The Historical Setting
Jehu is called the son of Nimshi to distinguish him from the first Jehu mentioned in Scripture, Jehu the son of Hanani (1 Kings 16:1-12) who was a prophet during the reign of Baasha (3165-3188) about seventy years before the rise of the second Jehu.
Jehu was king of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, from 3232 through 3260 A.M., or about 814 to 784 B.C. His most famous act was to execute the wrath of Jehovah on the house of Ahab; and the account of this fills most of the two chapters in Scripture devoted to Jehu’s career. He was called to act as God’s avenger by Elisha, as one of the last acts of that prophet. The account of Jehu’s career will perplex, if not baffle us, unless we first understand the circumstances in which he appears. Like many of the historical accounts of Scripture, the record was written relatively soon after the fact; and to Israel – not to us. As a result, it assumes many things which were well-known in that day, that the modern (and especially the Gentile) reader might easily miss.
Ahab had been forewarned of his violent death and the complete destruction of his seed by the prophet Elijah soon after his wife, with his complicity, murdered Naboth in order to seize his vineyard; the crime being recorded in 1 Kings 21:1-16, and the confrontation between Elijah and Ahab in 1 Kings 21:17-29:
17 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. 19 And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.
20 And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. 21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, 22 And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.
23 And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. 24 Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat…
27 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. 28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.
Ahab was the son of Omri, of no royal family. Omri was the third in a series of usurpers to the throne of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (who made Israel to sin), the first and lawful king of Israel. Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, only reigned one year before he was slain, along with all the seed of Jeroboam, by Baasha (1 Kings 15:29-30). Baasha’s family shared the same fate 26 years later, in the reign of his son, Elah, at the hands of one of his captains, named Zimri (1 Kings 16:1-13), who in turn lasted only a month before Omri avenged Elah, killed all his family and took the throne for himself. Omri reigned 11 years, during which he moved the capitol from Tirzah to the hill of Samaria. His son Ahab was a capable man, and an effective diplomat, who had to manage threats from many enemies. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia notes:
“In the days of David and Solomon a beneficial commercial intercourse existed between the Hebrews and the Phoenicians. Ahab, recognizing the advantages that would accrue to his kingdom from an alliance with the foremost commercial nation of his time, renewed the old relations with the Phoenicians and cemented them by his marriage with Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre (the Ithobalos, priest of Astarte mentioned by Meander).
He next turned his attention to the establishment of peaceful and friendly relations with the kindred and neighboring kingdom of Judah. For the first time since the division of the kingdoms the hereditary internecine quarrels are forgotten, “and Jehoshaphat,” the good king of Judah, “made peace with the king of Israel.” This alliance, too, was sealed by a marriage relationship, Jehoram, the crown-prince of Judah, being united in marriage with the princess Athaliah, daughter of Ahab.”
Good diplomat though he may have been, Ahab was an evil man and a very bad king:
25 But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. 26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. (1 Kings 21:25-26)
Even worse, he allowed his wife to introduce her beloved Phoenician Baal-worship into Israel. Ahab died at Ramoth-Gilead, in a battle against Syria only 20 years into his reign, and his son, Ahaziah ascended the throne in his place. In that same year, 3220, Jehoram (also called Joram) of Judah began to reign for Jehoshaphat his father before the latter’s death. Jehoram was son-in-law to Ahab and Jezebel, having married their daughter, Athaliah. By this means, Baal-worship obtained royal sanction in both kingdoms at about the same time. Jehoshaphat’s sinful connection with the idolater, Ahab would cost him and his family dear. For all his seed would be wiped out by this daughter of Jezebel – except one.
So at the time Jehu comes into our view, Israel and Judah are both in the hands of wicked idolaters. Jezebel still holds sway years after her husband died. And her son-in-law has replaced godly, but weak, Jehoshaphat on the throne of Judah, with a true daughter of Jezebel to rule him.
