JEHU MASSACRES THE FAMILY OF AHAB, THE KINSMEN OF AHAZIAH, AND BAAL-WORSHIPPERS.
(1) Ahab had seventy sons.—His posterity in general are meant. Ahab had been dead about fourteen years (2 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 22:51), and had had two successors on the throne. The name Ahab seems to be used here as equivalent to the house of Ahab. Many of the number might be strictly sons of Ahab, as he no doubt had a considerable harem.
Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria.—Jehu was crafty as well as fierce. He could not venture to the capital without first sounding the inclinations of the nobles of the city.
Unto the rulers of Jezreel.—“Jezreel” is an ancient error. The LXX. has “unto the rulers of Samaria.” So Josephus. Thenius accordingly suggests that the original reading was, “and sent from Jezreel to the princes of Samaria.” The Vulg. gives “ad optimates civitatis,” which seems preferable. Before “the elders” we must restore “and unto” with some MSS., the LXX., Syriac, and Vulg. The original text would then run: “and sent to the princes of the city and unto the elders,” &c. Reuss, on the other hand, reads “Israel” for “Jezreel.”
Them that brought up Ahab’s children.—Literally, them who brought up Ahab (i.e., the house of Ahab). The word occurs in Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 49:23 (“nursing father”). The nobles entrusted with this charge would be responsible for the good behaviour of their wards. Ahab may have dreaded the evils of an education in the harem, and possible disputes about the succession.
Seeing your master’s sons . . . look even out (2 Kings 10:3).—Rather, there are with you both your master’s sons, and the chariots and the horses,and a fenced city, and the armoury: so look out the best, &c.
A fenced city.—All the versions but the Arabic have “fenced cities;” and so Josephus. There is a tone of mocking irony in Jehu’s challenge to the nobles of Samaria, who were probably as luxurious and cowardly now as in the days of Amos, a few years later (Amos 3:12; Amos 6:3-6). (Comp. also Isaiah 28:1-10.) By his careful enumeration of their resources, he as good as says that his defiance is not the fruit of ignorance.
Your master’s sons.—“Your master” need not mean Jehoram. The story relates to Ahab (2 Kings 10:1).
His father’s throne—i.e., Ahab’s throne. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 17:3; 2 Chronicles 21:12; 2 Chronicles 29:2, where David is called the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Hezekiah in turn.)
Fight for your master’s house.—Jehu thus declares his own warlike intentions, leaving the nobles, whom his prompt and decisive action had taken by surprise, no choice between improvised resistance and instant submission. Knowing Jehu’s character as a soldier, they chose the latter.
Two kings.—Rather, the two kings. The word kings is emphatic.
He that was over the city.—The prefect or governor of the city, called in 1 Kings 22:26 “the prince (sar) of the city.” These two are the “rulers” (sārîm) of 2 Kings 10:1.
Take ye the heads.—Jehu knew his men. The cool cynicism of his savage order is worthy of a Sulla or a Marius.
The heads of the men your master’s sons.—Literally, the heads of the men of the sons of your master Some MSS., the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulg., as well as the MSS. mentioned by Origen, omit the word men. Thenius thinks that this word is used to indicate that only male descendants of Ahab were to be put to death (?). The Alexandrian LXX. omits sons; and four Hebrew MSS. read instead house. The Authorised Version, however, is a permissible interpretation of the Hebrew.
Come.—LXX., bring (them) which is a natural conjecture.
To Jezreel.—A journey of more than twenty miles.
By to morrow this time.—Jehu is urgent for despatch, because time is all-important. He wishes to convince the people of Jezreel as soon as possible that none of the royal princes were left to claim the crown, and that the nobles of Samaria have joined his cause.
Now the king’s sons . . . brought them up.—This is a correct translation. According to the Masoretic punctuation, and supposing that the particle ’eth (rendered “with”) might here be used merely to introduce the subject, we might render: “Now the king’s sons were seventy persons; the great men of the city were bringing them up.” But such a usage of ‘eth is very doubtful. (Comp. 2 Kings 6:5.) The sentence, in any case, is only a parenthetic reminder of what was stated in 2 Kings 10:1. The total seventy is, perhaps, not to be taken as exact, seventy being a favourite round number. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 1:42.)
