Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 80. Ahab's Descendants Killed

Prophets And Kings
Day 80
Ahab's Descendants Killed

Ahab's son, King Joram of Israel, has been killed. But Ahab has other sons in Samaria by his harem of wives. The new king of Israel, Jehu, sets out to remove these sons and their threat to his security.

2 KINGS 10:1-17
"Now there were in Samaria seventy sons of the house of Ahab. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria: to the officers of Jezreel, to the elders and to the guardians of Ahab's children. He said, 'You have your master's sons with you and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city and weapons. Now as soon as this letter reaches you, choose the best and most worthy of your master's sons and set him on his father's throne. Then fight for your master's house.'" (2 Kings 10:1-3) Jehu challenges the nobles in charge of Ahab's descendants to choose a man to be king, if they believe any of the princes would be a better king than Jehu. It is a time to choose sides. They must either stand for Jehu or stand against him.

"But they were terrified and said, 'If two kings could not resist him, how can we?'" (2 Kings 10:4) King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah were both killed by Jehu. If these mighty kings couldn't defeat him, these men don't see how they can.

"So the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders and the guardians sent this message to Jehu: 'We are your servants and we will do anything you say. We will not appoint anyone as king; you do whatever you think best.'" (2 Kings 10:5) The men decide to surrender rather than fight for a man of their choosing from among the descendants of Ahab. It could be they recognize Jehu's anointing by both Elijah and Elisha as something they can't fight against. It could be they are simply frozen in fear because Jehu has the army behind him. 

"Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, 'If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master's sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.' Now the royal princes, seventy of them, were with the leading men of the city, who were rearing them. When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them." (2 Kings 10:6-7a) Ancient kings customarily slaughtered any rivals to their rule, killing all the family of the king before them, but up til now this has not been a common practice by kings of Israel or Judah. However, in this case it fulfills the prophecy spoken by Elijah, that no male heir of the house of Ahab would be left.

"They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. When the messenger arrived, he told Jehu, 'They have brought the heads of the princes.' Then Jehu ordered, 'Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.'" (2 Kings 10:7b-8) The heads are piled up at the gates, for anyone coming in or going out to see, as a warning to anyone who might intend to rebel against Jehu.

"The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, 'You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what He announced through His servant Elijah.' So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor." (2 Kings 10:9-11) The Lord did indeed say through the prophet Elijah that the house of Ahab would be cut off because of their wickedness and idolatry, but He didn't command Jehu to kill all these additional people of Jezreel. The Lord spoke only of Ahab's royal line, not of his friends or top officials or priests. The Lord gave the prophet Hosea harsh words against Jehu and his house for this massacre, "I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel." (Hosea 1:4) Jehu went above and beyond anything he may have been called to do in regard to the house of Ahab and he tries to excuse his actions by claiming all these deaths were ordained by God.

"Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, 'Who are you?' They said, 'We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother.'" (2 Kings 10:12-13) These people haven't yet heard that Ahaziah and Joram are dead. They don't know that Jezebel, the queen mother, is also dead. Ahaziah was Ahab and Jezebel's great-nephew and so these people Jehu meets on the way are related to both Ahaziah and Ahab. He decides to slaughter them too, again going beyond what the Lord has said. None of these men are likely to rebel against Jehu for the throne. They are not direct descendants of the king and are not even close enough to the royal family to be aware of the things that have just happened in their nation. 

"'Take them alive!' he ordered. So they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked---forty-two of them. He left no survivor." (2 Kings 10:14) Jehu is the type of man who, if given an inch, will take a mile instead. The Lord did use him as an instrument to rid Israel of the idolatrous family of Ahab, but the Lord did not command him to kill everyone who was in any way associated with the royal family. Not every king anointed in Scripture was a man who wholeheartedly obeyed God, King Saul being a good example. Sometimes God chooses a leader to bless a nation; other times He chooses a leader to discipline a nation. Because Jehu feels his right to the throne is legitimate based on his double anointing, he goes too far and believes everything he does will be blessed. He speaks against the Lord by saying He has commanded all these deaths when in fact He did not. 

"After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Rekab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, 'Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?' 'I am,' Jehonadab answered." (2 Kings 10:15a) The prophet Jeremiah spoke of Jehonadab and his people, the Rekabites, in Jeremiah 35. They were a nomadic tribe who were still obeying their forefather Jehonadab several generations later, for he had commanded them never to drink wine and they were still abiding by that command. We don't know why Jehonadab is so quick to fall in with Jehu; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus said these men had been friends for a long time and were united in their dislike for the house of Ahab.

"'If so,' said Jehu, 'give me your hand.' So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, 'Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.' Then he had him ride along in his chariot." (2 Kings 10:15b-16) Jehonadab is probably a well known man in Israel, known for his obedience to the Lord, and having him in the chariot gives Jehu even more legitimacy as king in the eyes of the people. Remember how King Saul so desperately wanted to be seen with the prophet Samuel? Even after the two men had a falling-out, Saul insisted that Samuel go up on the mountain with him to sacrifice before the people, because appearances were important to him. If the people suspected Samuel was not on Saul's side they might revolt. 

I suspect Jehonadab was a godly man for another reason: because Jehu brags to him of his zeal for the Lord. This is intended to impress Jehonadab and persuade him to join in. Jehu is saying something like, "I am doing the Lord's work." 

"When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab's family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah." (2 Kings 10:17) These in Samaria could well be members of the royal family, since this was the capitol city and the location of the royal palace. Was this slaughter the will of God? The author seems to suggest that this particular part of Jehu's work was in accordance with what the Lord said through Elijah. However, the slaughter at Jezreel was not, for the Lord condemns it through the prophet Hosea. 

Tomorrow's slaughter and its legitimacy is less clear. Elijah didn't say that a king would come who would destroy the prophets of Baal. But then, Elijah himself once orchestrated a slaughter of prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, so I don't believe he would disapprove of Jehu's actions. Jehu will succeed in abolishing Baal worship during his reign, a worthy goal and one which the Lord appears to be pleased with later in Chapter 10, but Jehu will not do away with the worship of the golden calves, a thing the Lord will not be pleased with. So I think that, even though we don't find a specific command of Jehu to kill the priests of Baal, he was not out of the will of God when he does so. These priests were inciting the people to commit heinous sins against God, to their own harm. The priests were leading the people away from the living God into useless rituals and godless practices. The leaders of Baal worship were essentially blocking the people's avenue to salvation and I think we can safely assume that, when Jehu makes an end of these wicked men, he is doing Israel a favor.

Jehu could have been a good king but he had what the Apostle Paul calls a zeal for God, but a zeal not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:2) He could have been a man of prayer, led by God in all his ways, and God would have given him success and heirs to the throne for many generations. But he will cling instead to the religious system set up by King Jeroboam, the worship of the golden calves that Jeroboam claimed represented the God who brought them out of Egypt. Jehu will be a prideful king with a heart not wholly committed to the Lord who gave him the throne. 

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