2 Kings 10 – The Reforms of Jehu
A. Jehu executes the house of Ahab.
1. (1-11) Ahab’s descendants are executed at Jezreel.
Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote and sent letters to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to those who reared Ahab’s sons, saying: “Now as soon as this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and weapons, choose the best qualified of your master’s sons, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, “Look, two kings could not stand up to him; how then can we stand?” And he who was in charge of the house, and he who was in charge of the city, the elders also, and those who reared the sons, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, we will do all you tell us; but we will not make anyone king. Do what is good in your sight.” Then he wrote a second letter to them, saying: “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were rearing them. So it was, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons and slaughtered seventy persons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. Then a messenger came and told him, saying, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons.” And he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until morning.” So it was, in the morning, that he went out and stood, and said to all the people, “You are righteous. Indeed I conspired against my master and killed him; but who killed all these? Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the LORD which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the LORD has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.” So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining.
a. Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria: These were a significant danger to the anointed King Jehu. First, they were the descendants of Ahab and had a great interest in battling back to keep the throne of Israel among the dynasty of Omri. Second, they were in Samaria, the capital city of Israel – meaning they were away from Jehu, who killed King Joram in Jezreel.
b. Fight for your master’s house: Jehu challenged any partisans of the house of Omri to declare themselves and prepare to fight for their master’s house.
c. When the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons and slaughtered seventy persons: Jehu’s letter – and his previous bold action against Joram and Ahaziah – powerfully persuaded the leaders of Israel to execute the sons of Ahab on behalf of Jehu.
d. Put their heads in baskets and sent them to him: The nobles were so afraid of Jehu that they sent this grim evidence of their obedience.
i. “It was a contemporary custom throughout the ancient east to ‘pile-up’ the heads of the captured rebels by the main city gate as a public warning against rebellion.” (Wiseman)
ii. “This was suitable to Ahab’s sin. He had sent for baskets of grapes out of Naboth’s vineyard at Jezreel; and now the heads of his sons are brought thither in baskets.” (Trapp)
e. You are righteous: When the people saw the severed heads of 70 descendants of Ahab, they feared that judgment had gone too far and they would be punished for it. Jehu assured them that they had done right – and that none had the right to accuse him, because he acted at the command of God.
i. “You are righteous in your own eyes, and you look upon me as a traitor, and rebel, and murderer, because I have risen against and slain my master, which I acknowledge I have done. But if I am guilty, you are not innocent, and therefore cannot accuse me; for I have killed one, but you a great number.” (Poole)
2. (12-14) Jehu meets 42 members of Ahaziah’s family and executes them.
And he arose and departed and went to Samaria. On the way, at Beth Eked of the Shepherds, Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, “Who are you?” So they answered, “We are the brothers of Ahaziah; we have come down to greet the sons of the king and the sons of the queen mother.” And he said, “Take them alive!” So they took them alive, and killed them at the well of Beth Eked, forty-two men; and he left none of them.
a. Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah: This was to the great misfortune of these men. Since Jehu was committed to execute all those connected with the house of Ahab, these men were also targets of judgment. Ahaziah was a descendant of King Ahab through his mother (who was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel). Therefore, their mention of the queen mother did not help them.
b. He left none of them: This was characteristic of Jehu: whole-hearted and energetic obedience.
i. Some believe that the execution of Ahaziah’s family was an example of Jehu going too far. “The sword of judgment, so far as the expressed purpose of Jehovah was concerned, should have been confined to the house of Ahab. But a reckless and ambitious hand was wielding it, and it devoured beyond the allotted limits.” (Knapp)
3. (15-17) Jehu executes the remainder of Ahab’s family at Samaria.
Now when he departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab, coming to meet him; and he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart right, as my heart is toward your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot. Then he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So they had him ride in his chariot. And when he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed them, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah.
a. He met Jehonadab the son of Rechab: This was the mysterious founder of the Rechabites, who were a reform movement among the people of God, protesting the immoral and impure lives of many in Israel and Judah.
i. In Jeremiah 35, God used the Rechabites, and the memory of Jehonadab as an example of faithfulness and obedience, to rebuke His unfaithful and disobedient people.
