Jehu

Part 3 of "Kings: An Epic Bible Story You've Never Heard"

Andrea Celesti - 'Queen Jezabel Being Punished by Jehu'

Introduction

I saw Avengers: Infinity War last night and, because I was working on this study, it gave me pause as I thought about movie trailers. Why are they so enjoyable to watch? When I see trailers in the theatre, I often think, "Oh! I have to see that!"  If I do see the film and it disappoints, I think, "The preview was better." Or, "All of the best parts were in the preview." If I wanted more enjoyment from movies, I should honestly just stop watching trailers, but I won't. Why is that? 

The interesting think about previews is, no matter how good they are or even how much content they contain, they can never stand in for the actual movie. Previews aren't stories, they are just teasers for a story. It's the story we crave. Never have I ever watched a preview and thought, "That was so wonderful, I won't even see the movie." While I know that is literally the job of the people making the preview, I also think the reason it is so effective is because we, the audience, want details filled in. We want the context for the joke or the story behind the dramatic one-liner. I've seen previews that give away virtually the entire plot, but I still don't think it deters from the craving to see it filled out. Audiences love stories.

I am beginning to think the same thing is true about the Bible. We have these well-known Bible verses, these pillars of faith that we hear over and over again and it's easy to wonder, "what's the point of the rest of the Bible?" But as I continue my study in 1 & 2 Kings, I am realizing how satisfying the context is. This is a legit, epic film and, like a Marvel movie, every installment ends with a scene after the credits that promises something better on the way.

So this is the third installment of a series that retells the overarching story in 1 & 2 Kings. If you haven't read part 1 or 2 yet, or if it has been a while since you read them and you need a reminder, Here's a recap of the most important events:

  • Solomon, the son of King David is a wise king. He has a son who is not so wise and lets the kingdom fall between his fingers, leaving divided nations, Judah and Israel. In general, the kings of Israel are evil and the kings of Judah are at least better if not good. The kings of Israel basically follow in the footsteps of their ancestor and first king, Jeroboam, who led the nation in worshipping other gods in order to prevent defectors from returning to Jerusalem to worship.
  • On a dark and stormy night, a creepy prophet told Jeroboam that things weren't going to be pretty for Israel. He mentions a few very specific details involving a king named Josiah, human bones, and ashes.
  • Jeroboam's notoriety is exceeded only by his descendent Ahab.
  • A legendary prophet name Elijah confronts Ahab and his false prophets on Mount Carmel, where God once again reveals his identity and nature and the people are amazed by his awesomeness.
  • Despite the miraculous showdown on Mount Carmel, Ahab doesn't really change and even ruins good things that God arranges in his favor. For example, when Ahab has a chance to utterly destroy Aram, he instead formed a treaty with its king. 
  • Ahab killed a man named Naboth to take his vineyard. Incensed, Elijah confronted Aram saying, "in the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, they wold lick Ahab's blood." Ahab repents and God relents, postponing punishment for another day.

 

Part 3: Jehu

During the reign of king Jehoshaphat in Judah, Ahab had a son named Joram. According to the Bible, Joram was an evil king who worshipped Baal while Jehoshaphat was like his ancestors: a good, god-fearing, king. Despite their theological differences, Jehoshaphat decided to aid Joram in a battle against Moab, saying, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses."

The seven-day march to Moab was so grueling that the armies feared they might perish before they had even begun to fight. On the way, Jehoshaphat suggested they consult a prophet because, conveniently, they happened to be in the neighborhood of the most famous prophet alive at that time. It was Elijah's student and successor, Elisha. Elisha did not consider helping Israel with the same level of acceptance Jehoshaphat exhibited:

Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you.”

2 Kings 3:14

In the end, Elisha did help the two kings and foretold the events that would lead to their victory over Moab. The actual events are not as important as the contrasting attitudes of Joram and Elijah. Compared to the books of Chronicles (which is also a history of the kings of Israel,) the books of Kings uniquely contrast the worldly acts of the kings with the godly acts of the prophets. Here, the king of Judah sympathizes with Israel, despite the disparity in how the two kingdoms honor God. By comparison, Elisha makes it clear that he would have no part of Israel and its endeavors, but he is willing to help for the sake of Jehoshaphat. Not surprisingly, the consequences of associating with Israel percolate through the generations. We witness how Jehoshaphat's son was further influenced by the house of Ahab:

In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.

2 Kings 8: 16 - 19

Later still, Joram is succeeded by his son Ahaziah. Like his grandfather, Ahaziah becomes Joram's crony and the two go off to battle against Aram who just so happens to be the kingdom rival from the days of Solomon (who Ahab spared.) The battle doesn't go well and Joram ends up badly wounded. Joram retreats to a place called Jezreel to heal and Ahaziah goes with him to be with him during the recovery. Thus, the two kings of Israel and Judah find themselves in the same place at the same time. This is when Jehu enters the story.

