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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-kings-10.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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2 Kings 10:1-36
THE REIGN OF JEHU OVER ISRAEL.
2 Kings 10:1-28
The revolution initiated by the destruction of Joram and Jezebel is here traced through its second and its third stages. The immediate question, after Joram's death, was—Would any member of his family rise up as a claimant of the throne, and dispute the succession with Jehu? Ahab had seventy male descendants, all of them resident in Samaria: would there be any one among their number bold enough to come forward and assert his hereditary fight? Jehu regarded this as the most pressing and imminent danger, wherefore his first step was to challenge such action, and either precipitate it or crush it. In 2 Kings 10:1-11 is related the action taken by him, so far as the descendants of Ahab were concerned, and his success in ridding himself of all rivals possessed of so strong a claim. 2 Kings 10:12-14 relate his dealings with another body of Ahab's relations, belonging to the neighboring kingdom of Judah. In 2 Kings 10:15-28 an account is given of the still more bloody and more sweeping measures by which he cowed the party opposed to him, and firmly established his dynasty in the Israelite kingdom.
2 Kings 10:1-11
The destruction of the seventy seas of Ahab.
2 Kings 10:1
And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. By " sons" we must understand "male descendants. Most of the seventy wore probably his grandsons (see 2 Kings 10:3); some may have been great-grandsons. They lived in Samaria; since Samaria was the principal residence of the court, Jezreel being simply a country palace—the "Versailles," as it has been called, or "Windsor" of the Israelite kings. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel. "Jezreel" is almost certainly a corrupt reading. The "rulers of Jezreel" would be at Jezreel; and, if Jehu wished to communicate with them, he would not need to "write." Had any chance taken them to Samaria—a very improbable circumstance—they would have had no authority there, and to address them would have been useless. John's letters were, no doubt, addressed to the rulers of Samaria; and so the LXX. expressly state (ἀπέστειλεν ἐν Σαμαρείᾳ πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας Σαμαρείας); but the reading "Jezreel" can scarcely have arisen out of "Samaria" (יזרעאל out of שׁמרון), since the difference of the two words is so great. Most probably the original word was "Israel" (ישׂראל), which is easily corrupted into "Jezreel" (יזרעאל). The rulers of Samaria, the capital, might well be called "the rulers of Israel." To the elders rather, even the elders. Not distinct persons from the "rulers," but the same under another name (see 1 Kings 21:8, 1 Kings 21:13; and compare the Revised Version). And to them that brought up Ahab's children—i.e. the tutors, or governors, under whose charge they were placed—saying—
2 Kings 10:2
Now as soon as this letter cometh to you. In the East at this time, and in most parts of it to the present day, letters can only be sent by special messengers. There is no public post. Kings and private individuals must equally find persons who will undertake to carry and deliver their despatches. Even the post organized by Darius Hystaspis was not one that went daily, but only one kept ready for the king to use when he had occasion for it. Seeing your master's sons are with you. "Your master's sons" must mean Joram's sons; by which we learn that, unlike his brother Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:17), Joram had male offspring who survived him, and were now with the rest of Ahab's descendants, at Samaria. And there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced city also, and armor; literally, the chariots, and the horses, a fenced city also, and the armor. The main chariot force of the country, and the chief arsenal, containing both armor and arms, were naturally at Samaria, the capital, and might thus be regarded as at the disposition of the Samaritan municipality. Jehu scornfully challenges them to make use of their resources against him. He is quite ready for a contest. Let them do their worst. The LXX. have "fenced cities" (πόλεις ὀχυραί) instead of "a fenced city;" but the existing Hebrew text is probably right Samaria was the only fortified town in their possession.
2 Kings 10:3
Look even out the belt and meetest of your master's sons, and set him on his father's throne. "Choose," i.e; "among the sons of Joram the strongest, the boldest, and the ablest, and make him king in his father's zoom; take him for your leader against me; do not hesitate and beat about the bush; but at once make up your minds, and let me know what I have to expect." And fight for your master's house. There had been a civil war before the dynasty of Omri succeeded in settling itself on the throne (1 Kings 16:21, 1 Kings 16:22). Jehu believes, or affects to believe, that there will now be another. He does not deprecate it, but invites it. Probably he felt tolerably confident that the garrison of Samaria, even if called upon by the municipality, would not venture to take up arms against the army of Ramoth-Gilead, which had declared itself in his favor. Still, supposing that it did, he was not fearful of the result.
2 Kings 10:4
But they wore exceedingly afraid. They were men of peace, not men of war—accustomed to discharge the duties of judges and magistrates, not of commandants and generals. They could not count on the obedience even of the troops in Samaria, much less on that of any others who might be in garrison elsewhere. They would naturally have been afraid of taking up arms under almost any circumstances. What, however, caused them now such excessive fear was probably the tone which Jehu had adopted—his "scornful challenge," as it has been called. He evidently entertained no fear himself. He dared them to do that which he pretended to recommend them to do. They must have felt that he was laughing at them in his sleeve. And said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand? The kings intended are Joram and Ahaziah, who had confronted Jehu, and had met their deaths. What were they that they should succeed where "two kings" had failed? The argument was fallacious, and a mere cloak for cowardice. The two kings had been taken by surprise, and treacherously murdered. Their fate could prove nothing concerning the probable issue of a civil war, had the "princes" ventured to commence it. It must be admitted, however, that the chance of success was but slight.
2 Kings 10:5
And he that was ever the house—i.e. the officer in charge of the royal palace—and he that was over the city. There would be a single "governor of the city"—net the commandant of the garrison, but the chief civil ruler nearly corresponding to a modern "mayor" (see 1 Kings 22:26). The elders also. The "governor" of a town was assisted by a council of elders. And the bringers up of the children (see the comment on 2 Kings 10:1). Sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do sit that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king. Jehu's letter had the effect which he intended, of making the authorities of Samaria declare themselves. They might, perhaps, have temporized, have sent an ambiguous answer, or have sent no answer at all, and have let their action be guided by the course of events. But, taken aback by Jehu's directness and plainness of speech, it did not occur to them to be diplomatic; they felt driven into a corner, and compelled to make their choice at once. Either they must resist Jehu in arms or they must submit to him. If they submitted, they had best (they thought) do it with a good grace. Accordingly, his letter produced a reply, more favorable than he can possibly have expected—"They were his servants," or "his slaves," ready to do all his pleasure; they would not set up a king, or in any way dispute his succession; they submitted themselves wholly to his will. Do thou [they said] that which is good in thine eyes; i.e. "take what steps thou pleasest to confirm thyself in the kingdom."
2 Kings 10:6
Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying; rather, a second time. The reply of the Samaritan authorities gave Jehu an opportunity, of which he was not slow to take advantage. They might have been contented with their negative response, "We will not make any man king;" but they had gone beyond it—they had departed from the line of neutrality, and had placed themselves unreservedly on Jehu's side. "We are thy servants," they had said, "and will do all that thou shalt bid us." It is always rash to promise absolute obedience to a human being. To volunteer such a promise, when it is not even asked, is the height of folly. If ye be mine—as they had said they were, when they called themselves his "slaves"—and if ye will hearken unto my voice—i.e; obey me, do as I require—take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel. The Samaritan authorities were ordered to bring the heads with them, that they might be seen and counted. In the East generally, the heads of rebels and pretenders, by whatever death they may have died, are cut off, brought to the sovereign, and then exposed in some public place, in order that the public at large may be certified that the men are really dead. By tomorrow this time. As Jezreel was not more than about twenty miles from Samaria, the order could be executed by that time. It necessitated, however, very prompt measures, and gave the authorities but little time for consideration. Now the king's sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up.
2 Kings 10:7
And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew seventy persons. Having committed themselves by their answer to Jehu's first letter, the Samaritan great men seemed to themselves to have no choice, on receiving his second, but to allow themselves to become the tools and agents of his policy. They accordingly put the seventy princes to death without any hesitation, though they can scarcely have done so without reluctance. And put their heads in baskets. Thus concealing their bloody deed as long as they could. In the Assyrian sculptures, those who slay the king's enemies carry the heads openly in their hands, as though glorying in what they have done. And sent him them to Jezreel. Jehu had bidden them to bring the heads to him; but this was a degradation to which they did not feel bound to submit. They therefore sent the heads by trusty messengers.
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 ye them in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning. Thus all who entered into the town or quitted it would see them, and, being struck by the ghastly spectacle, would make inquiry and learn the truth. "The gate" was also a general place of assembly for the gossips of the town and others, who would soon spread the news, and bring together a crowd of persons, curious to see so unusual a sight.
2 Kings 10:9
And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous. Not an ironical reproach to those who had brought the heads—"Ye consider yourselves righteous, yet this bloodshed rests upon you;" much less a serious declaration (Gerlach) that now at last the sins of idolatrous Israel were atoned for; but an argument ad captandum, addressed to the crowd of spectators whom the unwonted spectacle had brought together, "Ye are just persons, and capable of pronouncing a just judgment; judge, then, if I am the wicked person which men generally consider me." Behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these? I confess to one murder; but here are seventy murders. And who is guilty of them? Not I, or my party, but the trusted adherents of the Ahabite dynasty, the rulers placed by them over the capital, and the governors to whom they had entrusted the royal children. Does not this show that all parties are weary of the Ahabites and of their system? Does it not clear me of any private or selfish motive, and indicate the desire of the whole nation for a change, civil and religions—a change which shall entirely subvert the new religion introduced by Jezebel, and fall back upon the lines of that maintained by Elijah and Elisha?
