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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Kings 10

 

 

Verse 1

JEHU; THE BLOODTHIRSTY KILLER; ON A RAMPAGE;

JEHU CHALLENGED THE GUARDIANS OF AHAB'S ROYAL FAMILY

"Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters and sent to Samaria unto the rulers of Jezreel, even the rulers, and unto them that brought up the sons of Ahab, saying, And 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 fortified city also, and armor; look ye out the best and meetest of your masters sons, and set him on his father's throne, and fight for your master's house. But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, the two kings stood not before him; and then how shall we stand? And he that was over the household, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and they that brought up the children sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any man king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes."

"For barbarity and hypocrisy Jehu has few parallels; and the cowardice and baseness of the nobles mentioned here have seldom been equaled."[1]

"Letters sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel" (2 Kings 10:1). Of course, that type of scholarship which is always fooling with the sacred text and changing it to what they think it should have said has `done their thing' on this verse making it read, "Letters sent to Samaria (omitting Jezreel) to the rulers of the city, etc." (RSV). This writer accepts the ASV as accurate. The rulers of Jezreel, the elders, and the guardians of the royal family were actually in Samaria at the time of Jehu's letters due to its being considered a safer place than Jezreel during the war in which Israel was at that time engaged. Therefore, it was perfectly true that Jehu sent all of those important leaders of Jezreel letters addressed to them in Samaria where they were located at the time he wrote.

"And now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria" (2 Kings 10:1). This is not necessarily a statement that they lived in Samaria, as supposed by Hammond,[2] but that they were in Samaria upon the occasion of this letter. Cook mentioned the fact that "sons" as used here would include grandsons and other close relatives.[3]

Such a large number of sons, however, is by no means impossible. "Rehoboam had thirty-eight sons; Abdon had forty; Tola had thirty; Ahab had seventy; and Gideon had seventy-one."[4]

"Set him on his father's throne, and fight for your masters house" (2 Kings 10:3). "Jehu neither desired that they should do this nor expected them to do so; he was merely upbraiding them with their cowardice and incompetence to challenge him."[5]

C. F. Keil lamented the fact that, "We cannot discover any reason why the court-officials living in Samaria should be called "the princes of Jezreel";[6] but, as we have already noted, those officials were there for greater protection in the stronghold of Samaria during the war in progress. There is no need whatever to adjust the text as in the RSV and other versions. Ahab's court, in a sense occupied two capitals, both Samaria and Jezreel.

"We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any man king" (2 Kings 10:5). These were the same pusillanimous cowards who had obeyed to the letter the vicious orders of Jezebel to murder Naboth and his sons. "These elders of Jezreel had been wickedly obsequious to Jezebel in Naboth's murder (1 Kings 21:11), and that same base spirit made them just as pliable and ready to obey Jehu's order for the murder of Ahab's whole family."[7]


Verse 6

THE SPINELESS ELDERS OF JEZREEL OBEYED JEHU IN THE SLAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB

"Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be on my side, 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 tomorrow this time. Now the kings sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city who brought them up. And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew them, even seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them unto him 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 entrance of the gate until the morning. And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye are righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and smote him; but who smote all these? Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of Jehovah, which Jehovah spake concerning the house of Ahab: for Jehovah hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah. So Jehu smote all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he left him none remaining."

"Ye are righteous" (2 Kings 10:9). This was Jehu's appeal to the people for their approval of what he did. He was saying, "Look, you are righteous people; can't you see that God really approves of what I did. I only killed Ahab; but look how God has finished the job! "Here Jehu pretended that he had nothing to do with the murder of the king's sons, that, on the contrary, it was a divine fulfillment of Elijah's prophecy concerning the fate of the house of Ahab."[8]

"For Jehovah hath done that which he spake through his servant Elijah" (2 Kings 10:10). This was Jehu's flat denial; "I didn't do it; God did"! Of course, the man Jehu was a consummate liar. Every man does what he commands those under him to do.

"And Jehu smote all his great men ... friends ... priests ... left him none remaining" (2 Kings 10:11). Jehu did not stop murdering with the slaughter of Ahab's descendants. "This means that he put to death all of the most powerful supporters of Ahab's rule."[9] "Those great men who had so obsequiously taken off the heads of Ahab's sons fell also a sacrifice to the ambition of this incomparably bad man."[10]


Verse 12

JEHU'S MURDER OF FORTY-TWO MEN WAS ASSOCIATED WITH AHAZIAH

"And he arose and departed, and went to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing-house of the shepherds in the way, 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. 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."

