Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B.—Jehu’s Elevation to the Throne of Israel
2 KINGS 9:1–37. [2 CHRON. 22:7–9.]
1And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets [prophet-disciples], and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box [vial]1 of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead: 2And 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 [lead] him to an inner chamber; 3Then take the box [vial] of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed [I anoint] thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not.
4So the young man, even the young man [the servant of]2 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 [I anoint] 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 8the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. For [omit for] 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 [both him that is of age and him that is not of age] 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 [purlieus]3 of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.
11Then 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 [secret]. 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 [I anoint] thee king over Israel. 13Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him [Jehu] on the top of the stairs 14[bare steps],4 and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king. So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram had kept [defended] Ramoth-gilead, he and all Israel, because of [against] 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 [no fugitive] go forth nor escape [omit nor escape] out of the city to go to tell it in Jezreel. 16So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram. 17And there stood a watchman on the tower in Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company.5 And Joram said, Take a horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace [Is all well]? 18So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace [Is all well]? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace [well or ill]? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not again. 19Then he sent out a second on horseback, which came to them, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace [Is all well]? And Jehu answered, What hast thou to do with peace [well or ill]? turn thee behind me. 20And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously. 21And 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] Jehu, and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. 22And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace [Is all well], Jehu? And he answered, What peace [is well], so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts [sorceries] are so many? 23And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, 24[Treachery!] O Ahaziah. And Jehu drew [took]6 a bow with his full strength [in his hand] and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at 25his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot. Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain [lieutenant], Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou7 rode together [two by two] after Ahab his father, the Lord laid this burden [passed this sentence] upon him; 26Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith the Lord; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the Lord.
27But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden house. And Jehu followed after him, and said, Smite him also [Him also! Smite him]8 in the chariot. And they did so at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there. 28And his servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his sepulchre with his fathers in the city of David. 29And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Judah.
30And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face [eyelids], and tired her head, and looked out at a window. 31And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master 32[Hail! thou Zimri, murderer of his master!]? 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. 33And 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. 34And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now [to] this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. 35And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. 36Wherefore 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 [purlieus] of Jezreel shall 37dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel. And the carcass of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion [purlieus] of Jezreel; [so] [so] that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 9:1. And Elisha called one of the prophet-disciples, &c. Elisha was undoubtedly at this time in Samaria, where his residence was. The prophet-disciple, to whom he gave this commission, may have stood to him in the same relation in which he once stood to Elijah. It is an unfounded supposition of several of the rabbis that it was the prophet Jonah, the son of Amittai [2 Kings 14:25].—To Ramoth: see 2 Kings 8:28.—It is not stated anywhere to what tribe Jehu belonged. It is very probable that he, as the most able of the generals, had received the supreme command on the departure of Joram, as Josephus states.
2 Kings 9:2. And go in: i.e., into the house in which he dwells, as is clear from 2 Kings 9:6 (הַבַּיְתָה), and from the words: to an inner chamber (see note on 1 Kings 20:30). Jehu with his army was not, therefore, in camp before Ramoth besieging it, but in the city itself defending it (see note on 8:28). [No mention is made anywhere of any hostilities between Israel and Syria, from the death of Ahab until this time, in which the city of Ramoth could have changed hands. It is clear that the representation throughout this chapter is, that the Israelites were in possession of the city. It may, therefore, be inferred with considerable certainty that they had succeeded in taking it in this war, either in the assault in which Joram was wounded, or in some previous one. If Joram had gained this important victory for them, it is not probable that the army would lave been in a disposition to see him deposed by my one else. The inference is that, in the battle, he had not conducted himself well, and that Jehu’s talents had shone by comparison. It would be quite consistent with the character of each as it appears to us elsewhere. Moreover, we see from 2 Kings 9:21 that Joram was already so far recovered as to be able to go out in his chariot to meet Jehu. Yet he had not rejoined his army. This would seem to indicate that he had made much of a slight wound, and that he was shirking the hardships of the war. Putting all this together, we can understand that the feeling of the army towards the king was that of contempt, and towards Jehu that of admiration and respect, and the sudden and complete success of the revolution is not then difficult to understand.—W. G. S.] The prophet-disciple entered the house, in the court of which the generals were sitting together, perhaps holding a council of war. Jehu was to be anointed privately, and the fact was for a time to be kept secret.
2 Kings 9:3. And tarry not: that no questions might be asked and “that he might not be involved in affairs with which he was not competent to deal” (Von Gerlach); Josephus: ὅπως λάθῃ πάντας ἐκεῖθεν ἀπιών. It was not, therefore, in order that he might escape the danger of being captured by the friends of Joram (Theodoret, Clericus).
2 Kings 9:6. I have anointed thee; see above. Exeg. on 1 Kings 19:16.—On 2 Kings 9:7–10 see notes on 1 Kings 14:10; 16:3, 4; 18:4; 19:10; 21:21 sq. On חֵלֶק see note on 1 Kings 21:23 [and note on this verse under Textual and Grammatical].
2 Kings 9:11. Then Jehu came forth, &c. The question הֲשָׁלוֹם occurs, in this chapter, six times, and it is impossible that it should have a different sense in each case. As it evidently stands in opposition to “strife” or “hostility” in 2 Kings 9:17, 18, 22, and 31, it must also be translated in its original meaning in 2 Kings 9:11, “Is it peace?” and not: rectene sunt omnia? (Vulg.); or Stehet es wohl (is all well)? (Luther). Cf. 1 Kings 2:13. [Nearly all the commentators agree with the opinion here advocated, and translate “Is it peace?” שׁלום unquestionably meant, originally and etymologically, welfare, salus. It is often used generally, not in any special formula, for “peace.” As a formula of salutation, however, its etymological signification was entirely lost, as much as in our own “good-bye,” the etymological meaning of which we very seldom have in mind when we use it. As a question it is destitute of intrinsic meaning. It merely asks, “What is the news you bring?” In form only it asks, “Is it good news?” “Is all well?” Every language presents similar examples of current formulæ and words which have lost their etymological significance. Our own word “well” is a good instance, particularly in colloquial usage, where it often is almost meaningless, and where it often implies anything but approval of what has preceded. The inflection of the voice here carries all the significance. A similar instance occurs in this chapter. In 2 Kings 9:26 Jehu quotes the sentence of God upon Ahab, beginning with the words אִם לֹא. This is the formula for an oath, and an ellipsis is necessary to explain the form. This consists of an imprecation upon the speaker by himself. “If I did not see—then may—&c.” As Thenius well remarks, we cannot believe that the origin of this formula could have been present to the mind of Jehu, or that he could have thought of the alternate, omitted, phrase, when he represented God as having spoken in these words. The alternative was utterly lost sight of, and אם לא meant simply “verily,” as a strong affirmation.—השׁלום therefore is simply a salutation which calls upon the person addressed to tell the news, or his message. So in 2 Kings 9:11 it might be translated: “Well? Wherefore came,” &c. In 2 Kings 9:17 and 18 it has the same meaning, but Jehu plays upon it by using it in its strict meaning in his reply (see the amended translation). In 2 Kings 9:22 this is still more evident. In 2 Kings 9:31 Jezebel uses it as the regular conventional salutation, with which to address her insulting and defiant words to Jehu. To make it mean in 2 Kings 9:17, 18, 22, “Is there peace?” i.e., do you come with hostile or peaceful intent towards me? is to ascribe to the king a suspicion, first of the unknown party which is approaching, and afterwards of Jehu. If he had been suspicious that it was an enemy, he would not have sent out one man; if he had been suspicious of Jehu, he would not have gone down himself, and, as it seems, without guards, to meet him. Finally, 2 Kings 9:23 shows that he did not suspect anything until he heard Jehu’s answer, which was a bold condemnation of Jezebel. Then he recognized treachery, and, as soon as he did, he endeavored to escape. To send out a man to meet the coming troop and “say השׁלום,” was, therefore, simply to send him out to salute them and inquire what was the intelligence they brought. When Jehu was recognized, the same message was sent to him (cf. 2 Kings 10:13). Finally, the king went to ask for himself. The only news which he expected was news about the war. When the commander-in-chief came riding in hot haste towards the capital, news, either of a great victory or an overwhelming defeat, was to be expected. As for hostility from the approaching party before it was recognized, or from Jehu after he was recognized, there was no thought of it, until Jehu’s answer, in 2 Kings 9:23, revealed it all at once as openly declared.—W. G. S.] The generals put this inquiry, not because “they feared the madman might have done him some harm” (Ewald), but because they inferred, from the haste with which the prophet-disciple departed, that he had brought important intelligence, perhaps bad news, about the war with Syria (Thenius). Their further question: Wherefore came this הַמְּשֻׁגָּע to thee? is generally understood as the mocking and contemptuous speech of rude soldiers about a prophet. The Hebrew word is then understood to mean a madman or rhapsodist. It is certain, however, that these soldiers, who were expecting important and perhaps discouraging intelligence in regard to the war, were not in a disposition to scoff at prophets. If they had taken the prophet for a madman, they would not, when Jehu made known to them (2 Kings 9:12) the object for which he came, have taken the extraordinary step they did, without consideration or delay, and made Jehu king, on the word of a fanatic. In 2 Kings 9:20 it is said of Jehu himself: “He driveth בְּשִׁנָּעוֹן,” whereby it is not meant to be said that he was a crazy man, a lunatic, or a fanatic, but that he was a man of fierce and violent temper (Vatablus, following the Syriac, translates prœcipitanter). In Arabic שׁגע means to be bold, rash, wild (see Ges. Dict., s. v.). The generals meant to say, therefore, that the wild behavior of the man, who had come and gone without saying a word to any one, had struck them. They thought that his conduct indicated some extraordinary intelligence, and they wanted to know what it was. Jehu at first gives them an evasive answer: Ye know the man and his שִׂיחַ. This word does not mean “his speech or words” (Ges., De Wette, and Luther, who follows the Vulg.: et quid locutus sit); nor, “his babble” (Junius, Köster, and Philippson, who follows the Sept. ἀδολεσχία), for the word, does not occur anywhere in this sense. Neither does Jehu connect with his words the meaning: “Ye yourselves have sent this prophet to me, in order to give me courage to carry out the plan which ye have formed (Dereser following Seb. Smith; J. D. Michaelis), nor this meaning: “Ye know the man and what he said to me; ye yourselves are at the bottom of this jest, for ye it was who planned the farce” (Krummacher). Jehu could not have meant this, for he knew that the plan or jest had not originated with the generals, and his answer would not then have been an evasive one. No less incorrect is the explanation of Cornelius a Lapide, whom Keil follows: Nostis, eum insanum esse ac proinde insana loquitur, ideoque non credenda, nec a me narranda, for שִׂיחַ is no synonym of שָׁגַע. Finally, we cannot translate it with Bunsen and Thenius, “his disposition:” “Ye should be accustomed to his disposition, since ye have often seen him before.” The word is rather to be taken here in the same sense as in 1 Kings 18:27, i.e., meditatio, absorption in thought; so that, in other places, it stands for every deep agitation of the soul: rancor, sorrow, or dissatisfaction (Ps. 54:2; 102:1; 142:2; Job 7:13), and in 1 Sam. 1:16 it stands as synonym to כַעַם. Jehu means to say: The conduct of this man ought not to astonish you; he was lost in thought, as prophets are wont to be; therefore he did not enter into conversation with any one, and departed as hastily as he came. [It must be apparent that the epithet מְשֻׁגָּע, as it is correctly explained above, is not a proper epithet for a man who is lost in meditation. Wildness of behavior is in general inconsistent with meditation. Moreover, as above stated (note on 2 Kings 9:11), it is an error to take השלום to mean “Is there peace?” and then to suppose that these soldiers asked the question with reference to the war with Syria. How should they ask whether there was peace with Syria, when they were there on purpose to make war with that country? or how should they expect that this prophet could bring intelligence which was to decide that point? The prophet came from home, from Israel, and although his message might ultimately bear upon the continuance of the war with Syria, the natural expectation would be that he brought news from Israel, whence he came. They asked in general what the news was which he brought. The epithet which they applied need not be pressed so far as to make them guilty of any intentional disrespect to a prophet. He was wild in his behavior, and they called him carelessly a “mad fellow.” The tone and meaning could hardly be better given in English. Jehu’s reply is best understood as an attempt to sound them. He appears in chap. 10. distinctly in the character of a crafty man. So here; he is in doubt whether the prophet has been instigated by his fellow-commanders to do this thing, because they hesitated to make an outspoken proposition of rebellion to him. He charges them With having plotted this, as a means of inducing him to rebel. Ye know the man, and the errand he had. שִׂיחַ occurs very frequently in the sense of “complaint,” a deep-seated subject of anxiety. It is used here of the business or communication which the prophet brought deeply hidden in his heart—the deep plot which had been the result of long meditation. To this interpretation of 2 Kings 9:11, שֶׁקֶר, “it is a lie,” in 2 Kings 9:12, answers well. They deny the charge.—W. G. S.] The generals notice that Jehu is trying to evade them, and, as he is not able to conceal his agitation entirely, they are only the more urgent. They reply: שֶׁקֶר, i.e., not: “That is not true!” (Luther, Keil), or: “A lie!” (De Wette), but, “Deceit!” (1 Sam. 25:21; Jerem. 3:23), Thenius: “Nonsense! thou desirest to escape us.” Thereupon Jehu cannot help himself any longer; he tells them plainly what has happened. Niemeyer’s interpretation: “It is true that he (this man) does not always tell the truth, yet tell us what he said,” is certainly false.
