Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 KINGS 9
THE BLOODY END OF OMRI'S DYNASTY
"This narrative comes from the school of the prophets; and it is an objective and highly dramatic political history, with which criticism can find little fault."F1 This is in line with what this writer believes to be true regarding the entire group of historical books. No "Deuteronomist" had anything to do with any of them. As Josephus declared, "Only the prophets have written the original and earliest accounts."F2
The bloody violence of this chapter, in the long run, proved to be about as ineffective as the dramatic confrontation on Carmel. The incurable cancer of Baal worship was threatening the very existence of the true religion, and the wiping out of the Jezebel-dominated dynasty that, in a large degree, composed that cancer, checked, but did not destroy it.
Jehu's wholesale murders resulted in many enemies of his reign. The Sidonian kings would have fiercely resented the treatment of Jezebel. Many in the kingdom of Judah would have hated the murderer of Ahaziah. And, during his very first year as king, Jehu was forced to pay tribute to the Assyrian, Shalmanezer III. In the British Museum today, one may see the Black Obelisk from Nimrod which shows Jehu kneeling before the Assyrian monarch.F3 That, of course, indicates a serious weakening of Israel. It is of interest that this inscription refers to Jehu as The Son of Omri, which is inaccurate and raises a word of caution with regard to the foolish trust which some commentators seem to place in the bragging inscriptions of ancient kings.
Still, one must deplore the terrible slaughter that marked Jehu's reign. As Martin said, "Here we have violence that judges but does not heal. Only at Calvary did fierce judgment of sin bring restoration and health for sinners."F4
It is a gross error to attribute the warfare against Baalism to God's prophets. Snaith and others have fallen into that error. He wrote:
"These prophets were determined to destroy the dynasty of Omri, and they were prepared to go to any length to bring it to pass. Elisha encouraged Hazael to murder Benhadad, and now he raises up Jehu to be an enemy within Israel itself."F5
The prophets were NOT the ones determined to destroy Baalism and the dynasty that advocated and promoted it. It was the GOD of heaven and earth who did so, and the holy prophets were merely the human instruments of God's campaign against paganism. In such a comment as that just quoted, there seems to be both sympathy and approval of Omri's evil dynasty.
In answer to the question, "Why was such a destruction necessary"? we have an excellent answer from Stigers:
Because idolatry threatened to destroy all remaining good influences in Israel and thence to invade Judah and so destroy the whole nation, the house of Ahab was marked for extinction.F6
ELISHA COMMISSIONED A PROPHET TO ANOINT JEHU AS KING
And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this vial of oil in thy hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber. Then take the vial of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not.
The commandment of God to anoint Jehu king over Israel was first given to Elijah (1 Kings 19:16), which Elijah obeyed by commissioning his servant (at the time) Elisha to do so; and here we find Elisha commissioning his servant (one of the sons of the prophets) to carry out the command originally given to Elijah. The eternal principle that a man is in fact doing whatever he commands a servant to do is evident in what happened here.
Take this vial of oil in thy hand
(2 Kings 9:1). The oil here was the holy oil compounded after the receipt given in Exodus (Exodus 30:23-25).F7
It is not clear why the prophet was commanded to flee after the anointing, but it might have been for his safety. Any partisan of Joram might have slain him for anointing Jehu king. His flight also was consistent with the behavior expected of prophets, and it prevented the asking of any questions.
THE PROPHETIC ACT OF ANOINTING JEHU AS KING
So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of us all? And he said, To thee, O captain. And he arose, and went into the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of Jehovah, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of Jehovah, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; and I will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him that is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.
And Jehu said, Unto which of us all
(2 Kings 9:5)? The fact of Jehu's responding to the prophet's addressing a group of men as, O captain, instead of some other doing so apparently corroborates the statement of Josephus that, when Joram left Ramoth-gilead because of his wound, he left Jehu as his general in chargeF8 of the entire army at Ramoth-gilead.
It is evident from this that only a summary of Elisha's instructions to the young prophet was given in 2 Kings 9:1-3. The entire charge of Elisha is revealed in the words of the young prophet to Jehu (2 Kings 9:7-10).
Him that is shut up, and him that is at large in Israel
(2 Kings 9:8). These words are somewhat ambiguous, but they apparently mean infant children as well as those old enough to be out on their own. It is the intention of these words to include all of Ahab's posterity,F9 in God's order to destroy them.
