Introduction: In 2 Kings 10, God used a general named Jehu to fulfill His prophecies of judgment against Ahab’s sons and the Baal worshippers of Israel. Although the judgments imposed upon these peoples may seem harsh, God gave His warnings of judgment a generation earlier. Ahab’s sons and the Baal worshippers in Israel refused to repent. But another part of this account is troubling because of the way in which Jehu carried out God’s mandate. He made a sport out of God’s judgment, and he acted with cruelty and pride. From Jehu’s mistakes, God reveals seven warnings against serving Him with wrong motives. The signs of service that is driven by the wrong motives include people who: (1) seek conflict, (2) enjoy cruelty, (3) prayerlessness, (4) pride, (5) deceit, (6) complacency, and (7) backsliding or disobedience.
First, although he had a divine mandate to kill Ahab’s 70 sons and to eliminate Baal worship, Jehu did more than solemnly execute his divine duty. Instead, he taunted the 70 sons to pick a representative to fight him for the throne. God did not direct him to seek out conflict as a sport. From Jehu’s mistake, God reveals that He does not want you to seek out conflict when serving Him. Second, Jehu also exceeded his mandate by displaying the severed heads of the 70 sons and by killing their advisors. God also did not order this. From Jehu’s mistake, God reveals that He does not want you to use Satan’s tools of cruelty when serving Him. Third, on his own, Jehu also decided to execute the extended relatives of the deceased King of Judah who happened to be in Northern Israel at the time of his coup. God also did not order this. From Jehu’s mistake, God reveals that He doesn’t want you to determine on your own how to serve Him. Fourth, Jehu boasted of his zeal for God to one of God’s servants. From Jehu’s mistake, God reveals that He wants you to serve Him for His glory, not your own recognition. Fifth, Jehu used lies and deceit to bring together the worshippers of Baal to slaughter them. God, however, cannot tell lies or use deceit. God therefore never wants you to use Satan’s tools of lies and deceit when you claim to be serving Him. Sixth, although Jehu succeeded in eliminating state-sanctioned Baal worship, he became complacent in his walk and allowed Northern Israel’s centers of pagan calf worship to remain. From Jehu’s mistakes, God reveals that He does not want you to let your spiritual success in serving Him breed complacency. Finally, because Jehu eliminated Baal worship as a means to obtaining his own power, he backslid in his walk and disobeyed other areas of God’s law. This in turn caused other Jews to stumble. From Jehu’s mistakes, God warns that serving Him with the wrong motives may result in a backsliding or disobedience in your walk with Him.
Jehu taunts the 70 sons of Ahab to fight him for the throne. After killing Ahab and Jezebel, Jehu next turned to fulfilling his divine mandate to kill Ahab’s 70 remaining sons. Yet, he pursued this task as a game by taunting the men to pick a representative to fight him for the throne: “1 Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, the elders, and to the guardians of the children of Ahab, saying, 2 ‘Now, when this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, as well as the chariots and horses and a fortified city and the weapons, 3 select the best and fittest of your master’s sons, and set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.’ 4 But they feared greatly and said, ‘Behold, the two kings did not stand before him; how then can we stand?’ 5 And the one who was over the household, and he who was over the city, the elders, and the guardians of the children, sent word to Jehu, saying, ‘We are your servants, all that you say to us we will do, we will not make any man king; do what is good in your sight.’” (2 Kgs. 10:1-5). As part of God’s prophecy, God judged Ahab and his family. Ahab’s oldest son Joram died for his rebellion against God (2 Kgs. 9:14-26). God’s appointed avenger Jehu then killed the next oldest son Ahaziah and assumed control of the throne (2 Kgs. 9:27-28). Because of his many wives (1 Kgs. 20:5), Ahab still had 70 remaining sons (2 Kgs. 10:1). Under the laws for kinsman redeemers, any of these sons had a right to avenge Jehu’s execution of Ahaziah (Nu. 35:12). Under the traditions that existed at that time, any of these remaining 70 sons also had a claim to the throne of Northern Israel following Ahaziah’s death. Jehu sent letters to each of these potential challengers along with the royal officials who served Ahab, the elders (who may have been the heads of the 10 northern tribes) and guardians of any minor-aged children. These heirs were all held up inside the “fortified city” of Samaria with military supplies (2 Kgs. 10:2). Jehu demanded that the rulers under Ahab’s family select a champion to fight him to resolve the contest for the throne of Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 10:3; 1 Sam. 17:8-9; 2 Sam. 2:9). The 70 surviving sons of Ahab were fearful because they knew that they were no match for the skilled general Jehu and his soldiers (2 Kgs. 10:4). They may have also known of Elijah’s prophecies of judgment against Ahab’s sons (1 Kgs. 19:17). The deaths of Ahab, Jezebel, and their first two sons were confirmation that God’s curse was real. Thus, they turned down the chance to fight. Instead, a guardian over one of the minor children announced that the remaining heirs of Ahab would proclaim their allegiance to Jehu (2 Kgs. 10:5).