2 Kings 9:13. Then they hasted and took every man his garment. The immediate and joyful homage to the general shows, on the one hand, that they were far from scoffing at the prophet, or regarding him as a crazy man or a mere fanatic, on the other hand, that a deep dissatisfaction with Joram and the house of Ahab prevailed in the army, while Jehu stood in high esteem. The words אֶל־גֶּרֶם הַמַּעֲלוֹת have been understood in many different ways. Generally גֶּרֶם is taken in the sense of its synonym עֶצֶם, “self,” and the clause is translated: “upon the stairs themselves,” i.e., upon the bare steps (Kimchi, whom Keil follows); but the word scarcely has this signification except in connection with personal pronouns. Still less can we approve the translation of Grotius, Clericus, and others: in fastigio graduum, for גֶּרֶם never means the top or summit. Thenius believes that גֶּרֶם is written for צֶלֶם, as the Vulg. shows: in similitudinem tribunalis. He translates: “As a representation of (or make-shift for) the (necessary) scaffolding [by mounting upon which to show himself to the people and receive their homage, a king was inaugurated], Jehu stepped up upon the piled-up garments.” But, to say nothing of other objections, there could be no mention of “steps” in connection with a pile of heaped-up garments. Evidently, we have rather to think of a spreading-out of the garments such as is recorded in Matt. 21:8, and, as אֶל, which we must not interchange with עַל, designates motion to or towards, we translate literally: “towards,” or, “in the direction of, the stairs.” In the building, in which the generals were assembled, there was, therefore, a staircase, an arrangement like that in the court of the temple for the king (2 Chron. 6:13), which had perhaps been prepared for the king, who formerly lived in Ramoth. The generals spread their garments over the ground from the place where Jehu stood to this place, which was ordinarily reserved for the king, and thus formed a path for him to this place, on which they saluted him with royal honors. [See note under Grammatical on this verse.]—On the blowing of the trumpet, see note on 1 Kings 1:34; cf., 2 Kings 11:14.
2 Kings 9:14 does not state the cause of the act in 2 Kings 9:13, but the consequence of it, so that we must not understand that there was a “conspiracy” in the ordinary sense of the word, i.e., a secret bond, previous to the wounding of Joram (Köster). After they had chosen Jehu king by acclamation, he bound himself and them firmly and solemnly to hostility to Joram (קשר means to bind, to fetter). The word does not imply, in itself, that he made them take an oath of allegiance to himself.
2 Kings 9:14. Joram had defended Ramoth, &c. שֹׁמֵר בְּרָמֹת shows again, what we saw in ver 6, that the city was not at that time besieged by Joram (Köster), but that he was in it and was defending it against the Syrians. In 2 Kings 9:15 and 16 we have a repetition of 8:28, 29, but it is not “a mere superfluous” repetition, which “proves that those verses and the chapter before us were not written by the same person” (Thenius). In the former place the statement is purely historical, but here it is intended to explain the event narrated in 2 Kings 9:1–14. 2 Kings 9:21 shows that Joram was healed at the time that Jehu was anointed. Instead of returning, however, to share the labors and the dangers of the war, he remained in his summer palace in Jezreel, and appears to have been taking his pleasure with his guest, king Ahaziah of Judah. This must have had a bad effect on the army, which could see in it only indifference or cowardice, and it explains the enthusiasm with which they yielded allegiance to Jehu, as well as the haste with which the latter started for Jezreel, inasmuch as it was important for him to lay hands at once upon the trio, Joram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel. He therefore proposes to the generals that they shall keep the army at Ramoth, and not allow any one to leave the city, and he hastens with a small company (שִׁפְעָה 2 Kings 9:17) to take possession of Jezreel. Peter Martyr: Silentium et celeritatem adhibet, ne Joramo spatium detur vel ad deliberandum vel ad se muniendum. Ewald’s assertion: “He mounted his chariot alone with his old companion in arms Bidkar, and drove,” &c., contradicts the text.
2 Kings 9:17. And there stood a watchman, &c. 2 Kings 9:17 stands in close connection with the end of 2 Kings 9:16. While the two kings were enjoying themselves in the summer palace, and thought of no danger, the watchman appeared before Joram, and reported: “I see a company.” That which is narrated in 2 Kings 9:17–20 is as characteristic of Joram as of Jehu, and that is why it is narrated with so much detail. It shows, on the one hand, how careless Joram was, since it was not till after he had in vain sent out two horsemen, that he took a more earnest view of the matter, and, on the other hand, how decided and energetic Jehu was, since he did not allow himself to be detained, and kept the two horsemen in his own train, lest they should hurry on before him with intelligence of his coming. His question in 2 Kings 9:18 has the meaning, What is it of thy business, whether I come in friendship or in hostility; thou hast nothing to do with that, it does not concern thee. [See note on 2 Kings 9:11.] It is probable that the watchman had seen, while they were at a distance, that they were not Syrians. As they came nearer, he recognized more and more distinctly that they were Israelites, and he inferred, from their violent speed, that Jehu, the commander of the army, whose wild and fierce disposition was well known to him, was at their head. On בְּשִׁגָּעוֹן see note on 2 Kings 9:11.
2 Kings 9:21. And Joram said; Make ready, &c. Now, at length, when he heard Jehu’s name, ho became anxious, and set out to meet him—a thing which he could not have done, be it noticed, if he had been confined by his wound. [It must be clear that this anxiety could only have been as to what events of the war east of the Jordan could have been the cause that the chief commander came hurrying home in such haste. If he had suspected treachery, it is not conceivable that he would have gone to meet Jehu. See notes on 2 Kings 9:11, 22, and 30.—W. G. S.] The portion of Naboth, where the two kings met Jehu, “is the כֶּרֶם, vineyard, of Naboth, which now formed a part of the park of the royal palace” (Keil). Joram’s question, 2 Kings 9:22, “Is it peace?” shows that he did not even yet suspect rebellion, but rather expected news of a victory from Ramoth, otherwise he certainly would not have gone out alone to meet him. [That is to say; the question had reference to the hostility between Syria and Israel, not to my suspected hostility of Jehu towards his king. This is just the distinction which must be kept in mind, and this question must be interpreted as asking news of the war. No other interpretation is possible. The rest of the chapter must therefore be interpreted consistently with this. The king did not here ask: Is there peace between me and thee? No more did he send a messenger to ask: Dost thou come for peace or war between me and thee? in 2 Kings 9:17 and 18. If he knew that they were Israelites, he certainly did not ask the question in this sense; if he thought that they were Syrians, he would not send out one man to ask them the idle question whether they came for peace or war. See note below, on 2 Kings 9:30.—W. G. S.]—In Jehu’s answer, עַד has the same force as in Judges 3:26 [so long as, or, while]. He gives as the reason for his hostile coming, the whoredoms and sorceries of Jezebel. [He gives the king to understand that he has not come to bring news from the war, but to overthrow him, by a reply in which he condemns the vices of the queen-mother, in terms which no man could use who was willing any longer to be a subject.—W. G. S.] זְנוּנִים not to be taken literally, but is used, as it so often is, in referring to idolatry (Jerem. 3:2, 9; Ezek. 23:27, &c.), with which, however, licentiousness was almost always connected. By כְּשָׁפִים we have not to understand “mysteries” (Thenius), but that general practice of sorcery, and use of incantations for producing various supernatural effects (Winer, R.-W.-B., II. s. 718), which was closely connected with idolatry. All these practices were forbidden, as well as idolatry, on pain of death, in the Mosaic law (Ex. 22:18; Deut 18:10). Jehu’s words show that Jezebel was generally regarded as the foundress and patroness of idolatry. They also contain a rebuke for Joram, because he had submitted to be led by her, had helped her instead of opposing her, and had thereby made himself accessory to her crime.—וַיַּהֲפֹךְ, 2 Kings 9:23, see 1 Kings 22:34. The exclamation, מִרְמָה, deceit, means, “We are deceived, i.e., really, betrayed” (Keil).
