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,
Verses 1-11. - The destruction of the seventy seas of Ahab. Verse 1. - And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. By " sons" we must understand "male descendants. Most of the seventy wore probably his grandsons (see ver. 3); some may have been great-grandsons. They lived in Samaria; since Samaria was the principal residence of the court, Jezreel being simply a country palace - the "Versailles," as it has been called, or "Windsor" of the Israelite kings. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel. "Jezreel" is almost certainly a corrupt reading. The "rulers of Jezreel" would be at Jezreel; and, if Jehu wished to communicate with them, he would not need to "write." Had any chance taken them to Samaria - a very improbable circumstance - they would have had no authority there, and to address them would have been useless. John's letters were, no doubt, addressed to the rulers of Samaria; and so the LXX. expressly state (ἀπέστειλεν ἐν Σαμαρείᾳ πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας Σαμαρείας); but the reading "Jezreel" can scarcely have arisen out of "Samaria" (יזרעאל out of שׁמרון), since the difference of the two words is so great. Most probably the original word was "Israel" (ישׂראל), which is easily corrupted into "Jezreel" (יזרעאל). The rulers of Samaria, the capital, might well be called "the rulers of Israel." To the elders rather, even the elders. Not distinct persons from the "rulers," but the same under another name (see 1 Kings 21:8, 13; and compare the Revised Version). And to them that brought up Ahab's children - i.e. the tutors, or governors, under whose charge they were placed - saying -
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 also, and armour;
Verse 2. - Now as soon as this letter cometh to you. In the East at this time, and in most parts of it to the present day, letters can only be sent by special messengers. There is no public post. Kings and private individuals must equally find persons who will undertake to carry and deliver their despatches. Even the post organized by Darius Hystaspis was not one that went daily, but only one kept ready for the king to use when he had occasion for it. Seeing your master's sons are with you. "Your master's sons" must mean Joram's sons; by which we learn that, unlike his brother Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:17), Joram had male offspring who survived him, and were now with the rest of Ahab's descendants, at Samaria. And there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced city also, and armor; literally, the chariots, and the horses, a fenced city also, and the armor. The main chariot force of the country, and the chief arsenal, containing both armor and arms, were naturally at Samaria, the capital, and might thus be regarded as at the disposition of the Samaritan municipality. Jehu scornfully challenges them to make use of their resources against him. He is quite ready for a contest. Let them do their worst. The LXX. have "fenced cities" (πόλεις ὀχυραί) instead of "a fenced city;" but the existing Hebrew text is probably right Samaria was the only fortified town in their possession.
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.
Verse 3. - Look even out the belt and meetest of your master's sons, and set him on his father's throne. "Choose," i.e., "among the sons of Joram the strongest, the boldest, and the ablest, and make him king in his father's zoom; take him for your leader against me; do not hesitate and beat about the bush; but at once make up your minds, and let me know what I have to expect." And fight for your master's house. There had been a civil war before the dynasty of Omri succeeded in settling itself on the throne (1 Kings 16:21, 22). Jehu believes, or affects to believe, that there will now be another. He does not deprecate it, but invites it. Probably he felt tolerably confident that the garrison of Samaria, even if called upon by the municipality, would not venture to take up arms against the army of Ramoth-Gilead, which had declared itself in his favor. Still, supposing that it did, he was not fearful of the result.
But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?
Verse 4. - But they wore exceedingly afraid. They were men of peace, not men of war - accustomed to discharge the duties of judges and magistrates, not of commandants and generals. They could not count on the obedience even of the troops in Samaria, much less on that of any others who might be in garrison elsewhere. They would naturally have been afraid of taking up arms under almost any circumstances. What, however, caused them now such excessive fear was probably the tone which Jehu had adopted - his "scornful challenge," as it has been called. He evidently entertained no fear himself. He dared them to do that which he pretended to recommend them to do. They must have felt that he was laughing at them in his sleeve. And said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand? The kings intended are Joram and Ahaziah, who had confronted Jehu, and had met their deaths. What were they that they should succeed where "two kings" had failed? The argument was fallacious, and a mere cloak for cowardice. The two kings had been taken by surprise, and treacherously murdered. Their fate could prove nothing concerning the probable issue of a civil war, had the "princes" ventured to commence it. It must be admitted, however, that the chance of success was but slight.
And he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.
