When God Installs People We Don’t Like as Rulers


Scriptures:  1 Kings 19; 2 Kings 9 and 10

The last time I spoke in our preaching journey through the bible, and in our current series preaching through the books of 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles, I spoke about the prophet Elijah, a hero of the faith. That’s an enjoyable topic. Next week, I will preach about his successor, Elisha, another hero of the faith. That’s another enjoyable topic. But, in between, because I simply have to speak on whatever comes next in the biblical text, and so today I get to preach on a topic that will make many of you squirm or even angry. Certainly, the topic of God having the nerve to not do what we want when it comes to installing a political leader that we despise is a topic none of us like. That God would dare to do something so infuriating as putting into power a leader who is crude, rude, aggressive, and whose life shows little evidence of serving or honouring Him is beyond belief to our way of thinking. Who does God think He is, anyway, doing something like that? But God, in playing the game of history, sees the entire game. He knows what moves need to happen, what people need to be in power, possibly to stave off a worse alternative or to change His people into desperate pray-ers who conform to His will. God knows what needs to happen to win because He can see the full picture whereas we can’t see the full picture and thus it is often only via hindsight, in reflecting back, that we understand what God was up to.

Now, the O.T. king I am preaching on today is Jehu, the captain of King Ahab’s guard. My dad called him “My hero” but for a reason I will reveal later but Jehu was really not many people’s hero when he was the captain of the guard in that he was an unsavoury man, rough, coarse, not kind, or gentle, vain, and full of self-glorifying aspirations, and yet God chose him to be leader over Israel. How could God choose such a man? However, Jehu, alone of all the kings of Israel, was the only king that God ever had a good word to say about. He was the 10th of 19th kings in Israel’s history, thus right in the middle. During his reign, Israel began to shrink in size and influence, and it never recovered, eventually succumbing to Assyrian domination in 722 B.C., a process he began. When we first hear of Jehu, it was after the prophet Elijah had run for his life from Queen Jezebel, who was so infuriated with her husband, King Ahab’s news, that her handpicked 450 priests of Baal and 400 priests of Ashtoreth had been defeated by YHWH God and His prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, that she declared that Elijah, just like many others of YHWH’s prophets, would be put to death at her hands. Elijah fled from Ahab and Jezebel’s capital city of Jezreel, Samaria, going south to Mount Horeb, the “holy mountain” on which, centuries before, God had revealed himself to Moses by the name of YHWH – “I AM WHO I AM”. He hoped to meet God there, and, indeed, God found Elijah there hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. (1 Kings 19:13b-17)

Those three men to be anointed by Elijah – Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha – would be a three-headed monster to King Ahab and his family as they would each contribute their part in taking them down. But because Elijah was nervous about doing things on his own, YHWH assured him:

Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)

Elijah was encouraged and went on his way, though he only carried out one of those three tasks YHWH had given him, that being the one he most personally wanted, that of gaining a partner in his ministry as a prophet. Elijah sought out Elisha and anointed him his successor. The other two tasks YHWH gave to Elijah, the scarier tasks of anointing Hazael as the king of Aram – Hazael was a murderous thug – and Jehu as king of Israel when Israel already had a king, Ahab (whose wife was the evil Jezebel) and who, if they heard about Elijah anointing Jehu to be the new king of Israel would surely put him/Elijah to death, Elijah passed on to Elisha his successor as on whom God placed “the spirit of Elijah” in a double portion. Elisha did anoint Hazael king over Aram, but it was such a nerve-wracking experience that when it came time to similarly anoint Jehu as the king of Israel, well, to be honest, Elisha chickened out. Instead, he went and found a younger man who was from the “company of prophets” God had preserved in Israel, gave him his flask of anointing oil, and instructed him to go and anoint Jehu and then, make a run for it to save his life!

The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets, an unnamed younger prophet and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of olive oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” (2 Kings 9:1-3)

That is a hilarious scene that has set up for us. Let’s read about it:

So, the young prophet went to Ramoth Gilead. When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. “I have a message for you, commander,” he said. “For which of us?” asked Jehu. “For you, commander,” he replied. Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the Lord’s people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’” Then he opened the door and ran. (2 Kings 9:4-10)

The young prophet did as told: “anoint Jehu and then run for your life!”

When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this maniac come to you?” “You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied. “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.” Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’” They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” So, Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, conspired against Joram. (2 Kings 9:11-14a)

King Ahab had died by then, as had Ahaziah, the son who succeeded him. Joram, Ahab’s son, Ahaziah’s brother, was now king but Jezebel was still there in the background, pulling all the strings and controlling everything. Jehu relished his given task of killing King Joram and putting to death Jezebel and the rest of Ahab’s family. Remember, he was a violent, ruthless, ambitious, not kind man. Jehu didn’t hesitate.

