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 Main Index : History : Josephus : Antiquities of the Jews : Book IX Index : Chapter 6

Antiquities of the Jews - BOOK IX

Chapter 5 | Chapter 7


1. NOW Joram, the king of Israel, after the death of Benhadad, hoped that he might now take Ramoth, a city of Gilead, from the Syrians. Accordingly he made an expedition against it, with a great army; but as he was besieging it, an arrow was shot at him by one of the Syrians, but the wound was not mortal. So he returned to have his wound healed in Jezreel, but left his whole army in Ramorb, and Jehu, the son of Nimshi, for their general; for he had already taken the city by force; and he proposed, after he was healed,: to make war with the Syrians; but Elisha the prophet sent one of his disciples to Ramoth, and gave him holy oil to anoint Jehu, and to tell him that God had chosen him to be their king. He also sent him to say other things to him, and bid him to take his journey as if he fled, that when he came away he might escape the knowledge of all men. So when he was come to the city, he found Jehu sitting in the midst of the captains of the army, as Elisha had foretold he should find him. So he came up to him, and said that he desired to speak with him about certain matters; and when he was arisen, and had followed him into an inward chamber, the young man took the oil, and poured it on his head, and said that God ordained him to be king, in order to his destroying the house of Ahab, and that he might revenge the blood of the prophets that were unjustly slain by Jezebel, that so their house might utterly perish, as those of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and of Baasha, had perished for their wickedness, and no seed might remain of Ahab's family. So when he had said this, he went away hastily out of the chamber, and endeavored not to be seen by any of the army.

2. But Jehu came out, and went to the place where he before sat with the captains; and when they asked him, and desired him to tell them, wherefore it was that this young man came to him, and added withal that he was mad, he replied, You guess right, for the words he spake were the words of a madman;" and when they were eager about the matter, and desired he would tell them, he answered, that God had said he had chosen him to be king over the multitude. When he had said this, every one of them put off his garment, (15) and strewed it under him, and blew with trumpets, and gave notice that Jehu was king. So when he had gotten the army together, he was preparing to set out immediately against Joram, at the city Jezreel, in which city, as we said before, he was healing of the wound which he had received in the siege of Ramoth. It happened also that Ahaziah, king of Jerusalem, was now come to Joram, for he was his sister's son, as we have said already, to see how he did after his wound, and this upon account of their kindred; but as Jehu was desirous to fall upon Joram, and those with him, on the sudden, he desired that none of the soldiers might run away and tell to Joram what had happened, for that this would be an evident demonstration of their kindness to him, and would show that their real inclinations were to make him king.

3. So they were pleased with what he did, and guarded the roads, lest somebody should privately tell the thing to those that were at Jezreel. Now Jehu took his choice horsemen, and sat upon his chariot, and went on for Jezreel; and when he was come near, the watchman whom Joram had set there to spy out such as came to the city, saw Jehu marching on, and told Joram that he saw a troop of horsemen marching on. Upon which he immediately gave orders, that one of his horsemen should be sent out to meet them, and to know who it was that was coming. So when the horseman came up to Jehu, he asked him in what condition the army was, for that the king wanted to know it; but Jehu bid him not at all to meddle with such matters, but to follow him. When the watchman saw this, he told Joram that the horseman had mingled himself among the company, and came along with them. And when the king had sent a second messenger, Jehu commanded him to do as the former did; and as soon as the watchman told this also to Joram, he at last got upon his chariot himself, together with Ahaziah, the king of Jerusalem; for, as we said before, he was there to see how Joram did, after he had been wounded, as being his relation. So he went out to meet Jehu, who marched slowly, (16) and in good order; and when Joram met him in the field of Naboth, he asked him if all things were well in the camp; but Jehu reproached him bitterly, and ventured to call his mother a witch and a harlot. Upon this the king, fearing what he intended, and suspecting he had no good meaning, turned his chariot about as soon as he could, and said to Ahaziah, "We are fought against by deceit and treachery." But Jehu drew his bow, and smote him, the arrow going through his heart: so Joram fell down immediately on his knee, and gave up the ghost. Jehu also gave orders to Bidkar, the captain of the third part of his army, to cast the dead body of Joram into the field of Naboth, putting him in mind of the prophecy which Elijah prophesied to Ahab his father, when he had slain Naboth, that both he and his family should perish in that place; for that as they sat behind Ahab's chariot, they heard the prophet say so, and that it was now come to pass according to his prophecy. Upon the fall of Joram, Ahaziah was afraid of his own life, and turned his chariot into another road, supposing he should not be seen by Jehu; but he followed after him, and overtook him at a certain acclivity, and drew his bow, and wounded him; so he left his chariot, and got upon his horse, and fled from Jehu to Megiddo; and though he was under cure, in a little time he died of that wound, and was carried to Jerusalem, and buried there, after he had reigned one year, and had proved a wicked man, and worse than his father.

