Slaying Baals and Worshiping Calves


“And the Lord said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.’” Hosea 1:4

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul highlights well the plight of every Christian, namely the duality that exists within them.  On the one hand, the believer has been given a new nature in Christ, justified and set free from the dominion of sin, yet on the other hand while still in this mortal body, stains of the corrupt nature still exist.  Luther summarized our condition well with the phrase simul justus et peccator – simultaneously justified yet sinner.

Given the application of this phrase and rightly understanding the dilemma that Paul expresses in his epistle to the Romans, we are in a sense often faced with the challenge of the hypocrisy of our confession of faith, professing one thing yet given to slippage into the reality of another.  However, proving the genuineness of our own profession, like Paul, we should not be content with moments of hypocrisy, instead we should wage war against every speck of hypocrisy that would rear itself within us.

In Scripture, one of the great witnesses against hypocrisy is King Jehu, who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 9th Century B.C.  In Hosea, we find he begins his prophecy with the announcement that the bloodshed of Jehu would be punished.  To understand why, we need to survey the prophetic fulfillment of Jehu’s rule.

Jehu’s ascent to the throne could not have been scripted more perfectly. He was anointed into office by the great prophet Elisha and was given a prophetic pronouncement of victory over the wicked king Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and the worshipers of Baal. Immediately we read of Jehu (2 Kings 9:14ff) following out the commands of war against idolatry. His attention then turns towards King Joram (Israel) and King Ahaziah (Judah), both of whom are killed at his hand.

Upon meeting with Jehu, King Joram asks, “Is it peace, Jehu?” to which Jehu replied, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?” (2 Kings 9:22) While fleeing, Joram was shot in the back by Jehu and thrown on the ground of Naboth the Jezreelite, fulfilling the prophecy of Naboth’s Land (2 Kings 9:26). Apparently, not one to miss an opportunity, Jehu also pursued King Ahaziah and had him executed as well, thereby vacating the thrones of both Israel and Judah.

Moving from there, Jehu the idolatry slayer, came to the city of Jezreel, home to Jezebel and had her thrown from her window, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah that her blood would be spilled and dogs shall eat her flesh (2 Kings 9:36). After these three murders we read, “Then he went in and ate and drank”, clearly unfazed by what had transpired.

Next we read of Jehu writing letters to the rulers of the city of Samaria, her elders, and the bodyguards of Ahab’s seventy sons to set up a king for themselves and prepare for war. The leaders declined, submitting themselves instead to the mercy of Jehu, who in-turn replied by testing their allegiance and ordered the heads of the seventy sons of Ahab. The leaders complied and brought him the heads of Ahab’s sons.

Following on in 2 Kings we arrive at the next brutal scene in Jehu’s life

“Then in the morning, when he went out, he stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who struck down all these? 10 Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu struck down all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close friends and his priests, until he left him none remaining.” 2 Kings 10:9-11

The very next account is Jehu slaughtering forty-two relatives of King Ahaziah. Then we see him meeting with a man named Rechab, whom he wanted to impress with his zealousness for the Lord, “And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” So he had him ride in his chariot. 17 And when he came to Samaria, he struck down all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, till he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah.” 2 Kings 10:16-17

As if that weren’t enough, we read of Jehu requesting an assembly of all Baal worshippers in Israel, under the guise that he too was going to worship Baal. We read that all Baal worshippers responded to the request and filled the house of Baal from one end to the other. Jehu then commands his soldiers to destroy them all, “Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.” 2 Kings 10:28

It is not difficult to see that Jehu may have gone overboard. Certainly he was doing as the Lord commanded, but one is left to wonder whether his zeal for bloodshed was properly motivated by a pure heart for the righteousness of God.  Perhaps his desire to show Rechab just how zealous for God he was is an indication of improper motives.  As is so often the case with us, we appear zealous for the things of God in rebuking the sin of others, keeping ourselves unstained by scandalous sins, even serving the Lord through various ministries, meanwhile in the closet of our own hearts we are just as idolatrous as those things or people we speak out against or to.

Turning again to Jehu, we see the true condition of his heart:

“But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. 30 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.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.” 2 Kings 10:28-31

Despite all of the public slaughters of the worshipers of Baal, Jehu  was negligent to remove the idols that were closest to home. The true plight of the hypocrite is that, like Jehu, he remains careless in “walking in the law of the Lord…with all his heart.” God is not interested in half-hearted allegiance. For all of our efforts in serving Him, going to church, and all other outward appearances which garner the praise of man, they are meaningless if on the inside we are harboring idolatries.  We cannot slay Baals in the public square and worship golden calves in our private closet.

J.C. Ryle summarizes well in his commentary on Matthew 23:14.  There he writes

“Let us learn from the whole passage how abominable is hypocrisy in the sight of God. These Scribes and Pharisees are not charged with being thieves or murderers, but with being hypocrites to the very core. Whatever we are in our religion, let us resolve never to wear a cloak. Let us by all means be honest and real. “

Be diligent to fight the idolatries in the smallest, hidden crevices of the heart to the praise of God’s glorious grace, lest we fall into the pit of hypocrisy.  Be gracious in dealing with the sins of others.  And be cautious in the public decry of others sins.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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