Good Question... did God LIKE what Jehu did or NOT?

Revised: July 19th, 2001


[Note: This is a revision of an older piece on the problem with Hos 1.4. I now have a different understanding of that verse, and you can find that explanation at qjehu.html.]

Well, did God LIKE what Jehu did or NOT--"another" contradiction?




I am a long-time skeptic and fledgling believer (thanks in part to this site), and I have come across some "tough" questions in the "Internet Infidels" Web pages which I have not seen addressed here (there are several others, but these "spoke to me" for some reason).


In 2 Kings chapters 9-10 detail an account of Jehu carrying out Yahweh's orders to slaughter Joram and his company at Jezreel and being praised for this work. While Hosea later pronounces judgment on Jehu's house for "the blood of Jezreel." Is this a contradiction or am I (and the author of the piece) missing something?

Thanks in advance.


P.S. I have found your Christian Think Tank to be EXTREMELY helpful and an answer to prayer.


Let's set up the problem clearly:


Point One: Jehu was in the presence of Ahab (2 Kgs 9.25) when Elijah first pronounced that YHWH would destroy all the males of Ahab's line (I Kings 21.17f):


Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” 20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, 21 I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. 23 Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat.” [NRSV]


According to 2 Kings 9.25, Jehu and Bidkar were both in the presence of Ahab when Elijah issued that initial prophetic announcement of judgment:


Then Jehu said to Bidkar his officer, “Take him up and cast him into the property of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite, for I remember when you and I were riding together after Ahab his father, that the Lord laid this oracle against him: 26 ‘Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will repay you in this property,’ says the Lord. Now then, take and cast him into the property, according to the word of the Lord.” [NASB; notice that Jehu recalls the first prophecy Elijah made at that encounter--relative to Ahab's personal death at Naboth--and was therefore personally present at the pronouncement of judgment. Notice also that more people than just Jehu were there--at least Bidkar and possibly other officers and staff personnel as well.]



There are three separate judgments spoken to Ahab in this context, some with multiple elements:


1. Personal death of Ahab at Naboth (and his blood being licked up by dogs in that locale) [Reason: the murder of Naboth, through the instrumentality of his wife]

2. Destruction of Ahab’s dynastic house [Reason: ‘selling himself’ to do evil/disaster (rab), angering God (e.g., the well-known killing of prophets via Jezebel—cf. 18.13), and the closely related ‘causing Israel to sin’ (baal worship, cf. the judgment against Baasha in 16.2ff)]


* God will bring evil/disaster on Ahab [as Ahab had brought disaster/evil upon the prophets of YHWH and others that opposed him and Jezzie]

* God will “consume Ahab” [cf. WBC: Behold, I am about to bring disaster on you, and will pursue you with fire. And I will cut off from Ahab anyone urinating against the wall, helpless and abandoned in Israel.]
* God will cut off from Ahab every male, “both bond and free”, throughout the land (e.g., not just at Jezreel).
* God will make the House of Ahab like the House of Jeroboam and Basha
* Some of Ahab’s dead will die in the city and some in the field (not all in the city of Jezreel, obviously)


3. Dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel  [That this is a separate prophecy from the judgment on Ahab’s ‘house’ is clear from the presence of the Hebrew conjunction gam  and Lamed preposition in front of Jezzie , the phrase literally being “and also, about Jezebel He speaks, Yahweh, saying…


Notice that an explicit comparison is made with the Houses of Jeroboam and Baasha, and that the wording of this pronouncement is very similar to that against Jeroboam/Baasha in 1 Kings 14.10ff and 1 Kings 16:


"therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. 11 “Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the Lord has spoken it.”’ [Fulfillment at 15.27: Then Baasha the son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar conspired against him, and Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, while Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. 28 So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place. 29 And it came about, as soon as he was king, he struck down all the household of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam any persons alive, until he had destroyed them." It seems this reference is broader than males--unless the reader is somehow supposed to know the 'males' clause. See discussion of this passage below ]


"Now the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2 “Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin, provoking Me to anger with their sins, 3 behold, I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4 “Anyone of Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat.” [Fulfillment at 16.11f: And it came about, when he became king, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he killed all the household of Baasha; he did not leave a single male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends. 12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke against Baasha through Jehu the prophet. This fulfillment formula looks a bit different, perhaps indicating that dynastic households are represented by 'males only' (as they are in genealogies), and KD point out that "these words (goel-avenger and friends) simply serve to explain (males) and show that this phrase is to be understood as relating to males only" [KD: in loc]. If this is the case, then the "all breath" above might be restricted to males-only. We do know that royal wives were typically not killed (except the high Queen), but rather were married by the new king, since they represented international treaties and relationships--see given2rape.html. In the case of non-political marriages, the widow would simply move back in with her father/brothers and no longer represent the former king/husband's house. Thus, one could destroy an 'entire royal house' simply by destroying all the males, since all the inheritance structures would also disappear. The household 'skeleton' would thus be destroyed and some of the widows and female children would just 'drift off' back to other 'households'. Some royal wives would be killed, especially those with sons who were being executed in the process--hence Bathsheba's fear for her life when David is about to die. She fears Adonijah will kill both her and Solomon. But wives that represented treaty obligations would not. See the discussion below on the members of a ‘household’.]



Now, we need to drill down a bit further here, into the Hebrew of the text, to see just what the text says, but first we need to gain a reasonable understanding of what a “house of X” was, especially in the case of a king.


The word ‘house’ or ‘household’ is  bayit, and it has both the obvious literal meaning (structure one lives in), and an extended meaning of the “ancestral household group”.


“HOUSEHOLD. A term that signifies the members of a family and others living together as a social unit, often under the same roof. It is used interchangeably with "house" and "family," and the translations vary considerably in their use of these terms, the AV frequently retaining the translation "house."...Households could include husbands, wives, concubines, children, close relatives, slaves, and even strangers. For example, Noah's household (Gen. 7:1; AV "house") consisted not only of himself and his wife, but also of his three sons and their wives. Gen. 14:14 says that 318 trained men who had been born into Abraham's household tried to rescue Lot. Later Abraham was commanded to put the sign of the covenant on all the male members of his household: "every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from a foreigner who is not your offspring" (Gen. 17:12; cf. 17:27). The bayit (house or household) of Jacob (Gen. 46:27) included all his offspring - his unmarried daughters, his sons, their wives, and his sons' sons and daughters seventy in all (46:1-27). [ISBE: s.v. “Household”]


“Depending on its economic assets, and especially the state and extent of its inherited landholding, the typical household would also have included some or all of the following: grandparents, the families of grown children (since postmarital patrilocal [based on husband's family] residence must have been very common), an adopted child or adopted children, a divorced adult daughter who had returned to the paternal homestead, male and female servants or slaves, and other dependents. It is interesting to observe that dependents, including resident aliens (gerini) and slaves, were--ideally and in theory, at any rate--considered members of the household, taking part in festivals, profiting by the Sabbath rest, and so on, not unlike servants in a pious household in colonial New England who were expected to attend church, take part in family prayers, and the like. With respect to the larger and better-off households, therefore, we are really dealing with an extended family group and its dependents, occupying a compound with several houses in close proximity. [OT:FAI:52]





Are there any relatives of the father that are NOT considered members of his ‘household’? Yes.


One major category here is that of  married daughters, their attendants (and servants), and their offspring. These are reckoned as being members of the new husband’s households. So, for example, when Rebekah left her father’s house and took her nurse-maid with her, both she and her maid (and her offspring by her husband Isaac) belonged to Isaac’s (or actually, Abraham’s, since he was still alive) household. She/they had ‘switched’ households.


