This article is in no way an attempt to defend the veracity of Christianity or the Bible. It is an attempt to adequately show that there is no contradiction between the story of King Jehu's actions as depicted in 2 Kings and Hosea's mention of them in Hosea chapter one. This article can be seen as the second half of my own personal study of this particular issue. It might be useful to read my first article, "He Commends Me, He Commends Me Not." This is a 15-page article which can be read in its entirety on the Internet Infidels website. Also be aware that I have changed positions since writing my first article. I now believe that there is no contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4. The original article is a detailed examination of the Jehu story and contains virtually no examination of the Hosea side and as such, it does not violate my new position. The article you are now reading examines the other side of the coin and presents several problems with the contradiction theory, which are simply insurmountable. With this background information on the table, I present the Jehu solution.
Many skeptics are aware of the Jehu contradiction and so are a few Christians, but to those who may have just tuned in, a brief summary is in order. The issue is that in 2 Kings 10:30, God commended Jehu for obeying his command to kill the entire house of Ahab, yet in Hosea 1:4, it seems as if God was condemning Jehu for the massacre. Here are the two verses in question.
2 Kings 10:30: And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.Several people have attempted to answer this problem and a brief look at their explanations will be helpful in spotting a common underlying presupposition, which almost all of them hold.
Hosea 1:4: And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Farrell Till, editor of The Skeptical Review, has written a few articles inviting any "enterprising inerrantists" to show how 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 are not a case of true contradiction within the "word of God." After some initial silence, Jerry McDonald gave it a stab and said that the "blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 refers to Naboth's murder by Jezebel, Ahab's wife. Till, however, did a nice job in his follow-up reply of showing that it is ludicrous to think that the "blood of Jezreel" refers to one death (Naboth's) instead of the hundreds that Jehu slew. Plus, why would God avenge the death of Naboth against Jehu when Jezebel was the person who had him murdered? McDonald's explanation is no explanation at all.
Gleason Archer, a well-known Christian fundamentalist, gave a slightly better, yet anemic, effort to vindicate God's word in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. He claimed that Jehu sinned during the killing at Jezreel by doing it with a prideful heart. Apparently Archer has a direct line to ol' El Shaddai because without it, this explanation is 100% total speculation and furthermore, to posit this solution, Archer must totally ignore God's shining commendation of Jehu, which immediately followed the bloodbath at Jezreel. If Jehu had sinned in any way at Jezreel, why wouldn't God (or one of his prophets) have at least informed Jehu of his error?
Just when I thought Christian apologetics couldn't get any worse, a Christian friend of mine gave me an article by Glen Miller of the Christian Thinktank, who ignored half the relevant text to put forth his erroneous explanation. In his article, he claimed that Jehu sinned at Jezreel because he killed many more people than God had commanded. He claimed that God had commanded Jehu to kill only male descendents of Ahab. Unfortunately, God commanded the entire house of Ahab (men, women, slaves, friends) to be killed. Furthermore, every person whom Jehu killed or ordered killed (except for the worshippers of Baal in Samaria) was of the house of Ahab, and I showed this to be an irrefutable fact in my first article.
The problem with these explanations is that they rest upon a faulty presupposition. Except for McDonald's "explanation," they all have the same underlying presupposition that Jehu must have done something wrong at Jezreel. The apologists assume that Hosea 1:4 must be an indication that Jehu somehow committed a sin during the slaughter of the house of Ahab at Jezreel. With this assumption firmly in place, no explanation will persuade because Jehu did nothing wrong at Jezreel, as my previously noted article showed.
What has thrown everyone off track is the phrase "avenge the blood of Jezreel." Within the next few pages, I will show what I feel is the solution to the Jehu contradiction by considering several points that have apparently gone unnoticed by all of the would-be apologists and skeptics alike. I will present these points as problems with the contradiction theory.
Problem 1: Changing Horses in Mid-stream. Any English teacher worth his salt knows that it is a dangerous endeavor to take a sentence or phrase out of context and try to determine its meaning. Skeptics are almost always falsely accused of this crime by the fundamentalists who simply cannot bear to see the contradictions contained within their Bible dragged out into the light. However, the accusation in this case is justified.
