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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 10

 

 

Verses 1-8

The Initial Destruction Of The Seventy ‘Sons’ Of The House Of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1-8).

Very few kings of that time (if any) who replaced another dynasty with their own, would have acted ant differently from Jehu. In such a situation the extirpation of the royal seed of the previous dynasty was seen as very much a political necessity (David’s sparing of the house of Saul was a remarkable exception). In partial justification of it we should recognise that it was essential if the kingdom was to be given stability, and in order to prevent the possibility of future insurrections by supporters of the previous dynasty (compare what happened to Athaliah because she failed in her attempt to eliminate all the seed royal - 2 Kings 11:1-20). It thus in the end probably resulted in the saving of a multitude of lives.

The ‘sons’ (descendants) of Ahab were all to be found in Samaria which still remained to be captured, and Jehu had to decide how to go about the taking of the city. His letter was in fact almost certainly intended to be an ultimatum. Either they could surrender to him, or they could appoint a king from the seed royal. As Jehoram of Israel had probably succeeded to the throne at a young age (his father Ahaziah had only reigned for about a year - 1 Kings 22:51), and had only reigned for twelve years, the seed royal would all be minors. Thus their choice lay between a seasoned warrior, supported by the army, or a king who was young and inexperienced with only the support of Samaria behind him. Recognising the strength of the rebellion, which included all the active army commanders, and was almost certainly supported by the common people who had nothing but hatred for the foreign innovations of Jezebel, the leading men in Samaria decided on the most sensible way out. They would surrender on Jehu’s terms, terms which would not in fact have come as any surprise to them for the reasons mentioned above.

Accordingly the heads of the seventy sons were delivered to Jehu in Jezreel, where they were piled up at the gate, a common practise among ancient kings when they wanted to awe the people (Assyrian kings such as Ashernasirpal and Shalmaneser III repeatedly boasted about the heads piled up in a pyramid outside their cities). It both indicated that the previous dynasty was no more, and acted as a warning as to what would happen to any dissentients in the future.

He then assured all that they had done the right thing, for they had brought about the necessary fulfilment of the word of YHWH concerning the house of Ahab. YHWH’s will had been done (even if not necessarily in God’s way). This was why the author has entered into such detail, for his main concern is with the activity of YHWH in history.

Analysis.

a Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, even the elders, and to those who brought up the sons of Ahab, saying (2 Kings 10:1).

b “And now as soon as this letter comes to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and armour, look you out the best and most suitable of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, “Behold, the two kings did not stand before him. How then shall we stand?” (2 Kings 10:2-4).

c And he who was over the household, and he who was over the city, the elders also, and those who brought up the children, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, and will do all that you shall bid us. We will not make any man king. You do what is good in your eyes” (2 Kings 10:5).

d Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you will listen to my voice, you take the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time” (2 Kings 10:6 a).

c Now the king’s sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who brought them up (2 Kings 10:6 b).

b And it came about, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons, and slew them, even seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him to Jezreel (2 Kings 10:7).

a And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons.” And he said, “Lay you them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning” (2 Kings 10:8).

Note that in ‘a’ the seventy descendants of Ahab were in Samaria, and in the parallel their heads were piled up at Jezreel. In ‘b’ a letter was sent to the leading men of Samaria, and in the parallel a letter was received by them. In ‘c’ are described those who were in charge in Samaria including those who brought up the king’s descendants, and in the parallel the king’s descendants were with those who brought them up. Centrally in ‘d’ the heads of the seventy were to be delivered to Jehu in Jezreel.

2 Kings 10:1

‘Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, even the elders, and to those who brought up the sons of Ahab, saying.’

The powerful city of Samaria was still in the hands of the house of Ahab, which as far as direct descendants of Jehoram were concerned probably consisted of minors. There were ‘seventy’ recognised male members of the royal house in Samaria who might have been seen as having some claim to the throne. Like the number seven, ‘seventy’ (which is seven intensified) is often used in order to indicate completeness (compare Genesis 46:27; Judges 8:30; Judges 9:2). Thus we need not see it as an exact number (it is made exact in Genesis 46 by artificial means). It is rather a general indication, It is rather a general indication, with an emphasis on the completeness of the grouping. Samaria was the city built by Omri on land owned by him, and was the centre of political power and royal influence (it was also the centre for worship of the foreign Baal introduced by Jezebel), and the royal family would include not only the sons of Jehoram, but also his brothers and their sons, and other near relations, which is why the term used is ‘sons of Ahab’, covering the whole.

Multiple copies of his letter were sent to various authorities in Samaria, to the elders in Jezreel, and to those responsible for the royal house. The sons of Jehoram would be under their tutors and teachers who were preparing them for their royal roles ahead (compare 2 Chronicles 21:2-3). The city itself therefore was being ruled by its governor, the head of the king’s household, the elders of the city, and the tutors of the king’s sons (2 Kings 10:5). It was to these then that Jehu wrote his letters. He also sent copies to the elders of Jezreel so that they would be joined with him in his demands (and he still had to officially establish his authority in Jezreel).

