We left Jehu in quiet possession of Jezreel, triumphing over Joram and Jezebel; and we must now attend his further motions. He knew the whole house of Ahab must be cut off, and therefore proceeded in this bloody work, and did not do it deceitfully, or by halves, Jer. 48:10.
I. He got the heads of all the sons of Ahab cut off by their own guardians at Samaria. Seventy sons (or grandsons) Ahab had, Gideon’s number, Jdg. 8:30. In such a number that bore his name his family was likely to be perpetuated, and yet it is extirpated all at once. Such a quiver full of arrows could not protect his house from divine vengeance. Numerous families, if vicious, must not expect to be long prosperous. These sons of Ahab were now at Samaria, a strong city, perhaps brought thither upon occasion of the war with Syria, as a place of safety, or upon notice of Jehu’s insurrection; with them were the rulers of Jezreel, that is, the great officers of the court, who went to Samaria to secure themselves or to consult what was to be done. Those of them that were yet under tuition had their tutors with them, who were entrusted with their education in learning, agreeable to their birth and quality, but, it is to be feared, brought them up in the idolatries of their father’s house and made them all worshippers of Baal. Jehu did not think fit to bring his forces to Samaria to destroy them, but, that the hand of God might appear the more remarkably in it, made their guardians their murderers. 1. He sent a challenge to their friends to stand by them, 2 Kgs. 10:2, 3. “You that are hearty well-wishers to the house of Ahab, and entirely in its interests, now is your time to appear for it. Samaria is a strong city; you are in possession of it; you have forces at command; you may choose out the likeliest person of all the royal family to head you; you know you are not tied to the eldest, unless he be the best and meetest of your master’s sons. If you have any spirit in you, show it, and set one of them on his father’s throne, and stand by him with your lives and fortunes.” Not that he desired they should do this, or expected they would, but thus he upbraided them with their cowardice and utter inability to contest with the divine counsels. “Do if you dare, and see what will come of it.” Those that have forsaken their religion have often, with it, lost both their sense and their courage, and deserve to be upbraided with it. 2. Hereby he gained from them a submission. They prudently reasoned with themselves: “Behold, two kings stood not before him, but fell as sacrifices to his rage; how then shall we stand?” 2 Kgs. 10:4. Therefore they sent him a surrender of themselves: “We are thy servants, thy subjects, and will do all that thou shalt bid us, right or wrong, and will set up nobody in competition with thee.” They saw it was to no purpose to contend with him, and therefore it was their interest to submit to him. With much more reason may we thus argue ourselves into a subjection to the great God. Many kings and great men have fallen before his wrath, for their wickedness; and how then shall we stand? Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? No, we must either bend or break. 3. This was improved so far as to make them the executioners of those whom they had the tuition of (2 Kgs. 10:6): If you be mine, bring me the heads of your master’s sons by to-morrow at this time. Though he knew it must be done, and was loth to do it himself, one would think he could not expect they should do it. Could they betray such a trust? Could they be cruel to their master’s sons? It seems, so low did they stoop in their adoration to the rising sun that they did it; they cut off the heads of those seventy princes, and sent them in baskets a present to Jehu, 2 Kgs. 10:7. Learn hence not to trust in a friend nor to put confidence in a guide not governed by conscience. One can scarcely expect that he who has been false to his God should ever be faithful to his prince. But observe God’s righteousness in their unrighteousness. These elders of Jezreel had been wickedly obsequious to Jezebel’s order for the murder of Naboth, 1 Kgs. 21:11. She gloried, it is likely, in the power she had over them; and now the same base spirit makes them as pliable to Jehu and as ready to obey his orders for the murder of Ahab’s sons. Let none aim at arbitrary power, lest they be found rolling a stone which, some time or other, will return upon them. Princes that make their people slaves take the readiest way to make them rebels; and by forcing men’s consciences, as Jezebel did, they lose their hold of them. When the separated heads were presented to Jehu, he slyly upbraided those that were the executioners of this vengeance. The heads were laid in two heaps at the gate, the proper place of judgment. There he acquitted the people before God and the world (2 Kgs. 10:9; You are righteous), and, by what the rulers of Samaria had now done, comparatively acquitted himself: “I slew but one; they have slain all these: I did it by conspiracy and with design; they have done this merely in compliance and with an implicit obedience. Let not the people of Samaria, nor any of the friends of the house of Ahab, ever reproach me for what I have done, when their own elders, and the very guardians of the orphans, have done this.” It is common for those who have done something base to attempt the mitigation of their own reproach by drawing others in to do something worse. But, (2.) He resolves all into the righteous judgment of God (2 Kgs. 10:10): The Lord hath done that which he spoke by Elijah. God is not the author of any man’s sin, but even by that which men do from bad principles God serves his own purposes and glorifies his own name; and he is righteous in that wherein men are unrighteous. When the Assyrian is made the rod of God’s anger, and the instrument of his justice, he meaneth not so, neither does his heart think so, Isa. 10:7.
II. He proceeded to destroy all that remained of the house of Ahab, not only those that descended from him, but those that were in any relation to him, all the officers of his household, ministers of state, and those in command under him, called here his great men (2 Kgs. 10:11), all his kinsfolks and acquaintance, who had been partners with him in his wickedness, and his priests, or domestic chaplains, whom he employed in his idolatrous services and who strengthened his hand that he should not turn from his evil way. Having done this in Jezreel, he did the same in Samaria (2 Kgs. 10:17), slew all that remained to Ahab in Samaria. This was bloody work, and is not now, in any case, to be drawn into a precedent. Let the guilty suffer, but not the guiltless for their sakes. Perhaps such terrible destructions as these were intended as types of the final destruction of all the ungodly. God has a sword, bathed in heaven, which will come down upon the people of his curse, and be filled with blood. Isa. 34:5, 6. Then his eye will not spare, neither will he pity.
III. Providence bringing the brethren of Ahaziah in his way, as he was going on with this execution, he slew them likewise, 2 Kgs. 10:12-14. The brethren of Ahaziah were slain by the Arabians (2 Chron. 22:1), but these were the sons of his brethren, as it is there explained (2 Kgs. 10:8), and they are said to be princes of Judah, and to minister to Ahaziah. Several things concurred to make them obnoxious to the vengeance Jehu was now executing. 1. They were branches of Ahab’s house, being descended from Athaliah, and therefore fell within his commission. 2. They were tainted with the wickedness of the house of Ahab. 3. They were now going to make their court to the princes of the house of Ahab, to salute the children of the king and the queen, Joram and Jezebel, which showed that they were linked to them in affection as well as in affinity. These princes, forty-two in number, being appointed as sheep for the sacrifice, were slain with solemnity, at the pit of the shearing-house. The Lord is known by these judgments which he executeth.