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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 21

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-20


The matter of this chapter may be divided into four parts. The death and burial of Jehoshaphat, and the number, names, and position of his sons (2 Chronicles 21:1-3). The accession and wicked course of Jehoram, the eldest son (2 Chronicles 21:4-11). The written warning and denunciation of Elijah, and the very practical warning of the Philistines, etc. (2 Chronicles 21:12-17). The disease, death, and burial of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:18-20).

2 Chronicles 21:1

The parallel for this verse is 1 Kings 22:50; and, with the exception of one word, it is an exact parallel. To understand the questions set in motion by the last clause of the verse, comparison must be made of 2 Kings 1:17; 2Ki 3:1; 2 Kings 8:16. For anything that appears here, we should take for granted that Jehoram now first began to exercise any royal authority and enjoy any royal dignity. But the first of the just-quoted passages says Jehoram (of Israel) succeeded his wicked brother Ahaziah in the second year of Jehoram (of Judah), son of Jehoshaphat. In the second of the above-quoted passages, however, we are told that the same Jehoram (of Israel) succeeded to the throne in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, which date tallies with our parallel of last chapter (1 Kings 22:41), to the effect that Jehoshaphat himself began to reign in Ahab's fourth year, and Ahaziah in Jeho-saphat's seventeenth year. While, lastly, the third of the above-quoted references says that in the fifth year of Joram (of Israel), "Jehoshaphat being then King of Judah" (which, however, is itself an unfaithful rendering of what must be a corrupt text), his son Jehoram "began to reign." It has therefore been conjectured that the royal name was given Jehoram (of Judah) by his father in his father's sixteenth year, and that in his twenty-third year he further invested him with some royal power (our 2 Kings 8:3 gives some plausibility to this conjecture), from which last date Jehoram's "eight years" (2Ki 8:17; 2 Chronicles 21:5, 2 Chronicles 21:20) must be reckoned; this was not less than two years before the death of Jehoshaphat. Were it not for the countenance that our third verse (describing the cut-and-dried arrangements that the father made for his sons) gives to the tenableness of the above conjectures, we should prefer the conjecture that the passages commented upon are so much corrupt text.

2 Chronicles 21:2

Though in our version two Azariahs appear among the six sons of Jehoshaphat here given, the Hebrew text shows עֲזַרְיָה in the one place and עֲזַרְיָהוּ in the other. Nothing is known of the previous history of these six, now so cruelly murdered by their eldest brother. It will be observed that Jehoshaphat is styled King of Israel, probably merely generically. Into this way the writer of Chronicles would run, at any rate, more easily than the writer of Kings.

2 Chronicles 21:3

The father's foreseeing care issued very differently from what he had thought, waking now the greed and murderous intent of Jehoram. Jehoshaphat, nevertheless, was but following in the wake of the head of the separated kingdom of Judah, Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:22, 2 Chronicles 11:23), wherein he is said to have "dealt wisely;" even the parallel (in the matter of one son Abijah, sen of Maachah, the favourite wife, being appointed king) obtaining there in an aggravated form, as he was not the eldest son. This case, with those of Solomon and Jehoahaz (by the favour not of the parent but of the people, 2 Kings 23:30), formed the exceptions to the usual observance of and honour done to the principle of primogeniture (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

2 Chronicles 21:4

Slew all his brethren … and also of the princes of Israel. It may be, as suggested by the genius of the last clause of our yet. 13, that Jehoram's wicked heart prompted him the rather because his own works were evil and his brothers' righteous. He may have thought their practical witness against him, and that of the "princes" who shared their fate, would be growingly inconvenient, and would work in them a necessary disloyalty (Judges 9:1-5). On the ether showing, the "princes" now cut down may have shown partiality and affection to the six brothers, one or other of them.

2 Chronicles 21:5

He reigned eight years. This rejoin dates to begin with the twenty-second or twenty-third year of the reign of his father Jehoshaphat, according to note on 2 Chronicles 21:1, above. The parallel of 2 Kings 8:17-21 may be consulted for our 2 Kings 8:5-11; our 2 Kings 8:11, 2 Kings 8:13 expound in clearer detail the "evil" that Jehoram wrought than the narrative of Kings.

2 Chronicles 21:6

The daughter of Ahab to wife. That is, Athaliah, called (2 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Kings 8:26) the daughter, that is, granddaughter, of Omri.

