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2 Kings 9:1-37
THE ANOINTING OF JEHU. His MURDER OF JEHORAM AND AHAZIAH. THE DEATH OF JEZEBEL.
2 Kings 9:1-10
Elisha is still the primary figure in the historical drama; but at this point his personality merges in the general account of the kingdom of Israel, which it is one of the objects of the writer to trace from beginning to end. Elisha here performs his last public act, being commissioned, and carrying out his commission, to transfer the kingdom of Israel from the unworthy dynasty of Omri, which on account of its persistent idolatry has fallen under Divine condemnation, to a new dynasty, that of Jehu, which will, at any rate, check the worst excesses of the prevalent idolatrous system, and maintain the Jehovah-worship as the religion of the state. The position recalls that of Saul and David at the original institution of the monarchy, but has many special points which differentiate it from that conjuncture. The circumstances called on Jehu for prompt action; there was no such immediate call upon David. Jehu's public proclamation as king laid him open to a charge of high treason; David's secret anointing placed him in no such danger. History never repeats itself exactly, and its events have severally to be judged by a consideration of all their circumstances, without much reference to any former quasi-parallel historical passage.
2 Kings 9:1-10
The anointing of Jehu.
2 Kings 9:1
And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets; i.e. one of the students in one of the prophetical schools which he superintended. There is no indication that the individual chosen for the mission stood to Elisha in any peculiar relation. A rabbinical fancy, scarcely to be called a tradition, makes him "Jonah, the son of Amittai." And said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil; rather, this flask of oil. Oil and ointments were commonly kept in open-mouthed jars, vases, or bottles, made of stone, glass, or alabaster, as appears from the remains found in Egypt and Assyria. Many of the bottles are earlier than the time of Elisha. In thine hand, and go to Ramoth-Gilead. Ramoth-Gilead lay across the Jordan, in the proper territory of Gad. It had been seized and occupied by the Syrians in the reign of Ahab; and the possession had been maintained till recently. Joram, however, had recovered it (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 9.6. § 1, Ἤδη γὰρ αὐτὴν ἡρήκει κατὰ κράτος), and had left a strong garrison in the place when he retired to Jezreel.
2 Kings 9:2
And when thou comest thither, look out Share Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi. Jehu had been in a high position under Ahab (2 Kings 9:25), and had been pointed out to Elijah, by Divine revelation, as the future King of Israel (1 Kings 19:16). Elijah had been bidden to anoint him king, but apparently had neglected to do so, or rather had devolved the task upon his successor. Meantime Jehu served as a soldier under Ahaziah and Jehoram, Ahab's sons, and attained such distinction that he became one of the captains of the host (infra, 2 Kings 9:5), according to Josephus (l.s.c.) the chief captain. Jehu was commonly known as "the son of Nimshi" (1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:20), either because, his father having died young, he was brought up by his grandfather, or perhaps simply "because Nimshi was a person of more importance than Jehoshaphat." And go in—i.e; seek his presence, go into his quarters, wherever they may be, have direct speech with him—and make him arise up from among his brethren. Jehu's "brethren" are his brother-officers, among whom Elisha knows that he will be found sitting. And carry him to an inner chamber. Persuade him, i.e; to quit the place where thou wilt find him sitting with the other generals, and to go with thee into a private apartment for secret conference. Secrecy was of extreme importance, lest Joram should get knowledge of what was happening, and prepare himself for resistance. Had he not been taken by surprise, the result might have been a long and bloody civil war.
2 Kings 9:3
Then take—rather, and take—the box of oil—rather, the flask of oil—and pour it on his head. Compare the consecration of Aaron to the high-priestly (Le 2 Kings 8:12), and of Saul (1 Samuel 10:1) and David (1 Samuel 16:12) to the kingly office. The oil used was the holy anointing oil of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:25)—τὸ ἅγιον ἔλαιον, as Josephus says. And say, Thus faith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. This is an abbreviated form of the actual message, which is given in its entirety in 2 Kings 9:7-10. The writer of Kings avoids all needless repetitions. Then open the door—the conference was to be with closed doors, that no one might either hear or see what took place—and flee, and tarry not. The Divine message delivered, all would have been done that needed to be done. There would be nothing to wait for. So the young man was to depart with the same haste with which he had come.
2 Kings 9:4
So the young man, even the young man the prophet—the repetition of han-na'ar is doubtful, since it is not found either in the Syriac or in the Septuagint—went to Ramoth-Gilead.
2 Kings 9:5
And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting—either "sitting in council," or, at any rate, collected together in one place, not engaged in any active work, but seated—and he said, I have an errand—literally, a word—to thee, O captain. Probably he knew Jehu by sight, and looked at him as he spoke; but, as he addressed no one by name, there might be a doubt who was intended. Jehu, therefore, causes the doubt to be resolved by his question. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said—i.e; the young man the prophet answered—To thee, O captain. Jehu was thus singled out as the object of the message—the person to whom alone it was addressed, and whose special attention was, consequently, required to it.
2 Kings 9:6
And he (Jehu) arose, and went into the house. Jehu left his seat, rose up, and led the way, from the court, where he had probably been sitting with the other generals, into the house which adjoined the court. The messenger followed; and the two were together, alone. And he—i.e. the messenger—poured the oil on his head—as directed (2 Kings 9:3)—and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; literally, Thus saith Jehovah, God of Israel. Jehovah's name is emphatically put forward, in contrast with the name of Baal, as that of the true God of Israel; and appeal is made to Jehu, as to one whose God is Jehovah, and who will accept as authoritative a message emanating from him. I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel; literally, over the people of Jehovah, over Israel. Practically, the people is, in the main, "the people of Baal" (2 Kings 10:19-21), but theoretically and by covenant it is "the people of Jehovah"—his "peculiar people" (Deuteronomy 14:2), chosen by him out of all the nations of the earth to be his own.
2 Kings 9:7
And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master. This is plainly a command, not a prophecy. Jehu is expressly ordered by God to "smite," i.e. destroy utterly, the whole house of Ahab. This command he carried out (2 Kings 9:24, 2 Kings 9:33; 2 Kings 10:1-11); and his obedience to it obtained for him the temporal reward that his children to the fourth generation should sit on the throne of Israel (2 Kings 10:30). Yet still his conduct in destroying the house of Ahab is spoken of by the Prophet Hosea as a sin, and God declares, by Hosea's mouth, that he will "avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" (Hosea 1:4). It is naturally asked—"How could Jehu's shedding this blood, at God's command and in fulfillment of his will, be a sin?" And it is rightly answered, "Because, if we do what is the will of God for any end of our own, for anything except God, we do in fact our own will, not God's. It was not lawful for Jehu to depose and slay the king his master, except at the express command of God, who, as the supreme King, sets up and puts down earthly rulers as he wills. For any other end, and done otherwise than at God's express command, such an act is sin. Jehu was rewarded for the measure in which he fulfilled God's commands, as Ahab, 'who had sold himself to work wickedness,' had yet a temporal reward for humbling himself publicly, when rebuked by God for his sin, and so honoring God, amid an apostate people. But Jehu, by cleaving, against the will of God, to Jeroboam's sin (2Ki 11:1-21 :29, 31), which served his own political ends, showed that, in the slaughter of his master, he acted, not as he pretended, out of zeal for the will of God (2 Kings 10:16), but served his own will and his own ambition only. By his disobedience to the one command of God, he showed that he would have equally disobeyed the other, had it been contrary to his own will or interest. He had no principle of obedience. And so the blood which was shed according to the righteous judgment of God, became sin to him that shed it in order to fulfill, not the will of God, but his own". That I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets. Comp. 1 Kings 18:4 and 1 Kings 19:14. Elijah believed all the prophets of Jehovah, except himself, to have been either slain or banished under Ahab, as we see from 1 Kings 18:22 and 1Ki 19:10, 1 Kings 19:14. And the blood of all the servants of the Lord. There had evidently been a general persecution of the followers of Jehovah, and not merely a persecution of the prophets. It was only after a number of martyrdoms that the followers of Jehovah in Israel were reduced (1 Kings 19:18) to the scanty number of "seven thousand." At the hand of Jezebel. Jezebel was at the bottom of all the persecutions. Sometimes she took matters into her own hands, gave her own orders, and saw them carried out (1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 21:8-14). At other times she was content to "stir her husband up" (1 Kings 21:25) and incite him to evil courses.
2 Kings 9:8
For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that passeth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel (see the comment on 1 Kings 14:10). While the exact force of the phrases used is doubtful, the general intention to embrace in the sentence all Ahab's posterity cannot be doubted.
2 Kings 9:9
And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Jeroboam's house had been "cut off," smitten, destroyed, till not one of his posterity was left, about seventy years previously (1 Kings 15:29), by Baasha, "because of his sins which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger" (1 Kings 15:30). The far greater sin of Ahab could not be visited with less severity. And like the house of Baasha the Son of Ahijah. As the whole house of Jeroboam had been cut off for its idolatries, so the house of Baasha, which succeeded to the throne, was removed even more speedily, Baasha himself and all his posterity being swept from the earth by. Zimri, who "smote him and killed him," and succeeded him (1 Kings 16:11). The house of Ahab had had a double warning of the fate in reserve for those who deserted the religion of Jehovah, but had disregarded both warnings alike, and had provoked God yet more than their predecessors, by introducing a novel and degraded form of idolatrous worship.
