JEHU (jē'hū, Heb. yēhû’, probably Jehovah is he)
JEHU je’ hu (יֵה֔וּא, LXX ̓Ιου, Assyrian Jaua, it is Jah [who is God], in witness against polytheism [Noth, Israelitische Personennamen 15ff., 143; for the form, see Elihu; Abihu]). The name of a Judahite prophet, of an Israelite king, a member of a clan of Jerahmeel (
Jehu ben Hanani
He was a prophet (
Jehu ben Jehoshaphat ben Nimshi
He was a commander in the Israelite army who accepted the divine commission through Elisha to take over the royal office, avenge the persecution of Yahwists, and extirpate Phoen. Baal worship from Israel (
At this juncture, a young emissary arrived from the community of prophets in the Jordan valley, of which Elisha was head. As directed by Elisha, he requested a private interview with Jehu, and commissioned him in the name of the Lord to avenge the murder of Yahwist prophets on the Omride dynasty and to take over the kingdom. To confirm his message, he anointed Jehu on the spot. Jehu’s fellow officers, on hearing this, rallied immediately and proclaimed him king.
This passage begins by restating that Jehu rebelled against Jehoram while the latter was in Jezreel recovering from a war wound. Jehu requested his colleagues to prevent anyone else from leaving Ramoth while he went to Jezreel in his chariot (prob. with a small guard, as inferred in Jos. Antiq. IX. vi. 3).
As Jehu approached Jezreel, he detained two scouts who were sent to question him, which prob. gave Jehoram the impression that he wanted to confer privately. Puzzled by his commander’s presence and behavior, and perhaps fearing that something extraordinary had happened at Ramoth, Jehoram went with Ahaziah to meet him. Jehu was waiting by the royal garden that Ahab had obtained by the death of Naboth; he may already have been thinking of the scandal and of Elijah’s condemnation of it, which he had witnessed when he was a young officer (
In view of the family loyalty characteristic of Sem. people, Jehu could only secure his hold by extirpating Ahab’s family; his problem was to do so and yet avoid the odium of sole responsibility for the blood bath. He wrote to the governors of the royal household at Samaria, offering them the choice of putting up a successor to the throne (and taking the consequences) or pledging their submission with the heads of Jehoram’s children and young relatives. They took the latter course, enabling Jehu to point to the evidence and deny responsibility. The number of victims is given as seventy, which may be conventional (Cooke NSI, LXII, pp. 171ff., cites a parallel example from Zenjirli in N Syria), but there were enough to make “two heaps” (
In Samaria, Jehu completed his purge of the Omride family and partisans. The next objective, to break the grip of Phoen. culture and religion, was gained by stratagem. He announced that he would adopt Baalism with even more fervor than Ahab, proclaiming an assembly in the temple of Baal to celebrate his accession; when the ceremony was fairly under way, he sent in his guards to massacre the Baalists. Although some scholars (GVI) can scarcely believe that Jehu was accepted as a Baalist, there is reason enough for his coup to be seen first as an army revolt or possibly social in character (see  below). Yahwism was thus reestablished as the official religion; but further reform stopped, not touching the cult of Bethel and Dan, nor were the older forms of Baalism abandoned (see Hosea).
Jehu reigned for twenty-eight years (
Assyrian activity faded out as their attention was engaged first by Urartu, then by civil war. Hazael, regaining his strength, went on to occupy the country E of Jordan (see
Jehu failed to keep his early promise, both in religious zeal and in leadership. One can only guess whether he found the problems too big, or succumbed to the deeper temptations of the society that he had set out to purge. Certainly, he was gifted with courage, even audacity, and a power of command. His name, and his father’s, indicate a conservative background, which helps to explain his readiness to do Elisha’s bidding. His association with Jehonadab the Rechabite is unquestionably significant. J. Morgenstern (HUCA XV , pp. 230-248), who finds the significance sinister, claims that Jehonadab brought Elisha’s directions for the religious purge, which he sees as a follow through from Asa’s reforms (fifty-eight years earlier). It is more probable, as W. F. Albright suggests, that the support of the pastoral Rechabite leader stemmed from hatred of civilized society, which had brought poverty to the country and also discontent to the militia, as well as frustration to a part at any rate of the officers (The Biblical Period, p. 36). Jezebel miscalculated when she compared Jehu to Zimri; this time, the army did not react.
Socially, the episode may be seen as a revolt against the abuses of wealth. It could not touch the roots of the problem; as prosperity returned, so did the abuse, as observed in the prophecy of Amos in the next cent. In divine providence, Israel was saved on the brink of desperate peril and utter rejection of the Lord, and given yet another opportunity of repentance.
The purge, as Morgenstern points out, seriously weakened the upper class and therefore the army. This, however, only partly explains the failure to withstand Hazael; the stories of Elisha record dramatic reversals of position in wars between Ben-hadad and Jehoram. The apparent lethargy of Jehu’s reign is still an enigma.
E. Kraeling, Aram and Israel (1918), 73-84; A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (1923), 139; History of Palestine and Syria (1931), 398.; Sumer, VII (1951), 11; J. Montgomery, Kings ICC (1951); J. Pritchard, ANET2 (1955), 278, 281; D. W. Thomas (ed.), Documents of OT Times (1958), 46-49; H. Tadmor, IEJ, XII (1962), 114ff.; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1962), 158ff.; B. Mazar, BA, XXV (1962), 113f.; J. Gray, Kings (1964); E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers2 (1965), 64-72; Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible (1966), 309-311; J. Miller, JBL, LXXVI (1967), 285ff.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Son of Jehoshaphat, and descendant of Nimshi, hence, commonly called "the son of Nimshi"; 10th king of Israel, and founder of its IVth Dynasty. Jehu reign for 28 years. His accession may be reckoned at circa 752 BC (some date a few years later).