2 Chronicles 21:7

The covenant … a light … his sons for ever (so 2 Samuel 7:12, 2 Samuel 7:13, 2Sa 7:15, 2 Samuel 7:16; 2 Samuel 23:5; 1Ki 8:20, 1 Kings 8:24, 1 Kings 8:25; 1 Chronicles 22:10; Psalms 132:11, Psalms 132:12; Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34).

2 Chronicles 21:8

In his days the Edomites revolted … made themselves a king. The expression, "in his days," scarcely fails intending to accentuate the mournful change now as compared with the state of things depicted in our 2 Chronicles 17:5-11.

2 Chronicles 21:9

With his princes. The parallel, 2 Kings 8:21, reads, "to Zair." Of any such place nothing is known, and it has been proposed to supersede the word there by "Self," which a certain amount of similarity of the Hebrew characters might countenance. Possibly by some mishap, not so readily explainable by misoccurrence of characters simply, our words, "with his princes," should stand in place of "to Zair." It must be noted that the two first clauses of the verse in the parallel become something inconsequential (which is not the ease with the reading of our text), in that it says, "The king and chariots went forth to a place, and rose up by night," etc. The dislocation is, perhaps, not serious, but our text avoids it in reading, "The king, princes, and chariots went forth, and rose up by night and smote," etc.

2 Chronicles 21:10

Libnah … because he had forsaken. The parallel states the revolt of Libnah also, but does not make the closing remark of our verse.

2 Chronicles 21:11Caused … to commit fornication. Perhaps the meaning is exclusively here the infidelity of idolatry, but at any rate it includes this.

2 Chronicles 21:12

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; Deu 10:4; 2 Chronicles 35:4; 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Isaiah 38:8. A note in Grove's interesting article, "Elijah", 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 hero intended. "Time, place, and circumstance," says Professor Dr. James G. Murphy, of Belfast, 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, Jeremiah 36:2, Jeremiah 36:6. 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 Chronicles—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.,' 9.5. § 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 Eiijah'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 21:13

See note in previous verse on Jehoram's slaying of his brethren, and the conclusive proof this statement allows that Elijah's letter must have been subsequent to the death of Jehoshaphat. The better thin thyself probably points to the fact that they had not fallen into idolatrous practices.

2 Chronicles 21:14

A great plague; Hebrew, מַגֵּפָה, Out of the twenty-six occurrences of this word, it is rendered (Authorized Version) twenty-three times by the word "plague," twice by the word "slaughter" (2 Samuel 17:9; 2 Samuel 18:7), and once "stroke" (Ezekiel 24:16). It is not the word (גֶגַע) which about sixty times (chiefly in Leviticus)describes the physical plague, but both of the words are applied to the plagues, e.g. of Pharaoh, and to the suffering that came of any severe smiting of the people. As no physical affliction in the shape of disease visited, so far as we know, the people, wives, and children of the king, and as his goods are reckoned in for the great plague, the general opinion is probably the correct one, that the invasions spoken of (2 Chronicles 21:16, 2 Chronicles 21:17) fulfilled the punishment now announced.

2 Chronicles 21:15

Therefore against Jehoram and Judas Iscariot and Herod was it decreed that their very bowels should bear witness.

2 Chronicles 21:16

The moreover of this verse is simply the conjunction "and;" it is not the m of 2 Chronicles 21:11, for instance. Our Authorized Version "moreover" obscures the purport of the verse. Better the simple "and," as in the Revised Version. The Lord stirred up. Reference may again be made to 2 Chronicles 17:10-12. The things then gained are now being lost. The Arabians … near the Ethiopians. The Ethiopians, i.e. Cushites, fully fifteen centuries before the date of those original treatises from which the writers of Kings and Chronicles respectively borrowed their materials, or some of them, are recorded both genealogically and geographically in Genesis 10:6-8. They had their location very early in the south of Arabia, as also to the south of Egypt, speaking generally, with the Red Sea on the east, the Libyan desert on the west, and Abyssinia on the south, whilst Syene marked conspicuously a site on the line of the northern bounds between them and Egypt (Ezekiel 29:9-11; Isaiah 18:1, Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 45:14; Zephaniah 3:10). They are almost invariably connected with Africa, from whence it is now that stress is laid upon those of them to whom the Arabians, on the other side of the Red Sea, were contiguous.

