Pages 3-6, 12: spring 1991
AHAB, JEZEBEL, JEHU, AND THE BLOOD OF JEZREEL
There is apparently no limit to the far-fetched scenarios that Bible funda-
mentalists are willing to conjecture in defense of the inerrancy doctrine.
Jerry McDonald patently demonstrated this in his back-to-the-wall attempt to
explain away the obvious inconsistency that is seen in the juxtaposition of 2
Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4.
I say that the "blood of Jezreel" that Hosea referred to was Jehu's
slaughter of the royal families of Israel and Judah at Jezreel. McDonald says
that I am wrong, that the "blood of Jezreel" was a reference to the murder of
Naboth, which also occurred at Jezreel. Which one of us is right? The
answer is crucial to the matter now before us. If we can find the answer,
we will have determined whether there is a discrepancy in the Bible text.
A widely accepted rule of evidence states that when there are two or more
explanations for a mystery or phenomenon, the least incredible one is the
most likely solution. William of Occam, a 14th century English philosopher
and logician, enunciated this rule as a principle that has come to be known as
Occam's razor. By applying the rule, we should at least be able to establish
likeliness of truth in the blood- of-Jezreel dispute between McDonald and me.
In this case, we have two biblical passages in apparent conflict. One explana-
tion for the conflict states that it is exactly what it appears to be--a dis-
crepancy, an inconsistency, a contradiction. The other, proposed by Mr.
McDonald, is that the "blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to Jehu's
slaughter of the royal families but to Jezebel's murder of Naboth. Which of
the two explanations provides the least incredible and hence the more likely
solution to the problem? In other words, which of the two explanations is
better suited to pass the test of Occam's razor?
The facts (as related in 1 Kings 21) in the matter of Naboth are as
McDonald related them, except for one important thing. The curse that Elijah
pronounced on the house of Ahab originally included a death sentence for
Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you
away, and will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him that
is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel: and I will make
your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like
the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation with
which you have provoked me to anger, and have made Israel to
sin.... He that dies of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and
he that dies in the field shall the birds of the heavens eat (1
Kings 21:21-24, Bethel Bible).
Upon hearing the curse, Ahab immediately rent his clothes, put on sackcloth,
and fasted. Because of his repentance, Yahweh, in typical Yahwistic fashion,
said that he would not bring the evil upon Ahab in his days but "in his son's
day will I bring the evil upon his house" (1 Kings 21:29). In other words,
Yahweh was going to punish someone else for what Ahad had done.
At any rate, this was the event that Mr. McDonald sees as the "blood of
Jezreel" that was later condemned by the prophet Hosea (1:4). One man--and
possibly his sons (2 Kings 9:26)--was murdered unjustly. How did this act
of murder compare to Jehu's infamous deeds at Jezreel?
As related in my other article (Spring 1990), Jehu led an armed force
against Jezreel while Ahaziah, the king of Judah, was visiting King Joram.
Both kings, who had ridden out to meet Jehu in peace, were immediately
killed by Jehu (2 Kings 9:21-28). Upon entering the city, Jehu ordered that
Jezebel be thrown from the rampart of the wall. Then he systematically
began a blood bath that dwarfed anything that could be attributed to Ahab
and Jezebel in the matter of Naboth. Jehu gave the elders of Jezreel the
choice of fighting for a new king that they would crown from one of the sons
of Joram or else delivering to him the heads of all seventy sons by the next
morning. When the heads were delivered to Jehu in baskets, he ordered that
they be laid in two heaps at the entrance of the gate (10:1-10). He then
killed "all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great
men, and his familiar friends, and his priests, until he had left him none
Jehu then left for Samaria, where en route he met forty-two of Ahaziah's
brothers, who were on their way to greet the king. Jehu gave his men
orders to take them alive, then kill them, and cast their bodies into a shear-
ing-house cistern (10:12-14). On his arrival at Samaria, he "smote all that
remained unto Ahab in Samaria" (10:17), but still he wasn't finished. Under
the pretense of wanting to sacrifice to the god Baal, he lured all of the
priests and worshippers of Baal into the house of Baal, offered his sacrifice,
and then ordered his men to kill everyone in the temple to rid the land of
Baal worship (10:18-28).
