Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. FAITHLESS SERVANTS. The general corruption and demoralization were manifest in the way in which Ahab's sons were treated by the elders of Samaria, and those that brought up Ahab's children. It was no zeal for what was right, no particular hatred of what was wrong, that caused them to yield so complaisantly to Jehu's real wish. Jehu, indeed, satirized them to their face. He made it appear as if he really wanted them to defend their master's children and fight for their master's house. It would not have been unnatural to expect this from them. But they were sore afraid. Not only were they willing, in their craven cowardice, to surrender Ahab's children to Jehu, to let him work his own will on them, but they actually slew them with their own hands, and sent their heads to Jehu. Where there is unfaithfulness toward God, there wilt be unfaithfulness in the relations between man and man. Fickleness is a characteristic of the world's friendships. Deception is a characteristic of the world's business. But the Christian will be faithful to duty, to conscience, to God. "He sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psalm 15:4).
II. THE UNFAILING WORD. "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." Every judgment of God which was threatened upon Ahab's house was fulfilled. God's judgments upon Israel - how literally and fully have they been fulfilled! Every judgment pronounced against sin is sure of certain and complete fulfillment. So also God's promises will be fulfilled. Not a single promise of God was ever broken, why, then, should any of us doubt his word, his willingness to receive, his power to save, his desire to pardon? "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." - C.H.I.
I. THE CRAFTY MESSAGE. No small amount of craft, as this chapter shows, mingled with Jehu's headlong zeal.
1. The seed royal in Samaria. The direct posterity of Ahab - here called Ahab's sons - amounted to seventy persons. Some may have been his own children, others the children of Jehoram, or of his other sons. They resided at Samaria, and were under the care of nobles responsible for their education and up-bringing. On them, too, the judgment of God was to fall. In itself it was a common Oriental practice for the founder of a new dynasty to put to death the descendants and blood-relations of his predecessor (cf. 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 11:1; 2 Kings 25:7). This was to protect the new ruler from blood-vengeance. In the present case the destruction was by direct command of Heaven. The principle of corporate responsibility for sins committed is recognized and- acted on throughout the Old Testament (see Mozley's 'Ruling Ideas of the Old Testament'). It embodies a truth of permanent validity (Matthew 23:34, 35). Nevertheless, a pathos attends a fate like that of Ahab's sons. "Whirled down," as Carlyle says of other unfortunates, "so suddenly to the abyss; as men are, suddenly, by the wide thunder of the mountain avalanche, awakened not by them, awakened far off by others."
2. The crafty letter. Having struck his first blow, Jehu lost no time in delivering his second. But instead of openly advancing to Samaria, and demanding the surrender of the seventy sons, he proceeds by guile. His policy was, not to put the nobles and elders in Samaria in opposition to him, but to gain them to his side. His further object was to implicate those persons in his deeds, by making them the direct agents in the slaughter of Ahab's sons. The manner in which he accomplished these ends shows no little skill. He first sends a letter to the great men in the capital, offering them a challenge to open war. He recounts to them their advantages - the presence of their master's sons, a fortified city, horses, chariots, armor, etc.; then bids them select the one of Ahab's descendants whom they think most suitable, and make him king, and fight for their master's house. This put the nobles in the dilemma, either of getting up an improvised resistance to Jehu, or of making unconditional submission. No time was given them to consider. They must decide at once, and that, in circumstances like theirs, meant only submission.
3. The submissive reply. The course taken by the nobles and elders was what Jehu anticipated. A terrible panic took possession of them. They saw how vain it was to attempt war with the most popular and energetic general in the army, backed as he was by the support of other captains. They had no head, and, notwithstanding Jehu's sarcastic list of their advantages, no proper means of defense. The fact that two kings - not to speak of Jezebel - had already fallen before this "scourge of God" added to their dismay. With the unanimity of despair, "he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children," indebted a humble epistle, sent it to Jehu, and put themselves entirely in his hands, offering to do whatever he bade them. Necessity is a terrible tyrant. How many things men yield to force and fear which they would not yield to reason or persuasion!
II. THE TREACHEROUS MASSACRE.
1. The new demand. Jehu took the leaders at their word, and sent them the conditions of his acceptance of their submission. If they were his, and would hearken to his voice, the proof of allegiance he would require of them would be that they bring to him by the same hour to-morrow the heads of their master's sons. The requisition was peremptory, the time given brief, and they had already committed themselves by promising obedience to whatever Jehu wished. Their case was a hard one; nevertheless, the act they were called upon to perform was, from their side, a revolting and treacherous one.