One of the orders Elijah left Elisha was to anoint a man name Jehu as king over Israel. Jehu was a commander with great ambition and unpredictable, manipulative, and violent character. He was the man of action God needed to execute a swift judgement against Ahab's bloodline and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. So dangerous was he that Elisha cautiously isolates Jehu and approaches him with his cloak tucked into his belt, ready to high tail it out of there the moment after bestowing upon him God's blessing. Elisha pours the oil, saying,

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the Lord’s people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’ Then he opened the door and ran.”

2 Kings 9: 6 - 10

In shock, Jehu stumbles back to his crew and tells them what happened. As they begin to celebrate, Jehu regains his senses and begins to realize the opportunity before him. He silences the party, not wanting word to get out and insisting on taking advantage of the element of surprise. He then gets into a chariot and charges down to Jezreel where Joram is recovering with Ahaziah. 

Meanwhile, in Jezreel, the lookout sees a chariot and army fast approaching. They have no idea what's going on so they send out a scout. The scout says, "Do you come in peace?" and Jehu says, "What does it look like? Join the revolution!" and the scout does, falling in behind Jehu. The lookout from Jezreel sees that the scout hasn't returned, so they send out a second one. The second scout also joins Jehu. Now Jehu is so close, the lookout can identify him by his maniacal chariot driving. Joram and Ahaziah go out there to handle the situation. Jehu is approaching from one direction, Joram and Ahaziah are coming from another direction and the two parties meet up somewhere in the middle. Can you guess where? I know, it sounds like some kind of algebra problem, but where they meet up is remarkable. It happens to be Naboth's vineyard, the same place where Joram's father Ahab acted out an atrocious, murderous scheme and where Elijah had prophesied, "In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!" (1 Kings 21:19)

At this point, it's too late for diplomacy. Jehu has a mission and a purpose and he swiftly executes it:

When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?”

“How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?”

Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, “Treachery, Ahaziah!”

Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, “Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the Lord spoke this prophecy against him: ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the Lord, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the Lord.’ Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord.”

When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, “Kill him too!” They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there.

2 Kings 9:22-27

Jehu continues to go on an absolute rampage. He finds Ahab's wife, Jezebel (who utterly fails to seduce him in order to save her own life,) and using the same cunning that turned the allegiance of the scouts, Jehu tells Jezebel's servants to throw her our of the window of her tower. The servants obey Jehu and Jezebel meets and extremely gory end (that you can read about in 2 Kings 9:33.) Jehu then writes a letter to the guardians of Ahab's children. Having witnessed Jehu's merciless takeover, the guardians are almost too eager to cooperate. At Jehu's request, they deliver the decapitated heads of every single one of Ahab's children. Jehu then makes this proclamation,

"Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.”

2 Kings 10:10

Once Ahab's family is completely annihilated, he takes care of the prophets of Baal. Jehu announces his intention to serve Baal unlike any king before him. To illustrate his commitment to Baal, he throws a huge celebration and offering. Every prophet of Baal is invited. While they gather in the temple to prepare the sacrifices, Jehu observes from the outside. He commands some of his soldiers to verify that only prophets of Baal are in the building and he tells the others: "Go in and kill them; let no one escape." Thus the servants of Baal were annihilated and the temple of Baal demolished.

After all Jehu did to obey God and bring prophecies to fulfillment, it's easy to cheer for him and expect him to be the change Israel has been waiting for. Sadly, this is not so. Jehu's desire for power outweighed his fear of God and, while God was able to use Jehu's ruthlessness to bring down the due destruction, Jehu did not serve as a faithful king and worshipped golden calves. His passing left a great deal of political instability in Israel as uprisings and political coups become a regular occurrence. In fact, 2 Chronicles doesn't even bother to mention the kings after Jehu, instead treating his takeover as an end to the Northern kingdom of Israel. After about 100 years and a slew of weak kings, Assyria successfully invades Israel and begins deporting Israelites to Assyria.

In the Southern kingdom, the death of Ahaziah causes a great deal of confusion over who should inherit the throne and quite a bit of violence ensues. The line of kings and their moral quality deteriorates and within about 70 years, Judah hits rock bottom with the rise of king Ahaz. King Ahaz was known for having sacrificed his own son in a fire for his idols and even disassembled the temple of the Lord to build his own altar. With Assyria on the rise, it truly appears all of Israel will be wiped out. Yet if we look back to that fatal mistake when Jehoshaphat the king of Judah decided to cooperate with the king of Israel, we will find that even though it may have been the beginning of the end, it was recorded under a signpost showing the way forward. Indeed, 2 Kings 8:19 is the unending anthem that began this story and will end this story. It reads,

In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.

2 Kings 8: 16 - 19

The advance of the Assyrians, the exile of Israel and the reign of Ahaz has put us in a dark and forlorn time in the history of God's chosen people. There is no possibility any king can get them out of this mess, but God will keep his promise, even if it means he has to step in and do it himself.

END OF PART 3