2 Kings 9:24. Between his arms, i.e., from behind, since Joram, in his flight, had turned his back to Jehu. It means, therefore, really, between the shoulders (Vulg. inter scapulas), so that the arrow went obliquely through his heart.
2 Kings 9:25. Then said Jehu to Bidkar, his lieutenant. זְכֹר is rendered by all the old versions, which are misled by אני, which follows, in the first person: “For I remember how,” &c. But it is evidently incorrect. Whether רֹכְבִים here signifies riding on horseback, or in a chariot, is of very little importance. The point is, that Jehu was in Ahab’s retinue, was an ear-witness when the prophet pronounced upon the king the sentence of God, after the death of Naboth (1 Kings 21:19 sq.). This had made an ineffaceable impression upon Jehu.—מַשָּׂא means really: “burden,” i.e., something which must be borne. If God lays a “burden” upon any one, he passes a sentence of punishment upon him, which must be endured. Hence the word is often used by the prophets in the sense of a condemnation of, or judicial sentence upon, a man or a nation (Isai. 13:1; 14:28; 15:1).—אם לֹא, in an oath or affirmation: “Verily” (Numb. 14:28). Jehu quotes the sentence which was pronounced 1 Kings 21:19–24 according to its substance, as it remained in his memory after sixteen years, and with such inaccuracies in the wording as were occasioned by his excitement in a moment of the most violent activity. The repetition of “saith the Lord” places emphasis on the oracle of God, as such. I have seen, saith the Lord: I will repay, saith the Lord. Jehu, however, mentions something which was not mentioned at all in the former place; viz., “The blood of his sons,” and that he should be requited in the field of Naboth. Thenius considers this an “essential variation,” and says that “all attempts at reconciliation are vain.” But the author must have been the most thoughtless man in the world, if he had not perceived that what he here recorded was contradictory to what he had written a few pages before. It may, therefore, nevertheless be permitted us to attempt a “reconciliation” which will make him talk sense. Although the blood of the sons of Naboth is not mentioned in 1 Kings 21, it may nevertheless be that they were also killed. It is impossible that Jehu should have talked to an eye and ear witness, as Bidkar was, about the blood of the sons of Naboth, if their blood had never actually been spilled. Thenius very justly remarks on 2 Kings 9:7 (“And the blood of all the servants of the Lord”), that “Jezebel must have vented her rage upon a still wider circle than that which is expressly mentioned.” Perhaps Naboth’s sons were murdered because it was feared that they might lay claim to the property of which their father had been robbed, and might avenge his murder. Jehu mentions their blood also, as well as that of their father, because the divine punishment would thereby appear all the more just, and his own command, to throw Joram’s corpse upon the field of Naboth, would be more completely justified. As the murder fell upon Naboth and his sons, so the penalty fell upon Ahab and his sons. The word “yesterday” must not be insisted upon too strongly in its strict signification. It implies simply, “a while ago,” as in Isai. 30:33. The sentence of condemnation in 1 Kings 21. was certainly not pronounced on the day after Naboth’s murder. Secondly, as to the addition, “In this plat,” the emphasis is not upon this phrase, but upon the word requite: that is the main idea, about which all the rest is grouped, not the “plat.” The slaying of Joram, the “son of a murderer” (6:32) is marked as a penalty for the murder of Naboth and his sons by this very circumstance, that his body is cast upon the field which that murder had been committed to win. Jehu very justly saw, in the fact that Joram must die just here, a dispensation of Providence, the ground for which he discovers in the oracle 1 Kings 21. [Jehu commands the corpse to be cast upon the field of Naboth, and proceeds to quote the oracle as a motive for the command, after which he repeats his order. (Throw him there, for God said that he would requite him there; therefore throw him there.) It is, therefore, evident that the emphasis is on the words, “In this plat.” For the rest, 1 Kings 21:19 is strictly and literally fulfilled by this command of Jehu, although it is not literally quoted.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 9:27. But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, &c. The garden-house, towards which Ahaziah fled, was certainly not the summer palace in Jezreel (Calmet), but, since he sought the open country, either a house which “stood at one of the exits from the park” (Thenius), or which did not belong at all to the royal domain, but “stood at some distance from Jezreel” (Keil).—And Jehu followed after him, and said, &c. From his words it is clear that he did not himself pursue Jehu, but gave the command to do so, just as so often that which one commands to be done is ascribed to himself. His object was to reach Jezreel, where Isabel, the originator of all the mischief, was, and, as he was now close to the city, he hastened thither (2 Kings 9:30), leaving the pursuit of Ahaziah to some of his followers. After the words: “Smite him in the chariot,” something must be supplied, viz., the fulfilment of the command, as also after the command in 2 Kings 9:26: “Cast him into the plat of ground,” &c. The Sept. have: Καίγε αὐτόν. Καὶ ἐπάταξεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῷ ἄρματι ὄντα ἐν τῇ ἀναβάσει Γούρ. Thenius, as usual, follows them, and desires to make the utterly unnecessary change from הַכֻּהוּ to וַיַּכֵּהוּ. He then translates: “Him also! (I must have him also!) And he smote (wounded) him on the chariot on the height of Gur.” The rendering of the Vulg. is better: Etiam hunc percutite in curro suo! Et percusserunt eum in ascensu Gaver, except that in curru suo belongs with percusserunt. Ewald, Maurer, and Keil are satisfied with inserting וַיַּכֻּהוּ after הַכֻּהוּ, and this is certainly the simplest course to pursue.—The height or hill Gur is not mentioned anywhere else. [Thenius takes נּוּר to mean a caravanserai (cf. גּוּר בַּעַל, 2 Chron. 26:7, hospitium Baalis. Ges.), and thinks that the hill had its name from an inn which stood alone upon it. Ges., Thesaurus, gives the name under גוּר, catulus, a cub or whelp. So that it would mean ascensus catuli. The place was not important, and the name was a popular and ephemeral one.—W. G. S.] Jibleam is mentioned Josh. 17:11 and Judges 1:27 in connection with Megiddo. On the latter place, see note on 1 Kings 4:12. The location of Jibleam cannot be more definitely fixed either from the two places cited, or from 1 Chron. 6:55, where בִּלְעָם stands for it. As Megiddo lay, according to all the latest maps, directly west of Jezreel, and as Ahaziah died at Megiddo, Jibleam, whither he fled and where he was wounded, must have been likewise to the west of Jezreel, and between that place and Megiddo (Thenius). It is true that Keil objects that “between Jezreel and Megiddo there is only the plain of Jezreel or Esdraelom, in which we cannot suppose that there was any height Gur.” But Megiddo, and therefore Jibleam, which was near it, did not lie in the midst of the plain, but on the slope of Mt. Carmel, where there may well have been a height, such as is referred to. Least of all can we adopt Keil’s supposition that Jibleam was “south of Jenin,” for this place was in a direct line as far south of Jezreel as Megiddo was west. It is not clear how Ahaziah, when severely wounded, should have gone from there in a northwesterly direction, to Megiddo. He cannot have fled at the same time in a direct westerly and a direct southerly direction.—The chronicler gives another story of Ahaziah’s death (II., 22:8 sq.): “And it came to pass that when Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab … he sought Ahaziah, and they caught him, for he was hid in Samaria, and brought him to Jehu; and when they had slain him they buried him.” Keil thinks, in order to combine the two stories, that it is very possible “that Ahaziah really escaped to Samaria, and that he was there captured by Jehu’s followers and brought back. Then that he was wounded at the hill Gur, near Jibleam, and, having fled again from there, that he breathed his last at Megiddo.” This explanation is, in the first place, very forced and unnatural, but it falls to the ground when we know that Jibleam was on the road westward towards Megiddo, and not on the road from Jezreel to Samaria. A variation in the history is here clearly apparent, and cannot be denied. The main point, i.e., the slaying of Ahaziah by Jehu or his followers, is firmly established by both. A different tradition in regard to the where? and how? may have prevailed in the time of the Chronicler. The one which is followed by the record before us, which is certainly older, appears, especially on account of its geographical details, to be the more correct and reliable.—The difference between 2 Kings 9:29 and 2 Kings 8:25, which amounts, after all, to only one year, is explained “most simply on the supposition of a difference in reckoning the first year of the reign of Joram” (Keil). See above, note on 2 Kings 8:16.
2 Kings 9:30. Jezebel heard of it. Women make use of paint for the eyes, in the Orient, until the present day. It consists of a mixture of antimony (stibium) and zinc, which is moistened with oil, and applied with a brush to the eye-brows and eye-lids. The eye itself is thrown into relief by the dark border, and appears larger (Pliny says of stibium in his Hist. Nat. 33: in calliblepharis mulierum dilatat oculos). Large eyes were considered beautiful. Homer applies to Juno the epithet βοῶπις (cf. Rosenmüller, Alt. und Neu. Morgenland, iv. 268, and Keil on this passage). [Boxes have been found in the tombs of Egypt containing portions of this mixture; also the small, smooth sticks of wood, or bone, or ivory, by means of which it was applied. There are specimens in the “Abbot Collection” in the rooms of the N. Y. Hist. Soc.—W. G. S.] And tired her head hardly means that she put on a “coiffure of false hair” (Thenius). It refers rather to the ordinary decorations of the head, head-band, crown, &c. The old opinion, which is still held by Ewald and Eisenlohr, that she summoned up all her seductive fascinations, in order to tempt and conquer Jehu, is certainly incorrect, for Jezebel had, at this time, a grandson who was 23 years old (8:26), so that she must have been advanced in years. Since, moreover, women fade earlier in the Orient, she cannot have intended to excite any carnal desire in Jehu. The haughty, imperious woman intended, rather, to go to meet the rebel in all the majesty of her position as queen-dowager, and to so far overawe him that he should desist from any further steps. She therefore takes her place at the lofty window of the palace, and shouts to him, as he enters the gate, the bold and haughty words in 2 Kings 9:31: “Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of his master?” Luther translates [like the E. V.]: “Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” Maurer supports this rendering by suggesting that she could not have asked him if he came in peace, at the same time that she called him a murderer of the king. But השׁלום cannot have any different meaning here from that in 2 Kings 9:22 [where, as Bähr explains it, it means, “Is there peace in the Syrian war?” or, “Dost thou bring news of a victory?”]. Jezebel connects with the question this meaning: “Wilt thou submit to me, the queen, and desist from the rebellion, or wilt thou persist in it?” [The reader will see that this interpretation, which makes השׁלום mean, “Is there hostility between me and thee?” is not consistent with the author’s own exposition of 2 Kings 9:22. Jezebel must have felt that the hostility of Jehu reached to herself, even if she had not heard that his declaration of war was aimed, in its terms, exclusively at her. She had heard of the fate of the king, as the last part of her speech shows. She could not, therefore, have intended to ask Jehu if he came, in general, on a peaceful errand. This is perhaps the clearest instance of all, to prove that this formula had lost its etymological significance, and it must be apparent that the attempt to give it this meaning here produces inconsistency and confusion. It was a standing formula, empty of all independent meaning, used as an interjection in beginning an address: Ho! or Hail!—Just what she hoped to accomplish by her decorations, and by her address, it is difficult to see. Perhaps the safest conclusion is one founded upon her domineering and wilful character. These traits were developed in her to a tragical degree. She has scarcely a parallel either in history or poetry save Medea. Her last toilet was probably the consequence of a determination to die in full state, self-willed, arrogant, defiant to the last.—W. G. S.] There is a threat also in her words. Zimri, who murdered king Elah (1 Kings 16:10–18), reigned only seven days, and met with a frightful end. She means to terrify the violent rebel. “Thou shalt fall as did Zimri. Thy rule shall not endure!” Perhaps she had also taken measures of resistance, had collected about her those on whom she thought that she could rely, and was, therefore, all the more self-willed. Jehu’s reply, 2 Kings 9:32, Who is on my side? Who? seems to sustain this opinion. He gives her no answer whatever, still less does he submit to the influence of her manner; he knew well that no one would heartily support the hated and tyrannical woman. The two eunuchs, who were her immediate attendants, gave Jehu a sign, probably from another window, that they would join him and serve his purposes. They obeyed his command. [The “or” between “two” and “three” in 2 Kings 9:32 is not. in the text. It means either that two looked out first, and were immediately joined by another, or that two appeared at one window, and three at another (the latter is adopted by Stanley).—W. G. S.]—וַיִּרְמְסֶנָּה, 2 Kings 9:33, literally: And he trode her under foot, not, however, “with his own feet” (Ewald). He caused her to be trodden under foot, i.e., the horses of his chariot trode upon her. Hence the Sept. and Vulg. have the plural συνεπάτησαν αὐτήν, conculcaverunt eam (cf., Hom., Il., x. 432; xi. 534).
