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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH--- ESTHER--- PSALMS 1-50--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS
The Reign Of Jehoram, King of Judah (2.8.16-24). c. 848-841 BC Co-regent with Jehoshaphat from 853 BC.
During the time that Jehoram of Judah was on the throne of Judah, Jehoram of Israel (see 3.1) was on the throne of Israel, which can tend to result in confusion. It is true that in verse 16 Jehoram of Israel is called Joram, but it will be noted that in verses 21, 23 Jehoram of Judah is also called Joram. Thus when we see either name (Joram is merely a shortened form of Jehoram) we need to consider carefully which Jehoram/Joram is being referred to.
Jehoram of Judah married Athaliah, one of Ahab’s daughters, probably as a seal on the alliance between the two countries. But this would turn out to be a mistake, for Athaliah would lead him astray by introducing him to the worship of Baal, and the result was that, unlike his father Jehoshaphat, he was remembered for having ‘done evil in the sight of YHWH’. As so often, an unwise marriage had devastating consequences. For this reason his reign is therefore dealt with briefly and is revealed as having had unfortunate consequences for Judah. During it they lost their sovereignty over the land of Edom, and even over the border city, and previous Canaanite conclave, of Libnah, and as far as the prophetic author of Kings was concerned that summed up his reign. It was a reign of evil living and failure accompanied by judgment from God, and loss for Judah. But due to the mercy of God all was not lost, for the prophetic author assures us that YHWH did not forget His promise to David, and did therefore preserve the realm from final judgment, ensuring the survival of one of his sons, Jehoahaz. And that is the only good that he could say about Jehoram of Judah. (For fuller details of Jehoram’s reign see 2 Chronicles 21.1-20).
There is a significant break in the normal practise here. Following the author’s usual practise we would in fact have expected this description of Jehoram of Judah’s reign to follow a description of the cessation of Jehoram of Israel’s reign, but this order is not adhered to in this case because it will eventually be necessary to co-relate the death of Jehoram of Israel with that of Ahaziah, Jehoram of Judah’s son, as both died around the same time at the hands of Jehu. The record of the death of Jehoram of Israel is therefore reserved until then, and will be described later, although without the usual formula, at the same time as the death of Ahaziah of Judah who succeeded Jehoram of Judah.
Note that in ‘a’ we have the details of the commencement of his reign, and in the parallel the details of its cessation. In ‘b’ we learn of the worst of the acts of Jehoram of Judah, and in the parallel we are referred elsewhere for details of his further acts. In ‘c’ Edom revolted against Judah, and the same in the parallel. Centrally in ‘d’ we have a vivid description of how the king managed to avoid death or capture and disgrace at the hands of the Edomites.
2.8.16 ‘And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign.’
It is made clear here that Jehoram of Judah ‘became king’ while his father Jehoshaphat was still alive. He was thus for a period co-regent with his father. He commenced his sole reign in the fifth year of Joram (Jehoram) of Israel. Note the unusual fact that the name of his mother is not given. This may have been because she was already dead, and thus could not become ‘queen mother’.
2.8.17 ‘He was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.’
His sole reign began when he was thirty two years of age, and he reigned in Jerusalem (‘the city which YHWH (for David’s sake) chose out of all the tribes of Israel to put His name there’ (1 Kings 14.21)). He was, in other words, heir to the promises to David (compare verse 19).
2.8.18 ‘And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife, and he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH.’
But his unfortunate marriage to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, resulted in his ‘walking in the ways of the kings of Israel’ by being coerced into the worship of Baal (compare 11,18), with the consequence that, like Solomon before him (1 Kings 11.6), he ‘did evil in the sight of YHWH’. His heart was consequently not right towards YHWH and he led many of the people of Judah astray (2 Chronicles 21.13). How important it is for us to marry the right person, one who will encourage us in the true worship of God.
2.8.19 ‘However, YHWH would not destroy Judah, for David his servant’s sake, as he promised him to give to him a lamp for his children always.’
But YHWH in His goodness and faithfulness never forgot His promises to David, and thus in spite of Jehoram’s behaviour He did not destroy Judah, even though He did chasten it. He preserved it ‘for David His servant’s sake’. And this was because He had promised David ‘a lamp’ in Jerusalem for the sake of His children. In accordance with previous mentions of ‘the lamp’ this refers to the heir of David (compare 1 Kings 11.36; 15.4), the one who should have brought light to Judah through the covenant. God’s purposes will thus be brought about by His sovereign will.
‘His children’ may refer to YHWH’s children, and thus His people, or it may refer to the people seen as David’s children, or it may refer to David’s household to whom the reigning king would be a ‘lamp’, shining out as the evidence of YHWH’s covenant with them
2.8.20 ‘In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves.’
Nevertheless YHWH did chasten him for it was in Jehoram’s day that the Edomites finally broke loose from Judah on a permanent basis, establishing their own sole king (previously their king had been a deputy appointed by Judah (1 Kings 22.47), even though sometimes called ‘king’ - 3.9). This rebellion by Edom was probably connected with attacks on southern Judah by the Arabians (2 Chronicles 21.16) and had much to do with control of the southern trade routes. It may also have been encouraged by the Philistine attacks on Judah (2 Chronicles 21.16) and the continual threat posed to Judah by Aram and Assyria which kept Jehoram occupied elsewhere.
2.8.21 ‘Then Joram passed over to Zair, and all his chariots with him, and he rose up by night, and smote the Edomites who surrounded him, and the captains of the chariots, and the people fled to their tents.’
Jehoram (now Joram, a shortened form of the same name) went south to quell the rebellion, but seemingly with insufficient forces, with the result that he was outmanoeuvred and surrounded by what was probably a much larger force of Edomites. Rather than recording it as a defeat, however, his annalists ignored that idea (in typical Near Eastern fashion) and described the heroic way in which, in a surprise night foray, by means of his chariot force he broke through the ranks of the enemy who considerably outnumbered him, thus allowing many of his people to escape with him. But the truth comes out in that these then ‘fled to their tents (homes)’, always a sign of defeat. In other words his defeated army dispersed. ‘Fled to their tents’ was a technical phrase brought forward from wilderness days.
Zair was probably Zior (Joshua 15.54), eight kilometres (five miles) north east of Hebron, which was probably where he mustered his forces preparatory to his advance, rather than being the actual site of the battle. Alternately it may be an unidentified city in Edom.
2.8.22 ‘ So Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah to this day. Then did Libnah revolt at the same time.’
As a result of this defeat Edom had gained its independence ‘until this day’. This latter phrase may be the comment of the original annalist, or of the final author in whose day Edom was certainly independent. Not that further attempts were not made on Edom by Judah. Indeed under Uzziah of Judah they were probably at least partly subjugated, for Uzziah controlled Elath, and thus the trade routes through the Negeb and to the Red Sea (14.22). But that situation was not permanent.
The city of Libnah revolted at the same time. This demonstrates that Libnah, in the Shephelah and not far from Lachish, saw themselves at this stage as independent of Judah. Libnah was on the Philistine border, and this rebellion was presumably connected with the Philistine incursions (2 Chronicles 21.16).
2.8.23 ‘And the rest of the acts of Joram, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’
As regularly the author was not interested in the king’s general history and refers the reader/hearer to the official annals of Judah. He considered that he had said enough to demonstrate how YHWH had chastened Judah under Jehoram. And that had been his aim.
2.8.24 ‘And Joram slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Ahaziah his son reigned instead of him.’
Jehoram died peacefully, and was buried ‘with his fathers in the city of David’, a testimony to his part in the continuing line. We learn, however, from the Chronicler that he was not buried in the sepulchres of the kings, possibly because he had been a worshipper of Baal.
The main lesson that comes out of this passage is similar to that which comes out with regard to the majority of the kings, and that is that if we walk faithfully with God and are obedient to His will and covenant, we can be sure that He will bless us in our lives in the long term, but that if we turn from Him and disobey His laws and covenant He will finally bring chastisement and judgment on us. This is indeed the author’s continual emphasis.
An Initial Summary Of The Reign Of Ahaziah King of Judah (2.8.25-27). c. 841 BC.
Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram of Judah, would only reign for a few months before he was killed by Jehu during the latter’s rebellion against Jehoram of Israel. Nevertheless during that short reign he continued in his father’s sins and in the sins of the house of Ahab, and failed to make any attempt to bolster up the true worship of YHWH. Thus he also was stigmatised as ‘doing what was evil in the sight of YHWH’. And this owed much to the fact that his father had married Ahab’s daughter who had brought her zeal for Baal with her. Just as Solomon’s foreign wives had led him astray, the Israelite royal family were now leading the kings of Judah astray.
Note that in ‘a’ Ahaziah began to reign, and in the parallel in his reign did what was evil in the eyes of YHWH. Centrally in ‘b’ we have the main details about his reign.
2.8.25 ‘In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign.’
As usual the author gives us the date of Ahaziah’s reign in terms of the parallel king of Israel. In those days there was no general method of dating, and thus things had to be dated in terms of some well known event, such as, in this case, the reign of another king. It also in this case had the benefit that it synchronised the reigns of the kings of the two countries.
2.8.26 ‘Ahaziah was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah the daughter of Omri king of Israel.’
Ahaziah came to the throne at the age of twenty two, but his reign only lasted for a few months. This was partly because he unfortunately got caught up in Jehu’s rebellion against the king of Israel by ‘accident’, and partly because Jehu saw him as a Baalite, and therefore as fair game. But the prophetic author saw it as a just judgment on his sin.
As is usual for a king of Judah the queen mother’s name is given, but in this case it had added significance because she was of the house of Omri and Ahab, the Baalite kings of Israel. ‘Daughter of’ need only mean ‘descended from’, for she was in fact Ahab’s daughter (8.18). It may be that Omri is mentioned here because of his recognised status as founder of the dynasty. Even Assyria thought of Israel as ‘bit-Omri’, the house of Omri for centuries to come. Athaliah would shortly become even more notorious when she seized the throne on the death of her son and tried to destroy all Azariah’s heirs (11.1). She was no doubt filled with anguish at the death of her son and seemingly could not bear the thought of being thrust into the background by the new queen mother. It was also possibly partly because of her zeal for Baal, and her desire to make Judah a country which worshipped Baal. By being ‘unequally yoked with unbelievers’ the kings of Judah brought on Judah unimaginable consequences.
2.8.27 ‘And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, as did the house of Ahab, for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab.’
As a result of the influence of his mother Ahaziah was also a worshipper of Baal, walking in the ways of the house of Ahab, and thus the verdict on his reign was that, like his father, he did what was evil in the eyes of YHWH, with his influence certainly affecting the court, and permeating through to those over whom he ruled. When the king was slack with regard to God’s covenant, it filtered through to the people. It was not a situation which YHWH would allow to continue.
Ahaziah Unwittingly Becomes Involved With The Problems Of Jehoram, King of Israel And The Rebellion Of Jehu (2.8.28-9.14.15a).
Once he had come to the throne Ahaziah and Judah joined in an alliance with Jehoram and Israel against Aram, and it was during one of the battles that ensued that Jehoram of Israel was wounded and returned to Jezreel, where he hoped to recuperate. As a result Ahaziah then went down to pay him a visit, because of the illness which resulted from his injuries. His visit would, however, prove to be ill-timed for meanwhile YHWH had arranged for Elisha to have Jehu, a prominent Israelite commander, anointed as king of Israel so as to remove Jehoram from the throne.
Analysis (note the inclusio of 8.28-29 and 9.14b-15a).
Note that in ‘a’ Jehoram of Israel was wounded fighting against Aram and returned to Jezreel in order to recover and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘b’ Elisha commanded a son of the prophets to seek out Jehu (with a view to anointing him as king over Israel), and in the parallel, as a result, Jehu was declared king. In ‘c’ the command was to anoint Jehu as king of Israel, and in the parallel he was anointed king of Israel. In ‘d’ the young man came to Jehu, and in the parallel he was asked why the young man came to him. In ‘e’ YHWH intended to revenge the behaviour of Jezebel and the house of Ahab through Jehu, and in the parallel we have an explanation of how this would be accomplished. Centrally in ‘f’ the whole of the house of Ahab was to be destroyed.
2.8.28 ‘And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth-gilead, and the Aramaeans wounded Joram.’
Ahaziah of Judah, the son-in-law of Ahab, and Jehoram (Joram) the son of Ahab, formed an alliance against Hazael the king of Aram. We are not told who the initial aggressor was, although it may well have been Hazael. One reason for his invasion may have been the unwillingness of Israel to join in an alliance with Aram against the renewed threatening menace of Assyria. Such an alliance, along with others, had previously rebuffed Assyria under Shalmaneser III in the last days of Ahab. Now Shalmaneser and Assyria were once again undoubtedly threatening the area, for one of Jehu’s first acts on becoming king would be to submit to Shalmaneser and pay him tribute.
Ramoth-gilead was a border fortress in Transjordan, barring the way along which the Aramaeans would come to invade Israel.
In the course of the ensuing conflict Jehoram of Israel was wounded. Even though surrounded by a powerful bodyguard, and in a protected chariot with an experienced spear-man, it was always a possibility that this might happen when kings led their men into battle (compare 1 Kings 22.34).
2.8.29 ‘And king Joram returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Aramaeans had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Aram. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was ill.’
In consequence Jehoram returned to his summer (winter) palace at Jezreel, rather than to Samaria, in order to recuperate and be healed of his wounds. And while he was there recuperating Ahaziah his brother-in-law went down to Jezreel to see him ‘because he was ill’. It was an ill-fated place at which to be found for it was concerning Jezreel that YHWH had made His pronouncement about the judgment that was to come on Ahab’s son there (1 Kings 21.19 with 29). As we are soon to learn, YHWH’s hand was at work in history inevitably bringing about His judgments (compare the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation 6).
2.9.1 ‘And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, “Gird up your loins (free your limbs for fast walking by tucking your robe in your belt), and take this vial of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead.” ’
Meanwhile YHWH had directed Elisha the prophet to send one of the sons of the prophets to where the battle was still raging against Aram, at Ramoth-gilead, with a vial of olive oil in his hands.
2.9.2 “And when you come there, seek out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and bear him to an inner chamber.”
Once he was in Ramoth-gilead he had to seek out Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, more popularly known as Jehu, the son of Nimshi, Nimshi being his tribal ancestor (9.20; 1 Kings 19.16). Jehu was clearly a man of great importance in Israel, connected with one of the great aristocratic families. Then having found him he was to take him alone into an inner chamber to speak with him privately. The minute detail given throughout the passage brings out the importance of the event in YHWH’s eyes. Every act was seen as important. Jehu, whose name means ‘YHWH is’ and whose father’s name means ‘YHWH is judge’ was seemingly a fanatical Yahwist, and was probably constantly seething within himself at the policies of Ahab’s house. He was ripe for rebellion.
2.9.3 “Then take the vial of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, “Thus says YHWH, I have anointed you as king over Israel.” Then open the door, and flee, and do not linger.”
And once he was alone with Jehu in the inner chamber he was to pour the oil over his head and declare that, “Thus says YHWH, I have anointed you as king over Israel.” Then he was to open the door and leave the place as quickly as possible. He was not to linger. No further questions must be answered. Jehu was to be left to absorb the significance of what he had done, and act accordingly. The prophets were not to be seen as actively involved in rebellion. The act of anointing was an indication that Jehu was now directly committed to YHWH’s service, and had become His vassal.
As a very young man Jehu had been anointed by Elijah with a view to the kingship (1 Kings 19.16), something that he had no doubt often wondered about since, so that this would now be an indication to him that the time had arrived for his destiny to be fulfilled. (Some see this act of anointing as the fulfilment of what was required of Elijah, but 1 Kings 19 gives the definite impression that the three anointings mentioned there were to take place immediately, and it is common in Scripture for a command to be given with the assumption then being made that it was carried out without it actually being mentioned. Certainly Elisha is nowhere said to have anointed Hazael, and he did not anoint himself).
We are not told of the underlying currents in Israel at the time, the currents which made the anointing at this time especially significant, humanly speaking, but Elisha was presumably well aware that Israel as a whole were ripe for a coup. The country was seemingly seething with discontent. Ahab’s extensive building plans (like Solomon’s before him) would have brought grave disaffection among the thousands who were involved in the enforced levies, while his constant wars (such as those against Aram and Moab), failing more often than not, would have used up often unwilling manpower, keeping the people of the land from their agricultural pursuits, while his outright worship of a foreign version of Baal as a result of the influence of his hated wife Jezebel, something partially continued by his son, would have antagonised the ‘common people’ (see verse 22) who, while not truly faithful to YHWH themselves, nevertheless paid Him lip-service and hated the foreign influence involved in Jezebel’s version of Baalism. The house of Ahab was thus not popular, and Israel were seemingly ripe for revolt.
2.9.4 ‘So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead.’
In obedience to the words of Elisha the young man, the prophet, went across the Jordan to Ramoth-gilead where the war with Aram was still progressing, and the host of Israel was accordingly gathered.
2.9.5 ‘And when he came, behold, the commanders of the host were sitting, and he said, “I have an errand to you, O commander.” And Jehu said, “To which out of us all?” And he said, “To you, O commander.” ’
And when he arrived he found the army commanders in conference. But in Israel a prophet of YHWH could always gain entrance anywhere, and he approached Jehu, who may well have been in charge of the conference, and said, “I have an errand to you, O commander.” Recognising the precedence of a prophet of YHWH Jehu then asked him which commander he wished to speak with, and learned that it was himself.
2.9.6 ‘And he arose, and went into the house, and he poured the oil on his head, and said to him, “Thus says, YHWH, the God of Israel, I have anointed you as king over the people of YHWH, even over Israel.” ’
So he accordingly rose and went with him into the house. And there the prophet poured oil on him and gave him a full explanation of its significance. He was being anointed by ‘YHWH the God of Israel’ as king over His people, even over Israel. Note the emphasis on YHWH as the God of Israel. It was because Ahab and his family were seeking to oust YHWH as the God of Israel that this judgment was coming on them. YHWH was, as it were, fighting back. The prophet then explained what Jehu now had to do.
2.9.7-10 “And you will smite the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of YHWH, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab will perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him who is shut up and him who is left at large in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. And the dogs will eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there will be none to bury her.” And he opened the door, and fled.’
The time had now come for YHWH to be avenged on Ahab and his house for the blood that they had spilled of YHWH’s prophets, and YHWH’s true worshippers. Many of YHWH’s beloved people had been slain at the hands of the house of Ahab (including Naboth and the purge of the prophets of YHWH assumed in 1 Kings 18.4), and now it was to be the turn of the house of Ahab to be cut off. YHWH was using Jehu as His ‘avenger of blood’. Compare also Deuteronomy 32.43. Thus Jehu was to slaughter every male child of the house of Ahab, (‘every one who relieved himself against the wall’), whether they were in confinement (possibly under their tutors or nurses), or whether they were at large. Such slaughter was always necessary in a coup attempt, so as to prevent a member of the seed royal being able to arise later with royal authority and rally to him the people who were loyal to the royal house (compare 11.1).