2 Chronicles 21:17

Brake into it; Hebrew, kal future of בָּקַע (compare the other four significant and expressive occurrences of this exact form, Judges 15:19; 2 Samuel 23:16; 1 Chronicles 11:18; Isaiah 48:21). The elementary idea of the root is to divide; and it occurs in one conjugation or another fifty-one times, there being no more typical occurrence than that of Genesis 7:11. Carried away. The Hebrew uses the word "carried captive" (וַיִּשְׁבּוּ); possibly the order of Genesis 7:14 is inadvertently neglected, which puts the living beings before all the substance, or, goods (כָּל־הָרְכוּשׁ). His sons also. From 2 Chronicles 24:7 we note that the sons were not punished for their father's sins alone, but for their own. Jehoahaz. This person is called Ahaziah in 2 Chronicles 22:1 (the syllables of the name being reversed) and Azariah in 2 Chronicles 22:6, which cannot be explained, but must be supposed an error. The Jehoiachin of 2 Chronicles 36:9 is written Jeconiah, or Jechoniah, in 1 Chronicles 3:16, 1 Chronicles 3:17; Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24, etc.; and Jechoniah in 2 Chronicles 24:1, etc. The two parts of the word combined in either order make the same meaning. On account of the express mention of the camp in 2 Chronicles 22:1, some think that the slaughter and the plunder were all such as might have been wrought in the royal quarters there; others that we are to infer the taking by assault of Jerusalem itself and what was therein.

2 Chronicles 21:18

An incurable disease; i.e. it was so severe that it was in this case incurable.

2 Chronicles 21:19

After the end of two years. That "two years'" space began at the end of nearly two years after his father's death. Two years' warning and space for repentance subsequent Jehoram had turned to no account, and even affliction and suffering brought him no 'amendment. No burning (see our note on 2 Chronicles 16:14).

2 Chronicles 21:20

Departed without being desired; literally, without desire. The closing commentary, so quietly written, becomes the more pathetically mournful The "desire" spoken of is the desiderium of Horace, of nearly nine centuries later ('Odes,' 1. 24). But there was now no "desiderium … tam cari capitis," for want of room for this latter description. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.


2 Chronicles 21:1-20

A reign of unmitigated shame.

To the career of Jehoshaphat of almost exemplary excellence, that of Jehoram, his son, forms a contrast most humiliating. Obviously it is not the least painful feature of this latter that it so inevitably forces into our memory the parental fault, which, if it were not the cause and very foundation of an eldest son s abandoned character and course of conduct, could not fail to have given opportunity for it, and could not fail to incur the responsibility before all the world of having lent the occasion. This chapter teaches us significantly—

I. THE RARE VANITY OF HUMAN ENDEAVOUR TO PROVIDE BY ANY CONTRIVANCES AGAINST THE CONSEQUENCES OF ITS OWN FAULTS AND SINS. No disposition in his will, no disposition of the gifts of his property on the part of Jehoshaphat, sufficed to avert these in this instance (2 Chronicles 21:3, 2 Chronicles 21:4).

II. THE IMMENSE ADDITION OF PAIN AND PUNISHMENT FOR SIN THAT ARE INVOLVED HEREIN IN EVEN SUCH POOR MEASURE OF FORESIGHT AS BELONGS TO HUMAN NATURE. This is an indication of the great mercy that lies in the limited measure of the powers of human nature. To be hunted and goaded by the forces of memory from behind, and at the same time terrified by the only too just apparitions of anticipation, and the pictures of what awaits us in front, even in this life,—how dreadfully might they at times add to the misery of life! How often might they induce remorse, and the despair that comes of remorse!

III. THE SPECIAL ROYAL HUMILIATION AND PUNISHMENT WHICH CONSIST IN VICTORY, POSSIBLY VICTORY ON VICTORY, WITHOUT CONQUEST. (2 Chronicles 21:8, 2Ch 21:10, 2 Chronicles 21:16,2 Chronicles 21:17.) It is the Sisyphus of kings and rulers and nations, and Jehoram was the Sisyphus of this time and history. But it involves also misery and a scourge for the nation cursed with such rulers.

IV. THE ACCUMULATION OF RETRIBUTION THAT COVERED AND CROWDED THE END FOR JEHORAM. Forewarned by the great Prophet Elijah, perhaps the very last, certainly among the very last, of the acts of his ministry, a horror of a bodily disease; a plague for his people, his children, his wives, and his goods; the slaughter of all his sons save one—the one necessary to carrying on the line of Judah; an unhonoured death, and the forfeiting of a place in the ancestral sepulchres of the kings;these were "the portion of his cup," and the filling up of its bitterness—the retribution of an iniquitous and godless career, apparently unrelieved by a single virtue or single good deed! It was impossible, indeed, that his father could learn from notice and experience of the son; but "all these things were written for our admonition" for all succeeding generations, and tell their gravest lessons, and offer their most fearful warnings for many another father.


