The Bold Testament: Jehu’s Jihad
When the God of the Israelites finally spoke to Elijah on a holy mountain–not in the strong wind or the earthquake or the fire he sent, but in a still small voice that followed–his divine message was focused on killing. You will anoint Hazael to be king over Syria and Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel, Yahweh said, and they will kill for me with the sword.1
The Bible tells us about that, about Jehu’s bloody coup and his crusade against the worshipers of Baal, with no sense of any outrage in its detached narrator’s voice. Jehu shot here and trampled there and cut with the sword, the second book of Kings informs us, and thus eliminated the rival god Baal from Israel. Yahweh, the God of both Israel and its Semitic sister to the south, Judah, approved of it all. Well done, God said, you did what was in my heart.2 Jehu gets to die a natural death, and the dry old Bible text hurries us along to the next king.
Well, hold on a minute. A lot of people died at Jehu’s hand, brutally and in the name of a God now worshiped by billions. How might such a man tell his own story, in his own crude voice? What would one of his victims have to say? And why does another book in the Bible, Hosea, come to a very different conclusion about the righteousness of Jehu’s brutal actions?
This story comes to us in three parts.
The Testament of Jehu
I’ve done a lot of killing for the God of my fathers, and so did they. The prophet who anointed me king was a killer for the purity of Yahweh in Israel. The prophet before him was, too. Elijah and Elisha kicked some righteous ass. And they anointed me to do the same.
This isn’t going to be some bedtime story for kids. I was a soldier–a captain of soldiers–before taking the throne, and I was put there to kill. That’s what I did, and that’s how I talk.3
You’re not going to see any psalms begging forgiveness here, either. I was born into a sacred mission from Yahweh, commanded through his two big-name prophets, to cleanse the filth of Baal from his land. What higher cause is there than that? Killing has never bothered me, anyhow. Shit happens, we all die. Crying and regretting is something weak people do, the ones who tend to die the fastest. There sure are a lot of them like that.
I was still waving a little wooden sword at people’s shins when Elijah first heard my name, from Yahweh himself. He was in a cave on the holy mountain getting an earthquake and thunder and fire and shit thrown at him from above, and then Yahweh told him to make me king of Israel, when I got to be of age.4
The anointing job went to Elisha fifteen years later because Elijah had gotten himself swept straight up into the sky in a whirlwind. Crazy, but that’s what Elisha said happened. Anyhow, nobody ever saw him again, and Elisha got to be the man in charge of prophecy.5 And of anointing me.
Our troops were standing guard at Ramoth-gilead against the Syrians to the north.6 Myself, I was sitting with my guys in what was left of the morning’s shade next to the officer’s quarters. Some babyfaced junior prophet showed up sweating and shaking with his little flask of anointing oil. He stood there in the sun squinting at each of us, and then settled on me. “Captain, may I have a word?” he said.
“Sure, kid,” I said. “But we’re all captains here. Which one?” I saw that he had the anointing oil and nobody there wanted or deserved to be king as much as I did.
“You, Captain,” he said, his voice and hands quivering but eyes steady, matching my stare. I pushed myself up from the dirt and away from the wall and brushed myself off and we went inside.
“This is about me being king, right?” I saw the outline of his head nodding, my eyes still adjusting to the dark. “Straight from Elisha?” He nodded again. “OK, then,” I said.
He dribbled the oil all over my head and chanted the blessing words from Yahweh (from Elisha, actually, but whatever) and I caught a few of them. The ones that mattered. King over Israel, me. Wipe out Ahab’s house, every last man in it. Everybody goes, from his sons to his slaves. And his thieving Phoenician bitch, too. Now that part I remember pretty much word for word: She’ll get eaten by dogs in Jezreel, and there won’t be anything left to bury.7
I lifted my head up and looked at the kid and got off my knee. Brushed the oil away from my face and into my hair with the rest. “You’re the king now,” he said. He gave me a little nod like his job was done and I could get on with my part without him, thanks very much. Then he walked out of the room and I heard him jerk open the outside door and run down the steps.8
It wasn’t just some leather-faced armor-humping captain who came out of that room–it was the king of all fucking Israel. I stood in the doorway with a big happy rush going on in my head and watched my guys laughing at the kid’s dust as he hauled ass out of there. They never were big on prophets.