Thus Ahab and his house were to suffer as Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had suffered, and as Baasha the son of Ahijah had suffered, just as Elijah had prophesied (compare 1 Kings 14.10; 15.29; 16.3-4, 12-13; 21.21. Note especially the similarity with the wording of 1 Kings 14.10; 21.21). All who rebelled against YHWH must suffer the same consequences. Furthermore Jezebel was to be eaten by dogs in the portion of Jezreel and would be unburied, something seen as a great indignity (compare 1 Kings 21.23; and see 9.34-35).
Having delivered his message the young prophet then went to the door, opened it and disappeared as rapidly as he had come, just as Elisha had commanded him (verse 3). The idea was that the young prophet should not to be directly involved in what followed. The prophets were to be seen as pronouncers of the word of YHWH, not as active rebels.
2.9.11 ‘Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord, and one said to him, “Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?” And he said to them, “You know the man and what his talk was.” ’
Jehu subsequently came out of the inner room, somewhat pensively, and his fellow commanders (notice the emphasis on the fact that, as ‘servants of his lord’, they owed feudal loyalty to the house of Ahab) who had seen the young prophet come out and speed away, then asked Jehu whether all was well and as to why this ‘mad-fellow’ had come to him. The term is typical of how one might expect a hardened soldier to refer contemptuously to a religious messenger. Jehu’s reply was noncommittal, seeking to make little of what had been said. This was either because he was trying to dismiss the incident as seemingly irrelevant (he could not be sure how they would react to it), reminding them that they had seen what the man was like for themselves, or, more likely, was because he was being deliberately vague and trying to avoid a come back.
‘Mad-fellow.’ This description was probably indicative of the contempt of the professional soldier for the mystic. The root behind the word may connect with an Arabic word for the ‘cooing of a pigeon’, or an Assyrian word for ‘howling or raging’, but may indicate here nothing more than the contempt of the soldier for the ‘pronouncer of the words of YHWH’ who was seen by them as a religious fanatic. Compare how even Jesus’ own family, viewing Him from afar off, would speak of Him as ‘beside himself’ because He was in conflict with the Doctors of the Law and was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds (Matthew 3.21). Undoubtedly some prophets did express themselves in ecstasy, which may have helped towards the idea, (there are always such people around, and if they lacked the real Spirit they had to try and demonstrate that some spirit was at work), and even moreso among foreign prophets where drugs were involved, who often became very extreme, but we must not over-exaggerate this fact with regard to prophets of Israel and Judah. We are given no real grounds anywhere for seeing the sons of the prophets as ‘ecstatics’. Even the ‘band of prophets’ under Samuel were only said to have ‘prophesied’ with musical accompaniment (1 Samuel 10.5, 10-11; 19.20), while it was only the ‘possessed’ Saul (1 Samuel 16.14) who behaved extravagantly (1 Samuel 19.24). No other description of them than as ‘prophesying’ is applied to the band of prophets, in total contrast with the description of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.28. Even today unsympathetic people can describe those who become quite reasonably religiously enthusiastic (there is much to shout about) as ‘mad’ and ‘ecstatic’. Thus we must beware of reading into terms like this anything more than is justified in terms of how the common man sees the religiously enthusiastic (compare Hosea 9.7; Jeremiah 29.26). ‘Genuine’ prophets in Israel and Judah were very distinctive from, and their role very different from, prophets in other nations. Elisha, for example, expected on the whole to know what YHWH was thinking, without any openly ecstatic experience, except when it was deliberately hidden from him (4.27). And the independent prophets did not see themselves as servants of the king, but as servants of YHWH, whose purpose was to instruct the king in accordance with the word of YHWH.
2.9.12 ‘And they said, “It is false, tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and thus he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH, I have anointed you as king over Israel.’ ”
His fellow officers, however, discerned from his manner that something momentous had been said and simply told him to stop deceiving them and tell them the truth. At this Jehu, who would have been very much aware of the consensus of opinion at the time, informed them of what had been said, and of how he had been anointed by the prophet as king over Israel.
2.9.13 ‘Then they acted quickly, and took every man his robe, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew the trumpet, saying, “Jehu is king.” ’
The speed at which they responded to this news emphasises the disaffection that they, at least, felt for the current regime. The house of Ahab was clearly not popular among them, while their regard for Jehu was equally obviously high, and we may probably assume that Jehu, as well as being a notable chariot commander, was connected with one of the ancient Israelite aristocratic houses. The king’s most fervent supporters and friends were presumably with the ailing king, while these who had been left behind would appear, at least nominally, to have been Yahwists. Thus a prophetic word coming from YHWH through one of Elisha’s young prophets, combined with the general disaffection that they felt, 1). towards the worship of a foreign Baal, and 2). as a result of the extravagances of the king, (which may have in themselves have brought about a period of suppression of disaffected Israelites), caused them to respond to the suggestion with fervour. It was the moment that they had been waiting for (as Elisha presumably knew). Thus they ‘acted quickly’. Each of them took off his robe and placed it either ‘at the top of the stairs’ or ‘on the bare steps’ (the use of their robes in this way was a sign of submission and acknowledgement of his authority, compare Elijah’s covering of Elisha with his robe, and the spreading of robes before Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem), and then as Jehu stood, or sat there on his provisional throne, they blew on a ram’s horn (compare 1 Kings 1.34) and cried out, ‘Jehu is king, Jehu is king’.
2.9.14a ‘So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram.’
And that was how the rebellion began and how Jehu rebelled against Jehoram. It was not initially of his doing, but was the result of prophetic activity and the acclamation and will of the people of the land, as represented by the commanders.
2.9.14b-15a (Now Joram was keeping Ramoth-gilead, he and all Israel, because of Hazael king of Aram, but king Joram had returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Aramaeans had given him, when he fought with Hazael king of Aram).
Meanwhile we are reminded that Ramoth-gilead was being guarded on behalf of Jehoram as a result of the aggressive activities of the king of Aram, while Jehoram himself was not present because he was recovering from his wounds in Jezreel, the wounds given to him by the Aramaeans, as he and all Israel fought against Hazael, king of Aram. All YHWH’s arrangements were now in place.
A Contingent Of The Rebels, With Jehu At Their Head, Approach Jezreel, And Are Challenged By The Unsuspecting King (2.9.15b-20).
The incident that follows is described in a way that deliberately brings out the suspense as we see the action unfolding. We all know what the situation was, while Jehoram and Ahaziah were clearly not at all sure, and indeed seemingly unsuspicious of the seriousness of the situation. Thus as we read each incident step by step for us the tension over Jehu’s advance increases, and the final emphasis is then laid on the fact that it is none other than the impetuous Jehu, famed for his devil-may-care charioteering, who is coming. The whole description throws our attention on this new figure who has appeared on the scene.
The incident commences with Jehu’s warning to his fellow-officers to ensure that no-one be allowed to leave the camp and take news of what was happening to Jezreel. He then takes his chariot, and with a group of charioteers (no one else would be able to keep up with him) makes for Jezreel. The watchmen see him coming and report to the king, who as usual in such a situation sends out a horseman in order to ensure that such a company comes in peace. At this stage they would not know who it was.
When, however, both the first and second messengers seemingly quite happily fall in behind the leading approaching chariot, puzzlement ensues, until the watchman is finally able to identify the leading charioteer by the furious nature of his driving. It is Jehu, one of Jehoram’s own chariot commanders. The only question now is why they are coming in such a hurry. Was it with news of victory, or defeat?
2.9.15b ‘And Jehu said, “If this is your mind, then let none escape and go forth out from the city, to go to tell it in Jezreel.” ’
The decision to rebel having been made Jehu warns his fellow-officers not to allow anyone to escape so as to take warning to the king in Jezreel. Were that to happen the consequences could become enormous. It is an indication of the solidarity of the army against Jehoram that no one had as yet attempted to do so.
2.9.16 ‘So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel, for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah had come down to see Joram.’
So Jehu then boarded his chariot and drove down to Jezreel, accompanied by his company of charioteers, knowing that that was where Jehoram lay. What he was unaware of was that Ahaziah, the king of Judah, had also come on a visit to Jehoram.
2.9.17 ‘Now the watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, “I see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’ ”
When the watchman on the watchtower in Jezreel saw the chariot company approaching, he sent a message to the king declaring, ‘I see a company (of charioteers)’. This prompted the king, who did not know who it was who was approaching, to despatch a horseman in order to discover whether the approaching chariots came in peace, or alternately whether they brought news of peace in the war with Aram. From this they would certainly learn one way or another whether the intentions of the approaching chariots were peaceful or aggressive. Either the messenger would return with information, or he would be violently seized by the approaching force, making clear their hostile intentions.
2.9.18 ‘So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, “Thus says the king, Is it peace?” And Jehu said, “What have you to do with peace? You turn behind me.” And the watchman spoke out, saying, “The messenger came to them, but he is not coming back.” ’
But when the messenger, no doubt somewhat apprehensively, approached the charioteers, he was probably relieved to discover that Jehu, one of the king’s own chariot commanders, was in charge. When, however, he conveyed the king’s message, which he probably now saw as a formality, Jehu asked him what such question meant to him and ordered him to fall in behind him. The messenger may have seen this as an indication that Jehu’s message was for the king alone, and had nothing to do with the messenger. But in the face of such a command from a superior officer the man complied, probably unsure of what the situation was, but knowing that it was for his own good to do as he was commanded. Meanwhile the watchman, seeing all this from a distance, did not know what to make of it. The messenger had not returned with an answer, but nor had he been violently seized. Indeed he had appeared acted quite willingly and compliantly.
2.9.19 ‘Then he sent out a second man on horseback, who came to them, and said, “Thus says the king, Is it peace?” And Jehu answered, “What have you to do with peace? You turn behind me.” ’
The puzzled king then sent out another horseman with the identical question, only for the same thing to happen. The second messenger also fell in willingly and compliantly behind the chariot commander.
2.9.20 ‘And the watchman spoke out, saying, “He came even to them, and is not coming back, and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.” ’
But then the problem appeared to be solved, for the watchman was able to identify the chariot commander by the way that he drove. His driving, he declared, was ‘like the driving of Jehu, the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously’. At least now the approaching company had been identified. All was well. The only question was whether the news that they brought was good or bad. (Meanwhile we as readers and listeners are aware that this spells approaching doom for the king).
The Death Of Jehoram At The Hands Of Jehu In Accordance With YHWH’s Pronounced Judgment On The House Of Ahab Because Of The Murder Of Naboth The Jezreelite (2.9.21-26).
Now confident at least of their security the two kings themselves set out in their chariots to meet Jehu, and they found him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. This might well have been deliberate on Jehu’s part. He would want Israel to recognise that what he was doing was carrying out YHWH’s vengeance. To the kings it would not initially be seen as significant.
On approaching Jehu, his chariot commander Jehoram asked whether he had come bringing news of peace with Aram, and was immediately made aware that all was not well. For Jehu, instead of signifying his obeisance, roundly asked him how there could be peace while Jezebel was still dishonouring the kingdom and seeking to bewitch it. It was a clear indication of hostile intent. It also brought out what lay at the heart of the rebellion, the foreign and unacceptable influence of Jezebel on Israel.
Turning his chariot Jehoram sought to flee crying out to Ahaziah that treachery was afoot, but as he fled Jehu drew his bow, and with a well aimed arrow, struck him between the arms so that he sank down in his chariot. Then Jehu commanded that his body be taken and cast onto the plot of land stolen from Naboth by Ahab and Jezebel as a kind of atonement for the land, and punishment from YHWH. All Israel would recognise from this that Jehu was simply doing YHWH’s will, while Jehu gained the satisfaction of knowing that he had been YHWH’s chosen instrument.
Note that in ‘a’ the meeting took place in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite, and in the parallel Jehoram’s body was to be cast in the portion. In ‘b the question was whether it was peace, and the king received a declaration of judgment, and in the parallel that peace was disrupted and the judgment carried out. Centrally in ‘c’ the message was one of ‘Treachery’.
2.9.21 ‘And Joram said, “Make ready.” And they made ready his chariot. And Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out to meet Jehu, and found him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite.’
Not suspecting any problems Jehoram of Israel then determined to go himself in order to obtain the news that Jehu clearly wanted to convey himself. This would have been seen as a good sign by the king. Bad news was brought by nondescript messengers. To wish to deliver the message himself suggested that Jehu saw it as good news.
We may see it as probable that the meeting place was not a total coincidence. Jehu had probably deliberately decided on it taking place in the portion of Naboth. It was a reminder to him of what his mission was, to act on YHWH’s behalf as His avenger. It was that that lay at the heart of the rebellion.
2.9.22 ‘And it came about, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” ’
So when Jehoram asked whether Jehu brought a message of peace he was probably anticipating good news concerning the defeat of the Aramaeans. We can therefore imagine his feelings, when instead of saluting him and acknowledging his royal authority, Jehu replied harshly and asked him how there could be peace in Israel as long as Jezebel’s idolatry (the whoredom of worshipping Baal and engaging in obscene sexual rituals) and occultism (the use of magic and divination) prevailed and abounded in Israel.
2.9.23 ‘And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, “There is treachery, O Ahaziah.” ’
At the words of Jehu Jehoram instantly recognised rebellion, and with his hand he turned his chariot and fled, crying out to Ahaziah that treachery was in the air. It is clear that he had been so unsuspecting of treachery that he was driving his own chariot.
2.9.24 ‘And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and smote Joram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sank down in his chariot.’
But he was not to escape YHWH’s vengeance, for Jehu drew his bow to its greatest extent and smote him with an arrow between the arms so that he sank down into his chariot, which then presumably came to a halt.
2.9.25 ‘Then Jehu said to Bidkar his captain, “Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite, for remember how, when I and you rode together after Ahab his father, YHWH laid this burden on him.” ’
Then Jehu turned to his captain, Bidkar, and told him to take Jehoram’s body and cast it into the field of Naboth the Jezreelite from whom Jezebel and Ahab had stolen a vineyard, having arranged for his murder. He reminded Bidkar how when they had both ridden together in Ahab’s service, (Jehoram’s father), it had been well known that YHWH had determined this punishment for the house of Ahab (laid this burden on him), something only delayed because of Ahab’s subsequent repentance (1 Kings 21.29).
For the name Bidkar, probably a shortened form of Ben-dekar, compare 1 Kings 4.9.
2.9.26 “Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, says YHWH, and I will requite you in this plot, says YHWH. Now therefore take and cast him into the plot of land, according to the word of YHWH.”
Jehu reminded Bidkar that YHWH had declared that He had seen the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons who had apparently perished with him (compare how He had heard Abel’s blood crying from the ground - Genesis 4.10), and had sworn that he would pay Ahab back for the murders in that very plot of land, something, however, deferred to his son’s day in 1 Kings 21.29 because of Ahab’s repentance. (If we think this harsh we should recognise that the implication of the verse is that had Jehoram also repented he also would have avoided the consequences. God’s judgment never comes on those who have truly repented). Thus Jehu was offering the body of Jehoram as requital for the sin of Ahab, in accordance with YHWH’s word. We may see as background to the idea the thoughts in Deuteronomy 21, although in this case the murderer was known. Jehoram’s death had become a kind of atonement offering for the unrequited sin which had stained Israel.
Ahaziah Of Judah Is Also Slain As A Worshipper of Baal (2.9.27-29).
Having seen what was happening Ahaziah naturally also fled, taking the way of the garden-house. But he found no way of escape for Jehu pursued him and called on his fellow charioteers to smite him as well, in his chariot. This they accomplished at the ascent of Gur, and once satisfied that he would not live, allowed him to be carried off to Megiddo where he died of his wounds. His servants then bore his body to Jerusalem, where he was buried with his fathers in his sepulchre in the city of David. His reign is then summed up in verse 29 where it will be noted that the reckoning is in Israelite terms, ignoring the initial regnal part year (contrast twelve years in 8.25 where the reckoning is on the basis used in Judah where the initial part year is counted as a full year).
Note that in ‘a’ Ahaziah fled, and in the parallel his reign is described. In ‘b’ he was to be smitten in his chariot, and in the parallel was borne to Jerusalem in his chariot to be buried. Centrally in ‘c’ he fled to Megiddo and died there.
2.9.27 ‘But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden-house. And Jehu followed after him, and said, “Smite him also in the chariot,” and they smote him at the ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there.’
When Ahaziah saw what was happening he fled in his chariot. But as brother-in-law to the dead king he would be seen as of Ahab’s house and thus equally liable to blood vengeance. Indeed if allowed to live he would have been responsible to avenge the blood of his wife’s brother. Thus Jehu pursued him, accompanied by his own chariots, and bade them smite Ahaziah down. ‘The garden house’ may have been a prominent landmark in the gardens around Jezreel (it may even have once been Naboth’s garden house). Alternately it might have been on the road taken by Ahaziah in his desire to reach the safety of Judah. Many identify it with En-gannim (Joshua 19.21 - modern ‘Jenin’) eleven kilometres (seven miles) south of Jezreel, which was only two kilometres (about one mile) short of Ibleam (possibly modern Tel-bel‘ameh). But his flight was in vain and they caught up with him at ‘the ascent of Gur’, near Ibleam. ‘The way up to Gur’ may refer to the road to modern Gurra near Taanach.
Once he had been smitten Ahaziah recognised that he could not hope to make Judah, and instead took the road to Megiddo, a chariot city in Israel which would hopefully still be loyal to Jehoram (they would not yet know about the rebellion). It would seem that it was so, for it took him in and he died there.
2.9.28 ‘And his servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and buried him in his sepulchre with his fathers in the city of David.’
His body was then borne by his servants in a chariot to Jerusalem where he was buried in his sepulchre with his fathers in the city of David. As his death had not been the result of an assassination at the hands of his people he was seen as dying ‘peaceably’.
2.9.29 ‘And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab Ahaziah began to reign over Judah.’
The whole passage from 8.25 is now summed up by a repeat of the fact concerning Azariah’s succession, so that 8.25 and 9.29 form an inclusio. (It will be noted that it is also required for the chiasmus). The difference lies in the fact that here the Israelite method of reckoning regnal years (eleven years excluding the accession year) is used instead of that used in Judah (twelve years including the accession year). This is interesting evidence that the passage includes information extracted from both the annals of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, with the statements being extracted from each without being altered.
YHWH’s Judgment On Jezebel (2.9.30-37).
