“He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings” (2 Chron 21.20).
Imagine strolling through a common cemetery when an ancient tombstone catches your eye. You brush off the weeds and dirt to read:
Son of Jehoshaphat
883 BC – 843 BC
He died with no one’s regret
Could there be a sadder epitaph? No one cared that he died. A king buried among commoners just as well forgotten by those commoners. Could we imagine a U.S. President buried in the county cemetery? A monarch buried in a potter’s field? Such was Jehoram, king of Judah, and rightly so.
Jehoram became king in Judah when his father Jehoshaphat died (2 Chron 21.1-20). As the oldest of six brothers he was rightful heir to his father’s throne. As soon as the ink was dry on the legal transfers of power Jehoram executed all his brothers. His brothers were better men (see v13) so Jehoram got rid of his rivals.
Jehoshaphat had entered a politically advantageous marriage with one of Ahab’s (king of Israel) daughters (2 Chron 18.1). Ahab set a new bar for wickedness in Israel (1 Kgs 16.30) so Jeshoshaphat, as faithful as he was, was in bed with the mafia. Jehoram followed suit and married one of Ahab’s daughters: a marriage made in hell.
Jehoram stopped an Edomite rebellion and made idolatry the law of the land. Elijah, Judah’s Prophet-in-Chief, sent Jehoram a letter. God was paying attention and kept meticulous records. Because Jehoram adopted Ahab’s policies rather than his father and grandfather’s policies the king faced a rude awakening.
God allied the Philistines and Arabs to confiscate all of Jehoram’s treasure and family. Imagine North Korea and Iran colluding to pillage Monaco. God would, however, make sure Jehoram survived with his youngest son Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Ahaziah) because “the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever” (2 Chron 21.7).
The Davidic dynasty was often one son away from extinction. But God kept his word.
After the Arab-Philistine alliance left Jerusalem, God commanded Jehoram’s bowels to revolt. God commands armies and colons! For two years, Jehoram suffered painful intestinal rebellion until “his bowels came out” (v19). Jehoram spilled his guts, literally.
And how did Jerusalem memorialize the king’s death? They didn’t. No funeral pyre (v19). No state funeral. No royal burial. No respect.
Jehoram’s life and even sadder death is even more remarkable in the light of the gospel. Jerusalem’s king died with no one’s regret. While he was buried in Jerusalem, he was not afforded even the dignity of rotting with the kings.
Jesus was the Son of David for whom God orchestrates all of history (Lk 1.32; Rev 3.7; 5.5). And he was treated like Jehoram. He was crucified with no one’s regret. He was nobody’s king (Jn 19.15). And were it not for two courageous followers he would have been afforded only a criminal’s burial (Jn 19.38-42). The King of Israel (Lk 23.38) was buried in the city of David but not but with the kings. No funeral pyre. No state funeral. No royal burial. No respect.
The blood-thirsty Jews watched Jesus bleed out so they could rush home for family worship. They hastened the death of The Sabbath so as to hurry home for the day of sabbath (Jn 19.31). With the imposter king dead they could get on with their lives. No regrets.
Jesus assumed all the shame of Jehoram and then some. Jesus came to seek and save by assuming to himself all that is wrong with wicked kings. He became sin for us (2 Cor 5.21). He was cursed for us (Gal 3.13). He exercises his rule not by killing his rival-brothers but by dying for them; not by shaming them but assuming their shame. God did not raise Arabs or Philistines against Jesus. He raised up the full strength of Satan’s cosmic army, who conscripted Israel and Rome into service, for the world’s most fateful “hour” (Jn 17.1).
What would such a humble king do were he to face his executioners again? The guillotine? Firing squad? Pancreatic cancer? Hardly. This King returned to the very “men of Israel” who “nailed him to a cross” to offer them forgiveness (Acts 2.22-42). Repent and they receive the King’s pardon and reward. They cursed Jesus but Jesus would now bless them (3.13-26). They kicked Jesus to the curb and now that same Jesus opens the palace doors to them (Acts 4.8-12). God gave Satan an hour so that his people would have eternity.
Jehoram’s death left Israel longing for another son of David to rescue them. He wasn’t The One. But David’s Firstborn Son has finally come. Like Jehoram, he died in shame with no one’s regret and denied royal treatment. Unlike Jehoram, he was raised in glory and enthroned in Zion. The humble King is also our Brother and Friend. He destroyed the high places so that we might enjoy The High Place. You will not find his name on any tombstone because he lives forever to intercede as our Elder Brother (Heb 7.23-25). In following him there will be no regrets.