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THE FALL OF THE OMRIAN DYNASTY
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 9:1. Elisha called one of the children of the prophets—A prophet-disciple, occupying towards Elisha the same relation he himself once stood in towards Elijah. The rabbis suggest it was Jonah. This anointing of Jehu was a further heritage of duty bequeathed by Elijah to Elisha (comp. 1 Kings 19:17; see Notes on 2 Kings 8:7). Box of oil—Flask or vial, פַּךְ from פָכָה to trickle down. Ramoth-Gilead—A city of peculiar importance to Judah and Israel, as affording a strong defence, east of Jordan, against the Syrians.
2 Kings 9:2. Jehu—Doubtless Joram’s ablest general, and entrusted, so Josephus states, with supreme command of the Israelitish army at Ramoth-Gilead by Joram on his being wounded (2 Kings 8:29). Make him rise up from among, &c.—Do it privately, for sake of thine own safety, and that none may interrupt thine act of anointing him.
2 Kings 9:4. Even the young man the prophet—Or, even the prophet’s young man; or, himself a prophet (see Note on 2 Kings 5:1, supra).
2 Kings 9:8. I will cut off, &c.—Vide Critical Notes on 1 Kings 14:10. The phrase “Shut up and left” stands for those who are of age and those who are minors.
2 Kings 9:10. In the portion of Jezreel—It was formerly Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:15 sq., and 1 Kings 21:23). The “portion”—חֵלֶק—in its wider sense, refers to the strip of country outside the city’s wall, hence a place for foul deposits, and thus suggests Jezebel’s degradation that upon it her body should be cast.
2 Kings 9:11. This mad fellow—הַמְּשֻׁגָּע—Wild rhapsodist. Soldiers would regard the grotesque appearance and mysterious conduct of this young man as indicating that he was crazy. Prophets were not infrequently regarded as “mad”; the divine fervour in them, and their asceticism, being viewed as proof (Jeremiah 29:26; Acts 26:26). Ye know the man and his communication—Jehu half suspects that they had plotted to hoax him by this man’s action, in order to incite him to revolt, and intimates that they knew more than they appeared to know. Hence their reply, “False!” (2 Kings 5:14). They deny the insinuation.
2 Kings 9:13. Then they hasted … Jehu is king—Their prompt acquiescence in Joram’s overthrow, and their proclamation of Jehu, proves that the army had no respect for Joram, who seems to have quitted the scenes of war on receiving wounds from the Syrians (2 Kings 8:29), but whose wounds were not so serious as to prevent his riding out (2 Kings 9:21), albeit it is said in 2 Kings 5:16, perhaps satirically, that “Joram lay there.” Yet, although able to ride out to meet Jehu, he was much too sick to go back to the scene of war! Such conduct of indulgence or indifference would make his captains contemptuous, which prepared them to welcome Jehu, who was evidently popular with the army, as king. Took every man his garment, and put it under him—Spreading it on the floor for a carpet, as sign of homage (Matthew 21:7).
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 9:1-14
THE MINISTER OF DIVINE VENGEANCE
IT was a dark day for Israel when Omri became its king. He imposed idolatry upon the people by the strong hand of law. He was the author of those celebrated “statutes”—celebrated for their infamy—which “made Israel a desolation” (Micah 6:16). Ahab and Jezebel maintained and improved upon this idolatrous policy. Israel became utterly corrupt, and, as an evidence of the vigour and influence of the rule of Ahab, Judah was being infected with the same moral poison. Had this rule continued much longer, there was danger that the Jewish people would be lost in heathenism, and the grand purpose of their being chosen and trained—the maintenance and spread of the religion of Jehovah—would have been frustrated. In furtherance of the Divine designs and in the interest of the world, the dynasty of Omri, after a career of more than forty years, must come to an end. All warnings were disregarded, and every attempt at reformation had failed. Judgment can be no longer delayed, and the minister of Divine vengeance is ready to enter upon his work. It is terrible, sanguinary work that has to be done, and the man who undertakes it must be above all effeminate qualms. He must be a man of iron, of iron will, of iron hand, of iron heart.
I. That the minister of Divine vengeance may be for years unconsciously preparing for his work. More than twenty years before, the Lord revealed to Elijah the agencies by which the wicked house of Ahab should be destroyed, and among them was Jehu the son of Nimshi (1 Kings 19:16-17). This man was familiar with the fearful prediction of Elijah against Ahab when he went to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard, and though fifteen years had rolled away since then, those terrible words of doom were vividly remembered (1 Kings 21:17-24; comp. with 2 Kings 9:25). Jehu little dreamed that he was to be the selected instrument of vengeance, and yet circumstances were preparing him for the office. His warlike training developed the qualities necessary for his stern and sanguinary work. In the court of Ahab was being prepared, all unconsciously to himself, the agent who was to destroy, with unrelenting pitilessness, the whole house of Ahab. Wrong cannot triumph for ever. It generates the power which by-and-bye works its destruction. The very means by which evil gains its ends are used for its punishment. Napoleon, the dictator of Europe, won his power by war, and by war he was defeated and humbled. In the neighbourhood of the bane there grows the antidote.
II. That the minister of Divine vengeance is elevated to a position of power and authority by which he may accomplish his mission.
1. Jehu is solemnly anointed king. It was not customary to anoint kings, except on the disturbance of the succession, as in the case of Solomon; or on the interruption of it, as in the case of Joash (chap. 2 Kings 11:12); or on the transfer of the government to another family, as in this case of Jehu. It seems singular that a man like Elisha should lend himself to conspiracy and rebellion; but the prophet was acting not from any factious spirit, but according to Divine direction. The time to act was come, and the man who had so much to do—so much that ordinary men would shrink from—must be shown by the solemn and significant act of anointing that he is fully called and commissioned. The greater the work man is called to do, the more important is it he should be powerfully impressed he is empowered to do it.
2. His authority is speedily and publicly recognised by those who are ready to help him in his mission (2 Kings 9:13). The validity of Jehu’s appointment to the kinship is at once acknowledged by his companions in arms, and proclamation is made with trumpets and shouting. The army is with him; his authority is unquestioned; his power is supreme; he has the means of carrying out his terrible work of vergeance. The readiness with which the soldiery acquiesce in the new order of things indicates how feeble was their attachment to the house of Ahab, and the power that Jehu must have gained over them. Perhaps the impression was deepening on the popular mind that the doom of the house of Ahab was at hand, and could no longer be delayed. When God arises to judgment, He can make all the powers of heaven and earth contribute to the accomplishment of His vengeful purposes.
III. That the minister of Divine vengeance is clearly informed as to the character of the work he is called to do.
1. It is a work of complete and terrible vengeance (2 Kings 9:7-10). The whole house of Ahab is to be cut off; none are excepted. “When wickedness is ripe in the field, God will not let it shed to grow again, but cutteth it up by a just and seasonable vengeance.” A weak man would have quailed and trembled before such bloody work as now lay before Jehu. He could not complain of ambiguity; he clearly understood what was expected of him. He was braced up for the occasion. His impetuous and callous nature would lead him to do, without the least symptoms of compunction, what other men would have sickened even to contemplate. He was reminded by the reference to the fate of Jeroboam and Baasha (2 Kings 9:9) what would be his own fate if he failed to carry out the Divine commands.
