Now Yehoram, Now You Don’tBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
When Yehoshafat died, he was succeeded by his son Yehoram. Yehoshafat had other sons as well, and he gave them all gifts of riches and cities. Yehoram turned around and killed his brothers, along with a few other nobles whom he was worried might be able to challenge his rule.
Yehoram was married to Ahab’s daughter and he was just as rotten as his father-in-law. Nevertheless, G-d had promised David his dynasty, so G-d did not wipe out Yehoram’s royal line.
In those days, Edom rebelled against Judah’s rule and appointed a king for themselves. Yehoram went to put down the Edomite uprising, but they never did get back in line. Others were likewise inspired to rebel; this was all a consequence of Yehoram’s unworthiness. Yehoram even built altars to idols, leading his people astray.
Yehoram received a letter from the prophet Elijah (who, by the way, had already left Earth in a fiery chariot by this point – see II Kings chapter 2). In the letter, Elijah told Yehoram that since he did not follow the righteous ways of his fathers Yehoshafat and Asa, preferring to go in the evil path of Ahab – even going so far as to murder his brothers, who were worthier than he! – G-d will strike his household and Yehoram himself will suffer from an extreme digestive disorder.
Pursuant to this, G-d aroused the Philistines and the Arabs to attack Judah and loot the palace. As a punishment for killing his brothers, the invaders killed all of Yehoram’s sons save one, Yehoachaz. Then Yehoram was struck with the predicted malady, from which he knew no relief. After suffering for two years, he died a horrible death. He was buried without honor, not even in a royal grave.
The obvious question is why Elijah was the prophet chosen to send a message to Yehoram. Aside from the whole issue of no longer being alive in the conventional sense, Elijah prophesied in the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, not in Judah. Surely there was no shortage of local, living prophets available. The answer is that Yehoram was following in the path of his father-in-law, Ahab. Who would be more appropriate than Elijah, who was Ahab’s sworn nemesis? Like Holmes to Moriarty or Superman to Lex Luthor, so was Elijah to Ahab. If Yehoram was so eager to inherit Ahab’s mantle, Elijah was the perfect foil.