Then he got into his chariot and rode to Jezreel, because Joram was resting there and Ahaziah king of Judah had gone down to see him. (2 Kings 9:16)

The Ahaziah mentioned in this verse was not Joram’s deceased brother, but the king of Judah & this Ahaziah was related to Joram for his father Jehoram had married Ahab’s daughter. We read about him:

He walked in the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab’s family. (2 Kings 8:27)

In any case, those two related kings of Israel and Judah, Joram and Ahaziah, were together at Jezreel, Israel’s summer capital, when a lookout on the city wall saw Jehu in his chariot, furiously approaching.

When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, “I see some troops coming.” “Get a horseman,” Joram ordered. “Send him to meet them and ask, ‘Do you come in peace?’” The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’” “What do you have to do with peace?” Jehu replied. “Fall in behind me.” The lookout reported, “The messenger has reached them, but he isn’t coming back.” So, the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them, he said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’” Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.” The lookout reported, “He has reached them, but he isn’t coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.” (2 Kings 9:17-20)

My dad tended to be a “lead foot” when driving his car and, it was when he was speeding he referred to Jehu as his “hero”. Jehu and those him were rapidly getting closer. King Joram, rightly so, felt dis-ease, and since his messengers had been forced to fall in line behind Jehu, Joram decided to go and see for himself what was up with Jehu.

“Hitch up my chariot,” Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. (2 Kings 9:21)

You may remember this was the plot of land a man named Naboth had refused to sell to Ahab, so Jezebel had him killed, thus allowing Ahab the opportunity to steal it. King Joram, son of Ahab, had no clue what was about to happen on that spot of land taken by his sinful parents.

When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?” “How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, “Treachery, Ahaziah!” (2 Kings 9:22,23)

Jehu had come to do to Ahab’s family what God ordered of him.

Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, “Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the Lord spoke this prophecy against him: ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the Lord, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the Lord.’ Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord.” (2 Kings 9:24-26)

Next, though, Jehu went outside of what God had ordered in that he also killed King Ahaziah of Judah. Carrying on with his murderous spree, and after he had made sure Jezebel was dead, Jehu then set his sights on the 70 remaining sons of Ahab. He challenged them to fight, but they knew that Jehu had killed both King Joram and King Ahaziah:

But they were terrified and said, “If two kings could not resist him, how can we?” So, the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders and the guardians sent this message to Jehu: “We are your servants, and we will do anything you say. We will not appoint anyone as king; you do whatever you think best.” (2 Kings 10:4,5)

The highest servants of the royal court “read the room” correctly and offered to do whatever Jehu asked of them. They were wise!

Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.” Now the royal princes, seventy of them, were with the leading men of the city, who were rearing them. When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them. They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. (2 Kgs 10:4-7)

Remember, when reading the Bible, don’t be offended by the fact that awful events are recorded in it, but rather be appreciative that the writers simply recorded the events of history objectively, withholding comment as to their decency or appropriateness. They told the facts.

Then Jehu ordered, “Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.” The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.” So, Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends, and his priests, leaving him no survivor. (2 Kings 10:8b-11)

Thorough and vicious was Jehu but he was also fair in that he did reassure the people that he knew they were innocent of wrongdoing.

Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, “Who are you?” They said, “We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother.” “Take them alive!” he ordered. So, they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked—forty-two of them. He left no survivor. (2 Kings 10:12-14)

Those relatives of King Ahaziah had not heard about what had happened and so had innocently gone on a little trip to visit King Joram of Israel and Jezebel, the queen mother. But their doing so enraged Jehu and he had them killed. Doing so was not ok with God.

After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Rekab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, “Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?” “I am,” Jehonadab answered. “If so,” said Jehu, “give me your hand.” So, he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.” Then he had him ride along in his chariot. (2 Kings 10:15-16)

When we preached last year through the Book of Jeremiah, we met Rechabites, an honourable and righteous family, dating from the time of Moses. Recognizing Jehonadab the Rechabite as a YHWH follower, Jehu asked him if he would care to see what he was doing in his zeal for YHWH. Jehonadab, that righteous, godly man, not really knowing what Jehu was up to, agreed. Off they went, a profane and a righteous man, to where Jehu was going to complete the task assigned him.

Then Jehu brought all the people together and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his servants and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live.” But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the servants of Baal. Jehu said, “Call an assembly in honor of Baal.” So, they proclaimed it. Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the servants of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other. And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, “Bring robes for all the servants of Baal.” So, he brought out robes for them. Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Rekab went into the temple of Baal. Jehu said to the servants of Baal, “Look around and see that no one who serves the Lord is here with you—only servants of Baal.” So, they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: “If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life.” (2 Kings 10:18-24)

The 80 soldiers were told, “It’s either your lives or theirs! You choose!”