2. The reason for the vengeance is also set forth: “That I may avenge the blood of my servants of the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord” (2 Kings 9:7). God does not forget the sufferings and wrongs of His people. Injury done to them is done to Himself, and His justice will render the recompence. Jezebel has hunted down and destroyed the worshippers of Jehovah, wherever found, until she thought they were extinct, and that the abominations of the Baal-worship were universally adopted. It was a savage disappointment to her that she could not crush Elijah and Elisha. But the day of reckoning has come; the cry of innocent blood is heard; the murdered prophets shall be avenged. It is an addition to the punishment of the punished when they clearly understand the reason of it. Long-forgotten sins are brought back vividly to the memory, and the suffering is increased by the consciousness of its justice. Yet it may be that neither executioner nor victim fully comprehend all the reasons for retribution.
1. It is utterly futile to oppose God.
2. Though the patience of God delays the blow, iniquity shall not go unpunished.
3. The ministers of Divine vengeance are ever within call.
ELISHA AND JEHU (2 Kings 9:1-3)
The phrase, “children of the prophets,” in this passage, indicates men who were taught by a prophet or prophets, and who might hope in due time to fulfil the office themselves. The notion of a class of men under this kind of education is very puzzling to some modern readers. “Was not the prophet,” they ask emphatically, “the inspired man? Were not his words false if they did not proceed directly from the mouth of the Lord? How could he be trained or disciplined to utter such words?” The subject is a very important one. Elijah was, in a remarkable sense, the solitary man. “I alone,” he said, “am the prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty. I alone am left, and they seek my life.” On the contrary, his suceessor, Elisha, is nearly always surrounded by companions, disciples, or servants. Every passage of his history makes us understand how great the influence of the previous teacher had been; how true it was that there were numbers who had not bowed the knee to Baal during his stay upon earth; how soon, according to what seems the general law in such cases, they discovered themselves after he had left it. In the particular instance of which the text speaks, a young man out of the schools goes by the direct command of Elisha to execute an errand, which involved nothing else than the overthrow of a dynasty, and a revolution of two kingdoms.
I. If the main work of the prophet was to declare that such an event would, or would not, come to pass, or if he was a mere Æolian harp from which a chance breeze drew forth certain wild and irregular, however beautiful, notes, the idea of preparation involves an absurdity, or something worse than an absurdity. On that supposition it must mean, if it means anything, an initiation of the scholar into certain tricks by which his predecessors had been wont to impose upon the vulgar, or the communication to him of certain facts and principles known to them by which he might acquire a reputation for sudden insight and discovery. No doubt such an education as this was not unknown in the old world, as it is not unknown in the modern. It is the ordinary discipline of adepts and conjurors, of those who practise on men’s fears or upon their curiosity, of those who appeal to their conscience by religious deceptions, or to their sense of mysterious powers in the natural world by philosophical deceptions. But the Jewish prophet was not primarily or characteristically a foreteller. The essence of his office did not lie in what he announced respecting the future. His sole power of declaring that which should be, arose from his knowledge of that which had been and which was. He meditated in the law of the Lord, and in that law did he exercise himself day and night. In this exercise he learnt what was in conformity with the law, what was contrary to it. In this exercise he learnt to believe in a Divine Teacher, and to commune with Him, to believe in Him as a permanent and continual Teacher, as the Guide of his own heart, to believe that all other men’s hearts were right so long as they were under the same guidance, and wrong when they were breaking loose from it. The fruits of revolt, the inward monitor enabled him to foresee and predict. The prediction might take a general form and point to a distant issue, or a number of issues; it might speak of that which was definite and immediate. There would be the same proof in both cases that the word came from a hidden source, and from a moral being; a proof addressed to the conscience of the hearer, seeing that the prediction would always come forth with some warning respecting his actual conduct, some denunciation of an idolatrous or unrighteous act. Everything, then, that was sudden in these utterances, bore witness to previous trains of thought and habits of reflection. So far from wishing to deny the existence of these, as if they interfered with the genuineness of his inspiration, the prophet would be grieved if his hearer did not give him credit for them. The knowledge of passing events, too, would be sought for, not declined, by the true prophet. He had no need to bandage his eyes that the spectator might be sure he derived his insight from some other source than actual observation. All facts were to him signs of a Divine purpose, solemn indications of truths which they could not themselves make known, but which nevertheless lay in the heart of them, and which God could discover to the patient and faithful seeker. Nor can I suppose that the knowledge which the wise king is said to have possessed of trees and plants, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop upon the wall, so far as the means of obtaining it lay within their reach, would have been scorned or scouted by these men of God. They might not have had much of it—probably much less than the soothsayers and magicians of Egypt or Assyria—less, perhaps, of traditional information on such matters than the Phœnician priests of Jezebel’s court. But what they had they would make use of, looking rather to the secret powers of things than to their outward mechanism; referring the former in all cases to the government of a Personal Being; believing that in many, perhaps in most, cases they were subject to man as His vicegerent.
II. Supposing the habitual belief and work of the prophet to have been of this kind, it does not seem very strange that he should have been an educator of others, or that one main object of his education should have been to fit them for the exercise of functions like his own.
It would have been the most glaring contradiction to all his professions if he had regarded the prophetical power as something bestowed for his honour, a gift to separate him from the rest of the people. In a prophet of Baal such an opinion would have been most natural; in a prophet of the Lord God of Israel it would have been most detestable. God had given His law to the whole nation; all were under it; therefore all might study it and delight themselves in it. It was a law which imported a government over the inner man. The conscience and heart and will of every man might be awakened to know the nature of this government, to receive light from the source of light. And since light is given that it may be communicated, since it shines into a mind that it may shine forth from that mind, there was no reason why any one of the Lord’s people should not be prophets. The training of the prophet would teach the king the ground of his authority, his relations to those whom he governed, his responsibility for the government of them. It would teach the elders of the city that they were not to obey the commands of an evil woman when she told them to charge an innocent man with blaspheming God and the king, that she might get possession of his inheritance. It would teach the priests that they were not to pollute the sacrifices of God, or offer them to devils and not to Him. It would teach the owners of the land that the land was held by them of Him who had committed it to them in trust for the good of his whole people. It would teach the seller the sin of having the false measure and the bag of deceitful weights. It would teach the master the sin of oppressing the hireling in his wages. It would teach all that they were the members of one commonwealth, over which a higher than Ahab or Jehoram was ruling, and would set aside their rule to assert his own.
III. The sons of the prophets, then, were a continual witness to the Israelites against certain errors into which they were apt to fall respecting the prophetical office. The man of God might have been looked upon as a mere separate being, cut off by the awfulness of his character and dignity from the rest of his countrymen, an object of distant admiration or dread, not an example of what they ought to be. These men, taken from among themselves and associated with him, declared that he was only withdrawn from their communion that he might the better claim privileges for them which they were in hazard of losing; that he was only chosen out by the Lord God of Israel that he might the more clearly understand their national calling. If he did any strange acts, or put forth any marvellous powers, the people would see that they were exercised not in his own name, but in the name of the Lord God; not for his sake, but for theirs, since some very humble person, scarcely distinguished by a name, known only as one of an order, could perform some of the most important and perilous tasks which were committed to his master. If the sons of the prophets were entrusted with messages like that which one of them bore to Jehu, a proof would be given that the prophet was merely declaring and carrying out a purpose which must be accomplished; he did not go himself to plot against an existing order, or to earn the favour of some particular chieftain. The repeated allusions to these sons of the prophets in the story of Elisha are specially worthy of note, because there are more passages in that story which favour the notion that the man of God is a worker of prodigies and portents, than in all the rest of the Bible. Not that there is any great number of those stories. Open at hazard the life of almost any comspicuous saint in the middle ages, and you will find five miracles attributed to him for one that is given to Elisha. The more strong one’s apprehension is of the degradation of the Israelitish people at that time, of their low sensual idolatry, of their reverence for evil powers, the more one feels how acts of this kind must have been needed to counteract their materialism, to undermine their religion of fraud and hatred, to establish, as no words or arguments could, the proof of an actual and a gracious ruler.