2 Chronicles 21:1-11

A life spent in undoing.

For the quarter of a century Jehoshaphat spent all his individual power and devoted all the weight of his royal office to the work of establishing piety, justice, and (in consequence) real prosperity throughout his kingdom. And right well he succeeded. When he died he left Judah much purer, stronger, and richer than he found it. Then came his firstborn son in succession to him. And what came with him? What else but a baneful and lamentable undoing of all that he himself had done—all, at least, that his son had it in his power to overturn?


1. Jehoram's reign began in selfish cruelty. To secure his own position, he murdered his six brethren; to avert a contingent evil to himself, he wrought the last and worst evil to his own mother's sons (2 Chronicles 21:4).

2. It went on to personal apostasy. (2 Chronicles 21:6.) He turned away from the God of his fathers, from the worship of the God to whom he might and, indeed, must have known that his throne was due, to serve Baal; and in so doing he forsook the way of wisdom and of purity for paths of error and iniquity.

3. It led down to the abuse of royal power. For he not only made Jerusalem to be partaker of his sin, but he tyrannically compelled Judah to do the same (2 Chronicles 21:11). He employed his royal authority (and probably his standing army) to constrain his people to depart from the way of holiness, from spiritual and moral integrity.

4. It issued in national disaster. In the loss of the Divine favour; in the consequent defeat of his troops and loss of a dependency; in the revolt of an important city (2 Chronicles 21:8-11).

5. It closed in an early and miserable death.

II. ITS MOST STRIKING CHARACTERISTIC. It went far to undo all that a long and devoted life, all that a useful and brilliant reign, had done. It pulled down a large part of that which had been so carefully, so laboriously, so wisely constructed. How easily, and in how short a time, can a bad man undo what his predecessor, with infinite effort, has accomplished! The striking and the holding of a lucifer match may bring the stateliest structure to a heap of ruin. The deflection from the way of rectitude on the part of one prominent life, the wandering from God of one strong human spirit, may have the effect of bringing to nought the labour of more than one lifetime. How true the proverb, "One sinner destroyeth much good"! There are amongst us the names of men who have reached that poor and most pitiful notoriety of not having attempted to do any good, but of having dragged down with themselves their family, their Church, their community, to a dark depth of shame and ruin.

III. THE EXPLANATION OF IT. Two factors were concerned in it and account for it.

1. The unwisdom of his father. Jehoshaphat made one of his serious mistakes—and he made more than one—when he married his son to Ahab's daughter (2 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 18:6). He could not conceivably have taken a more dangerous step; it was the very last thing a faithful servant of Jehovah should have done. What was likely to happen when the daughter of Jezebel was presiding at the court of Jerusalem? Thus Jehoram's father, with a fatuity at which we can but wonder, introduced a blighting influence into the home and so into the heart of his son.

2. His own evil choice. These two things—unhealthy forces acting upon us from without and our own false resolves—determine our character, our course, our destiny. Let us be thankful for all holy influences; let us be most solicitous to bring all and only good ones to bear on those for whom we care. Let those who are young set before them the honourable ambition of confirming the good work of their fathers; let them beware lest a bad and selfish commencement lead down to a miserable and disgraceful end.—C.

2 Chronicles 21:19 (latter part), 20

The trouble that is worse than sorrow.

"His people made no burning for him;" he "departed without being desired." It is wise for us all not only to enjoy the present appreciation of our friends, which may be an expression of their desire to stand well with us, but also to consider what will be—

I. THE AFTER-ESTIMATE THAT WILL BE FORMED OF US. Jehoram probably comforted himself while he lived with the approval of many of his courtiers. There are always found men mean enough to compliment the man in power, however they may despise him. But probably he did not foresee that his body would hardly be cold before he would receive marks of general dishonour, and that not one week would elapse before it would be signified to all the land that he was held unworthy to sleep with his fathers. It is surely the mark of a very narrow and earthly mind not to care what men will think of us when we are departed because it will make no difference to us then. That is not quite certain; but if it were, it surely behoves us, as upright spiritual intelligences, to care much for our reputation when we have left these scenes. Shall we not desire to enjoy "the memory of the just"? Shall it not be a matter of moment to us that, when we are no longer here, those who remember us will think and speak kindly of us, as of men that played their part bravely and faithfully, as of men that loved and helped their kind? If this be so, since this is so, let us reflect that after a while our character will stand in its true colours; that all our pretences will disappear; that men will know us to have been just what we are; that after death disguises fail away, and the man himself stands forth in his virtue or in his guilt, in his manliness or in his meanness, in his large-mindedness or in his selfishness and smallness. We must be right if we would be so regarded when death takes off the veil from our character. But we see here another thing worthy of our consideration.


