---

Letter From a Dead Man LETTER FROM A DEAD MAN Farrell Till An old adage says, "Dead men tell no tales." Well, maybe so, but according to the Bible, dead men can write letters. After Jehoram succeeded his father Jehoshaphat as king of Judah, "he did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" ([ref001]2 Chron. 21:6 ). [So what else is new?] As a result, "a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet" ([ref002]v:12 ) telling him that because he had not "walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat," he would be afflicted with a disease of the bowels so severe that his bowels would fall out "day by day" ([ref003]v:15 ). Needless to say, the Bible tells us that Jehoram died exactly as Elijah's letter had predicted ([ref004]vv:18-20 ). The only problem is that the parallel story of Elijah and Jehoram in 2 Kings claims that Elijah died during the reign of Jehoshaphat before Jehoram succeeded to the throne. Well, of course, Elijah didn't die. He was "translated" into heaven in a "chariot of fire" ([ref005]2 Kings 2:11-13 ), but the point is that the biblical account of Elijah's departure from this life occurred in the reign of Jehoshaphat. How do we know this? It's just a simple matter of "rightly dividing the word of truth" ([ref006]2 Tim. 2:15 ). Ahaziah succeeded his father Ahab as king of Israel in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat's reign as king of Judah ([ref007]1 Kings 22:51 ), but Ahaziah "did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" and paid with his life ([ref008]1 Kings 22:52 ; [ref009]2 Kings 1:17 ). Jehoram the son of Ahab (not to be confused with Jehoram of Judah) succeeded his brother Ahaziah to the throne "in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah" ([ref010]2 Kings 3:1 ). However, the chapter before this, as noted above, reported Elijah's "translation" in the "chariot of fire" ([ref011]2:11 ), after which Elisha was recognized as chief of the prophets ([ref012]v:15 ), a position for which Elijah had been told to anoint him ([ref013]1 Kings 19:16 ). That the writer of [ref014]2 Kings believed that Elijah was no longer on the scene in the latter stages of Jehoshaphat's reign is evident from [ref015]3:4-20 , which tells the story of Jehoram of Israel's attempt to form an alliance with Jehoshaphat against king Mesha of Moab. Jehoshaphat wanted the opinion of a "prophet of Yahweh" before agreeing to ally himself with Jehoram, so Elisha (not Elijah) was called in to render a judgment. If Elijah had still been on the scene at this time, surely he would have been consulted rather than Elisha, because, of all the prophets of Yahweh, none was more respected than Elijah. Besides that, Elijah's "translation" was clearly reported in the previous chapter. It seems rather obvious, then, that the writer of this book thought that Elijah's "translation" had occurred during the lifetime of Jehoshaphat. Then when Jehoshaphat died, his son Jehoram became king of Judah in the "fifth year of Joram" (Jehoram) of Israel ([ref016]2 Kings 8:16 ). The names are confusing, so the readers should keep in mind that there was a king Jehoram of Israel and a king Jehoram of Judah whose reigns overlapped. Suffice it to say that all of this information properly sorted will show that Elijah was "translated" during the reign of king Jehoshaphat and that Jehoram (of Judah) became king upon the death of his father Jehoshaphat. All of this being true, how did Elijah write a letter to Jehoram after he had succeeded Jehoshaphat? The only possible explanation would have to be that dead men who can tell no tales can nevertheless write letters. Inerrantists, of course, have a how-it-could-have-been scenario that supposedly explains the problem. [ref017]Second Kings 1:17 states that Jehoram (of Israel) became king in the second year of Jehoram of Judah (the son of Jehoshaphat). This clearly contradicts [ref018]2 Kings 3:1 (cited above), which says that Jehoram of Israel became king in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat, but never mind; inerrantists are not going to let a problem like this deter them from proclaiming the marvelous harmony and unity of the scriptures. Gleason Archer tells us that a solution can be found in the old co-regency dodge: This [the statement in 2 Kings 1:17] appears to be in conflict with the notation in 2 Kings 3:1, that Jehoram ben [son of] Ahab became king in the "eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat." But the discrepancy arises from the fact that just prior to joining Ahab in the unsuccessful attempt to recapture Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians, Jehoshaphat took the precaution to have his son Jehoram installed as co-regent on the throne of Judah (Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 204). So, presto, just like that, Archer has found a way it could have been. Jehoram of Judah was made co-regent before the death of his father Jehoshaphat, so it was during Jehoram's co-regency that Elijah wrote him the letter. A major weakness of this "explanation" is that Archer cited no book, chapter, and verse as proof that the writers of [ref019]Kings and [ref020]Chronicles understood that Jehoshaphat did indeed install Jehoram (of Judah) as a co-regent, and the reason he didn't is because there is none. Like most inerrantists looking for a way out of an embarrassing situation, Archer just arbitrarily declared that this was the way it was. Another problem with the quest for harmony in this story is the hopelessly confused chronology in the story of Jehoshaphat as the writer(s) of Kings told it. When Ahab of Israel was killed in battle, his son Ahaziah succeeded him in the "seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat" ([ref021]1 