Jehoram of Israel
- This article is about the king of the Northern Kingdom. For the king of the Southern Kingdom, see Jehoram. For other uses of this name, see Jehoram (disambiguation).
Jehoram or Joram (Hebrew יהורם המלך YHWH is exalted) (r. 896-884BC by Ussher or 852-841BC according to Thiele) was the ninth King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He succeeded his brother Ahaziah, who died without issue. He was the last king in the troubled and idolatrous House of Omri.
Jehoram was probably the second of the seventy-plus sons of Ahab and Jezebel. The only one of his brothers whom the Bible names specifically is Ahaziah, his elder brother. The Bible nowhere records his age-at-accession, and thus gives no clue to his year of birth.
Accession and the Anti-Moab War
Jehoram succeeded his brother Ahaziah when the latter fell through a latticework, injured himself, and inquired of a Philistine god as to whether he would recover. Jehoram, like all the Omride kings, was an "evil-doer," but he did one minor thing to distinguish himself from the rest: he put away the image of Baal that Ahab had made. Why he so acted, the Bible does not directly explain. In any event, though he did not worship Baal, he did worship the two golden calves that Jeroboam I had set up.
Almost immediately Jehoram was at war with King Mesha of Moab. He prevailed upon his Southern neighbor Jehoshaphat to help him quell the rebellion of the Moabites; Jehoshaphat agreed and even enlisted the king of Edom to join the coalition.
The coalition marched for seven days through Edomite country, which was a desert then and is a desert today. They then ran out of water. Jehoram despaired, saying that God had brought the coalition together only to deliver them into the hands of the Moabites. Jehoshaphat urged him to inquire of a genuine prophet of God, and Jehoram suggested consulting the prophet Elisha.
At first, Elisha wanted nothing to do with Jehoram or his coalition, but Jehoram begged Elisha to reconsider. Elisha did—but only because Jehoshaphat was a coalition member.
Elisha first asked for someone to play him some music. This was done, and Elisha received a vision of what to do. He passed on a command from God to dig ditches throughout the valley, and that those ditches would soon fill with water, enough for their armies, their livestock, and their beasts of burden. He then gave them very specific commands: that they should destroy Moab's cities, fill up their wells, cut down trees, and scatter stones on every piece of arable land. The next morning, the coalition made its meat sacrifice—and found the ditches filled with water, as Elisha had said.
When the Moabites realized that they were coming under attack, they raised as large an army as they could. On the next morning, they looked out on a desert valley under a sun that made the water shine as if it were blood-red. This convinced the Moabites that the coalition soldiers were all dead. They then came down to try to despoliate the Israelites. When they had come close enough, the coalition troops rose up and counterattacked, with deadly effect. The Moabites fled in an all-out rout, and the coalition troops, in hot pursuit, destroyed everything in their path.
At last they came to the city of Kirharaseth. There Masha, the king of all Moab, tried to sortie with a seven-hundred-man force to break through the line to the Edomite contingent. This failed, but Masha captured the heir to the Edomite throne. Him he offered as a whole burnt sacrifice on the city wall. The coalition, shuddering from what they had seen, retired and left the city standing.
The Naaman Affair
A few years later, Jehoram received an incredible letter from King Benhadad II of Syria, asking him whether he could cure Benhadad's chief-of-staff, Naaman, of leprosy. Benhadad sent massive presents—ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten suits of clothing. Jehoram tore his royal robes when he received this letter, thinking that it was the first step in an elaborate provocation to war—but Elisha prevailed on the king to send Naaman to him for a cure. Jehoram did so, and Naaman received his cure and went home.
The Second Syrian-Israeli War
The Blinding Incident
In the third or fourth year of his reign, Jehoram came under attack from Benhadad. Twice Elisha informed Jehoram of where Benhadad was planning to set up camp, and advised Jehoram each time to stay away from that spot. Subsequently Elisha appeared at Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, with a large portion of the Syrian army following behind—because every soldier among them was blind. Jehoram asked Elisha's advice, and then fed the men generously and sent them home.
The Siege of Samaria
Several months later, Benhadad marched his entire army to Samaria and laid siege to it—and so tight was that siege that famine and scarcity were the order of the day. Prices of food and fertilizer were, by the standards of the time, astronomical. Eventually King Jehoram heard a particularly disgusting and sickening lawsuit, in which the plaintiff complained that, after surrendering her son for consumption by herself and a neighbor, now the neighbor was unwiling to return the grisly favor.
