Jehu

2 Kings 9‑10  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Jehovah is He
2 Kings 9-10
Contemporary Prophets: Elisha
The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors. Prov. 26:1010The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors. (Proverbs 26:10)
Jehu had probably been anointed by Elijah twenty years before the recorded anointing in 2 Kings 9 (see 1 Kings 19:1616And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. (1 Kings 19:16)).We remember that David was anointed by Samuel long before his anointing by the people (2 Sam. 2:44And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabesh-gilead were they that buried Saul. (2 Samuel 2:4)). Although some commentators feel that the anointing of Jehu was left to Elijah’s successor, to be done at God’s appointed time.
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.
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; 16:1216To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. (1 Samuel 9:16)
12And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. (1 Samuel 16:12)
). Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet jointly anointed Solomon, because of the faction under Adonijah (1 Kings 1:3434And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon. (1 Kings 1:34)).The rebel son Absalom was also anointed (2 Sam. 19:1010And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back? (2 Samuel 19:10)); so was the boy-king Joash (2 Kings 11:1212And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king. (2 Kings 11:12)) and the wicked and ill-fated Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:3030And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own sepulchre. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead. (2 Kings 23:30)). “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 he said, I have an errand unto thee, O captain.... 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 the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her (2 Kings 9:4-104So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. 5And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, O captain. 6And 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. 7And 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. 8For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: 9And 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: 10And 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. (2 Kings 9:4‑10)).
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 beginning of the extinction of his and her house.
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. 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. 21:77And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. (Matthew 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 (2 Kings 9:11-1511Then 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. 12And 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. 13Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king. 14So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram had kept Ramoth-gilead, he and all Israel, because of Hazael king of Syria. 15But king Joram was returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him, when he fought with Hazael king of Syria.) 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. (2 Kings 9:11‑15)).
Impatient to be in actual and acknowledged possession of the kingdom and without a thought of waiting on God, even for a brief season, Jehu is off with Bidkar his captain on his thirty-five mile journey to Jezreel (16-20). Eager to be at his work of destruction, 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. It should have been a painful task of stern necessity had Jehu been in true fellowship with God in his work of overthrow and retributive judgment on 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, 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 understood the awful nature of his charge and 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 (21-24).
It was but the sudden beginning of a speedy end; for God makes “a short work” 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...Now therefore take and cast him into the plot of ground, according to the word of the Lord (25-26).
They slew Ahaziah king of Judah also, as he was seeking to escape.
Jezebel’s turn comes next. Her innate vanity manifested itself up until the last. She probably knew her end had come; instead of preparing her soul, she adorned her body (soon to be eaten by dogs), that she might appear queenly and beautiful even in death. Her daring spirit, even with her last breath, taunted her slayer by reminding him of Zimri’s end, who like Jehu (as she would make it appear), “slew his master.” Darby’s translation of 2 Kings 9:3131And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? (2 Kings 9:31) makes Jezebel say, “Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of his master?”
And he [Jehu] 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 [he] 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 carcass 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 (32-37).
God had decreed that no tomb should 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 anyway. Her tragic death is as the shadow cast before of that coming event foretold in Rev. 17—Babylon’s end, “the judgment of the great whore,” whose idolatries and crimes have stained the earth.
Next we read of Jehu’s letter to the caretakers of Ahab’s seventy children (2 Kings 10:1-31And 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, 2Now 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 city also, and armor; 3Look 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. (2 Kings 10:1‑3)). 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 (4-5).
These spiritless elders and rulers of Jezreel tamely surrendered 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. Jehu might well have expected a cringing obedience from such men.
Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time.... 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 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? (6-9)
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. He shrewdly determined that their act would create a breach between themselves and any sympathizers with the extinct dynasty, or their royal relatives across the border. Thus the last remaining opposition to his course and settlement on the throne was effectively destroyed.
Though his motives were purely political, he gave his wholesale executions a religious coloring by reminding the people 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 (10-11).
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. It was not any part of Jehovah’s commission to Jehu to slay the family of Ahaziah, 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 evidently cared little for this. His thought was probably 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, which is so unmistakably imperative and plain, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Cor. 6:1717Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (2 Corinthians 6:17)).
Jehu’s self-complacency is revealed in his meeting with Jehonadab the son of Rechab (2 Kings 10:15-1715And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. 16And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord. So they made him ride in his chariot. 17And when he came 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 to Elijah. (2 Kings 10:15‑17)). He patronizingly took him into his chariot, giving him his hand (signifying a pledge, in the East; see Ezra 10:1919And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass. (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 all his feverish activity and abolition-in sad contrast to Jesus who always hid Himself and sought His Father’s glory only. He too had a zeal; but of what a different character from that of Jehu! “The zeal of thine house hath,[consumed] me,” He could say (John 2:1717And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. (John 2:17)). 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.” He had his reward, and it was for this world alone; 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 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 deceitfully gathered all the priests and followers of Baal into their place of worship. There is a measure of righteousness in his doings, 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 manuscripts 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 draft house unto this day (2 Kings 10:25-2725And it came to pass, as soon as he 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 of the house of Baal. 26And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. 27And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day. (2 Kings 10:25‑27)).
While he is God’s faithful, and over-zealous instrument, there is nothing lovely, and little that is commendable, in the character of Jehu. “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of [Jehovah] the God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:3131But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin. (2 Kings 10:31)). 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 continue in the calf worship of Jeroboam. It is easier to serve God in outward things than to acquire the character that He loves, enthroning Him in mind and heart. 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 Jehu’s 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. 1:44And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. (Hosea 1:4)).
The great lesson the servants of God can draw from this remarkable man’s life is that of being constantly on our guard. We must not be found doing His work—either through discipline or evangelism—in a spirit of unbrokenness 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 (2 Kings 10:34-3634Now 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? 35And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead. 36And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years. (2 Kings 10:34‑36)).