Then I waved at them to come on up, my hair slick from the oil, heart pounding. “Guys, see this?” I said, pointing at my head. “You’re looking at the new king of Israel. That prophet kid was sent by Elisha to anoint me.”
A divine call to be king, in the service of Yahweh himself and nobody else. You don’t forget moments like that. There was this huge grin on my face, and then on theirs, too. High fives all around. Then we remembered who we all were, them compared to me now. The smiles faded, they nodded their heads in polite little bows, mostly serious, and they threw their tunics on the steps. One of them blew a trumpet as I walked down from the doorway and everybody yelled, “Jehu is king!”9 Good men, every one of them. Or maybe just men with the good sense to go with a winner. Anyhow, there would be a lot more trumpets blowing for me soon.
This happened about 30 years or so ago, give or take. My scribe here might fill in the exact number, or not. Doesn’t matter. I’ve been king a long time. And you know what? I deserve to be. I’ve handled plenty of Yahweh’s wet work. It’s what I do, and I do it well. And there’s no higher calling than killing for the most high God.
The first job was King Joram, since it was his throne Yahweh wanted me to have. He was laid up in Jezreel after taking some hits from the Syrians. That was a good long chariot run to our west, over the hills to the Jordan and then just past Mount Gilead. It takes all day. I like to drive a fast chariot, but you have to rest the horses a lot to go that kind of distance. They can only stand so much.
“Lock this place down. Nobody gets out before we leave tomorrow,” I said to the guys. Our next move had to be a surprise. “You all with me?” They were.10
We made good time to Jezreel the next day, just an hour to feed and water men and horses at the river and some breaks for the horses in between. I pushed them hard on the last run to the city walls. Plenty of dust and noise to get the watchman in a panic, and no time for Joram to prepare a counterattack.
He sent out a messenger right away to ask if we came in peace. Nope. We captured him, and then waited for Joram to come out himself. But he sent out another messenger with the same question. Same outcome. Joram was out two messengers with no info getting back to him, just the sight of all our war horses and chariots and weapons massed outside the walls of Jezreel.
Finally Joram came out on his own chariot. His nephew the rookie king of Judah was there too, riding a chariot of his own. Ahaziah was paying him a visit since they were such buddies in their alliance against Syria now. I didn’t mind. It was two kings for the price of one.11
Joram came up next to me and pulled back on the reins and then asked me the same stupid sniveling question: “Is it peace?”
“No, asshole, it isn’t,” I said. I’m not real good at diplomacy, especially when I’m about to shoot the person in question. “Not with your Phoenician mother still doing her thing with Baal.” This wasn’t just about me, although I won’t deny I liked my part in it. It was about Yahweh and cleaning up Jezebel’s filth for him, her Baal prophets and idols and shit.
He set the whip on his horses and yanked the reins hard to the side, shouting to Ahaziah, “It’s treason!”
I still have the composite bow I shot him with. It’s a beautiful thing, the limbs extending up and down from the handle like horns of a noble cow, their tips stiffened with bone.12 The wood is Lebanon cedar, smooth and never left without a film of oil, with goat horn glued onto the belly. Lesser men couldn’t even draw it, but I still can, weakened as I am. I love that bow.
One of my men shot Ahaziah, too. That’s what I meant about the two-for-one.13 Wasting the nephew too was probably the right call. The less of Ahab’s extended family around the better, it seemed. To be on the safe side, I also took out a few dozen of Ahaziah’s kin later, when I was on the way to Samaria for my big scam on the Baal worshipers there. Hauled them over to a pit and killed them where they stood, ready for the dirt.14
Ahaziah’s mother did a purge of her own family and took over the throne in Judah for a while. But she missed one baby grandson. He grew up and came out of hiding, and that was the end of Queen Athaliah. Not really a concern of mine. My job was to get rid of Baal in Israel. That’s what Yahweh put me on the throne to do, like the horses that were put in front of my chariot to pull it.15
I have an eye for beauty–that gleaming red-brown bow, those powerful gray geldings snorting and straining at the yoke. A well-placed arrow between the shoulder blades is a thing of beauty in its own way. And something else I appreciate is a fitting end. I ended a lot of lives, and I tried to make a picture out of it when that could be done.