2 Kings 10:10
Know now that there shall fall unto the earth—i.e. "perish," "come to naught"—nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab. As the accomplishment had gone so far, it was safe to predict, or at any rate Jehu felt emboldened to predict, that the entire prophecy of Elijah would be fulfilled to the letter. The whole house of Ahab would perish—it would be made like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah (1 Kings 21:23), and its adherents would share its fate. For the Lord hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah; i.e. "has requited Ahab in the portion of Jezreel; has caused dogs to eat the flesh of Jezebel; and has begun the destruction of his house. The inchoate fulfillment of prophecy was always felt to be the strongest possible argument for its ultimate complete fulfillment.
2 Kings 10:11
So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks; rather, and Jehu slew. Encouraged by his past success, having killed Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel, having secured the adhesion of the chief men in Samaria, and effected the destruction of all those who might naturally have claimed the succession and involved him in civil war, Jehu proceeded to greater lengths. He "slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel"—the princesses probably, as well as the princes—and further put to death all the leading partisans of the dethroned dynasty, the "great men," perhaps even those who had worked his bloody will at Samaria, and the intimate friends and supporters of the house—the מְיֻדָּעִים, as they are here called—not relatives, but "intimate acquaintances." And his priests. This expression causes a difficulty, since the destruction of the Baal-priests is related subsequently (2 Kings 10:19-25). It has been suggested to understand by כֹּהֲניִם, not" priests," but "high state officers" (Bahr)—a meaning which the word is thought to have in 2 Samuel 8:18 and 1 Kings 4:5. But this signification of כֹּהֵן is scarcely an ascertained one. Perhaps the same persons are intended as in 1 Kings 4:19, the present notice of their death being a mere summary, and the narrative of 1 Kings 4:19-25 a full statement of the circumstances. Until he left him none remaining; i.e. until the entire Ahabite faction was blotted out.
2 Kings 10:12-14
The massacre of the brethren of Ahaziah.
2 Kings 10:12
And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria; rather, went on his way to Samaria (ἐπορεύθη εἰς Σαμάρειαν, LXX.). Having arranged matters at Jezreel as his interests required, and secured the adhesion of the Samaritan "great men," Jehu now sot out for the capital. The narrative from this point to 2 Kings 10:17 is of events that happened to him while he was upon his road. And as he was at the shearing-house in the way. Between Jezreel and Samaria was a station where the shepherds of the district were accustomed to shear their flocks. The custom gave name to the place, which became known as Beth-Eked (Βαιθακάθ, LXX.; Beth-Akad, Jerome), "the house of binding," from the practice of tying the sheep's four feet together before shearing them, The situation has not been identified.
2 Kings 10:13
Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah King of Judah. The actual "brethren" of Ahaziah had been carried off and slain by the Arabians in one of their raids into Palestine, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1; the youths here mentioned were their sons (2 Chronicles 22:8), and therefore Ahaziah's nephews. And said, Who are ye? Travelers in a foreign country were always liable to be questioned, and were expected to give an account of themselves (see Genesis 42:7-13; Story of Saneha, line 38; Herod, 2:159, etc.). The princes were thus not surprised at the inquiry, and readily answered it. And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king. There is something abnormal and needing explanation in this visit. Forty-two princes, with their retinues, do not, under ordinary circumstances, start off on a sudden from one capital, on a complimentary visit to their cousins at another. Perhaps Ewald is right in surmising that, "at the first report of disturbances in the kingdom of the ten tribes, they had been sent off by Athaliah to render any assistance that they could to the house of Ahab in its troubles". In this case their answer must be regarded as insincere. Falling in with an armed force stronger than their own, they pretended ignorance of the revolution that had taken place, and sought to pass off their hostile purpose under the pretence of a visit of compliment. But the pretence did not deceive Jehu. And the children of the queen. The queen-mother, Jezebel, is probably intended. Her rank entitled her to special mention.
2 Kings 10:14
And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them. The Brevity of the narrative leaves many points of it obscure. It is impossible to say why the order was given, "Take them alive," when, immediately afterwards, they were massacred. Perhaps Jehu at first intended to spare their lives, but afterwards thought that it would be safer to have them put out of his way. It must be borne in mind that they were descendants of Ahab. At the pit of the shearing-house; rather, at the well of Beth-Eked. Probably the bodies were thrown into the well (comp. Jeremiah 41:7). Even two and forty men. It is this number which makes the idea of a visit of compliment incredible. Neither left he any of them. The Greeks said, Νήπιος ὂς πατέρα κτείτας παῖδας καταλείπει; and the general Hebrew practice was to give effect to the teaching conveyed by the maxim (see Joshua 7:24, Jos 7:25; 2 Kings 9:26; 2 Kings 14:6).
2 Kings 10:15-17
Jehonadab the son of Rechab associated by Jehu in his acts.
2 Kings 10:15
And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab. Between Beth-Eked and Samaria Jehu fell in with the great Kenite chief, Jehonadab, the founder of the remarkable tribe and sect of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:6-19). Jehonadab is mentioned only here and in the passage of Jeremiah just quoted; but it is evident that he was an important personage. His tribe, the Kenites, was probably of Arab origin, and certainly of Arab habits. It attached itself to the Israelites during their wanderings in the Sinaitic desert, and was given a settlement in "the wilderness of Judah," on the conquest of Palestine (Judges 1:16). Jehonadab seems to have been of an ascetic turn, and to have laid down for his tribe a rule of life stricter and more severe than any known previously. He required them not merely to dwell in tents, and, unless under the compulsion of war, never to enter cities, but also to abstain wholly from the use of wine, and to have neither house, nor field, nor vineyard (Jeremiah 35:8-10). Gautama, between three and four centuries later, enjoined a somewhat similar rule upon his disciples. It is indicative of much strength of character in either case, that so strict a rule was accepted, adopted, and acted upon for centuries. On the present occasion, Jehu, it would seem, desired the sanction of Jehonadab to the proceedings upon which he was about to enter, as calculated to legitimate them in the eyes of some who might otherwise have regarded them with disapproval. Jehonadab had, no doubt, the influence which is always wielded by an ascetic in Oriental countries. Coming to meet him. This expression tells us nothing of Jehonadab's intent. The meeting may have been merely a chance one. And he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? literally, he blessed him; but the word used (barak) has frequently the sense of "to salute" (see 1 Samuel 13:10; 1 Samuel 25:14; 2 Kings 4:29, etc.). Jehu's inquiry was made to assure himself of Jehonadab's sympathy, on which no doubt he counted, but whereof he was glad to receive a positive promise. Jehonadab must have been known as a zealous servant of Jehovah, and might therefore be assumed to be hostile to the house of Ahab. And Jehonadab answered, It is. Unhesitatingly, without a moment's pause, without the shadow of a doubt, the Kenite chief cast in his lot with the revolutionist. Heart and soul he would join him in an anti-Ahab policy. If it he, Give me thine hand. The Hebrews did not clench agreements, like the Greeks and Romans, by grasping each other's hands. Jehu merely means to say, "If this is so, if thou art heart and. soul with me in the matter, put out thy hand, and I will take thee into my chariot." Jehu intended at once to do honor to the Kenite chief, and to strengthen his own position by being seen to be so familiar with him. And he—i.e. Jehonadab—gave him—i.e. Jehu—his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. There was always room in a chariot for at least three or four persons—the charioteer and the owner of the chariot in front, and one or two guards behind.
2 Kings 10:16
And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord. Jehonadab must have understood that some further measures were about to be taken against the family and adherents of Ahab. He evidently approved of all that Jehu had already done, and was willing to give his countenance to further severities. He probably did not know exactly what Jehu designed; but he must have been able to make a tolerably shrewd guess at what was impending. So they made him ride in his chariot. Perhaps וַיַדְכִבוּ should be changed into וַיַּדְכִּיב, which seems to have been the reading of the LXX; who translate, by ἐπικάθισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἅρματι αὐτοῦ, "he made him ride in his chariot."
2 Kings 10:17
And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samria, till he had destroyed him. Seventy male descendants of Ahab had been already destroyed in Samaria (2 Kings 10:1-7). It seems unlikely that the city can have contained any other members of his house excepting females. Did Jehu now destroy the daughters of Ahab resident in Samaria, with their families? The masculine form used—הַנּשְׂאָרִים—does not disprove this. According to the saying of the Lord, which he spake to Elijah.
2 Kings 10:18-28
Jehu destroys the worshippers of Baal, arid puts an end to the Baal-worship.
2 Kings 10:18
And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. Hitherto the revolution had borne the appearance of a mere dynastic change, like those introduced by Baasha (1 Kings 15:27-29), Zimri (1 Kings 16:9-12), and Omri (1 Kings 16:17-19), and had had none of the characteristics of a religious reformation. Probably, as yet, no suspicion had touched the public mind that Jehu would be a less zealous worshipper of Baal than his predecessor. The outburst against Jezebel's "whoredoms" and "witchcrafts" (2 Kings 9:22) would be known to few, and might not have been understood as a condemnation of the entire Baalistic system. The "zeal for Jehovah" whispered in the ear of Jehonadab (2 Kings 10:16) had been hitherto kept secret. Thus there was nothing to prevent the multitude from giving implicit credence to the proclamation now made, and looking to see the new reign inaugurated by a magnificent and prolonged festival in honor of the two great Phoenician deities, Baal the sun-god, and Ashtoreth or Astarte the famous "Dea Syra" Such festivals were frequently held in Phoenicia and the rest of Syria, often lasting over many days, and constituting a time of excitement, feasting, and profligate enjoyment, which possessed immense attraction for the great mass of Asiatics.
