Lesson 25: Four Kings of Judah: Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram

Reading Preperation:
  • 2 Chronicles 13-21
Lesson Notes:
1. How do the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles fit together?
*For a more detailed introduction to Chronicles, refer to chapter 20 of this text. Briefly, 1 Samuel + 2 Samuel = 1 Chronicles; and 1 Kings + 2 Kings = 2 Chronicles. You will note that originally Chronicles consisted of only one book.
Old Testament Teacher Resource manual notes,
“The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one book, but they almost always appear as two books in translations from the time of the Greek Septuagint. They were completed sometime after Cyrus issued the decree that allowed the Jews to return from captivity in Babylon (ca. 538 B.C.) and are, in part, a post-exile sequel to the histories in the books of Samuel and Kings” (Old Testament Teacher Resource manual. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998, 144).
The Old Testament Part Two Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement notes the following parable is repeated from chapter 20.
“A certain man wanted to know about a house in a far away place. He found two separate descriptions written by men who had been in the house at various times. The house had twelve rooms and the furniture had been changed from time to time over the years. While both accounts told something about each room, one was more detailed about the rooms in the north wing and the other told more about those in the south wing. Neither of the two separate accounts of the house was through in its description. In order to get a more complete and balanced view of the house, the man decided he should read both accounts.
Explanation: The man is each of us reading the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. The house is the house of Israel. The twelve rooms are the twelve tribes. The northern wing is Israel. The southern wing is Judah. Changing the furniture is the succession of kings, prophets, and people” (Old Testament: Part Two Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, 31).
As noted in the parable, one will get the best understanding of the Israel and Judah, by reading each of the accounts.
We began this experience in Chapter 20, with 1 Chronicles 13, 16 and 20. In this chapter, we will examine 2 Chronicles 13-21, and in chapter 30, we will conclude with 2 Chronicles 29-32
As the previous chapter focused on the division of the two kingdoms and mainly on the events of the Northern kingdom, in this chapter we will address the events of the Southern kingdom. We will focus on the insight provided from the book of 2 Chronicles.
Victor L. Ludlow states,
“The writer of the Chronicles (traditionally thought to be Ezra the scribe) presents his genealogies, stories, and facts with a definite purpose. He wants to demonstrate the hand of God in human affairs, especially in the house of Israel. He portrays the moral order and covenant relationship of God with his children. He also stresses the observance of rightful forms of worship or the Israelite community and teaches that God’s revelations were given not only in the past but are given in the present as a living word of truth” (Unlocking the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 111).
2. Four Kings of the Southern Kingdom
2.1. Abijah
As we continue our study of 2 Chronicles, we will examine Chapters 13-21.
We learn in 2 Chronicles 12:16, Rehoboam has died and that his son, Abijah reigns as king of Judah.
2 Chronicles 13:2-3
2 … And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.
3 And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen me, being mighty men of valour.
When we examine the number of soldiers that Abijah has in comparison to Jeroboam, we find that he is outnumbered two to one. Why is he willing to go into battle, we may ask ourselves, when the odds of success are against him? The reasons provide some insight in Abijah reasoning.
a. The Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever yet Jeroboam has rebelled against the Lord.
2 Chronicles 13:5-6
5 Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?
6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.
b. Jeroboam turned his people away from the Lord to idol worship.
2 Chronicles 13:8
8 … and there with you golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.
c. Jeroboam dismissed the priests who held the authority to minister for on behalf of the Lord and appointed others in their place.
2 Chronicles 13:9
9 Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made your own priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? So that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself… the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.
d. We have not forsaken our Lord and we continue to honor his priests whom he had given his authority.
2 Chronicles 13:10-11
10 But, as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests that minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business.
11 … for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him
e. The Lord is our captain and if you fight against us, you will not be victorious.
2 Chronicles 13:12
12 And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain,… O children of Israel, fight not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.
Unfortunately, king Jeroboam did not heed the call to repentance that king Abijah issued, possibly believing that his numbers would bring victory to Israel over Judah. In this respect, he had sadly underestimated the degree that he had led his people away from the worship of Israel’s God and the consequences of that action. Note how initially Judah was surrounded by king Jeroboam’s forces, and then the Lord came to their rescue.