For example: After I pulled my arrow out of his back, we disposed of Joram right on the land his parents stole from Naboth. When I gave my man Bidkar the order to do that, I told him it was according to the word of Yahweh. And it was, sort of, though Ahab was dead already and I hadn’t gotten to Jezebel yet.16
She was screaming at me from her window when we entered the gate of Jezreel, all made up and decked out like the whore she was. Not a queen, a whore–spreading Israel’s legs out to her Phoenician god. “Throw her down,” I yelled back, at the eunuchs next to her. And they did, just like that. They could see where the winning side was, just looking down on all of us from that window. So much for loyalty to the queen.
Now there was a fitting end. Jezebel’s blood splattered on the wall when she slammed into the ground. We set the horses to trampling on her, crushing her into pieces. Then we went in and had dinner.17
And yes, the dogs did eat her. After we’d gotten our fill of wine and some good grub from Jezebel’s table, I felt a little twinge about disposing of her body. I don’t get second thoughts about anything very often. Like I said, regretting is for the weak. But this was a matter of propriety: She was a king’s daughter.
So I sent a couple of men outside to take care of it, but they returned right away and said there was nothing left except the head and feet and hands. I gave a little speech to all my guys about Yahweh’s word being fulfilled. It wasn’t bad. “Yahweh told Elijah that the dogs will eat Jezebel’s flesh at Jezreel, and that’s what happened,” I said. “Now her corpse will be shit on the fields.”18
We weren’t done cleaning up the royal family, though, not even close. Ahab had been a busy boy in his time and spawned 70 sons besides Joram. Some of them might have been grandsons, I suppose, but potential heirs just the same.
They were all down in Samaria, but it was pretty simple to get at them now that I had myself a rep. I just let the Samaritans think I was coming for them next. They asked what it would take for me to leave them alone, and I said make it the heads of Ahab’s sons. Sure enough, a couple days later a messenger came up to Jezreel with baskets of heads.
I had the heads all heaped up on both sides of the city gate overnight. Went out there myself later and picked out a couple that looked familiar and set them right on top. I’ve always known how to intimidate people, to keep them scared and loyal and quiet.
The next morning I went out and gave my first public speech. I didn’t want to claim credit for the heads and possibly get the people pissed at me personally that early in the game, so I said it was Yahweh’s doing. And it was, indirectly. “These heads fell off Ahab’s sons,” I said, “but none of Yahweh’s curse against the house of Ahab will fall.” I’m no prophet; my sword does most of my talking for Yahweh, but I’ve given an inspired speech or two.19
Then we mopped up the rest of Ahab’s house in Jezreel. His so-called great men, his friends, his priests. Spears and swords are a lot easier to use on bodies without body armor. You don’t have to aim for the neck. They can run faster without a helmet and 30 pounds of iron-leather shirt, but I had plenty of men there to round them up, especially since most of Joram’s guards wasted no time switching to the winning side.20
Let me say something about that, the knowing who the winning side is. Yes, I bowed down in front of the Assyrian king as one of my first official acts. It was pretty clear that Israel had to go along to get along with the Assyrians.22 Did I enjoy planting my face on the bricks in front of Shalmaneser? Sheol no. But I didn’t want my hands or nose or ears or fingers cut off, either. Those guys don’t mess around, and he crossed the Euphrates with a hundred thousand of them.23
And when it came to my divine mission–getting rid of Baal–I didn’t mess around, either. Yahweh had spoken, and his command was going to be fulfilled, through me. I was his sword hand, strong and ready. As soon as Jezreel was secured, we headed down to Samaria to take care of the temple Ahab had built for Baal.
That’s when I put those relatives of Ahaziah in the dirt. It was at a sheep shearing place along the way. On the trip I also came up with the idea for staging a Baal sacrifice to reel in all the Baal worshipers. And it’s when I met Jehonadab.
Jehonadab. He’s the closest I ever came to actually caring about somebody. He came out to meet me on my way from Jezreel and I liked what I saw and, fuck it, I up and asked him right there if his heart was with me as mine had just gone with him. It’s not like me to say or even feel something like that, but somehow I figured for sure he’d get where I was coming from.