2 Kings 10:19
Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests. In Phoenicia, it would seem, as in Egypt and among the Jews, "prophets" and "priests" were distinct classes of persons. The Egyptians called the priest ab, the prophet neter hen, literally, "servant of God." They held the priest in the greater honor. In Phoenicia, on the contrary, judging from the scanty notices that we possess, prophets appear to have taken precedence of priests, and to have had the more important functions assigned to them (see 1 Kings 18:19-40; 1 Kings 22:6). Let none be wanting—literally, let not a man fail—for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal. Like the other gods of the heathen, Baal and Ashtoreth were worshipped chiefly by sacrifice. The sacrifice was sometimes human, but more Commonly a sacrificial animal, such as a bull, a ram, or a he-goat. In the greater festivals several hundreds of victims were offered; and their flesh was served up at the banquets by which the festivals were accompanied. Whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. His absence would be regarded as an act of contumacy verging on rebellion, and so as deserving of capital punishment. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal. "Subtilty" was characteristic of John, who always preferred to gain his ends by cunning rather than in a straightforward way. Idolaters were by the Law liable to death, and Jehu would have had a perfect right to crush the Baal-worship throughout the land, by sending his emissaries everywhere, with orders to slay all whom they found engaged in it. But to draw some thousands of his subjects by false pretences into a trap, and then to kill them in it for doing what he had himself invited them to do, was an act that was wholly unjustifiable, and that savored, not of the wisdom which is from above, but of that bastard wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). Jehu's religious reformation did not succeed, and it was conducted in such a way that it did not deserve to succeed. A little more honest boldness, and a little less frequent resort to subterfuge and craft, might have had a different result, and have been better both for himself and for his people.
2 Kings 10:20
And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. The word translated "solemn assembly" is the same which is applied to the great feasts of Jehovah among the Israelites in Le 2 Kings 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18; Isaiah 1:13; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15; and Amos 5:21. Originally, it signified a time of repression, or abstention from worldly business; but it had probably grown to mean a day when worldly business was suspended for the sake of a religious gathering. Such gatherings had no doubt been held from time to time in honor of Baal; and Jehu's proclamation consequently excited no distrust. And they proclaimed it. No opposition was made to the king's wish. No Jehovist party showed itself. The "solemn assembly" was proclaimed for some day in the near future, when all the people had been apprised of it.
2 Kings 10:21
And Jehu sent through all Israel; i.e. through the whole of his own kingdom, from Dan on the north to Bethel on the south. And all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. Duty and inclination for once coincided. The king's command made it incumbent on them, they would argue, to attend; and attendance would, they supposed, result in a time of excitement and enjoyment, which they were not disposed to miss. The death-penalty threatened for non-attendance (2 Kings 10:19) was scarcely needed to induce them all to come. And they came into the house of Baal. Ahab had erected a temple to Baal in Samaria shortly after his marriage with Jezebel (1 Kings 16:22). Like the other temples of the time, in Judaea, in Egypt, and in Phoenicia, it was not a mere "house," but contained vast courts and corridors fitted for the reception of immense numbers. And the house of Baal was full from one end to another; literally, from brim to brim; i.e. brimful—"metaphora sumpta a vasibus humore aliquo plenis."
2 Kings 10:22
And he said unto him that was over the vestry. The word translated "vestry" (מֶלְתָּצָה) occurs only in this place; but its meaning is sufficiently ascertained, first, from the context, and secondly, from the cognate Ethiopic altah, which means "a linen garment." Linen garments were regarded as especially pure, and were generally affected by the priests of ancient religions, and preferred by the worshippers. Heathen temples had almost always "vestries" or "wardrobes" attached to them, where garments considered suitable were laid up in store. Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. It may be doubted whether "all the worshippers of Baal" could have been supplied with robes out of the temple vestry, which would ordinarily contain only vestments for the priests. But Jehu may have had the supply kept up from the robe-room of the palace, which would be practically inexhaustible. The gift of garments to all comers, which was certainly not usual, must have been intended to render the festival as attractive as possible. And he brought them forth vestments. The keeper of the wardrobe obeyed the order given him, and supplied vestments to all the worshippers.
2 Kings 10:23
And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal. Keeping up the pretence that he was a devotee of Baal, anxious to "serve him much" (2 Kings 10:18), Jehu himself entered the sacred edifice, together with Jehonadab the son of Rechab, whom he wished to have as a witness to his "zeal for the Lord" (2 Kings 10:16). Having entered, he addressed the multitude, or the chief authorities among them, requiring that they should exercise extreme vigilance, and make it quite certain that none but true followers of Baal were present. And said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the Lord, but the worshippers of Baal only. Jehu's real object was undoubtedly to save the lives of any "servants of Jehovah" who might incautiously have mixed themselves up with the Baal-wor-shippers, out of curiosity, or to have their share in the general holiday. That he should have thought such a thing possible or even probable indicates the general laxity of the time, and the want of any sharp line of demarcation between the adherents of the two religions. He cleverly masked his desire for the safety of his own religionists under a show of keen anxiety that the coming ceremonies should not be profaned by the presence of scoffers or indifferent persons. His requirement was in the spirit of that warning which the heathen commonly gave before entering upon the more sacred rites of their religion—"Proculeste, profani."
2 Kings 10:24
And when they went in—rather, when they had gone in; i.e. when the whole multitude of Baal-worshippers, priests and people, had entered within the precincts of the temple—to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. The priests officiate, but the offerings are regarded as conjointly made by priest and people. Jehu appointed four score men without. Josephus says ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.6. § 6) that they were the most trusty men of his body-guard, which is likely enough. They were no doubt also known to Jehu as attached to the worship of Jehovah. And said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him. Gaolers were commonly put to death if a prisoner committed to their charge escaped them (see Acts 12:19; Acts 16:27).
2 Kings 10:25
And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering. It has been concluded from this that Jehu" offered the sacrifices with his own hand, as though he were the most zealous of Baal's adorers"; but the conclusion does not follow necessarily from the expression used. The suffix וֹ in כְּכַלֹּתוֹ may be used indefinitely, "when one finished," or "when they finished;" or Jehu may be said to have made the offerings, because he famished the victims, not because he immolated them with his own hand. Throughout heathendom, wherever there wore priests, it was the duty of the prints to slay the victims offered. That Jehu said to the guard—literally, to the runners (see the comment on 1 Kings 1:38)—and to the captains—i.e; the officers in command of the guard—Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. We must suppose that some guarded the doors, while others advanced into the crowd and struck right and left. The unarmed multitude seems to have made no resistance. And they smote them with the edge of the sword—i.e. cut them down unsparingly, smote and slew till none were left alive—and the guard and the captains cast them out. This is generally understood to mean that all the bodies were thrown by the guards out of the temple. Dean Stanley says, "The temple was strewn with corpses, which, "as fast as they fell, the guard and the officers threw out with their own hands". But it is not apparent why they should have taken this trouble. Perhaps Bahr is right in suggesting that no more is meant than that the guard and the officers thrust the bodies out of their way, as they pressed forward to enter the sanctuary which contained the sacred images. And went to the city of the house of Baal. "They made their way," as Ewald says, "into the inner sanctuary, the enclosure of which rose like a lofty fortress—עיר originally meant "fortress"—where Baal was enthroned, surrounded by the images of his fellow-gods" ('History of Israel,' l.s.c.). It is to be remembered that the assembled multitude occupied the court or courts of the temple, within which, in a commanding position, was the "house" or "sanctuary"—perhaps reserved for the priests only.
2 Kings 10:26
And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal; rather, the pillars (see the comment on 1 Kings 14:23). It was a special feature of the Phoenician worship to represent the gods by στῆλαι or κίονες, which appear to have been conical stones, or obelisks, destitute of any shaping into the semblance of humanity. The Phoenicians acknowledged several deities besides Baal, as Ashtoreth, Melkarth, Dagon, Adonis or Tammuz, El, Sadyk, Esmun, and the Kabiri. The "pillars brought forth" may have represented some of these deities, who might all of them be "contemplar" deities with Baal; or they may have been "Baalim," i.e. forms and aspects of Baal, each the object of some special cult. And burned them. The "pillars" in this instance were probably, not of stone, but of wood.
2 Kings 10:27
And they brake down the image of Baal; rather, they brake in pieces the pillar of Baal. The representation of Baal, the main stele of the temple, being of stone or metal, could not be destroyed by fire, and was therefore broken to pieces. And brake down the house of Baal—i.e. partially ruined it, but still left portions of it standing, as a memorial of the sin and of its punishment—a solemn warning, one would have thought, to the people of the capital—and made it a draught-house unto this day; made it, i.e; "a depository for all the filth of the town" (Stanley); comp. Ezra 6:11; Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29; and for the word "draught" in this sense, see Matthew 15:17. Such a use was the greatest possible desecration.
2 Kings 10:28
Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. The measures taken were effectual; the worship of Baal was put down, and is not said to have been revived in the kingdom of the ten tribes. Moloch-worship seems to have taken its place (see 2 Kings 17:17).
