The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.” So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor. Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, “Who are you?” They said, “We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother.” “Take them alive!” he ordered. So they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked—forty-two of them. He left no survivor. – 2 Kings 10:9-14
This a return to “dark water” for the Israelites and their current king, Jehu. God has directed Jehu to wipe out the line of Ahab because of the way he and his wife Jezebel led Israel to worship idols and other gods. Jezebel and Ahab were certainly evil, they killed hundreds of prophets in the time of Elijah. Perhaps the cancer of idolatry is sufficiently lethal to warrant the eradication Jehu has been tasked to perform.
I admit this passage has me somewhat puzzled and perplexed. It is a return to the messy bloodshed that was so common in the time of David and Solomon. Why would God want to wipe out Ahab’s entire line? Was Jehu getting an accurate message from God to kill everyone in this brutal fashion? Even to the point of slaughtering forty-two of the relatives of Ahaziah next to a well in Beth Eked.
Clearly this was a very different time and culture than we live in today. I have a hard time imagining what this would have been like. I have been raised in a democratic culture where voting rather than slicing decides the rulers or the people. The democratic system is not perfect but I prefer it to familial genocide with each change of kings.
I am not sure there is any deeper meaning to the last verse about Jehu killing the relatives of Ahaziah near the well at Beth Eked. Except that wells in this time, and even today, are places where communities gather and discuss what is happening in the community. Jehu committing this very public “cleansing” would have certainly sent a message that he was in charge.
This passage and the communication between Jehu and God that it describes remains troubling for me. I need to continue to pray about it and perhaps at some point in the future it will become more clear.
Prayer: God help me to understand this difficult passage how it fits into the love you have for Your people.