In baskets.—Rather, in the baskets. The word (dûd) means a “pot” elsewhere (1 Samuel 2:14). In Psalm 81:6, the LXX. renders κόφινος; here it gives καρτάλλοις (“pointed baskets”).
Heaps.—The noun (çibbûr) occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. In the Talmud it means “congregation,” as we say colloquially “a heap of persons.” The verb (çābar) means “to heap up.” (See Exodus 8:10.)
At the entering in of the gate.—The place of public business, where all the citizens would see them. (Comp. 2 Kings 7:3; 1 Kings 22:10.) But perhaps not the city gate, but the gate of the palace is to be understood. Parallels to this deed of Jehu are not wanting in the history of modern Persia. (Comp. 1 Samuel 17:54; 2 Maccabees 15:30; and the comparatively recent custom in our own country of fixing up the heads of traitors on London Bridge.)
The citizens would naturally be struck with consternation at the sight of the two ghastly pyramids in front of the palace, and would crowd together in expectancy at the gates. Jehu goes forth to justify himself, and calm their fears.
Ye be righteous—i.e., guiltless in respect of the deaths of these men, and therefore have nothing to dread. Thenius explains: “Ye are just, and therefore will judge justly.” Others render: “Are ye righteous?” implying that Jehu wished to make the people guilty of the massacre of the princes, while owning his own murder of the king.
I.—Emphatic: I on my part; or, I indeed.
But who slew all these?—Slew should be smote. Jehu professes astonishment, by way of self-exculpation. He hints that as Jehovah had foretold the destruction of the house of Ahab, He must have brought it to pass; and therefore nobody is to blame. (See next verse.)
Nothing of the word of the Lord.—No part of Elijah’s prediction shall fail of accomplishment.
For the Lord hath done.—Rather, and Jehovah, He hath done; or, and Jehovah it is who hath done.
In Jezreel.—The seat of the court.
His great men—i.e., high officials of his court; persons who owed their exaltation to him.
Kinsfolks.—Rather, his friends (literally, his known ones; “familiares ejus”).
Priests.—See Notes on 2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 4:5; 1 Chronicles 18:17.
None remaining.—No survivor.
And as he was at the shearing house in the way.—Rather, He was at Beth-eqed-haroim on the way. The Targum renders: “He was at the shepherds’ meeting-house on the way.” The place was probably a solitary building, which served as a rendezvous for the shepherds of the neighbourhood. (The root ‘aqad means “to bind,” or “knot together;” hence the common explanation of the name is “the shepherds’ binding house,” i.e., the place where they bound their sheep for the shearing. But the idea of binding is easily connected with that of meeting, gathering together: comp. our words band, knot.) The LXX. has: “He was at Baithakad (or Baithakath) of the shepherds.” Eusebius mentions a place called Beithakad, fifteen Roman miles from Legio (Lejjûn), identical with the present Beitkâd, six miles east of Jenîn, in the plain of Esdraelon; but this seems too far off the route from Jezreel to Samaria, which passes Jenîn.
The brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah—i.e., Ahaziah’s kinsmen. His brothers, in the strict sense of the word, were slain by a troop of Arabs, in the lifetime of his father Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1). (See the Notes on 2 Chronicles 22:8.)
We go down.—Rather, we have come down.
To salute—i.e., to inquire after their health, to visit them.
The children of the king—i.e., the sons of Joram.
The children of the queen.—Literally, the sons of the mistress (gebîrah)—i.e., the sons of the queen-mother, Jezebel, and so Joram’s brothers. Both these and the former are included in the “sons of Ahab” whom Jehu slew.
The news of the taking of Ramoth, and of Joram’s convalescence, may have reached Jerusalem, and induced these princes to make a visit of pleasure to the court of Jezreel, not suspecting the events which had meanwhile happened with the headlong rapidity characteristic of Jehu’s action.
Slew them at the pit of the shearing house.—Literally, slaughtered them into the cistern of Betheked. Either they cut their throats over the cistern, or threw the corpses into it.