2 Kings 9:34. And when he was come in, &c. After Jezebel was slain, Jehu went into the palace, took possession of it, and refreshed himself, after the day of bloody labor, with food and drink. Then, not, according to Köster’s fiction, at the banquet, but afterwards, he gave orders to see to the corpse of Jezebel and bury it. He calls her: this cursed woman, not “abusing her in his wrath” (Thenius), but as the originator of all the corruption which had now met with its fitting reward. Nevertheless, he does not wish to have her refused burial, for, he says, she is a king’s daughter. Not, therefore, because she was the wife of Ahab, the mother of Joram, and the grandmother of Ahaziah, but because she was the daughter of the king of Tyre and Sidon, she was to be spared the last ignominy of lying unburied (see note on 1 Kings 14:11). Polus: Forte sic fecit, ne invidiam et odium regum Zidoniorum in se inflammaret. When he was told that sepulture was no longer possible, he remembered also the remainder of the oracle which he had quoted in 2 Kings 9:26 (1 Kings 21:23). This shows that that was no prediction post eventum. He quotes the oracle freely, according to its sense, calling to mind particularly that portion of it which seemed to him the most important. This explains the use of חֵלֶק instead of חֵל (see above, on 2 Kings 9:10 [and the Grammatical note on that verse]). Jehu did not intentionally bring it about that Jezebel had no sepulchre, i.e., that there was no spot which perpetuated her memory. This was ordained by God. The memory of her was to be rooted out (Ps. 34:16).
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. The fall of the house of Ahab is one of the most important events in the history of the Israelitish monarchy, and is marked as such by the detailed and vivid description which we have of it. In order to understand it correctly and estimate it justly we must look at it from the stand-point of the Old Testament theocracy. The house of Ahab was not only devoted to the cultus of the calf-images of Jeroboam, but it had also (a thing which no other dynasty had ever done) formally introduced idolatry, murdered the prophets, and persecuted the worshippers of Jehovah. All attempts to draw it away from these evil courses had proved vain. We see from 2 Kings 10:18–28 how far the worship of Baal had taken possession of the kingdom of the ten tribes. As a result of intermarriage with the house of Ahab, the evil had spread to Judah also, and had been already fostered by two kings, Jehoram and Ahaziah. “According to all appearances, therefore, the corruption, which had already eaten so deeply into Israel, and which, in spite of all the opposition which the prophets had exerted, threatened to gradually destroy all the good influences which remained, was about to strike root also in Judah, the last stronghold of the religion of Jehovah, and thereby to destroy the very foundation of the Mosaic theocracy” (Eisenlohr, Das Volk Israel, ii. s. 192). The rule of the house of Ahab was, in very truth, the opposite of what the monarchy of Israel ought to have been. Instead of holding and maintaining (Deut. 17:19, 20) the laws and commandments of Jehovah, and, above all, the Mosaic law, the covenant upon which the existence of Israel, as the chosen people, rested, it destroyed, consciously and intentionally, the foundations of the Israelitish nationality, and was, therefore, a continual rebellion against Jehovah, the true and only king of Israel. The prolonged rule of this house would have drawn Israel down into heathenism, and would thereby have frustrated its destined influence on the history of the world. It would have been the end of Israel as the chosen people of God. The overthrow of this house had become a matter of life and death for the Old Testament theocracy as an institution, and a necessity, if God’s redemptive plan with Israel was ever to reach its consummation. It had been threatened many times with destruction, and, after it had shown itself during forty years incapable of reformation, the time was come at last when it was to meet the fate with which it had been threatened. It was so decreed in the counsels of Him who raises up and puts down kings, who has power over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to whomsoever He will (Dan. 2:21; 4:14, 31). Here, therefore, the question of the justifiableness of rebellion against a legitimate dynasty, or of revolution in the ordinary sense of the word, cannot arise. The course of the house of Ahab was a rebellion against all law, divine and human, in Israel. It was, therefore, a revolution which was being brought about by those in authority. Therefore it resulted in a catastrophe which was not the overthrow of divine and human order, but rather its restoration. All the details of the occurrence must be weighed from this stand-point.
2. The long-threatened downfall of the house of Ahab is the work of the prophet Elisha, in so far that he gave the order to anoint Jehu king. His name therefore stands at the head of the narrative, and whereas, in other places, his name stands either alone or with the epithet, “man of God,” here we find him expressly called “the prophet,” in order to show that he did what is here recorded of him as a prophet, i.e., by virtue of his prophetical calling; as one, therefore, who, as he himself solemnly declares (1 Kings 17:1), stands, like Elijah, “before Jehovah,” and, as an immediate servant of God, acts in His name and by His authority. Thereby we are pointed, from the outset, to the grand difference between the fall of the house of Ahab and that of the other earlier or later dynasties. While the latter were all over-thrown by military chiefs, whose only concern was to arrive at power, the fall of the house of Ahab was brought about by the prophet, and did not aim at the gratification of ambition, but at the uprooting of the idolatry which had been introduced and fostered by this family. The first and chief duty of the prophets, before all, of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha, consisted in bearing witness by word and deed against the radical evil, idolatry, in combating it by every means, and in plucking it up by the roots. Jehovah had appointed them “watchmen over His people,” and armed them by His Spirit for this work, in order that the great object of the choice of this one people out of all the nations of the earth (Ex. 19:3–6), i.e., its destined influence in the history of the world, might not be frustrated (Habak. 2:1; Ezek. 3:17; 33:7; Jerem. 6:17, 27). The words which Jeremiah heard, when he was called to be a prophet: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (Jerem. 1:10; cf. 18:7; Ezek. 43:3; 32:18), hold true of all true prophets. They appear, therefore, as Knobel (der Proph. der Hebr., i. s. 196 sq.) justly observes, not only as heralds of the acts of God, but also as executors of them, and things are often ascribed to them which in truth were done, and could be done, by God alone (see Exeg. on 1 Kings 19:15–18, and, besides the places already quoted, Jerem. 5:14; 25:15; Hos. 6:5). It was therefore the right and duty of the prophet Elisha, when idolatry had been pushed to the utmost, and every attempt to bring the house of Ahab into other courses had failed, by virtue of his prophetical office and calling, to labor to bring about the fall of that dynasty and the foundation of another. Far from being a sinful and rebellious undertaking, what he did was, for all Israel, as Eisenlohr himself admits, “an act of salvation.”
3. The anointing of Jehu is generally regarded, as it is by Keil, as the fulfilment of “the last of the commissions which Elijah received at Horeb” (1 Kings 19:16). But the correct interpretation of that passage (see notes thereon) makes this explanation unnecessary; and it is moreover to be noticed, that such an explanation presupposes that Elijah commissioned his successor to do something which he was commanded to do, and which he might have done, since Jehu was already, in the lifetime of Elisha, in the train of Ahab (2 Kings 9:25), but which he nevertheless did not do. There is no hint in the text that this act of Elisha was a fulfilment of that command to Elijah, and it is not consistent with the universal and unconditional obedience of Elijah. [The discrepancy between this chapter and 1 Kings 19:16 in this particular must be frankly admitted. Even a superficial examination will show that, between the two, this passage contains the historical account of the share of the prophets in Jehu’s revolt.—W. G. S.] It is still more improbable that Elisha should not have executed a commission which had been given him, as is suggested, by Elijah, but should have commissioned another, a prophet-disciple, to do it. Von Gerlach thinks that the “already aged Elisha” did this, because “he was bent with age;” but Elisha did not die until Joash was on the throne (2 Kings 13:14), so that he lived for at least forty-three years after Jehu was anointed. Accordingly, at the time of that event, he was not fifty years old. Neither can the reason which Krummacher assigns be maintained: “Nothing could have been more distasteful to the loving and evangelical disposition of Elisha than the command, in his own person, to put the avenging sword into the hands of Jehu. So God, who, father-like, weighs with the most tender anxiety what He may demand of each one of His children, and what not, exonerated him from this duty, and allowed him to send one of the prophet-disciples in his place.” The narrative itself shows us the reason clearly. The prophet-disciple was commanded to lead Jehu into an inner chamber, and, after anointing him, to depart immediately, without speaking a word to any one. The important transaction was, therefore, to be carried out in private, and to be kept as secret as possible. This was the reason why Elisha did not take it in hand himself, for if he, the well-known head of the prophet-guild, had gone to Ramoth and had had dealings with Jehu, it would have occasioned great observation, and the cause of his coming could not have been kept secret. The affair was to be kept quiet for a time, and only to be proclaimed when the right time should come according to the leadings of Providence, just as, at a former time, the communication of the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29 sq.) was not to be made public, and Jeroboam had to wait until the right moment for his elevation came (see Hist. § 3 on 1 Kings 11:14–43). Therefore also Jehu did not at once make known to his fellow-commanders what had been done, but gave them an evasive answer. When they pressed him, he broke silence and thought that the right time had come. Elisha limited his own action strictly to the announcement of the destiny which awaited Jehu. All the rest he left to the control of Providence, so we hear no more of him until his death (chap. 13.).—As for the act of anointing, it was not performed with “the sacred oil of anointing” (Menzel), as in the case of the kings of Judah (1 Kings 1:39; cf. 2 Kings 11:12; 23:30), for, in the kingdom of the ten tribes, where there was no sanctuary of Jehovah, and where the levitical priesthood did not exist, it appears that the kings were not anointed at all. It was not, therefore, a priestly act which Elisha in this case executed, but a prophetical one, i.e., a symbolical act, a physical sign and testimony of that which Jehovah has determined upon and will do. Hence it is accompanied by the words: “Thus saith the Lord: I anoint thee,” &c. (2 Kings 9:3–6), just as in 2 Kings 2:21, where the prophet throws the salt into the fountain with the words: “Thus saith the Lord: I have healed these waters” (see pp. 17, 25). For the significance of the act of anointing, when it is ascribed to Jehovah himself, see above, note on 1 Kings 19:15–18.
