5.80 2 Kings -- the Sword of Jehu
The scene now shifts to Judah. Jehoshaphat reigned 25 years. We discussed his alliance with Ahab against Aram, which led to Ahab's death (1 Kings 22), and with Joram against Moab (2 Kings 3). Jehoshaphat was a rebuilder of his country, and stopped the attacks on Judah by surrounding nations:
The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 17:10).
Yet this peace did not last long. The Moabites joined with the Ammonites to attack Judah (2 Chron 20). Jehoshaphat and his people prayed for help to God. The Spirit of the Lord answered through Jahaziel, a Levite, telling them that God would fight for them. God caused their enemies to destroy one another. All Judah had to do was pick up the spoil.
Jehoshaphat was also a spiritual reformer as well. It was not just the later Josiah that attempted to make Judah faithful to the written Law. Jehoshaphat also had reverence for the "book":
They [Levites and priests] taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people (2 Chron 17:9).
Yet no sooner did the father build up than the son tore down. Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram, was evil. His wife was a daughter of Ahab, corrupt king of Israel (2 Kings 8:18). The Edomites (SE of Judah) revolted from Judah. The Philistines and Arabs from the South invaded Judah and even entered the royal palace (2 Chron 21:16)! The vassal states of Solomon were reverting to independent rule. Ahaziah succeeded Jehoram (briefly), and joined with Joram of Israel (his brother-in-law) to fight against Hazael of Aram. The battle was at Ramoth-Gilead, a city in the extreme northeast of Israel. Joram was wounded in the battle, and the Bible does not say which side won.
Right at this point, in the confusion following the battle, God intervened once again in the succession of Israel. Elisha sent a young prophet to Ramoth-Gilead to anoint Jehu king, in the place of Joram, Ahab's son. Jehu was anointed for a specific purpose:
"You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord's servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel -- slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her" (2 Kings 9:7-10).
Jehu was appointed to be God's hatchetman, literally. The words spoken against Ahab by Elijah (1 Kings 21:20-23) were not long delayed in finding fulfilment. God is consistent: the same sentence of extermination passed against the Canaanites at the time of the Exodus was applied to the house of Ahab for the same sins. As God entirely destroyed the house of Saul, so He rooted out all the male descendants of Ahab.
Jehu rampaged through Israel like the avenging angel of death:
-- Joram was skewered in his chariot and his body dumped on the Naboth's field (2 Kings 9:24-26)
-- Ahaziah, king of Judah and ally of Joram, was killed in his chariot (2 Kings 9:27)
-- Jezebel was thrown out of the window of her palace in Jezreel, and the dogs tore her body (2 Kings 9:30-37)
-- the 70 sons of Ahab in Samaria were beheaded by the elders of the city, and their heads brought in baskets to Jehu (2 Kings 10:7-8)
-- 42 tourists, relatives of Ahaziah of Judah, were slaughtered (2 Kings 10:12-14). This act was condemned by the prophet Hosea (Hos 1:4).
-- all remaining family members of Ahab in Samaria were killed (2 Kings 10:17)
-- Jehu took Jehonadab son of Recab into his chariot, thus identifying himself publicly with this orthodox family (see Jer 35).
Lastly, and most important, Jehu made a public vow:
"Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much" (2 Kings 10:18).
He then called together all the prophets of Baal for a "solemn assembly." He sent throughout Israel commanding all religious leaders to attend. When the ceremonies were under way, he unleashed his troops in the temple, and they butchered every person inside. They also defiled the images, destroyed the building, and turned it into a public toilet (2 Kings 10:26-27).
This campaign of destruction and carnage was not the will of man, but of God Himself. He decreed it, and He enthusiastically approved it:
The Lord said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation" (2 Kings 10:30).
Jehu's rule lasted 28 years (2 Kings 10:36). After the initial bloodbath, things settled down some, to as much stability as friction with Aram allowed. God did not approve of Jehu's reign (2 Kings 10:31). While he was an able executioner of God's justice, he was not a reformer or a rebuilder, like Joash and Josiah of Judah.