1. It is sad enough when a good man dies and is regretted. When some great gap is left; when from the home, or from the Church, or from the state there is taken one who had loved and been beloved, who had served well and been highly honoured;—when such a one is borne to his burial, amid the tears and lamentations of many hearts, we feel that a great affliction has befallen us, and we must bow in subjection to the Father of spirits.

2. But it is sadder far when a bad man dies unlamented; when, as with Jehoram, no one cares to pay him funeral honours; when the Chronicler has to say about him that he "departed without being desired." For of what does it speak?

(1) Usually it speaks of the Divine condemnation. The indignation of a people, especially of a nation that has received instruction from God himself, is commonly a reflection of the judgment of Heaven; it signifies that "the departed" is a man whose life the Holy One has condemned.

(2) Always it speaks of the deliberate reprobation of man. For when a man dies, there is a disposition to be lenient in judgment, to overlook offences and to magnify service and virtue; when, therefore, the dead are distinctly dishonoured, when there is no one to pronounce a eulogium or even to feel a lament, it is clear that their contemporaries have decidedly and seriously condemned them.

(3) It speaks of a deplorable failure. Excepting in those comparatively rare cases of the very best and greatest men, who have been before their age in understanding and in action, and have therefore been misunderstood, when men die dishonoured and without regret it may be taken that their lives have been unworthy; that they have been marked by evil; that they have been fruitful of folly and of wrong. And what can he sadder than that? That God should give us our powers and our lives in order that we may spend them for his honour, to promote the real well-being of our fellow-men, and to cultivate in ourselves wisdom and worth that will fit us for higher spheres; and that we should degrade our priceless opportunity by scattering seeds of error, by diffusing unholy principles, by doing our utmost to injure the spirits and to lower the lives of men, thus starting influences for evil which will spread far and wide, and will go down from generation to generation;—there is nothing we can conceive of which is more deplorable than this.

(4) It is a painful and pitiable thing in itself. To depart unregretted by any one! To go for ever and to be missed and mourned by none! To leave no hearts that will be saddened by our absence, that will wish to see us and speak to us again! To be borne away, not like the fair and noble tree, whose fruit has been a treasure, whose form has been a perpetual joy all the year round, whose shadow has been a kindly shelter to old and young, with a sincere if not affectionate regret; hut like an unsightly and cumbersome log, that has been an offence to the eye and an obstruction in the way, with a sense of relief and satisfaction;—who of us would like to be so regarded when we die? Who of us would not infinitely rather be bathed in a pure and holy sorrow as we mourn some departed friend that has lived in love and died in honour, than leave in the grave one for whom no tear is shed, whose departure no soul regrets? Let us be such men and live such lives that if our survivors and successors do not "make a great burning for us," as was done for Jehoram's grandfather (2 Chronicles 16:14), they will lose us with a genuine regret, and mourn for us with a sorrow that will hallow their own hearts, while it testifies to the worth that has found a home beneath other skies.—C.


2 Chronicles 21:2-11

The character of Jehoram.


1. The advantages Jehoram possessed.

(1) A good father, Jehoshaphat, whose example should have led him, whose instructions should have taught him (Proverbs 1:8), whose prayers should have won him to walk in wisdom's ways. But they did not. Piety is not hereditary. Example often fails to impress, instruction to convince, prayer to save, the children of godly parents. Numerous instances in Scripture (1 Samuel 2:12; 1Sa 8:3; 1 Samuel 15:1, etc.) and in ordinary life.

(2) A good estate. As Jehoshaphat's firstborn, he succeeded—whether during his father's lifetime (Keil) or at his father's death (Bahr) uncertain—to an exalted throne and a peaceful realm, became ruler of a promising people and a growing empire. He had much to make him contented with his lot and thankful for his mercies, to lead him to think of God and devote himself to the practice of religion, as well as to consecrate his talents to advancing the moral and material interests of his subjects. Nevertheless, he neglected both his own and his people's salvation.