God specifically spelled out His exact judgment a generation earlier. Ahab’s 70 sons should not have found Jehu’s plan to kill them a surprise. A generation earlier, God told Elijah that every single male descendant of Ahab would die for their sins: “21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin.” (1 Kgs. 21:21-22). In response to this judgment, only Ahab repented. Thus, God only spared him from judgment, not his wife or sons (1 Kgs. 21:27-28). Because God’s exact future judgment was spelled out a generation earlier, each person had many chances to repent. God’s warnings in the Bible should always be taken seriously. He does not want to judge His people. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, because He is just, He must still judge sin.
Don’t seek out conflict, arguments, or fights when serving God. Jehu’s mistake was not in planning to kill the 70 sons. This was his divine commission. But God never told Jehu to fight the sons as a sport or to seek out a fight. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” (Jam. 4:1). “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9). “he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,” (1 Tim. 6:4). “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” (2 Tim. 2:14). When you seek out conflict or arguments when serving God, you misrepresent His holy character. Are your words a fair witness to Jesus’ character?
Jehu displays the severed heads of Ahab’s sons and kills their advisors and their priests. Jehu not only executed Ahab’s sons, he displayed their severed heads to scare off challengers. He then executed the servants of Ahab, an execution that God did not commission: “6 Then he wrote a letter to them a second time saying, ‘If you are on my side, and you will listen to my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow about this time.’ Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were rearing them. 7 When the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and slaughtered them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets, and sent them to him at Jezreel. 8 When the messenger came and told him, saying, ‘They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,’ he said, ‘Put them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until morning.’ 9 Now in the morning he went out and stood and said to all the people, ‘You are innocent; behold, I conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? 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 spoke through His servant Elijah.’ 11 So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests, until he left him without a survivor.” (2 Kgs. 10:6-11). Jehu’s second letter tested the loyalty of Ahab’s former royal officials who claimed loyalty to him. They could prove their loyalty by bringing to him the heads of the 70 remaining male heirs of Ahab and bringing their heads to his new location in Jezreel (2 Kgs. 10:6). This gruesome request would have even included young boys who still had guardians to watch over them. Fearing that they would die if they did not obey, the royal officials obeyed Jehu’s mandate by killing the 70 male heirs and putting their heads in baskets. They royal officials likely sought to conceal their actions from others who may have remained loyal to Ahab’s family (2 Kgs. 10:7). To discourage and scare off any rebellion or further allegiance to Ahab’s family, Jehu then had the heads displayed at the gates of the capital city of Samaria (2 Kgs. 10:8). Jehu may have sensed that many would believe that he was traitorous, a usurper to the throne, or bloodthirsty in his killings. Thus, he admitted that he had killed his master. Yet, he sought to gain their support by telling the people that he had done so at God’s command to fulfill the prophecies of Elijah (2 Kgs. 10:9-10).
Without repenting, Ahab’s sons could not escape God’s judgment. The noblemen and guardians of the minor royal heirs tried to prevent the judgment for Ahab’s sons. Yet, they failed in their efforts. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3). “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Is. 42:9). No other holy book can make similar claims of fulfilled prophecy as the Bible does. Thus, non-believers ignore God’s warnings of judgment at their own peril. Without Jesus to pay the judgment price, all face certain death: “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.” (Ps. 89:48). “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 3:23). “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) . . .” (1 Kgs. 8:46). Only through Jesus’ free gift can you hope to escape the wages of your sins (Ro. 6:23).
