Danger: Unbridled Passion
Explore the Bible Series
February 6, 2011
Background Passage: II Kings 9:1-10:36
Lesson Passage: II Kings 9:16, 21-22; 10:15-19, 30-32
Jehu is one of the strangest characters in the Old Testament, a bundle of odd contradictions: faithful, obedient, hasty, violent, deceitful, and cruel.† On the one hand, he faithfully obeyed Godís directive to avenge the atrocities of Ahab and Jezebel; yet, his zeal and blood-thirst drove him to assassinate people at his own pleasure, apart from the command of the Lord. The Bible does not condone his impetuous violence; yet, the author(s) of II Kings give gruesome details of his unfortunate deeds. Perhaps some background information will prove helpful in understanding this perplexing character.
Jehu was the grandson of a man named Nimshi (The Bible loosely refers to him as ďson of Nimshi, on occasion), and son of Jehoshaphat (not to be confused with King Jehoshaphat of Judah).† He may have come from Ramoth-gilead, a city located east of the Jordan River. For some time he acted as commander of the Israelite army, and, during the ministry of Elijah, the Lord told the prophet that one day the general would become king of Israel and take vengeance on Ahab and his family.† He governed for twenty-seven years (841-814 B.C.). Soon after his coronation he embarked in a bloody campaign of political assassinations: Joram of Israel, Ahaziah of Judah, Queen Jezebel, the seventy surviving members of Ahabís family, and a host of the worshippers of Baal.† Jehuís descendents ruled Israel for almost a century, and his power made an important impact on Middle Eastern politics.† Some Assyrian archeological artifacts mention Jehu (See The Oxford Companion to the Bible p. 343).
His military background may have fostered his violent temperament, and a misguided, undisciplined zeal for Jehovah led him to turn his violent temperament, at times, to unfortunate ends.† Whatever the ground of his impulsive, reckless behavior, Jehu clearly exceeded divine authority for some of his actions.† We must commend his passion for the Lord, but all godly impulses must be limited by discipline, compassion, and wisdom.† Jehu, it seems, lacked these qualities.
I. The Anointing of Jehu as King of Israel (9:1-13)
A. Background of this event (See I Kings 19:15-18):† Please recall from our study of I Kings, God promised vengeance on the house of Ahab, and Elijah would anoint Jehu as the new king of Israel.† We know that Elijah died before this coronation took place; so, Elisha (through one of the sons of the prophets), Elijahís successor, made Jehu king.
B. Instructions for Elishaís student (9:1-3): The young prophet, at Elishaís command, travelled to Ramoth-gilead to find Jehu.† After the private ceremony (note the reference to an inner chamber), the prophet was instructed to leave immediately.
C. The servantís obedience (9:4-10): The young man followed Elishaís counsel carefully: anointing and commissioning Jehu to govern Israel and destroy the lineage of Ahab.† In particular, he predicted that dogs would eat Jezebelís remains.† Perhaps I should provide a word about the reference to Jezebelís death.† The ancient world did not see dogs as affectionate pets; rather, they viewed them as ravenous, feral cursóvicious and unclean.† Thus, the prediction that dogs would consume the former queenís body was a great disgrace. In addition, the Judeo/Christian tradition, with its high regard for the body, considered a respectful burial an appropriate way to dispose of human remains. The servant specifically told Jehu that no one would afford Jezebel an honorable funeral.
D. Jehuís response to his coronation (9:1-13): At first Jehu seemed stunned by his ascension, but, as his companions pressed him about the strange visit of Elishaís servant, he confided in his friends that he was the new king of Israel.† They welcomed the news and immediately showed respect to the new monarch.
II. Jehuís Bloody Vengeance on the Legacy of Ahab (9:14-10:26)
A. The assassination of Joram (9:14-26): The Syrians gravely wounded Joram, in battle, and the Israelite king made his way to Jezreel to recover.† Jehu approached the city, and watchmen alerted the wounded king of Jehuís aggression.† Twice, Joram sent envoys to inquire of Jehuís intentions; but, on both occasions, the messengers joined Jehuís entourage. Finally, in desperation, Joram arose from his convalescence and rode out, on a chariot, to confront his assailant, accompanied by Ahaziah, king of Judah (Recall that Ahaziah and Joram were kinsmen and allies). After a brief exchange, Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram through the heart, and ordered that an aide, Bidkar, throw Joramís body in the fields of Naboth, the very man cruelly murdered by Jezebel (See I Kings 21:1-16).
B. The murder of Ahaziah (9:27-29): As I read the text, God had not given command to kill Ahaziah of Judah, descendent of David.† Jehu mortally wounded Ahaziah, and the king of Judah managed to escape to Meggido, where he died.†
C. The assassination of Jezebel (9:30-37): Jezebel, holed up in the palace of Jezreel, adorned herself in pagan finery, in anticipation of Jehuís arrival.† Perhaps she sought to inspire loyalty from her servants; or, maybe she hoped to charm or intimidate Jehu.† Whatever her motives, her servants, at Jehuís bidding, threw her from a height sufficient to kill the evil woman.† Her assassins celebrated her death, and, as they reveled, dogs ate the remains of the queen.
D. The assassination of Ahabís family (10:1-17):
III. The Slaughter of Ahabís Sons and the Prophets of Baal (10:1-36)
A. The death of Ahabís family (10:1-17):† The term ďsonsĒ may refer to sons and grandsons of the former king; also, the Bible gives no indication of how many wives and concubines Ahab had, women that might have given him many sons.† Apparently, Ahab had scattered his offspring throughout Israel, perhaps in an attempt to preserve his lineage.† †Guardians protected these men and boys, and it was to these guardians that Jehu appealed for help.† He persuaded them to behead the late kingís decedents, and send the heads, in baskets, to Jezreel.† Jehu had servants stack the heads in two piles, at the gate of the cityóan effective, ghastly monument to the bloody end of Ahabís dynasty.
B. The execution of the prophets of Baal (10:18-27): Jehu completed his violent purge of Israel by telling a series of lies.† He sent deceitful messages to the prophets of Baal to persuade them to come to the pagan temple in Jezreel.† Once there, he convinced the priests that he intended to worship Baal, and they entered the temple to make their sacrifices.† Eighty men awaited their opportunity, then, on Jehuís authority, they killed the priests.† The site of the pagan temple was razed and used, from that time, as a public latrine.
IV. Conclusion and Summary of Jehuís Reign (10:28-36)
A. Jehuís obedience to God (10:28 and 30): Just as God had commanded, Jehu purged Baal worship from Israelite culture, destroying the priesthood and pagan cultic centers.† Because of this compliance, the Lord blessed Jehu with a long reign and established his royal line for four generations.
B. Jehuís compromise (10:29 and 31): Remarkably, Jehu did not destroy the golden calves that desecrated the Bethel and Dan. This seems inconceivable to me.† Why didnít his opposition to paganism extend to all expressions of cultic worship?
C. The loss of Israelite territories (10:32-36): Perhaps because of Jehuís compromises, the Lord allowed the Syrians to seize significant portions of land in Gilead, Gad, Reuben and Manasseh.