2 Kings 9:10
And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel. This had been previously prophesied by Elijah (1Ki 21:23; 2 Kings 9:26, 2 Kings 9:27). To an Israelite, and even to a Phoenician, it was an awful threat; for both nations alike buried their dead carefully in deep-dug graves or rocky receptacles, and both regarded the desecration of a corpse as a grievous calamity. The dog was to the Hebrews, and to the Orientals generally, an unclean animal, and to be devoured by dogs would have been viewed as a fate which, for a queen, was almost inconceivable. And there shall be none to bury her. Jezebel had no one sufficiently interested in her fate to watch over her remains. Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, had kept watch over the bodies of the seven sons of Saul, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night (2 Samuel 21:10); and in Greece, if we may believe the poets, life had been risked, and actually forfeited, to save a near relative from similar ignominy. But "Jezebel had none to bury her." When she was ejected from the palace window (2 Kings 9:33) and fell to the ground, and was trodden under foot by Jehu's chariot-horses, no one came forth from the palace to give the bruised and wounded corpse such tendance as was possible. There was entire neglect of the body for (probably) some hours; and, during these, the catastrophe occurred which Divine foresight had prophesied, but which human malice had not intended (see 2 Kings 9:34-37). And he opened the door, and fled. The young man the prophet obeyed to the letter the injunctions which Elisha had given him (2 Kings 9:3). The moment that he had executed his errand, he fled.
2 Kings 9:11-22
Conspiracy of Jehu against Jehoram.
2 Kings 9:11
Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord. After the young man the prophet had made his precipitate retreat, Jehu, too, quitted the inner chamber, and "came forth"—returned to the place where he had been sitting with "the servants of his lord"—the other captains of the host (2 Kings 9:5)—and rejoined their company. And one said unto him, Is all well? One of the other captains of the host took the word and asked, in the ordinary phraseology of the time, "Is it peace?"—or, in other words, u Is all right?" "Is all well?" The sudden appearance and disappearance of the messenger had evidently created an impression that all was not well. Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? He did not suppose the man to be actually mad. He calls him "this wild fellow"—"this scatterbrain," on account of the haste and strangeness of his conduct; but he quite expects to hear that there was "method in the madness," and that the communication had some serious import. And he—i.e. Jehu—said unto them, Ye know the man, and his communication. Jehu suspected that the whole scene had been arranged beforehand; that Elisha and the young prophet and the captains of the host were in league, and had concerted a way of offering him the throne. He may have had reason to regard the captains as disaffected towards Jehoram, though this does not appear at all distinctly in the very brief narrative.
2 Kings 9:12
And they said, It is false. There was no rudeness in the reply. It merely denied that Jehu's supposition was correct. There had been no collusion between the spiritual and temporal authorities. The captains had no knowledge of the young prophet's errand. Tell us now. "Tell us," i.e; "what the young prophet said, since we are completely in the dark upon the subject." And he said, Thus and thus spoke he to me, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Jehu declared to them without any reserve all that the young prophet had said to him. He accepted their declaration that they were not in league with him, and then gave them an exact account of all that had occurred. He left it for them to determine what, under the circumstances, they would do.
2 Kings 9:13
Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs. Kings were honored by the spreading of garments in their way, that their feet might not touch the dusty ground (Matthew 20:8). The captains of the host, without hesitation, acclaimed Jehu king on the strength of the prophetical announcement, made his cause their own, and joined in his rebellion. It is reasonably conjectured (Bahr) that "a deep dissatisfaction with Joram must have prevailed in the army," though whether the dissatisfaction arose from the idolatry of the house of Ahab, or from Joram's withdrawal from the war, may be doubted, Jehu, on the ether hand, was evidently highly esteemed. The captains threw themselves with ardor into his cause, and extemporized a sort of enthronement. As often in an Oriental house, an external staircase led from the court to the upper story or to the roof. This they carpeted with their begeds, or outer cloaks, and, seating him on the top stair, saluted him as actual king. The expression, el-gerem hamma'aloth, is not literally, "on the top of the stairs," but rather "on the stairs themselves." Naturally, however, the captains would emplace him upon the topmost stair. And blew with trumpets. This was a recognized part of the ceremonial of a coronation (see 2 Samuel 15:10; 1 Kings 1:39; 2 Kings 11:14). Saying, Jehu is king.
2 Kings 9:14
So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi (see the comment on 2 Kings 9:2) conspired against Joram. It is not meant that there was a secret conspiracy previous to the prophet's coming, but that, by the open acts which followed on his coming, Jehu and the captains were guilty of a "conspiracy." Now Joram had kept Ra-moth-Gilead; rather, now Joram was keeping Ramoth-Gilead. Joram, in his capacity of chief ruler, was keeping, i.e. defending, Ramoth-Gilead against the Syrians with the bulk of his forces. He and all Israel, because of Hazael King of Syria; since Hazael wished to win the city back, and would have done so, had it not been stoutly defended. The writer speaks of Joram as the defender, though he was absent, because the defense was made under his orders. Then, to lore-vent misunderstanding, he repeats what he had already said in 2 Kings 8:29 with respect to Joram's wounds, and his retirement to Jezreel to be healed of them.
2 Kings 9:15
But King Joram was returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him, when he fought with Hazael King of Syria (see the comment on 2 Kings 8:29). And Jehu said, If it be your minds. As soon as he is proclaimed king, Jehu addresses himself to the captains, and proposes a policy. He does not venture to assume a tone of authority, or of imperative command, since he is still but a pretender, and not "established in the kingdom." "If it be your minds," he says; i.e. "If you agree with me, and have nothing to urge against my proposal. Then let none go forth nor escape from the city—literally, let no escaper go forth from the city—equivalent to let no one quit the city—to go to tell it in Jezreel. This is the important point. Secrecy was absolutely essential. If the revolt had got wind—and a single messenger might have carried the news—the whole attempt might have failed, or only have succeeded after a long and bloody civil war. All John's efforts were bent on keeping his revolt secret until he himself announced it to the astonished king (see verse 22).
2 Kings 9:16
So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. We must understand that the captains came into Jehu's views, acknowledged the necessity of secrecy, and took precautions against the departure of any one, openly or secretly, from the city. Jehu, with a moderate troop or company (שִׁפְעֶה), sets out, perhaps on the very day of his enthronement, and hastens with all speed to Jezreel, bent on arriving there before any suspicion has arisen of revolt or rebellion. His great object was to surprise Joram, and to kill or capture him before he could take any steps to organize a defense. Probably the force which accompanied him was wholly a chariot force. And Ahaziah King of Judah was come down to see Joram (see 2 Kings 8:29, and the comment ad. loc). Ahaziah, it must be remembered, was Joram's nephew, as well as his ally in the war against Syria. It was natural that he should visit his uncle when he was wounded, even if the wounds were not very serious.
2 Kings 9:17
And there stood a watchman on the tower in Jezreel; literally, and the watchman stood on the tower in Jezreel. The watchtower on the southeast, towards Ramoth-Gilead, is intended. There were probably others in other directions; but the writer is not concerned with them. Each watchtower had its one watchman, who gave warning if anything unusual caught his attention. And he spied the company of Jehu as he came. Shiph'ah is generally "abundance," "multitude" (Deuteronomy 33:19; Job 22:11; Isaiah 60:6), but seems here to designate a "baud ' or "company" of moderate size. It is a somewhat rare word. And said, I see a company. The watchman gave notice to those whose business it was to inform the king, that a band or company of men was approaching the city. And Joram said, Take an horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace? Joram apprehended no danger. If the "company" had been a band of Syrians, or other enemies, coming in hostile fashion, the watchman would have worded his warning differently. The king probably concluded that he was about to receive tidings from the seat of war, and meant to ask, "Is the news good or bad—peaceful or the contrary?" No blame attaches to him for not taking alarm at once.
2 Kings 9:18
So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace! turn thee behind me. Jehu chooses to accept the messenger's words as if they were his own, and not those of the king. "What does it matter to such a one as thee, a mere common man, whether my tidings are peaceful or the contrary? I shall not tell thee my errand. Turn and follow in my train." The messenger had no choice but to obey. An attempt at flight would have led to his being seized or slain. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not again. The watchman evidently thought his not returning suspicious, and reported it at once. Joram should now have taken alarm, but he did not. He appears to have had no notion that any danger could be approaching.
2 Kings 9:19
Then he sent out a second on horseback. Persistency in a course shown by experience to be futile was characteristic of the sons of Ahab and Jezebel (compare the conduct of Ahaziah, as described in 2 Kings 1:9, 2 Kings 1:11, 2 Kings 1:13). Which came to them, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? Exactly the same inquiry as before, and no doubt in the same sense (see the comment on 2 Kings 9:17). Jehu, addressed with the same words thinks it sufficient to give the same answer. His object is to lose no time, but to reach the king as quickly as possible. And Jehu answered, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me.
2 Kings 9:20
And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again. A still stranger circumstance, and one still more suspicious. The second messenger could only have been sent out because the king disapproved the detention or the first. Whoever, therefore, had detained the second messenger must be consciously acting in opposition to the wishes of the king. And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi. It is not meant that Jehu was driving his own chariot (which great men never did, 2Ki 22:1-20 :34), and drove in a furious manner, but that the "company" was being urged forward at an unusual pace, in a reckless and hot-headed way. The watchman conjectured, therefore, that Jehu must be leading them, since he had a character for impetuosity. For he driveth furiously; or, madly—" like a madman" (Keil)—"praecipitanter" (Vatabl.). The LXX. translate ἐν παραλλαγῇ—which has, perhaps, the same meaning.
