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2 Chronicles 21


(LXX versing)
Jehoram Succeeds Jehoshaphat in Judah Jehoram Reigns in Judah Jehoram's Wicked Reign and His Punishment
21:1-3 21:1-3 21:2-7 King Jehoram of Judah Accession of Jehoram; He Massacres His Brothers
21:2-4 21:2-4
21:4-7 21:4-7
21:5-7 21:5-7
Revolt Against Judah The Disasters of His Reign
21:8-11 21:8-11 21:8-10 21:8-11 21:8-11
21:12-15 21:12-15 21:12-15 21:12-15
21:16-17 21:16-17 21:16-17 21:16-17 21:16-19
21:18-20 21:18-20 21:18-20 21:18-19
21:20 21:20

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Then Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place. 2He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. 3Their father gave them many gifts of silver, gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram because he was the firstborn.

21:1 "slept with his fathers" This is not literal. It is a Hebraic idiom for burial. There was a royal tomb where most of the kings were buried (cf. 2 Chr. 21:20).



"the city of David" This designation could, depending on the context, refer to

  1. Bethlehem, the place of David's birth and childhood
  2. Jerusalem, the place where David built his palace, the capital of his kingdom

21:2-3 Jehoshaphat's sons (LXX adds "six") are named. They were given some governmental responsibilities (i.e., control of some fortified cities), as well as much wealth. Their firstborn brother will feel threatened by them and have them killed (cf. 2 Chr. 21:4).

This would have damaged the Messianic line and required a son from Jehoram (cf. v. 17, "Jehoahaz," also called "Ahaziah").

Jehoshaphat was blessed by God with seven sons but Jehoram was not, having only one son! This fact would have been quickly recognized by ANE hearers/readers.

The name Jehoram for a king in Judah shows the influence of Israel. Jehoram was the name of an earlier king of Israel. The abbreviated form is "Joram."



21:2 "the king of Israel" Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah but for the Chronicler he was the only true king of YHWH's covenant people. Judah was the true "Israel" (cf. 2 Chr. 12:6; 23:2; 28:19,27).

The NRSV and REB, following the LXX and Peshitta, change "Israel" to "Judah" but the UBS Text Project, p. 466, gives "Israel" a "B" rating (some doubt).

21:3 "firstborn" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRSTBORN.

4Now when Jehoram had taken over the kingdom of his father and made himself secure, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and some of the rulers of Israel also. 5Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did (for Ahab's daughter was his wife), and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. 7Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever.

21:4 "some of the rulers of Israel also" This must refer to leaders in Judah who opposed his deviation of YHWH's law (cf. 2 Chr. 21:6). See note at 21:2.

Josephus, Antiq. 9.5.1., says they were governors appointed by his father Jehoshaphat.

21:6 Judah became idolatrous like Israel. Jehoram was influenced by his wife Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab (cf. 2 Kgs. 8:18,26; 2 Chr. 18:1), the king of Israel. Apparently Judah returned to the worship of Ba'al and Asherah.


"(for Ahab's daughter was his wife)" There is some confusion about Athaliah's parents. The NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 420, has a good paragraph.

"According to 2 Kgs 8:18, Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab, but according to 2 Kgs 8:26 and 2 Chron 22:2 (BHS) she was the daughter of Omri. Katzenstein (78) thinks she was orphaned when Omri died and was raised by Ahab and Jezebel. For this reason she was also called the daughter of Ahab (2 Kgs 8:18; 2 Chron 21:6). Her marriage to Joram, king of Judah, sealed an alliance with the southern neighbor (Bright, 238). Unfortunately this eventually led to the introduction of the Baal cult in Jerusalem."

"he did evil in the sight of the Lord" This is a recurrent phrase. It does not specify the offense but here it is idolatry (cf. 2 Kgs. 8:16-24).

21:7 YHWH's promises to David (i.e., 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17) were remembered and honored even during the reign of an evil king.


"to give a lamp" The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 442, has a good suggestion for the meaning of this imagery.

"Lamps were often used metaphorically in Israel to symbolize life and prosperity. They were often placed in tombs for this reason. The expression "his lamp" is often used in Scripture to symbolize life. As an eternal flame is a symbol of endurance and remembrance, so the reign of a descendant of David in Jerusalem provides a link to God's promise to David's dynasty (2 Sam 7:8-16). Similar uses of the word in Ugaritic and Akkadian are tied to perpetuation of rule or divine presence. Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III is referred to as the light of all mankind. An Old Babylonian idiom expresses a family having no descendants by the image of its brazier going out."

8In his days Edom revolted against the rule of Judah and set up a king over themselves. 9Then Jehoram crossed over with his commanders and all his chariots with him. And he arose by night and struck down the Edomites who were surrounding him and the commanders of the chariots. 10So Edom revolted against Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time against his rule, because he had forsaken the Lord God of his fathers. 11Moreover, he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot and led Judah astray.

