|King of Israel|
|Reign||c. 841–814 BCE|
|Predecessor||Jehoram of Israel|
|Successor||Jehoahaz of Israel|
|Died||c. 814 BCE|
|Burial||Samaria, Kingdom of Israel|
|Issue||Jehoahaz of Israel|
|Kings of Ancient Israel|
|United Monarchy of Israel|
|Northern Kingdom of Israel|
Jehu (//; Hebrew: יֵהוּא Yehu, meaning "Yahu is He"; Akkadian: Ia-ú-a; Latin: Iehu) was the tenth king of the northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) since Jeroboam I, noted for exterminating the house of Ahab at the instruction of Jehovah. He was the son of Jehoshaphat, grandson of Nimshi, and possibly great-grandson of Omri. His reign lasted for 28 years.
Proclamation as king
The reign of Jehu's predecessor, Jehoram, was marked by the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead against the army of the Arameans. Jehoram was wounded and returned to Jezreel to recover. He was attended by Ahaziah, king of Judah, who was also his nephew. The writer of the Book of Kings tells that when the captains of the Israelite army were assembled away from the king's eyes, the prophet Elisha sent one of his students to the gathering. Elisha's student led Jehu away from the others, anointed him king in an inner chamber, and then departed. Jehu's companions asked where he had been. When told, they enthusiastically blew their trumpets and proclaimed him their king.
Jezreel and the deaths of Jehoram and Jezebel
With a chosen band, Jehu proceeded to Jezreel. King Jehoram tried to flee, but Jehu fired an arrow which pierced his heart. King Ahaziah managed to escape, but was mortally wounded, and died shortly after in Megiddo.
The author of Kings tells that Jehu entered the city without resistance. He saw Jehoram's mother, Jezebel, watching him with contempt from a palace window. Jehu commanded the palace eunuchs to throw her from the window. Jezebel was killed, and Jehu drove his chariot over her body. Her servants later came to bury her, only to find that dogs had eaten all but her hands, feet, and skull.
Now master of Jezreel, Jehu wrote to command the chief men in Samaria to hunt down and kill all of the royal princes. They did as ordered, and the next day he found seventy heads piled in two heaps outside the city gate. Ahab's entire family was slain. Shortly afterwards, Jehu encountered the "brothers of Ahaziah" (since the brothers of Ahaziah had previously been taken away and probably killed by the Philistines, these must have been relatives of Ahaziah in a broader sense, like nephews and cousins) at "Beth-eked of the shepherds". He then slaughtered all of them at "the pit of Beth-eked", forty-two men in total.
Jehu's act was to honour the God of Israel since Jehoram's mother, Jezebel, had allowed pagan temples to exist in the kingdom (which is forbidden in the Law of Moses). The biblical account frequently invokes the "avenging the blood of Naboth", whose vineyard Ahab, Jehoram's father, had taken by force. Jehoram's defeat at Ramoth-Gilead gave them an opportunity to throw off his burdensome rule.
Following Jehu's slaughter of the Omrides, he met Jehonadab the Rechabite, who joined him in his chariot. They entered the capital together. This indicates that at least at the beginning of his reign, Jehu was supported by the pro-Jehovah faction. Once in control of Samaria, he summoned the worshippers of Baal and killed them. He then destroyed their idols and their temple and turned it into a latrine.
Other than Jehu's bloody seizure of power and his tolerance for the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, little else is known of his reign. He was hard pressed by Hazael, king of the Arameans, who defeated his armies "throughout all of the territories of Israel" beyond the Jordan river, in the lands of Gilead, Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh.
This suggests that Jehu offered tribute to Shalmaneser III, as depicted on his Black Obelisk, in order to gain a powerful ally against the Arameans. Bit-Khumri was used by Tiglath-pileser III for the non-Omride kings Pekah (733) & Hoshea (732), hence House/Land/Kingdom of Omri could apply to later Israelite kings not necessarily descended from Omri.
The destruction of the house of Ahab is considered by the author of 2 Kings to be a righteous act. Yahweh even rewards Jehu with four generations of kings to sit on the throne of Israel (2 Kings 10:30), and Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jereboam II, Zachariah all descendants of Jehu ruled Israel for a total of 102 years (including the reign of Jehu). The prophet Hosea though writes in Hosea 1:4–5 that the house of Jehu was punished by God through the hands of the Assyrians for the bloodshed carried out by Jehu at Jezreel.
Aside from the Hebrew Scriptures, Jehu appears in Assyrian documents, notably in the Black Obelisk where he is depicted as kissing the ground in front of Shalmaneser III and presenting a gift (maddattu ša Ia-ú-a...kaspu mâdu "tribute of Jehu...much silver"). In the Assyrian documents, he is simply referred to as "son of Omri" (Akkadian: mār Ḫumri, possibly expressing his having been the ruler of 'the House of Omri,' a later Assyrian designation for the Kingdom of Israel). This tribute is dated 841 BCE. It is the earliest preserved depiction of an Israelite.
Tel Dan Stele
The author of the Tel Dan Stele (found in 1993 and 1994) claimed to have slain both Ahaziah of Judah (who was visiting Jehoram) and Jehoram. The most likely author of this monument is Hazael of the Arameans.
Sources and notes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jehu.|
- Jehu's father was not the roughly contemporaneous King Jehoshaphat of Judah, whose own father was King Asa of Judah. "Generally Jehu is described as the son only of Nimshi, possibly because Nimshi was more prominent or to avoid confusing him with the King of Judah (R’Wolf)". Scherman, Nosson, ed., "I–II Kings", The Prophets, 297, 2006. See (2 Kings 9:2)
- Amitai Baruchi-Unna, Jehuites, Ahabites, and Omrides: Blood Kinship and Bloodshed, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 41.1 (2017) pp. 3-21
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, ISBN 9780825438257
- 2 Kings 9:5–6
- Driscoll, James F. "Jehu." Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 7 Jan. 2014
- "The Dynasty & Judgment on Ahab's House" - Historical Discovery - Old Testamemt.
- 2 Chronicles 21:17
- 1 Kings 21:4
- 2 Kings 10:19–25
- Kitchen, K A (2003) The Reliability of the Old Testament, Cambridge, Eerdmans, p. 24
- Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament - Robert William Rogers
- Bezold, Carl; King, L. W. (1889). Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets in the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum. British Museum Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. ISBN 1145519350.
- Millard, Alan (1997) Discoveries from Bible Times, Oxford, Lion, p. 121
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