Jehoram, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 5, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As I wrote about last week, Joram king of Israel and Jehoram king of Judah both share basically the same name. Both can be known as either Joram or Jehoram. So for these posts, I used Joram for the king of Israel and I’ll use Jehoram for the king of Judah.

Jehoram’s story can be found in 2 Chronicles 21. He was a son of King Jehoshaphat, one of the kings of Judah who followed God and was mostly obedient to what God commanded him to do. Jehoram had 6 brothers. Their father Jehoshaphat gave them all many physical gifts of gold, silver, and even cities in the land of Judah, but Jehoram was the firstborn so he got to rule over the kingdom.

So what did Jehoram do when he became king? “When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel” (verse 4). Clearly, there was some sibling jealousy and selfishness going on there. Jehoram got the most out of all the sons of Jehoshaphat, and yet he still killed them so he could take their portions of the inheritance as well.

After that evil start to his reign, Jehoram did not get any better. He had married King Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, so rather than following the ways of his father, he followed the evil ways of his father-in-law King Ahab and his mother-in-law Jezebel. Even though he ruled over Judah, Jehoram did evil in the eyes of the Lord just like so many of the kings of Israel.

But, God did not choose to destroy Judah simply because of this one evil king. “Nevertheless, because of the covenant the LORD had made with David, the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David. He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever” (verse 7). God made a covenant with King David, and even an evil king like Jehoram could not destroy that.

However, that does not mean there weren’t consequences to Jehoram’s evil actions. The nation of Edom rebelled against Judah, so Jehoram went to fight him. Even though Edom surrounded Judah’s troops, Jehoram came out victorious in that battle. Conflict between Edom and Judah continued, however. In addition to that, the Philistine city of Libnah also revolted against Judah at the same time. All this was because Jehoram did not worship God but instead built high places (altars for worshiping idols) and led the people of Judah away from following God.

The prophet Elijah saw how Jehoram was driving the kingdom away from obedience to God. Elijah lays the smack down and calls out Jehoram’s wicked actions in a letter to the king (verses 12-15). He calls out Jehoram’s sin of murdering his own brothers, and he even says that those brothers were better men than him! Because of all that wickedness, Elijah tells Jehoram, that God will “strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow.” In addition, Jehoram will become very sick with a disease that will cause his bowels to come out!

Scholars debate whether that letter actually came from Elijah given its timing and location. Some say that Elijah was only involved with the northern kingdom of Israel, but we know from 1 Kings 19:3-8 that Elijah did travel to the south, specifically Beersheba and Mt. Horeb. As for timing, the last date we have associated with Elijah is 852 BC, but it is possible that he was still on earth when Jehoram became king and slaughtered his brothers in 848 BC. It is also possible that Elijah wrote the letter before he went up to heaven, and Elisha delivered it to the king for him, which should give his words even more impact when coming from someone no longer on earth.

But just as Elijah’s letter predicted, Jehoram’s family was struck down. Judah was attacked by the Philistines and Arabs, who “carried off all the goods found in the king’s palace together with his sons and wives. Not a son was left to him except Ahaziah, the youngest. After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain” (verses 17-19a). Scholars today believe that his disease was an extreme form of dysentery.

Jehoram was the king of Judah for 8 years, from age 32 to 40, and he was not one of the highly regarded kings of that nation. Verse 20b says that “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” No one mourned the loss of this king of Judah.

The contrast between the God-honoring and God-disobeying kings of Judah is striking in this account. The king who honors God is also honored by people; the king who dishonors God is dishonored by people. The king who obeys God receives blessings and prosperity during his reign; the king who disobeys God receives revolt, death, and disease.

What caused the difference between the reigns of Jehoram and his father Jehoshaphat? The people they surrounded themselves with. While Jehoshaphat did make an alliance with the evil King Ahab, he did not turn to Ahab’s ways but instead tried to keep his focus on following God. Jehoram, however, was immediately sucked into the evil that was Ahab and his family, and that was his downfall.

Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you surrounding yourself with people who encourage you to follow Jesus in your life and to give God glory in all that you do? Or are you surrounding yourself with people who encourage you to be selfish and follow the ways of the world? Learn from Jehoshaphat and Jehoram’s lives and choose to follow God, both in your life and through who you surround yourself with.

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