II Chronicles 21

The Word Made Fresh

1Then Jehoshaphat died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David. He was succeeded by his son Jehoram. 2Jehoshaphat’s other sons were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael, and Shephatiah. 3He gave them gifts of gold, silver and other valuable things along with fortress towns in Judah, but he gave the throne to Jehoram because he was the firstborn. 4And once Jehoram was established on the throne he put all his brothers to death, along with some of the Israelite officials. 5He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6He copied the practices of the kings of Israel, especially Ahab, because he married Ahab’s daughter. In the LORD’s eyes he was an evil king. 7Still, the LORD would not do away with the dynasty of David because of the covenant they had made together. The LORD had promised a light in Jerusalem for David and his descendants forever.

8During Jehoram’s reign Edom revolted against Judah and set up their own king. 9Jehoram went with chariots and the officers of his army and attacked the Edomites at nighttime, but he was surrounded by the enemy and was unsuccessful in subduing them. 10To this day Judah has never reestablished its rule over Edom. Around that same time Libnah also revolted against Jehoram’s rule. The LORD allowed this to happen because Jehoram had turned away from the LORD, the God of his ancestors. 11He even built shrines to other gods on the hilltops around Judah and encouraged the people of Jerusalem and Judah to be unfaithful to the LORD.

12Jehoram received this letter from the prophet Eljah: “This is what the LORD, the God of your ancestor David, has to say to you: Because you have not been faithful as was your father king Jehoshaphat or your grandfather king Asa of Judah, but have led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to be unfaithful just as the dynasty of Ahab led Israel astray; and because you killed your brothers, sons of your father, who were better men than you; 14the LORD will inflict your people – your children, your wives and all your belongings – with terrible disaster. 15You yourself will be struck with an disease of the bowels that will make you waste away day by day.”

16The LORD also aroused the Philistines and the Arabs who are allies with the Cushites. 17They invaded Judah and ransacked the king’s house. They took away everything they found that belonged to the king, along with his sons and his wives. Only Ahaziah, his youngest son, was left.

18Then the LORD struck Jehoram with a terrible abdominal disease. 19within two years his intestines came out and he died in terrible agony. His people made no fire in his honor like the fires that had been lighted for his ancestors. 20He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he ruled for eight years in Jerusalem. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the city of David but not in the tombs of the kings.


1-7: Jehoshaphat dies and is succeeded by his son Jehoram (see 1 Kings 8:16-24). He is the eldest of the seven sons of Jehoshaphat and thus is chosen to succeed his father, but he is not a good man. Even though Jehoshaphat makes provisions for all his sons, Jehoram apparently believes they are, or will be, threats to his authority, and he has all of them put to death. This action is not reported in the 1 Kings account. Jehoram is 32 years old when he begins his reign, and he rules until he is forty. He marries Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (see 22:2), and proves to be an evil king, but because of God’s promise to David the kingdom is allowed to continue.

8-10: Jehoram is also weaker than his father, and the Edomites seize the opportunity to gain their independence and have their own king. Jehoram attempts to squelch the rebellion but is unsuccessful. Libnah also successfully regains their independence from Judah.

11-15: Jehoram receives a letter from none other than Elijah, the famous prophet in Israel. This is the only place in 2 Chronicles in which Elijah is mentioned, and the only place in the Bible where this letter is mentioned. Elijah pronounces God’s judgment on Jehoram, prophesying that he will die of an intestinal ailment.

16-17: The Philistines also take the opportunity to invade Judah and plunder the king’s possessions. They carry away all of Jehoram’s sons except his youngest. What goes around comes around.

18-20: Jehoram contracts an intestinal disease that cannot be cured and that slowly and painfully kills him over the course of two years. When he dies, they bury him in the city, but not in the tombs of the kings. They do not make a funeral pyre in his honor, and a singular judgment is rendered for his reign: “No one was sorry when he died.” I can think of no sadder epithet.


The people in those days had little say about whom their leaders would be. In these stories of the kings of Judah we learn a valuable lesson: it matters who our leaders are – and thank God we live in a country where we citizens have some choice as to whom our leaders will be. While separation of church and state is an important rule, God help us when an election elevates people into positions of authority who have no fear of God. (Someone once sent me a photo of a church sign that read, “Jesus is coming – hopefully before the election.”)