And Jezebel's body will lie like dung in the field in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one can say: This is Jezebel.'"
Ecclesiastes 9:10). It is this vigorous decision of character which made him so suitable an instrument in executing God's vengeance on the house of Ahab,
I. JEHU'S APPROACH TO JEZREEL.
1. The watchman's announcement. In the far distance the watchman on the tower of Jezreel beholds a company of horsemen rapidly approaching. What can it portend? The report is brought to the king, who unsuspiciously sends out a messenger on horseback to inquire. Towers and watchmen are for the protection of a city and its inhabitants. But "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1). And if the Lord decrees the destruction of a city, or of those in it, towers and watchmen will do little to protect them.
2. Successive messengers. These verses are chiefly interesting as illustrating the character of Jehu. The messenger sent by Jehoram soon reaches the company, and asks, "Is it peace?" The idea probably is, "What tidings from the field of battle?" Jehu does not even answer him civilly, but, with a rude "What hast thou to do with peace?" he orders him to turn behind him. A man this who will brook no delay, submit to no curb, endure no check, in his imperious course. He sweeps obstacles from his path, and bends them to his will. This messenger returns not, and a second, sent out from the king, meets a like reception, and is also compelled to ride behind.
3. Jehu recognized. At length the horsemen are near enough for the watchman to get a closer view, and he has no difficulty in recognizing the furious driving of the leading figure as the driving of Jehu. It is familiar to all that character imprints itself on manner. Physiognomy, walk, gesture, handwriting even, are windows through which, to an observant eye, the soul looks out. Hypocrisy may create a mask behind which the real character seeks to hide itself. But hypocrisy, too, has characteristic ways of betraying its presence, and the mask cannot always be kept on. If we wish habitually to appear true, we must be true.
II. JEHORAM AND AHAZIAH SLAIN.
1. The fateful meeting. On learning that Jehu was approaching, King Jehoram, now convalescent, prepared his chariot, and, accompanied by Ahaziah of Judah, went out to meet his captain.
(1) The two encountered at the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. Strange coincidence, only, as we shall see below, more than coincidence. As the chariots meet, the king puts the anxious question, "Is it peace, Jehu?" Alas! the day of peace is over; it is now the day of vengeance.
(2) Jehu throws no disguise over his intentions. With his usual vehement abruptness he at once bursts forth, "What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" Jehu was right: there can be no peace in a state when the foundations of religion and morality are everywhere subverted. When fountains of immorality are opened at head-quarters, their poisonous influence speedily infects the whole nation (Hosea 4:5). They who are responsible for the subversion of righteousness in a state, must bear the penalty.
(3) Jehoram needed to hear no more. He saw at a glance the situation, and with a shout, "Treachery, O Ahaziah!" he turned and fled. But there was no grain of pity in Jehu. With fierce promptitude he seizes his bow, fits one arrow to the string, and, taking sure aim, smites the flying king right through the heart. Jehoram falls - is dead.
2. Blood for blood. The tragedy thus transacted was in the immediate neighborhood of Naboth's vineyard. On that very spot, or near it, Naboth's own blood had been shed (1 Kings 21:13), and, as this verse shows (ver. 26), not his alone, but the blood of his sons. Thither, after the murder, Ahab went down to take possession of the vineyard, and there, when he arrived, he found Elijah standing, waiting to denounce upon him the doom of blood. This was not all, for among those who rode with Ahab that day were two of his captains, one of them Bidkar, the other this Jehu, who heard the prophetic announcements against Ahab and his family (1 Kings 21:19-24). Ahab himself was subsequently spared, but the doom predicted against him had now fallen on his son: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine" (1 Kings 21:19). That prophecy, probably, had never altogether left the mind of Jehu, but now it came home to him with fresh force as he saw it actually fulfilled by his own hand. Bidkar, too, as it chanced, was there, and Jehu recalled to him the prophetic oracle. Then, to give it literal accomplishment, he bade Bidkar give orders that the corpse of Jehoram should be thrown into the plat of ground which formerly belonged to Naboth. Startling correspondences often thus occur between sin and its mode of punishment. When they occur in fiction, we speak of them as instances of "poetic justice." But poetry, in this as in other cases, is "unconscious philosophy," and is not opposed to truth. Its truth in such representations lies rather in seizing and bringing to light actual laws in the moral government of the world. There is a singular tendency in events in history to fold back on each other - even dates and places presenting a series of marvelous coincidences.
