The Bible Story - Volume VI
Jezebel, Chaos and a Boy King JEHU HAD come into the Israelite town of Jezreel after putting an end to King Jehoram of Israel, according to God's instructions through Elisha. (II Kings 9:1-26.) Jehu was met there by Jezebel, the idolatrous queen mother of Jehoram. At Jehu's command, she was pushed from a high window by her men attendants. (II Kings 9:30-33.)
No Memorial for Jezebel If Jezebel didn't die instantly when she struck the street, she didn't live long afterward. Jehu signaled his men to move on. They did, and right over Jezebel's mangled body. The company drew up at a nearby inn to eat while the horses rested and were fed and watered.
"The people have viewed the remains of the wicked woman long enough," Jehu told his men after their meal. "Jezebel doesn't deserve an honorable funeral, but she was the daughter of a king, the wife of a king, the mother-in-law of a king and the grandmother of a king. She shouldn't be left unburied. Take her off the street and prepare a grave for her."
Jehu's men went to the place where they had last seen the body, but hungry dogs had already been there. Only the skull, feet and hands remained. The men returned to their commander to tell him what had happened. (II Kings 9:34-35.)
"This is according to God's will," Jehu informed them. "Elijah the prophet foretold that dogs would consume this woman close to the wall of Jezreel. Not enough is left of her to even be buried. She will become only waste matter on the ground. She'll never have a monument or even a tombstone with her name on it." (II Kings 9:36-37; I Kings 21:1-26.)
This was the wretched end of a woman who was probably the most infamous in Bible history. Her evil, idolatrous life strongly influenced and infected all Israel, resulting in misery and unhappiness for many people. Probably a large part of them didn't deserve anything better, and so God allowed this woman to affect their lives in a step toward the destiny of all Israel.
To qualify as king of the House of Israel, Jehu's task was far from accomplished. Through him God purposed to destroy all of Ahab's family. Ahaziah was still free, and seventy of his young uncles, Ahab's sons, lived in Samaria, the capital of Israel. Jehu wanted to move promptly against them before they could flee and hide in distant places.
From Jezreel Jehu sent a message to close friends of Ahab, who cared for his younger sons, and to the head men of Samaria. He suggested that they immediately choose one of the seventy sons of Ahab to lead them, using the equipment of war available in the city, in defending themselves against Jehu and his cavalry. This frightened the men in Samaria. They knew it would be futile to try to stand against Jehu. All they could do was send back a reply promising to cooperate in any way except to fight. (II Kings 10:1-5.)
A little later an answer came from Jehu. The men of Samaria were shocked and even more fearful when they read it.
Idolatrous Family Perishes "You can carry out your promise to cooperate," the message read, "by sending me the heads of the seventy sons of Ahab living in Samaria.
I'll expect to receive them before sunrise tomorrow. If I don't, there'll be more then seventy heads fall when my men reach your city."
Before dawn the next day men from Samaria brought the seventy heads of Ahab's sons in baskets. Jehu instructed to pile them in two heaps at the sides of the main gate of Jezreel. These were meant as grisly reminders to any who might consider resisting the new king.
Jehu came out to the gate next morning to find a silent crowd assembled there. When the people saw him, some glared at him accusingly. Others eyed him with fear and began to disperse.
"Why are you staring at me?" he asked them irritably. "I didn't cut off those heads. I took Jehoram's life, and that was according to God's will. It's also God's will that all of Ahab's sons should die, according to the prophets Elijah and Elisha." (II Kings 10:6-10; I Kings 21:17-19; II Kings 9:1-10.)
In the next hours Jehu and his men combed Jezreel and nearby regions for those related to Ahab, and put an end to their lives. They also did away with all pagan priests they could find. They then started for Samaria to continue their purpose, but stopped on the way at a shearing place where people were gathered. Jehu didn't recognize anyone there and no one seemed to recognize him.
"Who are all these?" he asked one man. "We are relatives of Ahaziah, king of Judah," the man proudly replied. "We are on our way to visit other relatives, Jehoram and Jezebel. We stopped here to take in the annual shearing event."
The speaker was unaware that the king and queen were dead and that he had just pronounced a death sentence on himself and his relatives. Jehu and his men acted at once. (II Kings 10:11-14.)
Right after the carnage had taken place, a chariot came up from the direction of Samaria, rumbled past the shearing place and turned off on a road to the northeast. Some of Jehu's men excitedly shouted to him that Ahaziah was in the chariot.
