In this chapter we see several sides of Jehu. We see how on the one hand he goes too far by killing people for whom God has not instructed him to kill them. On the other hand, he did not go far enough. He eradicated the Baal service, but not the golden calves, which he continues to serve. He often does the work of God, but pursues actually his own interests. It seems that he is more of an instrument than a servant. He knows how to handle the sword excellently when it comes to judging evil. What he has not learned, however, is to apply the sword, applied in a spiritual sense, to himself.
He is a useful instrument as long as God’s interests correspond to his own. If God’s interests are not in line with his interests, he goes his own way.
1 - 11 Ahab Offspring killed
1 Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters and sent [them] to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, the elders, and to the guardians of [the children of] Ahab, saying, 2 “Now, when this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, as well as the chariots and horses and a fortified city and the weapons, 3 select the best and fittest of your master’s sons, and set [him] on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” 4 But they feared greatly and said, “Behold, the two kings did not stand before him; how then can we stand?” 5 And the one who [was] over the household, and he who [was] over the city, the elders, and the guardians of [the children], sent [word] to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, all that you say to us we will do, we will not make any man king; do what is good in your sight.” 6 Then he wrote a letter to them a second time saying, “If you are on my side, and you will listen to my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow about this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, [were] with the great men of the city, [who] were rearing them. 7 When the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and slaughtered [them], seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent [them] to him at Jezreel. 8 When the messenger came and told him, saying, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Put them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until morning.” 9 Now in the morning he went out and stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent; behold, I conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? 10 Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the LORD has done what He spoke through His servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests, until he left him without a survivor.
The events follow each other in quick succession. Jehu acts energetically. After Jezreel, he also wants Samaria at his side. Seventy sons of Ahab live in Samaria. This will mean all his male offspring which he has conceived with his many wives, and also his grandsons. All these sons are a danger to Jehu’s kingdom. They must therefore be eliminated. He devises a clever plan for this. He sends letters to Samaria, to the city council. The content of his letter is very challenging, there is bravura in it. It is the language of the confident man who knows his own power and also knows the weak spot of his opponent.
He speaks to them as people who still see their “lord” in Ahab. He also points out to them their military strength. As capital they have access to “the chariots and horses and a fortified city and the weapons”. His proposal is that they should only put the best of Ahab’s sons on the throne and under his leadership will fight with him. He tells them to appoint a kind of counter king and then, in a fight with him, decide who the real king is.
The fact that Jehu dares to say and present all this shows that he is certain of his case. He knows the sons of Ahab. They are weak guys, just like the leaders of the city. The leaders are men of the kind of elders and distinguished men of Jezreel who have danced to the tune of Jezebel and killed Naboth in response to her letter (1Kgs 21:8-14).
The language of the letter is such that Jehu presents himself as the undisputed king and that whoever dares to dispute it should go ahead. As far as he is concerned, the results are fixed. The choice is up to the leaders of Samaria. Like Jehoram, they will know what kind of man Jehu is, who is known by all as a “furious” rider (2Kgs 9:20), a man who is afraid of nothing and nobody and who goes aside for nothing and nobody. It is possible that the messengers also told how Jehu raced in Jezreel and what fate Jehoram, Ahaziah and Jezebel underwent. In any case, they refer to it as acts that cause terror.
Would they dare to take the sword against such a man? Their mind says they shouldn’t do that. It is much wiser to join Jehu. That is what they do. They let him know that they join him. They do so in words that imply total submission to him. This is exactly what he wants. Now he can use them to exterminate the offspring of Ahab without getting dirty hands himself.
When Jehu has received news from the leaders of Samaria that they promise him their support, he writes them a second letter (verse 6). He gives them a command that allows them to prove that they mean what they say. Jehu begins his letter with words similar to those he said to the officials of Jezebel: “If you are on my side” (cf. 2Kgs 9:32). He is only interested in who is for him. When they are for him, they will listen to his voice. Listening to the voice of the LORD is not an issue. He now makes these elders allies and instructs them to kill the sons of Ahab.
