King Jehoram of Israel - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Jehoram of Israel - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Jehoram of Israel
Previous King: Ahaziah   Next King: Jehu


The War with Moab
A Miracle Demanded of Jehoram
Protection Against Syria's Aggression
Another Rescue from Syria's Aggression
The King Meets One Raised from the Dead
Jehoram's Overthrow
For Discussion


Jehoram became king upon the accidental death of his brother, King Ahaziah. The Bible account characterizes Jehoram as evil, and in his 12-year reign we see a back-and-forth wavering. At times he was friendly with the LORD's prophet Elisha, at times he persecuted him. Sometimes he was faithful to the LORD, other times he blamed the LORD for problems caused by his own sins. He took steps against the cult of Baal worship introduced by his father, King Ahab, but he observed the cult of golden calf idols introduced by King Jeroboam.

Time after time God displayed his power by rescuing Jehoram — in a supply crisis at war, in preventing enemy raids on Israel's territory, in miraculously breaking a powerful siege, in many great miracles worked by the prophet Elisha — and yet, in spite of all this evidence, Jehoram never fully trusted the LORD. In fact, because of Jehoram's sin, his time as king was plagued with multiple multi-year famines. These were wake-up calls from God, to which Jehoram never responded.

Because of Jehoram's commitment to evil, the LORD instructed one of Jehoram's commanders, Jehu, to kill Jehoram and assume his throne.

When reading the Bible account, it is easy to be confused about Jehoram, for three reasons. One, he is also known as Joram, and the two names are used interchangeably and without explanation. Two, neighboring Judah also had king named Jehoram, also known as Joram, who reigned at the same time. So both names are intermixed, sometimes referring to one king, sometimes to the other. Third, in 2 Kings 5:1 - 8:6, he is referred to namelessly, simply as “the king,” leaving the casual reader in doubt of his identity.

Where to read Jehoram's story: 2 Kings 3, 8:28-29, 9:14-24; 2 Chronicles 22:5-7

The War with Moab

During his brother Ahaziah's brief reign, Moab, formerly subject to Israel, declared their independence, and Jehoram's first act as king was to crush the rebellion. He secured the aid of Judah's King Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom, and set out across the desert. There they exhausted their water supply and stood in danger of defeat without even facing the enemy. Jehoram blamed the LORD for this disaster. Jehoshaphat, always turning to the LORD for aid, asked if a prophet could be found. Learning that Elisha was nearby, Jehoram and Jehoshaphat went together to consult him.

Elisha scorned Jehoram for his evil ways, but agreed to meet them out of respect for faithful Jehoshaphat. Elisha requested a musician, and as he listened to the music the LORD spoke to him. He told the kings to dig many ditches in the valley near their encampment, which the LORD would fill with fresh water. He further prophesied that the LORD would give the three kings victory over Moab. The next morning a flood filled the valley, the ditches were filled with water, and the army and their large herds were rescued.

That same morning, the army of Moab looked out over the valley, now covered with water-filled ditches. In the light of the rising sun, the water looked to them like blood, and the Moabites concluded that the three kings had quarreled and slaughtered each other, filling the valley with their blood, and leaving it full of plunder to be freely plucked. They rushed into the camp without caution, and were taken by surprise when the armies rose and attacked.

Israel inflicted huge casualties on the army of Moab, and proceeded to overthrow many Moabite towns. In order to impair Moab's future ability to fight, they ruined the land by plugging wells, cutting down oases, and destroying arable fields, before returning home.

Source: 2 Kings 3

A Miracle Demanded of Jehoram

Syria's King Benhadad made raids on Israel throughout King Jehoram's career. In one of these raids, the Syrians captured a girl, who became a slave to the wife of Naaman, one of Benhadad's best generals.

Naaman, though extremely successful, was afflicted with leprosy, and this affected him deeply. One day the girl told Naaman's wife about a prophet in Samaria, Israel, possessed of great power from God, and able to heal diseases. She expressed the wish her master would consult with this prophet.

