Sermon preached on 2 Kings 10 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 07/12/2020 in Novato, CA.
No one should be surprised when the LORD does what he has said that he would do. Today’s passage is a sobering reminder of such. But we can also recognize that while God’s hand of judgment fell heavily upon the people here, it was also something directed toward spiritual reformation for the remnant of the faithful among Israel. And so, as we began to see last week, today’s chapter furthers God’s use of Jehu in bringing simultaneously judgment and reformation upon Israel.
We begin first today by observing how Jehu finishes God’s judgment on the house of Ahab. This was part of the specific instructions given prophetically to Jehu from Elisha’s messenger. He was to wipe out the entire house of Ahab – every single male from Ahab’s house. Last time we saw that Jehu was anointed king by the prophet and then declared king by the military. Jehu then attacked and took Jezreel, killing King Jehoram, son of Ahab, in the process. He also killed that wicked Jezebel at the same time. Now, today’s passage shows him further consolidate his destruction of the house of Ahab.
The context then begins for this that Jehu is now a king of Israel who is in control of at least some of Israel, including Jezreel, which had been like a second capital for the nation. However, Samaria was the official capital, and so Jehu then turns to confront Samaria directly. As we are not surprised to learn, the bulk of Ahab’s other heirs and descendants are in Samaria. So, Jehu writes to various officials and leaders of Samaria and basically issues a sort of declaration of war to them. He tells them to go ahead and crown one of Ahab’s heirs as their new king and prepare to go to battle against him. The presumed prize, of course, is control of the nation of Israel.
Well, the various officials in Samaria, in fear of Jehu’s strength, decide unconditional surrender to Jehu is better than going to war against him. Ultimately, they concede to his request to behead Ahab’s seventy sons there in Samaria. When the heads arrive from Samaria to Jezreel, Jehu gives a little speech in verses 9-10 about this. Three points stand out in his speech. One, he declares that none of the people are guilty in this matter of the deaths of Ahab’s sons. Two, his acknowledgment that it was not just himself involved in the death of Ahab’s seventy sons is him publicly showing that he has broad support for his reign from the nation. Three, he ultimately explains all of this being a fulfillment of God’s word through Elijah. What a key statement here, verse 10, “Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the LORD has done what he said by his servant Elijah.” This is why there was no guilt in general for the killing of Ahab’s house, because not only had God prophesied the destruction in general, but God had told Jehu specifically to execute this judgment on Ahab’s house. To our modern sensibilities, such might strike us as atrocious to see these heads get delivered here, but the legality of their executions was ultimately upon the order of the Supreme Judge and King of the land, the LORD God Almighty. Judgment is sobering. And so this brings a purging from Samaria of Ahab’s house. And then then a short while later, we read in verse 17, that Jehu goes to Samaria and finished off any remaining from Ahab’s house in Samaria. So then, the purge of Ahab’s house in Samaria is complete.
We can also note a few more actions of judgment against Ahab’s house here by Jehu. We see in verse 11 that Jehu did further purging in Jezreel. Last week we had just read of him killing King Jehoram, King Ahaziah, and Jezebel, in Jezreel. But in verse 11 he goes through the town and kills off everyone else in Jezreel who remained of Ahab’s house. But then notice what else he does in verse 11. He also kills in Jezreel all of Ahab’s great men, and his close friends, and his priests – we are not told what kind of priests. Absent from more details, this further killing does raise some questions. God had instructed Jehu to wipe out Ahab’s house, particularly all his male heirs. But God had not instructed him to also wipe anyone who had any influential connection with Ahab. We can appreciate the shrewdness of this action. But while we can imagine the prudence in this, was there propriety in this? In fact, there is an interesting reference by the prophet Hosea, in Hosea 1:4 where God mentions in passing that the house of Jehu would be punished for the blood of Jezreel. It’s the only place we find any sort of negative statement about Jehu’s bloodshed. I suspect that Hosea has in mind what happened here in verse 11. That his purging Jezreel went beyond his orders from God to execute all these people who were merely associated with Ahab.
On this first point for today, we can also mention that the passage also records his actions to purge the house of Ahab as it pertains to these relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah in verse 13. Here we see that Jehu orders these also to be executed. This too has raised some questions in terms of its legitimacy, but in remembering that the house of Ahab had married into the house of David, it is very possible that these relatives he executes here of King Ahaziah could also be considered as part of the house of Ahab. The fact that they were coming to visit seems to affirm such too. As such, this may have been a further part of God’s work in purging the infection of Ahab and Jezebel from the house of David.