2 Kings 10:29-31
2 Kings 10:29
Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them. It was a crucial test of Jehu's faithfulness to Jehovah; would he maintain the calf-worship of Jeroboam or not? With whatever intent the worship had been set up by its author, the curse of God had been pronounced against it by the chief prophet of the time (1 Kings 13:2), and his word had been attired as from heaven by two miracles (1 Kings 13:4, 1 Kings 13:5). Jehu ought to have known that the calf-worship, if not as hateful to God as the Baal-worship, at any rate was hateful, was a standing act of rebellion against Jehovah, and laid the nation under his displeasure. But, while his own interests were entirely detached from the one, they were, or at least would seem to him to be, bound up with the other. The calf-worship was thought to be essential to the matureance of the divided kingdom. Abolish it, and all Israel would "return to the house of David" (1 Kings 12:26-30). Jehu was not prepared to risk this result. His "zeal for Jehovah" did not reach so far. Thus his "reformation of religion" was but a half-reformation, a partial turning to Jehovah, which brought no permanent blessing upon the nation. To wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. The erection of the calves (1 Kings 12:29) was the initial sin, their worship the persistent one. (On the nature of the calf-worship, see the comment on 1 Kings 12:28, and compare the 'Speaker's Commentary' on the same passage.)
2 Kings 10:30
And the Lord said unto John—scarcely by direct revelation, rather by the mouth of a prophet, most probably of Elisha, as Thenius supposes—Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes. In making himself the executor of God's will with respect to the house of Ahab, and utterly destroying it, as he had been commanded (2 Kings 9:7), Jehu had "done well;" he had also done well in putting down the worship of Baal, and slaying the idolaters, for the destruction of idolaters was distinctly commanded in the Law (Exodus 22:20; Exodus 32:27; Numbers 25:5). These acts of his are praised; but nothing is said of his motives in doing them. They were probably to a great extent selfish. And hath done unto the house of Ahab all that was in mine heart (see 2 Kings 9:26-37; 2 Kings 10:1-7, 2 Kings 10:11, 2 Kings 10:14), thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. External obedience was suitably rewarded by an external, earthly honor—the honor of having his dynasty settled upon the throne during five generations, and for a period of above a hundred years. No other Israelite dynasty held the throne longer than three generations, or for so much as fifty years. The "children" or descendants of Jehu who sat upon the throne after him were Jehoahaz, his son, Jehoash or Joash, his grandson, Jeroboam II; his great-grandson, and Zachariah, son of Jeroboam II; his great-great-grandson
2 Kings 10:31
But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart. Jehu's character is thus summed up by Dean Stanley: "The character of Jehu is not difficult to understand, if we take it as a whole, and consider the general impression left upon us by the biblical account. He is exactly one of those men whom we are compelled to recognize, not for what is good or great in themselves, but as instruments for destroying evil, and preparing the way for good; such as Augustus Caesar at Rome, Sultan Mahmoud II. in Turkey, or one closer at hand in the revolutions of our own time and neighborhood. A destiny, long kept in view by himself or ethers—inscrutable secrecy and reserve in carrying out his plans—a union of cold, remorseless tenacity with occasional bursts of furious, wayward, almost fanatical zeal;—this is Jehu, as he is set before us in the historical narrative, the worst type of a son of Jacob—the 'supplanter' …without the noble and princely qualities of Israel; the most unlovely and the most coldly commended of all the heroes of his country". The estimate is lower than that formed by most other writers; but it is not far from the truth. For he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
2 Kings 10:32-36
Jehu's wars, length of reign, and successor.
2 Kings 10:32
In those days the Lord began to out Israel short. It is certainly not stated in direct terms that the ill success of Jehu's foreign wars was a punishment on him for his continued maintenance of the calf-idolatry; but the juxtaposition of 2 Kings 10:31 and 2 Kings 10:32 naturally raises the idea, and constitutes a strong presumption that it was in the writer's mind. The "theocracy" under the kings was carried on mainly, as the writer of Chronicles clearly saw, by the bestowal of worldly prosperity and military success on good kings, and the accumulation of misfortunes and military disasters on bad ones (see 2 Chronicles 12:5-12; 2 Chronicles 13:4-18; 2 Chronicles 14:2-15; 2 Chronicles 15:2-15; 2 Chronicles 17:3-5. etc.). By "cutting Israel short"—literally, "cutting off in Israel"—is probably meant the conquest of certain portions of the territory. Hazael resumed the war which Benhadad had so long waged, and gained numerous successes. And Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; or, along their whole frontier (Bahr). The frontier intended is, of course, that on the north and east, where the Israelite territory was conterminous with that of Syria.
2 Kings 10:33
From Jordan eastward. The territory west of the Jordan was not attacked at this time. Hazael's expeditious were directed against the trans-Jordanic region, the seats of the three tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. This tract was far easier of access than the other, and was more tempting, being the richest part of Palestine. The region comprised all the land of Gilead—i.e. the more southern region, reaching from the borders of Moab on the south to the Hieromax or Sheriat-el-Mandhur upon the north, the proper land of the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and [a portion of] the Manassites—together with Bashan, the more northern region, which belonged wholly to Manasseh—from Aroer (now Arair), which is by the river Arnon—the Wady-el-Mojeb, which was the boundary between Israel and Moab (Numbers 21:13, Numbers 21:24), both in the earlier and (Isaiah 16:2) in the later times—even Gilead and Bashan. There is other evidence, besides this, that Hazael was one of the most warlike of the Syrian kings. We find him, on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser II; mentioned as a stubborn adversary of the Assyrian arms. In the seventeenth campaign of Shalmaneser, a great battle was fought between the two monarchs. Hazael brought into the field more than twelve hundred chariots, but was defeated, and obliged to retreat, his camp falling into the hands of the enemy. Four years later Shalmaneser invaded Hazael's territory, and took, according to his own account, four cities or fortresses belonging to him. He does not claim, however, to have made him a tributary; and By his later annals it is evident that he avoided further contest, preferring to turn his arms in other directions. (On Hazael's campaign in Philistia, and designs against Jerusalem, see the comment upon 2 Kings 12:17, 2 Kings 12:18,)
2 Kings 10:34
Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might. This last phrase is remarkable, considering that Jehu's wars, after he became king, seem to have been entirely unsuccessful ones, that he lost a large portion of his dominions to Syria, and (as appears by the Black Obelisk) paid tribute to the Assyrians. "Might" has been ascribed by the writer of Kings only to Baasha and Omri among previous Israelite monarchs, and only to Asa and Jehoshaphat among previous Jewish ones. "All his might" has only been used of Asa. We must probably understand, that, although defeated, Jehu gained much distinction, by his personal prowess and other military qualities, in the Syrian wars, and was reckoned "a mighty man of valor" in spite of the ill success of his wars. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? (see the comment on 2 Kings 1:18).
2 Kings 10:35, 2 Kings 10:36
And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead. And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years. Twenty-eight years was a long reign for an Israelite king, only exceeded by one other king in the entire list, viz. Jeroboam II; who is said in 2 Kings 14:23 to have reigned forty-one years. The kings of Judah were longer lived,
2 Kings 10:1-7
The fear of man a stronger motive with the wicked and worldly than the fear of God.
Revolutions subject to severe trial most of those who occupy high stations at the time of their occurrence. Such persons have to determine, at very short notice for the most part, the line which they Will pursue, the side which they will embrace, and the lengths to which they will go in their support of it. In making their choice they are apt to think less of what they ought to do than of what their worldly interests require them to do. They "are in a strait betwixt two"—on the one hand is the fear of man, on the other the fear of God. The one ought to prevail; the other commonly does prevail. Let us consider a little why this is so.
I. REASONS WHY THE FEAR OF GOD IS WEAK.
1. The wicked and worldly, who form, alas! the vast mass of mankind, do not generally even so much as realize the existence of God. They may not be absolute atheists, but practically they do not have God in their thoughts.
2. Those who believe in God and have some fear of him view him as distant, and his vengeance as a thing that may come or may not. He is merciful, and may be propitiated; he is compassionate, and may not be "extreme to mark what is done amiss" Men hope that he Will forget their misdeeds, or forgive them for his Son's sake, or accept a tardy repentance as compensating for them and blotting them out.
3. Some view God as altogether benevolent and beneficent, and therefore as incapable of punishing men, forgetting that, if he is kind, he is also just, and, if he is forgiving, he is also jealous. They take their idea of God, not from what is revealed concerning him in Scripture, but from their own imaginations respecting him—imaginations which are echoes of their wishes.
II. REASONS WHY THE FEAR OF MAN IS STRONG.
1. Man is visibly present, and has a power to injure and punish which cannot be doubted.
2. Man's vengeance falls heavily and speedily. It is rarely delayed; and it is often of great severity.
3. It consists of pains and penalties, which are more easily realized than those which God threatens. We know very well what is meant by the death of the body, but what the death of the soul may mean is obscure to us.
