The Bible Story - Volume VI
A New King in Israel JEHORAM, king of the House of Judah, fled with his family toward his palace when Arabians and Philistines broke into Jerusalem. Before they could get inside, the king's frantically racing wives and children were seized by Arabian riders and whisked away. Jehoram reached the palace and ran to a secret hiding place. (II Chronicles 21:1-16).
The End of a Bad Reign For the next several hours he paced back and forth, miserably wondering what was taking place. Occasionally he could hear muffled shouts and thuds. When finally he cautiously emerged from concealment, he found that the palace had been ransacked. Objects of great value had been taken. What was left had been dashed or pulled to the floor.
There was great excitement among the remaining servants when they found that their king was safe, but they hesitated to talk about his family.
"At least we know that Ahaziah is all right," one spoke up. This was somewhat comforting to Jehoram, who believed that all his family had been taken. Then he remembered that a part of the letter from Elijah had warned in advance what would befall the king's family. One by one the prophet's predictions were taking place — just as Jehoram feared they might.
Not long after the invaders had gone with their prisoners and loot, Jehoram's first wife Athalia showed up. This wasn't contrary to Elijah's writing. He had said only that wives would be taken, but he didn't say they all would be forever absent from Jehoram. Somehow Athalia escaped and was able to return. The captors probably couldn't endure her sharp tongue. Except for Ahaziah, all of Jehoram's sons were murdered by their abductors.
People of Judah then began to suffer from a disease that spread quickly from person to person. This, too, was according to what Elijah had warned about. Later, Jehoram started having an irritating soreness in his abdomen. During the next two years it developed into intense pains. Finally, as Elijah had written, the king's intestines became so infected that they dropped out of him, causing an unusually horrible death.
Because of his cruel ways and his indifference to the welfare of his people, Jehoram wasn't popular with his subjects. He was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the burial place of the kings, and not with the usual respectful ceremonies. (II Kings 8:23-24; II Chronicles 21:17-20.)
Ahaziah became king, but he had been reared amid pagan practices, and did nothing to improve conditions in Judah. His mother made sure that any move he made was in accord with her perverse wishes.
At this time Jehoram (not the Jehoram of Judah who had recently died) was king of the House of Israel. He decided to take his army to Ramoth-gilead, a town east of Jordan occupied by Syrian soldiers. This fortified town was in the territory of Gad. The king didn't want the Syrians to continue possessing a stronghold inside Israel, especially that close to Samaria, only about forty miles away. When the young king of Judah heard about this, he added troops to those of Jehoram. Both kings with their combined forces went eastward to surround Ramoth-gilead.
A Revolution Hits Israel Later, when it appeared that the Israelites might force the besieged Syrian troops to surrender, Jehoram was seriously wounded by an arrow shot from the walls. The king was taken to Jezreel, several miles north of Samaria, to wait until his wound healed. His officers felt that it was wiser for him to go there secretly instead of returning to Samaria in what would be regarded by many as a disgraceful condition. Jehu, the commander of the army in Israel, was left in charge of the continuing siege of Ramoth-gilead.
Rather than wait to find out what the Syrians would do, Ahaziah chose to go to Jezreel to visit Jehoram and learn if he had started to recover. (II Kings 8:25-29; II Chronicles 22:1-6.)
Meanwhile, Elisha the prophet was aware of what was taking place. Through God, he knew that it was time for the family of Ahab, because of disobedience, to come to an end. God instructed the prophet to choose one of his students to prepare for an immediate trip to Ramoth-gilead.
"There you will find Jehu, Jehoram's army commander," Elisha told the young man. "State that you have a private message for him and that you must see him alone."
The prophet gave him a phial of oil and explained how he was to use it and just what he should say. He was warned to leave Jehu the moment his mission was over.
Two days later the young man arrived at Ramoth-gilead. The siege was still going on. Israelite troops were huddled in groups, hoping for the surrender of the Syrians. Jehu and his chief officers were sitting under an awning extending from his tent. When guards saw the stranger, they quickly surrounded him, but took him to Jehu, as he requested, after finding no weapons on him.
"This man claims that he has an important message for you that must be delivered in private," one of the guards reported.
