JEHU ANOINTED BY ELISHA’S MESSENGER AS KING OF ISRAEL. HE SLAYS JEHORAM. AHAZIAH AND JEZEBEL.
(1) And Elisha the prophet called.—Rather, meanwhile Elisha had called—i.e., while Joram was lying ill of his wounds. The Hebrew construction again indicates not so much succession as contemporaneousness.
One of the children (sons) of the prophets.—Rashi says it was Jonah, who is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25.
Box.—The same word occurs again only in 1 Samuel 10:1. Render, phial.
Jehu.—Probably left in supreme command of the forces at Jehoram’s departure, as being the ablest of the generals (so Josephus).
The son of Jehoshaphat.—It is curious that the father of Jehu who executed the sentence of Jehovah upon the house of Ahab should have borne this name (“Jehovah judgeth”). Nothing is known of Jehu’s origin. He is twice mentioned by Shalmaneser II., king of Assyria, as one of his tributaries. In a fragment of his Annals relating to the campaign against Hazael, undertaken in his eighteenth year (see Note on 2 Kings 8:15), the Assyrian monarch states that, after besieging Damascus, and ravaging the Haurân, he marched to the mountains of Baal-rôsh, the foreland of the sea (Carmel?), and set up his royal image thereon. “In that day the tribute of the land of the Tyrians (and) Sidonians, (and) of Ya’ua (Jehu), son of Omri, I received.” On the Black Obelisk there is a representation of Jehu’s tribute-bearers, and, perhaps, of Jehu himself, kneeling before Shalmaneser. The superscription is: “Tribute of Ya’ua, son of Humrì (Omri)—(ingots of) silver and gold, a bowl of gold, ewers of gold, goblets of gold, buckets of gold, (ingots of) lead, a rod of the hand of the king, spears—I received it.”
Go in.—Into Jehu’s house.
From among his brethren—i.e., his comrades in arms; his fellow-captains.
Carry him.—Literally, cause him to enter. The object was secrecy.
An inner chamber.—Literally, a chamber in a chamber. A phrase which occurred in 1 Kings 20:30; 1 Kings 22:25. Thenius thinks this a mark of identity of authorship.
Thus saith the Lord . . . over Israel.—Only the chief part of the message to Jehu is here given, to avoid publicity. (See infra, 2 Kings 9:6-9.)
Over Israel.—Literally, unto Israel, both here and in 2 Kings 9:12. But a great number of MSS., and all the versions in both places, read over Israel.
Tarry not.—So as to avoid all questioning, and to give greater force to the act.
The captains of the host were sitting.—In council with Jehu.
Into the house.—The council of war was sitting in the court.
I have anointed thee.—The commission to Elijah (1 Kings 19:16) was thus fulfilled by his successor.
Over the people of the Lord.—Israel being Jehovah’s people, Jehovah was Israel’s true king, and therefore it was within His sovereign right to appoint whom He would as His earthly representative. Reuss asserts that this account of the anointing of Jehu, like that of the anointing of Hazael (2 Kings 8:13), is substituted in the present narration for what another document related of Elijah. This is pure conjecture. It is easier to suppose that Elijah had instructed his successor to carry out the commission intrusted to himself, although the narrative nowhere says so. He goes on to remark that there is no need to try to clear Elisha of the charge of being a revolutionary and a regicide, for that the new dynasty would make use of his name by way of legitimising itself, exactly as the houses of Kish and of Jesse made use of that of the prophet Samuel. This is being considerably wiser than our only authorities.
The blood of my servants the prophets.—See 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:13.
The blood of all the servants of the Lord.—We are not told elsewhere, but the thing is in itself probable, that Jezebel persecuted to the death those who clung to the exclusive worship of Jehovah.
At the hand of Jezebel.—Comp. Genesis 9:5. Jezebel (Heb., ’Izèbel) means immaculata—i.e., virgo. Is it the original of Isabel, Isabella, Isbel?
Shall perish.—Syriac, Arabic, Vulg., “I will cause to perish” (different Hebrew points). The LXX. has, “and at the hand of all the house of Ahab,” a difference of reading which favours the ordinary Hebrew text.
Him that is shut up and left (and him that is left).—Reuss imitates the alliteration of the original, “qu’il soit caché ou lâché en Israel.”
For the rest of the verse see 1 Kings 21:21, and comp. 1 Kings 14:10.
And one said.—Many MSS. and all the versions, except the Targum, have “and they said.”
Is all well?—They dreaded some sinister news.
This mad fellow.—They were struck by his wild demeanour and furious haste. Or, perhaps, “this inspired one,” in a tone of ridicule. (Comp. Hosea 9:7.)
Ye know the man.—There is emphasis on the ye. Jehu apparently implies that the man was sent to him by his fellow-generals—that they had planned the whole thing. His purpose is to find out their disposition. Or, more probably, his reply may simply mean: “Why ask me, when you yourselves must have divined the right answer to your question?”
