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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Je´hu (Godsis), tenth king of Israel, and founder of its fourth dynasty, who began to reign in B.C. 884, and reigned twenty-eight years.
Jehu held a command in the Israelite army posted at Ramoth-Gilead to hold in check the Syrians, who of late years had made strenuous efforts to extend their frontier to the Jordan, and had possessed themselves of much of the territory of the Israelites east of that river. Ahaziah, king of Judah, had taken part with Joram, king of Israel, in this war; and as the latter had been severely wounded in a recent action, and had gone to Jezreel to be healed of his wounds. Ahaziah had also gone thither on a visit of sympathy to him.
In this state of affairs a council of war was held among the military commanders in camp, when very unexpectedly one of the disciples of the prophets, known for such by his garb, appeared at the door of the tent, and called forth Jehu, declaring that he had a message to deliver to him. He had been sent by Elisha the prophet, in discharge of a duty which long before had been confided by the Lord to Elijah (), and from him had devolved on his successor. When they were alone the young man drew forth a horn of oil and poured it upon Jehu's head, with the words, 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel' (). Jehu returned to the council, probably with an altered air, for he was asked what had been the communication of the young prophet to him. He told them plainly; and they were obviously ripe for defection from the house of Ahab, for immediately taking him in triumph to 'the top of the stairs,' they spread their mantles beneath his feet, and proclaimed him king by sound of trumpet in the presence of all the troops.
Jehu was not a man to lose any advantage through remissness. He immediately entered his chariot, in order that his presence at Jezreel should be the first announcement which Joram could receive of this revolution.
As soon as the advance of Jehu and his party was seen in the distance by the watchmen upon the palace-tower in Jezreel, two messengers were successively sent forth to meet him, and were commanded by Jehu to follow in his rear. But when the watchman reported that he could now recognize the furious driving of Jehu, Joram went forth himself to meet him, and was accompanied by the king of Judah. They met in the field of Naboth, so fatal to the house of Ahab. The king saluted him with 'Is it peace, Jehu?' and received the answer, 'What peace, so long as the whoredoms (idolatries) of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?' This completely opened the eyes of Joram, who exclaimed to the king of Judah, 'There is treachery, O Ahaziah!' and turned to flee. But Jehu immediately drew a bow with his full strength and sent forth an arrow which passed through the king's heart. He then caused the body to be thrown back into the field of Naboth, out of which he had passed in his attempt at flight. The king of Judah contrived to escape, but not without a wound, of which he afterwards died at Megiddo [AHAZIAH]. Jehu then entered the city, whither the news of this transaction had already preceded him. As he passed under the walls of the palace Jezebel herself, studiously arrayed for effect, appeared at one of the windows, and saluted him with a question such as might have shaken a man of weaker nerves, 'Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?' But Jehu was unmoved, and instead of answering her, called out, 'Who is on my side, who?' when several eunuchs made their appearance at the window, to whom he cried, 'Throw her down!' and immediately this proud and guilty woman lay a blood-stained corpse in the road, and was trodden under foot by the horses [JEZEBEL]. Jehu then went in and took possession of the palace.
He was now master of Jezreel, which was, next to Samaria, the chief town of the kingdom; but he could not feel secure while the capital itself was in the hands of the royal family, and of those who might be supposed to feel strong attachment to the house of Ahab. The force of the blow which he had struck was, however, felt even in Samaria. When therefore he wrote to the persons in authority there the somewhat ironical but designedly intimidating counsel, to set up one of the young princes in Samaria as king and fight out the matter which lay between them, they sent a very submissive answer, giving in their adhesion, and professing their readiness to obey in all things his commands. A second letter from Jehu tested this profession in a truly horrid and exceedingly Oriental manner, requiring them to appear before him on the morrow, bringing with them the heads of all the royal princes in Samaria. A fallen house meets with little pity in the East; and when the new king left his palace the next morning, he found seventy human heads piled up in two heaps at his gate. There, in the sight of these heaps, Jehu took occasion to explain his conduct, declaring that he must be regarded as the appointed minister of the divine decrees, pronounced long since against the house of Ahab by the prophets, not one of whose words should fall to the ground. He then continued his proscriptions by exterminating in Jezreel not only all in whose veins the blood of the condemned race flowed, but also—by a considerable stretch of his commission—those officers, ministers, and creatures of the late government, who, if suffered to live, would most likely be disturbers of his own reign. He then proceeded to Samaria. So rapid had been these proceedings that he met some of the nephews of the king of Judah, who were going to join their uncle at Jezreel, and had as yet heard nothing of the revolution which had taken place. These also perished under Jehu's now fully awakened thirst for blood, to the number of forty-two persons.
On the way he took up into his chariot the pious Jehonadab the Rechabite, whose austere virtue and respected character would, as he felt, go far to hallow his proceedings in the eyes of the multitude. At Samaria he continued the extirpation of the persons more intimately connected with the late government. This, far from being in any way singular, is a common circumstance in Eastern revolutions. But the great object of Jehu was to exterminate the ministers and more devoted adherents of Baal, who had been much encouraged by Jezebel. There was even a temple to this idol in Samaria; and Jehu, never scrupulous about the means of reaching objects which he believed to be good, laid a snare by which he hoped to cut off the main body of Baal's ministers at one blow. He professed to be a more zealous servant of Baal than Ahab had been, and proclaimed a great festival in his honor, at which none but his true servants were to be present. The prophets, priests, and officers of Baal assembled from all parts for this great sacrifice, and sacerdotal vestments were given to them, that none of Jehovah's worshippers might be taken for them. When the temple was full, soldiers were posted so that none might escape; and so soon as the sacrifice had been offered, the word was given by the king, the soldiers entered the temple, and put all the worshippers to the sword. The temple itself was then demolished, the images overthrown, and the site turned into a common jakes.
Notwithstanding this zeal of Jehu in exterminating the grosser idolatries which had grown up under his immediate predecessors, he was not prepared to subvert the policy which had led Jeroboam and his successors to maintain the schismatic establishment of the golden calves in Dan and Bethel. Here Jehu fell short: and this very policy, apparently so prudent and far-sighted, by which he hoped to secure the stability and independence of his kingdom, was that on account of which the term of rule granted to his dynasty was shorted. For this, it was foretold that his dynasty should extend only to four generations; and for this, the divine aid was withheld from him in his wars with the Syrians under Hazael on the eastern frontier. Hence the war was disastrous to him, and the Syrians were able to maintain themselves in the possession of a great part of his territories beyond the Jordan. He died in B.C. 856, and was buried in Samaria, leaving the throne to his son Jehoahaz.
Jehu, son of Hanani, a prophet, who was sent to pronounce upon Baasha, king of Israel, and his house, the same awful doom which had been already executed upon the house of Jeroboam (). The same prophet was, many years after, commissioned to reprove Jehoshaphat for his dangerous connection with the house of Ahab ().
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Jehu'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/j/jehu.html.