4. If we offend men, it is very unlikely that they will forgive us. Most men regard clemency as a weakness, and exact the uttermost farthing from those who, they think, have injured them. Under these circumstances, the fear of man prevails. The rulers of Samaria, challenged by Jehu either to raise the standard of revolt against him, or definitely to embrace his cause, and mark their adhesion to it by imbuing their hands in blood, must have balanced in their minds for a time the two alternatives—should they consent to slay, without offence alleged, seventy persons obnoxious to the powers that were, undeterred by fear of Divine vengeance, to escape the anger of Jehu? or should they brave his anger, and refuse to engage in the massacre required of them, out of regard for the Law of God (Exodus 20:13), and through fear of the vengeance denounced By God upon such as contravened it (Genesis 9:6)? They yielded to the lower, but more immediate, fear, and submitted themselves to be mere tools in Jehu's hands, because they feared man rather than God. Having made up their minds that their forces were insufficient to contend with those of Jehu, they put themselves at his disposal, and consented to do all that he required of them. So, constantly, in civil struggles, parties have put before them the alternative of following conscience and embroiling themselves with the civil authorities, or of defying those authorities, keeping their conscience clear, and observing the strict Law of God in the matters whereon they have to exercise a choice. Sometimes, as in the case of the Girondists, the better part is taken—duty, truth, virtue, are preferred to expediency, and martyrdom, a glorious martyrdom, is for the most part the consequence; but generally the result is different—expediency carries the day, and the sad spectacle is seen of men sacrificing their principles to their immediate interest, and consenting to wade through crime if they may preserve their worthless lives by so doing.
2 Kings 10:8-11
The wicked have small regard for their helpers and confederates.
Jehu had made the authorities of Samaria his tools. He had required of them the performance of a wicked and bloody act, such as despotism has rarely exacted from its instruments. Seventy persons to be slain in the course of a few hours—for no offence, for no state necessity except to smooth the path of a usurper! And the seventy persons for the most part boys and youths, some probably infants, and these defense-less ones entrusted to the care and protection of those who were now called upon to take their lives! It was a tremendous burden to cast on men not previously his partisans, not bound to him by any interchange of good offices and benefits—rather, under the circumstances, his natural opponents and adversaries. Yet they took the burden on themselves; they accepted the miserable task assigned to them—they accepted it, and carried it out. No doubt they thought that by so doing they had bound the king to them, made him their debtor, and laid him under an obligation which he would not be slow to acknowledge. But the deed once done, the deaths once accomplished, and immediately the instigator of the crime turns against his accomplices. "Ye are righteous," he says to the crowd which has gathered together to gaze at the heads of the victims—"ye can discern aright; now judge between me and these murderers. I slew my master—I killed one man, political necessity compelling me but who slew all these?" He holds up his friends and allies, without the least compunction, to the popular odium. He entirely conceals the fact that he himself has been at the root of the whole matter, has conceived the massacre, and commanded it (2 Kings 10:6). He contrasts the terrible deed of blood, which has horrified all who have heard of it, with his own comparatively small crime, and claims to have his light offence condoned, overshadowed as it is by the heinous deed of the Samaritans. We do not know whether by his speech he provoked any popular outbreak. At the least, he turned the tide of popular disfavor from himself to his confederates, and left them to answer, as best they might, the serious question, "Who slew all these?" It is worth the preacher's while to impress on men the frequency of such conduct on the part of the persons who conceive evil designs, but must have tools to execute them. There is no solidarity among those who are confederates in wickedness. We hear of "honor among thieves;" but it is often "conspicuous by its absence." Monarchs engaged m plots denounce and disgrace their agents, when the plots fail, even sometimes permitting their execution; ministers are conveniently oblivious of the services rendered by those who win elections by intimidation and bribery; even "head-centers" are apt to look coldly on the work done by "ratteners" or "moonlighters" and, instead of commending and rewarding them, are rather anxious to disclaim all complicity in their actions. If the poor tools knew beforehand how little benefit they would derive from their wicked violence, what small thanks they would get from those who set them on, and how ready these last would be, on any difficulty arising, to leave them in the lurch, they would scarcely lend themselves to the purposes of their instigators. It is one of the weaknesses of the kingdom of evil that its agents do not keep faith one with another. It would weaken the kingdom still more if the conviction were general that this is so, and that the subordinate agents who work out an end have little to look for in the way of reward or encouragement from their employers.
2 Kings 10:15-23
John and Jehonadab-the man of the world and the recluse ascetic.
Worldly policy often finds it advisable to call to its aid the sanctions of religion, and the support of those who stand high in popular estimation as religionists of more than ordinary strictness and sanctity. It is comparatively seldom in the East that a political revolution is effected without the assistance of a dervish or a mullah of high reputation for strictness of life, who throws over a questionable movement the halo of his reputed holiness. In the present instance we have, on the one hand—
I. JEHU, THE MAN OF THE WORLD, versed in the ways of courts, experienced in affairs both civil and military, a good general, popular with his brother-officers, prompt in action, decided, not overburdened with scruples, and at the same time subtle, inclined to gain his ends by cunning and artifice rather than by force. Circumstances have brought him to the front, and put the direction of a politico-religious movement into his hands; but the situation is not without its risks and dangers. Jehu, if he does not absolutely require, cannot but welcome, and feel Ms position strengthened by, any spiritual support. From the time that he took action, he had not received, and he did not dare to invite, the cooperation of Elisha. He could not expect that Elisha would approve the proceedings on which he was bent, involving, as they did, a large amount of falsehood and dissimulation. All the more, therefore, must he have rejoiced when help appeared from another quarter—help on which it is scarcely possible that he can have reckoned. Over against Jehu stands—
II. JEHONADAB THE SON OF RECHAB, a chief whose position is abnormal and peculiar. The tribe of the Rechabites, whose sheikh he was, was a branch of the Kenites, Midianitish Arabs apparently, settled at the time of the Exodus in the Sinaitic peninsula. The Kenites, or some of them, had accompanied the Israelites during a large part of their wanderings in the wilderness, and had been of great assistance to them (Numbers 10:29-32; 1 Samuel 15:6); in return for which they were allowed to settle in Southern Judaea (Judges 1:16) and other parts of the Holy Land (Judges 4:11). They retained, however, their nomadic habits, and were a wandering people, like our gypsies, in the midst of the settled inhabitants of Palestine. When the Rechabite tribe fell under the chieftainship of Jehonadab, he appears to have bound them down by stricter rules than they had previously observed, and to have required of them an austerity of life whereof there have been few examples in the history of nations (Jeremiah 35:6, Jeremiah 35:7). They were to dwell in tents, avoid cities, drink no wine, and cultivate no land. Jehonadab must himself have been a recluse and an ascetic, or he would never have instituted such a "rule." He had probably the same sort of reputation as now attaches to a Mohammedan santon or fakir, and represented to the mind of his tribe, and even to numbers among the Israelites, the strict devout religionist, whose accession to a party or a cause stamped it at once with a high moral and religious character. Jehu needed Jehonadab; but there was not much to attract Jehonadab to Jehu. He would seem to have lent Jehu his countenance simply from a regard for the honor of Jehovah, and a detestation of the Baal-worship. But he would, perhaps, have done Jehovah more honor had he held himself aloof from the crafty schemer who disgraced the cause of true religion by lies and treachery.
2 Kings 10:29-33
Half-heartedness punished by God as severely as actual apostasy from true religion.
The temper of the Laodiceans is no uncommon one. Men may even think that they have a "zeal for the Lord" (2 Kings 10:16), and yet show by their acts that it is every half-hearted zeal—a zeal that goes a certain length, and then stops suddenly. There is no reason to doubt that Jehu honestly disliked, nay, perhaps detested, the religion of Baal. It was an effeminate, sensual, weakening, debasing system, which a rough soldier might well view with abhorrence. Jehu was honest and earnest in his opposition to it, as he showed by the measures which he took to put it down. They were no half-measures—they stamped out the religion, for the time at any rate (2 Kings 10:28). But with this destructive process his zeal terminated. He did not go on to consider what he could do to reintroduce and stimulate the true worship of Jehovah. Had his thoughts moved in this direction, he would have been brought face to face with the calf-worship, and would have had to consider seriously the question of its maintenance or abolition. But this question probably never presented itself to his mind. He was not possessed by any real love of God, or desire to worship him in spirit and in truth. Had he been, he would have called in the advice and help of Elisha, and taken counsel with him as to what was best to be done. But this is exactly what he does not do. He comes into no contact with Elisha. After delivering his one great attack upon Baalism, he rests upon his oars, and is "neither cold nor hot" (Revelation 3:15). Consequently, punishment fails upon him. Hazael smites him in all his coasts." While the apostate Ahab and his dynasty had maintained the kingdom, on the whole, without serious loss or diminution of power, Jehu loses province after province to Syria, is deprived of all his trans-Jordanic territories, and induced to submit to the indignity of paying tribute to Assyria. God punishes his lukewarmness as severely—may we not say more severely than Ahab's open rebellion?
HOMILIES BY C.H. IRWIN
2 Kings 10:1-11
Ahab's sons put to death.
Jehu's commission is to cut off utterly the whole house of Ahab. Like a moral plague was the iniquity of Ahab's house. Every member of it, by heredity, by example, by association, shared the guilt of Ahab and Jezebel There is a good moral reason for the extermination of such a nest of evildoers. But Jehu was not troubled with many scruples or difficulties. He had got a certain work to do, and he did it. We have here—
I. FAITHLESS SERVANTS. The general corruption and demoralization were manifest in the way in which Ahab's sons were treated by the elders of Samaria, and those that brought up Ahab's children. It was no zeal for what was right, no particular hatred of what was wrong, that caused them to yield so complaisantly to Jehu's real wish. Jehu, indeed, satirized them to their face. He made it appear as if he really wanted them to defend their master's children and fight for their master's house. It would not have been unnatural to expect this from them. But they were sore afraid. Not only were they willing, in their craven cowardice, to surrender Ahab's children to Jehu, to let him work his own will on them, but they actually slew them with their own hands, and sent their heads to Jehu. Where there is unfaithfulness toward God, there wilt be unfaithfulness in the relations between man and man. Fickleness is a characteristic of the world's friendships. Deception is a characteristic of the world's business. But the Christian will be faithful to duty, to conscience, to God. "He sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psalms 15:4).
