Jehu Champions Pure Worship
JEHU was a champion of pure worship. In carrying out this role, he was energetic, prompt, relentless, zealous, and courageous. Jehu manifested qualities that we would do well to imitate.
Jehu received a commission when the nation of Israel was in a bad state. The country was under the wicked influence of Jezebel, widow of Ahab and mother of the ruling king, Jehoram. She promoted the Baal cult at the expense of Jehovah’s worship, killed God’s prophets, and corrupted the people with her “fornications” and “sorceries.” (2 Ki. 9:22; 1 Ki. 18:4, 13) Jehovah decreed the elimination of the whole house of Ahab, including Jehoram and Jezebel. Jehu was to spearhead that action.
The Scriptures introduce Jehu as he sat with military chiefs when the Israelites were fighting the Syrians at Ramoth-gilead. Jehu was a high-ranking officer, if not the commander of Israel’s army. The prophet Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu as king and to instruct him to kill every male of the apostate house of Ahab.
When Jehu’s fellow officers asked about the purpose of this visit, Jehu was reluctant to say. But when pressed, he told them the truth, and he and his companions began to conspire against Jehoram. (2 Ki. 9:11-14) Likely, there had been underlying resentment and resistance to the policies of the ruling house and to Jezebel’s influence. In any case, Jehu made a studied effort to find the best way to carry out his commission.
King Jehoram had been wounded in battle and had withdrawn to the city of Jezreel, hoping to recuperate. Jehu knew that if his plan was going to succeed, no word of it must reach Jezreel. “Do not let anyone go out in escape from the city to go and make report in Jezreel,” said Jehu. (2 Ki. 9:14, 15) Perhaps he anticipated at least some resistance from troops loyal to Jehoram. Jehu wanted to rule out the possibility of such resistance.
A FURIOUS DRIVE!
To use the element of surprise, Jehu drove in his chariot from Ramoth-gilead to Jezreel, a distance of 45 miles (72 km). As he sped toward his destination, a watchman on a tower saw “the heaving mass of Jehu’s men.” (2 Ki. 9:17) Very likely, Jehu took a considerable force with him in order to be sure of accomplishing his purpose.
Perceiving that courageous Jehu was in one of the chariots, the watchman exclaimed: “It is with madness that he drives.” (2 Ki. 9:20) If Jehu normally drove in a similar way, his haste on this particular mission must have made it a furious drive indeed.
After refusing to say anything to two messengers sent to him, Jehu met King Jehoram and his ally Ahaziah, the king of Judah, each in his own chariot. Jehoram’s question, “Is there peace, Jehu?” was met by the retort: “What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel your mother and her many sorceries?” Alarmed by this response, Jehoram turned to flee. But Jehu was too fast for him! Drawing a bow, he shot an arrow through Jehoram’s heart, and the king fell dead in his chariot. Although Ahaziah managed to escape, Jehu later tracked him down and had him killed too.
The next member of Ahab’s house to be eliminated was wicked Queen Jezebel. Jehu rightly referred to her as “this accursed one.” As Jehu drove into Jezreel, he saw her looking down from a palace window. Without wasting words, Jehu commanded the court officials to throw Jezebel down from the window. Jehu then had his horses trample this corrupter of all Israel. Thereafter, Jehu proceeded to eliminate dozens of other members of the house of wicked Ahab.
Though the thought of violence is unpleasant, we should realize that in those days, Jehovah used his servants to carry out his judgments. The Scriptures state: “It was from God that the downfall of Ahaziah occurred by his coming to Jehoram; and when he came, he went out with Jehoram to Jehu the grandson of Nimshi, whom Jehovah had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab.” (2 Chron. 22:7) As he threw Jehoram’s body from his chariot, Jehu recognized that this act fulfilled Jehovah’s promise to exact punishment for Ahab’s murder of Naboth. Moreover, Jehu had been commanded to “avenge the blood of [God’s] servants” shed by Jezebel.