2 Kings 10:2-3

“And now as soon as this letter comes to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and armour, look you out the best and most suitable of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.”

‘Now as soon as this letter comes to you --.’ This was a recognised form of opening for an official letter. Compare 2 Kings 5:6. It is also found among the Lachish letters (number 4).

The content of the letters was simple. He openly acknowledged the strength of the city’s fortifications, the number of their chariots, and the effectiveness of their armour. If they wished to resist him let them then choose the best and most suitable of the king’s sons as their ruler (he probably had his tongue in his cheek), and let them make him king (an indication to them, if they did not already know it, that Jehoram was dead), and let them fight under him for their master’s house.

Note the subtlety of his method. He was drawing attention to the inexperience of whoever would rule them, and was asking them to compare what they had with what was under his control, for he was supported by the army of all Israel. It was basically inviting them to surrender or die.

2 Kings 10:4

‘But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, “Behold, the two kings did not stand before him. How then shall we stand?” ’

Understandably his words struck fear in their hearts. They probably did not know the details of what had happened, but they were aware that the combined bodyguards of the kings of Israel and Judah had been in Jezreel. And they recognised that if such seasoned campaigners had not been able to resist Jehu it was unlikely that an immature ‘son of Ahab’ would be able to do so. And all knew what happened to a city that resisted when besieged (see Deuteronomy 20:12-13).

2 Kings 10:5

‘And he who was over the household, and he who was over the city, the elders also, and those who brought up the children, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, and will do all that you shall bid us. We will not make any man king. You do what is good in your eyes.”

So the leading men of the city who were ruling it in the king’s name, the steward of the royal household (the high chamberlain, the highest in status as his influence went far beyond the city), the governor or commandant of the city (the next highest in status with responsibility for the city), the city elders (who acted as advisers to the governor/commandant), and those responsible for the training and tutoring of the king’s sons (who would be important men and advisers of the royal steward), all came together to discuss what should be done. And they all with one accord recognised that resistance was useless. They would know perfectly well what the result of their decision would be, and that their charges, the king’s sons, would not be allowed to live. But they also had to take into account the safety of all the people in Samaria. It was not a pleasant choice.

Thus they replied to Jehu that they were ready to swear fealty to him, and that they would do whatever he bade them. They would not seek to set up a rival king, but were ready to acknowledge him as king. They would do whatever seemed good in his eyes. They would not be in any doubt about the fact that they were sacrificing their charges, but recognised that they had little option.

2 Kings 10:6

‘Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you will listen to my voice, you take the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time.” Now the king’s sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who brought them up.’

The demands laid on them would not be unexpected. No ‘usurper’ could allow the male members of the previous royal house to live. It would have been political suicide. Thus they would not have been surprised when they received the demand that the execution of the king’s ‘sons’ had to be carried out. This was to be done by execution, and the severing of their heads, which were then to be sent to Jehu in Jezreel as proof that his demands had truly been carried out. While it may sound a gruesome to us it was necessary for Jehu to be sure that all the king’s sons had been slain, and the only way to do that was to have proof of their deaths and of their identifies.

Jehu could, of course, have demanded that they be handed over alive, but he wanted the responsibility for the executions to fall squarely on the people themselves. This was a wise move politically, for it ensured that in future the direct blame could not be laid at his door. It would mean that they would be seen to have cooperated with him in it.

It is then explained that the king’s sons were under the jurisdiction of the most powerful men in the city who had had responsibility for their upbringing and training. Had the king’s sons lived, with Jehoram as king, most of them would have gone on to positions of authority and power for which they had therefore to be prepared (compare 2 Chronicles 21:3).

2 Kings 10:7

‘And it came about, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons, and slew them, even seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him to Jezreel.’

In response to the letter these powerful men took all ‘seventy’ (the totality) of ‘the king’s sons’ (all royal claimants), and executed them, severing their heads and placing them in pots or baskets (the word usually refers to earthenware pots, but may have widened to indicate any container. On the other hand earthenware pots would have prevented the heat from causing the heads to deteriorate and would have prevented any blood from seeping out). These were then sent to Jehu in Jezreel, thus sparing Samaria from being besieged and destroyed, and yielding it officially to Jehu.

2 Kings 10:8

‘And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons.” And he said, “Lay you them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” ’

On their arrival at Jezreel a messenger was sent to Jehu to inform him of their arrival, and he commanded that they be piled up in two heaps at the entrance to the city. No doubt appropriate checks as to their identity would be carried out. As mentioned above this practise of piling up the heads of important enemies at the city gates was one which was well recognised at the time. It demonstrated to any waverers that the king’s sons really were dead, and that there was nowhere else to look but to Jehu. It also stood as a stark warning to any who might be thinking of dissent.


Verses 9-17

The Continuing Purge Of The House Of Ahab (2 Kings 10:9-17).