By sheer force of numbers, what Jehu did is a far more reasonable event
to associate with Hosea's reference to the "blood of Jezreel" than is Ahab's
murder of Naboth. In the latter case, only one man's blood was shed; in the
other, there is no accurate way even to estimate the number of people who
were murdered. Two kings, Jezebel, 70 sons, 42 brothers-- these alone to-
taled 115. But how can we determine how many were included in "all that
remained of the house of Ahab, all his great men, his familiar friends, and
his priests" (10:11)? How can we know how many Jehu killed "that remained
unto Ahab in Samaria" (10:17)? And how can we even estimate how many
priests and worshippers of Baal were slaughtered in the temple massacre
(10:25-28)? The blood that Jehu shed at Jezreel flowed from hundreds,
possibly even thousands; the blood that Ahab shed at Jezreel flowed from
only one--Naboth. In this respect, the test of Occam's razor obviously
favors Jehu's slaughter.
In addition to this is the clear fact that Hosea specifically said that the
"blood of Jezreel" would be avenged upon the house of Jehu (1:4). Now why
would Yahweh avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu if the
blood of Jezreel referred to Naboth's blood that Ahab and Jezebel were re-
sponsible for shedding? There is no textual evidence to indicate that Jehu
was involved in the conspiracy to kill Naboth or even present when Naboth
was stoned to death. Neither was Jehu a descendant or relative of Ahab.
The descendants of Ahab and the descendants of Jehu were two entirely
separate "houses" or lineages. Doesn't it make sense that, in Hosea's mind,
the "blood of Jezreel" was to be avenged on the house of Jehu because the
blood to be avenged was the very blood that Jehu was responsible for shed-
ding? Clearly, then, the test of Occam's razor favors Jehu's slaughter on this
Furthermore, the blood of Naboth had already been avenged when Hosea
pronounced judgment upon the house of Jehu. Elijah told Ahab that, for his
conduct in the matter of Naboth's vineyard, the dogs would lick his blood in
the same place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth. That part of Elijah's
prophesy was fulfilled in 1 Kings 22:38 when dogs licked up the blood that
was washed from Ahab's chariot after his death, even though Yahweh had
earlier said that, because of Ahab's repentance, he would "not bring the evil
in his (Ahab's) day; but in his son's day will I bring the evil upon his
house" (1 Kings 21:29). This is just a problem incidental to the matter in
question that we will let Mr. McDonald wonder about as he ponders all the
other difficulties he must resolve in order to explain away this discrepancy.
Elijah had also warned that dogs would eat the flesh of Jezebel by the
rampart of Jezreel. When nothing was found but Jezebel's skull, feet, and
hands after Jehu ordered her thrown down from the rampart upon his entry
into the city, it was specifically said that this had been done in fulfillment of
Elijah's prophecy (2 Kings 9:36-37). So both events (the dogs licking up
Ahab's blood and eating Jezebel's flesh) were presumably done to fulfill Eli-
jah's prophecy, a prophecy that concerned the avenging of Naboth's blood.
The third and final part of Elijah's prophecy was the utter destruction of
the house of Ahab, and the writer of 2 Kings obviously viewed Jehu as an
agent of Yahweh who had been sent to carry out this part of the prophecy.
Even the "son of the prophets" whom Elisha had sent to anoint Jehu king
over Israel said during the ceremony that Jehu had been chosen to execute
judgment against the house of Ahab:
In this manner says Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel, I have
anointed you king over the people of Yahweh, even over Israel.
And you shall destroy the house of Ahab your master, that I may
avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of
all the servants of Yahweh, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole
house of Ahab shall perish; and I will cut off from Ahab every
man-child, and him that is shut up and him that is left at large
in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of
Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son
of Ahijah (2 Kings 9:6-9, Bethel Bible).
After he had killed King Joram (Ahab's son), Jehu gave orders to his captain
that clearly indicated he viewed his actions at Jezreel as fulfillment of Eli-
jah's prophecy and avengement of the blood of Naboth:
Take up, and cast him in the portion of the field of Naboth
the Jezreelite; for remember how that, when you and I rode
together after Ahab his father, Yahweh laid this burden upon
him: Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the
blood of his sons, says Yahweh; and I will requite you in this
plot, says Yahweh. Now therefore take and cast him into the
plot of ground, according to the word of Yahweh (2 Kings 9:25-
26, Bethel Bible).
After ordering the decapitation of Joram's seventy sons, Jehu said in a
speech to the people of Jezreel, "Know now that there shall fall to the earth
nothing of the word of Yahweh, which Yahweh spoke concerning the house of
Ahab: for Yahweh has done that which he spoke by his servant EliYah" (2
Kings 10:10, Bethel Bible).
To the writer of 2 Kings, then, vengeance for the blood of Naboth was
completed by Jehu's actions at Jezreel. As predicted by Elijah, the dogs had
already licked the blood of Ahab, and now, with Jehu acting as Yahweh's
agent, Jezebel was thrown to the dogs from the rampart of Jezreel and the
entire house of Ahab was massacred. The house of Ahab had indeed become
"like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha
the son of Ahijah" (1 Kings 21:22). With all of this having come to pass,
Yahweh had extracted from the house of Ahab all the vengeance that was
humanly or even Yahwistically possible. What else could have been done on
earth to punish Ahab and his family for the shedding of Naboth's blood?