“It sure is, O King” he said, looking at me, both of us knowing exactly what was up as I gave him my hand and held it a while along with his eyes and then pulled him up onto the chariot. I’ve never told all this to anyone, but I’m getting older now and really feeling like shit for some reason and might not have much time left to say it.
He wasn’t like other people. He was strong, someone I could respect and then some. David with all his wives had a guy who was special to him, too, you know? Your love was more wonderful than the love of women, he said.24 That’s what it was like with me and Jehonadab, once.
The Baal worshipers in Samaria didn’t have the full story about me yet. They knew I was the new king, but that’s about it. People are easy to con when they want to believe what you’re telling them. When I showed up with my chariots and archers and armored men holding spears and swords, and told my new fans that I was going to serve Baal even more than Ahab did, they really wanted to think that was the truth.25 With all that iron gleaming in the sun, their alternative wasn’t too pleasant.
Jehonadab said there were a few skeptics in the crowd who’d heard what happened in Jezreel. He was brand new but went to work as if he’d been with us for years. We had a bond right from the start. He got some guys to walk around pulling loudmouths aside and quietly slitting their throats before anyone could get much said.
So we had ourselves a bunch of nice attentive Samaritans standing there when I announced a big sacrifice for Baal, a solemn assembly that everybody would need to attend. Those suckers spread the word, and when the proceedings began, Ahab’s temple was filled up with Baal worshipers from all over.26
It was a beautiful con. I snuck a peek at Jehonadab–the one person who could make me reach into myself and find some feelings, until even he couldn’t–while we watched everybody file into the building. He had this big grin on his square face. He looked at me and I grinned back and he gave the hilt of his sword a little pat with his hand.
The Lamentations of Baalzakar
The sharp edges of my hatred for Jehu have softened and rounded from all its secret years in hiding. But now I see him growing weaker from the poison, and little thrills of vengeance come to sharpen feelings that were long dead inside. Sometimes now I permit myself a few moments of hope and even joy, while I bow and smile and taste around the tainted places on his plates.
I will have revenge against this monster. I see it in his listless eyes, the tired way he waves off the ministers who come to him proposing an execution or a purge. He has not become merciful, he will never be merciful, but now his body is sick and the old bloodlust is gone. Death is at the door, and there will be vengeance soon. Not just for myself and my people, but for my God, the Baal of rain and life and all that is good.
Melkart, my silent and suffering God! He waters the fields and brings forth the grain, even after the travesty at Samaria against his temple and people.27 In my hidden prayers I beg forgiveness for the years of service I had to render unto a murderer before vengeance could be won. And in these hidden thoughts inscribed to you, my baby son, I bear witness about his evil and the angry god he serves.
You will be raised in the worship of that god Yahweh. It cannot be otherwise, not even after Jehu and I are long gone. When you find this little scroll, please remember your father’s true devotion. My deception was for the cause of vengeance and your survival, and for the record you may bring forth about the persecution of Baal in Israel. Be worthy of that record, my son, even if your years at Yahweh’s high places keep you in his service.
There were hundreds of us massing at the Temple in Samaria on that horrible day. I took only a brief look at Jehu’s men near the entrances in their helmets and armor, those vile swords in their scabbards, as we streamed inside unarmed. The new king had surprised us by promising to serve Baal, even more than Ahab did, and announced a great sacrifice at the temple. We cheered and waved, and heard him tell us we had no choice but to attend.28
A few of us from Samaria had suspected this was not going to end well. While Jehu was giving his speech, I heard Eshbaal speak quietly without turning to look at any of us: There have been terrible things done in Jezreel. But I looked away when the soldier moved to put his hand over Eshbaal’s mouth and I heard his muffled grunts as he was pulled aside, and I knew there was nothing we could say. All I could do was try to keep my head down and my face hidden as we went into the great Hall, in case I would have the chance to flee.