IV. Retribution is the main subject of the Scripture narrative. Elijah had told Ahab that the blood of Naboth would be required of his house. His humiliation had delayed the sentence. His enemy, who had found him out, seems henceforth to have left him alone. Perhaps the great prophet passed the remainder of his own days in peace. But there were other prophets to torment Ahab, and a still greater number, freshly brought, perhaps, by Jezebel from her own land, to deceive him. The lying spirit in their mouths drove him to Ramoth-Gilead, and Israel was left, as Micah had foretold, without a shepherd. His son Joram finds Elisha almost as terrible as his master had been to Ahab. Yet their relations were different. Joram is less of a Baal worshipper than his father. He consults Elisha; is asked by him why he does not go to the prophets of his father and mother; still is promised deliverance and victory in a war which he has undertaken with the Moabites, and is saved not once or twice by the prophet’s knowledge from the Syrians. These enemies of Israel look upon the prophet with especial dread. Once he is surrounded by them; but his servant is permitted to see invisible hosts which are on his side. These visions, Elisha’s acts of power, his words of wisdom, the ruin which threatened the land from the Syrians, its unexpected rescue, are all signs that the God who had made a covenant with their fathers was with the king and the people then. Trust was then, as always, what the prophets demanded of them. They could not trust too boldly or unreservedly. To trust, would have been to repent of the calf worship, to rise out of the brutal habits which it had engendered, to begin a new life as men. But the custom of idolatry had destroyed trust in their hearts. They could only worship and tremble. The sin of the father descended upon the son with the weakness and cowardice, which were the fruits of it, increased tenfold. At the appointed day and hour the vengeance came, by just such an instrument as would seem likeliest to carry it out. Jehu the son of Nimshi had been declared to Elijah as the joint successor with Elisha in the work he had left unperformed. No two men in Israel could have been more unlike. One cried to have a double portion of his master’s spirit, the other was known only as a man who drove furiously. Yet Jehu had the kind of faith which might be expected in a soldier, somewhat reckless, but with his sense of right not quenched by religious falsehood. He had heard the burden which Elijah had pronounced on Ahab as he sat with him on his chariot when they entered the plot of ground that had been Naboth’s. He felt that there was an everlasting truth in the sentence, and that it must come to pass. Who should execute it he did not know then. When the anointing oil of Elisha’s messenger had been poured on his head, and his comrades had cried, “Jehu is king,” all the savage impulses of the soldier became quickened and elevated by the feeling that he was commissioned to punish evildoers, and assert justice. Esteeming himself a scourge of God, and rejoicing in the office, he gives full play to all his bloody instincts.
V. It causes great scandal to many amiable and worthy people, that the Scripture does not stop to comment on the atrocities of Jehu, but appears to commend his zeal, and to rejoice that what he began he accomplished. A true portrait can never be a mischievous one, and this is essentially true. Nothing is said to gloss over the ferocity of Jehu; it is exhibited broadly, nakedly. You do not want words to tell you that you must hate it. Your impulse—and it is a right one—is to do so; but there may be in the most ruffianly and brutal characters, not merely strength, not merely a clear distinct purpose, and a steadiness in following it out, but, along with these, an intense hatred of hypocrisy, a determination to put it down, not for selfish ends, but because it is hateful, which determination is good, and inspired by God. We do not meet with these characters in the world—characters with something devilish, going close beside something which is really divine; and, though the devilish is the obtrusive, and may become the pervading, part of the man’s soul, you cannot help feeling that the other is in the very depth of it, and marks out what he is meant to be, and can be. Honour it; confess that it is not of earthly origin; that it does not spring from any dark root in the selfish nature. Say boldly, “that honesty, that zeal, is from above; it has the sign of a celestial parentage; just so far as that governs him, he will be a servant of his kind; aftertimes will bless him.” But it is also true that the grovelling elements of his character, if they are not destroyed by this nobler fire, will only glare the more fiercely for the light which it sheds upon them, and that soon, when the fire begins to burn low, you will see, instead of that glare, nothing but dull, smouldering ashes. “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord.” It is in the quiet time that a man is tested; then we find out not only what he can do, but what he is; whether his zeal for righteousness means that he will obey it; whether his hatred for what is false implies an adherence to the true. The test in this case failed. Jehu destroyed Baal-worship, for that was foreign. He clave to the calf-worship, for that was the tradition of his fathers; and, therefore, the people went on in the downward course. They sought after evil powers. They could not trust God.
VI. Elisha, the son of Shaphat, and Jehu, the son of Nimshi, did then carry out together the words of the prophet. For these words depended upon no mortal agency. They were the expressions of an eternal law which, in some way or other, would fulfil itself. This is the great lesson which the Bible teaches in every page. The righteous Will moves on steadily and irresistibly towards its own end. The unrighteous will struggles with it, seems to prevail, is broken in pieces; but, seeing that it is Will, and not a blind necessity, which rules in the armies of Heaven and among the inhabitants of men, it is all-important whether those who execute its decrees work in cheerful submission to it, or, in blindness, with base and private designs. This was the great question for the ministers of God’s purpose, whether they were prophets or soldiers, to consider then. It is the great question for us now. Zeal is so precious a gift, is so much wanted for the service of mankind, it is so rare, that the evil spirit is certain to assault those who possess it; and, seeing that, there are a multitude of kindly, compromising men, who represent all energetic indignation against wrong as unnecessary, disturbing, unphilosophical, unchristian, and those who believe that no form of falsehood is to be tolerated, but to be abhorred, are stirred up by the indifference which others exhibit and boast of, to a kind of savageness and fury. They must, if they can, hasten on the purpose of God, and themselves execute part of His wrath. Alas! what are they striving for? “It is the driving of Jehu, for he driveth furiously.” This is the best memorial that will remain of him who has let his zeal become his master, when it was meant to be his servant, and who has counted it a pleasure, instead of a hard necessity, to destroy. “O my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horses thereof!” These are the words which a king of Israel, of Jehu’s house, spoke to Elisha as he lay sick and dying. He felt that a power was passing out of the world which was greater than his and than that of all the kings who had been before him, because it was a power that had, in the main, been consecrated to God, had been used in conformity with His mind, and, therefore, had spread health and peace around it. Was it better to kill the seventy sons of Ahab, or to bring up sons of the prophets? To be the executor of God’s vengeance on the land, or to show that He was the healer of its sicknesses? To make clear that death is the certain wages of sin, or to affirm by acts and words that there is one who raiseth the dead? Which mission was the nobler in the old time? Which must be nobler for those that believe that God gave His only begotten Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved?—Condensed from F. D. Maurice.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 9:1-14. Years had rolled away since Jehu’s meeting with Elijah in the vineyard of Naboth. He was now high in the favour of Ahab’s son, as captain of the host in the Syrian war. In that war of chariots and horses he had acquired an art little practised by the infantry of the ancient Israelites. He was known through the whole army and country for driving his horses like one out of his mind. The army which he commanded was at Ramoth-Gilead. That was still the point round which the interest of the Syrian war revolved. The king himself had been present at the siege, had been in personal danger, and had returned home to Jezreel to be cured of his wounds from the arrows of the Syrian archers. It was in his absence that a young man—said by tradition to be the futurer pophet Jonah, son of the widow of Zarephath—arrived at the camp with a small flask in his hand. His garments were girt round him as of one travelling in haste, and his appearance was wild and excited as of a madman. From the midst of the captains he singled out Jehu. Once more there was a consecrated king of Israel. The oil of inauguration had been poured on the head of Jehu. He was to go forth “the anointed of the Lord” to exterminate the house of Ahab. It was as if a spark had been set to a train long prepared. There was not a moment’s hesitation. The officers tore off their military cloaks and spread them under his feet where he stood on the top of the stairs leading down into the court. As he stood on this extempore throne, with no seat but the steps covered by the carpeting of the square pieces of cloth, they blew the well-known blast of the ram’s horn which always accompanied the inauguration of a king of Israel. From this moment the course of Jehu is fixed. The destiny long brooding over him—the design perhaps raised in his own mind from the day when he had first met Elijah—is to be accomplished.—Stanley’s Jewish Church.
