Will Anyone Weep at Your Funeral?
Most people would like to know that they will be missed when they die. They want to be remembered fondly as a good person. One little girl said after the funeral of her friend, “It was easier to be good when she was around.” However, when King Jehoram of Judah died no one cared. Literally, the text could be translated, “he departed without any feeling of loss.” No big fancy memorial service for this king.
Jehoram received a very negative review by the chronicler of the kings of Judah in 2 Chronicles 21:1-20 (also see 2 Kings 8:16-24). He reigned from 849-842 BC. During this time God is at work preserving the royal line of King David so the Messianic prophecies could be fulfilled. Wicked men and women were striving to destroy God’s plans. The greatest opposition came from the alliance with the “house of Ahab” through marriage.
Perversions of Jehoram
- His Slaughter (21:1-4)
As firstborn, Jehoram had been marked for kingship, but the father’s love had been shared among all his sons. King Jehoshaphat had placed his six younger sons in fortified cities of Judah. Jehoram saw this as a threat to his royal authority and killed his brothers. This was just the first of several acts of violence against the royal family.
- His Spouse (21:5-7)
Jehoram’s father, King Jehoshaphat allied himself to King Ahab of Israel to war against the Syrians. This alliance was sealed with Jehoram’s marriage to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah. As her mother had introduced Baal worship into the kingdom of Israel, so Athaliah would bring her pagan religion to Judah. This would leave a lasting negative legacy on the next few generations of David’s house.
- His Shrines (21:11)
- With his pagan wife as a major influence, Jehoram began to set up the altars of worship for Baal in the high places. Just as it had happened in the northern kingdom to the daughters of Israel so the daughters of Judah became prostitutes for the groves of Ashtoreth. In verse eleven it says that Jehoram used His royal power to “compelled Judah thereto.” His posterity would spend a great deal of their time and energy removing these idols and abominations from Judah.
Preservation of Jehoram
Although Jehoram was evil, the Lord did not bring down the house of David. Why? Because of the Davidic covenant He had made. “Yet the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chron. 21:7). This lamp of David refers God promise to give to David’s family the territory of Judah when the ten tribes were given over to Jeroboam. God promised, “And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there” (1 Kings 11:36). Just as we will leave a light on in the house when we are gone to give the impression that someone is home, so God had a burning lamp in David’s house to indicate that it was to always be occupied. The line of David would not be extinguished until the Messiah came. This was not a positive statement about Jehoram but about God and His promise to the king’s forefather, David. “The light of the righteous rejoices: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out” (Prov. 13:9).
The Edomites had been brought under the rule of Judah at one time. Now they are revolting. When Jehoram took his army into Edom to quell this rebellion he was surrounded and had to fight his way out of the trap (21:8-10). This too is a sign that God was going to show him grace because of the promise made to David.
Prophecy Against Jehoram
A letter is sent from the prophet Elijah to Jehoram (21:12-16). Like most prophecies announcing judgment in the Old Testament this letter begins claiming God as the source and authority behind the message; a denouncement of the transgression is given, and then punishment is pronounced.
This letter was most likely one of the last public acts of the great prophet Elijah. As God had sent warnings of Judgment against King Ahab and others through His prophet, now it is the King of Judah’s turn to receive his just condemnation. Jehoram wanted to follow the ways of the kings of Israel and also murder his brothers, so now, he can suffer the fate of such kings. Although he is accused of leading the people of Judah and Jerusalem into spiritual and even physical harlotry with pagan idols, the people were also responsible in that they “prostitute themselves” (NIV). That is, they “made themselves prostitutes.” Sexual immorality has often accompanied spiritual adultery with the pagan idols.
The pronouncement of punishment against Jehoram was swiftly fulfilled with the capture of the royal family and the plundering of the royal treasures. In all this there is no sign from the king that he repented of his ways and pleaded for God’s mercy.
Punishments for Jehoram
- Loss of Territory: Rebellion
The fulfillment of God’s punishments against Jehoram are described in verses sixteen through twenty. Because of his rejection of God and acceptance of foreign gods, Jehoram lost his foreign territories of Edom and Libnah. He was never able to regain them. Libnah was located on the south-west border of Judah and was a city controlling the western foothills.
- Loss of Possessions
Jehoram having lost these two territories which may have served as buffer zones, the Philistines and Arabs now took advantage of his situation and invaded and plundered as far as the king’s palace.
- Loss of Family
Jehoram was deprived of possessions, wives, and sons (except his youngest son). The sons and wives eventually were killed except for Ahaziah. Ironically, he killed his brothers to gain their possessions and secure his kingdom. Now he has lost his family and his possessions. If the king had killed his brothers to gain their possessions, now these were lost.
- Loss of Health
God further took away his health by afflicting him with a terrible disease wherein he suffered day by day. His intestines were slowly coming out of his body. One can only imagine the great physical pain that was add to the king’s great emotional distress over his other losses.
- Loss of Life
The king’s deadly disease would go on for two years before he died. Jehoram’s reign was cut short as he died at the age of forty years.
- Loss of Legacy
The Chronicler concludes his recounting of Jehoram’s reign over Judah: “He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings” (21:20).
Principles Learned From Jehoram
- Evil Reaps Just Judgement
A just God does not allow the evil of a leader of His people to go unpunished. When Jehoram lost the favor of God, he lost everything. If man will not obey God, man will be punished by God. Sowing a life of wickedness will result in reaping some very wicked consequences. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7)
Sow a thought and you reap an act.
Sow an act and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit and you reap a character.
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)
- A Wicked, Godless Life Leaves No Lasting Legacy
At the time of his death Howard Hughes was the richest man in America. At his death he weighed only ninety pounds. He had wasted away on drug abuse. No one came to mourn his death. “Howard Hughes’ death was commemorated in Las Vegas by a minute of silence. Casinos fell silent. Housewives stood uncomfortable clutching their paper cups full of coins at the slot machines, the blackjack games paused, and at the crap tables the stickmen cradled the dice in the crook of their wooden wands. Then a pit boss looked at his watch, leaned forward and whispered, “O.K., roll the dice. He’s had his minute”(Time, December 13, 1976).
Like Hughes, King Jehoram, the fifth king of Judah, died and no one mourned his death. The way he treated God and people in life, determined how he would be treated when his life had ended. It was as if the people of Jerusalem were saying by their lack of lament: “We are glad to see the last of him.” He was not buried in the sepulcher of the kings. A wicked king like Jehoram would have desecrated the sepulcher of the Kings. Since he chose to walk after the ways of the house of Ahab and not David he would not be buried with the royal family.
How will you be remembered? Will anyone weep at your funeral? Will mourners accompany your body to the grave? Or will people be glad to see you go? C.H. Spurgeon said it well: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you So carve you name on hearts, and not on marble.” (Via Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle, Multnomah Press, 1991, p. 48). Perhaps you would like Mark Twain’s comments as well: “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
— Daniel R. Vess