His communication.—Or, his meditation (comp. 1 Kings 18:27)—i.e., the thing he had in his mind, his purpose in coming. Corn, à Lapide: “Ye know that he is mad, and accordingly what he says is mad, and therefore neither to be credited nor repeated.” LXX., “Ye know the man and his babble;” the Targum, “and his story;” the Syriac, “and his folly;” the Vulg., “and what he said;” the Arabic, “and his news.”
Put it under him on the top of the stairs.—So Kimchi, “at the uppermost step.” The words are much discussed by commentators. The LXX. has, “and put it underneath him on the garem of the steps” (retaining the Hebrew word gèrem); the Syriac, “and put it under him on a seat of steps;” the Targum, “at the steps of the hours,” i.e., a flight of steps which served as a sundial (comp. 2 Kings 20:11); the Vulg., “and each one, taking his cloak, put it under his feet in similitudinem tribunalis,” i.e., in the fashion of a rostrum, or elevated platform; the Arabic, “on the steps of the rise” (or “elevation”).
The word gèrem, rendered “top,” can hardly have that meaning. In Hebrew it rarely occurs (Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 25:15), and means bone, for which in Aramaic it is the usual term (Daniel 6:25). In Arabic the word means “body,” and it is usually so explained in one passage of the Bible (Genesis 49:14), “Issachar is a strong ass;” literally, an ass of body. As the Aramaic garmâ is used in the sense of “self,” some would render the present phrase, “on the stairs themselves.” But perhaps we may better translate on the analogy of the Arabic word, “They put (their cloaks) under him, on to (‘el) the body of the stairs.” The stairway on the outside of the house, leading to the roof, served as an extemporised throne, or rather platform, for the king. (Comp. 2 Kings 11:14.) Some Hebrew MSS. have “upon” for “on to.” (Comp. 2 Samuel 21:10, “on the rock.”)
Because of Hazael.—Rather, against Hazael.
Let none go forth.—Literally, let not a fugitive go forth. This proves that Ramoth was in the hands of the Israelite army. If they were besieging the city, as Josephus relates, Jehu’s command is unintelligible.
Ahaziah king of Judah was come down.—See 2 Kings 8:29. After relating what had meanwhile occurred with the army at Ramoth, the narrative returns to that point. Instead of Joram was lying there, the LXX. has, “Joram king of Israel was being healed in Jezreel of the shots wherewith the Arameans shot him in Ramoth, in the war with Hazael king of Syria, because he was mighty and a man of might.” The first sentence, “Joram king of Israel . . . king of Syria,” was probably a marginal note of a different reading of the first half of 2 Kings 9:15. This was inadvertently inserted by some transcriber in connection with Joram in the present verse. The sentence, “Because he was mighty and a man of might,” was originally a marginal note on the words “Hazael king of Syria” (2 Kings 9:14), but in like manner came to be erroneously connected with the same words in the various reading of 2 Kings 9:15 (Thenius).
The company of Jehu.—The word (shiph‘āh) literally means overflow, and so a multitude of waters (Job 22:11), of camels (Isaiah 60:6), of horses (Ezekiel 26:10). Jehu was accompanied, therefore, by a considerable force.
Joram said.—Not to the watchman, but to one of his courtiers. The narrative is very concise.
Is it peace?—This hardly represents the force of the original. Joram is not yet apprehensive. His question merely means, “What is the news?” He expects news from the army at Ramoth. Thenius, however, explains “Come ye with friendly or hostile intention?” In that case, would the king have sent a single horseman to ascertain the truth?
What hast thou to do with peace?—A rough evasion: “What business is it of yours, on what ground I am come?” Conscious of his strength, Jehu can despise the royal message, and the messenger durst not disobey the fierce general, when ordered summarily to the rear. Of course Jehu wished to prevent an alarm being raised in Jezreel.
Came to them.—Literally, came right up to them. (The Hebrew text should be corrected from 2 Kings 9:20.)
Is it peace?—So the versions, many editions, and some MSS. The ordinary Hebrew text gives it as a salutation: “Peace!” but wrongly. Joram is still unsuspicious of evil. Some accident might have detained his first messenger.
The son of Nimshi.—Jehu was son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi. The former phrase may have fallen out of the text here. (Yet comp. 2 Kings 8:26, “Athaliah daughter of Omri.”) The Syriac and Arabic call Jehu “the son of Nimshi” in 2 Kings 9:2 also.