Kings 22:51 ). He reigned for two years (same verse), after which his brother Jehoram (of Israel) became king in the "eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat" ([ref022]2 Kings 3:1 ). How could Ahaziah serve as king for two years while only one year was transpiring in Jehoshaphat's reign? Inerrantists, of course, will say something about different ways of calculating. One passage was counting part of a year as a full year, so Ahaziah, who reigned for a full year and part of a year, reigned for two years; the other passage was written in terms of full or complete years. Hence, Ahaziah became king in Jehoshaphat's 17th year and reigned one full year and part of another, so his brother Jehoram (of Israel) became king in Jehoshaphat's 18th year (in terms of full or complete years). Yeah, right. It's always something like that, isn't it? Maybe we could swallow a how-it-could-have-been scenario like this were it not for more confusing chronological problems in this story. (Brace yourself; this stuff gets really complicated.) After Jehoram of Israel became king in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat, the latter died, and Jehoram of Judah succeeded him in the fifth year of the reign of Jehoram of Israel ([ref023]2 Kings 8:16 ). But wait a minute. Jehoshaphat reigned for 25 years ([ref024]1 Kings 22:42 ; [ref025]2 Chron. 20:31 ). So if Jehoshaphat reigned for 25 years and if Jehoram of Israel became king in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat, how could it be that Jehoshaphat's son (Jehoram) became king of Judah in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel's reign? Eighteen plus five equals only twenty-three, so by necessity, it would have been in the seventh year of Jehoram of Israel's reign that Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram (of Judah) became king. Either that, or it was in the twentieth year of Jehoshaphat's reign that Jehoram (of Israel) became king. If not, why not? But it gets even worse. After succeeding Jehoshaphat, Jehoram of Judah reigned for eight years ([ref026]2 Kings 8:17 ; [ref027]2 Chron. 21:5 ). Very well, this would mean that Jehoram of Judah died in the 13th year of the reign of Jehoram of Israel, because Jehoram of Judah became king in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel, but the total length of Jehoram of Israel's reign was only twelve years ([ref028]2 Kings 3:1 ). [I told you it was going to get complicated.] [ref029]Second Kings 8:25 , however, states that after the death of Jehoram of Judah, his son Ahaziah became king in the twelfth year of Joram (Jehoram) of Israel. And if that isn't complicated enough for you, consider that one chapter later ([ref030]9:29 ) we are told that Jehoram of Judah's son (Ahaziah) began to reign in the eleventh year of Jehoram of Israel. About the only thing more confusing than this chronological mess is the audacity of fundamentalist preachers who insist that they see no reason in a maze of confusion like this to question the inerrancy of the scriptures. Let's just put the matter to the cutting edge of Occam's razor. Which is more likely, that all of this confusion can be explained by undocumented co-reigns and "different methods of calculation," or that the Bible writers just got some of their "facts" confused? The latter seems far more likely. As any student of the Old Testament knows, the writers of Kings and Chronicles relied on various sources for their information: Acts of Solomon ([ref031]1 Kings 11:41 ), Chronicles of the Kings of Israel ([ref032]1 Kings 14:19,29 ); Chronicles of the Kings of Judah ([ref033]15:7,23 ); Book of the Kings of Israel ([ref034]1 Chron. 9:1 ); Book of Nathan the Prophet ([ref035]1 Chron. 9:29 ). The various references are just too numerous to list them all, but the writer(s) of [ref036]2 Kings acknowledged that he (they) had drawn information about Jehoram of Judah from "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah" ([ref037]8:23 ). In the midst of all this borrowing of information, wouldn't there have been a distinct probability that the end result would be a patchwork containing at least some discrepancies that escaped the compilers' notice? If inerrantists want to talk about how-it-could-have-been scenarios, here is one that makes far more sense than the arbitrary stuff they resort to. At least, there is biblical documentation to support mine. For theirs, they have nothing but arbitrary theories about unreported co-reigns and obscure methods of calculation. So let's put all this confusion on the back burner for a while and return to the matter of Elijah's letter to Jehoram (of Judah). Gleason Archer wants us to believe that Elijah wrote this letter while Jehoshaphat was still alive and Jehoram was serving only as his co-regent, but there are problems with this theory other than the obvious fact that the biblical records mention no Jehoshaphat-Jehoram co-reign. Time after time, the Bible described the Judean kings as men who "did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh," but Jehoshaphat was a rare exception to this rule. He "walked in the way of David and sought not unto the Baalim but sought to the God of his father, and walked in his commandments and not after the doings of Israel" ([ref038]2 Chron. 17:3 ). Because of this, "Yahweh established the kingdom in his hand" ([ref039]v:5 ) and Jehoshaphat "was lifted up in the ways of Yahweh" ([ref040]v:6 ). Later it was said of him that he "walked in the way of Asa his father and turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh" ([ref041]2 Chron. 20:32 ; [ref042]1 Kings 22:44 ). Even when Jehu the seer reprimanded Jehoshaphat for allying himself with Ahab in the attempt to recapture Ramoth-gilead, Jehu praised him for putting away the Asheroth (pagan worship) and setting his heart to seek God ([ref043]2 Chron. 