2. Ahab's sons slain. Hateful as the requirement was, the nobles and elders of Samaria, now that they had come to terms with Jehu, do not seem to have shown any hesitation in carrying it out. The sons of Ahab had been entrusted to their care; they had no quarrel with them; they did not profess to be moved by any regard for a command of God; yet now that policy and their own safety dictated that their charges should be given up to death, they acquiesced without a murmur. This shows the weakness of moral feeling in the riding classes of Samaria. It shows how utterly rotten were all the bends that bound man to man. The willingness with which the men of Jezreel swore away Naboth's life at Jezebel's command (1 Kings 19.) was one instance, and here is another. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man" (Psalm 146:3). Political morality is of the weakest fiber. For some paltry interest men will turn their backs to-morrow on the most sacred professions of today. They will forswear the closest friendships, stoop even to the lowest treachery.
3. Jehu's public appeal. That very evening apparently, the heads of Ahab's sons were brought to Jehu in baskets. He bade them be piled in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning. Then, standing in the gateway, he called the people to witness that the leaders in Samaria were as deeply incriminated as he. They, the people whom he addressed, were "righteous," i.e. clear from blood-guiltiness, and might be disposed to judge him severely for his acts of the previous day. He acknowledged that he had conspired against his master, and had slain him; but - pointing to the pyramids of heads - who had slain all these? In truth, he went on to aver, not any of them were guilty, for this was but the fulfillment of the word of the Lord which he had spoken by Elijah.
(1) Jehu was right in his averment, "Know now that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord." Many demonstrations of that fact have been given. We do well to impress the truth upon our minds.
(2) It is a common thing for men to shield themselves from the consequences of their acts by pleading that others are as guilty as they are. This, however, will not justify them.
III. AHAZIAH'S BRETHREN. A further act in the tragedy of the destruction of Ahab's house took place at a certain shearing-house on the read to Samaria. Thither forty-two brethren (kinsmen) of Ahaziah had come down on their way to pay a pleasure visit to their relations, the princes at the capital. They were apparently as yet unaware of the revolution that had taken place. It was, however, to prove a costly visit to them. Jehu, fresh from his work of blood, encountered them at the shearing-house, and, on ascertaining who they-were, had them all put to death on the spot their bodies were cast into the pit of the place. In pursuit of their pleasures, how many, like Ahaziah's brethren, have found themselves overtaken by death! The way of pleasure is, for many, the way of death - the way to the pit of destruction. - J.O.
I. THE RESULTS OF EVIL COMPANIONSHIP. "The companion of fools," says the wise man, "shall be destroyed." These brethren of Ahaziah might have pleaded that they were doing no harm. But the house of Ahab was notorious for its wickedness. It had been singled out for the terrible retribution of God. To keep up friendship with men and women so wicked was to become a partaker of their crimes. The old Latin proverb was Noseitur a sociis - "A man is known by the company he keeps." If we would avoid the fate of the wicked, let us avoid their fellowship. "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
II. THE RESULT OF UNHEEDED WARNINGS. The brethren of Ahaziah had already got a warning in the fate which had befallen their brother. But notwithstanding this, they went on to their own destruction. So men act every day.
1. God's Word warns them, but in vain. They laugh to scorn the message of the gospel that urges them to accept salvation, and to flee from the wrath to come. They act as the people in the days of Noah, who disregarded the warnings of that faithful, patient preacher, and knew not till the flood came and swept them all away.
2. God's providences warn them, but in vain. Sudden deaths remind them of life's uncertainty. Perhaps for a day or two they are impressed; and then they become engrossed with the world again. If one were to speak to them about their soul, they would say, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
3. Goers judgments warn them, but in vain. The intemperate man, the immoral man, the dishonest man, infatuated with evil desires, go on in their sinful courses, notwithstanding the ruin and misery, the premature deaths, the unhappy lives, the degradation and disgrace, which so many have suffered in consequence of these sins. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." - C.H.I.
I. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS GOOD ABOUT JEHU'S ZEAL. From the day that Jehu got his work to do, he lost no time in the doing of it. He was eminently a man of action. That he had good qualities no one can doubt. There are many things that are attractive about Jehu. He was a brave and fearless soldier. Decision, earnestness, promptness, thoroughness, - these were the chief features of his character, His decided character impressed itself on every detail of his life. When he was still far off from Jezreel, the watchman upon the city wall was able to distinguish him in the dim distance by the way he drove his horses. "The driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously." He did not waste many words. When the messengers of King Jehoram rode out to meet him with the question, "Is it peace?" his answer to one after the other of them, without reining in his homes for a moment, was, "What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me." Neither did he waste words when he came to deal with Jezebel and Jehoram. He knew that in such work as he was engaged there is danger in delay. We may learn much from what was good in Jehu's character. Zeal itself is a grand thing. It is men of zeal who have revolutionized the world. Moses was a man of zeal. So was Elijah. So was Daniel. So was St. Paul. So was Martin Luther. SO was John Knox. All these men were mocked at as fools and fanatics and enthusiasts in their time. But every one of those men has left his mark for good upon the history of the world. We may say the same of such enthusiasts as William Wilberforce and John Howard, and, to come to more modern times, as Plimsoll, the sailors' friend. It is the world's enthusiasts that have been its greatest benefactors. Yes; we want more zeal; we want more enthusiasm. It is the fashion amongst many to sneer at enthusiasm, and to mock at zeal. But let those who mock at enthusiasm show what they can do compared with what the enthusiasts have done. Give me the man who has an enthusiasm about something. Give me the man who thinks that life is worth living, and that there is something worth living for. Let it be study, let it be business, let it be one of the learned professions - the man who has enthusiasm in his work is the man that is most likely to succeed. If there is any one who should show enthusiasm, it is the Christian. Who should be so full of zeal? Who has so much cause to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Who can point to such a leader as the great Captain of our salvation? What example so inspiring as the example of Christ? What name is such a watchword as the precious Name of Jesus - the Name above every name? Who can look forward to such a prospect as that which awaits the faithful Christian? "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." Who has such resources at his disposal as the Christian for work and conflict? Zeal! surely the Christian ought to overflow with zeal. Zeal! when he thinks of his Savior and his cross. Zeal! when he thinks that heaven with all its glory awaits him. Zeal! when he thinks of the welcome from the King. Zeal! when he thinks how short his time is here. Zeal! when he thinks of the perishing and needy all around him. Yes; it is well to have within your heart the glow and fire of Christian zeal. What if the careless and the callous, the godless and the worldly, mock? You have a heart, you have a hope, you have a strength, that is above their shallow sneers. And, having Christian zeal, let it not spend itself in mere sentiment, profession, or words. But let it show itself in action prompt and decisive, in earnestness and thoroughness of life. "Whatever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men."
II. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS WRONG, AND THERE WAS SOMETHING WANTING, IN JEHU'S ZEAL.
1. There was much that was wrong mingled with Jehu's zeal.
(1) In the first place, there was boastfulness. "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." The man who thus parades his good deeds is lacking in one of the first elements of true goodness and usefulness, and that is humility. Yet there has been a good deal of that kind of zeal for God in all ages. The Pharisees considered themselves very zealous for the Law of God, but they sounded a trumpet before them when they gave their alms, and loved to pray standing at the corner of the streets. We have not the sounding of the trumpet nowadays in the same form, but we have other ways of making known our generous and philanthropic acts. There is nothing wrong in these acts being made known. On the contrary, a public acknowledgment of charitable and religious contributions is necessary to guard against fraudulence and deceit. It is of use also to remind others of their duty and stimulate them, perhaps, to greater liberality. But when we give our alms in order that we may be known to have given them - "to be seen of men" - we give from a wrong motive - we do that which Christ condemned. It is the same with all branches of Christian work. And it seems to be one of the dangers of modern Christian life that there is too much temptation to boast of mere numbers in our Churches, or of so much money accumulated, or of so many converts made. Too many Christian workers act like Jehu when he said, "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." True Christian work is far quieter than this.
(2) There was something worse than boastfulness in Jehu's zeal. There was cruel treachery and deceit. When he came to Samaria, he gathered all the people together and said, "Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much." Then, under the pretence of offering a great sacrifice to Baal, he assembled all the worshippers of Baal in the temple of that false deity, and, having thus unfairly and deceitfully entrapped them, caused them to be put to death. It was an act of deceit for which there was no excuse. Matthew Henry truly observes, "God's service requires not man's lie." What a contrast to Elijah's honest, outspoken conduct when he, single-handed, confronted the prophets of Baal, and put their god and his God to the test! No cause will ever prosper, no matter how much zeal may be manifested in it, if it is built up by the treachery and deceit of those who are at the head of it. Let us never so far accommodate ourselves to the false morality of our time as to do evil that good may come. God can, and does, bring good out of evil. But those who do the evil must suffer for it, according to that Divine law of retribution which was so plainly and terribly fulfilled in the case of Ahab and Jezebel.