Verse 5. - And he that was ever the house - i.e. the officer in charge of the royal palace (setup. 1 Kings 4:6) - and he that was over the city. There would be a single "governor of the city" - net the commandant of the garrison, but the chief civil ruler nearly corresponding to a modern "mayor" (see 1 Kings 22:26). The elders also (comp. ver. 1). The "governor" of a town was assisted by a council of elders. And the bringers up of the children (see the comment on ver. 1). Sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do sit that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king. Jehu's letter had the effect which he intended, of making the authorities of Samaria declare themselves. They might, perhaps, have temporized, have sent an ambiguous answer, or have sent no answer at all, and have let their action be guided by the course of events. But, taken aback by Jehu's directness and plainness of speech, it did not occur to them to be diplomatic; they felt driven into a corner, and compelled to make their choice at once. Either they must resist Jehu in arms or they must submit to him. If they submitted, they had best (they thought) do it with a good grace. Accordingly, his letter produced a reply, more favorable than he can possibly have expected - "They were his servants," or "his slaves," ready to do all his pleasure; they would not set up a king, or in any way dispute his succession; they submitted themselves wholly to his will. Do thou [they said] that which is good in thine eyes; i.e. "take what steps thou pleasest to confirm thyself in the kingdom."
Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel by to morrow this time. Now the king's sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up.
Verse 6 - Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying; rather, a second time. The reply of the Samaritan authorities gave Jehu an opportunity, of which he was not slow to take advantage. They might have been contented with their negative response, "We will not make any man king;" but they had gone beyond it - they had departed from the line of neutrality, and had placed themselves unreservedly on Jehu's side. "We are thy servants," they had said, "and will do all that thou shalt bid us." It is always rash to promise absolute obedience to a human being. To volunteer such a promise, when it is not even asked, is the height of folly. If ye be mine - as they had said they were, when they called themselves his "slaves" - and if ye will hearken unto my voice - i.e., obey me, do as I require - take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel. The Samaritan authorities were ordered to bring the heads with them, that they might be seen and counted. In the East generally, the heads of rebels and pretenders, by whatever death they may have died, are cut off, brought to the sovereign, and then exposed in some public place, in order that the public at large may be certified that the men are really dead (comp. 1 Samuel 31:9). By tomorrow this time. As Jezreel was not more than about twenty miles from Samaria, the order could be executed by that time. It necessitated, however, very prompt measures, and gave the authorities but little time for consideration. Now the king's sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up (comp. ver. 1).
And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel.
Verse 7. - And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew seventy persons. Having committed themselves by their answer to Jehu's first letter, the Samaritan great men seemed to themselves to have no choice, on receiving his second, but to allow themselves to become the tools and agents of his policy. They accordingly put the seventy princes to death without any hesitation, though they can scarcely have done so without reluctance. And put their heads in baskets. Thus concealing their bloody deed as long as they could. In the Assyrian sculptures, those who slay the king's enemies carry the heads openly in their hands, as though glorying in what they have done. And sent him them to Jezreel. Jehu had bidden them to bring the heads to him; but this was a degradation to which they did not feel bound to submit. They therefore sent the heads by trusty messengers.
And there came a messenger, 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.
Verse 8. - And there came a messenger, 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. Thus all who entered into the town or quitted it would see them, and, being struck by the ghastly spectacle, would make inquiry and learn the truth. "The gate" was also a general place of assembly for the gossips of the town and others, who would soon spread the news, and bring together a crowd of persons, curious to see so unusual a sight.
And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these?
Verse 9. - And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous. Not an ironical reproach to those who had brought the heads - "Ye consider yourselves righteous, yet this bloodshed rests upon you;" much less a serious declaration (Gerlach) that now at last the sins of idolatrous Israel were atoned for; but an argument ad captandum, addressed to the crowd of spectators whom the unwonted spectacle had brought together, "Ye are just persons, and capable of pronouncing a just judgment; judge, then, if I am the wicked person which men generally consider me." Behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these? I confess to one murder; but here are seventy murders. And who is guilty of them? Not I, or my party, but the trusted adherents of the Ahabite dynasty, the rulers placed by them over the capital, and the governors to whom they had entrusted the royal children. Does not this show that all parties are weary of the Ahabites and of their system? Does it not clear me of any private or selfish motive, and indicate the desire of the whole nation for a change, civil and religions - a change which shall entirely subvert the new religion introduced by Jezebel, and fall back upon the lines of that maintained by Elijah and Elisha?
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.