3. A partner in doom. The King of Judah had, the moment the alarm was given, sought his own safety. He fled "by the way of the garden house " - was it the "garden of herbs," into which Naboth's vineyard had been converted (1 Kings 21:2)? But in vain. The peremptory Jehu allows nothing to escape his vigilance, and immediately he is on Ahaziah's track. His command was, "Smite him also in the chariot," and this was done, "at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam." Ahaziah continued his flight to Megiddo, where he died. A slightly different account of the manner of his death is given in 2 Chronicles 22:9. Whatever the precise circumstances of the death, we cannot but see in it
(1) a righteous retribution for his own sins; and
(2) an example of the end of evil association.
Through his mother Athallah, daughter of Jezebel, he was brought into close and friendly relations with the court of Samaria, and, sharing in the crimes of Ahab's house, shared also in their fate. It was his visit to King Jehoram which immediately brought down this doom upon him,
III. THE FATE OF JEZEBEL.
1. Her daring defiance. When Jehoram had been slain, the end of Jezebel, the prime mover and presiding spirit in all the wickedness that had been wrought in Israel, could not be far distant. Jezebel perfectly apprehended this herself, for, on hearing that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she prepared to give him a defiant reception. While one loathes the character of the woman, it is impossible not to admire the boldness and spirit with which she faces the inevitable. Her proud, imperious nature comes out in her last actions. She paints her eyelids with antimony, tires her head, and adorns her person, as if she was preparing for some festal celebration. Then she plants herself at the window, and, when Jehu appears, assails him with bitter taunting words. "Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master's murderer?" she mockingly asked. What a power for evil this woman had been in Israel! What a power, with her strong intellect and will, she might have been for good!
2. Her ghastly end. If Jezebel thought, by this show of imperious defiance, to produce any effect on Jehu, perhaps to disarm him by sheer admiration of her boldness, she had mistaken the man. Jehu's impetuous nature was not to be thus shaken from its purpose. He quickly brought the scene to a conclusion. "Who is on my side? who?" he cried, lifting up his eyes to the windows. Two or three eunuchs, no friends of Jezebel, and anxious only to please the new ruler, gave the needful sign. "Throw her down," was the pitiless order; and in another instant the painted Jezebel was hurled from the palace window, and, dashed on the ground, was being trodden by the hoofs of the horses. Pitiless herself, she now met with no compassion. One who had shed much blood, and rejoiced in it, her own blood was now bespattered on the wall and on the horses. Jehu had no compunctions, but, fresh from the dreadful spectacle, entered the palace, and sat down to eat and drink. But the climax was yet to come. As if even he felt that, vengeance being now sated, some respect was due to one who had so long held sway in Israel, he bade his servants "Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for," he said, "she is a king's daughter." The servants went, but soon returned with a shocking tale. Attracted by the scent of blood, the prowling city dogs had found their way into the enclosure, and, short as the time had been, all that remained of haughty Jezebel was the skull, and feet, and palms of the hands, strewn about the court.
3. A prophecy fulfilled. Such was the dreadful end of this haughty, domineering, evil woman. Possibly even Jehu could not restrain a shudder when he heard of it. He had not thought of it before, but now he recalled the close of that awful prophecy of Elijah to Ahab, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" (1 Kings 21:23), the terms of which had been repeated to him by Elisha's messenger, (ver. 10). That word of God had been fulfilled with ghastly literalness. Would that men would lay to heart the lemon, and believe that all God's threatenings will be as certainly fulfilled! - J.O.
