JEHU (Heb. יֵהוּא), son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi (II Kings 9–10); reigned over the Israelite kingdom at Samaria for 28 years (c. 842–814 B.C.E.). During *Ahab's reign Jehu already held a position which brought him into close contact with court circles (II Kings 9:25). During the reign of *Jehoram son of Ahab, Jehu served as commander of the garrison posted at Ramoth-Gilead, in North Transjordan. From Ramoth-Gilead he set out for Samaria and seized the throne. He established a line of kings, who ruled over Israel for nearly 100 years (II Kings 10:30; 15:12).
Most of the biblical sources on Jehu's reign concern his struggle for the throne. Jehu's way to the throne was paved with bloodshed, in the course of which the entire house of *Omri was exterminated. He killed Jehoram, king of Israel, at Jezreel, and he also put to death King *Ahaziah of Judah and his brothers (see also II Chron. 22:8–9). Then he proceeded to massacre the entire house of Ahab, including Jezebel and all members of the elite court circle that had been close to the king (II Kings 10:11). Perhaps he regarded both Judahite princes and Israelite courtiers as potential claimants to the throne as heirs to the House of Omri. The slaughter was, however, remembered with horror a long time after Jehu's death, according to the received text and traditional dating of Hosea 1:4 (but see *Hosea). Jehu was anointed king at Ramoth-Gilead by an emissary of the prophet Elisha (II Kings 9:1–10), who stood at the head of the prophetic movement that opposed the House of Omri (see *Ahab), and strove both to avenge the blood of those prophets and God-fearing men who had been persecuted and killed by Jezebel (9:7–10), and to stop the Baal worship in Israel. Accordingly, Jehu, upon ascending the throne, acted with great zeal to destroy the Tyrian cult. He executed all the Baal prophets in the temple of Baal, destroyed the temple itself with all its pillars, and according to II Kings 10:28, "Thus Jehu exterminated Baal [worship] from Israel." Jehu also had the support of the army, which was in need of a leader who might be more successful than Jehoram in the prolonged struggle for Ramoth-Gilead and the overthrow of Aramean supremacy. Along with the army and the prophetic movement, the poorer classes of the people also supported Jehu's coup; they had suffered great hardship as a result of the economic policy of the kings of the house of Omri, which had produced a large economic rift in the structure of the Israelite society. Among the poor there were those who warned against wanton luxury and stood for modest living. One such individual was Jehonadab, the son of Rechab (II Kings 10:15; see *Rechabites), who joined Jehu and helped exterminate Ahab's descendants (10:17) and eliminate the cult of the Tyrian Baal (10:22–27). Though he put an end to the cult of the Tyrian Baal that had been introduced by Ahab, Jehu did not abolish the golden calves which had been set up long before Ahab by Jeroboam son of Nebat at Dan and Beth-El, and for which there is no reason to suppose that it had been disapproved of by Elijah or Elisha. Indeed, the calves, whatever their significance, were not a foreign import. Besides, like Jeroboam son of Nebat, Jehu may have thought it politic to maintain the places of worship in Dan and Beth-El, since they served to deter the people from going up to Jerusalem (cf. I Kings 12:26), and frustrated the ambition of the kings of Judah, descendants of David's line in Jerusalem, to unite the two kingdoms once again under the throne of David.
Jehu's coup greatly influenced the relations between the Israelite kingdom and her neighbors. The annihilation of the house of Omri, the killing of Jezebel, the murder of Ahaziah king of Judah, and the ban on the Tyrian influences all helped to loosen the ties binding the triple alliance between Tyre, Israel, and Judah and cast a shadow over Israel's relations with the other two, Judah and Tyre. Israel's resulting political isolation encouraged Aram of Damascus to increase the pressure on her northeastern border. On ascending the throne, Jehu immediately found himself surrounded by hostile states and sought to ensure his own position by expressing his loyalty to the king of Assyria. This is the background to what is related in the annals of Shalmaneser III concerning the tribute paid him by "Jehu son of Omri" (la-u-a mār Ḥum-ri-i) in 841 B.C.E. (COGAN AND TADMOR, 334–35). In that same year Shalmaneser III set out on a campaign against *Hazael king of Aram-Damascus, placed Damascus under siege, and thence proceeded southward with his armies to Hauran, sowing destruction among Hazael's cities. It becomes apparent
Bright, Hist, 231ff.; J. Gray, A History of Israel (1960), 229–34; Morgenstern, in: HUCA, 15 (1940), 225–59; M.F. Unger, Israel and the Arameans of Damascus (1957), 76–78; Miller, in: VT, 17 (1967), 307–24; Ginsberg, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1 (1967), 91–93; Pritchard, Texts, 280–1. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB; 1988), 101–22; W. Thiel, in: ABD, 3:670–73
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.