The question remains how his command in this second letter is to be understood. His writing may be ambiguous. That is, “the heads of the men, your master’s sons” does not mean the literal heads, but the most important sons, the most influential. They should then take the men from the city with them and arrive at Jehu tomorrow around the same time as today. The men of the city literally understand what the letter says and Jehu may have meant it that way. When the heads are cut off, they are sent to Jerusalem. The elders do not bring the heads themselves to offer them personally. They would like to remain at a distance.
Jehu gets a message that the heads are delivered. Then he orders the heads to be placed in two heaps near the city gate. When the people of the city go out of town to work, they see the heads. But Jehu is there to give the explanation of this sinister sight. In the words he uses, he is diplomatic and insincere. He is straightforward when it comes to the sword, but he is not straightforward in his language.
He declares the people innocent. As for himself, he denies any involvement in the murder of these men. Certainly, he killed Jehoram, but that is because he had to do so because the LORD ordered it, although he does not pronounce it here clearly. Who has been working in this case? No, he wouldn’t be able to say that. He plays the innocent, the ignorant. Although he is directly responsible for the murder, his question designates others as murderers. He says nothing about the instruction he has given.
To camouflage his innocence and ignorance even more, he gives a pious twist to his story (verse 10). They should not be too concerned about who did this. It all falls under the administration of the LORD. After all, the LORD’s revenge has been carried out, hasn’t it? What he in fact does is to blame the LORD.
Verse 11 is a kind of conclusion. Jehu kills all who are left of the house of Ahab. But he also goes further. He also killed “all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests”. He was not commissioned to do so. We must never go further than the Lord tells us, no matter how justified certain things may seem. Jehu wants to confirm his kingship and clears away everything that could hinder him. What is the power of his actions? The flesh, he acts for himself. The power of the flesh can work in spiritual things, but then there is always done more than the Lord’s command.
12 - 14 The Brothers of Ahaziah Killed
12 Then he arose and departed and went to Samaria. On the way while he was at Beth-eked of the shepherds, 13 Jehu met the relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the relatives of Ahaziah; and we have come down to greet the sons of the king and the sons of the queen mother.” 14 He said, “Take them alive.” So they took them alive and killed them at the pit of Beth-eked, forty-two men; and he left none of them.
Nor did Jehu receive a command from the LORD to kill the princes of Judah. Ahaziah is a son of the evil Jehoram and Athaliah and therefore a grandson of Ahab and rightly killed. The brothers of Ahaziah are not literal brothers, because Ahaziah did not have anymore (2Chr 21:16-17). They may be cousins of him. The fact that the men are killed is justified in God’s governmental ways, because they deserved to be killed. They were friends of the house of Ahab.
15 - 16 Jehonadab
15 Now when he had 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 with your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” [Jehu said], “If it is, give [me] your hand.” And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot. 16 He said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD.” So he made him ride in his chariot.
As Jehu continues, there is a sudden meeting with Jehonadab. In response to Jehu’s question about the rightness of his heart, Jehonadab answers that his heart is indeed right. He has a right heart, but not so much in relation to Jehu as in relation to God. What the rightness of Jehu’s heart is worth, shows his performance, especially in the way he will soon eradicate the worshippers of Baal.
Jehonadab is a remarkable man. He is of the family of Rechab, of the people of Kenites. So he is not from origin from God’s people, but descends from a Canaanite people (Gen 15:18-19), so from those peoples God had said they should be eradicated. Now not all Kenites lived in Canaan and therefore not all Kenites fell under the judgement. Several of them lived among God’s people (Jdg 1:16; 4:17; 1Sam 15:6; 1Chr 2:55).
In Jeremiah 35 we read extensively about Jehonadab and his descendants and God’s appreciation for him and his family. There it turns out that Jehonadab was a faithful servant of the LORD and that his faithfulness is rewarded by the LORD. We have seen before that the period of Jehu can be compared to the period of Sardis in Revelation 3 (Rev 3:1-6). It is remarkable that we not only find Jehu, but also Jehonadab in Sardis.