2 Kings 9:1-10. The service of God and the young. I. The service of God is the highest service to which youth can be consecrated. II. The service of God teaches the young to reverence and obey the aged good. III. The service of God familiarises the youthful mind with the procedures of Divine justice and equity. IV. The service of God employs youth in enterprises involving great risk and difficulty. V. The service of God teaches youth to act with discretion, rapidity, and decision.
2 Kings 9:1. Old Elisha hath neither cottage nor foot of land, yet, sitting in an obscure corner, he gives orders for kingdoms, not by way of authority—this usurpation had been no less proud than unjust—but by way of message from the God of kings. Even a mean herald may go on a great errand. The prophets of the gospel have nothing to do but with spiritual kingdoms, to beat down the kingdoms of sin and Satan, to translate souls to the kingdom of heaven. He that renewed the life of the Shunammite’s son must stoop to age: that block lies in his way to Jehu. The aged prophet employs a speedier messenger, who must also gird up his loins for haste. No common pace will serve us when we go on God’s message; the loss of minutes may be unrecoverable. He is prodigal of his success that is slow in his execution.
2 Kings 9:3. How is it that of all the kings of the ten tribes none was ever anointed but Jehu? Is it that the God who would not countenance the erection of that usurped throne would countenance the alteration? Or is it that by this visible testimony of Divine ordination the courage of the Israelitish captains might be raised up to second the high and bold attempt of him whom they saw destined from heaven to rule?—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:4-10. The prophet disciple. I. His mission. He is one of the humblest in Samaria, a poor insignificant boy, and he carries a kingdom to Ramoth! How great the Lord appears in this incident, but also with what cutting irony He meets all the arrogance of the self-made gods of earth! II. His obedience. He raises no objections, though the task is hard for him. He is to go into a besieged city, to go before the generals of the army, to put his life and liberty at stake. Yet he goes with no sword at his side; without a companion he ventures into the army of the king to anoint another to be king. All human scruples and fears disappear before the duty of obedience. In obedience he does not fear, and lets not danger terrify him. III. His fidelity. He does no more and no less than he is demanded. He has a great commission entrusted to him, but he does not boast. He keeps the secret, and departs as he came. He does not care what may be thought of him, or what people may say, whether they think him a mad fellow or not. So the apostles also carried the secrets of God out into the wide world, and had no other interest than that they might be found true.—Lange.
2 Kings 9:5. The Divine message of mercy. I. Is entrusted to the earnest and faithful, notwithstanding their youth. II. Is often delivered under circumstances of difficulty and peril. III. Is suited to all classes of society. IV. Is personal and direct in its application: “To thee, O captain!”
2 Kings 9:7-10. Oh, the sure, though the patient justice of the Almighty! Not only Ahab and Jezebel had been bloody and idolatrous, but Israel was drawn into the partnership of their crimes: all these shall share in the judgment. Elijah’s complaint in the cave now receives this late answer. Hazeal shall plague Israel, Jehu shall plague the house of Ahab and Jezebel. Elisha’s servant thus seconds Elisha’s master. Ahab’s drooping under the threat hath put off the judgment from his own days; now it comes and sweeps away his wife, his issue, and falls heavy upon his subjects. Please yourselves, O ye vain sinners! in the slow pace of vengeance; it will be neither less certain nor more easy for the delay; rather it were to pay for that leisure in the extremity.—Bp. Hall.
—The world of to-day will not hear that “the Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries,” and declares that this is only an Old Testament notion, and that the Gospel knows only one God, who is a God of love. It is true that God does not seek revenge, but he is a holy, and therefore a just God. who requites men as they have deserved, and repays each according to his conduct (Job 34:2; Romans 2:6). A God without vengeance, who cannot and will not punish, is no God, but a divinity fashioned from one’s thoughts. The same gospel that teaches that God is love, says also, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and “Our God is a consuming fire.” The same law which says that God is an avenging God towards His enemies, also says that “He is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”
2 Kings 9:7. The Divine concern for the martyrs. I. Sustains them in times of trial and suffering. II. Elevates them to sublime examples of heroism and devotion. III. Punishes their tormentors with terrible retribution.
—“The blood of thy servants.” Listen! He has indeed permitted them to lay violent hands upon His servants, but He has not overlooked or forgotten it. Nothing cleaves more irresistibly up through the clouds than the voice of the blood of persecuted saints. Nothing is better adapted to pour oil upon the flames of the Divine wrath against the godless than the sighs which their cruelty forces from a child of God. The blood of the saints has often cried from earth to heaven, and what judgments it has called down! Let the persecutors of all centuries appear and bear witness. Nebuchadnezzer, Belshazzar, Herod, Agrippa, Nero, Inquisitors of Spain, the Louises of France, Charles IX.—bear witness all what a dangerous thing it is to lay hands upon the saints of the Most High! This is not the only instance where God has raised the destroying axe over a dynasty which was morally rotten. He often makes use of royal families which have fallen into moral decay for the discipline of nations, but the time never fails to come when He passes sentence of destruction upon them, and brings speedy ruin upon the condemned. A family tree does not stand firm in gilded parchments and registers: only when it is planted by the waters which flow from the sanctuary of God will it continue to flourish vigorously.—Krumm.
2 Kings 9:10. Work for God.
1. Should be entered upon with due preparation.
2. Should be done expeditiously.
3. Should be left to work its own results.
2 Kings 9:11. “Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee?” Religious zeal. I. Obtains its purest inspirations from the love of God and of His service. II. Often leads the messenger of God to adopt methods which are misunderstood by the world. III. Is regarded by the unbelieving and unspiritual as a species of insanity.
—So God’s prophets were ever counted and called by the mad world, always beside itself in point of salvation (Jeremiah 29:26; Hosea 9:7; Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13). These profane ruffians could not name such a one without a flout, because the prophets declaimed against their wickedness, and contemned the world’s vanities which they so much esteemed. But though their tongues thus spake after the wicked guise of it, miscalling the prophet’s innocency, yet their desire to know what he said and did, did abundantly show what credit they gave him secretly; and after, they made him king whom that fellow had anointed, to the hazard of their own lives. God giveth a secret authority to His despised servants, so as they which hate their persons, yet reverence their truth; even very scorners cannot but believe them.—Trapp.