But – and here is where it gets really confusing – Ahaziah of Israel has named his firstborn son after Jehoram of Judah; and Jehoram of Judah has likewise named his firstborn Ahaziah. Ahaziah of Israel is smitten of the Lord after one year on the throne, and dies, leaving Jehoram (Joram) on the throne of Israel, with the other Jehoram on the throne of Judah. Eleven years after, Jehoram of Judah dies under the judgment of the Lord (2 Chronicles 21:12-20), and his son, Ahaziah begins to reign in his stead. Now there is an Ahaziah on the throne of Judah, and a Jehoram on the throne of Israel – exactly reverse of their fathers. (I believe this may be a providential indication of the equivalency of decadence between Judah and Israel at this time.) They are both offspring of Omri and Ahab, and both idolaters, being ruled by idolatrous women: Ahaziah by Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah; and Jehoram by his grandmother, Jezebel. And so they will both die together.
25 In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign. 26 Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah 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. 27 And he walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, as did the house of Ahab: for he was the son in law of the house of Ahab.
28 And he went with Joram the son of Ahab to the war against Hazael king of Syria in Ramothgilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram. 29 And king Joram went back to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick. (2 Kings 8:25-29)
The stage is now set for the sudden appearance of Jehu to execute the judgment of God upon all the house of Ahab.
Jehu’s Divine Call
Jehu, the son of Nimshi is first mentioned in the episode of 1 Kings 9:9-18, in which God re-commissions the prophet Elijah after his victory on Mt. Carmel. In 1 Kings 19:16-17 we find the words of Elijah’s commission:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
Elijah was translated – taken up to heaven in a whirlwind – before he could accomplish this commission, but he doubtless handed it off to Elisha, after casting his mantle over him and thus appointing him as his successor (v. 19). It was many years later, when Elisha was on his deathbed, that he acted on this, as recorded in 2 Kings 9:
9:1 And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramothgilead: 2 And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber; 3 Then take the box of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the LORD, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door, and flee, and tarry not.
The remarkable history continues through the end of chapter 10 of 2 Kings:
4 So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramothgilead. 5 And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, O captain. 6 And he arose, and went into the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. 7 And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: 9 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: 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.
11 Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord: and one said unto him, Is all well? wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? And he said unto them, Ye know the man, and his communication. 12 And they said, It is false; tell us now. And he said, Thus and thus spake he to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I have anointed thee king over Israel. 13 Then they hasted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king.
His prompt obedience
14 So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi conspired against Joram. (Now Joram had kept Ramothgilead, he and all Israel, because of Hazael king of Syria. 15 But king Joram was returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him, when he fought with Hazael king of Syria.) And Jehu said, If it be your minds, then let none go forth nor escape out of the city to go to tell it in Jezreel. 16 So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram.
17 And there stood a watchman 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 an horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace?
18 So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not again. 19 Then he sent out a second on horseback, which came to them, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu answered, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. 20 And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.
21 And Joram said, Make ready. And his chariot was made ready. And Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out against Jehu, and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. 22 And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? 23 And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, O Ahaziah.
The fulfillment of prophecies
24 And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot. 25 Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain, Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the LORD laid this burden upon him; 26 Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith the LORD; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the LORD. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the LORD.
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 did so at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there. 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. 29 And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Judah.
30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. 31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? 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. 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 trode her under foot.
34 And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. 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. 36 Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: 37 And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.
God’s judgment on the sons of Ahab
10:1 And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children, saying, 2 Now as soon as this letter cometh to you, seeing your master’s sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced city also, and armour; 3 Look even out the best and meetest of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.
4 But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand? 5 And he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.
6 Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master’s sons, and come to me to Jezreel by to morrow this time. Now the king’s sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up. 7 And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons, and slew seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel. 8 And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, They have brought the heads of the king’s sons. And he said, Lay ye them in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning.
9 And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these? 10 Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah.
11 So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.
The thoroughness of his obedience
12 And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way, 13 Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen. 14 And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.