Verse 10. - Know now that there shall fall unto the earth - i.e. "perish," "come to naught" - nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab. As the accomplishment had gone so far, it was safe to predict, or at any rate Jehu felt emboldened to predict, that the entire prophecy of Elijah would be fulfilled to the letter. The whole house of Ahab would perish - it would be made like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah (1 Kings 21:23), and its adherents would share its fate. For the Lord hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah; i.e. "has requited Ahab in the portion of Jezreel; has caused dogs to eat the flesh of Jezebel; and has begun the destruction of his house. The inchoate fulfillment of prophecy was always felt to be the strongest possible argument for its ultimate complete fulfillment.
So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.
Verse 11. - So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks; rather, and Jehu slew. Encouraged by his past success, having killed Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel, having secured the adhesion of the chief men in Samaria, and effected the destruction of all those who might naturally have claimed the succession and involved him in civil war, Jehu proceeded to greater lengths. He "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel" - the princesses probably, as well as the princes - and further put to death all the leading partisans of the dethroned dynasty, the "great men," perhaps even those who had worked his bloody will at Samaria, and the intimate friends and supporters of the house - the מְיֻדָּעִים, as they are here called - not relatives, but "intimate acquaintances." And his priests. This expression causes a difficulty, since the destruction of the Baal-priests is related subsequently (vers. 19-25). It has been suggested to understand by כֹּהֲניִם, not" priests," but "high state officers" (Bahr) - a meaning which the word is thought to have in 2 Samuel 8:18 and 1 Kings 4:5. But this signification of כֹּהֵן is scarcely an ascertained one. Perhaps the same persons are intended as in ver. 19, the present notice of their death being a mere summary, and the narrative of vers. 19-25 a full statement of the circumstances. Until he left him none remaining; i.e. until the entire Ahabite faction was blotted out.
And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way,
Verses 12-14. - The massacre of the brethren of Ahaziah. Verse 12. - And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria; rather, went on his way to Samaria (ἐπορεύθη εἰς Σαμάρειαν, LXX.). Having arranged matters at Jezreel as his interests required, and secured the adhesion of the Samaritan "great men," Jehu now sot out for the capital. The narrative from this point to ver. 17 is of events that happened to him while he was upon his road. And as he was at the shearing-house in the way. Between Jezreel and Samaria was a station where the shepherds of the district were accustomed to shear their flocks. The custom gave name to the place, which became known as Beth-Eked (Βαιθακάθ, LXX.; Beth-Akad, Jerome), "the house of binding," from the practice of tying the sheep's four feet together before shearing them, The situation has not been identified.
Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen.
Verse 13. - Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah King of Judah. The actual "brethren" of Ahaziah had been carried off and slain by the Arabians in one of their raids into Palestine, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1; the youths here mentioned were their sons (2 Chronicles 22:8), and therefore Ahaziah's nephews. And said, Who are ye? Travelers in a foreign country were always liable to be questioned, and were expected to give an account of themselves (see Genesis 42:7-13; Story of Saneha, line 38; Herod, 2:159, etc.). The princes were thus not surprised at the inquiry, and readily answered it. And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king. There is something abnormal and needing explanation in this visit. Forty-two princes, with their retinues, do not, under ordinary circumstances, start off on a sudden from one capital, on a complimentary visit to their cousins at another. Perhaps Ewald is right in surmising that, "at the first report of disturbances in the kingdom of the ten tribes, they had been sent off by Athaliah to render any assistance that they could to the house of Ahab in its troubles" ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 100, Eng. trans.). In this case their answer must be regarded as insincere. Falling in with an armed force stronger than their own, they pretended ignorance of the revolution that had taken place, and sought to pass off their hostile purpose under the pretence of a visit of compliment. But the pretence did not deceive Jehu. And the children of the queen. The queen-mother, Jezebel, is probably intended. Her rank entitled her to special mention.
And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.
Verse 14. - And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them. The Brevity of the narrative leaves many points of it obscure. It is impossible to say why the order was given, "Take them alive," when, immediately afterwards, they were massacred. Perhaps Jehu at first intended to spare their lives, but afterwards thought that it would be safer to have them put out of his way. It must be borne in mind that they were descendants of Ahab. At the pit of the shearing-house; rather, at the well of Beth-Eked. Probably the bodies were thrown into the well (comp. Jeremiah 41:7). Even two and forty men. It is this number which makes the idea of a visit of compliment incredible. Neither left he any of them. The Greeks said, Νήπιος ο}ς πατέρα κτείτας παῖδας καταλείπει; and the general Hebrew practice was to give effect to the teaching conveyed by the maxim (see Joshua 7:24, 25; 2 Kings 9:26; 2 Kings 14:6).