2 Kings 9:12. If the generals, when they heard that God had anointed Jehu to be king, hastened, spread out their garments, and shouted, “Jehu is king,” how much more should all shout Hosanna to Him whom God hath anointed with the Holy Ghost, and has seated Him at His right hand in heaven, who will rule until He has subdued all enemies under his feet.
2 Kings 9:13. Their readiness in throwing off their allegiance to Jehoram is something remarkable. But it was known that the house of Ahab was in the present generation doomed to extinction. This was a thing people were not likely to forget. It was known that Elisha, who had sent this man, was a commissioned prophet, authorised to declare the will of the Lord, who had reserved the right of appointing whom he saw fit to the kingdom. And it is probable that the military were dissatisfied with the rule of a house so completely under the influence of one bad woman, and the errors and crimes of which had first and last brought so much discredit upon the nation. Add to this, that in the absence of a fixed succession to a throne which so many aspiring adventurers have already won, loyalty sits but lightly upon the soldiery; and they are very prone to vote a popular commander into the throne when it becomes vacant, or even to make it vacant for him.—Kitto.
2 Kings 9:14. There are few persons in the sacred history who have been so variously judged as Jehu. To some he is a stirrer up of rebellion and a bloody despot; others see in him a pure and unimpeachable servant of the Lord. Both equally err, for both depart alike from what the sacred record declares, and all depends, especially in the case of Jehu, on allowing ourselves to be led simply by the record. If we restrict ourselves to what is said in this chapter, this much is certain, that he did not make himself king. There is not a word to justify the suspicion that he plotted and conspired before he was anointed king; on the contrary, the story shows clearly that the prophetical calling to be king surprised and astonished him, and also that his fellow-commanders knew nothing of it. He ought not, therefore, to be put in the same category with Baasha, Zimri, Shallum, Menakem, Pekah, and Hoshea, who, instigated by ambition, without authority and in self-will, took the royal power into their hands. He was called to be king by the prophet, by the name of Jehovah. The explanation of the selection of just this man as the instrument for the destruction of the house of Ahab, and for the uprooting of idolatry, is found in the fact that at that time there was scarcely a man who united, as he did, all the necessary qualifications. In the first place, Jehu was a decided opponent of idolatry, and of the abuses which were connected with it (2 Kings 9:22). He was a man of the greatest energy. Pushing onward with boldness and enterprise, decided and pitiless, he shrank back before no difficulty (2 Kings 9:20; 2 Kings 9:24; 2 Kings 9:32). Moreover, he did not lack prudence or wisdom (2 Kings 9:11; 2 Kings 9:15; 2 Kings 9:18). Finally, he stood high in the popular esteem as a military leader. We see from the joy with which his fellow-commanders caught up his nomination and anointment, and from the readiness with which they obeyed his commands, that he enjoyed their fullest confidence (2 Kings 9:14-16). It is true that his subsequent conduct is fierce and soldier-like; that was the natural product of his character, calling, and education.—Lange.
—So much credit hath that mad fellow with these gallants of Israel, that upon his word they will presently adventure their lives and change the crown. God gives a secret authority to His despised servants, so as they which hate their person, yet reverence their truth; even very scorners cannot but believe them. If, when the prophets of the Gospel tell us of a spiritual kingdom, they be distrusted of those which profess to observe them, how shameful is the disproportion—how just shall their judgment be!—Bp. Hall.
—If we see here, and in the succeeding chapters, the horrors of revolution on the one hand, none the less do we see when and how revolution becomes a terrible necessity. All authority is a means, not an end. It is established, recognised, and obeyed because it serves those ends. Its rights and privileges are correlative with duties, obligations, and responsibilities, viz., to accomplish the objects for which it was created. Its claims to obedience stand and fall with its fidelity in fulfilling its trust. If it fails in this, if it goes farther, and in the pursuit of its selfish aims and the gratification of its own self-will, threatens to crush and ruin the very interests it was created to serve, the time comes when obedience ceases to be a virtue, and becomes complicity in a crime. In the absence of prophetical authority to fix the time and designate the leaders for renouncing allegiance, it is difficult to see who is to judge of these, save the nation whose interests are at stake.—Editor of Lange.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 9:21. Each in his chariot went out against Jehu—Rather, to meet Jehu. They would not have ridden out in royal equipages for a hostile attack on him. This self-indulgent king, who had been idling in his summer palace with Ahaziah, now found himself well enough to exert himself.
2 Kings 9:22. Is it peace, Jehu?—Anxiety in the enquiry; fear of bad tidings as to the war, or of conspiracy against himself. What peace, so long as, &c.—Such a rebuke from a subject would at once convey to Joram Jehu’s revolt. Her witchcrafts are so many—Her many witchcrafts continue נְכו נִים, spiritual whoredom, idolatry, and כְּשׁפַים magical incantations, witchcrafts in general.
2 Kings 9:25. Remember how … the Lord laid this burden upon him—Or “took up this oracle concerning him.” A divine sentence against a person or place is commonly called “a burden” (Isaiah 13:1, &c.) משָׂא means burden; something uttered, a sentence; and נָשָׂא means to take up, lift up; hence גָשָׂא מַשָּׂא אַל took up a sentence or oracle. Jehu and his lieutenant were together in Ahab’s retinue, and overheard the prophet’s sentence.
2 Kings 9:27. Smite him also in the chariot—After these words there is an omission in the MS., which is, however, naturally supplied by inserting the verb of execution, וַיַּכֻּהוּ.
2 Kings 9:30. Jezebel painted her face and tired her head—i.e., decorated herself royally, brightening her eyes, or darkening her eyelids with antimony or lead-ore powder, and building up her head adornments, or put on her crown. Her object was surely less to captivate Jehu than to overawe him with her majesty as queen.
2 Kings 9:31. Had Zimri peace—Warning Jehu of a like fate (1 Kings 16:10-18).—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 9:15-37
THE TERRIBLE WORK OF REVENGE
I. Is entered upon with prudence and decision.
1. The avenger secures a powerful following. “If it be your minds, let none tell it in Jezreel” (2 Kings 9:15). This politic appeal to the army gained its purpose. The brother-officers of Jehu were fully committed to the new order of things, and there was no drawing back. With the army devoted to his cause, Jehu was prepared to carry out his work of vengeance without faltering. It is folly to attempt any enterprise involving risk and difficulty without the most careful and judicious preparation.
2. The avenger acts with promptness and energy (2 Kings 9:16-19). Jehu mounts his chariot and drives towards Jezreel, determined to be the first to confront the deposed king. The messengers sent out by Joram are detained prisoners. Still uncertain of the purpose of Jehu, the two kings drive out of the city to meet him, little dreaming of the fate that awaited them; and there is surely something specially ominous in the fact, mentioned in the narrative with such severe and artless simplicity, that they “meet him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite” (2 Kings 9:21). The rapidity and decisiveness of Jehu’s movements gave no opportunity to his victims to protect themselves. They were at once placed in his power. The man of promptness and decision has the advantage in every enterprise.
