2 Chronicles 21:12
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,
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ELIJAH’S LETTER TO JEHORAM (2Chronicles 21:12-15).

(12) And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet.—Rather, to him a writing. This is the chronicler’s only mention of the great prophet of the northern kingdom. Elijah, though a very old man, may have been still alive. His extreme age would account for his sending a written prophecy, rather than going in person to warn Jehoram. If, however, it be supposed that the author of Kings has told the story of Elijah’s translation in its right place chronologically, and that the campaign described in the following chapter, in which Jehoshaphat took part, was really subsequent to that event, we may say that this “writing from Elijah the prophet,” containing the substance of some last utterances of his directed against Jehoram and Athaliah, was now put into written shape, and forwarded to Jehoram by one of the prophet’s pupils, perhaps by his great successor Elisha. (See 2Kings 2:15; 2Kings 3:11.) This explanation may seem to be favoured by the indefiniteness of the phrase, “a writing from Elijah” (not a letter); but 2Kings 3:11 is hardly conclusive against the assumption that Elijah was still alive. Elisha’s ministry may have begun, probably did begin, some time before his master’s ascension, and the description of him in 2Kings 3:11, “Elisha the son of Shaphat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah,” need not mean more than “Elisha the son of Shaphat, the servant of Elijah.” (Syriac, “And there was brought to him one of the discourses of Elijah the prophet, which said to him.”Vulg., wrongly, a letter, “allatae sunt autem ei litteræ ab Elia propheta.” LXX., καὶ ἦλθεν αὐτῷ ἐγγραφὴ παρὰ Ηλιου τοῦ προφήτου λέγων.)

2 Chronicles 21:12. And there came a writing to him from Elijah — It is certain, Elijah was taken up into heaven in the time of Jehoshaphat. Therefore Josephus and the LXX. imagine (as Grotius observes) that from thence he sent a letter. Dr. Lightfoot is of opinion, that it is not meant of that Elijah who was carried up to heaven, but of another of his name, who sent this letter. Kimchi is of opinion that Elijah, foreseeing, by the spirit of prophecy, before he went to heaven, the wickedness of Jehoram, spake these words to one of the prophets, and charged him to put them down in writing, and send them in a letter to Jehoram, when he grew so impious, as is here related; and let him know that Elijah commanded this writing to be delivered to him: that so Jehoram, being affected with it, as if it had been sent from heaven, might be moved to repent of the evil he had done. And indeed the passage will bear this sense. He did not send a writing, but it was sent as his writing. For there is nothing in the words to intimate that this was written after his death, but only delivered after his death. So that it might have been written (for any thing that appears to the contrary) by Elijah himself before he was taken up into heaven. But, upon the whole, as we find the prophets were sent to those of their own time, and not to those who should come after, (there being a succession of prophets raised up for every age,) and as we have no mention of any other Elijah, in any other place of Scripture; and as (agreeable to what our Saviour makes Abraham say to the rich man, when he desired Lazarus to be sent from the dead to his brethren, They have Moses and the prophets,) we have no rational ground for thinking that God should employ a prophet, whom he had taken into heaven on this occasion, when there was, at that time, a prophet on the earth no ways inferior to him, namely, Elisha his successor: therefore there is ground to conclude, that the difficulty has arisen by the inaccuracy of transcribers of the Scriptures, and that it should be, and was at first written Elisha, and not Elijah.