4. What Schlier (Die Könige in Israel, s. 207) says of the newly-anointed king Jehu, holds true. “There are few persons in the sacred history who have been so variously judged as he. To some he is a stirrer up of rebellion and a bloody despot; others see in him a pure and unimpeachable servant of the Lord. Both equally err, for both depart alike from what the sacred record declares, and all depends, especially in the case of Jehu, on allowing ourselves to be led simply by the record.” If we restrict ourselves to what is said in chap. 9, this much is certain, that he did not make himself king. There is not a word to justify the suspicion that he plotted and conspired before he was anointed king; on the contrary, the story shows clearly that the prophetical calling to be king surprised and astonished him, and also that his fellow-commanders knew nothing of it. He ought not, therefore, to be put in the same category with Baasha, Zimri, Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea (1 Kings 15:27; 16:9, 16; 2 Kings 15:10–30), who, instigated by ambition, without authority and in self-will, took the royal power into their hands. He was called to be king by the prophet, in the name of Jehovah. The explanation of the selection of just this man, as the instrument for the destruction of the house of Ahab, and for the uprooting of idolatry, is found in the fact that at that time there was scarcely a man who united, as he did, all the necessary qualifications; so that Ewald also is forced to admit that “Elisha certainly could not have fixed his eye upon a military chief who was better fitted for the purpose he had in view.” In the first place, Jehu was a decided opponent of idolatry and of the abuses which were connected with it (2 Kings 9:22). The opposition of the prophet Elijah to Ahab and Jezebel, after the murder of Naboth, had made an indelible impression upon him, so that he had not forgotten the words of the prophet sixteen years afterwards (2 Kings 9:25 and 36). This was the first characteristic which was required. Jehu possessed the second also. He was a man of the greatest energy. Pushing onward with boldness and enterprise, decided and pitiless, he shrank back before no difficulty (2 Kings 9:20, 24, 32 sq.). Moreover, he did not lack prudence or wisdom (2 Kings 9:11, 15, 18). Finally, he stood high in the popular esteem as a military leader. After Joram left Ramoth he seems to have had supreme command of the army. We see from the joy with which his fellow-commanders caught up his nomination and anointment, and from the readiness with which they obeyed his commands, that he enjoyed their fullest confidence (2 Kings 9:14–16). It is true that his subsequent conduct is fierce and soldier-like; that was the natural product of his character, calling, and education. “To drive like Jehu” has become a proverb. We ought not to overlook the fact, however, that nothing was to be accomplished here by mild and kind means. If the deep-rooted evil of idolatry, which threatened Israel with total ruin, was to be rooted out, it could not be done without violence. Moreover, we have to notice that Jehu, when Joram came to meet him, did not shoot him down at once, but, is answer to his question: “Is it peace?” declared that, so long as his mother, Jezebel, nourished shameful idolatry in Israel, there was no chance for peace and prosperity in the kingdom. Upon this absolutely true declaration of Jehu, Joram turned and cried “Treason,” and took to flight, so that he took sides with his idolatrous mother. Not until this point did Jehu send the death-arrow after the flying king (who sought to reach Jezreel, and to join her), and give orders to pursue Ahaziah, who came with Joram, and who likewise took Jezebel’s part. As Joram fell upon the very spot of ground which had been taken from the murdered Naboth, Jehu, who saw in this incident a dispensation of God, felt encouraged to proceed with his fierce task. So too, he did not slay Jezebel without further delay, but only when she put herself in opposition to him, and shouted down to him her impudent defiance, and insulted him as another Zimri, i.e., as a murderer and traitor, did he call out to “throw her down.”
[Jehu came to Jezreel on purpose to put to death the king and the queen-dowager. Of the particular circumstances in which he should meet them, or of the accident which was going to throw in his way the king of Judah, another member of the house of Ahab, he could know nothing beforehand. Ewald thinks that he had had half-formed plans in his mind ever since the time when he heard the prophet’s denunciation of Ahab, but Bähr is more correct, according to the text before us, when he supposes that the visit of the prophet and his business took Jehu by surprise. Whether this incident only came to ratify and bring to a definite determination half-formed plans which Jehu had long cherished, is a secret of his inner life which probably few or none, even of his contemporaries, ever learned. Whether it came at the very crisis of time when the commanders of the army were disgusted with the king, and excited with admiration of Jehu, to suggest to them an act which perhaps no one had yet proposed in words, is also uncertain, but it is a theory which is thoroughly consistent with the text. When Jehu had told them what the prophet had done, it was only a suggestion, something which might be neglected and allowed to fall and be forgotten. But the other generals caught at the idea enthusiastically, and proceeded to act upon it by proclaiming Jehu king with all the solemnity which the means at hand would allow. The affair had now entered a new phase. One of the prophets of Jehovah, who were, as a matter of course, hostile to the reigning house, might nominate a new king and anoint him, and the event might be passed by as only another declaration of hostility from a well-known and uncompromising enemy; but to proclaim the new king was an overt act of treason, and all who participated in it must know that there was no receding from it, and that the reigning monarch could never overlook or pardon it. Jehu’s cunning and caution had been shown in the reply to the generals in 2 Kings 9:11, in which he tried, in the first place, to see if they were really the instigators of this proposition. Now that he was committed to an overt act, his promptness, decision, and energy showed themselves. “If it be your minds, if you are determined to take this step, then we must go forward at once. Let no one go out of the city to take news to Joram of what we have done.” He then set out himself for Jezreel. Between himself and the house of Ahab there was no possible compromise. He must gain the advantages of time and energy. He made no delay (this may be reckoned as a virtue on his part) in carrying out his purpose. He took circumstances as he found them, and carried out his intention as he best could. He unquestionably intended to destroy the whole house of Ahab when he returned to Jezreel. He could not tell what opportunities would offer, but it is clear that he meant to make opportunities if they did not come of themselves. He meant to get all the royal family into his hands and kill them. Bähr’s idea that he waited until Joram had taken sides with Jezebel, and waited until Jezebel had insulted him, is suggested by a laudable desire to excuse him, but it is an invention. We can hardly repress some feeling of pity, even for Jezebel, in reading the bloody and tragical details, but pitilessness is a virtue in a man situated as Jehu was. He had a task to accomplish which led through blood, and he had to follow it. To waver from pity or from fear would have been equal treason to his calling. The sentimentality which forgets the crime in pity for the criminal is a modern and a “civilized” weakness. It is not a feeling which a man called to conduct great national or religious revolutions can allow to dim the clearness of his judgment, or to unnerve his determination.—Jehu was, therefore, a cautious, crafty man, who was slow to commit himself to any irrevocable course of action, but energetic and unrelenting in prosecuting it when he had resolved upon it. He was a man of action, who did not hesitate or waver, and did not lose time in long plans, but struck quickly and surely where he had determined to strike. He did not shrink from difficulties, did not hesitate at harsh means of accomplishing his purposes, did not feel pity in striking down those who stood in his way, did not leave behind him anything which might, at a later time, rise up to mar or overthrow his work. This is not a lovely character. It does not present the amiable virtues, patience, pity, mercy, kindness. It is not a character to be imitated in modern, civilized, thoroughly regulated life, but neither ought it to be measured and judged by the standards of a society trained to peace and order, fearful of revolution, and encased in law. Its virtues must be sought in the use to which it put its strength, its energy, and its decision. It is a character, however, such as is needed to lead great movements; to give form, and purpose, and consistency of action, and perseverance, to a national effort, in times of discontent with existing institutions and tendencies, when all are convinced that the nation is going down, under depraved leadership, to ruin, but when no one seems able to step to the front and lead on the reformation. In the providence of God, such men are often raised up for great crises in Church and State. The man is swallowed up in the movement. It is impossible to tell whether the work has made him or been made by him. His personal virtues and faults are lost sight of in the stormy, tumultuous crisis in which he lived. We cannot, in justice, sit down in peace, when the storm is over, and lay the line of every-day standards to such a rugged character, and, from the stand-point of a time of order, peace, and quiet, condemn it in so far as it passed beyond the bounds of peaceful, domestic, citizen-like virtue. He was needed and was called; he responded, and accomplished his calling well. That is his place in the history, and that is the judgment on his career.—W. G. S.]
