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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 10

 

 

Verse 1

1. Seventy sons in Samaria — The word sons here, as often, is meant to include all Ahab’s living posterity — sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons. Some of these children of Ahab were no doubt very young.

Wrote letters — Intercourse by means of written epistles was at this period very common.

Sent to Samaria — Where was the chief seat of government, the royal palace, and the court, and where the nobles of the kingdom were generally to be found. The kings of Israel had a palace at Jezreel, (1 Kings 21:1,) and often abode there, but that did not diminish the importance of Samaria. It was more of a summer residence of the king and his family than the chief capital of the kingdom.

The rulers of Jezreel — Or, princes of Jezreel, nobles of the kingdom, whose common residence was Jezreel, but who, for some reason not stated, were now at the royal palace at Samaria, where, doubtless, they were often wont to resort.

To the elders — The elders of the city of Samaria. These are not to be identified with the rulers or princes just mentioned, but were men of less dignity and power, having their authority confined to matters pertaining more especially to Samaria.

Them that brought up Ahab’s children — That is, the guardians and instructors, who had the oversight and training of the young princes. Thus Jehu’s letters were directed to three classes of persons, all of them more or less responsible for the care of the royal family, namely, the nobles, the elders, and the guardians. Expositors have been much troubled to explain why Jehu sent letters from Jezreel to Samaria to the princes of Jezreel. Some have proposed to read rulers of Israel instead of rulers of Jezreel. Keil emends the text according to the Septuagint and Vulgate, and reads rulers of the city, יזרעאלbeing a corruption of העיר אל. But it seems better to understand that the rulers of Jezreel were the supreme court officers of the kingdom, and that they were so called because they commonly resided in Jezreel. It need not seem strange that they were at this time in Samaria, for many supposable items of official business may have called them to the chief seat of the nation; or, perhaps, as some have supposed, they had fled thither from the face of Jehu.


Verses 1-11

SLAUGHTER OF AHAB’S SONS, 2 Kings 10:1-11.

Although Joram and Ahaziah and Jezebel have fallen, the Divine vengeance, which so long has slumbered, will not have finished its work of retribution till every member of Ahab’s guilty house is brought to judgment.


Verse 2-3

2, 3.

As soon as this letter cometh — Most expositors have regarded this letter of Jehu as ironical. Thus Kitto: “There was a latent irony in this letter, for the writer must well have known the real state of the case, and how little likely it was that they would take up the cause of a fallen house, known to have been doomed of God.” But whatever Jehu may have known or thought of their probable feeling and action in the case, the language of this epistle, particularly the closing challenge — fight for your master’s house — is that of bold and menacing defiance rather than of irony, and involves an order for them either to surrender or else prepare for war. Bahr paraphrases it thus: “I am king; but if ye, who have in your possession the chariots, and horses, and arms, are desirous of placing a prince of the house of Ahab on the throne, you thereby begin a war with me.” Very likely he expected to intimidate them, and bring them to submission by this threat.


Verse 4

4. Two kings — Joram and Ahaziah.


Verse 5

5. He that was over the house — That one of the supreme princes or rulers who, like Ahishar in Solomon’s time, (1 Kings 4:6,) was the king’s chamberlain.

He that was over the city — The marshal, or, like Amon in the time of Ahab, (1 Kings 22:26,) the chief military governor of the city.

We will not make any king — They at once acknowledge Jehu as king, and pledged submission to his will.


Verse 8

8. Lay ye them in two heaps — “This cutting off of heads in collective masses, and making them into heaps, is or has been frightfully common in the East; and an Oriental, familiar with blood and beheading from his cradle, would read this portion of Scripture with little, if any, of the disgust and horror, and certainly with none of the surprise, with which it inspires us. After a battle, or a massacre, or the rout of a band of robbers, the heads are, as in the present instance, heaped up pyramidally, faces outward, on each side the palace gate; and the builder of this horrid pile, if a man of taste and fancy, usually reserves a head with a fine long beard to form the crown of his handiwork. Nothing so much shocks a European in the East as the frightful cheapness of human life, and with it, of human heads. In Persia it has not seldom been known for the king to express his displeasure at a town or village by demanding from it a pyramid of heads of given dimensions.” — Kitto.