"If it is Ahaziah, then we'll be spared the trouble of looking for him," the new king remarked. "He must have heard that we're moving south and he doesn't intend to be caught in Samaria or Jerusalem. After him!"
By this time the chariot was out of sight behind a rise, but Jehu's cavalry had only to follow the dust cloud stirred up by racing horses and heavy wheels. Ahaziah was in the vehicle with a driver who ignored the pursuers' shouts to halt. In the jostling chariot Ahaziah's shield couldn't protect him from the arrows coming from behind. One found its intended mark. The young king of Judah collapsed on the chariot floor. Savagely whipping his horses, the driver continued to race on.
"Let him go!" Jehu shouted from his chariot a short distance behind the riders. "He'll not live long with an arrow in him. We'll only waste time chasing him farther."
A Plot against Baal He was right. Ahaziah died at Megiddo, a town a few miles to the northwest. His body was later taken by servants down to Jerusalem for burial in the royal vault. (II Kings 9:27-29; II Chronicles 22:1-9.)
Again Jehu and his cavalry turned back for Samaria. On the way they met a group of mounted men led by Jehonadab, an influential leader highly respected in Israel. He was descended from Moses' relatives the Kenites, who had settled in southern Palestine. (Numbers 10:29-32; Judges 1:16; I Chronicles 2:55.) Jehu knew of Jehonadab, and wondered as the two parties approached if Jehonadab intended to oppose him.
"Do you disapprove of what I have been doing?" Jehu asked after greetings had been exchanged.
"I am in favor of it," Jehonadab replied. "I know that it's according to the will of God."
"Then go with me in my chariot to Samaria, if you wish, and help us find the remaining kin of Ahab," Jehu said, holding out his hand to the other man. (II Kings 10:15.)
Jehonadab agreed and rode with Jehu, who was pleased to have this prominent person seen with him on the streets of the capital. People who might not approve of Jehu's violent purging actions would possibly change their minds, the new king reasoned, on seeing that he and Jehonadab were friends. Jehonadab had made a lasting name for himself by strict adherence to God's Law and by training his children so well they followed him. (Jeremiah 35.)
During the next few days Jehu carried out what he had come to Samaria to do. This marked an end to the expanded family of Ahab. If that king had been obedient to God, his descendants wouldn't have been slaughtered, and would have continued to rule as long as they lived and ruled wisely. (II Kings 10:16-17.)
After Jehu had established himself at Samaria, he made a surprising public proclamation that he had decided to become a follower of Baal, even though he had put an end to some pagan priests in Jezreel. To make up for it, he declared that he would worship Baal with much more zeal than did Ahab, who sometimes was swayed to consider the God of Israel as more powerful. This was good news to the many followers of Baal in Israel, and especially to the priests of Baal, of whom there were hundreds in the land.
"I have chosen a day on which to offer the first sacrifices to Baal," Jehu announced. "Every loyal priest of that god should be present at the temple to participate in the ceremonies. Any priest who fails to show up will be subject to death."
When the special day came, so many priests attended that the building was packed. Many worshippers also showed up, but there wasn't room for all of them inside.
"See that all the priests are properly clothed in the proper vestments for the rituals," Jehu told those in charge of such matters. "No priests should have a part in the services unless he is attired rightly."
Pagan Splendor Becomes a Privy To Jehonadab and his men he gave instructions that no follower of God should be allowed as a spectator in the temple. Then the sacrificing started. With attention focused on the altar, it was a shocking surprise when the Priests and worshinners realized that the doors had been opened and that soldiers were rushing in on them.
Eighty soldiers with drawn swords squeezed quickly into the temple. Then the doors were slammed shut to prevent any of the crowd from escaping the slaughter that followed.
Jehu hadn't become a Baal worshipper after all. This was his deceitful scheme to get the priests of Baal together so that he could rid Israel of them all at once. (II Kings 10:18-25.)
After they had dragged the bodies out, the soldiers broke down the altar and smashed the temple furnishings. They pulled down the image of Baal, uncovered many small images hidden in a secret place, hauled everything into the street and burned it there.
The temple building was ruined. Its rooms were used as public waste rooms for hundreds of years. (II Kings 10:26-28.)
Jehu had obediently and zealously performed for God, but he wasn't inclined toward obedience toward God in other ways. Though he had fanatically wiped out the worship of Baal in Israel, he later promoted and encouraged the worship of the golden calves in shrines at Bethel near Jerusalem and at Dan near Mt. Hermon.