2. In addition to all this, there was something wanting in all Jehu's zeal. He had not the love of God in his heart. He had indeed obeyed God's command and fulfilled his commission in one particular direction, but the ruling motive in his actions would seem to have been personal ambition. It was no hatred of idolatry as such that caused him to destroy the worship of Baal. Perhaps it was because it was a foreign worship. It certainly was not his zeal for the pure worship of God, because we read, "Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan" (ver. 29). And again, "But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart" (ver. 31). We may learn here that a man may have the outward form of godliness without the power of it. He may appear to be a foremost worker in the cause of religion, and yet have no religion in his own heart. He may even appear to be a great religious reformer, and yet he may be utterly destitute of any personal reformation of character. Jehu was able to pull down, but he built nothing up. Why? Because his own character and life were not founded on the rock. He had not begun at the beginning - the fear of God and the Law of God. "He took no heed to walk in the Law of God with all his heart." See to it that your zeal springs from a right motive, and that it works in ways of which God will approve.
III. NOTE HERE SOME LESSONS ABOUT GOD'S DEALINGS.
1. God often makes use of even godless men. Perhaps you start at this. Yes; but it is true. He uses them for certain purposes. There are some things which do not require a high kind of character. So God sometimes uses even wicked men to be the executioners of his judgments. The kings and nations whom he used to execute his judgments upon Israel were by no means righteous themselves. Many of them were grossly corrupt. But they were the rod in his hand to chasten and punish his offending people. We might give many illustrations from history. To take one only. King Henry VIII. of England was far from being a model man, yet God in his all-wise providence used his quarrel with the pope to be the means of furthering and establishing the Reformation in England. It was in the time of Henry VIII. that for the first time the papal supremacy in England was overthrown.
2. God gives such agents of his justice and providence their own reward. We find this in the case of Jehu. For the good he had done, God rewarded him. He had set his heart on the throne, and God gave it to him. The measure of our desires is very often the measure of our blessings. If we set our ambition on earthly rank, or riches, or honor as our chief good, we shall very likely get them. But in getting them We shall perhaps lose something that is far better worth having. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
3. For God's work of salvation, he uses consecrated men. Jehu was of use as a destroyer, as an image-breaker, but he was no national or moral reformer in the true sense. He was of no spiritual benefit to others. For such work God uses only those who themselves have received spiritual blessing. There is a limit to the extent and to the ways in which he will use godless men. Even David - God's own servant, who had repented of his sins - was not permitted to build a house to his Name, because his hands were stained with blood; he had been a man of war all his days. David was permitted to provide and store up the material, but to Solomon, David's son, was given the great honor of buildings, a temple to the God of Israel. If we want to be of use in God's service, we must be thoroughly consecrated to God. We must be vessels meet for the Master's use. "Their hands must be clean, who bear the vessels of the Lord." It is personal character that gives power for God's service. It is personal character that gives fitness for God's fellowship here and hereafter. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." - C.H.I.
I. THE MEETING WITH JEHONADAB.
1. A helpful ally. While relying mainly on his own promptitude and energy, Jehu had a shrewd eye to whatever would help to strengthen his position before the people. Hasting to Samaria in his chariot, he met a man of much reputation for sanctity - Jehonadab the son of Rechab. As a protest against the corruption and luxury of his time, Jehonadab had withdrawn from life in cities, and had laid upon his sons a vow that they would drink no wine, neither build houses, nor plant vineyards, but would dwell in tents all their days (Jeremiah 35:6, 7). To get this man of ascetic virtue on his side would, Jehu felt, greatly fortify his claims. It would give color and repute to his proceedings. Jehu at once sounded Jehonadab as to his feelings in regard to him, and finding that Jehonadab's heart was as his heart, he extended his hand to the anchorite, and took him up with him into his chariot. It is noticeable how anxious men who make no pretensions to godliness often are to get the countenance and approval of good men for their deeds. Hypocrisy has been called the homage which vice pays to virtue, and this desire for the approval of a holy man is, in another form, the tribute of worldly policy to the superior power of character.
