Around 886 BC, when the reformer Jehu arose, Baal worship was at its worst. Israel had lost its uniqueness. In the northern kingdom, Ahab had married Jezebel from Tyre and introduced all sorts of pagan worship into Israel. His son Joram was now on the throne. In the southern kingdom of Judah, Jehoram had married the daughter of Jezebel, bringing Baal worship into Judah. His son Ahaziah was on the throne. They were together in Israel when the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu with the mission of putting an end to Baal worship.
Jehu, the commander turned king, was very zealous. He killed Joram, Ahaziah, Jezebel, Ahab’s seventy sons, and all the priests of Baal. For those who are against the death penalty, this may seem like cruel and unusual punishment. For those who believe in justice, however, there are many reasons to consider it fair and well-deserved justice.
- As Creator, God owns everything and determines its purpose.
- Israel was redeemed by God and belonged to him more than anything else in the world.
- Israel made a covenant with God, a binding contract, by which it promised to keep the law and only worship Jehovah.
- The people knew the consequences of breaking the covenant when they agreed to it.
- Pagan worship violates the basic laws of humanity, such as the sanctity of life, so it should have troubled their consciences.
- Leaders, i.e., kings and priests, had a higher level of responsibility to know and do what is right.
- God sent prophets over and over to warn Israel, and especially its leaders.
- Prior leaders such as Ahab had been punished and repented. This was family history, so they could not plead ignorance.
- God had been patient and long-suffering for 89 years, since Jeroboam’s rebellion, and 605 years since the law was first given. There is far more love to be seen here than justice.
Jehu merely did what he was told by the prophet and what was right. He wiped out Baal from Israel. Unfortunately, he didn’t go far enough, because he kept the two golden calves that Jeroboam had set up. It would have been so easy to go a step further and destroy the idols, but his national pride must have stepped in. It was such a pity that he began a reform and failed to finish it.
Because Jehu kept the two calves in play, the prophet declared, “your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel” (2 Kings 10:30). That was good, but it could have been so much better. Another prophet had promised much more to Jeroboam if he had fully complied with the covenant. God had promised, “I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David” (1 Kings 11:38). Either one of these kings could have had a never-ending legacy of children on the throne. Jehu could have been the head of a dynasty. He came short by just two calves. What a shame!