And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field.1. Jezebel's is the character of one complete in evil. She enters the stage of human events in the fulness of her wickedness. She does not come before our notice till she has passed through all the stages of early conviction, strife with conscience, and sometimes of the warnings of a better nature. She is one whom savages would pronounce wicked, and from whom they would start as a dangerous member of even their social body. There are some who are brought before us in this way in life, as if the curtain were suddenly drawn up, and they were presented to the eye for the first time in their full development. We have been allowed to see none of the inward workings, none of the early struggle and strife. All this has gone on between themselves and God alone. His eye only has noticed, and His hand recorded the gages, challenges, and contests between the tempter and the sinner. We see but the end of the conflict. We perceive only the conqueror standing forward flushed with his success, and the ranks of the vanquished receding into the far distance on either side, like the forms of beautiful dreams scared by the breaking in of morning light. In the great portrait gallery of Holy Scripture no one is found exactly like her. She stands individually distinctive and terrible.
2. Here is her history. Ahab is mentioned as coming to the throne of Samaria nine hundred and eighteen years before Christ. The marriage with Jezebel is mentioned as a decided step in evil in Ahab, and is clearly connected with his idolatry. The next mention of her is her desire and effort to kill all the prophets of the Lord, and Obadiah's success in saving them. Then came the denunciation of God upon Jezebel, and the prophecy of her being eaten of dogs in the portion of Jezreel There is a pause in her history, and we hear no more of the queen-mother during the reign of Ahab's successor. The wicked king had sunk to his doomed grave. But she, the author and abettor of his sinfulness, lived on. Her end is the next and last circumstance of her life; very terrible. She comes out again with her old characteristic. The long pause in which she has been withdrawn from observation has made no change in her character save to stereotype all old failings, and gnarl into her form the sins of her earlier days. Shameless and barefaced in her iniquity, she looked out for admiration from the very man who was returning as a conqueror over her husband's race.
3. There are certain features which belong to the thoroughly wicked person, and the approach to those characteristics may always excite alarm and anxiety. The principal points about Jezebel are these. A woman holding an evil influence over her husband, and turning her pertinacity and vigour of practical energy and power into the pursuit of the line in which the man hesitated. The wicked woman has an energy of evil which makes her far worse than the man. Her persecution of God and good men. Her casting in her lot with the wicked and the profligate. Her unflinching and unhesitating profligacy in the destruction of Naboth. Her raillery of the king. Her vanity overcoming in the end of life all other feelings, natural or not.(1) I mentioned the first which was visible in Jezebel. Her decided and unhesitating influence over Ahab. A firm grasp over the conduct of another shows a finish in the character of the person who uses it; still more so when it is complete in evil. No one can take a very decided course unless he have an unwavering trust in his own opinions, or have given himself over to utter indifference. Either a man must have a conscience void of offence, or no conscience at all, to proceed in a very vigorous manner to the attainment of a certain end. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Most men are to a certain degree hesitating. An indecision with regard to faith in some one article or detail: an undetermined mind as to serving God or no; a state of sin or indulged infirmity still hindering the moral advances; all these make men oscillate in as many degrees and with as many variations as there are shades of character and distinctions between dispositions. Now he that can guide another fairly must necessarily have a firm and steady line himself. It is harder to gain this entire ascendancy over another individual mind, than it is to have it over the aim or end of a long course of action. The hesitating eye looks up to the guide either for good or evil. If it see a single swerve discouragements at once ensue: if it meet a firm, steady, unwavering gaze, reassurance comes, and a steady step is the consequence. It is a fearful thing to settle the swerving mind when that swerve is on the sand-bar which crosses the entrance to the harbour, and when the settled action given is to drive the vessel out again into the wide though easy deep. Better be among the rocks than float for ever away from shore and harbour. It is a tremendous thing for any one to influence another's will, so that when he hesitates as to a doubtful step, the