2. Zeal for the Lord. "Come with me," said Jehu, "and see my zeal for the Lord."
(1) Of Jehu's "zeal," in itself considered, there could be no question. Zeal was his most prominent characteristic. His zeal is seen in his eager haste to attain his ends, in his scouting of difficulties, in the thoroughness with which each piece of work is accomplished, in the quickness and skill of his devices. Such zeal is in large measure a natural endowment - a thing of temperament. Still, it is an essential to success in practical undertakings, spiritual as well as worldly. The man who gets on is the man who does not let the grass grow beneath his feet, who is an enthusiast, in, what he takes in hand. "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing" (Galatians 4:18).
(2) More doubtful is the quality of Jehu's zeal "for the Lord." Ostensibly it was God's will Jehu was carrying out; outwardly it was God's work he was doing. He may even have persuaded himself into the belief that he was honestly and disinterestedly serving God's ends. But the result showed that, in serving God, it was really his own ends Jehu was serving. His zeal was impure. It was largely inspired by selfish ambition, by considerations of policy, by the thought of the reward to himself. It was impure also in its admixture of craft and worldly expediency. Had the same service been proposed to Jehu without any apparent material advantages to himself, his zeal would not have been so easily evoked.
(3) Similarly, how much that passes for "zeal for the Lord" in this world is of the same impure nature! How much of it is inspired by sectarian rivalry, by party spirit, by the desire to make "a fair show in the flesh" (Galatians 6:12), by self-interest and worldly policy! How largely is it alloyed with human passion and intrigue! Truly we do well to examine ourselves. Zeal is to be tested, not by its passing and spasmodic exhibitions, but by its power of endurance amidst good report and evil report.
3. The end of Ahab's house, When Jehu reached Samaria with Jehonadab, he made an end of all that remained of the family of Ahab - the word of the Lord by Elijah being thus completely fulfilled.
II. THE FEAST TO BAAL.
1. Jehu's proclamation. Hitherto Jehu had acted without giving to any one much explanation of his motives and designs. He had denounced to Jehoram Jezebel's idolatries and witchcrafts; he had whispered to Jehonadab of his "zeal for the Lord;" but to the eye of the crowd his proceedings bore only the complexion of an ordinary political conspiracy. Having established himself upon the throne, the stage was clear for the revelation of his own intentions. And great dismay must have spread through the ranks of all those who looked for a revival of true religion from the downfall of Ahab's house, when the first public manifesto of the new king proclaimed him an enthusiastic worshipper of Baal. "Ahab," were his words, "served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much." If Ahab's service of Baal was reckoned little, what was to be expected from one who would serve him so much more? It was certain that, whatever Jehu did, he would do it with abounding zeal. If he took up Baal's cause, there was no saying to what lengths he would carry it, or what severities he would employ to crush rival worships. Terrible disappointment would seize the hearts of the worshippers of Jehovah; and the servants of Baal, who had thought their cause destroyed, would be correspondingly elated. It is good neither to be unduly uplifted nor too heavily cast down at unexpected turns in public affairs. Those who rely for the success of their cause on the favors of great men are apt to be sorely disappointed.
2. The deluded assembly. It seemed at the first as if Jehu were to be every whir as good as his word. His proclamation not only included a declaration of his fixed intention to worship Baal, but gave effect to that intention by summoning a great assembly of the prophets, priests, and servants of Baal, to be held in the house of Baal at Samaria. A day was set apart, and the assembly was proclaimed throughout all Israel. The king was to offer a great sacrifice, publicly ratifying his avowal of allegiance to the heathen god. From all parts of the land the worshippers of Baal come trooping up, and the spacious courts of the great "house of Baal" were filled to overflowing. As if to give the highest possible eclat to the occasion, Jehu first ordered vestments to be produced from the temple or palace robe-chamber, and given to the worshipers; then he caused search to be made that none but servants of Baal were present. The worshippers of Baal were charmed; yet in truth they were there as sheep gathered together for the slaughter. All this, we are told, "Jehu did in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal." It is impossible to condone this extant hypocrisy, which even went the length of offering up a sacrifice to the false god. How unlike the open challenge of Elijah, who gave orders, indeed, for the destruction of Baal's prophets, but only after they had been publicly convicted of imposture (1 Kings 18.)! We must not do evil, even that good may come. We see, however, how sometimes the wicked are on the very brink of their destruction when their hearts are most lifted up (Esther 5:11, 12; Psalm 73:18-20). Things are not always what they seem. It is no uncommon thing to see the haters of truth given up to believe a delusion, that they may be destroyed.
III. BAAL ROOTED OUT.
1. The guards posted. While the festal throng is rejoicing within, eighty strong guards are posted without by the wily Jehu, to secure that none shall escape. To the captains and guard are committed the task of actual slaughter.