He driveth ſuriously—i.e., the foremost charioteer so drives. The word rendered “furiously” is related to that rendered “mad fellow” in 2 Kings 9:11. (Comp. margin here.) Jehu’s chariot swayed unsteadily as he drove madly on. LXX., ἐν παραλλαγῇ. The Targum explains in an exactly opposite sense, “quietly;” and so Josephus: “Jehu was driving rather slowly, and in orderly fashion” (perhaps confounding shiggā‘ôn, “madness,” Deuteronomy 28:28, with shiggāyôn, “a slow, mournful song,” or elegy).
And his chariot was made ready.—Literally, And one bound his chariot.
Against Jehu.—Rather, to meet Jehu. Joram was curious to know why his messengers had not returned, as well as why the commander-in-chief had left the seat of war. Had he suspected treachery, he would hardly have left the shelter of the walls of Jezreel, and ventured forth without a guard.
In the portion of Naboth.—Naboth’s vineyard, which now formed part of the pleasure-grounds of the palace. (See 1 Kings 21:16.)
What peace . . . are so many?—Rather, What is the peace during the whoredoms of thy mother, and her many witchcrafts—i.e., so long as they continue?
Whoredoms.—In the spiritual sense, i.e., idolatries. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 5:25.)
Witchcrafts.—Sorceries; the use of spells and charms, common among Semitic idolaters. (Comp. the prohibitions in the Law (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10-11.) A great number of the Assyrian tablets contain magical formulas, incantations, and exorcisms. Babylonia was the home of the pseudo-science of magic; and the oldest collection of such formulas is that of Sargina king of Agadê (Accad), compiled in seventy tablets, about 2200 B.C.
There is treachery.—Literally, Guile, or fraud, Ahaziah! Joram shouted these two words of warning to his companion as he was turning his horses to fly.
Between his arms—i.e., between the shoulders, as he was flying; Vulg., “inter scapulas.”
The arrow went out at his heart.—Or, came out from his heart. It struck him obliquely between the shoulders, and went right through the heart. (The word for “arrow” is hĕçî, an ancient form, occurring thrice in 1 Samuel 20:36-38.) Ewald, on this account, refers both passages to the oldest narrator of the history of the kings.
Sunk down.—See margin (Isaiah 46:1).
In his chariot.—LXX., “on his knees,” owing to a partial obliteration of one letter in their Hebrew text.
Bidkar.—The Syriac gives Bar-dĕkar, “son of stabbing,” i.e., “stabber,” “slayer” a very suitable name for Jehu’s squire. The Hebrew name is, therefore, a contraction of Ben-dekar. (Comp. Bedan, “son of Dan,” i.e., Danite, 1 Samuel 12:11; and Bedad, “son of Hadad,” in 1 Chronicles 1:46.)
Captain.—Adjutant, aide-de-camp, chief (2 Kings 7:2).
Remember how that, when I and thou rode together.—This gives the sense of the Hebrew correctly. Literally, remember thou me and thee riding together. The word rendered “together” probably means riding side by side on horseback in attendance on the king. The Targum, vulg., and Kimchi interpret, riding together in the same chariot; Josephus, riding together in Ahab’s chariot behind him.
The Lord laid this burden upon him.—Rather, Jehovah uttered this (prophetic) utterance upon (i.e., about) him. (Comp. the oracle uttered by Elijah against Ahab when taking possession of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings 21:17, seq., 1 Kings 21:29.)
Yesterday.—So that Ahab seized the vineyard the day after the murder of Naboth, a detail not exactly specified in 1 Kings 21:16.
The blood.—The plural (margin) implies death by violence (Genesis 4:10).
And the blood of his sons.—The murder of the sons of Naboth is neither stated nor implied in 1 Kings 21, an omission which has needlessly troubled the minds of commentators. As to the fact, it would be quite in accordance with ancient practice to slay the sons of one accused of blasphemy along with their father (comp. Joshua 7:24-25); and the crafty Jezebel would not be likely to spare persons whose wrongs might one day prove dangerous. The difference in the two narratives is accounted for by the circumstance that the present is the exact version of an eye-witness, viz., Jehu himself, while the former was probably derived from a less direct source.
Saith the Lord.—Literally, is the thing uttered of Jehovah. This phrase, which is uncommon except in the writings of the prophets, and the word rendered “burden” in the last verse, which also belongs to prophetic terminology, together establish the historical authenticity of the short oracle of Elijah, recorded in this verse. Its brevity and the solemnity with which it was pronounced would, we may be sure, stamp it ineffaceably upon the memory of those who heard it. (Comp. 1 Samuel 2:30; and 2 Kings 19:33, infra.)
I will requite thee in this plat.—Another important detail not given in the former account.
Plat.—Portion, as in 2 Kings 9:25 (twice).
By the way of the garden house—i.e., in the direction of the garden house, which was probably a sort of arbour or drinking pavilion near the gates of the palace gardens, of which Naboth’s vineyard formed a part. Ahaziah wished to escape from the royal park as fast as he could.
