Jehu

(Jehovah is He)

2 Kings 9—10

Contemporary Prophet: Elisha.

“The great God that formed all things both reward-eth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”—Proverbs 26:10

“And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thy hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead: and when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber; then take the box of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not.”

Twenty years before, he had (probably) been anointed by Elijah17 (1 Kings 19:16), as David was anointed by Samuel long before his anointing by the people (2 Sam. 2:4).

The anointing of the king over Israel was not an established custom, or rule. It was done when the circumstances were out of the ordinary, or when there might be some question as to his title to the crown. Saul and David were both anointed by Samuel; the one as first king, the other as head of a new line (1 Sam. 9:16; 16:12). Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet jointly anointed Solomon, because of the faction under Adonijah (1 Kings 1:34). The rebel son Absalom was also anointed (2 Sam. 19:10). So was the boy-king Joash (2 Kings 11:12); so, too, was the wicked and ill-fated Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:30). See also Judges 9:8, 15. “In the case of Jehu, in whom the succession of the kingdom of Israel was to be translated out of the right line of the family of Ahab, into another family, which had no [legal] right to the kingdom, but merely the appointment of God, there was a necessity for his unction, both to convey to him a title, and to invest him in the actual possession of the kingdom” (Burder).

Joram’s army still lay siege to Ramoth-gilead, where his general Jehu commanded the forces. “So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand unto thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, O captain. And he arose, and went into-the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab every male, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: and I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah: and the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.” At last, after more than fifteen years’ delay, the blood of Naboth, crying, like Abel’s, for vengeance from the ground, was about to be requited. God, when judging men, is never in haste. He allowed Jezebel to outlive, not only her husband, but his two successors. She was powerless, evidently, to continue her former high-handed practices after Ahab’s death; and it was a part of her punishment to live to see his dynasty overthrown and the extinction of his and her house begun.

“Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his Lord: and one said unto him, Is all well ? wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? And he said unto them, Ye know the man, and his communication.18 And they said, It is false: tell us now. And he said, Thus and thus spake he to me, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs (an ancient custom, see Matt. 21:7), and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king…And Jehu said, If it be your minds, then let none go forth nor escape out of the city to go to tell it in Jezreel.”

Impatient to be in actual and acknowledged possession of the kingdom, and without a thought of waiting, even for the briefest season, upon God, Jehu is off with Bidkar his captain on his thirty-five mile journey to Jezreel. “So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram. And there stood a watchman on the tower of Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company. And Joram said, Take a horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace? So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not again.” Another messenger is despatched to meet the advancing cavalcade. And with like result, only the watchman this time adds, in his report, “The driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.” Eager to be at his work of extirpation, the newly-anointed executioner-king makes all speed, as if the solemn, fearful work of destruction to which he had been commissioned was to him an exciting pleasure, instead of a painful task of stern necessity, as it must have been had he been in true fellowship with God in his work of overthrow and retributive judgment upon the house of Ahab. God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner. The taking of human life, whether done by divine appointment or otherwise, should be, and is, one of the saddest and most solemn acts that it is possible for man to perform. Jehu’s ready willingness betrayed how little his soul really entered into the awful nature of his charge; and, what is more lamentable, the gravity of the guilt that had occasioned it.

“And Joram said, Make ready! And his chariot was made ready. And Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out against (to meet, N. Tr.) Jehu, and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, O Ahaziah. And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot.” It was but the sudden beginning of a speedy end; for it is but “a short work” that God makes with men when He makes inquisition for apostasy and blood. “Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain, Take up and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the Lord laid this burden upon him; surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons (see Josh. 7:24), saith the Lord; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord. Now there- fore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the Lord.” They slew Ahaziah king of Judah also (see Ahaziah), as he was seeking to escape. “And Jehu followed after him, and said, Smite him also in the chariot.”

Jezebel’s turn comes next: “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” Her innate vanity manifested itself up till the last. She probably knew her end had come; but instead of preparing her soul, she adorned her body (soon to be eaten by dogs), darkening, according to Eastern custom, her brows and eyelashes with antimony, that she might appear queenly and beautiful even in death. Her daring spirit, even with her last breath, taunts her slayer by reminding him of Zimri’s end, who, like Jehu (as she would make it appear), “slew his master.”19 “And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the Lord, which He spake by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: and the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel”—i.e., there should be no tomb to mark the resting-place of her remains.

Thus miserably perished this wretched woman, a foreigner in Israel, who did her utmost to make her Tyrian Baal-worship the established religion of her husband’s kingdom, and hesitated not to slay any who dared oppose her propaganda, or interfere with her desires or designs in any way. She is made (as we believe) a type of papal Rome in Rev. 3; and a more suitable character to represent that system of idolatry, corruption and murder, the history of the ages does not supply. And her tragic death is as the shadow cast before of that coming event foretold in Rev. 17:17—Babylon’s end, “the judgment of the great whore,” whose idolatries and crimes have stained the earth.

“And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children, saying, Now as soon as this letter cometh to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced (fortified) city also, and armor; look even out the best and meetest of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” It was seemingly a bold challenge, though in reality only his manner of frightening them into subjection. He knew well the character of those with whom he had to deal; besides, there does not appear to have been much love or loyalty to the reigning dynasty. So the fervid reformer knew he had little to fear from them. “But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, the two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand ? And he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.” Thus these spiritless elders and rulers of Jezreel tamely surrender everything to Jehu. When Jezebel sent her imperious letter to them, commanding them to falsely accuse and then murder Naboth, they abjectly complied without the slightest show of resistance or conscience, putting to death their righteous fellow-townsman. A cringing obedience might well have been expected by Jehu from such men.

“Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will harken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by to-morrow this time. Now the king’s sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up. And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons, and slew seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them in Jezreel. And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, They have brought the heads of the king’s sons. And he said, Lay ye them in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning. And it come to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these?” It was a crafty stroke of policy on Jehu’s part to have the principal men of the capital slay the residue of Ahab’s posterity. Their act, he shrewdly divined, would create a breach between themselves and any sympathizers with the extinct dynasty, or their royal relatives across the border; thus effectually destroying the last remaining opposition to his course, and settlement upon the throne. True, though his motives were purely political, he gives his wholesale executions a religious coloring, making capital of God’s word and principle of retribution in regard to Ahab and his house: “Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the Lord hath done that which He spake by His servant Elijah. So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.”

The sword of judgment, so far as the expressed purpose of Jehovah was concerned, should have been confined to the house of Ahab. But a reckless and ambitious hand was wielding it, and it devoured beyond the allotted limits:

“And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house (shepherd’s meeting-place, N. Tr.) in the way, Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Aha- ziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen. And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit (well, N. Tr.) of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.” It was not any part of Jehovah’s commission to Jehu to slay these, or any of the descendants of king Jehoshaphat. God had not required this at his hands; and in his unwarranted slaughter of these brethren of Ahaziah he all but exterminated the house of David, leaving the rule of the kingdom to the infamous Athaliah. Jehu probably cared little for this. His thought, probably, was to prevent any uprising against himself from the royal family of Judah. The possible consequences of his ruthless act in reference to the continuance of David’s line (until Messiah) gave him no concern. As to the butchered princes, they reaped the melancholy consequences of their intimacy with a family doomed by God to destruction for their apostasy and wickedness. Let Christians take warning, and obey the call of God to His own, so unmistakably imperative and plain, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate”(2 Cor. 6:17).

Jehu’s self-complacency is manifested on his meeting with Jehonadab the son of Rechab. He patronizingly took him into his chariot, giving him his hand (signifying a pledge, in the East; see Ezra 10:19), and saying, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” His ostentatious display of his reforming zeal revealed how little he had God’s glory in mind in the midst of all his feverish activity and abolition—in sad contrast to Him who always hid Himself and sought His Father’s glory only. He too had a zeal; but, oh, of what a different character from that of Jehu! “The zeal of Thy house consumes Me,” He could say. But Jehu’s zeal, on the contrary, consumed and destroyed everybody and everything that stood in the way of his own advantage or aggrandizement, but never touched himself. He appears to have been a total stranger to real exercise of soul. God ordained him as His executioner, and, as has been aptly said, “Never was a more fitted instrument for the work whereunto he was appointed than Jehu.” And he had his reward. It was for this world alone; and the fourth generation of his children saw its end.

“And when he was come to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah.” He then turned his attention to the priests of Baal. A monk, at the dawn of the Reformation, remarked, “We must root printing out, or it will root us out.” Jehu felt the same toward the Baal-worship in his newly-acquired kingdom; hence it must be rooted out. Baal had formed a powerful link between Ahab’s family and his worshipers, and might be a menace to his tenure of the throne; his priests must therefore share the fate of that family under whose powerful patronage they had flourished in established security the past thirty-six years. “And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.” He then gathers, by subtilty, all the priests and followers of Baal into their place of worship. There is a measure of righteousness in his do- ings, however, for he takes pains to have none of the servants of Jehovah mixed up with the devoted worshipers of Baal. “And it came to pass, as soon as he (they, N. Tr.) had made an end of offering the burnt-offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city (some read buildings, or citadel) of the house of Baal. And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.”

“Thus Jehu extirpated Baal out of Israel. Only, the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, from them Jehu departed not, [from] the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And Jehovah said to Jehu, Because thou hast executed well that which is right in My sight, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of Jehovah the God of Israel with all his heart; he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:28-31, N. Tr.).

While he is God’s faithful, and, as we have seen, overzealous instrument, there is nothing lovely, and little that is commendable, in the character of Jehu. He served God’s purpose as an executioner, but with that he stopped. He could slay “with all his heart,” but took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord with earnestness. He could break down the gross and vile worship of Baal, yet go on in the calf-worship of Jeroboam. It is easier to serve God in outward things than to acquire the character which He loves, enthroning Him in the heart, and giving the spiritual intelligence of His mind. How different was David from Jehu! He too was God’s instrument for judgment, but how different was his way of carrying it out! God did not, nor did He let Israel, forget his heartless slaughter, saying to the prophet Hosea, a hundred years later, “Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu” (Hos. 1:4).

The great lesson to be drawn from this remarkable man’s life is that of being constantly on our guard, as servants of God, lest we be found doing His work— whether it be in the exercise of discipline, or the accomplishment of reformation—in a spirit of unbroken-ness and without due exercise of heart and conscience before Him who is “a God of judgment,” and by whom “actions are weighed.”

“Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead. And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years.”20

17 Both the announcement to Hazael that be would be king over Syria, and the anointing of Jehu to Israel’s kingdom, seem rather to have been left by Elijah to his successor Elisha, to be done at God’s appointed time. In both Hazael and Jehu Elisha’s appointment take immediates effect, as Elijah’s mantle thrown upon Elisha had also taken immediate effect. See 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 8:10-15; 9:1-3 and 11-14. — [Ed.

18 Translated “babbling” in Prov. 23:29.

19 The New Translation makes her say, “Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of his master?”

20 For further and excellent reflections on the character of Jehu, see a pamphlet called “The Zeal of Jehu,” published by E. T. Grant, Los Angeles, Cal.