2. Jehu's sacrifice. Proceeding to the interior, Jehu takes part in the various solemnities. At length the worship reaches its climax in the offering of the great burnt offering of the king. This, as remarked above, was an act not to be justified. It showed how little Jehu understood the spiritual nature of God, or was sincerely desirous of serving him, when he could bring himself to promote God's cause by going through this idolatrous farce. Is it, however, worse than many other things that are professedly done in the Name, and ostensibly for the honor, of God?
3. A promiscuous slaughter. When the festivity was thus at its height, Jehu gave the word, and, the soldiers entering, an indiscriminate and merciless slaughter took place. Not one of Baal's worshippers was allowed to escape. It was a fearful massacre, but seems effectually to have rooted Baal-worship out of the land. The slaughter of the deluded votaries was followed by the breaking down of the house of Baal, with its pillars, images, etc. The retribution in itself was righteous, and shadows forth the terrible, sudden, and overwhelming ruin that shall yet overtake all God's enemies. But the deed of vengeance is sadly stained with human passion, deceit, and wrong. - J.O.
I. JEHU'S REWARD.
1. Four generations on the throne. Jehu had outwardly fulfilled the commission given him by God, and had wrought a great deliverance for Israel. This public service God acknowledged by the promise that his sons should sit upon the throne to the fourth generation. The service was outward, and the reward was outward. Approval of Jehu's deeds did not extend to approval of every detail in his conduct. The limit - "fourth generation" - already implies that Jehu was not all he should have been, and anticipates that his sons would not be morally better, else the line would have been continued.
2. The stain of blood. Jehu had shed much blood. Guilt could not be imputed to him in this, so far as he was acting under an express Divine command. He "delivered his soul" (Ezekiel 33:9), however, only if this Divine command furnished the actual motive of his conduct. If the Divine mandate but covered designs of selfish ambition, the stain of blood came back on him. Hence the different judgment passed on these deeds in Hosea 1:4, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." In 2 Kings Jehu's acts are regarded on their outward side, while in Hosea they are considered on their inner and spiritual side. His real character was made apparent by his subsequent deeds. He obeyed God only so far as he could at the same time serve himself. He would willingly have shed the same amount of blood to secure the throne for himself, had there been no Divine command at all. It hence became impossible to exonerate him from a measure of blood-guiltiness. By making himself one with Ahab in his sins, Jehu fell back to the position of an ordinary manslayer.
II. JEHU'S FAILURE.
1. His sin. Generally it is affirmed that, after his elevation to the throne, "he took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart," and particularly it is charged against him that he did not remove the golden calves of Jeroboam. He continued that idolatrous and schismatic worship at Bethel and at Dan. This means that his "zeal for the Lord" stopped short at the point needed for the consolidation of his own power. Once seated on the throne, with no more blood of Ahab's house to shed, he became indifferent to religious reform. The self-will that underlay his pretended zeal for God thus became apparent. It seemed to him politically prudent to keep up the division of the kingdoms by perpetuating the calf-worship of Jeroboam; so, though he knew it was wrong, he refrained from interfering with it. We see in this the distinction between true and false zeal. True zeal for God is careful above all things to walk in God's ways. It honors his commandment above considerations of expediency. It is not spasmodic, but persists in well-doing. False zeal, on the contrary, is fitful and willful. It is moved when self-interest, or private passion, or inclination, or the praise of men, coincides with the Divine command; it throws off the mask when religion and interest point in opposite directions. It is time alone can test the quality of zeal.
2. His punishment. We find that after his declension Jehu suffered severe losses of territory. Hazael and the Syrians pressed in, and took from him most of the land on the east side of Jordan. It is not difficult to connect the two things as cause and effect. Had Jehu remained faithful to God, it is not to be thought that he would have suffered these losses. Because he did not remain faithful, he was scourged more severely than perhaps another man would have been. He was raised up to punish others, and, foreseeing his declension, an instrument had been prepared to punish him (2 Kings 8:12). When God was against him, his generalship and valor were of no avail. We are thus taught that true self-interest and irreligion do not coincide. Jehu sought his own ends, and, as a politic ruler, thought it wiser to disobey God than to run the risk of putting down a popular idolatry. The result showed how short-sighted his calculations were. The wisest course, even for our own interests, is to do what God requires. Nothing more is told of the twenty-eight years' reign of Jehu. He was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoahaz succeeded him. - J.O.