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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 21

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) Now.And.

Slept.Lay down. The verse is literally the same as 1 Kings 22:50.

Verses 2-4

REIGN OF JEHORAM (2 Chronicles 21:2-18).

(2 Chronicles 21:2-4).

(2) Azariah . . . and Azariah.—Heb. ‘Azaryâh . . . and Azaryâhû, different forms of the same name. All the versions give one form only. An old error of transcription may be involved (comp. 1 Chronicles 3:6; 1 Chronicles 3:8); but it is also possible that Jehoshaphat named two of his sons Azariah, “Iah helpeth,” in pious recognition of two several mercies. Shephatiah, “Iah judgeth,” repeats his own name in inverted shape.

The other names are—“God liveth,” “Iah remem-bereth,” “Who is like God? “—all significant of the king’s faith.

Jehoshaphat king of Israel.—The southern kingdom is called “Israel” in 2 Chronicles 12:1; 2 Chronicles 12:6; 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 28:19; 2 Chronicles 28:27, and elsewhere, as enjoying the legitimate monarchy, and maintaining the orthodox ritual and priesthood. Here, however, some Hebrew MSS., the LXX., Syriac, Vulg., and Arabic, read “Judah.”

(3) And their father gave them great gifts.—Jehoshaphat before his death had provided for his sons, as Rehoboam before him had done for his, by appointing them resident governors of the national fortresses, and sending them away with valuable presents (2 Chronicles 11:23).

Of silver, and of gold.—The preposition (le) belongs to the chronicler’s style.

Precious things (migdônôth; Genesis 24:53).—Such as jewels, robes, and spices.

Because he was the firstborn.—This was the rule. (Comp. Deuteronomy 21:15-17.) For exceptions, see 1 Chronicles 28:5; 2 Chronicles 11:22; 2 Chronicles 36:1.

(4) Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father.—Literally, And Jehoram arose over the kingdom, &c., a peculiar expression, only found here. It seems to mean, established himself on the throne. (See Exodus 1:8 for a similar phrase, and comp. the use of the same verb, 1 Samuel 24:20.)

He strengthened himself.—Secured his hold of power (2 Chronicles 1:1; 2 Chronicles 1:12, &c).

And slew all his brethren.—In order to prevent intrigues against himself. Such ruthless crimes have been customary at Oriental accessions, and are one of the natural results of polygamy. (Comp. the conduct of Abimelech (Judges 9:5) and of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:10). It was thus that Jehoram “strengthened himself.”

And divers also of the princes of Israel.—Some of the great chiefs of the clans, whose power or sympathy with his murdered brothers Jehoram may have dreaded. Or, like other Oriental despots, Jehoram may have acted from no other motive than a rapacious desire to confiscate their wealth. Some suppose that both his brethren and these “princes” had given signs of dissatisfaction at Jehoram and Athalian’s heathen policy. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 21:13, “thy brethren . . . which were better than thyself.”)

Verse 5

(2 Chronicles 21:5-11).

This section is parallel with 2 Kings 8:17-22.

(5) Jehoram was thirty and two years old.2 Kings 8:17, “he was; because the name had just occurred in the former verse.

Verse 6

(6) And he walked in the way.—A repetition of 2 Kings 8:18, literatim.

Verse 7

(7) The Lord would not destroy the house of David . . .—An exegetical (not arbitrary, as Thenius asserts) expansion of “The Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant” (Kings).

The covenant that he had made with David.—Literally, for David. So Isaiah 55:3, “I will make an everlasting covenant for you, even the sure mercies of David.” This construction is generally used of the stronger imposing conditions on the weaker. (Comp. Joshua 9:6; 1 Samuel 11:1-2.) In the Pentateuch, God makes a covenant with (im or eth) His people (Genesis 15:16; Exodus 24:8).

To give a light to him and to his sons.—Literally, a lamp. Some critics find another “deviation here, and render 1 Kings 8:19, “to give a lamp to him in respect of his sons.” But many Hebrew MSS., and the LXX., Vulg., and Targum of that passage, read, “and to his sons,” as here. Syriac, “On account of the oaths which he sware to David, to give to him a burning lamp, and to his sons all the days.”

For ever.All the days.

Verse 8

(8) In his days the Edomites revolted.2 Kings 8:20. See also 1 Kings 22:47, from which it appears that under Jehoshaphat “a deputy,” or viceroy, ruled in Edom. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 20:35, Note.)

