The Word of the Lord had come to pass and His judgement of the house of Ahab is coming to pass. Now Jehu is the King of Israel. Jehu must now see to the remaining members of the family.
II Kings 10
Wow. There's a lot here.
First, Jehu has a problem. He has slain the King of Israel and the King of Judah; and now he, himself is the King of Israel. But as Jezebel pointed out when she saw him enter her city, this type of thing had happened before just to have someone else step in and overthrow him.
So how does he stay in power?
Ahab's 70 Sons
I'm guessing Jehu is a man of mixed persuasions. I think he was chosen by God for this time; but so had been Jeroboam, and he wasn't able to overcome his own inclinations to say the course. However, Jehu has a specific word from the Lord as to the future, so at a minimum he knows to proceed against the house of Ahab. Here's a refresher on the Word of the Lord, relevant to this situation, from Elijah in I Kings:
Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel...I Kings 21:21
The problem is, Ahab has 70 sons. It would be difficult for Jehu to get to all 70, especially in the walled cities of Samaria. But you know who can get to them? Those in change of them. They were all in Samaria, so he sent letters to Samaria, to the local rulers, elders, and guardians of the children. In the letter he told them to choose the best of Ahab's sons and place him on the throne; and then prepare to fight for the house of Ahab to regain control over the throne.
What's interesting is, that's probably what they would have done, eventually. They would have let Jehu do his thing while they plotted and schemed and worked out a plan. But Jehu, knowing that would be happening, and knowing what God's Word said would actually happen, he went on the offensive and pushed them into an immediate decision- back the house of Ahab and fight me or back me.
Since they had just seen him kill TWO kings, one of them being the best of Ahab's sons, they backed Jehu and sent word to him that they would not put one of Ahab's sons on the throne, but would do whatever Jehu asked.
What Jehu asked for, was the heads of all 70 sons. One sort of funny twist of language is, in verse 6, Jehu actually asked that these leaders bring the heads of the sons the next day...no time to plot or change their scared minds. However, in verse 7, it states that the did slaughter all 70 sons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu. It seems these men were comfortable killing the sons, even the small children in their care; but not willing to show up in person to deliver them.
It's an interesting turn of events. There are multiple stories in the bible of men doing this, wiping out all possible heirs to their rival's house. However, many times, someone smuggles a child out to save the family line, or out of a duty to the child. No one did this for Ahab. And in a low tech age as that, or even today; 70 heads doesn't necessarily mean they were all sons. But the word tells us, they brought all 70. No one defended the great and mighty Ahab. Makes you wonder why? I guess when you rule by brutality and fear; those serving you can be manipulated by those same tactics from another leader. There didn't seem to be any loyalty or love that would influence someone to defy the order.
While this is an extreme and unusual case of "leadership"; I think the principle holds true. Lead with fear and you have a fearful bunch who may not always respond the way you would want.
Hearts and Minds
The 70 sons were not his only problem; but they were his most immediate problem, so he resolved that problem first. Then, he pivoted and used those baskets containing 70 heads to begin resolving his next problem- consolidating his power over the people. In verse 8, he has the heads placed in two piles at the entrance to the gate in Jezreel and he leaves them overnight.
The next day he makes a speech. Below are some observations related to this phase of Jehu's reign.
- Nothing says, "Come at me, bro." like leaving 70 heads of children at the gate for all to see. I think he had already set a tone of fear when he killed the two kings and this had to have taken that reputation up a notch.
- His opening line is that the people are innocent. That's a great start. The heads show his willingness to use violence; but he starts off explaining that he doesn't see them as people who have done anything wrong.
- Then he takes personal responsibility for "conspiring against my master and killing him". Also a surprising and clever take. No boasting or even defending; just stating what everyone saw.
- But still, he was overthrowing an entire dynasty that began with Ahab's father, Omri. Even King David struggled with long lasting rivalries among the tribes; So Jehu had to make a case that this wasn't a coup; but a fulfillment of God's will.
- Then he gets to the heart of the matter with the questions, "but who killed all of these?" I think there are two answers to the question:
- First, he gives credit for the outcome to the Lord. He reminds everyone that the Lord spoke through Elijah and pronounced this outcome for the house of Ahab. Tough to argue with the word of the Lord.
