He driveth furiously.
Jehu, as a commentator I was listening to yesterday remarked, may very well be the first Jewish king. He is a very definite monotheist. He, like Elijah, is clearly a Yahwist. He’s revolted by the House of Omri and its evils.
Before Jehu even the kings who believed in the Hebrew god believed in that god as one among many. They were monolatrists. That is, they believed in The One but without denying the existence of other gods. You see that in many references in I & II Kings. And we have pretty persuasive evidence that this attitude would continue on in Hebrew practice clear down to Josiah’s time. But Jehu, like Elijah and Elisha and the other Yahwist’s does not accept a role for other gods. The One is the only One.
By our standards his treatment of the House of Omri, Jezebel and the followers of Ba’al is bloodthirsty. Today he would be accused of war crimes for luring the Ba’alist into their temple and slaughtering them. But we’ve seen all this play out by true believers or those intending to spread a message of terror many times thru out history. In more modern times the Red Coats burned patriot wives and children by trapping them in their church in a famous incident from our own revolution. And American cavalry exterminated Native American women and children at places like Sand Hill in the name of progress more than once. But by the standards of his day Jehu was only doing what you do when you’re cleaning house. Eliminating those you’re overthrowing was pretty much de regiour if you didn’t want to have to deal with them again somewhere down the line. And all the more justified b/c of their terrible sins.
But for our purposes Jehu’s value is also the practical insights that motivate his coup. He has a clear-eyed view of The Big Picture geopolitically. Apart from the prophet’s messenger, he has also realized that its time to change allegiances. Phoenicia is the past; Assyria is the looming threat. If there is to continue to be an Ephraim (NK) then it’s time to make our peace with Assyria. Hence his appearance on the Black Stele offering Shalmenesar III tribute.
As portrayed by Biblical commentators this is often seen as an act of betrayal of Israel. But if you look at it from Jehu’s POV it’s an act to preserve the state and keep it from a dreadful fate. By becoming Assyria’s vassal, Israel continues on, living in relative peace and prosperity. If it resists, terrible, bloody things will come to it. So, from a realpolitik perspective, it’s the act of a responsible leader who cares about his people. At any rate, Jehu demonstrates just how repellent the House of Omri had become. How Omri’s decision to ally with Phoenicia eventually came to ruin. And what a true Jewish king would look like.
He driveth furiously.
I picked up a little more of the events than you asked about, but here’s how I read this much of the narrative:
11 When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this maniac come to you?”
“You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied.
12 “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.”
Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’”
13 They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”
I think what’s going on here is that there’s already been much previous discussion among Jehu and his retinue that things are not going well with Joram and the reason is b/c he’s not a YHWHist. He’s continuing the screwed up policies of his dad and that harlot Phoenician wife of his. And he’s not the man his dad was. And if this is allowed to continue, we’re going to get backed in a corner by the Damascenes. Better to align with them and be ready to face the real problem, which everyone knows is the Assyrians.
This is kind of like the council MacBeth gets when he’s already plotting to overthrow the king, isn’t it? This faction already wants to take down Joram and install pro-Aram-ist Jehu to mend fences with Damascus and lean less on the alliance with Phoenicia. IOW, they were ready to spread their cloaks the moment Jehu shows a sign he would accept leading the revolt.
Jehu Kills Joram and Ahaziah
14 So Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, conspired against Joram. (Now Joram and all Israel had been defending Ramoth Gileadagainst Hazael king of Aram, 15 but King Joram[b] had returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him in the battle with Hazael king of Aram.) Jehu said, “If you desire to make me king, don’t let anyone slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.” 16 Then he got into his chariot and rode to Jezreel, because Joram was resting there and Ahaziah king of Judah had gone down to see him.
17 When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, “I see some troops coming.”
Joram isn’t surprised. He’s had to know something was brewing for a while now. And if Jehu is coming in force, Joram has to know why already. That’s why the next passages play out as they do.
“Get a horseman,” Joram ordered. “Send him to meet them and ask, ‘Do you come in peace?’”
18 The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’”
“What do you have to do with peace?” Jehu replied. “Fall in behind me.”
The lookout reported, “The messenger has reached them, but he isn’t coming back.”
19 So the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’”
Joram already knows the answer to this question. He knows the jig is up.
Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”
20 The lookout reported, “He has reached them, but he isn’t coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.”
It sounds as if Jehu is driving his own chariot and has done so often. He has a reputation as a hot rod and he’s used to handling things himself. It’s one of the characteristics that made him God’s choice. He’s forceful and can manage tough situations.