Next, he encounters Jehonadab, the chief of the Rechabites, who dwelt in tents, of whom John Gill observes that he was:
“… a Kenite, a descendant of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, a wise and good man, as appears by the laws and rules he gave to his posterity, who continued to the times of Jeremiah, and were then observant of them, (see Jeremiah 35:6). This good man hearing of Jehu’s coming to the throne, and of his destruction of the idolatrous family of Ahab, and of his zeal for the worship of God, and against idolatry, came forth from his tent to meet him, and congratulate him upon it… the company of such a man, so famous for wisdom and goodness, he knew would give him much countenance among the people, and sanction to what he did. “
15 And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot. 16 And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they made him ride in his chariot. 17 And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah.
He purges Baal worship from his kingdom
18 And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. 19 Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
20 And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it. 21 And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another. 22 And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments. 23 And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.
24 And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him. 25 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal. 26 And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. 27 And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day. 28 Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
Jehu restored Israel to the worship of Jehovah; but in accordance with the corruption of idolatry devised by Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom’s first king. Jeroboam had placed two golden calves in Israel — one in the north and one in the south — for political reasons. He wanted to keep Israel from going to worship at Jerusalem, which might possibly lead to the reconciliation of Judah with Israel, thus ending Jeroboam’s kingdom. It is not said what motivated Jehu to stop at this point in the reformation of Israel’s religion; but it is easy to see that he had reason to fear for the continuance of his throne because of how he came to it. He may have simply judged that his work was done with the utter destruction of Ahab’s house; and that there was no use provoking the people by trying to make them change their worship. A poor excuse!
29 Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. 30 And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. 31 But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
God is patient; but he does punish the sins of kings and of nations, even in this life. He punished Jehu’s by raising up enemies to harass his borders and invade his land:
32 In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; 33 From Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.
I assume that Jehu was a believer; for I find no reason to think otherwise. His compromise was not worse than that of the many kings of Judah who refused to tear down the high places, where profane worship and idolatry was carried on. That their destruction would be very unpopular we can be sure. On the whole, Jehu was perhaps the best king the Northern Kingdom ever had.
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? 35 And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead. 36 And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years. (2 Kings 9:1-10:36)
What Jehu did was good and right; as his mission was given to him by God, through his prophets, Elijah and Elisha. This is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 22:7:
7 And the destruction of Ahaziah was of God by coming to Joram: for when he was come, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab.
Jehu’s reward: a Divine promise
And not only that: his performance of it was rewarded with a promise that his dynasty would continue through four generations:
30 And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. (2 Kings 10:30)
This was fulfilled, even though Jehu did not reform the worship of Israel as he should have, but maintained the corrupted worship of Jeroboam! We see the fulfillment in the following Scriptures:
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. (2 Kings 13:1)
And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash his son reigned in his stead. 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. (2 Kings 13:9)
And Joash slept with his fathers; and Jeroboam sat upon his throne: and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel. (2 Kings 13:13)
In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him before the people, and slew him, and reigned in his stead. And the rest of the acts of Zachariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel. This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass. (2 Kings 15:8-12)
It is perhaps not insignificant that each generation reigned for a shorter period than the last. Jehu reigned 28 years, Jehoahaz 17, Jehoash 16, and Zachariah only 6 months. It suggests that there was a decay of the line as time went on.
No doubt Jehu’s dynasty would have lasted longer and been more prosperous if Jehu had been faithful, but it is still remarkable that God did not abate one word of his promise! His dynasty lasted almost 125 years. (By contrast, all the years of Omri’s house were only 42.) Perhaps this was because the LORD did not want there to be any doubt that all this was done by Jehu at his pleasure, at his command. The fact that God approved would in itself be a discouragement to any to challenge his right to the throne. Besides, there were none of the house of Ahab – not even any friends of that house – left to argue the point. The prowess of Jehu, and his promptitude and thoroughness in executing the Divine judgment, would be enough to make anyone think twice about revolting against him (see 2 Kings 10:4).
Howard Douglas King
Chronological Table of the Kings Mentioned in this Study
|Kings of Judah
3229. Jehoram sole King
3231. Ahaziah sole King
3308. Amaziah dies. Interregnum
|Kings of Israel
3143. Jeroboam I
3189. Omri, Tibni and Zimri
3278. Jehoash sole King
3293. Jeroboam II
3334. Jeroboam dies. Interregnum