Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
4 Kings (2 Kings)
Jehu sends an ironical letter to the elders of Samaria, telling them to choose one of the best of their master's sons, and put him on the throne; to which they return a submissive answer, Kg2 10:1-6. He writes a second letter, and orders them to send him the heads of Ahab's seventy sons; they do so, and they are laid in two heaps at the gate of Jezreel, Kg2 10:7, Kg2 10:8. Jehu shows them to the people, and excuses himself, and states that all is done according to the word of the Lord, Kg2 10:9, Kg2 10:10. He destroys all the kindred of Ahab that remained in Jezreel, Kg2 10:11. He also destroys forty-two men, the brethren of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Kg2 10:12-14. He meets with Jehonadab, and takes him with him in his chariot, Kg2 10:15, Kg2 10:16. He comes to Samaria, and destroys all that were of the kindred of Ahab there, Kg2 10:17. He pretends a great zeal for the worship of Baal, and gathers all his priests together, under the pretense of a grand sacrifice, and slays them all, Kg2 10:18-25. He burns Baal's images, and makes his temple a draught house, Kg2 10:26-28. But he does not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, and does not prosper, Kg2 10:29-31. Hazael vexes Israel, Kg2 10:32, Kg2 10:33. Jehu dies, having reigned over Israel, in Samaria, twenty-eight years, Kg2 10:34-36.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:1
Ahab had seventy sons - As he had several wives, he might have many children. The Israelites, from the earliest part of their history, were remarkably fruitful. How amazingly did they multiply in Egypt, even under the hand of the severest oppression! And as to the individuals of whose families we have an account, they are quite remarkable: Rehoboam had thirty-eight sons; Abdon had forty; Tola had thirty; Ahab, seventy; and Gideon, seventy-one.
Unto the rulers of Jezreel - It certainly should be, unto the rulers of Samaria; for to them and to that city the whole context shows us the letters were sent. See Kg2 10:6.
To them that brought up Ahab's children - It appears that the royal children of Israel and Judah were intrusted to the care of the nobles, and were brought up by them, (see Kg2 10:6); and to these, therefore, Jehu's letters are directed. It is supposed Isaiah (Isa 49:23) alludes to this custom: Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:2
A fenced city also - All here seems to refer to Samaria alone; in it were the magazines and implements of war, etc. No reader need be told that these letters were all ironical. It was the same as if he had said, "Ye have no means of defense; Israel is with me: if you yield not up yourselves and the city, I will put you all to the sword.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:4
Two kings stood not before him - That is Joram and Ahaziah.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:5
He that was over the house, etc. - Thus all the constituted authorities agreed to submit.
Will do all that thou shalt bid us - They made no conditions, and stood pledged to commit the horrid murders which this most execrable man afterwards commanded.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:6
Come to me to Jezreel - Therefore the letters were not written to Jezreel, but from Jezreel to Samaria.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:7
Put their heads in baskets - What cold-blooded wretches were the whole of these people!
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:8
Lay ye them in two heaps - It appears that the heads of these princes had arrived at Jezreel in the night time: Jehu ordered them to be left at the gate of the city, a place of public resort, that all the people might see them, and be struck with terror, and conclude that all resistance to such authority and power would be vain.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:9
Ye be righteous - Another irony, intended partly to excuse himself, and to involve them in the odium of this massacre, and at the same time to justify the conduct of both, by showing that all was done according to the commandment of the Lord.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:11
Jehu slew all - So it appears that the great men who had so obsequiously taken off the heads of Ahab's seventy sons, fell also a sacrifice to the ambition of this incomparably bad man.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:12
The shearing house - Probably the place where the shepherds met for the annual sheep shearing.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:13
The brethren of Ahaziah - The relatives of his family; for it does not appear that he had any brethren, properly so called: but we know that the term brethren among the Jews signified the relatives of the same family, and especially brothers' and sisters' children: and that these were such, see Ch2 22:8.
We go down to salute, etc. - So promptly had Jehu executed all his measures, that even the nearest relatives of the murdered kings had not heard of their death, and consequently had no time to escape. They were all taken as in a net.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:14
The pit of the shearing house - Probably the place where they washed the sheep previously to shearing, or the fleeces after they were shorn off.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:15
Jehonadab the son of Rechab - For particulars concerning this man, his ancestry, and posterity, see the notes on Jeremiah 35 (note).
Is thine heart right - With me, in the prosecution of a reform in Israel; as my heart is with thy heart in the true religion of Jehovah, and the destruction of Baal?
It is - I wish a reform in the religion of the country; I am his friend who shall endeavor to promote it.