The fact that YHWH carried out his judgment on Jehoram and Ahaziah, and now on Jezebel, through Jehu, does not mean that YHWH would approve wholly of all Jehu’s methods, and later Jehu is castigated for his excesses (see Hosea 1.4). But he is commended for destroying the house of Ahab (10.30). When God calls men into His service and works through them He does not control all their actions, and they may do things of which He disapproves, and even go too far, often in their zeal. He knows perfectly well that those whom he calls are sinners, and will not carry out His will perfectly. (Even Martin Luther and John Knox would have been very different men in the twenty first century AD. We can rejoice in their godliness and piety, without necessarily agreeing with all that they did). His sovereign will and men’s freewill actions in history go along in parallel and we may see His hand at work even when the detail of all that occurs is not with His approval. Compare how later the king of Assyria will be raised up and used as the rod of His anger, but will have to be punished for going about it in the wrong way (Isaiah 10.5-13).
Jehu was a man of blood, and he had just come from the seat of war. He had served in the army for long years, having seen service under both Ahab and Jehoram as a charioteer, and to him death was a way of life. Thus when he carried out what he saw as God’s will he did it in the way that life had taught him. He did not shrink from the shedding of blood. God was behind his aims, but not necessarily behind his methods, even though the latter did result in the remarkable fulfilment of Elijah’s prophecy. God had purposed that Jehu become king of Israel, but it was Jehu and his fellow officers who determined on the way in which it would come about (9.12-15).
As Jehu now approached Jezreel, with two kings disposed of, his purpose was to destroy what he and most in Israel saw as the greatest curse on the land, Jezebel, Ahab’s Phoenician and idolatress princess, and he did not care how he did it. Thus when he saw her peering out of the window, decorated in all her finery, he commanded those who were on his side to throw her out of the window, and when her blood spattered the wall he rode his chariot over her, just as he had regularly ridden his chariot over his enemies.
And yet he remembered too that she was a king’s daughter, and he therefore commanded that her remains be gathered up for honourable burial, only to learn that meanwhile the scavenger dogs had done their worst, so that only her skull, he feet and the palms of her hands were left, in accordance with Elijah’s prophecy, ‘the dogs will eat Jezebel by the walls of Jezreel’ (1 Kings 22.23).
Note that in ‘a’ Jezebel presented herself as she saw herself in all her ageing beauty, and in the parallel she is presented as God saw her in all her nothingness. In ‘b’ she castigates his murderous behaviour, and in the parallel she herself is found murdered, and worse. In ‘c’ Jehu looked for help from the servants in the palace, and in the parallel he ate and drank in the palace. Central in ‘d’ is a description of the actual murder of Jezebel.
2.9.30 ‘And when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes, and attired her head, and looked out at the window.’
The news of what Jehu had done to the two kings was hurriedly brought back to Jezreel and conveyed to Jezebel, who could have been in no doubt that her end had come. She would know that she could expect no mercy from the people whom she had treated so badly. But as any brave woman would in the circumstances, she painted herself up so that she could meet death proudly. She was not going to let Jehu know that she feared him. Then she went to her open window so that she could challenge him on his arrival. It is clear that she did not lack courage. An oriental woman would not in normal circumstances have been so bold, but Jezebel now knew that she was temporarily representing the royal family as its head
The blackening of her eyes would be with kuhl (also mentioned as guhlu in the Assyrian record of the tribute received from Hezekiah) which was sulphide of antimony mixed with oil, and was later widely used among Arabic women as a cosmetic.
2.9.31 ‘And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, “Is it peace, you Zimri, your master’s murderer?” ’
Thus as Jehu came through the gate into the city she called out bitterly the same words as had been borne by the messengers and by Jehoram himself, ‘is it peace?’ It was a reminder to Jehu that in her eyes he was simply treacherous, and she ensured that it was properly understood by likening him to Zimri who was well remembered as a regicide (1 Kings 16.8-10). She was not looking for any favours.
Some see it as an attempt to parley with the word ‘zimri’ being understood not as a name but as ‘you hero’ (in line with the rare Ugaritic word dmr), but if so her words were to say the least tactless. However, the fact that it fits so perfectly with the behaviour of the actual Zimri supports the first interpretation, especially in the context of Kings. And her implication might have been that Jehu also would only last seven days.
It may well be that Jehu had in fact never seen the queen mother, but her words and her appearance would leave him in no doubt as to who this was who challenged him so boldly.
2.9.32 ‘And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs.’
Her attitude and behaviour determined the method of her death. A Jehu with his blood aroused, and goaded by a woman he hated and despised (as she hated and despised him at this moment) determined to be avenged for her insults. Lifting up his face to the window he asked who among those who were in the palace were on his side, and ‘two or three eunuchs’ responded.
2.9.33 ‘And he said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses, and he trod her under foot.’
Then he commanded the eunuchs to throw Jezebel down from the window onto the road below. So they threw her down, and as her body hit the road her blood spattered the walls and the horses. Joel then drove his chariot over her. By his strategy he had cleverly ensured that Jezebel had been slain by the people, not by himself. His action was simply the final humiliation. And he had not needed to lift a hand against her. He did not want to be known as the man who killed a noblewoman. Nor did he want any Tyrian revenge to be aimed only at him. He wanted it thought of as the will of the people.
2.9.34 ‘And when he had come in, he ate and drank, and he said, “See now to this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” ’
The fact that there was no resistance in the city suggests that the city elders as a whole approved of, or at least gave consent to, Jehu’s actions. Outside the inner court the house of Ahab was not popular, and this was Jezreel not Samaria (where greater resistance might have been expected). Thus affairs were soon settled and a welcoming feast laid on. This was not as callous as it sounds. Such offered hospitality was an immediate assurance of their support for Jehu, and his participating in it a sign that his intentions towards them were peaceable. It was a covenant meal. All who participated in the meal would be committed to friendship. It is, however, an indication both of Jehu’s indifference in the face of bloodshed, and of his sense of propriety, that he thought of the need for Jezebel to be properly buried, but only after some time had elapsed. It came to his mind as he ate that, ‘cursed woman’ as she was (no longer under the blessing of YHWH as the accepted ruler as a result of the evil of her life), Jezebel was a king’s daughter and should therefore in her death be treated with respect. There is possibly underlying the author’s description of her as ‘cursed’ the thought that even while Jehu was eating and drinking, the scavenger dogs were also enjoying their meal. Jezebel’s covenant meal was with the dogs, and she was on the menu.
2.9.35 ‘And they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.’
Accordingly they went to bury her, but when they investigated they found only her bare skull, he feet, and the palms of her hands. All the remainder had been eaten or dragged off by the hungry scavenger dogs.
2.9.36-37 ‘For which reason they came back, and told him. And he said, “This is the word of YHWH, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “In the portion of Jezreel will the dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel, and the body of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel, so that they will not say, ‘This is Jezebel.’ ”
When this was reported back to him he drew attention to the fact that it was the fulfilment of YHWH’s word through Elijah, cited in 1 Kings 21.23 as, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel by the walls of Jezreel’. This fuller version of the prophecy, which we have no reason for doubting as authentic, although possibly paraphrased by Jehu, was probably recorded in a different original record. It is sufficiently different from the facts to indicate that it was not just invention. It included not only the thought that Jezebel would be eaten by scavenger dogs, but that her remains would act as fertiliser in the area of Jezreel, with nothing remaining to remember her by. There would be insufficient preserved remains for anyone to be able to say, ‘This is Jezebel’. She had become a nothing.
The Initial Destruction Of The Seventy ‘Sons’ Of The House Of Ahab (2.10.1-8).
Very few kings of that time (if any) who replaced another dynasty with their own, would have acted ant differently from Jehu. In such a situation the extirpation of the royal seed of the previous dynasty was seen as very much a political necessity (David’s sparing of the house of Saul was a remarkable exception). In partial justification of it we should recognise that it was essential if the kingdom was to be given stability, and in order to prevent the possibility of future insurrections by supporters of the previous dynasty (compare what happened to Athaliah because she failed in her attempt to eliminate all the seed royal - 11.1-20). It thus in the end probably resulted in the saving of a multitude of lives.
The ‘sons’ (descendants) of Ahab were all to be found in Samaria which still remained to be captured, and Jehu had to decide how to go about the taking of the city. His letter was in fact almost certainly intended to be an ultimatum. Either they could surrender to him, or they could appoint a king from the seed royal. As Jehoram of Israel had probably succeeded to the throne at a young age (his father Ahaziah had only reigned for about a year - 1 Kings 22.51), and had only reigned for twelve years, the seed royal would all be minors. Thus their choice lay between a seasoned warrior, supported by the army, or a king who was young and inexperienced with only the support of Samaria behind him. Recognising the strength of the rebellion, which included all the active army commanders, and was almost certainly supported by the common people who had nothing but hatred for the foreign innovations of Jezebel, the leading men in Samaria decided on the most sensible way out. They would surrender on Jehu’s terms, terms which would not in fact have come as any surprise to them for the reasons mentioned above.
Accordingly the heads of the seventy sons were delivered to Jehu in Jezreel, where they were piled up at the gate, a common practise among ancient kings when they wanted to awe the people (Assyrian kings such as Ashernasirpal and Shalmaneser III repeatedly boasted about the heads piled up in a pyramid outside their cities). It both indicated that the previous dynasty was no more, and acted as a warning as to what would happen to any dissentients in the future.
He then assured all that they had done the right thing, for they had brought about the necessary fulfilment of the word of YHWH concerning the house of Ahab. YHWH’s will had been done (even if not necessarily in God’s way). This was why the author has entered into such detail, for his main concern is with the activity of YHWH in history.
Note that in ‘a’ the seventy descendants of Ahab were in Samaria, and in the parallel their heads were piled up at Jezreel. In ‘b’ a letter was sent to the leading men of Samaria, and in the parallel a letter was received by them. In ‘c’ are described those who were in charge in Samaria including those who brought up the king’s descendants, and in the parallel the king’s descendants were with those who brought them up. Centrally in ‘d’ the heads of the seventy were to be delivered to Jehu in Jezreel.
2.10.1 ‘Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, even the elders, and to those who brought up the sons of Ahab, saying.’
The powerful city of Samaria was still in the hands of the house of Ahab, which as far as direct descendants of Jehoram were concerned probably consisted of minors. There were ‘seventy’ recognised male members of the royal house in Samaria who might have been seen as having some claim to the throne. Like the number seven, ‘seventy’ (which is seven intensified) is often used in order to indicate completeness (compare Genesis 46.27; Judges 8.30; 9.2). Thus we need not see it as an exact number (it is made exact in Genesis 46 by artificial means). It is rather a general indication, It is rather a general indication, with an emphasis on the completeness of the grouping. Samaria was the city built by Omri on land owned by him, and was the centre of political power and royal influence (it was also the centre for worship of the foreign Baal introduced by Jezebel), and the royal family would include not only the sons of Jehoram, but also his brothers and their sons, and other near relations, which is why the term used is ‘sons of Ahab’, covering the whole.
Multiple copies of his letter were sent to various authorities in Samaria, to the elders in Jezreel, and to those responsible for the royal house. The sons of Jehoram would be under their tutors and teachers who were preparing them for their royal roles ahead (compare 2 Chronicles 21.2-3). The city itself therefore was being ruled by its governor, the head of the king’s household, the elders of the city, and the tutors of the king’s sons (verse 5). It was to these then that Jehu wrote his letters. He also sent copies to the elders of Jezreel so that they would be joined with him in his demands (and he still had to officially establish his authority in Jezreel).
2.10.2-3 “And now as soon as this letter comes to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and armour, look you out the best and most suitable of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.”
‘Now as soon as this letter comes to you --.’ This was a recognised form of opening for an official letter. Compare 5.6. It is also found among the Lachish letters (number 4).
The content of the letters was simple. He openly acknowledged the strength of the city’s fortifications, the number of their chariots, and the effectiveness of their armour. If they wished to resist him let them then choose the best and most suitable of the king’s sons as their ruler (he probably had his tongue in his cheek), and let them make him king (an indication to them, if they did not already know it, that Jehoram was dead), and let them fight under him for their master’s house.
Note the subtlety of his method. He was drawing attention to the inexperience of whoever would rule them, and was asking them to compare what they had with what was under his control, for he was supported by the army of all Israel. It was basically inviting them to surrender or die.
2.10.4 ‘But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, “Behold, the two kings did not stand before him. How then shall we stand?” ’
Understandably his words struck fear in their hearts. They probably did not know the details of what had happened, but they were aware that the combined bodyguards of the kings of Israel and Judah had been in Jezreel. And they recognised that if such seasoned campaigners had not been able to resist Jehu it was unlikely that an immature ‘son of Ahab’ would be able to do so. And all knew what happened to a city that resisted when besieged (see Deuteronomy 20.12-13).
2.10.5 ‘And he who was over the household, and he who was over the city, the elders also, and those who brought up the children, sent to Jehu, saying, “We are your servants, and will do all that you shall bid us. We will not make any man king. You do what is good in your eyes.”
So the leading men of the city who were ruling it in the king’s name, the steward of the royal household (the high chamberlain, the highest in status as his influence went far beyond the city), the governor or commandant of the city (the next highest in status with responsibility for the city), the city elders (who acted as advisers to the governor/commandant), and those responsible for the training and tutoring of the king’s sons (who would be important men and advisers of the royal steward), all came together to discuss what should be done. And they all with one accord recognised that resistance was useless. They would know perfectly well what the result of their decision would be, and that their charges, the king’s sons, would not be allowed to live. But they also had to take into account the safety of all the people in Samaria. It was not a pleasant choice.
Thus they replied to Jehu that they were ready to swear fealty to him, and that they would do whatever he bade them. They would not seek to set up a rival king, but were ready to acknowledge him as king. They would do whatever seemed good in his eyes. They would not be in any doubt about the fact that they were sacrificing their charges, but recognised that they had little option.
2.10.6 ‘Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you will listen to my voice, you take the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by tomorrow this time.” Now the king’s sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who brought them up.’
The demands laid on them would not be unexpected. No ‘usurper’ could allow the male members of the previous royal house to live. It would have been political suicide. Thus they would not have been surprised when they received the demand that the execution of the king’s ‘sons’ had to be carried out. This was to be done by execution, and the severing of their heads, which were then to be sent to Jehu in Jezreel as proof that his demands had truly been carried out. While it may sound a gruesome to us it was necessary for Jehu to be sure that all the king’s sons had been slain, and the only way to do that was to have proof of their deaths and of their identifies.
Jehu could, of course, have demanded that they be handed over alive, but he wanted the responsibility for the executions to fall squarely on the people themselves. This was a wise move politically, for it ensured that in future the direct blame could not be laid at his door. It would mean that they would be seen to have cooperated with him in it.
It is then explained that the king’s sons were under the jurisdiction of the most powerful men in the city who had had responsibility for their upbringing and training. Had the king’s sons lived, with Jehoram as king, most of them would have gone on to positions of authority and power for which they had therefore to be prepared (compare 2 Chronicles 21.3).
2.10.7 ‘And it came about, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons, and slew them, even seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him to Jezreel.’
In response to the letter these powerful men took all ‘seventy’ (the totality) of ‘the king’s sons’ (all royal claimants), and executed them, severing their heads and placing them in pots or baskets (the word usually refers to earthenware pots, but may have widened to indicate any container. On the other hand earthenware pots would have prevented the heat from causing the heads to deteriorate and would have prevented any blood from seeping out). These were then sent to Jehu in Jezreel, thus sparing Samaria from being besieged and destroyed, and yielding it officially to Jehu.
2.10.8 ‘And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons.” And he said, “Lay you them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” ’
On their arrival at Jezreel a messenger was sent to Jehu to inform him of their arrival, and he commanded that they be piled up in two heaps at the entrance to the city. No doubt appropriate checks as to their identity would be carried out. As mentioned above this practise of piling up the heads of important enemies at the city gates was one which was well recognised at the time. It demonstrated to any waverers that the king’s sons really were dead, and that there was nowhere else to look but to Jehu. It also stood as a stark warning to any who might be thinking of dissent.
The Continuing Purge Of The House Of Ahab (2.10.9-17).
Had Jehu stopped there no blame would have been laid at his door. All would have recognised that he had done what was inevitable. But as can so often happen, having carried out YHWH’s wishes he went to excess and in the end earned the disapproval of the prophets (Hosea 1.4). His first excess was to destroy the relatives of Ahaziah, king of Judah, who had unsuspectingly come visiting their royal relatives in Israel, presumably partly because they wanted to commiserate Jehoram for his wounds. As far as we know he had no grounds for knowing whether they were worshippers of Baal or YHWH. His second excess will later be to destroy all the worshippers of Baal without giving any opportunity for repentance. Thus he went far beyond his remit. Meanwhile he also finished off the purging of the house of Ahab, something which the prophetic author approved of as being in accordance with the prophecy of Elijah (verse 17).
Note that in ‘a’ Jehu speaks of those of the house of Ahab who have been smitten by the people and in the parallel he himself smites all who remained of Ahab. In ‘b’ Jehu reveals his zeal for YHWH by smiting all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and in the parallel he tells Jehonadab that he will yet see his zeal for YHWH. In ‘c’ he departed and went to Samaria and on the way met the brothers of Ahaziah, and in the parallel he departed from where he was (still going to Samaria) and met Jehonadab. Centrally in ‘d’ the brothers (stepbrothers) of Ahaziah were slain.
2.10.9-10 ‘And it came about in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, “You are righteous. Behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him, but who smote all these?” Know now that there will fall to the earth nothing of the word of YHWH, which YHWH spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for YHWH has done what he spoke by his servant Elijah.”
Having allowed the heads of the king’s sons to convey their message all that day and night, he went out next morning, and taking up an official stance, presumably in the part of the gate house where judgments were regularly made, (the city gate was where much public business was done. Compare Ruth 4.1 ff), he addressed the people. He was seeking to consolidate his position and win their approval. In the light of the final reference to the fulfilment of the word of YHWH we must probably see ‘You are righteous’ as an indication of his official approval of what ‘they’ had done. They had been even more righteous than he, for he had only slain two of those who were under YHWH’s curse whereas they had slain seventy. And he wanted them to see it all as demonstrating that what YHWH had declared He had brought about through the effectiveness of His word of power (compare Isaiah 55.10-13), and that they had had their full part in it along with him. By this he was uniting them with him in what had happened.
Others, however, see the words ‘you are righteous’ differently. They consider that we should see it as indicating a rarer meaning of the Hebrew word with the significance of ‘innocent’, indicating a negative innocence as against a positive righteousness. In other words they must not blame themselves, any more than he should be blamed. Even others see it as sarcastic, with the idea being that he was saying, “see how ‘righteous’ you are. You slew a lot more than I did.”
Whichever way we take it, it is clear that his main purpose was to vindicate his own actions, while seeking to maintain their (possibly reluctant) approval, in the light of what he was going to do next. For having dealt with all possible claimants to the throne in Samaria, he was now about to remove all supporters of Ahab’s house in Jezreel.
2.10.11 ‘So Jehu smote all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.’
Recognising that, next to Samaria, Jezreel was the place where Ahab’s family had had most support (it had long been the site of the summer/winter palace of the house of Ahab) Jehu now set about destroying that support by ‘smiting’ all the high officials, personal friends and idolatrous priests in Jezreel who owed loyalty to the house of Ahab and might seek to undermine his (Jehu’s) position, continuing the process until none were left.
