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.
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.2 Chronicles 21:2. And Azariah — Hebrew, עזריהו, Azaria-hu, distinguished by the last syllable, hu, from the Azariah mentioned in the former clause. Of Jehoshaphat king of Israel — So he is called, either, 1st, Because he was so by right: or, 2d, Because he was king not only of Judah and Benjamin, but of a great number of Israelites, who had come and settled in his kingdom.
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.2 Chronicles 21:3. With fenced cities of Judah — Over which he made them governors. This he seems to have done prudently; thus providing well for them, that they might not be tempted to envy their brother the kingdom, nor to quarrel among themselves: but “things excellently designed,” says Strigelius, from Cicero, “have often a very ill event.” This wealth and authority of theirs, made their brother first fear them, and then, through his wicked covetousness, contrive to cut them off, that he might get possession of their riches and power. Because he was the firstborn — Whom Jehoshaphat supposed he ought to prefer on account of the law, recorded Deuteronomy 21:15, though otherwise, it is probable, he would not have done it, having doubtless, before this time, observed his perverse and wicked inclinations, and how much he was swayed by his idolatrous wife.
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.2 Chronicles 21:4. He strengthened himself — Hardened his heart, as the word חזק, chazak, often signifies; and slew all his brethren with the sword — Either by false accusation, under colour of law, or rather by assassination, pretending, it is likely, that he could not think himself safe in the government till they were taken out of the way. Those that mean ill themselves, are commonly, without cause, jealous of those about them. And divers also of the princes of Israel — Either, 1st, Of Judah, here called Israel, as in 2 Chronicles 21:2. Or rather, 2d, Of Israel properly so called; not the princes of all Israel, or of the several tribes thereof, but the chief of those Israelites who, out of love to God and the true religion, had forsaken their estates in the kingdom of Israel, and were now incorporated with the kingdom of Judah: these he slew, because he thought they would be most zealous for that religion which he was resolved to oppose.
Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.2 Chronicles 21:5. Jehoram was, &c. — Of this and several of the following verses, see notes on 2 Kings 8:17, &c.
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.
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.
In his days the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah, and made themselves a king.
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.
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.2 Chronicles 21:10. The same time did Libnah revolt — Libnah seems to have set up for a free state. And the reason is here given, both why God permitted it, and why they did it, because Jehoram was become an idolater. While he adhered to God, they adhered to him; but when he cast God off, they cast him off. Whether this would justify them in their revolt or not, it justified God’s providence which suffered it.
Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.2 Chronicles 21:11. He made high places — Not to the Lord, whose sworn enemy he was, but to Baals, or false gods. Caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication — Spiritual whoredom, or idolatry, seducing them to eat things sacrificed to idols, (Revelation 2:20,) not only by his counsel and example, but, as it follows, by force, by threats, and penalties.
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,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.
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:2 Chronicles 21:13. Which were better than thyself — More innocent, righteous, and godly. This seems to intimate that they were pious persons, who abhorred idolatry. And, if so, his sin was the more heinous in cutting them off, as proceeding from enmity to God, as well as to them.
Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods:2 Chronicles 21:14. Behold, with a great plague, &c. — There was no calamity that could be thought of which did not befall this wicked prince: whose kingdom was destroyed and depopulated by the fiercest nations; his treasures ransacked; his wives carried into captivity; his children slain; and he himself laboured under a sore disease for two years; and when he was dead, had not the honour of royal sepulchre, such as his ancestors had. All which calamities were threatened in the writing sent him, that he might not think they came by chance, but by the special direction of Almighty God, as a punishment for his wickedness. But why should his people suffer, who are here threatened to be plagued? 1st, Because their base fear made them comply with him in his idolatry: and, 2d, Because he suffered in his people’s destruction: for as the honour, and safety, and strength of a king lie in the multitude and prosperity of his people; so when they are diminished, and destroyed, the king is very much weakened and endangered by it. And thy children, and thy wives — Whose lives shall go for the lives of thy brethren.
And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.2 Chronicles 21:15. By reason of the sickness day by day — That is, from day to day continually, Hebrew, days upon days: or, (as days are often put for a year,) year upon year: that is, one year after another for two years, as the event shows, 2 Chronicles 21:19.
Moreover the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians:2 Chronicles 21:16. The Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines — A people who had been fully subdued and dispirited; but whose spirits and courage God now raised, that they might do his work. And of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians — Hebrew, near the Cushites, that is, the Ethiopians properly so called, for they were parted only by the Red sea; or rather a people in Arabia, frequently mentioned in Scripture, and so called either for their likeness in colour and complexion to the Ethiopians, or because one of these tribes was a colony from the other.
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.2 Chronicles 21:17. And his sons also, and his wives — Whom they slew, all except Ahaziah and Athaliah, who possibly were hid in some secret place. So that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz — Who is also called Ahaziah, a name of the same signification with Jehoahaz, and, by a small alteration of the letters, Azariah, (2 Chronicles 22:6,) the meaning of which word is akin to the other, all signifying the possession, strength, or help of the Lord. Thus blood was required for blood. Jehoram had slain all his brethren; they slay all his sons but one. And he had not escaped, had he not been of the house of David, which must not be extirpated, like that of Ahab, because a blessing was in it, no less a blessing than that of the Messiah.
And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.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.
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.2 Chronicles 21:19. So he died of sore diseases — These words seem to import that he was afflicted with a complication of diseases, together with his dysentery; all which were very grievous, and a suitable punishment of his horrid wickedness. And his people made no burning for him — Paid him no extraordinary funeral honours.
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 sepulchres of the kings.2 Chronicles 21:20. And departed — Hebrew, went, namely, the way of all the earth, as it is more fully expressed Joshua 23:14. Or, to the land of darkness, Job 10:21-22. Or, to his long home, Ecclesiastes 12:5. Or, went away, namely, out of this world, as the word הלךְ, halack, used here and Job 14:20; Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 6:4, signifies. And there are many such phrases used concerning death, in the Old and New Testaments, which all signify that death is not an annihilation, but only a translation into another place and state. See Genesis 15:15; Php 1:23. Without being desired — Hebrew, without desire, which may be referred, 1st, To himself. He had no desire of living longer, nor any pleasure in life, but was heartily weary of it, through his excessive pains. Or rather, it belongs, 2d, To his people, who did not desire that he should live longer, but oft and heartily wished that he had died sooner: which contempt of him they showed both by making no burning for him, as they used to do for good kings, and by denying him burial among the kings. The expression is emphatical: for it is usual with men to desire the death of some persons, whom afterward they lament, and heartily wish they were alive again. But for this ungodly and unhappy prince, his people did not only in his life-time wish his death, but afterward did not repent of those desires.