"The brethren of Ahaziah" (2 Kings 10:13). Ahaziah had no brothers, in the usual sense of the word; so these were probably close kin, such as nephews and cousins (See 2 Chronicles 22:8). They were princes of Judah who ministered to Ahaziah.

"The children of the queen" (2 Kings 10:13). The RSV is preferable here which reads, `the queen-mother.' Since Ahaziah king of Judah had taken a daughter of Jezebel and Ahab as his wife, there is little wonder that this king of Judah was identified heart and soul with Ahab's god, of which Josephus flatly declared, "Ahab's god was Baal."[11]


Verse 15

JEHU FORMED SOME KIND OF ALLIANCE WITH JEHONADAB

"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 thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thy hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for Jehovah. So they made him ride in the chariot. And when he came to Samaria, he smote all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spoke to Elijah."

(For a discussion of the unique sect of the Rechabites, see my commentary on Jeremiah 35.) These people lived in tents and clung tenaciously to the ancient and original worship of Israel, namely, the worship of Jehovah. They were not Israelites, but Kenites, and had accompanied Israel when they came up out of Egypt. They had a very good reputation among all Israelites for their piety and integrity; and Jehu's purpose here was that of associating with this reputable man Jehonadab, thus giving the general impression that the Rechabites were backing Jehu.

"Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart" (2 Kings 10:14). The RSV is more readable, as follows: "Is your heart true to my heart, as my heart is to yours"?

"Come with me, and see my zeal for Jehovah" (2 Kings 10:16). This zeal for Jehovah which Jehu pretended to have was merely the cloak of his ambition. This is not the only time that God used a wicked man or an evil nation to punish wickedness.

"This was more than a casual meeting. The pledge and the handshake signified a formal coalition between Jehu and the Rechabites."[12]


Verse 18

JEHU'S PLOT TO MURDER ALL THE WORSHIPPERS OF BAAL

"And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshippers, 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 subtlety, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal. And Jehu said, Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it. 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 filled from one end to another. 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. And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal; and he said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of Jehovah, but worshippers of Baal only. And they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings. Now Jehu had appointed him fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men that I bring into your hands escape, he that letteth him go: his life shall be for the life of him."

Some scholars deny that Jehu actually offered sacrifices to Baal,[13] and some limit the slaughter here to the priests and prophets, but the text does not support either viewpoint. Jehu's hypocrisy was phenomenal, and his intention to deceive the worshippers of Baal was so acute, that he was capable of doing exactly what the text says he did. He went into the temple of Baal to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings.

"The house of Baal was filled from one end to the other" (2 Kings 10:21). The pagan temples of that era were no small buildings. They included extensive courts and collateral areas where very large assemblies could be accommodated. The impression left by these words is that literally thousands of people were brought together at the house of Baal.

With this large gathering assembled within the precincts of the temple of Baal, the bloodthirsty Jehu was ready to spring the trap and destroy them all. It is not specifically stated that Jehonadab left the temple of Baal with Jehu, but presumably he certainly did.


Verse 25

THE RUTHLESS MURDER OF BAAL'S WORSHIPPERS

"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. And they brought forth the pillars that were in the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the pillar of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught-house, unto this day. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel."

"As soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt-offering" (2 Kings 10:25). If Jehu had been a man of integrity, he would have finished that tragedy before he offered the burnt-offering to Baal. "But to a man of no religion (as was Jehu), the worship of Baal and Jehovah were alike. If he preferred either, it was merely for political reasons."[14]

Some scholars are confused about the number of pillars mentioned here, plural in 2 Kings 10:26 and singular in 2 Kings 10:27. There were probably a number of these, the one being called "the pillar of Baal," was probably of stone;[15] and it was not burned as were the wooden pillars, but broken into pieces. Some scholars insist that the stone pillar was "burned" also and have expressed disapproval of such a statement; but one of the quickest ways to destroy a stone image is to heat it in an intense fire until it is very hot and then cast buckets of water upon it.[16] That shatters it completely. So they may have "burned the pillar" also. (See the RSV on this passage).

"The captains ... went to the city of the house of Baal" (2 Kings 10:25). It is evident from the context here that wherever the captains went it was inside the temple of Baal; and therefore the RSV must be correct, which reads, "They went into the inner room of the house of Baal."