Until the morning — The heads had probably reached Jezreel at night.


Verse 9

9. Ye be righteous — That is, ye are not guilty of the blood of the house of Ahab. So far as these massacres have gone I know that ye are innocent.

I conspired — I confess and cannot deny that I conspired against Joram, and slew him.

But who slew all these — I did not, and I know that ye did not; who, then, is guilty in this case? He wished the people to understand that in this work of blood there were other ministers of Divine judgment besides himself. Most commentators explain these words, like the letter of Jehu above, as the language of sarcasm or irony, and suppose that Jehu either intended to involve them in the odium and guilt of this slaughter, or at least to keep them in ignorance of the fact that he had himself given orders for their slaughter. But this is altogether unnecessary, and unauthorized by any thing that appears in the text. Doubtless what Jehu had done towards this massacre was well known to all the people of Jezreel. He had, indeed, in a certain sense, ordered it, (2 Kings 10:6,) but yet in such a way as to involve the nobles and elders and guardians in the guilt as much as himself. Their ready and prompt obedience, in beheading these seventy persons, was, perhaps, hardly expected by Jehu; and when he saw it, he at once began to feel that he was comparatively guiltless of their blood.


Verse 10

10. The Lord hath done — This language confirms our exposition of the preceding verse. Jehu wishes the people to understand that these massacres are no work of private revenge, but a most signal fulfilling of Jehovah’s word by the prophet Elijah. See 1 Kings 21:19-29. Strange that the man, who so clearly recognized his mission as a minister of Divine judgment, utterly failed to see that by cleaving to the sins of Jeroboam he exposed himself to the same judgment, and that, sooner or later, Divine righteousness would “avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.” Compare note on 2 Kings 10:29-30.


Verse 11

11. Slew all that remained — There was yet remaining in Jezreel not a few of the court favourites and friends of the royal family, and these Jehu proceeded at once to slay, and probably in presence of all the people. None dared oppose or resist him, for the people felt, as he had shown, that this was a fulfilling of prophecy.

Great men — State officers who were then in Jezreel.

Kinsfolks — Distant relatives, or intimate acquaintances, who had been accustomed to receive court favours.

Priests — His private court priests, who were devoted to the calf-worship which Jeroboam had established, and Ahab had continued to encourage.


Verse 12-13

SLAUGHTER OF AHAZIAH’S BRETHREN AND AHAB’S ADHERENTS IN SAMARIA, 2 Kings 10:12-17.

12. Came to Samaria — That is, on his way towards Samaria; for a part of the events here recorded occurred on Jehu’s way thither. Having finished the work of judgment at Jezreel, he proceeds to the metropolis of the kingdom, there to complete more fully his dreadful mission.

The shearing house — More literally, house of binding of the shepherds. This, like the house of the garden in 2 Kings 9:27, is a translation of a Hebrew proper name. The original word is Beth-eked, the name of a place between Jezreel and Samaria, probably identical with Beit-kad, some five or six miles southeast of Jezreel. It was probably called Beth-eked of the shepherds, from its being a common resort of the shepherds of the neighbouring country.

13. Brethren of Ahaziah 2 Chronicles 22:8 terms them “the princes of Judah, and the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah, that ministered to Ahaziah.” Whence it appears that the word brethren is here to be taken in the wide sense of near relatives and intimate associates and friends. This is a sense the word often bears; and it is likely that not a few of those “that ministered to Ahaziah” were chosen from among his own kindred. His own brothers, all older than himself, had been slain by the Arabians. 2 Chronicles 22:1.

We go down to salute the children of the king — Of King Joram, to whom they were also related. They seem not to have heard of the king’s death.

Of the queen — Probably the queen-mother, Jezebel, is meant.


Verse 14

14. Take them alive — So that none may escape, as might have been the case had they proceeded to slay them as they took them one by one.

At the pit of the shearing house — Rather, at the pit of Beth-eked. See note on 2 Kings 10:12. This pit was some well-known cistern or well belonging to the town.


