Jehoram’s reign is recorded in 2 Kings chapter 8 verses 16-24 and, with more detail, in 2 Chronicles chapter 21. The latter is the main passage for this study.
None of us knows how long we have in this life, or how many the opportunities to do the right thing for God. Jehoram had just one-fifth of his life to make his impression on the people of God: of that fifth part, three-quarters was spent destroying his own people and heritage and the last one quarter spent physically suffering as a result. He ‘departed without being desired’. Who would plan to receive such an epitaph? ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’, Gal. 6. 10.
Jehoram ruled alongside his father Jehoshaphat in preparation for when he would reign ‘alone’ (margin). It is good when a father mentors his son but God intended for His people to be led by those whom the Spirit of God would raise up rather than simply by hereditary leaders. So today, older men should train up another generation to lead the people of God, but eldership is not hereditary. Individuals responsible for overseeing the flock of God must be ‘the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry … a lover of good men’, Titus 1. 7-8. The name ‘Israel’ means ‘He will rule as God’ and God held every king to that standard. Today, elders should rule in the local assembly as the Lord expects, solemnly illustrated in the letters to the seven churches.
Jehoshaphat, with a father’s equal love for his sons, had made provision for them, giving gifts and responsibilities within the kingdom. He had named them to reflect the greatness and kindness of God, e.g., Azariah – Jah has helped, Zechariah – Jah has remembered, Jehoram – Jehovah-raised, or the Lord exalted. Jehoram was king over them only by virtue of being the firstborn and was expected, in his greatness, to emulate God’s acts of kindness. Instead of drawing on his brothers’ fellowship in the work of the kingdom and utilizing their given gifts for the benefit of all, Jehoram ‘strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword’, 2 Chr. 21. 4. They were identified in verse 13 as being ‘better than thyself’. ‘Jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance’, Prov. 6. 34. ‘Jealousy is cruel as the grave’, S. of S. 8. 6. The battle of the flesh and the Spirit is detailed in Galatians chapter 5, which shows how believers can ‘kill’ their brethren, ‘if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another’, v. 15. Even the subtlety of the tongue can destroy a man, ‘All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt’, Ps. 41. 7. ‘Shall the … brother perish, for whom Christ died?’ 1 Cor. 8. 11. ‘Destroy not him … for whom Christ died’, Rom. 14. 15.
In recording the life of Jehoram, the focus of the Spirit of God is on what he did. Both scripture references are almost identical, so the facts are undeniable, ‘He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife: and he did evil in the sight of the Lord’, 2 Kgs. 8. 18. He gave place to the world for his direction, the flesh for his affection and the devil for his inspiration. But ‘God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’, Gal. 6. 7. And God dealt with him exactly according to these three overarching influences.
The world evidenced in those who should not be worldly repulses even those who are worldly. The Edomites, descendants of the fleshly man Esau, who, in the days of Jehoshaphat, were content to have ‘no king in Edom: a deputy was king’, 1 Kgs. 22. 47, ‘revolted from under the dominion of Judah, and made themselves a king’, v. 8. Rather than being shamed into repentance, Jehoram went against Zair (meaning ‘small, ignoble’) at night, with ‘all his chariots with him’. Attempting to bolster his own proven sense of inadequacy, he attacked the weakest people at the most vulnerable time with excessive force and destroyed a subservient relationship forever. James D. Miles said, ‘You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him’. Some assemblies are located in districts where people will never attend the meetings because of the harsh acts of previous generations. Subsequent, kinder, kings could never reverse Jehoram’s damage.
As king, Jehoram occupied a position that we may never have. But he was also the head of his family, a position that many readers have. His worldliness, and feeding the lusts of the flesh, is directly attributable to his wife and the hallmarks of her ancestry, Ahab and Omri. As king of Israel, Omri was ‘worse than all that were before him’, particularly in the context of idolatry, 1 Kgs. 16. 25. What great care needs to be exercised in the matter of marriage. Paul’s teachings to Timothy and Titus concerning elders state the necessary qualities of the wife. Although the man is the head, the woman is the neck and is capable of turning her husband in whatever direction she wants!
Libnah also revolted. It was a city conquered by Joshua, given to Judah by inheritance, and given to the Kohathites as their lot. This was the priestly people who bore the service of the sanctuary upon their shoulders. Their revolt was ‘because he had forsaken (loosened, relinquished) the Lord God of his fathers’, v. 10. Furthermore, in Jehoram’s devilish pursuit of idolatry he, in an emphatic act, ‘caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled (lit., ‘pushed’) Judah thereto’.
In trying to shroud his weakness of character by forcing change from practice in previous generations, he single-handedly destroyed the worship, service, and outreach of Judah. What care we should take to preserve scriptural doctrine, practice, and language to prevent damage to assembly testimony even today which some, having ‘loosened’, have forever changed the format and content of worship, service, and outreach of the Lord’s people in that locality.
The word from the Lord God of David stated that the people as a congregated unit, the children, the wives and the whole of Jehoram’s property would be smitten ‘with a great plague’ or a great slaughter. Jehoram was given specific details of his inward sickness which would be ‘day by day’ until the final revelation of his inner man. Wrong doctrine has ‘slaughtered’ whole congregations and lost subsequent generations and the ability to produce them. Paul exhorts us to ‘shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker’, 2 Tim. 2. 16-17. We might expect physical illness, particularly in the latter part of life, but not self-induced. What a joy to testify in times of physical deterioration ‘though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day’, 2 Cor. 4. 16.
In addition to the slaughter, ‘the Lord stirred (lit., woke) up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians’. Why these three? In order, they speak of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Philistines came from Mizraim, the old name for Egypt, Gen. 10. 13-14; the Arabians came from Ishmael, the son of the flesh opposed to the promised son; the Ethiopians (Cush) came through Nimrod and Babel, the mighty hunter and a kingdom set up against God, Gen. 10. 8-10. 2 Chronicles chapter 17 verse 11 tells us that the Philistines and Arabians had brought gifts to Jehoshaphat. The world and the flesh are ever present but can be controlled when God is given His rightful place. When man willfully encourages and uses the world, the flesh, and the devil to his own ends God will turn them all against him to his destruction.
So Jehoram experienced the loss of all that was dear to him exactly as the word of God had stated. Isaiah records, in chapter 55 verse 11, ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it’. The word of God ‘is profitable for … reproof, for correction’, 2 Tim. 3. 16. Jehoram was smitten with ‘an incurable disease’. The expression in verse 19, ‘process of time’, is the same as the words ‘day by day’ in verse 15. How awful to be alive whilst under the judgement of God, despised by those who are the ruled, in an environment destroyed by one’s own behaviour. There is no testimony to how Jehoram felt; remorse, bitterness, self-pity. The testimony of the people is clear, ‘his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers’. He ‘departed without being desired’.
Amazingly, despite the onslaught of unleashed power against the king, his family, and possessions, one son remained to perpetuate the kingly line of Judah. In the wisdom of God, such a man as Jehoram appears in Matthew chapter 1, thus showing that the wickedness and abject failure of men cannot prevent the purpose of God. Concerning the man Jesus, ‘the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David’, Luke 1. 32.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e'er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
C. T. Studd.