2.10.12-13 ‘And he arose and departed, and went to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing-house of the shepherds in the way, Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, “Who are you?” And they answered, “We are the brothers of Ahaziah, and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen.” ’
Then he set out for Samaria in order to do the same in Samaria. To quite some extent this was a breach of the agreement which he had reached with Samaria, for Samaria had done all that he had asked, and had fulfilled the terms of the surrender. They therefore had a right not to be subjected to a purge. But he was a soldier and knew only one way to rule, and that was by force. Thus his aim was now to purge all support for the house of Ahab in Samaria regardless of how anyone saw it.
As he was on the road to Samaria with his forces he came to ‘the shearing house of the shepherds’, clearly a well known landmark, (or possibly Beth Eked of the shepherds, which some associate with Beit Qad, five kilometres (three miles) north of Jenin), and there he came across a group of obviously wealthy travellers. When he asked them who they were they replied in all innocence that they were brothers of Ahaziah of Judah on their way to visit the Israelite royal family, no doubt assuming that such a description would put them in good standing with this obviously Israelite commander. ‘Brothers’ must be taken in a wide sense to include step-brothers, for Ahaziah’s own brothers had been slaughtered by the Arabians (2 Chronicles 22.1).
2.10.14 ‘And he said, “Take them alive.” And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing-house, even forty two men, nor did he leave any of them.’
There were ‘forty two’ of them, and they were to receive the shock of their lives. For instead of receiving the respect that they were anticipating they found themselves forcibly arrested, as Jehu turned to his men and said, ‘Take them alive.’ Then they were borne off to the pit at the shearing house (normally for use in shearing) where they themselves were put to death with not a single one being spared. They had been ‘sheared’ indeed.
The number forty two is 2 x 3 x 7 and may thus be intended to indicate a complete and perfect number (as with ‘seventy’), for three signifies completeness, x 2 signifies in depth completeness, and seven indicates divine perfection. Others argue for it to be taken literally. It is always a problem in ancient literature as to when to take numbers literally, for numbers were very much used in a symbolic fashion as adjectives in order to teach a lesson (compare the ‘forty two’ smitten by bears in 2.24) as possibly here.
2.10.15 ‘And when he departed from there, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, “Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” “If it is, give me your hand.” And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot.’
As he proceeded on his way he met up with Jehonadab the son of Rechab who was coming to meet him, having no doubt heard about his activities and being desirous of influencing the future return (he hoped) to full Yahwism. Jehu then asked him if he was one with him in his reforms and his anti-Baalism, and Jehonadab assured him that he certainly was, at which Jehu took him up into his chariot. This act would put Jehu in well with discontented Yahwists who admired the conservatism and fervency of the Rechabites. This incident is mentioned in order to demonstrate that Jehu was not simply seen in Israel as being out for personal gain in all that had happened but was genuinely concerned for the honour of YHWH. Jehonadab was a fervent, primitive Yahwist, and much admired, and would have approved of his treatment of the idolatrous house of Ahab. He would want to join in with any revival of Yahwism. Elsewhere Jonadab was described as a faithful follower of YHWH who observed the Mosaic Law more strictly than most (see Jeremiah 35.6-7). Indeed it appears that his aim was to take Israel back to its wilderness days, and he encouraged his followers (the Rechabites) to abstain from strong liquor, to live in tents, to refuse to be involved in settled agriculture and to avoid city living, because, from his idealistic viewpoint, when Israel had lived like that they had been faithful to YHWH. To be associated with him was thus to be seen as a firm Yahwist.
Rechab, from whom the descendants of Jehonadab derived their tribal name, was the son of Hammath, and was descended from the Kenites (1 Chronicles 2.55), the tribe to which Hobab the father-in-law of Moses had also belonged (Numbers 10.29). Thus the Rechabites may even have been descendants of Hobab, since the Kenites, the sons of Hobab, had gone with the Israelites from the Sinai desert to Canaan, and had there carried on their nomadic life (Judges 1.16; 4.11; 1 Samuel 15.6).
2.10.16 ‘And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for YHWH.” So they made him ride in his chariot.’
Jehu then called on Jehonadab to come to Samaria with him and see how zealous he was for YHWH, as a result of which Jehonadab was assisted up into Jehu’s chariot. Being seen as on such terms with Jehonadab would undoubtedly have increased Jehu’s reputation for ‘godliness’.
2.10.17 ‘And when he came to Samaria, he smote all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke to Elijah.’
On arrival in Samaria Jehu carried out a purge of ‘all who remained to ‘Ahab’ in Samaria. It cannot be denied that in doing so he went against the spirit of his earlier agreement with the people of Samaria. But he was now mopping up Ahab’s supporters and close friends, and thereby seeking to destroy all the deep rooted influence of the house of Ahab in Samaria, fulfilling the word of YHWH spoken to Elijah. This indeed was the prophetic author’s main aim, to demonstrate that through it all YHWH’s purpose was being carried out. He was not, however, necessarily approving of the way in which Jehu was doing it.
The Slaughter Of All The Specific Worshippers of Baal In Samaria (2.10.18-28).
That Jehu went far beyond what YHWH had required comes out here. Not satisfied with a thorough purge in Samaria, Jehu now turned his attention to the rest of the country. His purpose now was to root out all the foreign influence of Jezebel and her cult of the Phoenician Baal, and he performed his task meticulously and mercilessly, without giving any opportunity for repentance. This was not YHWH’s way. And by it he was unwittingly destroying Israel’s superstructure, for these Baal worshippers were a major part of the aristocracy which ruled the land. It cannot be denied that he had a ‘zeal for YHWH’, but as will be subsequently made clear it was not in accordance with righteousness (with living rightly by the covenant). For he was returning Israel, not to the true and pure worship of YHWH deserted by Jeroboam the son of Nebat and all the kings who had succeeded him, but to Jeroboam’s own syncretistic form of Yahwism, one that was abominated by YHWH Himself. YHWH’s final verdict on Jehu would not be one of approval. Instead of being seen as submitting to YHWH and His prophets, he was seen as having chosen the way of Jeroboam, a way that would lead to Israel’s final destruction.
Note that in ‘a’ Jehu set about gathering all the worshippers of Baal, and in the parallel he fulfilled his purpose, which was to destroy them. In ‘b’ his purpose of destroying the worshippers of Baal was made patent, and in the parallel it resulted also in the destruction of the pillar and temple of Baal. (While Jehoram had destroyed the pillar of Baal that belonged to his father (3.2), he had left Jezebel’s pillar and temple in place, presumably out of respect for his mother, demonstrating that his actions were not wholehearted. It is probable that political necessity, arising out of the strength of feeling in Israel, had brought about his own withdrawal from active Baal worship, without it indicating a real change of heart, for he had still continued the worship of the golden calves). In ‘c’ they sanctified a solemn assembly for Baal, and in the parallel they used it to bring forth the pillars in the house of Baal and burned them. In ‘d’ Jehu called for all the worshippers of Baal to come to the house of Baal, and in the parallel he commands that all be destroyed. In ‘e’ the vestments for the worshippers of Baal were brought out, and in the parallel they went on to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings to Baal. Centrally in ‘f’ great effort was put in to ensuring that only dedicated worshippers of Baal were present.
2.10.18-19a ‘And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshippers, and all his priests. Let none be wanting. For I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal. Whoever shall be wanting, he will not live.”
Jehu had by now determined that he would destroy all the worshippers of the foreign Baal, introduced by Jezebel, out of the land, and in order to do this, and to identify them accurately, he pretended that he himself was a zealous worshipper of the Phoenician Baal. The idea that Ahab had only served Baal a little was certainly true. All his children had names which included the name of YHWH, and, as we know, he repented as a result of the prophesying of Elijah. Thus while he had had a personal pillar of Baal for his own use in worship in the temple of Baal (which Jehoram had removed) it had been mainly in order to please his fanatical wife. He, meanwhile, had been more involved in the worship of YHWH, although still in the syncretistic way introduced by Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat. Now, however, Jehu was giving the impression that for him Baal was to be central. Accordingly he called for all the prophets of Baal, and all those who worshipped Baal in the manner of Jezebel (rather than syncretistically along with YHWH worship in which the two were religiously confused), and all the priests of Baal, to gather for a solemn feast. And he enforced it by threatening the death penalty for any recognised worshippers of Baal who did not attend. We can imagine with what joy the worshippers of Baal received this news. They would have been wondering which way the new regime would turn, and few if any would have had any knowledge of the beliefs of a professional army commander who had been on continuing active service and subject to the king’s command.
While it was, of course, true that he had driven into Samaria with Jehonadab, the Baal worshippers may well have seen that as simply a wise political move (which of course it was, but for reasons other than they suspected). They may have seen Jehu’s policy as intended to be one of appeasement, with the fanaticism of Jezebel being replaced with a more open regime, which would make it all the more a matter of thanksgiving that he had thrown his lot in on their side, emphatically demonstrating (from their viewpoint) that there was to be no persecution of Baalists (you could never tell with a new regime). They may even have hoped that he was influencing Jehonadab, a man of extreme views and not involved in mainstream YHWH worship at Bethel and Dan, ‘in the right direction’.
2.10.19b ‘But Jehu did it in subtlety, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.’
While they rejoiced, however, it was to be a foolish hope, for Jehu was behaving like this in order to deceive them. His aim was in fact to gather them together in order to destroy them all. This undoubtedly represents Jehu as without inhibitions. Many of those who were deceived would have seen his actions as, in accordance with the customs of the time, guaranteeing that he would treat them in honest friendship, for he was inviting them to feast with them, and by the ancient laws of hospitality that was similar to offering them an oath of friendship. But it would turn out not to be so, for Jehu did things by his own rules.
2.10.20 ‘And Jehu said, “Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.” And they proclaimed it.’
The proclaiming of ‘the sanctifying of a solemn assembly’ was a method of gathering the people together as a result of ‘setting apart to a holy purpose’ (sanctifying) a period which was wholly for the worship of a divinity (sanctifying it), a period for which special preparations had to be made. (Compare Exodus 19.14 for the general idea). In this case that god was Baal, and thus the requirement was that all Baal worshippers were to thoroughly prepare themselves in order to come to play their part in it.
2.10.21 ‘And Jehu sent through all Israel, and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And they came into the house of Baal, and the house of Baal was filled from one end to another (literally ‘from one mouth to another’).’
Jehu was taking no chances, and he sent messengers throughout Israel so as to ensure that all pure Baal worshippers attended, which they did en masse. They all gathered for the festival in the very temple of Baal in Samaria, with the result that it was filled to overflowing.
2.10.22 ‘And he said to him who was over the wardrobe, “Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal.” And he brought forth vestments for them.’
Then he called for all the vestments worn by Baal worshippers on special occasions to be brought out. These would be worn for worship and would in this case clearly identify all worshippers of Baal. This wearing of special garments for worship is testified to elsewhere. Compare Genesis 35.2; Exodus 19.10 (where the garments were washed rather than being changed); Matthew 22.11; and King Dan’el at Ugarit.
2.10.23 ‘And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and he said to the worshippers of Baal, “Search, and see that there are here with you none of the servants of YHWH, but the worshippers of Baal only.” ’
In order to make doubly sure that no worshippers of YHWH were present he entered the temple of Baal with Jehonadab, and called on the worshippers of Baal to search and ensure that no worshippers of YHWH were present. It may well be that this was a regular feature of their worship (compare the search for leaven at the Passover). A solemn assembly may well have been seen as totally exclusive, with such a search ritually necessary.
2.10.24 ‘And they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings. Now Jehu had appointed for himself fourscore men outside, and said, “If any of the men whom I bring into your hands escape, he who lets him go, his life will be for the life of him.” ’
Then when all were present at the feast the people went in along with Jehu. He himself may have gone in as the king-priest to offer sacrifices and burnt-offerings (verse 25), something which Ahab and Ahaziah (1 Kings 22.52) had no doubt done before him (although possibly not Jehoram of Israel). On the other hand it may simply be saying that he, Jehonadab and the people went in so as to offer their sacrifices and offerings through the priests.
What the worshippers did not know was that Jehu had lined up fourscore of his best troops outside in order to ensure that none escaped death. Indeed the men were warned that if they let any escape, their own lives would be forfeit. Theirs too was a ‘sacred’ task.
2.10.25 ‘And it came about, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt-offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the commanders, “Go in, and slay them. Let none come forth.” And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and the guard and the commanders cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.’
Taken literally the verb indicates that Jehu himself offered the offering, which might in fact have been expected of him as king-priest of Samaria, although, for example, when Solomon ‘offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar’ he is hardly intended to be seen as offering them himself (1 Kings 3.4). Thus the burnt offering may have been offered by the priests on his behalf. But whoever offered them, as soon as the offerings were over Jehu gave a command to his bodyguard and to his commanders that they go in and kill all the worshippers of Baal, and let none survive. The consequence was that they went in and smote them with their swords, and then flung their bodies out of the building like so much refuse.
‘And went to the city of the house of Baal.’ This was possibly a technical name for the inner sanctuary of the temple of Baal (a possible parallel has been found at Ugarit). If so such detail makes clear that we have information gained from a contemporary source. Others see it as meaning the part of the city surrounding the temple of Baal, possibly having in mind relatives of those who had already been slain.
2.10.26 ‘And they brought forth the pillars which were in the house of Baal, and burned them.’
And from the inner sanctuary some of Jehu’s men brought out the steles/pillars which were in the house of Baal, each probably having personal connections with prominent worshippers of Baal (Ahab’s had been removed by Jehoram - 3.2). And these were burned in order to cause them to break up, or possibly even in order to ‘devote them to YHWH’ (compare 19.18; Deuteronomy 7.5, 25-26; 13.16-17; Joshua 6.17, 24).
2.10.27 ‘And they broke down the pillar of Baal, and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a dumping place (possibly a draught-house), to this day.’
Then they broke down the main pillar of Baal, and destroyed the house around it, turning it into refuse dump (or a public lavatory), which it still was in the original source’s time.
2.10.28 ‘Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.’
And that was how Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. In other words it was how he got rid of the foreign Baal introduced by Jezebel, which was so hated in Israel, and with it all those who had become involved in its worship. But his zeal did not go as far as purifying the worship of YHWH. That was still left to be infected throughout out by local Baalism.
What he had done, however, had gone considerably beyond YHWH’s remit to him, and it will be noted that no opportunity had been given for any to return to YHWH. That was not YHWH’s way. Furthermore by his action Jehu had undoubtedly destroyed the very foundations of Israel’s bureaucracy, and decimated its leadership, undermining the strength and stability of the country. It was no wonder that as a result he had to yield fealty to, and pay tribute to, Shalmaneser III of Assyria, something which we learn from Assyrian inscriptions. Another alternative open to him would have been total commitment to YHWH. Then Elisha would have been with him and things would have been very different. But such a commitment he was not willing to make, as we will now learn. And had he genuinely been walking closely with YHWH he would undoubtedly not have slaughtered so many.
Jehu is an example to all who, having been guided in a particular direction, go over the top and thereby turn their blessing into a curse to others by leading them in false paths.
A Summary Of The Reign Of Jehu (841-814/13 BC) And Of His Failure To Respond To YHWH’s Covenant (2.10.29-36).
While Jehu had certainly removed the worship of the Phoenician Baal (Baal Melqart) from the land, what he failed to do was carry the reforms even wider and also remove the abominations of Jeroboam the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. Thus he lost the opportunity of truly reforming Yahwism. Instead of a strict return to the laws and covenant of YHWH, he allowed the loose ways and ineffectual worship of a Yahwism intermingled with the worship of the local Baal. This served to demonstrate that his activities had not genuinely been carried out because of his real love for YHWH, but simply out of a politically motivated religious zeal.
Note that in ‘a’ the behaviour of Jehu is described, and in the parallel we are referred for his other behaviour to the chronicles of the kings of Israel. In ‘b’ his reward for what was good in what he did is described, and in the parallel his punishment for what he did that was wrong. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the central verdict on his reign, that he did not walk in the Law of YHWH the God of Israel in that he continued to follow the ways of Jeroboam.
2.10.29 ‘However from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel to sin, Jehu did not depart from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan.’
The purge that Jehu had carried out had put him in a powerful position for thoroughgoing reform. The nation was behind him and at the same time in awe of him. It was ripe for change. But he stopped short of what to YHWH was the essential requirement for any king of Israel, that he destroy the golden calves at Bethel and Dan and return to true Yahwism, thereby indicating that his loyalty was not truly given to YHWH and His covenant.
Note how this is especially emphasised before the note of commendation. He was to be rewarded for what he had achieved, but with the recognition that he had failed in the main objective. It was thus not unqualified approval.
2.10.30 ‘And YHWH said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation will sit on the throne of Israel.” ’
Jehu was commended by YHWH for bringing his judgment on the house of Ahab, the task to which he had been called, but it will be noted that nothing is said about the further purges. They had not been a part of his remit. And his reward for what he had done was that his dynasty would last for four generations. But that was as gar as it went. There is a deliberate contrast here with the everlasting dynasty of David. Jehu’s was strictly limited. He was not a man after God’s own heart.
2.10.31 ‘But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of YHWH, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel to sin.’
Where Jehu failed was in a willingness to follow wholeheartedly after YHWH. He failed to walk in the Law of YHWH, Israel’s true God, with all his heart. He could have called on Elisha and with him worked out how Israel could be brought back to the true way, but instead he turned to the compromised way of Jeroboam. It was politically simpler, but religiously disastrous, for the way of Jeroboam was not the way of the Law of YHWH..
2.10.32-33 ‘In those days YHWH began to cut parts off from Israel, and Hazael smote them in all the borders of Israel, from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.’
The result was that YHWH brought grief on Israel with the result that (like Judah under Jehoram) it began to lose part of its kingdom. Hazael, the king of Aram, smote them by invading Transjordan and taking possession of all the land of Israel east of Jordan. This may have been his way of rebuking Jehu for submitting to the king of Assyria rather than entering into an alliance with Hazael against Assyria, who was able for a time to hold out against Assyria, or it may simply have been political opportunism in view of the current weakness of Israel with a view to obtaining control of the trade routes. Either way it robbed Israel of much of its wealth. Transjordan would not finally be recovered until the time of Jeroboam II, the fourth king of Jehu’s dynasty (14.25).
The geographical descriptions cover the whole of Israel east of the Jordan right down to Aroer, by the valley of the Arnon River, on the border with Moab. Note the emphasis on the fact that this was the direct activity of YHWH. Powerful king Hazael might be, but he was under YHWH’s command, and unwittingly carrying out His will.
2.10.34 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’
Having summed up Jehu’s reign from the religious standpoint, the prophetic author refers us for further historical detail to the annals of the kings of Israel, which had clearly survived. He was not interested in presenting a strict history of Israel. His concern was with YHWH’s dealings with Israel.