Verse 15

15. Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him — The name is written Jonadab in Jeremiah 35:6; Jeremiah 35:10; Jeremiah 35:19. The house of Rechab were descendants of the Kenites, (1 Chronicles 2:55,) who journeyed with the Israelites through the wilderness, (Numbers 10:29,) and had settled in various parts of the land. Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11; 1 Samuel 15:6. This Jehonadab had brought all his father’s house to pledge themselves to abstain from wine, and to pursue the nomadic habits of their ancestors, and always dwell in tents. See Jeremiah 35. He was doubtless, therefore, well known in Israel as a man of great austerity; he had probably mourned over the prevailing idolatry, and now, hearing of what Jehu had done and said, he recognised in him a minister of Jehovah to execute judgment on the wicked house of Ahab, and went forth to meet him, and declare to him that his heart was with him in this ministry of judgment.

Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart — Jehu was anxious to know if, in this bloody work, which he might well fear would not be very popular in Israel, he had the sympathy and approval of the distinguished pietist Jehonadab. To have his sympathy would be no small advantage to his cause. So he asks: Is thy heart really in sympathy with mine in this ministry of Divine judgment?

If it be — There is nothing in the Hebrew that answers well to if. It should be rendered: Jehonadab answered, It is, yea, it is; give me thy hand. Jehonadab did not leave Jehu to do all the talking. He first offered his hand to the conqueror, and then Jehu gave him his hand and took him into his chariot. So Jehu found him a helper in his work of doom.


Verse 16

16. See my zeal for the Lord — He thus communicates his further purpose to continue the work of destruction. Some have thought that this was all pretended zeal and showy hypocrisy, but in 2 Kings 10:30 the Lord commends Jehu for having done well, and declares that his bloody work was right in his eyes, and according to the feelings of his own heart. In other things Jehu sinned, (2 Kings 10:31,) and it is not pretended that all his measures and motives in his work of doom had the approval of God; but in executing judgment on Ahab’s house, his zeal was praised, though it was not without a selfish ambition, and perhaps other elements of wickedness. But we need not call Jehu a heartless boaster and a murderous hypocrite. Shall he be blamed as murderous and cruel who obeys to the very letter Jehovah’s positive command? Comp. 2 Kings 9:6-10. If the fall of the tower in Siloam were really a Divine judgment on the eighteen hapless victims whom it ground to powder, (Luke 13:4,) need we charge the tower with blood-guiltiness and cruelty? Sometimes, indeed, God uses wicked hands to execute his counsels, and holds them guilty for their deeds, (Acts 2:23;) but never does he blame a minister of vengeance for doing what his own word has positively commanded him to do. Let us beware how we curse or blame what God has not blamed. There are in our times too many shallow and unbiblical attempts to ignore the awful severities of Divine justice, as revealed in God’s word.


Verse 17

17. All that remained unto Ahab in Samaria — That is, all relatives or adherents and partisans of Ahab’s family that were not included in the seventy persons (2 Kings 10:7) whom the nobles had slain.


Verse 18

SLAUGHTER OF THE BAAL WORSHIPPERS, 2 Kings 10:18-28.

There remains yet one more deed of blood to rid the kingdom of Israel from the curse of Ahab’s rule. The priests and worshippers of Baal were so involved in the fortunes of Ahab’s dynasty, that, with them living, Jehu must sit insecurely on the throne. He accordingly takes subtle measures to exterminate them all; and thus the sword of Jehu completes the work which Elijah began at the brook Kishon. 1 Kings 18:40, note.

18. Ahab served Baal a little — There were dark depths of fearful meaning underneath these words of treachery.


Verse 19

19. The prophets… servants… priests — Every representative and devotee of the Baal worship must be present at this great sacrifice.

Jehu did it in subtilty — His craft and guile on this occasion were in fearfulness equal to the duplicity and baseness which prepared the way for the massacre of St. Bartholomew. His Divine commission doubtless authorized him to cut off the worshippers of Baal, but not by guile. God praised his zeal in rooting out idolatry, but not his subtilty.


Verse 21

21. House of Baal — The great temple which Ahab built in Samaria for the honour of this Phenician idol. 1 Kings 16:32.

From one end to another — Literally, from mouth to mouth. An idiomatic phrase meaning from aperture or opening to opening, or from entrance to exit.