5. The fall of the three heads of the house of Ahab on one day is narrated with so much minuteness because it not only has simple historical significance, but also proves the inevitableness of the threats of God, and the certainty of His requital (“vengeance”) (2 Kings 9:7–10, 26, 36). The sentence against the house of Ahab, which accompanied the anointment of Jehu, is almost literally the same as that which Ahija pronounced against the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:10), Jehu against the house of Baesha (1 Kings 16:3), and Elijah against the house of Ahab (1 Kings 21:21). Its repetition shows that it was the established formula of condemnation against every royal house which sought to undermine the foundations of the Israelitish nationality, the covenant with Jehovah. Those whom God had set to be watchmen over His people, were to pronounce the same sentence for the same transgression, wherever it occurred. (On the peculiarly Old Testament form of the condemnation, see 1 Kings 14:1–20, Hist. § 1.) The day on which the three heads of the house of Ahab fell is, therefore, represented as a day of divine judgment. It has all the marks which belong to days of judgment in general, and to that one great general judgment at the last. It is a terrible day (Joel 2:29); it comes unawares, like a thief in the night, and overtakes those who are its just victims when they are careless and contented (Zeph. 1:14; Luke 17:28 sq.; 1 Thess. 5:2 sq.); they cannot escape it either by flight or by resistance, they are brought to nought and come to a terrible end (Zeph. 1:18; Lament. 2:22; Ps. 73:19; 83:17; Jerem. 2:26; Heb. 10:27, 31 &c.). It is to this day that the word of the apostle applies: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
6. The story of the end of Jezebel is given with particular detail, because therein the prophet’s threat was fulfilled with especial frightfulness. As the sin of the house of Ahab was represented to the fullest extent in Jezebel, the originator and patroness of idolatry, so her terrible end forms the crisis of the divine punishment. Ahaziah is fatally wounded, and dies in a strange place. Although he was, as Josephus says: πονηρὸς καὶ χείρων τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, yet he was buried by his subjects, because he was “the son (grandson) of Jehoshaphat” (2 Chron. 22:9). Joram falls dead, pierced through the heart, but is thrown upon the field of Naboth and not buried. Jezebel is thrown down from the window by her own attendants; as she lies weltering in her own blood she is trodden under foot by horses, and her corpse lies unburied “like dung upon the fields” (see note on 1 Kings 11:14). She appears here in her last moments such as she had ever been, proud and impudent, arrogant and domineering, [defiant and insolent]. She places herself at the window, painted and grandly dressed, and presumes upon her assumed majesty. Instead of recognizing in the judgment, which is falling upon her house, the just recompense for her misdeeds, instead of sueing for grace, she, who had shed so much innocent blood, and had exalted herself against the God of Israel, insults the instrument of the divine vengeance as a murderer and a traitor, demands that he shall submit to her, and threatens him, relying upon her imagined power, with destruction, if he persists. Just here judgment overtakes her. Her nearest attendants forsake the hated queen and hurl her down from her position. She does not reach the rest of the grave, and remains, even in death, marked with infamy for all time, a proof of the truth of the words: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
7. Modern historians represent the elevation of Jehu to the throne of Israel in a very different light from that in which it appears in the Scriptures. According to Winer (R. W. B., i. s. 37, 600): “Elisha secretly anointed Jehu king of Israel (the prophets could not even yet forget the injuries they had received from Jezebel, the mother of this family!);” in consequence of the unfortunate campaign of Joram against Hazael of Damascus “a rebellion broke out in the Israelitish camp; Jehu killed his king, and, soon afterwards, Ahaziah also.” According to Menzel (Staats und Relig. Gesch. von Isr., s. 205 sq.): “The relation in which Elisha stood to Hazael was not without influence” on the overthrow of the house of Ahab; he (Elisha) was in communication with Hazael; Joram gave the command of the army to Jehu when he returned wounded to Jezreel, “without surmising that Jehu had already conspired with several of the other generals for his overthrow. The time for the accomplishment of the change of dynasty planned by Elisha has come; Elisha sends one of his servants to the camp with the holy oil of anointment, commands that it shall be poured upon Jehu’s head and that he shall be called upon to make himself king, and to root out the house of Ahab.” According to Köster (Die Proph., s. 94): “Hazael’s accession to power is parallel with that of Jehu which immediately followed.” Jehu had “conspired even before Joram was wounded, and, when he killed him,” he gave to Elisha’s prophecy against Ahab (1 Kings 21.) an extension which made it subserve his plans. Finally, according to Duncker (Gesch. des Alterthums, i. s. 413), it was the “hostility of the prophets of Jehovah” which brought such a sad fate upon Joram and his house. [There can be no question that it was. Duncker, however, seems to criticize the history of the period from the stand-point of Ahab in 1 Kings 18:17 and 21:20 (“Art thou he that troubleth Israel;” “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!”). It may be that he is led to it by a revulsion from the naïve method of reading the Scriptures which insists on making some characters saints and others demons, but it is simple perversity, and uncritical self-will to take the contrary side. Some of the old expositors seem to have felt that in reviewing the acts of one who is called “good” in the record, they must excuse and explain away and account, on all kinds of imaginary hypotheses, for any acts of his which were not good according to our standards. Also that, when a character is marked as “bad” in the record, they must interpret any good acts of his in an unfavorable manner. The modern critics, many of them, revolt with disgust from a notion, which is so manifestly unjust and unsound, into the other extreme. Many of them proceed as if they had adopted some such canon as this: Every person, who is made a hero or a saint in the record, was in reality a coward and criminal, and, vice versa, all who are represented as wicked and base, were, in fact, noble and good; the writers, from some prejudice, or for some partisan reason, represented them as we find in the record, therefore, to get at the truth, we must take them all by contraries.—W. G. S.] Elisha [Duncker goes on to say], “was the favorite attendant of Elijah, and stood at the head of the prophets of Israel.” After the siege of Samaria (6:24 sq.) “he resided for a time among the enemies of his country in Damascus. Here, at his instigation, Benhadad, the king, was murdered by Hazael, one of his servants, who now ascended the throne, and recommenced the war against Israel, not without encouragement from Elisha. Joram was wounded at a battle in Gilead, and left the army in order to be healed at his palace in Jezreel. This moment seemed to Elisha to be favorable for the overthrow of the king of Israel also. Samuel had once favored David’s rebellion against Saul, so also Elisha now succeeded in prevailing upon Jehu, one of the generals of the army, to rebel against Joram.” It is not necessary, after the detailed explanations which have been given above, to refute at length this construction of the narrative. The biblical passage before us, which is the only authority we have for this history, contains no ground whatever for the suspicion that there was a connection between the murder of Benhadad by Hazael and the overthrow of the house of Ahab by Jehu. It is an assertion which is as false historically as it is revolting, that Elisha instigated Hazael to murder his master, then encouraged the attack of the national enemy upon his own country, and finally provoked Jehu to rebellion. What just reason is there for making such a vulgar intriguer, political agitator, instigator of rebellion and traitor, out of the “man of God?” The assertion that Jehu had formed a conspiracy with the other generals before Joram was wounded, and he was anointed, and that he brought about a rebellion in the army, is equally groundless and false. The text contradicts it distinctly. But the whole tenor of this conception of the history is to set aside the true reason for the overthrow of the house of Ahab, viz., the corrupting idolatry which had been introduced by this house, and which was destroying the character of the nation. Although this reason is perfectly clear, yet it is ignored, and instead of it, the true reason is said to lie in personal hostility, ambition, and other passions, so that finally the whole story appears only as a drama in which human interests are at stake and depraved forces are in play.—Ewald’s conception of the history is far better and more probable. He explains (Gesch., iii. s. 526; cf. also s. 382) [3d ed. 566 and 409 sq.] “The Great Revolution” by the conflict which had been maintained ever since the time of Solomon, “between the two great independent powers,” the monarchy and the prophetical office as a national institution in Israel [prophethood, if one may coin a word, after the analogy of priesthood, for the prophetical office as an institution—Prophetenthum.] “Heathenism, fostered by the monarchy, threatened to displace the old religion, in both kingdoms at the same time. But just at this point the old religion stood desperately on its defence once more against the new one; in the first place, it is true, only spasmodically (! ?), and through that instrument only which had hitherto been its living fountain, and its most powerful force, viz., the prophethood.” This explanation is based upon that idea on which Ewald’s method of presenting the history rests, and which has been referred to several times above (see 1 Kings 11:14–43, Hist. § 3), viz., that “violence” was a radical trait both of the monarchy and of the prophethood (Gesch., iii. 13), and that, therefore, they stood in opposition to each other as “independent powers,” and struggled for the supreme control—a theory which we cannot by any means regard as correct. The prophethood does not anywhere appear as an “independent power,” parallel with the monarchy. The prophets never combated the monarchy as such, and never strove with it for the supremacy, as, for instance, the popes with the emperors. No prophet ever strove for royal authority, or endeavored to raise himself to the throne. The two great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who had, most of all, to resist the kings who were their contemporaries, were farthest from all hierarchical tendencies and from all lust for power. They remained poor and humble, and had, from all their strifes, neither advantage nor enjoyment. The office and calling of the prophets consisted in taking care that the covenant of Jehovah, the fundamental constitution of Israel, should be maintained in its integrity. They were not to rule by the side of the kings, much less over them, but to be the standing corrective to the royal power, when this departed from the Mosaic constitution, according to which it was bound to rule (Deut. 17:19, 20). The prophets were not, therefore, in hostility to all the kings, but only to those who, in contradiction with their calling to be servants of Jehovah, despised, more or less, the covenant of the God of Israel. They must resist most earnestly of all those kings, who, like those of the house of Ahab, not only broke that covenant, but also introduced and fostered idolatry, or, at least, tolerated it. Nothing could be more perverse then, as Knobel himself has shown (Der Proph. der Hebr., i. s. 11 sq.), than to make an “hierarchical party or caste” out of the prophets, or “to regard them as restless, innovating demagogues, who were continually plotting, striving to introduce arbitrary changes, and stirring up the people to rebellion against the government.” [This, then, was the true hostility between the prophethood and the monarchy. A single reflection, however, will show how deep it was. The history of the foundation of the monarchy in 1 Sam. throws doubt upon the degree to which it was founded or approved by the prophetical authorities of the time. Under a king like David the prophethood, an institution which took its specific authority from direct and continual inspiration, and the monarchy, an institution founded it is true by God in the first instance, but deriving its continued authority from descent and tradition (in which sense they certainly were independent authorities, each claiming the right to direct and control), worked in sufficient harmony. In the case of another king, who departed from the standards of judgment which were maintained by the prophets, there would be opposition and hostility. The warnings of the prophets were resented, in such cases, as unwarrantable interference, by the kings. The actions of the kings were condemned and protested against by the prophets. Under a theocratic constitution, such as that of Israel always was in theory, where there was no possibility of a division of departments of activity into civil and religious, political and ecclesiastical, church and state, these collisions were inevitable, if the king departed from the prophetical standards. Thus these two authorities came into collision. They both sought to control the nation. It is very true that neither one ever sought to usurp the peculiar functions of the other, but that is little to the point. One sought to control by means of external authority (i.e., in the last resort, by force); the other sought to control by moral influence. As long as the prophets approved what the monarch did there was no jarring; as soon as they did not thus approve, antagonism arose. They rebuked the king, which seemed like insubordination, and they denounced him to the people, which seemed like inciting rebellion. There is certainly no case of factious or ambitious or hierarchical opposition to the monarchy on the part of any of the prophets, but, as a matter of history, there were so few of the kings who came up to the standards which the spiritual authority maintained, that there was hostility between the two great authorities of the state during almost the entire duration of the monarchy. As for Ewald’s opinion, he certainly does not mean to say that there was any such conflict for worldly and physical supremacy as has marked modern history (popes and emperors).—W. G. S.] The prophethood in Israel is a peculiar phenomenon, as the people of Israel is a peculiar phenomenon in the history of the world (Knobel, s. 1 sq., De Wette, Sittenlehre, i. 1, 32). It cannot, therefore, be judged from a general historical, that is, from a natural and human, stand-point. This is especially true in the case before us of the overthrow of the house of Ahab and the elevation of Jehu to the throne. If we abandon here the theocratic stand-point of the author of these books, which is above distinctly maintained, the prophethood becomes a mere caricature of what it really was, and of what it was intended by God that it should be.