2.10.35 ‘And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned instead of him.’
Jehu died peacefully and was buried in Samaria, and Jehoahaz his son reigned instead of him. But it was over a much depleted kingdom. Jehu had turned out to be a failure.
2.10.36 ‘And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty eight years.’
The length of the king’s reign is usually given in the introduction to his reign, but in the case of Jehu there had been no introduction. Thus it is given here. So meanwhile Jehu had reigned over Israel for twenty eight years. All, however, that we know about his reign was that it was a missed opportunity. The silence about his secular activities is a strong reminder to us that the only things that are important in life are the things that are genuinely achieved for God. Jehu had had the opportunity to bring Israel back to YHWH, but instead he had been too concerned about his own affairs. How tragic it will be for us also if our lives are so overtaken with compromise and religious half-heartedness that we too fail to serve God faithfully.
Brief Note On Hazael, King Of Aram.
As a young man Hazael had been anointed by Elijah with a view to his future, a reminder that in spite of his later might he was very much a king under YHWH’s control (1 Kings 19.15). He came to the throne of Aram in around 843 BC after his interlude with Elisha during which Elisha foresaw the distress that he would bring on Israel (8.7-15). In 842 BC he advanced on Ramoth-gilead (8.29). This may have been with the aim of bringing Israel into a coalition with himself against the threatening Assyrians under Shalmaneser III, or it may simply have been with a view to securing the trade routes. As we have seen it resulted in the death of Jehoram and the rise of Jehu. But in 841 BC Jehu (with Israel substantially weakened and having necessarily forfeited Israel’s alliances with Tyre and Judah) paid tribute to Shalmaneser III and swore fealty to him. Shalmaneser had invaded Aram and had besieged Hazael in Damascus, but having failed to take Damascus he had moved on, and now took tribute both from Israel and from Tyre. Jehu’s action may well have been instead of entering into an alliance with Hazael, or it may simply have been hurried necessity. Hazael appears to have resisted the Assyrian pressure, forcing them to move on.
The extract from the Black obelisk read as follows:
“In the eighteenth year of my reign I (i.e. Shalmaneser III) crossed the River Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Aram put his trust in the numerical strength of his army and called out his army in great numbers. He made Sanir, a mountain peak which stands out in front of Lebanon, his strong position, but I fought with him and defeated him, smiting with weapons sixteen thousand of his experienced troops. I snatched away from him 1,121 of his chariots and 470 of his cavalry horses, together with his baggage train. He fled to save his life but I followed after him and surrounded him in Damascus his capital city. I cut down his plantations and marched as far as the mountains of Hauran (in other words the siege failed so that he eventually moved on). I destroyed, tore down and burned numberless villages, carrying innumerable spoil from them. I marched as far as the mountains of Ba‘ali-rasi, a headland by the sea, and put up on it a representation of my royal person. At that time I received tribute from the people of Tyre, Sidon and from Jehu, son of Omri.”
A superscription then adds, “The tribute of Jehu, the son of Omri. Silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff for the royal hand, puruhati fruits.” This submission by Jehu is actually pictured on an obelisk set up by the Assyrian king in the main square of Nimrud, with ‘Jehu, the son of Omri’ bowing before the king. The tribute was not large and was more in the nature of a token submission.
Hazael again resisted Shalmaneser a few years later, after which Assyria withdrew for a generation, being taken up with other enemies threatening its borders. But having to stand alone may well have been why Hazael felt bitter against Israel, with the subsequent successful invasion of Transjordan consequently taking place, although presumably it was also with a view to taking over the valuable trade routes. We know nothing about any other relations between Hazael and Jehu, which may suggest that Jehu was able to hold his own west of Jordan in spite of the reverses east of Jordan (As is clear above Hazael had been weakened by the Assyrian invasion, giving Jehu time to build up his own strength, even though that was not sufficient for him to be able to defend Transjordan), but Hazael would subsequently continually harass Jehu’s successor, Jehoahaz, finally reducing him to a token fighting force (13.3, 7). He also invaded Gath, as well as robbing Judah of its treasures during the reign of Jehoash (12.15). Late in his reign, however, Assyria would return under Adadnirari III and the ageing Hazael would be subdued, and would have to pay him tribute. This was recorded on the Nimrud slab inscription as follows:
Having spoken of the submission of a number of nations including ‘mat-Humri’ (the territory of Omri i.e. Israel) Adadnirari goes on to say “I marched to Aram and shut up Mari’ (Hazael), king of Aram, in Damascus his capital city. The awful splendour of the god Ashur his lord overwhelmed him, and he seized my feet expressing submission. 2,300 talents of silver, 20 talents of gold, 300 talents of copper, 5,000 talents of iron, embroidered linen garments, an ivory bed, a couch embossed and inlaid with ivory, countless of his own goods and possessions I received in his own palace at Damascus, his capital city.”
Thus by the time of his successor Benhadad, Aram had been weakened whilst Israel would have recovered some of its strength.
End of note.
The Reign In Judah Of Athaliah The Usurper c. 841-835 BC, Or The Remarkable Preservation And Restoration Of The Davidic Heir And The Refutation Of The Worship Of The Foreign Baal (2.11.1-21).
On hearing of the death of Ahaziah, king of Judah, at the hands of Jehu, and the overthrowing of the dynasty of Omri in Israel, Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and the influential ‘queen mother’, seized the throne of Judah and sought to destroy all the seed royal, seeking to salvage something for the house of Ahab. The result appeared to be that the house of David was about to be exterminated, and it was all due to their association with the house of Ahab. The fact that according to the Chronicler her son had previously slain all his brothers, along with a number of prominent aristocrats, once his reign was established (2 Chronicles 21.4), presumably because of opposition to his support for Baal, brings out how evil that house really was. They would brook no opposition in their determination to establish the worship of Baal.
But YHWH had not forgotten His promises to David (2 Samuel 7) and Ahaziah’s half-sister Jehosheba (presumably by another wife of Jehoram) hid one of Ahaziah’s infant sons, Joash, so that he survived the massacre, after which he was kept in hiding for many years in the Temple, until the time came for his revealing to Judah. Then when the appropriate time came Jehoiada, the faithful Priest who, with Jehosheba his wife had watched over him, presented him before the commanders of the Temple guards whom he knew that he could rely on, taking from them suitable oaths of secrecy and loyalty.
The result was that, after carefully putting in place certain safeguards, Joash was crowned, anointed and acclaimed in the Temple by both the guards and a gathering of the people. The noise of the acclamation was such that it brought the unsuspecting Athaliah hurrying to the scene, presumably accompanied by a number of attendants, and when she realised what was happening she cried out ‘treason’. But she had little popular support, and with her own main bodyguard and supporters (as worshippers of Baal) presumably largely elsewhere she was at the mercy of the Temple guards. She was therefore led out of the Temple and slain. Her rebellion was at an end. This was then followed by the renewal of the covenants of YHWH and the destruction of the sanctuary of Baal.
We should note that we do not strictly have a record of the reign of Athaliah. She is seen rather as a brief and unpleasant interlude leading up to the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and of the covenants of YHWH, and the account of her reign simply deals with her failure to extirpate the house of David, and her death.
The passage divides into two subsections:
1). The Usurping Of The Throne By Athaliah And The Preservation And Eventual Crowning Of The Davidic Heir Resulting In Her Execution (2.11.1-16).
Note that in ‘a’ Athaliah destroyed all the seed royal, apart from one, and in the parallel she herself was slain. In ‘b’ Joash was hidden so that he was not slain, and in the parallel Athaliah was to be slain. but not in the house of YHWH. In ‘c’ the king’s son was hidden and Athaliah ruled over the land, and in the parallel the king’s son was revealed and Athaliah tore her clothes and cried ‘treason’. In ‘d’ the king’s son was shown to the reliable king’s bodyguard, and in the parallel the king’s son was protected by the bodyguard in order to be shown to the people. In ‘e’ Jehoiada gave his instructions to the bodyguard, and in the parallel those instructions were carried out. Centrally in ‘f’ the king’s son was to be protected at all times.
2.11.1 ‘Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal seed.’
When Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, Ahaziah’s mother, learned that Ahaziah had been slain by Jehu, she determined to usurp the throne of Judah, and set about destroying all the seed royal. Had she succeeded the house of David would have been no more. It is clear from this that she had her own band of loyal supporters in Judah, many of whom would have come with her from Israel, certainly sufficient to subdue all opposition with no rival contender appearing to challenge her. As the queen mother she held a respected position, and there appeared to be no one who could claim to oppose her.
Athaliah was a worshipper of Baal and had set up a Temple of Baal in Jerusalem. Her usurpation of the throne was thus a momentous occasion for Judah, for it continued and extended the influence of Ahaziah who had promoted Baal worship (8.27). With the house of David having apparently ceased things were looking black for Yahwism. That she was not, however popular comes out in the sequel. Her most fervent opponents would be the priests and Levites of YHWH and the landed gentry of Judah who had been largely unaffected by the trend towards Baalism in Jerusalem and other ‘Canaanite’ cities.
The prophetic author’s derisory view of Athaliah is brought out by the fact that she has no opening or closing formula applied to her. She is seen as a blip in the succession rather than as an integral part of it. She was, of course, not of the house of David.
2.11.2 ‘But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were slain, even him and his nurse, and put them in the bedchamber, and they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not slain.’
What, however, she was not aware of was that Ahaziah’s sister, Jehosheba, a daughter of the deceased king Jehoram of Judah, had been able to steal away Ahaziah’s infant son Joash, and along with his nurse, hide him in a bedchamber in the palace, with the result that he was not slain. He was then subsequently secretly transferred to the Temple precincts where he was watched over by Jehoiada the Priest (High Priest). From 2 Chronicles 22.11 we learn that Jehosheba was in fact the wife of Jehoiada. Through her YHWH had watched over the house of David and had ensured its continuation as He had promised (2 Samuel 7).
2.11.3 ‘And he was with her hidden in the house of YHWH six years. And Athaliah reigned over the land.’
The fact that Jehosheba was Jehoiada’s wife explains why she was able to remain in the Temple precincts without arousing suspicion, and why she was able to keep the growing son of Ahaziah hidden there, presumably in the High Priest’s residence, or, as Josephus hazarded, in a store room of the Temple. He was kept there for six years, along with his nurse, and meanwhile Athaliah reigned over the land. But she was clearly not popular, being seen as a foreign usurper and a Baalite, and being able to continue her reign only as a result of her own armed supporters and in view of the fact that she had had the status of queen mother, with no Davidic contender for the throne visible. The fact that she was so easily overthrown brings out her underlying unpopularity, especially once a son of David appeared.
2.11.4 ‘And in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the commanders over hundreds of the Carites (or ‘piercers, executioners’) and of the guard, and brought them to him into the house of YHWH, and he made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of YHWH, and showed them the king’s son.’
In the seventh year after the coup, Joash being seven years old (verse 21), Jehoiada felt that it was time to act. Calling to him those commanders whom he knew to be loyal Davidides and Yahwists, probably therefore those over the temple guards (who would be Levites and could be relied on), he took an oath of secrecy from them and then showed them the king’s son in the Temple. Their ready acceptance might suggest that when the king’s sons were born they were marked with an identifying tattoo, which was shown to them. Alternately the testimony of the nurse and of Jehosheba, supported by the reputation of Jehoiada, may have been accepted. The ‘hundreds’ (military units) of the Carites (or ‘executioners’) have been seen as:
‘The guard’ were presumably the Temple guard who would all be Levites. The royal bodyguard would hardly be of such a nature as all to be trustworthy in such a delicate situation. The Temple guard would have numbered well over a thousand if we consider the fact that Solomon made three hundred shields to be borne by those on duty (1 Kings 10.17). When they were in use there would be those who were off duty, and even then not all on duty would have been among those who bore the shields as there would still be other guard duty to do.
2.11.5-6 ‘And he commanded them, saying, “This is the thing that you will do. A third part of you, who come in on the sabbath, will be keepers of the watch of the king’s house, and a third part will be at the gate Sur, and a third part at the gate behind the guard. So will you keep the watch of the house, and be a barrier.”
We are only given the bare bones of the plot, but we can be sure that it had been meticulously planned. It was probably timed to take place during a regular feast when crowds of people gathering to the Temple would not cause comment, and was clearly at the time of the changing of the Temple guard when movements in and out by armed guards would be expected. Others, however, who were not of the Temple guard going on and off duty, (the latter being able to move in and out armed as they commenced or finished duty), had to enter the Temple without weapons and be supplied with weapons in the Temple area (verse 10), because for them to enter the Temple armed would have been seen as suspicious.
The instructions in this verse were for the incoming Temple guards. These were those who came into the Temple on the Sabbath in order to begin their period of duty, clearly in this case more than usual because of what was anticipated (proved by the fact that they made up three companies), but not sufficiently more to arouse suspicions (no one would be counting but the numbers would have to be kept within bounds). Of these one third were to guard the house where the king was residing, one third were to guard the gate Sur, and one third were to be at the gate of the keepers. Their joint responsibility was to watch over the house where the king was in residence, and to be ready for any armed opponents who might try to enter the Temple by the gates mentioned in order to attack the king.
‘The gate Sur.’ Many suggestions have been made concerning the meaning of ‘Sur’ but all are guesses and unreliable. We must take this as simply one of the names used of the gate in question.
2.11.7 ‘And the two companies of you, even all who go forth on the sabbath, will keep the watch of the house of YHWH about the king.”
Meanwhile those who were preparing to go ‘off duty’ would not actually do so, but would act as further guards in the Temple so as directly to protect the king. Of these guards, (whose numbers had not been deliberately increased because they had been on duty all week), there were only two companies, composed of the alternating guard duties.
2.11.8 “And you shall surround the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand, and he who comes within the ranks, let him be slain. And be you with the king when he goes out, and when he comes in.”
When the king was brought out for his coronation their responsibility would be to surround the king with their weapons at the ready and to ensure that any who sought to break their ranks would be killed instantly. They would go with him into the Temple, and out again once the proceedings were over, guarding him at all times. There could be no slip up. His life as a Davidide was paramount.
Others see ‘the ranks’ as referring to the ranks of pillars in the colonnades of the Temple.
2.11.9 ‘And the commanders over hundreds did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they took every man his men, those who were to come in on the sabbath, with those who were to go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.’
The commanders over these military units did precisely as Jehoiada had commanded, both those who were over the guards who were coming on duty, and those who were over those going off duty.
2.11.10 ‘And the priest delivered to the commanders over hundreds the spears and shields that had been king David’s, which were in the house of YHWH.’
It would appear from this that Temple guards who were not of those going on and off duty were also introduced into the Temple, probably along with other selected loyal troops, but as ordinary unarmed citizens so as not to arouse suspicion. As a result they had to be provided with arms after entering the Temple and this was accomplished by calling on the spears and shields which had been King David’s and which were clearly stored there. These would be special shields and spears which had originally been sanctified for use within the actual Temple and were kept in the Temple store. They would have been used in the sanctuary in the time of David and Solomon, while the Temple was being built, although later being partly replaced by the golden ceremonial shields of Solomon. When Solomon replaced them with his shields of gold the old sanctified spears and shields were presumably stored away in the Temple, because being ‘sanctified’ they had to remain in the Temple area. And even when the shields of gold (later replaced by shields of bronze) were used spears would presumably be required. These ancient shields and spears now proved useful on this occasion. We have no grounds for denying that such had been supplied by David to Solomon in readiness for the building of the Temple, in the same way as he supplied much else.
The word for ‘spear’ is in the singular but connected with shields is probably to be seen as a composite term signifying all the spears (it is plural in 2 Chronicles 23.9). Others see it as David’s spear of authority (compare how Saul constantly carried a spear of authority), in other words that Jehoiada was giving them authority from David to act. This then being connected with ‘shields’ denoted all the Davidic weapons.
2.11.11 ‘And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the right side of the house to the left side of the house, along by the altar and the house, by the king and round about him.’
The result was that there were armed guards everywhere, assembled without the least suspicion, and all stood ready with their weapons in their hands, both to the right side of the Temple and to the left side of the Temple, and along by the altar and the sanctuary, and at the king’s side and around the king himself as he was brought out.
2.11.12 ‘Then he brought out the king’s son, and put the crown on him, and gave him the testimony, and they made him king, and anointed him, and they clapped their hands, and said, “Long live the king.” ’
Then the event took place that most present could only have dreamed of. A genuine heir of the house of David was ‘brought out’, and was crowned in accordance with the customs prevailing in Judah;
The lack of opposition may have had much to do with the impressive array of armed guards, but it also betokened the fact that rather than being dismayed the ‘common people’ present, who to some extent may have been carefully ‘selected’, were delighted.
Note the centrality of the Testimony, which represented the whole Law of Moses, the reading and observance of which was the duty of the king (Deuteronomy 17.18-19). The Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, which contained ‘the ten words’ written on stone, was also called ‘the Ark of the Testimony’ (Exodus 25.16-22; 26.33-34; 30.6, 26; 31.7; 39.35; 40.3, 5, 20, 21; Numbers 4.5; 7.89; Joshus 4.16). 1 Kings 8.9 confirms that the covenant tablets were there in the time of Solomon.
2.11.13-14 ‘And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the house of YHWH, and she looked, and, behold, the king stood by the pillar, as the manner was, and the commanders and the rams’ horns by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew rams’ horns. Then Athaliah tore her clothes, and cried, “Treason! treason!” ’
On hearing the cries of acclamation in the Temple Athaliah was concerned to discover the cause of it, and came from the palace into the Temple, no doubt accompanied by armed attendants. She must have been totally without suspicion to arrive in the way that she did, and must equally have been totally taken aback when she discovered there a boy wearing a crown, standing by the coronation pillar (or the recognised ‘king’s pillar’. Compare ‘the station of the king’ in the temple of Amun in Egypt), and being hailed by the commanders of the guard and all the people present, with loud cries of acclamation and the blowing of rams’ horns. And surrounded by a large number of armed men. Indeed she was so taken aback that she tore her clothes and cried out in alarm, ‘treason, treason’. She was furious. She had felt safe to come there because she had known the Temple guard were there, and she just could not believe that the whole of the Temple guard had turned against her. After all they had always treated her with the greatest of respect. (Had she realised the true position earlier she could have withdrawn quietly and waited until she could round up her own loyal supporters and call out the royal bodyguard, but she had acted on impulse and presumably could not believe that this was happening to her until it was too late).
Some see two sources intermingled, one of which emphasised the guard and the other the people, but the grounds for the distinction in this case are very flimsy. The movement is naturally from ‘the guard’ who were watching over the king until he was crowned, to ‘the people’ who had acclaimed his coronation. The commanders are prominent throughout.