As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: “Go in and kill them; let no one escape.” So, they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day. (2 Kings 10:25-27)

Jehu knew that wiping out Ahab’s family also involved stopping Baal worship. By the way, desecrating a “holy site” by setting up a latrine in it, archaeologists attest to as being a common practice in antiquity.

So, Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. (2 Kings 10:28,29)

At this point, God did have a nice thing to say about now King Jehu.

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (2 Kgs.10:30)

Once he had achieved his dream of becoming king, it seems Jehu was contented, and became sloppy in following God, as is evidenced in that he didn’t remove the idolatrous golden calves Jeroboam had set up nor stop all the idolatry in the land. And that is when Hazael, the king of Aram, entered the scene. God used him to discipline Israel.

Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead. As for the other events of Jehu’s reign, all he did, and all his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jehu rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son succeeded him as king. The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years. (2 Kings 10:31-36)

When King Hazael of Aram attacked Israel, instead of turning to God for help, Jehu turned to the rising superpower of the day, Assyria, and asked its king, Shalmaneser the III, for aid. The king of Assyria laughed at Jehu but agreed to help him, but only after Jehu agreed to having Israel become a vassal state. In the British Museum is an amazing archaeological discovery from 1846 in Nimrod, the four-sided Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser the III, on which is recorded in the pictograph language of Assyria that Jehu, with 13 other Israelites, came into Shalmaneser’s presence, bringing him all sorts of gifts.

Project photo of Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser in British Museum,_9th_century_BC,_from_Nimrud,_Iraq._The_British_Museum.jpg

On each of the four sides of the obelisk are reliefs or panels writing of Shalmaneser III’s military achievements. One of the four sides tells of how King Jehu and 13 other Israelites brought the gifts demanded of Israel as a vassal state to Shalmaneser. By the way, Jehu is mentioned numerous times in Assyrian and Aramean documents but on the Black Obelisk the Assyrian pictograph inscription reads this way: “Tribute of Jehu, son of Omri. Silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden beaker, golden goblets, pitchers of gold, lead, staves for the hand of the king, javelins, I received from him.” The following sketch of this relief is easier to see than the relief itself but it shows Shalmaneser III receiving this tribute from a prostrate King Jehu, who is kneeling on his face before him, begging for mercy.

Project sketch of relief showing Jehu in front of Shalmaneser

Archaeologist Dr. Bryant Wood explains the image: “The Black Obelisk represents the only possible likeness of a king of Israel or Judah. All 14 of the Israelites are bearded, have long hair and wear a pointed cap. They also wear a belted tunic that has a fringe at the bottom. In addition, the Israelite porters wear a mantle or cloak over the tunic that extends over the shoulders and is fringed or tasseled down the front on both sides. The kneeling figure (King Jehu), however, does not wear the outer cloak. His position before Shalmaneser may explain the outer cloak’s absence. Jehu is bowing in obeisance on his hands and knees before the Assyrian king with his chin and beard towards the ground. As a part of this humiliation, it seems that he had to remove his outer garment, thus forcing him to bow before the emperor of the world in what amounts to his underwear!”

Project photo of Jehu bowing before Shalmaneser

So, what can we say in conclusion, as lessons to be learned from the all-important successful failure known as King Jehu of Israel?

  1. Scripture warns us to guard our hearts.

If Jehu, who was tasked by God to take out the god of Baal and thus all of the connected idolatrous worship, himself eventually succumbed to it and quit following YHWH God, how much more so do we need to guard our hearts against the evil in the world which seeks to distract us from obeying God’s call on our lives?

  1. The path of sin is never the path to peace so avoid it!

3.Every political leader will be brought down and humbled by God or exalted by God.

If a leader is not humble before Him, they will be humbled but humble rulers will be lifted up and exalted by God. But that principle is also true for us non-political leaders, as well.

      4. Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God”.

If we do, He will bless us. Living 850 years before Jesus, Jehu hadn’t heard that, but we have heard Jesus’ words! So, let’s do as He says.

  1. God is sovereign, in control, and is not answerable to us.

So, let us be humble before Him and obedient to Him, knowing that He rewards the faithful but expects complete, not partial, obedience from His people in return. Stop being angry with God. Jehu was a successful failure who went halfway in serving YHWH God. So, let us be unlike Jehu and go all the way, wholeheartedly, in serving our Lord. For the sake of His kingdom let us do that!

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