This experience reminds me of a scripture in the Book of Mormon stated by a prophet named Moroni.
B/M Ether 12:6
6 … I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
It is striking to me, consistent with this verse, that when the forces of Judah are surrounded, and the faith of the army is severely stretched, then the Lord intervenes.
2 Chronicles 13:13-15
13 But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they went before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.
14 And when Judah looked back, behold, the batter was before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets.
15 Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.
What a change in the result of the battle between Israel and Judah. While there are some discrepancies: Who was killed? Some say Jeroboam and others Abijah. Jeroboam did not die until two years later (see 1 Kings 14:20), however it is possible that the wounds he received at this battle lead to his death (see 2 Chronicles 13:13-20).
Adam Clarke states,
“the number of soldiers should be “Abijah’s army, 40,000; Jeroboam’s 80,000, and the slain, 50,000” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing, March, 1991], 399).
Lastly, was Abijah wicked or righteous?, (see 1 Kings 15:1-8). In spite of the discrepancies, I chose to believe that Abijah and Judah were righteous and that the reasons listed give ample support as to why the Lord choose to intervene in this battle and give Judah the victory in spite of the overwhelming odds they faced.
A fitting conclusion to this battle and to our review of king Abijah’s reign is found in 2 Chronicles 13:18.
2 Chronicles 13:18
18 … and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.
We read in 2 Chronicles 14:1-2
1 So Abijah slept with his fathers,… and Asa his so reigned in his stead. In his days the land was quietten years.
2 And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:
There is no discrepancy between the report in 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings regarding the righteous rule of Asa.
1 Kings 15:11-12
11 And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, [JST 1 Kings 15:11] “as he commanded David his father.”
12 And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.
We further read in 2 Chronicles of his righteousness.
2 Chronicles 14:3-5
3 And he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:
4 And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.
5 And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.
In spite of the righteousness of Judah, after a period of peace, once again Judah will have to defend their land against intruders. This time there battle is with Zerah the Ethiopian. Like his father before him, Asa’s forces are greatly outnumbered.
2 Chronicles 14:8-9
8 And Asa had an army of men that bare tarets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand [300,000]; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand [280,000]: all these were mighty men of valour.
9 And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand [1,000,000], and three hundred chairiots; and came unto Mareshah.
While the odds are not exactly 2 to 1, they are 580,000 to 1,000,000, in favor of Zerah the Ethiopian!
Ellis T. Rasmussen notes,
“Zera the Ethiopian” (Heb. Cushi, [is] probably an Arabian tribe rather than the distant Ethiopians of the Nile)” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 349-350).
Nevertheless, they present a formidable challenge to Judah!
How does king Asa respond? He offers a humble prayer in faith.
2 Chronicles 14:11-12
11 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against the multitude. O LORD, thou art our god; let not man prevail against us.
12 So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.
The Lord heard king Asa’s righteous prayer and performed a miracle on Judah’s behalf and the battle was won. The Lord intervened on behalf of Judah because they had promised to worship Him and were obedient to his commandments. He promised to be their God and to watch over them and protect them from their enemies, based upon their righteous obedience. It is the same promise that the Lord makes to each of us. Not that He will perform a miracle each time we request, but that He will watch over us and bless us, and do what is best for us. Sometimes, the blessing will not come immediately or in the manner that we desire, but it will come. We will come to recognize the Lord’s hand as He, just as He did in the past, daily watches over us His children. Sometimes, His blessings will come as a miracle.
The Lord now sends one of his appointed messengers to help Judah understand the blessing they have just received and why.
2 Chronicles 15:1-2, 7
1 And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Obed.
2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; the LORD is with you, while ye be with him: and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.
7 Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work will be rewarded.
The Lord had blessed Judah, however it was necessary that Judah continued to be obedient to all the Lord’s commandments. If she was not obedient, she would lose the guidance and direction of the Lord. It was also necessary that she continue to perform her labors and to do the work to fortify the nation against her enemies. When she had done all that she could do, the Lord would then intervene on her behalf.
