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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Jehu sends an ironical letter to the elders of Samaria, telling them to choose one of the best of their master's sons, and put him on the throne; to which they return a submissive answer, 2 Kings 10:1-6. He writes a second letter, and orders them to send him the heads of Ahab's seventy sons; they do so, and they are laid in two heaps at the gate of Jezreel, 2 Kings 10:7, 2 Kings 10:8. Jehu shows them to the people, and excuses himself, and states that all is done according to the word of the Lord, 2 Kings 10:9, 2 Kings 10:10. He destroys all the kindred of Ahab that remained in Jezreel, 2 Kings 10:11. He also destroys forty-two men, the brethren of Ahaziah, king of Judah, 2 Kings 10:12-14. He meets with Jehonadab, and takes him with him in his chariot, 2 Kings 10:15, 2 Kings 10:16. He comes to Samaria, and destroys all that were of the kindred of Ahab there, 2 Kings 10:17. He pretends a great zeal for the worship of Baal, and gathers all his priests together, under the pretense of a grand sacrifice, and slays them all, 2 Kings 10:18-25. He burns Baal's images, and makes his temple a draught house, 2 Kings 10:26-28. But he does not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, and does not prosper, 2 Kings 10:29-31. Hazael vexes Israel, 2 Kings 10:32, 2 Kings 10:33. Jehu dies, having reigned over Israel, in Samaria, twenty-eight years, 2 Kings 10:34-36.
1And Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab's children, saying,
Ahab had seventy sons - As he had several wives, he might have many children. The Israelites, from the earliest part of their history, were remarkably fruitful. How amazingly did they multiply in Egypt, even under the hand of the severest oppression! And as to the individuals of whose families we have an account, they are quite remarkable: Rehoboam had thirty-eight sons; Abdon had forty; Tola had thirty; Ahab, seventy; and Gideon, seventy-one.
Unto the rulers of Jezreel - It certainly should be, unto the rulers of Samaria; for to them and to that city the whole context shows us the letters were sent. See 2 Kings 10:6.
To them that brought up Ahab's children - It appears that the royal children of Israel and Judah were intrusted to the care of the nobles, and were brought up by them, (see 2 Kings 10:6); and to these, therefore, Jehu's letters are directed. It is supposed Isaiah (Isaiah 49:23) alludes to this custom: Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers.
2Now as soon as this letter cometh to you, seeing your master's sons are with you, and there are with you chariots and horses, a fenced city also, and armour;
A fenced city also - All here seems to refer to Samaria alone; in it were the magazines and implements of war, etc. No reader need be told that these letters were all ironical. It was the same as if he had said, "Ye have no means of defense; Israel is with me: if you yield not up yourselves and the city, I will put you all to the sword.
3Look even out the best and meetest of your master's sons, and set him on his father's throne, and fight for your master's house.
4But they were exceedingly afraid, and said, Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?
Two kings stood not before him - That is Joram and Ahaziah.
5And he that was over the house, and he that was over the city, the elders also, and the bringers up of the children, sent to Jehu, saying, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king: do thou that which is good in thine eyes.
He that was over the house, etc. - Thus all the constituted authorities agreed to submit.
Will do all that thou shalt bid us - They made no conditions, and stood pledged to commit the horrid murders which this most execrable man afterwards commanded.
6Then he wrote a letter the second time to them, saying, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel by to morrow this time. Now the king's sons, being seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, which brought them up.
Come to me to Jezreel - Therefore the letters were not written to Jezreel, but from Jezreel to Samaria.
7And it came to pass, when the letter came to them, that they took the king's sons, and slew seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel.
Put their heads in baskets - What cold-blooded wretches were the whole of these people!
8And there came a messenger, and told him, saying, They have brought the heads of the king's sons. And he said, Lay ye them in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning.
Lay ye them in two heaps - It appears that the heads of these princes had arrived at Jezreel in the night time: Jehu ordered them to be left at the gate of the city, a place of public resort, that all the people might see them, and be struck with terror, and conclude that all resistance to such authority and power would be vain.
9And it came to pass in the morning, that he went out, and stood, and said to all the people, Ye be righteous: behold, I conspired against my master, and slew him: but who slew all these?
Ye be righteous - Another irony, intended partly to excuse himself, and to involve them in the odium of this massacre, and at the same time to justify the conduct of both, by showing that all was done according to the commandment of the Lord.
10Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah.
11So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining.
Jehu slew all - So it appears that the great men who had so obsequiously taken off the heads of Ahab's seventy sons, fell also a sacrifice to the ambition of this incomparably bad man.
12And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way,
The shearing house - Probably the place where the shepherds met for the annual sheep shearing.
13Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen.
The brethren of Ahaziah - The relatives of his family; for it does not appear that he had any brethren, properly so called: but we know that the term brethren among the Jews signified the relatives of the same family, and especially brothers' and sisters' children: and that these were such, see 2 Chronicles 22:8.
We go down to salute, etc. - So promptly had Jehu executed all his measures, that even the nearest relatives of the murdered kings had not heard of their death, and consequently had no time to escape. They were all taken as in a net.
14And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.
The pit of the shearing house - Probably the place where they washed the sheep previously to shearing, or the fleeces after they were shorn off.
15And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot.
Jehonadab the son of Rechab - For particulars concerning this man, his ancestry, and posterity, see the notes on Jeremiah 35 (note).
