Read the Bible Through: 2 Kings 9-11
“And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what 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 ESV
The story of Jehu’s slaughter of the prophets of Baal in 2 Kings 10 reads like something out of Game of Thrones. Jehu pretends to be a Baal worshiper, even going so far as to tell the people, “if you thought Ahab was devoted to Baal, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
“Then Jehu assembled all the people and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests. Let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer to Baal. Whoever is missing shall not live.” But Jehu did it with cunning in order to destroy the worshipers of Baal.”
2 Kings 10:18-19 ESV
He lays it on thick. He brings out their priestly robes and insists that they dress appropriately for the sacrifice. He checks and double checks to make sure no servant of Yahweh has crashed the party.
Then, on his signal, the eighty men Jehu had stationed outside were to come in and strike down every last priest with the sword.
What was the signal? It would be when Jehu himself, the king of Israel, offered the burnt offering to Baal.
“So as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guard and to the officers, “Go in and strike them down; let not a man escape.”
2 Kings 10:25 ESV
I’m bothered by this passage of Scripture, maybe more than anything else I’ve read in the Bible, because of the troubling question it raises:
Does God use unrighteous means to achieve righteous ends?
Did God bless Jehu’s duplicity? Did he approve of the king of Israel actually offering the sacrifice to Baal?
We are to walk in the light. We aren’t supposed to wage war the way the world does. Deceit and hypocrisy are not supposed to be in our arsenal.
But in this story, they seem to be. And I don’t understand why.
I’m asking some of the same questions I asked on Day 067: Does the Bible Sanction Genocide? And some of the answers still apply. God was trying to protect his people from further idolatry. All remnants of Ahab’s apostasy had to be eliminated. I get it, kind of.
And there are other times when a slaughter of false prophets is called for. Only a few days ago we read about Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. When they lost the challenge, Elijah ordered them to be killed.
“And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”
1 Kings 18:40 ESV
But that was done in the light. It was on top of a mountain. This was in full view of all the people, and it was the people of Israel themselves who seized the prophets. Jehu’s story is different. Jehu lured the priests under false pretenses. He bent over backwards to convince them he was one of them. Then he executed them, behind closed doors.
I have a hard time believing God approved.
We have to remember that the Bible doesn’t always PREscribe what it DEscribes. For all his supposed zeal for the Lord (see 10:16), Jehu was not considered a good king. Remember that not one of the kings of the Northern kingdom “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (see Day 177: Who’s Who, Where’s Where, and Who’s Where?)
Also, notice the nuance in 10:30. God said Jehu had done well in carrying out what was right in his (God’s) eyes, having done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in God’s heart. God commended Jehu for carrying out God’s judgment against Ahab. But God did not mention the massacre of the prophets of Baal. Perhaps Jehu was free-lancing there.
As believers, we don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to cherish and which to reject. God has given us the entire Bible, and “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16 ESV). So be discerning in how you understand the Bible is training you for righteousness. Because it isn’t always telling you what to do. Sometimes it is showing us what to avoid.
It’s just not always easy to discern which is which.