Je'hu (Heb. Yehu', יֵהוּא, according to Gesenius for יהֵיהוּא, i.q. יהוֹהוּא, Jehovah is He; but according to Fürst from הָוָא = הָיה, to live, q.d. the living; Sept. Ι᾿ού, Ι᾿ηού but Ι᾿ούδα in Ho 1:4), the name of five men.
1. Son of Obed and father of Azariah, of the tribe of Judah (1Ch 2:38). B.C. post. 1612.
2. An Antothite, one of the Benjamite slingers that joined David's band at Ziklag (1Ch 12:3). B.C. 1055.
3. The son of Hanani, a prophet (Josephus Ιηοῦς, Ant. 8, 12, 3) of Judah, but whose ministrations were chiefly directed to Israel. His father was probably the seer who suffered for having rebuked Asa (2Ch 16:7). He must have begun his career as a prophet when very young. He first denounced upon Baasha, king of Israel, and his house the same awful doom which had been already executed upon the house of Jeroboam (1Ki 16:1,7); a sentence which was literally fulfilled (Kings 16:12). The same prophet was, many years after, commissioned to reprove Jehoshaphat for his dangerous connection with the house of Ahab (2Ch 19:2). He appears to have been the public chronicler during the entire reign of Jehoshaphat and a volume of his records is expressly referred to (2Ch 20:34). B.C. 928-886.
4. The eleventh king of the separate throne of Israel (Josephus Ι᾿ηοῦς, Ant. 8, 13, 7), and founder of its fourth dynasty; he reigned twenty-eight years, B.C. 883-855 (2Ki 9:10; 2Ch 22:7-9). His history was told in the lost "Chronicles of the Kings of Israel" (2Ki 10:34). His father's name was Jehoshaphat (2Ki 9:2); his grandfather's (which, as being better known was sometimes affixed to his own — 2 Kings 9) was Nimshi. In his youth he had been one of the guards of Ahab. His first appearance in history is when, with a comrade in arms, Bidkar, or Bar- Dakar (Ephraem Syrus, Opp. 4, 540), he rode (either in a separate chariot, Sept., or on the same seat, Josephus) behind Ahab on the fatal journey from Samaria to Jezreel, and heard, and laid up in his heart, the warning of Elijah against the murderer of Naboth (2Ki 9:25). But he had already, as it would seem, been known to Elijah as a youth of promise, and, accordingly, in the vision at Horeb he is mentioned as the future king of Israel, whom Elijah is to anoint as the minister of vengeance on Israel (1Ki 19:16-17). This injunction, for reasons unknown to us, Elijah never fulfilled. It was reserved long afterwards for his successor Elisha. SEE AHAB.
Jehu meantime, in the reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram, had risen to importance. The same activity and vehemence which had fitted him for his earlier distinctions still continued and he was known far and wide as a charioteer whose rapid driving, as if of a madman (2Ki 9:21), could be distinguished even from a distance. Accordingly, in the reign of Jehoram, Jehu held a command in the Israelitish army posted at Ramoth- gilead to hold in check the Syrians, who of late years had made strenuous efforts to extend their frontier to the Jordan and had possessed themselves of much of the territory of the Israelites east of that river. The contest was, in fact, still carried on which had begun many years before in the reign of Ahab, Jehoram's father, who had lost his life in battle before this very Ramoth-gilead. Ahaziah, king of Judah, had taken part with Jehoram, king of Israel, in this war; and as the latter had been severely wounded in a recent action, and had gone to Jezreel to be healed of his wounds, Ahaziah had also gone thither on a visit of sympathy to him (2Ki 8:28-29). B.C. 883. According to Ephraem Syrus (who omits the words "saith the Lord" in 2Ki 9:26, and makes "I" refer to Jehu), he had, in a dream the night before, seen the blood of Naboth and his sons (Ephr. Syr. Opp. 4, 540). In this state of affairs, a council of war was held among the military commanders in camp, when, very unexpectedly, a youth of wild appearance (2Ki 9:11), known by his garb to be one of the disciples of the prophets, appeared at the door of the tent, and called forth Jehu, declaring that he had a message to deliver to him (2Ki 9:15). They retired into a secret chamber. The youth uncovered a vial of the sacred oil (Josephus, Ant. 9, 6, 1) which he had brought with him, poured it over Jehu's head, and after announcing to him the message from Elisha, that he was appointed to be king of Israel and destroyer of the house of Ahab, rushed out of the house and disappeared (2Ki 9:7-8). Surprising as this message must have been, and awful the duty which it imposed, Jehu was fully equal to the task and the occasion. He returned to the council, probably with an altered air, for he was asked what had been the communication of the young prophet to him. He tried at first to evade their questions, but then revealed the situation in which he had found himself placed by the prophetic call. In a moment the enthusiasm of the army took fire. They threw their garments — the large square beged similar to a wrapper or plaid — under his feet, so as to form a rough carpet of state, placed him on the top of the stairs (q.v.), as on an extempore throne, blew the royal salute on their trumpets, and thus ordained him king (2Ki 9:11-14). Jehu was not a man to lose any advantage through remissness. He immediately cut off all communication between Ramoth-gilead and Jezreel and then set off at full speed with his ancient comrade Bidkar, whom he made captain of the host in his place and a band of horsemen. From the tower of Jezreel a watchman saw the cloud of dust raised by the advancing party and announced his coming (2Ki 9:17). The messengers that were sent out to him he detained, on the same principle of secrecy which had guided all his movements. It was not till he had almost reached the city, and was identified by the watchman, that apprehension was felt. But even then it seems as if the two kings in Jezreel anticipated news from the Syrian war rather than a revolution at home. Jehoram went forth himself to meet him and was accompanied by the king of Judah. They met in the field of Naboth, so fatal to the house of Ahab. The king saluted him with the question, "Is it peace, Jehu?" and received the answer, "What peace, so long as the whoredoms (idolatries) of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?" This completely opened the eyes of Jehoram, who exclaimed to the king of Judah, "There is