Sermon preached on 2 Kings 9 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 07/05/2020 in Petaluma, CA.
The day of judgment upon the house of Omri and Ahab had finally come. Interestingly, the United States just celebrated its independence, a holiday about freedom from tyranny. Well, in a certain sense, God’s raising up Jehu as king was a revolution in Israel for freedom from tyranny as well. God’s judgment on the house of Jehu would bring, to a certain degree, much needed liberation for the faithful remnant among Israel.
As we look at this passage, I’ll have us take it in three scenes. Scene 1 then deals with Jehu being anointed as king with a mission for vengeance. This scene begins with Elisha finally fulfilling the job God had given his predecessor Elijah on the top of Mt. Sinai back in 1 Kings 19. To clarify, it’s not that Jehu wasn’t on the scene yet back in Elijah’s day. Jehu’s words in verse 25 show that he was alive and already in King Ahab’s service back then. In other words, Jehu could have been anointed way back then. But God did not ordain it to happen until now. This was the patient mercy of God in delaying the judgment.
Some of that divine mercy in this regard is seen back in a very relevant passage for today, 1 Kings 21. That was the chapter where King Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth, and his wife Jezebel did a government conspiracy against him to get him falsely condemned and put to death. As we learn in this passage for the first time in verse 26, her actions apparently included getting Naboth’s sons put to death as well. And so, the background of the evil of Ahab and Jezebel against Naboth and the declared judgment is referenced in this passage. Yet, it was also in that same chapter of 1 Kings 21 where Ahab greatly humbled himself before God in response to the announced judgment. God took notice and pointed out the response to Elijah. God then told Elijah that his decision was to not enact the judgment during Ahab’s day, but during his son’s day.
So then, here we are. After much patient mercy of God where he used Elijah then Elisha to usher in a period of spiritual reformation among some in Israel, the day had finally come to bring the judgment upon Ahab’s house. Elisha is seen just briefly in this passage, but he is instrumental in commissioning one of the sons of the prophets, a servant-disciple, to go and anoint Jehu to be king. Interestingly, Elisha adds the specific instruction that once you anoint him, get out of there immediately. Maybe that’s because he knows that things are going to become bloody and violent almost immediately. Maybe it’s because the disciple’s anointing of Jehu is risky in that it is treasonous and conspiratorial. Maybe because of both.
So then, Elisha’s servant-disciple follows the instructions, calls out Commander Jehu from a meeting among other military commanders in Ramoth-Gilead – the town that Israel had been defending from King Hazael of Syria. The servant-disciple speaks privately with Jehu and anoints him with oil in the name of the LORD God of Israel. By the way, I love how there in verse 6 the prophecy states twice that Israel was God’s people. It’s wonderful to see that after all their sin and rebellion, God had not completely disowned his people. Rather, he will raise up Jehu as king, in part, as act of salvation for his remnant among Israel.
So then, recognize that Jehu now is the anointed of the Lord. Of the many kings in Israel and Judah, we don’t see very many of them being specifically anointed by the LORD. Jehu is the anointed of the LORD. Just to remind you, that is what the Hebrew word messiah and the Greek word christ means. Jehu is the Lord’s anointed. He’s the Lord’s messiah and christ. Now, to clarify, he’s obviously not the Davidic Messiah that was and would be promised to bring God’s people into an everlasting kingdom of peace. But Jehu is a christ. And as such we see him here as a type of the greater Christ to come. Here, he is a type of Christ in terms of how Christ Jesus will come in judgment on that final day. When the other military commanders recognize that he is anointed as king, they not only sound the trumpet and proclaim him king, they also lay out their garments and put it under his feet, proleptic of what the people would later do for Jesus at the Triumphal Entry.
So then, notice that when he is anointed by Elisha’s servant-disciple, that verses 6-10 explain to Jehu the mission from God that is before him. Some have wondered why Elisha’s instructions to his disciple in verses 1-3 don’t go into that detail, but it is surely just an abbreviated description and the full prophecy from Elisha to Jehu is being recounted in verses 6-10. The point is clear. Jehu has a divine commission for vengeance. God is going to use Jehu as his hand of vengeance against Jezebel for all the godly people and prophets she killed, and against the house of Ahab for all the wickedness of that house.
