Read 1 Kings 16. 1-7; 2 Chronicles 19. 1-4
Baasha, King of Israel, came to power by assassinating Nadab, the son of Jeroboam. The historian recorded of him, ‘And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin’, 1 Kgs. 15. 34. It was not surprising, therefore, that a prophet was commissioned to speak the word of the Lord against him, 16. 1. In days of declension, when God’s word was ignored, the voices of the prophets were frequently heard.
Ahijah the Shilonite and Shemaiah had already appeared on the scene to reveal the mind of God in relation to Jeroboam and Rehoboam respectively, 11. 29; 12. 22; 14. 5. It was now the turn of Jehu to declare the Lord’s message to Baasha. He was a prophet, who enjoyed a rich spiritual heritage. His father, Hanani, had left him a fine example by speaking out against Asa, king of Judah, for relying on the king of Syria, rather than on the Lord. His message was uncompromising: ‘Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars’, 2 Chr. 16. 9. Asa was angry with him for so doing and put him in prison, v. 10. Jehu, therefore, knew full well the cost of faithfully declaring the word of the Lord. Hanani challenges all Christian parents to be exercised about the spiritual example they set for their children. It was rare in the books of Kings for a son to rise above the spiritual standard set by his father.
As Baasha had been guilty of following the evil ways of Jeroboam, the message that Jehu delivered to him was similar to the one that Ahijah had communicated to Jeroboam, 1 Kgs 14. 7-10: ‘Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat’, 16. 2-3. The phrase, ‘exalted thee out of the dust’ suggests that Baasha had risen to the throne from very humble origins. Nevertheless, whatever the man’s origins were, if he dared to provoke the Lord to anger by displacing Him with idols, he would not escape unscathed.
The outlook for Baasha, therefore, was as bleak as it had been for Jeroboam. Jehu declared, ‘Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat’, v. 4. For a man to remain unburied was considered to be one of the greatest disgraces and declared in the Mosaic Law to be a curse on the disobedient, Deut. 28. 26. It was a harsh message indeed, but it was the word of the Lord; therefore, Jehu delivered it faithfully. If Baasha had responded positively to it, he would have found mercy. The judgement, however, did not fall directly on him, but during the reign of his son.
The historian included an interesting supplementary comment on Baasha’s life: ‘And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the Lord against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him [i.e., the house of Jeroboam]’, 1 Kgs. 16. 7. The Lord’s censure of him for his evil deeds and for being like the house of Jeroboam is understandable and acceptable to most readers; however, to extend the censure to include the fact that he destroyed the house of Jeroboam seems harsh. Indeed, the Lord had prophesied that this would happen through the mouth of Ahijah the prophet, 14. 14; therefore, if he had simply done what the Lord had predicted he would do, it would appear unjust and unfair to hold him responsible.
First, in seeking to address this dilemma, it must be acknowledged that although the Lord might predict the evil a man will do, it does not make Him culpable for that man’s action. Baasha was responsible for his own deeds and, therefore, had to face the consequences. Indeed, even though the Lord knew what he would do, he put himself forward for the task. Second, the fact that he immediately embraced the idolatry of the man whose household he had destroyed demonstrates that his motives were not pure. He did not destroy Jeroboam’s household out of zeal for the word of the Lord, but because he coveted position and power. It was often the case in the Old Testament scriptures that the Lord inflicted judgement on the instruments that carried out His judgement. His judgements were always just and He judged others for the unjust way in which they carried them out. They often took things too far and caused unnecessary suffering to His people by so doing, Zech. 1. 15.
Just over thirty years later Jehu was called upon by God to rebuke one of the kings of Judah, namely, Jehoshaphat. He was thirty-five years of age when he began to reign in the fourth year of Ahab, king of Israel. He continued on the throne for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. He followed the example of Asa, his godly father, and he removed the sodomites that were still in the land at the outset of his reign, 1 Kgs. 22. 43, 46. He recognized that they were an offence to the Lord and condemned in His word. He was a very different king from Baasha; however, the fact that he was fundamentally a godly man did not mean that he was perfect. His reign was one of strange contrasts. It could have been much more productive for the Lord had it not been for his weakness in entering into an unholy alliance with Ahab, in order to repel the threat posed by Syria, 2 Chr. 18. 2-3. His response to Ahab’s request to join him in the battle against the Syrians was a sad testimony to his lack of wisdom at this particular time: ‘I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war’, v. 3. He had already made a downward journey to visit Ahab, v. 2. He came from Jerusalem, the place where the Lord had chosen to set His name and from whence the Davidic line of kings ruled; therefore, any journey from there into the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel would have been deemed as a downward spiritual pathway.
Jehoshaphat’s underlying assumption that the differences between the two households were not a hindrance to unity was deeply flawed and led him to compromise the truth of God’s word. The unenlightened reader might view it as a laudable achievement to bring Israel and Judah together, but it brought great displeasure to the Lord. The end achieved did not justify the means used to bring it about; indeed, the consequences of his foolish actions extended well beyond his lifetime. He stands as a strong warning to believers of all generations of the dangers of the unequal yoke. Paul’s words are applicable: ‘What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? … Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing’, 2 Cor. 6. 15-17. True and lasting unity can only be achieved on the basis of a shared obedience to the word of God. Jehoshaphat never succeeded in lifting Ahab to higher spiritual ground; rather, Ahab pulled him down to his level. Indeed, we learn later on from the historian’s divinely inspired record that he went even further downwards, when he permitted his son to marry Ahab’s daughter, 2 Kgs. 8. 27. Family ties, no doubt, were a key factor in him making the wrong decisions at this stage of his life. He even allowed Ahab to use him as a decoy in the battle against the Syrians to prevent the Lord’s judgement on him (Ahab) coming to pass, 2 Chr. 18. 29. Most of the time he made sound judgements that were in line with the Lord’s will, but his errors cost him and the people dearly.
Jehu had a balanced approach when he met Jehoshaphat following his defeat at the hands of the Syrians. He did not hold back from rebuking him for his actions: ‘Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord’, 19. 2. However, he was also swift to praise him for the good that he had done in Judah: ‘Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek the Lord’, v. 3. It is good practice to balance rebuke with commendation when disciplining the Lord’s people. Such an approach gained an appropriate response from Jehoshaphat. Unlike Ahaz in the past, he responded positively and showed by his succeeding actions that he was truly repentant. A purely harsh approach by Jehu would, no doubt, have been counter-productive. It is worthy of note that Paul commenced his letters with commendatory comments about the saints to whom he was writing. It was on the basis of this positive approach that he was able to go on and rebuke doctrinal or moral error.