The book of Hosea starts by telling us the name of the prophet in question and during what timeframe he lived. Then, in verse 2, the book begins from the standpoint of Israel's current state of sin. This verse is a critical piece to the solution.
Hosea 1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD.From the very beginning of the book, God was telling Hosea that Israel had forsaken him, and this cliché continues throughout the entire Old Testament. Notice that Hosea is describing the cause for the upcoming destruction of Israel in verse 2! If verse 4 was the reason for Israel's upcoming destruction, it would mean that Hosea was suddenly changing his mind in verse 4 to say that the cause of Israel's destruction would not be Israel's current sin but Jehu's killings at Jezreel!
This idea is not only totally implausible, it also has no support from the rest of the book of Hosea as we shall soon see. Verse 3 shows Hosea obeying God then we come to the verse at issue. To show that the author of Hosea was speaking of Israel and not something Jehu did, let's postpone the first part of verse 4, the one at issue, and read the rest of chapter one as if that piece did not exist. This will provide a clearer picture of the context surrounding the problem phrase.
Hosea 1:4-11 "(A)nd I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day, I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, "Call her name Not pitied, for I will no more have pity on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will deliver them by the LORD their God I will not deliver them by bow, nor by sword, nor by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen."
When she had weaned Not pitied, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, "Call his name Not my people, for you are not my people and I am not your God." Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Sons of the living God." And the people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head and they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.Also notice how many times God speaks of Israel compared to the house of Jehu. It should be evident that (except for the first half of verse 4 for now) the entire first chapter is speaking of Israel's sins, not Jehu's. The fact is that from Jehu's rule until Hosea's day, the kings of Israel (Jehu's descendents) had been forsaking God. Here are the passages that support this.
2 Kings 10:31 (Jehu forsook God): 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 13:1-2, 6 (Jehu's son, Jehoahaz, forsook God): In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin he did not depart from them.... (Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them and the Asherah also remained in Samaria.)
2 Kings 13:10 (Jehoahaz's son, Jehoash, forsook God): In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. He also did what was evil in the sight of the LORD he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them.
2 Kings 14:16, 23-24 (Jehoash's son, Jeroboam, forsook God): And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead.... In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.
2 Kings 15:8-9 (Jeroboam's son, Zachariah, forsook God): In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.Now, I ask, is it likely that amid this context of pronouncing judgment on Israel as a whole for the sin of forsaking God, the author of Hosea would abruptly change horses for the span of half a verse to pronounce his judgment on Jehu's God-commended actions at Jezreel? To begin by claiming the whoredom of Israel is the reason Israel is about to be laid low and then switch to a particular individual in midstream and claim that whoredom isn't the reason and then resume talking about current Israel as if Jehu never existed makes no sense at all from a literary and a logical standpoint. I believe any English teacher would agree with this observation.
Hosea chapter 1 is a judgment against Israel for the sins of current Israel as evidenced by verse two. The whole chapter is claiming that Israel has sinned. It wouldn't make much sense for Hosea to be railing against the Israel of his day and suddenly pronounce a judgment for something Jehu had done a century earlier.
Problem 2: Hosea's Historical Perspective: Jehu became King of Israel sometime around 841 BCE and reigned for about 28 years. Hosea lived approximately one hundred years after Jehu and his ministry as prophet would have been in full swing from around 753 to 715 BCE. Hosea's prophesying occurred during Jeroboam's reign. These facts are crucial in helping one understand the book of Hosea (and especially chapter one) from Hosea's perspective. Hosea would have been most familiar with the sins of current Israel and in particular, Jehu's great grandson, King Jeroboam (Jeroboam II, but I will just refer to him as Jeroboam throughout this article). Hosea would have also been familiar with Jehu's history and the massacre at Jezreel yet would he have viewed the act as a crime? If Hosea had access to the accounts via writings, he definitely would have viewed Jehu as a national hero because he not only rid Israel of the incredibly wicked Ahab lineage but he completely eradicated Baal worship from Israel (however temporarily) and, most important, God himself gave Jehu the thumbs up for his zeal in his religious cleansing of Israel. If, on the other hand, he had oral tradition only, it would seem more likely that the tradition would have glorified Jehu rather than vilified him (Jews tended to glorify their own over time-David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, etc.). Plus, Jehu's deeds were considered mighty by the author of 2 Kings which would seem to indicate that Jehu's deeds at Jezreel and Samaria were regarded as heroic by later generations up until 2nd Kings was written.