(3) A good God, who had kept him alive for thirty-two years, when many better men than he had been cut off in youth (2 Chronicles 21:5); who had allowed him time to mature in wisdom before calling him to assume the burdensome responsibilities of the throne; who had promoted him to his father's crown, which might easily have been given to another (2 Chronicles 21:3); who bore with him in his wickedness for his servant David's sake (2 Chronicles 21:7); who punished him by suffering the Edomites to revolt (2 Chronicles 21:8), stirring up the Philistines and Arabians against him (2 Chronicles 21:15), and afflicting him with a mortal malady (2 Chronicles 21:18), of which he was forewarned by a letter from Elijah (2 Chronicles 21:12). Yet for all this Jehoram walked not in the ways of Jehoshaphat his father, or in the ways of Asa his grandfather, but in the ways of Ahab, the King of Israel (2Ch 21:6, 2 Chronicles 21:12, 2 Chronicles 21:13).

2. The disadvantages under which he laboured.

(1) A bad heart. That Jehoram, though belonging to Judah and a son of Jehoshaphat, was not a child of grace, his whole subsequent career attested. , All are not Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children" (Romans 9:6, Romans 9:7); "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly:… but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly" (Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29). That Jehoram was not born good was no excuse, since Jehovah's grace was ready to assist him in overcoming his natural corruption (Deuteronomy 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Psalms 110:3).

(2) A bad wife. Athaliah, though a king's daughter (2 Chronicles 21:6), was a wicked woman. Exalted in station, beautiful in person, gifted with high mental endowments, she may have been; nevertheless, she was inwardly, essentially, and radically of depraved instincts. Like her mother Jezebel, she was superstitious, profligate, bloodthirsty, imperious, and resolute. She belonged to the type of woman of which Herodias and perhaps Drusilla and Bernice were New Testament examples, and to which should be assigned the Shakespearean creations of Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra In the hands of such women even strong men find it difficult to resist the fatal influence of their superior natures, while feeble creatures like Ahab and Jehoram are dragged like captives at their chariot-wheels. The most dreadful calamity that can befall a weakling is to wed such a spouse. A woman leagued with the devil will drag her husband to perdition with a certainty and celerity that hardly even the grace of God can prevent. In such plight was Jehoram.

(3) A bad environment. Though not everything, a man's surroundings are something. They help to make or mar him. If good, they will at least hinder his deterioration; if bad, they will hasten it. Perhaps nothing could have been worse for Jehoram than to have Ahab's daughter for a wife; it was no amelioration of his hard fate to have Ahab for a father-in-law, Jezebel for a mother-in-law, Ahaziah and Jehoram for brothers-in-law, and the house of Omri generally as relatives and friends. It was hardly surprising that in after-years Jehoram, the King of Judah, had no moral resemblance to Jehoshaphat's son.


1. The names of Jehoram's brothers. Six in number; they had excellent names.

(1) Azariah, "whom Jehovah helps." "Happy is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his Help" (Psalms 146:5). This name may have been given by Jehoshaphat to his second and his filth sons—distinguished slightly by the spelling, Azarjah and Azarjahu—to emphasize that all hope for stability in his house and prosperity in his kingdom depended on and proceeded from the assistance of Heaven.

(2) Jehiel, "God liveth." Perhaps this truth was impressed upon Jehosha- phat's heart by the birth of his third son (Psalms 127:3), as it was upon David's, by his continued preservation from the hand of Saul (2 Samuel 22:47; Psalms 18:46).

(3) Zechariah, "whom Jehovah remembers." Probably given by Jehoshaphat to his son after Zechariah, the father of Jahaziel, who predicted the overthrow of the Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:14). Or, Jehoshaphat may have counted his fourth son a happy proof that Jehovah had not forgotten him, but was still mindful of his covenant.

(4) Azariah (see above).

(5) Michael, "who is like unto God?" A great thought for a young man to carry about with him on life's journey, and one that might stir him to noble deeds as well as lead him into pleasant ways. This thought was familiar to Moses (Exodus 8:10), to David (Psalms 86:8), to Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalms 89:6), and to Isaiah (Isaiah 40:18).

(6) Shephatiah, "whom Jehovah defends." The name of one of David's sons (2 Samuel 3:4), and probably for this reason bestowed upon Jehoshaphat's.

2. The ranks of Jehoram's brothers. Princes of the blood royal, they were well provided for and well placed by their father, whose crown fell to Jehoram as heir-apparent. Great gifts of silver, gold, and other precious things were bestowed upon them, while they were appointed, as Rehoboam's sons had been (2 Chronicles 11:23), commandants of fortresses in the different fenced cities of Judah. Thus they had no need to be discontented with their lot, and most likely were not.

3. The characters of Jehoram's brethren. They were better than he (verse 13). Presumably in every way—physically, mentally, morally, religiously. This last, perhaps, specially intended. Jehoshaphat's piety had exercised upon them more influence than upon him; they disapproved of the idolatrous behaviour and wicked policy generally of him and his wife.