King Asa heeds the words of Azariah as he proceeds to rid Judah of her idols.
2 Chronicles 15:8-9
8 And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Obed the prophet [Azariah’s father], he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.
9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.
Ellis T. Rasmussen observes,
“King Asa’s religious reforms resulted in an important historical development: not only people of Judah and Benjamin but also people of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon came out of Israel in great numbers when they saw that the Lord was with good King Asa. Simeon already shared an inheritance with Judah (Josh. 19:9; Judg.1:3); but Ephraim and Manasseh were Judah’s neighbors to the north. These migrations in the late 900s B.C. could account for the presence in Jerusalem in the late 600s of such descendants of Joseph as Lehi, Laban, and Ishmael (B/M, 1 Ne.5:14-16; 6:2; 2 Ne.3:4; Alma 10:3). This migration is historically significant for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were among the northern Israelites conquered, exiled, and ‘lost’ by Assyria more than a century before Lehi’s time (TG, “Israel, Joseph, People of’; BD, ‘Joseph’) (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 350).
King Asa will ask the enlarged population of his land to enter into a covenant regarding the abolishment of idolatry in the land with an accompanying penalty.
2 Chronicles 15: 12-13
12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
Asa was committed to following the direction of the prophet, that he also took action against Maachah, his own mother!
2 Chronicles 15:16-17
16 And also concern Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.
17 But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.
To this juncture in Asa’s reign, he has been obedient to the commandments of the Lord and Judah has been greatly blessed by the Lord. The challenge for Asa and for each of us is to come to know the Lord God of Israel, to enter into a covenant with his to be obedient to his commandments and then to endure to the end of one’s life. Unfortunately, many do find the Lord in their life, however when life’s challenges and trials come into their lives, like the dew under the morning rays of the sun, their faith wavers and covenants made are forgotten. They then resort back to their former ways. Such occurred with Asa as he fears attack by Baasha, king of Israel (see 2 Chronicles 16:1).
Asa does not turn to the Lord for guidance or direction, instead he turns to Ben-hadad, king of Syria (see 2 Chronicles 16:2-4). Asa is reprimanded by Hanani the seer.
2 Chronicles 16:7-9
7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD he delivered them into thine hand.
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them where heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
The war with Zerah the Ethiopian we discussed previously (see 2 Chronicles 14:8-12), and how the odds were almost 2:1 against Judah and the Lord intervened. From this verse, it is inferred that the war with the Lubims was similar in odds and in victory. How could Asa had forgotten how the Lord had miraculously intervened on behalf of Judah? How quickly we sometimes forget the kindness and tender mercies of the Lord unto us. For his foolishness, and forgetfulness, Judah will be plagued with continued war. While the consequences would have been understandably disappointing to Asa, he reacts with inflamed indignation against the Lord’s messenger! He doesn’t like the message, so he takes out his anger against the messenger!
2 Chronicles 16:10
10 Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.
Asa’s disappointment regarding the message of Hanani, the Lord’s prophet, is understandable, but not his placing him in prison or oppressing those, it would appear, who question his actions!
Approximately three years pass, and Asa is stricken with disease in his feet.
2 Chronicles 16:12-13
12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.
13 And Asa slept with his fathers, and did in the one and fortieth year of his reign.
Was Asa’s disease of his feet the result of his actions towards the Lord’s anointed? We are not told, however Asa’s attitude toward the Lord prevents him from turning once again to the Lord for strength and comfort. How sad that the king whose humble prayer and obedience brought him success in a major battle, and possibly two, and subsequent peace to his nation would succumb to such an epithet is truly tragic!
2.3. Jehoshaphat
We read regarding Jehoshaphat,
2 Chronicles 17:1 [1 Kings 15:24]
1 And Jehoshaphat his {Asa] son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself gains Israel.
Jehoshaphat began his reign in righteousness.
2 Chronicles 17:3-6
3 And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim [supreme male divinity-idol worship].
4 But sought the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.
5 Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; …
6 And he heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
“The mission to all the cities of Judah by nine Levites and two priests who had the book of the law of the Lord with them, resembles mission undertaken from time to time among peoples of the Book of Mormon (cf. Alma 21:16ff.; 37:8-10; Hel. 15:4-10). The results of Judah’s internal and external peace and security were phenomenal” (A Latter-Day Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 351).
