Elisha sends one of the disciples of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead, to anoint Jehu king of Israel, 1-3. He acts according to his orders, and informs Jehu that he is to cut off the whole house of Ahab, 4-10. Jehu's captains proclaim him king, 11-14. He goes again Jezreel; where he finds Joram and Ahaziah king of Judah, who had come to visit him; he slays them both: the former is thrown into the portion of Naboth; the latter, having received a mortal wound, gives to Megiddo, and dies there, and is carried to Jerusalem, and buried in the city of David, 15-29. He commands Jezebel to be thrown out of her window; and he treads her under the feet of his horses; and the dogs eat her, according to the word of the Lord, 30-37.
Notes on Chapter 9
One of the children of the prophets
The Jews say that this was Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai.
Gird up thy loins
What thou hast to do requires the utmost despatch.
The young man the prophet
This should be translated, The servant of the prophet; that is, the servant which Elisha now had in place of Gehazi.
King over the people of the Lord
This pointed out to Jehu that he was to rule that people according to God's law; and consequently, that he was to restore the pure worship of the Most High in Israel.
Thou shalt smite the house of Ahab
For their most cruel murders they have forfeited their own lives, according to that immutable law, "HE that sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed." This and the two following verses contain the commission which Jehu received from the Lord against the bloody house of Ahab.
The dogs shall eat Jezebel
How most minutely was this prophecy fulfilled! See 2 Kings 9:33,
Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee?
Was it because he was a holy man of God that he was reputed by a club of irreligious officers to be a madman? In vain do such pretend that they fight for religion, and are the guardians of the public welfare and morals, if they persecute religion and scoff at holy men. But this has been an old custom with all the seed-the sons, of the serpent. As to religious soldiers, they are far to seek, and ill to find, according to the old proverb.
Ye know the man, and his communication.
Ye know that he is a madman, and that his message must be a message of folly. Jehu did not appear willing to tell them what had been done, lest it should promote jealousy and envy.
They said, It is false
Or, as the Chaldee has it, Thou liest. Or, perhaps, it might be thus understood, "We know he has said nothing but folly and lies, nevertheless, let us hear what he has said."
Took every man his garment
This was a ceremony by which they acknowledged him as king; and it was by such a ceremony that the multitudes acknowledged Jesus Christ for the Messiah and King of Israel, a little before his passion: see Matthew 21:7, and the note there. The ceremony was expressive: "As we put our garments under his feet, so we place every thing under his authority, and acknowledge ourselves his servants."
On the top of the stairs
The Chaldee, the rabbins, and several interpreters, understand this of the public sun-dial; which in those ancient times, was formed of steps like stairs, each step serving to indicate, by its shadow, one hour, or such division of time as was commonly used in that country. This dial was, no doubt, in the most public place; and upon the top of it, or on the platform on the top, would be a very proper place to set Jehu, while they blew their trumpets, and proclaimed him king. The Hebrew maaloth is the same word which is used 2 Kings 20:9-11, to signify the dial of Ahaz; and this was probably the very same dial on which that miracle was afterwards wrought: and this dial, maaloth, from alah, to go up, ascend, was most evidently made of steps; the shadows projected on which, by a gnomon, at the different elevations of the sun, would serve to show the popular divisions of time. See Clarke on 2 Kings 20:9. diagram at the end of that chapter.
Joram had kept Ramoth-gilead
The confederate armies appear to have taken this city; but they were obliged to watch their conquests, as they perceived that Hazael was determined to retake it if possible.
Jehu-went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there.
From the preceding verse we learn, that Joram had been wounded in his attack on Ramoth-gilead, and had gone to Jezreel to be cured; and neither he nor Ahaziah knew any thing of the conspiracy in Ramoth-gilead, because Jehu and his captains took care to prevent any person from leaving the city; so that the two kings at Jezreel knew nothing of what had taken place.