And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.
Verses 15-17. - Jehonadab the son of Rechab associated by Jehu in his acts. Verse 15. - And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab. Between Beth-Eked and Samaria Jehu fell in with the great Kenite chief, Jehonadab, the founder of the remarkable tribe and sect of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:6-19). Jehonadab is mentioned only here and in the passage of Jeremiah just quoted; but it is evident that he was an important personage. His tribe, the Kenites, was probably of Arab origin, and certainly of Arab habits. It attached itself to the Israelites during their wanderings in the Sinaitic desert, and was given a settlement in "the wilderness of Judah," on the conquest of Palestine (Judges 1:16). Jehonadab seems to have been of an ascetic turn, and to have laid down for his tribe a rule of life stricter and more severe than any known previously. He required them not merely to dwell in tents, and, unless under the compulsion of war, never to enter cities, but also to abstain wholly from the use of wine, and to have neither house, nor field, nor vineyard (Jeremiah 35:8-10). Gautama, between three and four centuries later, enjoined a somewhat similar rule upon his disciples. It is indicative of much strength of character in either case, that so strict a rule was accepted, adopted, and acted upon for centuries. On the present occasion, Jehu, it would seem, desired the sanction of Jehonadab to the proceedings upon which he was about to enter, as calculated to legitimate them in the eyes of some who might otherwise have regarded them with disapproval. Jehonadab had, no doubt, the influence which is always wielded by an ascetic in Oriental countries. Coming to meet him. This expression tells us nothing of Jehonadab's intent. The meeting may have been merely a chance one. And he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? literally, he blessed him; but the word used (barak) has frequently the sense of "to salute" (see 1 Samuel 13:10; 1 Samuel 25:14; 2 Kings 4:29, etc.). Jehu's inquiry was made to assure himself of Jehonadab's sympathy, on which no doubt he counted, but whereof he was glad to receive a positive promise. Jehonadab must have been known as a zealous servant of Jehovah, and might therefore be assumed to be hostile to the house of Ahab. And Jehonadab answered, It is. Unhesitatingly, without a moment's pause, without the shadow of a doubt, the Kenite chief cast in his lot with the revolutionist. Heart and soul he would join him in an anti-Ahab policy. If it he, Give me thine hand. The Hebrews did not clench agreements, like the Greeks and Romans, by grasping each other's hands. Jehu merely means to say, "If this is so, if thou art heart and. soul with me in the matter, put out thy hand, and I will take thee into my chariot." Jehu intended at once to do honor to the Kenite chief, and to strengthen his own position by being seen to be so familiar with him. And he - i.e. Jehonadab - gave him - i.e. Jehu - his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. There was always room in a chariot for at least three or four persons - the charioteer and the owner of the chariot in front, and one or two guards behind.
And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they made him ride in his chariot.
Verse 16. - And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord. Jehonadab must have understood that some further measures were about to be taken against the family and adherents of Ahab. He evidently approved of all that Jehu had already done, and was willing to give his countenance to further severities. He probably did not know exactly what Jehu designed; but he must have been able to make a tolerably shrewd guess at what was impending. So they made him ride in his chariot. Perhaps וַיַדְכִבוּ should be changed into וַיַּדְכִּיב, which seems to have been the reading of the LXX., who translate, by ἐπικάθισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἅρματι αὐτοῦ, "he made him ride in his chariot."
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.
Verse 17. - And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samria, till he had destroyed him. Seventy male descendants of Ahab had been already destroyed in Samaria (vers. 1-7). It seems unlikely that the city can have contained any other members of his house excepting females. Did Jehu now destroy the daughters of Ahab resident in Samaria, with their families? The masculine form used - הַנּשְׂאָרִים - does not disprove this. According to the saying of the Lord, which he spake to Elijah (comp. ver. 10, and see also the comment on 2 Kings 9:7).