Verse 22

22. Him that was over the vestry — The officer having charge of the sacred vestments, and the apartments in which they were kept.

Bring forth vestments — These were the priestly robes in which the ministers of Baal officiated. Jehu would have them perish in their sacred robes.


Verse 25

25. He had made an end of offering — Here Jehu himself is said to do what in fact others did at his command. According to 2 Kings 10:24 the worshippers of Baal offered the sacrifices, but here the act is attributed to Jehu. So in the popular language of all times and of all nations, what one does by the agency of others he does himself.

The guard and the captains — Literally, the runners and the third men; that is, the the immediate satellites of Jehu, composed of a distinguished and trusty class of warriors.

Cast them out — Cast them out of the temple in which they had been slain the dead bodies of the Baal worshippers.

The city of the house of Baal — Not that quarter of the city of Samaria where the temple of Baal was located, as many of the older interpreters explain; but the citadel, the enclosed inner sanctuary of the temple. The multitude of Baal worshippers assembled, and the sacrifices were offered in the atrium or fore-court of the temple, and there the slaughter took place; after which the victors went into the inner apartment or citadel of the house of Baal, and brought forth the images of the idol.


Verse 26

26. Brought… the images — These are supposed to have been wooden statues or pillars consecrated to Baal or some of his associate deities.


Verse 27

27. The image of Baal — This was probably a vast molten statue of the god, erected outside of the temple, perhaps at the portal.

A draught house — A place of refuse and filth. The Masoretes have substituted a word which signifies sewers.

Thus did Jehu terribly destroy these worshippers of Baal, mingling their blood with the sacrifices of the altar, and making the very site of their great temple a place of filth. This would cover the very name of Baal with infamy and reproach.


Verse 29

JEHU’S SINS, MISFORTUNES, AND DEATH, 2 Kings 10:29-36.

29. Howbeit — While the Scripture history makes prominent the fact that Jehu was God’s instrument to punish the wicked house of Ahab, and overthrow his dynasty, it conceals not his shortcomings and his sins. Jehu, as Kitto very justly remarks, “was one of those decisive, terrible, ambitious, yet prudent, calculating, and passionless men, whom God from time to time raises up to change the fate of empires and to execute his judgments on the earth. He boasted of his zeal — ’Come and see my zeal for the Lord’ — but at the bottom it was zeal for Jehu. His zeal was great so long as it led to acts which squared with his own interests, but it cooled marvellously when required to take a direction in his judgment less favourable to them.”


Verse 30

30. The Lord said unto Jehu — Probably by one of the prophets of the time.

Children of the fourth generation — Jehu’s son Jehoahaz reigned seventeen years; Jehoash, sixteen; Jeroboam, forty-one; and Zachariah, six months. Zachariah, of the fourth generation, was slain by Shallum, and thus was this word of the Lord fulfilled; (compare 2 Kings 15:12;) and thus, too, according to the prophecy of Hosea, (Hosea 1:4,) did the Lord “avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.” For when the minister of Divine judgment himself turned to idolatry, the very blood of his guilty victims might well call for vengeance on him for doing the same things for which be had executed the Divine judgment on them. Romans 2:1.


Verse 32

32. Began to cut Israel short — That is, in the latter part of Jehu’s reign Israel began to suffer those fearful punishments of invasion and conquest from the north and northeast, which finally ended in the total captivity of the land. Jehu’s name occurs on the Assyrian monuments among others who paid tribute to the king of Assyria, and Rawlinson (Historical Evidences, page 113) inclines to the opinion “that from this date both the Jewish and the Israelitish kings held their crowns as fiefs, dependent on the will of the Assyrian monarch, with whom it formally lay to ‘confirm’ each new prince ‘in his kingdom.’” See 2 Kings 14:5, note.


Verse 33

33. From Jordan eastward — This exposed frontier, occupied by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, was the first to fall into the hands of foreigners. They were more nomadic, and, from constant contact with the neighbouring nations, lost the more rapidly their sympathy with the western tribes. Hazael smote and subjugated them, but Pul and Tiglath-pileser carried them away into captivity. See 1 Chronicles 5:25-26.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-10.html. 1874-1909.

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