2 Kings 9:21
And Joram said, Make ready—rather, harness; literally, attach—i.e. "attach the horses to the chariot—and his chariot was made ready—literally, and one attached, or harnessed, his chariot—and Joram King of Israel and Ahaziah King of Judah went out, each in his chariot. The uncle and the nephew went out together, still, as it would seem, unapprehensive of any danger, though the circumstances were certainly such as might well have amused suspicion. Joram was probably anxious to know the reasons which had induced the captain of his host to quit his post at Ramoth-Gilead. Ahaziah probably accompanied him out of politeness, though he too may have been curious to learn the news. If any disaster had overtaken the army of Israel, the safety of Judah might also be endangered. "Tun res agitur, paries cum proximus ardet." And they went out against Jehu—rather, to meet Jehu—εἰς ἀπαντὴν Ἰοὺ (LXX.); see the Revised Version—and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. Humanly speaking, this was accidental. The "portion of Naboth," or his plot of ground, lay outside the southeastern gate of the city, at no great distance from the walls; and it happened that Joram and Jehu met within its limits. Had the king started a little sooner, or had Jehu made less haste, the meeting would have taken place further from the town, and outside the "portion of Naboth." But Divine providence so ordered matters that vengeance for the sin of Ahab was exacted upon the very scene of his guilt, and a prophecy made, probably by Elisha, years previously, and treasured up in the memory of Jehu (2 Kings 9:26), was fulfilled to the letter.
2 Kings 9:22
And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? Still the same question is asked; but we cannot be sure that it is asked in exactly the same sense. Something in the aspect of Jehu, and in his furious haste, may by this time have alarmed the king. Or possibly he maybe merely repeating the question put through his messengers, and still unanswered, Is all well with the army or no? Has there been any disaster?" Jehu, at any rate, chooses to understand his vague phrase in the former sense, as if he had asked, "Is it peace between thee and me?" and answers in the negative. And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witch-crafts are so many? literally, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and those many witchcrafts of hers continue. By "whoredoms" are meant idolatries, as so frequently in Scripture (Le 2 Kings 19:29; 2 Kings 20:5; Jeremiah 3:2, Jeremiah 3:9; Jeremiah 13:17; Ezekiel 16:17; Ezekiel 20:30; Ezekiel 23:11, etc.; Hosea 2:2; Hosea 4:12; Hosea 5:4; Nahum 3:4, etc.); by "witchcrafts" all those magical practices which were so common at the time in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, and no doubt also in Phoenicia, and which were so strictly forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10). Besides the Baal-worship, Jezebel had introduced these unhallowed practices into the kingdom of Israel. Jehu reproaches Joram with allowing them, and declares that there can be no peace between him and his master under ouch circumstances. Having gained his object and got within bowshot of the unsuspecting monarch, he throws off the mask and declares uncompromising hostility. "No man could use such terms of the queen-mother who was willing any longer to be a subject."
2 Kings 9:23-26
Murder of Jehoram by Jehu.
2 Kings 9:23
And Joram tamed his hands, and fled. Joram made his charioteer turn the chariot suddenly round, and fled by the way by which he had come. "Turning the hands" is turning the chariot round by means of the hands; and Joram is said to have done that which he caused to be done. And said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, O Ahaziah. Mirmah is "deceit" or "fraud" of any kind, and here is not ill rendered by "treachery." Jehu's conduct was not justified by the mission given him (2 Kings 9:6-10), which certainly did not authorize him to commit a treacherous murder.
2 Kings 9:24
And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength. This meaning is scarcely contained in the Hebrew, which merely says that Jehu "filled his hand with his bow," that is to say, took his bow into his hands for the purpose of using it. And smote Jehoram between his arms; i.e. directed an arrow against Jehoram with so true an aim, that it struck him in the middle of the back between his shoulders. And the arrow went out at his heart. This was quite possible, for the heart lies towards the center of the chest, not wholly on the left side. It is not necessary to suppose an oblique wound. And he sank down in his chariot. Jehoram fell into the "well," or body, of the chariot, and there lay, the chariot being brought to a stand.
2 Kings 9:25
Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain; literally, his thirdsman; Keil renders "his aide-de-camp," probably one of those who was in his chariot with him—Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite. "Take up the body," i.e. "and cast it into the plot of ground which once belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite, and was forfeited to the crown at his death (1 Kings 21:15), and taken possession of by Ahab" (1 Kings 21:16). The reason for the order follows. For remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the Lord laid this burden upon him. The LXX. have μνημονεύω, "I remember;" but the Hebrew text is זכר, not אזכר "Remember" (imperative mood) is the correct translation. Jehu recalls his captain's recollection to an occurrence which was deeply impressed upon his own. "When thou and I rode together after Ahab" probably means "when we two stood behind Ahab in his chariot." The Assyrian sculptures usually represent the monarch as attended by two body-guards, who ride in the same chariot with him, standing up behind him, and often interposing their shields to protect his person. In this near proximity Jehu and Bidkar would hear any speech which was addressed to Ahab. By a "burden" is meant a sentence of punishment (comp. Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; etc.; Nahum 1:1, etc.).
2 Kings 9:26
Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth. Jehu, after the lapse of fourteen or fifteen years, naturally had forgotten the exact words used. And the blood of his sons. The execution of Naboth's sons had not been mentioned previously; but, under the rude jurisprudence of the age (2 Kings 14:6), sons were usually slain with their fathers. And, unless they had been removed, Ahab could not have inherited the vineyard. Saith the Lord; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord. This was the gist of the prophecy, which ran as follows: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine." Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the Lord. The evil prophesied against Ahab had been formally and expressly deferred to his son's days on Ahab's repentance (cf. 1 Kings 21:29).
2 Kings 9:27-29
Murder of Ahaziah.
2 Kings 9:27
But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden house. As soon as Ahaziah saw Jehu shoot his arrow, he too took to flight; not, however, in the same direction as Joram, but southwards, towards his own land. If "garden house" is the right translation of בֵית הַגַּן, we can say no more than that it was probably one of the lodges of the royal demesne, which lay south-east and south of Jezreel, whereof nothing more is known. But it is quite possible that we ought to translate, with the LXX; "by the way of Beth-Gan"—ἔφυγεν ὁδὸν Βαιθ γάν. In this case "Beth-Gan" would be a village or town, probably identical with En-gannim, which lay at the foot of the hills bounding the Plain of Esdraelon, nearly due south of Jezreel (Zerin), and which is now known as Jenin (see the Map of Western Palestine, by Mr. Trelawney Saunders, compiled from the surveys of the Palestine Exploration Fund, where Ahaziah's flight is well traced. And Jehu followed after him; and said, Smite him also in the chariot; rather, in his chariot, not in that of Jehoram, since the two kings rode respectively in their own chariots (2 Kings 9:21). It was a bold step in a pretender not yet settled upon the throne to provoke the hostility of a neighboring country by murdering its monarch; but Jehu probably thought he had more to fear from Ahaziah himself, who had been on such close terms of friendship with Jehoram, than from any probable successors. He, therefore, finding him in his power, pursued after him and slew him. From a religious point of view he could justify the act; since the commission given to him (2 Kings 9:7) was to smite all the house of Ahab, and Ahaziah was Ahab's grandson. And they did so at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam. The "ascent of Gur," מַעֲלֵה־גוּר, was probably the rising ground between the southern edge of the Plain of Esdraslon and the place known as" Ibleam," or "Bileam" (1 Chronicles 6:70), which is reasonably identified with the modern Bir-el-Belameh, two miles south of Jenin. Here the steep ascent necessarily delayed the chariot, and Ahaziah's pursuers gained upon him, approached him, and wounded him. And he fled to Megiddo. Wounded at the ascent of Gur, and despairing of making his way through the rough mountainous country which lay between him and Jerusalem, Ahaziah suddenly changed his route, perhaps thereby baffling his pursuers, and, skirting the hills, had himself conveyed to Megiddo (Ledjun), where he died, either of his wounds, or through some fresh violence on the part of Jehu (see 2 Chronicles 12:8, 2 Chronicles 12:9). The reconciliation of 2 Chronicles 12:8, 2 Chronicles 12:9 with the present passage is difficult, but not wholly impossible. Perhaps the Chronicler means by "Samaria" the kingdom, not the town.
2 Kings 9:28
And his servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem. No king of the house of David had as yet been buried elsewhere than in the rock-hewn sepulcher which David had constructed for himself and family at Jerusalem. As soon, therefore, as Ahaziah was dead, his attendants conveyed his dead body in a chariot to the Judaean capital. Jehu did not oppose, having no quarrel with the dead. And buried him in his sepulcher; i.e. in the particular excavation, or loculus, which he had prepared for himself. Jewish, like Egyptian, kings seem to have made it their business to see to the construction of their tomb as soon as they mounted the throne. Thus Ahaziah, though he had reigned but a year (2 Kings 8:26), had already prepared, himself, a sepulcher. His "servants" buried him in it. With his fathers in the city of David.
2 Kings 9:29
And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Israel. In 2 Kings 8:25 the accession of Ahaziah is placed in Joram's twelfth, instead of his eleventh, year. The slight discrepancy is sufficiently explained By the double reckoning of a king's "first year," familiar to chronologists, either
(1) from the date of the accession to the end of the current civil year; or
(2) from the date of the accession to the same day in the ensuing year. Verses 30-37.—Death of Jezebel.