2 Kings 10:34 Now the rest of the acts of Jehu, and all that he did, and all his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?So, given the fact that Jehu was the first King of a brand new lineage, who rid Israel of Ahab's family and Baal worshippers and that he ruled a relatively long time (which meant that he had to have had some amount of prosperity and favor), Hosea would have had no reason to view Jehu as a criminal for his deeds at Jezreel but rather as a national hero who rid Israel of the blight of Baal and Ahab.
Problem 3: Wherefore art thou, Jehu? There is another small problem with the contradiction theory. Jehu, the man, is not mentioned once in the entire book of Hosea. In light of this, it seems difficult to think that right in the middle of Hosea's tirade against Israel, he would pronounce some indirect judgment against Jehu, whose primary sin (2nd Kings 10:31) according to the Old Testament occurred after his glorious efforts at Jezreel.
Problem 4: The House of Jehu: Knowing when Hosea lived sheds a different light on the phrase "house of Jehu." Hosea was living during the reign of Jehu's great grandson so the "house of Jehu" in Hosea 1:4 must refer to Zachariah (Jeroboam's son ) and family including slaves and friends, because Zachariah would be the fourth generation of offspring of Jehu to rule Israel. See my other article for a complete examination of why friends and slaves were considered part of the king's "house." So, we know that Hosea is predicting the destruction (punishment) of Israel as a whole along with a descendent of Jehu and that descendent is Zachariah. The question is, "Why are they being punished?" Is it because Jehu somehow sinned during his killing spree at Jezreel and God is just now punishing him via Zachariah? Or, is it because of the five generations of Jehu and descendents turning from God and worshipping Baal and Asherah? Again, we are told why and it bears repeating.
Hosea 1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD."So, without a doubt, the house of Jehu is a reference to Zachariah. Jeroboam may have been aware of the promise God gave to Jehu but it isn't certain. So, Jeroboam may have assumed that Hosea's prophecy was targeted at him.
On a side note, in 2 Kings 10: 30, God promised Jehu's offspring the rule over Israel for four generations and, interestingly, Zachariah was the fourth generation. According to 2 Kings 15:8, he ruled only six months before he was murdered. Could this be a case of prophecy fulfillment?
2 Kings 15:8-12 In the thirty and eighth year of Azariah king of Judah did Zachariah the son of Jeroboam reign over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done: he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and smote him before the people, and slew him, and reigned in his stead. And the rest of the acts of Zachariah, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass.Now, at this point, the skeptic may be saying that I am simply overlooking the problem section of verse four. To my fellow skeptics I say that there is a difference between overlooking and postponing. I'd like to now summarize what we know at this stage. Be aware that I am not necessarily granting veracity I am simply taking the stories at face value and showing that they are not in contradiction: (1) Jehu did not sin at Jezreel [2 Kings 10:30 and my Infidels article]. (2) Jehu's zealous acts at Jezreel [annihilating Ahab's house] and Samaria [removing all traces of Baal from Israel] most likely would have been considered heroic by Hosea instead of sinful. (3) "The house of Jehu" in Hosea 1:4 refers to Zachariah's house, not Jehu's. (4) Jehu is not mentioned at all in the book of Hosea. (5) Hosea pronounced a judgment against the house of Jehu and all of Israel during Jeroboam's reign as king of Israel [entire book of Hosea but especially chapter 1]. (6) The reasons for the destruction of Jehu's house and Israel with it can be seen in both Hosea 1:2 and the fact that since God promised Jehu's children the rule of Israel for only four generations, Zachariah had to be killed so that a fifth generation would not rule, thus fulfilling God's promise to Jehu in 2 Kings 10:30 [aka prophecy fulfillment since the subsequent king is not of Jehu's lineage].