II. THE UNFAILING WORD. "There shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the Lord hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah." Every judgment of God which was threatened upon Ahab's house was fulfilled. God's judgments upon Israel—how literally and fully have they been fulfilled! Every judgment pronounced against sin is sure of certain and complete fulfillment. So also God's promises will be fulfilled. Not a single promise of God was ever broken, why, then, should any of us doubt his word, his willingness to receive, his power to save, his desire to pardon? "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."—C.H.I.
2 Kings 10:12-14
Ahaziah's brethren put to death.
Fresh from the scene of retribution and bloodshed at Jezreel, Jehu is now on his way to Samaria. At the shearing-house on the way he meets the brethren of Ahaziah King of Judah. Ahaziah himself had already perished at Jehu's hands for his companionship with Jehoram. And now his brethren, not warned by Ahaziah's fate, go down "to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen." Jehu's vengeance on Ahab's house was searching and complete. He had already slain at Jezreel not only Ahab's kinsfolk, but his great men and his priests—all who in any way showed favor or encouragement to Ahab. In the same spirit he now puts to death these brethren of Ahaziah because of their relationship and sympathy with Ahab's house. Note here—
I. THE RESULTS OF EVIL COMPANIONSHIP. "The companion of fools," says the wise man, "shall be destroyed." These brethren of Ahaziah might have pleaded that they were doing no harm. But the house of Ahab was notorious for its wickedness. It had been singled out for the terrible retribution of God. To keep up friendship with men and women so wicked was to become a partaker of their crimes. The old Latin proverb was Noseitur a sociis—"A man is known by the company he keeps." If we would avoid the fate of the wicked, let us avoid their fellowship. "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
II. THE RESULT OF UNHEEDED WARNINGS. The brethren of Ahaziah had already got a warning in the fate which had befallen their brother. But notwithstanding this, they went on to their own destruction. So men act every day.
1. God's Word warns them, but in vain. They laugh to scorn the message of the gospel that urges them to accept salvation, and to flee from the wrath to come. They act as the people in the days of Noah, who disregarded the warnings of that faithful, patient preacher, and knew not till the flood came and swept them all away.
2. God's providences warn them, but in vain. Sudden deaths remind them of life's uncertainty. Perhaps for a day or two they are impressed; and then they become engrossed with the world again. If one were to speak to them about their soul, they would say, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
3. Goers judgments warn them, but in vain. The intemperate man, the immoral man, the dishonest man, infatuated with evil desires, go on in their sinful courses, notwithstanding the ruin and misery, the premature deaths, the unhappy lives, the degradation and disgrace, which so many have suffered in consequence of these sins. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."—C.H.I.
2 Kings 10:15-31
The zeal of Jehu, and its lessons.
Jehu is now going up to Samaria with the resolve to destroy the prophets of Baal firmly rooted in his heart. On his way he meets Jehonadab the son of Rechab. This Jehonadab was the founder of the Rechabites. It was he who commanded his children to drink no wine, to build no houses, and plant no vineyards, but to live in tents all their days—a command which was so scrupulously obeyed by their descendants that the Lord instructed the Prophet Jeremiah to hold them up as an example of obedience to the Jews in after-years; and with this obedience God was so much pleased that he made the promise that Jonadab the son of Rechab should not want a man to stand before him forever. It was this simple-minded, temperate, serf-denying man whom Jehu met in his career of vengeance and ambition, and whom doubtless he wanted to associate with himself in order to give a measure of respectability to his further proceedings. He invited him into his chariot, and said, "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord."
I. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS GOOD ABOUT JEHU'S ZEAL. From the day that Jehu got his work to do, he lost no time in the doing of it. He was eminently a man of action. That he had good qualities no one can doubt. There are many things that are attractive about Jehu. He was a brave and fearless soldier. Decision, earnestness, promptness, thoroughness,—these were the chief features of his character, His decided character impressed itself on every detail of his life. When he was still far off from Jezreel, the watchman upon the city wall was able to distinguish him in the dim distance by the way he drove his horses. "The driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously." He did not waste many words. When the messengers of King Jehoram rode out to meet him with the question, "Is it peace?" his answer to one after the other of them, without reining in his homes for a moment, was, "What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me." Neither did he waste words when he came to deal with Jezebel and Jehoram. He knew that in such work as he was engaged there is danger in delay. We may learn much from what was good in Jehu's character. Zeal itself is a grand thing. It is men of zeal who have revolutionized the world. Moses was a man of zeal. So was Elijah. So was Daniel. So was St. Paul. So was Martin Luther. SO was John Knox. All these men were mocked at as fools and fanatics and enthusiasts in their time. But every one of those men has left his mark for good upon the history of the world. We may say the same of such enthusiasts as William Wilberforce and John Howard, and, to come to more modern times, as Plimsoll, the sailors' friend. It is the world's enthusiasts that have been its greatest benefactors. Yes; we want more zeal; we want more enthusiasm. It is the fashion amongst many to sneer at enthusiasm, and to mock at zeal. But let those who mock at enthusiasm show what they can do compared with what the enthusiasts have done. Give me the man who has an enthusiasm about something. Give me the man who thinks that life is worth living, and that there is something worth living for. Let it be study, let it be business, let it be one of the learned professions—the man who has enthusiasm in his work is the man that is most likely to succeed. If there is any one who should show enthusiasm, it is the Christian. Who should be so full of zeal? Who has so much cause to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Who can point to such a leader as the great Captain of our salvation? What example so inspiring as the example of Christ? What name is such a watchword as the precious Name of Jesus—the Name above every name? Who can look forward to such a prospect as that which awaits the faithful Christian? "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." Who has such resources at his disposal as the Christian for work and conflict? Zeal! surely the Christian ought to overflow with zeal. Zeal! when he thinks of his Savior and his cross. Zeal! when he thinks that heaven with all its glory awaits him. Zeal! when he thinks of the welcome from the King. Zeal! when he thinks how short his time is here. Zeal! when he thinks of the perishing and needy all around him. Yes; it is well to have within your heart the glow and fire of Christian zeal. What if the careless and the callous, the godless and the worldly, mock? You have a heart, you have a hope, you have a strength, that is above their shallow sneers. And, having Christian zeal, let it not spend itself in mere sentiment, profession, or words. But let it show itself in action prompt and decisive, in earnestness and thoroughness of life. "Whatever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men."
II. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS WRONG, AND THERE WAS SOMETHING WANTING, IN JEHU'S ZEAL.
1. There was much that was wrong mingled with Jehu's zeal.
(1) In the first place, there was boastfulness. "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." The man who thus parades his good deeds is lacking in one of the first elements of true goodness and usefulness, and that is humility. Yet there has been a good deal of that kind of zeal for God in all ages. The Pharisees considered themselves very zealous for the Law of God, but they sounded a trumpet before them when they gave their alms, and loved to pray standing at the corner of the streets. We have not the sounding of the trumpet nowadays in the same form, but we have other ways of making known our generous and philanthropic acts. There is nothing wrong in these acts being made known. On the contrary, a public acknowledgment of charitable and religious contributions is necessary to guard against fraudulence and deceit. It is of use also to remind others of their duty and stimulate them, perhaps, to greater liberality. But when we give our alms in order that we may be known to have given them—"to be seen of men"—we give from a wrong motive—we do that which Christ condemned. It is the same with all branches of Christian work. And it seems to be one of the dangers of modem Christian life that there is too much temptation to boast of mere numbers in our Churches, or of so much money accumulated, or of so many converts made. Too many Christian workers act like Jehu when he said, "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." True Christian work is far quieter than this.
(2) There was something worse than boastfulness in Jehu's zeal. There was cruel treachery and deceit. When he came to Samaria, he gathered all the people together and said, "Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much." Then, under the pretence of offering a great sacrifice to Baal, he assembled all the worshippers of Baal in the temple of that false deity, and, having thus unfairly and deceitfully entrapped them, caused them to be put to death. It was an act of deceit for which there was no excuse. Matthew Henry truly observes, "God's service requires not man's lie." What a contrast to Elijah's honest, outspoken conduct when he, single-handed, confronted the prophets of Baal, and put their god and his God to the test! No cause will ever prosper, no matter how much zeal may be manifested in it, if it is built up by the treachery and deceit of those who are at the head of it. Let us never so far accommodate ourselves to the false morality of our time as to do evil that good may come. God can, and does, bring good out of evil. But those who do the evil must suffer for it, according to that Divine law of retribution which was so plainly and terribly fulfilled in the case of Ahab and Jezebel.