"They ... made it a draught-house unto this day" (2 Kings 10:27). The RSV makes draught-house here `a latrine.' Dentan rendered the words, "A public privy."[17] It must not be thought, however, that Jehu really exterminated the worship of Baal in Israel. The immorality connected with the worship of that pagan deity and vigorously promoted by their multitudes of religious prostitutes, the Kadesha, as they were called, proved very effective; and within a hundred years, Israel was more pagan than ever. (See Hosea 1:1-9).

Furthermore, Jehu himself was no genuine believer in Jehovah, because he continued the sinful worship of the golden calves at Dan and at Bethel, the very sins which Jeroboam had introduced when the kingdom divided,

Yet, the bloody purge of Jehu was not all bad, terrible and unscrupulous as it was. Dentan has an excellent word concerning the work of Jehu.

"There can be no doubt that the right side won. Jehu is just as ugly a figure as was Jezebel, but the principles he stood for, perhaps accidentally as far as he was concerned, were the only principles that could endure. The religion which Jezebel represented had no real understanding either of God or men; it was totally deficient of any true morality. It had absolutely nothing to offer mankind and was void of all hope for the future."[18]

On the other hand, the ancient religion of Israel, the worship of the One True God was virile, carrying with it the germ of universal morality, having also a profound view of God. Also, the salvation of all mankind through the promised "Seed of Woman," "The Shiloh" promised through the patriarchs, namely that "Seed (singular) of Abraham," through whom all mankind would be blessed - all of that priceless hope depended upon the continuity within the posterity of Abraham of a people who would remain true to Jehovah. That was the all-important issue that made the work of the wicked Jehu important and, evil as it was, acceptable to God!


Verse 29

THE SACRED WRITER'S APPRAISAL OF JEHU'S WORK

"Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And Jehovah said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of Jehovah, the God of Israel, with all his heart: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin."

This is a tragic appraisal. Honeycutt expressed surprise that, "The Deuteronomic editor limited his summary of Jehu's reign to seven words (2 Kings 10:28);"[19] In fact, the passage contradicts the possibility that any "Deuteronomic editor" ever had anything to do with it. The mythical `Deuteronomic editor' of the critical schools would certainly have been far more appreciative of Jehu's work than what is indicated here. As Josephus tells us, the prophets of God are the authors of the historical books.

"Thy sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel" (2 Kings 10:30). It is related here that God said this to Jehu, yet we can hardly suppose that God appeared directly to such an evil man. "This prophecy was fulfilled in Jehoahaz, Joash, and Jeroboam II."[20] God's speaking to Jehu in such a prophecy, "Probably came via the mouth of Elisha."[21]


Verse 32

GOD'S DISAPPROVAL OF NORTHERN ISRAEL

"In those days, Jehovah began to cut off from Israel; and Hazael smote them in all the borders of Israel; from the Jordan eastward, and all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from the Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan. 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? 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."

"Jehu's dynasty was military rather than religious, but in him Israel had her last chance. Bold as had been Jehu's repudiation of Baal worship, the great lack was that his reforms ended in the revival of the sins of Jeroboam."[22]

"Jehovah began to cut off from Israel" (2 Kings 10:32). This is a reference to God's cutting down the size of their kingdom. 2 Kings 10:33 explains what that "cutting off" was. It was the loss of all the Trans-jordanic kingdom of Israel, and also the cutting off of their dominion over Bashan in the land of Edom. The territory lost included that originally settled by the half tribe of Manasseh and by the tribes of Gad and Reuben (Joshua 22:1-9). With the continued worship of their idols at Dan and Bethel (and also Samaria), the total ruin of the Northern Israel became inevitable. Their doom, destruction and captivity, from which they would never return, loomed upon the horizon of the future; and in 722 B.C., the fall of Samaria signaled the end of the "the sinful kingdom."

It was the ambition of evil men, more than anything else, that perpetuated the calf worship at Dan and at Bethel. As Jeroboam I had wisely foreseen, the return of Northern Israel to the true sanctuary in Jerusalem would inevitably have restored the unity of all Israel; and that, of course, was absolutely incompatible with the ambition and greed of the kings of Northern Israel. Therefore, they maintained a wicked and sinful tradition that they certainly should have known to be totally contrary to God's will.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-kings-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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