2.11.15 ‘And Jehoiada the priest commanded the commanders of hundreds who were set over the host, and said to them, “Have her forth between the ranks, and him who follows her slay with the sword.” For the priest said, “Let her not be slain in the house of YHWH.” ’
Then Jehoiada commanded the commanders of hundreds who were over the host of guards gathered there (or the commanders of hundreds who had been given responsibility for crowd control and were therefore seen as ‘over the host’) to expel her from the Temple between the ranks of guards, and once she was outside the Temple area to slay her, because it was not fitting that blood be shed in this way in the house of YHWH. She was to be slain with the sword because, while worthy of death and a murderess and usurper, she was of royal blood and had not committed offences for which she should be stoned.
2.11.16 ‘So they made way for her, and she went by the way of the horses’ entry to the king’s house, and there she was slain.’
So the ranks opened up for her and she was led out by way of the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was executed. (This entrance was in contrast to ‘the gate of the guard to the king’s house’ in verse 19 which was the way by which the king would enter the palace complex). The execution may not necessarily have taken place immediately, although it would be vital for it to be accomplished before her supporters could rally round. It may have awaited the cessation of the coronation celebrations so as not to mar the event. On the other hand, the danger of news slipping out and causing a counter-movement would have rendered it necessary as soon as possible.
The horse gate was at the rear of the palace (23.11; Jeremiah 31.40; Nehemiah 3.28). That she had to use this gate indicated that she was no longer seen as queen. It may therefore be that she was slain in the palace stables.
Athaliah having been disposed of, and the Davidic king having been restored and crowned, we now have a summary of the events that immediately followed, commencing with the renewing of the covenants, and the consequent extirpation of Baalism, and culminating in a reference to the enthronement of the Davidic king. These are not necessarily in chronological order. Rather they bring out the three necessary elements to the full restoration of Judah, the renewing of the covenants with YHWH which was the first essential step, the necessarily following destruction of the sanctuary of Baal and execution of its high priest, and the final enthroning of Joash on the official throne of David in accordance with YHWH’s covenant with the house of David, which is the highlighted feature of the whole passage.
Note that in ‘a’ the king’s position is settled between him and YHWH and him and the people, and in the parallel he commenced to reign. In ‘b’ the people of the land destroyed the symbols of Baalism and in the parallel they had destroyed Athaliah, and they rejoiced and rejoiced and were quiet. Centrally in ‘c’ the Davidic heir was enthroned on the throne of the kings.
2.11.17 ‘And Jehoiada made a covenant between YHWH and the king and the people, that they should be YHWH’s people, between the king also and the people.’
In very abbreviated form we learn that Jehoiada re-established the sacred covenants; the sacred covenant of YHWH with the Davidic house, ‘YHWH and the king’ (2 Samuel 7.8-16), the sacred covenant of YHWH with the people, (including the king), ‘YHWH --- and the people’ (Exodus 20.2-17), and the political (although still sacred) covenant between king and people, ‘between king also and people’. The kingdom had returned to YHWH on the basis of the covenants of YHWH.
Such a renewing of the covenant on important occasions can be paralleled in 23.3; Deuteronomy 5.1 ff; Joshua 8.30-35; 24.2-25; 2 Samuel 5.3 with 1 Chronicles 11.3; 2 Chronicles 29.3 ff). It was an essential part of returning to the true worship of YHWH. By it the people were acknowledging YHWH as their sole God and Overlord, and their responsibility to be His holy people and observe His laws and commandments.
2.11.18 ‘And all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and broke it down. His altars and his images they broke in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of YHWH.’
Then the freemen of Israel, the landed gentry and freeholders in contrast with the city bureaucrats, went to the hated house of Baal and tore it down. They were dethroning Baal. They broke in pieces his altars and his images. And they slew Mattan, the high priest of Baal in Jerusalem, before those altars (the term High Priest is found at Ugarit)). This was, of course, a necessary consequence of the official renewing of the covenants, and with the people in control, supported by the Temple guard, the followers of Baal remained quiet. The will of the people was conclusive. (The incidents are in topical order rather than in chronological order. This would chronologically probably follow the enthronement of the king).
Mattan was a common Israelite name (a shortened form of Mattaniah) and is testified to by a seal at Lachish. It means simply ‘gift’. (It may here signify ‘gift (of Baal)’, Mattaniah meaning ‘gift of YHWH’).
2.11.19 ‘And he took the commanders over hundreds, and the Carites, and the guard, and all the people of the land, and they brought down the king from the house of YHWH, and came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings.’
Meanwhile those who had been involved in the coronation, the commanders of military units, the elite units of Temple executioners (the Carites), and the general Temple guard, together with the ‘people of the land’ brought the king down from the house of YHWH, and came by the gate of the guard to the palace which was now once more the king’s house, and there he was officially seated on ‘the throne of kings’, the Davidic throne. The lack of interference by, or even cooperation of, the royal bodyguard and the standing army suggest that they too were ready to support Yahwism and the people. Athaliah had had few real friends
2.11.20 ‘So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet. And they had slain Athaliah with the sword at the king’s house.’
The city was now filled with rejoicing by ‘the people of the land’, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who could be expected to be more tied to the reigning monarch, themselves remained quiet and peaceful. Athaliah was dead, slain with the sword at the entrance to the palace, and it would appear that few mourned her passing (again the order is not chronological).
2.11.21 ‘Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign.’
And the final result was that Jehoash commenced his reign at the age or seven years old. But it was not his age that mattered, it was that he was the true heir to the throne of David.
Note how this note has been removed from the opening formula that follows and has been placed here in order to conclude this subsection. He had already begun to reign.
The Reign Of Jehoash (Joash) King Of Judah c. 835-796 BC (2.12.1-21).
As usual the prophetic author has been extremely selective in what material he has used. His concern was with response or otherwise to YHWH, not with general history. Thus after the usual initial summary in which he gave Jehoash qualified approval while Jehoiada was still alive (as so often he does not explain the qualification but leaves us to make what we an of the hint), he first explained the way in which the Temple was restored after its years of neglect and mistreatment by Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah, and went on to indicate how later Jehoash split with the priests (presumably once Jehoiada’s influence had declined), and took over the arrangements for the maintenance of the Temple. He then finished off with a description of how the accumulated wealth of Judah finally passed into foreign hands, and how Jehoash was assassinated. We are left to draw the conclusion that in the later years of his reign Jehoash had made himself liable to God’s judgment.
The denuding of the state of its treasures was a common way in which the author indicated that all was not quite right with what were, in some cases, otherwise to be seen as ‘good’ kings as far as Yahwism was concerned. Compare verse 18 with 14.14; 18.15; 1 Kings 15.18; and see also 16.8; 24.13; 1 Kings 14.6. It is only when we turn to Chronicles that we discover the details of the failures that lay behind what happened to these ‘good’ kings.
Note that in ‘a’ we are told about Jehoash’s reign and its commencement, and in the parallel of its cessation. In ‘b’ we learn of Jehoash’s behaviour and in the parallel are referred for further details to the annals of the kings of Judah. In ‘c’ all the hallowed things are brought into YHWH’s house and wealth built up there, and in the parallel YHWH’s house is denuded of its hallowed things and of its wealth. In ‘d’ there were still breaches in the house of YHWH, and in the parallel Hazael sets his face to breach the walls of Jerusalem. In ‘e’ the priests were to take no more money from either their fellow-priests or the people, and in the parallel the money for the trespass and sin offerings was for the priests. In ‘f’ money was brought into the house of YHWH, and in the parallel that money was handed out to faithful men who did the work. In ‘g’ when sufficient money had been accumulated it was counted and bagged, and in the parallel it was not used for any purpose other than the repairing of the house of YHWH. Centrally in ‘h’ the money was paid out to those who repaired the breaches in the house of YHWH.
2.12.1 ‘In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba.’
Jehoash (also called Joash) began to reign over in the seventh year of Jehu. Had it been reckoned as was customary in Judah that would have been six years (excluding the accession year). Thus Jehoash, being seven years old, was born before Jehu came to the throne. Jehoash then reigned for forty years, and yet we are told little about his reign. The prophetic history was only interested in the activity which demonstrated his attitude and behaviour with regard to YHWH. It is a reminder to us that that is also what God is concerned about with us. Forty years slipped by and in the end he had accomplished little that according to the prophetic author was worth recording. Will it be the same with us?
The name of the Queen Mother was Zibiah (gazelle) of Beersheba, a marriage which had strengthened the previous kings’ hold over the Negeb through which there were important trade routes.
2.12.2 ‘And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of YHWH all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.’
Approval for Jehoash is qualified. The prophetic author often gives us a disquietening hint and then leaves us to work it out. (He did it regularly in the case of Solomon). In this case it was that he did right in the eyes of YHWH all the while that Jehoiada was instructing him. This hint is expanded on when he gives details of the judgments that fell on Jehoash towards the end of his reign. We are left to gather that once Jehoiada’s influence had been removed Jehoash was unfaithful to YHWH (something confirmed in 2 Chronicles 24).
2.12.3 ‘However the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’
However, even in the best days there was still a failing, for no great effort was made to remove the many high places where the people themselves sacrificed and offered incense. It was a natural but dangerous procedure for the people who lived at some distance from the Temple or other official high place, to make use of the ancient sanctuaries which had been set up from of yore in the hills for the worship of the ancient gods. They felt that they had a certain sanctity, and using such sanctuaries gave them an opportunity to personally express their faith. In many cases they were genuinely seeking to worship YHWH, but using the old sanctuaries was dangerous, both because they contained symbols of the old gods which could easily then be incorporated into their worship (the pillars and the Asherah poles/images), and also because they then absorbed the ideas associated with them, ideas which had already been the ruin of Israel. It was so easy to think of Baal (meaning ‘lord’) in terms of YHWH. (See Hosea 2.16).
2.12.4-5 ‘And Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the hallowed things which is brought into the house of YHWH, in current money, the money of the persons for whom each man is rated, and all the money that it comes into any man’s heart to bring into the house of YHWH, let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance, and they shall repair the breaches of the house, wherever any breach shall be found.” ’
We are not told at what stage in his reign Jehoash took an interest in the repair of the Temple and decided that it had to be borne by the people rather than by the royal treasury. The Temple had been allowed to fall to some extent into disrepair by Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah even though the first two had, as was customary, laid up treasures in it. They had been more interested in the prosperity and welfare of the temple of Baal, and had stripped the Temple in order to embellish Baal’s temple (2 Chronicles 24.7). And it was only too easy for even the most orthodox priests of YHWH to feel the sanctity of the ancient building and thus be hesitant about ‘modernising’ it. As verse 6 speaks of the twenty third year of his reign we probably have to think in terms of half way through his reign when he would still only be around twenty eight.
So Jehoash decided that something definitely had to be done about the Temple, but not from the royal treasury. It was the general custom among kings of those days to maintain the temples of their gods, and the Temple in Jerusalem was to some extent the king’s chapel (he had his own private way into it), so that this was unusual. We may well see this as the first sign of his spiritual decline. He thus commanded that the priests be given the funds pouring into the Temple from the ‘holy offerings’. These included anything ‘devoted’ to YHWH, moneys collected from the people for the specific purpose of repairing the Temple (1 Chronicles 24.5-6) through the possibly previously neglected yearly poll tax (Exodus 30.11-16), the votive offerings paid according to age and sex (Leviticus 37), and the freewill and thanksgiving offerings. The aim was for these to be used to finance the repairing of the breaches in the Temple.
Although the term ‘money’ is used in translations, and has been used here, it should be recognised that this term is not strictly correct. At this time coins had not been invented, and payments were made in gold and silver and by barter. Thus ‘current money’ does not mean ‘current coin’ for there was none. Rather it refers to gifts of silver, gold, bronze, etc. brought in at the current time.
‘Let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance (or business assessor).’ The idea here is that the priests had overall responsibility for the moneys, and were also to use it for repairing the building. It was thus to be passed to priests by priests. Alternately, and more probably, the word for ‘acquaintance’ (makkaro) may be translated ‘business assessor’ on the basis of the Akkadian makaru. Compare how the mkrm are listed at Ugarit along with the priests and other temple personnel. Their main continuing responsibility in the Temple was probably the assessing of the value of sacrificial animals and various offerings.
2.12.6 ‘But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house.’
But in the twenty third year of his reign it came to Jehoash’s attention that the Temple was still not being properly maintained, and that there were still ‘breaches in the house’. The failure may have been because of their reverence for the building as it was (they may have considered that they had done what repairs were strictly necessary and that to do more would desecrate the Temple), or it may have been because they considered their ritual duties more important than repairing even an old and revered building, or it may have been simply due to negligence or ignorance, or even to embezzlement. Whichever way it was they were called to account.
2.12.7 ‘Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and for the other priests, and said to them, “Why do you not repair the breaches of the house? Now therefore take no more money from your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house.” ’
Jehoash therefore called to him ‘the Priest’ Jehoiada, and the other priests and asked them why they had not seen to the proper repair of the Temple. Then he commanded that the priests were no longer to take money from Temple funds in order to repair the Temple, but should deliver it to those who would see to it that the work was done properly (appointed by the palace).
2.12.8 ‘And the priests consented that they should take no more money from the people, nor repair the breaches of the house.’
This was agreed on by the priests who consented to the fact that they should no more take funds from the people, nor be responsible for repairing the Temple building.
2.12.9 ‘But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in its lid, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of YHWH, and the priests who kept the threshold put in it all the money which was brought into the house of YHWH.’
Then Jehoiada made a large collection chest, and bored a hole in its lid, so that any ‘moneys’ being brought to the house of YHWH by the Levites on their annual collection of the poll tax, and any other ‘monetary’ gifts or payments by people paying their poll tax at the Temple, could be put into it. And ‘the priests who kept the threshold’ (see 2 Chronicles 24.8) ensured that all the funds accumulated were put into the chest. This collection chest was seemingly placed in the court of the Temple near the entrance but on the right hand side of the altar. (‘Beside’ can vary in meaning depending on the context and does not require close proximity. Consider its use for example in Judges 19.14 (‘by Gibeah’), 1 Samuel 5.2 (‘by Dagon’ where there was room for Dagon to fall before the Ark); 1 Samuel 20.41 (‘towards the south’); 1 Kings 1.9, (a stone ‘by en-Rogel’); 1 Kings 4.12; 21.1 (a vineyard ‘hard by the palace of Ahab’). In none of these cases does it mean literally ‘beside’).
‘The priests who guarded the threshold.’ These were three in number (25.18) and were important Temple personnel. See Jeremiah 52.24 where they are mentioned along with the chief priest and the second priest. Their responsibility was to ensure non-intrusion into the Temple by unauthorised people, e.g. foreigners, ‘unclean’ people, etc.
2.12.10 ‘And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they bagged (literally ‘wrapped’ or ‘poured out’) and counted the money that was found in the house of YHWH.’
Once the offerings in the chest had accumulated sufficiently, and they saw how much there was in the chest, the king’s scribe and the high priest came up and put it in bags and assessed the silver that had been put in the chest and was thus ‘found in the house of YHWH’. Alternately it may signify that they turned it into ingots (poured it out) and assessed it.
There is a rare mention here of ‘the Priest’ as ‘the high priest’. But it was necessary in order to parallel ‘the king’s scribe’, so that there could be no doubt as to who was in mind (the leading priest), and the title also appears in Numbers 35.25, 28 where again it was required so that there should be no doubt that ‘the Priest’ i.e. the primary priest, was meant. There is no reason for doubting its use at an early stage because it was also a title for the leading priest at Ugarit. Indeed most nations had their ‘high priest’.
2.12.11-12 ‘And they gave the money which was weighed out into the hands of those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of YHWH, and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders, who wrought on the house of YHWH, and to the masons and the hewers of stone, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the breaches of the house of YHWH, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it.’
The ‘money’ was then given to those who oversaw the work who accordingly paid the skilled workmen who worked on the house of YHWH and also bought any necessary materials. Notice that it was ‘weighed out’. It was not in coinage. The skilled workmen included carpenters, builders, masons and stone-workers.
2.12.13-14 ‘But there were not made for the house of YHWH cups of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of YHWH, for they gave that to those who did the work, and repaired therewith the house of YHWH.’
The ‘money’ was all used for building and repair work. None was used to make the required accessories required in the Temple such as the silver cups, the snuffers, the basins, the trumpets, and the vessels of gold and silver. It was used strictly for its correct purpose.
2.12.15 ‘Moreover they did not make a reckoning with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to give to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully.’
Nor were the overseers required to make a reckoning, because it was recognised that they dealt honestly and fairly. This may be intended to contrast with how the priests had previously acted, but not necessarily. It may just have been a commendation of the overseers.
2.12.16 The money for the guilt-offerings, and the money for the sin-offerings, was not brought into the house of YHWH. It was the priests.’
‘However, the ‘money’ in respect of guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the house of YHWH and put in the chest. That was for the priests. Offerings equivalent to guilt offerings and sin offerings were also evidenced at Ugarit where there was also a complicated ritual system. The difference lay in their interpretation and application.
For references to the sin offerings see Leviticus 4-5; Micah 6.7. Compare also Exodus 29.14, 36; 30.10; 32.30-34; 34.7-9; regularly in Leviticus and Numbers. For reference to the guilt offerings see Leviticus 5-7; 14.13-28; 19.21-22; Numbers 5.7-8; 6.12; 18.9; Isaiah 53.10 and compare 1 Samuel 6.3, 4, 8, 17. The latter had mainly in mind cases where restitution was possible (see Leviticus 5).
So the work went on and the Temple was repaired and then constantly maintained. Jehoram’s reign seemed to be providing a bright spot in Judah’s history. But, alas, once Jehoiada was removed from having direct influence over him Jehoash appears to have fallen into evil ways (see 2 Chronicles 22.10-24.27) with the result that judgments came on him. The prophetic author does not bring out the detail. He expects us to recognise that something was wrong when he mentions these judgments. The first judgment was the invasion by Hazael, king of Aram, which caused all the treasures of Judah to vanish into the coffers of Aram, and the second was Jehoash’s assassination.
2.12.17 ‘Then Hazael king of Aram went up, and fought against Gath, and took it, and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.’
We have already come across Hazael’s depredations on Israel. But he looked wider than that and also raided Philistia, where he besieged Gath and took it. His aim was possibly to secure the trade routes so important to Aram, and as always to obtain booty. Then he decided that his victorious army should invade Jerusalem. This was ‘the city which God had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there, i.e. as His prime Sanctuary’, and what, of course, Jehoash should have done was seek to YHWH for deliverance. But instead of that he bought Hazael off. Such was his spiritual deterioration.
2.12.18 ‘And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold which was found in the treasures of the house of YHWH, and of the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Aram, and he went away from Jerusalem.’
