2 Chronicles 21
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 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; 2 Kings 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 ver. 3 gives some plausibility to this conjecture), from which last date Jehoram's "eight years" (2 Kings 8:17; 2 Chronicles 21:5, 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.
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.
Verse 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.
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.
Verse 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, 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).
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.
Verse 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.
Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.
Verse 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 ver. 1, above. The parallel of 2 Kings 8:17-21 may be consulted for our vers. 5-11; our vers. 11, 13 expound in clearer detail the "evil" that Jehoram wrought than the narrative of Kings.
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.
Verse 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.
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.
Verse 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 ch. 17:5-11.
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.
Verse 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 case 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.
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.
Verse 10. - Libnah... because he had forsaken. The parallel states the revolt of Libnah also, but does not make the closing remark of our verse. Ver. 11 - Caused... to commit fornication. Perhaps the meaning is exclusively here the infidelity of idolatry, but at any rate it includes this.
Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
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,
Verse 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; Deuteronomy 10:4; 2 Chronicles 35:4; 2 Chronicles 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Isaiah 38:8. A note in Grove's interesting article, "Elijah" (Smith's 'Bible Dictionary' vol. 1. p. 580), 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 here intended. "Time, place, and circumstance," says Professor Dr. James G. Murphy, of Belfast ('Handbook to the Books of Chronicles,' p. 127), 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, 2, 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 Chro-nicles - 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.,' 9:05. § 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 Elijah'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.
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:
Verse 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.
Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods:
Verse 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 (vers. 16, 17) fulfilled the punishment now announced.
And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.
Verse 15. - Therefore against Jehoram and Judas Iscariot and Herod was it decreed that their very bowels should bear witness.
Moreover the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians:
Verse 16. - The moreover of this verse is simply the conjunction "and;" it is not the m of ver. 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, 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.
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.
Verse 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 ver. 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, 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.
And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.
Verse 18. - An incurable disease; i.e. it was so severe that it was in this case incurable.
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.
Verse 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).
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.
Verse 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,' L 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 (see again our note on 2 Chronicles 16:14; and comp. 2 Chronicles 24:25; 2 Chronicles 28:27).

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