Since the prophet was in enemy territory, Naaman consulted his king before taking action. Hearing his story, Benhadad thought it was an excellent idea, and agreed to give Naaman a letter of introduction to King Jehoram, who would then refer Naaman to the prophet.

Naaman brought expensive gifts in payment for the expected service, and presented Benhadad's letter to an incredulous King Jehoram. “This man wants me to cure an incurable disease!” he told his cabinet. “He is trying to pick a fight!” Jehoram placed his military in a state of alert.

Soon, however, word got around, and Elisha sent a message to the king, saying “Stop the military preparations! Send the man to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel!” — a fact that, ironically, Jehoram had obviously forgotten.

When Naaman arrived at Elisha's door, the prophet humiliated him by refusing even to meet him. Instead, he sent a servant to deliver the message that Naaman should bathe seven times in the Jordan River, and he would be healed.

Naaman felt insulted and at first refused. But at the urging of one of his servants, he complied, and was completely healed. In response, Naaman took home building materials for an altar to the LORD, and promised to worship only the LORD all his days.

Source: 2 Kings 5

Protection Against Syria's Aggression

In spite of this kindness, Benhadad once again waged war against Israel. He made careful battle plans, but Elisha, prompted by God, sent a message to King Jehoram revealing Benhadad's strategy, which Jehoram was therefore equipped to foil. This happened many times, and no doubt put Elisha and the king on the best of terms.

King Benhadad became enraged, certain there was a traitor on his staff. When he accused them, one of them told him that the prophet Elisha was revealing Benhadad's secrets to Jehoram. He sent an army to Dothan, where Elisha was visiting, to kidnap him.

When Elisha awoke in the morning, the city was surrounded. Unafraid, he calmly prayed to the LORD to strike the army blind, and it happened. He approached the blind army and convinced them to follow him 11 miles to Samaria. There he turned them over to Jehoram's guards, and prayed for their sight to return.

Jehoram was anxious to kill them all, but Elisha forbad him, telling him instead to treat them honorably, as prisoners of war. So Jehoram prepared a feast for them, and then sent them home.

As a result of this incident, Syria stopped all their raids on Israel. This great kindness on God's part no doubt prompted Jehoram to put his faith in the LORD.

Source: 2 Kings 6:8-23

Another Rescue from Syria's Aggression

After a while, though, King Jehoram resorted to old evil habits, and was apparently warned by the prophet Elisha that if he failed to repent, Syria would invade again.

Syria did invade, laying siege to Samaria. With the city surrounded by enemy troops, outside commerce was impossible, and the siege lasted for so long that all food was exhausted, and garbage was being sold as food at extreme prices. All this time, Elisha was telling King Jehoram not to do anything rash, but to wait for the LORD, who would rescue them at just the right time.

The depth of the crisis became palpable one day as Jehoram was touring his defenses. A woman caught the king's attention and filed a morbid lawsuit, stating that she and another woman had agreed to cook and eat their two children. They ate her son, but the other woman hid hers, and this woman was bringing suit to have the other son surrendered and eaten.

Hearing this, King Jehoram was rent with grief and anger. He blamed the siege on Elisha, who had probably prophesied it beforehand, and so he sent an executioner to arrest and kill the prophet.

Being warned by God, the prophet and his friends avoided arrest, barring the door to their house. The king arrived soon after, and ranted, still furious, blaming the disaster on the LORD.

At this, Elisha admitted the king, and gave him this message from the LORD: tomorrow food will be so plentiful that prices will plunge. Jehoram's right hand man thought Elisha was just trying to buy time. He said that the LORD wasn't capable of providing so much food, and Elisha replied, “You will see it, but you won't eat any of it.” The king agreed to wait until tomorrow.