2. In addition to all this, there was something wanting in all Jehu's zeal. He had not the love of God in his heart. He had indeed obeyed God's command and fulfilled his commission in one particular direction, but the ruling motive in his actions would seem to have been personal ambition. It was no hatred of idolatry as such that caused him to destroy the worship of Baal. Perhaps it was because it was a foreign worship. It certainly was not his zeal for the pure worship of God, because we read, "Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan" (verse 29). And again, "But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart" (verse 31). We may learn here that a man may have the outward form of godliness without the power of it. He may appear to be a foremost worker in the cause of religion, and yet have no religion in his own heart. He may even appear to be a great religious reformer, and yet he may be utterly destitute of any personal reformation of character. Jehu was able to pull down, but he built nothing up. Why? Because his own character and life were not founded on the rock. He had not begun at the beginning—the fear of God and the Law of God. "He took no heed to walk in the Law of God with all his heart." See to it that your zeal springs from a right motive, and that it works in ways of which God will approve.
III. NOTE HERE SOME LESSONS ABOUT GOD'S DEALINGS.
1. God often makes use of even godless men. Perhaps you start at this. Yes; but it is true. He uses them for certain purposes. There are some things which do not require a high kind of character. So God sometimes uses even wicked men to be the executioners of his judgments. The kings and nations whom he used to execute his judgments upon Israel were by no means righteous themselves. Many of them were grossly corrupt. But they were the rod in his hand to chasten and punish his offending people. We might give many illustrations from history. To take one only. King Henry VIII. of England was far from being a model man, yet God in his all-wise providence used his quarrel with the pope to be the means of furthering and establishing the Reformation in England. It was in the time of Henry VIII. that for the first time the papal supremacy in England was overthrown.
2. God gives such agents of his justice and providence their own reward. We find this in the case of Jehu. For the good he had done, God rewarded him. He had set his heart on the throne, and God gave it to him. The measure of our desires is very often the measure of our blessings. If we set our ambition on earthly rank, or riches, or honor as our chief good, we shall very likely get them. But in getting them We shall perhaps lose something that is far better worth having. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
3. For God's work of salvation, he uses consecrated men. Jehu was of use as a destroyer, as an image-breaker, but he was no national or moral reformer in the true sense. He was of no spiritual benefit to others. For such work God uses only those who themselves have received spiritual blessing. There is a limit to the extent and to the ways in which he will use godless men. Even David—God's own servant, who had repented of his sins—was not permitted to build a house to his Name, because his hands were stained with blood; he had been a man of war all his days. David was permitted to provide and store up the material, but to Solomon, David's son, was given the great honor of buildings, a temple to the God of Israel. If we want to be of use in God s service, we must be thoroughly consecrated to God. We must be vessels meet for the Master's use. "Their hands must be clean, who bear the vessels of the Lord." It is personal character that gives power for God's service. It is personal character that gives fitness for God's fellowship here and hereafter. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 10:1-14
Destruction of Ahab's house.
Jehu was not a man to do things by halves. Whatever matter he had in hand, he pushed with unhesitating feet to his goal. His motto was, "If it were then done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly." This vigorous determination is a feature in his character worthy of commendation It is not so clear that the craft and guile he employed in securing his ends were, even from an Old Testament standpoint, justifiable.
I. THE CRAFTY MESSAGE. No small amount of craft, as this chapter shows, mingled with Jehu's headlong zeal.
1. The seed royal in Samaria. The direct posterity of Ahab—here called Ahab's sons—amounted to seventy persons. Some may have been his own children, others the children of Jehoram, or of his other sons. They resided at Samaria, and were under the care of nobles responsible for their education and up-bringing. On them, too, the judgment of God was to fall. In itself it was a common Oriental practice for the founder of a new dynasty to put to death the descendants and blood-relations of his predecessor (cf. 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 11:1; 2 Kings 25:7). This was to protect the new ruler from blood-vengeance. In the present case the destruction was by direct command of Heaven. The principle of corporate responsibility for sins committed is recognized and- acted on throughout the Old Testament (see Mozley's 'Ruling Ideas of the Old Testament'). It embodies a truth of permanent validity (Matthew 23:34, Matthew 23:35). Nevertheless, a pathos attends a fate like that of Ahab's sons. "Whirled down," as Carlyle says of other unfortunates, "so suddenly to the abyss; as men are, suddenly, by the wide thunder of the mountain avalanche, awakened not by them, awakened far off by others."
2. The crafty letter. Having struck his first blow, Jehu lost no time in delivering his second. But instead of openly advancing to Samaria, and demanding the surrender of the seventy sons, he proceeds by guile. His policy was, not to put the nobles and elders in Samaria in opposition to him, but to gain them to his side. His further object was to implicate those persons in his deeds, by making them the direct agents in the slaughter of Ahab's sons. The manner in which he accomplished these ends shows no little skill. He first sends a letter to the great men in the capital, offering them a challenge to open war. He recounts to them their advantages—the presence of their master's sons, a fortified city, horses, chariots, armor, etc.; then bids them select the one of Ahab's descendants whom they think most suitable, and make him king, and fight for their master's house. This put the nobles in the dilemma, either of getting up an improvised resistance to Jehu, or of making unconditional submission. No time was given them to consider. They must decide at once, and that, in circumstances like theirs, meant only submission.
3. The submissive reply. The course taken by the nobles and elders was what Jehu anticipated. A terrible panic took possession of them. They saw how vain it was to attempt war with the most popular and energetic general in the army, backed as he was by the support of other captains. They had no head, and, notwithstanding Jehu's sarcastic list of their advantages, no proper means of defense. The fact that two kings—not to speak of Jezebel—had already fallen before this "scourge of God" added to their dismay. With the unanimity of despair, "he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children," indebted a humble epistle, sent it to Jehu, and put themselves entirely in his hands, offering to do whatever he bade them. Necessity is a terrible tyrant. How many things men yield to force and fear which they would not yield to reason or persuasion!
II. THE TREACHEROUS MASSACRE.
1. The new demand. Jehu took the leaders at their word, and sent them the conditions of his acceptance of their submission. If they were his, and would hearken to his voice, the proof of allegiance he would require of them would be that they bring to him by the same hour to-morrow the heads of their master's sons. The requisition was peremptory, the time given brief, and they had already committed themselves by promising obedience to whatever Jehu wished. Their case was a hard one; nevertheless, the act they were called upon to perform was, from their side, a revolting and treacherous one.
2. Ahab's sons slain. Hateful as the requirement was, the nobles and elders of Samaria, now that they had come to terms with Jehu, do not seem to have shown any hesitation in carrying it out. The sons of Ahab had been entrusted to their care; they had no quarrel with them; they did not profess to be moved by any regard for a command of God; yet now that policy and their own safety dictated that their charges should be given up to death, they acquiesced without a murmur. This shows the weakness of moral feeling in the riding classes of Samaria. It shows how utterly rotten were all the bends that bound man to man. The willingness with which the men of Jezreel swore away Naboth's life at Jezebel's command (1 Kings 19:1-21.) was one instance, and here is another. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man" (Psalms 146:3). Political morality is of the weakest fiber. For some paltry interest men will turn their backs to-morrow on the most sacred professions of today. They will forswear the closest friendships, stoop even to the lowest treachery.
3. Jehu's public appeal. That very evening apparently, the heads of Ahab's sons were brought to Jehu in baskets. He bade them be piled in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning. Then, standing in the gateway, he called the people to witness that the leaders in Samaria were as deeply incriminated as he. They, the people whom he addressed, were "righteous," i.e. clear from blood-guiltiness, and might be disposed to judge him severely for his acts of the previous day. He acknowledged that he had conspired against his master, and had slain him; but—pointing to the pyramids of heads—who had slain all these? In truth, he went on to aver, not any of them were guilty, for this was but the fulfillment of the word of the Lord which he had spoken by Elijah.
(1) Jehu was right in his averment, "Know now that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord." Many demonstrations of that fact have been given. We do well to impress the truth upon our minds.
(2) It is a common thing for men to shield themselves from the consequences of their acts by pleading that others are as guilty as they are. This, however, will not justify them.
III. AHAZIAH'S BRETHREN. A further act in the tragedy of the destruction of Ahab's house took place at a certain shearing-house on the read to Samaria. Thither forty-two brethren (kinsmen) of Ahaziah had come down on their way to pay a pleasure visit to their relations, the princes at the capital. They were apparently as yet unaware of the revolution that had taken place. It was, however, to prove a costly visit to them. Jehu, fresh from his work of blood, encountered them at the shearing-house, and, on ascertaining who they-were, had them all put to death on the spot their bodies were cast into the pit of the place. In pursuit of their pleasures, how many, like Ahaziah's brethren, have found themselves overtaken by death! The way of pleasure is, for many, the way of death—the way to the pit of destruction.—J.O.
2 Kings 10:15-28
Destruction of the worshippers of Baal.
The plans of Jehu were already assuming larger shape. He had now a scheme in view for rooting Baal entirely out of the land.
I. THE MEETING WITH JEHONADAB.
1. A helpful ally. While relying mainly on his own promptitude and energy, Jehu had a shrewd eye to whatever would help to strengthen his position before the people. Hasting to Samaria in his chariot, he met a man of much reputation for sanctity—Jehonadab the son of Rechab. As a protest against the corruption and luxury of his time, Jehonadab had withdrawn from life in cities, and had laid upon his sons a vow that they would drink no wine, neither build houses, nor plant vineyards, but would dwell in tents all their days (Jeremiah 35:6, Jeremiah 35:7). To get this man of ascetic virtue on his side would, Jehu felt, greatly fortify his claims. It would give color and repute to his proceedings. Jehu at once sounded Jehonadab as to his feelings in regard to him, and finding that Jehonadab's heart was as his heart, he extended his hand to the anchorite, and took him up with him into his chariot. It is noticeable how anxious men who make no pretensions to godliness often are to get the countenance and approval of good men for their deeds. Hypocrisy has been called the homage which vice pays to virtue, and this desire for the approval of a holy man is, in another form, the tribute of worldly policy to the superior power of character.