2 Kings 9:30
And when Jehu was come to Jezreel. Some commentators suppose that Jehu did not engage personally in the pursuit of Ahaziah, but, leaving that to a portion of his retinue, pushed on with all haste to Jezreel, where Jezebel was, "the originator of all the mischief." But it is certainly more natural to understand (with Keil and Josephus) that Jehu himself pursued. The pursuit to Ibleam, where Ahaziah was mortally wounded, and the return to Jezreel, need not have occupied more than about three hours. Jezebel heard of it. She would naturally be the first to hear. On the death of her son, which must have been plainly seen from the walls of Jezreel, she become practically the chief authority in the place, and indeed in the kingdom. Jehoram's sons were probably minors. And she painted her face; literally, and she put her eyes in antimony; i.e. she adorned her eyes with the dark dye which has always been fashionable in the East, and which is still used at the present day. The dye is spread both on the upper and the lower eyelids. It at once increases the apparent size of the eye, and gives it unnatural brilliancy. The Oriental nations, Babylonians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, were acquainted with the practice from very early times; and it is not surprising that it was known to Jezebel. What was her exact object in applying it is more doubtful. The older commentators, who are followed by Ewald, suppose that she intended to "summon up all her seductive fascinations in order to tempt and conquer Jehu;" but more recent writers (Bahr, Keil, and others) argue that her probable age renders this incredible, since she had already a grandson who was twenty-three years of age (2 Kings 8:26), and must therefore have been herself at least fifty. But, if we remember that Cleopatra was forty when She held Antony as her slave and hoped to captivate Augustus, it would seem to be not altogether beyond the bounds of possibility that a Phoouician princess of fifty may have thought that, by the use of art, she might reader herself a captivating personage. There is, at any rate no evidence that "putting the eyes in antimony" was an ordinary or a fitting preparation for meeting death in a way worthy of a queen. Ewald's view has, therefore much to commend it to our acceptance. Jezebel, trusting in the charms and the fascination which had been so potent over Ahab, may have imagined that she had still enough beauty left to capture Jehu, provided she increased her natural attractions by a careful use of all the resources of art. And tired her head. Phoenician statues of goddesses have their hair arranged in long pendent curls, and bear on their heads a small conical cap with a ribbon wreathed round the base. The artists probably had queens and princesses as their models. There is no evidence that false hair was worn in Phoenicia, either by men or women. And looked out at a window. Windows, sometimes open, sometimes latticed, were common in Oriental houses from the earliest times. They mostly looked into the court round which a house was commonly built; but some few were in the external wall of the building; and through these new arrivals might be reconnoitered. Jezebel "looked out," partly to see, but perhaps still more to be seen.
2 Kings 9:31
And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? This is a possible meaning of Jezebel's words, and it has among its advocates—Luther, De Wette, Maurer, and Dathe, besides our own translators. But so defiant an utterance is quite incompatible within intention to captivate and conciliate. Probably, therefore, we should understand the queen either as saying affirmatively, "Peace to thee, Zimri!" (or, "Hail, Zimri!") "slayer of thy lord," or else as asking, "Is it peace" (i.e. "Is it peace now between thee and me?"), Zimri, slayer of thy lord?" In either case, Zimri is an honorific appellation, recalling the fact of another Israelite general, who had revolted, slain his master, and reigned as king.
2 Kings 9:32
And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? Whatever Jezebel's intention, Jehu yielded not a jot; he was deaf to her flatteries, blind to her seductions. He had made up his mind for "war to the knife" before he embarked upon his enterprise, and the feeble attempts of a queen whose part was played out, whose age he knew, and whom he no doubt regarded as an old woman, had no power on him. Instead of responding to her blandishments, he took a stern and hard line. He would not see her privately. He summoned to his aid the menials of the palace—the eunuchs -those on whom beauty has least influence. "Who is on my side? who?" he exclaimed (literally, "Who is with me? who?"); thus calling on the court servants to desert their masters, the guards to turn their swords against their employers, the menials to consummate an intra-palatial revolution. We cannot deny to Jehu the credit of vigor, promptness, audacity, the talent to seize on the opportunity of the moment, and to make the most of it; but he must ever present himself to us as the rough soldier, with no courtesy, with no chivalry, bent on accomplishing his own ends, and shrinking from no deed of blood, no precedent pessimi exempli, if thereby his ends might be brought about. And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. Eunuchs had become an integral part both of the Jewish and of the Israelite courts from the time of David (1 Chronicles 28:1). They are an institution which almost necessarily accompanies polygamy; and they had long held high office in. Egypt, in Babylon, and in Assyria. A position outside nature, at variance with all men's natural feelings and aspirations, of necessity depraves the character, weakens the moral principle, and ends by debasing the class. In Oriental history, the lowest, vilest part is always played by the eunuchs of the palace, who are ever ready to take part in any intrigues, in any conspiracies, and who seem to be almost wholly devoid of the ordinary feelings of humanity. The eunuchs who "looked out" to Jehu were probably the chief eunuchs of the palace, who had authority over the others, and indeed over the court officials generally.
2 Kings 9:33
And he said, Throw her down. A splendid example of the wicked man's prompt and bold and unscrupulous decision. A queen, a queen-mother, always more tenderly regarded than an ordinary queen-regnant, a princess in her own right (see 2 Kings 9:34), daughter of a neighboring and powerful potentate, settled in her kingdom for over thirty years, the most powerful person the state during that entire period, backed up by the numerous and dominant party of her co-religionists, she is to Jehu nothing but a wicked woman who is in his way; she inspires him with no awe, she does not even touch him with any feeling of respect. "Throw her down." History presents no parallel to such an indignity. Kings and queens had been, time after time, removed by violence; their lives had been taken; they had been transplanted to another sphere of being. But the open casting forth from a window of a crowned head by the menials of the court, at the command of a usurper, was a new thing, unprecedented, unparalleled. It must have been a shock to all established notions of propriety. In commanding it Jehu showed his superiority to existing prejudice, his utter fearlessness, and his willingness to create a new precedent, which might seriously shake the monarchical principle. So they threw her down. There appears to have been no hesitation. The boldness of Jehu communicated itself to those whom he addressed; and the eunuchs violently seized the person of the queen, and precipitated her from the window to the ground below. She fell on the road by which the palace was approached, and lay there bleeding and helpless. And some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall. As she fell, some portion of her body struck against the wall of the palace, and left splashes of blood upon it. There were probably some projections from the wall between the window and the ground. And on the horses. As her body struck the projections, a bloody shower spurted from it, which fell in part upon the horses that drew Jehu's chariot. And he trode her underfoot. Like Tullia (Liv, 1.48), Jehu had his chariot driven over the prostrate corpse, so that the hoofs of his horses, and perhaps his own person, were sprinkled with the royal blood. Compare the passage of Livy, "Amens, agitantibus furiis, Tullia per patris corpus carpentum egisse fertur, partemque sanguinis ac caedis paternae cruento vehiculo, contaminata ipsa respersaque, tutisse ad penates suos virique sui." It is not often that royal corpses, unless in the heat of battle, have received such treatment.
2 Kings 9:34
And when he was come in—i.e. when Jehu had established himself in the royal palace—he did eat and drink, and said. His first care was to refresh himself—to order a banquet to be served, and to satisfy his appetite with food and drink. Not till afterwards did he bethink himself of the bloody corpse of his late queen and mistress, lying on the cold ground uncared for and untended, exposed to scorn and ignominy. When the thought occurred to him, it brought about a certain amount of relenting. Go, see now this cursed woman. He calls Jezebel, "a cursed woman," not inappropriately. She had brought a curse on her husband, on her sons, and on her grandsons; she had been the evil genius of two countries, Israel and Judah; she had been the prime mover in a bloody persecution of the worshippers of Jehovah; and was the true original source of the present revolution, which was to result in the deaths of so many others. And bury her: for she is a king's daughter. As queen-mother, Jehu, it seems, would not have regarded Jezebel as entitled to burial; but as daughter of Eth-Baal, King of the Zidonians (1 Kings 16:31), and so a princess born, he allowed her claim. Perhaps he feared lest further insult to the corpse might provoke the resentment of the Phoenician monarch, and draw down upon him that prince's hostility.
2 Kings 9:35
And they went to bury her: hut they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. "The harder parts of the human frame" (Stanley); perhaps also the less palatable, since cannibals say that the palm of the human hand is excessively bitter. Dogs in Oriental countries are ever prowling about, especially in the vicinity of towns, on the lookout for food, and will eat flesh or offal of any kind. They have been called "the scavengers of the East," and the phrase well describes them. Dean Stanley saw "the wild dogs of Jezreel prowling about the mounds where the offal is cast outside the gates of the town by the inhabitants."
2 Kings 9:36
Wherefore they came again, and told him. The men whom he had sent to bury Jezebel returned, and told the king what they had found. The narrative woke another chord of memory which had hitherto slept. And he said, This is the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite. The prophecy referred to is doubtless that recorded in 1 Kings 21:23. It is, however, here expanded, either because Jehu's recollection was not exact, or because the record in 1 Kings is abbreviated. The great point of the prophecy is common to both records, viz. that the dogs should eat Jezebel at Jezreel, on the scene of her iniquities. Saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel. It is not quite clear what is meant by the portion (צֵלָק) of Jezreel. Probably there is no allusion to the "portion" (צֶלְקָה) of Naboth (verses 25, 26). Rather the same is meant as by צֵל in 1 Kings 21:23, viz. the cultivated space or "portion" of land outside the wall of the town (see the comment on that passage).