Jehoram tore his royal robes and wore sackcloth. But he also blamed Elisha for the famine and swore to God that he would have Elisha summarily beheaded. His messenger found Elisha shut up in his house, and there told him that the disaster was God's doing. Elisha then assured the messenger that, on the next day, prices would fall to normal. When a nobleman and senior adviser to the king questioned that, Elisha said that he would see it happen, but would not partake of it.
That night, four leprous men, who were camped outside the city gate, decided that surrendering themselves to the Syrians would be better than entering a starving city or sitting where they were—so they headed for the Syrian camp. They later brought back a report that Jehoram found incredible. According to this report, the lepers kept walking until they found themselves inside the Syrian camp, which they found utterly deserted. The Syrians—and so the author of I and II Kings learned perhaps from another unidentified source—had thought they heard the sound of chariots, and somehow formed the notion that Jehoram had managed to hire Egyptian and Hittite mercenaries to slaughter them. So the Syrians made a totally disorderly retreat, and left behind camp, provisions, beasts of burden, and even some of their clothes.
At first the lepers took some supplies from the first tent they came to, and hid them. They did this a second time. Then they realized the full magnitude of the blessing that the Syrians' absence represented, and returned at once to Samaria to report what they had seen.
Jehoram's first thought was that the Syrians had staged the scene in order to lure the Israelites out of the city, so that they could take it. But his advisers encouraged him to send a search party. This he did, and the searchers, astride two chariot horses, confirmed the lepers' report.
When the people heard this, they rushed out of the city to plunder the empty Syrian camp. But they moved so fast that they trampled to death the officer assigned to guard the gate—which officer was the same adviser who had doubted Elisha's prediction of relief from the famine.
The Seven-year Famine
Shortly after the raising of the siege, the Northern Kingdom suffered seven years of famine. At the end of that time, a Shunnamite woman came to the king to sue for the return of her property that she had left behind. She testified that Elisha had previously seen her, predicted that she would have a son (which she did), raised that son to life when he died, and most recently had warned her to move to another country for seven years on account of the famine to come. Jehoram heard the case and called as his chief witness Gehazi, the servant of Elisha. Gehazi confirmed the woman's account and even positively identified the woman and her son. Jehoram granted her prayer for relief and appointed an officer to see to it.
Death and Succession
In the last year of his reign, Jehoram and his nephew Ahaziah of Judah, laid siege to Ramoth-gilead (which had been the site of an earlier siege that had given rise to Omri's conspiracy). Jehoram clashed with Syrians, now under the command of King Hazael, and was wounded. He retired to Jezreel and in fact took up residence on what used to be Naboth's vineyard. Ahaziah stayed with him.
Soon afterward, a watchman spotted a company of men approaching the residence. Jehoram ordered the watchman to send a messenger on horseback. A messenger went, but did not return. The watchman sent out a second messenger, with the same result—but now the watchman knew, from the way the company was moving, that the leader could only be the noted officer Jehu.
Jehoram and Ahaziah prepared their chariots and rode out to meet Jehu. When Jehoram drew to within shouting distance, he asked Jehu, "Is it peace?" Jehu answered that it was definitely not peace, on account of the abominable practices of the dowager queen, Jezebel.
Jehoram turned and fled, and said to Ahaziah that they had been tricked. Almost at once an arrow struck him in the back between the shoulder blades and exited at his heart, so that he died instantly.
Edwin R. Thiele disputes the chronology of James Ussher on two grounds: he shows Jehoram reigning for eleven calendar years rather than twelve, and he shows Jehoram beginning his reign about forty-five years after Ussher shows.
The real reason for Thiele moving Jehoram's reign forty-five years more recent than Ussher is that he is trying to synchronize Jehu with Shalmaneser III. As to calculating a length-of-reign that appears one year shorter, Thiele probably assumes a different dating convention, or that Jehoram began and ended his reign at different seasons of the year.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 523, 525, 534
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Jehoram." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 268-272
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Jehoram." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "King Jehoram of Israel - Biography." The Kings of Israel, hosted at http://www.geocities.com/ Retrieved June 18, 2007.
- II_Kings 3:1-3
- II_Kings 3:4-27
- II_Kings 5:1-19
- II_Kings 6:24-29
- II_Kings 6:30-33
- II_Kings 7:1-2
- II_Kings 7:3-20
- II_Kings 8:1-6
- II_Kings 8:28-29
- II_Kings 9:17-24