Had Jehu stopped there no blame would have been laid at his door. All would have recognised that he had done what was inevitable. But as can so often happen, having carried out YHWH’s wishes he went to excess and in the end earned the disapproval of the prophets (Hosea 1:4). His first excess was to destroy the relatives of Ahaziah, king of Judah, who had unsuspectingly come visiting their royal relatives in Israel, presumably partly because they wanted to commiserate Jehoram for his wounds. As far as we know he had no grounds for knowing whether they were worshippers of Baal or YHWH. His second excess will later be to destroy all the worshippers of Baal without giving any opportunity for repentance. Thus he went far beyond his remit. Meanwhile he also finished off the purging of the house of Ahab, something which the prophetic author approved of as being in accordance with the prophecy of Elijah (2 Kings 10:17).

Analysis.

a And it came about in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, “You are righteous. Behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him, but who smote all these?” (2 Kings 10:9).

b “Know now that there will fall to the earth nothing of the word of YHWH, which YHWH spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for YHWH has done what he spoke by his servant Elijah”. So Jehu smote all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he left him none remaining (2 Kings 10:10-11).

c And he arose and departed, and went to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing-house of the shepherds in the way, Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the brothers of Ahaziah, and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen” (2 Kings 10:12-13).

d And he said, “Take them alive.” And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing-house, even forty two men, nor did he leave any of them (2 Kings 10:14).

c And when he departed from there, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” “If it is, give me your hand.” And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot (2 Kings 10:15).

b And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for YHWH.” So they made him ride in his chariot (2 Kings 10:16).

a And when he came to Samaria, he smote all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke to Elijah (2 Kings 10:17).

Note that in ‘a’ Jehu speaks of those of the house of Ahab who have been smitten by the people and in the parallel he himself smites all who remained of Ahab. In ‘b’ Jehu reveals his zeal for YHWH by smiting all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and in the parallel he tells Jehonadab that he will yet see his zeal for YHWH. In ‘c’ he departed and went to Samaria and on the way met the brothers of Ahaziah, and in the parallel he departed from where he was (still going to Samaria) and met Jehonadab. Centrally in ‘d’ the brothers (stepbrothers) of Ahaziah were slain.

2 Kings 10:9-10

‘And it came about in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, “You are righteous. Behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him, but who smote all these?” Know now that there will fall to the earth nothing of the word of YHWH, which YHWH spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for YHWH has done what he spoke by his servant Elijah.”

Having allowed the heads of the king’s sons to convey their message all that day and night, he went out next morning, and taking up an official stance, presumably in the part of the gate house where judgments were regularly made, (the city gate was where much public business was done. Compare Ruth 4:1 ff), he addressed the people. He was seeking to consolidate his position and win their approval. In the light of the final reference to the fulfilment of the word of YHWH we must probably see ‘You are righteous’ as an indication of his official approval of what ‘they’ had done. They had been even more righteous than he, for he had only slain two of those who were under YHWH’s curse whereas they had slain seventy. And he wanted them to see it all as demonstrating that what YHWH had declared He had brought about through the effectiveness of His word of power (compare Isaiah 55:10-13), and that they had had their full part in it along with him. By this he was uniting them with him in what had happened.

Others, however, see the words ‘you are righteous’ differently. They consider that we should see it as indicating a rarer meaning of the Hebrew word with the significance of ‘innocent’, indicating a negative innocence as against a positive righteousness. In other words they must not blame themselves, any more than he should be blamed. Even others see it as sarcastic, with the idea being that he was saying, “see how ‘righteous’ you are. You slew a lot more than I did.”

Whichever way we take it, it is clear that his main purpose was to vindicate his own actions, while seeking to maintain their (possibly reluctant) approval, in the light of what he was going to do next. For having dealt with all possible claimants to the throne in Samaria, he was now about to remove all supporters of Ahab’s house in Jezreel.

2 Kings 10:11

‘So Jehu smote all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.’

Recognising that, next to Samaria, Jezreel was the place where Ahab’s family had had most support (it had long been the site of the summer/winter palace of the house of Ahab) Jehu now set about destroying that support by ‘smiting’ all the high officials, personal friends and idolatrous priests in Jezreel who owed loyalty to the house of Ahab and might seek to undermine his (Jehu’s) position, continuing the process until none were left.

2 Kings 10:12-13

‘And he arose and departed, and went to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing-house of the shepherds in the way, Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the brothers of Ahaziah, and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen.” ’

Then he set out for Samaria in order to do the same in Samaria. To quite some extent this was a breach of the agreement which he had reached with Samaria, for Samaria had done all that he had asked, and had fulfilled the terms of the surrender. They therefore had a right not to be subjected to a purge. But he was a soldier and knew only one way to rule, and that was by force. Thus his aim was now to purge all support for the house of Ahab in Samaria regardless of how anyone saw it.

As he was on the road to Samaria with his forces he came to ‘the shearing house of the shepherds’, clearly a well known landmark, (or possibly Beth Eked of the shepherds, which some associate with Beit Qad, five kilometres (three miles) north of Jenin), and there he came across a group of obviously wealthy travellers. When he asked them who they were they replied in all innocence that they were brothers of Ahaziah of Judah on their way to visit the Israelite royal family, no doubt assuming that such a description would put them in good standing with this obviously Israelite commander. ‘Brothers’ must be taken in a wide sense to include step-brothers, for Ahaziah’s own brothers had been slaughtered by the Arabians (2 Chronicles 22:1).