4. The murder of Jehoram's brethren. Whatever the motive—cupidity or a desire to appropriate their wealth, fear or a dread of being insecure upon his throne while they lived, or hatred of their persons because they shunned his evil ways—it was a hideous deed of blood, which has seldom been paralleled amongst Oriental kings. "Upon the death of Selimus II.. Amurah III; succeeding to the Turkish empire, caused his five brothers—Mustapha, Solymon, Abdalla, Osman, and Sinagar—without pity or commiseration, to be strangled in his presence and burned with his dead father". Along with his brethren, he put to death a number of the princes of Israel, and for probably a similar reason, because they disapproved of his conduct and sympathized with his brethren.


1. An apostate in religion. To be sure, he never had religion in reality. Yet, as Judah's sovereign and Jehoshaphat's son, he ought to have upheld the true worship of Jehovah. But instead he became a devotee of Baal, a favourer of the false gods his half-heathen wife patronized, building high places for them in the mountains of Judah—thus practically reversing the work of his devout father (2 Chronicles 17:6) and grandfather (2 Chronicles 14:2), and causing the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, i.e. to practise idolatry (Isaiah 23:17; Ezekiel 16:29; Revelation 19:2); yea, compelling Judah by violence to go astray (Deuteronomy 13:6, Deuteronomy 13:11).

2. A weakling in government. Udder him the Edomites, who had in Jehoshaphat's reign been tributary to Judah (2 Kings 3:9), becoming restive, achieved their independence. According to Josephus ('Ant.,' 9.5. 1), they first slew their king, who had yielded to Jehoshaphat, and afterwards elected one who raised the standard of revolt. A feeble attempt to reduce them to subjection proved abortive. At Zair, on the way to Edom—not to be identified with Zoar (Ewald), which belonged to Moab, but perhaps with the modern ruin Zueirah, on the south-west of the Dead Sea (Conder)—he, with all his princes and chariots, encountered the rebels; but whether he defeated them (Jamieson), or only cut his way through them when they had encompassed him (Keil), is obscure, though even on the former supposition his success was not permanent or decisive. Either then or soon afterwards the Edomites completely renounced the yoke of Judah. About the same period also, Libnah—a city in the district of Eleutheropolis (Eusebius), though as yet unknown—succeeded in establishing its freedom.

3. A pigmy in manhood. Apart from the plague which struck him in his last days, while yet in middle life (verse 15) he was obviously a poor and contemptible creature. When he died nobody lamented him—at least, nobody among his subjects. "He departed without being desired" (verse 20). Men were glad to see the last of him. They would not burn a burning for him, as they did for his good father and pious grandfather when they died. His rotten carcase they buried in the city of David; they would not desecrate with it the sepulchres of the kings.


1. The necessity of personal religion—no man may trade upon his father's piety.

2. The duty of parents to provide for their children—exemplified by Jehoshaphat's donations to his sons.

3. The bitterness of sin's fruit when fully developed: "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" in its worst forms—murder, fratricide, etc.

4. The value of a good wife—inferred from the calamity of a bad one.

5. The mercy of God to great sinners, even when they do not repent—illustrated by God's tolerance of Jehoram.

6. The essential weakness of sin—as shown by the Edomite revolt against Judah.

7. The pestilential influence of sin in high places: "One sinner destroyeth much good."—W.

2 Chronicles 21:12-15

The letter of Elijah.

I. THE AUTHOR OF THE WRITING. Various suggestions.

1. Elisha, who entered on the duties of his calling before the death of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:11), and who accordingly would be the most likely party from whom should proceed such a communication as Jehoram received. In this case the name of Elijah must have been substituted in the text for that of Elisha (Kennicott, Jamieson).

2. A later historian, "who describes the relation of Elijah to Joram in few words, and according to his conception of it as a whole" (Bertheau); but "this judgment rests on dogmatic grounds, and flows from a principle which refuses to recognize any supernatural prediction in the prophetic utterances" (Keil).

3. Elijah, the author named in the text. Besides being in the text, the word occurs in all existing Hebrew manuscripts and in all the Oriental versions.

II. THE DATE OF THE WRITING. Again different explanations.

1. After Elijah's translation. The notions that either Elijah sent the letter from heaven by an angel (Grotius), or spoke it from the clouds (Menken), may be discarded as conjectures wanting in support from any intelligible analogies (Keil).