In Sardis we recognize Jehu in those who say they have the name to live (Rev 3:1b). Jehu testifies of himself that he lives before the LORD when he says to Jehonadab “see my zeal for the LORD”. Israel is said to be “zealous for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom 10:2). That also applies to Jehu. It is not a language of faith to so point at himself in his zeal for the LORD, but pride.
It must therefore be said of Jehu that his deeds have not been found completed in the sight of God (Rev 3:2b). Jehu may be eradicating the Baal service, but the golden calves still exist. Jehu returns, so to speak, to Jeroboam and not to David. Thus, the period of Sardis is in a sense a relief after the period of Thyatira – although Sardis and Thyatira coexist in church history – but Sardis does not return to the word of the apostles and prophets. Sardis remains, so to speak, ‘hanging’ in Pergamus, that is to say, the time in which the church takes in the world.
Jehonadab we recognize in the “few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments” (Rev 3:4a). They receive a promise (Rev 3:4b), just as Jehonadab also receives a promise from the LORD (Jer 35:18-19). Jehonadab is not in Judah, in Jerusalem, or near the temple, the dwelling-place of God; but he is one of the faithful among the ten apostate tribes. Jehu would also like to insure himself of his company. Jehonadab is an influential man because of his consistent attitude to life and lifestyle. This will appeal to the conservative subjects in his empire.
Jehu makes Jehonadab his friend because of the political advantage this gives him. He uses Jehonadab to strengthen his own position. When Jehu says “give your hand”, it means more than just that he can help him climb up his car. It is also symbolic for the call for his help in his acquisition of the kingship.
Jehonadab is standing by Jehu’s side; he climbs up into the chariot with him. Yet he takes a clear place of separation in the ten tribes. This is clear from Jeremiah 35. He does not drink wine, which indicates that he has no part in the joys of the apostate people. He doesn’t even plant a vineyard, because he doesn’t want to be tempted to drink wine either. He doesn’t even have a house or a field, but lives in tents. He does not want to be connected to the land in any way. For this whole behavior, this consistent attitude, which can also be seen in his descendants, he receives God’s appreciation and reward (Jer 35:12-19).
We see something similar in Protestantism. New churches are formed there, which are separated from the evil in Sardis. They arise as a protest against the prevailing evil. We recognize that in our days, for example, in the restored reformed church. It is a place of separation, although within the boundaries of Sardis, of the ten tribes.
17 Jehu Completes His Commission
17 When he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah.
In this verse the historian tells us that Jehu arrives in Samaria and completes his commission there. There he kills all those who “remained to Ahab”. With this he fulfills “the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah” (cf. 1Kgs 21:21).
18 - 28 The Worshipers of Baal Exterminated
18 Then Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now, summon all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers 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 did it in cunning, so that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal. 20 And Jehu said, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” And they proclaimed [it]. 21 Then Jehu sent throughout Israel and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And when they went into the house of Baal, the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other. 22 He said to the one who [was] in charge of the wardrobe, “Bring out garments for all the worshipers of Baal.” So he brought out garments for them. 23 Jehu went into the house of Baal with Jehonadab the son of Rechab; and he said to the worshipers of Baal, “Search and see that there is here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but only the worshipers of Baal.” 24 Then they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed for himself eighty men outside, and he had said, “The one who permits any of the men whom I bring into your hands to escape shall give up his life in exchange.” 25 Then it came about, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the royal officers, “Go in, kill them; let none come out.” And they killed them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the royal officers threw [them] out, and went to the inner room of the house of Baal. 26 They brought out the [sacred] pillars of the house of Baal and burned them. 27 They also broke down the [sacred] pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. 28 Thus Jehu eradicated Baal out of Israel.