2 Kings 10:14

‘And he said, “Take them alive.” And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing-house, even forty two men, nor did he leave any of them.’

There were ‘forty two’ of them, and they were to receive the shock of their lives. For instead of receiving the respect that they were anticipating they found themselves forcibly arrested, as Jehu turned to his men and said, ‘Take them alive.’ Then they were borne off to the pit at the shearing house (normally for use in shearing) where they themselves were put to death with not a single one being spared. They had been ‘sheared’ indeed.

The number forty two Isaiah 2 x 3 x 7 and may thus be intended to indicate a complete and perfect number (as with ‘seventy’), for three signifies completeness, x 2 signifies in depth completeness, and seven indicates divine perfection. Others argue for it to be taken literally. It is always a problem in ancient literature as to when to take numbers literally, for numbers were very much used in a symbolic fashion as adjectives in order to teach a lesson (compare the ‘forty two’ smitten by bears in 2 Kings 2:24) as possibly here.

2 Kings 10:15

‘And when he departed from there, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” “If it is, give me your hand.” And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot.’

As he proceeded on his way he met up with Jehonadab the son of Rechab who was coming to meet him, having no doubt heard about his activities and being desirous of influencing the future return (he hoped) to full Yahwism. Jehu then asked him if he was one with him in his reforms and his anti-Baalism, and Jehonadab assured him that he certainly was, at which Jehu took him up into his chariot. This act would put Jehu in well with discontented Yahwists who admired the conservatism and fervency of the Rechabites. This incident is mentioned in order to demonstrate that Jehu was not simply seen in Israel as being out for personal gain in all that had happened but was genuinely concerned for the honour of YHWH. Jehonadab was a fervent, primitive Yahwist, and much admired, and would have approved of his treatment of the idolatrous house of Ahab. He would want to join in with any revival of Yahwism. Elsewhere Jonadab was described as a faithful follower of YHWH who observed the Mosaic Law more strictly than most (see Jeremiah 35:6-7). Indeed it appears that his aim was to take Israel back to its wilderness days, and he encouraged his followers (the Rechabites) to abstain from strong liquor, to live in tents, to refuse to be involved in settled agriculture and to avoid city living, because, from his idealistic viewpoint, when Israel had lived like that they had been faithful to YHWH. To be associated with him was thus to be seen as a firm Yahwist.

Rechab, from whom the descendants of Jehonadab derived their tribal name, was the son of Hammath, and was descended from the Kenites (1 Chronicles 2:55), the tribe to which Hobab the father-in-law of Moses had also belonged (Numbers 10:29). Thus the Rechabites may even have been descendants of Hobab, since the Kenites, the sons of Hobab, had gone with the Israelites from the Sinai desert to Canaan, and had there carried on their nomadic life (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11; 1 Samuel 15:6).

2 Kings 10:16

‘And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for YHWH.” So they made him ride in his chariot.’

Jehu then called on Jehonadab to come to Samaria with him and see how zealous he was for YHWH, as a result of which Jehonadab was assisted up into Jehu’s chariot. Being seen as on such terms with Jehonadab would undoubtedly have increased Jehu’s reputation for ‘godliness’.

2 Kings 10:17

‘And when he came to Samaria, he smote all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke to Elijah.’

On arrival in Samaria Jehu carried out a purge of ‘all who remained to ‘Ahab’ in Samaria. It cannot be denied that in doing so he went against the spirit of his earlier agreement with the people of Samaria. But he was now mopping up Ahab’s supporters and close friends, and thereby seeking to destroy all the deep rooted influence of the house of Ahab in Samaria, fulfilling the word of YHWH spoken to Elijah. This indeed was the prophetic author’s main aim, to demonstrate that through it all YHWH’s purpose was being carried out. He was not, however, necessarily approving of the way in which Jehu was doing it.


Verses 18-28

The Slaughter Of All The Specific Worshippers of Baal In Samaria (2 Kings 10:18-28).

That Jehu went far beyond what YHWH had required comes out here. Not satisfied with a thorough purge in Samaria, Jehu now turned his attention to the rest of the country. His purpose now was to root out all the foreign influence of Jezebel and her cult of the Phoenician Baal, and he performed his task meticulously and mercilessly, without giving any opportunity for repentance. This was not YHWH’s way. And by it he was unwittingly destroying Israel’s superstructure, for these Baal worshippers were a major part of the aristocracy which ruled the land. It cannot be denied that he had a ‘zeal for YHWH’, but as will be subsequently made clear it was not in accordance with righteousness (with living rightly by the covenant). For he was returning Israel, not to the true and pure worship of YHWH deserted by Jeroboam the son of Nebat and all the kings who had succeeded him, but to Jeroboam’s own syncretistic form of Yahwism, one that was abominated by YHWH Himself. YHWH’s final verdict on Jehu would not be one of approval. Instead of being seen as submitting to YHWH and His prophets, he was seen as having chosen the way of Jeroboam, a way that would lead to Israel’s final destruction.