ii. “Jeremiah records that Jehonadab was the leader of an aesthetic group that lived an austere, nomadic life in the desert, drinking no wine and depending solely on the Lord for their sustenance. Separatists to the core and strong patriots, they lived in protest to the materialism and religious compromise in Israel.” (Patterson and Austel)
iii. “According to Josephus, Jehu and Jehonadab were friends of long standing, and both detested the luxurious surrounding of the royal family.” (Dilday)
b. Is your heart right, as my heart is toward your heart: Jehu wanted to know if Jehonadab was on his side. Jehonadab was optimistic at the emergence of this energetic reformer; Jehu was hungry for the approval of this popular religious leader and reformer. It isn’t too cynical to think that Jehu wanted to use Jehonadab to add legitimacy to his reign as king.
i. “Jehonadab was doubtless a very honourable man in Israel; and by carrying him about with him in his chariot, Jehu endeavoured to acquire the public esteem. ‘Jehu must be acting right, for Jehonadab is with him, and approves his conduct.’” (Clarke)
c. Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD: The zeal of Jehu was noted in his complete and energetic obedience to the LORD, to the disregard of his own safety and comfort. Yet this statement reveals the dangerous root of pride in Jehu – he is proud of his own zeal.
i. “When proceeding against Baal worship, his words to Jehonadab, ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for Jehovah,’ are in themselves a revelation of a proud spirit.” (Morgan)
ii. “His ostentatious display of his reforming zeal revealed how little he had God’s glory in mind in the midst of all his feverish activity and abolition.” (Knapp)
B. Jehu strikes against Baal worship.
1. (18-23) Jehu arranges a big sacrifice for Baal.
Then Jehu gathered all the people together, and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore, call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests. Let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal. Whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu acted deceptively, with the intent of destroying the worshipers of Baal. And Jehu said, “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal.” So they proclaimed it. Then Jehu sent throughout all Israel; and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. So they came into the temple of Baal, and the temple of Baal was full from one end to the other. And he said to the one in charge of the wardrobe, “Bring out vestments for all the worshipers of Baal.” So he brought out vestments for them. Then Jehu and Jehonadab the son of Rechab went into the temple of Baal, and said to the worshipers of Baal, “Search and see that no servants of the LORD are here with you, but only the worshipers of Baal.”
a. Ahab served Baal a little, Jehu will serve him much: Jehu feigned devotion to Baal to lure the priests and worshippers of Baal into a trap. Jehu acted deceptively, with the intent of destroying the worshippers of Baal.
i. I have a great sacrifice: “The person who made the sacrifice is not stated, it may be indefinite… The text does not say that Jehu acted as sacrificing priest.” (Wiseman)
ii. The priests of Baal believed the deception. “They were excited that their new king, Jehu, and the famous sheik of the Rechabites, Jehonadab, were now distinguished converts and were joining them in a ceremonial sacrifice to Baal.” (Dilday)
b. Search and see that no servants of the LORD are here with you, but only worshippers of Baal: Jehu wanted to be certain that all the worshippers of the true God were put out of the place.
2. (24-28) Jehu wipes out Baal worship in Israel.
So they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had appointed for himself eighty men on the outside, and had said, “If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escapes, whoever lets him escape, it shall be his life for the life of the other.” Now it happened, 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 kill them; let no one come out!” And they killed them with the edge of the sword; then the guards and the officers threw them out, and went into the inner room of the temple of Baal. And they brought the sacred pillars out of the temple of Baal and burned them. Then they broke down the sacred pillar of Baal, and tore down the temple of Baal and made it a refuse dump to this day. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal from Israel.
a. As soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering: Jehu chose to offer the sacrifice to Baal first, and then to call for the execution of the worshippers of Baal.
b. And tore down the temple of Baal and made it a refuse dump: Ahab built this temple for his wife Jezebel (1 Kings 16:32); Jehu tore it down. He worked to completely eliminate the worship of Baal from Israel, making him a unique king among the other rulers of the Northern Kingdom.
i. Beginning with the first king of Israel – Jeroboam – Israel was steeped in idolatry. Jeroboam began with false representations of the true God (the golden calves described in 1 Kings 12:25-33). The successive kings of Israel continued his idolatry (Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri), until the reign of Ahab. Under King Ahab, Israel moved from the false worship of the true God to the state-supported worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:29-34). The son of Ahab (Jehoram/Joram) continued this practice until he was assassinated by Jehu, who destroyed the infrastructure of state-sponsored Baal worship in Israel.
ii. He destroyed this temple of Baal and utterly desecrated it. To say he made it a refuse dump is literally that he made it a public toilet. “A place for human excrement; so all the versions understand it. Nothing could be more degrading than this.” (Clarke)
3. (29-31) The half-way obedience of Jehu.