2. Zeal for the Lord. "Come with me," said Jehu, "and see my zeal for the Lord."
(1) Of Jehu's "zeal," in itself considered, there could be no question. Zeal was his most prominent characteristic. His zeal is seen in his eager haste to attain his ends, in his scouting of difficulties, in the thoroughness with which each piece of work is accomplished, in the quickness and skill of his devices. Such zeal is in large measure a natural endowment—a thing of temperament. Still, it is an essential to success in practical undertakings, spiritual as well as worldly. The man who gets on is the man who does not let the grass grow beneath his feet, who is an enthusiast, in, what he takes in hand. "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing" (Galatians 4:18).
(2) More doubtful is the quality of Jehu's zeal "for the Lord." Ostensibly it was God's will Jehu was carrying out; outwardly it was God's work he was doing. He may even have persuaded himself into the belief that he was honestly and disinterestedly serving God's ends. But the result showed that, in serving God, it was really his own ends Jehu was serving. His zeal was impure. It was largely inspired by selfish ambition, by considerations of policy, by the thought of the reward to himself. It was impure also in its admixture of craft and worldly expediency. Had the same service been proposed to Jehu without any apparent material advantages to himself, his zeal would not have been so easily evoked.
(3) Similarly, how much that passes for "zeal for the Lord" in this world is of the same impure nature! How much of it is inspired by sectarian rivalry, by party spirit, by the desire to make "a fair show in the flesh" (Galatians 6:12), by self-interest and worldly policy! How largely is it alloyed with human passion and intrigue! Truly we do well to examine ourselves. Zeal is to be tested, not by its passing and spasmodic exhibitions, but by its power of endurance amidst good report and evil report.
3. The end of Ahab's house, When Jehu reached Samaria with Jehonadab, he made an end of all that remained of the family of Ahab—the word of the Lord by Elijah being thus completely fulfilled.
II. THE FEAST TO BAAL.
1. Jehu's proclamation. Hitherto Jehu had acted without giving to any one much explanation of his motives and designs. He had denounced to Jehoram Jezebel's idolatries and witchcrafts; he had whispered to Jehonadab of his "zeal for the Lord;" but to the eye of the crowd his proceedings bore only the complexion of an ordinary political conspiracy. Having established himself upon the throne, the stage was clear for the revelation of his own intentions. And great dismay must have spread through the ranks of all those who looked for a revival of true religion from the downfall of Ahab's house, when the first public manifesto of the new king proclaimed him an enthusiastic worshipper of Baal. "Ahab," were his words, "served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much." If Ahab's service of Baal was reckoned little, what was to be expected from one who would serve him so much more? It was certain that, whatever Jehu did, he would do it with abounding zeal. If he took up Baal's cause, there was no saying to what lengths he would carry it, or what severities he would employ to crush rival worships. Terrible disappointment would seize the hearts of the worshippers of Jehovah; and the servants of Baal, who had thought their cause destroyed, would be correspondingly elated. It is good neither to be unduly uplifted nor too heavily cast down at unexpected turns in public affairs. Those who rely for the success of their cause on the favors of great men are apt to be sorely disappointed.
2. The deluded assembly. It seemed at the first as if Jehu were to be every whir as good as his word. His proclamation not only included a declaration of his fixed intention to worship Baal, but gave effect to that intention by summoning a great assembly of the prophets, priests, and servants of Baal, to be held in the house of Baal at Samaria. A day was set apart, and the assembly was proclaimed throughout all Israel. The king was to offer a great sacrifice, publicly ratifying his avowal of allegiance to the heathen god. From all parts of the land the worshippers of Baal come trooping up, and the spacious courts of the great "house of Baal" were filled to overflowing. As if to give the highest possible eclat to the occasion, Jehu first ordered vestments to be produced from the temple or palace robe-chamber, and given to the worshipers; then he caused search to be made that none but servants of Baal were present. The worshippers of Baal were charmed; yet in truth they were there as sheep gathered together for the slaughter. All this, we are told, "Jehu did in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal." It is impossible to condone this extant hypocrisy, which even went the length of offering up a sacrifice to the false god. How unlike the open challenge of Elijah, who gave orders, indeed, for the destruction of Baal's prophets, but only after they had been publicly convicted of imposture (1 Kings 18:1-46.)! We must not do evil, even that good may come. We see, however, how sometimes the wicked are on the very brink of their destruction when their hearts are most lifted up (Esther 5:11, Esther 5:12; Psalms 73:18-20). Things are not always what they seem. It is no uncommon thing to see the haters of truth given up to believe a delusion, that they may be destroyed.
III. BAAL ROOTED OUT.
1. The guards posted. While the festal throng is rejoicing within, eighty strong guards are posted without by the wily Jehu, to secure that none shall escape. To the captains and guard are committed the task of actual slaughter.
2. Jehu's sacrifice. Proceeding to the interior, Jehu takes part in the various solemnities. At length the worship reaches its climax in the offering of the great burnt offering of the king. This, as remarked above, was an act not to be justified. It showed how little Jehu understood the spiritual nature of God, or was sincerely desirous of serving him, when he could bring himself to promote God's cause by going through this idolatrous farce. Is it, however, worse than many other things that are professedly done in the Name, and ostensibly for the honor, of God?
3. A promiscuous slaughter. When the festivity was thus at its height, Jehu gave the word, and, the soldiers entering, an indiscriminate and merciless slaughter took place. Not one of Baal's worshippers was allowed to escape. It was a fearful massacre, but seems effectually to have rooted Baal-worship out of the land. The slaughter of the deluded votaries was followed by the breaking down of the house of Baal, with its pillars, images, etc. The retribution in itself was righteous, and shadows forth the terrible, sudden, and overwhelming ruin that shall yet overtake all God's enemies. But the deed of vengeance is sadly stained with human passion, deceit, and wrong.—J.O.
2 Kings 10:29-36
The reign of Jehu.
Under this head we note—
I. JEHU'S REWARD.
1. Four generations on the throne. Jehu had outwardly fulfilled the commission given him by God, and had wrought a great deliverance for Israel. This public service God acknowledged by the promise that his sons should sit upon the throne to the fourth generation. The service was outward, and the reward was outward. Approval of Jehu's deeds did not extend to approval of every detail in his conduct. The limit—"fourth generation"—already implies that Jehu was not all he should have been, and anticipates that his sons would not be morally better, else the line would have been continued.
2. The stain of blood. Jehu had shed much blood. Guilt could not be imputed to him in this, so far as he was acting under an express Divine command. He "delivered his soul" (Ezekiel 33:9), however, only if this Divine command furnished the actual motive of his conduct. If the Divine mandate but covered designs of selfish ambition, the stain of blood came back on him. Hence the different judgment passed on these deeds in Hosea 1:4, "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." In 2 Kings Jehu's acts are regarded on their outward side, while in Hosea they are considered on their inner and spiritual side. His real character was made apparent by his subsequent deeds. He obeyed God only so far as he could at the same time serve himself. He would willingly have shed the same amount of blood to secure the throne for himself, had there been no Divine command at all. It hence became impossible to exonerate him from a measure of blood-guiltiness. By making himself one with Ahab in his sins, Jehu fell back to the position of an ordinary manslayer.
II. JEHU'S FAILURE.
1. His sin. Generally it is affirmed that, after his elevation to the throne, "he took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart," and particularly it is charged against him that he did not remove the golden calves of Jeroboam. He continued that idolatrous and schismatic worship at Bethel and at Dan. This means that his "zeal for the Lord" stopped short at the point needed for the consolidation of his own power. Once seated on the throne, with no more blood of Ahab's house to shed, he became indifferent to religious reform. The self-will that underlay his pretended zeal for God thus became apparent. It seemed to him politically prudent to keep up the division of the kingdoms by perpetuating the calf-worship of Jeroboam; so, though he knew it was wrong, he refrained from interfering with it. We see in this the distinction between true and false zeal. True zeal for God is careful above all things to walk in God's ways. It honors his commandment above considerations of expediency. It is not spasmodic, but persists in well-doing. False zeal, on the contrary, is fitful and willful. It is moved when self-interest, or private passion, or inclination, or the praise of men, coincides with the Divine command; it throws off the mask when religion and interest point in opposite directions. It is time alone can test the quality of zeal.
2. His punishment. We find that after his declension Jehu suffered severe losses of territory. Hazael and the Syrians pressed in, and took from him most of the land on the east side of Jordan. It is not difficult to connect the two things as cause and effect. Had Jehu remained faithful to God, it is not to be thought that he would have suffered these losses. Because he did not remain faithful, he was scourged more severely than perhaps another man would have been. He was raised up to punish others, and, foreseeing his declension, an instrument had been prepared to punish him (2 Kings 8:12). When God was against him, his generalship and valor were of no avail. We are thus taught that true self-interest and irreligion do not coincide. Jehu sought his own ends, and, as a politic ruler, thought it wiser to disobey God than to run the risk of putting down a popular idolatry. The result showed how short-sighted his calculations were. The wisest course, even for our own interests, is to do what God requires. Nothing more is told of the twenty-eight years' reign of Jehu. He was buried in Samaria, and his son Jehoahaz succeeded him.—J.O.