Verse 9

(9) Then Jehoram went forth.And Jehoram passed over.

With his princes.Captains (‘im sârâv); Kings, “to Zair,” which appears to be a corruption of “to Seir.” The chronicler has substituted an intelligible for an obscure expression.

And he rose up by night, and smote the Edomites which compassed him in.—Literally, and it came to pass, he rose. Brief as the notice is, it is evident that the verse relates not a victory of Jehoram’s, but his desperate escape by cutting his way through the enemy’s troops, which had surrounded him and his forces. (See on 2 Kings 8:21, where it is added, “and the people fled to their tents.”) (Syriac. “And Jehoram passed over with his captains; and all his chariots with him. And it came to pass that when he rose in the night, he destroyed the Edomites, and the captains of the chariots came with him.”)

Verse 10

(10) Unto this day.—See on 2 Chronicles 5:9. The date thus assigned is some time prior to the captivity. No account is taken of Amaziah’s reduction of Edom (2 Chronicles 25:11-15), which was probably not permanent.

The same time also.—Literally, then revolted Libnah at that time. 2 Kings 8:22 ends here. The chronicler adds, “from under his (i.e., Jehoram’s) hand,” and assigns a moral ground for the successful rebellion: “For he had forsaken Jehovah, the God of his fathers.” (Thenius can hardly be right in asserting that the chronicler meant to say that Libnah, as a city of the priests, refused obedience to the idolatrous king; nor Hitzig, in explaining the revolt as merely a religious secession. ) He forsook Jehovah, by “walking in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab,” i.e., by adopting and popularising the worship of the Tyrian Baal, to please his wife and her people. In those days friendship with an alien race seems to have involved recognition of their gods. (Comp. Amos 1:9 for the alliance between Tyre and Judah.)

Libnah.—Syriac, “the Edomites that lived in Libnah.”

Verse 11

(11) Moreover he made.—There is a stress on the pronoun, “he made,” in contrast with Asa and Jehoshaphat, his worthier predecessors (2 Chronicles 17:6). Or he himself, and not the people. LXX., καὶ γὰρ αὐτὸς ἐποίησεν. From this point to the end of the reign the narrative is peculiar to the chronicler.

High places.—For the worship of the foreign gods, as well as of the God of Israel.

Mountains.—Many Heb. MSS., LXX., and Vulg., “cities” (a similar word); Syriac, “Moreover he made high places in the mountain of Judah, and caused the Nazarites of Jerusalem to drink wine, and scattered those who were of the house of Judah.”

And caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornicationi.e., the spiritual fornication of unfaithfulness to Jehovah, the only lawful spouse of Israel. (Comp. Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:8; Hosea 2:13; Hosea 2:16-17; Hosea 2:19 :1 Chronicles 5:25.)

And compelled.—Or, seduced (Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:11). LXX., ἀπεπλάνησε.

Verse 12

ELIJAH’S LETTER TO JEHORAM (2 Chronicles 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 2 Kings 2:15; 2 Kings 3:11.) This explanation may seem to be favoured by the indefiniteness of the phrase, “a writing from Elijah” (not a letter); but 2 Kings 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 2 Kings 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.)

Verse 13

(13) And hast made . . . to go a whoringi.e., “caused to commit fornication” (2 Chronicles 21:11). Like to the whoredoms, infinitive of the same verb; as the house of Ahah causeth them to commit fornication. This verb, zânâh, occurred in 1 Chronicles 5:25, but the writer does not use it again.

Hast slain thy brethren.2 Chronicles 21:4, supr.

Verse 14

(14) Behold, with a great plague will the Lord smite thy people.—Literally, Behold, Jehovah is about to smite a great smiting in thy people and in thy sons. The immediate object of the verb is not expressed. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 21:18.) It was Jehoram himself who was smitten in his people, and in his sons, and in his wives, and in all his goods, as 2 Chronicles 21:17 shows. The “smiting “—i.e., heaven-sent stroke, or Divine visitation—consisted in an invasion of Philistines and Arabs, who sacked Jerusalem and the royal palace.

Verse 15

(15) And thou shalt have great sickness.—Literally, And thou thyself shalt be in great diseases through diseasing of thy bowels. (Comp. for the two synonyms; Deuteronomy 28:59, Proverbs 18:14)

Fall out.Come out.

Day by day.—Literally, days upon days, i.e., probably, “a year upon a year,” or “in two years.” (Comp. 2 Chronicles 21:19, and 1 Samuel 1:3; Isaiah 29:1.)