A watchman on the tower
These watchmen, fixed on elevated places and generally within hearing of each other, served as a kind of telegraphs, to communicate intelligence through the whole country. But, in some cases, it appears that the intelligence was conveyed by a horseman to the next stage, as in the case before us. At this time, when the armies were at Ramoth-gilead, they were, no doubt, doubly watchful to observe the state of the country, and to notice every movement. See on 2 Samuel 13:34.
What hast thou to do with peace?
"What is it to thee whether there be peace or war? Join my company, and fall into the rear."
He driveth furiously
Jehu was a bold, daring, prompt, and precipitate general. In his various military operations he had established his character; and now it was almost proverbial.
Joram-and Ahaziah-went out
They had no suspicion of what was done at Ramoth-gilead; else they would not have ventured their persons as they now did.
What peace, so long as the whoredoms
Though the words whoredom, adultery, and fornication, are frequently used to express idolatry, and false religion, in general; yet here they may be safely taken in their common and most obvious sense, as there is much reason to believe that Jezebel was the patroness and supporter of a very impure system of religion; and to this Jehu might refer, rather than to the calf-worship, to which himself was most favourably disposed.
There is treachery, O Ahaziah.
This was the first intimation he had of it: he feels for the safety of his friend Ahaziah, and now they fly for their lives.
Drew a bow with his full strength
The marginal reading is correct: He filled his hand with a bow. That is, "He immediately took up his bow, set his arrow, and let fly." This is the only meaning of the passage.
Between his arms
That is, between his shoulders; for he was now turned, and was flying from Jehu.
Cast him in the portion of the field
This was predicted, 1 Kings 21; and what now happened to the son of Ahab is foretold in 1 Kings 21:29of that chapter.
The blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons
We are not informed in 1 Kings 21 that any of Naboth's family was slain but himself: but as the object both of Ahab and Jezebel was to have Naboth's vineyard entirely, and for ever, it is not likely that they would leave any of his posterity, who might at a future time reclaim it as their inheritance. Again, to secure this point, Jezebel had Naboth convicted of treason and atheism; in order that his whole family might be involved in his ruin.
Fled by the way of the garden
The account of the death of Ahaziah, as given in 2 Chronicles 22:8,9, is very different from that given here: When Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab-he sought Ahaziah; and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu; and when they had slain him, they buried him. "The current of the story at large is this," says Dr. Lightfoot: "Jehu slayeth Joram in the field of Jezreel, as Ahaziah and Joram were together; Ahaziah, seeing this, flees, and gets into Samaria, and hides himself there. Jehu marcheth to Jezreel, and makes Jezebel dogs' meat: from thence he sends to Samaria for the heads of Ahab's children and posterity: which are brought him by night, and showed to the people in the morning. Then he marcheth to Samaria, and by the way slayeth forty-two of Ahab's kinsmen; and findeth Jehonadab, the father of the Rechabites. Coming into Samaria, he maketh search for Ahaziah: they find him hid, bring him to Jehu, and he commands to carry him up towards Gur, by Ibleam, and there to slay him. It may be, his father Joram had slain his brethren there, as Ahab had done Naboth, in Jezreel. They do so; smite him there in his chariot; and his charioteer driveth away to Megiddo before he dies. The story in the book of Kings is short: but the book of Chronicles shows the order." Lightfoot's Works, vol. i., p. 88.
In the eleventh year of Joram
The note in our margin contains as good an account of this chronological difficulty as can be reasonably required: Then he began to reign as viceroy to his father in his sickness; 2 Chronicles 21:18,19. But in Joram's twelfth year he began to reign alone; 2 Kings 8:26.
She painted her face, and tired her head
She endeavoured to improve the appearance of her complexion by paint, and the general effect of her countenance by a tiara or turban head-dress. Jonathan, the Chaldee Targumist, so often quoted, translates this vechachalath bitsdida eynaha: "She stained her eyes with stibium or antimony." This is a custom in Astatic countries to the present day. From a late traveller in Persia, I borrow the following account:-
"The Persians differ as much from us in their notions of beauty as they do in those of taste. A large soft, and languishing black eye, with them constitutes the perfection of beauty. It is chiefly on this account that the women use the powder of antimony, which, although it adds to the vivacity of the eye, throws a kind of voluptuous languor over it, which makes it appear, (if I may use the expression,) dissolving in bliss. The Persian women have a curious custom of making their eye-brows meet; and if this charm be denied them, they paint the forehead with a kind of preparation made for that purpose." E. S. Waring's Tour to Sheeraz, 4to., 1807, page 62.
