Jehu, Captain of the Host of Israel

Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat (not Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah), and grandson of Nimshi founded the 4th and longest running Israelite dynasty. Before his chariot ride into heaven, the Lord had previously told Elijah that Jehu would become king over Israel and execute judgment upon all those who corrupted Israel with the worship of Baal (1Ki 19:16-17). The mantle of authority, which included this mandate, had passed to Elisha who in turn commissioned a young prophet to carry out the divine directive as originally given to Elijah on Mount Horeb:

“And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take 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 delay.” (2Ki 9:1-3)

Jehoram, king of Israel, was waging war against the Syrians at Ramoth Gilead. Since Elisha's presence in the midst of Israel's army camp would likely cause a stir, he chose one of the sons of the prophets, commissioned him, and sent him to Ramoth Gilead. As soon as he arrived the prophet located Jehu, told him “I have a message for you commander”, and took him alone behind closed doors to anoint him.

“...And he poured the oil on his head, and said to him, Thus says the LORD God of Israel: I have anointed you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. You shall strike down 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 all the males in Israel, both bond and free. So 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 on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door and fled.” (2Ki 9:6-10)

Anointing with olive oil by a prophet confirmed that God had chosen a particular man to be king (1Sam 10:1; 16:13). Secretly then, Jehu was anointed as the new king of Israel. This conferred God's sovereign power and enabled him, giving him charge to deliver Israel from the disease of Baal worship. Obedient to Elisha's instruction, the prophet then opened the door and fled away. His hasty exit from camp reduced the possibility that pro-Jehoram elements might discover the imminent coup. Upon Jehu's reappearance, his men quizzed him as to why the “madman prophet” had come, and what was going on. At first deferred to Jehu answer them, but then admitted to the sobering facts of what had just transpired. His men wholeheartedly embraced this astonishing news. They hurried to throw their cloaks before his feet in honor, and blew trumpets while proclaiming “Jehu is king!”

Jehoram, king of Israel, had returned to Jezreel to recover from wounds inflicted on him during the ongoing battle with Hazael king of Syria. Ahaziah, king of Judah, was also there because he had come down to visit Jehoram during his convalescence. Energized by prophetic unction, Jehu drove his chariot force hard from Ramoth Gilead straight west across the Jordan toward Jezreel, which is north of Mount Gilboa. A dutiful watchman on the tower in Jezreel alerted Jehoram to Jehu's rapid approach. Jehoram sent out in succession two advance horsemen to find out and report back what were the intentions of this mystery chariot. Ominously, neither horseman returned but rather each was absorbed into the advancing detachment:

“So the watchman reported, saying, He went up to them and is not coming back; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously!” (1Ki 9:20)

With distressing alarm, Jehoram yelled out “make ready!” and his servants rushed to prepare his chariot. Then Jehoram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out to meet Jehu, and met him on the property of Naboth the Jezreelite. Providentially, the kings of Israel and Judah met Jehu at the very place where Ahab and Jezebel had Naboth killed (1Ki 21:1-16).

“Now it happened, when Jehoram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? So he answered, What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many? Then Jehoram turned around and fled, and said to Ahaziah, Treachery, Ahaziah!” (2Ki 9:22-23)

Jehu drew his bow with full strength and shot Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow came out at his heart, and he sank down in his chariot. Jehu then ordered his captain Bidkar to pick up the body of Jehoram and throw it into the field of Naboth the Jezreelite. This act finally relieved the burden that Jehu had carried ever since riding his chariot as part of a team behind Ahab when Elijah gave his prediction to Ahab concerning his posterity (1Ki 21:17-24). Ever since hearing that prophetic oracle, Jehu had viewed himself as God's avenging agent destined to fulfill Elijah's prediction.

When Ahaziah saw this he fled by the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu pursued the king of Judah and shot him near the Ascent of Gur, which is by Ibleam. Severely wounded, Ahaziah continued to flee until he reached Megiddo and died there. Thus, Jehu's first act of divine retribution was the slaying of both of these kings of Israel and Judah on the selfsame day (2Ki 9:21-28).

