Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 CHRONICLES 21
JEHORAM, WICKED SON-IN-LAW OF AHAB, RULES JUDAH
V. JEHORAM (949-942 B.C.)
"This chapter is a commentary on the man who married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and who walked in their ways (2 Chronicles 21:6). It describes his viciousness and his apostasy (2 Chronicles 21:1-11), and God's condemnation of him through the prophet Elijah, and the failures both national and personal that overwhelmed him as a result (2 Chronicles 21:12-20)."F1
His evil wife was Athaliah who in time also became a ruler of Judah. She attempted to destroy completely the house of David and almost, but not quite, succeeded in doing so. She was, in many respects, a carbon copy of her evil mother Jezebel. Athaliah was never accepted by Judah, and her name was never included in the list of Judah's legitimate rulers.
THE DEATH OF JEHOSHAPHAT AND SUCCESSION OF JEHORAM
And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. 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. And their father gave them great gifts, of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fortified cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave he to Jehoram, because he was the first-born.
(2 Chronicles 21:2). These names are written differently in the Hebrew: Azarjah and Azarjahu.F2 It is not clear why the translators rendered the two names alike. On the strange identification of Jehoshaphat as king of Israel (2 Chronicles 21:2), this designation was correct, because Judah was indeed the true Israel; and those northern tribes who called themselves Israel were no longer part of God's true Israel.
JEHORAM'S VICIOUS MURDER OF ALL HIS BROTHERS
Now when Jehoram was risen up over the kingdom of his father, and had strengthened himself, he slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel. Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah. Howbeit Jehovah would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a lamp to him and to his children alway.
Jehovah would not destroy the house of David
(2 Chronicles 21:7). The very mention of such a thing in this paragraph is a mark of the diabolical threat that existed at this moment in the history of the Chosen People. In these events, Satan was moving swiftly and methodically toward that very goal: the total destruction of the house of David. And when Jehoram's evil mother Athaliah was finally able to seize power for herself, she all but accomplished it.
We cannot leave this without mentioning the disaster that always results from contracting a marriage with an evil partner. Jehoshaphat is credited with being a good king; but he was incredibly stupid in arranging a marriage for his first-born son and presumptive heir to the throne of Judah with the wicked Jezebel II, whose name was Athaliah.
JEHORAM PROMPTLY LOST EDOM AND LIBNAH
In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves. Then Jehoram passed over with his captains, and all his chariots with him: and he rose up by night, and smote the Edomites that compassed him about, and the captains of the chariots. So Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day: then did Libnah revolt at the same time from under his hand, because he had forsaken Jehovah, the God of his fathers.
"What appears to have happened here is that Jehoram and his army went to teach the Edomites a lesson, but found out that the Edomites had surrounded him and his chariots."F3 The consequent loss of two subject peoples, the Edomites from east of Jordan, and those of Libnah from the area of the Philistines, was directly due to the wickedness of Jehoram and were the result of the judgment of God upon him.
Part of this chapter is parallel to 2 Kings 8:17-24, and our comments on some of these events are found in the Commentary on Second Kings.
THAT WRITING FROM ELIJAH REGARDING JEHORAM
Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and made the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot, and led Judah astray. And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, the 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, but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot, like as the house of Ahab did, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, who were better than thyself: behold, Jehovah will smite with a great plague thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy substance; and thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness, day by day.
Some scholars have argued that Elijah was already deceased at the times of Jehoram and that he could not have written the letter mentioned here; but this criticism is groundless for two reasons: (1) Elijah might indeed still have been living, a rather attractive argument for this having been cited by Myers.F4 That Elijah did indeed write this `document' and that it was sent during Elijah's lifetime was flatly declared by Josephus.F5 William Whiston, who translated the works of Josephus, however, insisted that Elijah had died four years previously to the times indicated here, and that the simplest explanation is that some copier inadvertently substituted the name Elijah for that of Elisha.F6 (2) The passage does not indicate that the "document"F7 (as the word is translated by Myers) was written during Elijah's lifetime. Furthermore, the Chronicler gives five other examples of prophets predicting disaster to kings before the event (2 Chr. 12:5; 16:7; 19:2; 24:20; and 26:16).F8 In this light, we find no difficulty whatever in what is written here.
THE FULFILMENT OF ELIJAH'S PROPHECY
Verses 16, 17
And Jehovah stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians that are beside the Ethiopians: and they came up against 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.
It was retribution in kind for this evil ruler. He who had murdered all of his fathers sons except himself experienced the same deprivation. His wives also were carried away. It was a pity that they did not take his mother Athaliah also. His terrible sickness would fulfill Elijah's prophecy, and that came at once.
PROPHECY OF SICKNESS AND DEATH FULFILLED
And after all this Jehovah smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. And it came to pass, in process of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness, and he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years: and he departed without being desired; and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.
Despite those titles, power, and pelf
The wretch concentrated all in self,
Living shall forfeit fair renown.
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from which he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
---Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
Footnotes for 2 Chronicles 21
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 4o6.
2: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, 3b, p. 395.
3: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 508.
4: The Anchor Bible, Chronicles, p. 121.
5: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 284.
7: The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. 121.
8: Ibid., p. 122.