He did what some of his ancestors had done before him. He took all the treasures accumulated in Judah, both the hallowed things and the gold stored in the Temple and the treasures and hallowed things in his own palace and store rooms, and sent them to Hazael in return for immunity from invasion. The denuding of the state of its treasures was a common way in which the prophetic author indicated that all was not quite right with what were, in some cases, otherwise to be seen as ‘good’ kings as far as Yahwism was concerned. Compare verse 18 with 14.14; 18.15; 1 Kings 15.18. See also 16.8; 24.13; 1 Kings 14.6 where it happened to ‘bad kings’. It is only when we turn to Chronicles that we discover the details of the failures that lay behind what happened to these ‘good’ kings. The author of Kings expects us to take the hint, without spelling it out.
‘All the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated.’ In the case of Jehoshaphat they had been dedicated to YHWH, but in the cases of Jehoram and Ahaziah they may have been dedicated to Baal, although political expediency may have required some to be deposited in the Temple. We should note that the emphasis is not on the loss of the Temple treasures as such, but on the loss of all the treasures of Judah.
2.12.19 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’
Having dealt with the primary religious aspects of his reign the prophetic author now refers us for general details to the official annals of the kings of Judah. He was not interested in history for its own sake.
2.12.20-21 ‘And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy, and smote Joash at the house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Silla. For Jozacar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, smote him, and he died, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned instead of him.’
But YHWH’s final anger against Jehoash (Joash) was revealed in that he allowed him to be assassinated. Some of those who served him entered into a conspiracy against him, and the two assassins, Jozacar and Jehozabad, slew him. This took place while he was in his bed (2 Chronicles 24.25) at the house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Shur. Again the prophetic author expects us to gather that he had offended YHWH. In context this was because he had not looked to YHWH rather than to bribes for deliverance when Hazael threatened Jerusalem. But Chronicles adds the extra feature that Jehoash had arranged for the slaying of Zechariah, the son of his mentor Jehoiada, while he was protesting and prophesying in the Temple at the deterioration in the obedience of the people to YHWH (2 Chronicles 24.19-22).
‘The house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Silla.’ This is unidentified but was probably a garrison which he was visiting and sleeping at to his cost. The fact that it happened in such a way that he was replaced by his son, suggests widespread feeling against him. He was buried ‘with his fathers in the city of David’, but not in the royal tomb (2 Chronicles 24.25), and was replaced by his son Amaziah. The important thing as a member of the Davidic house was to be buried in the city of David.
The Reign Of Jehoahaz, King of Israel (814/13-798 BC).
On the death of Jehu, his son Jehoahaz ascended the throne of Israel. It was at a time when Assyria had not troubled the area for many years, and were being kept busy elsewhere with attacks on its north-west and eastern frontiers, having previously put down a great revolt in Nineveh and other important centres (mentioned in the Eponym Chronicle - 827-822 BC). Thus there was no restraint on the now powerful kingdom of Aram, and they took advantage of it to pulverise a now weak Israel (weakened by Jehu’s purges) over a number of years. It was a shortsighted policy, for by diminishing the military power of Israel they were rendering helpless a possible ally who in the time of Ahab had been able to supply two thousand chariots in the alliance against Assyria. Now Israel was to be reduced to ten chariots which were probably mainly for ceremonial occasions. They would be able to provide no assistance if ever Assyria invaded again.
And invade they did, for things had got to such a pass that Jehoahaz turned helplessly to YHWH, and YHWH heard him, with the result that in 804 BC Aram found itself trying and failing in an attempt to keep back the might of Assyria (see note on Hazael above, after 2.10.36). YHWH had raised up an unlikely ‘Saviour’, and the consequence was that Aram was in itself pulverised and Israel were for a while left unmolested, even if almost unable to defend themselves. Assyrian records suggest that Israel were paying ‘heavy tribute’ to Assyria.
Note that in ‘a’ Jehoahaz began to reign, and in the parallel he slept with his fathers and his son reigned instead of him. In ‘b’ he did evil in the sight of YHWH and in the parallel his acts can be found in the official annals of the kings of Israel. In ‘c’ Israel were subjected to Aram for a long time, and in the parallel they ended up almost defenceless. In ‘d’ Jehoahaz turned to YHWH in a prayer for help, and in the parallel he nevertheless continued to walk in his sins. Centrally in ‘e’ YHWH raised up a saviour for His people enabling the to live quietly and at peace.
2.13.1 ‘In the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years.’
Jehoahaz’ reign is described in the usual terms dated on the basis of the corresponding king of Judah, coming to the throne in the twenty third year of Joash of Judah.. The one year discrepancy with 12.1 is explicable in terms of the different methods of assessing reigns in Israel and Judah already described. Jehoahaz reigned for seventeen years. In 13.10 Jehoahaz’s son began to reign in the thirty seventh year of Joash (Jehoash) king of Judah, but according to the figures here it should have been in the thirty ninth/fortieth year (23+17). This suggests that Joash had two/three years co-regency.
2.13.2 ‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin. He did not depart from them.’
He also continued in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, supporting the sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan with their syncretistic Yahwism. The activities of Jehu had not led to a return to pure Yahwism, and unofficial worship was still taking place at high places around the country.
2.13.3 ‘And the anger of YHWH was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Aram (Syria), and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael, continually.’
We are reminded here that any invasion is seen by the prophetic author as an indication of YHWH’s anger. Were YHWH not angry He could in one way or another have ensured that it did not happen. The consequence of YHWH’s anger at Israel’s disobedience to His covenant resulted in a number of Aramaean invasions by Hazael and his son Benhadad (acting as Hazael’s commander-in-chief) in which Israel were badly mauled. Indeed we learn later that as well as being unable to recover Transjordan from Hazael (see 10.32-33), he also lost a number of cities to him west of Jordan (13.25).
2.13.4 ‘And Jehoahaz besought YHWH, and YHWH listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how that the king of Aram oppressed them.’
In the end Jehoahaz turned in his extremity to YHWH in genuine prayer from the heart. And the result was that YHWH, who could see Israel’s suffering at the hands of the king of Aram, listened to him and responded to his prayer.
2.13.5 ‘And YHWH gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Aramaeans (Syrians), and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as previously.’
And in consequence of Jehoahaz’s prayer YHWH gave Israel a saviour who removed the burden of the Aramaeans from them so that the children of Israel were able to dwell peaceably. ‘In their tents’ is a technical description signifying in their homes (brought forward from their wilderness experience). They no longer had to continually flee into the mountains or otherwise be driven from their homes by the Aramaean incursions. (Although we learn from Assyrian inscriptions that out of gratitude for this deliverance they paid tribute to Assyria).
‘Gave Israel a saviour.’ This probably refers to the successive invasions of Aram by Adad-nirari III of Assyria whereby the power of Aram was for a time broken. In 804 BC the Assyrians recorded victories over Hazael of Aram (under his Aramaic name of Mari) whereby the cities of Aram were crushed one by one so that in the end Hazael had to surrender in Damascus and pay heavy tribute, although Damascus was never taken. A further invasion by Adad-nirari in the days of Benhadad III added to their miseries, and to a further weakening of their power. Being defeated by the merciless Assyrians not only meant great loss of wealth, but also resulted in huge loss of manpower and arms. This interpretation is confirmed by the wording ‘gave them a saviour’. To some extent this is based on the similar idea in Judges, but there the saviours were ‘raised up’ out of Israel (Judges 3.9, 15; compare 2.16, 18). Here the saviour was ‘given’ from outside.
Other saviours have been suggested such as Elisha on the basis of 13.14-20, Joash on the basis of verses 17, 19, 25, and even Jeroboam II on the basis of 14.27. But none of them really fit the situation unless we see the answer to prayer as very much delayed, which is not the impression we are given.
2.13.6 ‘Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, by which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them, and there remained the Asherah also in Samaria.’
But in spite of YHWH’s deliverance the people of Israel did not return to YHWH with a true heart. They continued in the ways of Jeroboam, worshipping at syncretistic sanctuaries run by false priests, something symbolised by the Asherah pole/image still remaining in Samaria, something which Jehu had apparently overlooked (compare 1 Kings 16.33). His main fury had been against Baal.
2.13.7 ‘For he left not to Jehoahaz of the people except for fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen, for the king of Aram destroyed them, and made them like the dust in threshing.’
For YHWH had through the depredations of the king of Aram reduced their armed forces to a pitiful remnant, with only fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten military units of footmen. If the footmen were not regular soldiers, but conscripts, then Israel’s fortunes had fallen very low indeed. The accumulated sins of Israel had reaped their reward. Compare Amos 4.10; 5.3. According to the Assyrian records, in the days of Ahab Israel had been able to field two thousand chariots and ten thousand footmen, but the latter had probably been trained soldiers rather than the militia. The pride of Israel had thus been reduced to a bunch of farmers.
‘Made them like the dust in threshing.’ In other words the remnants that were left when the good grain was removed.
2.13.8 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’
Once again we are referred to the official annals of the kings of Israel for further information about what happened during his reign. ‘His might’ simply means ‘the level of his strength’ and is part of the stereotyped formula. It is not an indication of great power at any stage. It was of a low level.
2.13.9 ‘And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria, and Joash his son reigned instead of him’
Jehoahaz appears to have died peacefully. He ‘slept with his fathers’ and was buried in Samaria. And his son Joash (or Jehoash) reigned instead of him (and this while Jehoash was reigning in Judah!).
The Reign Of Jehoash (Joash) King Of Israel c. 798-782/1 BC (2.13.10-14.15-16).
The reign of Jehoash, King of Israel presents us with another interesting literary phenomenon, for the author first presents us with a brief summary of Jehoash’s reign, ending in the usual closing formula (2.13.10-13), and then goes on to describe his presence at Elisha’s deathbed (2.13.14-21), and his successful wars with Benhadad of Aram (2.13.22-25) and with Amaziah king of Judah (2.14.8-14), before ending for a second time, although in slightly altered fashion, with a similar closing formula to that in 2.13.12-13 (2.14.15-16). In between all this he opens up the reign of Amaziah, king of Judah (2.14.1 ff), something which he does not normally do until he has closed down the reign of the king of Israel during whose reign he came to the throne (thus confirming that the first closing formula in 2.13.12-13 is deliberate).
It is clear from all this that the author has done all this deliberately:
Summary Of The Reign Of Jehoash (Joash) King of Israel (2.13.10-12).
Because the prophetic author wished to keep the episode concerning Elisha’s death outside the regular regnal pattern, the life of Jehoash of Israel is summed up and closed off in the usual way, although in very abbreviated form, before the description of Elisha’s final acts, and the opening of Amaziah’s reign then follows the Elisha incident. We can compare the same pattern with regard to chapter 2, where the taking of Elijah and the establishment of Elisha as his successor takes place after the closing of Ahaziah’s reign but before the opening of Jehoram’s. Furthermore we may also note the fact that Jehoram of Israel’s reign (3.1-9.26) which incorporates the other Elisha material was never itself closed off with a closing formula. This deliberate exclusion from the lives of the kings highlights the ‘otherness’ of the death scene of Elisha, and the fact of its heavenly connection.
Note that in ‘a’ we have the commencement of the reign and in the parallel the closure of the reign, and in ‘b’ the verdict on the reign and the behaviour of the king, and in the parallel reference to the annals of the kings of Israel for further details of the reign. Any central emphasis is deliberately left out, highlighting that what follows is outside the regnal pattern.
2.13.10 ‘In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years.’
Once again, as in the case of Jehoram (Joram), we have parallel kings of Israel and Judah with the same names, i.e. Jehoash/Joash. Jehoash of Israel will reign for sixteen years. The date here excludes Joash of Judah’s co-regency.
2.13.11 ‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH. He departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them.’
As with all the kings of Israel he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH because he made no attempt to return to orthodox Yahwism. Rather he maintained the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. That such a return would have been possible without focusing on Jerusalem comes out in that Elijah (and probably Elisha) were able to worship quite happily and in ‘orthodox’ fashion on Mount Carmel at ‘the altar of YHWH’ (1 Kings 18.30-32). As had happened with Samuel previously when the Tabernacle ceased to function special arrangements could have been made. And the result was that the covenant requirements as a whole were also ignored.
2.13.12 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, and his might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’
The author deliberately leaves out any mention of particular incidents during the reign prior to this because he wants us to recognise that the purpose of this summary is to emphasise the fact that what occurred on the deathbed of Elisha lay outside the regnal pattern. Thus he moves straight on to a reference to the official annals of the kings of Israel, although with a passing reference to his war with Amaziah king of Judah which will be dealt with shortly.
2.13.13 ‘And Joash slept with his fathers, and Jeroboam sat on his throne, and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.’
Two obvious changes are made to this closing formula. The first change is the unique reference to ‘sitting on his throne’. This may signify that Jeroboam he did it by determined effort as against other candidates, as in Assyrian annals. On the other hand 15.12 may suggest that the phrase highlights how long the dynasty of Jehu was lasting. In 14.16 we find he ‘reigned instead of him’ which is the usual phrase. The second change is the inclusion of ‘with the kings of Israel’, which only otherwise occurs in 14.16, 29, and indicates the continuing of a dynasty.
The Death Bed Of Elisha (2.13.14-20a).
As we have seen, in a similar way to chapter 2 this passage is deliberately put outside the regnal formulae, with Jehoash’s death coming before it and the commencement of Amaziah’s coming after it. Both the passage in chapter 2 and the passage here convey a ‘heavenly’ message (the presence of the fiery chariots and horses of YHWH acting on behalf of Israel) and may therefore be seen as a kind of inclusio of what lies between, covering the life of Elisha. Both passages emphasise Israel’s dependence on ‘the horses and chariots of Israel’, which represent the heavenly host who fight on Israel’s side when they are obedient to YHWH (6.17). It is reminding us that with the presence of Elisha and Elijah the power of YHWH of hosts had been at work on earth in a unique way, as their miracles demonstrate.
In the first passage (in chapter 2) the message was one of hope, with Elijah being taken and Elisha entering Israel over the miraculously parted Jordan and advancing on Jericho and Bethel to take possession of the land. Now that period is over and Elisha is dying, but he wants Jehoash to recognise that the future is still one of hope if only he will trust in YHWH, and he does it by vivid symbolism which indicates that the chariots and horsemen of Israel and the armoury of God (represented by the arrow of YHWH’s victory) will still be with them if they are faithful to YHWH.
The first act of symbolism in this passage is the firing of an arrow which is a symbol of YHWH’s coming victory over Aram. It is the arrow of YHWH’s victory. YHWH is still fighting on behalf of His people. In the second act of symbolism the king is told to strike the ground with the arrows, but because he only does it half-heartedly (three times) he learns that his success will also only be half-hearted. Rather he should have demonstrated his commitment by doing it five or six times. Then he would have been fully successful
Note that in ‘a’ Elisha was mortally ill, and in the parallel he died. In ‘b’ he called on the king to fire an arrow which was YHWH’s arrow of victory, and in the parallel he called on the king to strike the ground three times with the arrows, thus only ensuring three victories. Centrally in ‘c’ the arrow fired by the king was the arrow of YHWH’s victory over Aram.
2.13.14 ‘Now Elisha had fallen sick of his sickness of which he died, and Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over him, and he said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen.” ’
After a long life and a ministry of over fifty years Elisha was terminally ill, and as a result Joash (Jehoash) of Israel came down to see him. And when he came to Elisha’s bedside he wept at what it was going to mean for Israel. He recognised that in Elisha Israel were losing their most powerful weapon, for the king feared that with him the invisible fiery chariots and horses of YHWH would also depart (compare 6.17; 2.11-12). YHWH would no longer be with His people in the same way.
There is some disagreement about who said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen.” In 2.11-12 it had been Elisha. Here it could be either Elisha or the king. In 6.21 the king of Israel calls Elisha ‘my father’, which might be seen as favouring a similar situation here. But if it was the king he was clearly well versed in what had happened at the taking of Elijah and Elisha’s original call. This would then suggest the probability of an already existing prophetic writing. This would not be too surprising as we know that some of the prophets did leave their own narratives (e.g. Nathan the prophet; Ahijah the prophet; Iddo the seer - 2 Chronicles 9.29). But either way the significance is the same. Will the death of Elisha bring to an end YHWH’s activity on behalf of Israel?
2.13.15 ‘And Elisha said to him, “Take bow and arrows,” and he took to himself bow and arrows.’
Elisha’s reply was to tell him to take in his hands a bow and arrows, which he then did. The arrows were clearly visible to a king who probably was not spiritually attuned enough to see the chariots and horses of Israel (as he had demonstrated when he thought that they represented Elisha). Arrows were a vivid and well known symbol for the activity of YHWH. In Deuteronomy 32.23 we read, ‘I will heap evils on them, I will spend My arrows on them.’ In the Davidic Psalm 7.13 we read, ‘if a man does not repent God will whet His sword, He has bent and strung His bow, He has prepared His deadly weapons, making His arrows fiery shafts.’ In Psalm 45.5 we read, ‘your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies, the peoples fall under you.’ See also Psalms 18.14; 64.7; 77.17; 144.6; Lamentations 3.12-13; Zechariah 9.14. Thus Elisha was demonstrating that YHWH’s fiery arrows were still at the ready on behalf of Israel.
It is not correct to call this sympathetic magic. Elisha was not trying to influence YHWH. He was demonstrating to the king in vivid pictorial symbolism that YHWH was still at hand to work for him, as verse 17 specifically says. Compare how Jonathan similarly fired arrows in order to convey a message where there was no idea of sympathetic magic (1 Samuel 20.20-22). There is in fact no clear example of sympathetic magic in the Old Testament. It was very much a polytheistic idea. The vivid symbolism of the later prophets was not in order to influence YHWH, but was at YHWH’s command in order to bring home the message to the people. The same is true here.
2.13.16 ‘And he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow,” and he put his hand on it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands.’
By putting his hands on the king’s hands Elisha was demonstrating that even after his death his God would still be active on Israel’s behalf. This will later be emphasised by the raising of a man from the dead by contact with Elijah’s corpse. The death of Elisha would not be the death of YHWH’s active power.
2.13.17 ‘And he said, “Open the window eastwards,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “YHWH’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram, for you will smite the Aramaeans in Aphek, until you have consumed them.” ’
Notice the step by step description of what the king had to do. Elisha wanted the message to be firmly implanted in the king’s mind, and because the Aramaeans regularly invaded via Transjordan (over which they now held control) which was to the east of Samaria, Elisha arranged for the arrow to be fired eastwards. Then when the arrow had been despatched Elisha declared that it was the arrow of YHWH’s victory, even His victory over Aram. It was evidence that Joash of Israel would smite the Aramaeans at Aphek (Tel En Gev on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Compare 1 Kings 20.26 where the Aramaeans had previously invaded via Aphek) until he had consumed them. There were a number of Apheks, which simply means ‘fortress’, but everything points to this Aphek being in Transjordan.
Unlike the servant of Elisha previously (6.17), Elisha knew that the king was not spiritually attuned enough to see chariots and horses of fire at the ready to fight for Israel. Thus he gave him instead a visible sign of YHWH’s victory, one that he could understand and appreciate. And he was to see the arrows as the arrows of YHWH.
