2 Chronicles 21-23
After King Jehoshaphat died, he was succeeded as king of The Southern Kingdom of Judah by his son Jehoram (see the Fact Finder question below to understand about Jehoram's letter from "heaven"). Before his death however, with the intention of providing a peaceful, orderly transfer of power, Jehoshaphat very generously provided for all of his other sons, while designating Jehoram as the next king.
"Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in The City of David; and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariah, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Their father gave them great gifts, of silver, gold, and valuable possessions, together with fortified cities in Judah; but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the first-born." (2 Chronicles 21:1-3 RSV)
Even though everything was provided to him by his father, Jehoram of Judah killed all of his brothers, and even some princes of the neighboring kingdom of Israel (see The Northern Kingdom) who had no claim to the throne of Judah. Jehoram of Judah also married a princess of Israel, a daughter from the house of Ahab and Jezebel (see The Fall of Ahab and Jezebel). Jehoram "did what was evil in the sight of The Lord."
"When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he slew all his brothers with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel.
The Lord (see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD) tolerated the evil kings of Judah for the sake of the future absolutely righteous king of Judah who would inherit the throne of David (see Israelite Monarchy - The Messiah).
"Yet The Lord would not 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 to his sons for ever." (2 Chronicles 21:7 RSV)
However, with corruption came a loss of power and security, "because he had forsaken The Lord, the God of his fathers."
"In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah, and set up a king of their own. Then Jehoram passed over with his commanders and all his chariots, and he rose by night and smote the Edomites who had surrounded him and his chariot commanders. So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day.
Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet (after Elijah had ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire - see the Fact Finder question below) that informed the corrupt king that justice would soon be upon him.
"And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, "Thus says The Lord, the God of David your father, 'Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah [see Kings of Israel and Judah and Israelite Dynasties], but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into unfaithfulness, as the house of Ahab led Israel into unfaithfulness, and also you have killed your brothers, of your father's house, who were better than yourself; behold, The Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day.'" (2 Chronicles 21:12-15 RSV)
Exactly as prophesied, Jehoram died.
"And after all this The Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem; and he departed with no one's regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings." (2 Chronicles 21:18-20 RSV)
2 Chronicles Chapter 22
Jehoram's youngest son Ahaziah succeeded his father on the throne because "the Arabs ... had slain all the older sons."
"And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead; for the band of men that came with the Arabs to the camp had slain all the older sons. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned." (2 Chronicles 22:1 RSV)
Ahaziah continued the corruption, doing "what was evil in the sight of The Lord."
"He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. He did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, as the house of Ahab had done; for after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing." (2 Chronicles 22:3-4 RSV)
After Joram of Israel was wounded in battle against Syrians, Ahaziah of Judah went to Jezreel to visit him. Both kings were killed by Jehu, because "it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram" (see notes for 2 Kings 9).
"He even followed their counsel, and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead. And the Syrians wounded Joram, and he returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which he had received at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria.
When "the house of Ahaziah had no one able to rule the kingdom" (see quote above), Ahaziah's mother Athaliah (who was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) slaughtered almost all of the royal family of the house of Judah and assumed the throne herself.
"Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king's sons who were about to be slain, and she put him and his nurse in a bedchamber. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not slay him; and he remained with them six years, hid in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land." (2 Chronicles 22:10-12 RSV)
2 Chronicles Chapter 23
Athaliah held the throne for about six years before the priesthood moved to restore the rightful heir to the throne of David (see also Primogeniture and Descent).
"But in the seventh year Jehoiada took courage, and entered into a compact with the commanders of hundreds, Azariah the son of Jeroham, Ishmael the son of Jehohanan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri. And they went about through Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of fathers' houses of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 23:1-2 RSV)
With an army of Levites providing security (note that the ancient Levites did not use their ministry status to shirk military duty), Joash was declared king in the Temple of God.
"The Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded. They each brought his men, who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath; for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss the divisions. And Jehoiada the priest delivered to the captains the spears and the large and small shields that had been King David's, which were in the house of God; and he set all the people as a guard for the king, every man with his weapon in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house.
Athaliah declared the coronation to be "treason," but in fact it was Athaliah who had committed treason by killing almost all of the rightful heirs to the throne and seizing it for herself. Jehoiada the priest had her executed for her crimes.
"When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of The Lord to the people; and when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. And Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, "Treason! Treason!"
Royal Democracy again prevailed, so "all the people of the land rejoiced" with their rightful king.
"And Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of The Lord under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of The Lord, to offer burnt offerings to The Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. He stationed the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of The Lord so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean.
Fact Finder: Elijah the prophet ascended into heaven on a "chariot of fire" during the reign of Jehoshaphat (i.e. Jehoshaphat was still king after Elisha had succeeded Elijah - 2 Kings 3:11). How then could King Jehoram, who succeeded Jehoshaphat as king, have received a letter from Elijah after Elijah was taken away? Where did Elijah really go?