And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
Verses 18-28. - Jehu destroys the worshippers of Baal, arid puts an end to the Baal-worship. Verse 18. - And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. Hitherto the revolution had borne the appearance of a mere dynastic change, like those introduced by Baasha (1 Kings 15:27-29), Zimri (1 Kings 16:9-12), and Omri (1 Kings 16:17-19), and had had none of the characteristics of a religious reformation. Probably, as yet, no suspicion had touched the public mind that Jehu would be a less zealous worshipper of Baal than his predecessor. The outburst against Jezebel's "whoredoms" and "witchcrafts" (2 Kings 9:22) would be known to few, and might not have been understood as a condemnation of the entire Baalistic system. The "zeal for Jehovah" whispered in the ear of Jehonadab (ver. 16) had been hitherto kept secret. Thus there was nothing to prevent the multitude from giving implicit credence to the proclamation now made, and looking to see the new reign inaugurated by a magnificent and prolonged festival in honor of the two great Phoenician deities, Baal the sun-god, and Ashtoreth or Astarte the famous "Dea Syra" Such festivals were frequently held in Phoenicia and the rest of Syria, often lasting over many days, and constituting a time of excitement, feasting, and profligate enjoyment, which possessed immense attraction for the great mass of Asiatics.
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, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
Verse 19. - Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests. In Phoenicia, it would seem, as in Egypt and among the Jews, "prophets" and "priests" were distinct classes of persons. The Egyptians called the priest ab, the prophet neter hen, literally, "servant of God." They held the priest in the greater honor. In Phoenicia, on the contrary, judging from the scanty notices that we possess, prophets appear to have taken precedence of priests, and to have had the more important functions assigned to them (see 1 Kings 18:19-40; 1 Kings 22:6). Let none be wanting - literally, let not a man fail - for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal. Like the other gods of the heathen, Baal and Ashtoreth were worshipped chiefly by sacrifice. The sacrifice was sometimes human, but more Commonly a sacrificial animal, such as a bull, a ram, or a he-goat. In the greater festivals several hundreds of victims were offered; and their flesh was served up at the banquets by which the festivals were accompanied. Whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. His absence would be regarded as an act of contumacy verging on rebellion, and so as deserving of capital punishment. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal. "Subtilty" was characteristic of John, who always preferred to gain his ends by cunning rather than in a straightforward way. Idolaters were by the Law liable to death, and Jehu would have had a perfect right to crush the Baal-worship throughout the land, by sending his emissaries everywhere, with orders to slay all whom they found engaged in it. But to draw some thousands of his subjects by false pretences into a trap, and then to kill them in it for doing what he had himself invited them to do, was an act that was wholly unjustifiable, and that savored, not of the wisdom which is from above, but of that bastard wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). Jehu's religious reformation did not succeed, and it was conducted in such a way that it did not deserve to succeed. A little more honest boldness, and a little less frequent resort to subterfuge and craft, might have had a different result, and have been better both for himself and for his people.
And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
Verse 20. - And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. The word translated "solemn assembly" is the same which is applied to the great feasts of Jehovah among the Israelites in Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18; Isaiah 1:13; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15; and Amos 5:21. Originally, it signified a time of repression, or abstention from worldly business; but it had probably grown to mean a day when worldly business was suspended for the sake of a religious gathering. Such gatherings had no doubt been held from time to time in honor of Baal; and Jehu's proclamation consequently excited no distrust. And they proclaimed it. No opposition was made to the king's wish. No Jehovist party showed itself. The "solemn assembly" was proclaimed for some day in the near future, when all the people had been apprised of it.
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 from one end to another.
Verse 21. - And Jehu sent through all Israel; i.e. through the whole of his own kingdom, from Dan on the north to Bethel on the south. And all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. Duty and inclination for once coincided. The king's command made it incumbent on them, they would argue, to attend; and attendance would, they supposed, result in a time of excitement and enjoyment, which they were not disposed to miss. The death-penalty threatened for non-attendance (ver. 19) was scarcely needed to induce them all to come. And they came into the house of Baal. Ahab had erected a temple to Baal in Samaria shortly after his marriage with Jezebel (1 Kings 16:22). Like the other temples of the time, in Judaea, in Egypt, and in Phoenicia, it was not a mere "house," but contained vast courts and corridors fitted for the reception of immense numbers. And the house of Baal was full from one end to another; literally, from brim to brim; i.e. brimful - "metaphora sumpta a vasibus humore aliquo plenis."
And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.