That leads us then to scene 2 in our passage, to see Jehu bring judgment upon King Jehoram and also on Jehoram’s nephew, King Ahaziah. After all the military commanders recognize his anointing by God and declare him to be king, Jehu and them begin to conspire against King Jehoram. Notice in verse 15 that it is clear that Jehu is not just unilaterally making these decisions to topple the house of Ahab. If anything, it seems it was the decision and policy of all these many Israelite military leaders who had declared Jehu king. Jehu then, as the executive role, is then going to lead and carry out the execution of the conspiracy. And don’t miss that. The text calls this a conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that Jehu and the military leaders are involved with. And it is a conspiracy that Elisha and his servant-disciple were involved with, as the initial instigating force.
So, Jehu arranges in verse 15 to make sure no one leaves Ramoth-Gilead to warn King Jehoram in Jezreel. Remember, that Jehoram was in Jezreel recovering from a battle wound inflicted by the Syrians under King Hazael. And so, Jehu then heads to Jezreel with some company of forces. As he approaches Jezreel, the watchman spots their company approaching and is ordered by King Jehoram to go meet them and find out what is going on. Keep in mind that Jehoram at this point wouldn’t have any immediate reason to think there is any treachery going on. Jehoram would know that the battlefront is Ramoth-gilead and so if one of his commanders is speeding quickly from Ramoth-gilead it very well may be with urgent news from the front lines. So, King Jehoram sends a watchman out to ask, “Is it peace?” That’s one of those questions that can be a bit context-specific. We know why Jehu has come, and we can’t help but interpret that question from the knowledge that Jehu has not come for peace, but to destroy Jehoram! But it very well may have been meant by Jehu in a more general sense – like, “How are things going with the battle? Is everything okay? Why are you coming here in such a mad rush?”
So then, the first watchmen rides up to Jehu and asks him this question, and Jehu deflects and calls him to join with him. And so the watchman falls in behind him. This then repeats itself, and a second watchman falls in behind Jehu. Finally, King Jehoram decides he better go check things out for himself and he and his nephew King Ahaziah of Judah set out toward Jehu. They end up meeting, “coincidently” in the field of Naboth – the one Ahab had stolen through his wife’s Jezebel’s murderous conspiring. That’s when Jehu’s intentions are made known and Jehoram cries out to Ahaziah “treachery” and tries to retreat. But, Jehu strikes Jehoram with his bow and orders his people to likewise strike Ahaziah. By the way, some have wondered if this was appropriate for him to kill Ahaziah, a king in the line of David. It’s a fair question, but we can at least tentatively reply that he was also of the line of Ahab and that Scripture paints him as part of the Ahab infection into the line of David. So, it seems this is to address that, but I digress.
Recognize then that after killing Jehoram there at Naboth’s field, he immediately has an insight into a former prophecy by Elijah. This is verse 25. He recalls that Elijah had prophesied that Ahab’s blood would be licked up by dogs in Naboth’s field. And so, Jehu orders for Jehoram’s body to be placed there on Naboth’s field. So then, we see further evidence of how Jehu was being used by God to fulfill a prophecy of judgment against the house of Ahab.
I might note one more thing about this second scene in today’s passage. As I read of Jehu furiously speeding toward Jezreel and upon Jehoram like this, I think of the thief in the night idea. Scripture repeatedly warns that Jesus’ own coming judgment will be as thief coming in the night. Think about this here. It was so long ago that Elijah had been told by God to anoint Jehu as a sword against the house of Ahab. It had been so long ago that Elijah had prophesied destruction upon Ahab’s next generation. Surely, Jehoram by now, so many years later, was not expecting this. Surely, that day caught him off guard. Well, when Jesus comes, as the greater Jehu, he will catch so many off guard. So many will be unprepared when that judgment finally falls on the world.
