A Wicked King with a Sad Epitaph
JUNE 3 - Nº 154 2 Kings 8:16-29; 2 Chronicles 21:1 – 22:6
When King Jehoshaphat ruled in Judah, he tried to establish a good relationship with Israel. That’s why he had arranged for his oldest son Jehoram to marry Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (see #142 - May 22). (Note: this is not the same person as “King Joram” who was ruling in Israel at that same time—see #146 - May 26.) Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat’s decision was a bad one. Athaliah was every bit as wicked as her parents. She had a terrible influence on her husband and therefore a negative impact on the entire kingdom. She convinced him to do all the sinful things her parents had done in Israel. So, as soon as King Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram strengthened his claim to Judah’s throne by killing all six of his brothers. Then he murdered anyone he thought might try to overthrow him. Due to Athaliah’s influence, Jehoram brought back the idols his father and grandfather had removed from the land. He encouraged the people of Judah to bow down to false gods and even constructed places to worship them. Jehoram was not a good king, nor was he a good military leader. Edom, a neighboring country that King David had captured and incorporated as part of Judah, realized that this would be a good time for them to regain their independence. They stopped paying taxes and crowned their own king. Although Jehoram tried to force them to remain his subjects, the Edomites surrounded his army and drove them away. From then on, the Edomites became a menace to the people of Judah and Israel. Meanwhile, King Jehoram received a long-delayed letter from Elijah who had been taken into heaven several years before (see #145 - May 25). When it finally arrived, the prophetic message read: “This is what the God of your father David says: ‘You have chosen not to follow the examples of your father Jehoshaphat and your grandfather Asa. Instead, you have chosen to be like the wicked kings of Israel and lead the people of Judah to worship false gods. You murdered your own brothers and members of your own family who were all better men than you! Therefore, all your sons will be killed, and you will become very ill. You will die a slow, horrible death!’” Soon several hostile nations began to harass Judah. The Philistines and some of the Arab nations joined forces, invaded the nation, and ransacked the palace. They stole everything that was valuable. They kidnapped Jehoram’s wives and carried off all his sons, except the youngest one. During all this, Jehoram was suffering from a severe stomach illness. He died after two years of agonizing pain. There was no special funeral service for Jehoram like there had been for all the other kings of Judah. As a matter of fact, one of the saddest verses in the Bible serves as his epitaph. It says, “Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret!” (2 Chronicles 21:20).
A few years ago, Linda Ellis wrote a poem called “The Dash.” It mentions that the most important thing on our tombstones will be “the dash”—the little line that separates our birth date from the date of our death. That’s because it represents everything we did with our time here on earth. Jeroboam’s “dash” was extremely sad! Are you filling your “dash” with things that God says are valuable?