So then, that’s the first point in terms of how Jehu completed his commission from God to bring judgment upon the house of Ahab. Let’s turn now in our second point to see how Jehu purges Baal worship from Israel. This is verses 18-28. We might begin by noting that Jehu employs deception in his approach for purging Baalism from the nation. The text merely reports that he did this, and doesn’t comment on whether it was appropriate or not. So, I too merely report this, and offer restraint in any criticism at this point, given that there are certain commended uses of deception in Scripture. Whether or not this was one of them is a discussion for another day. But while that might be an open question, what doesn’t seem to be an open question is regarding the propriety of Jehu executing all these Baal worshippers.
What I mean is that to modern sensibilities this account surely seems shocking to execute all these Baal worshippers. But in substance, I don’t think we should fault Jehu but actually commend him. We should note and acknowledge that God’s special instructions for Jehu last chapter did not include this. We might argue that getting rid of Baal worship would be implied because that was the chief fault of Ahab and Jezebel. But that was not explicitly commanded to Jehu, nor that he should go and execute all Baal worshippers in the land. Yet, I would say that Jehu was completely lawful in doing this.
What I mean is that as the king of Israel, God’s general commands would apply to Jehu. While this specific action to wipe out all the Baal worshippers was not part of the special instructions he received upon his anointing, it was absolutely something that law of God for Israel required. Deuteronomy 13 makes it a capital punishment in Israel to go after other gods. Don’t forget that Israel as a nation was a theocracy and there was supposed to be just one religion in Israel – the true one. It was a crime punishable by death to worship Baal in Israel. Again, we could discuss the wisdom of whether Jehu could have gone about things a little differently here or not in terms of how he enforced the law. But the substance of law of God for the theocratic nation of Israel made Baal worship liable to death. And that is exactly what Jehu did here, in obedience to God’s call to administer the righteousness of the law in the land.
So then, after wiping out all these Baal worshippers with its prophets and priests, he then proceeded to tear down the pillar to Baal and the entire temple to Baal. He even turned the site into a latrine as a further sort of lasting rebuke of the practice of Baal worship in Israel. So, you have to appreciate the summary of verse 28. “Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.” Think about that. If you were living in Elijah’s day, would you have thought that was even a possibility? That Baal worship would ever be able to be purged from Israel? But it was.
We see Jehu’s stated intentions for why he purged Baalism in verse 16. Jehu tells this Jehonadab about his zeal for the LORD. In context, it’s clear that Jehu is saying that his zeal for the LORD is what motivated him purging Baal worship from Israel. By the way, this Jehonadab, son of Rechab, is a rather mysterious figure at this point for us. This is the first we’ve heard of him, but the text presumes he is someone concerned for the LORD and true religion. The only other place we hear of him is much later in the book of Jeremiah. There is a whole chapter, Jeremiah 35, that speaks of the descendants of this Jehonadab, son of Rechab. And it is clear then that they have been a faithful remnant unto the LORD beginning particularly with this Jehonadab. So, clearly, this Jehonadab is someone eager to find a leader who is zealous for the LORD and for the true religion. And this text paints Jehu in such terms.
SO then, let’s turn now in our third point for today and do some assessing. How do we assess this reformation? In our own assessment, we can recognize that he wiped out the house of Ahab and Jezebel and purged the false religion of Baalism from the land. That is some serious and wonderful reformation! Praise the LORD! Well, in fact that is also what God himself acknowledges here. Verse 30 records God commending Jehu in terms of bringing the judgment upon Ahab’s house as God had desired. He literally gets a “well done” by God. He is literally described as doing God’s will by wiping out Ahab’s house like this. What northern Israelite king ever received this sort of positive testimony from God? So, let us pause for a moment and note with delight that Jehu performed a noteworthy and commendable work of reformation in Israel. It brought judgment on the wicked while at the same time rid the land of these wicked influences so that the remnant could have opportunity to flourish and grow in zeal and worship of the LORD. God so commends and rewards Jehu so that he says his family dynasty would continue on the throne to the fourth generation. No other dynasty in the northern kingdom of Israel had as long standing of a dynasty.