Let’s turn now to our third and final scene for today, the judgment coming upon Jezebel. This begins in verse 30 when Jehu finally arrives in Jezreel. In hardly surprising audacity on her part, we see Jezebel puts on her makeup and does her hair before he arrives. She obviously knows by now that Jehu just killed her son Jehoram. Some wonder if she got herself looking nice because she was going to try to somehow seduce or allure Jehu into sparing her life. But given her words, I lean against that interpretation. Probably, this is more along the lines that if she is going to die, in her vanity she wants to look good when she does.
So then, in a somewhat similar fashion to how he got the watchman to fall in behind him, he calls out to Jezebel’s attendants who are with her. He asks, “Who is on my side?” He gets some eunuchs to join him and orders them to throw Jezebel out the window to her death. They comply and thus ends the wicked and murderous Jezebel who was tolerated for far too long in Israel. I think of how in Revelation 2:20, that is something written in the letter to the church at Thyatira – that they were admonished for tolerating a Jezebel in their midst. Likely that was used metaphorically in light of this historical and infamous Jezebel. But as an aside of application, we see that we are not to tolerate the Jezebel-like influences in the church, but we must exercise church discipline to put them out of the communion of the saints through excommunication.
So then, Jezebel falls to her doom. Her blood is spattered or sprinkled against the wall in the process. The language is subtly suggestive of her being a sort of sacrifice – which would not be surprising since her death is a beginning to atone for the sins incurred under her leadership. Jehu then carries on in his chariot into the city, trampling her corpse in the process. He goes and eats and drinks, something you do in peace. Even something you might expect after a sacrifice of a peace offering. Jehu did not come in peace, but his actions have brought a peace.
So then, after his meal he apparently thinks better of leaving Jezebel dead and unburied. He calls her a cursed woman but is willing to bury her since she was a king’s daughter – remember she was a Sidonian princess. But it’s too late. She has already been eaten by dogs. While Jehu ate, so did the dogs. But that’s when Jehu remembers the prophecy from Elijah. Again, we see prophetic fulfillment. This was prophesied by Elijah in that same chapter in 1 Kings 21 on the Naboth matter. And now it has come to pass. God’s sovereign plans and judgments will never fail.
While we are on this scene with Jezebel’s death, I want us to address for a moment her accusation against Jehu. Look at verse 31. She accuses him of being a Zimri, murderer of his master. This is an important question. Is Jehu a murdering Zimri?
Well, you might ask, “Who was Zimri?” If you do, of course, your pastor will be a little sad. But only a little, as it was about six months ago that we learned about Zimri. Zimri was the rebel who conspired against the house of Baasha to become King of Israel for a whole seven days. That was poetic justice for the house of Baasha because that house had previously conspired against the house of Jeroboam to become the reigning house over Israel. But it was actually Omri, the military commander that put down Zimri’s conspiracy and ushered in the house that produced Ahab and Jezebel and all their wickedness. But their house of Omri could have made the claim that they didn’t take the thrown by conspiracy, they were actually the house that put down a conspiracy.
So, is this true? Is Jehu basically a murderous conspirator like Zimri? This is important question because of what I just mentioned. There was these two former conspiracies in Israel, one by Baasha and the other by Zimri. Both Baasha and Zimri not only murdered the current king but also wiped out all their male heirs to the throne. The Bible is clear in 1 Kings 16:7 that Baasha was guilty of great sin because of his murderous conspiracy. Surely it is implied that Zimri was also guilty for this. The law of Israel commanded respect for the king and certainly murdering them was not right. We can remember by contrast, how long before, David wouldn’t strike King Saul as God’s anointed King, even though David had been anointed by God to be the next king. David instead waiting patiently and in righteousness for God to take care of Saul somehow. So, what about here? Was Jehu right to do what he did? If so, why would it be right for him and wrong for Baasha and Zimri?