19:3 ). During his reign, he sent his princes with priests and Levites into the cities of Judah to teach the people from "the book of the law of Yahweh" ([ref044]2 Chron. 17:7-9 ), and he restructured the judicial system by setting judges in all of the fortified cities of Judah with instructions to "judge not for man but for Yahweh" ([ref045]2 Chron. 19:5-7 ). In view of Jehoshaphat's dedication to the laws of Yahweh, how likely is it that he would have allowed his son Jehoram to serve as co-regent in such a corrupt manner that the most notable prophet of his religion would have seen the need to write a letter of reprimand? Archer's speculative theory requires us to believe that Jehoshaphat cleaned up just about everything in his government except the evil co-regency of his son. That is asking a bit too much. A more reasonable interpretation is that Jehoram (of Judah) became king after Jehoshaphat's death and then abandoned the righteous principles of his father to such a degree that Elijah sent him the letter of reprimand. This is exactly what the biblical text states: And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place (2 Chron. 21:1, NKJV). In no sense is this passage describing a co-reign. Jehoshaphat died, and THEN Jehoram his son reigned in his place. That is about as clear a statement as you will find in this entire confused record of Jehoshaphat's and Jehoram's reigns. Immediately after assuming power, Jehoram removed all competition by executing his six brothers ([ref046]v:3 ). Now how likely is it that Jehoshaphat stood by and allowed this to happen during a co-regency that he shared with Jehoram? In point of fact, the text makes it very clear that this atrocity was committed after Jehoshaphat was dead: Now when Jehoram was established over the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself and killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the princes of Israel (v:4). Certainly Jehoram could not have established himself over the kingdom of his father while a monarch of Jehoshaphat's power was still alive, so obviously it was after Jehoshaphat was dead that Jehoram murdered his brothers. If anyone still doubts this, let him consider the full text of the letter that Elijah sent to Jehoram: Thus says Yahweh, the God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father's household, who were better than yourself, behold Yahweh will strike your people with a serious affliction--your children, your wives, and all your possessions; and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day (vv:12-15). Could anything be clearer than this? Elijah (if indeed he wrote this letter) knew that Jehoram had already murdered his brothers. So to believe that Elijah wrote this letter while Jehoram was simply a co-regent requires one to believe that Jehoshaphat, who had had the power to institute sweeping political reforms and even maintain garrisons in some of the cities of Ephraim that Asa had regained from the northern kingdom ([ref047]2 Chron. 17:2 ; [ref048]19:4 ), was unable to prevent Jehoram from murdering his other sons. Who can believe it? Besides this, the reference to Elijah's letter is near the end of the chronicler's version of Jehoram's life, an indication that it was written well into the eight-year reign of Jehoram ([ref049]21:5 ) and not at some time during a hypothetical co-regency. The letter said that Yahweh would strike Jehoram's people with "a serious affliction" that would include his children, wives, and all his possessions and that then Jehoram himself would be afflicted in his bowels. Immediately upon continuation of the narrative, the chronicler reported that Yahweh stirred up against Jehoram the Philistines and Arabians, who invaded Judah and carried away all the possessions in the king's house as well as his wives and sons, except for Jehoahaz ([ref050]vv:16-17 ). "After all this," the very next verse tells us, "Yahweh struck him [Jehoram] with an incurable disease." Then after two years, "his bowels fell out by reason of his disease," and he died in great pain ([ref051]v:19 ). So the obvious intention of the chronicler was to report that Jehoram's wickedness became so great during his reign that somewhere close to six years after Jehoram had become king, Elijah pronounced a curse upon him in a letter, and then he died about two years later, having reigned for a total of eight years. So the problem for the fundamentalists who still want to insist that the Bible is inerrant in every detail is that they must explain how Elijah wrote this letter when he was no longer on the scene at this time in Jehoram's reign. Now there is only one loose end to tie up. If there was no co-regency during the reign of Jehoshaphat, why did the writer of [ref052]2 Kings say in [ref053]1:17 that Jehoram of Israel began to reign in the second year of Jehoram of Judah and then say in [ref054]3:1 that Jehoram of Israel began to reign in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat? Most assuredly, what we cannot do is resort to an assumption of biblical inerrancy as grounds for arguing that there cannot be a discrepancy in the two passages. Objectivity requires us to admit the distinct possibility that a fallible human writer simply got his facts confused. The likelihood that this is exactly what happened can be found in a fact previously mentioned: the writers of the books of Kings and Chronicles frequently referred to source materials that they had used in compiling their histories. The writer(s) of Kings acknowledged that "the chronicles of the kings of Judah" had been used to compile Jehoshaphat's and Jehoram of Judah's stories ([ref055]1 Kings 22:45 ; [ref056]2 Kings 8:23 ); the chronicle writer(s) said that the story of Jehoshaphat had depended on "the history of Jehu the son of Hanai, which is inserted in the book of the kings of Israel" ([ref057]2 Chron. 