“It would have been suitable for a woman betrothed to a wealthy man to have an entourage of servants. The nurse, however, would have higher status as the nurturer of the child who would now remain as part of her new household and serve as a chaperon on the return journey. [BBCALL: at Gen 24.59]


“By marriage a woman left her parents, went to live with her husband, and joined his clan, to which her children would belong.” [HI:AIdeVaux:28]



Another category would be kinfolk (still relatives) living in separated locales:


Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers.” [Gen 24.27, in which Abraham’s steward has traveled back to Abraham’s family. Note that though Abraham and these folk are “brothers”, they are members of different “houses”]


When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera [2 Sam 16.5; note that Shimei is not ‘of the house of Saul’ but ‘of the family of the house of Saul’—related, but not ‘in’.



As well as physical brothers, living in separate domiciles:


“Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David;  (2 Sam 3.8; NRSV; note that the House of Saul does not include “his brothers”)



And the same passage would indicate that friends (not living in his actual household) would also be excluded:


“Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David;  (2 Sam 3.8; NRSV; note that the House of Saul does not include “his friends”)



We might include kinfolk (sometimes called ‘brothers’) that have an oppositional stance to another kinsman (our example is actually relevant to dynastic houses):


“Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag, while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men who helped him in war. 2 They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin…And of the sons of Benjamin, Saul’s kinsmen, 3,000; for until now the greatest part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. [1 Chron 12.1, 29; note that these kinsmen of Saul will be considered—in the war between the dynasties—as not part of the ‘house of Saul’]



Members of the general “clan” (members of a “further-back house”, so to speak; the next higher/broader level of organization). They are kinfolk but reckoned at ‘one remove’ from the ‘family’ or bayit of one of their members. The clan did try to look out after its constituent houses, in some ways:


“Often the clan designated one male, called a goel, to extend help to clan members in need. In English, this person is referred to as the kinsman-redeemer. His help covered many areas of need…A goel was expected to avenge a kinsman’s murder. In such a case, he was called the ‘avenger of blood’ (Deut 19.12)” [NIEBF:417; note the goel, although not necessarily part of the bayit of a kinsman, was still bound to avenge his death.]




When we get toroyal households”—generally considered to be dynasties—the concept gets even more narrow, and it turns into something very different from a regular/ancestral “house of X”. This can be seen in the “foundation” interactions between God and David, in the founding of David’s “House” (1 Chron 17.10ff; 18.23ff):


Moreover I declare to you that the Lord will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever [NRSV]


And now, O Lord, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, let it be established forever, and do as you have promised. 24 Thus your name will be established and magnified forever in the saying, ‘The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God’; and the house of your servant David will be established in your presence. 25 For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him; therefore your servant has found it possible to pray before you. 26 And now, O Lord, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; 27 therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord, have blessed and are blessed forever. [NRSV]


Notice in these passages, David already has a ‘house’ (both in that he has an ancestral one, and that he is already king) yet God will “build him one” in the future. The ‘building of the house’ (17.10) is declared to meanthe succession of the throne to his own offspring” (17.11). In other words, in a royal context, “house” means basically “series of kings, all from the same parent”. It thus becomes almost a synonym for “dynasty” or “throne” (indeed, this was specified in 17.14). As such a political word, it would ONLY include possible successors to the throne and not non-candidates (e.g., wives, servants, visitors, live-in brothers) who could be members of the ‘regular’ ancestral/economic (i.e., non-political) household of David. In other words, we have two kinds of “house of David”—one associated with kingship, and one defined by regular ancestral family traditions (the ‘regular’ household that would include in-house dependents).


What this would mean for our study, since each judgment deals specifically with the political  arena and forcible “change of management”, would be that the concept of “house of X” would be more likely to mean “male offspring, suitable for accession to the throne”.


Excluded from the royal household are apparently certain officials (the example below has Abner differentiating himself from the ‘house of Saul’):


“Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah; and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” 8 Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; “ [2 Sam 3.7ff]



Also excluded from the royal ‘house’ (the dynastic one) are at least some of the servant/officials. Ziba, a servant of Saul, ‘reverted’ to servant of David upon David’s accession to the throne. In the interchange with David about Mephibosheth, it is clear that Ziba is NOT ‘of the house of Saul’ even though he was servant in it, and that only Mephibosheth is of ‘the house of Saul’ (in a dynastic sense, this makes sense—he is the sole surviving potential successor to his father Saul):


David asked, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and he was summoned to David. The king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “At your service!” 3 The king said, “Is there anyone remaining of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” Ziba said to the king, “There remains a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 4 The king said to him, “Where is he?” Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” 5 Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6 Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, and fell on his face and did obeisance. David said, “Mephibosheth!”He answered, “I am your servant.” 7 David said to him, “Do not be afraid, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always. [2 Sam 9]


Ziba must have been in charge of Saul’s estate although it is not made clear to whom the patrimony now belonged. It is likely that it had become crown property (see Mettinger, Solomonic State Officials, 85): David apparently had the right to restore it to Mephibosheth (see also Ben-Barak, Bib 62 [1981] 79). If so, Mephibosheth had no more claim upon it because the paternal estate had become part of the crown lands (see also 1 Sam 8:14; 22:7). [WBC: in .loc.; note: as would like the servants ‘attached to it’]




Saul had other male descendants ( two sons via a concubine, and 5 sons-in-law, cf. 2 Sam 21), but since none of these would be full-fledged dynastic progeny (which required a full royal ‘wife’ as a mother), only Mephibosheth was considered ‘of the house of Saul’ (above).  David’s offering of Saul’s sons-in-law, perhaps prompted by having to come up with seven while sparing Mephibosheth, is unusual since sons-in-laws were NOT considered part of the household at all, as we noted above:


“Stolz (281) regards it as surprising that Merab’s sons should be killed because they did not belong to Saul’s family but to the important family of Barzillai.” [WBC: at 2 Sam 21; note: in the passage, the Gibeonites did not actually ask for members of “Saul’s house” (i.e., only throne-heirs) but for male descendants (ish beni).]


The 2 Sam 21 passage, as noted by Stolz above, seems an anomaly to all we know about inheritance and lineage in Israel. Merab is the Saul’s daughter, who is given in a political marriage to Adriel of Abel-Meholah:


“As a Meholathite, Adriel was an inhabitant of the town of Abel-Meholah... His marriage to a Saulide princess may have sealed a treaty between his city-state and Saul’s new Israelite state (Edelman 1990). Such diplomatic marriages were an established convention in the ancient Near East (Malamat 1963:8–10). Abel-Meholah did not become a corporate part of the Israelite state until David or Solomon’s reign, as indicated by the city’s inclusion in Solomon’s fifth district (1 Kgs 4:12). [REF:ABD: s.v. “Adriel”]


Merab had already been promised to David, in a plot to destroy David by Saul(!), and if David had married her, he would have been called the “king’s son-in-law” (hatan), but not “son enough” (bene) to be in the throne-line:


“Marrying the eldest daughter of the king would give David the title of “king’s son-in-law,” raising his status immensely. In some societies this would have been a potential steppingstone to the throne, but no such practice is evidenced in Israel. [BBCALL: at 1 Sam 18.17]


Saul had offered her to David in exchange for David’s continued service to Saul. This would have not been the normal marriage arrangement in which the daughter left the house of her father and moved away to David’s house—since David was to be a court official (both musician and military!)—but it would have let David be “kept under observation” (if the ruse about having him killed didn’t work). Merab ended up marrying the Adriel fellow—son of the important Barzillai—and became the kings ‘son-in-law’. Since this would have been a political marriage in which the lesser house (Barzillai) married into the greater house (Saul), Adriel very likely moved to Jerusalem and took up responsibilities at the court, but might have remained at home and acted as an ‘advocate for Saul’ in the house of his father. However, in either case, their offspring, though the physical grandsons of Saul, would NOT have been possible throne-successors. Physical beni of Saul,  yes; members of ‘house of Saul’, no.  So, in our 2 Samuel 9 passage, these grandsons do NOT show up as members of the “house of Saul”, but in 2 Samuel 21, they show up as “close enough” for ish bene Saul. [But note that the commentator remarked that David was having to stretch it by including these grandsons in this list…It was simply not really legitimate to refer to these people as ‘males among the sons’ of Saul.  It constitutes an exception to the normal usage, but still supports our  observation that “house of X” (political/dynastic) IS NOT EQUAL to ‘ALL male descendants of X’.]