treachery, O Ahaziah!" and turned to flee. But Jehu felt no infirmity of purpose, and knew that the slightest wavering might be fatal to him. He therefore seized his opportunity, and taking full aim at Jehoram, with the bow which, as captain of the host, was always with him, shot him through the heart (2Ki 9:24). Jehu caused the body to be thrown back into the field of Naboth, out of which he had passed in his attempt at flight, and grimly remarked to Bidkar, his captain, "Remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the Lord laid this burden upon him." The king of Judah endeavored to escape, but Jehu's soldiers pursued and inflicted upon him at Beth-gan (A.V. "the garden house"), probably Engannim, a wound of which he afterwards died at Megiddo. SEE AHAZIAH. Jehu himself entered the city, whither the news of this transaction had already preceded him. As he passed under the walls of the palace, Jezebel herself, studiously arrayed for effect, appeared at one of the windows and saluted him with a question such as might have shaken a man of weaker nerves, "Had Zimri peace, who slew his master?" But Jehu was unmoved, and, instead of answering her, called out, "Who is on my side — who?" when several eunuchs made their appearance at the window, to whom he cried, "Throw her down!" and immediately this proud and guilty woman lay a blood- stained corpse in the road and was trodden under foot by the horses. SEE JEZEBEL. Jehu then went in and took possession of the palace (2Ki 9:16-37). He was now master of Jezreel, which was, next to Samaria, the chief town of the kingdom; but he could not feel secure while the capital itself was in the hands of the royal family, and of those who might be supposed to feel strong attachment to the house of Ahab. The force of the blow which he had struck was, however, felt even in Samaria. When, therefore, he wrote to the persons in authority there the somewhat ironical but designedly intimidating counsel, to set up one of the young princes in Samaria as king and fight out the matter which lay between them, they sent a very submissive answer, giving in their adhesion, and professing their readiness to obey in all things his commands. A second letter from Jehu tested this profession in a truly horrid and exceedingly Oriental manner, requiring them to appear before him on the morrow, bringing with them the heads of all the royal princes in Samaria. A fallen house meets with little pity in the East; and when the new king left his palace the next morning, he found seventy human heads piled up in two heaps at his gate. There, in the sight of these heaps, Jehu took occasion to explain his conduct, declaring that he must be regarded as the appointed minister of the divine decrees, pronounced long since against the house of Ahab by the prophets, not one of whose words should fall to the ground. He then continued his proscriptions by exterminating in Jezreel not only all in whose veins the blood of the condemned race flowed, but also — by a considerable stretch of his commission — those officers, ministers, and creatures of the late government who, if suffered to live, would most likely be disturbers of his own reign. He next proceeded to Samaria. So rapid had been these proceedings, that on his way, at "the shearinghouse" (or Betheked), he encountered forty-two sons or nephews (2Ch 20:8) of the late king of Judah, and therefore connected by marriage with Ahab, on a visit of compliment to their relatives, of whose fall, seemingly, they had not heard. These also were put to the sword at the fatal well, as, in the later history, of Mizpah, and, in our own days, of Cawnpore (2Ki 10:14). (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. ad loc.) As he drove on he encountered a strange figure, such as might have reminded him of the great Elijah. It was Jehonadab, the austere Arab sectary, the son of Rechab. In him his keen eye discovered a ready ally. The austere virtue and respected character of the Rechabite would, as he felt, go far to hallow his proceedings in the eyes of the multitude. He took him into his chariot, and they concocted their schemes as they entered Samaria (2Ki 10:15-16). SEE JEHONADAB. In that capital Jehu continued the extirpation of the persons more intimately connected with the late government. This, far from being in any way singular, is a common circumstance in Eastern revolutions. But the great stroke was yet to come; and it was conceived and executed with that union of intrepid daring and profound secrecy which marks the whole career of Jehu. His main object was to exterminate the ministers and more devoted adherents of Baal, who had been so much encouraged by Jezebel. There was even a temple to this idol in Samaria; and Jehu, never scrupulous about the means of reaching objects which he believed to be good, laid a snare by which he hoped to cut off the main body of Baal's ministers at one blow. He professed to be a more zealous servant of Baal than Ahab had been, and proclaimed a great festival in his honor, at which none but his true servants were to be present. The prophets, priests, and officers of Baal assembled from all parts for this great sacrifice, and sacerdotal vestments were given to them, that none of Jehovah's worshippers might be taken for them. Soldiers were posted so that none might escape. The vast temple at Samaria raised by Ahab (1Ki 16:32; Josephus, Ant. 10, 7, 6) was crowded from end to end. The chief sacrifice was offered, as if in the excess of his zeal, by Jehu himself. Jehonadab joined in the deception. There was some apprehension lest worshippers of Jehovah might be found in the temple; such, it seems, had been the intermixture of the two religions. As soon, however, as it was ascertained that all, and none but the idolaters were there, the signal was given to eighty trusted guards, and a sweeping massacre removed at one blow the whole heathen population of the kingdom of Israel. The innermost sanctuary of the temple (translated in the A.V. "the city of the house of Baal") was stormed, the great stone statue of Baal was demolished, the wooden figures of the inferior divinities sitting round him were torn from their places and burnt (Ewald, Gesch. 3, 526), and the site of the sanctuary itself became the public resort of the inhabitants of the city for the basest uses (2 Kings 10).
