King Jehu, the Anointed of Israel

Anointed for a Mission

“Look out there Jehu … Then take the vial of oil, and pour it out on his head, and say, Thus saith Jehovah, I have anointed thee king over Israel” (2 Kings 9:2-3 ASV).

By Austin Williams

This is the story about King Jehu in 2 Kings 9 and 10. He is not talked about much in spite of the important role he played in Old Testament history, during Israel’s recurring worship of false idols. Jehu, who started as God’s anointed king, was like King Solomon: he had a good beginning but not a good ending. What intended lessons may benefit us, that we can learn and apply to ourselves?

After the demise of King Solomon, the kingdom was split into two — the north and south regions — as described in 1 Kings 12. Jehu was the 10th king of the northern kingdom of Israel, approximately 90 years after Solomon’s death.

A prophecy about Jehu first appears in 1 Kings 19:17, “And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay” (ASV).

Jehu was the captain of Israel’s army. “When he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of us all? And he said, to thee, O captain … And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy 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” (2 Kings 9:5-7). Here, the prophecy from God begins fulfillment, as Jehu is anointed king over the northern kingdom of Israel.

At this time Joram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, the current king of the northern kingdom, was recovering from wounds inflicted in his previous battle, against Hazael. Ahaziah, king of the southern kingdom of Judah, happened to be visiting Joram.

The Authorized Revolution

A chariot came for Joram. “And the watchman told, saying … the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.” The tower watchmen alerted Joram and Ahaziah that Jehu was coming. Both Joram and Ahaziah made ready and asked, “Is it peace, Jehu?” Jehu responded, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (2 Kings 9:20-22 NASB).

Jehu shot Joram in the heart with his bow and arrow, then followed Ahaziah and shot him also, at Gur. Ahaziah was wounded, escaped to Megiddo, and died there. Jehu then rode into Jezreel where Jezebel was.

He rode into the gate, and called to those in the tower looking down, “who is on my side?” A few nodded that they were, and he commanded them to throw Jezebel down from the window. After she fell, between the impact of the fall, being trodden under foot, and the dogs of the area, there was nothing left to bury but her skull, feet, and hands (2 Kings 9:30).

Jehu then wrote letters to the rulers, elders, and the guardians of Ahab’s children in Samaria. He dared them to anoint one of the sons as a king, and then fight against Jehu for the throne. They replied to Jehu that they had heard what happened to the two kings, and how could they stand against him. Jehu wrote a second letter, that if they were with him, then cut off the heads of the seventy sons and bring them to Jehu in Jezreel. They did according to his direction (2 Kings 10:1-11).

After that, Jehu killed the rest of the house of Ahab, and all the remnants of the house of Ahaziah, thus facilitating his pathway without opposition (2 Kings 10:11-14).

Jehu’s reform did not stop with the house of Ahab. In a shrewd act of political maneuvering, Jehu’s attention turned toward the prophets of Baal. He tactfully planned a gathering of all the prophets of Baal with the pretense of inviting them to perform and partake of a great sacrifice, promising that as Ahab had served Baal, Jehu would worship Baal even more. Unknown to the prophets, they were to be the sacrifice. He assembled the prophets, priests, and worshippers of Baal.

Once he had gathered them into the temple of Baal, Jehu proceeded to slaughter the prophets and priests of Baal, leaving nonalive (2 Kings 10:18-25). Jehu’s men then razed the temple of Baal, burning the sacred pillars and idols. Thus, Jehu “eradicated Baal out of Israel” (2 Kings 10:28 NASB).

Notwithstanding this apparent zeal for the worship of Jehovah, Jehu yet tolerated the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. For this the divine displeasure rested upon him, and his kingdom suffered disaster in war with the Syrians (2 Kings 10:29- 3). Thus we find a duality in Jehu’s character, two different and distinct characters living within him. He is a valiant warrior and eradicated Baal idol worship; while on the other hand, he followed in the exact footsteps of Jeroboam.

Jeroboam had been the first king of divided Israel. The prophet Ahijah clearly stated the sins of Jeroboam: “You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked [God] to anger and thrust [God] behind your back” (1 Kings 14:9 NIV). Jeroboam’s sin was idolatry. He created and worshiped gods other than Jehovah.

For his faithfulness, four generations of Jehu’s sons would sit on the throne of Israel (2 Kings 10:30). However, “Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin” (2 Kings 10:31 NASB).

