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,
Seventy sons - i. e., descendants; there were included among them children of Jehoram (2 Kings 10:2-3, etc.).
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;
A fenced city - Or, "fenced cities." If Samaria had refused to acknowledge Jehu, many other Israelite towns would have been sure to follow the example.
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.
Jehu, placing his adversaries' advantages before them in the most favorable light, called upon them to decide what they would do. The unscrupulous soldier shows shrewdness as well as courage, a sharp wit as well as a bold heart.
But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?
Two kings - literally, "the two kings," i. e., Jehoram and Ahaziah 2 Kings 9:21-28.
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.
The officer who had the charge of the place (1 Kings 4:6 note) and the governor of the town (1 Kings 22:26 note) seem to correspond to the "rulers" of 2 Kings 10:1.
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.
The heads of rivals, pretenders, and other obnoxious persons are commonly struck off in the East, and conveyed to the chief ruler, in order that he may be positively certified that his enemies have ceased to live. In the Assyrian sculptures we constantly see soldiers conveying heads from place to place, not, however, in baskets, but in their hands, holding the head by the hair.
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.
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.
Two heaps - Probably placed one on either side of the gateway, to strike terror into the partisans of the late dynasty as they passed in and out of the town.
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?
Ye be righteous - i. e., "Ye are just, and can judge aright." Jehu unfairly keeps back the fact that he had commanded the execution.
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.
Shall fall to the earth - i. e., "Shall remain unfulfilled" (compare the marginal reference). Jehu and others were but executing the word of the Lord.
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.
So Jehu slew - Rather, "And Jehu slew." The reference is to fresh executions (compare 2 Kings 10:17). He proceeded on his bloody course, not merely destroying the remainder of the kindred of Ahab, but further putting to death all the most powerful of Ahab's partisans.
His priests - Not the Baal priests generally, whose persecution came afterward 2 Kings 10:19, but only such of them as were attached to the court.
And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way,
The shearing-house - literally, as in margin. Perhaps already a proper name, Beth-eked, identical with the Beth-akad of Jerome, which is described as between Jezreel and Samaria; but not yet 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.
The brethren of Ahaziah - Not the actual brothers of Ahaziah, who had all been slain by the Arabs before his accession to the throne 2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1; but his nephews, the sons of his brothers (marginal reference). It is remarkable that they should have penetrated so far into the kingdom of Israel without having heard of the revolution.
The children of the king ... - i. e." the sons of Jehoram, and the children (sons and grandsons) of the queen-mother, Jezebel." Some of both may well have been at Jezreel, though the younger branches of the royal family were at Samaria 2 Kings 10:1.
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.
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.
Jehonadab (compare the margin) belonged to the tribe of the Kenites, one of the most ancient in Palestine Genesis 15:19. Their origin is unknown, but their habits were certainly those of Arahs. Owing to their connection with Moses (Numbers 24:21 note), they formed a friendship with the Israelites, accompanied them in their wanderings, and finally receivcd a location in the wilderness of Judah Judges 1:16. The character of this chief, Jonadab, is best seen in the rule which he established for his descendants Jeremiah 35:6-7 - a rule said to be still observed at the present day. It would seem that he sympathised strongly with Jehu's proceedings, and desired to give the countenance of his authority, such as it was, to the new reign. According to the Hebrew text, Jehu "saluted" (or blessed) Jehonadab. According to the Septuagint and Josephus, Jehonadab "saluted" (or blessed) the king. Further, the Hebrew text runs - "And Jehonadab answered, It is, it is. Give (me) thy hand. And he gave (him) his hand, and took him up to him into the chariot." Our translators appear to have preferred the Septuagint; but the Hebrew is more graphic. Jehu was no doubt glad to have the countenance of Jehonadab on his public entrance into Samaria. The ascetic had a reputation for sanctity, which could not fail to make his companionship an advantage to the but half-established monarch.
And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they 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.
Compare 2 Kings 10:11. Thus was finally completed the political revolution which transferred the throne from the house of Omri to that of Nimshi, the fifth of the royal families of Israel.
According to the saying of the Lord - This emphatic reiteration (compare 2 Kings 10:10) marks, first, how in the mind of the writer all this history is viewed as deriving its special interest from its being so full and complete an accomplishment of Elijah's prophecies; and, secondly, how at the time Jehu carefully put forward the plea that what he did had this object. It does not indicate that a single-minded wish to execute God's will was Jehu's predominate motive. Probably, even where he most strictly fulfilled the letter of prophecies, he was working for himself, not for God; and hence, vengeance was denounced upon his house even for the very "blood of Jezreel" Hosea 1:4.