Verse 22. - And he said unto him that was over the vestry. The word translated "vestry" (מֶלְתָּחָה) occurs only in this place; but its meaning is sufficiently ascertained, first, from the context, and secondly, from the cognate Ethiopic altah, which means "a linen garment." Linen garments were regarded as especially pure, and were generally affected by the priests of ancient religions, and preferred by the worshippers. Heathen temples had almost always "vestries" or "wardrobes" attached to them, where garments considered suitable were laid up in store. Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. It may be doubted whether "all the worshippers of Baal" could have been supplied with robes out of the temple vestry, which would ordinarily contain only vestments for the priests. But Jehu may have had the supply kept up from the robe-room of the palace, which would be practically inexhaustible. The gift of garments to all comers, which was certainly not usual, must have been intended to render the festival as attractive as possible. And he brought them forth vestments. The keeper of the wardrobe obeyed the order given him, and supplied vestments to all the worshippers.
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, but the worshippers of Baal only.
Verse 23. - And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal. Keeping up the pretence that he was a devotee of Baal, anxious to "serve him much" (ver. 18), Jehu himself entered the sacred edifice, together with Jehonadab the son of Rechab, whom he wished to have as a witness to his "zeal for the Lord" (ver. 16). Having entered, he addressed the multitude, or the chief authorities among them, requiring that they should exercise extreme vigilance, and make it quite certain that none but true followers of Baal were present. And said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the Lord, but the worshippers of Baal only. Jehu's real object was undoubtedly to save the lives of any "servants of Jehovah" who might incautiously have mixed themselves up with the Baal-wor-shippers, out of curiosity, or to have their share in the general holiday. That he should have thought such a thing possible or even probable indicates the general laxity of the time, and the want of any sharp line of demarcation between the adherents of the two religions. He cleverly masked his desire for the safety of his own religionists under a show of keen anxiety that the coming ceremonies should not be profaned by the presence of scoffers or indifferent persons. His requirement was in the spirit of that warning which the heathen commonly gave before entering upon the more sacred rites of their religion - "Proculeste, profani."
And 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.
Verse 24. - And when they went in - rather, when they had gone in; i.e. when the whole multitude of Baal-worshippers, priests and people, had entered within the precincts of the temple - to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. The priests officiate, but the offerings are regarded as conjointly made by priest and people. Jehu appointed four score men without. Josephus says ('Ant. Jud.,' 9:6. § 6) that they were the most trusty men of his body-guard, which is likely enough. They were no doubt also known to Jehu as attached to the worship of Jehovah. 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 (comp. 1 Kings 20:39). Gaolers were commonly put to death if a prisoner committed to their charge escaped them (see Acts 12:19; Acts 16:27).
And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.
Verse 25. - And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering. It has been concluded from this that Jehu" offered the sacrifices with his own hand, as though he were the most zealous of Baal's adorers" (Ewald, ' History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 100); but the conclusion does not follow necessarily from the expression used. The suffix ו in כְּכַלֺלּתו may be used indefinitely, "when one finished," or "when they finished;" or Jehu may be said to have made the offerings, because he famished the victims, not because he immolated them with his own hand. Throughout heathendom, wherever there wore priests, it was the duty of the prints to slay the victims offered. That Jehu said to the guard - literally, to the runners (see the comment on 1 Kings 1:38) - and to the captains - i.e., the officers in command of the guard - Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. We must suppose that some guarded the doors, while others advanced into the crowd and struck right and left. The unarmed multitude seems to have made no resistance. And they smote them with the edge of the sword - i.e. cut them down unsparingly, smote and slew till none were left alive - and the guard and the captains cast them out. This is generally understood to mean that all the bodies were thrown by the guards out of the temple. Dean Stanley says, "The temple was strewn with corpses, which, "as fast as they fell, the guard and the officers threw out with their own hands" ('Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 188). But it is not apparent why they should have taken this trouble. Perhaps Bahr is right in suggesting that no more is meant than that the guard and the officers thrust the bodies out of their way, as they pressed forward to enter the sanctuary which contained the sacred images. And went to the city of the house of Baal. "They made their way," as Ewald says, "into the inner sanctuary, the enclosure of which rose like a lofty fortress - עיר originally meant "fortress" - where Baal was enthroned, surrounded by the images of his fellow-gods" ('History of Israel,' l.s.c.). It is to be remembered that the assembled multitude occupied the court or courts of the temple, within which, in a commanding position, was the "house" or "sanctuary" - perhaps reserved for the priests only.