Analysis.

a And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshippers, and all his priests. Let none be wanting. For I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal. Whoever shall be wanting, he will not live” (2 Kings 10:18-19 a).

b But Jehu did it in subtlety, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal (2 Kings 10:19 b).

c And Jehu said, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” And they proclaimed it (2 Kings 10:20).

d And Jehu sent through all Israel, and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And they came into the house of Baal, and the house of Baal was filled from one end to another (2 Kings 10:21).

e And he said to him who was over the wardrobe, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.” And he brought forth vestments for them (2 Kings 10:22).

f And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and he said to the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and see that there are here with you none of the servants of YHWH, but the worshippers of Baal only” (2 Kings 10:23).

e And they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings. Now Jehu had appointed for himself fourscore men outside, and said, “If any of the men whom I bring into your hands escape, he who lets him go, his life will be for the life of him” (2 Kings 10:24).

d And it came about, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt-offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the commanders, “Go in, and slay them. Let none come forth.” And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and the guard and the commanders cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal (2 Kings 10:25).

c And they brought forth the pillars which were in the house of Baal, and burned them (2 Kings 10:26).

b And they broke down the pillar of Baal, and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a draught-house, to this day (2 Kings 10:27).

a Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel (2 Kings 10:28).

Note that in ‘a’ Jehu set about gathering all the worshippers of Baal, and in the parallel he fulfilled his purpose, which was to destroy them. In ‘b’ his purpose of destroying the worshippers of Baal was made patent, and in the parallel it resulted also in the destruction of the pillar and temple of Baal. (While Jehoram had destroyed the pillar of Baal that belonged to his father (2 Kings 3:2), he had left Jezebel’s pillar and temple in place, presumably out of respect for his mother, demonstrating that his actions were not wholehearted. It is probable that political necessity, arising out of the strength of feeling in Israel, had brought about his own withdrawal from active Baal worship, without it indicating a real change of heart, for he had still continued the worship of the golden calves). In ‘c’ they sanctified a solemn assembly for Baal, and in the parallel they used it to bring forth the pillars in the house of Baal and burned them. In ‘d’ Jehu called for all the worshippers of Baal to come to the house of Baal, and in the parallel he commands that all be destroyed. In ‘e’ the vestments for the worshippers of Baal were brought out, and in the parallel they went on to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings to Baal. Centrally in ‘f’ great effort was put in to ensuring that only dedicated worshippers of Baal were present.

2 Kings 10:18-19

‘And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshippers, and all his priests. Let none be wanting. For I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal. Whoever shall be wanting, he will not live.”

Jehu had by now determined that he would destroy all the worshippers of the foreign Baal, introduced by Jezebel, out of the land, and in order to do this, and to identify them accurately, he pretended that he himself was a zealous worshipper of the Phoenician Baal. The idea that Ahab had only served Baal a little was certainly true. All his children had names which included the name of YHWH, and, as we know, he repented as a result of the prophesying of Elijah. Thus while he had had a personal pillar of Baal for his own use in worship in the temple of Baal (which Jehoram had removed) it had been mainly in order to please his fanatical wife. He, meanwhile, had been more involved in the worship of YHWH, although still in the syncretistic way introduced by Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat. Now, however, Jehu was giving the impression that for him Baal was to be central. Accordingly he called for all the prophets of Baal, and all those who worshipped Baal in the manner of Jezebel (rather than syncretistically along with YHWH worship in which the two were religiously confused), and all the priests of Baal, to gather for a solemn feast. And he enforced it by threatening the death penalty for any recognised worshippers of Baal who did not attend. We can imagine with what joy the worshippers of Baal received this news. They would have been wondering which way the new regime would turn, and few if any would have had any knowledge of the beliefs of a professional army commander who had been on continuing active service and subject to the king’s command.

While it was, of course, true that he had driven into Samaria with Jehonadab, the Baal worshippers may well have seen that as simply a wise political move (which of course it was, but for reasons other than they suspected). They may have seen Jehu’s policy as intended to be one of appeasement, with the fanaticism of Jezebel being replaced with a more open regime, which would make it all the more a matter of thanksgiving that he had thrown his lot in on their side, emphatically demonstrating (from their viewpoint) that there was to be no persecution of Baalists (you could never tell with a new regime). They may even have hoped that he was influencing Jehonadab, a man of extreme views and not involved in mainstream YHWH worship at Bethel and Dan, ‘in the right direction’.

2 Kings 10:19

‘But Jehu did it in subtlety, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.’

While they rejoiced, however, it was to be a foolish hope, for Jehu was behaving like this in order to deceive them. His aim was in fact to gather them together in order to destroy them all. This undoubtedly represents Jehu as without inhibitions. Many of those who were deceived would have seen his actions as, in accordance with the customs of the time, guaranteeing that he would treat them in honest friendship, for he was inviting them to feast with them, and by the ancient laws of hospitality that was similar to offering them an oath of friendship. But it would turn out not to be so, for Jehu did things by his own rules.