Certainly I wanted to have hope. I felt a little flower of it bloom in me when the sacred cloaks were handed out for us to wear, when Jehu ascended the altar to assure us that no Yahwists would be permitted inside during the offerings. That was when I first saw his face, brightly lit by the altar lamps, though mine was safely in the shadows. And Jehu asked for the slaying knife himself and turned to perform the sacrifice.29 Would a follower of Yahweh actually do such a thing? Another eager little flower inside, a smile on my lips even–the last I would feel come over me until now, as I see the poison do its work.
Then, as the smoke of the burnt offering rose into its hole above the altar, as my people filled the great Hall with the joyous chanting of their last holy words, the edge of my eye caught the glint of iron flashing in the sun outside. The flash moved in a horrible arc up and then down again, and next to it was the silhouette of a helmeted head. Then other flashes, other helmets, all moving fast. Then I heard, above the chanting that still rang through the Hall, the first of my people’s screams.
I want to stop here, little Beeri, to forget forever, but I cannot. An outrage of evil was committed that day, and in the name of the god you are being raised to worship. Think on that.
The chanting stopped, replaced by the screams. There was a mighty rushing roar of shouts and screams, and stamping feet, and the wet smacking thud of iron blades violating flesh. My eyes could make out very little in the dim light with frantic bodies lunging all around me, but I heard and felt, and smelled. Shit and urine voided from panicked and lifeless men. I gulped down nausea with the waves of foul outhouse odors that mingled in my nostrils with the smell of slaughter: dripping, naked guts and the coppery tang of fresh blood.
It was not my own blood, but I made it mine, smearing it on my neck and falling on some bodies and letting more bodies fall on my own. I closed my eyes and lay still as the swords chopped and sliced and swung to chop and slice again. Another body landed, hard, and I wondered if I would still be able to breathe. My chest barely moved as I willed myself to draw long silent breaths from my belly to my gaping mouth. Hot blood dripped onto my arm, first coming in little bursts and then a slow and steady oozing as another life went out.
The screaming became the dying and the dying became the dead, and all was quiet, except the panting and scuffling of the soldiers. I focused my world into the agony of holding my lungs in a measured starvation to stay quiet and alive. My world was the dark mute pressure of dead arms and legs and torsos slick from their bleeding.
Then there were shouted orders and heaving arms, hateful arms, carrying the dead and me outside the temple.30 I had to let all my weight droop where it fell over the soldier’s shoulder. I stayed silent as ribs cracked under their impossible load and seared my mind with unanswerable pain, my legs swinging with the soldier’s hump-trot to the dirt where he threw my living corpse. Again there were bodies under me, cooler already, and then more on top. Again the silent struggle for secret breath.
I heard smashing sounds, muffled ones coming from deep inside the temple. The sacred pillar. Then there was more smashing, louder and closer. I dared opening an eye and saw swinging arms and splintering timbers and dust. The temple was coming down.31
It was not easy to pull myself out, inch by quiet inch, from under those bodies. My ribs screamed with silent pain, and I knew how bad my chances were. But in all the noise and dust and hateful focus of their destruction, the soldiers never saw me limp away.
Now the sacred ruin is a public latrine, and every traveler stopping there adds to the heap of insults Baal has suffered from this evil man who finds himself so clever.32 It wasn’t long after being accepted into his service that I heard him laughing with his old thugs about that, about all his fitting endings. I do not mind that the poison is taking so long, because he does not laugh anymore.