Jehu now focuses on the idolatrous worship of Baal. Here he does again what is good, according to the instruction of the LORD who has said that every idolatry must be cut off from the land (Deu 13:12-18). Only Jehu works in cunning. That is not the work of the LORD. It is a representation of the situation whereby it seems that the lie promotes God’s work (cf. Rom 3:8). God never uses man’s lie to maintain His truth as truth. What a contrast with Elijah who did everything in public (1Kgs 18:21-24,30). Also in this part we see that Jehu acts more out of the ‘anti-Ahab’ thought than out of the ‘pro-LORD’ thought.
He frames the case in such a way that there is no reference to the will of the LORD. Imagine that the Name of the LORD would be mentioned. Then the idolaters would immediately smell danger and his plan would fall to pieces. His plan works. “All the worshipers of Baal came.” Possibly under the good influence of Jehonadab, who is present here, he ensures that no servant of the LORD can be found among the worshipers of Baal. Every worshiper of Baal must dress with the clothing of Baal. Thus every worshiper of Baal becomes known. Jehu lets an inspection be carried out to see if there is not inadvertently one of the servants of the LORD among the idolaters.
If all worshipers of Baal and only worshipers of Baal are in the house of Baal, all these worshipers offer “sacrifices and burnt offerings”. After they have made their sacrifices, Jehu sends the men he has prepared and instructed, inside, with the instruction to kill every worshiper of Baal. His language is also threatening. Anyone who lets someone escape will have to pay for it with their own lives.
The men of Jehu execute their task thoroughly. All those who are in the house of Baal are killed. The bodies are thrown out. Then everything devoted to Baal is destroyed. Baal’s house is demolished and turned into a latrine, the most despicable place in the city.
The result is impressive. It is a good result, but obtained by bad methods. In the ways of God, the end does not justify the means. The means must also be in accordance with His Word. We must fight lawfully (2Tim 2:5). Jehu is not committing murder here. What he does is to execute idolaters by the command of God. Only the method he uses is false. The Spirit will never urge anyone to bring people together under the pretext of making a sacrifice to the idols.
29 - 33 Reward and Punishment
29 However, [as for] the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin, from these Jehu did not depart, [even] the golden calves that [were] at Bethel and that [were] at Dan. 30 The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, [and] have done to the house of Ahab according to all that [was] in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin. 32 In those days the LORD began to cut off [portions] from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.
As has already been mentioned, Jehu’s works have not been found complete before God. He eradicated the Baal’s service, but he left the golden calves untouched. It is even so that he persisted in the sins of Jeroboam in serving the golden calves in Bethel and Dan. In it he preceded the people on the way of sin.
When the balance of Jehu’s life is taken, we see in verses 30-31 the two sides of God’s judgment. Good is rewarded, this is first mentioned by God (verse 30). The reward is that his offspring will be on the throne until the fourth generation. This also means that it will not be permanent, as it would have been if he had been faithful. The LORD appreciates what was good with Jehu. God does not only see the wrong.
Yet it must follow “but” because of the unfaithfulness of Jehu (verse 31). As a result, the judgment comes in the following verses. For this the LORD uses Hazael as His rod of discipline. It is in reality, as it says here, the LORD Himself who punishes Israel. He began “to make Israel smaller”. All the tribes of Israel on the wilderness side of the Jordan fall into the hands of the Syrians. This is the result of this revival. Jehu has been a sham revival.
34 - 36 The Death of Jehu
34 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? 35 And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son became king in his place. 36 Now the time which Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria [was] twenty-eight years.
These verses are the end of the description of Jehu’s life. He has accomplished much and has been mighty. What all this has been, has been recorded by others. What is important to us is described in the two chapters we have just considered. It concerns the extermination of the house of Ahab and the religion associated with that house. Then his time is over and he dies. He is buried in Samaria, the place he coveted for the exercise of his power. According to the promise of God, he is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz.
The duration of his government is given right at the very end of his life. Usually this happens already at the beginning of the reign of a king. This may have something to do with the fact that his accession to the throne is not clearly mentioned anywhere in his history.