Problem 5: The Misleading Phrase: Most people know that the Bible is serious stuff. An odd characteristic of God's word is that it is completely void of humor-at least intentional humor. However, it is not void of sarcasm and irony. Here we come to the phrase that I believe has been misleading the Christian and skeptic alike. What does the phrase "avenge the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 mean if it doesn't refer to Jehu's killing?
The fact is that "the blood of Jezreel" does refer to those Jehu killed but just for a second, I want to postpone that troublesome word "avenge." In doing so, the pieces should now fall into place, leaving only the usage of "avenge" to be explained. As I have shown, Hosea was pronouncing a judgment on Israel for their sins, telling them that God was about to destroy the house of Jehu (either Jeroboam or his son, depending on if Jeroboam knew about the promise to Jehu, who were both of the house of Jehu) and guess where God was going to perform this destruction. It would happen in the very place where Jeroboam's great grandfather, Jehu, had effected the destruction of Ahab's house-the valley of Jezreel! That's irony, folks. That's also a shameful kick to the groin of Jeroboam and his friends. Imagine for a moment being Jeroboam, king of all Israel, whose great grandfather rid Israel of Baal! Imagine your pride in knowing that he also rid Israel of Ahab and the abominable Jezebel in the valley of Jezreel. Now, imagine hearing the prophet of God telling you that because of your sin of worshipping other gods and as king, leading all of Israel in your footsteps, you (if Jeroboam thought it applied to him) will not only be destroyed but destroyed in the very place where your pride is deeply rooted because of your great grandfather's heroism- the valley of Jezreel!
Here is what I feel Hosea is saying in verse 4.
Hosea 1:4 And the LORD said unto him [Hosea], Call his name Jezreel [the place where Ahab's family was killed by Jehu] for yet a little while [actually during Zachariah's reign], and I will avenge [make it so their deaths were not in vain] the blood of Jezreel [those Jehu killed] upon the house of Jehu [Zachariah and any offspring], and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel [Israel destroyed as well].So, even if Jeroboam felt safe because he was aware of the promise, the prophecy still would have shamed him because of his current status of worshipping Baal and committing all of the same sins as Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
Problem 6: Granting Hosea Literary Liberty: As noted earlier, Jehu is never mentioned in the book of Hosea, and that is rather odd considering that the contradiction theory has Hosea presenting his opinion about Jehu's killings at Jezreel. But now let us closely examine the last piece of the puzzle: Hosea's use of the word "avenge."
As any English teacher will tell you, words and phrases must be determined in part by examining the context of the surrounding words and phrases. To ignore the surrounding text is to violate this principle and risk misinterpretation. This, I submit, is exactly what has happened with regard to Hosea 1:4. It makes sense to grant Hosea the literary liberty to use a figure of speech. To deny him this right a priori would be an error, indeed. This determination must, however, stand in light of all the evidence and not just because someone wants it to be a figure of speech to vindicate their pet beliefs. This is why I have intentionally delayed the examination of "avenge the blood of Jezreel" until the end. It now can be shown that Hosea used this phrase and specifically the word "avenge" as a way of telling the house of Jehu that their sin had become so great, that their destruction in Jezreel would essentially avenge the deaths of Ahab's family. No, there is no real avenging going on for Jehu and sons did not sin against Ahab's house directly but in essence, they did. The deaths of Ahab's family were in vain because it didn't keep Jehu and sons from sinning! So, the destruction of Zachariah and Israel would, in a manner of speaking, avenge the deaths of those whom Jehu killed for righteousness sake. If I were to paraphrase in modern English as if Hosea were speaking directly to Jeroboam, it might sound something like this. "Jeroboam, your time is up. Your great grandfather performed a mighty deed in removing the wicked from Israel and yet, he, his son, his grandson and you have slapped in the face all those who died at Jezreel by Jehu's sword because you have become as evil as they, if not moreso, and now their deaths will be avenged and guess where it's gonna happen: in the valley of Jezreel!"