21:12-20 A warning from God was sent to Jehoram. The Spirit of prophecy might direct Elijah to prepare this writing in the foresight of Jehoram's crimes. He is plainly told that his sin should certainly ruin him. But no marvel that sinners are not frightened from sin, and to repentance, by the threatenings of misery in another world, when the certainty of misery in this world, the sinking of their estates, and the ruin of their health, will not restrain them from vicious courses. See Jehoram here stripped of all his comforts. Thus God plainly showed that the controversy was with him, and his house. He had slain all his brethren to strengthen himself; now, all his sons are slain but one. David's house must not be wholly destroyed, like those of Israel's kings, because a blessing was in it; that of the Messiah. Good men may be afflicted with diseases; but to them they are fatherly chastisements, and by the support of Divine consolations the soul may dwell at ease, even when the body lies in pain. To be sick and poor, sick and solitary, but especially to be sick and in sin, sick and under the curse of God, sick and without grace to bear it, is a most deplorable case. Wickedness and profaneness make men despicable, even in the eyes of those who have but little religion.This is the only notice which we have of Elijah in Chronicles. As a prophet of the northern kingdom, he engaged but slightly the attention of the historian of the southern one. The notice shows that Elijah did not confine his attention to the affairs of his own state, but strove to check the progress of idolatry in Judah. And it proves that he was alive after the death of Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 21:13; a fact bearing

(1) upon the chronological order of 2 Kings 2:1 (see the note), and

(2) showing that Elisha, who prophesied in the time of Jehoshaphat. 2 Kings 3:11-19 commenced his public ministry before his master's translation.

12-15. there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet—That prophet's translation having taken place in the reign of Jehoshaphat [2Ki 2:11, 12], we must conclude that the name of Elijah has, by the error of a transcriber, been put for that of Elisha. There came a writing to him from Elijah.

Quest. How could this be, when Elijah was rapt up to heaven in Jehoshaphat’s time, 2 Kings 2:3,11.

Answ. Either,

1. This was Elisha, or some other prophet called Elijah, because he acted in the spirit and power of Elijah, for which cause John the Baptist also is so called. Or rather,

2. This was really written by Elijah, who by the Spirit did clearly foresee and foretell the reign and acts of Jehoram, (as others did of Josiah, 1 Kings 13:2, and Isaiah of Cyrus, Isaiah 45:3, long before they were born,) and in consideration thereof left this prophecy with Elisha, to be delivered in due time by him, or some other person in his name, and as from his mouth.

The Lord God of David thy father; whose name he mentions either to upbraid him with his degeneration from so worthy a parent; or to take off his presumption and confidence, which was grounded upon his being the son and successor of David, in whose posterity the crown was settled for ever by God’s special appointment, and by the approbation of the people.

In the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father; whose wise counsel and good example thou hast despised.

And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet,.... Not what was written by him after his ascension to heaven, and from thence came to Jehoram, even seven years after that, as say some Jewish writers (z); nor was it a writing from another person of the same name in those times, since of such an one we nowhere read; nor from Elisha bearing the name of Elijah, having a double portion of his spirit on him, since he is never so called; but this was a writing of Elijah's before his ascension, who, foreseeing by a spirit of prophecy what Jehoram would be guilty of, wrote this, and gave it to one of the prophets, as Kimchi suggests, and most probably to Elisha, to communicate it to him at a proper time; and who might, as the above writer intimates, think it came immediately from heaven:

saying, thus saith the Lord God of David thy father; and from whose God he had departed, and to which ancestor of his he was so much unlike:

because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah; neither trod in the steps of his father nor grandfather.

(z) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 17. Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 12. 1. A. M. 3050.

And there came a writing to him from {g} 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,

(g) Some think that this was Elisha so called because he had the Spirit in abundance, as had Elijah.

12. a writing] This is the only place in which any writing of Elijah is mentioned. Even in Jehoshaphat’s reign Elijah seems to have been no longer among the living; cp. 2 Kings 3:11 (where Elisha seems already to have taken Elijah’s place). A prophecy of Elijah against Jehoram of Judah is an unlikely event, as perhaps the Chronicler himself felt. May it be that some adaptation of words of Elijah to suit Jehoram’s case was placarded by some unknown hand outside Jehoram’s palace?

the Lord God] R.V. the LORD, the God, lit. Jehovah the God.