4. Now when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel adorned herself and stood upon a tower, and said, he was a fine servant that had killed his master! And when he looked up to her, he asked who she was, and commanded her to come down to him. At last he ordered the eunuchs to throw her down from the tower; and being thrown down, she be-sprinkled the wall with her blood, and was trodden upon by the horses, and so died. When this was done, Jehu came to the palace with his friends, and took some refreshment after his journey, both with other things, and by eating a meal. He also bid his servants to take up Jezebel and bury her, because of the nobility of her blood, for she was descended from kings; but those that were appointed to bury her found nothing else remaining but the extreme parts of her body, for all the rest were eaten by dogs. When Jehu heard this, he admired the prophecy of Elijah, for he foretold that she should perish in this manner at Jezreel.

5. Now Ahab had seventy sons brought up in Samaria. So Jehu sent two epistles, the one to them that brought up the children, the other to the rulers of Samaria, which said, that they should set up the most valiant of Ahab's sons for king, for that they had abundance of chariots, and horses, and armor, and a great army, and fenced cities, and that by so doing they might avenge the murder of Ahab. This he wrote to try the intentions of those of Samaria. Now when the rulers, and those that had brought up the children, had read the letter, they were afraid; and considering that they were not at all able to oppose him, who had already subdued two very great kings, they returned him this answer: That they owned him for their lord, and would do whatsoever he bade them. So he wrote back to them such a reply as enjoined them to obey what he gave order for, and to cut off the heads of Ahab's sons, and send them to him. Accordingly the rulers sent for those that brought up the sons of Ahab, and commanded them to slay them, to cut off their heads, and send them to Jehu. So they did whatsoever they were commanded, without omitting any thing at all, and put them up in wicker baskets, and sent them to Jezreel. And when Jehu, as he was at supper with his friends, was informed that the heads of Ahab's' sons were brought, he ordered them to make two heaps of them, one before each of the gates; and in the morning he went out to take a view of them, and when he saw them, he began to say to the people that were present, that he did himself make an expedition against his master [Joram], and slew him, but that it was not he that slew all these; and he desired them to take notice, that as to Ahab's family, all things had come to pass according to God's prophecy, and his house was perished, according as Elijah had foretold. And when he had further destroyed all the kindred of Ahab that were found in Jezreel, he went to Samaria; and as he was upon the road, he met the relations of Ahaziah king of Jerusalem, and asked them whither they were going? they replied, that they came to salute Joram, and their own king Ahaziah, for they knew not that he had slain them both. So Jehu gave orders that they should catch these, and kill them, being in number forty-two persons.

6. After these, there met him a good and a righteous man, whose name was Jehonadab, and who had been his friend of old. He saluted Jehu, and began to commend him, because he had done every thing according to the will of God, in extirpating the house of Ahab. So Jehu desired him to come up into his chariot, and make his entry with him into Samaria; and told him that he would not spare one wicked man, but would punish the false prophets, and false priests, and those that deceived the multitude, and persuaded them to leave the worship of God Almighty, and to worship foreign gods; and that it was a most excellent and most pleasing sight to a good and a righteous man to see the wicked punished. So Jehonadab was persuaded by these arguments, and came up into Jehu's chariot, and came to Samaria. And Jehu sought out for all Ahab's kindred, and slew them. And being desirous that none of the false prophets, nor the priests of Ahab's god, might escape punishment, he caught them deceitfully by this wile; for he gathered all the people together, and said that he would worship twice as many gods as Ahab worshipped, and desired that his priests, and prophets, and servants might be present, because he would offer costly and great sacrifices to Ahab's god; and that if any of his priests were wanting, they should be punished with death. Now Ahab's god was called Baal; and when he had appointed a day on which he would offer those sacrifices, he sent messengers through all the country of the Israelites, that they might bring the priests of Baal to him. So Jehu commanded to give all the priests vestments; and when they had received them, he went into the house [of Baal], with his friend Jehonadab, and gave orders to make search whether there were not any foreigner or stranger among them, for he would have no one of a different religion to mix among their sacred offices. And when they said that there was no stranger there, and they were beginning their sacrifices, he set fourscore men without, they being such of his soldiers as he knew to be most faithful to him, and bid them slay the prophets, and now vindicate the laws of their country, which had been a long time in disesteem. He also threatened, that if any one of them escaped, their own lives should go for them. So they slew them all with the sword, and burnt the house of Baal, and by that means purged Samaria of foreign customs [idolatrous worship]. Now this Baal was the god of the Tyrians; and Ahab, in order to gratify his father-in-law, Ethbaal, who was the king of Tyre and Sidon, built a temple for him in Samaria, and appointed him prophets, and worshipped him with all sorts of worship, although, when this god was demolished, Jehu permitted the Israelites to worship the golden heifers. However, because he had done thus, and taken care to punish the wicked, God foretold by his prophet that his .sons should reign over Israel for four generations. And in this condition was Jehu at this time.


(15) Spanheim here notes, that this putting off men's garments, and strewing them under a king, was an Eastern custom, which he had elsewhere explained.

(16) Our copies say that this "driving of the chariots was like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously," 2 Kings 9:20; whereas Josephus's copy, as he understood it, was this, that, on the contrary, Jehu marched slowly, and in good order. Nor can it be denied, that since there was interval enough for king Joram to send out two horsemen, one after another, to Jehu, and at length to go out with king Ahaziah to meet him, and all this after he was come within sight of the watchman, and before he was come to Jezreel, the probability is greatly on the side of Josephus's copy or interpretation.

Chapter 5 | Chapter 7

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