What this would indicate, though, is that not even all male descendants would be considered ‘of the house of X’ in the dynastic sense. Males that could not accede to the throne were excluded from the royal ‘house of X’ as well.



Some of the high-ranking public officers/officials are also excluded from the royal family (and therefore also excluded from the more narrow ‘House of X’). So Brueggemann (parenthesis his, bold mine) in describing the actions of Jehu in 2 Kings 10:


“In his cunning, he invites the royal officials (not the family) to send a ‘champion’ son of Ahab against Jehu…Thus he has tricked and seduced the royal entourage into killing the royal family…”


[This makes sense, of course, since the officials could ‘change allegiance’ from one dynastic house to another (implying they were NOT part of the ‘House’ to begin with). So we see the cases of Ziba (above), the Ahabite officials in 2 Kings 10,  and David’s counselor Hushai (2 Sam 16.15ff). In the case of Jehu, this is explicit in the text:


“Without delay, the palace officials (including the ‘steward of the palace’) refuse to take the bait of the invitation, quickly surrender, and declare themselves adherents of the new regime.” [Brueggeman]


“To Jehu they express their obsequiousness and make him king by default, ceding to him the right to do ‘what is best’ (hattob, v.5). In essence they have offered themselves as covenant partners: ‘Your servants we are, and all that you say, we will do.’ Having thus sworn allegiance to Jehu…Jehu’s second letter echoes the covenant language of the officials’ reply…” [2 Kings, Robert L. Cohn, in Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry, Michal Glazier, p.71-2]



Wives may be somewhat ‘detached’ from the patrilineal definitions of populace groups generally, since they are ‘mobile’. In this passage from Zechariah 12.12, it appears that the wives are actually ‘related to’ but not actually ‘part of’ the individual Houses:


The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. [NRSV]


The land shall wail, each family by itself: the family of the House of David by themselves, and their womenfolk by themselves; the family of the House of Nathan by themselves, and their womenfolk by themselves…etc.” [JPS]


This would mean, that in royal “house of X” expressions, it may only be the male, possible-successor descendants of the founding monarch (and therefore, potential possessors of the throne) that are considered ‘house of king X’. This, of course, would make perfect sense of why our passages use ‘all house/every male’ phrases—they are identical meanings, in royal dynastic contexts.


One final passage will clearly illustrate this—I Chronicles 10.1-6:


Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines closely pursued Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 And the battle became heavy against Saul, and the archers overtook him; and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword and fell on it. 5 And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword and died. 6 Thus Saul died with his three sons, and all those of his house died together. [Note that this reference to Saul’s bayit would not include his wives, his administration/officials back in the capital, and other members of his economic bayit who were not present/participants in this specific battle. In this case, bayit referred to him and his sons only, and the emphasis is on their dying ‘together’.]




[One might compare a dynasty-like house of the priesthood. In 1 Sam 22.11, the bayit of Ahitub, but the text indicates this referred to only the priests (i.e., male descendants):


The king sent for the priest Ahimelech son of Ahitub and for all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob; and all of them came to the king (NRSV; there is no waw-connective here, no ‘and’ to extend the reference)


However, when Saul gets into violence mode, he kills more than the ‘bayit’—he kills the entire city, which would have included more people than in Ahimelech’s bayit (e.g., merchants, resident aliens, etc.)]






Okay, back to the judgment texts…The operative phrases we need to look at (from the combined judgments against Ahab, Baasha, and Jeroboam) are (in sequence in the text; all cites from the NRSV):


I Kings 13.34:


to bring down and to destroy from the face of the earth, the house of Jeroboam” at 13.34 [bkhd (“be hidden”)and shamad, (“destroyed”); the first word indicates simple ‘disappearing’ of the group, which could be implemented in several ways. The second work is a stronger term, used for example of the ‘destruction’ of the Canaanites [e.g. Dt 7.23f] and for the Israelite exile [Deut 28 et. al], which as I have documented elsewhere for the Canaanites, was a destruction of their identity and culture—NOT annihilation of the peoples. See qamorite.html. As such this word is a ‘judgment word’ and is too general to convey ‘annihilation’ of all the people of the lineage of Jeroboam, since it can range from physical death to expulsion/humiliation.  Scope: “the house of Jeroboam”—in this case the royal house, since the acts cited as the cause were related to royal acts: Even after this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way [i.e. the anti-Yahweh cult], but made priests for the high places again from among all the people; any who wanted to be priests he consecrated for the high places. [NRSV: at 13.33]



I Kings 14.8f  (prophecy against Jeroboam):


and tore the kingdom away from the house of David to give it to you; yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my sight, but you have done evil above all those who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods, and cast images, provoking me to anger, and have thrust me behind your back;  [NRSV; Reason: national leadership in idolatry, presumptuous rejection of God, in spite of God’s giving him the kingdom and offering him a dynasty]


therefore, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam.” [general ra’, meaning ‘disaster’…nothing specific as to implementation; Scope: “house of Jeroboam” again, national leadership sin=>royal house]


I will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel” [karat meaning ‘exterminate, ostracize’ (in the Hiphil, as here). Since rejection of the Jehu line is here, it probably means ‘exterminate’. Scope: “everyone who urinates against a wall”==male, ‘belonging to’ Jeroboam (lamed…not a clear indication of how extensive this ‘belonging’ is, but since it is sandwiched in between two uses of the phrase “house of J”, it would be reasonable to expect it to refer again to the possible successor-heirs, i.e., ‘house of J’. Kutsch/Gray point out that the phrase is no broader than the royal family (and therefore, not about servants etc.): “Kutsch rightly points out that…the reference is to ‘all males of the royal family’, I and II Kings, John Gray, in the Old Testament Library, Westminster, p.337). A further qualification of that phrase is given by the enigmatic phrase rendered “both bond and free” in the NRSV (note: there is no ‘wav’ in front of the first term, but one in between, so whatever it means, it is NOT a cumulative construction of “all males AND all bound (either sex) AND all slave (either sex)”). We don’t have a clue what the phrase specifically means, actually, with widely varying suggestions:


* The JPS scholars footnote it at 14.10 with "Meaning of Hebrew uncertain”".

* WBC sees the phrase as meaning ‘helpless and abandoned’, referring to males-only (" the crude saying about ‘helpless and abandoned’ males").

* The NIV Study Bible notes suggests that it is a figure of speech, expressing "without exception" [i.e., no males excepted], and give as references 2Ki 9:8; 14:26.

* KD took this to mean "married and single", based on a synonymous phrase in Deut 32.36; again referring to the males.


All the commentators can say in this confusion is that it does apply to the ‘males of J’ clause and not to some further/larger group.


The in Israel phrase, applied to a royal house, would refer to the heirs scattered throughout the kingdom at the various government centers. [We have seen already that it would not extend to kinfolk, since they are not part of the ‘ancestral house’ if they lived outside of the main living compound of Jeroboam. However, the “house of J” would certainly be scattered through out Israel, as a ‘royal’ house.] Jezreel was a winter capital, and Samaria was the summer capital, for example. There may be heirs of Jeroboam stationed as managers at each of the capitals and major government centers in the northern kingdom. This phrase indicates that removal of the dynasty of J would be complete.


and will consume the house of Jeroboam, just as one burns up dung until it is all gone.” [‘consume/burn’ is ba’r (“light, kindle, ignite, keep a fire burning, burn down”), which is used to paint a blazingly bright image of the destruction of the “House of J”. Commentators also understand this symbolism to refer to extermination of only the male HEIRS of J: “Because Jeroboam had led God’s people away from God his house (dynasty) would be cut off.  No male would be able to perpetuate his line which God compared to dung.” [BKC: in loc] However, note that the NASB understands this verse as an image of sweeping instead of burning (i.e., deposition): “I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone.”]


Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat; and anyone who dies in the open country, the birds of the air shall eat; for the LORD has spoken” [This is a judgment of death and dishonorable burial, although it doesn’t indicate scope [literally reads ‘the dead of J’], other that what has already been stated (i.e., “house of J”). WBC understands this to apply specifically to the male heirs (i.e. the royal “house of J”): “V 11 predicts, with v 13, the nonburial of Jeroboam’s heirs, which is for Jews always the ultimate horror and humiliation” as does Brueggemann (“The heirs of Jeroboam will be treated like excrement, left for the dogs to devour in ultimate dishonor”).


Burke Long points out that this prophecy is about heirs—not the ‘occupants of the living compound’ (I Kings with an Introduction to the Historical Literature, Eerdmans, p.155):


“A newly chosen king will cut off his [Jeroboam’s] dynastic issue.”



* There is no prophecy of the death of Jeroboam(!)—all the judgments are against his royal house (this alone is evidence that it is succession/heir-oriented)

* The royal house is in view throughout this passage, even comparing it to the House of David.

* There are no references to general-category physical descendants (e.g., no ‘sons’ or ‘seed’).

* The focus is clearly on males, and commentators understand the passage in terms of dynastic male-heirs.

* The ‘national’ scope of the judgment (“in Israel”) demonstrates that it is a royal house (heirs) and not the economic/ancestral household of J that is under discussion.

* There is nothing in the passage that would suggest that  judgment was intended to fall on other members of the economic/ancestral household at all.

* Even the nonburial verse is taken to refer to heirs.






I Kings 15.29f (fulfillment of the above, against bayit Jeroboam):


As soon as he was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam” [nakah… “The meaning of the vb. ranges from hitting to killing…strike, hit, beat, strike dead, wound, batter, destroy”…Some translations see this as a more general image of “smote”, but it is more likely that it is more literal here—the execution of Jeroboam’s heirs (i.e., the ‘house of J’, bayit). Scope: literally, “the whole bayit of J”…in the context of change of kingship, this would refer to the royal house—all the male heirs.]


he left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed, until he had destroyed it” [lit: “he left not any-of breath to Jeroboam but he destroyed him…”. The NRSV sees the ‘to Jeroboam’ (lamed) as a reference to the ‘house of J’ , since there is no connective between the preceding clause and this one. In other words, we have the “killed whole/killed every” structure of completeness that we noted above, describing the same event. Scope: the reference to the bayit of J would indicate male-heirs only (royal house), and this is confirmed by the following fulfillment formula : “according to the word of the LORD given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite”. This prophetic word was discussed above at 14.10 and we saw that the passage is generally understood to refer to male-heirs only. If that is the case, then this verse is scoped to the same scope—male heirs only, regardless of locale. See the Observations above. It should be noted that scripture generally is more specific about this, if wives/children are intended—it often adds some phrase like “plus their wives and children”—e.g. Num 16.27; Jud 21.10; 2 Chrn 20.13; ]





I Kings 16.1f: (prophecy against Baasha)


“The word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2 "Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam, and have caused my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, 3 therefore, I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4 Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the air shall eat." [No surprises here…Definitely a royal context, involving change of dynasty…the consume word (ba’r) is the same used in 14.10, against Jeroboam—hence the reference to ‘like the house of J’ in our passage. Here there are no specific mention of males—except the implication from ‘royal house’ and from the case of Jeroboam.


[Interestingly, Baasha is judged for actually fulfilling the prophecy against the House of Jeroboam! In 16.7 we read:


“Moreover the word of the LORD came by the prophet Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it.


[Unlike Jehu, who was ordered by God to take out Ahab, Baasha was not operating under the command of God. His was just a bloody coup. As such, he was simply guilty of bloodshed. The fact that he fulfilled a prophecy in the meantime, does NOT at all exonerate him from guilt, no more so than the prophecy of Judas’ betrayal or the prophecy of crucifixion/death by the religious/governmental authorities of Jesus’ day exonerate these “prophecy-fulfillers”.  So, BKC: “The writer followed his regular recording of the facts surrounding the king’s death (vv. 5-6) with an additional reemphasis on the reasons for Baasha’s judgment by God (v. 7). Baasha’s destruction of Jeroboam’s house (family or dynasty) was one reason. Even though God determined that Jeroboam’s dynasty would be destroyed and announced this beforehand through Ahijah, God held Baasha responsible for killing Jeroboam’s descendants. In doing so Baasha had not acted under God’s direction, but only to gain his own ends” and Brueggemann: “Baasha in v. 27 is given no theological warrant for his action. He is not initiated by Yahweh. He acts only on his own as a political schemer and terrorist.”]




I Kings 16.11f:


When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he killed all the house of Baasha; [This is the standard formula we have already seen. Scope “whole house of B”—in a royal coup, this again would suggest royal dynastic household.]


“he did not leave him a single male of his kindred or his friends.” [The NRSV is a bit off here, in the way it expresses the ‘kindred’ and ‘friends’ words as genitives (“of”). JPS translation is closer to the actual structure, reading:


he did not leave a single male of his, nor any kinsman or friend.”


[The ‘male’ phrase here is again the “urinating against the wall” one we saw in the Jeroboam judgment. The Hebrew structure looks like this:


“not-he-spared to-him (lamed) one-urinating against-wall or (waw) ones-being-goel-of-him or (waw) friend-of-him”


Walsh points out [1 Kings, Jerome T. Walsh, in Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry, Michal Glazier, p.215] that these males are male descendants of the king (and not male occupants of the household compound):


“…he (the narrator) uses the same crude language as Yahweh used in 14:10, “one who urinates against a wall”, to refer to the male descendants of Elah.”


Zimri is the one doing this coup, although, just like Baasha, he is not specifically directed to do this. He might not even have known of the prophecy of Jehu about this. In any event this looks like a ‘regular’ bloody coup and not a deliberate fulfillment of the prophecy. The list of who all Zimri killed is:


         all the house of B”, further defined as “all males” (there is no conjunction between these two phrases; no waw to make the construction into an “and”);

         all the goel’s of Baasha (We saw earlier that these were not part of someone’ ancestral household, but in a coup like this, it would be important to eliminate anyone who was appointed by the clan to avenge the death of the king you murdered!)

         all the friends of Baasha (We saw earlier that if these were not actually living in the person’s compound—which they might could have been, of course—then they would not even be considered part of the economic/ancestral bayit—much less the royal-heir one)


In other words, this certainly fulfilled the Word of the Lord that the dynasty of Baasha would be eliminated completely, but it went way, way beyond the bayit.


“Zimri completely destroyed Israel’s second ruling family plus friends of the family in order to avoid retaliation against his coup d’etat. [BKC: in. loc]


“Leaving any living relatives of a king who had been forcibly deposed from the throne by assassination was an invitation to civil war. The relatives would be honor-bound to avenge the death of the previous king…” [REF:BBC: in loc]


“He goes far beyond Baasha’s purge, however. He wipes out the males not only of Baasha’s entire house, but of all his kin and friends as well.” (Walsh)



I Kings 21.21ff (the prophecy against Ahab):


I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. 23 Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat.” [NRSV]


There is nothing new in content here, concerning the house Ahab:


* God will bring disaster on Ahab [Same phrase as against Jeroboam]

* God will “consume Ahab” [Same phrase as against Jeroboam (but without the ‘dung’ part); and as against Baasha ]
* God will cut off from Ahab every male, “both bond and free”, throughout the land [Same as against Jeroboam]
* God will make the House of Ahab like the House of Jeroboam and Basha [as noted]
* Some of Ahab’s dead will die in the city and some in the field [Same phrase as against Baasha]


Since we have noted in the cases of Jeroboam and Baasha that the references are to dynastic heirs, it is reasonable to conclude that the same understanding applied to the judgment against Ahab. In other words, since (a) the same phrases were used; and (b) the judgment is said to be “like the House of X”, we are warranted to believe the same scope was intended in the prophecy (not necessarily in the execution, though, as we saw above and will see yet again with Jehu).