2 Kings 10:20

‘And Jehu said, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” And they proclaimed it.’

The proclaiming of ‘the sanctifying of a solemn assembly’ was a method of gathering the people together as a result of ‘setting apart to a holy purpose’ (sanctifying) a period which was wholly for the worship of a divinity (sanctifying it), a period for which special preparations had to be made. (Compare Exodus 19:14 for the general idea). In this case that god was Baal, and thus the requirement was that all Baal worshippers were to thoroughly prepare themselves in order to come to play their part in it.

2 Kings 10:21

‘And Jehu sent through all Israel, and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And they came into the house of Baal, and the house of Baal was filled from one end to another (literally ‘from one mouth to another’).’

Jehu was taking no chances, and he sent messengers throughout Israel so as to ensure that all pure Baal worshippers attended, which they did en masse. They all gathered for the festival in the very temple of Baal in Samaria, with the result that it was filled to overflowing.

2 Kings 10:22

‘And he said to him who was over the wardrobe, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.” And he brought forth vestments for them.’

Then he called for all the vestments worn by Baal worshippers on special occasions to be brought out. These would be worn for worship and would in this case clearly identify all worshippers of Baal. This wearing of special garments for worship is testified to elsewhere. Compare Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10 (where the garments were washed rather than being changed); Matthew 22:11; and King Dan’el at Ugarit.

2 Kings 10:23

‘And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and he said to the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and see that there are here with you none of the servants of YHWH, but the worshippers of Baal only.” ’

In order to make doubly sure that no worshippers of YHWH were present he entered the temple of Baal with Jehonadab, and called on the worshippers of Baal to search and ensure that no worshippers of YHWH were present. It may well be that this was a regular feature of their worship (compare the search for leaven at the Passover). A solemn assembly may well have been seen as totally exclusive, with such a search ritually necessary.

2 Kings 10:24

‘And they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings. Now Jehu had appointed for himself fourscore men outside, and said, “If any of the men whom I bring into your hands escape, he who lets him go, his life will be for the life of him.” ’

Then when all were present at the feast the people went in along with Jehu. He himself may have gone in as the king-priest to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings (2 Kings 10:25), something which Ahab and Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:52) had no doubt done before him (although possibly not Jehoram of Israel). On the other hand it may simply be saying that he, Jehonadab and the people went in so as to offer their sacrifices and offerings through the priests.

What the worshippers did not know was that Jehu had lined up fourscore of his best troops outside in order to ensure that none escaped death. Indeed the men were warned that if they let any escape, their own lives would be forfeit. Theirs too was a ‘sacred’ task.

2 Kings 10:25

‘And it came about, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt-offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the commanders, “Go in, and slay them. Let none come forth.” And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and the guard and the commanders cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.’

Taken literally the verb indicates that Jehu himself offered the offering, which might in fact have been expected of him as king-priest of Samaria, although, for example, when Solomon ‘offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar’ he is hardly intended to be seen as offering them himself (1 Kings 3:4). Thus the burnt offering may have been offered by the priests on his behalf. But whoever offered them, as soon as the offerings were over Jehu gave a command to his bodyguard and to his commanders that they go in and kill all the worshippers of Baal, and let none survive. The consequence was that they went in and smote them with their swords, and then flung their bodies out of the building like so much refuse.

‘And went to the city of the house of Baal.’ This was possibly a technical name for the inner sanctuary of the temple of Baal (a possible parallel has been found at Ugarit). If so such detail makes clear that we have information gained from a contemporary source. Others see it as meaning the part of the city surrounding the temple of Baal, possibly having in mind relatives of those who had already been slain.

2 Kings 10:26

‘And they brought forth the pillars which were in the house of Baal, and burned them.’

And from the inner sanctuary some of Jehu’s men brought out the steles/pillars which were in the house of Baal, each probably having personal connections with prominent worshippers of Baal (Ahab’s had been removed by Jehoram - 2 Kings 3:2). And these were burned in order to cause them to break up, or possibly even in order to ‘devote them to YHWH’ (compare 2 Kings 19:18; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 13:16-17; Joshua 6:17; Joshua 6:24).

2 Kings 10:27

‘And they broke down the pillar of Baal, and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a dumping place (possibly a draught-house), to this day.’

Then they broke down the main pillar of Baal, and destroyed the house around it, turning it into refuse dump (or a public lavatory), which it still was in the original source’s time.

2 Kings 10:28

‘Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.’

And that was how Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. In other words it was how he got rid of the foreign Baal introduced by Jezebel, which was so hated in Israel, and with it all those who had become involved in its worship. But his zeal did not go as far as purifying the worship of YHWH. That was still left to be infected throughout out by local Baalism.