In the end times, God will judge the unrepentant nations for their evil acts. The judgment of 70 sons of Ahab foreshadowed the judgment of the nations of the Earth. After the Flood, Noah’s descendants created 70 nations (Gen. 10-11). During the end times, the nations will initially enjoy a period of peace under the counterfeit religious order of the antichrist. Yet, this will merely be the calm before the storm of judgments that God will unleash on the unholy nations (Rev. 8:7-13; 9:1-11; 16:3-21).
Jehu misused God’s mandate to kill people that God had not yet judged. Although Jehu had a commission to kill the 70 sons, he misused his mandate through his cruelty and by killing Ahab’s “great men and his acquaintances and his priests.” (2 Kgs. 10:11). These men had all committed evil acts. Some likely included some of the 400 priests of Astarte who escaped death when Elijah killed the 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kgs. 18:19, 40). Yet, God did not appoint Jehu to judge them. Nor did He appoint Jehu to kill mere “acquaintances” or other “great men” of importance. Thus, God later judged Jehu for his wicked acts: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.”’ (Hos. 1:4).
Jehu’s actions were similar to Abimelech’s actions. Many commentators struggle when seeking to define whether Jehu simply fulfilled God’s mandate or whether he acted improperly. To resolve this question, the Bible draws parallels between Jehu’s actions and Abimelech’s wicked murder of his 70 brothers (Gideon’s sons) during the time period of the judges (Jdgs. 9:5-6). As one author observes, there are close associations between both accounts: “In both cases (1) the fathers, Gideon and Ahab, ruled with a high hand, murdering their own countrymen and officially sponsoring pagan cults; (2) the number of sons is explicitly declared to be seventy; (3) the conspiracy against the sons is led by an ambitious individual (Abimelech, Jehu); (4) the leader is an outsider who secures the support of the aristocracy of the city through negotiation; (5) the seventy sons of the king are brutally murdered; (6) the leader of the conspiracy is an outsider who is publicly acclaimed king . . .[Yet,]  [t]he narrator of the Book of Kings is careful to characterize Jehu as the specially anointed agent of Yahweh’s judgment upon Ahab, but Abimelech appears to act on his own and to be driven by raw personal ambition.” (Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Judges, Ruth, Vol. 6, B & H Publishing Group 1999 p. 312). Through these parallels, God shows that Jehu acted in an unholy manner.
Don’t act with cruelty when serving God. Jehu killed out of a lust for power that he disguised as religious purity: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.” (Jam. 4:2). Jehu’s cruelty and murderous heart was a sign of the depravity within him: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23) “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.” (Prov. 3:31). Instead of acting with cruelty and strife, God wants you to act out of love towards your enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). When you act with cruelty, you again misrepresent God’s holy character. Do you treat your enemies with Jesus’ love?
Jehu executed the relatives of Ahaziah. In addition to killing for sport and acting with cruelty, Jehu also failed to seek God’s guidance regarding who he should kill. Thus, he killed descendants of the deceased king of Judah without consulting God: “12 Then he arose and departed and went to Samaria. On the way while he was at Beth-eked of the shepherds, 13 Jehu met the relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and said, ‘Who are you?’ And they answered, ‘We are the relatives of Ahaziah; and we have come down to greet the sons of the king and the sons of the queen mother.’ 14 He said, ‘Take them alive.’ So they took them alive and killed them at the pit of Beth-eked, forty-two men; and he left none of them.” (2 Kgs. 10:12-14). Jehu previously killed the King of Judah, Ahaziah (2 Kgs. 9:27-29). Ahaziah was Ahab’s grandson. His mother was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Kgs. 8:16-18). He was also a Baal worshiper (2 Chron. 22:8). Jehu was God’s appointed avenger against Ahaziah because of his Baal worship and because he was Ahab’s grandson: “Now the destruction of Ahaziah was from God, in that he went to Joram. For when he came, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab.” (2 Chron. 22:7). Yet, nothing within this mandate included Ahaziah’s extended relatives.
God commissioned Ahaziah’s death, but never addressed his nephews and cousins. The Philistines had previously killed Ahaziah’s brothers (2 Chr. 21:17). Thus, these 42 persons were more likely male uncles, cousins, or nephews. They were caught in Northern Israel at the time of Jehu’s coup. Yet, by their presence in Northern Israel and their reference to Jezebel as the “queen mother” (2 Kgs. 10:13), they appear to have been relatives on Ahab’s side of the family. There were also mostly Baal worshipers. For either or both of these reasons, they may have shared in Ahab’s family judgment. Yet, Jehu did not bother to let God make this decision. Thus, Jehu exceeded the judgment that God authorized. He did not consult God regarding Ahaziah’s distant male relatives. Instead, he simply took matters into his own hands and killed them.