[8. If we refuse to consider the bearing of this story upon the justifiableness of revolution, we turn away from one of its most prominent practical lessons. We have here two cases of regicide in close juxtaposition—Benhadad by Hazael, and Joram by Jehu. Evidently we cannot measure them by two different standards of right. We have seen above that, so far as the history informs us, the former of these was one of those cases of palace-revolution which are almost the only articulating points in oriental history. Hazael slew his master in order to usurp his authority. Morally weighed, it was just as bad as the act of a highwayman who slays a man in order to take his purse. Of the state of the kingdom under Benhadad and of the comparative benefits or injuries which it received from Hazael, we know very little. As a military leader Hazael was the abler of the two. Beyond that we know nothing. Jehu’s case was in many respects different. A family was on the throne which had introduced a licentious worship, had fostered it, and had persecuted the older and purer religion, which, if it had not succeeded in taking so firm hold of the people as to hold them to purity and virtue, at least had not been itself a deep corrupting influence. The mischief had spread so far that it was time to try the last and severest measures or to give up the contest entirely. The indictment was made out against the ruling house, of corrupting the national honor and undermining the national existence, of depriving the nation of a religion whose spirit was pure and elevating, and giving it one whose spirit was corrupting and licentious. It was time for every man to make the choice which Elijah put before the people in 1 Kings 18:21, and for those who were on the side of Jehovah to strike without pity, for their cause. Jehu was the chosen leader and representative of this party, and it was in its interest that he became a regicide. There is no ethical principle, therefore, which the chapter teaches more plainly than this, that a nation is not to let itself be robbed of its highest and best goods, its purest traditions, and its holiest inspirations, by any dynasty, however unimpeachable its legitimacy, for fear of “revolution.” How terrible these national convulsions are, modern history shows clearly enough, and we shall see it also in the development of this history. They are terrible remedies for terrible diseases, and the chapter before us gives a test of when and how they are justifiable. They are justifiable as the last resort in the utmost danger, when religion, and liberty, and morality, and national honor can be saved by no other means.—Jehu was anointed by authority of a prophet of Jehovah, but we have to bear in mind that this authority was given also, if it was not executed, in the case of Hazael (1 Kings 19:15). The one was just as much an instrument in the hands of God for carrying out his plans in history, according to the biblical representation, as the other. We may leave this important chapter with the following paragraph from Ewald (Gesch., iii. 573), in which he reviews this revolution and points forward to its consequences: “The spirit of the ancient religion had, therefore, once more arisen in its might, in the kingdom of the ten tribes, against the intrusion of the foreign and heathen religion, and that was now accomplished which Elijah, in his labor and suffering, had never been able to accomplish. The nation was once more delivered, by means of a terrible and powerful revolution, from the mistakes and errors into which it had allowed itself to be plunged. It was once more forced back upon its own peculiar origin and foundation, so far, at least, as it is ever possible for an earthly kingdom to return to its own origin. He, whose warrior-hand was alone fit to be the instrument of such a revolution, Jehu, had shown himself to be, yet again, one of those unexpected and irresistible champions of the cause of Jehovah, such as the judges had once been, with this difference only, that he did not have to fight, as they did, against external, but against far more dangerous internal, foes of this cause. The horrors by which this revolution was marked were in truth scarcely to be avoided, partly on account of the character of the ancient national religion, partly on account of the deep roots which, at that time, heathenism and the authority of the house of Omri had struck in both kingdoms, but especially in Israel. Nothing can be more incorrect, therefore, than to say that, when Elisha caused Jehu to be anointed, he neither foresaw nor approved of these acts of violence and bloodshed. He could not have had such a dim vision of the future as not to foresee them, although he certainly did not designate the separate victims beforehand, after the fashion of a Roman proscriptor. Moreover, there is nothing which would render it probable that Elisha disapproved of those acts after they were committed. But the deeper and less apparent evils which lay in the horrible incidents of this, as they lie in the horrors of every, revolution, made themselves continually more and more apparent, and were continually more and more sharply felt, in the course of the history, as we shall see below.”—W. G. S.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 9:1–37. God’s Judgment upon the House of Ahab: (a) The herald of the judgment, 2 Kings 9:1–10; (b) the executor of it, 2 Kings 9:11–20; (c) the victims of it, 2 Kings 9:21–37.
2 Kings 9:1–8. KRUMMACHER: Jehu. The approaching vengeance; the commission of God to Elisha; the sending of the prophet-disciple; Jehu’s anointment and the object of it.
2 Kings 9:1–3. WÜRT. SUMM.: The Lord God deposes kings and raises them up, Dan. 2:21; Prov. 8:15 sq. There is no established authority which is not from God. A calling to govern is the work of God, whether it comes through intermediate persons or not. Therefore, since rulers and governors are ordained and established of God, they ought to govern themselves according to God’s will, and every one ought to respect and honor them for God’s sake, and show them all due obedience, Rom. 13:1 sq. When kings and governors sin and do evil, and nobody dare lisp a word, or still less punish them, then God comes and raises up other rulers, and uses them as his executioners to punish such wicked rulers. Even though a long time passes, wickedness is not forgotten by God. He rises up at last and sends against wicked men those who will fulfil his sentence without pity. Therefore let all rulers guard themselves from all wrong, and especially from all persecution of the servants of God and just men. Also let not any one, without God’s command, lay hand upon those in authority, lest he call down God’s judgment upon himself.—What Elisha did, he did in the name and at the command of God, and he would have forsaken his duty if he had not done it. The prophets were not there to sleep and to lay their hands in their laps, when the ordinances of God were being trodden under foot, but God set them as watchmen over His people, that they might root up the weeds, and plant and cultivate what was good.—KRUMMACHER: None of the modern revolutions can appeal to any such revelations of the divine will; nay, the standard-bearers would smile if any one should demand of them to show any authority of this kind for raising a revolt. The modern revolutions have all sprung from another soil, either more or less apparently, and are condemned by God’s words: Whosoever resisteth authority, resisteth God’s ordinance. [This leaves the mutual relations and obligations of governors and governed very unclear. Governors must be good, governed must be obedient. For homiletical purposes a clearer definition of the limits and mutual interlacing of these duties is of prime importance. I have attempted a sharper analysis below, at the end of the “Homiletical” section.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 9:4–10. The Prophet-disciple: (a) His mission. (KRUMMACHER: He is one of the humblest in Samaria, a poor, insignificant boy, and he carries a kingdom to Ramoth! How great the Lord appears in this incident, but also with what cutting irony He meets all the arrogance of the self-made gods of earth!) Here also 1 Cor. 1:28 applies. (b) His obedience. (He raises no objections, although the task is hard for him. He might have said: “I am a child,” &c., Jerem. 1:6. He is to go into a besieged city, to go before the generals of the army, to put his life and liberty at stake, yet he goes with no sword at his side; without a companion he ventures to go into the army of the king, to anoint another to be king. All human scruples and fears disappear before the duty of obedience. In obedience he does not fear, and lets no danger terrify him, for he knows and believes what is written in Ps. 91:11–13 and Ps. 27:1). (c) His fidelity. (He does no more and no less than he is commanded. He has a great commission entrusted to him, but he does not boast. He keeps the secret and departs as he came. He does not care what may be thought of him, or what people may say, whether they think him a “mad fellow” or not. So the Apostles also carried the secrets of God out into the wide world, and had no other interest than that they might be found true.)
2 Kings 9:7–10. The world of to-day will not hear that: “The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries,” etc. (Nahum 1:2; cf. Deut. 32:43), and declares that this is only an Old Testament potion, and that the Gospel knows only one God who is a God of love. It is true that God does not seek revenge, but he is an holy, and therefore also a just, God, who requites men as they have deserved, and repays each according to his conduct (Job 34:11; Rom. 2:6). A God without vengeance, i.e., who cannot and will not punish, is no God, but a divinity fashioned from one’s thoughts. The same gospel, which teaches that God is love, says also: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 10:31; 12:29). The same law which says that God is an avenging God towards his enemies, says also that he is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).—KRUMMACHER: “The blood of my servants:” Listen! He has indeed permitted them to lay violent hands upon His servants, but He has not overlooked or forgotten it. Nothing cleaves more irresistibly up through the clouds than the voice of the blood of persecuted saints. Nothing is better adapted to pour oil upon the flames of the divine wrath against the godless than the sighs which their cruelty forces from a child of God. The blood of the saints has often cried from earth to heaven, and what judgments it has called down! Let the persecutors of all centuries appear and bear witness. (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Herod, Agrippa, Nero, Inquisitors of Spain, the Louises of France, Charles IX.): bear witness all, what a dangerous thing it is to lay hands upon the saints of the Most High!—This is not the only instance where God has raised the destroying axe over a dynasty which was morally rotten. He often makes use of royal families, which have fallen into moral decay, for the discipline of nations, but the time never fails to come when he passes sentence of destruction upon them, and brings speedy ruin upon the condemned. A family-tree does not stand firm in gilded parchments and registers; only when it is planted by the waters which flow from the sanctuary of God, will it continue to flourish vigorously.
2 Kings 9:11–16. Jehu, the new King of Israel. He makes known to the generals his nomination to the crown; he is gladly hailed king by them; he enters vigorously and without delay upon his calling.
2 Kings 9:11. Keep secret for a time that which occurs in thy chamber between thee and thy God. Do not proclaim it upon the housetops, but wait until Providence shows thee an occasion to make it known (Ps. 37:34). “Fools have their hearts in their mouths” (Sir. 21:28).—BERLEB. BIBEL: It was, then, a common thing at that time to regard the prophets and servants of God as fools, enthusiasts, and fanatics, and to look upon them with contempt (Acts 26:24; 1 Cor. 4:10; Acts 17:18).—Do not judge according to the external appearance, and the first superficial impression, in regard to persons and things which thou dost not know or understand. That which thou callest folly and nonsense is often the deepest wisdom (1 Cor. 1:23–25).
2 Kings 9:12. If the generals, when they heard that God had anointed Jehu to be king, hastened, spread out their garments, and shouted: “Jehu is king,” how much more should all shout Hosanna to him whom God has anointed with the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:38), and has seated at His right hand in heaven, who will rule until He has subdued all His enemies under His feet.