What he had done, however, had gone considerably beyond YHWH’s remit to him, and it will be noted that no opportunity had been given for any to return to YHWH. That was not YHWH’s way. Furthermore by his action Jehu had undoubtedly destroyed the very foundations of Israel’s bureaucracy, and decimated its leadership, undermining the strength and stability of the country. It was no wonder that as a result he had to yield fealty to, and pay tribute to, Shalmaneser III of Assyria, something which we learn from Assyrian inscriptions. Another alternative open to him would have been total commitment to YHWH. Then Elisha would have been with him and things would have been very different. But such a commitment he was not willing to make, as we will now learn. And had he genuinely been walking closely with YHWH he would undoubtedly not have slaughtered so many.

Jehu is an example to all who, having been guided in a particular direction, go over the top and thereby turn their blessing into a curse to others by leading them in false paths.


Verses 29-36

A Summary Of The Reign Of Jehu (841-814/13 BC) And Of His Failure To Respond To YHWH’s Covenant (2 Kings 10:29-36).

While Jehu had certainly removed the worship of the Phoenician Baal (Baal Melqart) from the land, what he failed to do was carry the reforms even wider and also remove the abominations of Jeroboam the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. Thus he lost the opportunity of truly reforming Yahwism. Instead of a strict return to the laws and covenant of YHWH, he allowed the loose ways and ineffectual worship of a Yahwism intermingled with the worship of the local Baal. This served to demonstrate that his activities had not genuinely been carried out because of his real love for YHWH, but simply out of a politically motivated religious zeal.

Analysis.

a However from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel to sin, Jehu did not depart from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan (2 Kings 10:29).

b And YHWH said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation will sit on the throne of Israel” (2 Kings 10:30).

c But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of YHWH, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel to sin (2 Kings 10:31).

b In those days YHWH began to cut parts off from Israel, and Hazael smote them in all the borders of Israel, from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan (2 Kings 10:32-33).

a Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned instead of him. And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty eight years (2 Kings 10:34-36).

Note that in ‘a’ the behaviour of Jehu is described, and in the parallel we are referred for his other behaviour to the chronicles of the kings of Israel. In ‘b’ his reward for what was good in what he did is described, and in the parallel his punishment for what he did that was wrong. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the central verdict on his reign, that he did not walk in the Law of YHWH the God of Israel in that he continued to follow the ways of Jeroboam.

2 Kings 10:29

‘However from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel to sin, Jehu did not depart from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan.’

The purge that Jehu had carried out had put him in a powerful position for thoroughgoing reform. The nation was behind him and at the same time in awe of him. It was ripe for change. But he stopped short of what to YHWH was the essential requirement for any king of Israel, that he destroy the golden calves at Bethel and Dan and return to true Yahwism, thereby indicating that his loyalty was not truly given to YHWH and His covenant.

Note how this is especially emphasised before the note of commendation. He was to be rewarded for what he had achieved, but with the recognition that he had failed in the main objective. It was thus not unqualified approval.

2 Kings 10:30

‘And YHWH said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation will sit on the throne of Israel.” ’

Jehu was commended by YHWH for bringing his judgment on the house of Ahab, the task to which he had been called, but it will be noted that nothing is said about the further purges. They had not been a part of his remit. And his reward for what he had done was that his dynasty would last for four generations. But that was as gar as it went. There is a deliberate contrast here with the everlasting dynasty of David. Jehu’s was strictly limited. He was not a man after God’s own heart.

2 Kings 10:31

‘But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of YHWH, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel to sin.’

Where Jehu failed was in a willingness to follow wholeheartedly after YHWH. He failed to walk in the Law of YHWH, Israel’s true God, with all his heart. He could have called on Elisha and with him worked out how Israel could be brought back to the true way, but instead he turned to the compromised way of Jeroboam. It was politically simpler, but religiously disastrous, for the way of Jeroboam was not the way of the Law of YHWH..

2 Kings 10:32-33

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

The result was that YHWH brought grief on Israel with the result that (like Judah under Jehoram) it began to lose part of its kingdom. Hazael, the king of Aram, smote them by invading Transjordan and taking possession of all the land of Israel east of Jordan. This may have been his way of rebuking Jehu for submitting to the king of Assyria rather than entering into an alliance with Hazael against Assyria, who was able for a time to hold out against Assyria, or it may simply have been political opportunism in view of the current weakness of Israel with a view to obtaining control of the trade routes. Either way it robbed Israel of much of its wealth. Transjordan would not finally be recovered until the time of Jeroboam II, the fourth king of Jehu’s dynasty (2 Kings 14:25).

The geographical descriptions cover the whole of Israel east of the Jordan right down to Aroer, by the valley of the Arnon River, on the border with Moab. Note the emphasis on the fact that this was the direct activity of YHWH. Powerful king Hazael might be, but he was under YHWH’s command, and unwittingly carrying out His will.

2 Kings 10:34

‘Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’

Having summed up Jehu’s reign from the religious standpoint, the prophetic author refers us for further historical detail to the annals of the kings of Israel, which had clearly survived. He was not interested in presenting a strict history of Israel. His concern was with YHWH’s dealings with Israel.