However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan. And the LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.
a. However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam: Jehu aggressively worked against the worship of Baal in Israel. However, he promoted the false worship of the true God, after the pattern of Jeroboam who set up the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan.
i. “Do not be content to be strong against evil; be eagerly ambitious of good. It is easier to be vehement against the abominations of others than to judge and put away your own secret sins.” (Meyer)
ii. “Jehu did obey God up to a certain point. It happened to be a profitable thing to him to exterminate the old royal house of Ahab, because it would confirm himself upon his own throne; but anything beyond that did not pay, and therefore Jehu did not touch it.” (Spurgeon)
b. Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight: Clearly, there was much good in the reign of Jehu. He was absolutely committed to fulfilling God’s judgment against the house of Ahab and driving the worship of Baal out of Israel. For this, he would be rewarded with a dynasty that would last four generations.
i. This was clear praise of Jehu’s actions; yet Hosea 1:4 condemns them. For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. We can see that both 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 are true, in that Jehu was both good and bad.
· Jehu carried out God’s will, but he went too far and executed more people than God intended.
· Jehu carried out God’s will, but he did it for personal glory and out of pride.
· Jehu carried out God’s will, but he only did it partially. He stopped the idolatry of Baal, but he continued the sinful idolatry of Jeroboam.
c. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: Yet, Jehu was also clearly disobedient and did not obey or serve God with all his heart.
i. “Herein he discovers his hypocrisy, that he follows God as far as his interest would permit… but no further.” (Poole)
ii. We might see Jehu as a great Israeli patriot. He protested against Joram and the house of Ahab for the harm they did to Israel, and knew that to be strong, Israel must be cleansed of Baal worship. He knew that Israel had to come back to the true God, but he was unconcerned about how they did it. For Jehu, it was just as good to worship Yahweh at the temple of the golden calves at Dan or Bethel, and it was better for Israel if they did it at those places rather than at Jerusalem.
iii. When we compare Jehu to the other kings of Israel, we see that he was the best of a bad group. No other king in Israel fought against idolatry as much as Jehu did; sadly, even he did not fight against it with all his heart.
iv. By not taking heed to walk in the law of the LORD God, Jehu showed that he did not live a life of fellowship with God. He was a success in one regard, but a successful failure. “How terrible a warning is the story of this man – that it is possible to be an instrument in the hand of God and yet never be in fellowship with Him.” (Morgan)
v. “Jehu’s zeal, on the contrary, consumed and destroyed everybody and everything that stood in the way of his own advantage or aggrandizement, but never touched himself. He appears to have been a total stranger to real exercise of soul.” (Knapp)
vi. “Hating one sin he loved another, and thus proved that the fear of the Most High did not reign in his breast. He was merely a hired servant, and received the throne as his wages, but a child of God he never was.” (Spurgeon)
C. A summary of Jehu’s reign.
1. (32-33) Syria captures large portions of Israel’s territory.
In those days the LORD began to cut off parts of Israel; and Hazael conquered them in all the territory of Israel from the Jordan eastward: all the land of Gilead— Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh— from Aroer, which is by the River Arnon, including Gilead and Bashan.
a. In those days the LORD began to cut off parts of Israel: This was the work of the LORD. These neighboring rulers and their kingdoms were prompted and made successful by God.
b. All the territory of Israel from the Jordan eastward: For hundreds of years before this – since the time of the entry into the Promised Land more than 600 years before – Israel held substantial portions of land on the eastern side of the Jordan River. This land was held by the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. Now this land was taken by the enemies of Israel, because of their sin and unfaithfulness to the covenant.
i. This included the rich and fruitful lands of Gilead and Bashan.
2. (34-36) The summary of the reign of Jehu.
Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Jehu rested with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. Then Jehoahaz his son reigned in his place. And the period that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years.
a. And they buried him in Samaria: Though incomplete in his own goodness, this man was the best of a bad group. Jehu’s goodness was rewarded with a long reign (twenty-eight years).
b. Twenty-eight years: This was a long reign, but notable only at its beginning. Jehu had the energy and influence to truly turn the nation back to God, but his half-commitment to God left that potential unfulfilled and points to a lack of any real relationship with God.
i. “We have no chronicles in which there is any thing further spoken of this bad man. His reign was long, twenty-eight years; and yet we know nothing of it but the commencement.” (Clarke)
ii. “The great lesson to be drawn from this remarkable man’s life is that of being constantly on guard, as servants of God, lest we be found doing His work – whether it be in the exercise of discipline, or the accomplishment of reformation – in a spirit of unbrokenness and without due exercise of heart and conscience between Him who is ‘a God of judgment,’ and by whom ‘actions are weighed.’” (Knapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission