Most recently, we've taken two weeks to study the reign of King Jehoshaphat. Now, we have come to the next generation of the leadership over the southern kingdom of Judah.
Yeh-ho-RAWM, the oldest of the seven sons of Jehoshaphat, became king when Jehoshaphat died. His brothers were Az-ar-YAW, Yekh-ee-ALE, Zek-ar-YAW, Az-ar-YAW-hoo, Me-kaw-ALE and Shef-at-YAW.
I should point out that "Az-ar-YAW" and "Az-ar-YAW-hoo" are the identical names in Hebrew. Having two sons of the same name is a bit odd. After looking it up in Hebrew, I discovered that the meaning of the name is "Darrel." (kidding!)
King Jehoshaphat seems to have been a good dad. He gave all of his sons gifts, and put them in charge of various cities in Judah. Of course Yeh-ho-RAWM was inevitably going to be the king, since he was the firstborn, but he placed his other sons in positions of prominence and authority as well.
Was this action good or bad? Well, Jehoshaphat's great-grandfather Rehoboam had done the same thing back in chapter 11, and the Chronicler said it was a wise thing to do:
2Chr. 11:23 He acted wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the territories of Judah and Benjamin to all the fortified cities...
As soon as King Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram set out to make his position as king secure. He realized that if the people rejected him, they would kill him and make one of his brothers king in his place. His solution to that problem? Kill all six of his brothers.
This act is so absolutely depraved, it boggles the mind. And yet, as horrible as killing one's own brothers seems to us, the crime of fratricide is nearly as old as humanity itself. You may recall that Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. They were only the second generation of creation!
What moves a man to kill his own brother? It always seems to come down to hatred that was birthed from envy.
- Cain killed Abel because his offering was rejected while his brother's was accepted (Gen. 4)
- Esau began to plot Jacob's murder because Jacob received dad's blessing instead of Esau (Gen. 27).
- The sons of Israel threw their brother Joseph into a pit. They would have killed him if greed hadn't overruled their envious hatred (Gen. 37:26).
- Gideon's son Abimelech killed all 70 of his brothers so that he alone would rule Israel (Judges 9).
The list goes on and on. It's no wonder then, that the Apostle John warned us against this sort of hatred:
1John 3:14-15 ...He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer...
Killing his brothers wasn't Yeh-ho-RAWM's only sin. His wickedness extended to idolatry and rejection of God, in the same way that the kings of Israel in the north did. How did this happen? He had married into a terribly wicked family. King Ahab and Jezebel are renowned in the Bible for their wickedness.
Ahab was so evil that the Bible says that he...
1Kings 16:30 ...did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.
1Kings 16:33 ...Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
His wife Jezebel had destroyed the prophets of God (1Kings 18), tried to kill Elijah (1Kings 19), and had Naboth killed through false accusation (1Kings 21).
With wickedness rampant throughout the entire family, Ahab's daughter Ath-al-YAW was a chip off the old block. The Bible describes her as "wicked" (2Chron. 24:7), and in chapter 22, we're going to read of her murdering nearly all the royal offspring of Judah.
With Yeh-ho-RAWM united in marriage to this woman, it shouldn't surprise us to read that he took on the nature of her family, walking in the way of the house of Ahab, doing evil in the sight of the Lord.
Although no one would have been surprised if God immmediately destroyed Ye-ho-RAWM for his wickedness, God had bigger vision. You see, He had made an everlasting covenant (2Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3) with King David that his throne would be established forever (1Chron. 17:12). Ye-ho-RAWM will certainly be judged, but not at the expense of the promise made to David.
As a result of Ye-ho-RAWM's apostasy, the Edomites rebelled against Judah's rule. You may remember that the Edomites had recently been conquered during the days of King David.
1Chr. 18:12-13 ...Abishai the son of Zeruiah defeated 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. Then he put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became servants to David...
But now, the Edomites rebel.
I see a spiritual application for us in these events. You see, when we are walking with the Lord, we gain victory over various areas of our flesh. We stop cursing, or smoking, or practicing immorality. We conquer strongholds in the areas of greed and covetousness, of bitterness and unforgiveness. The Edomites in our lives are brought into submission.
But what happens if we later begin to compromise? If our walk with the Lord isn't as strong? What happens when we begin to desire other things, and pursue riches, or idols?
This is what happens: While we aren't looking, those Edomites which had been recently conquered will become strong again. And before we know it, those areas which were previously conquered are rising up and rebelling. Even though they previously had been made subservient, they suddenly have the ability to surround us.