And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
Verse 26. - And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal; rather, the pillars (see the comment on 1 Kings 14:23). It was a special feature of the Phoenician worship to represent the gods by στῆλαι or κίονες, which appear to have been conical stones, or obelisks, destitute of any shaping into the semblance of humanity (see Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 2:3; Damasc. ap. Phot, 'Bibliothec.,' p. 1063; Max. Tyr.,' Diss.,' 38. p. 384). The Phoenicians acknowledged several deities besides Baal, as Ashtoreth, Melkarth, Dagon, Adonis or Tammuz, El, Sadyk, Esmun, and the Kabiri. The "pillars brought forth" may have represented some of these deities, who might all of them be "contemplar" deities with Baal; or they may have been "Baalim," i.e. forms and aspects of Baal, each the object of some special cult (see Hovers, 'Phonizier,' § 674). And burned them. The "pillars" in this instance were probably, not of stone, but of wood.
And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
Verse 27. - And they brake down the image of Baal; rather, they brake in pieces the pillar of Baal. The representation of Baal, the main stele of the temple, being of stone or metal, could not be destroyed by fire, and was therefore broken to pieces (comp. 2 Kings 23:14). And brake down the house of Baal - i.e. partially ruined it, but still left portions of it standing, as a memorial of the sin and of its punishment - a solemn warning, one would have thought, to the people of the capital - and made it a draught-house unto this day; made it, i.e., "a depository for all the filth of the town" (Stanley); comp. Ezra 6:11; Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29; and for the word "draught" in this sense, see Matthew 15:17. Such a use was the greatest possible desecration.
Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
Verse 28. - Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. The measures taken were effectual; the worship of Baal was put down, and is not said to have been revived in the kingdom of the ten tribes. Moloch-worship seems to have taken its place (see 2 Kings 17:17). Vers. 29-31. - Jehu's shortcomings.
Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.
Verse 29. - Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them. It was a crucial test of Jehu's faithfulness to Jehovah; would he maintain the calf-worship of Jeroboam or not? With whatever intent the worship had been set up by its author, the curse of God had been pronounced against it by the chief prophet of the time (1 Kings 13:2), and his word had been attired as from heaven by two miracles (1 Kings 13:4, 5). Jehu ought to have known that the calf-worship, if not as hateful to God as the Baal-worship, at any rate was hateful, was a standing act of rebellion against Jehovah, and laid the nation under his displeasure. But, while his own interests were entirely detached from the one, they were, or at least would seem to him to be, bound up with the other. The calf-worship was thought to be essential to the matureance of the divided kingdom. Abolish it, and all Israel would "return to the house of David" (1 Kings 12:26-30). Jehu was not prepared to risk this result. His "zeal for Jehovah" did not reach so far. Thus his "reformation of religion" was but a half-reformation, a partial turning to Jehovah, which brought no permanent blessing upon the nation. To wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. The erection of the calves (1 Kings 12:29) was the initial sin, their worship the persistent one. (On the nature of the calf-worship, see the comment on 1 Kings 12:28, and compare the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the same passage.)
And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing 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 shall sit on the throne of Israel.
Verse 30. - And the Lord said unto John - scarcely by direct revelation, rather by the mouth of a prophet, most probably of Elisha, as Thenius supposes - Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes. In making himself the executor of God's will with respect to the house of Ahab, and utterly destroying it, as he had been commanded (2 Kings 9:7), Jehu had "done well;" he had also done well in putting down the worship of Baal, and slaying the idolaters, for the destruction of idolaters was distinctly commanded in the Law (Exodus 22:20; Exodus 32:27; Numbers 25:5). These acts of his are praised; but nothing is said of his motives in doing them. They were probably to a great extent selfish. And hath done unto the house of Ahab all that was in mine heart (see 2 Kings 9:26-37; 2 Kings 10:1-7, 11, 14), thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. External obedience was suitably rewarded by an external, earthly honor - the honor of having his dynasty settled upon the throne during five generations, and for a period of above a hundred years. No other Israelite dynasty held the throne longer than three generations, or for so much as fifty years. The "children" or descendants of Jehu who sat upon the throne after him were Jehoahaz, his son, Jehoash or Joash, his grandson, Jeroboam II., his great-grandson, and Zachariah, son of Jeroboam II., his great-great-grandson
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.
