Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Jehoshaphat's Death, and the Reign of His Son Joram - 2 Chronicles 21
The account of the death and burial of Jehoshaphat is carried over to 2 Chron 21, because Joram's first act after Jehoshaphat's death, Ch2 21:2., stands in essential connection with that event, since Joram began his reign with the murder of all his brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat (Ch2 21:2-4). The further account of Joram (Ch2 21:5-10) agrees almost verbally with the account in Kg2 8:17-22; then in Ch2 21:12-19 there follows further information as to the divine chastisements inflicted upon Joram for his crime, which is not found in 2 Kings; and in Ch2 21:20 we have remarks on his end, which correspond to the statements in Kg2 8:24.
2 Chronicles 21:1
Jehoshaphat's death, and the slaughter of his sons by Joram. - Ch2 21:2, Ch2 21:3. Joram had six brothers, whom their father had plentifully supplied with means of subsistence - presents in silver, gold, and precious things - "in the fenced cities of Judah;" i.e., he had made them, as Rehoboam also had made his sons, commandants of fortresses, with ample revenues; but the kingdom he gave to Joram as the first-born. Among the six names two Azariah's occur, - the one written Azarjah, the other Azarjahu. Jehoshaphat is called king of Israel instead of king of Judah, because he as king walked in the footsteps of Israel, Jacob the wrestler with God, and was a true king of God's people.
Now when Joram ascended (raised himself to) the throne of his father, and attained to power (יתחזּק as in Ch2 1:1), he slew all his brethren with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel, i.e., the tribal princes of his kingdom. It could hardly be from avarice that he slew his brothers, merely to get possession of their property; probably it was because they did not sympathize with the political course which he was entering upon, and disapproved of the idolatrous conduct of Joram and his wife Athaliah. This may be gathered from the fact that in Ch2 21:13 they are called better than Joram. The princes probably drew down upon themselves the wrath of Joram, or of his heathen consort, by disapproving of the slaughter of the royal princes, or by giving other signs of discontent with the spirit of their reign.
2 Chronicles 21:5
Duration and spirit of Joram's reign. - These verses agree with Kg2 8:17-22, with the exception of some immaterial divergences, and have been commented upon in the remarks on that passage. - In Ch2 21:7 the thought is somewhat otherwise expressed than in Kg2 8:19 : "Jahve would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David;" instead of, "He would not destroy Judah because of David His servant, as He had said." Instead of לבניו ניר לו לתת we have in the Chronicle וּלבניו ניר לו לתת, to give him a lamp, and that in respect of his sons, w being inserted before לבניו to bring the idea more prominently forward. In regard to שׂריו עם, Ch2 21:9, instead of צעירה, Kg2 8:21, see on 2 Kings loc. cit. At the end of Ch2 21:9 the words, "and the people fled to their tents" (Kg2 8:21), whereby the notice of Joram's attempt to bring Edom again under his sway, which is in itself obscure enough, becomes yet more obscure.
2 Chronicles 21:10
The chronicler concludes the account of the revolt of Edom and of the city of Libnah against Judah's dominion with the reflection: "For he (Joram) had forsaken Jahve the God of the fathers," and consequently had brought this revolt upon himself, the Lord punishing him thereby for his sin. "Yea, even high places did he make." The גּם placed at the beginning may be connected with בּמות (cf. Isa 30:33), while the subject is emphasized by הוּא: The same who had forsaken the God of the fathers, made also high places, which Asa and Jehoshaphat had removed, Ch2 14:2, Ch2 14:4; Ch2 17:6. "And he caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication," i.e., seduced them into the idolatrous worship of Baal. That the Hiph. ויּזן is to be understood of the spiritual whoredom of Baal-worship we learn from Ch2 21:13 : "as the house of Ahab caused to commit fornication." וידּח, "and misled Judah," i.e., drew them away by violence from the right way. ידּח is to be interpreted in accordance with Deu 13:6, Deu 13:11.
