SHOWDOWN AT JEZREEL
ELIJAH CURSES AHAB AT JEZREEL
1 Kings 21:17-29
(For the prelude to this part of the story, go to 'NABOTH'S VINEYARD'
As Ahab was on his way to take possession of the vineyard near Jezreel, he met Elijah the prophet.
Elijah denounced him and then pronounced sentence on the entire royal house: where dogs had licked up the blood of Naboth, there also would they lick up the blood of the king, said Elijah.
This was not the first time Elijah had confronted Ahab, and the king knew it would not be the last. Elijah was a thorn in his side, an enemy who could not be placated. Elijah wanted reforms and social changes the king simply could not give him.
Ahab's response shows his deep mental weariness: 'Have you found me, my enemy?' he said to the prophet.
Elijah's response was unrelenting. Not only Ahab would die, he said, but so would Ahab's wife Jezebel - and she would be eaten by dogs. Ahab's own family would also be killed, and their bodies eaten by dogs or by flesh-eating birds.
Faced with this diatribe the king seems to have collapsed, losing all royal dignity and humbling himself in a most un-kinglike way.
Was he in the grip of the 'black dog' of depression? Perhaps trying and failing to live up to his father, the magnificent King Omri? The episode of Naboth's Vineyard, where Ahab seemed paralyzed by indecision, suggests he was suffering mental instability of some kind.
Elijah, perhaps aware he had gone too far, recanted. He told Ahab Jahweh would not, after all, bring disaster on the royal house until after the king's death - which would come soon enough, as it happened (1 Kings 22:29-40)
KING AHAZIAH IS WOUNDED
2 Kings 8:25-29
Years passed. Ahab spent a good deal of this time on the battlefield.
Eventually he was killed by an arrow that found a gap in his armor. He was carried from the battle and insisted on being propped up so that he could watch the fighting even as he died.
Ahab was succeeded by his son Ahaziah, who was killed in mysterious circumstances after only two years - pushed through a lattice in an upper window, surely part of a palace coup rather than an accident.
Ahaziah's brother Joram succeeded him.
Like his father before him, Joram too was badly wounded in battle, fighting with the army of Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead. He was taken to the city of Jezreel to recover.
It set the scene for what was to follow, for Joram's ally and cousin, young King Ahaziah of the southern kingdom of Judah, finished the fighting and then came to Jezreel to visit his cousin, who was still recovering from his wounds.
JEHU KILLS TWO KINGS
2 Kings 9:14-28
Joram and Ahaziah were under attack from all sides.
What they did not know is that there was a plot to murder both of them and take over the thrones of Israel and Judah. The plotter was an army general called Jehu, a tough character who seems to have intimidated his fellow-generals into falling in line with his plans.
Even though Joram, the legitimate king, still lived, the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu.
With this sanction Jehu headed towards Jezreel, driving like a maniac so that no-one could warn the two young kings of approaching treason. The sentinel in the watch-tower at Jezreel saw Jehu coming in the distance, up the road from Beth-shean, and alerted the still-recovering Joram.
Twice the young king sent out a messenger to see who was coming but Jehu held these men back, not allowing them to return. Surprise was essential to his plan.
Joram and Ahaziah then made a fatal mistake. They left the safety of the city and, presumably with a troop of guards, drove outside the gate to see who was coming at such breakneck speed. They believed he must be bringing urgent news, and were impatient to find out what it was.
When Jehu, Joram and Ahaziah met face to face, it was immediately apparent the kings had fallen into a trap.
Jehu reined to a halt and put an arrow to his bow. The two young kings turned to flee but Jehu shot an arrow into his Joram's heart, killing him instantly.
Ahaziah turned and fled - not up towards Jezreel, but down the road towards Beth-haggan. His horse was not fast enough to carry him out of range: Jehu's soldiers shot him too, and he died later at Megiddo.
Up on the city walls, Jezebel watched. She knew her turn was next.
Go to 'QUEEN JEZEBEL MURDERED' to see her fate ....
and what happened to the royal children
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