Verse 31. - But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart. Jehu's character is thus summed up by Dean Stanley: "The character of Jehu is not difficult to understand, if we take it as a whole, and consider the general impression left upon us by the biblical account. He is exactly one of those men whom we are compelled to recognize, not for what is good or great in themselves, but as instruments for destroying evil, and preparing the way for good; such as Augustus Caesar at Rome, Sultan Mahmoud II. in Turkey, or one closer at hand in the revolutions of our own time and neighborhood. A destiny, long kept in view by himself or ethers - inscrutable secrecy and reserve in carrying out his plans - a union of cold, remorseless tenacity with occasional bursts of furious, wayward, almost fanatical zeal; - this is Jehu, as he is set before us in the historical narrative, the worst type of a son of Jacob - the 'supplanter'...without the noble and princely qualities of Israel; the most unlovely and the most coldly commended of all the heroes of his country" ('Lectures on the Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 289). The estimate is lower than that formed by most other writers; but it is not far from the truth. For he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin (comp. ver. 29).
In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel;
Verse 32-36. - Jehu's wars, length of reign, and successor. Verse 32. - In those days the Lord began to out Israel short. It is certainly not stated in direct terms that the ill success of Jehu's foreign wars was a punishment on him for his continued maintenance of the calf-idolatry; but the juxtaposition of vers. 31 and 32 naturally raises the idea, and constitutes a strong presumption that it was in the writer's mind. The "theocracy" under the kings was carried on mainly, as the writer of Chronicles clearly saw, by the bestowal of worldly prosperity and military success on good kings, and the accumulation of misfortunes and military disasters on bad ones (see 2 Chronicles 12:5-12; 2 Chronicles 13:4-18; 2 Chronicles 14:2-15; 2 Chronicles 15:2-15; 2 Chronicles 17:3-5. etc.). By "cutting Israel short" - literally, "cutting off in Israel" - is probably meant the conquest of certain portions of the territory. Hazael resumed the war which Benhadad had so long waged, and gained numerous successes. And Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; or, along their whole frontier (Bahr). The frontier intended is, of course, that on the north and east, where the Israelite territory was conterminous with that of Syria.
From Jordan 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.
Verse 33. - From Jordan eastward. The territory west of the Jordan was not attacked at this time. Hazael's expeditious were directed against the trans-Jordanic region, the seats of the three tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. This tract was far easier of access than the other, and was more tempting, being the richest part of Palestine. The region comprised all the land of Gilead - i.e. the more southern region, reaching from the borders of Moab on the south to the Hieromax or Sheriat-el-Mandhur upon the north, the proper land of the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and [a portion of] the Manassites - together with Bashan, the more northern region, which belonged wholly to Manasseh - from Aroer (now Arair), which is by the river Arnon - the Wady-el-Mojeb, which was the boundary between Israel and Moab (Numbers 21:13, 24), both in the earlier and (Isaiah 16:2) in the later times - even Gilead and Bashan. There is other evidence, besides this, that Hazael was one of the most warlike of the Syrian kings. We find him, on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser II., mentioned as a stubborn adversary of the Assyrian arms. In the seventeenth campaign of Shalmaneser, a great battle was fought between the two monarchs. Hazael brought into the field more than twelve hundred chariots, but was defeated, and obliged to retreat, his camp falling into the hands of the enemy ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 84). Four years later Shalmaneser invaded Hazael's territory, and took, according to his own account (ibid., p. 35), four cities or fortresses belonging to him. He does not claim, however, to have made him a tributary; and By his later annals it is evident that he avoided further contest, preferring to turn his arms in other directions. (On Hazael's campaign in Philistia, and designs against Jerusalem, see the comment upon 2 Kings 12:17, 18,)
Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
Verse 34. - Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might. This last phrase is remarkable, considering that Jehu's wars, after he became king, seem to have been entirely unsuccessful ones, that he lost a large portion of his dominions to Syria, and (as appears by the Black Obelisk) paid tribute to the Assyrians ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 41). "Might" has been ascribed by the writer of Kings only to Baasha and Omri among previous Israelite monarchs, and only to Asa and Jehoshaphat among previous Jewish ones. "All his might" has only been used of Asa. We must probably understand, that, although defeated, Jehu gained much distinction, by his personal prowess and other military qualities, in the Syrian wars, and was reckoned "a mighty man of valor" in spite of the ill success of his wars. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? (see the comment on 2 Kings 1:18).
And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead.
Verses 35, 36. - And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead. And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years. Twenty-eight years was a long reign for an Israelite king, only exceeded by one other king in the entire list, viz. Jeroboam II., who is said in 2 Kings 14:23 to have reigned forty-one years. The kings of Judah were longer lived,
And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years.
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