2 Kings 9:37
And the carcass of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field (comp. Psalms 83:10; Zephaniah 1:17; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 16:4, etc.). The expression was proverbial. In the portion of Jezreel (see the comment on the preceding verse); so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel. The fragments of the body were so scattered that there could be no collective tomb, no place whereat admirers could congregate and say, "Here lies the great queen—here lies Jezebel." To rest in no tomb was viewed as a shame and a disgrace.
2 Kings 9:1-10
The prophet and the prophet-disciple-the duties of direction and of obedience.
The time had come for a great change—a "great revolution," to use the words of Ewald. The first dynasty of Israel which had shown any indications of stability was to be swept away, and another still more stable dynasty was to be established. That the will of God might be seen and recognized in the matter, its initiation was entrusted to the regular expounders of the Divine will—the prophets. Elisha, we may be sure, received express directions how to act; and the directions included a delegation of certain most important duties to another. Thus two persons are concerned in the great initiative scene; and the conduct of each is worthy of attention, and, under given circumstances, of imitation. Consider—
I. ELISHA AS DIRECTOR.
1. Elisha has made up his mind; there is no hesitation about him, no instability of purpose; he knows what he has to do, and is wholly bent on doing it.
2. His directions are clear, definite, unmistakable. There is no ambiguity in any of them. He prescribes a fixed and clearly defined line of conduct, which his subordinate is to carry out. He wastes no time on the consideration of accidents or contingencies. A certain work is to be done; and his subordinate is to do it in the simplest and most direct way.
II. THE PROPHET-DISCIPLE AS SUBORDINATE AGENT.
1. The prophet-disciple accepts the subordinate position readily, cheerfully, without reluctance. He is content to obliterate himself, and to play the part of a tool or instrument.
2. His obedience is exact, perfect. Whatever he has been ordered to do, he does; and he does no more. He is not officious, as so many zealous servants are; he does not seek to better his instructions.
3. His errand done, he disappears, sinks back into obscurity. We hear of his making no claim either on Elisha or on Jehu. The greatest political transaction of the day had proceeded from his initiative; but he asks no reward, he makes no boast. His work done, he vanishes, and we hear no more of him. God's work has still to be carried on in the world by two sets of persons—directors and executants. It will be well or badly done, according as the lines here marked out are kept to or departed from. That wonderful efficiency which none can fail of admiring in the working of so many institutions within the Roman communion is traceable in a great measure to the fact that both directors and executants act in the spirit that animated Elisha and the prophet-disciple.
2 Kings 9:11-24
Political revolutions justifiable under certain circumstances.
In a general way, revolution, resistance to constituted authority, rebellions, risings against the civil power, seem to be condemned, or at any rate discountenanced, by the teaching of Scripture, whether in the Old Testament or the New. They arise, for the most part, from human ambitions, from lust of power, from greed, from unrestrained passions, from selfishness; they involve in their course untold sufferings to large numbers; they issue commonly in a condition of social and political life, not better, but worse, than that from which they sprang. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers;" "Fear God: honor the king;" "Ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake," are precepts of wide application and of great force, deriving additional weight from the fact that, when they were uttered, a Nero occupied the throne. Still, their force may be overstrained. Scripture does not require, under all circumstances, an absolute and entire submission to the civil rulers, but justifies resistance, and allows of the resistance being pushed, in extreme cases, to rebellion. Examples are:
1. The resistance offered by David, first to Saul, and then to Ishbosheth. According to human law, Ishbosheth was the legitimate ruler, against whom David rebelled (2 Samuel 2:1-10).
2. The rebellion of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:12-20).
3. The present instance—the rebellion of Jehu.
4. The rebellion of the Maceabee princes, related in the first and second Books of the Maccabees, which enlist our sympathy strongly in their behalf, and are set before her members by the Church "for example of life, and instruction in morals." If we ask, "When is rebellion justifiable?" the answer would seem to be—
I. IN THE LAST RESORT, WHEN THE NATION MUST OTHERWISE BE IRRETRIEVABLY INJURED. In Jehu's case "a family was on the throne which had introduced a licentious worship, had fostered it, and had persecuted the older and purer religion, which, if it had not succeeded in taking so firm a hold upon the people as to bind them to purity and virtue, at any rate had not been itself a deeply corrupting influence. The mischief had spread so far that it was time to try the last and severest measures, or to give up the contest entirely. The indictment was made out against the ruling house of corrupting the national honor, and undermining the national existence, of depriving the nation of a religion whose spirit was pure and elevating, and giving it one whose spirit was corrupting and licentious" (Bahr). In the case of the Maccabees, a foreign power, dominant over the country by right of conquest, had formed the design of completely sweeping away the Jewish religion and substituting for it the Greek, or rather the Syrian, polytheism and idolatry. The crisis was even more terrible than that in Jehu's time, the danger more pressing and greater. In both these cases the nation seems to have waited with the utmost patience, until there was no other remedy. Either a convulsion had to be faced, or the national religion, the national morality, and the national self-respect, would have been swept away. The nation in each case preferred revolution to submission; and the sympathies of the sacred writers evidently go with them in their choice.
II. WHEN THERE IS A FAIR PROSPECT OF SUCCESS IF A STAND IS MADE. Nemo tenetur ad impossibilia. If the force on the side of authority is overwhelming, if the national spirit opposed to it is weak and faint, if there is no reasonable hope that resistance may be effectual and save the nation from the evils suffered and apprehended, then, whatever their reluctance, though it be "pain and grief to them," patriots are hound to restrain themselves and to remain quiescent. As Plato says, they must shelter themselves under a wall while the storm rages; they must be content to keep themselves pure, as the seven thousand, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, did in Ahab's reign; they must wait for better days. If, however, there be a fair chance of success, if it be reasonable to hope that the yoke which is doing deadly hurt to the nation may be thrown off, then no considerations of their own convenience or ease, no fear of blame, no shrinking from disturbance, or even bloodshed, should deter patriotic souls from initiating the struggle by which alone their country can be saved. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies. If Elisha and Jehu had waited with folded hands for Joram and Jezebel to work out their wicked will, the Baal-worship would have been riveted upon the northern, perhaps even upon the southern, kingdom. If the Maccabee family had submitted to the agents of Antiochus Ephiphanes, and failed to raise the standard of revolt, Judaism would have been merged in heathenism, and have perished from the earth. It may be added that if, in our own country, no resistance had been offered to James II; but his commands had been submitted to and carried out, then Great Britain would have been recovered to the Roman obedience, and the witness to a purer Christianity than that of Rome, which has been held up to the world by the English Church during the last two centuries, would have been extinguished and crushed, with what loss to the nation, to Europe, and to the world generally, it is impossible to estimate.
2 Kings 9:25-37
Retribution may be long in coming, but it comes at last.
Even a heathen could say, "Raro antecedentem scelestum deseruit pede poena claudo" (Horace, 'Od.,' 2 Kings 3:2, lines 31, 32). Yet throughout all history evil-disposed men have persisted in wicked and cruel conduct, just as if it was not only possible, but probable, that retribution would be escaped. The lesson thus needs continually to be impressed on men, that, sooner or later, retribution must come—that there is no escape from it, Retribution must come—
I. BECAUSE GOD RULES THE UNIVERSE, AND GOD IS JUST. Disbelief in retribution is essentially atheistic. It implies either that there is no God, or that God is without one or more of those attributes which make him God. A just God must have the will to punish; an omnipotent God must have the power to punish. If a so-called God did not punish sin, he must be either not just, or not omnipotent, or not either; but then he would not be God. As Bahr says, "A God without vengeance, i.e. who cannot and will not punish, is no God, but a divinity fashioned from one's thoughts."
II. BECAUSE GOD HAS DECLARED THAT IT SHALL COME, AND GOD IS TRUE. God has said to each man, through his conscience, that he will punish sin. Remorse and reset, the dissatisfaction of a guilty conscience, are such punishment begun. In his Word God has expressly declared that he "will reward every man according to his works" (Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:7; Romans 2:6; 2 Timothy 4:14); that he "will by no means clear the guilty" (Exodus 34:7); that "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, shall be on every soul of man that doeth evil" (Romans 2:8, Romans 2:9). Nothing is more plainly taught in the whole of Scripture, from the beginning to the end, than requital, retribution, condign punishment. Ahab's case is singular, not in the general principle, but only in the exact correspondence between the sin and its punishment. Such correspondence is rare and abnormal; but it does occur from time to time, and, when it occurs, there is something about it that is most impressive and striking. When the author of proscription, Marius, is himself proscribed; when the dethroner of kings, Napoleon L, is himself dethroned; when the inventor of conspiracies, Titus Oates, falls a victim to an invented conspiracy; when Robespierre and Danton, who have ruled by the guillotine, perish by the guillotine;—"poetic justice" as it has been called, is satisfied, and the world at large is forced to recognize and acknowledge that requital has taken place in a signal way.
III. BECAUSE ANY NEGATIVE INSTANCE THAT CAN BE PRODUCED WILL ONLY SHOW A DELAY, NOT AN ABROGATION OF THE SENTENCE. Infinite time is at the disposal of the Almighty. Men are impatient, and, if retribution does not overtake the sinner speedily, are apt to conclude that it will never overtake him. But with the Almighty "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The important thing to be borne in mind is the end; and the end will not be reached till "the judgment is set, and the books are opened" (Daniel 7:10), and men are "judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:12). Punishment may be long in coming—the ungodly may continue during their whole lifetime in prosperity. But there remains a future. Where the heathen felt and said, "Raro," the Christian will say, "Nuquam antecedentem scelestum deseruit pede poena claudo."