Jehu was blinded by pride and never gave God a chance to correct him. Jehu’s pride deceived him into thinking that he was doing God’s will whenever he did what felt right in his own heart: ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). Instead, he should have sought God’s guidance in prayer, especially when it involved the life or death of potentially innocent family members or family members that God intended to give more time to repent.
Always seek God in prayer and let Him guide your actions. Unlike Jehu, God wants you to “pray without ceasing;” (1 Thess. 5:17). “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Eph. 6:18). “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.” (1 Chr. 16:11). This also includes reading His Word to guide your path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). Are you deciding on your own how to serve God? Or, are you praying and reading the Word to let the Spirit guide you?
Jehu executes the remaining followers on Baal before Jehonadab. Jehu then showed that his heart was not right when he boasted to a follower of Yahweh about his zeal for God: “15 Now when he had departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him and said to him, ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?’ And Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot. 16 He said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.’ So he made him ride in his chariot. 17 When he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to Elijah.” (2 Kgs. 10:15-17). God previously told Elijah that there remained 7,000 people in Northern Israel who had worshiped Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18). After leaving Samaria, he met a man named Jehonadab. He is identified as the “son of Rechab.” Jehonadab was a founder of a religious revival movement in Israel. The Rechabites, as the group was called, were strict followers of Yahweh who lived an austere life of abstinence. Among other things, they did not drink alcohol, and they lived a nomadic life. They sought to encourage their fellow Jews to break from their immoral, impure, and materialistic lives. In the book of Jeremiah, God used His faithful servant Jehonadab as a righteous example to rebuke His faithless and disobedient people (Jer. 35:1-16). Jehonadab most likely heard about Jehu’s statements that he acted to fulfill Elijah’s prophecies at the direction of God’s prophet. He also most likely hoped that Jehu would restore the proper worship of Yahweh in Northern Israel. Thus, he pledged his support. Because Jehonadab was well known, Jehu also wanted to gain his support by demonstrating that he was a reformer. Thus, he took Jehonadab in his chariot to witness his zeal as he killed off the remaining members of Ahab’s household. Because he had already killed off Ahab’s 70 remaining sons, these would have been uncles, cousins, and nephews. By killing off these last male members of Ahab’s household, he fulfilled his mandate that God gave to Elijah (2 Kgs. 10:17; 1 Kgs. 21:21). Although it was a brutal judgment, he acted as God’s avenger to remove Baal worship in Israel. Yet, by boasting of his “zeal for the Lord” (2 Kgs. 10:16), he also showed that he acted with vanity. He was not acting for God’s glory. Instead, he wanted the glory of being known as God’s reformer. His pride would later lead to his downfall (Prov. 16:18).
Jehu asks Jehonadab to join him on his chariot to kill Baal worshippers1
A prideful person is not serving God but their own ambitions. God could not have ignored Jehu’s pride in killing Ahab’s family and the Baal worshippers. Through his pride, Jehu committed one of the sins that God “hates”: “ . . . pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). His pride put him under Satan’s influence: “ . . . so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6). Because Jehu exalted himself, God later had to humble him. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence, and the humble person He will save.” (Job 22:29). “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (Jam. 4:6). Because Jehu’s pride would not let him repent, God disciplined him by removing territory from him: “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. . . . Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:5, 18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). “The proud look of man will be abased and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day . . . Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.” (Is. 2:11; 13:11). Thus, you should always walk with humility and obedience when serving Jesus. If you are doing great works for Jesus, don’t boast in your works. Instead, give Him the glory.