I will make the house of Ahab like that of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah
(2 Kings 9:9). The destruction of the house of Jeroboam is recorded in 1 Kings 15:29, and that of Baasha in 1 Kings 16:9-12. Thus the house of Ahab had been given a double warning of the fate of those who deserted the religion of Jehovah.F10
Also, Ahab had received a strong personal and specific warning of what would happen to his dynasty in 1 Kings 21;21-26. The extermination of Ahab and his posterity would have occurred much sooner than it did, if it had not been delayed by Ahab's repentance (for a season). Because of that change of heart, God brought the punishment upon him, not during his lifetime, but in that of his son Joram (1 Kings 21:29).
THE PROCLAMATION OF JEHU AS KING OF ISRAEL
Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord: and one said unto him, Is all well? wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? And he said unto them, Ye know the man and what his talk was. And they said, It is false; tell us now. And he said, Thus and thus spake he to me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew the trumpet, saying, Jehu is king.
Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee
(2 Kings 9:11)? Madness was widely associated with prophecy in the O.T., as in Jer. 20:26 and Hos. 9:7 The common worldly man in every age tends to view the religious enthusiast in this way, combined with emotions compounded with sincere respect tinctured, if ever so lightly, with aversion and contempt.F11 As George DeHoff expressed it, Irreligious men always think that God's children are a bunch of fools.F12
They. took every man his garment and put it under him on the top of the stairs
(2 Kings 9:13). We would need a picture or drawing of the headquarters building where all this happened to be able to explain exactly what is meant by the top of the stairs. Everything else here is crystal clear.
The general dissatisfaction with Joram and the widespread hatred of him led to a spontaneous outburst from the entire company of military captains, enthusiastically welcoming the prospect of a new king. (1) They spread their garments for Jehu to walk upon, even as did the crowd that welcomed the Christ into Jerusalem in his triumphal entry (Luke 19:29-40). (2) They blew the trumpet, always associated with proclaiming a new king. (3) They shouted, Jehu is king! As the leaders of the entire army had participated in this proclamation of Jehu as king, the total success of it was assured.
JEHU RUSHED TO JEZREEL TO KILL KING JORAM
So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram was keeping Ramoth-gilead, he and all Israel, because of Hazael king of Syria; 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.) And Jehu said, If this be your mind, then let none escape and go forth out of the city, to go to tell it in Jezreel. So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram.
Apparently, the purpose of the long parenthesis in 2 Kings 9:15 is to stress the fact that "all Israel," that is, the entire armed forces of Israel were stationed there under the command of Jehu.
If this be your mind, let none escape
(2 Kings 9:15). Once any man was proclaimed king during the reign of another king, that automatically meant the death of one of them, or the engagement of a long civil war. Jehu said, in effect. All right, you have made me king; now, whatever you do, do not let anyone leave here with that kind of information to be told in Jezreel. And Jehu took a detachment of the troops and headed for Jezreel to kill the king.
JORAM AND AHAZIAH WERE TAKEN COMPLETELY BY SURPRISE
Now the watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company. And Joram said, Take a horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace? 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. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not back. Then he sent out a second on horseback, who came to them, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu answered, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not back: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.
Joram should have heeded the failure of the first messenger to return. It could have saved him a little time and perhaps enabled him to resist the attack of Jehu; but it was a fault of Ahab and his whole family that they repeated actions which had already proved to be futile. One messenger who did not return was all the warning Joram needed, but he paid no attention to it, but sent another one. Joram's brother, another son of Ahab, sent fifty men to arrest Elijah; and when fire from heaven fell upon them, he sent another captain with his fifty; and the same thing happened again! Could one believe it? He did it the third time! It was evidently a family trait (2 Kings 1:9-13). Here Joram himself became the third attempt to meet Jehu before he arrived in Jezreel.
The driving is like the driving of Jehu;. for he driveth furiously
(2 Kings 9:20). The last clause here has become an amusing proverb in our times referring to reckless drivers of automobile.F13
JEHU KILLED JEHORAM, KING OF ISRAEL, WITH AN ARROW IN HIS BACK
And Joram said, Make ready. And they made ready his chariot. And Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out to meet Jehu, and found him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, O Ahaziah. And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and smote Joram between his arms; and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot.
They found him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite
(2 Kings 9:21). Again we have evidence of how finely and with what precision the Lord times His actions. Only a few minutes variation in the exact time when Joram left Jezreel would have placed his meeting with Jehu at some other place. But, no! God had decreed that the blood of Naboth should be avenged ON THAT VERY SPOT, and so it occurred.