HOMILIES BY C.H. IRWIN
2 Kings 9:1-37
The deaths of Jehoram and Jezebel; or, the Divine law of retribution.
King Jehoram was lying sick at Jezreel of the wounds he had received in battle from the Syrians. Ahaziah King of Judah had come down to visit him, and, as they conversed together, the watchman upon the city wall brought tidings of an armed company approaching. Jehu, at the head of them, was by-and-by recognized by his furious driving. He had already been proclaimed king in Ramoth-Gilead, but Jehoram knew nothing of this. He suspected some ill news, however, and he and Ahaziah drove out with their two chariots to meet Jehu. And where was it that they met? Jehu had good reason to know the place. So had Jehoram. About twenty years before, another memorable meeting had taken place there. Jehoram's father, Ahab, had coveted Naboth's vineyard. Jehoram's mother, Jezebel, had brought about Naboth's death by a process of false swearing against him. Naboth was dead, and Ahab, accompanied by his two captains, Jehu and Bidkar, rode out to take possession of that vineyard whose owner the queen had murdered. But his sin had found him out. Elijah, the messenger of God, met him there. And there, in that vineyard which he had procured through covetousness, envy, treachery, and bloodshed, Ahab was compelled to listen to his doom. Terrible words they were indeed for a king to hear. "Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even throe. And Jezebel, the instigator of the crime, was not forgotten. The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." And now, in that very place, stained with the blood of Naboth, Jehu meets Jehoram, the son of Ahab the murderer and the king. The blood of Naboth cries to Heaven for vengeance. Jehoram was little better than his father. He too "cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." He forsook the true God and served other gods. No doubt his conscience smote him and his spirit failed him, as he asked of Jehu, "Is it peace?" But there was not much time left him to prepare to die. Jehu's words were few, and his actions quick as thought. With his full strength he drew his bow and sent his arrow straight to Jehoram's heart. It was then that the words of Elijah, spoken twenty years before in that very place, flashed back upon his mind, and he caused the lifeless body of Jehoram to be cast into the field of Naboth the Jezreelite. But Jehu's work of vengeance is not yet done. Jezebel's long career of wickedness had hardened her heart and blinded her to her danger. As Jehu rode into the city, she sat at her window in her best attire, as if to defy him, and greeted him with the sneering question, "Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?' But Jehu is not a man to be trifled with. He finds willing helpers in her own servants. At his command they threw her down into the street, and she—the adulteress and the murderess, the woman whose name has become proverbial as a symbol of everything that is bad—is trampled under the horses' feet, and once more the doom of Heaven is fulfilled: "In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel." We learn from this narrative some important lessons.
I. SIN, NOT REPENTED OF, MUST BE PUNISHED. This is a law of nature. It is a fact of history. It is the very essence of morality. It is the very essence of justice. It is at the basis of social order in a nation. It is at the basis of the moral government of the universe. Those who transgress the law of nations, those who transgress the laws of honesty or of morality, those who take away the life, or the property, or the character of others, must be made to suffer for it. This is necessary, that justice may be vindicated. It is necessary, in order that property and person and character may be safe. It is necessary, in order that other evil-doers may be deterred from crime. Even under our own national law, we feel that there is something wrong when an evil-doer escapes. We feel that it has a bad effect upon the community when crime goes unpunished. Now, what is sin in the Bible sense? Sin is the transgression of the Law. It is a transgression of a far higher law than the law of nations, of that law on which the well-being of all nations depends—the eternal Law of God. The Law of God is at the foundation of all true well-being and happiness in every nation and in every age. "This do, and thou shalt live." "The commandment is holy, and just, and good." It is, therefore, in the interests of every nation, it is in the interests, not of one generation of men merely, but of those who shall come after them, that those who transgress the Divine Law should suffer for it. Every violation of a Divine law must be followed by its corresponding punishment. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Look at your own lives in the light of this great truth. Are there any sins in your lives unrepented of? Then be assured that the punishment, if it has not yet come, awaits you. Sins against God, against God's Law, against God's sabbath; sins against our fellow-man—sins of unfair dealing, sins of evil-speaking, or other and grosser sins; every one of these, if not repented of, is sure to bring its corresponding punishment. "Be sure your sin will find you out."
II. PUNISHMENT MAY BE DELAYED, BUT IT IS NONE THE LESS SURE. There is an old Irish proverb, "The vengeance of God is slow, but sure." We have many illustrations of that in history. It was long after Jezebel's great crime before her punishment overtook her. When the Israelites were journeying through the wilderness, the Amalekites treated them with great treachery and cruelty, falling upon them in the rear, and when they were faint and weary. It was not until four hundred years afterwards that the sentence against Amalek was executed but it was executed at last. We may kill our enemies, we may seek to destroy all traces of our crime, but we can never destroy the memory and the guilt of it by any acts of ours. Charles IX. of France was led, by the importunity of another Jezebel, Mary de Medicis, to kill Admiral Coligny, who was the great leader of the French Protestants. For a long time he refused, but at last he consented in the memorable words, "Assassinate Admiral Coligny, but leave not a Huguenot alive in France to reproach me." That was the origin of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Having killed Coligny, he did not want any of his friends to remain to bear witness against him. How anxious men are to destroy all traces of their crime! And yet how vain all such efforts are! There is One whose eye sees every act of human life. We may escape the judgment of men, but we cannot escape the judgment of God. If not here, then certainly hereafter, every sin, not repented of, will receive its due reward. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it he good or had."
III. THERE IS OFTEN A RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE PLACE AND MANNER OF THE SIN AND THE PLACE AND MANNER OF THE PUNISHMENT.
1. It was at Naboth's vineyard that the great sin of Ahab's house had been committed. There, too, at Naboth's vineyard, Jehoram, Ahab's son, was slain. It was outside the walls of Jezreel that the dogs licked the blood of Naboth. There, too, the dogs licked the blood and ate the flesh of Jezebel his murderess. It would seem as if this was part of the Divine Law of retribution. One reason for it would appear to be that it fixes unmistakably the connection between the sin and its punishment. Robe Spierre, the famous French revolutionist, literally choked the river Seine with the heads of those whom he sent to the guillotine. But the day came when the death-tumbrel containing himself was trundled along the streets of Paris to the selfsame fatal axe, amid the shouts and execrations of the multitude. Cardinal Beaten condemned to death George Wishart, one of the first of the Scottish Reformers, and watched him burning at the stake, while he himself reclined on rich cushions on the walls of his castle at St. Andrew's. Three months afterwards the cardinal himself was put to death, and his dead body was hung by a sheet from the very battlements whence he had looked at the execution of Wishart. There is something more than accident in such things. There is the vivid impression intended to be made on people's minds, that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"
2. The same is true of the resemblance between the manner of the sin and the manner of the punishment. Jezebel's murder of Naboth was treacherous and ignominious. She herself was put to death in a treacherous and ignominious way. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Jacob cruelly deceived his aged father Isaac when he was blind and feeble. What a pointed retribution it was when he was afterwards cruelly deceived by his own sons in their statements about Joseph! Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had made for Mordecai. One of the most terrible instances of this truth, that as we have treated others we shall be treated ourselves, is the case of Charles IX. of France, referred to above. He consented to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. He caused the streets of Paris to run with the blood of the Huguenots. He died at the age of twenty-four: and what a death! French historians of the highest order say that he was in such agony of remorse that he literally sweated blood. The blood that oozed from his own body caused him to think of those whose blood he had so freely shed, and he cried out in his last hours about the massacre of the Huguenots. Horrible! Yes; but there is a deep and solemn truth underlying all this. It is a truth that should have practical result upon every life. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" If your sin is public, most likely your punishment will be public. Men who commit commercial frauds—that is, sins against public confidence and trust—they ought to suffer, and they do suffer, public exposure. If your sin is secret, your punishment will also most likely be secret. They who sin against the laws of health suffer in an impaired constitution. They who sin by speaking evil about others most likely will have many to speak evil about themselves. Standing there by Naboth's vineyard, and thinking of the envy, covetousness, and murder, of which it reminds us, and their terrible consequences, let us hear the blood of Nabeth and the blood of Naboth's house crying to us from the ground, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Such, then, is the Divine law of retribution. But God, who is just, is also merciful. He willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness, and live. We have looked at the way of his justice. Let us look also at the way of his mercy. It is the way of the cross. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." If you reject God's mercy, there is only the other alternative-God's retributive justice.—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
2 Kings 9:1
2 Kings 10:36.
The history of Jehu.
"Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord," etc. Jehu was the son of Jehoshaphat and the grandson of Nimshi. He was one of the monsters of history. The leading facts of his revolting life will be found in this and the following chapter. His history furnishes—
I. A REVOLTING EXHIBITION OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY. He was ruthlessly and craftily cruel. He shot Jehoram dead in his chariot. "And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms." He commanded Jezebel, who was looking out of a window as he drove up, to be thrown down, and in her fall she was fatally injured, and her body was trodden down by the feet of horses, and afterwards consumed by dogs (2 Kings 10:36). He then proceeded to exterminate the family of Ahab. He addressed letters to those who had the care of his sons (no less than seventy in number), and proposed to them to select the fittest of them, and place him on the throne of his father. This they declined to do (through fear of Jehu), but promised to do anything else that might be required. Accordingly Jehu directed them to bring the heads of Ahab's sons the next day to Jezreel, and they were sent in two baskets. He directed them to be emptied out in two heaps at the gate of the city, and to remain there over night. The next morning he ordered a general slaughter of all Ahab's family and adherents in the town of Jezreel. He then set out for Samaria, and, meeting on his way a party of forty-two persons, all of the family of Ahaziah, he seized and slew them (2 Kings 10:1-13) Pursuing his malignant cruelty on his arrival at Samaria, he cuts off every branch of the house of Ahab that he can find (2 Kings 10:17). To effect this, with an infernal craftiness, he ordered all the worshippers of Baal throughout the land to assemble, as if he desired to join them in united worship. All having assembled, without the absence of a single man, he caused every one to be put to death (2 Kings 10:20-28). Here is a fiend in human form; and, alas! he is but a specimen of those monsters in bureau history who, in almost every age and land, have reveled in the blood and slaughter of their fellow-men. Such characters as these declare in thunder that men have fallen from their normal state. For who can believe that Infinite Purity and Benevolence would create characters of this class? All sin is an apostasy.
II. A DISTRESSING MYSTERY IN THE GOVERNMENT or GOD. That a just God should allow such men to become kings, and should even place them on a throne over the destinies of millions, is a mystery at which we stand aghast. That the merciful Father should permit men to be murderers one of another confounds us with amazement. Yet this has been going on everywhere through the millenniums of human history. Verily "clouds and darkness are round about him." "His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters," etc.
III. A MIGHTY ARGUMENT FOR FUTURE RETRIBUTION. Were we to believe that this state of things is to continue forever, that there is no retributive period before us, when there will be a balancing of human accounts and a settling of human affairs, religion, which is supreme love to God, would be out of the question. He who could prove to me that there is no future state of retribution would destroy within me all the possibilities of religion. But the concurrent belief of mankind, the universal cries of conscience, and the declarations of the gospel assure us that there is a reckoning day to come. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." "I saw, and behold a great white throne," etc.
IV. A PROOF OF THE SUPREME NEED OF A MORAL REGENERATOR. What can alter the character of such men as this Jehu, and put an end to all the cruelties, tyrannies, frauds, and violence, that turn the world into a Pandemonium? Philosophy, literature, civilization, legislative enactments, ceremonial religions? No; nothing short of a power which can change the moral heart. "Marvel not that I say unto you, Ye must be born again." The gospel is this regenerating power. Thank God, One has come into this world who will "create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 9:1-14
Jehu made king.
The word of the Lord to Elijah, that Jehu should be anointed king (1 Kings 19:16), was now to be fulfilled. The delay in the fulfillment is perhaps to be attributed to Ahab's repentance (1 Kings 21:29). God bore long with this wicked house, and did not cut it off till the cup of its iniquity was full. The execution of God's threatenings may be long postponed, but, like his promises, his threatenings never fail in the end to be fulfilled (2 Peter 3:9).
I. THE MESSENGER DESPATCHED.
1. He was sent by Elisha. On Elisha had fallen the mantle of Elijah, and to him belonged the task of executing Elijah's unfulfilled commissions. We must distinguish throughout this history between the motives which actuated Jehu in his conspiracy against Ahab, and the providential purpose which, as God's instrument, he was raised up to fulfill. That is to be read from the standpoint of the prophet. Israel was a people called into existence for the purpose of being a witness for the true God amidst surrounding heathenism. It owed its existence and possession of the land of Canaan to Jehovah. From him it had received its polity; to him it was bound in solemn covenant; the fundamental laws of its constitution required undivided allegiance to him. The penalties which would follow from disobedience were but a counterpart of the blessings which would flow from obedience. The first great sin of the nation was in the setting up of the calves under Jeroboam. For adherence to this unlawful form of worship two dynasties had already perished (2 Kings 9:9). But with the accession of the house of Omri a new development in evil took place (1 Kings 16:31, 1 Kings 16:32). The worship of the Phoenician Baal was introduced; God's prophets were relentlessly persecuted, and, under the influence of Jezebel, the moving spirit of three reigns corruption had spread far and near throughout the realm, and had penetrated even to Judah. Jehoram at first showed a better spirit (2 Kings 3:2), but he must afterwards have yielded to the superior influence of his mother, for Baal-worship was restored, and had the prestige of court example (2 Kings 9:22; 2 Kings 10:21). Under these circumstances, it was folly to hesitate, if Israel was to be saved. "Here the question of the justifiableness of rebellion against a legitimate dynasty, or of revolution in the ordinary sense of the word, cannot arise. The course of the house of Ahab was a rebellion against all law, human and Divine, in Israel" (Bahr). Even in ordinary earthly states, the right of revolution when religion, liberty, morality, and national honor can be saved by no other means, is universally conceded. But revolution here was not left to dubious human wisdom. The initiative was taken by Jehovah himself, acting through his prophet, and express Divine sanction was given to the overthrow of Ahab's house.
2. His responsible commission. The person chosen by Elisha to convey God's call to Jehu, and anoint him king, was one of the sons of the prophets. The anointing was to be in secret; hence the choice of a deputy. No value attaches to the tradition that the messenger was the future Prophet Jonah. Of his personality we know nothing more than is here told. He was an obscure individual, yet he set in motion a train of events of the most tragic significance. A child's hand may suffice to explode a mine. This messenger Elisha ordered to take a flask of the holy oil, and go to Ramoth-Gilead, where Jehu was. When he found the son of Nimshi, he was to retire with him into the innermost apartment, and anoint him King of Israel in the name of Jehovah, then he was to "open the door, and flee, and tarry not."
3. The spirit in which he was to execute it. It was a clear, unmistakable, but terribly serious and important message this prophetic disciple was entusted with; and it is instructive to notice the manner in which he was directed to perform his task. "Gird up thy loins," etc; said Elisha. He was to prepare at once for action; he was to make no delay on his errand; he was faithfully to execute the commands given to him; when his work was done, he was directly to leave the spot. In God's service there is to be no lingering, or looking back, or turning from side to side, or dallying on the field of duty. The powers of body and soul are to be braced up for the doing of the "one thing" given us to do. "Girding up the loins of your mind," says an apostle (1 Peter 1:13). Promptitude, speed, fidelity, stepping where the command of God stops,—these are invaluable qualities for doing God's work.
II. JEHU ANOINTED.
1. The messenger's arrival. Jehoram had returned to Jezreel to be healed of wounds received from the Syrians, and Jehu was at this time in command of the army at Ramoth-Gilead. The city itself had previously fallen into the hands of the Israelites. When the messenger arrived, he found the captains of the host sitting together in some house or court, and he at once addressed Jehu with the words, "I have an errand to thee, O captain." Jehu put the question, "Unto which of all us?" and the answer was, "To thee, O captain." The call of God may come to us at unexpected times and in surprising ways. It may come through others, or its voice may be heard in providence. There are general calls which God gives "to us all," and there are special calls to the individual. In whatever way the call of God is made known to us, we do well to give attentive heed to it.
2. The act of anointing. Jehu's anointing was to take place secretly. The messenger was to take him into an "inner chamber," and there make known his errand. We are reminded that it is generally in silence and secrecy that God gives men their summons to their peculiar life work. No time was wasted. The young man, trembling, excited, no doubt, at the thought of the perilous deed he was performing, and at the awful nature of the message he had to deliver, had no sooner got Jehu in private than he poured the oil from his flask upon his head, and said, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel." There is involved in this brief announcement the truths:
(1) That royal authority is from God. He sets up kings and puts down kings (Daniel 2:21). Those only who rule by his sanction and with his favor are legitimate rulers.
(2) Israel was a people of the Lord. Only God, therefore, had the right to appoint its rulers, and to determine the limits within which royal power should, be exercised. It was by their setting at naught of all the limits of a theocratic constitution that Ahab and his house had forfeited the throne.
(3) Jehu was made king by the direct act of God. God had taken the kingdom from Ahab's house and given it to him. It followed however, that if he, in turn, departed from God's commandments, he would incur the same fate.
3. The terrible charge. The prophet next declared to Jehu the terrible duty imposed upon him as the executor of God's judgments. It was certainly work from which any man might shrink, though to Jehu it does not seem to have been repugnant, as paving his own way to the throne We notice:
(1) The ground of the judgment: "That I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets," etc. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalms 116:15). Whoso touches them, touches him (Acts 9:4). He will not allow the least injury done to them to pass unavenged (Matthew 18:6).
(2) The range of the judgment: "The whole house of Ahab"—king, queen-mother, the royal household, every one, great and small, having in him the accursed blood. It was a root-and-branch extermination that was decreed.
(3) The terribleness of the judgment. Dreadful as this execution was, it was in accordance with the ideas of the time. In some sense it was a necessary concomitant of such a revolution as Jehu was about to bring about. From the Divine side it was justified as an act of vengeance against a wicked house. Ahab's house did not fall without warning, for it had already the doom of Jeroboam's and Baasha's dynasties to warn it from evil courses. Special signs of the Divine wrath were to attend the end of Jezebel, the prime instigator of Ahab's wickedness. It was foretold that the dogs would eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there would be none to bury her. How fearful a thing it is, as shown by these examples, to fall into the hands of a living God (Hebrews 10:31)! Great persecutors have often met a terrible end.