20:34 ). On the other hand, the story of Ahaziah of Israel was compiled from information in "the chronicles of the kings of Israel" ([ref058]2 Kings 1:18 ). The writers referred to three different source books in telling the stories of Ahaziah and Jehoram of Israel and Jehoshaphat and Jehoram of Judah, so the glaring discrepancy in [ref059]2 Kings 1:17 and [ref060]3:1 could easily have resulted from contradictory dates in the writer's sources that he inserted, probably inadvertently, while compiling his own version of the history of this period. Anyone who doubts that this could have happened is someone who doesn't have much experience in researching and writing. To argue that it couldn't have happened because the writers were inspired is to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. One thing is obvious. The history of Jehoshaphat and the two Jehorams (one an Israelite, the other a Judean king) is a confusing mess of chronology from beginning to end. That doesn't do much to instill confidence in the fundamentalist claim that the Bible is so perfectly harmonious from cover to cover that only divine inspiration can account for it. [ref001] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:6 [ref002] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:12 [ref003] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:15 [ref004] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:18-20 [ref005] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+2:11-13 [ref006] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Timothy+2:15 [ref007] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:51 [ref008] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:52 [ref009] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+1:17 [ref010] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1 [ref011] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+2:11 [ref012] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+2:15 [ref013] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+19:16 [ref014] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings [ref015] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:4-20 [ref016] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:16 [ref017] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+1:17 [ref018] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1 [ref019] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings [ref020] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles [ref021] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:51 [ref022] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1 [ref023] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:16 [ref024] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:42 [ref025] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+20:31 [ref026] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:17 [ref027] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:5 [ref028] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1 [ref029] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:25 [ref030] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+9:29 [ref031] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+11:41 [ref032] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+14:19-29 [ref033] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+15:7-23 [ref034] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Chronicles+9:1 [ref035] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Chronicles+9:29 [ref036] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings [ref037] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:23 [ref038] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+17:3 [ref039] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+17:5 [ref040] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+17:6 [ref041] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+20:32 [ref042] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:44 [ref043] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+19:3 [ref044] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+17:7-9 [ref045] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+19:5-7 [ref046] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:3 [ref047] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+17:2 [ref048] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+19:4 [ref049] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:5 [ref050] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:16-17 [ref051] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+21:19 [ref052] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings [ref053] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+1:17 [ref054] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1 [ref055] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?I+Kings+22:45 [ref056] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+8:23 [ref057] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Chronicles+20:34 [ref058] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+1:18 [ref059] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+1:17 [ref060] http://www.calvin.edu/cgi-bin/bible?II+Kings+3:1

---

The views and opinions stated within this web page are those of the author or authors which wrote them and may not reflect the views and opinions of the ISP or account user which hosts the web page. The opinions may or may not be those of the Chairman of The Skeptic Tank.

Return to The Skeptic Tank's main Index page.

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank