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Northern Links: Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Jehu

J Gibson, Derby

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was a godly man, but the close links that he forged with Ahab’s idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel seriously damaged his family. His repeated alliances with the North led the chronicler to label him unflatteringly, "Jehoshaphat king of Israel" (2 Chr 21.2). Jehoshaphat so aligned himself with Ahab that some of their sons and grandsons shared the same names – e.g. Jehoram and Ahaziah. The marriage between Jehoram (Jehoshaphat’s son) and Athaliah (Jezebel’s daughter) very nearly destroyed his family. Athaliah was a wicked, power crazy woman who drove both her husband and son down a sinful road (2 Chr 21.6; 22.3), and in her fury and thirst for power she almost annihilated the royal line (2 Chr 22.10). Ahaziah, Jehoshaphat’s grandson, who "had no power to keep still the kingdom" (2 Chr 22.9), was finally executed by Jehu the son of Nimshi, God’s appointed destroyer of Ahab’s dynasty. The lesson for Christians is clear: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor 6.14).

Jehoram, King of Judah (1 Kings 22.50; 2 Kings 8.16-24; 2 Chr 21)

It is uncertain exactly when Jehoram’s reign began. We are told that Jehoram of Israel began to reign "in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah" (2 Kings 1.17); it later states that it was "in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, [that] Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign" (2 Kings 8.16-17). Most likely 32-year-old Jehoram co-reigned with Jehoshaphat for his first few years, enjoying his father’s godly mentorship. Following a similar policy to Abraham (Gen 25.5-6) and Rehoboam (2 Chr 11.22-23), Jehoshaphat distributed wealth and fenced cities to Jehoram’s brethren (2 Chr 21.3). This fulfilled his paternal duty towards them, and aimed at shielding the first-born, and heir to the throne, from jealous reprisals.

But these helps, and perhaps even the influence of a devout mother, who remains unnamed, could not counter the powerful effect of an ambitious ungodly wife (2 Kings 8.18; 2 Chr 21.6). Women may not play a public role in the things of God, but their influence on husbands and sons behind the scenes has great impact. Young man seeking a wife, remember that, generally speaking, a woman will have imbibed the values of her family, and she will become like her mother (Ezek 16.44). Therefore, ask the questions: "What kind of family does she come from, and how does her mother, if a professing believer, view the things of God?". Marry an ungodly woman and reap fearful consequences. This is what happened to young Jehoram. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, working evil in the eyes of the omniscient Lord (2 Kings 8.18; 2 Chr 21.6,13) whose eyes "are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov 15.3). Jehoram murdered his own brethren (who were better than he was), Israel’s princes, and anyone who opposed him (2 Chr 21.4,13). Greed may have had its part to play, for he surely claimed the booty. Ironically, his own substance, wives, and sons were finally taken from him, "for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal 6.7). Jehoram also committed idolatry, for "he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication" (2 Chr 21.11).

God punished Jehoram’s sins in at least five different ways. Jehoram experienced insurrection (2 Kings 8.20-22; 2 Chr 21.8-10). He nearly died in his attempt to stamp out the Edomite revolt. And after Edom revolted Libnah did likewise. Second, Jehoram faced invasion, for God stirred up the Philistines and Arabians who took away his wives and treasures and murdered his sons; only Ahaziah the youngest remained (2 Chr 21.16-17; 22.1). Third, a condemnatory inscription was written against him by Elijah (2 Chr 21.12-15). Since Elijah was God’s prophet to the wicked north, his writing to Jehoram showed just how similar to the northern kingdom Judah had become. Whether Elijah was still alive when this letter arrived is open to debate. If he was not, "the writing would smite the conscience of Joram like a voice from the other world".1 Fourth, Jehoram suffered illness (2 Chr 21.18,19). God smote him with a painful and incurable bowel disease: "he died in cruel sufferings" (JND). Even for believers, illness can be an act of divine discipline (1 Cor 11.30). Fifth, departing without being desired, Jehoram died in ignominy (2 Chr 21.20).

Ahaziah, King of Judah (2 Kings 8.24-29; 2 Chr 22.1-9)

David said of the wicked, "Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out" (Ps 109.13). It is not, therefore, insignificant that wicked Ahaziah, his son, and his grandson are all omitted from the Lord’s genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 1.8). The weak reign of Ahaziah, Jehoram’s youngest son, began when he was 22 years of age, only lasting one year.

All young men need instruction. Sadly, Ahaziah had his wicked mother and her house as destructive counsellors (2 Kings 8.27; 2 Chr 22.3-5). They advised him to accompany Jehoram of Israel to battle against the Syrians at Ramoth-Gilead. Having been wounded, Jehoram of Israel returned to Jezreel, and under the over-ruling hand of God Ahaziah’s visit to Jezreel was to his destruction because of his sins (2 Chr 22.7). Jehoram, along with Ahaziah, soon discovered that there could be no peace "so long as the whoredoms of [his] mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts [were] so many" (2 Kings 9.22; cp Is 57.21). Though a bad man, Ahaziah was buried honourably because he was the grandson of Jehoshaphat "who sought the Lord with all his heart" (2 Chr 22.9).

Jehu, King of Israel (2 Kings 9.1-10.36)

God will always avenge the blood of His servants (Rev 6.10). Jehu was God’s chosen vessel to wreak vengeance on the house of Ahab for the murder of God’s prophets and the murder of Naboth the Jezreelite and his sons (2 Kings 9.7-9, 25-26). Jehu was a physically explosive, violent, and brutal man. He drove his chariot "furiously" the thirty miles from Ramoth-gilead to Jezreel (2 Kings 9.20), and when smiting Jehoram he "drew a bow with his full strength" (2 Kings 9.24). He completed his God-given task, and he did it quickly. As soon as Jehu heard God’s words from the prophet he set out to smite the house of Ahab. Determined that no one would thwart his mission, Jehu prevented anyone escaping from Ramoth-gilead to Jezreel to give warning (2 Kings 9.15). And having executed Jehoram, Jehu had the body cast down "in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite" so accomplishing God’s words through Elijah (1 Kings 21.17-19; 2 King 9.25-26). It was as though the blood of Naboth acted like a powerful magnet, drawing Jehu, Ahaziah and Jehoram to Naboth’s allotted portion in the Promised Land, that Naboth’s blood might be avenged at the site of his murder.

Once started, Jehu was unstoppable. Ahab’s wife (Jezebel, 2 Kings 9.30-37), his sons (2 Kings 10.1-10), and his kinsfolk (2 Kings 10.11,17) were all slain at Jehu’s behest, Jezebel’s body being eaten by dogs. Jehu slew wicked Ahaziah (2 Kings 9.27) and his brethren (2 Kings 10.12-14). He exclaimed, "There shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord hath spoken concerning the house of Ahab" (2 Kings 10.10). "Come with me", Jehu said to Jehonadab, "and see my zeal for the Lord" (2 Kings 10.16), as he completed the annihilation of Ahab’s dynasty (2 Kings 10.17), the extermination of the worshippers of Baal, and the destruction of Baal’s house (2 Kings 10.18-28).

But an outward show of zeal does not always equate with true godliness. Neither does doing the right thing necessarily indicate good motives. Although Jehu obeyed God’s words to smite the house of Ahab, and was conscious of doing God’s work (2 Kings 10.10), his true motive was probably cold hearted ambition; this would explain Jehu’s excessive use of force: "for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" (Hosea 1.4). And it was not long before Jehu showed that he had little genuine appetite for the things of God – he "took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin" (2 King 10.31). God help us to do the right things for the right reasons and to display godly zeal through a quiet, wholehearted walk of obedience to God’s Word – something lacking in Jehu.

Concluded.

1 Keil & Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 1996), 3.643, 644.

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