Two and forty.—Curiously parallel with 2 Kings 2:24; and perhaps a definite for an indefinite number.
And he saluted him.—It was important to Jehu to be seen acting in concert with a man revered for sanctity, and powerful as a leader of the orthodox party.
Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?—The Hebrew is: Is there with thy heart right (sincerity)? but this does not agree with the rest of the question. Some MSS. omit the particle ’eth (“with”); but the original reading is probably preserved in the Vatican LXX: “Is thy heart right [i.e., sincere, honest] with my heart, as my heart with thy heart?” This secures a parallelism of expression. (Syriac: “Is there in thy heart sincerity, like that of my heart with thy heart?”)
If it be.—Literally, An it be (the old English idiom, i.e., and it be). Jehu makes this reply. The LXX. (Alex.) has: “And Jehu said;” Vulg., saith he; Syriac, “It is, and it is; and he said to him” (perhaps an accidental transposition).
Give me thine hand.—As a pledge of good faith and token of amity. Striking hands sealed a compact. (Comp. Isaiah 2:6; and Cheyne’s Note.)
My zeal for the Lord.—Jehu addresses Jehonadab as a notoriously staunch adherent of the old faith.
They made him ride.—The Syriac, LXX., and Arabic read, “he made him ride;” the Vulg. is ambiguous; the Targum agrees with the Hebrew text, which may mean that Jehu’s followers assisted Jehonadab (who was probably an aged sheikh) to mount the chariot.
Ahab.—Again put for the house or family so called. Some MSS. and the Syriac express it so, reading “the house of Ahab.” (Comp. 1 Kings 15:29.)
His servants.—The same word as “worshippers,” infra.
To Baal.—For the Baal.
But Jehu did it.—Or, Now Jehu had done it; a parenthesis.
In subtilty.—Or, in guile, treacherously. The word (‘oqbāh) occurs only here. It is connected with the proper name Jacob. (See Genesis 25:26; Hosea 12:4.) The LXX. renders literally, ἐν πτερνισμφ, “in heeling”—i.e., striking with the heel, tripping up.
They proclaimed—i.e., gave notice of the festival by criers “through all Israel” (2 Kings 10:21).
Was full from one end to another.—Right as to the sense. The figure is taken from a full vessel; as if we were to say, “The house was brimful.” The rim of a vessel was its mouth. The rim of the contents reached the rim of the vessel. Schulz explains “head to head” (comp. the margin); Gesenius, “from corner to corner” (comp. 2 Kings 21:16); LXX. literally, στόμα εἰς στόμα “mouth to mouth.”
The Syriac has, “And he said to the treasurer” (gizbârâ). The Vulg., “And he said to those who were over the vestments.” Thenius thinks the word merely means “cell” or “storechamber,” like lishkāh, the root of which may be cognate (1 Chronicles 28:12). It is said that there is an Ethiopie word, meaning “linen robe,” which is connected with this curious term. Thus it would be literally “vestry.”
Brought them forth vestments.—Literally, the vestments—viz., those which were customary on such occasions. Thenius supposes that festival attire from Jehu’s palace is meant, rather than from the wardrobe of the Baal temple. But it seems more natural to understand that Jehu simply gives directions that all the priests and prophets should be careful to wear their distinctive dress at the festival, which was to be a specially great one. (Comp. Herod. v. 5; Sil. Ital. iii. 24 seq.)
That there be here with you none of the servants of the Lord.—This precaution of Jehu’s suggests suspicion to a modern reader, but it would suggest the very contrary to the Baal-worshippers—viz., an extraordinary reverence for Baal; a dread lest some profane person should be present in his sanctuary.
Servants of the Lord.—Worshippers of Jehovah.
They went in.—The priests and prophets went into the inner court of the Baal temple, which probably resembled in general construction that of Jehovah at Jerusalem.
Sacrifices and burnt offerings—i.e., peace offerings and burnt offerings, which could only be offered in an open court.
Jehu appointed fourscore men without.—Rather, now Jehu had set him on the outside (of the building) fourscore men.
