Old Testament News

The Hebrew Bible is ostensibly a record of Old Testament kings and prophets in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

According to the biblical ancient source, in 2 Kings 9:1-15:7, Jehu’s rule is directly associated with Yahwism, as it is the prophet Elisha who directs Jehu, through a messenger, to become the next king of Israel. Furthermore, Jehu is instructed to destroy the house of Ahab and that the Lord will: “avenge the blood of all my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel.” (2 Kings 9:7) The writers of the Hebrew bible are here keen to justify Jehu’s bloody coup as a Yahwistic response to the fact that Ahab had married Jezebel, a daughter of the Sidonian King Ethbaal, and had built temples for the worship of non-Yahwistic gods.(Miller ;Hayes 2006:313) Miller and Hayes speculate on the likelihood of Ahab having married Jezebel, as a political move to secure Israel’s allies in the coalition of kingdoms against Assyria and for political stability generally within the region.(Miller; Hayes 2006:303) In 1 Kings 16:31-33 the Judahite writers of the Hebrew bible compare Ahab’s sins with Jeroboams, which refers to  the split, which then created the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah and the resultant cultic reform, which took place at Bethel and Dan.(Miller; Hayes 2006:275)

In 2 Kings 10:18-28 the biblical source tells us that Jehu gathered together all the ministers and worshippers of Baal together, as if to celebrate a great sacrifice to the god but then ordered his guards to murder them all and then burnt the altar, once again this apparently was done for Yahweh. Miller and Hayes report that disenfranchised groups led by the prophet Elisha, had earlier in Ahab’s reign, called for the destruction of the Baal temple, apparently erected for Jezebel, the Phoenician queen. (Miller; Hayes 2006:315) It seems quite likely that the holy war motivation was used by the Jehu forces to justify and garner support for their usurpation of the Omride throne.Compare the coups under Solomon and Jehu. Why must they be so bloodthirsty?

In Solomon’s coup, according to the biblical source, Solomon is anointed by David, despite not being one of his elder sons. Solomon then executes Adonijah, who had already claimed the throne, and is instructed by the dying David to execute Joab and Shimei. (1 Kings: 1:28-52; 2:1-25) Miller and Hayes question the historical veracity of the Solomon story in the bible, calling it a “palace coup”, and see it as propagandistic toward the Davidic dynasty. (Miller; Hayes 2006:191)

Jehu’s coup is definitely more bloodthirsty and Jehu has no bloodline link to the Omride dynasty, which means he has more legitimate heirs to kill-off. According to the biblical source in 2 Kings 10:1-17 Jehu has seventy sons of Ahab killed and even some relatives of Ahaziah, the late King of Judah. Jehu, according to 2 Kings 9:24-33, kills Jehoram; Ahaziah and Jezebel.

In both Solomon’s and Jehu’s coups there is the question of legitimacy in their ascension to the throne and therefore the need to eliminate all possible alternative kings from the Omride dynasty in Jehu’s case and David’s other sons in Solomon’s situation.

In what matter does the Deuteronomic editor criticise Jehu? Why does he do this?

In 2 Kings 10:31, the biblical source states that: “Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” In Deuteronomy 26:16 it states: “ God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” These passages are referring to the fact that Jehu did not curtail the calf worship at Bethel and Dan, and thus did not follow Yahweh’s instructions in this matter. The criticism by the Judahite writers allow them to explain why Israel  was shrinking in territorial size and losing power to Syro-Palestinian and Assyrian forces at this time.

The Tel Dan stele has figured extensively in the recent debate over the historicity of David and Solomon. Why has this been the case? Do you see any problems in the argument?

The Tel Dan stele provides epigraphic evidence for the existence of the Kings of Israel, Jehoram, and Judah, Ahaziah, and this epigraphic evidence is far more contemporaneous than the biblical sources. (Miller; Hayes 2006:325)The inscription was, most probably, erected at the order of King Hazael of Damascus, as he had recaptured Dan from Israel. If the fragments discovered are aligned correctly and the words interpreted correctly then the text indicates that Hazael’s army killed both Jehoram and Ahaziah, and as such the biblical account in 2 Kings 9:14-29 is historically incorrect. (Biran, Naveh 1995:11) This interpretation of the Tel Dan stele evidence, then provides those historians, who doubt the veracity of the Hebrew bible with ammunition to fuel their claims, that David and Solomon are fictitious creations of the Judahite biblical authors.(Bridge 2010:143)

The problem in basing any definitive argument upon this evidence is that much of it hinges upon who instigated the inscription, as this dramatically changes the meaning of the text. If not Hazael, but his son Bar Hadad II or III, was the author and the fragments were ordered differently then, apparently,  the claim of killing the two Jewish kings is not made and the biblical account remains historically possible.(Bridge 2010:144) The difficulty with Hazael, as the author, revolves around the reference to “ my father,” when Hazael is acknowledged as a usurper, both by the biblical source (2 Kings 8:7-15)and the Assyrian King Shalamaneser III’s description as “son of none.” (Bridge 2010:144)

Frederic Cryer in his article, “On the Recently Discovered ‘House of David’ Inscription, “ questions linguistically whether the inscription dates to a seventh century rather than ninth century time frame. (Cryer 1994:13-15)

 For More Essays on Ancient History