And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)With an incurable disease.—This is correct. Literally, to a disease, to want of healing. (Comp. 2Chronicles 36:16.) The Syriac and Arabic make 2Chronicles 21:16-18 part of the prophecy.2 Chronicles 21:18. The Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease — Dr. Mede observes, two impious kings are recorded to have had the same end that this Jehoram had: Antiochus Epiphanes and Agrippa, of whom it was said, εις τι σπλαγχνα τοις ου σπλαγχνιζομενοις, “Of what avail are bowels to those who have no bowels, who show no pity or compassion?” It is true, even good men, and those who are dear to God, may be afflicted with diseases of this kind: but to such they are fatherly chastisements, and, by the support of divine consolation, the soul may have ease and peace, even then when the body is afflicted with pain; which certainly was not the case with Jehoram.2 Kings 8:24 note). And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 18. - An incurable disease; i.e. it was so severe that it was in this case incurable. 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.")
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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