Verse 12. - 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; Exodus 39:30; Deuteronomy 10:4; 2 Chronicles 35:4; 2 Chronicles 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 (1 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 (2 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 1 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 Chro-nicles - a fact which very remarkably falls in with the abstinence as well as the fulness of the compiler of Chronicles. Josephus pronounces that the letter was sent during Elijah's life ('Ant.,' 9:05. § 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 (2 Kings 3:11), we may well account that Elisha had begun his ministry before his master's translation. Not only the ether passages that confirm, but in especial the passage (2 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 Elijah'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 2 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. 2 Chronicles 21:12The prophet Elijah's letter against Joram, and the infliction of the punishments as announced. - 2 Chronicles 21:12. There came to him a writing from the prophet Elijah to this effect: "Thus saith Jahve, the God of thy father David, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat, ... but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, ... and also hast slain thy brethren, the house of thy father, who were better than thyself; behold, Jahve will send a great plague upon thy people, and upon thy sons, and thy wives, and upon all thy goods; and thou shalt have great sickness, by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day." מכתב, writing, is a written prophetic threatening, in which his sins are pointed out to Joram, and the divine punishment for them announced. In regard to this statement, we need not be surprised that nothing is elsewhere told us of any written prophecies of Elijah; for we have no circumstantial accounts of his prophetic activity, by which we might estimate the circumstances which may have induced him in this particular instance to commit his prophecy to writing. But, on the other hand, it is very questionable if Elijah was still alive in the reign of Joram of Judah. His translation to heaven is narrated in 2 Kings 2, between the reign of Ahaziah and Joram of Israel, but the year of the event is nowhere stated in Scripture. In the Jewish Chronicle Seder olam, 2 Chronicles 17:45, it is indeed placed in the second year of Ahaziah of Israel; but this statement is not founded upon historical tradition, but is a mere deduction from the fact that his translation is narrated in 2 Kings 2 immediately after Ahaziah's death; and the last act of Elijah of which we have any record (2 Kings 1) falls in the second year of that king. Lightfoot, indeed (Opp. i. p. 85), Ramb., and Dereser have concluded from 2 Kings 3:11 that Elijah was taken away from the earth in the reign of Jehoshaphat, because according to that passage, in the campaign against the Moabites, undertaken in company with Joram of Israel, Jehoshaphat inquired for a prophet, and received the answer that Elisha was there, who had poured water upon the hands of Elijah. But the only conclusion to be drawn from that is, that in the camp, or near it, was Elisha, Elijah's servant, not that Elijah was no longer upon earth. The perfect יצק אשׁר seems indeed to imply this; but it is questionable if we may so press the perfect, i.e., whether the speaker made use of it, or whether it was employed only by the later historian. The words are merely a periphrasis to express the relationship of master and servant in which Elijah stood to Elisha, and tell us only that the latter was Elijah's attendant. But Elisha had entered upon this relationship to Elijah long before Elijah's departure from the earth (1 Kings 19:19.). Elijah may therefore have still been alive under Joram of Judah; and Berth. accordingly thinks it "antecedently probable that he spoke of Joram's sins, and threatened him with punishment. But the letter," so he further says, "is couched in quite general terms, and gives, moreover, merely a prophetic explanation of the misfortunes with which Joram was visited;" whence we may conclude that in its present form it is the work of a historian living at a later time, who describes the relation of Elijah to Joram in few words, and according to his conception of it as a whole. This judgment rests on dogmatic grounds, and flows from a principle which refuses to recognise any supernatural prediction in the prophetic utterances. The contents of the letter can be regarded as a prophetic exposition of the misfortunes which broke in, as it were, upon Joram, only by those who deny priori that there is any special prediction in the speeches of the prophets, and hold all prophecies which contain such to be vaticinia post eventum. Somewhat more weighty is the objection raised against the view that Elijah was still upon earth, to the effect that the divine threatenings would make a much deeper impression upon Joram by the very fact that the letter came from a prophet who was no longer in life, and would thus more easily bring him to the knowledge that the Lord is the living God, who had in His hand his breath and all his ways, and who knew all his acts. Thus the writing would smite the conscience of Joram like a voice from the other world (Dchsel). But this whole remark is founded only upon subjective conjectures and presumptions, for which actual analogies are wanting.

