2 Kings 8:16–29 (NIV)✞: Jehoram King of Judah, Ahaziah King of Judah
The book of Kings has been focused on Israel for the last little while but for this section it briefly puts the focus back on Judah. Sort of. I mean, focus switches back to Judah for a couple of kings, but only to say that those kings follow in the ways of the kings of Israel; in the larger context we’re still in the middle of a section in which God is “cleaning house” in Israel, extinguishing Baal worship and getting rid of the house of Ahab (to whom the two kings mentioned in this passage are related).
In verses 16–24✞ we have Jehoram, who reigns for eight years. Verses 18–19✞ sum up his reign succinctly: “He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.” The only information we’re given about Jehoram’s reign is that the nation of Edom (which was apparently still under Judah’s rule when Jehoram took over as king) rebelled against Judah and set up their own king. Jehoram brought his army against them in an attempt to bring Edom back under Judah’s control but failed.
In verses 25–29✞ we have Ahaziah, who reigns for only one year. Once again we have a poor king following in the ways of the kings of Israel, as called out in verse 27✞: “He followed the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab’s family.” The author(s) give even less information about Ahaziah’s reign than was given for Jehoram’s; only that he once joined in battle with Joram, king of Israel, in a battle against Aram, and when Joram was wounded Ahaziah went to see him. In the next chapter we’ll see why the author(s) chose to mention something as simple as “Ahaziah went to visit Joram.”
It’s interesting that the book of Kings doesn’t really talk about “bad” kings in Judah so much as kings who are like the kings of Israel. Yes, the “bad” kings of Israel are called out as doing evil in the eyes of the LORD, but often (usually? always?) in the context of being like the kings of Israel, not just evil on their own. (Often, specifically, in the footsteps of Ahab.)
Which means there’s something to be said about the fine line Christians have to walk when it comes to getting along with our families/neighbours/coworkers/society and being too much like them. We’ve seen kings in Judah getting this right and we’ve seen them getting it wrong; a good example of both was Jehoshaphat:
|1 Kings 22||He was asked by the king of Israel to join in battle and was inclined to agree but did the right thing in demanding they inquire of the LORD first.|
|2 Kings 3||He was asked by the king of Israel to join in battle but didn’t do the right thing by inquiring of the LORD first.|
There is definitely something to be said for working alongside those who don’t know God, finding common cause with them and working to fix society’s ills. Especially those with whom we have close relationships, as Judah had with Israel. We do have to be careful, however, not to become less like Christ in the process – which isn’t always easy! Jehoshaphat was generally a good king and obeyed the LORD but didn’t always get it quite right. When we’re working alongside those who don’t know Christ it could be easy to fall into temptations that don’t even seem like temptations in the first place.
This is not to say that we should be isolated from non-Christians, staying away from them lest we be tempted to sin. We should work with them whenever we have common cause and guard our hearts against sin.
That being said, the kings in question here aren’t on the line, like Jehoshaphat was, they were simply bad kings. They weren’t trying to do the right thing and sometimes being ensnared by their brethren in the North, they were wholeheartedly following in the ways of the kings of Israel. And, although the text talks about them following in the ways of the kings of Israel (as mentioned above), it doesn’t let them off the hook by saying, well, they were following in the footsteps of others so it’s not their fault. No, it says they did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They may have been following in Ahab’s footsteps, but they were responsible for their own actions in following in his footsteps (instead of following and worshipping the LORD).
Speaking of which, I don’t know if Jehoram’s failure against Edom is directly attributable to his failure as a king; if it was a punishment from God for his actions. It could be tempting to draw a straight line there, but I get wary of straight lines when it comes to divine punishments…