I want to also examine the way the original Hebrew was used to show that "avenge" is actually a good choice. Modern translations also assume that Jehu is implicated in wrongdoing at Jezreel and word the first part of verse 4 accordingly but this new wording is even further from the true meaning. Notice how it reads in the NIV.
Hosea 1:4 Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezreel."The most common interpretation is seen in a previous passage of 2 Kings.
2 Kings 9:7 And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel.We all know that when one wrongdoer is punished by someone who does it on behalf of the one wronged, we get vengeance, revenge, avenge, etc. They all mean "to settle the score." But the Hebrew word used in Hosea 1:4 is paqadnaqam which simply means avenge. Paqad is used in Hosea 1:4 and is translated in the KJV as "avenge" yet the same Hebrew word is used in Hosea 2:13 and is translated visit. which can be translated as punish or visit or avenge (among a few others) and the one in almost every other instance is
Hosea 2:13 And I will visit [paqad] upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.So, one could make a good argument that verse four could also read "I will visit [or bring] the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu."I say all of this to show that the versions which use "punish" for paqad don't really support the figure of speech idea because they also are operating on the presupposition that Jehu is being condemned here.
Whether visit or avenge is used, the basic meaning is really still the same and it is Hosea's underlying notion that Jehu's lineage had, in effect, sinned against Ahab's family by being no more righteous than they were that casts a different light onto the problem. Jehu didn't sin by killing Ahab's family-God commanded him to do that. Jehu sinned against Ahab's family by allowing himself and his sons to fall back into doing the very things Ahab was killed for! So, by killing Jehu's family, Ahab's death would, in essence, be avenged. Now, go back and read the first chapter of Hosea in its entirety and see if all of my observations stand. Conclusions: To summarize, I will first enumerate the problems with the contradiction theory: (1) The contradiction theory has Hosea abruptly and awkwardly changing thought from the sins of current Israel in Hosea 1:2 to Jehu's "sin" at Jezreel in verse 4. (2) The contradiction theory has Hosea pronouncing judgment against the house of Jehu for sins Jehu committed 100 years earlier yet this idea contradicts Hosea 1:2 where Hosea actually gives the real reason for Israel's demise. (3) The contradiction theory has Hosea condemning Jehu for something he did 100 years earlier although Jehu himself is never mentioned once in the entire book of Hosea. (4) Some may think the house of Jehu means Jehu and/or his family, but since Hosea lived approximately 100 years after Jehu, and in light of the future aspect of prophesying in general, it refers to Jeroboam's or Zachariah's family, depending on the perspective. (5) The contradiction theory has Hosea viewing Jehu's killings at Jezreel as a sin, which of course contradicts 2 Kings 10:30 and the heroic stature that Jehu probably attained during his and later generations. (6) The contradiction theory has Hosea pronouncing judgment on the house of Jehu only when in fact, the judgment was against all of Israel. (7) The contradiction theory does not allow Hosea the use of literary constructs such as irony and figures of speech.
With all that I have delineated above, we can see how there is no contradiction since Hosea is not referring to Jehu's "sin" by using "avenge the blood of Jezreel," but he is referring to the deaths of Ahab's family as being in vain since the very family who executed them began to commit the same sins! So, if we allow Hosea just a little freedom to be creative with his writing, and to use concepts such as irony by introducing Jezreel as the place where Jehu's descendents would get their just desserts, it is not so hard to understand the real meaning in light of the full context of the time period of Hosea and the text of the book of Hosea.
Farrell Till has offered publishing space to anyone who claimed to be able to explain the Jehu contradiction. I respect Mr. Till and have read practically every article of every issue of The Skeptical Review. However, this article shows that there is no contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 as long as verse 4 is not yanked completely out of the stream of thought and the historical context in which is was born and I wonder, since I am not an "enterprising inerrantist," if Mr. Till will still honor his offer and publish my article in his Skeptical Review.
Regardless, the ball is now in the skeptic's court and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to overcome the problems with the contradiction theory which I have presented here. I am, however, obligated to leave a backdoor open because I know I've been wrong before.
(Tim Simmons, 1004 Oakdale Drive, West Memphis, AR 72301