That meeting of Joram and Jehu, "Humanly speaking was accidental. The portion of Naboth lay outside the southeastern gate of Jezreel, and at no great distance from the walls. If the king had started a little sooner, or if Jehu had driven a little slower, the meeting would have taken place somewhere else. But Divine providence so ordered matters that vengeance for the sin of Ahab was exacted upon the very scene of his guilt."F14
What peace? so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many
(2 Kings 9:22). The designation of idolatry under such a term as whoredoms (or adulteries) was based upon two things. (1) Under the metaphor that God was the husband of Israel, when the chosen people turned from God and gave the worship which they owed to him to some pagan deity, it was simply that of a wife committing adultery. (2) Also, the worship of the Canaanite fertility gods was invariably accompanied by the most shameful licentiousness revolving around the thousands of religious prostitutes who were at once the principal attraction of paganism and its most effective advocates.
THE BODY OF JEHORAM (JORAM) WAS CAST UPON THE PLOT OF NABOTH
Verses 25, 26
Then said [Jehu] to Bidkar his captain, Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite; for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, Jehovah laid this burden upon him: Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith Jehovah; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith Jehovah. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat [of ground], according to the word of Jehovah.
Remember how that I and thou rode behind Ahab
(2 Kings 9:25). From the ancient monuments one learns that kings and other mighty men commissioned two trusted attendants to stand behind them in their chariots, and that in warfare they frequently covered their lord's body with their own shields. It is of interest that Jehu and Bidkar once performed that service for Ahab.
(For a more complete comment on the murder and robbery of Naboth by Ahab and Jezebel, see my commentary on 1 Kings (2 Kings 21).)
THE SLAYING OF AHAZIAH, KING OF JUDAH, BY JEHU'S MEN
Verses 27, 28
But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden-house. And Jehu followed after him, and said, Smite him also in the chariot: [and they smote him] at the ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there. And his servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his sepulchre with his fathers in the city of David.
Jehu's instructions through the prophets had required him to kill Ahaziah also, and these verses provide the record of how it was done. Although God had willed the extermination of the house of Omri, to whose dynasty Ahab and his evil family belonged, Jehu's murderous deeds in their totality were not approved of God.
And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Judah.
Scholars agree that we have a misplaced verse here. It seems to have no connection with the unfolding narrative.
THE DEATH OF JEZEBEL
And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her eyes, and attired her head, and looked out at the window. And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master's murderer? And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down; and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trod her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink; and he said, See now to this cursed woman, and bury her; for she is a king's daughter. And they went to bury her; but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came back, and told him. And he said, This is the word of Jehovah, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall the dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the body of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel, so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.
Like the apostle John who looked upon the Great Whore of Rev. 17:6 (KJV), I wonder with great admiration at this evil woman, who in spite of her wickedness was a woman of great strength and achievement in the eyes of men (though, not in the eyes of the Lord). She was not only a king's daughter, she was the wife of a king (Ahab), and the mother of one king (Joram), the grandmother of another king (Ahaziah), and the mother-in-law of another (Joram of Judah).
She manifested a great zeal for her pagan religion, and if the kings of God's people had been half as zealous to promote the true religion as she was to promote hers, she would not have been successful in the great corruption that she brought upon God's people.
It is to the great shame of the kings of Judah and Israel that their conduct was not such as could have been any encouragement to Jezebel to forsake Baal and cling to the true God.
She retained her queenly character up until the day of her death, and she died in the full regalia of her office, with her customary decorations such as the painted face and attired head (she probably wore her crown). She referred to Jehu as a regicide, another Zimri, reminding him that Zimri himself paid the penalty of his deeds.
It is a great pity that a woman of such gifts never learned the worship of the true God and that she died in the hopeless paganism in which she had been reared. One may well wonder, how many associates of Christians find their behavior such a deterrent that they, like Jezebel, continue in darkness, rather than turn to the Light that lighteth every man coming into the world.
Footnotes for 2 Kings 9
1: International Critical Commentary, Kings, p. 399.
2: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 861.
3: D. J. Wiseman, his article on Assyria in The New Bible Dictionary, p. 101.
4: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 460.
5: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 3, p. 230.
6: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 349.
7: Albert Barnes, Kings, p. 250.
8: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 284.
9: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5b, p. 189.
10: Ibid., p. 190.
11: The Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 90.
12: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 317.
13: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 214.
14: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 192.