III. JEHU PROCLAIMED.
1. Jehu and his captains. The whole circumstances of the prophet's visit had been so strange, his appearance had been so wild, and his calling out of Jehu for a private interview so remarkable, that the captains who had witnessed the scene were naturally much astonished. Their first question, accordingly, when Jehu reappeared among them, himself somewhat agitated, and his hair streaming with the oil which had been poured upon it, was "Is it peace? Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee?" Men under any spiritual excitement seem "mad fellows" to profane minds (Hosea 9:7; Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13); but there may have been something in this messenger's disheveled appearance—the result of his haste—his eager, hasty manner, and the strange fire that burned in his eye, which gave them the impression of one not altogether accountable for his actions. His hasty flight at the end of the interview would add to their surprise. Jehu, in reply, sought to evade explanation. His words, "Ye know the man, and his communication," mean either, "You have taken a right estimate of him as a madman, and therefore need not concern yourself with what he said;" or, "You are yourselves at the bottom of this trick, and know very well wherefore he came" The latter is, perhaps, the better sense, and may indicate that Jehu wished to sound his companions before going further. Their eager, "It is false; tell us now," shows how greatly their curiosity was aroused. Jehu thereupon told them frankly what had happened.
2. Jehu proclaimed king. The response on the part of the captains was immediate. Jehu must already have been a general favorite, or the proposal to make him king would not have met with such easy acceptance. As with one accord, the captains threw off their upper garments, spread them on the stairs, made Jehu mount above them, and, blowing the trumpets, forthwith proclaimed him king. Would that when God comes declaring to men the anointing and exaltation of "another King, even Jesus," his words found as ready a response!—J.O.
2 Kings 9:14-37
Jehu as avenger.
No sooner is Jehu proclaimed king than, with characteristic decision, he gives orders that no one be permitted to leave the city to carry news to Jehoram; then, mounting his chariot, he drives off furiously to Jezreel. Whatever Jehu did, he did "with all his might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). It is this vigorous decision of character which made him so suitable an instrument in executing God's vengeance on the house of Ahab,
I. JEHU'S APPROACH TO JEZREEL.
1. The watchman's announcement. In the far distance the watchman on the tower of Jezreel beholds a company of horsemen rapidly approaching. What can it portend? The report is brought to the king, who unsuspiciously sends out a messenger on horseback to inquire. Towers and watchmen are for the protection of a city and its inhabitants. But "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalms 127:1). And if the Lord decrees the destruction of a city, or of those in it, towers and watchmen will do little to protect them.
2. Successive messengers. These verses are chiefly interesting as illustrating the character of Jehu. The messenger sent by Jehoram soon reaches the company, and asks, "Is it peace?" The idea probably is, "What tidings from the field of battle?" Jehu does not even answer him civilly, but, with a rude "What hast thou to do with peace?" he orders him to turn behind him. A man this who will brook no delay, submit to no curb, endure no check, in his imperious course. He sweeps obstacles from his path, and bends them to his will. This messenger returns not, and a second, sent out from the king, meets a like reception, and is also compelled to ride behind.
3. Jehu recognized. At length the horsemen are near enough for the watchman to get a closer view, and he has no difficulty in recognizing the furious driving of the leading figure as the driving of Jehu. It is familiar to all that character imprints itself on manner. Physiognomy, walk, gesture, handwriting even, are windows through which, to an observant eye, the soul looks out. Hypocrisy may create a mask behind which the real character seeks to hide itself. But hypocrisy, too, has characteristic ways of betraying its presence, and the mask cannot always be kept on. If we wish habitually to appear true, we must be true.
II. JEHORAM AND AHAZIAH SLAIN.
1. The fateful meeting. On learning that Jehu was approaching, King Jehoram, now convalescent, prepared his chariot, and, accompanied by Ahaziah of Judah, went out to meet his captain.
(1) The two encountered at the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. Strange coincidence, only, as we shall see below, more than coincidence. As the chariots meet, the king puts the anxious question, "Is it peace, Jehu?" Alas! the day of peace is over; it is now the day of vengeance.
(2) Jehu throws no disguise over his intentions. With his usual vehement abruptness he at once bursts forth, "What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" Jehu was right: there can be no peace in a state when the foundations of religion and morality are everywhere subverted. When fountains of immorality are opened at head-quarters, their poisonous influence speedily infects the whole nation (Hosea 4:5). They who are responsible for the subversion of righteousness in a state, must bear the penalty.
(3) Jehoram needed to hear no more. He saw at a glance the situation, and with a shout, "Treachery, O Ahaziah!" he turned and fled. But there was no grain of pity in Jehu. With fierce promptitude he seizes his bow, fits one arrow to the string, and, taking sure aim, smites the flying king right through the heart. Jehoram falls—is dead.
2. Blood for blood. The tragedy thus transacted was in the immediate neighborhood of Naboth's vineyard. On that very spot, or near it, Naboth's own blood had been shed (1 Kings 21:13), and, as this verse shows (2 Kings 9:26), not his alone, but the blood of his sons. Thither, after the murder, Ahab went down to take possession of the vineyard, and there, when he arrived, he found Elijah standing, waiting to denounce upon him the doom of blood. This was not all, for among those who rode with Ahab that day were two of his captains, one of them Bidkar, the other this Jehu, who heard the prophetic announcements against Ahab and his family (1 Kings 21:19-24). Ahab himself was subsequently spared, but the doom predicted against him had now fallen on his son: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine" (1 Kings 21:19). That prophecy, probably, had never altogether left the mind of Jehu, but now it came home to him with fresh force as he saw it actually fulfilled by his own hand. Bidkar, too, as it chanced, was there, and Jehu recalled to him the prophetic oracle. Then, to give it literal accomplishment, he bade Bidkar give orders that the corpse of Jehoram should be thrown into the plat of ground which formerly belonged to Naboth. Startling correspondences often thus occur between sin and its mode of punishment. When they occur in fiction, we speak of them as instances of "poetic justice." But poetry, in this as in other cases, is "unconscious philosophy," and is not opposed to truth. Its truth in such representations lies rather in seizing and bringing to light actual laws in the moral government of the world. There is a singular tendency in events in history to fold back on each other—even dates and places presenting a series of marvelous coincidences.
3. A partner in doom. The King of Judah had, the moment the alarm was given, sought his own safety. He fled "by the way of the garden house "—was it the "garden of herbs," into which Naboth's vineyard had been converted (1 Kings 21:2)? But in vain. The peremptory Jehu allows nothing to escape his vigilance, and immediately he is on Ahaziah's track. His command was, "Smite him also in the chariot," and this was done, "at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam." Ahaziah continued his flight to Megiddo, where he died. A slightly different account of the manner of his death is given in 2 Chronicles 22:9. Whatever the precise circumstances of the death, we cannot but see in it
(1) a righteous retribution for his own sins; and
(2) an example of the end of evil association.
Through his mother Athallah, daughter of Jezebel, he was brought into close and friendly relations with the court of Samaria, and, sharing in the crimes of Ahab's house, shared also in their fate. It was his visit to King Jehoram which immediately brought down this doom upon him,
III. THE FATE OF JEZEBEL.
1. Her daring defiance. When Jehoram had been slain, the end of Jezebel, the prime mover and presiding spirit in all the wickedness that had been wrought in Israel, could not be far distant. Jezebel perfectly apprehended this herself, for, on hearing that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she prepared to give him a defiant reception. While one loathes the character of the woman, it is impossible not to admire the boldness and spirit with which she faces the inevitable. Her proud, imperious nature comes out in her last actions. She paints her eyelids with antimony, tires her head, and adorns her person, as if she was preparing for some festal celebration. Then she plants herself at the window, and, when Jehu appears, assails him with bitter taunting words. "Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master's murderer?" she mockingly asked. What a power for evil this woman had been in Israel! What a power, with her strong intellect and will, she might have been for good!
2. Her ghastly end. If Jezebel thought, by this show of imperious defiance, to produce any effect on Jehu, perhaps to disarm him by sheer admiration of her boldness, she had mistaken the man. Jehu's impetuous nature was not to be thus shaken from its purpose. He quickly brought the scene to a conclusion. "Who is on my side? who?" he cried, lifting up his eyes to the windows. Two or three eunuchs, no friends of Jezebel, and anxious only to please the new ruler, gave the needful sign. "Throw her down," was the pitiless order; and in another instant the painted Jezebel was hurled from the palace window, and, dashed on the ground, was being trodden by the hoofs of the horses. Pitiless herself, she now met with no compassion. One who had shed much blood, and rejoiced in it, her own blood was now bespattered on the wall and on the horses. Jehu had no compunctions, but, fresh from the dreadful spectacle, entered the palace, and sat down to eat and drink. But the climax was yet to come. As if even he felt that, vengeance being now sated, some respect was due to one who had so long held sway in Israel, he bade his servants "Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for," he said, "she is a king's daughter." The servants went, but soon returned with a shocking tale. Attracted by the scent of blood, the prowling city dogs had found their way into the enclosure, and, short as the time had been, all that remained of haughty Jezebel was the skull, and feet, and palms of the hands, strewn about the court.
3. A prophecy fulfilled. Such was the dreadful end of this haughty, domineering, evil woman. Possibly even Jehu could not restrain a shudder when he heard of it. He had not thought of it before, but now he recalled the close of that awful prophecy of Elijah to Ahab, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" (1 Kings 21:23), the terms of which had been repeated to him by Elisha's messenger, (2 Chronicles 22:10). That word of God had been fulfilled with ghastly literalness. Would that men would lay to heart the lemon, and believe that all God's threatenings will be as certainly fulfilled!—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18