II. Is committed to one who is every way fitted to carry it out. “The driving is the driving of Jehu, for he driveth furiously” (2 Kings 9:20). In this one reference we have the key to Jehu’s character, a man who having once made up his mind to a certain course, will pursue it with a wild, reckless, madcap energy, utterly indifferent to all sentiment and feeling. It was horrible work that Jehu had to do. An ordinary man would have recoiled from it with fear and loathing. Jehu was cautious, crafty, and perhaps slow in committing himself to a certain course of action; but having done so, he prosecuted it with a hot, hasty, and unrelenting energy, unmoved either by pity or fear. “He did not shrink from difficulties, did not hesitate at harsh means of accomplishing his purpose, did not feel pity in striking down those who stood in his way, did not leave behind him anything that might, at a later time, rise up to mar or overthrow his work. His is not a lovely character. It does not present the amiable virtues—patience, pity, mercy, kindness. It is not a character to be imitated in modern civilised life; neither ought it to be measured or judged by the standards of a society trained to peace and order, fearful of revolution and encased in law. In the providence of God suchmen are often raised up for great crises in church and state. The man is swallowed up in the movement. His personal virtues and faults are lost sight of in the stormy, tumultuous crises in which he lived. He was needed and was called; he responded and accomplished his calling well. That is his place in the history, and that is the judgment on his career.”
III. Falls upon the leading representatives of the wickedness to be punished (2 Kings 9:22-35). Joram, Ahaziah, Jezebel—a royal trio—representatives of the idolatrous curse that had blighted both Israel and Judah, and brought down the judgment of heaven. Jezebel, whose end was so ignominious, and which is described with such dramatic vigour, was at the roof of the nation’s apostasy, and her crimes hastened the catastrophe. Joram, though taking his part in war, as his wound testified, appears in general “in the light of an oriental monarch, indolent, careless, luxurious, fond of ease. His death fulfilled a malediction upon his father. Ahaziah seems to have been one of those weak men who float on in the direction which their education and family traditions have given them. He followed the family traditions down to the family ruin. The two kings appear to be to a great extent the victims of the sins of their ancestors; and as Jezebel had controlled Ahab, we are led back to her as the origin of all this individual, family, and national calamity. She was one of those strong, bold, wicked women who have played such important roles in history. By Ahab’s marriage with this woman, the licentiousness of the worship of Baal and Astarte, the freedom of manners of the Phœnician court, the luxury and sensuality of the heathen nations, were imported into Israel. It became her aim to override and destroy all that was peculiar and national in Israel, but in so doing she was contravening all that belonged to and sustained God’s plan for Israel in human history. She braved the conflict, and re-asserted it in her last hour; and she and her descendants went down in the catastrophe” (Editor of Lange). The stroke of God’s vengeance never misses its object, and never mistakes its victim. The leaders of iniquity are sure to be smitten.
IV. Fulfils the Divine word with significant exactitude (2 Kings 9:36-37). Fifteen years had passed away since Elijah prophesied—“The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:23); and now the Divine word is fulfilled with such precision that the body of the proud, luxurious Jezebel is not recognizable—not a vestige is left but a few bones. “Though so great a woman by her birth, connexions, and alliances, she has not the honour of a tomb. There was not even a solitary stone to say, Here lies Jezebel! not even a mound of earth to designate the place of her sepulture! Judgment is God’s strange work; but when he contends, how terrible are His judgments!” Thrones totter and fall, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever.
1. The triumph of iniquity is short-lived.
2. Jehovah is slow to punish, but when he does so it is with terrible severity.
3. The threatenings of God should lead to repentance and reformation; if disregarded and defied, ruin is inevitable.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 9:15. Jehu is no less subtle than valiant. He knew that the notice of this unexpected change might work a busy and dangerous resistance. He therefore gives order that no messenger of the news may anticipate his personal execution, that so he might surprise Jehoram in his palace of Jezreel, whether tending his late wounds, or securely feasting his friends, and dreaming of nothing less than danger. Secresy is the safest guard of any design. Disclosed projects are either frustrated, or made needlessly difficult.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:17-20.—The minister of God’s word, a watchman.
1. He occupies an elevated and conspicuous position.
2. He keeps a vigilant lookout.
3. He is quick to discern the signs of the times.
4. He is faithful in reporting what is good, and in warning of coming danger.
5. He has keen insight into character, and the tendency of human conduct.
2 Kings 9:17. There was usually in ancient times a watch-tower over the royal residence, where a man was always stationed, night and day, to keep a good look-out in all directions from which any sort of tidings might be expected. What he beheld that he deemed of any consequence, he declared below in the courts of the palace.
The Agamemnon of Æschylus opens with the soliloquy of such a watchman—
For ever thus? O keep me not, ye gods,
For ever thus, fixed in the lonely tower
Of Atreus’ Palace, from whose height I gaze
O’er-watched and weary, like a night-dog still
Fixed to my post; meanwhile the rolling year
Moves on, and I my wakeful vigils keep
By the cold star-light sheen of spangled skies.
In the present case, the frequency of reports from the seat of war, and the king’s desire for intelligence, naturally kept the attention of the watchman much in that direction.—Kitto.
2 Kings 9:20. Reckless drivers. “Like the driving of Jehu, for he driveth furiously.” By the flash of that one sentence, we discover Jehu’s character. He came with such speed, not merely because he had an erraud to do, but because he was urged on by a headlong disposition, which had won him the name of a reckless driver, even among the watchmen. The chariot plunges until you almost expect the wheels to crash under it, or some of the princely party to be thrown out, or the horses to become utterly unmanageable. But he always goes so; and he becomes a type of that class of persons to be found in all the communities, who in worldly and religious affairs may be styled reckless drivers.
I. To this class belong all those who conduct their worldly affairs in a headlong way, without any regard to prudence or righteousness. Many a man sits in his pew on Sunday night, and sings Rock of Ages, and rolls up his eyes very piously, who, on coming out at the close of the service, shuts the pew-door and says, “Good-bye religion, I will be back next Sunday!” A religion that does not work all the week, as well as on Sunday, is no religion at all. There are to-day in our midst, many of our best citizens who have come from affluence into straightened circumstances, because there was a partner in their firm, or a cashier in their bank, or an agent representing their house, or one of the largest creditors, who, like Jehu, the son of Nimshi, was a furious driver. Once in a while a swindler is arrested, and if the case be too notoriously flagrant, the culprit is condemned, but the officials having him in charge must take the express train, and get to Sing Sing in briefest time, or the governor’s pardon gets there before him. We have feet of lightning when we get on the track of a woman who has stolen a paper of pins, or a freezing man who has abstracted a scuttle of coals; but when we go out in pursuit of some man who has struck down the interests of a hundred, and goes up along the Hudson to build his mansion, the whole city hangs on our skirts, crying, “Don’t you hurt him!” If a teamster, passing down the street, dashes heedlessly along and runs down a child, the authorities catch him; but for the reckless commercial drivers, who stop not for the rights of others, and who dash on to make their fortunes over the heads of innocence, virtue, and religion—no chastisements. When I see in the community men with largo incomes, but larger outgoes, rushing into wildest undertakings, their pockets filled with circulars about gold in Canada, and lead in Missouri, and fortunes everywhere, launching out in expenditures to be met by the thousands they expect to make, with derision dashing across the path of sober men, depending upon their industry and honour for success, I say, “Here he comes, the son of Nimshi, driving furiously.”