These animal images, set up by King Jeroboam more than ninety years previously, were supposedly intended as substitutes for God, so that the people of the northern tribes wouldn't have to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship and sacrifice. The fact was that Jeroboam didn't want his subjects to go into Judah, lest they find freedom of worship there and decide to stay. His spurious priests convinced many that God was pleased with this arrangement. In this matter Jehu followed to a great extent in Jeroboam's footsteps.
Through a prophet or priest or perhaps by means of a dream, the information was conveyed to Jehu that because he had carried out God's will in putting an end to Ahab's family, his descendants for the next four generations would rule ten tribes of Israel. At the same time it was made plain to him that if he continued condoning calf-image worship, trouble would come to his nation.
Jehu was a man who depended on his power and influence and the strength of armed men. He saw no need to change his ways for the sake of his country. Nevertheless, because he had been zealous in the beginning, God allowed him to be king for twenty-eight years. (II Kings 10:29-36.)
Jezebel's Daughter Athaliah, mother of King Ahaziah of Judah, reacted in a terrible manner after her son was brought back dead to Jerusalem. Instead of grieving, she regarded the loss as an opportunity to become the queen ruler of Judah. She was determined that if her son couldn't continue as king, none of the sons of her dead husband's other wives would succeed Ahaziah. Besides, she relished the idea of David's posterity coming to an end.
Only a daughter of that infamous couple, Ahab and Jezebel, might have been capable of what Athaliah caused to be done. (II Kings 8:16-18.) All the young sons of Ahaziah were found dead except little Jehoash, the infant son of Ahaziah. His grandmother intended to do away with him, too, but through some oversight he was spared. Jehosheba, Ahaziah's sister, found the child alive and temporarily hid him and his nurse in a bedroom closet. Later she managed to take him secretly to the temple. There he was reared for the next six years by Jehosheba and her husband, Jehoiada, who was the high priest.
Meanwhile Athaliah ruled Judah, unaware that there was a male descendant of David living only a few blocks from her palace. (II Kings 11:1-3; II Chronicles 22:10-12.)
When Jehoash (also called Joash) was seven years old, Jehoiada the high priest instructed five trusted military captains to visit leaders throughout the territories of Judah and Benjamin to determine which of the clan chiefs were in strong favor of removing Athaliah from the throne.
Using tact and caution, lest their mission be discovered by Athaliah's followers, the five officers found that almost all the men contacted were eager to get rid of Jezebel's daughter, who for six years had proved that her lust for power and her desire to promote the worship of Baal in Judah was far greater than her interest in the welfare of the people.
After this encouraging report had been made to Jehoiada, leaders who were against Athaliah were invited to come to a special secret meeting at the temple. Great care was taken to make certain that no one loyal to the queen or connected with her activities was there.
"I want a vow from every man here that he will not disclose what he is about to see until the matter is made public," Jehoiada told those assembled.
The Boy King All the men spoke out in hearty compliance. Jehoiada was pleased with the demonstration of loyalty, but he warned the men that God would deal harshly with any who broke the vow. Then his wife Jehosheba appeared before them, bringing with her a boy of about seven years of age.
"This is Jehoash, son of Ahaziah," the high priest announced to his startled audience. "He is the rightful successor to the throne of the kingdom of Judah! He wasn't murdered with Jehoram's sons six years ago. My wife rescued him and brought him to our living quarters here at the temple, where we have kept him since without Athaliah's knowledge. Now, with your help, he will become ruler of Judah, as only a descendant of David should be!"
After the excitement had somewhat subsided, Jehoiada disclosed his plans to declare Jehoash king on the next Sabbath. He divided the men into three groups, each of which was to be armed with weapons David had put in the temple treasury years before. This was a precaution against a possible attack on the temple and Jehoash by the royal guard. The queen was expected to be in a rage when she found out what was taking place.
On the Sabbath the men returned to the temple to arm themselves and take up their positions. When all was ready, Jehoash was brought close to the altar and anointed king by Jehoiada and his sons. Trumpets blared and people applauded happily as a crown was placed on the boy's head.
"God save the king!" Jehoiada and his sons exclaimed, and the audience joined in. (II Kings 11:412; II Chronicles 23:1-11.)
Over at the palace, Athaliah, who didn't worship at the temple of God, couldn't help hearing the shouts and music, which made her both irritable and curious.
"Send in my sedan chair!" she snapped at a servant. "I'll go over there myself and find out what all that noise is all about!"