2 Kings 9 (NIV)✞: Jehu Anointed King of Israel, Jehu Kills Joram and Ahaziah, Jezebel Killed
I’ve mentioned quite often—way more than I would have expected!—that God had given Elijah a number of tasks back in 19:9–18, including instructions to anoint Hazael king of Aram and Jehu king of Israel. Elijah didn’t carry out all of his assigned tasks but Elisha took on the responsibilities, “anointing” Hazael king of Aram1 in 8:7–15, and now we see the final neglected instruction to Elijah being carried out with Jehu being anointed king of Israel.
To be pedantic Elisha doesn’t anoint Jehu himself, he sends one of the company of prophets to do it for him. The man travels to Ramoth Gilead to find Jehu, takes him aside in private, and pours oil on his head to anoint him king (which is the custom). He also tells Jehu that he is to destroy the house of Ahab and then, as he’d been instructed by Elisha, the prophet opens the door and runs!
The ESV Study Bible has some thoughts on this:
2 Kings 9:3 flask of oil. Elijah had been commanded to anoint Jehu king over Israel (1 Kings 19:16), but had failed to do so. It is left to Elisha now to fulfill his mission. Anointing with oil was a common practice in the ancient Near East to mark various rites of passage, and in Israel it was closely associated with the enthronement of kings (see 1 Sam. 16:13). It appears to be bound up with the king’s legitimacy and right to rule; to be the “anointed of the Lord” is to be a person inviolable and sacrosanct (1 Sam. 24:6–7; 2 Sam. 19:21–22). The secret anointing that takes place here (in an “inner chamber”; 2 Kings 9:2) is particularly reminiscent of Samuel’s anointing of Saul (cf. 1 Sam. 9:27–10:1). The reasons for Elisha’s advice to the messenger to open the door and flee are not provided, but the reference to Jehu’s reckless chariot driving in 2 Kings 9:20 perhaps suggests that he has a reputation for rash behavior and could be dangerous to the messenger.
ESV Study Bible
When Jehu comes back out to his fellow officers and they want to know what the message from the prophet was he initially tries to shrug it off, but when they hear the actual message they accept it immediately:
11 When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this maniac come to you?”
“You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied.
12 “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.”
Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’”
13 They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”
I’m wondering if there was some combination of Joram (the current king of Israel) being a bad/cruel king and/or Jehu being someone the men really felt they could follow because the immediacy with which they give him their allegiance is striking.
In the last chapter we saw that Joram had been wounded in battle and Ahaziah (the king of Judah) had gone to visit him in Jezreel, and now we get to the significance of that fact: Jehu commands his men not to let anyone leave Ramoth Gilead for fear that word might get out, and immediately sets off for Jezreel.
The whole scene of him approaching Jezreel is interesting enough that I’ll just quote it:
17 When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, “I see some troops coming.”
“Get a horseman,” Joram ordered. “Send him to meet them and ask, ‘Do you come in peace?’”
18 The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’”
“What do you have to do with peace?” Jehu replied. “Fall in behind me.”
The lookout reported, “The messenger has reached them, but he isn’t coming back.”
19 So the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’”
Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”
20 The lookout reported, “He has reached them, but he isn’t coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.”
21 “Hitch up my chariot,” Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. 22 When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?”
“How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?”
23 Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, “Treachery, Ahaziah!”
Joram’s warning to Ahaziah comes too late, however:
24 Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, “Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the LORD spoke this prophecy against him: 26 ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the LORD, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the LORD.’ Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the LORD.”
27 When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, “Kill him too!” They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there. 28 His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem and buried him with his ancestors in his tomb in the City of David.
And finally, Jehu begins the work of taking care of the rest of the line of Ahab by murdering Jezebel:
30 Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. 31 As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?”
32 He looked up at the window and called out, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. 33 “Throw her down!” Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.
34 Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care of that cursed woman,” he said, “and bury her, for she was a king’s daughter.” 35 But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. 36 They went back and told Jehu, who said, “This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh. 37 Jezebel’s body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, ‘This is Jezebel.’”
There are more family members in Ahab’s line, but we’ll see Jehu getting to them in the next passage.
Jehu follows God’s commands with zeal; that does not, however, mean that Jehu will be a godly king! Even here in this passage I believe he’s starting off by carrying out a sinful act in murdering the king of Judah, which (I believe) goes beyond his instructions to get rid of the line of Ahab. We could make a point that Ahaziah is actually related to Ahab’s line, so murdering him was part of Jehu’s instruction, but I don’t see it that way, and don’t see a hint in the words from the prophet that Jehu was to do anything with Ahaziah.
I do think Ahaziah’s murder was a punishment from God for following in the ways of Ahab, but that doesn’t mean Jehu was right in carrying it out!
After all we’ve read about Jezebel in the book of Kings it’s hard to find any pity for her. Although walking in the ways of Ahab becomes a short-hand for being an evil king, when we were actually reading about Ahab’s life we often saw that Jezebel was even more wicked than he was. It’s strongly implied (if not stated outright?) that the false religion brought into Israel was directly attributable to her.
Far from being contrite, however, she stays rebellious to the end, as called out by my favourite Study Bible:
2 Kings 9:30 she painted her eyes and adorned her head. This could mean only that Jezebel met her end proudly, dressed up as a queen should be. Her posture, however, echoes the “woman in the window” motif found on carved ivory plaques from various ancient Near Eastern sites (see note on 2 Sam. 6:16–19), which may represent the goddess Astarte, one of the wives of Baal; so perhaps Jezebel is being represented as the very incarnation of the religion that she brought into Israel from Sidon.
ESV Study Bible
Now that Elisha has finished carrying out all of the instructions that had originally been given to Elijah I think it’s worth reconsidering why Elijah didn’t obey God in the first place – why was it left up to his successor to carry out these instructions?
And the short answer is that I simply don’t know. I’ve mentioned before that Elijah was accorded a high honour by God in that he didn’t even die, he was simply carried into God’s presence, and Elijah is held up as a hero in the New Testament, but ever since he left this world Elisha has been running around trying to finish the work that was supposed to have been completed by Elijah. From what is recorded, Elisha also seems to have performed more miracles than Elijah – in fact, many of the miracles performed by Elijah were reproduced by Elisha (and even expanded upon)! I talked before about how Chapter 4 felt like a significant pivot point from Elijah to Elisha and then from Elisha to Jesus, whereby Elisha feels like a precursor to Jesus – but then why is so little attention paid to him as opposed to Elijah? The one who didn’t even carry out his instructions from the LORD, and yet was carried to Him in chariots of fire!
In case it needs stating, I’m not questioning God’s judgement, or saying He made a mistake in honouring the wrong prophet. I’m just genuinely confused by the whole situation. I mean, let’s be clear, there’s no reason whatsoever for Him to love me, but He does, and I’m happy and grateful for it. If we start to search too hard for cause and effect in His Grace we’re going to find it’s never deserved, which is why it’s called “Grace” and not “rewards for our good effort.”
- See the post on that passage for why I’m putting “anoint” in quotes. No fancy theological points being made, just a nit-picky thing. ↩
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