[We should also note that the "male" clauses do seem to be restricting the scope of the "whole house" (especially given the custom of sparing the wives), since otherwise the 'male' clause  would be completely redundant in these cases. If "all the house" meant "all males and all females", then adding another clause of "and all the males" would not make any sense. Cases of 'completely redundant' in scripture often suggest literary parallelism, which might be present in these formulae. This would make the phraseology of "all the house//every male"--in which both pieces were identical in content-- function as a parallelism for emphasis.

We have noted in the section on Jeroboam that the “consume Ahab” clause, in the Hebrew was literally “burn after you (singular)”. The phrase itself has no reference to descendants, sons, males, houses, etc.—ONLY Ahab! It might be interesting to compare how translations interpret this somewhat-vague image:


I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. [NIV]

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; [NASB]

I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; [NRSV]

I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel. [NAB]

I will bring disaster upon you. I will make a clean sweep of you, I will cut off from Israel every male belonging to Ahab, bond and free. [Jewish Pub. Soc.]

Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every one who pisses against the wall, and he who is shut up and he who is left free in Israel [Soncino]

And among ancient versions:


"Behold I am bring upon you evil, and I will seach after you and destroy for Ahab everyone knowing knowledge (Targumic euphemism for 'male', Harrington/Saldorini), bond and free, in Israel" [Targum]

"Behold, I bring evils upon theee: and I will kindle a fire after thee, and I will utterly destroy every male of Achaab, and him that is shut up and him that is left in Israel." [LXX]

Notice how some of the modern versions ‘expand’ the image from “Ahab” to “descendents/posterity”.


[Note: I did not include the ASV and RSV versions since they are too out of date to use in this discussion (in which the individual Hebrew words need to be examined), and both have been superceded by new revisions (NASV, NRSV). The RSV was translated in 1885, and the ASV at the same time. The ASV, however, was not ‘allowed’ to be published until 1901. “Several American scholars had been invited to join the revision work [i.e., RSV], with the understanding that any of their suggestions not accepted by the British scholars would appear in an appendix. Furthermore, the American scholars had to agree not to publish their own American revision until after fourteen years. When the time came (1901), the American Standard Version was published by several surviving members of the original American committee.” (Complete Guide to Bible Versions, Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale House)]



So the data from looking closely at the judgment texts, coupled with the analysis of what all was included in/excluded from the royal house, leads me to take the position of many commentators/specialists that the object of these prophecies was the dynastic line, the male throne-heirs. Of course, in the case of Baasha and Zimri, the coup itself went beyond that prophecy and killed others associated with the king and heirs (“house of X”). But in these cases, the two assassins were not ‘ordered’ to do so by a prophet.







Point Two:  Jehu was given a message from God by the prophet in 2 Kings that he was to be the executor of that judgment--repeated almost verbatim (2 Kings 9.6-9):

So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. 7 You shall strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and no one shall bury her.” [NRSV]


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. 7 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. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel -- slave or free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. [NIV]


The elements of the judgment included these phrases:

"strike the house of Ahab, that I (YHWH) may avenge the blood of ...the prophets"
"the whole house of Ahab shall perish" [nakah – “
The meaning of the vb. ranges from hitting to killing”, see above]
"every male person, both bond and free, of Ahab's (dynastic bloodline) will be cut off"
"the house of Ahab will become like the house of Jeroboam and Baasha"


This is essentially the same judgment pronounced earlier, focused on (a) destruction of the “house of A”—dynastic heirs; and (b) ignominious death of Jezebel. The dynastic character is likewise indicated by (a) the ‘house of A’ terminology, instead of ‘sons of’ or ‘descendents’; and (b) the references to the dynastic overthrows of J and B. To ‘destroy’ a dynastic house simply meant to kill (or actually ‘exile’ would work, given the wide range of meaning in the Hebrew word translated ‘destroy’) the king and any possible blood-successors to his throne.


The one difference in this passage is in the reference to the death of the prophets (1 Kings 18.4, 13) and God’s people (e.g., Naboth), and in Jezebel’s involvement. As one can see the NRSV seems to make Jezebel the target of the vengeance, whereas the NIV only names her as the instrument in the killing of the prophets (with Ahab as her ‘sponsor’ taking/sharing the blame). In this case the NIV is correct, over against the NRSV, as can be seen from the Hebrew structure:




The last phrase there (‘by the hand of Jezebel’, mid ‘izabel) is constructed from the preposition min (by, with), the noun yad (hand), and Jezebel. Although min can be used to express the target of the vengeance (e.g. in Jeremiah), the presence of the word “hand” indicates instrumentality (instead of ‘head’—as in ‘bring guilt upon their head’—which would communicate target). So, the NASB (“And you shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel.”)  and NAB (“You shall destroy the house of Ahab your master; thus will I avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the other servants of the LORD shed by Jezebel”). WBC renders: “Now you shall strike the house of Ahab your master and avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of Yahweh who suffered at the hand of Jezebel.” So also the LXX, and even the older ASV…


BTW, when vengeance-words are used with the word ‘hand’ in scripture (in other forms of construction), ‘hand’ is always the instrument OF judgment---“I will avenge him by my own hand”. It never is a target of vengeance-words. In fact, vengeance-words only target individuals or groups; they are never mixed with images of hand, heads, etc. The scripture will say “I will require it at their hand” and “I will bring guilt upon their head” but NEVER uses ‘head’ or ‘hand’ in a target clause of avenging words.


So, Jezebel is not the sole target of some ‘vendetta’ action by God, but shares in the responsibility with Ahab, her king and husband. Cohn (op.cit.):


“Jezebel who is identified twice in this narrative, by the prophet and by Jehu himself, as the source of the evil which the kings sponsored” (p.69)



So, the message Jehu gets is the same he heard earlier, and the same announced (not actually ‘ordered’) by God in the two preceding dynasties—“eliminate the king and his royal heirs”.


And remember, the phrase ‘bond and free(?)’  is NOT another element in a "list" of what all is to be destroyed, but rather an appositive phrase, describing (again) the comprehensiveness of the judgment on the maleswhatever this incomprehensible phrase means. All of the above interpreters take it as referring back to the 'males'. it's a little like saying "All the house/every male/no exceptions".




Point Three: Jehu goes on a rampage, killing all the heirs of Ahab (plus others)--2 Kings 9-10.



Point Four: Jehu is commended by YHWH for executing the house of Ahab in 2 Kings 10.30:


The LORD said to Jehu, "Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes [note: this is probably a reference to the destruction of Baal worship] 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."


Point Five: And then, in Hosea 1.4, Jehu is apparently punished for the massacre! [but see qjehu.html, where I document that this verse is not about Jehu’s guilt at Jezreel at all.]


Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.




It simply looks bad--God said "do this", the poor guy "did this", and then God punishes him for "doing this"!



But, as with many types of 'problems', the answer lies in paying close attention to WHAT ACTUALLY WAS RECORDED--what was said, and what was done.


So, let’s notice what Jehu was supposed to do, and then what he actually did



What he was supposed to do:


The judgment on Ahab was to be only on his dynastic heirs, the royal “bayit of Ahab”. (1 Kings 21.21) and when the command is given to Jehu, that fact is repeated—dynastic heirs of Ahab (2 Kings 9.8). 

What he actually did:


He kills Joram, the current king of Ahab's line. This was clearly the primary referent in the anti-dynastic prophecies (2 Kings 9.24). Joram would actually have been a member of both the royal house of A (heirs only) and the ancestral house of A (heirs plus non-heir family members, living together):


Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot.


This would have been intended in the prophecy, but he does something odd after this. He dumps the body into the field at Naboth and expands the original judgment prophecy (a pattern that will increase):


“Now he even gives his own version of that word, expanding it even beyond what the disciple had said by claiming divine vengeance not only for Naboth but also for his sons.” [Cohn, opcit p. 68]



He then kills (mortally wounds) Ahaziah, king of Judah, not a throne heir of Ahab (2 Kgs 9.27):


When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, "Kill him too!" They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there.


Ahaziah is of course a physical grandson of Ahab, since the political marriage between Ahab’s daughter Athalia and Jehoram of David produced Ahaziah. He is a member of the ‘house of David’, since his father is Jehoram. But as we documented above in our discussion of the members in a bayit, Ahaziah would be neither a member of Ahab’s ancestral house (since Ahab’s daughter would have left A’s house and become a member of Jehoram’s house) nor of Ahab’s royal house (since he would not have been a throne-heir to Ahab). And, of course, the fact that he was “genetically linked” to Ahab had actually no bearing on whether he was in the bayit or not—there were plenty of kinfolk of Ahab that would not be considered members of his ancestral or royal households (including grandsons through daughters—cf. the story about Mephibosheth again). Even Jehoram would not have been considered a son (bene) but a son-in-law (hatan).


And this is generally the understanding of this passage—that Jehu overshot the command of Yahweh (some even arguing that he was trying to reunite both kingdoms under his rulership):


“Jehu’s single utterance in this scene, ‘Him too shoot!’, the direct object pointedly in first position, sets into motion an assassination that oversteps the divine orders in the oracle given him…Already, then, the positive evaluation of Jehu implied in his execution of the divine initiative against the house of Ahab is negatively colored by his unauthorized extension of the revolution to Judah” [Cohn, op. cit. p.69]



He then kills Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who was the target of her own prophecy (2 Kings 9.30-33):


Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. 31 As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, "Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?" 32 He looked up at the window and called out, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. 33 "Throw her down!" Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.


This result is basically in line with the intent of the judgment, but the writer portrays Jehu in a very bad light, both highlighting his callousness (e.g., he eats Jezzie’s food inside while her body is eaten outside) as well as his ‘extension’ of the Word again!


“Yet, as earlier (v.26), Jehu expands Elijah’s oracle. The prediction that Jezebel’s corpse will be like dung, and that no one will recognize her is not part of Elijah’s original prophecy.” [Cohn, op. cit. p.71]



He then has 70 (or “many”) sons of Joram, members of the dynastic “house of Ahab”, killed by the palace/city officials in Samaria (2 Kings 10.1-8):


Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to the guardians of the sons of Ahab, saying, 2 “Since your master’s sons are with you and you have at your disposal chariots and horses, a fortified city, and weapons, 3 select the son of your master who is the best qualified, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house.” 4 But they were utterly terrified and said, “Look, two kings could not withstand him; how then can we stand?” 5 So the steward of the palace, and the governor of the city, along with the elders and the guardians, sent word to Jehu: “We are your servants; we will do anything you say. We will not make anyone king; do whatever you think right.” 6 Then he wrote them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the leaders of the city, who were charged with their upbringing. 7 When the letter reached them, they took the king’s sons and killed them, seventy persons; they put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. 8 When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” 9




The number “70” may just be a “conventional indefinite number” (Gray) for “many” (Brueggemann, Cohn), although some argue that it simply means ‘seven’.


That these is a dynastic issue is clear from the use of the name “Ahab” in the text to describe these princes, even though they are actually sons of Joram (“your master”, v. 2,3,6). [If they were first-generation sons of Ahab, they would actually be rivals to Joram.] These are princes in training by the leading men of the city, to furnish a co-regent for Joram later:


“[t]hey were all potential rulers, for whom such education was necessary, since the most promising of the princes was often chosen as co-regent with his father” [Gray]


Samaria was  “bought by Omni, was the crown possession of his house, and the foundation of the power of the dynasty” (Gray).


The ‘rulers of Jezreel’ were professional soldiers acting as commanders of the city (Jezreel) who had likely fled to Samaria after the death of the king [WBC: in loc]. And [EBC:


“…those officials in Jezreel entrusted with the care of the royal children had taken their wards and fled to Samaria. The letters thus addressed per se to "the officials of Jezreel" (i.e., the place where they often served and from which they had just come) would be intended for all the officials of Samaria (cf. v. 5). Such an address would make the leaders of Samaria aware that Jehu meant business and yet indicate that their lives were not in jeopardy--Jehu simply wanted the royal survivors.”


These killings did NOT occur in Jezreel, but in Samaria. The “officials of Jezreel” apparently bring the baskets back to Jezreel (while the ‘political trainers’—the ‘great men of the city) perhaps remained in Samaria—they ‘sent’ the heads in the baskets). The officials, remember, were FROM Jezreel, whereas the elders and leaders of the city could have been residents of either city.


Although all of the 70 or “many” were killed, there is some indication that only adult sons were so treated. The specific instruction in Jehu’s letter has the construction “take the-heads-of  the-men-of the-sons-of your-master  instead of “take the-heads-of the-sons-of your-master”. The men phrase (ish) is untranslated, but the force of it would be to specify ‘adult’ sons (of marriageable age). Otherwise, the phrase would be unintelligible (and superfluous) here. In any case, the text says that the 70/many are ‘ish’ and this, of course, leaves open the possibility that younger men (geber) and boys (na’ar) were not targeted.


All in all, this action would seem to be in compliance (at least the result would be, not necessarily the means or even Jehu’s attitude) with the stated prophecy.





He then kills the rest of the bayit, and then ALL of Ahab's supporters, most of whom would be members of neither Ahab’s ancestral/economic house nor his royal house (2 Kgs 10.11):


Then in the morning when he went out, he stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him; but who struck down 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 said through his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu killed all who were left of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his leaders, close friends, and priests, until he left him no survivor. [NRSV]


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 [NIV]


So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests [NAS]


Here the text specifies four individual groups, all separated by waw conjunctions [the NRSV doesn’t reflect this structure, as do the NAS/NIV, above] :


* “all the ones remaining of the bayit Ahab in Jezreel” (the princes who did NOT flee? The dynastic term ‘house of A’ instead of ‘house of Joram’ might argue for this, but the ‘of’ makes the reference a little nebulous).


* “all the chief men/leaders” (same word as those assigned to groom the princes, no doubt Ahab/Joram loyalists, but not in bayit at all; the term could also include government officials, which as we have already seen, were ‘attached’ to a royal bayit and could be ‘detached and transferred’)


* “close friends” (some of these would not even be Israelites! So [REF:BBC: in loc: “The term translated “close friend” here is a technical term used both in Akkadian and Ugaritic sources describing those who enjoy the sponsorship of the court. They are royal wards who enjoy court privileges and were probably non-Israelite.”] They are funded by the dynasty, but would not have been considered part of the government, but NOT of the bayit. And certainly would not have been considered part of the bloodline or dynastic bayit )


* “priests” (presumably priests of Baal, used by Ahab, Jezzie, and Co.)



As Cohn notes [p.72-3], these actions are way beyond the oracle (and also presented negatively by the Scripture, btw):


“In this episode the narrator refrains from judging Jehu directly, but his actions and words project a figure increasingly taken up by his own historical role. While in the assassination of Jehoram, Jehu simply enacted the oracle given to him, in the murder of Jezebel he displays both viciousness, and in his scatological interpretation of her remains, sick perversity. Furthermore, the writer’s spotlight on Jehu’s underhanded strategy with the guardians of Ahab’s descendants and his terroristic use of their severed heads illuminates a man who relishes the vengeance he feels called upon to wreak. And his extension of the bloodbath beyond the house of Ahab to ‘officials, intimates, and priests’ (v. 11) takes his actions beyond even his own elaborations of Elijah’s prophecy.”





He then kills 42 princes of Judah, on a diplomatic visit to the Northern kingdom—neither members of Ahab’s ancestral nor royal house (2 Kings 10.12-14):


Then he set out and went to Samaria. On the way, when he was at Beth-eked of the Shepherds, 13 Jehu met relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah and said, “Who are you?” They answered, “We are kin of Ahaziah; we have come down to visit the royal princes and the sons of the queen mother.” 14 He said, “Take them alive.” They took them alive, and slaughtered them at the pit of Beth-eked, forty-two in all; he spared none of them.


These people, as residents of Judah, would not be considered members of Ahab/Joram’s ancestral house (due to reasons of location, if nothing else) and certainly not of Ahab’s royal dynastic house.


In fact, they may not actually have been ‘kin’ to Ahaziah (Ahab’s grandson through his daughter, remember) at all:


“The traditional identification of Beth Eked as modern Beit Qad, a small site near Jenin (Beth Haggan) is undoubtedly wrong unless the narrative is misplaced, or else there is more in the story than first appears. Beit Qad is about seven kilometers east northeast of Jenin, and some one hundred meters above the road which runs from Samaria through Jenin to Jezreel. It is quite off the beaten track. Also, the “kinsmen” (rsv) of Ahaziah were north of Samaria, the city where the king’s descendants were (v 1). It is most unlikely that these men were completely ignorant of the events that had just taken place and were on their way, by such a devious route, to “greet” Ahaziah. The term a “brother” can also mean fellow soldier. Further, the expression /lv]li  is difficult to interpret as a noun. A small emendation, to point it piel infinitive construct (Lev'l]), would offer the translation “avenge.” The group intercepted by Jehu consisted of Judean soldiers on their way north, by an inconspicuous route, to avenge the death of their king [Ahaziah] and his cousins. The incident then follows well after the previous one. Jehu’s “finding” of such a group might indicate that he launched a deliberate search for them or that one of his patrols chanced upon them. 14 ya ynw y[bra “all forty-two of them.” That Jehu was able to kill forty-two men indicates that he had with him a sizable force to deal with such eventualities and increases the likelihood that his force was a regular military patrol, policing the countryside in the light of the chaos surrounding the revolt.” [WBC: in. loc.]


In either scenario, Jehu is out-of-bounds.




He then goes to Samaria and kills some more of Ahab's descendants--of unspecified sex, but presumably some males (2 Kings 10.17):


When he came to Samaria, he killed all who were left to Ahab in Samaria, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah.


The Masoretic text does not include bayit here, but some textual traditions do have it (Gray includes it: “Certain MSS and S read lebet, though this would be sufficiently understood from MT.”), indicating that ‘left to Ahab’ should be understood as a reference to the bayit of Ahab. So, KD: “’all that remained to Ahab,’ i.e. all the remaining members of Ahab’s house”. The ‘according to the Word of the Lord…’ clause would not say anything more than the simple fact that the dynastic heirs were killed (regardless of how many non-family members were killed in the process), in fulfillment of the prophecy.



Okay, let’s try to get a summary idea of what all this data tells us. Let’s look at it from two perspectives: geographically and from the perspective of bayit.


What we want to do here is see which of the above victims would have been considered members of either the ancestral/economic house or the royal dynastic house, and where they were actually killed:




Ancestral/Economic Bayit?

Royal Dynastic Bayit?

In the city of Jezreel?







Ahaziah, king of Judah






(special case—own prophecy)

(special case—own prophecy)



“70”/many princes of Joram



No (in Samaria)


Rest of Bayit in Jezreel





Chief Men in Jezreel





Royal Wards






(special case—different law)

(special case—different law)



42 princes or soldiers of Judah





“rest (of house) of Ahab”






So,  did Jehu kill anyone beyond the limits of the Oracle? The answer is obviously “YES”, under EITHER meanings of bayit. (rows 2, 6, 9, and possibly 7).


And the big question: Were any of these killed in (the city of) Jezreel? The answer is again “YES” (definitely Row 6 and possibly Row 7, under Ancestral definition; and definitely Rows 6,7 under Royal Dynastic definition).


[Of course, Ahaziah was shot on the Plain of Jezreel, but I am working under the simpler “objection-favoring” (smile) “city of Jezreel” scenario…]




What becomes obvious from this is that Jehu killed MANY MORE people than he was commissioned to do--esp. the people from Judah, and the friends of Ahab. This significant, extra, and unauthorized violence by Jehu is generally considered by commentators to be a self-serving move for his political aspirations. As too many people do even today, he takes a clear command of God and 'stretches it' to cover all types of personal interest concerns and personal agendas.


So, that  God approved ONLY the SPECIFIC PART He authorized (2 Kings 10.30: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...), but condemned part of the excess in Hosea 1.4: I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, would make good sense… [but remember, I don’t believe Hosea means that anymore…see qjehu.html]



Pushback: “Good grief, bud! You mean to say that you believe Jehu did all this wrong stuff, and then God just give him a pat on the back for what was good—without even rebuking him for such extreme violence?! It is simply inconceivable that God would give a sparkling commendation for the good part, without the tiniest hint of even ‘disapproval’ for anything horrific he did? Isn’t it preposterous to think that God would not have pointed out these over-killings at Jezreel/etc to Jehu? You may have solved the Hosea problem, but by doing so, you created a ‘credibility’ problem for the God who commended Jehu for ‘doing all that was in My heart to do to Ahab’!!!!


Actually, its not quite that simple…it’s a matter of what the passage as a whole, and overall characterization of a figure teach and require—the issue is that of literary strategy: “what is the author/Author ‘showing us’ about this character or event?


For example, take the book of Judges. In this book God consistently delivers his rebellious and unappreciative people, but does so with some of the most uninspiring and despicable characters and events…the author/Author consistently paints disgusting portraits of all of the heroes in this book. The reader is supposed to make value judgments on these characters—IN SPITE of how God called them and used them to accomplish temporary deliverance. Kikawada and Quinn [OT:BAW: epilogue] go through most of the main characters, showing how the narrator/Narrator draws attention to the ‘ugliness’ of the hero’s moral condition. Let me add a few (longer) citations from the Epilogue, to give you a sample of how narrative analysis can reveal what the real message of a text is (as opposed to only the ‘building blocks’ from which the mosaic is constructed):


“We must ask if the author of Judges intends for us to respond by sharing in this boasting [note: of Israel’s victories over the pagan nations] ... Let us return to the question of how we are intended to respond. In some instances the response intended by a passage in judges is not difficult to guess. How, for instance, should the reader respond to the following verse from the episode of Ehud?


And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly; and the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly (3:21-22).


“Whatever a reader's feelings about killing an unarmed person with a concealed weapon (or, for that matter, about people who normally use their sinister hand), the detail of the fat closing over the blade cannot help but provoke our disgust. And surely that disgust increases if, with the Authorized Version, we follow the Targum and Vulgate by adding: "the dirt came out." The excrement oozing from the fat does more for us than simply specify that the knife had entered the king's colon. It shapes our response to that event.


“And our response to this verse is, we think, typical of that hoped for by judges as a whole. And an extraordinary response it is. At the very moment we might expect the author to allow us to exult over God's deliverance of his people, he dwells instead on disgusting details. This is no racial melodrama; the author will not pander to our ethnic prejudices.


“Of course, sections of judges do exult in God's deliverance judges indeed contains the most famous of such exultations, the song of Deborah. But let us look at this song in its context.


“The very death of Sisera, as described in the prose version, is disturbing. Sisera is killed by Jael, with whom he sought sanctuary as the wife of an ally. She deceives this suppliant by the generosity of her welcome. She goes out to meet him, and soothes him: "Have no fear." When he asks for water, she gives him milk. Then, exhausted in his defeat, Sisera, trusting in the treaty, her hospitality, her obvious concern, falls asleep. "Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple till it went down into the ground, as he was lying fast asleep from weariness" (4:21).


Why add the detail "till it went down into the ground" unless to emphasize the brutality of the act? And why then add the clause "as he was lying fast asleep from weariness" unless to excite our sympathy for him? However despicable Sisera was as a person, his vulnerability at this moment--defeated, deceived, exhausted, asleep--cannot help but excite our compassion. Twentieth-century commentators recognize this and also recognize that our horror at this murder would have been shared by an ancient audience. The Tyndale Biblical Commentary on Judges admits that Jael "broke every accepted standard of hospitality. " Soggin, in a similar vein, after examining various attempts to explain away Jael's culpability, finally admits that despite them "the scene remains sinister ... it cannot but raise negative reactions, in the same way as the classical parallels mentioned above caused their audience to shudder." Nonetheless, having reached this conclusion, Soggin will not take the next obvious step and admit that perhaps the author of Judges was a master of his material, wanting us to shudder. Rather, Soggin explains the effect as a flaw resulting from the facqbqqkkqbbbuot;probably too deeply rooted in the tradition" to be ignored; the author (or editor) "preferred the risk of repeating it to the risk of leaving it out."


“This would be a plausible argument if the Jael story were an isolated horror. But the Book of judges leads us from one horror to another. [OT:BAW: 128ff]




“But why employ irony, why invite disgust when describing the heroes of Judges? The author's attitude toward them is surely not the attitude he takes toward God's repeated deliverance of his people. This repeated deliverance would indeed be the cause of joy and exultation. But this is only one-half of the story--and the response of the reader is tied to the other half. The author's attitude toward these heroes is rather the attitude he thinks his readers should have toward the repeated need for God to save (and to punish) his people, to do so again and again long after he has already brought them to the promised land. Embarrassment, revulsion, disgust. God might well have been saving the sinful Israelites, but he was sending them exactly the kind of judges they deserved, judges who embodied the Hebrews' own weakness and perversity. [OT:BAW:133]



“If this interpretation holds, then we are now in a position to understand the most important (and perplexing) story of judges. Samson fits the pattern of a champion worthy of a people unworthy of their God--a champion strong but stupid, willful, lustful, unclean; one of his great triumphs coming after the humiliation of Judah (the once vaunted lion's whelp) and through the ridiculous agency of the ass's jawbone; his other triumph coming after his own humiliation by the uncircumcised and through an act tantamount to suicide. Even in this final triumph the author takes care to deflect our sympathies. Samson calls not for God's glory but for his own revenge. And then there is the young boy who places Samson's hands on the pillars, the young boy who in an act of kindness places Samson so he can rest, a young boy who for his kindness will be crushed to death. [OT:BAW:134]


Their point should be clear. The narrative ‘thrust’ of the passage is what the ‘message’ is. The characters are described by the narrative story, and our response to them needs to consider all the data. It’s not a matter of seeing the passages that show that the Judge ‘wrought a great deliverance in Israel’; it’s also a matter of seeing and responding ethically to the details given by the author/Author.


When we come to Jehu, we see exactly the same pattern. The summary given in chapter 10 is definitely ‘mixed’:


Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to commit—the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. 30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what I consider right, and in accordance with all that was in my heart have dealt with the house of Ahab, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart; he did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he caused Israel to commit. 32 In those days the Lord began to trim off parts of Israel. Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel: 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the Wadi Arnon, that is, Gilead and Bashan. [2 Kings 10.28ff, NRSV]




But the totality of the data paints a portrait of Jehu that DOES reveal the revulsive character of much of his ‘zeal’ and savagery. The narrator/Narrator paints an amazingly grotesque portrait of an ‘escalating fanatic’, whose sole good acts occurred in the first few months of a 28-year reign. Consider some of the narrative characterizations noticed by Cohn (some already noted above):


“In this episode the narrator refrains from judging Jehu directly, but his actions and words project a figure increasingly taken up by his own historical role. While in the assassination of Jehoram, Jehu simply enacted the oracle given to him, in the murder of Jezebel he displays both viciousness, and in his scatological interpretation of her remains, sick perversity. Furthermore, the writer’s spotlight on Jehu’s underhanded strategy with the guardians of Ahab’s descendants and his terroristic use of their severed heads illuminates a man who relishes the vengeance he feels called upon to wreak. And his extension of the bloodbath beyond the house of Ahab to ‘officials, intimates, and priest’ (v. 11) takes his actions beyond even his own elaborations of Elijah’s prophecy.” [Cohn, 72f]




“From the account Of the destruction of Baal's worshipers and temple the text moves directly to the conclusion of Jehu's reign. Nothing but his initiating acts in Jezreel and Samaria are dramatized; in but a few lines the rest of his reign is summarized. Clearly, Jehu's claim to fame rests in the elimination of the house of Ahab and the extirpation of Baal worship, including the "house of Baal." The other events of his reign merit only the briefest mention and further problematize the already problematic modus operandi of this fiery revolutionary.


No sooner has Jehu been credited with eradicating Baal from Israel than he is criticized for not also eliminating the golden calves at Bethel and Dan; thus, although fie has eliminated the sins of the house of Ahab, he is criticized for falling into the sinful pattern of Jeroboam, the writer's arch-villain (v. 29). And no sooner has the narrator leveled this critique than the voice of YHWH is interjected directly into the narration, praising Jehu for having "successfully done the right thing in my eyes according to everything that was in my heart to the house of Ahab" (v. 30). This unqualified praise is followed by YHWH'S promise of a four generation dynasty. Yet in the next verse (v. 31) the narrator takes up his critique again, sandwiching YHWH'S praise in a sea of negativity. By thus checking (hedging?) divine plaudits with his own appraisal, the writer is able to account both for the continuation of Jehu's line and the reduction of his territory (v. 32). Indeed both divine and human causation (the perennial challenge by Hazael) are invoked to explain the loss of land east of the Jordan. But in his last statement on Jehu the narrator does modify the summary formula to include mention of "all of his heroism" (v. 34), thus offering a final one-word tribute to the king.


“This closing ambivalence about the character of Jehu well reflects the entire presentation. On the one hand, he is charged by Elisha's messenger with destroying the house of Ahab and is praised for doing so. On the other hand, he goes beyond the call of duty in his vehemence and deviousness. He takes advantage of Jehoram's medical condition, presses the guardians of Ahab's descendants to kill their wards, and gratuitously slaughters the peaceable kin of Ahaziah. He is shown in constant movement and bloody slaughters. To every question about peace--from his comrades, Jehoram, Jezebel--he responds with war. Furthermore as one critic puts it, he too conveniently has a divine oracle at hand whenever he needs one. In fact, his repeated elaborations of Elijah's oracle get no confirmation from the narrator, raising further questions about his integrity. Yet for all of his "madness," 9:20, he accomplishes what had been left undone since Elijah's days the wiping out of Baalism and its sponsors in Israel. While this laudable end is thus praised, Jehu's methods are severely criticized. [Cohn, p.75f]


In other words, the totality of the data—presented by the author/Author—are very critical of Jehu, even about his methods and manner in the initial ‘good thing’ he did. At the same time, they recognize the initial contribution he made. The YHWH quote looks almost like its only purpose in being there is to explain how a Jeroboam-clone ended up having a four-generation dynasty! [cf. Gray: “Space is found, too, to explain how it was that the house of Jehu lasted for four generations, culminating in the glorious reign of Jeroboam II”] But even in this the author/Author has a veiled criticism. So Hobb, [WBC: in loc]:


“29–36 Formally these verses have echoes elsewhere in the OT. V 29 is typical of so many statements made at the end of the reigns of apostate kings, but an adaptation is made to suit the conditions of Jehu’s reign. Vv 30–31 echo the promises made to Solomon by David in 1 Kgs 2:1–4 and 9:1–9, which are in turn reminiscent of Deut 4:9. Applied to Jehu, however, the promise turns to parody. The eternal throne now lasts a mere four generations, because the command to obey the law is not followed with all the heart.


At any rate, you should see what I mean here…the biblical message about a character or event or attitude or whatever is to be determined by the totality of the data, in the argument form of the author/Author. God can certainly express approval to someone (and even record it for us to learn from), but can just as easily ‘embed’ that approval in an overall narrative that communicates overall failure and dysfunction. So many failures in the bible go “uncommented on” by God or His prophets, but the scriptural presentation of those failures present them as such with visceral clarity…




Once again, what appears (to some) to be a contradiction at a surface level, turns out to make good sense once we pay close attention to what the text actually says.


glenn miller, June 2001

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