That night four men sitting outside the city gate, afflicted with leprosy and accustomed to being excluded, had a brainstorm. They were starving, and going back into the city provided no hope. So they decided to surrender to the Syrians, hoping that they would be treated as prisoners of war and fed. They reasoned that the worst that could happen is that they would be killed — but they were certain to die if they took no action. So they set out for the Syrian camp in the middle of the night.

Arriving at the camp, they found it abandoned, in disarray from the obvious haste in which the Syrians had fled, having heard a noise they interpreted as a rescuing army approaching. They had run for their lives, leaving all their supplies intact. The four men ate and drank their fill and carried off much plunder. Then, struck with conscience for their selfish behavior, they reported their finding to a guard, who passed the message to the king.

Jehoram believed it was an ambush — that the Syrians were nearby, waiting to pounce once the whole starving city arrived. His staff urged him to send a small scouting party. Jehoram resisted sending what he thought was a suicide mission, but his staff convinced him the risk to the scouts was no greater than staying in the city. The scouts returned to the king and reported that no ambush existed, the evidence clearly pointing to a terrified retreat. So the city gates were opened, the population quickly collected the plunder, including much food provisions, and food prices plummeted.

The king's right hand man, however, was trampled in the stampede, fulfilling Elisha's prophecy.

Source: 2 Kings 6:24 - 7:20

The King Meets One Raised from the Dead

One day King Jehoram had a long conversation with the prophet Elisha's assistant, Gehazi, who told story after story of Elisha's doings. In particular, he recounted how Elisha had raised to life a woman's dead son.

It turns out this woman had thereafter left Israel for seven years, and was just now returning. Finding her house occupied, she came to the king, filing suit to evict the squatters and regain her residence. Providentially, she entered the king's office with her son just as Gehazi was finishing telling how the son had been raised to life.

Gehazi interrupted the legal proceedings to point out the coincidence. The king, clearly impressed, asked the woman, who regaled him with her story. At length, the king gave her the most generous settlement the law would allow.

Source: 2 Kings 8:1-6

Jehoram's Overthrow

God had given King Jehoram ample evidence of his power and good intentions, yet Jehoram refused to give up his selfish ways. So God decided the time had come to end his reign.

Jehoram again secured the aid of the Judean king for war. By now Judah's king was the evil Ahaziah, second successor to Jehoshaphat, and the enemy was again Syria. In this war, Jehoram was badly wounded, and retired to his palace at Jezreel to recuperate. Ahaziah visited him there.

Meanwhile the prophet Elisha, in a private meeting with Jehoram's army commander Jehu, gave him this message from the LORD: Jehu was to be king of Israel, and his first duty as king was to destroy all of King Ahab's heirs. This, of course, included King Jehoram. When the other commanders heard this, they immediately gave Jehu their support, clearly ready for a change in leadership. Jehu promptly set out alone for Jezreel by chariot to carry out God's orders.

Back at Jezreel, Jehu's chariot was seen approaching the city. Sensing a crisis, both kings went together to meet Jehu. Jehu announced his intentions, and his first shot killed Jehoram. He fatally wounded Ahaziah, who escaped before dying. Next, Jehu entered the city and found the queen mother, Ahab's widow Jezebel, calling out an upstairs window. He ordered the attendants to throw her down, and she died on impact. Later Jehu sent servants to bury her, but they found only remnants of her body, which had been eaten by dogs in fulfillment of Elijah's prophecy.

Next, Jehu sent a message to the guardians of Ahab's heirs that they were to select the most worthy heir, name him king, arm themselves, and prepare for civil war, because Jehu was coming to kill them all. But having heard of Jehu's success so far, they declared themselves unable to stand against him. Jehu therefore demanded that they slay Ahab's heirs and present him with proof of the deed. This they did, further fulfilling Elijah's prophecy.

Source: 2 Kings 8:28-29, 9:14-24; 2 Chronicles 22:5-7

For Discussion

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