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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

2 Kings 10

In this chapter we see several sides of Jehu. On the one hand he goes too far by killing people whom God has not instructed him to kill, and on the other, he did not go far enough. He eradicated the Baal worship, but not the golden calves, which he continued to serve. He often did the work of God, but actually pursued his own interests. It seems that he was more of an instrument than a servant. He knew how to handle the sword excellently when it came to judging evil. What he had not learned, however, was to apply the sword, applied in a spiritual sense, to himself.

He was a useful instrument as long as God’s interests corresponded to his own. If God’s interests were not in line with his own interests, he went his own way.

Verses 1-11

Ahab’s Offspring Killed

The events followed each other in quick succession. Jehu acted energetically. After Jezreel, he also wanted Samaria on his side. Seventy sons of Ahab lived in Samaria. This meant all his male offspring which he had conceived with his many wives, and also his grandsons. All these sons were a danger to Jehu’s kingdom. It was therefore imperative for them to be eliminated. He devised a clever plan for this. He sent letters to Samaria, to the city council. The content of his letter was very challenging, there was bravado in it. It was the language of a confident man who knows his own power and also knows the weak spot of his opponent.

He spoke to them as people who still saw Ahab as their “lord”. He also pointed out their military strength to them. As they have the capital, they have access to “the chariots and horses and a fortified city and weapons”. His proposal was that they should only put the best of Ahab’s sons on the throne and under his leadership fight with him. He told 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 dared to say and present all this, shows that he was certain of his case. He knew the sons of Ahab. They were weak guys, just like the leaders of the city. The leaders were men similar to the kind of elders and distinguished men of Jezreel who had 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 presented himself as the undisputed king and that whoever dared to dispute it should go ahead. As far as he was concerned, the result was sure. The choice was up to the leaders of Samaria. Like Jehoram, they would know what kind of man Jehu was, known by all as a “furious” rider (2Kgs 9:20), a man who was afraid of nothing and no one, and who steps aside for nothing and no one. 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 referred to his acts as those that cause terror.

Would they dare to take the sword against such a man? They reasoned they shouldn’t do that. It was much wiser to join Jehu. That was what they did. They let him know that they would join him. They did so in words that implied total submission to him. This was exactly what he wanted, to use them to exterminate the offspring of Ahab without getting dirty hands himself.

When Jehu had received news from the leaders of Samaria, promising him their support, he wrote them a second letter (2Kgs 10:6). He gave them a command to prove that they meant what they said. Jehu began his letter with words similar to those he had said to the officials of Jezebel: “If you are on my side” (cf. 2Kgs 9:32). He was only interested in who was for him. When they are for him, they will listen to his voice. Listening to the voice of the LORD was not a consideration. He has made these elders allies and instructed them to kill the sons of Ahab.

The question remains how his command in this second letter was to be understood. His writing was somewhat ambiguous. That is, “the heads of the men, your master’s sons” did not mean the literal heads, but the most important sons, the most influential. They were to take the men from the city and meet Jehu at the same time the next day. The men of the city take a literal interpretation of what the letter said, and Jehu may have meant it that way. When the heads are cut off, they were sent to Jezreel. The elders did not bring the heads themselves to offer them personally. They wanted to remain at a distance.

When Jehu received the message that the heads were delivered, he ordered the heads to be placed in two heaps near the city gate. When the people of the city went out of the town to work, they saw the heads. But Jehu was already there to explain this sinister sight. In the words he used, he was diplomatic and insincere. He was straightforward when it came to the sword, but he was not straightforward in his language.

He declared the people innocent. As for himself, he denied any involvement in the murder of these men. Certainly, he killed Jehoram, but that was because he had to do so because the LORD ordered it, although he did not pronounce it here clearly. Who has been working in this case? No, he wouldn’t be able to say that. He played the innocent, the ignorant. Although he was directly responsible for the murder, his question designated others as murderers. He said nothing about the instruction he had given.

To camouflage his innocence and ignorance even more, he gave a pious twist to his story (2Kgs 10:10). They should not be too concerned about who did this. It all fell under the administration of the LORD. After all, the LORD’s revenge has been carried out, hasn’t it? What he in fact did was to blame the LORD.

2Kgs 10:11 is a kind of conclusion. Jehu killed all who were left of the house of Ahab. But he has also gone 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 what the Lord tells us, no matter how justified certain things may seem. Jehu wanted to confirm his kingship, and so, cleared away everything that would hinder him. What was the power of his actions? The flesh, he acted for himself. The power of the flesh can work in spiritual things, but then more is always done than the Lord’s command.

Verses 12-14

The Brothers of Ahaziah Killed

Nor did Jehu receive a command from the LORD to kill the princes of Judah. Ahaziah was 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 any (2Chr 21:16-17). They may have been his cousins. The fact that the men were killed was justified in God’s governmental ways, because they deserved to be killed. They were friends of the house of Ahab.

Verses 15-16


As Jehu continued, there was a sudden meeting with Jehonadab. In response to Jehu’s question about the rightness of his heart, Jehonadab answered that his heart was indeed right. He had a right heart in relation to God, but not so much in relation to Jehu. What the rightness of Jehu’s heart was worth, showed in his performance, especially in the way he would soon eradicate the worshippers of Baal.