- But, politically speaking, the other direct answer to the questions is that the actual killers of these offspring of Ahab were the leaders, elders, and guardians of the the sons. It wasn't Jehu. He suggested that they choose the best son and fight for the house. But they did not. They turned on the people they were supposed to protect.
- That means that the Lord's will was done; but it was done by people other than Jehu.
In modern warfare they speak often about winning the hearts and minds. Usually they are speaking about bringing in food and education and such to offer a positive influence; not just bombs and guns leaving behind a wreck. However, I see Jehu's initial acts as leader in a similar vein. He saw other people try and wipe out an entire dynasty, and some even succeeded; but often were slain shortly after by those who saw him as unjustly taking power. Jehu gave them a reason to fear him and then told them that they were all just part of God's plan, and besides, it was Ahab's own supporters who did the killing of the sons...
Maybe he didn't wins them as fans; but he made sure he eliminated the common causes of revolts after similar take-overs.
In verse 11, having made his case for wiping out the house of Ahab, he went on to fulfill the rest of God's prophesy by wiping out all of Ahab's "great men", acquaintances, and priests -leaving no survivors.
Wiersbe feels like this is when he went too far. The Lord, via Elijah, prophesized about Ahab's family being cut off so there was no one to inherit the throne. But Jehu's mission really didn't seem to be able the will of God as using God's will as a tool in his strategies and tactics. This group of men would have caused political problems for him as king; but that's not what God called for.
This had all occurred in Jezreel. In verse 12, Jehu heads for the actual capital of Ahab's Israel, Samaria.
On To Samaria
On his way to Samaria, in verse 13, he ran into relatives of Ahaziah, the recently departed king of Judah (by the hand of Jehu). They were on their way to make nice with the remaining sons of Ahab and the sons of Jezebel. And they mistakenly admitted that to Jehu. It did not go well for them. He took all 42 men alive and then killed them in a nearby pit.
These weren't Ahab's relatives at all, they were of the Davidic line; so again, Jehu wasn't doing what he thought was God's will; but what would make his taking and keeping power easier.
The next man Jehu ran into on his way to Samaria was Jehonadab, also known as Jonadab (verse 15). According to the footnote in my Ryrie study bible, this man was founder of a strict sect of nomadic Israelites who protested the corruption from the influence of the Caananites. The footnote cross reference Jeremiah 35:11. So this is a man who definitely would want to see an end to the Baal worshipping dynasty of Ahab.
Jehu asked Jehonadab if his heart was the same as Jehu's. Jehonadab said yes. So Jehu conscripted Jehonadab on his take-over tour. He brought Jehonadab into his chariot for the ride. He proclaimed his zeal for the Lord and when they arrived in Samaria, Jehu wiped out the rest of Ahab's supporters, until there were none.
Now the Word of the Lord, spoken to Elijah, was complete (verse 17).
Wiersbe theorizes, and I agree, that Jehu brought Jehonadab onto his chariot and into his "crusade" to lend credibility to his personal ambitions. Jehonadab probably had no idea what all was happening; and probably wouldn't have gone along if he had known he was probably being used.
Next, in verses 18-28 Jehu went on to purge the land of those who were priest of and who worshipped Baal. He claimed to be a big worshipper of Baal himself and organized a big event to make a huge sacrifice to Baal. He even threatened to kill anyone who did not come and worship Baal. Them he crammed them into the house of Baal and did one last search to filter out any followers of the Lord. Then he sent in men with swords to wipe out every priest and follower. Then he sent in men to the inner chamber and brought out the sacred pillars and such and destroyed those. Finally, he destroyed the house of Baal and turned it into a bathroom.
This successfully eradicated Baal worship from Israel.
However, Jehu had the law of Moses behind him in sentencing these Baal followers to death; but his deception and methods do not align with the rest of Moses' laws. It's unlikely God approved any of these plans and the scripture doesn't show anywhere where he even sought the Lord in his plans.
Wiersbe asks a great question about this. With deception being his first act as king, would anyone ever trust him again?
The Heart of the Matter
Unfortunately, Baal worship was only the most recent version of idolatry poisoning Israel. It had come in through the house of Ahab via his not-so-lovely, dog-eaten wife, Jezebel.
Long before that, when the original rebel leader, Jeroboam, broke off from Israel to start his own nation of Israel, he had founded his very own idolatrous sect by making the two golden calves, booting Levites from the priesthood, and other bastardizations of God's law. Verse 29 tells us that Jehu did not depart from these idols, including the two golden calves.