2 Chronicles 21:12
The prophet Elijah's letter against Joram, and the infliction of the punishments as announced. - Ch2 21:12. There came to him a writing from the prophet Elijah to this effect: "Thus saith Jahve, the God of thy father David, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat, ... but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, ... and also hast slain thy brethren, the house of thy father, who were better than thyself; behold, Jahve will send a great plague upon thy people, and upon thy sons, and thy wives, and upon all thy goods; and thou shalt have great sickness, by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day." מכתב, writing, is a written prophetic threatening, in which his sins are pointed out to Joram, and the divine punishment for them announced. In regard to this statement, we need not be surprised that nothing is elsewhere told us of any written prophecies of Elijah; for we have no circumstantial accounts of his prophetic activity, by which we might estimate the circumstances which may have induced him in this particular instance to commit his prophecy to writing. But, on the other hand, it is very questionable if Elijah was still alive in the reign of Joram of Judah. His translation to heaven is narrated in 2 Kings 2, between the reign of Ahaziah and Joram of Israel, but the year of the event is nowhere stated in Scripture. In the Jewish Chronicle Seder olam, 2 Chr 17:45, it is indeed placed in the second year of Ahaziah of Israel; but this statement is not founded upon historical tradition, but is a mere deduction from the fact that his translation is narrated in 2 Kings 2 immediately after Ahaziah's death; and the last act of Elijah of which we have any record (2 Kings 1) falls in the second year of that king. Lightfoot, indeed (Opp. i. p. 85), Ramb., and Dereser have concluded from Kg2 3:11 that Elijah was taken away from the earth in the reign of Jehoshaphat, because according to that passage, in the campaign against the Moabites, undertaken in company with Joram of Israel, Jehoshaphat inquired for a prophet, and received the answer that Elisha was there, who had poured water upon the hands of Elijah. But the only conclusion to be drawn from that is, that in the camp, or near it, was Elisha, Elijah's servant, not that Elijah was no longer upon earth. The perfect יצק אשׁר seems indeed to imply this; but it is questionable if we may so press the perfect, i.e., whether the speaker made use of it, or whether it was employed only by the later historian. The words are merely a periphrasis to express the relationship of master and servant in which Elijah stood to Elisha, and tell us only that the latter was Elijah's attendant. But Elisha had entered upon this relationship to Elijah long before Elijah's departure from the earth (Kg1 19:19.). Elijah may therefore have still been alive under Joram of Judah; and Berth. accordingly thinks it "antecedently probable that he spoke of Joram's sins, and threatened him with punishment. But the letter," so he further says, "is couched in quite general terms, and gives, moreover, merely a prophetic explanation of the misfortunes with which Joram was visited;" whence we may conclude that in its present form it is the work of a historian living at a later time, who describes the relation of Elijah to Joram in few words, and according to his conception of it as a whole. This judgment rests on dogmatic grounds, and flows from a principle which refuses to recognise any supernatural prediction in the prophetic utterances. The contents of the letter can be regarded as a prophetic exposition of the misfortunes which broke in, as it were, upon Joram, only by those who deny priori that there is any special prediction in the speeches of the prophets, and hold all prophecies which contain such to be vaticinia post eventum. Somewhat more weighty is the objection raised against the view that Elijah was still upon earth, to the effect that the divine threatenings would make a much deeper impression upon Joram by the very fact that the letter came from a prophet who was no longer in life, and would thus more easily bring him to the knowledge that the Lord is the living God, who had in His hand his breath and all his ways, and who knew all his acts. Thus the writing would smite the conscience of Joram like a voice from the other world (Dchsel). But this whole remark is founded only upon subjective conjectures and presumptions, for which actual analogies are wanting.
For the same reason we cannot regard the remark of Menken as very much to the point, when he says: "If a man like Elias were to speak again upon earth, after he had been taken from it, he must do it from the clouds: this would harmonize with the whole splendour of his course in life; and, in my opinion, that is what actually occurred." For although we do not venture "to mark the limits to which the power and sphere of activity of the perfected saints is extended," yet we are not only justified, but also bound in duty, to judge of those facts of revelation which are susceptible of different interpretations, according to the analogy of the whole Scripture. But the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments know nothing of any communications by writings between the perfected saints in heaven and men; indeed, they rather teach the contrary in the parable of the rich man
(Note: "Neque enim," says Ramb., "ulla ratione credibile est, Deum in gratiam impii regis ejusmodi quid fecisse, cujus nullum alias exemplum exstat; immo quod nec necessarium erat, quum plures aliae essent rationes, quibus Deus voluntatem suam ei manifestare poterat; coll. Luc. 16:27, 29." And, still more conclusively, Calov. declares: "Non enim triumphantium in coelis est erudire aut ad poenitentiam revocare mortales in terra. Habent Mosen et prophetas, si illos non audiant, neque si quis ex mortius resurrexerit, nedum si quis ex coelis literas perscripserit, credent Luc. 16:31.")