For the same reason we cannot regard the remark of Menken as very much to the point, when he says: "If a man like Elias were to speak again upon earth, after he had been taken from it, he must do it from the clouds: this would harmonize with the whole splendour of his course in life; and, in my opinion, that is what actually occurred." For although we do not venture "to mark the limits to which the power and sphere of activity of the perfected saints is extended," yet we are not only justified, but also bound in duty, to judge of those facts of revelation which are susceptible of different interpretations, according to the analogy of the whole Scripture. But the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments know nothing of any communications by writings between the perfected saints in heaven and men; indeed, they rather teach the contrary in the parable of the rich man

(Note: "Neque enim," says Ramb., "ulla ratione credibile est, Deum in gratiam impii regis ejusmodi quid fecisse, cujus nullum alias exemplum exstat; immo quod nec necessarium erat, quum plures aliae essent rationes, quibus Deus voluntatem suam ei manifestare poterat; coll. Luc. 16:27, 29." And, still more conclusively, Calov. declares: "Non enim triumphantium in coelis est erudire aut ad poenitentiam revocare mortales in terra. Habent Mosen et prophetas, si illos non audiant, neque si quis ex mortius resurrexerit, nedum si quis ex coelis literas perscripserit, credent Luc. 16:31.")

(Luke 16:31)

There are consequently no sufficient grounds for believing that the glorified Elijah either sent a letter to Joram from heaven by an angel, or commissioned any living person to write the letter. The statement of the narrative, "there came to him a writing from Elijah the prophet," cannot well be understood to mean anything else than that Elijah wrote the threatening prophecy which follows; but we have no certain proof that Elijah was then no longer alive, but had been already received into heaven. The time of his translation cannot be exactly fixed. He was still alive in the second year of Ahaziah of Israel; for he announced to this king upon his sick-bed that he would die of his fall (2 Kings 1). Most probably he was still alive also at the commencement of the reign of Joram of Israel, who ascended the throne twenty-three years after Ahab. Jehoshaphat died six or seven years later; and after his death, his successor Joram slew his brothers, the other sons of Jehoshaphat. Elijah may have lived to see the perpetration of this crime, and may consequently also have sent the threatening prophecy which is under discussion to Joram. As he first appeared under Ahab, on the above supposition, he would have filled the office of prophet for about thirty years; while his servant Elisha, whom he chose to be his successor as early as in the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 19:16), died only under Joash of Israel (2 Kings 13:14.), who became king fifty-seven years after Ahab's death, and must consequently have discharged the prophetic functions for at least sixty years. But even if we suppose that Elijah had been taken away from the earth before Jehoshaphat's death, we may, with Buddaeus, Ramb., and other commentators, accept this explanation: that the Lord had revealed to him Joram's wickedness before his translation, and had commissioned him to announce to Joram in writing the divine punishment which would follow, and to send this writing to him at the proper time. This would entirely harmonize with the mode of action of this great man of God. To him God had revealed the elevation of Jehu to the throne of Israel, and the extirpation of the house of Ahab by him, together with the accession of Hazael, and the great oppressions which he would inflict upon Israel, - all events which took place only after the death of Joram of Judah. Him, too, God had commissioned even under Ahab to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel (1 Kings 19:16), which Elisha caused to be accomplished by a prophetic scholar fourteen years later (2 Kings 9:1.); and to him the Lord may also have revealed the iniquity of Joram, Jehoshaphat's successor, even as early as the second year of Ahaziah of Israel, when he announced to this king his death seven years before Jehoshaphat's death, and may have then commissioned him to announce the divine punishment of his sin. But if Elijah committed the anointing of both Hazael and Jehu to his servant Elisha, why may he not also have committed to him the delivery of this threatening prophecy which he had drawn up in writing? Without bringing forward in support of this such hypotheses as that the contents of the letter would have all the greater effect, since it would seem as if the man of God were speaking to him from beyond the grave (O. v. Gerlach), we have yet a perfect right to suppose that a written word from the terrible man whom the Lord had accredited as His prophet by fire from heaven, in his struggle against Baal-worship under Ahab and Ahaziah, would be much better fitted to make an impression upon Joram and his consort Athaliah, who was walking in the footsteps of her mother Jezebel, than a word of Elisha, or any other prophet who was not endowed with the spirit and power of Elijah.

