The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab's children, saying,2 Kings 10
1. And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to [nourishers] them that brought up Ahab's children, saying,
2. Now as soon as this letter cometh to you, seeing your master's sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced city [fenced cities. There is a tone of mocking irony in Jehu's challenge to the nobles of Samaria, who were probably as luxurious and cowardly as in the days of Amos a few years later (Amos 3:12, Amos 6:3-6)] also, and armour;
3. Look even out the best and meetest of your master's sons, and set him on his father's throne, and fight for your master's house.
4. But they were exceedingly afraid [feared mightily (comp. Genesis 7:19)], and said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?
5. And he that was over the house [the major domo]; and he that was over the city [the prefect or governor], the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.
6. Then he wrote a letter the second time [a second letter] to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come [bring] to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time [Jehu is urgent: time is all-important]. Now the king's sons, being seventy persons [not, perhaps, to be taken as exact: seventy being a favourite round number] were with the great men of the city, which brought them up.
7. And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew [butchered or slaughtered] seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel.
8. ¶ And there came a messenger [literally, and the messenger came in. Josephus says Jehu was giving a banquet] and told him, saying, They have brought the heads of the king's sons. And he said, Lay ye them in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning.
9. And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood [took his place, i.e., sat as judge in the palace gateway], and said to all the people, Ye be righteous [" are ye righteous?" implying that Jehu wished to make the people guilty of the massacre of the princes, while owning his own murder of the king]: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these?
10. Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the Lord hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah.
11. So [And] Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel [the seat of the court], and all his great men [high officials who owed their exaltation to him], and his kinsfolks [his friends: literally his known ones], and his priests, until he left him none remaining [no survivor].
12. ¶ And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing-house in the way,
13. Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah [i.e., Ahaziah's kinsmen. His brothers, in the strict sense of the word, were slain by a troop of Arabs in the lifetime of his father Jehoram (2Chronicles 21:17, 2Chronicles 22:1)] and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go [have come] down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen.
14. And he said, Take them alive [perhaps they made some show of resistance]. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing-house, even two and forty men [perhaps a definite for an indefinite number, curiously parallel with 2Kings 2:24]; neither left he any of them.
15. And when he was departed thence, he lighted on [found] Jehonadab the son of Rechab [comp. Jeremiah 35:6-11 and 1Chronicles 2:55] coming to meet him: and he saluted [blessed] him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand [a token of amity; a pledge of good faith. Striking hands sealed a compact]. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.
16. And he said, Come with me, and see [look on at] my zeal for the Lord. So they [he] made him ride in his chariot.
17. And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the Lord, which he spake to Elijah.
18. ¶ And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
19. Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty [or, in guile, treacherously], to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
20. And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly [sanctify a solemn meeting (Isaiah 1:13)] for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
21. And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full [or so full that they stood mouth to mouth] from one end to another.
22. And he said unto him that was over the vestry [chests], Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth [the] vestments.
23. And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the Lord [worshippers of Jehovah], but the worshippers of Baal only.
24. And when [omit "when"] they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.
25. And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering [for the massacre Jehu chose the moment when all the assembly was absorbed in worship] the burnt-offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out [threw the dead bodies out of the temple], and went to the city of the house of Baal.
26. And they brought forth the images [the pillars; which were of wood and had a sacred significance (Hosea 3:4). Idolatrous pillars were commanded to be destroyed (Exodus 23:24). Most critics think that pillars to Jehovah were allowable till the time of Hezekiah or Josiah (Deuteronomy 16:21-22)] out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
28. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
29. ¶ Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam [comp. 1Kings 12:28, seq.; 1Kings 15:26, 1Kings 15:30, 1Kings 15:34], the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan.
30. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in execute ing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation [the fulfilment of this oracle is noticed in 1Kings 15:12 (comp. Exodus 20:5)] shall sit on the throne of Israel.