I am reminded of the words of Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet. Just as king Jehoshaphat called Levites and priest to teach the word of the Lord to the people, Alma also went forth focusing his efforts on the teaching the word of God.
B/M, Alma 31:5
5 And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
The result of king Jehoshaphat’s reign was extremely successful as his righteousness and that of the people brought the blessings of the Lord to Judah.
2 Chronicles 17:10
10 And the fear [respect; reverence] of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so tht they made no war against Jehoshaphat.
As Jehoshaphat reign continued, like his father before him, he turned from the Lord and forms a military alliance with King Ahab of Israel. *The following encounter between king Ahab and Jehoshaphat is documented in Chapter 24 of this text under the sub-title: False vs. True Prophets (1 Kings 22) and will not be repeated.
King Jehoshaphat returns from the battle that he and king Ahab had fought with the Syrians in which king Ahab was mortally wounded and died as Micaiah had prophesied. He is met by Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer.
2 Chronicles 19:2-3
2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.
3 Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.
While Jehu rebuked the king for his alliance with king Ahab, similar to the rebuke that Hanani the seer gave to Asa, his father, Jehoshaphat received the rebuke and did not react with rage, but with continued trust in the Lord’s prophet. While none of us find a rebuke or criticism from another to be pleasant, it is a true measure of a man’s character as to how he responds. Are we full of resentment and anger and act impulsively, or do we give full consideration to the remarks and makes appropriate adjustment as directed. He/she who is able to maintain their emotions and then turns the criticism, deserved or not, and turn it into a learning experience, will spare themselves much grief, and is an example to each of us.
Jehoshaphat recognized his error and proceeds to strengthen his nation under the direction of the Lord. He brings his people “back unto the LORD God of their fathers and he set judges in the land” (2 Chronicles 19:4-5). He gives specific directions to his judges.
2 Chronicles 19:6-7
6 And [he] said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.
7 Wherefore now let the fear [respect] of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.
King Jehoshaphat also reinforces the authority of the Levites and the priests as the religious leaders in the nation.
2 Chronicles 19:8-9, 11
8 Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests and of the chief of the father of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies when they returned to Jerusalem.
9 And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear [respect] of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.
11 And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.
In this manner, king Jehoshaphat set forth clear lines of authority concerning the division between religious matters and those of the nation. Each servant was to understand however that they were acting for the Lord and would be held accountable for their decisions.
In spite of Jehoshaphat’s efforts to govern Judah in righteousness, wars continue to plague his reign. Jehoshaphat learns that “the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites,… ” (2 Chronicles 20:1) are preparing to come against Judah in battle.
Jehoshaphat response is consistent with his desire to turn to the Lord in all matters concerning the nation.
2 Chronicles 20:3
3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Having done what is necessary to lead the country in righteousness and to turn to the Lord for guidance and protection as a nation, Jehoshaphat is able to offer this prayer to the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:5, 7, 9
5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court.
7 Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel… .
9 If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, and then thou wilt hear and help.
Because the nation and her king were obedient to the commandments of the Lord, and are striving to live righteous lives, they could in confidence turn to the Lord for his guidance and direction, and be assured that their petition would be heard. It is the same principle for each of us. If we are living lives of righteousness, we may also, with confidence, petition the Lord and be assured that our prayers will be answered.
2 Chronicles 20:14-15, 17-18
14 Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zachariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and yet inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD with be with you.
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.
What powerful phrases: be not afraid; the battle is not yours, but God’s; set yourselves, stand ye still; fear not nor be dismayed, concluding with the king bowed his head and the inhabitants fell… worshipping the Lord. Judah and her king were not bowing down to false idols, but to their living Lord. In faith, they had turned to the Lord and He had heard their humble prayer.
Early the next morning, Jehoshaphat offered the following words of encouragement to his people.
2 Chronicles 20:20
20 … Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
What inspiring words for us to live by: Believe in the Lord and you shall be established; believe his prophets and you shall prosper. Each of us would be better individuals if we could incorporate these words into our daily lives and actions.