Jehu and his officers looked critically at the stranger. Finally Jehu motioned his guards away and beckoned to the young man to follow him into his tent. Nervously Elisha's student produced the phial of olive oil and quickly poured it over the head of the startled officer.
"By the authority of the God of Israel, I anoint you as the next king of the House of Israel," the young man hastily explained while Jehu listened in growing astonishment. "God wants to make it plain to you that as future king you must avenge the deaths of God's prophets at Samaria in Ahab's time; and the deaths of other servants of God caused by Jezebel. With God's help, you are to end the rule of the family of Ahab. That includes queen Jezebel, whose body will be consumed by dogs, so that there will be little to bury." (II Kings 9:1-10.)
Having accomplished what he was to do, the young man anxiously turned to hurry out. Jehu reached out and seized him by the arm.
"I've been patient with you," Jehu said a little angrily. "Now tell me who sent you, and why they wish to affront me with your disrespectful little act."
"It wasn't an act and it wasn't disrespectful!" the young man exclaimed. "The prophet Elisha sent me to do what I did."
"Oh!" Jehu muttered in surprise. A bit bewildered, he sank into a chair, unaware of the messenger's departure. For a time he sat there in deep thought, then came out of the tent to join his officers.
"I hope that fellow didn't annoy you," one of them remarked. "He was probably some kind of religious crackpot. What was his excuse for coming here?"
"Should I bother to tell you what you have already heard through the tent flap?" Jehu asked. "Obviously you have already decided what kind of man he is and that he came here for no important purpose."
"Whatever he told you, I hope you didn't believe him," another officer remarked.
"But I did," Jehu declared. "He was sent by the prophet Elisha to tell me that I am to be the next king of the House of Israel."
The officers stared silently at their commander, expecting him to momentarily break into a grin at his own absurd statement. But his unusual gaze, continuing steady and sober, caused them to realize that he was serious. Amazed and abashed, they rose as one man, took off their jackets and spread them on the steps leading up to the tent entrance. In this manner, even though they had only the abrupt, brief declaration from their superior, they acknowledged him as their new ruler.
Syrian soldiers on the walls of Ramoth-gilead, only a little over a bowshot away, jumped to an anxious alert when they heard the blast of Israelite trumpets and cheers of soldiers. They didn't know that Jehu's top officers had just announced to their troops that their commander was soon to replace Jehoram. (II Kings 9:11-13.)
Convinced of what he should do according to Elisha, whom he greatly respected, and at the same time excited and elated at the thought of becoming a king, Jehu prepared to leave Ramoth-gilead.
"Continue a tight siege," he instructed his officers. "Don't allow anyone to come outside the walls. And don't let anyone leave our camps except those I pick to accompany me. I don't want anyone to reach Jezreel before I do, or Jehoram might hear about what has happened."
Jehu set off for Jezreel in his chariot, along with some of his best charioteers and cavalry. A few hours later he was in sight of the town where Jehoram was staying, and where his wound had almost healed in recent days. An alert watchman in a lookout tower on the wall noticed that a cloud of dust was rising from across the plain.
"Something that could be cavalry or chariots is approaching from the east," the lookout reported to Jehoram, who was talking with Ahaziah.
"It must be men with word from Ramoth-gilead," Jehoram observed, getting up from his couch. "Send a horseman out to meet them and bring back the news to me as fast as possible."
Jehu Fulfills Prophecy Minutes later a rider drew up alongside Jehu's clattering chariot and called out above the stomping of hoofs, asking how matters were going at Ramoth-gilead.
"Don't be concerned about that!" Jehu shouted back. "Go fall in at the rear of the cavalry!"
When the rider failed to return within a reasonable time, Jehoram sent another man to meet the oncoming company. Jehu told him, too, to ride at the rear. By this time, although Jehu was three or four miles away, the watchman told Jehoram that the company appeared to be led by a chariot, and that it was being driven so fast that the driver could be Jehu, who had excellent horses and a reputation for speeding in his chariot. (II Kings 9:14-20.)
This bothered Jehoram. He had a feeling that if it were Jehu, he was coming with some troublesome news. Both the kings set out at once, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu's company. Not far outside Jezreel, where Naboth's vineyard had been taken from him (I Kings 21:1-16), Jehu had to rumble to a stop because Jehoram and Ahaziah pulled up in front of him.