Today, no servant of Jehovah uses physical force against opponents of pure worship. “Vengeance is mine,” God says. (Heb. 10:30) But to rid the congregation of potentially corrupting influences, Christian elders may have to act with courage similar to that of Jehu. (1 Cor. 5:9-13) And all members of the congregation need to be determined to avoid the company of disfellowshipped individuals.
JEHU TOLERATED NO RIVALRY TOWARD JEHOVAH
Jehu’s motive for carrying out his commission is evident from his subsequent words to faithful Jehonadab: “Do go along with me and look upon my toleration of no rivalry toward Jehovah.” Jehonadab accepted that invitation, got into Jehu’s chariot, and rode with him to Samaria. There, Jehu “acted slyly, for the purpose of destroying the worshipers of Baal.”
Jehu announced that he intended to hold “a great sacrifice” for Baal. (2 Ki. 10:18, 19) “This is a clever play on words on the part of Jehu,” says one scholar. While the term employed here “generally means ‘sacrifice,’ it is also used of the ‘slaughter’ of apostates.” Because Jehu did not want any Baal worshippers to miss this event, he assembled all of them in the house of Baal and had them dress in distinctive attire. “As soon as he finished rendering up the burnt offering,” Jehu had 80 armed men slaughter Baal’s devotees. He then had the house of Baal demolished and its site set aside for privies, making it unfit for worship.
It is true that Jehu spilled much blood. Yet, the Scriptures present him as a courageous man who freed Israel from the oppressive domination of Jezebel and her family. If any leader of Israel was to succeed in doing this, he had to be a man of courage, determination, and zeal. “It was rough work and was executed with relentless thoroughness,” comments one Bible dictionary. “Gentler measures probably would have failed to eradicate Baal worship from Israel.”
No doubt you can see that circumstances faced by Christians today require that they manifest certain qualities possessed by Jehu. For instance, how should we react if tempted to engage in any activity that Jehovah condemns? We should be prompt, courageous, and dynamic in rejecting it. When it comes to our godly devotion, we cannot tolerate any rivalry toward Jehovah.
TAKE CARE TO WALK IN JEHOVAH’S LAW
The end of this story provides a warning. Jehu ‘did not turn aside from following the golden calves in Bethel and Dan.’ (2 Ki. 10:29) How is tolerance of idolatry possible in the case of one who seemed so zealous for pure worship?
Jehu may have believed that the independence of the kingdom of Israel from Judah required the religious separation of the two kingdoms. Hence, like former kings of Israel, he attempted to keep them separate by perpetuating calf worship. But this would show a lack of faith in Jehovah, who had made him king.
Jehovah commended Jehu because ‘he acted well in doing what was right in God’s eyes.’ Nevertheless, Jehu “did not take care to walk in the law of Jehovah the God of Israel with all his heart.” (2 Ki. 10:30, 31) Considering everything else that Jehu did earlier, you might find this surprising and sad. Yet, it does provide a lesson for us. We can never take our relationship with Jehovah for granted. Every day, we need to cultivate loyalty to God through study of his Word, meditation on it, and heartfelt prayer to our heavenly Father. Let us, therefore, exercise utmost care to keep on walking in Jehovah’s law with all our heart.
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Jehu in Secular History
Critics have often questioned whether characters mentioned in the Scriptures actually existed. So is there any extra-Biblical evidence regarding Jehu?
At least three documents from ancient Assyria mention this king of Israel by name. One of these purports to show Jehu, or perhaps one of his emissaries, bowing before Assyrian King Shalmaneser III and offering tribute. The accompanying inscription reads: “The tribute of Jehu (Ia-ú-a), son of Omri (Hu-um-ri); I received from him silver, gold, a golden saplu-bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king, (and) wooden puruhtu [the meaning of the latter word being unknown].” Jehu was not a direct “son of Omri,” but this expression was used to designate successive kings of Israel, likely because of Omri’s fame and his building of Israel’s capital, Samaria.
The Assyrian king’s claim regarding the tribute Jehu supposedly paid cannot be corroborated. Even so, he mentions Jehu three times