Despite this, in verse 30, God commends him on his dealing with the house of Ahab and promises him that his people will sit on the throne through the fourth generation.
And by verse 31 we learn that Jehu did not choose to follow the Lord or walk in His law. He did not depart form the sins of Jeroboam. this caused his nation to sin against God. In response, in verses 32-33 and we learn that the Lord began to cut off portions of Israel. It seems like He'll keep his promise of Jehu's line being on the throne for the four generations; but it also seems like it became a time of constant warfare and lost territory.
The last three verses in the chapter are the standard king's summary describing the end of Jehu's life. He ruled 28 years, died and was buried in Samaria, and his son took over the throne, Jehoahaz.
I feel like something needs to be said about Jehu, in summary. He was clearly the right man for the job of fulfilling God's judgement on the house of Ahab. He was vicious, decisive, clever, and extremely thorough. But I, personally, don't believe he was ever Godly. Even the purge of Baal, while a seemingly religious act, could also easily been seen as one more act of purging the influence of the house of Ahab. Baal was infused by the influence of Jezebel, so removing it just further washed away any residual base of rebellion from the previous ruler.
Except for a few proclamation made when trying to influence others, there were any overt words or actions that showed a personal belief in or relationship with God, Jehovah Elohim.
To me this is more evidence that God creates us and gives us gifts and talents for HIs good work and His good Will- a Will that will be done. What we need to keep in mind is, while He will use us toward that Will, He won't make us choose Him for a relationship. Judas, Sampson, Jeroboam, and Jehu are just a few who were magnificently gifted and used by God, but who never chose Him and never lived the fullest version of their lives if they had completely submitted to Him.
As Warren Wiersbe often writer, "We are immortal until He has completed His purpose for our life." On the other hand, there are no promised for the quality of that life if we choose to live it apart from Him.
II Kings 11
Meanwhile, In Judah
Just a little refresher to put the following events in context.
- Jehoshaphat's (Judah) son, Jehoram (Joram) married Ahab's (Israel) daughter, Athaliah.
- Athaliah is the one who brought Baal worship to Judah as a very strong influence.
- Now her husband is dead and her son is dead and the throne of Judah is open.
In verse 1 of this chapter, Athaliah rises up to murder all of the royal offspring because she knew they would keep the house of David alive when she would want someone from the house of Ahab as a successor.
However, King Joram (Jehoram) had a daughter, Ahaziah's sister, Jehosheba, who took one of Ahaziah's sons, Joash, and hid him, along with his nurse, to keep him from being murdered as the others were. She hid with him in the house of the Lord six years.
This left the throne open for Athaliah to reign. While she is clearly evil. You have to give her credit for being a woman and holding the throne as long as she did. The Ryrie Study Bible footnote says that Athaliah is the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel- which would make sense based on her ambitious and "successful" bid for the throne. However, I read elsewhere that, biblically, she is always noted as just daughter of Ahab, granddaughter of Omri, and never daughter of Jezebel- so there would be an assumption she is not Jezebel's daughter. I'll have to see if I can find something more definitive.
In the seventh year of Athaliah's reign over Judah, the high priest of the house of the Lord has had enough. Or maybe the baby was old enough now. So the high priest, Jehoiada, brought is a group of men who were captains of the guard and of troops known as the Carites. These captains has a hundred men under each of their leadership. Jehoiada made a covenant and oath with these men in the house of the Lord and then showed them the boy who had been saved and hidden, Joash. Jehoiada, the priest lays out a plan for a rotation to protect the king (boy), in the house of the Lord and at the gates. He also gave the men weapons that been King David's and had been stored in the house of the Lord.
Next, Jehoiada brought the boy out, placed the crown on him, gave him the testimony (probably a copy of the law, according to Ryrie), made him the king, and anointed him. And those who were there clapped and cheered.
Of course, the noise drew Athaliah to the people in the Temple and she saw the customary scene of a coronation and she cried treason and tore her clothes.
The priest told them to escort her out so she would not be slayed in the house of the Lord. And if anyone followed her, slay them as well. They marched her out and killed her by the horses' gate.
That's the end of her story. She did not get a king's summary. And I assume she did not get a king's fire or burial with the kings in the tombs in Jerusalem. She is not acknowledged as an official ruler in any of the usual ways. I assume because the boy from the line of David was still alive, and probably the legal king, even though he was too young to take the throne. What an interesting side note in history. I can't imagine she had any cooperation with Jehu, who was ruling Israel during the same time period. I wonder how she did.