It’s probably a two person chariot that he would have had driven for him if it was some sort of state occasion. Something formal. But when he’s in a hurry as he is now, he’ll take the reins himself. Literally. Taking the reins is what he’s always done when there’s trouble. It’s what he’s good at. And there is trouble. Time is of the essence.
Yedidah whispered into the shutters, “That woman is determined to go out like a queen.”
Jezebel called to Jehu, “Greetings, General. Remember Zimri the chariot commander? He murdered his master but found no peace.”
I don’t know how much you intend to develop Jehu and his story, but this whole scene is important in revealing who he is. This scene is a climax. In a way this is the culmination of the contest of forces you’ve been writing about for two books now. Jehu is YHWHist thru and thru. He’s tolerated Ahab b/c Ahab was a good commander and an effective king. Jehu respected him even if he didn’t like everything Ahab did, certainly didn’t like everything he stood for, but he did enough right to overlook what he came in light on.
Even though we have a good rendering in Kings of what transpires between Jezebel and Jehu in this incredibly dramatic scene, there is even more that can be brought into the interplay between the two of them. Jezebel is the past and she knows it. She has nothing left but her pride and her scorn for this upstart usurper who is about to bring everything she and Ahab have worked for coming to ruin. I hope you can bring this to your readers and make them feel what a giant turning point this is, both politically in these two characters’ worlds and theologically in Jehu’s triumph over Jezebel and what she stands for.
<snip> Another dozen chariots rolled through the gate. Three stopped by the bakery, and words drifted through the shutter. “…not live through the night.”
General Jehu yelled toward the queen’s window. “Is anybody up there on my side?” He backed his team up until they stood facing the pavement beneath Jezebel.
I think you can make more of this if you want to. Yes, we have a bare-bones account of the event in Kings, but it probably played with more rhetorical flourish than in that account. For example:
Jehu rides up under the window and glares at Jezebel. She glares right back. Behind her are a lot of frightened officials and house servants, afraid of her, afraid of Jehu, not sure what’s going down. Jezebel taunts Jehu with the one insult that she knows will bite b/c it’s actually true. He is usurping the throne held by the man they both respected. There is pain and recognition and understanding in what’s going on between the two of them in this moment. They have always been equals of a sort and they are now too here. The amount of drama in this confrontation is really quite Shakespearean.
In windows right and left, three eunuchs appeared out of nowhere. Strong men.
Yes, strong. But quaking in their boots. In an instant they have to decide where their loyalties lie. And they have always till this moment lain with this beautiful, powerful, decisive woman who has controlled the palace and their place in it. And they have chosen. They are about to betray her. There is a lot of feeling here worthy of exposition.
Jehu laughed. “Throw her down!”
Although she held her chin high, she screeched, “Don’t touch me! Animals!”
I hope you’ll bring this out more. Defiant to the end, haughty, royalty that she is, Jezebel refuses to surrender her royalty or her rights clear to the end,etc.
When the eunuchs converged on her and seized her arms, she screamed and tore at their tunics. They tried to push her through the window, but she splayed her legs against the jamb and bit at their wrists. One embraced her flailing arms and torso while another wrapped his arms around her legs.
If she is resigned to her fate, I don’t see her fighting them in her final moments. But maybe I don’t have a clear picture of her. To me she’s surrendered to the powers that have overwhelmed her, but not given in to fear or panic. In this whole scene I see reluctant eunuchs bowing to the new reality that has suddenly come upon them and a stoic queen meeting her inevitable fate with all the dignity she can muster.
Blue curls appeared in the window, then Jezebel shot out headfirst onto the pavement.
Jehu whipped his horses forward and pranced them in place over her, squashing her chest and flattening her hair. Hoofs stomped her arms and legs. The snap of bones carried across the plaza and into the bake shop.
Depending on what else you’re going to do with him, I think there’s more to come on Jehu. And poor Obidiah has come to the end of the road. I’m fascinated to see what you do with him from here.
I would think Jehu will have some real conflict in dispatching O if they’ve worked together in the past and if he knows, as he surely must, that O, like him, is a YHWHist. Did O help him get that new stable built up in Dan? See that he got the troops he needed when the Philistines surprised them? Did he help O hide all those prophets in the caves back in the day? And help O feed them? Did he (surely!) know what O was up to? I think Jehu is on the horns of a dilemma here. It may not be easy for him to take O out even if he feels he has to.