The context of this story involves war and famine, which probably was the result of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Syria executed a full invasion on Israel. Because their siege on Israel lasted for an extended period of time, the conditions were terrible in Israel. Some were selling donkey’s heads and dove’s dung for ridiculously high prices (v. 25).
The poor were so driven to desperation that some were eating human beings (v. 28). This particular story isn’t only pitiful physically; it’s also pitiful morally. Notice that the issue wasn’t with eating a child but in the failure to keep a mutual agreement.
In response, the king was distressed. In anguish, he tore his clothes, a symbol of repentance (v. 30). Because this was a story of divine judgment, it would have been right for the king to repent. However, Joram (or Jehoram) didn’t have a real heart for repentance. As we read next, he didn’t patiently trust in and wait on God for deliverance. He acted like his mother, Jezebel, seeking to kill the prophet. He may have had sackcloth on the outside, but that didn’t make up for his unrepentant heart.
Have you ever practiced false repentance? What hinders your true repentance at times?