Smite him also in the chariot.—The Hebrew is much more suited to the excitement of the occasion: Him too! shoot him in the chariot! (Here and in 2 Kings 9:13, supra, ‘el, “into,” seems equivalent to ‘al, “upon.”)
And they did so.—Some such words as these may have fallen out of the Hebrew text. So the Syriac: “Him also! slay him! and they slew him in his chariot, on the ascent of Gur,” &c. But the rendering of the LXX. involves the least change, and is probably right: “Him too! And he smote him in the chariot, in the going up,” &c. This is more graphic. Jehu simply ejaculates,” Him too! “and, after a hot pursuit, shoots his second victim, at the ascent or declivity of Gur, where Ahaziah’s chariot would be forced to slacken speed.
The ascent of Gur is not mentioned elsewhere. Ibleam lay between Jezreel and Megiddo. (Comp. Judges 1:27; Joshua 17:11.)
And he fled to Megiddo, and died there.—See the Note on 2 Chronicles 22:9, where a different tradition respecting the end of Ahaziah is recorded. The definite assignment of localities in the present account is a mark of greater trustworthiness. The way in which Rashi, whom Keil follows, attempts to combine the two accounts, is revolting to common sense. It would be better to assume a corruption of the text in one or the other narrative.
Megiddo.—Identified in the cuneiform inscriptions as Magidû or Magadû.
In his sepulchre.—In his own sepulchre, which he had in his lifetime prepared, according to the custom of antiquity.
Jezebel heard of it.—Rather, Now Jezebel had heard—scil., the news of the death of the two kings. There should be a stop after Jezreel.
And she painted her face.—Rather, and she set her eyes in paint—i.e., according to the still common practice of Oriental ladies, she painted her eyebrows and lashes with a pigment composed of antimony and zinc (the Arabic kohl). The dark border throws the eye into relief, and makes it appear larger (Bähr). Pliny relates that in his day this pigment (stibium) was called platyophthalmon (comp. Jeremiah 4:30), because it dilates the eye (Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 34).
Tired.—An old English word, meaning adorned with a tire or head-dress. (Comp. Isaiah 3:18.) Tire might seem to be the Persian tiara, but is much more probably connected with the German zier and zieren. (See Skeaťs Etym. Dict., s.v) Jezebel put on her royal apparel in order to die as a queen. Comp. the similar behaviour of Cleopatra:—
“Show me, my women, like a queen. Go fetch
My best attires. I am again tor Cydnus,
To meet Marc Antony . . . Bring our crown, and all.
Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me.”
Antony and Cleop., Acts 5, scene 2.
A window.—The window, looking down upon the square within the city gate. Others think of a window looking down into the courtyard of the palace.
Ewald’s notion (after Ephrem Syrus), that Jezebel thought to captivate the conqueror by her charms, is negatived by the consideration that she was the grandmother of Ahaziah, who was twenty-two years old when Jehu slew him, and the fact that Oriental women fade early.
Had Zimri . . . master?—Rather, Art well (literally, Is it peace), thou Zimri, his master’s murderer? The “Is it peace?” which Jezebel addresses to Jehu, appears to be an ironical greeting. Thenius explains: “Is there to be peace or war between me and thee, the rebel?” referring to the same phrase in 2 Kings 9:17-19; 2 Kings 9:22, supra. The phrase is vague enough to admit of many meanings, according to circumstances. Perhaps Jezebel, in her mood of desperate defiance, repeats the question which Jehoram had thrice asked of Jehu, as a hint that she herself is now the sovereign to whom Jehu owes an account of his doings. She goes on to call him a second Zimri—i.e., a regicide like him who slew Baasha, and likely to enjoy as brief a reign as he. (See 1 Kings 16:15-18.)
Was sprinkled on.—Spirted on to.
He trode her under foot.—All the versions have they—i.e., the horses—trode. Thenius supposes they were excited by the blood being sprinkled upon them. But “he”—i.e., Jehu—“trode her under foot,” plainly means, he drove over her fallen body. Ewald goes beyond the text in stating that Jehu spurned her with his own feet. (For the verb, comp. 2 Kings 7:20.)
Go, see now.—Rather, Look, I pray, after.
This cursed woman.—Jehu was thinking of the curse pronounced on Jezebel by the prophet Elijah. (See next verse.)
She is a king’s daughter.—Compare 1 Kings 16:31.
Portion—i.e., domain, territory (hēleq). In 1 Kings 21:23, the word is “wall” (hēl), an error due to the loss of the final letter; not an original difference, as Keil assumes.
Shall be.—It is questionable whether the Hebrew text is to be read as a rare ancient form wehāyāth); or simply as an instance of defective writing (wehāyethā). We prefer the second view.
As dung.—Comp. Psalm 83:10.
So that they shall not say.—Comp. Genesis 11:7 for the construction. The sense is, So that men will no longer be able to recognise her mangled remains.