31. But Jehu took no heed [Now Jehu had not been careful] to walk in the law [the Mosaic law which forbids the use of images such as calves] of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
33. From Jordan [Heb., toward the rising of the sun] eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.
34. ¶ Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might [comp. 1Kings 20:20; 1Kings 15:23. The LXX. adds "and the conspiracies which he conspired"], are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
35. And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead.
36. And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years.
Whilst Jehoram was lying ill of his wounds, Elisha had called one of the children of the prophets and sent him upon a special mission to Ramoth-gilead. It has been conjectured that this messenger was the Jonah who is mentioned in chapter 1Kings 14:25. Jehu was left in supreme command of the forces at Jehoram's departure. Nothing is known of Jehu's origin. From the first, however, it is evident that he was called to special functions. He was one of the men who had been foreseen by Elijah the prophet under the divine inspiration. We have seen (1Kings 19:15) that Elijah was ordered to return to the wilderness of Damascus, and in the course of his progress he was to anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel. Whether any communication had been made to Jehu himself we know not, yet it is not improbable, as we may infer from the way in which he answered the appeal when it was addressed to him by the messenger of Elisha. All the circumstances of the communication are full of dramatic colour and impressiveness. The young man was to take a phial of oil and pour it upon Jehu's head, and say, "Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel," and instantly he was to open the door and flee from the presence of the new monarch. A tremendous charge was delivered to Jehu by the young man:—
"And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish:... and I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah: and the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her" (2Kings 9:7-10).
Having delivered this message, the young man "opened the door, and fled," as if pursued by fire. We know not whether to pity Jehu under the delivery of this charge or not. The Lord must have many servants in his household, and some of them are entrusted with hard work. If we could choose our places in the divine economy, who would not elect to be a minister of sympathy, consolation, and tenderness to broken hearts? Who would be willing to go forth to fight the battle and endure the trail and hardship of military service? Above all, who would be willing to accept the ministry of shedding blood and cleansing the world of evil by putting to death all evil-doers. We must recognise the diversity of function in the Christian Church, and in every department of human life. Few men could do what Jehu did, but where the special qualification is given the special service is demanded. It is pitiful criticism that stands back and shudders at the career of Jehu; it is wanting in large-mindedness and in completeness of view: the Lord's work is many-sided, and all kinds of men as to intellectual energy and moral daring and even physical capability are required to complete the ministry of God. To-day one man is gifted with the power of intercession, another with the talent of controversy, another with the genius of exposition, another with the supreme gift of consolation; one minister must tarry at home and work close to the fireside at which he was brought up; in another is the spirit of travel and adventure, and he must brave all the dangers of enterprise and hasten to the ends of the earth that he may tell others what he knows of the gospel of Christ. We must recognise this diversity, and the unity which it constitutes: otherwise we shall take but a partial view of the many-sided ministry which Jesus Christ came to establish, and to which he has promised his continual inspiration.