There are consequently no sufficient grounds for believing that the glorified Elijah either sent a letter to Joram from heaven by an angel, or commissioned any living person to write the letter. The statement of the narrative, "there came to him a writing from Elijah the prophet," cannot well be understood to mean anything else than that Elijah wrote the threatening prophecy which follows; but we have no certain proof that Elijah was then no longer alive, but had been already received into heaven. The time of his translation cannot be exactly fixed. He was still alive in the second year of Ahaziah of Israel; for he announced to this king upon his sick-bed that he would die of his fall (2 Kings 1). Most probably he was still alive also at the commencement of the reign of Joram of Israel, who ascended the throne twenty-three years after Ahab. Jehoshaphat died six or seven years later; and after his death, his successor Joram slew his brothers, the other sons of Jehoshaphat. Elijah may have lived to see the perpetration of this crime, and may consequently also have sent the threatening prophecy which is under discussion to Joram. As he first appeared under Ahab, on the above supposition, he would have filled the office of prophet for about thirty years; while his servant Elisha, whom he chose to be his successor as early as in the reign of Ahab (Kg1 19:16), died only under Joash of Israel (Kg2 13:14.), who became king fifty-seven years after Ahab's death, and must consequently have discharged the prophetic functions for at least sixty years. But even if we suppose that Elijah had been taken away from the earth before Jehoshaphat's death, we may, with Buddaeus, Ramb., and other commentators, accept this explanation: that the Lord had revealed to him Joram's wickedness before his translation, and had commissioned him to announce to Joram in writing the divine punishment which would follow, and to send this writing to him at the proper time. This would entirely harmonize with the mode of action of this great man of God. To him God had revealed the elevation of Jehu to the throne of Israel, and the extirpation of the house of Ahab by him, together with the accession of Hazael, and the great oppressions which he would inflict upon Israel, - all events which took place only after the death of Joram of Judah. Him, too, God had commissioned even under Ahab to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel (Kg1 19:16), which Elisha caused to be accomplished by a prophetic scholar fourteen years later (Kg2 9:1.); and to him the Lord may also have revealed the iniquity of Joram, Jehoshaphat's successor, even as early as the second year of Ahaziah of Israel, when he announced to this king his death seven years before Jehoshaphat's death, and may have then commissioned him to announce the divine punishment of his sin. But if Elijah committed the anointing of both Hazael and Jehu to his servant Elisha, why may he not also have committed to him the delivery of this threatening prophecy which he had drawn up in writing? Without bringing forward in support of this such hypotheses as that the contents of the letter would have all the greater effect, since it would seem as if the man of God were speaking to him from beyond the grave (O. v. Gerlach), we have yet a perfect right to suppose that a written word from the terrible man whom the Lord had accredited as His prophet by fire from heaven, in his struggle against Baal-worship under Ahab and Ahaziah, would be much better fitted to make an impression upon Joram and his consort Athaliah, who was walking in the footsteps of her mother Jezebel, than a word of Elisha, or any other prophet who was not endowed with the spirit and power of Elijah.
Elijah's writing pointed out to Joram two great transgressions: (1) his forsaking the Lord for the idolatrous worship of the house of Ahab, and also his seducing the people into this sin; and (2) the murder of his brothers. For the punishment of the first transgression he announced to him a great smiting which God would inflict upon his people, his family, and his property; for the second crime he foretold heavy bodily chastisements, by a dreadful disease which would terminate fatally. ימים על ימים, Ch2 21:15, is accus. of duration: days on days, i.e., continuing for days added to days; cf. שׁנה על שׁנה ספוּ, Isa 29:1. ימים Berth. takes to mean a period of a year, so that by this statement of time a period of two years is fixed for the duration of the disease before death. But the words in themselves cannot have this signification; it can only be a deduction from Ch2 21:18. These two threats of punishment were fulfilled. The fulfilment of the first is recorded in Ch2 21:16. God stirred up the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabians (רוּח את העיר, as in Ch1 5:26), so that they came up against Judah, and broke it, i.e., violently pressed into the land as conquerors (בּקע, so split, then to conquer cities by breaking through their walls; cf. Kg2 25:4, etc.), and carried away all the goods that were found in the king's house, with the wives and sons of Joram, except Jehoahaz the youngest (Ch2 22:1). Movers (Chron. S. 122), Credner, Hitz., and others on Joe 3:5, Berth., etc., conclude from this that these enemies captured Jerusalem and plundered it. But this can hardly be the case; for although Jerusalem belonged to Judah, and might be included in בּיהוּדה, yet as a rule Jerusalem is specially named along with Judah as being the chief city; and neither the conquest of Judah, nor the carrying away of the goods from the king's house, and of the king's elder sons, with certainty involves the capture of the capital. The opinion that by the "substance which was found in the king's house" we are to understand the treasures of the royal palace, is certainly incorrect. רכוּשׁ denotes property of any sort; and what the property of the king or of the king's house might include, we may gather from the catalogue of the אוצרות of David, in the country, in the cities, villages, and castles, Ch1 27:25., where they consist in vineyards, forests, and herds of cattle, and together with the המּלך אוצרות formed the property (הרכוּשׁ) of King David. All this property the conquering Philistines and Arabians who had pressed into Judah might carry away without having captured Jerusalem. But המּלך בּית denotes here, not the royal palace, but the king's family; for המּלך לבית הנּמצא does not denote what was found in the palace, but what of the possessions of the king's house they found. נמצא with ל is not synonymous with בּ נמצא, but denotes to be attained, possessed by; cf. Jos 17:16 and Deu 21:17. Had Jerusalem been plundered, the treasures of the palace and of the temple would also have been mentioned: Ch2 25:24; Ch2 12:9; Kg2 14:13. and Kg1 14:26; cf. Kuhlmey, alttestl. Studien in der Luther. Ztschr. 1844, iii. S. 82ff. Nor does the carrying away of the wives and children of King Joram presuppose the capture of Jerusalem, as we learn from the more exact account of the matter in Ch2 22:1.