Notwithstanding this zeal of Jehu in exterminating the grosser idolatries which had grown up under his immediate predecessors, he was not prepared to subvert the policy which had led Jeroboam and his successors to maintain the schismatic establishment of the golden calves in Dan and Beth-el. SEE JEROBOAM. This was, however, a crime in him — the worship rendered to the golden calves being plainly contrary to the law; and he should have felt that he who had appointed him to the throne would have maintained him in it, notwithstanding the apparent dangers which might seem likely to ensue from permitting his subjects to repair at the great festivals to the metropolis of the rival kingdom, which was the center of the theocratical worship and of sacerdotal service. Here Jehu fell short: and this very policy, apparently so prudent and farsighted, by which he hoped to secure the stability and independence of his kingdom, was that on account of which the term of rule granted to his dynasty was shortened. For this it was foretold that his dynasty should extend only to four generations; and for this the divine aid was withheld from him in his wars with the Syrians under Hazael on the eastern frontier. Hence the war was disastrous to him, and the Syrians were able to maintain themselves in the possession of a great part of his territories beyond the Jordan (2Ki 10:29-33). He died in quiet, and was buried in Samaria, leaving the throne to his son Jehoahaz (2Ki 10:34-36). B.C. 855. His name is thought to be the first of the Israelitish kings which appears in the Assyrian monuments. It seems to be found on the black obelisk discovered at Nimrûd (Layard, Nineveh, 1, 396), and now in the British Museum, among the names of kings who are bringing tribute (in this case gold and silver, and articles manufactured in gold) to Shalmaneser I. His name is given as "Jehu" (or "Yahua"), "the son of Khumri" (Omri). This substitution of the name of Omri for that of his own father may be accounted for either by the importance which Omri had assumed as the second founder of the northern kingdom, or by the name of "Beth-Khumri," only given to Samaria in these monuments as "the House or Capital of Omri" (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 643; Rawlinson's Herodot. 1, 465; Meth. Rev. 1888, p. 711).
There is nothing difficult to understand in the character of Jehu. He was one of those decisive, terrible, and ambitious, yet prudent calculating, and passionless men whom God from time to time raises up to change the fate of empires and execute his judgments on the earth. He boasted of his zeal — "Come and see my zeal for the Lord" — but at the bottom it was zeal for Jehu. His zeal was great so long as it led to acts which squared with his own interests, but it cooled marvelously when required to take a direction in his judgment less favorable to them. Even his zeal in extirpating the idolatry of Baal is not free from suspicion. The altar of Baal was that which Ahab had associated with his throne, and in overturning the latter he could not prudently let the former stand, surrounded as it was by attached adherents of the house which he had extirpated. He must be regarded, like many others in history, as an instrument for accomplishing great purposes rather than as great or good in himself. In the long period during which his destiny — though known to others and perhaps to himself — lay dormant; in the suddenness of his rise to power; in the ruthlessness with which he carried out his purposes; in the union of profound silence and dissimulation with a stern, fanatic, wayward zeal, he has not been without his likenesses in modern times.
The Scripture narrative, although it fixes our attention on the services which he rendered to the cause of religion by the extermination of a worthless dynasty and a degrading worship, yet, on the whole, leaves the sense that it was a reign barren in great results. His dynasty, indeed, was firmly seated on the throne longer than any other royal house of Israel (2 Kings 10), and under Jeroboam II it acquired a high name among the Oriental nations. But Elisha, who had raised him to power, as far as we know, never saw him. In other respects it was a failure; the original sin of Jeroboam's worship continued; and in the prophet Hosea there seems to be a retribution exacted for the bloodshed by which he had mounted the throne: "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" (Ho 1:4), as in the similar condemnation of Baasha (1Ki 16:2). See a striking poem to this effect on the character of Jehu in the Lyra Apostolica. SEE ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF.
5. Son of Josibiah, apparently one of the chief Simeonites who migrated to the valley of Gedor in quest of pasturage during the reign of Hezekiah, and expelled the aboriginal Hagarites (1Ch 4:35). B.C. cir. 711.