Verse 16

(16) Moreover.And, here equivalent to so.

The Lord stirred up against Jehoram.Isaiah 13:17. The phrase, “stirred up the spirit”—i.e., the will—of a man to an undertaking, is found in Jeremiah 51:11; Haggai 1:14 (Comp. 1 Chronicles 5:26; Ezra 1:1.)

The Philistines, and of the Arabians.—These are mentioned together elsewhere as enemies of Judah. (See 2 Chronicles 26:7; 2 Chronicles 17:11; Jeremiah 25:20.) The invasion of the Philistines and Arabians accords with Joel 3:4-6, and is certainly historical (Thenius on 2 Kings 8:23-24).

That were near the Ethiopians.—Literally, At the hand of (i.e., beside) the Cushites. Some tribes. of southern Arabia. There were Cushite settlements on both sides of the Red Sea. LXX., well: τοὺς Ἄραβας καὶ τοὺς ὁμόρους τῶν Αἰθιόπων; Vulg., “qui confines sunt Aethiopum.”

Verse 17

(17) And brake into it.—Literally, clave it asun-der (Exodus 14:16). Here as in 1 Chronicles 11:18; 2 Samuel 23:16.

And carried away all the substance . . . his wives.—This statement implies that the enemy entered Jerusalem, although the chronicler has not expressly said it. In the same way (2 Chronicles 12:9) he omitted to state that Shishak captured the city before plundering the Temple and palace. The desire to be concise accounts for both omissions. (See on 2 Chronicles 22:1.)

All the substance that was found in the king’s house.—Literally, that belonged to the king’s house. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 34:32 for in; comp. also Deuteronomy 21:17.) It is not said that the Temple was plundered; but nothing can be inferred from the writer’s silence on this point.

So that there was never a son left him.—They were not only taken, but slain (2 Chronicles 22:1).

Save Jehoahaz.—Called Ahaziah in 2 Chronicles 22:1, which is the same name with the elements of it reversed. It means “Iah holdeth.” The “Azariah” of 2 Chronicles 22:6 seems to be a mistake. LXX., Syriac, Arabic, and Targum, “Ahaziah.”

Verse 18

(18) With an incurable disease.—This is correct. Literally, to a disease, to want of healing. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 36:16.) The Syriac and Arabic make 2 Chronicles 21:16-18 part of the prophecy.

Verse 19

(19) In process of time.—Comp. 2 Chronicles 21:15. Literally, at days from days, i.e., “a year after a year,” or “after two years.”

After the end of two years.—This clause more exactly defines the preceding. Literally, and about the time of the going forth of the end of two years, i.e., when two full years after the delivery of the prediction had expired. The time of the event exactly coincided with the time predicted. Vulg., well: “duorum annorum expletus est circulus;” Syriac, “When the prophet’s word was fulfilled touching two years.”

By reason of his sickness.—Literally, along with, i.e., in, during, his disease, which appears to have been a violent dysentery.

So he died of sore diseases.And he died in sore pains (tachaluim, Deuteronomy 29:21).

And his people made no burning for him.—The usual honours of a sovereign were withheld in his case. (See on 2 Chronicles 16:14; and comp. Jeremiah 22:19.) So Syriac: “And his people did him no honour, as they did to his fathers.”

Verse 20

(20) Thirty and two years.—The word “years” has fallen out of the Hebrew text; but some MSS. contain it. The repetition of his age, &c, is curious. (See 2 Chronicles 21:6.) It seems to indicate that the writer was here transcribing from another source.

And departed without being desired.And he departed without regret, died unregretted. Hemdâh answers to the Latin desiderium. The LXX. and Vulg. render: “And he walked not in approbation,” or “rightly.” Comp. Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the end of king Jehoiakim: They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah, my brother!” &c. (Jeremiah 22:18-19). So Syriac and Arabic.


They buried him.—LXX., Syriac, and Arabic: “He was buried.”

But not in the sepulchres of the kings.2 Chronicles 24:25; 2 Chronicles 26:23. Another circumstance of dishonour. It is not mentioned in 2 Kings 8:17. Thenius asserts that in these additions to the history of Jehoram there is traceable, not only a traditional or legendary element, but also pure embellishment on the part of the chronicler. The grounds he alleges, however, by no means necessitate his conclusion, being themselves misinterpretations of the statements of Kings.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-chronicles-21.html. 1905.
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