Let me say right away, that I think we need to ultimately conclude that Jehu was not guilty in this regard. Yes, it was conspiracy. But I don’t think we can say that he is guilty of sin for killing the house of Ahab and Jezebel. We will see next chapter, in 10:28-31 that the LORD specifically tells Jehu after the fact that he is pleased with how Jehu carried out his vengeance against the house of Ahab. God there rewards Jehu by promising that his house would reign in Israel unto the fourth generation. This does not mean, of course, that every action that Jehu took in his use of the sword was right. But, in general, Jehu’s use of the sword against Ahab’s house was commended.
Let me clarify something further here. In Baasha’s case, when he conspired and murdered the house of Jeroboam, God had also announced prophetically that such would happen – that because of his great idolatry, Jeroboam’s house would be wiped out and his dynasty ended. So, when Baasha fulfilled that, it was God’s prophetic judgment fulfilled. But it was at the same time wrong for Baasha to do that, and so God ultimately judged him for it too. So, what makes things different here with Jehu?
Well, here, in light of the egregious nature of the house of Ahab, who with Jezebel was the most wicked king in Israel’s history, God himself decided to directly become involved in removing the house of Ahab. This was not just God ordaining the destruction of a house that then permits another wicked man to wickedly conspire and destroy the house. No, this evil in Israel had become so bad, that the higher authority of the LORD proactively steps in to course-correct things with Israel. We’ve talked in each point today of how all this was fulfilled prophecy, so that surely helps us see God’s plan being worked out. But more specifically, the very idea of Jehu doing this was first an instruction given to Elijah and passed on apparently to Elisha. Then it’s Elisha himself who instigates the conspiracy on behalf of the LORD. That’s when the prophetic word comes to Jehu instructing him on why God is making him king to bring vengeance on Jezebel and the house of Ahab. Realize what I’m saying. Things had gotten so bad, that God as the higher authority initiated this conspiracy and instructed Jehu to be this hand of divine judgment. You know, normally, we say that vengeance belongs to the LORD and that we shouldn’t as individuals go about trying to be some vigilante taking justice into our own hands. Normally, kings and civil magistrates are to be respected and obeyed, not conspired against and killed. But in this extraordinary situation God intervened. This conspiracy was of the LORD, not in a general way, but in a specific way. Jehu was merely operating on God’s instructions.
Do you see what made the difference? The clear word of the LORD required this action of him. That’s why it was wrong for Baasha and Zimri to presumptuously conspire against their kings at the time. But it’s why Jehu would have been wrong not to. See the nuance? But the nuance is everything in this! It’s this nuance that we’ve been wrestling with here in dealing with Marin County and the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order. So far, we had been advocating for submitting to the civil government in this. Yet as things continue to develop, it may be in the nuance where we have to advocate something different – but even then there would be nuance. But it must be God’s word applied in a careful, nuanced way that gives us the direction of when to submit and when to disobey. And I appreciate your prayers for wisdom for our church leaders as we continue to parse through that nuance in our specific set of circumstances.
In conclusion, I ask the question that was repeatedly asked of Jehu. Is it peace? When Jesus comes again, will it be for peace? No, when Jesus comes again, it will be to usher in the sword of final judgment on the wicked. However, in contrast, I point you to Jesus’ first coming. When he arrived, the angels declared that it was for peace. In the upper room discourse, before Jesus went to the cross, he told his disciples that he gives his peace to his disciples, in a way that the world cannot. John’s gospel records that after the resurrection, the first words he said to his disciples was, “Peace be unto you.” Jesus’ second coming will not initially be for peace. It will usher in a permanent peace for those who are spared from the judgment to come. But his second coming will be with the sword. But his first coming was for peace.
That is what the church is operating under right now. At his first coming, he entrusted a message of peace to bring to the world. It’s a message of how you can be spared from the judgment to come if you repent of your sins and turn to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s like here with Jehu – just before the judgment fell, there were some who decided to align themselves with Jehu as king and they were saved. So too, Jesus has offered us to fall in behind him and to join the Lord’s side. Know the peace of Jesus Christ, the greater Jehu, before that final judgment falls upon this sinful world. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.