2.13.18 ‘And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck three times, and stopped.’
Then Elisha told the king to take the remaining arrows and to ‘strike the ground’ with them. Some consider that this was to be done by firing the arrows, with each arrow indicating a victory as it struck the ground. The idea would then appear to be that instead of firing all the arrows in the quiver he only selected three. He was simply going through the motions, not really getting involved in what YHWH wanted to do. This interpretation might appear to be supported by the normal use of the Hebrew verb which indicates ‘smite, slaughter’. Others consider that he was to hold them in his hand and strike the ground with them. Either way he only did it three times, even though it should have been obvious that it symbolised something of great importance. It was clear that he was obeying mechanically rather than thoughtfully and from his heart. He was not really convinced that YHWH would be active on his behalf, and was making no attempt to, as it were, get into YHWH’s mind. His heart was not in it.
2.13.19 ‘And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have smitten Aram until you had consumed it, whereas now you will smite Aram only three times.” ’
The king’s lack of enthusiasm angered Elisha, and in spite of his weak condition, he rebuked the king for his lethargy, because it had demonstrated his lack of trust in YHWH and his lack of desire to have for Him to get involved. He informed him that as a result of only striking three times he would only defeat the Aramaeans three times. Had he struck five or six times he would have smitten them until he had consumed them,
2.13.20a ‘And Elisha died, and they buried him.’
These were the king’s last dealings with Elisha before he died. We are not told how long Elisha survived after this, but eventually he expired and was buried. The glorious ministry of Elisha was apparently at an end. But that his powerful influence continued will now be remarkably illustrated. We are not to see the incident that follows as anything but a serious indication that the living God was still with Israel.
Joash Smites Aram Three Times As A Result Of YHWH Giving Israel New Strength, Raising Them As It Were, From The Dead (2.13.20b-25).
The parlous state of Israel at this time is demonstrated by the fact that Moabite roving bands were able to penetrate deep into Israelite territory. Israel in Transjordan was under the control of Benhadad III who had succeeded Hazael (10.32-33), and it would appear that he was allowing the Moabites free licence to rove there and attack Israel over the Jordan. Furthermore Benhadad also had control of a number of Israelite cities west of Jordan.
But the ‘saviour’ whom YHWH had sent in order to relieve the pressure on Jehoahaz (13.5), the Assyrians under Adad-nirari III, had severely weakened Aram with the result that they were no longer the proposition that they had once been. Thus when Joash came to the throne he was able to recover the cities west of Jordan, and probably much of the land in Transjordan. And that this was through YHWH’s help is brought out by the acted out prophecy of the coming back to life of a man whose corpse touched that of Elisha.
Note that in ‘a’ the Moabites invaded Israel, and in the parallel Joash was able to smite Aram and recover Israel’s cities. In ‘b’ a man was revived from the dead by touching the body of Elisha, and in the parallel a revived Israel, revived through Elisha’s dying words, were able to recover their cities from Benhadad of Aram. In ‘c’ Hazael oppressed Israel continually, and in the parallel Hazael died. Centrally in ‘d’ all this was because YHWH was faithful to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
2.13.20b ‘Now the roving bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.’
That the roving bands of Moabites were able to penetrate as far as the grave of Elisha demonstrates the conditions in Transjordanian Israel as a result of the control of Aram, and the weakness of Israel west of the Jordan. Israel were prey to any passing marauders. At this time of year they would be after the grain on the threshing-floors and in the grain stores.
2.13.21 ‘And it came about, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a roving band, and they pushed the man into the sepulchre of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.’
But that YHWH had not forgotten Israel is brought out by an anecdote describing how a corpse which touched the body of Elisha was raised from the dead. This occurred because the men who were burying the corpse intended to bury it in the same cave as Elisha was buried in, and having removed the stone from the entrance spotted a band of Moabite raiders and fled for their lives, unceremoniously pushing the corpse into the cave. As a result the corpse came into contact with the bones of Elisha and immediately revived. It was a symbol of what YHWH was going to do for Israel in accordance with Elisha’s promises to Joash.
2.13.22 ‘And Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz.’
That YHWH’s help was necessary comes out in that Hazael’s pressure on Israel, first through his own activities and then through his son Benhadad, was unceasing all the days of Jehoahaz (Hazael died towards the end of the reign of Jehoahaz). The phrase is to be seen as very much a generalisation. Until the arrival of the Assyrians Hazael had been able to do pretty much what he wanted to Israel, and his oppression had been severe, but the first Assyrian invasions in the time of Hazael had severely weakened Aram, and the second in the time of Benhadad weakened them even further, so that while they still kept their control of the Israelite cities that they had captured, and were probably still a nuisance against a very much weakened and demoralised Israel (thus continuing to ‘oppress them’), they had ceased to be the threat that they once were.
Note how in this brief passage the author is summarising the overall situation from Jehoahaz to Joash so as to bring out YHWH’s goodness to Israel and His faithfulness to His promises to the patriarchs, finishing with the direct fulfilment of YHWH’s promise to Joash through Elisha. The emphasis is all on the activity of YHWH.
2.13.23 ‘But YHWH was gracious to them, and had compassion on them, and had respect to them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor did he cast them from his presence as yet.’
YHWH had not yet cast off Israel, for He still remembered His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in which Israel had a part. As a result of these promises He was gracious to Israel and had compassion on them (that is why He had sent them a ‘saviour’), and did not as yet destroy them or cast them off. Thus their main antagonist, Hazael, died, and YHWH began to revivify Israel. He had still not forgotten them.
Note the ‘as yet’. The prophets recognised that not all Israel were the true Israel. In their view the only true Israel was Israel in obedience to the covenant. And when they ceased in that obedience they would be permanently cut off. After the destruction of Samaria the vast majority of Israel was cut off, and only a few remnants survived and became a part of the Israel that remained. Later Judah would be cut off, and again only a remnant would return. Thus the Israel in the time of Jesus was only a remnant of what had been. But even they would reject the covenant, when they rejected God’s covenant Messiah, and true Israel would survive in the new congregation of Israel, the church (Galatians 6.16; Romans 11.17-28; Ephesians 2.11-22; 1 Peter 2.9).
2.13.24 ‘And Hazael king of Aram died, and Benhadad his son reigned instead of him.’
One result of YHWH’s compassion was that Hazael died and was replaced by Benhadad III, who ruled over a much weakened Aram, weakened by the ‘saviour’ whom YHWH had sent against them, even the king of Assyria.
(Note. Whether Benhadad was II or III is disputed. It depends on whether there had previously been two Benhadads, or only one who had a very long reign, something which is uncertain. Our knowledge of Aramaean history outside the Old Testament is very limited).
2.13.25a ‘And Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again out of the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war.’
The consequence of this was that a revived Israel under Joash was able to recover all the Israelite cities that Aram had previously occupied, and this possibly included the liberation of parts of Transjordanian Israel (10.32-33), although the latter might have awaited the reign of Jeroboam II (14.25). (The prophetic author is not interested in the detail).
‘The cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war.’ This is probably a loose statement with the ‘he’ referring to Hazael, rather than Benhadad, although it is always possible that in his early days Benhadad had taken further cities.
2.13.25b ‘Three times did Joash smite him, and recovered the cities of Israel.’
In accordance with what Elisha had promised Joash was able to smite Benhadad three times, and recover more and more of the cities of Israel. Once again the author is not interested in detailing the history. His emphasis is on the prophetic fulfilment.
The Reign Of Amaziah, King Of Judah c. 796-767 BC (2.14.1-22).
As with many kings of Judah Amaziah’s reign was seen as ‘right in the eyes of YHWH’, although with a decided ‘but’. The ‘but’ explains why he was partly successful, and partly not. It is made clear that on the whole he walked in accordance with the law of Moses (not fully because he did not rid the land of ‘high places’), but that that did not prevent him from foolish pride which led to his downfall, and yet once again the loss of Judah’s treasures. It was probably this foolhardy escapade, and the subsequent loss of treasure, that began the dissatisfaction that would fester on, probably accompanied by more folly, until it resulted fifteen years later in the popular insurrection that led to his assassination and replacement by his capable son Azariah (Uzziah).
Note that in ‘a’ Amaziah began to reign, and in the parallel he came to an ignominious end. In ‘b’ we learn of his behaviour, and in the parallel we are referred to the chronicles of the kings of Judah for further detail of his behaviour. In ‘c’ he avenged his father’s murder by putting to death his father’s murderers, and in the parallel Jehoash of Israel, who had fought with him and defeated him, died. In ‘d’ he was victorious against the Edomites, and in the parallel he was himself vanquished by the Israelites. In ‘e’ he called on Jehoash to ‘look him in the face’ and in the parallel the looking in the face took place and Amaziah was humiliated. Central in ‘f’ was Jehoash’s plea that he did not make a fool of himself.
2.14.1 ‘In the second year of Joash son of Joahaz king of Israel began Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah to reign.’
Amaziah the son of Joash of Judah began to reign in the second year of Joash of Israel, the latter being the son of Joahaz (a shortened from of Jehoahaz). The apparent discrepancy that this raises can be removed by recognising that in Judah co-regencies took place regularly (ensuring the succession as well as blooding the ‘new king’). Dates are sometimes based on the commencement of such a co-regency, and sometimes on the basis of the sole reign.
2.14.2 ‘He was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem.’
Amaziah was twenty five years old when he began his reign, and he reigned for twenty nine years in Jerusalem, (the city that YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there, simply because David had chosen it. It was a tribute to His servant David, and Amaziah inherited the blessing). Jehoaddan, the name of the new queen mother, means ‘YHWH has given pleasure’.
2.14.3 ‘And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, yet not like David his father. He did according to all that Joash his father had done.’
Like his father Joash he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH. In other words he ensured that the worship of YHWH was conducted in accordance with the Law of Moses, and that he and the people, at least outwardly, walked in obedience to the covenant. But it was not with the same zeal as his ‘father’ David, for David had stamped out worship in the syncretistic high places, and had ensured pure worship at two legal sanctuaries.
2.14.4 ‘However, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’
Like his father Joash, and a number of kings before him, Amaziah had not stamped down on the high places where illegal syncretised YHWH worship was carried out, often at hillside sanctuaries associated with Baal and Asherah.
2.14.5 ‘And it came about, as soon as the kingdom was established in his hand, that he slew his servants who had slain the king his father,’
What he also did was honour his father’s name by seeking justice on his murderers, in accordance with the Law of Moses which prescribed the death penalty for murder. But it is clear that this was only possible after a period of civil war in which he was finally triumphant. The Jerusalem party, who had assassinated his father, having failed to obtain the backing which would enable them to take the throne, were probably finally ousted by the people of the land.
2.14.6 ‘But the children of the murderers he did not put to death, in accordance with what is written in the book of the law of Moses, as YHWH commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.” ’
In carrying out the sentence he was careful to ensure that he obeyed the Law of Moses in what it said about not punishing the children for the father’s sin. This injunction was found in Deuteronomy 24.16. This demonstrated that a further good point concerning Amaziah was that he was seeking to follow the Law of Moses punctiliously. (Assyrian practise was that the family’s of assassins of kings died with them).
2.14.7 ‘He slew of Edom in the Valley of Salt ten thousand, and took Sela by war, and called the name of it Joktheel, to this day.’
Furthermore it was apparent that YHWH was with him because he was able to invade Edom and slaughter ten military units in the Valley of Salt (although many men would probably flee from the units and escape the slaughter), which was the marshy plain in the Arabah south of the Dead Sea. Furthermore during that war he captured Sela (which means ‘the Rock’) permanently enough for it to be renamed Joktheel ‘to this day’. Renaming a city was a comparatively rare occurrence and indicated permanent occupancy. By this means he was seeking to redress the previous failure of Jehoram (8.20-22).
This invasion probably took place because, in view of the military problems that Judah had been having due to Hazael’s incursion, and the unrest that had led to Joash’s assassination, Edom had seen an opportunity of interfering with the trade routes, or even trying to take them over,. Important trade routes ran through the Negeb from the King’s Highway towards Egypt, and to the port of Elath on the Red Sea, which gave access to south Arabia, both of which could be affected by Edom.
It is doubtful if this Sela was the city of Petra, which was certainly also called Sela, because he does not appear to have gained control of Elath (see verse 22). Had he been so successful that he had captured Petra, that would hardly have been so. The name means ‘the Rock’, and could apply to a number of sites. Comparison with Judges 1.36 might indicate a site in the Arabah south of the Dead Sea, which may well have been a city overseeing the trade routes.
2.14.8 ‘Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” ’
Having succeeded in his invasion of Edom Amaziah was now emboldened to take on Israel. He may have known how weak it was in the days of Jehoahaz and not have recognised how Jehoash of Israel had rebuilt its strength. Possibly his hope in sending the message was that Israel would surrender and tribute. In view of verse 11 to ‘look one another in the face’ could only signify the intention to do battle. (Chronicles explains a further reason for his animosity due to the behaviour of some Israelite mercenaries whom he had employed and then not used. But the author of Kings wants to lay full emphasis on the foolhardiness of Amaziah’s act, and the arrogance out of which it arose).
2.14.9-10 ‘And Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “The thistle which was in Lebanon sent to the cedar which was in Lebanon, saying, “Give your daughter to my son to wife,” and there passed by a wild beast which was in Lebanon, and trod down the thistle. You have indeed smitten Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Glory in it, and remain at home, for why should you meddle to your hurt, that you should fall, even you, and Judah with you?” ’
Jehoash of Israel tried to warn him off, probably not so much out of consideration for him as in order not to have to waste his own resources in fighting against Judah when the driving out of Aram was his prime concern. His warning was in the form of a parable and followed a well known pattern (compare Judges 9.7-15). He was stressing to Amaziah both his arrogance and his smallness. Compared with Israel Judah was like a thistle contrasted with a cedar, a thistle that could easily be trodden down. Let him therefore continue to glory in his victory over Edom and not be foolish enough to take on someone as large as Israel, something which could only result in he himself being hurt. Again the author of Kings is seeking to bring out Amaziah’s foolhardiness..
2.14.11 ‘But Amaziah would not hear. So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah looked one another in the face at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah.’
But Amaziah was obstinate, and insisted on facing up to Israel in battle, so Jehoash went up to Beth-shemesh ‘which belongs to Judah’ (i.e. is in contrast with other cities named Beth-shemesh, for example in Naphtali) and ‘looked him in the face’. The fact that they met at Beth-shemesh in the north west of Judah may suggest that there was a border quarrel taking place between the two countries in that area which may have been part of the reason for Amaziah’s challenge. Again it could have had to do with the control of trade routes which were important means of wealth in those days.
2.14.12 ‘And Judah was put to the worse before Israel, and they fled every man to his tent.’
The consequence was that Judah were defeated and had to flee the battlefield. Fleeing to their tents might be literal (fleeing back to their camp) or may indicate that they disbanded and made for their homes.
2.14.13 ‘And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash the son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim to the corner gate, four hundred cubits.’
Having captured Amaziah, Jehoash then began to teach him a lesson. He went with him to Jerusalem and broke down part of the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate (four hundred cubits is around roughly two hundred metres or six hundred feet) .
2.14.14 ‘And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels which were found in the house of YHWH, and in the treasures of the king’s house, the hostages also, and returned to Samaria.’
Having done that he took all the gold, silver and valuable vessels in both the Temple and the king’s palace complex, and along with hostages for Judah’s good behaviour (who would be high level Jerusalem officials, princes and even wives), he returned to Samaria. This description of the denuding of Judah of its treasures is regularly the author’s way of expressing YHWH’s displeasure. There is in it also a warning against trusting in fleeting riches. See 12.18; 18.15; 1 Kings 15.18 where it happened to ‘good’ kings, and 16.8; 24.13; 1 Kings 14.6 where it happened to ‘bad kings’.
2.14.15 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Jehoash which he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?’
Further details of the campaign against Judah, and of Jehoash’s other exploits (some of which have already been described) were to be found in the official annals of the kings of Israel. This repetition of what had already been stated in 13.12 has the purpose of firstly relating the death of Jehoash to the death of Amaziah who survived him for a further fifteen years, and secondly of pointing to where the details of the battle with Amaziah, looked at from Israel’s point of view, could be found. (Amaziah’s annals, with which the author was also familiar, probably told a slightly different story).
2.14.16 ‘And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel, and Jeroboam his son reigned instead of him.’
But judgment was to come on Jehoram in its own way, for eventually he ‘slept with his fathers’ and was buried in Samaria, leaving Amaziah to enjoy the continuation of his life for a further fifteen years. It seems clear that the author appeared to see this as YHWH’s punishment on Jehoash for his treatment of Amaziah.
2.14.17 ‘And Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah lived after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel fifteen years.’
This ties in with the fact that Jehoash of Israel reigned for sixteen years (13.10), Amaziah came to the throne in his second year and survived him for fifteen years, thus reigning for twenty nine years (14.2).
So Amaziah continued to live for a further fifteen years. This is against the idea that his assassination was directly related to this failure against Israel and the subsequent loss of the treasures of Judah. On the other hand those failures may well have sowed the beginnings of discontent, and may be a pointer to the fact of how foolishly he continued to act, with the result that certain powerful parties in Jerusalem felt that it was time that he was removed and replaced by the capable Ahaziah, who would already be reigning as co-regent.
2.14.18 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’
The details concerning the remainder of Amaziah’s acts were to be found in the official annals of the kings of Judah. It may be significant that we are not here advised to look in them for the details of his affray with Jehoash and Israel.
2.14.19 ‘And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, but they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there.’
As a result of a conspiracy at the court Amaziah had to flee to Lachish, Judah’s second city, but so powerful were his opponents that he was not even safe in Lachish, and he was assassinated there.
2.14.20 ‘And they brought him on horses, and he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David.’
Nevertheless his body was treated with due honour, and was brought back in solemn procession (‘on horses’) to Jerusalem where he was buried with his fathers in the city of David. This would probably have been more due to the influence of the ‘people of the land’ than to the conspirators.
2.14.21 ‘And all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.’
The fact that ‘all the people of Judah’ came together to make Azariah king probably indicates that they were not pleased at what had happened and came together to prevent a coup. They were determined that they would continue to be ruled over by a true son of David. The sixteen years old may refer to the age at which he had become co-regent. They had made him ‘king’ then, and they confirmed it now.
2.14.22 ‘He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.
Subsequently Azariah achieved what his father had failed to achieve in spite of his partial victory over Edom, and that was to capture Elath, rebuild it and fortify it, and restore it to Judah. This would enable an important extension of trade with south Arabia which would add to Judah’s wealth. The point of putting this statement here was in order to demonstrate that he had succeeded where Amaziah had failed.
For Kings part 1 (1-4) click here
For Kings part 2 (5-8) click here
For Kings part 3 (9-11) click here
For Kings part 4 (12.1-16.28) click here
For Kings 5 (16.29-2.1.18) click here
For Kings 6 (2.1-8.15) click here
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