"Are things going well at Ramoth-gilead?" Jehoram anxiously asked.
"How could anything go well in Israel as long as it has a king whose mother deals in adultery, witchcraft and idolatry, and whose son follows in her footsteps?" Jehu scowlingly demanded. (II Kings 9:21-22.)
Jehoram stared at Jehu, stunned by the rebellious and insulting remark. But instead of reprimanding Jehu, he turned to Ahaziah.
"Get out of here!" he shouted to the young king. "These men have become our enemies!"
Jehoram and Ahaziah cracked their whips at their horses, swung their chariots around and rumbled back toward Jezreel. Jehu seized his bow and hastily fitted an arrow to the string. Seconds later Jehoram was dead on the floor of his chariot, whose horses pulled it off into some roadside boulders. (II Kings 9:23-24.)
"Take Jehoram's body and throw it into the field where Naboth the grape-grower was stoned to death," Jehu said to Bidkar, his cavalry captain. "Do you remember when we were young horse soldiers under Ahab, how Ahab's wife Jezebel had Naboth unjustly killed? Now let her dead son be food for wild dogs on the same spot where she had Naboth murdered." (II Kings 9:25-26; I Kings 21:17-22.)
Jehu realized that by his order to Bidkar he was carrying out part of a prophecy made to Ahab by Elijah. The prophet had told that king about fifteen years previously that his blood would be licked up by dogs at the same place dogs had licked up Naboth's blood. In this event it was Ahab's son's blood, which was the same as his in a lineage sense.
No Place to Hide From his speeding chariot Ahaziah looked toward the other vehicle just in time to see Jehoram fall with Jehu's arrow protruding from his back. Expecting an arrow at any moment through his own back, the young king of Judah whipped his horses to their utmost speed. Had he looked behind, he would have known that Jehu and his company had come to a stop. Ahaziah rumbled into Jezreel, but he knew he wouldn't be safe there if Jehu meant to find him. He would have to keep on traveling, but there was something he wanted to do before he left Jezreel.
Jezebel, Jehoram's mother and Ahaziah's grandmother, had come to Jezreel to confer with her son. Ahaziah wanted to speak with her, but he had not time to leave his chariot and go to where she was staying. But he did pull up at the place and hastily speak to a servant.
"Tell my grandmother that Jehu has turned against us!" Ahaziah excitedly said. "Tell her at once that he has killed my uncle Jehoram, and that he is on his way here to get me! I'm riding on to Samaria, but tell her that I want her to try to stop Jehu when he gets here!"
Ahaziah lost no time in riding to Jezreel's south gate, where he turned out and raced off toward the capital of the House of Israel.
A short while later Jehu and his men clattered into the town. From windows and doorways people fearfully peered out at them, not knowing what to expect. Most of them didn't know who the mounted visitors were or why they had come. When he came to the main street, the army commander rode slowly. He and his men were hungry and thirsty, and he glanced about in search of an inn. Besides, the horses needed rest and water.
"Hello, Jehu!" a female voice called from somewhere above. "Do you feel like Zimri, the servant who murdered a king of Israel years ago?"
Jehu halted his horses and looked around. Up in a window of one of the taller buildings a woman was leaning over the sill and smiling down at him. She was attired in fine clothing and her hair was beautifully arranged, but her face was so excessively painted that it wasn't easy to determine her approximate age or real appearance.
"I admire you, Jehu," the woman continued. "Success is bound to come to those who have the courage to rid themselves of those who stand in the way of their ambitions."
"Jezebel!" Jehu muttered, after finally recognizing Jehoram's mother.
It wasn't clear to him whether Jezebel was meaning to show her queenly disdain for him or whether she was trying to delay him from his intended purpose.
"Who is on my side?" Jehu asked. "Why don't you send your men to the inn up the street and then come up here and find out," Jezebel answered with even a broader smile.
At this point Jehu spied some effeminate-appearing men peeking out of an adjoining window. He recognized them as the kind of persons who were servants in harems and certain kinds of public houses. That was enough for the army commander.
"You fellows up there!" he shouted to the men at the window. "Throw that woman down!"
Terrified at the threatening command, the men seized the screaming Jezebel and shoved her over the window sill. (II Kings 9:30-33.)