II. Now you may, in worldly affairs, be cautious, true, honourable, and exemplary; but all those who are speeding towards eternity without preparation—flying with the years, and the months, and the weeks, and the days, and the moments, and the seconds, towards an unalterable destiny, yet uncertain as to where they speed, are reckless drivers. What would you think of a stage-driver with six horses and twenty passengers, in the midnight, when it is so dark that you cannot see your hand before your face, dashing at full run over bridges, and along by dangerous precipices? Such a man is prudent, compared with one who, amid the perils of this life, dashes on towards an unknown eternity, not knowing where he goes. If, in driving, you come to the forks of a road, and one goes to the right, and the other to the left, you stop and make enquiry as to which road you ought to take. Tonight, you have come to the forks of a road. One leads to heaven, and the other to hell. Which road will you take? I see multitudes of people who do not even stop at the forks to make enquiry. The coursers behind which they go are panting with the speed, nostrils distended, foam dropping from the bit and whitening the flanks, but still urged on with lash, and shout, and laughter; the reins undrawn, the embankments unwatched, the speed unnoticed. Alas, for the reckless drivers! They may after awhile see the peril and seize the reins, and lay back with all their might, and put on the brakes, and cry for help until the hands are numb, and their eyes start from their sockets, and the breath stops, and the heart chills, as over the rocks they plunge, courser and chariot and horsemen tumbling in long resounding crash of ruin.
III. Some are drawn along by sinful pleasures—a wild team that ran away with all who have persisted in riding behind them. Once fully under way, no sawing of the bit can stop them. They start at every sudden sight or sound, and where it needs a slow step and great care, they go with bound terrific. Their eyes are a flame with terrors, and their hoofs red with the blood of men whose life they have dashed out, and, what is worse, the drivers scourge them into more furious speed. We come out and tell them of dangers ahead, but with jeer they pass on. The wild team smoke with the speed, and their flying feet strike fire, and the rumbling of swift wheels over rotten bridges that span awful chasms is answered by the rumbling of the heavens, “Because I called and ye refused, and stretched out my hands and no man regarded, therefore I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh!” When this world gets full power over a man, he might as well be dead—he is dead! When Sisera came into the house of Jael, she gave him something to drink, and got him asleep on the floor. Then she took a peg from the side of her tent, and a mallet, and drove the peg through the brain of Jael into the floor. So the world feeds a man, and when it has him sound asleep, strikes his life out. Perhaps there are some who say, “Would God I could stop my bad practices! But I cannot stop. I know that I am on the wrong road, and that I have been a reckless driver; but I try to rein in my swift appetites, yet they will not heed.” I tell such that there is an Almighty hand which can pull back these wild racers. He whose beck the stars answer, and at whose mandate the chariots of heaven come and go, is more than a master for these temptations. Helpless yourself, and unable to guide these wild coursers, give Jesus Christ the reins; mighty to save unto the uttermost. Better stop now. Some years ago near Princetown, New Jersey, some young men were skating on a pond around an air-hole, and the ice began to break in. Some of them stopped, but a young man said, “I am not afraid, give us one round more!” He swung nearly round, when the ice broke, and not until next day was his lifeless body found.—Talmage.
—Impetuosity of disposition.
1. A valuable power when used in a good cause.
2. Should be under control without being utterly crushed.
3. Absolutely necessary to accomplish certain results.
4. May hurry one into dangerous excesses.
—Dilatory and careless people do not accomplish anything. Only diligent and energetic persons succeed. Test thyself to see what spirit moves thee. The right motive power is the Holy Spirit, which never guides to folly. One may conduct spiritual affairs and manage the concerns of the kingdom of God with folly, want of judgment, and heat (Romans 10:2). Those only are children of God who are moved by the spirit of God (Romans 8:14).—Osiander.
2 Kings 9:21-37. A terrible day of judgment.
1. It comes with awful suddenness.
2. It brings destruction to three notable monarchs when they little expected.
3. It is irresistible, and leaves no possible way of escape.
4. It fulfils and confirms the Divine threatenings.
2 Kings 9:22-23. Wicked tyrant! What speakest thou of peace with men, when thou hast thus long waged war with the Almighty? That cursed mother of thine hath nursed thee with blood and trained thee up in abominable idolatries. Thou art not more hers than her sin is thine; thou art polluted with her spiritual whoredoms and enchanted with her hellish witchcrafts. Now that just God, whom thou and thy parents have so heinously despised, sends thee by me this last message of His vengeance, which, while he spake, his hand is drawing up that deadly arrow which shall cure the former wounds with a worse. Too late now doth wretched Jehoram turn his chariot and flee and cry, Treason, O Ahaziah! There was treason before, O Jehoram! Thy treason against the majesty of God is now revenged by the treason of Jehu against thee.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:22. “Is it peace?” So it is to-day also: a false peace is demanded of those who are sent to make known the stern truth, in order that hoary evils may not be exposed. Those who have not true peace, generally want an external, shameful peace at any price (Ezekiel 13:16). Ask thyself first of all, “Is there peace in thy heart?” and seek peace from Him who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). There can be no lasting peace where there is apostasy from the living God and His word; there licentiousness, injustice, tyranny, strife, and war, with all their attendant miseries and horrors, must come. Though His sword rests for a time, yet it does not rest in its scabbard.—Lange.
2 Kings 9:23-29. The death of the kings of Israel and Judah. It was sudden, unforeseen, and fell upon them in their security and blindness. The proverb applies to Ahaziah: “Hunt with the fox, and you will be hung with him.” Refrain from bad companions, if thou wouldst not be punished with them. The one is thrown upon Naboth’s field, and left without a grave; the other is brought indeed to the sepulchre of his fathers, but what is the use of a royal sepulchre to him who has lost his soul?—Wurt. Summ.
2 Kings 9:25-26. The inflexible exactitude of retribution.
1. Is not affected by the changes of time.
2. Is the operation of a Divine law which is startlingly minute in its application.
3. Makes the place of the sin the place of the punishment. “I will requite thee in this plat.”
4. Should lead the evil-doer to pause and think.
—How just are the judgments of God! It was in the field of Naboth wherein Jehoram met with Jehu; that very ground called to him for blood. And now this new avenger remembers that prophecy which he heard out of the mouth of Elijah in that very place, following the heels of Ahab, and is careful to perform it. Little did Jehu think, when he heard that message of Elijah, that his hands should act it. Now, as zealous of accomplishing the word of a prophet, he gives charge to Bidkar his captain that the bleeding carcase of Jehoram should be cast upon that very plat of Naboth. O Naboth’s blood well paid for! Ahab’s blood is licked by dogs in the very place where those dogs licked Naboth’s.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:25. Jehu remembers, and in substance repeats, the word of the Lord by Elijah (1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 21:29), and, conscious that he himself is the minister of judgment, he fulfils the word of the Lord. “This,” says Kitto, “completes the first act of this awful tragedy, which reads like the old Greek dramas—but far less old than this—of accomplished fate. The appointed executer of the doom was himself the witness of its being imposed. All is complete.”
2 Kings 9:27. The danger of evil associations.
1. Begets a distaste to that which is good.
2. Leads to apostasy from God, and to excesses of wickedness at one time indignantly deemed impossible.
3. Results in suffering and premature death.
2 Kings 9:30-37. What does the frightful end of Jezebel teach?
1. The transitoriness and nothingness of human might and glory. Jezebel relies upon her might. Before her the people tremble. She controlled and directed three kings. She raged against all who did not submit unconditionally to her will. Now she lies, thrown down from her height, like dung upon the field, so that no one could say, “That is the great and mighty queen Jezebel.”