2 Chronicles 21:18
The second punishment fell upon the body and life of the king. The Lord smote him in his bowels to (with) disease, for which there was no healing. מרפּא לאין is in apposition to לחלי, literally, "to not being healing."
2 Chronicles 21:19
And it came to pass in days after days (i.e., when a number of days had passed), and that at the time (וּכעת( emit eh) of the expiration of the end in two days, then his bowels went out during his sickness, and he died in sore pains (תּחלאים, phenomena of disease, i.e., pains). The words שׁנים לימים הקּץ צאת וּכעת are generally translated as if שׁנים לימים were a mere periphrasis of the stat. constr. Vatabl. and Cler., for example, translate: et secundum tempus egrediendi finis annorum duorum, i.e., postquam advenit finis a. d., or cum exacti essent duo anni; similarly Berth.: "at the time of the approach of the end of two times." But against this we have not only the circumstance that no satisfactory reason for the use of this periphrasis for the genitive can be perceived, and that no analogies can be found for the expression שׁנים לימים הקּץ, the end of two years, instead of שׁנים היּמים קץ; but also the more decisive linguistic reason that הקּץ צאת cannot denote the approach of the end, but only the expiry, the running out of the end; and finally, that the supposition that ימים here and in Ch2 21:15 denotes a year is without foundation. Schmidt and Rabm. have already given a better explanation: quumque esset tempus, quo exiit finis s. quum exiret ac compleretur terminus ille, in epistola Eliae Ch2 21:15 praefixus; but in this case also we should expect היּמים קץ, since שׁנים לימים should point back to ימים על ימים, and contain a more exact definition of the terms employed in Ch2 21:15, which are not definite enough. We therefore take הקּץ צאת by itself, and translate: At the time of the end, i.e., when the end, sc. of life or of the disease, had come about two days, i.e., about two days before the issue of the end of the disease, then the bowels went out of the body-they flowed out from the body as devoured by the disease. חליו עם, in, during the sickness, consequently before the decease (cf. for עם in this signification, Psa 72:5, Dan. 3:33). Trusen (Sitten, Gebr. und Krankh. der alten Hebrer, S. 212f.) holds this disease to have been a violent dysentery (diarrhoea), "being an inflammation of the nervous tissue (Nervenhaut) of the whole great intestine, which causes the overlying mucous membrane to decay and peel off, which then falls out often in tube-shape, so that the intestines appear to fall from the body." His people did not make a burning for him like the burning of his fathers, cf. Ch2 16:14; that is, denied him the honours usual at burial, because of their discontent with his evil reign.
2 Chronicles 21:20
The repetition of his age and the length of his reign (cf. Ch2 21:6) is accounted for by the fact that the last section of this chapter is derived from a special source, wherein these notes likewise were contained. The peculiarity of the language and the want of the current expressions of our historian also favour the idea that some special authority has been used here. "And he departed, mourned by none." Luther erroneously translates, "and walked in a way which was not right" (und wandelt das nicht fein war), after the "ambulavit non recte" of the Vulg.; for חמדּה denotes, not a good walk, but desiderium, חמדּה בּלא, sine desiderio, i.e., a nemine desideratus. הלך, to depart, i.e., die, as Gen 15:2. Moreover, though he was buried in the city of David, yet he was not laid in the graves of the kings, by which act also a judgment was pronounced upon his reign; cf. Ch2 24:25 and Ch2 26:23.