A NEW NORTHERN DYNASTY 2 Kings 9–13“They blew the trumpet and shouted, ’Jehu is king!’ “ (2 Kings 9:13)A new beginning is a God-given opportunity. We can take advantage of it, or miss our chance and slip back into old ways.
During the years spanned in these chapters Judah and Israel were severely weakened. The Black Obelisk of Nimrud shows Israel’s Jehu down on his knees before the Assyrian Shalmaneser, as retainers bring tribute. Soon Assyrian weakness led to resurgence of Aram, and during the rest of this period both nations were decimated in wars with Syria and unable to resist incursions by other peoples.
Jehu was anointed king of Israel (9:1–13). He killed Joram of Israel, Ahaziah of Judah (vv. 14–29), Queen-mother Jezebel (vv. 30–37), and the rest of Ahab’s family (10:1–17). Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel (vv. 18–28) but maintained the state religion instituted by Jeroboam (vv. 29–36). In Judah, Athaliah killed her grandchildren and seized power (11:1). Seven years later a grandchild who escaped, Joash, was made king (vv. 2–21) and reigned 40 years (12:1–21). In Israel, Jehoahaz (13:1–9) and Jehoash (vv. 10–13) succeeded Jehu, and Elisha predicted three victories for Israel over Aram (vv. 14–25). KING LIST
Understanding the Text
“You are to destroy the house of Ahab” 2 Kings 9:1–13. Jehu was selected by God to fulfill prophecy against the royal line of Ahab. Jehu was only too glad to accept the commission and anointing as Israel’s next king. Jehu exemplifies those who use religion to gain their own ends, without necessarily having a personal faith. Many are willing to “serve God” as long as God’s will seems to match their own. The true test of commitment is submission to God’s will when obedience seems to be against one’s own self-interest. Jehu of Israel submits to Shalmaneser “Throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord” 2 Kings 9:14–10:17. Jehu enthusiastically set about the task of killing all members of Ahab’s family and his important officials. He frequently referred to the Lord, and quoted prophecy foretelling the destruction of Ahab’s house (9:25–26; 10:9–11). Yet his references to God were clearly self-serving. Jehu recalled a prophecy of Elijah which he overheard, and tossed the body of Ahab’s son in Naboth’s vineyard. But he ordered the burial of Jezebel, even though he knew dogs were prophesied to eat her flesh. In his public statements Jehu admitted he conspired against his master, but justified his acts against Ahab’s family on religious grounds. In fact, usurpers in the ancient Middle East commonly murdered all members of the preceding royal house. Even appeal to religion was not unusual, as in the case of the Hittite king Murshili II (mid-14th centuryB.C). The ambitious man is quick to seize on any excuse likely to rouse public support. Jehu was doing God’s will. But Jehu was doing God’s will for the wrong reason. Politicians today sometimes use God to appeal to certain voting blocks. We need to evaluate political use of religion very carefully, and even skeptically. “Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel” 2 Kings 10:18–35. The worship of Baal had long been promoted by the royal house of Ahab. As Baalism was one of the power bases of the old regime, it was natural for Jehu to seek to stamp it out. Why then was Jehu’s call of all ministers to a great religious fesitival effective? Why weren’t the devotees of Baal suspicious? It seems likely that as a high-ranking officer in Ahab’s army Jehu had worshiped Baal with the royal house. As a person quick to use religion for his own ends, he may even have seemed especially devout! Only if Jehu had frequently participated in such worship could his announced intention to serving Baal “much” (v. 18) have been believed! The text shows that even destruction of Baalism was not evidence of Jehu’s personal commitment to the Lord. His ends achieved, Jehu dropped religious reform and continued the counterfeit state religion established by Jeroboam (vv. 28–31). As the text says, he was not “careful to keep the Law of the Lord.” Jehu had used God to gain the throne; now he had no use for God. Yet in fact he had a desperate need for God, who “began to reduce the size of Israel” and permitted the Arameans to overpower “the Israelites throughout their territory.” No one ever reaches the point where a relationship with God makes no difference in his or her life. “Jehosheba . . . took Joash . . . and stole him away” 2 Kings 11:1–2. The story contrasts two women: Athaliah and Jehosheba. Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, married Judah’s king Jehoram. On hearing of the death of her son Ahaziah she killed her grandchildren to take the throne for herself. In contrast, Jehosheba risked her life to save the king’s infant son. The wicked take lives in the pursuit of ambition. The godly risk their lives for others in commitment to what is right. “All the years of Jehoiada the priest” 2 Kings 11:4–12:21. The infant son of Ahaziah was raised in secret until age seven, when he was acclaimed king and Athaliah was killed. Joash served God until the priest who had raised him, Jehoiada, died. Under Jehoiada’s tutelage Joash repaired the temple and reinstituted worship there. But after the death of the priest, the king abandoned God. Second Chronicles 24 tells us that Joash turned to Canaanite practices, and even ordered the death of a son of his old mentor Jehoiada who rebuked him. We need godly people close to us to help us maintain our commitment to the Lord. “Elisha’s tomb” 2 Kings 13:12–25. The report of a man brought back to life when tossed into Elisha’s tomb symbolizes the power of God to restore the nation as well as the individual. Nestled as it is in the report of Israel, crushed under Jehoahaz by the Arameans and finally resurgent as God enabled Jehoash to defeat them, the story serves as a parable for God’s people. Even when all hope is lost, God is able to bring life and victory. How vital then that God’s people return to Him.
One Accord (2 Kings 9–10)
It didn’t take long for word of Jehu’s attack on Ahab’s family or of his frequent mention of the Lord to spread. The news excited an unusual man, who hurried to meet Jehu. The man was Jehonadab [Jonadab] son of Recab. We know something about him from Jeremiah, who nearly 150 years later set bowls of wine before his descendants. They refused to touch it, saying their “forefather Jonadab” commanded them not to drink wine, and to live a nomadic rather than settled life. Apparently Jonadab, a rigorous and ascetic man, was repelled by the corruption in Israelite society and determined to lead a separated life. God commended the Recabites, for their faithfulness to Jonadab’s commands shamed a Judah all too willing to disobey the commands of the Lord (cf. Jer. 35). This Jonadab hurried to meet Jehu, undoubtedly to see if revival truly had come to Israel. When they met Jehu asked, “Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?” Jehu then invited the stern supporter of Yahweh to “come with me and see my zeal for the Lord” (2 Kings 10:l5–16). How Jonadab’s hopes must have risen as he witnessed extermination of the rest of wicked Ahab’s family, and then went into the temple of Baal with Jehu and saw him massacre every representative of that corrupt Canaanite faith. But then, with Jehu’s personal goals reached, his “zeal for the Lord” disappeared. He continued the cult of Jeroboam as Israel’s state religion, and turned his attention to his real concern, ruling. Nothing more is said of Jonadab. He disappeared until his descendants told Jeremiah the heritage left them by their ancestor. “Don’t settle down,” Jonadab told his sons. In other words, “Don’t fix your hopes on the ’zeal’ of politicians who use God for their own ends. Live your lives outside man’s society.” What does the incident say to us? No, not that we shouldn’t have a part in our nation’s political process. But surely that we must not fix our hopes on reforms to be accomplished here. Like the descendants of Jonadab, we Christians are strangers and pilgrims in a hostile world. We do what we can to influence it for good. But we always remember that God’s purposes are not summed up in who wins the next election, and it is those overarching purposes with which we identify.
Be a good Republican or Democrat. But make being a good Christian your priority.