No sooner had the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu king, than Jehu rode to Jezreel and killed Joram and Ahaziah (the kings of Israel and Judah, respectively). I have no love for either man; they were evil in many ways, but assassinations never sit well with me. I have a problem with one party, whether they feel justified or not, taking the life of another party, when they have no authority to do so. But authority is a tricky thing. What about political assassinations in wars? Wars are something we must sometimes fight to maintain peace, prosperity and the rule of law. And laws must be fought to win; good doesn’t just magically win over evil. But let’s get the background of this conflict. Jehu did not stop there. The people of Israel were afraid of him, and so rather than make one of Joram’s or Ahab’s sons king, they killed them all and sent their heads to Jehu.
- Ahab was one of the worse kings to rule in Israel. It is said that he did more to provoke God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:32) He married a foreign woman, and brought her idols home, encouraging all of Israel to worship them. It was a long time ago, but my readers might remember that one of the terms governing God’s contract with Israel was that they were not to marry foreigners and they were most certainly not to worship idols. As king, Ahab did not only condemn himself, but all of Israel along with him. His wife, Jezebel, went on to kill the prophets of God that she could find.
- What does this have to do with Joram and Ahaziah? Well, Ahab’s legacy was very strong. After his death, Ahaziah, his son continued in the ways of his parents. Ahaziah died and was succeeded by Jehoram. Jehoram was more careful, taking some steps to eliminate the worship of Baal but he kept the other idols, in the traditon of Jeroboam. He began his rule by killing all his fathers other sons and was apparently so bad that two cities seceded from Judah and he died, the text says ‘with no one’s regrets’. (2 Chronicles 21). Other kings of both Israel and Judah followed in Ahab’s tradition, sometimes marrying into his family namely Jehoram of Judah, Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah.
- That brings us to the current time. Given that history, it is no surprise that God sought to destroy the family of Ahab. God swore to leave to male belonging to Ahab’s family alive. That way, there would be no one to carry on his line. Jehu did this, with the help of Israel. He also killed all the prophets and worshipers of Baal, effectively eradication that lasting legacy of Ahab. Even though God had not commanded him to do so, he was pleased with Jehu’s actions. Jehu saw what God wanted for the house of Ahab and carried it out, though I don’t suspect his motives were pure.
- Jehu was by no means a good man. He continued the worship of Jeroboam’s golden calves and, true to form, God punished him for that. (If one thing can be said of the God of Israel, it is that he shows no favoritism. He punishes sin in friend and foe alike, just like we would expect a good judge to do).
We’ve already established that God can never be guilty of murder; all life belongs to him. But let no one say that Jehu’s actions in any way displeased God. God wanted the house of Ahab gone and Jehu’s actions in carrying that out pleased him. This is evident in God’s declaration against Jehu (for his sins): “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” (2 Kings 10:30) I would say, therefore, that Jehu had God’s blessings in his actions the same as if Ahab had been killed in war and his sons had been executed for treason.
Yet something about this still bugs me. I don’t like to think that God sanctioned Jehu’s actions, because I don’t like assassinations. But that’s a problem I’ll have to handle some other time.