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
The next day, “apparently residents of the area under attack came out of ambush and confused the enemy so that various peoples among the invaders fell upon each other as in Gideon’s day (2 Chron. 20:20-23 and fn.). Thus King Jehoshaphat and his people were saved; and the goods [that took them three days to gather], which they took from the enemy dead, they returned to Jerusalem, thanking the Lord” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993 353).
2 Chronicles 20:29-30
29 And the fear of God was on all the kingdom of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel [Judah].
30 So the realm of Jehosphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.
For the majority of Jehoshaphat reign, he ruled in righteousness. However during his last years, he failed in his errand from the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:33
33 Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.
King Jehoshaphat did not completely destroy the groves where the people went to participate in idol worship. In spite of the miracles they had experienced, they were not yet completely converted as “the people had not prepared their hearts unto God” (2 Chronicles 20:33). “Almost,” they trusted in the Lord, but not completely. We also learn that neither did king Jehoshaphat.
2 Chronicles 20:35 [1 Kings 22:48-49]
35 … Jehoshaphat king of Judah join[ed] himself with Ahaziah king of Israe, who did very wickedly.
Earlier in his reign, king Jehoshaphat had formed a military alliance with king Ahab, and had been reprimanded by Jehu for his actions (see 2 Chronicles 19:2). It appears that he had not learned from this experience. During the later years of his reign, once again he turned to Israel, rather than to the Lord, for protection from his enemies. This brought a final rebuke from the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:37
37 Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works…
“The Lord hath broken thy works,” or the Lord has withdrawn his protective power from him is the closing statement regarding Jehoshaphat’s reign. He who did so much to reform Judah, was not able himself to endure in his trust of the Lord. He will be remember for being “almost great.”
2.4. Jehoram
2 Chronicles 21:1 [1 Kings 22:50]
1 Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers,… And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.
Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat now reigns as Judah’s king. One of his first acts was to commit fratricide against his six brothers in order to strengthen his kingship. He also married the daughter of Ahab, king of Israel.
2 Chronicles 21:6
6 And he walked in the way fo the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD.
Jehoram did not follow in the path of his grandfather Asa, or his father, Jehoshaphat who had for the most part led Judah in righteousness. The consequences of his evil actions will cause a division amongst his subjects.
2 Chronicles 21:10 [2 Kings 8:20, 22]
10 So the Edomites revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day. The same time also did Libnah revolt from under his hand; because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.
Both Edom and those under Libnah revolted from Judah and the reign of Jehoram “because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers,” inferring that despite the wickedness perpetrated by king Jehoram, there were those who continue to worship the Lord.
In chapter eighteen of this text, we read of the concerns of the Lord as expressed to Samuel regarding Israel’s request to have a king. We noted an additional reason from the Book of Mormon, “For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!” (Mosiah 29:17). While the amount of iniquity condoned by a wicked king can’t accurately be measured, Jehoram is a prime example of the detrimental effect one unrighteous king can have upon his people.
2 Chronicles 21:11
11 Moreover he [Jehoram] made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.
I believe if would be unfair to state that king Jehoram “caused,” or “compelled Judah,” to commit serious sin. However, when king Jehoram or any unrighteous ruler permits or allows serious transgressions to occur without any consequences to the individuals, in spite of the effects of moral decay upon his nation, he will be held personally responsible. In a monarchy, the king serves as both maker and enforcer of the law and when he is irresponsible in his actions, tacit permission is given for wickedness to flourish. Under the kings direction either righteousness or wickedness predominates the nation.
The Lord will now intervene through a “writing,” from his prophet.
Daniel H. Ludlow, clarifies that the author of the writing,
It is “Elisha, rather than Elijah, inasmuch as Elijah was translated some thirteen years before this episode” (A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981, 250).
2 Chronicles 21: 12-14
12 And there came a writing to him from Elijah [Elisha?] the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah,
13 But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father’s house, which were better than thyself:
14 Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods:
King Jehoram believed that he could reign in wickedness and there would be no consequences for his actions. In this regard, like all who so believe, he was mistaken. His death was slow and painful and the legacy he left Judah was tragic.