When Jehu came forth he was taunted by the servants of his Lord; they called the young man "mad." From their manner Jehu began to wonder whether the whole affair had not been planned by themselves with a view to befooling him by the excitement of his ambition. He said to them in effect: Ye know the man, and his communication in this matter is one of your own arranging; you think to make a fool of me, and through the intoxication of my vanity to lead me to my ruin. But they denied the impeachment, and their tone so changed that Jehu reposed confidence in them, and told them what the man had said. Instantly on hearing the message they hasted, took every man his garment or coat, and put it under Jehu on the top of the stairs, which they constituted a kind of temporary throne, and then with loud blasts of the trumpet cried, "Jehu is king." Thus Jehu was suddenly called to royalty, and all its responsibilities. Men should be prepared for the sudden calls of providence. "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." If we had higher expectations of the divine coming, and were ourselves persuaded of the possession of capacities for the doing of a large work in the kingdom of God, those very expectations might to a large degree fulfil themselves. There is a noble and holy ambition. We shall know whether it is noble and holy by ascertaining whether we are prepared for danger, loss, suffering, as well as for any possible external honour. Merely to expect a throne for the sake of enjoying its luxuries is not the kind of expectation now referred to. We should be looking out for larger opportunities of usefulness, even creating occasions for self-sacrifice, and preparing ourselves by reading, thought, culture of every kind, and the continual exercise of all faculties, for the incoming of a large message and the appointment to an extended rulership. We must not cultivate mere expectation, but express our expectation by our industry, devotion, and invincible resoluteness in all holy aggression and progress. We cannot but be struck by the obedience of Jehu to the heavenly call. There was no hesitation. We show ourselves to be yet under bondage when we hesitate regarding the calls which God addresses to us. We linger, we wish to return and bid those farewell who are in our father's house; we have sundry things to adjust and determine before we can go, we secretly hope that in the meantime occurrences may transpire which will change the line of our destiny; by all this we mar the simplicity and purity of obedience, and discover a spirit that is not fit to be trusted with great functions and responsibilities in the divine economy. Jehu was determined to make complete work of his mission. Not one was to escape or go forth out of the city to tell what he was about to do to those who were in Jezreel. Springing into his chariot, and calling for a detachment of cavalry, he set out upon his journey of some sixty or seventy miles: we see him almost flying down from Ramoth, which was about three thousand feet above the sea level; swiftly he crosses the Jordan; then turning to the north he fled over the spurs of Ephraim; then he darted up the Valley of Trembling, made famous in the day of Gideon; and finally he came to the plain of Esdraelon, where was Jezreel. Jehoram was unaware of the approach of Jehu. One messenger after another was sent out to make inquiry, but the messengers were ordered behind; and Jehu dashed forward until he and the king met at the vineyard of Naboth. The king asked what news was being brought, was it news of peace or of war; and Jehu cried, "What peace can there be so long as the idolatrous whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" Jehu thus referred to fundamental wrongs: instead of trifling with details he went straight to the fountain-head, and by the delivery of a profoundly religious message he excited the alarm of those who heard him. Jehoram was weak and feeble and sought to flee, but Jehu drew a bow with his full strength and smote between his arms, and the arrow went out at the king's heart, and he sank down in his chariot. Then Jehu ordered his captain, or squire, to take up and cast him into the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite, that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled. When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this he himself attempted to flee, but Jehu followed Ahaziah, saying, "Smite him also in the chariot," and after a hot pursuit he was struck at the declivity of Gur, where Ahaziah's chariot would be forced to slacken its speed. Then came the most tragical of all the acts. No sooner was Jehu come to Jezreel than Jezebel, now old and withered, heard of it, and her blood tingled at the news. She was not one who was easily deterred. According to the custom of Oriental ladies she painted her eyebrows and lashes with a pigment composed of antimony and zinc The intention of the dark border was to throw the eye into relief and make it appear larger. She adorned her head with a tire, or a head-dress, and putting on her royal apparel she looked out at a window, designing to impress Jehu with her majestic appearance. As Jehu looked up to the window he exclaimed, "Who is on my side?" and he ordered the two or three eunuchs who looked out to throw down the painted woman. Jehu knew that the cruel queen was intensely hated by the palace officials. The two or three eunuchs who had been accustomed to crouch before her in servile dread now saw that Jehu was in the ascendant, and in obedience to the demand of the regicide they threw her out of the window. Such has ever been the policy of sycophants, the rats of court, who only linger there with a view of seeing how much they can appropriate or destroy. No sooner was Jezebel thrown down than some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses, and she was trodden under foot. Here again we see the end of wickedness. For a time there is escape, but in the long run there is ruin. It is hard for men to kick against the pricks. How long will men continue to band themselves against the Lord and against his Anointed? How long will foolish builders imagine that they can rear a tower which will reach unto heaven? "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree: yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." Look at Jezebel, and learn the fate of the wicked. No such fate in a merely physical sense may await iniquitous men now, but all these intermediate punishments simply point to the last great penalty,—"The wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment." We can pity Jezebel as her flesh was eaten by the dogs, and her carcase was made as dung on the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel: and we almost shudder with horror as we think that she was to be so torn to pieces that none should be able to say, This is Jezebel; but all this is wasted sentiment, unless we reason from it towards spiritual conclusions. We are so much the victims of our senses that we can pity with great compassion men who are smitten with bodily disease, or are torn limb from limb in consequence of some wicked deed; but it seems impossible for us to rise to the conception of the terrible penalty which is to fall upon the soul for violating God's commandments and defying God's power. We cannot too frequently say, Be the fate of the wicked what it may as to mere details, it must be a fate unspeakably awful: for "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Instead of being appeased by the fate of Jezebel, Jehu sends out a decree that the whole family of Ahab shall be massacred, that the kinsmen of Ahaziah and the Baal-worshippers shall be extirpated from the face of the earth. He takes a new point of departure when he challenges the sons of Ahab, saying, "Look even out the best and meetest of your master's sons, and set him on his fathers throne, and fight for your master's house" (x. 3). All this was a declaration of warlike intention on the part of Jehu. But Jehu's character as a soldier was too well known to permit the rulers of Jezreel and the elders to entertain the thought of encountering him in open battle. So they returned for their reply: "We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes." Then Jehu set up a test of their obedience. He did indeed impose upon them hard work. He said, "If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice. take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time." The word was enough. The heads of seventy men were put into baskets, and sent to Jehu at Jezreel. Jehu pronounced the men who had beheaded the sons of Ahab guiltless in respect of their deaths, because what they had done had been done judicially under royal command. Some suppose that Jehu wished to make them guilty of the massacre of the princes, whilst he himself had but murdered one king. On the whole, however, it is better to consider that Jehu exculpates the men who had executed his command. The slaughter of the priests is perhaps one of the most dramatic incidents in all this portion of biblical history. Jehu proceeded by way of strategy. It is impossible to justify the spirit of the policy of Jehu in this matter. He said he would serve Baal "much." It has been supposed that he was thinking of his intended holocaust of human victims, but, whatever his thoughts, it is impossible to deny that the impression he produced was that he himself was about to become a worshipper of Baal. This reading is imported into the narrative in these words, "But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal" (2Kings 10:19).
Now a solemn assembly for Baal was proclaimed. From all Israel the devotees of Baal came, so that there was not left a man that came not. The house of Baal was full from one end to the other. And they were clothed with appropriate vestments. Jehu was particular that not one worshipper of Jehovah should be in the assembly, but those of Baal only. When the worshippers went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, "If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him." Then came the moment of massacre: "And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal." Jehu's guards having completed their bloody work in the court of the temple, hastened up the steps into the sanctuary itself, which, like the temple of Solomon, was made after the pattern of a fortress. The images of Baal were brought forth out of the house of Baal and burned; the image of Baal was broken down, and his house was broken down, and the whole scene was utterly dishonoured and desecrated. "Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel" (2Kings 10:28). But the way was wrong. Perhaps for the period within which the destruction took place it was the only ministry that was possible. The incident, however, must stand in historical isolation, being utterly useless as a lesson or guide for our imitation. We are called upon to destroy Baal out of Israel, but not with sword, or staff, or implement of war. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds of Satan." Jehu did his rough-and-ready work, a work, as we have said, adapted to the barbaric conditions under which he reigned, but there must be no Jehu in the Christian Church, except in point of energy, decision, obedience, and single-mindedness of purpose. A Christian persecution is a contradiction in terms. When Christians see evil, they are not to assail it with weapons of war; they are to preach against it, argue against it, pray about it, bring all possible moral force to bear upon it, but in no case is physical persecution to accompany the propagation of Christianity. Not only so: any destruction that is accomplished by physical means is a merely temporary destruction. There is in reality nothing in it. When progress of a Christian kind is reported it must not be tainted by the presence of physical severity. We cannot silence evil speakers by merely closing their mouths; so long as we can hold those mouths there may indeed be silence, but not until the spirit has been changed, not until the very heart has been converted and born again, can the evil-doer be silenced, and his mouth be dispossessed of wicked speeches and filled with words of honesty and pureness. Jehu himself was not a good man; "from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them." For reasons of state policy Jehu maintained the worship of Bethel and Dan. "But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin." He had done homage to Jehovah by extirpating the foreign Baal-worship, but he patronised and actively supported the irregular mode of worshipping Jehovah established by Jeroboam as the state religion of the northern kingdom. He attempted to serve God and mammon. Religion was to him but a political instrument. He was willing to accommodate the sentiment of the people, to purchase peace at any price. He did the particular kind of work which was assigned to him, a work of destruction and blood; perhaps he alone of all the people of his time could have accomplished this task; but Jehu must stand in history as a warning rather than as an example.