2. The certainty of Divine retribution. Jezebel was an enemy of the living God and of His word. She seduced old and young to apostasy. She persecuted all who still held firmly to Jehovah. Her terrible end proves that such a temper is certainly punished. Her end has no parallel in Israelitish history. It calls aloud to all unto this day, “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness” (Jeremiah 22:13), and it is a pledge of the truth of this assertion, “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked Psalms 91:8).—Lange.
2 Kings 9:30-35. Jezebel: the ignominious fall of pride and beauty.
1. The proud queen, defiant to the last, decks herself with ornaments, not hoping to captivate the impetuous Jehu with the charms of her beauty, but to awe him into submission by her imperious assumption of royal state and authority.
2. Her untamed, undaunted spirit is evident in the stinging reproof she uttered to Jehu as soon as he came within earshot, and which she seemed almost to hiss between her clenched teeth—“Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?” This is her last glory, to remind her enemy of the fate of one who had, like him, usurped the royal power, and killed his king, and, as Kitto says, “to cast one bitter burning word upon the head of the destroyer, such as should haunt and scorch him all his life.” But Jehu was not the man to be intimidated by words, though such fierce expressive words, and from the lips of such a woman.
3. She is instantly deserted and betrayed by those she considered her obsequious and obedient slaves. At the word of command, which they saw it was dangerous to disobey, her decked and painted body is ignominiously flung out of the window, dashed to the ground, and the last spark of life crushed out of it by the horses and chariot of the furious driver, the blood of the royal victim splashing against the wall, and sprinkling the horses. “This is one of the most terribly vivid and fearful pictures in all the annals of tragedy.”
4. Her body is left to be devoured by the pariah dogs, is denied even common sepulture, and, in a short time—quicker than it takes the king to banquet—a few bones are all that is left of the once imperious, queenly, but cruel and idolatrous Jezebel.
—The tidings of the revolution under Jehu, and of the death of Joram, spread with the greatest rapidity throughout Jezreel, and quickly reached the ears of the haughty Jezebel. One would suppose that, on hearing it, she would have trembled with terror, and gone to hide herself in some dark recess of the palace; but her fierce, masculine, vindictive spirit asserts its pre-eminence to the very last, and if she has to perish with the rest of Ahab’s house, she resolves to die the regal mistress she had lived.—Whedon.
2 Kings 9:30. How accurately this description fits many of her sex. The highest occupation they can conceive of is to adorn themselves, to conquer, and produce effects. Thou fool! If God demands thy soul of thee to-day, what shall all paint and powder upon the face avail before Him who tries the heart and the reins? Can velvet and silk cover thine inner stains (Isaiah 3:16)? There could be no sterner reproof of vanity, pride, and coquetry, and no more severe warning to take to heart the apostle’s words (1 Peter 3:3) than the fate of Jezebel. Lange.
—Who would not have looked that Jezebel, hearing of this bloody end of her son and pursuit of her ally, and the fearful proceedings of this prosperous conspiracy, should have put herself into sackcloth and ashes; and now, finding no means either of defence or escape, should have cast herself into such a posture of humiliation as might have moved the compassion of Jehu? Her proud heart could not suddenly learn to stoop; rather she recollects her high spirits, and, instead of humbling her soul by repentance, and addressing herself for an imminent death, she paints her face, and, as one that vainly hopes to daunt the courage of an usurper by the sudden beams of majesty, she looks out and thinks to fright him with the challenge of a traitor, whose either mercy or justice could not be avoided. Extremity finds us such as our peace leaves us. Our last thoughts are spent upon that we most care for. Those that have regarded their face more than their soul, in their latter end are more taken up with desire of seeming fair than being happy. It is no marvel if a heart, obdured by the custom of sin, shut up gracelessly. Counterfeit beauty agrees well with inward uncleanness:—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:31. Who can be more perverse and pitiful than a man who boasts and puts on airs in the very face of death, and passes out of the world with abuse and insults against God, instead of begging for pity, and crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Jezebel, who murdered the prophets, and Naboth, who revolted against the Lord of heaven and earth, calls Jehu a murderer and a rebel. The blind and stubborn human heart always finds in others just those sins of which it is itself guilty in a far higher degree.—Lange.
2 Kings 9:34. This scene of hilarity and cheer in the midst of such fearful bloodshed makes one shudder. But the minister of doom to Ahab’s guilty house must needs be such a one as Jehu. Tenderness and sympathy would unfit the avenger of blood for his work of death. Not till after his feast does Jehu reflect that so much royalty and greatness have fallen. He had left the mangled corpse of the once mighty Jezebel on the mounds of offal outside the gate, a prey to the dogs which in the East ever prowl about such spots.—Whedon.
2 Kings 9:35. The vanity of human greatness. I. Its external splendours fade. II. Its wicked and ambitious schemes are overthrown. III. Its boasted and bewitching beauty is represented at last by a few revolting fragments.
—In illustration of this shocking end of the corpse of Jezebel, it remains to remark that the more than half-wild street dogs of the East, living upon their own resources, and without owners, soon make a rapid clearance of the flesh of dead bodies left exposed, whether of human creatures or beasts. An Eastern traveller, describing the remains of some human bodies that had been devoured by dogs, says: “The only portion of the several corpses I noticed that remained entire and untouched, were the bottoms of the feet, and the insides of the hands; a proof of the rooted antipathy the dog has to prey upon the human hands and feet.” Dr. Thomson supposes that the dogs under Jezebel’s palace may have been taught to devour the wretched victims of her cruelty, in which case the retribution would be remarkably striking.
—The dogs have anticipated Jehu in his purpose, and have given Jezebel a living tomb, more ignoble than the worst of the earth. Only the skull, hands, and feet remain—the skull, which was the roof of all her wicked devices; the hands and feet, which were the executioners—these shall remain as the monuments of those shameful exequies, that future times, seeing these fragments of a body, might say: “The dogs were worthy of the rest.” Thus Jezebel is turned to dung and dog’s meat, Elijah is verified, Naboth is revenged, Jezreel is purged, Jehu is zealous. and, in all, God is just.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 9:36-37. The infallibility of the Divine word.
1. Seen in the precision with which its threatenings are fulfilled.
2. Is acknowledged and declared by those who are called to carry out its threats.
3. Is as precise and full in the fulfilment of its promises of blessing.
—The story of the end of Jezebel is given with particular detail, because therein the prophet’s threat was fulfilled with especial frightfulness. As the sin of the house, Ahab was represented to the fullest extent in Jezebel, the originator and patroness of idolatry, so her terrible end forms the crisis of the Divine punishment. Ahaziah is fatally wounded, and dies in a strange place. Joram falls dead, pierced through the heart; but is thrown upon the field of Naboth, and not buried. Jezebel is thrown down from the window by her own attendants; as she lies weltering in her own blood, she is trodden under foot by horses, and the corpse lies unburied, “like dung upon the fields.” She appears here, in her last moments, such as she had ever been—proud and impudent—arrogant and domineering—defiant and insolent. She places herself at the window, painted and grandly dressed, and presumes upon her assumed majesty. Instead of recognising in the judgment which is failing upon her house the just recompense for her misdeeds, instead of sucing for grace, she, who had shed so much innocent blood, and had exalted herself against the God of Israel, insults the instrument of the Divine vengeance as a murderer and a traitor, demands that he shall submit to her, and threatens him, relying upon her imagined power, with destruction if he persists. Just here, judgment overtakes her; her nearest attendants forsake the hated queen, and hurl her down from her position. She does not reach the rest of the grave, and remains, even in death, marked with infamy for all time—a proof of the truth of the words: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”—Lange.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18