2 Chronicles 21:18-19
18 And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.
19 And it came to pass, that in the process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore disease. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers.
In Chapter 30 of this text, we will again revisit 2 Chronicles. We will then examine chapters 29 through 32.
3. Secession of Kings in Israel and Judah
The Old Testament manual, Part Two states,
“In the two hundred years of Israel’s existence, there were nine ruling houses, eight of which began in violence (seven by assassination and one by the overthrow and death of the ruler), and nineteen rulers.
“During this same time in Judah there were twelve rulers and only one of them came to the throne by violence (Ahab’s and Jezebel’s daughter who had married into the southern royal line bring her scheming manners with her). Judah survived one and one-third centuries longer than Israel and still had only twenty kings during that full time, one more than Israel. David had been promised by the Lord that his posterity would be the ruling line (see 1 Chronicles 17). He believed the Lord, and the prophecy was fulfilled. Jeroboam had been given the same promise. He did not believe the Lord, however, and set out to create his own security, but he failed. His failure led to a line of successors bloodied by assassination” (Old Testament Part Two: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement. Salt Lake ity: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, 30).
Of the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, Judah was more righteous. In 721 B.C. the Northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrians. The demise of the Northern kingdom will result in the loss of the ten tribes. The Southern kingdom, or Judah, will continue to survive until 587 B.C. There will are five righteous kings in Judah (Asa, Jehoshaphat J(eh)oash, Hezekiah and Josiah). In the Northern kingdom, other than the initial righteousness of Jehu (see 2 Kings 9-10:31), there were no righteous kings in the Northern kingdom with Ahab and his wife, Jezebel being the worst.
See Chart, “The Divided Kingdom.” Old Testament Part Two, Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980, Appendix 1: Charts and Maps, 235).
Old Testament Student Manual Israel Divided Chronology
4. Contrast: book of Samuel and book of Kings with Chronicles
The authors of Samuel and Kings tend to state the negative aspects of the reign of the kings, especially David and Solomon, whereas they are omitted in Chronicles. A possible reason is provided.
Old Testament Teacher Resource manual states,
Chronicles “were completed sometime after Cyrus issued the decree that allowed the Jews to return from captivity in Babylon (ca 538 B.C.) and are, in part, a post-exile sequel to the histories in the books of Samuel and Kings… The purpose of Chronicles was to help the returning exiles remember their relationship with the Lord and the former united nation of Israel… Nearly half of the material in Chronicles was taken fro the books of Samuel and Kings, but the author included only material he felt helped the people see themselves as God’s chosen people” (Old Testament Teacher Resource Material. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1998, 144).
As previously noted, it is important to read each of the books of Samuel and Kings, as well as Chronicles, for only then are we able to gain a more complete understanding of history of Israel and her relationship with the Lord.
Andrew C. Skinner observed,
“As we have seen the history of the two kingdoms centers on the Lord’s active involvement in the affairs of his people, his purposes, and the prophets through whom he brought about those purposes. It is essentially the history of good confronting evil and of the efforts of prophets and other religious individuals to promote repentance and bring people to the true religion of Jehovah” (“Kings and Prophets in Divided Israel” in Studies in Scriptures 4. Edited by Kent P. Jackson. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 32).
5. Conclusions
Through the reigns of the four kings of Judah (Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat and Jehoram), we learn the importance of enduring to the end. Like Saul, David, and Solomon, before them, we learned that being righteous and teaching the people to follow the Lord and to keep his commandments must be held as a constant in one’s life. When the King and his people turned to the Lord, in a miraculous manner, the Lord fought their battles. However, when they turned from the Lord to follow their own wisdom, they lost the Lord’s help which led to disaster for the people.
The question we must answer is do we learn from their example and place our trust in the Lord? Or do we, relying on the wisdom of the world, turn from the Lord and thereby worship our own idol gods? Elijah issued a challenge that still stands for us today as we sometimes vacillate between the beckoning call of the world and the whisper of the spirit: “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him (1 Kings 18:21).” In the final analysis, how we answer his question will also make a difference in our lives.