The Book of Hosea
Baalzakar confided these things to his young son Beeri, an Israelite raised in the worship of Yahweh by a father whose knee had never stopped secretly bowing itself to Baal. Beeri repeated them to his own son Hosea, and a hundred years after Jehu finally succumbed to the poison and went to sleep with his fathers, Hosea heard the still small voice of Yahweh speaking, too.33
Take a prostitute as your wife, the voice said, because the land had turned away from Yahweh, still consorting with Baal even after all that killing and purging. So Hosea married his harlot, and their guilty sex became a holy thing, the subject of a divine command. When his son was born, he heard the voice again. Its message bloomed inside his mind along with a hot white flare of knowing: He was a prophet, no less than Ezekiel and Elisha, and his words would be heard as the words of Israel’s great and terrible God.34
There was still a bit of Baalzakar in the blood of his son, which flowed safe in the boy’s veins far away from the dangers of Jehu’s buried sword. And now Hosea’s quill flowed with the dark blood of his grandfather’s quiet vengeance, judgment at last recorded in the name of Yahweh on a holy scroll. Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.35
1 Kings 19:8-17 records the voice as saying, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” And that is a long-winded way for the LORD, Yahweh, to say that Hazael and Jehu (and Elisha) will kill for him with the sword. A lot. ←
You “have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart,” he says to Jehu at 2 Kings 10:30, after all the killing is done. The “LORD had anointed” Jehu, says the Judah-centered narrative of 2 Chronicles, “to cut off the house of Ahab” (2 Chron. 22:7). Yahweh’s only quibble was with Jehu still lingering over his own bit of idol worship, something involving molten calves. ←
This narrative is different from most Bible fiction in that I want the character Jehu, a soldier and vicious psychopath, to tell his story the way someone like him would actually speak. Profanity and crudeness are not new inventions of our time, though it can seem like it from reading the dry, sanitized words left for us by the Bible’s pious writers, scribes, and translators. ←
1 Kings 19:8-17. The vision on Mt. Horeb precedes, at least textually, 1 Kings 20, whose events a footnote in the Zondervan NASB Study Bible says occurred around 857. Jehu seized the throne in 841. ←
2 Kings 2:11-12. ←
2 Kings 8:28-9:5. This narrative (and the RSV) refers to Syria as the kingdom to the northeast of Israel with Damascus as its capital. The NASB calls it Aram, and historians call it Aram-Damascus. It’s not to be confused with the kingdom of Assyria further to the northeast. Assyria’s military might and brutality loomed over its southern neighbors and intimidated even Jehu into submission. ←
2 Kings 9:5-10 (“When [the young man] came, behold, the captains of the army were sitting, and he said, ‘I have a word for you, O captain.’ And Jehu said, ‘For which one of us?’ And he said, ‘For you, O captain.’ He arose and went into the house, and he poured the oil on his head and said to him, ’Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “I have anointed you king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. You shall strike the house of Ahab your 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. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male person both bond and free in Israel. 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. The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.”’ Then he opened the door and fled”). ←
2 Kings 9:2-3 (“When you arrive there, search out Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in and bid him arise from among his brothers, and bring him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil and pour it on his head and say, ’Thus says the Lord, “I have anointed you king over Israel.”’ Then open the door and flee and do not wait”), 10 (“Then he opened the door and fled”). ←
2 Kings 9:11-13 (“Now Jehu came out to the servants of his master, and one said to him, ‘Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?’ And he said to them, ‘You know very well the man and his talk.’ They said, ‘It is a lie, tell us now.’ And he said, ’Thus and thus he said to me, “Thus says the Lord, ’I have anointed you king over Israel.”’” Then they hurried and each man took his garment and placed it under him on the bare steps, and blew the trumpet, saying, ‘Jehu is king!’”). ←
2 Kings 9:14-16. The distance is about 45 miles, according to the Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Jehu died some 28 years after taking power. ←
2 Kings 9:17-21. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes argue in A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (The Westminster Press, 1986, pp. 280-82) that Joram (also called Jehoram) of Israel may have been the same king as the Jehoram of Judah described in 2 Chronicles 21, despite the contradicting accounts of their deaths. That would make Ahaziah Joram’s son rather than his nephew (pp. 284-85), all the more reason for Jehu to kill him in his quest for Joram’s throne. ←
See Wikipedia, “Composite Bow.” ←
2 Kings 9:27. ←
2 Kings 10:12-14. The body count for this episode was 42, killed at the shearing house on the way from Jezreel to Samaria. This little aside is out of sequence in Jehu’s narrative, but he did so much killing that it all blends together after a while. ←
2 Kings 11. ←
1 Kings 21:1-19; 2 Kings 9:25-26. Jezebel is identified as Joram’s mother in 2 Kings 9:22. ←
