In our Kerygma Bible study, we came across this verse in Hosea:
And the LORD said to [Hosea], “Name [your child] Jezreel;
for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel (Hos 1:4 NRS).
I said this verse surprised me, because it most likely refers to the murder of Jezebel. Most Israelites probably thought killing Jezebel was a good thing, but here it seems God doesn’t agree. Is this the first occasion in the Bible when God told Israel He didn’t necessarily consider it a good thing to go around killing their enemies? Then I asked, “Could this be what Jesus was thinking of when he taught us to love our enemies?”
The pastor said, “This is getting too deep for me.”
I didn’t think I could say anything he’d never heard of, so I was probably more amazed than he was. How did this happen? Let me walk you through it.
Jehu was anointed king of Israel (2Kings 9:1-13)
The year is about 843 B.C. Jezebel is queen, and her son Joram is king in Israel. Jehu is one of the commanders of the army. God sends the prophet Elisha to anoint Jehu king. It was dangerous business to anoint one man king when another was already sitting on the throne, so God told Elisha to take him to a room and speak in private.
Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee; do not linger (2Ki 9:3).
As the LORD instructed, Elisha anointed Jehu king of Israel and immediately fled the scene. The army fell in behind Jehu, and he led them to Jezreel.
Jehu killed Joram (2Kings 9:14-29)
Joram was in his palace in Jezreel, recovering from a battle against the Arameans. From the watchtower, the sentinels saw an army approaching. They sent messengers to ask if they were coming in peace, but the messengers joined the army. The sentinels knew Jehu was leading them, because “he drives like a maniac!” (2Ki 9:20 – one of my favorite lines in the Old Testament).
Despite his injuries, Joram went out to meet him.
When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”
Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah [king of Judah], “Treason, Ahaziah!”
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 (2Ki 9:22-24).
Jehu went on to kill Ahaziah, king of Judah, who had joined Joram in the fight against the Arameans.
Jehu killed Jezebel (2Kings 9:30-37)
When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window (2Ki 9:30).
I’ve often heard people use Jezebel as a synonym for “painted hussy.” I think this verse is where that comes from. The window must have had a sizeable balcony, because there were at least two or three eunuchs with her. At Jehu’s command, they threw Jezebel off the balcony, and it must have been a long way down, because some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, which trampled on her (2Ki 9:33).
To secure his position, Jehu went on to kill all of Jezebel and Joram’s kin (2Ki 10).
“I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel”
So in Jezreel, Jehu killed Jezebel in very gruesome fashion. God told the prophet Hosea to name his first child Jezreel, because He will punish the house of Jehu for killing the painted hussy – I mean Jezebel. Here, you need to know a little about Hosea. He was a prophet who married a temple prostitute. You didn’t expect to hear that from the Bible, did you? Not only that, he was sympathetic to Jezebel. That sympathy was gone by the time his second child was born. But for a while, at least, he was a prophet of Israel who was sympathetic to one of its most hated enemies.
Why? Maybe he thought the manner of her death was unnecessarily cruel. Maybe he saw similarities between the hatred directed at his wife and at Jezebel. Maybe he saw the folly of a system where one person could claim the throne by wiping out the royal family. He doesn’t say any specific reason.
But a move toward love of enemies is clear. The wholesale slaughter of Jezebel and all her kin, in Hosea’s mind, was not something God approved. Why else would he say, I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel?
Love your enemies
Once I made that connection, it did not seem a great leap to Jesus when he said,
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mat 5:44-45 NRS).
Jezebel was as unrighteous as they come. Yet God never stopped the sun from shining where she was. God never stopped the rain from falling – well, except for one 3-½ year period, but that was on all Israel, not just Jezebel (1Ki 17-18). This is one way God shows love, even to the wicked. Even to those who hate us. We want to believe God hates them just like we do, but Jesus throws a great big monkey wrench and jams up those gears. Annoying, isn’t it?
Love your enemies…so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.