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The Blood of Jezreel
by Jerry McDonald


1991 / March-April



In the spring 1990 issue of The Skeptical Review, Editor Farrell Till wrote an article entitled "A Perfect Work of Harmony?" in which he challenged Bible fundamentalists to answer a difficulty involving 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4. Apparently no one took the challenge, so he reissued it in the summer issue in an article entitled "No Takers." It is to these challenges that I address this response.

And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which was 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 (2 Kings 10:30).

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 (Hosea 1:4).

There are several problems with Mr. Till's interpretation of these two passages. In this article, we shall notice these problems and will show that these two verses have absolutely no relationship whatever to each other. In summary of Mr. Till's problems, we see that [1] he did not carefully read what the two passages had to say, [2] he did not read all that was said on the subject, [3] he did not allow for figures of speech, and [4] he did not allow for the context. Had he not violated these four principles, he would not have taken the position that he took.

[1] Mr. Till did not carefully read what the passages had to say. "Why would Yahweh want to punish the house of Jehu for what was done at Jezreel," he asked, "if all Jehu had done was 'that which was right in mine (Yahweh's) eyes'?" (The Skeptical Review, Spring 1990, p. 12). Did God say that he was punishing the house of Jehu for what Jehu did to the houses of Jehoram (the son of Ahab) and Ahaziah? No. Did Hosea say this? No. Did anyone make this charge? Yes. Who? Farrell Till. All God said that he was going to do was "avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." Mr. Till wants it to read like this: "I will avenge upon the house of Jehu what Jehu did in Jezreel to the houses of Jehoram and Ahaziah." But it does not read that way. We must always be careful to read exactly what the writer had to say and not what we want him to say.

[2] Mr. Till did not read all that was said about the subject. He tried to make it sound as if Zachariah (the king in power at the time) was a good man who was being punished for Jehu's (supposed) transgression. However, in looking at Zachariah, we notice that 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" (2 Kings 15:9). So we can see that Zachariah was an evil king, and we see he was being punished for his wickedness and not for anything Jehu had done.

Another part of Mr. Till's problem is that he assumed that the blood of Jezreel had to refer to that which was done by Jehu at Jezreel to the houses of Jehoram and Ahaziah. In making this assumption, he completely overlooked the story in 1 Kings 21 about the blood of Naboth the Jezreelite being shed by the order of Jezebel. Naboth had a vineyard that had been given to him by God. This vineyard was next to Ahab's palace. Ahab saw the vineyard, desired to have it, and tried to buy it from Naboth. Naboth refused: "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee" (1 Kings 21:3). Now this angered Ahab, and he went to his room to pout. He pouted so much that he would not eat, and when this came to the attention of his wife Jezebel, she came to find out why he would not eat. He told her about the vineyard he wanted, and she told him to eat. She would take care of the matter.

Jezebel sent letters in Ahab's name to the elders and nobles who dwelt in Jezreel and proclaimed a feast that would set Naboth on high before the people. Then she set two men, the sons of Belial, before him with instructions to accuse him of blaspheming God and the king. The instructions included taking Naboth out and stoning him to death. When all these things happened according to Jezebel's plans, Ahab was able to take possession of Naboth's vineyard. Because of this crime, God sent Elijah the Tishbite to tell Ahab and Jezebel that they would be punished because of what Jezebel had done. Jezebel would die and Ahab's son would die. Jezebel did die, and Jehoram (the son of Ahab) died at the hands of Jehu. Whose blood did Ahab and Jezebel shed? The blood of Naboth the Jezreelite. Could that not rightfully be stated as being "the blood of Jezreel"? Yes! Now when one looks at Hosea 1:4 in this respect, it can be easily seen that this makes much more sense than what Mr. Till proposed.

[3] Mr. Till's third problem is that he did not allow for figures of speech. The phrase "the blood of Jezreel" is a figure of speech called synecdoche in which the part is put for the whole. To be more specific, we have a synecdoche of the species: "Blood is put for murder or cruelty; or death generally.... So Hos. i.4..." (Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, p. 628). The avenging of blood, in the Bible, was often used in reference to avenging any innocent blood that was shed. In this case, the blood of Naboth the Jezreelite was used figuratively to refer to the vengeance that would be taken upon the one who had shed the spiritual blood of Israel.

[4] Mr. Till did not allow for the context. In Hosea 1:4, God told Hosea to name his firstborn son Jezreel because in a little while he was going to avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. Hosea's son represented the innocent blood that was shed by the wicked king Zachariah. He was probably called Jezreel because of Naboth's innocent blood that was shed at Jezreel. Hosea and Gomer had a second child, a daughter, and were instructed to name her Loruhamah, because God would have no more mercy upon the house of Israel. Then they had a third child, a boy, whose name was to be called Loammi, because Israel would no longer be God's people. Hosea represented God, and Gomer represented Israel. The three children represented the three stages of Israel's departure from God. Jezreel represented the innocent spiritual blood of the Israelites that was shed by the wicked king. Loruhamah represented Israel following the wicked king and going off into apostasy and even going to the point that God would no longer have mercy. Loammi represented Israel completely cut off from God.

The phrase "I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" simply meant that God would avenge the spiritual blood of his people (which was shed by Zachariah when they were good) upon the house of Jehu. Because Zachariah continued in the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, in causing Israel to sin, he was shedding their spiritual blood, and because of this God was going to punish him. He used the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" as a figure to stand for the punishment that he would inflict upon Zachariah. He remembered Naboth to show that injustice will always be punished in the end.

If Mr. Till spent half as much time trying to reconcile these "so-called" difficulties as he spends finding them, he would find far fewer difficulties in the Bible. There is no problem with these two passages. I hope this explanation puts to rest any fears that anyone may have of there being a problem with these two passages. They have absolutely nothing in the world to do with each other.

(Jerry McDonald's address is 97 Florence Street, Sullivan, MO 63080.)
 



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