And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
Though we cannot ascribe to Jehu a spirit of true piety (see 2 Kings 10:29), we can well enough understand how the soldier, trained in the Syrian wars, revolted against the unmanly and voluptuous worship of the Dea Syra, and wished to go back to the simple solemn service of Yahweh. These views and feelings it would have been dangerous to declare during the lifetime of Jezebel. Even after her death it was prudent to temporise, to wait until the party of Ahab was crushed politically, before broaching tbe religious question. Having now slain all the issue of Ahab in the kingdom of Israel, and all the influential men of the party 2 Kings 10:7, 2 Kings 10:11, 2 Kings 10:17, Jehu felt that he might begin his reformation of religion. But even now he uses "subtilty" rather than open violence. "Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much."
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.
It appears from this verse that the "prophets" and "priests" of Baal were not identical. The former would correspond to the dervishes, the latter to the mullahs, of Muslim countries. By the "servants" of Baal are meant the ordinary worshippers.
And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
A solemn assembly - Jehu applies to his proposed gathering the sacred name assigned in the Law to the chiefest festivals of Yahweh (see Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8).
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.
In order to understand how such numbers could find room, we must remember that the ancient temples had vast courts around them, which could contain many thousands.
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.
The vestry - The sacred robes of the Baal priests seem to have been of linen, and were probably white. The vestry here mentioned may, probably, be the robe-chamber of the royal palace, from which the king gave a festal garment to each worshipper.
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.
The presence of persons belonging to another religion was usually regarded by the ancients as a profanation of the rites. In the case of the Greek mysteries such intrusion is said to have been punished by death. Consequently Jehu could give these injunctions without arousing any suspicion.
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.
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.
As soon as he had made an end of offering - The actual sacrificers were no doubt the priests of Baal; but Jehu is considered to have made the offering, since he furnished the victims. Compare 1 Kings 8:62-63.
The guard - literally, "the runners." This name seems to have been given to the royal body-guard as early as the time of Saul (1 Samuel 22:17, margin). It was their duty to run by the side of the king's chariot as he moved from plaze to place.
Cast them out, and went - Rather, "the captains hasted and went," or "went hastily;" which gives a satisfactory sense. That the soldiers should have troubled themselves to cast the bodies of the slain out of the temple enclosure is very unlikely.
The city of the house of Baal - i. e., the temple itself, as distinguished from the court in which it stood, is intended. The guard having slain all who were in the court, rushed on and entered the sanctuary, there no doubt completing the massacre, and further tearing down and bringing out the sacred objects mentioned in the next verse.
And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
The images - Or "pillars" of wood. The Phoenician pillar idols were mere columns, obelisks, or posts, destitute of any shaping into the semblance of humanity (compare 1 Kings 14:23 note).
And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
And they brake down the image of Baal - The other images, it appears, were not images of Baal, but of inferior deities. The image of Baal, which was "broken down," and not burned, would seem to have been of stone, perhaps erected in front of the temple.
Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
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.
To abolish the calf-worship was a thought which had probably never occurred to Jehu. He had religious feeling enough, and patriotism enough, to detest the utterly debasing Astarte worship; but the pure worship of Yahweh was altogether beyond and above him.
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.
And the Lord said unto Jehu - Probably by the mouth of Elisha. To a certain extent Jehu's measures were acts of obedience, for which God might see fit to assign him a temporal reward.
Thy children ... - This was accomplished in the persons of Jehoahaz, Joash, Jeroboam, and Zachariah, the son, grandson, great-grandson, and great-great-grandson of Jehu (compare the marginal references). No other family sat upon the throne of Israel so long. The house of Omri, which furnished four kings, held the crown for three generations only and for less than 50 years - that of Jehu reigned for five generations and for more than 100 years.
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.
In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel;
To cut Israel short - literally, "to cut off in Israel," i. e., to take away from Israel portions of its territory (see the marginal reference).
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.
The loss of the entire trans-Jordanic territory seems to be intended, or at any rate its complete ruin and devastation (compare marginal reference "y"). This was the home of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and of the half tribe of Manasseh Joshua 22:1-9. It was more accessible from Damascus than the region west of the river.
Aroer - There were several places of this name. The one here mentioned is the most famous (compare Deuteronomy 2:36 note).
Even Gilead and Bashan - The writer had previously called the whole territory "Gilead;" now he distinguishes it, more accurately, into Gilead, the southern, and Bashan, the northern region 1 Kings 4:13, 1 Kings 4:19.
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?
All his might - It is remarkable that this expression, which is not used by the author of Kings in connection with any other king of Israel, should be applied to Jehu, whose ill success in his struggle with Hazael has just been noted, and who submitted to the Assyrians and consented to become a tributary. Perhaps the word is used here in the sense of "personal courage" rather than of "power."
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.