Jehu next returned to Jezreel to deal with the witch mother herself. Aware of his coming, Jezebel painted her face to maximize her satanic status and appeared at the window to give air of a royal audience to awe Jehu. In defiance of her imminent demise, she cried out, “Is it peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?” Her attempt to remind Jehu of Zimri's fate was moot. Jehu looked up at the window and said, “who is on my side?” Knowing what was best for their own skins, several of Jezebel's own eunuchs threw her out the window. The sorceress, who had so enchanted Israel, was summarily crushed beneath the wheels of Jehu's chariot. He went inside the house to eat and drink, and then commanded his servants to “go see to this accursed woman, and bury her, for she was a king's daughter.” Jehu recognized Jezebel's royalty, while denying that she deserved to be the queen of Israel. When they went to bury her they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands:

“Therefore they came back and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as refuse on the surface of the field, in the plot at Jezreel, so that they shall not say, Here lies Jezebel.” (2Ki 9:36-37)

Now Ahab had seventy sons and many other descendants in Samaria from multiple wives. Jehu recognized a conflict with Ahab's house over who would rule Israel still remained. Jehu sent letters to Samaria demanding the officials and elders to select the best qualified heir, set him on the throne, marshall their forces, and meet him on the battlefield. They were exceedingly afraid and reasoned that if two kings could not stand against Jehu, how could they? They sent a letter back to Jehu declaring that they would not make anyone king but would become his servants. Jehu responded by a second letter demanding:

“If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master's sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow. Now the king's sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were rearing them.” (2Ki 10:6)

As a tangible sign of their surrender, Jehu required the officials to decapitate all of Ahab's sons and bring their heads to him at Jezreel by the next day — which they did. Slyly, Jehu admitted to them that he had conspired against his master Jehoram and killed him, but then he asked them who killed all these sons? Jehu then executed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left none remaining. Although Elijah had prophesied the destruction of Ahab's house (1Ki 21:17-24), this excessive deed went beyond that mandate and ultimately brought God's judgment on Jehu's house (cf. Hos 1:4).

His mission not yet complete, Jehu arose and departed and went to Samaria. Along the way, he came across forty-two brothers of Ahaziah who were also headed to Samaria to pay homage to the now-deceased Jehoram and Jezebel. Since they were supporters of the house of Ahab, Jehu captured them and put them to death near the well of Beth Eked. Still on his way to Samaria, Jehu met up with a faithful man of God, a Rechabite named Jehonadab. They shook hands as a sign of mutual respect and Jehu took him up into his chariot inviting him to “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” When he came to Samaria, Jehu destroyed all who remained of Ahab's house according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah.

Finally, Jehu by subterfuge lured all of the remaining Baal followers to a special feast held in the temple of Baal. Jehu broadcast that although “Ahab served Baal a little, Jehu will serve him much.” Jehu proclaimed a nationwide solemn assembly for Baal, and this clever ruse guaranteed perfect attendance by every Baal devotee in the land. Once it was sure there were no righteous persons within, Jehu's men descended upon the unwary throng of Baal worshippers and killed them with the edge of the sword. The entire temple complex of Baal was torn down, every idol burned, every vestige destroyed, and the polluted geography where Baal once stood was converted to a refuse dump (2Ki 10:18-28).

Because of his zeal in rooting out the false worship of Baal, the Lord promised him a four generation dynasty. Despite his righteous acts of judgment upon the wicked house of Ahab, Jehu himself failed to walk in the ways of Lord with all his heart. Perplexingly, Jehu continued in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin (2Ki 10:29-30). Jehu's twenty-eight year reign of Israel came to an end and he rested with his fathers. They buried him in Samaria, and Jehoahaz, his son, reigned in his place.

ARCHEOLOGICAL NOTE: The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III records a tribute paid by 'ia-u-a mar hu-um-ri (Jehu, son of Omri).