2. Before Elijah's translation. Here two views emerge.

(1) After Jehoram had ascended the throne (Keil, Rawlinson). This assumes that Elijah was alive at the commencement of Jehoram's reign (2 Kings 1:17), and may have learnt of the assassination of Jehoshaphat's sons—the knowledge of which crime may have moved him to send its perpetrator the divinely given announcement of his death this letter contains. The fact that Elisha accompanied Jehoshaphat to the Moabitish war (2 Kings 3:11) does not prove that Elijah had then been translated, since Elijah was alive in the second year of the conjoint reign of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat his father (2 Kings 1:17; 2 Kings 3:1).

(2) Before Jehoram had ascended the throne (Buddaeus, Clarke). Nothing impossible in the suggestion that Elijah had the wickedness of Jehoram revealed to him before it occurred, as previously he had been informed of the elevation of Jehu to the throne of Israel, and of the accession of Hazael to that of Syria, before these events happened (1 Kings 19:16, 1 Kings 19:17). Either explanation is admissible, though the latter is probably more correct.


1. A twofold accusation.

(1) A charge of aggravated idolatry. Not only had Jehoram himself forsaken the way of Jehoshaphat and of Asa, i.e. the worship of Jehovah, and turned aside into the way of the kings of Israel, i.e. worship of Baal and other idols, but he had corrupted the whole house of Judah, and caused them to commit spiritual whoredom, like the house of Ahab.

(2) An indictment of infamous murder. He had slain all his brethren, the children of his father's house, who were better than himself.

2. A twofold retribution.

(1) A great stroke upon his people, upon his house (his wives and children), upon his property (his goods or substance). As prosperity was a usual concomitant of piety, so adversity was wont, under Jehovah's government of Israel, to dog the heels of impiety.

(2) A greater stroke upon himself, in the shape of a slow, but sure, loathsome and mortal disease which should seize upon his bowels. That it should continue for two years before terminating fatally (Bertheau) can hardly be made out from the expressions "day by day," or "days upon days." The prophet could speak with confidence, since diseases are God's messengers who come and go at his command (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 28:60; Psalms 103:3).


1. The invasion of Jehoram's kingdom. (2 Chronicles 21:16.)

(1) The prime mover was Jehovah, as Elijah's letter predicted. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of the Philistines," as formerly, on two several occasions, he had stirred up an adversary to Solomon (1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23), and afterwards stirred up Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) King of Assyria, against Pekah King of Israel (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26). God is said to do what, for the accomplishment of his own wise and sovereign purposes, he permits to be done, and hence is represented as working all things according to the counsel of his will (Job 9:12; Psalms 66:7; Psalms 115:3; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11).

(2) The acting instruments were the Philistines, an ancient enemy of Israel (Judges 10:7; 1 Samuel 4:1) on the west; and the Arabians near the Ethiopians, i.e. the middle Arabians, exactly south of Palestine (Schurer). This juxtaposition of the Philistines and Arabians occurs in two more places in this book (2 Chronicles 17:11; 2 Chronicles 26:7).

(3) The extent is indicated by the details given. The savage hordes broke into Judah. That they captured the capital seems a natural inference from the plunder they carried off (Bertheau), though, had Jerusalem been sacked, "the treasures of the palace as well as of the temple would have been mentioned" (Keil). In any case, they carried off "all the substance found in the king's house," which may signify all the property of the palace (Bertheau), or all the king's property found in the country, in the cities, villages, and castles of Judah (Keil). Along with this, they made prisoners of the king's wives and. sons, except Jehoahaz, or Ahaziah. What they did with the former is not recorded; the latter they slew (2 Chronicles 22:1).

2. The affliction of Jehoram's body. Whatever the malady, a violent dysentery, or some disease of the intestines, it was

(1) sudden—"Jehovah struck him," pointing to a mysterious and inexplicable infliction difficult to trace to any immediate physical cause, and therefore ordinarily ascribed to a supernatural origin (2 Chronicles 26:20; Acts 12:23);

(2) painful—the diseases were sore;

(3) protracted—his sickness continued two years;

(4) loathsome—his bowels fell out towards the end of that period;

(5) mortal—he succumbed beneath his ailment, and "died."


1. God's knowledge of the histories, characters, and actions of men (Proverbs 15:3).

2. God's ability to foresee and reveal to men the nature and tendency of their or others' acts (Genesis 18:17; Genesis 41:28; 1 Samuel 9:15).

3. God's determination to be avenged of them that do wickedly without respect of persons (Psalms 34:16; Psalms 37:38).

4. God's resources for executing his purposes of judgment or mercy.—W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 21". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/2-chronicles-21.html. 1897.
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