This casts light enough on Jezebel's painting, sufficiently with what design she did it, to conquer and disarm Jehu, and induce him to take her for wife, as Jarchi supposes. This staining of the eye with stibium and painting was a universal custom, not only in Asiatic countries, but also in all those that bordered on them, or had connections with them. The Prophet Ezekiel mentions the painting of the eyes, Ezekiel 23:40.
That the Romans painted their eyes we have the most positive evidence. Pliny says, Tanta est decoris affectatio, ut tinguantur oculi quoque. Hist. Nat. lib. xi., cap. 37. "Such is their affection of ornament, that they paint their eyes also." That this painting was with stibium or antimony, is plain from these words of St. Cyprian, De Opere et Eleemosynis, Inunge aculos tuos non stibio diaboli, sed collyrio Christi, "Anoint your eyes, not with the devil's antimony, but with the eye-salve of Christ." Juvenal is plain on the same subject. Men as well as women in Rome practiced it:-
Ille supercilium madida fuligine tactum Obliqua producit acu pingitque trementes Attollens oculos. SAT. ii., ver. 93.
"With sooty moisture one his eye-brows dyes, And with a bodkin paints his trembling eyes."
The manner in which the women in Barbary do it Dr. Russel particularly describes:-"Upon the principle of strengthening the sight, as well as an ornament, it is become a general practice among the women to black the middle of their eye-lids by applying a powder called ismed. Their method of doing it is by a cylindrical piece of silver, steel, or ivory, about two inches long, made very smooth, and about the size of a common probe. This they wet with water, in order that the powder may stick to it, and applying the middle part horizontally to the eye, they shut the eye-lids upon it, and so drawing it through between them, it blacks the inside, leaving a narrow black rim all round the edge. This is sometimes practiced by the men, but is then regarded as foppish." RUSSEL'S Nat. Hist. of Aleppo, page 102. See Parkhurst, sub voc.
Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?
Jarchi paraphrases this place thus: "If thou hast slain thy master, it is no new thing; for Zimri also slew Elah, the son of Baasha;" which words were rather intended to conciliate than to provoke. But the words are understood by most of the versions thus: Health to Zimri, the slayer of his master!
So they threw her down
What a terrible death! She was already, by the fall, almost dashed to pieces; and the brutal Jehu trampled her already mangled body under his horse's feet!
She is a king's daughter.
Jezebel was certainly a woman of a very high lineage. She was daughter of the king of Tyre; wife of Ahab, king of Israel; mother of Joram, king of Israel; mother-in-law of Joram, king of Judah; and grandmother of Ahaziah, king of Judah.
The skull-the feet, and the palms of her hands.
The dogs did not eat those parts, say Jarchi and Kimchi, because in her festal dances she danced like a dog, on her hands and feet, wantonly moving her head. What other meaning these rabbins had, I do not inquire. She was, no doubt, guilty of the foulest actions, and was almost too bad to be belied.
How literally was the prediction delivered in the preceding book, 21:23, The dogs shall eat Jezebel, by the wall of Jezreel,) fulfilled! And how dearly did she and her husband Ahab pay for the murder of innocent Naboth!
And the carcass of Jezebel shall be as dung
As it was not buried under the earth, but was eaten by the dogs, this saying was also literally fulfilled.
They shall not say, This is Jezebel.
As she could not be buried, she could have no funeral monument. Though so great a woman by her birth, connections, and alliances, she had not the honour of a tomb! There was not even a solitary stone to say, Here lies Jezebel! not even a mound of earth to designate the place of her sepulture! Judgment is God's strange work; but when he contends, how terrible are his judgments! and when he ariseth to execute judgment, who shall stay his hand? How deep are his counsels, and how terrible are his workings!