Does that mean Jehu did this work of reformation perfectly? No. I’ve already mentioned that I think a reasonable interpretation would understand that he took things too far in his killing of those people who were merely influential people connected to Ahab. But even more than that, we see a great concern listed here in verse 29. After all the reform Jehu did, he still didn’t turn away from the sin of the golden calves in Bethel and Dan that Jeroboam had setup. He rid the land of a major first commandment violation but left a major second commandment violation. This sin had been the blight of the northern tribes since their beginning as a separation kingdom. And even after all Jehu’s reforms it still was there. Verse 31 explains further this failing of Jehu, but in different terms. It says he was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD with all his heart. It again immediately clarifies in that he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam. And so, what I believe this is saying is that Jehu really did worship the LORD God, but sadly his worship of God was still tainted by this idolatry of the golden calves.
We might wonder how someone like Jehu could go through all this reformation and change in Israel but still not get rids of the calves. We aren’t told, other than the general answer that his heart was not fully devoted to the pure keeping of God’s laws. I think the idea was that while he seems to have generally sought to walk in the ways of the LORD, he had his areas of sin such as with the golden calves that he was content to hold onto. Maybe by this point in history, this is all those Israelites had ever known for generations that it seemed unthinkable to him to get rid of the calves. We humans can really like our idols, things we can touch. Sure, the Bible might speak against such props, but people can find a way to overlook the things they want to overlook when it comes to religion. I think of how the Roman Catholic Church, after everything that was raised as a concern in the Reformation, still can embrace so many things that seem like such clear examples of idolatries to us Protestants. But surely, we Protestants are not immune to these temptations as well.
So here we have this Jehu. On the one hand someone whose heart was zealous for the LORD and he acted in line with that zeal. On the other hand, he was also someone whose heart was not wholly committed to walking in the ways of the LORD. While his faithfulness brought him reward and commendation from God, his failings brought divine chastening. That’s what we find in the last verses of our passage. Verses 32-36 describe how God raised up adversaries from the nations around Israel to begin to annex parts of Israelite territory to themselves. Of particular note is how Hazael of Syria defeated Jehu in multiple battles across Israel. Remember, God had said that Hazael and Jehu would both be used as a form of judgment against Israel. But here we see that God would use Hazael even in a form of judgment against Jehu, against how he failed to reform Israel as well as he should have.
In sum then for Jehu, we see a man who was a type of Christ, but not the ultimate Christ. He fell short of being the ultimate hope of Israel. I could imagine the hope that Jehonadab, for example, placed in Jehu. And Jehu brought some major reform. But Jehu’s zeal for the LORD didn’t go far enough. But there would yet come the Lord Jesus Christ whose zeal for the Lord was true and perfect. We see such language of zeal used of Jesus when he cleansed the temple in John 2:87. There, Jesus was doing some reformation and it was by the use of force. But, we know that in general, Jesus’ first coming did not involve a lot of reformation by force. Instead, he sought to reform by the sword of the Spirit converting hearts. But such a deliberate choice for how Jesus sought reform was not a lack of zeal. Rather, it was a zeal for divine grace and mercy being lived out in patient appeal to men’s hearts to repent of their sins and find salvation from their guilt through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It was that shedding of Christ’s blood that especially had a reforming effect on God’s chosen ones, perfecting them in the purification of their defilement from sin.
And yet, we know that Jesus has also warned that when he comes again he will bring the sword of judgment and destruction to all who have not given their hand to King Jesus. He will come to complete the reformation among his people. Where Jehu’s reformation didn’t go far enough, Jesus will leave nothing undone. Jesus’ wholehearted devotion to the LORD will complete the reformation he has begun. Let us all be prepared for his coming. If you haven’t already, place your hand of faith in Jesus.
In conclusion, brothers and sisters, may we use this as an opportunity to reflect on your zeal for the LORD and his holy laws. May we remember that we should be zealous to smash false religion in the church. May we also see that we should be zealous to smash perversion of the true religion in the church. But may we also remember to not go beyond what God has given to us do. He has given us the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God, in order to pursue this reformation in the church today. But he has not given us the physical sword. To try to reform by a physical sword is sadly a mistake that the church has sometimes made. But as we noted how Jehu seemed to go beyond what the Lord gave him to do when he killed all those associates and friends of Ahab, let us not go beyond what is given to us. But on the flip side let us also seek to not fall short in the reforms that are needed. To be sure, partial reforms is better than no reform. Today’s passage would remind us of this. But yet it also teaches us to aspire to a yet fuller reform. Let us pray for the zeal with wisdom needed to pursue this in our day. To the service of Christ and to the glory of God! Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.