Jehu uses deceit to execute the Baal worshipers in Northern Israel. Jehu also showed that he was acting on his own accord when he used lies and deceit to kill the remaining followers of Baal: “18 Then Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, ‘Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now, summon all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests; let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal; whoever is missing shall not live.’ But Jehu did it in cunning, so that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal. 20 And Jehu said, ‘Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.’ And they proclaimed it. 21 Then Jehu sent throughout Israel and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And when they went into the house of Baal, the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other. 22 He said to the one who was in charge of the wardrobe, ‘Bring out garments for all the worshipers of Baal.’ So he brought out garments for them. 23 Jehu went into the house of Baal with Jehonadab the son of Rechab; and he said to the worshipers of Baal, ‘Search and see that there is here with you none of the servants of the Lord, but only the worshipers of Baal.’ 24 Then they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed for himself eighty men outside, and he had said, ‘The one who permits any of the men whom I bring into your hands to escape shall give up his life in exchange.’ 25 Then it came about, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the royal officers, ‘Go in, kill them; let none come out.’ And they killed them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the royal officers threw them out, and went to the inner room of the house of Baal. 26 They brought out the sacred pillars of the house of Baal and burned them. 27 They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. 28 Thus Jehu eradicated Baal out of Israel.” (2 Kgs. 10:18-28). To draw together the remaining followers of Baal, Jehu falsely promised to exceed Ahab in his worship of Baal “Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much.” (2 Kgs. 10:18). He called for a solemn assembly of the remaining devoted Baal followers in the temple of Baal worship that Ahab built in Samaria (1 Kgs. 16:32). The Baal worshipers most likely came under the assumption that Jehu sought their blessing to serve as king. Once he had the people together, he was then careful to separate the people to make sure that no followers of Yahweh remained amongst them. He then stationed 80 men around the assembly to ensure that none of the Baal worshipers survived. After executing the remaining Baal worshippers, he then smashed the Baal statutes and turned the temple house into a latrine to show that it was unclean. Ahab was responsible for introducing Baal worship to Northern Israel. Elijah began the process of calling the Jews to return to Yahweh and to purify themselves of Baal worship (1 Kgs. 16:32). Jehu finished the process and officially ended Baalism as a state-sanctioned religion in Northern Israel (2 Kgs. 10:28).
Jehu deceives the Baal worshipers come gather for a slaughter2
Jehu slaughters the remaining Baal worshipers3
Jehu fulfilled God’s commission to judge the Baal worshipers in Northern Israel. In order to destroy Baal worship in Northern Israel, God gave Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, three commissions. First, God told him to appoint Elisha as a prophet and train him to be his successor (1 Kgs. 19:19). Second, God told him to anoint Hazael of Aram in Syria (2 Kgs. 8:7-14). Third, God told him to anoint Jehu as the new King of Northern Israel. God appointed Jehu to put to death the remaining leaders of Baal worship: “17 It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.”’ (1 Kgs. 19:17). All three would slay the worshippers of Baal. Hazael and Jehu used physical swords to kill. In contrast, the sword of Elisha was the Word of God (Heb. 4:12).
Don’t ignore God’s warnings of judgment. Like Ahab’s family, God also warned the followers of Baal to repent. But they ignored His warnings. No person should treat sin lightly (Rom. 6:26). God is a consuming fire when in the presence of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). For those who do not repent, He warns: “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, . . .” (Ez. 21:31(a)). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:29). “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:4(b)). Unless you accept that God will judge sin, you will feel no pressure to repent. Staying silent about His judgments also doesn’t help others. Are you helping others turn to Christ to spare them? (Matt. 28:16-20).
Deceit is a sign of a person acting under Satan’s influence. Although God commissioned this killing, he did not authorize Jehu’s lies and deceit. Lies and deceit are not part of God’s holy character: “God is not a man, that He should lie, . . .” (Nu. 23:19). By employing deceit to kill, Jehu put himself under the devil’s control. Lies and deceit are Satan’s tools to turn people away from God (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). If you deceive or lie, you are also under Satan’s influence. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). When you use lies or deceit, you reflect poorly on God’s character. Are there any lies or deceit in your walk with God?
A godly person only speaks the truth. Solomon warns that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) and that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Prov. 15:4). If David were under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he would have spoken only the truth. “Your word is truth.” (Jo. 17:17(b)). “For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.’” (Is. 63:8(a)). “You shall not . . . deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). Will you speak God’s truth to others, even if it might cause you harm?