If any of the men . . . life of him.—Literally, The man that escapeth of the men whom I am bringing into your hands—his life for his life! This is a little incoherent, as is natural in energetic speech, but the sense is clear. Thenius, however, suggests that the verb “escapeth” should be pointed as a transitive form (pihel instead of niphal). This gives: “The man that letteth escape any of the men,” &c., an improvement that may be right, although the old versions agree with the present Hebrew pointing of the word.
To the guard and to the captains.—Literally, to the runners (or couriers) and to the adjutants (or squires; 2 Kings 9:25). (Comp. 1 Kings 9:22.) The royal guardsmen and their officers are meant.
Cast them out.—That is, threw the dead bodies out of the temple. This is the explanation of the Targum and the other versions. Thenius asks why this should be specially mentioned, and proposes to understand the verb intransitively, “rushed out,” which suits very well with what follows.
And went to the city of the house of Baal.—The word city has here its original meaning, which is also that of the Greek πόλις—viz., citadel, stronghold; properly, a place surrounded by a ring-fence or rampart. Jehu’s guards, after the completion of their bloody work in the court of the temple, rushed up the steps into the sanctuary itself, which, like the temple of Solomon, resembled a fortress. (“Ex atrio irruperunt satellites Jehu in ipsam arcem templi.”—Sebastian Schmidt.) Gesenius explains the word as meaning the temenos or sacred enclosure of the temple, but that does not suit the context. (The origin of the word ‘îr, “city,” obscure in Hebrew, is revealed by the cuneiform inscriptions in the Accadian word erim or eri, meaning “foundation,” and Uru—i.e., Ur, a proper name, meaning “the city.”)
Made it a draught house.—By way of utter desecration. (Comp. Ezekiel 6:11; Daniel 2:5.)
Unto this day.—On the bearing of this phrase, see the Introduction to the Books of Kings.
(29) Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam.—Comp. 1 Kings 12:28, seq., 1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 15:30; 1 Kings 15:34. Jehu maintained the worship at Bethel and Dan on the same grounds of state policy as the kings who preceded him.
Howbeit.—Only; the word constantly used by the redactor to qualify his estimate of the conduct of the kings. (Comp. 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4.) The verse is, therefore, a parenthetic qualification of the approval implied in 2 Kings 10:28.
And hast done.—So the Syriac and Arabic versions. The Hebrew wants the and.
Thy children of the fourth generation.—The fulfilment of this oracle is noticed in 2 Kings 15:12. (Comp. the words of the commandment, “visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation;” Exodus 20:5.)
To walk in the law—i.e., the Mosaic law, which forbids the use of images, such as the “calves.”
With all his heart.—This is explained by the next sentence. He had done honour to Jehovah by extirpating the foreign Baal-worship, but he supported the irregular mode of worshipping Jehovah established by Jeroboam as the state religion of the Northern kingdom.
For.—Not in the Hebrew.
The Lord began.—Through Hazael and the Syrians. (Comp. Isaiah 7:17; Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 10:5-6.)
To cut Israel short.—Literally, to cut off in Israel—i.e., to cut off part after part of Israelite territory. (The verb means to cut off the extremities, Proverbs 26:6.) This refers to the conquests of Hazael. The Targum explains, “The wrath of the Lord began to be strong against Israel;” and the Vulg. has, “tædere super Israel.” Thenius conjectures from this that we should read, “to be wrathful with Israel;” but the construction would not then be usual.
In all the coasts.—Rather, on the whole border—scil., conterminous with Syria.
From Aroer.—Aroer, now ‘Arâ‘îr, on the Arnon, was the southern limit of Gilead, which extended northward to Mount Hermon, and included Bashan. “Even (both) Gilead and Bashan,” is added to make it clear that the whole of the land east of the Jordan, and not merely Gilead in the narrower sense, was conquered by Hazael. These conquests of Hazael were characterised by great barbarity. (Comp. Amos 1:3-5, and Elisha’s prediction of the same, 2 Kings 8:12, supra.) Ewald thinks Hazael took advantage of the internal troubles at the outset of the reign to effect his conquests. But a man of Jehu’s energy must soon have established domestic tranquillity.