Painting the eyes, or rather the eyelids, is more than once alluded to in Scripture, although this scarcely appears in the Authorised Version, as our translators, unaware of the custom, usually render "eye" by "face," although "eye" is still preserved in the margin. So Jezebel "painted her eyes," literally, "put her eyes in paint," before she showed herself publicly (2Kings 9:30). This action is forcibly expressed by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:30)—"though thou rentest thine eyes with painting." Ezekiel (Ezekiel 23:40) also represents this as a part of high dress—"For whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments." The custom is also, very possibly, alluded to in Proverbs 6:25—"Lust not after her beauty in thine heart, neither let her take thee with her eyelids" It certainly is the general impression in Western Asia that this embellishment adds much to the languishing expression and seducement of the eyes, although Europeans find some difficulty in appreciating the beauty which the Orientals find in this adornment.
The process is thus described by Mr Lane in his work on the "Modern Egyptians:"—The eyes, with very few exceptions, are black, large, and of a long almond form, with long and beautiful lashes and an exquisitely soft, bewitching expression; eyes more beautiful can hardly be conceived; their charming effect is much heightened by the concealment of the other features (however pleasing the latter may be), and is rendered still more striking by a practice universal among the females of the higher and middle classes, and very common among those of the lower orders, which is that of blackening the edge of the eyelids, both above and below the eyes, with a black powder called kohhl.... The kohhl is applied with a small probe, of wood, ivory, or silver, tapering towards the end, but blunt; this is moistened, sometimes with rose-water, then dipped in the powder, and drawn along the edges of the eyelids; it is called mir'wed; and the glass vessel in which the kohhl is kept, mookhhol'ah.
Almighty God, our prayer is that we may live worthily before thee, serving thee day and night according to thy will, and showing forth out of a pure and noble life thy truth and thy grace as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is in the name so sweet, so dear, the one great good name we now come before thee. Our prayer is to be lifted up into thy likeness, to be set amongst thine angels for purity and strength, yet never to forget that we are men of the earth, the children of time, redeemed with the great price of the blood of Christ. We desire to set ourselves to thy service with our whole heart, and with both our hands; nothing would we do reluctantly or of compulsion, but everything with the ease of love, with the gladness of a true heart's loyalty—then shall we never be weary, in our soul there shall be no faintness. We bless thee for thy tender care. When other love has wasted, thy love has but begun: when other patience has been exhausted, then has thy long-suffering been multiplied toward us. This is thy gift in Christ, this is the grace of the very cross itself, this is the applied blood of atonement; we bless thee for it, we are made strong by it, and because of thy grace and thy strength our life shall be delivered from the enemy.
We humbly pray thee to meet us in thine house; when the burden is great thou canst lift the load, at least for a while, and if thou wilt not lessen the burden thou wilt increase the strength, for thine heart is set towards the children of men to do them good and not evil, all the days of their life. We put our cases into thine hands, thou knowest all that is special in them, and all that is urgent: how poor we are, how weak, how blind and stumbling and how ill-advised in our counsels, and how unsuccessful in our labour. All our life is laid out before thee in infinite plainness; according to its woe, and sin, and sore, and bitterness, do thou come to it and give us all to know the joy of divine redemption. Amen.