1. Officer of Ahab:
A soldier of fortune, Jehu appears first as an officer in the body-guard of Ahab. To himself we owe the information that he was present at the judicial murder of Naboth, and that Naboth’s sons were put to death with their father (
2. Jehoram at Ramoth-gilead and Jezreel:
A different fate awaited Ahab’s two sons. The elder, Ahaziah, died, after a short reign, from the effects of an accident (
3. The Anointing of Jehu:
The time was now ripe for the execution of the predicted vengeance on the house of Ahab, and to Elisha the prophet, the successor of Elijah, it fell to take the decisive step which precipitated the crisis. Hazael and Jehu had already been named to Elijah as the persons who were to execute the Divine judgment, the one as king of Syria, the other as king of Israel (
4. The Revolution--Death of Jehoram:
Events now moved rapidly. Jehu’s companions were naturally eager to know what had happened, and on learning that Jehu had been anointed king, they at once improvised a throne by throwing their garments on the top of some steps, blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, "Jehu is king." Not a moment was lost. No one was permitted to leave the city to carry forth tidings, and Jehu himself, with characteristic impetuosity, set out, with a small body of horsemen, in his chariot to Jezreel. Bidkar was there as charioteer (
5. Death of Jezebel:
The slaughter of Jehoram was at once followed by that of the chief instigator of all the crimes for which the house of Ahab suffered--the queen-mother Jezebel. Hot from the pursuit of Ahaziah, Jehu pressed on Jezreel. Jezebel, now an aged woman, but still defiant, had painted and attired herself, and, looking from her window, met him as he drove into the palace court, with the insulting question, "Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master’s murderer?" (compare
6. Slaughter of Ahab’s Descendants:
The next acts of Jehu reveal yet more clearly his thoroughness of purpose and promptitude of action, while they afford fresh exhibitions of his ruthlessness and unscrupulousness of spirit. Samaria was the capital of the kingdom, and headquarters of the Baal-worship introduced by Jezebel, though it is recorded of Jehoram that he had removed, at least temporarily, an obelisk of Baal which his father had set up (
7. Slaughter of Ahaziah’s Brethren:
Apart from the faultiness in the agent’s motive, the deeds now recounted fell within the letter of Jehu’s commission. As much cannot be said of the deeds of blood that follow. Jehu had killed Ahaziah, king of Judah. Now, on his way to Samaria, he met a company of 42 persons, described as "brethren of Ahaziah"--evidently blood-relations of various degrees, as Ahaziah’s own brethren had been earlier slain by the Arabians (
8. Massacre of the Worshippers of Baal:
Still less can the craft and violence be condoned by which, when he reached Samaria, Jehu evinced his "zeal for Yahweh" (
9. Wars with Hazael:
The history of Jehu in the Bible is chiefly the history of his revolution as now narrated. His reign itself is summed up in a few verses, chiefly occupied with the attacks made by Hazael, king of Syria, on the trans-Jordanic territories of Israel (
10. Assyrian Notices:
It is in another direction, namely, to the annals of Assyria, we have to look for any further information we possess on the reign of Jehu In these annals, fortunately, some interesting notices are preserved. In 854 BC was fought the great battle of Qarqar (a place between Aleppo and Hamath), when Shalmaneser II, king of Assyria, defeated a powerful combination formed against him (Damascus, Hamath, Philistia Ammon, etc.). Among the allies on this occasion is mentioned "Ahabbu of Sir’-ilaa," who took the third place with 2,000 chariots and 10,000 footmen. There is a difficulty in supposing Ahab to have been still reigning as late as 854, and Wellhausen, Kamphausen and others have suggested that Ahab’s name has been confused with that of his successor Jehoram in the Assyrian annals. Kittel, in his History of the Hebrews (II, 233, English translation) is disposed to accept this view. G. Smith, in his Assyrian Eponym Canon (179), is of the opinion that the tribute lists were often carelessly compiled and in error as to names. The point of interest is that from this time Israel was evidently a tributary of Assyria.
11. Tribute of Jehu:
With this accord the further notices of Israel in the inscriptions of Shalmaneser II, two in number. Both belong to the year 842 BC and relate to Jehu. On Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk is a pictorial representation of "the tribute of Jehu, son of Omri." An ambassador kneels before the conqueror, and presents his gifts. They include silver, gold, a gold cup, gold vessels, a golden ladle, lead, a staff for the king’s hand, scepters. An allusion to the same event occurs in the annals of Shalmaneser’s campaign against Hazael of Syria in this year. "At that time I received the tribute of the Tyrians, Sidonians, of Jehu, son of Omri."
There are some indications that in his latter years, which were clouded with misfortune, Jehu associated with himself his son Jehoahaz in the government (compare
The character of Jehu is apparent from the acts recorded of him. His energy, determination, promptitude, and zeal fitted him for the work he had to do. It was rough work, and was executed with relentless thoroughness. Probably gentler measures would have failed to eradicate Baal-worship from Israel. His impetuosity was evinced in his furious driving (
W. Shaw Caldecott