Give me thine hand - This has been generally considered as exacting a promise from Jehonadab; but does it mean any more than his taking him by the hand, to help him to step into his chariot, in which Jehu was then sitting? Jehonadab was doubtless a very honorable man in Israel; and by carrying him about with him in his chariot, Jehu endeavored to acquire the public esteem. "Jehu must be acting right, for Jehonadab is with him, and approves his conduct."
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:16
Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord - O thou ostentatious and murderous hypocrite! Thou have zeal for Jehovah and his pure religion! Witness thy calves at Dan and Bethel, and the general profligacy of thy conduct. He who can call another to witness his zeal for religion, or his works of charity, has as much of both as serves his own turn.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:18
Ahab served Baal a little - Jehu had determined to have no worship in Israel but that of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel; therefore he purposes to destroy all the worshippers of Baal: and that he may do it without suspicion, he proclaims a great sacrifice; and that he may do it the more easily, he gathers them all together into one place.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:19
Whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live - Because, as he will thereby show himself without zeal for the service of his God, he will justly forfeit his life. All this was done in the very spirit of deceit.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:22
He said unto him that was over the vestry - The word vestry comes from vestiarium, and that from vestes, garments, from vestio, I clothe; and signifies properly the place where the sacerdotal robes and pontifical ornaments are kept. The priests of Baal had their robes as well as the priests of the Lord; but the garments were such that one could be easily distinguished from the other.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:23
None of the servants of the Lord - Though he was not attached to that service, yet he would tolerate it; and as he was led to suppose that he was fulfilling the will of Jehovah in what he was doing, he would of course treat his worship and worshippers with the more respect.
He might have ordered the search to be made on pretense of expelling any of those whom they would consider the profane, especially as this was "a solemn assembly for Baal," as was the custom with the heathen when any extraordinary exhibition of or for their god was expected; thus Callimachus, (Hymn to Apollo), after imagining the temple and its suburbs to be shaken by the approach of Apollo, cries out, Εκας, ἑκας, ὁστις, αλιτρος. To prevent any suspicion of his real design, such might have been Jehu's plea, else alarm must have been excited, and perhaps some would have escaped.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:25
As soon as he had made an end of offering - Had Jehu been a man of any conscientious principle in religion, he would have finished the tragedy before he offered the burnt-offering; but to a man of no religion, the worship of Jehovah and of Baal are alike. If he prefers either, it is merely as a statesman, for political purposes.
To the guard and to the captains - לרצים ולשלשים leratsim uleshalashim; to the couriers or runners, and the shalashim, the men of the third rank, those officers who were next to the nobles, the king and these being only their superiors. The runners were probably a sort of light infantry.
The city of the house of Baal - Does not this mean a sort of holy of holies, where the most sacred images of Baal were kept? A place separated from the temple of Baal, as the holy of holies in the temple of Jehovah was separated from what was called the holy place.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:27
Made it a draught house - A place for human excrement; so all the versions understand it. Nothing could be more degrading than this; he made it a public necessary.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:30
Thy children of the fourth generation - These four descendants of Jehu were Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam the second, and Zechariah; see 2 Kings 14 and 15. This was all the compensation Jehu had in either world, as a recompense of his zeal for the Lord.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:31
Jehu took no heed - He never made it his study; indeed, he never intended to walk in this way; it neither suited his disposition nor his politics.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:32
The Lord began to cut Israel short - The marginal reading is best: The Lord cut off the ends; and this he did by permitting Hazael to seize on the coasts, to conquer and occupy the frontier towns. This was the commencement of those miserable ravages which Elisha predicted; see Kg2 8:12. And we find from the next verse that he seized on all the land of Gilead, and that of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh; in a word, whatever Israel possessed on the east side of Jordan.
4 Kings (2 Kings) 10:34
Are they not written in the book of the chronicles - We have no chronicles in which there is any thing farther spoken of this bad man. His reign was long, twenty-eight years; and yet we know nothing of it but the commencement.
For barbarity and hypocrisy Jehu has few parallels; and the cowardliness and baseness of the nobles of Samaria have seldom been equalled. Ahab's bloody house must be cut off; but did God ever design that it should be done by these means? The men were, no doubt, profligate and wicked, and God permitted their iniquity to manifest itself in this way; and thus the purpose of God, that Ahab's house should no more reign, was completely accomplished: see Kg1 21:19, Kg1 21:21, Kg1 21:29. And by this conduct Jehu is said to have executed what was right in God's eyes, Kg2 10:30. The cutting off of Ahab's family was decreed by the Divine justice; the means by which it was done, or at least the manner of doing, were not entirely of his appointing: yet the commission given him by the young prophet, Kg2 9:7, was very extensive. Yet still many things seem to be attributed to God, as the agent, which he does not execute, but only permits to be done.