It gets worse! Because as we determine to fight against these enemies again, other rebellions begin to occur. Rebellions in areas that we would never even expect. Remember that the other group who rebelled against King Ye-ho-RAWM was the city of Lib-NAW. Lib-NAW had been conquered hundreds of years before, during the days when
Josh. 10:29-30 ...Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Mak-kay-DAW to Lib-NAW, and fought against Lib-NAW. The LORD gave it also with its king into the hands of Israel...
Lib-NAW had been conquered for well over 500 years now! And yet even they rise up in rebellion. It is interesting to me that the name "Lib-NAW" means "white brick pavement." It speaks of the areas in our life that are rock solid, foundational in our occupation. But even these areas can rebel when we stop walking with the Lord.
Ye-ho-RAWM's wicked heart soon seeped out to the people he ruled.
It is really sad to read this when you remember that this king's father Jehoshaphat had "removed the high places and the Asherim" (2Chron. 17:6). Even his grandfather King Asa had,
2Chr. 14:3-4 ...removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment.
But family tradition meant nothing to Ye-ho-RAWM. He reinstated all that his father and grandfather had removed.
We see of course the necessity of each new generation, each new administration, seeking after the Lord. Laws which are righteously instituted may be repealed by an unrighteous man who follows him. A family given to godliness in this generation may be led astray by the next.
As Ye-ho-RAWM steeped himself and his nation into unrighteousness, a letter was delivered to him. It had been written by Elijah the prophet, who had prophesied for years up in the northern kingdom of Israel.
This letter was a prophetic rebuke, proclaiming that because of the sins he had committed, the Lord was going to judge him.
Because Ye-ho-RAWM had killed his own brothers, his own family would be stricken. Because he'd led his nation astray, the nation would be invaded. Because he'd used his riches to build idols, his possessions would be stolen.
Elijah's letter forewarned that the judgment for Jehoram's wickedness wouldn't just be against family, nation, and property. It was also going to be personal in his body. He was going to suffer severe sickness. His bowels were going to come out with some sort of terrible disease that would bring about a painful and even terminal prolapse of the bowels.
The Hebrew word used for "bowels" here is "may-AW." It is not altogether specific, but speaks of the inner parts of a person. Its usage throughout the Old Testament includes not only the human digestive tract, but refers to a woman's womb (Gen. 25:23; Ruth 1:11; etc.) to a man's reproductive organs (2Sam. 7:12; 16:11; etc.), and even to the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17).
Because it refers to the inner parts, the word is also used to speak of the seat of emotions and feelings. In English, we say that emotions fill our heart. Hebrew uses this word instead.
Psa. 40:8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart."
The word "heart" there is also "may-AW," my "inner parts," "my bowels."
Now this doesn't always translate into English well. In Song of Solomon, the NAS version says,
Song 5:4 ...my feelings were aroused for him.
But the King James translators tried to communicate this idea by writing,
Song 5:4 ...my bowels were moved for him.
So, it would seem that a literal translation isn't always the best choice!
True to God's Word through Elijah's letter, the Lord brought the Philistines and Arabs against the nation of Judah. They were invaded, and Ye-ho-RAWM's wives, sons, and property were all taken from him.
But God had postponed His judgment for a reason. He'd waited these years in order that Yeh-ho-aw-KHAWZ would be born. He was the one survivor that would carry on the kingly line of David, as we shall see in chapter 22.
Ye-ho-RAWM suffered a long and miserable death, being smitten as Elijah had prophesied. When he finally died, it says that,
2Chr. 21:19 ...his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers.
2Chr. 21:20 ...and he departed with no one's regret
Imagine being such a person that when you die, no one mourns your loss. As a pastor, I have done many different kinds of funerals. It is always very telling to see the impact that someone left on this earth. Sometimes the funeral is doubly depressing. First, that the person died, but second, that they made so little impact that there are only a few people at the memorial.
You know, when Moses died,
Deut. 34:8 ...the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days...
I also remember a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha.
Acts 9:36 ...this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.
When Peter arrived at the place where she'd died, they were...
Acts 9:39 ...weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that (she) used to make while she was with them.
She had left such a legacy of the works of her hands and the kindness of her heart that people mourned her death. They knew that humanity was poorer for the loss of her.
Saints, I can't emphasize this enough: Make your life count. Make a difference. Invest in eternity by demonstrating God's love to humanity. Remember that the life you live now is the legacy you leave.