Is thine heart right - With me, in the prosecution of a reform in Israel; as my heart is with thy heart in the true religion of Jehovah, and the destruction of Baal?
It is - I wish a reform in the religion of the country; I am his friend who shall endeavor to promote it.
Give me thine hand - This has been generally considered as exacting a promise from Jehonadab; but does it mean any more than his taking him by the hand, to help him to step into his chariot, in which Jehu was then sitting? Jehonadab was doubtless a very honorable man in Israel; and by carrying him about with him in his chariot, Jehu endeavored to acquire the public esteem. "Jehu must be acting right, for Jehonadab is with him, and approves his conduct."
16And he said, Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD. So they made him ride in his chariot.
Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord - O thou ostentatious and murderous hypocrite! Thou have zeal for Jehovah and his pure religion! Witness thy calves at Dan and Bethel, and the general profligacy of thy conduct. He who can call another to witness his zeal for religion, or his works of charity, has as much of both as serves his own turn.
17And when he came to Samaria, he slew all that remained unto Ahab in Samaria, till he had destroyed him, according to the saying of the LORD, which he spake to Elijah.
18And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much.
Ahab served Baal a little - Jehu had determined to have no worship in Israel but that of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel; therefore he purposes to destroy all the worshippers of Baal: and that he may do it without suspicion, he proclaims a great sacrifice; and that he may do it the more easily, he gathers them all together into one place.
19Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal.
Whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live - Because, as he will thereby show himself without zeal for the service of his God, he will justly forfeit his life. All this was done in the very spirit of deceit.
20And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it.
21And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another.
22And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.
He said unto him that was over the vestry - The word vestry comes from vestiarium, and that from vestes, garments, from vestio, I clothe; and signifies properly the place where the sacerdotal robes and pontifical ornaments are kept. The priests of Baal had their robes as well as the priests of the Lord; but the garments were such that one could be easily distinguished from the other.
23And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.
None of the servants of the Lord - Though he was not attached to that service, yet he would tolerate it; and as he was led to suppose that he was fulfilling the will of Jehovah in what he was doing, he would of course treat his worship and worshippers with the more respect.
He might have ordered the search to be made on pretense of expelling any of those whom they would consider the profane, especially as this was "a solemn assembly for Baal," as was the custom with the heathen when any extraordinary exhibition of or for their god was expected; thus Callimachus, (Hymn to Apollo), after imagining the temple and its suburbs to be shaken by the approach of Apollo, cries out, Εκας, ἑκας, ὁστις, αλιτρος. To prevent any suspicion of his real design, such might have been Jehu's plea, else alarm must have been excited, and perhaps some would have escaped.
24And when they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings, Jehu appointed fourscore men without, and said, If any of the men whom I have brought into your hands escape, he that letteth him go, his life shall be for the life of him.
25And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal.
As soon as he had made an end of offering - Had Jehu been a man of any conscientious principle in religion, he would have finished the tragedy before he offered the burnt-offering; but to a man of no religion, the worship of Jehovah and of Baal are alike. If he prefers either, it is merely as a statesman, for political purposes.
To the guard and to the captains - לרצים ולשלשים leratsim uleshalashim; to the couriers or runners, and the shalashim, the men of the third rank, those officers who were next to the nobles, the king and these being only their superiors. The runners were probably a sort of light infantry.
The city of the house of Baal - Does not this mean a sort of holy of holies, where the most sacred images of Baal were kept? A place separated from the temple of Baal, as the holy of holies in the temple of Jehovah was separated from what was called the holy place.
26And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them.
27And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day.
Made it a draught house - A place for human excrement; so all the versions understand it. Nothing could be more degrading than this; he made it a public necessary.
28Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.
29Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.
30And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.
Thy children of the fourth generation - These four descendants of Jehu were Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam the second, and Zechariah; see 2 Kings 14 and 15. This was all the compensation Jehu had in either world, as a recompense of his zeal for the Lord.
31But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
Jehu took no heed - He never made it his study; indeed, he never intended to walk in this way; it neither suited his disposition nor his politics.
32In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel;
The Lord began to cut Israel short - The marginal reading is best: The Lord cut off the ends; and this he did by permitting Hazael to seize on the coasts, to conquer and occupy the frontier towns. This was the commencement of those miserable ravages which Elisha predicted; see 2 Kings 8:12. And we find from the next verse that he seized on all the land of Gilead, and that of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh; in a word, whatever Israel possessed on the east side of Jordan.
33From Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.
34Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
Are they not written in the book of the chronicles - We have no chronicles in which there is any thing farther spoken of this bad man. His reign was long, twenty-eight years; and yet we know nothing of it but the commencement.
For barbarity and hypocrisy Jehu has few parallels; and the cowardliness and baseness of the nobles of Samaria have seldom been equalled. Ahab's bloody house must be cut off; but did God ever design that it should be done by these means? The men were, no doubt, profligate and wicked, and God permitted their iniquity to manifest itself in this way; and thus the purpose of God, that Ahab's house should no more reign, was completely accomplished: see 1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 21:21, 1 Kings 21:29. And by this conduct Jehu is said to have executed what was right in God's eyes, 2 Kings 10:30. The cutting off of Ahab's family was decreed by the Divine justice; the means by which it was done, or at least the manner of doing, were not entirely of his appointing: yet the commission given him by the young prophet, 2 Kings 9:7, was very extensive. Yet still many things seem to be attributed to God, as the agent, which he does not execute, but only permits to be done.
35And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead.
36And the time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty and eight years.