2 Kings 9:15–37. The Day of Judgment. See above, the Histor. § 5.
2 Kings 9:17–20. The Watchman on the Tower. He sees the approaching danger and reports it, but the secure and blinded kings will not be disturbed until it is too late. It is the duty of those whom God has made watchmen over souls, to make them aware of all dangers which threaten them, and to repeat continually the exhortation to watch (1 Cor. 16:13; Mark 13:37).
2 Kings 9:20. OSIANDER: Dilatory and careless people do not accomplish anything. Only diligent and energetic persons succeed.—Test thyself to see what spirit moves thee. The right motive-power is the Holy Spirit, which never guides to folly. One may conduct spiritual affairs and manage the concerns of the kingdom of God with folly, want of judgment, and heat (Rom. 10:2). Those only are children of God who are moved by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14); the fruits, however, which this Spirit causes to ripen in them, are love, joy, peace, &c. (Gal. 5:22).
2 Kings 9:21. Observe the wonderful dispensation of the divine justice. Joram himself gave the order to “make ready,” in order, without knowing or wishing it, to ride out to the place where Naboth’s blood was crying for vengeance, and where ruin was prepared for him.
2 Kings 9:22 (18, 19). “Is it peace?” BERLEB. BIBEL: So it is to-day also. A false peace is demanded of those who are sent to make known the stern truth, in order that hoary evils may not be exposed. Those who have not true peace, generally want an external, shameful peace at any price (Ezek. 13:16). Ask thyself first of all: “Is there peace in thy heart?” and seek peace from Him who is our peace (Eph. 2:14).—There can be no lasting peace where there is apostasy from the living God and His word; licentiousness, injustice, and tyranny; there strife and war, with all their attendant miseries and horrors, must come. “Though His sword rests for a time, yet it does not rest in its scabbard” (Krummacher).
2 Kings 9:23–29. The Death of the Kings of Israel and Judah. It was sudden, unforeseen, and fell upon them in their security and blindness. The proverb applies to Ahaziah: “Mitgegangen, mitgefangen;” hunt with the fox, and you will be hung with him. (WÜRT. SUMM.: Refrain from bad companions, if thou wouldst not be punished with them.) The one is thrown upon Naboth’s field, and left without a grave; the other is brought indeed to the sepulchre of his fathers, but what is the use of a royal sepulchre to him who has lost his soul? (Luke 16:22).
2 Kings 9:25 sq. WÜRT. SUMM.: All parents should take warning by this and not collect unrighteous wealth either for themselves or their children, for “treasures of wickedness profit nothing” (Prov. 10:2), and there is no blessing with them. They rather bring corruption to both parents and children (Jer. 17:11).
2 Kings 9:30–37. What does the frightful end of Jezebel teach us? (a) The transitoriness and nothingness of human might and glory. (Jezebel relies upon her might; before her the people tremble. She controlled and directed three kings; she raged against all who did not submit unconditionally to her will; now she lies, thrown down from her height, like dung upon the field, so that no one could say: “That is the great and mighty queen Jezebel.” Dan. 4:34; Luke 1:51; 1 Peter 1:24.) (b) The certainty of divine retribution. (Gal. 6:7 sq. Jezebel was an enemy of the living God and of His word; she seduced old and young to apostasy; she persecuted all who still held firmly to Jehovah. Her terrible end proves that such a temper is certainly punished. Her end has no parallel in Israelitish history. It calls aloud to all unto this day: “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness” (Jer. 22:13), and it is a pledge of the truth of this assertion: “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked” (Ps. 91:8).
2 Kings 9:30, 31. How Jezebel meets her end. (a) Her last action (2 Kings 9:30); (b) her last word (2 Kings 9:31). She died as she had lived.
2 Kings 9:30. How accurately this description fits many of her sex! The highest occupation they can conceive of is to adorn themselves, to show themselves, to conquer, and produce effects. Thou fool! If God demands thy soul of thee to-day, what shall all paint and powder upon the face avail before Him who tries the heart and the reins? Can velvet and silk cover thine inner stains? (Isa. 3:16 sq.) There could be no sterner reproof of vanity, pride, and coquetry, and no more severe warning to take to heart the Apostle’s words 1 Peter 3:3 sq. than the fate of Jezebel.
2 Kings 9:31. What can be more perverse and pitiful than a man who boasts and puts on airs in the very face of death, and passes out of the world with abuse and insults against God, instead of begging for pity and crying: “God be merciful to me a sinner!”—Jezebel, who murdered the prophets and Naboth, who revolted against the Lord of Heaven and Earth, calls Jehu a murderer and a rebel. The blind and stubborn human heart always finds in others just those sins of which it is itself guilty in a far higher degree.
2 Kings 9:32, 33. As the master is, so is the servant. Base men always cling to those who have power, and change their colors as the weathercock of fortune turns. He who is himself unfaithful cannot depend upon the fidelity of others. Ps. 101:6 sq.
2 Kings 9:37. Cf. Prov. 10:7; Job 18:17; 20:4–7.
[The homiletical material of the chapter may be divided into two heads: the political; and the ethical or religious. The former here obtains especial significance, inasmuch as the record is primarily pure history, and not ethical or philosophical discussion. It has, therefore, the same utility which all history, sacred or profane, has for the instruction of succeeding generations. It shows certain institutions and certain human passions in play, and shows the consequences they produce. It is presented to us from a religious and moral stand-point, and its instruction is, therefore, great for the criticism of political institutions from the point of view of religion and morals. If we see here and in the succeeding chapters the horrors of revolution on the one hand, none the less do we see when and how revolution becomes a terrible necessity. All authority is a means, not an end. It is established, recognized, and obeyed, because it serves those ends. Its rights and privileges are correlative with duties, obligations, and responsibilities, viz., to accomplish the objects for which it was created. Its claims to obedience stand and fall with its fidelity in fulfilling its trust. If it fails in this, if it goes farther, and, in the pursuit of its selfish aims, and the gratification of its own self-will, threatens to crush and ruin the very interests it was created to serve, the time comes when obedience ceases to be a virtue and becomes complicity in a crime. In the absence of prophetical authority to fix the time and designate the leaders for renouncing allegiance, it is difficult to see who is to judge of these save the nation whose interests are at stake. This bears as complete application to republican institutions as to any other. God’s judgment upon the political sins, the recklessness, the self-will, and the selfishness of constitutional authorities is as sure as his punishment of royal transgressors. It is as possible for a representative assembly to sacrifice the highest interests of a nation as it is for a despot. Though, in the progress of civilization, constitutional restraints are so much developed that rulers are under a strict and unremitting responsibility, and other correctives are at hand than violence and blood-shed, yet the principles and their application remain. The highest national interests must be watched over, guarded, and maintained by vigilance, and by wise resistance to anything which would impair them.—The ethical and moral lessons of the chapter lie in the character and the fate of the chief actors in the tragedy. Of Jehu we have spoken above. When his strength, his virtue, his calling, and his work are defined, their limitations are also pointed out.—Ahaziah seems to have been one of those weak men who float on in the direction which their education and family traditions have given them. He followed the family traditions down to the family ruin. Joram’s wound seems to bear witness to some military effort, but in general he appears in the light of an oriental monarch, indolent, careless, luxurious, fond of ease. The sudden and hasty approach of the general of the army alarmed him in regard to the fortunes of the war in Syria, and he went out, without personal anxiety, to meet his fate. His death fulfilled a malediction upon his father. The two kings, therefore, appear to be, to a great extent, the victims of the sins of their ancestors, and as Jezebel had controlled Ahab, we are led back to her as the origin of all this individual, family, and national calamity. She was one of those strong, bold, wicked women, who have played such important rôles in history. She was of the Phœnician blood, reared in the luxury and licentiousness of oriental custom, and of a bloody and sensuous idolatry. The Mosaic ritual and the Israelitish constitution had been framed to form a barrier to preserve the people of Israel from the infection of those vices which characterized the heathen nations. By Ahab’s marriage with this woman the barrier was broken through, and the licentiousness of the worship of Baal and Astarte, the freedom of manners of the Phœnician court, the luxury and sensuality of the heathen nations was imported into Israel. To a woman thus educated the religion, the traditions and customs, which prevailed even in the northern kingdom, must have appeared cold, austere, bigoted, narrow, and hateful. It became her aim, therefore, to override, and break down, and destroy all that was peculiar and national in Israel, but in so doing she was contravening all that belonged to and sustained God’s plan for Israel in human history. She braved the conflict and reasserted it in her last hour, and she and her descendants went down in the catastrophe.—W. G. S.]
2 Kings 9:1.—[פַּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶן, 1 Sam. 10:1, here, and in 2 Kings 9:3.
2 Kings 9:4.—[The article is used with the second ניזד in the stat. const. to give it definite reference back to the first one. Ew. § 290, d. 3. Cf. 2 Kings 7:13.
2 Kings 9:10.—[On חֵלֶק see 1 Kings 21:23, where חֵל occurs nearly in the same meaning. חֵל is the moat or ditch just outside the wall, with the adjacent strip of country. חלק has a wider application to the district on which the city is built, including the strip of country just outside the wall. In a walled city this latter place is always a place of deposit for rubbish and offal. Hence the degradation involved in the fate prophesied for her.
2 Kings 9:13.—[The words גֶּרֶם הַמַּעֲלוֹת are very obscure. No better meaning is suggested than this, that they spread their over-garments directly upon the stairs, and so formed something resembling the covered scaffolding on which the king presented himself to the people, and received their homage.
2 Kings 9:17.—[The second שפעת is in the case absolute. Ew. § 173 d. Cf. חַיַּת Ps. 74:19.
2 Kings 9:24.—[מלא ידו בקשׁת, word for word, “filled his hand with a bow,” i.e., made ready an arrow.
2 Kings 9:25.—[אני and אתה are accusatives after זכר. “Remember me and thee riding.” The E. V. is a smooth and correct rendering of it. צמדים; “together” would be a correct rendering of it, but the word suggests that they were together, one pair in a retinue which was formed two by two.
2 Kings 9:27.—[This is a translation of the Hebrew as it stands. It seems necessary, however, to correct the text. (a) We may insert וַיַּכֻּהוּ after הַכֻּהוּ = “Smite him also! and they smote him in the chariot.” This is Bähr’s emendation, following Ewald and others (see Exeg. on the verse), (b) We may read וַיַּכֻּהוּ for הַכֻּהוּ and translate: “Him also! So they smote him in the chariot.” This gives the same sense, but “Him also!” stands as a short exclamatory command. (c) Thenius takes these words in this way, but then (following the Sept.) he conjectures וַיַּכֵּהוּ for הַכֻּהוּ = “And he smote him.” It is very tame to make Jehu utter this exclamation merely as such, not as a command, and then shoot the king himself. The second emendation is the best.—W. G. S.]
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 thine hand, and go to Ramothgilead: