Now the watchman standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu's troops approaching, and he called out, "I see a company of troops!" "Choose a rider," Joram commanded. "Send him out to meet them and ask, 'Have you come in peace?'"
I. JEHU'S APPROACH TO JEZREEL.
1. The watchman's announcement. In the far distance the watchman on the tower of Jezreel beholds a company of horsemen rapidly approaching. What can it portend? The report is brought to the king, who unsuspiciously sends out a messenger on horseback to inquire. Towers and watchmen are for the protection of a city and its inhabitants. But "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1). And if the Lord decrees the destruction of a city, or of those in it, towers and watchmen will do little to protect them.
2. Successive messengers. These verses are chiefly interesting as illustrating the character of Jehu. The messenger sent by Jehoram soon reaches the company, and asks, "Is it peace?" The idea probably is, "What tidings from the field of battle?" Jehu does not even answer him civilly, but, with a rude "What hast thou to do with peace?" he orders him to turn behind him. A man this who will brook no delay, submit to no curb, endure no check, in his imperious course. He sweeps obstacles from his path, and bends them to his will. This messenger returns not, and a second, sent out from the king, meets a like reception, and is also compelled to ride behind.
3. Jehu recognized. At length the horsemen are near enough for the watchman to get a closer view, and he has no difficulty in recognizing the furious driving of the leading figure as the driving of Jehu. It is familiar to all that character imprints itself on manner. Physiognomy, walk, gesture, handwriting even, are windows through which, to an observant eye, the soul looks out. Hypocrisy may create a mask behind which the real character seeks to hide itself. But hypocrisy, too, has characteristic ways of betraying its presence, and the mask cannot always be kept on. If we wish habitually to appear true, we must be true.
II. JEHORAM AND AHAZIAH SLAIN.
1. The fateful meeting. On learning that Jehu was approaching, King Jehoram, now convalescent, prepared his chariot, and, accompanied by Ahaziah of Judah, went out to meet his captain.
(1) The two encountered at the portion of Naboth the Jezreelite. Strange coincidence, only, as we shall see below, more than coincidence. As the chariots meet, the king puts the anxious question, "Is it peace, Jehu?" Alas! the day of peace is over; it is now the day of vengeance.
(2) Jehu throws no disguise over his intentions. With his usual vehement abruptness he at once bursts forth, "What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" Jehu was right: there can be no peace in a state when the foundations of religion and morality are everywhere subverted. When fountains of immorality are opened at head-quarters, their poisonous influence speedily infects the whole nation (Hosea 4:5). They who are responsible for the subversion of righteousness in a state, must bear the penalty.
(3) Jehoram needed to hear no more. He saw at a glance the situation, and with a shout, "Treachery, O Ahaziah!" he turned and fled. But there was no grain of pity in Jehu. With fierce promptitude he seizes his bow, fits one arrow to the string, and, taking sure aim, smites the flying king right through the heart. Jehoram falls - is dead.
2. Blood for blood. The tragedy thus transacted was in the immediate neighborhood of Naboth's vineyard. On that very spot, or near it, Naboth's own blood had been shed (1 Kings 21:13), and, as this verse shows (ver. 26), not his alone, but the blood of his sons. Thither, after the murder, Ahab went down to take possession of the vineyard, and there, when he arrived, he found Elijah standing, waiting to denounce upon him the doom of blood. This was not all, for among those who rode with Ahab that day were two of his captains, one of them Bidkar, the other this Jehu, who heard the prophetic announcements against Ahab and his family (1 Kings 21:19-24). Ahab himself was subsequently spared, but the doom predicted against him had now fallen on his son: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine" (1 Kings 21:19). That prophecy, probably, had never altogether left the mind of Jehu, but now it came home to him with fresh force as he saw it actually fulfilled by his own hand. Bidkar, too, as it chanced, was there, and Jehu recalled to him the prophetic oracle. Then, to give it literal accomplishment, he bade Bidkar give orders that the corpse of Jehoram should be thrown into the plat of ground which formerly belonged to Naboth. Startling correspondences often thus occur between sin and its mode of punishment. When they occur in fiction, we speak of them as instances of "poetic justice." But poetry, in this as in other cases, is "unconscious philosophy," and is not opposed to truth. Its truth in such representations lies rather in seizing and bringing to light actual laws in the moral government of the world. There is a singular tendency in events in history to fold back on each other - even dates and places presenting a series of marvelous coincidences.
3. A partner in doom. The King of Judah had, the moment the alarm was given, sought his own safety. He fled "by the way of the garden house " - was it the "garden of herbs," into which Naboth's vineyard had been converted (1 Kings 21:2)? But in vain. The peremptory Jehu allows nothing to escape his vigilance, and immediately he is on Ahaziah's track. His command was, "Smite him also in the chariot," and this was done, "at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam." Ahaziah continued his flight to Megiddo, where he died. A slightly different account of the manner of his death is given in 2 Chronicles 22:9. Whatever the precise circumstances of the death, we cannot but see in it
(1) a righteous retribution for his own sins; and
(2) an example of the end of evil association.
Through his mother Athallah, daughter of Jezebel, he was brought into close and friendly relations with the court of Samaria, and, sharing in the crimes of Ahab's house, shared also in their fate. It was his visit to King Jehoram which immediately brought down this doom upon him,
III. THE FATE OF JEZEBEL.
1. Her daring defiance. When Jehoram had been slain, the end of Jezebel, the prime mover and presiding spirit in all the wickedness that had been wrought in Israel, could not be far distant. Jezebel perfectly apprehended this herself, for, on hearing that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she prepared to give him a defiant reception. While one loathes the character of the woman, it is impossible not to admire the boldness and spirit with which she faces the inevitable. Her proud, imperious nature comes out in her last actions. She paints her eyelids with antimony, tires her head, and adorns her person, as if she was preparing for some festal celebration. Then she plants herself at the window, and, when Jehu appears, assails him with bitter taunting words. "Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master's murderer?" she mockingly asked. What a power for evil this woman had been in Israel! What a power, with her strong intellect and will, she might have been for good!
2. Her ghastly end. If Jezebel thought, by this show of imperious defiance, to produce any effect on Jehu, perhaps to disarm him by sheer admiration of her boldness, she had mistaken the man. Jehu's impetuous nature was not to be thus shaken from its purpose. He quickly brought the scene to a conclusion. "Who is on my side? who?" he cried, lifting up his eyes to the windows. Two or three eunuchs, no friends of Jezebel, and anxious only to please the new ruler, gave the needful sign. "Throw her down," was the pitiless order; and in another instant the painted Jezebel was hurled from the palace window, and, dashed on the ground, was being trodden by the hoofs of the horses. Pitiless herself, she now met with no compassion. One who had shed much blood, and rejoiced in it, her own blood was now bespattered on the wall and on the horses. Jehu had no compunctions, but, fresh from the dreadful spectacle, entered the palace, and sat down to eat and drink. But the climax was yet to come. As if even he felt that, vengeance being now sated, some respect was due to one who had so long held sway in Israel, he bade his servants "Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for," he said, "she is a king's daughter." The servants went, but soon returned with a shocking tale. Attracted by the scent of blood, the prowling city dogs had found their way into the enclosure, and, short as the time had been, all that remained of haughty Jezebel was the skull, and feet, and palms of the hands, strewn about the court.
3. A prophecy fulfilled. Such was the dreadful end of this haughty, domineering, evil woman. Possibly even Jehu could not restrain a shudder when he heard of it. He had not thought of it before, but now he recalled the close of that awful prophecy of Elijah to Ahab, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" (1 Kings 21:23), the terms of which had been repeated to him by Elisha's messenger, (ver. 10). That word of God had been fulfilled with ghastly literalness. Would that men would lay to heart the lemon, and believe that all God's threatenings will be as certainly fulfilled! - J.O.
Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee?
Homilist.The man who was spoken of in this contemptuous manner was a prophet of God, sent by another prophet to a fellow-subject, with the present of a kingdom in his hand. Before night (so it appears) that kingdom had been secured; two con. federate kings had been swept out of the way; and a queen-mother, stronger than either, had been literally cast to the dogs. Such was the brief history of this message from heaven. No one called the prophet a madman at the close of that day. Many another true message from heaven has had a similar fate; and all such messages may expect it. They may expect a similar reproach in the first instance; and a similar vindication in the end.
I. CONCERNING THE REPROACH. God hath spoken at "sundry times and in divers manners" to the world; but the messengers by whom He has spoken have seldom been recognised as such at the first. From the days of Noah to those of St. Paul, experience testifies this. Wherever God sends a special message to men, it clearly must be because a special message is required; in other words, because the knowledge and wisdom of man are not sufficient in his then existing circumstances to guide him. God sends him counsel because his own counsel is worthless, or worse. But this is just the thing which man's pride is unwilling to allow. Again, God's counsel, like Himself, is certain to be holy; and man's natural purposes, on the other hand, are sure to be ungodly and sinful. Further yet, God's wisdom is sure to be far-sighted and profound, while the faculties which attempt to scan it are always short-sighted and shallow. On all these grounds, therefore, the message, when it comes, will be something unwelcome and perplexing at the first. Its pretensions will be humiliating to man's pride; its tendency will be offensive to his nature; its contents will be confounding to his mind. "I know you that ye have not the love of God in you." It is an aggravated illustration of the same principle which causes frivolity to despise enthusiasm; selfishness, generosity; the savage, mercy and truth; and the clown, the highest efforts of literature, science, and art. Men hate to believe in anything superior to themselves.
II. CONCERNING THE VINDICATION. "Wisdom is justified of all her children." Where a message is really from God, it compels belief at the last. This may be easily seen in all the cases already referred to. The flood of waters justified Noah; the fire from heaven justified Lot; the Exodus justified Moses; and the victory over the Philistines justified David. Exactly in proportion to the original contempt was the final honour in each case. It was the same with the apparently habitual scorn of all true prophecy in old days; true prophecy has long been fully revenged. Similar justice, also, has long been measured out to the once despised evangelists and apostles, and to that equally despised Master whom they obeyed. In proof of this you have only to consider that no greater praise can now be given to any man, than to say his conduct is truly apostolical, or his character really Christian. It is nothing that, in short, but the old proverb, "Magna est veritas, et praevalebit." A true message from heaven has heavenly resources behind it. It is like a bank with very large liabilities, but with assets much larger still. Consequently, whatever it dares, it can do; whatever the doubts, and surmises, and panic, it can meet them all with a smile. We may apply this as an excellent test of the various religions of the world. There are some that make no pretensions, that do not oppose men's desires, nor perplex their minds, nor offend their prejudices. That is condemnation enough by itself. God would hardly have sent us a message which we could have devised for ourselves. There are other religions which are all pretensions; which go on shouting for centuries that the Diana they worship is very great; and which are perpetually singing in chorus, We are right, and you are wrong, we are saved, and you are lost; but without any real proof of it all. Such religions offer no reason, and so require no reply. They are simply gigantic systems of self-praise; and it is no recommendation to them. These are not the marks of the true message — "If I honour myself, my honour is nothing."
PeopleAhab, Ahaziah, Ahijah, Aram, Baasha, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hazael, Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, Jehu, Jeroboam, Jezebel, Jezreel, Joram, Naboth, Nebat, Nimshi, Syrians, Zimri
PlacesBeth-haggan, Gur, Ibleam, Jerusalem, Jezreel, Megiddo, Ramoth-gilead, Syria
TopicsApproaching, Band, Company, Horseman, Jehu, Jehu's, Jezreel, Jizreel, Joram, Meet, Ordered, Peace, Rider, Spied, Standing, Stood, Tower, Troops, Watchman
Outline1. Elisha sends a young prophet with instructions to anoint Jehu at Ramoth Gilead
4. The prophet having done his message, flees
11. Jehu, being made king by the soldiers, kills Joram in the field of Naboth
27. Ahaziah is slain at Gur, and buried at Jerusalem
30. Proud Jezebel is thrown down out of a window, and eaten by dogs.
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Kings 9:17
The book of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions--its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.), …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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