of a place in the

ancestral sepulchres of the kings;


these were “the portion of his cup,” and the filling up of its bitterness —

the retribution of an iniquitous and godless career, apparently unrelieved

by a single virtue or single good deed! It was impossible, indeed, that his

father could learn from notice and experience of the son; but “all these

things were written for our admonition” (I Corinthians 10:11) for all

succeeding generations, and tell their gravest lessons, and offer their

most fearful warnings for many another father.



The Trouble that is Worse than Sorrow (vs. 19b-20)


“His people made no burning for him;” he “departed without being desired.”

It is wise for us all not only to enjoy the present appreciation of our friends,

which may be an expression of their desire to stand well with us, but also to

consider what will be:



Jehoram probably comforted himself while he lived with the approval of

many of his courtiers. There are always found men mean enough to

compliment the man in power, however they may despise him. But

probably he did not foresee that his body would hardly be cold before he

would receive marks of general dishonor, and that not one week would

elapse before it would be signified to all the land that he was held unworthy

to sleep with his fathers. It is surely the mark of a very narrow and earthly

mind not to care what men will think of us when we are departed because

it will make no difference to us then. That is not quite certain; but if it

were, it surely behoves us, as upright spiritual intelligences, to care much

for our reputation when we have left these scenes. Shall we not desire to

enjoy “the memory of the just”? Shall it not be a matter of moment to us

that, when we are no longer here, those who remember us will think and

speak kindly of us, as of men that played their part bravely and faithfully, as

of men that loved and helped their kind? If this be so, since this is so, let us

reflect that after a while our character will stand in its true colors; that all

our pretences will disappear; that men will know us to have been just what

we are; that after death disguises fail away, and the man himself stands

forth in his virtue or in his guilt, in his manliness or in his meanness, in his

large-mindedness or in his selfishness and smallness. We must be right if

we would be so regarded when death takes off the veil from our character.

But we see here another thing worthy of our consideration.




Ø      It is sad enough when a good man dies and is regretted. When some

great gap is left; when from the home, or from the Church, or from the

state there is taken one who had loved and been beloved, who had served

well and been highly honored; — when such a one is borne to his burial,

amid the tears and lamentations of many hearts, we feel that a great

affliction has befallen us, and we must bow in subjection to THE



Ø      But it is sadder far when a bad man dies unlamented; when, as with

Jehoram, no one cares to pay him funeral honors; when the Chronicler has

to say about him that he “departed without being desired.” For of what

does it speak?


o        Usually it speaks of the Divine condemnation. The indignation of a

people, especially of a nation that has received instruction from God

Himself, is commonly a reflection of the judgment of Heaven; it

signifies that “the departed” is a man whose life the Holy One has

condemned. (For which there is no need since CHRIST DIED

FOR ALL!  “He that believeth on Him is not condemned”

John 3:18; “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which

are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the

Spirit!”  CY – 2016)


o        Always it speaks of the deliberate reprobation of man. For when a

man dies, there is a disposition to be lenient in judgment, to overlook

offenses and to magnify service and virtue; when, therefore, the dead

are distinctly dishonored, when there is no one to pronounce a

eulogium or even to feel a lament, it is clear that their contemporaries

have decidedly and seriously condemned them.


o        It speaks of a deplorable failure. Excepting in those comparatively

rare cases of the very best and greatest men, who have been before

their age in understanding and in action, and have therefore been

misunderstood, when men die dishonored and without regret it may

be taken that their lives have been unworthy; that they have been

marked by evil; that they have been fruitful of folly and of wrong.

And what can be sadder than that? That God should give us our powers

and our lives in order that we may spend them for His honor, to promote

the real well-being of our fellow-men, and to cultivate in ourselves

wisdom and worth that will fit us for higher spheres; and that we

should degrade our priceless opportunity by scattering seeds of error,

by diffusing unholy principles, by doing our utmost to injure

the spirits and to lower the lives of men, thus starting influences for

 evil which will spread far and wide, and will go down from

generation to generation; — there is nothing we can conceive of

which is more deplorable than this.


o        It is a painful and pitiable thing in itself. To depart unregretted by any

one! To go for ever and to be missed and mourned by none! To leave

no hearts that will be saddened by our absence, that will wish to see

us and speak to us again! To be borne away, not like the fair and noble

tree, whose fruit has been a treasure, whose form has been a perpetual

joy all the year round, whose shadow has been a kindly shelter to old

and young, with a sincere if not affectionate regret; but like an

unsightly and cumbersome log, that has been an offence to the eye

and an obstruction in the way, with a sense of relief and satisfaction;

who of us would like to be so regarded when we die? Who of us

would not infinitely rather be bathed in a pure and holy sorrow as

we mourn some departed friend that has lived in love and died in

honour, than leave in the grave one for whom no tear is shed,

whose departure no soul regrets? Let us be such men and

live such lives that if our survivors and successors do not

make a great burning for us,” as was done for Jehoram’s

grandfather (ch. 16:14), they will lose us with a genuine regret,

and mourn for us with a sorrow that will hallow their own hearts,

while it testifies to the worth that has found a home beneath other





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