2 Kings 9:30-34 (“When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered the gate, she said, ‘Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?’ Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, ‘Who is on my side? Who?’ And two or three officials looked down at him. 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 trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, ‘See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter’”). ←
2 Kings 9:34-37. The quote is not from the NASB, but is what I think a more likely speech from this psychopath than the lofty prose in the Bible text. The substance is actually no different. ←
2 Kings 10:9-10. The heads/house falling connection uses a bit of creative license, but doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Here is the Bible’s rendition of the speech (NASB translation, as always): “You are innocent; behold, I conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what He spoke through His servant Elijah.” ←
2 Kings 10:11. “The rise of the iron army of Assyria saw the introduction of a new and more effective form of body armor called lamellar armor. Assyrian armor was comprised of a shirt constructed of laminated layers of leather sewn or glued together. To the outer surface of this coat were attached fitted iron plates, each plate joined to the next at the edge with no overlap and held in place by stitching or gluing. A conservative estimate of the weight of this armor is 30 pounds” (Gabriel, Richard A. The Great Armies of Antiquity, Praeger , p. 21). It seems reasonable to assume that Iron Age Israelite troops would have adopted what was working for their brutal enemies to the north. ←
“[U]pon his coup, Jehu faced the choice of renewing the alliance with Aram-Damascus that had turned back the Assyrians just four years earlier, or following the lead of many other regional kingdoms and submitting to Shalmaneser. Jehu opted to present himself before Shalmaneser and establish Israel as an Assyrian vassal. This submission is memorialized in relief and writing on the Assyrian Black Obelisk, the only surviving visual representation of an Israelite or Judean king: ‘I received the tribute of Jehu . . . (the man) of Bit-Humrî: silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden goblet, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff of the king’s hand, (and) javelins(?)’. This pro-Assyrian alignment would be Israel’s dominant posture for nearly a century” (Kelle, Brad. Ancient Israel at War 853–586 BC, Osprey Publishing, Kindle loc. 604). ←
Kelle at loc. 350, 365. ←
From David’s paean to his late friend Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1:26. Jehu’s encounter with Jehonadab, described in 2 Kings 10:15-16, is the closest thing that can be seen of humanity in Jehu. Even psychopaths can develop useful affections for other people, especially if, as is tantalizingly possible here, there were sexual overtones. Jehu “met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him and said to him, ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?’ And Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot. He said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.’ So he made him ride in his chariot.” It’s a very short detour, as the next verse has Jehu resuming his campaign of righteous slaughter, “according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah.” ←
2 Kings 10:18 (“Then Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, ‘Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much’”). ←
2 Kings 10:19-21 (“Now, summon all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests; let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal; whoever is missing shall not live.’ But Jehu did it in cunning, so that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal. And Jehu said, ‘Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.’ And they proclaimed it. Then Jehu sent throughout Israel and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And when they went into the house of Baal, the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other”). ←
See, e.g., Hefner, Alan G. “Baal,” Encyclopedia Mythica, pantheon.org/articles/b/baal.html (accessed Sept. 2014). ←
2 Kings 10:18-21. ←
2 Kings 10:22-23 (Jehu “said to the one who was in charge of the wardrobe, ‘Bring out garments for all the worshipers of Baal.’ So he brought out garments for them. Jehu went into the house of Baal with Jehonadab the son of Rechab; and he said to the worshipers of Baal, ‘Search and see that there is here with you none of the servants of the Lord, but only the worshipers of Baal’”), 25 (“Then it came about, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the royal officers, ‘Go in, kill them; let none come out.’ And they killed them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the royal officers threw them out, and went to the inner room of the house of Baal”). ←
2 Kings 10:25. ←
2 Kings 10:26-27 (“They brought out the sacred pillars of the house of Baal and burned them. They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day”). ←
2 Kings 10:27. ←
Hosea was “the son of Beeri,” and the word of the LORD came to him “during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (Hosea 1:1). Jehu died in 814, which plausibly could have been three generations and a hundred years before a writer would recall the reigns of Uzziah (792-740), Jotham (750-735), Ahaz (735-715), and Hezekiah (715-686). Dates from the Zondervan NASB Study Bible, “Rulers of the Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah.” ←
See Hosea 1:2-3 (“When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.’ So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son”). ←
Hosea 1:4 (“And the LORD said to him, ’Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel”). The vengeance aspect is fiction, of course, along with any connection at all between a disgruntled food taster in the house of Jehu and the prophet Hosea. ←