Jehu was blessed by God for his obedience. However, his neglect in removing the high places at Bethel and Dan proved costly, resulting in the size of Israel gradually decreasing; portions of the land God had promised to His people were surrendered to Hazael of Syria and other foreign leaders in the years that followed (2 Kings 10:32-33). Jehu would reign for 28 years in Israel (841-813 BC) and be succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:35-36).

Lessons For Us

The above history from the Old Testament is important, for it is recorded in the Bible. Let us explore and extract a few lessons from it.

(1) The path of sin is never the path of peace. Jehu’s legacy was as violent as any. However, though Jehu’s fury was known throughout Israel, Israel’s demise was brought about not by Jehu’s sword, but by Israel’s sin.

When Jehu caught up with Joram at Jezreel, the former king of Israel asked Jehu if he had come in peace. To this Jehu replied, “What peace? So long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22 NASB).

The wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel, and the sin of Israel, had proven that the way of sin can never be the way of peace. There are consequences to sin and disobedience; as the Apostle Paul would later write, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Furthermore, through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded Israel that “there is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21 NASB).

Those who persist in sin will never find peace nor be at peace with God. Sin is the pathway to death and destruction. Peace, on the other hand, is reserved for those who fear God, delight in His word, and obey His commands.

(2) God is sovereign and in control. Hiding from Jezebel, Elijah cried out to God, asking, how long would the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel be allowed to persist? How long would he be an outcast among his people and ostracized for his faithfulness? In 1 Kings 19, God provided an answer to his complaint and a promise that He would soon judge His people and hold Israel’s leaders accountable for their wickedness.

What Should We Glean from This?
God is sovereign and in control. God had not forgotten Elijah, nor had He turned a blind eye to the sin of His people or faithfulness of His servants. He had a plan to bless Elijah and later Jehu. He also had a plan to cleanse Israel of its sin and bring to justice its wicked rulers. God’s timing, however, is always His own.

(3) God rewards the faithful but expects complete obedience. God would reward Jehu for his faithfulness in destroying the house of Ahab and eradicating Baal worship from Israel. However, as quickly as His blessings for obedience were given, they could also be removed for disobedience.

The epilogue of Jehu’s life reminds us that Jehu’s obedience was partial and incomplete. Because he was not diligent to keep all of God’s commands, serving Jehovah with all his heart, various forms of sin remained in Israel.

Jehu may have eradicated the false worship of Baal, but that does not mean his heart was right, or that he worshipped God with all his heart. Jehu may have been a “good king” in the sense that he did what God had asked of him. However, like his predecessors, he failed to remove the “high places” at Bethel and Dan, and limit sacrifice and worship to the temple in Jerusalem, as God had instructed (Deuteronomy 12:1-4, 1 Kings 9:3).

In the end, God expects obedience from His followers and an exclusive relationship with those who call Him Lord. Partial obedience only leads to partial blessing, and leaves room for even small, socially acceptable sin to spread if not challenged or destroyed.

(4) God anoints those whom He chooses. Jehu was one of those decisive, terrible, and ambitious, yet prudent, calculating, and passionless men whom God, from time to time, raises up to change the fate of empires and execute his judgments on the earth. In anointing both Jehu and Hazael of Syria as instruments of judgment, God demonstrated that He anoints and equips those whom He chooses, and not necessarily those whom we envision, admire, or look to in times of trouble.

Jehu may have been a bloodthirsty and sometimes ruthless killer; a trait God would remember and address in the days of the prophet Hosea (Hosea 1:4). Likewise, Hazael was a foreign adversary who frequently waged war against God’s people.

Scripture tells us, however, that even unlikely, imperfect rulers are established by God and used for His purposes (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). Regardless of their intentions or inadequacies, God’s plan is far bigger and far greater than even that of the Jehus and the Ahabs of the world.

God anoints whom He chooses and uses whom He will for His purposes. Sometimes, they are used to bless God’s people. Other times, they are used as instruments of judgment. In the end, all leaders are accountable to God. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “there is no authority except from God” (Romans 13:1 NASB).

Still, the failure of earthly kings and the leadership of earthly rulers serves as a reminder that God alone is sovereign, God alone is just, and God alone is king. When He moves, we would be wise to align ourselves to His will and choose His side over all others. In Him alone there is life.