23 September 2011

"Jehu drew his bow with all his strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart; and he sank in his chariot." (v. 24)


The plot to kill Joram, part 2.

Previously on TPTKJ ... Elisha the prophet has plotted the downfall of Joram, king of Israel, as a punishment for the wickedness of his parents, Ahab and Jezebel. Jehu, a great warrior and commander of Israel's army, and now secretly anointed as king, drives his chariot "like a maniac" (v. 20) to Jezreel to complete his mission.

As he noisily approaches, Joram gets anxious and sends horsemen to find out what Jehu intends. Sensibly, knowing Jehu's reputation, they join his company and ride with him to meet Jehu, who has been joined by his brother-in-law, King Ahaziah of Judah - perhaps both fearing a threat to the family dynasty. They have no choice but to ride out to meet Jehu's challenge, and their fears are confirmed when they realise that Jehu has chosen Naboth's vineyard for the showdown. This was where one of the most notorious episodes in the reign of Ahab took place (see 1 Kings 21) - the cold-blooded murder of Naboth that was arranged by Jezebel so Ahab could get his land, resulting in the prophet Elijah pronouncing a blood-curdling curse. This was really not a good place to meet, especially when Jezebel is still very much alive and still notorious for her active involvement in the sexually-charged cult of Baal. Joram, fearing the worst, turns and flees and top speed, crying "Treason!" (v. 23). Jehu calmly shoots him in the back, killing him instantly, and dumps his corpse on Naboth's land. Ahaziah tries to escape, but he too is shot and fatally wounded, and subsequently buried in Jerusalem.

Not surprisingly, news of this reaches Jezebel back at Jezreel. Perhaps hoping to save herself by seducing Jehu, or more likely as a final act of defiance, she quickly puts on her make-up and does her hair and looks out of the window. She angrily addresses Jehu as 'Zimri' - an earlier, and short-lived, king-killer (see 1 Kings 16:8-20). Jehu is not impressed! And Jezebel's servants, accepting the inevitable, unceremoniously throw her out of the window at Jehu's command. Thus is Naboth finally avenged, and the worship of Baal condemned. And Jehu goes in to have his supper.

In the shadow of recent horrific events in Norway, this story takes on a topical, and sinister, significance. Jehu believes God, through Elisha, has told him to kill those who tolerate 'other religions' in Israel. To purify the land blood must be shed. And there seems to have been a similar religious narrative underlying the Norwegian massacre.

To Ponder

How tolerant should Christians be of 'other religions'?

Given that such stories are found in the Christian Bible, how might people be encouraged to read them in a theologically and morally responsible way?

Some would want to equate God's 'righteousness' with wrathful vengeance; others would equate it with compassionate generosity. How can we know who is right?

Bible notes author: The Revd David Rhymer

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