2 Kings 10:35

‘And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned instead of him.’

Jehu died peacefully and was buried in Samaria, and Jehoahaz his son reigned instead of him. But it was over a much depleted kingdom. Jehu had turned out to be a failure.

2 Kings 10:36

‘And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty eight years.’

The length of the king’s reign is usually given in the introduction to his reign, but in the case of Jehu there had been no introduction. Thus it is given here. So meanwhile Jehu had reigned over Israel for twenty eight years. All, however, that we know about his reign was that it was a missed opportunity. The silence about his secular activities is a strong reminder to us that the only things that are important in life are the things that are genuinely achieved for God. Jehu had had the opportunity to bring Israel back to YHWH, but instead he had been too concerned about his own affairs. How tragic it will be for us also if our lives are so overtaken with compromise and religious half-heartedness that we too fail to serve God faithfully.

Brief Note On Hazael, King Of Aram.

As a young man Hazael had been anointed by Elijah with a view to his future, a reminder that in spite of his later might he was very much a king under YHWH’s control (1 Kings 19:15). He came to the throne of Aram in around 843 BC after his interlude with Elisha during which Elisha foresaw the distress that he would bring on Israel (2 Kings 8:7-15). In 842 BC he advanced on Ramoth-gilead (2 Kings 8:29). This may have been with the aim of bringing Israel into a coalition with himself against the threatening Assyrians under Shalmaneser III, or it may simply have been with a view to securing the trade routes. As we have seen it resulted in the death of Jehoram and the rise of Jehu. But in 841 BC Jehu (with Israel substantially weakened and having necessarily forfeited Israel’s alliances with Tyre and Judah) paid tribute to Shalmaneser III and swore fealty to him. Shalmaneser had invaded Aram and had besieged Hazael in Damascus, but having failed to take Damascus he had moved on, and now took tribute both from Israel and from Tyre. Jehu’s action may well have been instead of entering into an alliance with Hazael, or it may simply have been hurried necessity. Hazael appears to have resisted the Assyrian pressure, forcing them to move on.

The extract from the Black obelisk read as follows:

“In the eighteenth year of my reign I (i.e. Shalmaneser III) crossed the River Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Aram put his trust in the numerical strength of his army and called out his army in great numbers. He made Sanir, a mountain peak which stands out in front of Lebanon, his strong position, but I fought with him and defeated him, smiting with weapons sixteen thousand of his experienced troops. I snatched away from him 1,121 of his chariots and 470 of his cavalry horses, together with his baggage train. He fled to save his life but I followed after him and surrounded him in Damascus his capital city. I cut down his plantations and marched as far as the mountains of Hauran (in other words the siege failed so that he eventually moved on). I destroyed, tore down and burned numberless villages, carrying innumerable spoil from them. I marched as far as the mountains of Ba‘ali-rasi, a headland by the sea, and put up on it a representation of my royal person. At that time I received tribute from the people of Tyre, Sidon and from Jehu, son of Omri.”

A superscription then adds, “The tribute of Jehu, the son of Omri. Silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff for the royal hand, puruhati fruits.” This submission by Jehu is actually pictured on an obelisk set up by the Assyrian king in the main square of Nimrud, with ‘Jehu, the son of Omri’ bowing before the king. The tribute was not large and was more in the nature of a token submission.

Hazael again resisted Shalmaneser a few years later, after which Assyria withdrew for a generation, being taken up with other enemies threatening its borders. But having to stand alone may well have been why Hazael felt bitter against Israel, with the subsequent successful invasion of Transjordan consequently taking place, although presumably it was also with a view to taking over the valuable trade routes. We know nothing about any other relations between Hazael and Jehu, which may suggest that Jehu was able to hold his own west of Jordan in spite of the reverses east of Jordan (As is clear above Hazael had been weakened by the Assyrian invasion, giving Jehu time to build up his own strength, even though that was not sufficient for him to be able to defend Transjordan), but Hazael would subsequently continually harass Jehu’s successor, Jehoahaz, finally reducing him to a token fighting force (2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:7). He also invaded Gath, as well as robbing Judah of its treasures during the reign of Jehoash (2 Kings 12:15). Late in his reign, however, Assyria would return under Adadnirari III and the ageing Hazael would be subdued, and would have to pay him tribute. This was recorded on the Nimrud slab inscription as follows:

Having spoken of the submission of a number of nations including ‘mat-Humri’ (the territory of Omri i.e. Israel) Adadnirari goes on to say “I marched to Aram and shut up Mari’ (Hazael), king of Aram, in Damascus his capital city. The awful splendour of the god Ashur his lord overwhelmed him, and he seized my feet expressing submission. 2,300 talents of silver, 20 talents of gold, 300 talents of copper, 5,000 talents of iron, embroidered linen garments, an ivory bed, a couch embossed and inlaid with ivory, countless of his own goods and possessions I received in his own palace at Damascus, his capital city.”

Thus by the time of his successor Benhadad, Aram had been weakened whilst Israel would have recovered some of its strength.

End of note.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-10.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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