King Jehoash (Joash) (Judah)
Starting in verse 17 the high priest made a covenant with the king and the Lord and the people, that they should be the Lord's people. And a covenant between the king and the people.
In verse 18 the people went and thoroughly tore down the house of Baal, including the altars and it images. Then they killed the Baal priest. then they appointed officers over the house of the Lord.
Then the procession left the house of the Lord by the gate of the guards and to the king's house, where he sat on the throne.
So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet. For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king's house.II Kings 11:20
The final verse in the chapter notes that Jehoash was seven years old when he became king. So he was a newborn when Athaliah murdered the royal offspring and briefly stole the throne.
There's my answer. How did she do? The people would rather have a seven year old boy than to have her. It says that the people tore down Baal's stuff and that "all the people of the land rejoiced". Not a great Yelp review of her time on the throne.
It's also worth noting that it was a combined effort of the family, priesthood, and people to reclaim the throne for the house of David. It didn't take the kind of tactics and intrigue required by Jehu in Israel.
I have to note here the parallel of when Harrod tried to murder baby Jesus and He was hidden until He was ready to become King. Obviously there are differences; but it's a great visual reminder that while Athaliah was physically sitting on the throne, self-satisfied in her "victory", she had actually already lost years ago and didn't even know it. The same with our enemy. He may be the prince of the air; but he is doomed. Our real, victorious King is on His Throne and we are His portion.
Wiersbe also points out that there was a revival in the land in Judah and it started by one woman doing the right thing and saving the baby in the line of David, and then bringing the boy's nurse and enlisting her husband to help-who eventually recruited the captain of the guard, who recruited men to go recruit the nation's civilian leaders. The outcome was a return of the proper priests, the proper participants in the temple, proper worship and sacrifice.
In other words, revival came in the form of individuals doing the right thing and then the coming together with other believers and doing the right things together. Not a magic speaker or special novelties.
II Chronicles 22:10-23
II Chronicles 22: 10-12
These verses are an almost word for word retelling of II Kings 11:1-3.
The one exception is sort of a big one. It notes that Jehoshabeath (the woman who saved the royal offspring, Joash, who was the daughter of Jehoram and the sister of Ahaziah was also the wife of Jehoiada, the high priest that organized the take-back of the throne when Joash was old enough. That explains how she got cooperation from the Temple workers in protecting him successfully for six years.
II Chronicles 23
Hiding and Crowning Joash
This is a retelling of II Kings 11: 4-20.
In verse 1 it explains that Jehoiada, the high priest, had to strengthen himself before beginning the take-back proceedings. I like that note because sometimes I can begin to imagine that this is all really easy for these Bible characters. They were just born to do these things. But that's not true. We saw in the parallel Israel story people, such as Jehu, can be given many tools and talents and still not choose God and God's full mission. Jehoiada did choose God's mission, but it took strength.
It also names the captains only referred to by title in II Kings.
Verse explains that these captains went and brought the faithful into Jerusalem for this coronation. That isn't clear in II Kings. It makes more sense why it was so successful when there were lots of people in from around the nation, including Levites and city heads. These are the people with whom the covenants were made. Again, why it worked.
The next section details the same information about the plan to protect the king and the weapons they used. Then the coronation proceedings, followed by the crowd cheering.
And finally, the scene with Athaliah coming across the coronation, crying treason, and being marched out and killed at the horses gate.
Jehoash on the Throne
Beginning in verse 16, we see the covenants between the Lord, the King, and the people. Then we see them tear down the Baal temple and altars.
Then Jehoiada placed the Levites back in control of the house of the Lord, including over the burnt offerings. Which also led to much joy and singing. They also placed guards to keep out the unclean.
Finally they proceeded down to the King's house and placed the boy on the throne. And they rejoiced that Athaliah was gone.
Wiersbe opens his comments on this chapter with a brief comparison of Jehoiada, the high priest's pious humility with Jehu's "zeal for the Lord" which seemed more like ambition for himself. I had noticed the same contrast. The two nations lose their kings at the same time and how did they proceed? It was a good contrast of having the underpinnings of the house of David versus the underpinnings of the house of Jeroboam.
The Davidic line was almost wiped out except for a little baby boy. Another comparison you cannot miss.