other with a cheering cry induces him to take it; it is a fearful thing to bid the poor trembler, who shuddered on the edge of the leap, to rush on, and to spring oneself across the chasm to give him encouragement. Fearful is it at any time, but far more so when the steady gaze is only assumed, when the firm tone of voice belies the condemning conscience, and when the daring act of final decision is even to him who takes the step taken in the dark. And yet how common a case, how common a character? The very fact of encouraging or urging on another tends to urge on self, and the voice which cheers on a companion in an evil way, or to take a false step, too often hushes the inward whisper of our own remonstrating conscience. We gain firmness by making others firm, and become determined moral speculators by the mere fact of endorsing another's speculation. Few signs are more certain of far advance in evil than when a man commits himself to urge on another to a doubtful, sinful, or an uncertain course of moral action.(2) But, again, Jezebel openly persecuted the good, killed the prophets of the Lord, and strove to get Elijah within her grasp. This, too, is a sign of advance in evil. Men do not persecute boldly till they have gone on far in their own sinful course. Persecution infers in the persecutor not so much the love of vengeance and the wish to inflict pain, as the desire to get rid if possible of the testimony and witness of the good. The object of the wicked is to suppress good; to show it to be an unreality, an imposition, a sham; to proclaim it false to its professed principles; to discover some flaw in the motive, or some failure in the act. "He hath a devil, and is mad." "He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils." This is the persecutor's aim. Not so much revenge and simple hate for its own sake. The foundation of this feeling is the deep conviction in the persecutor himself, that he has no ground to stand on, save one of sin; has nothing in common with the good, and comes not into the congregation of the righteous. Yet he feels the truth of that ground, its power, its reality. He acknowledges its reality, but he dare not occupy it. He has forfeited his standing. Consequently, the more wicked a man is, the more he longs to drive the good from his ground and the more he persecutes.(3) But more than this, Jezebel made the wicked her companions; the Baal prophets ate at her table. There is ever a step between persecuting the good and fraternising with the wicked. The latter is a step further in advance. It is positive, the other negative. To love wickedness is in one sense worse than to hate goodness. It is a harder transition for hate to blend into love, than for love to melt off into hate. We often see men not good, not holy, living without God, still hating sin and despising the wicked when brought before them, shrinking from what is mean and vile, shunning the false motive, yet not themselves holy. Positive goodness is a step further than the negative evil.(4) But the next feature of Jezebel's character is that of intrigue and calumny for the purpose of gaining her designs. No man ever stands still in the path of his moral nature. He advances or recedes, but he is in motion. When once the mind is steadily fixed upon evil, the next condition is sure to be one of tact, intrigue, and management to obtain the guilty object. Lies, untruthfulness, slander, meanness, and every kind of duplicity, crowd in and fill up the vacuum between the settled intention to do wrong, and the sinful object itself.(5) Her end is significant. A long interval elapses in which we hear but one thing of her, that her whoredoms were many; and we are led up to that moment to imagine that either in seclusion she had become penitent, or that the sinful heart had exhausted its fire, and the inward volcano become extinct. But she appears again the very wreck of what she had been — an old woman, painted on the face and tired in the hair, leaning from the upper window to gaze down upon and attract the notice of the returning conqueror, whose sword was yet red with the blood of her husband's family. What a picture! Lost to every sense and touch of even natural feeling, the wretch is wrapped up in self; without God, and without an ultimate object. But such is the symptom of finished sin, it quenches the last spark of even natural feeling; it gnaws downwards from the bloom and stem of religion and morality, and eats away the very root of the original creation. It is a symptom of finished evil when surrounded by desolating calamity, brought on by their own wickedness, men compelled to withdraw for a little while from the stage of human action peer forth again from time to time spectral anatomies of what they were, and caricatures of even the monstrous features they originally presented. Such was Jezebel, and the incidents of her life suggest no insignificant tests of a character that is rapidly approximating to a condition of finished and hopeless iniquity.
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