21:8 "Edom revolted" This was just one of several rebellions and invasions.

  1. Edom ‒ 2 Chr. 21:8-10
  2. Libnah, 2 Chr. 21:10
  3. Philistines ‒ 2 Chr. 21:16
  4. the Arabs who were allied with the Ethiopians ‒ 2 Chr. 17:11


21:9 Apparently Jehoram initially defeated Edom but the resentment remained (Josephus, Antiq. 9.5.1.).

However, the REB and NET Bible translate this as a defeat by Edom.

"Joram, with his commanders and all his chariots, pushed on into Edom. When the Edomites encircled him and his chariot-commanders he made a sortie by night and broke out."

The UBS Text Project, p. 467, suggests that verse 9 is about a Judean victory, not defeat. It gives the NASB/MT version an "A" rating (high probability).

Edom was defeated by Jehoshaphat, a godly king. It fits OT theology much better for Jehoram, a wicked king, to be defeated by Edom!

NASB, NRSV, NJB, REB, LXX  "commanders"
NKJV, TEV, JPSOA,  "officers"
Peshitta  "princes"

The term "commanders" (BDB 978) appears twice.

There is some confusion as to whose "commanders" (cf. 2 Kgs. 8:21),

  1. Edom's
  2. Judah's

and who went to their tents (2 Kgs. 8:21).

  1. Edom (defeated)
  2. Judah (defeated)

The parallel account in 2 Kgs. 8:21 seems to replace the initial use of "commanders" with a place name, "Zair" (BDB 859 II).

21:10 "to this day" See full note at 2 Chr. 5:9.

21:11 This is the restoration of the legal status of idolatry.

There have been two ways to translate.

  1. in the mountains of Judah (most translations), "mountains" ‒ ????
  2. in the cities of Judah (LXX, Vulgate), "cities" ‒ ????

Both options would fit Ba'al worship, which was worshiped

  1. on natural high places
  2. manmade rock platforms which were in every village
NASB, NKJV  "led Judah astray"
NRSV  "made Judah go astray"
JPSOA  "made Judah wayward"
REB  "seduced"
LXX  "perverted Judah"

The MT has the VERB (BDB 623, KB 673, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw), which here denotes forcing them into idolatry (cf. 2 Chr. 21:13).

"to play the harlot" This phrase was both literal and literary.

12Then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet saying, "Thus says the Lord God of your father David, 'Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, 14behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.'"

21:12 "Elijah the prophet" The ministry of the prophet is covered much more intensively in 1 Kings 17 ‒ 2 Kgs. 2:14. This is the only mention of

  1. Elijah in all of Chronicles. He is used to intensify God's message.
  2. There is no record in Kings of Elijah dealing with Judean kings.

The footnote in Josephus, Antiq. 9.5.2, suggests there is a textual confusion and it should be Elisha. No Hebrew MSS support this.

For a good brief discussion of Elijah's letter, see Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 226-227.

This letter from Elijah fits the pattern of written prophetic sources used by the Chronicler.

21:15 "you will suffer severe sickness" The PRONOUN is singular, thereby referring to Jehoram and not "your people" of 2 Chr. 21:14, who will also suffer.

The NOUN (BDB 318) and ADJECTIVE (BDB 912 I) are both PLURAL. This is an example of the PLURAL OF MAJESTY, which would intensify the concept (i.e., "severe sickness").

16Then the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians; 17and they came against Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions found in the king's house together with his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.

21:16 "the spirit of. . ." See SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

"the Arabs" This refers to nomadic tribes on the southern border of Palestine who were controlled by the Ethiopian rulers of Egypt (cf. 2 Chr. 14:9-15).

21:17 "wives" The LXX has "daughters" to match "sons."

18So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. 19Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one's regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

21:18 The exact disease is not specified but it had to do with his bowels protruding. It is described as very painful and protracted.

There are several Judean kings who suffered physical ailments because of their covenant disobedience.

  1. Asa ‒ 2 Chr. 16:12-14
  2. Jehoram ‒ here
  3. Uzziah ‒ 2 Chr. 26:16-23

Disobedience has consequences (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). YHWH is no respecter of persons. Sin affects all.

21:19-20 "his people made no fire for him" This seems to refer to a special honorary bonfire, not cremation (cf. 2 Chr. 16:14).

2 Chronicles 21:20 clearly shows how unpopular he was as king.

  1. no fire (i.e., Jer. 34:5)
  2. no friends
  3. no royal burial (cf. 2 Chr. 24:25; 26:23; 28:27; 33:20)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Who were "the rulers of Israel" mentioned in 2 Chr. 21:4?
  2. What was the covenant of David?
  3. Explain the phrase, "played the harlot."
  4. Was Jehoram the only king who was struck with a physical disease for disobedience?
  5. List the items that show Jehoram's unpopularity (i.e., vv. 18-20).

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