Elijah's writing pointed out to Joram two great transgressions: (1) his forsaking the Lord for the idolatrous worship of the house of Ahab, and also his seducing the people into this sin; and (2) the murder of his brothers. For the punishment of the first transgression he announced to him a great smiting which God would inflict upon his people, his family, and his property; for the second crime he foretold heavy bodily chastisements, by a dreadful disease which would terminate fatally. ימים על ימים, 2 Chronicles 21:15, is accus. of duration: days on days, i.e., continuing for days added to days; cf. שׁנה על שׁנה ספוּ, Isaiah 29:1. ימים Berth. takes to mean a period of a year, so that by this statement of time a period of two years is fixed for the duration of the disease before death. But the words in themselves cannot have this signification; it can only be a deduction from 2 Chronicles 21:18. These two threats of punishment were fulfilled. The fulfilment of the first is recorded in 2 Chronicles 21:16. God stirred up the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabians (רוּח את העיר, as in 1 Chronicles 5:26), so that they came up against Judah, and broke it, i.e., violently pressed into the land as conquerors (בּקע, so split, then to conquer cities by breaking through their walls; cf. 2 Kings 25:4, etc.), and carried away all the goods that were found in the king's house, with the wives and sons of Joram, except Jehoahaz the youngest (2 Chronicles 22:1). Movers (Chron. S. 122), Credner, Hitz., and others on Joel 3:5, Berth., etc., conclude from this that these enemies captured Jerusalem and plundered it. But this can hardly be the case; for although Jerusalem belonged to Judah, and might be included in בּיהוּדה, yet as a rule Jerusalem is specially named along with Judah as being the chief city; and neither the conquest of Judah, nor the carrying away of the goods from the king's house, and of the king's elder sons, with certainty involves the capture of the capital. The opinion that by the "substance which was found in the king's house" we are to understand the treasures of the royal palace, is certainly incorrect. רכוּשׁ denotes property of any sort; and what the property of the king or of the king's house might include, we may gather from the catalogue of the אוצרות of David, in the country, in the cities, villages, and castles, 1 Chronicles 27:25., where they consist in vineyards, forests, and herds of cattle, and together with the המּלך אוצרות formed the property (הרכוּשׁ) of King David. All this property the conquering Philistines and Arabians who had pressed into Judah might carry away without having captured Jerusalem. But המּלך בּית denotes here, not the royal palace, but the king's family; for המּלך לבית הנּמצא does not denote what was found in the palace, but what of the possessions of the king's house they found. נמצא with ל is not synonymous with בּ נמצא, but denotes to be attained, possessed by; cf. Joshua 17:16 and Deuteronomy 21:17. Had Jerusalem been plundered, the treasures of the palace and of the temple would also have been mentioned: 2 Chronicles 25:24; 2 Chronicles 12:9; 2 Kings 14:13. and 1 Kings 14:26; cf. Kuhlmey, alttestl. Studien in der Luther. Ztschr. 1844, iii. S. 82ff. Nor does the carrying away of the wives and children of King Joram presuppose the capture of Jerusalem, as we learn from the more exact account of the matter in 2 Chronicles 22:1.

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