God rewards Jehu, but Jehu fails to remove the golden calf idols. Although Jehu acted with the wrong motives, God still rewarded Jehu for his obedience. Yet, Jehu then grew complacent in his walk by failing to remove all of the idols in Northern Israel: “29 However, as for the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin, from these Jehu did not depart, even the golden calves that were at Bethel and that were at Dan. 30 The Lord said to Jehu, ‘Because you have done well in executing 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 Kgs. 10:29-30). Because Jehu was obedient in eradicating Ahab’s descendants and Baal worship from Israel, God gave him the conditional right to the throne for four generations. Yet, Jehu did not remain faithful to God after seizing power. He further showed that his zeal in eliminating Baal worship was motivated out of a desire to remove any vestige of Ahab’s source of legitimacy. Because restoring the proper worship of Yahweh would have required his people to travel three times a year to Jerusalem in the Kingdom of Judah, he kept the golden calf idolatry that Jeroboam I introduced to Northern Israel. This included two counterfeit worship centers in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:25-33). After Jeroboam I, five kings of Northern Israel continued to practice this same idolatry. These included Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri. Although Jehu deserved credit for removing Baal worship, he simply restored Northern Israel to the prior status quo of using idols to depict Yahweh and a counterfeit priesthood to worship Him in an unauthorized and unholy manner. As one commentator observes, “Hating one sin he loved another, and thus proved that the fear of the Most High did not reign in his breast. He was merely a hired servant, and received the throne as his wages, but a child of God he never was.” (Charles Spurgeon on 2 Kgs. 10). For these reasons and because of his bloodlust, the prophet Hosea later condemned him (Hos. 1:4). Archeologists have found a Black Obelisk devoted to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III. The Obelisk depicts Jehu submitting to the Assyrian king. This confirms that Jehu was a man who did what was expedient. His heart was centered on his own power and glory, not the Lord’s glory.
Don’t become complacent in your walk with God. Jehu’s downfall is a warning to all believers. The moment you let your guard down, Satan will try to pull you off your walk with God. Thus, believers are warned never to grow weary, tired, or complacent in doing God’s will. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal. 6:9). “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” (2 Thess. 3:13; 2 Cor. 4:1; Heb. 12:3; Rev. 2:3). Do you rest on your prior good works for Jesus? Or, have you grown complacent in your walk for other reasons?
God judges Jehu for stumbling God’s people with Jeroboam’s golden calf idols. Because Jehu’s heart was not right, he backslid in his walk and disobeyed God. Thus, God was forced to judge Jehu: “31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin. 32 In those days the Lord began to cut off portions from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan. 34 Now 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? 35 And Jehu slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son became king in his place. 36 Now the time which Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years.” (2 Kgs. 10:31-36). Jehu’s reign lasted 28 years, from 841 to 814 B.C. (2 Kgs. 10:36). After deciding to permit idolatry in Northern Israel, Jehu continued his spiritual descent. This included failing to follow God’s law in other areas (2 Kgs. 10:31). His disobedience and his state-sponsored idolatry stumbled others and “made Israel sin.” (2 Kgs. 10:31.) As one commentator observes: “· Jehu carried out God’s will, but he went too far and executed more people than God intended. · Jehu carried out God’s will, but he did it for personal glory and out of pride. · Jehu carried out God’s will, but he only did it partially. He stopped the idolatry of Baal, but he continued the sinful idolatry of Jeroboam.” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 10).4 In His grace, God did not immediately judge Jehu. Instead, God used progressive discipline to slowly try to win Jehu back. Initially, God caused Jehu to lose territory to foreign invaders (2 Kgs. 10:2-33). Because of his sins, Israel lost territories that it had held for more than 600 years. This included the territories belonging to Gad, Reuben, and half of Manasseh that were located to the east of the Jordan River to Syria (Num. 32:1-42). Without God’s hand of protection, the despot Hazeal in Syria continued to attack and slowly diminish Jehu’s power throughout the remainder of his reign. Jehu’s son Jehoahaz continued in his father’s sins and would only reign for 17 years (2 Kgs. 13:1).
Do not conform to this world. Jehu backslid because he thought it was wiser to follow after the kings who preceded Ahab instead of trusting God. Believers should avoid letting their thinking conform to the thinking of the world (Ro. 12:2). If your power or prestige is most important to you, worldly wisdom will also seem more attractive to you than God’s Word. Yet, this will ultimately lead to disobedience and backsliding.
Fear God by hating evil. Jehu’s downfall shows that you cannot assume that you will remain on the right path merely because you are currently doing God’s will. Only by fearing God can you keep your heart from embracing evil: “ . . . and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). The fear of the Lord is defined as hating evil (Prov. 8:13). Are you tolerating evil in your life?