Jehonadab was a remarkable man. He was of the family of Rechab, of the people of Kenites. So he was not from a tribe of God’s people, but is descended from a Canaanite people (Gen 15:18-19), one whom God had said 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; Jdg 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. In that passage it turns out that Jehonadab was a faithful servant of the LORD and that his faithfulness was rewarded by the LORD. We have seen before that the period of Jehu can be compared with 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 testified of himself that he lived before the LORD when he said 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 applied to Jehu. It manifested pride, not faith, when he pointed to himself to declare his zeal for the LORD.

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 have eradicated the Baal worship, but the golden calves still existed. Jehu returned, 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 received a promise from the LORD (Jer 35:18-19). Jehonadab was not in Judah, in Jerusalem, or near the temple, the dwelling-place of God; but he was one of the faithful among the ten apostate tribes. Jehu also liked to ensure himself of his company. Jehonadab was an influential man because of his consistent attitude to life and lifestyle. This would have appealed to the conservative subjects in his empire.

Jehu made Jehonadab his friend because of the political advantage this gave him. He used Jehonadab to strengthen his own position. When Jehu said “give your hand”, it meant more than just helping him climb into his car. It was also symbolic for the call for his help in his acquisition of kingship.

Jehonadab was standing by Jehu’s side; he climbed up into the chariot with him. Yet he took a clear place of separation from the ten tribes. This is clear from Jeremiah 35. He did not drink wine, which indicates that he had no part in the joys of the apostate people. He didn’t even plant a vineyard, because he didn’t want to be tempted to drink wine either. He didn’t even have a house or a field, but lived in tents. He did not want to be connected to the land in any way. For this whole behavior, this consistent attitude, which could also be seen in his descendants, he received 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.

Verse 17

Jehu Completes His Commission

In this verse the historian tells us that Jehu arrived in Samaria and completed his commission there. There he killed all those who “remained to Ahab”. With this he fulfilled “the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah” (cf. 1Kgs 21:21).

Verses 18-28

The Worshipers of Baal Exterminated

Jehu then goes to focus on the idolatrous worship of Baal. He continued to do well, according to the instruction of the LORD who had said that every idol must be cut off from the land (Deu 13:12-18). Only Jehu worked deceitfully. That cannot be the work of the LORD. It was a representation of the situation whereby it seems that the lie promoted 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 openly (1Kgs 18:21-24; 30). Also in this part we see that Jehu acted more out of ‘anti-Ahab’ thinking than out of the ‘pro-LORD’ thought.

He framed the case in such a way that there was 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 have fallen to pieces. His plan worked. “All the worshipers of Baal came.” Possibly under the good influence of Jehonadab, who was present there, he ensured that no servant of the LORD could be found among the worshipers of Baal. Every worshiper of Baal had to dress with the clothing of Baal. Thus every worshiper of Baal was identified. Jehu let an inspection be carried out to see if there was not inadvertently one of the servants of the LORD among the idolaters.

When all and only the worshipers of Baal were in the house of Baal, they offered “sacrifices and burnt offerings”. After all the sacrifices had been offered, men prepared and instructed to kill every worshiper of Baal were sent inside by Jehu. His language was also threatening. Anyone who allowed someone to escape would have to pay for it with their own lives.

The men of Jehu executed their task thoroughly. All those in the house of Baal were killed. The bodies are thrown out. Then everything devoted to Baal was destroyed. Baal’s house was demolished and turned into a latrine, the most despicable place in the city.

The result was impressive. It was 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 did not commit murder here. What he did was executing idolaters by the command of God. Only the method he used was false. The Spirit will never urge anyone to bring people together under the pretext of making a sacrifice to the idols.

Verses 29-33

Reward and Punishment

As has already been mentioned, Jehu’s works had not been found complete before God. He eradicated the Baal worship, but he left the golden calves untouched. He persisted in the sins of Jeroboam in serving the golden calves in Bethel and Dan. In this, he led the people in the way of sin.

When the balance of Jehu’s life is taken, we see in 2Kgs 10:30-31 the two sides of God’s judgment. Good was rewarded, this was first mentioned by God (2Kgs 10:30). The reward was that his offspring would be on the throne until the fourth generation. This also means that it would not be permanent, as it would have been if he had been faithful. The LORD appreciated what was good with Jehu. God does not only see the wrong.

Yet “but” must follow, because of the unfaithfulness of Jehu (2Kgs 10:31). As a result, judgment came in the following verses. For this the LORD used 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 fell into the hands of the Syrians. This was the result of this revival. Jehu had been a sham revival.

Verses 34-36

The Death of Jehu

These verses are the end of the description of Jehu’s life. He had accomplished much and has been mighty. All this history has been recorded by others. What is important to us was 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 Jehu’s time was over and he dies. He was 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 length of his rule is given right at the very end of his life. Usually this is recorded at the beginning of the reign of each king. This may have something to do with the fact that his accession to the throne is not clearly mentioned anywhere in his history.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.