After both Ahab and his wife had died horrible deaths and then every last
one of Ahab's descendants (sons, grandsons, all that remained of the house
of Ahab, and even familiar friends) had also been killed, what possible action
could anyone have then taken to further avenge the blood of Naboth?
According to Mr. McDonald, there was yet one more thing that Yahweh
could do to avenge the blood of Naboth. He could punish the house of Jehu
for Naboth's murder. Jehu had nothing to do with Naboth's murder, yet for
some reason (known only to the omniscient inscrutable one himself), Yahweh
was going to bring the blood of Naboth down upon the house of Jehu. Now
that is exactly what McDonald wants us to believe. But who can believe it? I
have heard of double jeopardy, but this is ridiculous.
When all details of the two actions at Jezreel (Jezebel's and then later
Jehu's) are objectively considered, which of the two is more likely the one
Hosea had in mind when he said, "yet a little while, and I will avenge the
blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu"? In every respect and from any
angle the events are examined, Jehu's slaughter of the house of Ahab at
Jezreel passes the test of Occam's razor more readily than Jezebel's murder of
Mr. McDonald accused me of not reading the two passages (2 Kings 10:30
and Hosea 1:4) very carefully; however, he is the one who needs to read
them more carefully. For the blood that was shed at Jezreel, Hosea pro-
nounced judgment upon the house of Jehu, NOT the house of Ahab. By what
standard of fairness would judgment be pronounced upon the house of Jehu
for something that had been done by the house of Ahab? That's a question
Mr. McDonald should think about.
As previously noted, judgment was pronounced upon the house of Ahab
because of Jezebel's murder of Naboth, but because of Ahab's repentance,
enactment of that judgment was delayed: "Do you see how Ahab humbles
himself before me? Because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring
the evil in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the evil upon his
house" (1 Kings 21:29). What Jehu did at Jezreel was done after the days of
Ahab (who at that time was dead) but in the days of Ahab's son (Joram).
To the writer(s) of 2 Kings, then, Elijah's prophecy was a closed book; the
blood of Naboth had been avenged by Jehu whom the writer(s) obviously
viewed as a chosen vessel to execute Yahweh's judgment against Ahab. After
the carnage that Jehu wreaked at Jezreel, Ahab didn't have a son left for
"the evil" spoken of in 1 Kings 21:29 to be brought upon. McDonald must
therefore admit that Jehu's actions at Jezreel fulfilled Elijah's prophecy and
thereby avenged the blood of Naboth or he must say that Elijah's prophecy
failed for lack of a son of Ahab to bring "the evil" upon. He finds himself in
a predicament that Bible inerrantists often become trapped in: the invention
of a far-fetched, how-it-could-have-been scenario to "explain" away one
problem leaves them with another one just as serious.
So the problem has not gone away. Yahweh himself praised Jehu for his
bloody deeds at Jezreel:
And Yahweh said to Jehu, because you have done well in
executing that which is right in my eyes, and have done to the
house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons
of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel" (2
Kings 10:30, Bethel Bible).
A statement in 2 Kings 15:12 indicates that Yahweh had allowed four
generations of the house of Jehu, from Jehoahaz to Zechariah, to reign over
Israel in order to fulfill Yahweh's promise to Jehu. Obviously, then, the
writer(s) of 2 Kings believed that Jehu had served (See JEHU. p. 12)
Yahweh and done his will in massacring the house of Ahab at Jezreel. If that
is so, why would Hosea, presumably another Yahwistically inspired writer,
later pronounce judgment upon the house of Jehu for the Jezreel massacre?
That is what McDonald did not and cannot explain.
He had much to say about the "figurative" language in Hosea (Hosea's
son represented this, his daughter represented that, etc.), but his interpre-
tations were purely arbitrary. He gave no textual proof whatsoever to sup-
port them. Everything in some way referred to the evil old king Zechariah,
yet Zechariah's name wasn't even mentioned in the entire book of Hosea. The
truth is that not much of anything was said about Zechariah in the Bible.
His entire reign lasted only six months and was described in just four verses
(2 Kings 15:8-11). McDonald spoke of "the innocent blood that was shed by
the wicked king Zachariah" (p. 3), but the Bible says nothing about this.
In fact, Zechariah's own blood was shed by a political assassin.
So McDonald has no textual proof whatsoever to support his fanciful
interpretation. To get out of the hole he has dug himself into, he will have
to beat that.
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