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inwardly hated of her own. He whose servants she persecuted, raised up enemies to her from her own elbow.
Thus must pride fall; insolent, idolatrous, cruel Jezebel besprinkles the walls and pavement with her blood ; and now those brains, that devised mischief against the servants of God, are strewed upon the stones ; and she, that insulted upon the prophets, is trampled upon by the horses' heels : “ The wicked is kept for the day of destruction, and shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.”
Death puts an end commonly to the highest displeasure. He that was severe in the execution of the living, is merciful in the sepulture of the dead; “Go see now this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a king's daughter.” She, that upbraided Jehu with the name of Zimri, shall be interred by Jehu as Omri's daughter-in-law, as a Sidonian princess : somewhat must be yielded to humanity, somewhat to state.
The dogs have prevented Jehu in this purpose, and have given her a living tomb, more ignoble than the worst of the earth: only the skull
, hands, and feet, of that vanished carcass yet remain ; the skull, which was the roof of all her wicked devices, the hands and feet, which were the executioners, these shall remain as the monuments of those shameful exequies : that future times, seeing these fragments of a body, might say, The dogs were worthy of the rest ; thus Jezebel is turned to dung, and dog's meat; Elijah is verified, Naboth is revenged, Jezreel is purged, Jehu is zealous, and, in all, God is just.
JEHU KILLING THE SONS OF AHAB, AND THE PRIESTS
OF BAAL. THERE were two prime cities of the ten tribes, which were the set courts of the kingdom of Israel, Samaria
and Jezreel; the chief palace of the kingdom was Jezreel, the mother city of the kingdom was Samaria ; Jehu is possessed of the one without any sword drawn against him: Jezreel willingly changes the master, yielding itself to the victor of two kings, to the avenger of Jezebel; the next care is Samaria; either policy or force shall fetch in that head of the tribes.
The plentiful issue of princes is no small assurance to the people; Ahab had sons enough to furnish the thrones of all the neighbouring nations, to maintain the hopes of succession to all times: how secure did he think the perpetuation of his posterity, when he saw seventy sons from his own loins ! Neither was this royal issue trusted, either to weak walls, or to one roof; but to the strong bulwarks of Samaria ; and therein to the several guards of the chief peers : it was the wise care of their parents not to have them obnoxious to the danger of a common miscarriage, or of those emulations which wait upon the cloyedness of an undivided conversation, but to order their separation so, as one may rescue other from the peril of assault, as one may respect other out of a familiar strangeness. Had Ahab and Jezebel been as wise for their souls, as they were for their seed, both had prospered.
Jehu is yet but in his first act; if all the sons of Ahab bleed not, the prophecy is unanswered : there shall be no need of his sword, his pen shall work all this slaughter. He writes a challenge to Samaria, and therein to the guardians of the sons of Ahab, daring them, out of the confidence in their defenced city, in their chariots and horses, in their associates and arms, to set up the best of their master's sons on his father's throne, and to fight for his succession.
All the governors of Ahab's children conspire in one common fear: no doubt, there wanted not, in that numerous brood of kings, some great spirits, that, if at least they attained to the notice of this design, longed for a revenge, and suggested counsels
of resolution to their cowardly guardians. Shall an audacious usurper run thus away with the crown of Israel? Shall the blood of Jezebel be thus traitorously spilt, thus wilfully forgotten? Oh Israelites, can you be so base as to be ruled by my father's servant ? Where are the merits of Ahab and Jehoram? What is become of the loyal courage of Israel? Doubtless ye shall not want able seconds to your valour ; do ye think the royal and potent alliances of our mother Jezebel, and the remaining heirs of Judah, can draw back their hands from your aid? Will they endure to swallow so cruel an indignity?
Stir up your astonished fortitude, 0 ye nobles of Israel ! redeem your bleeding honour, revenge this treacherous conspirator, and establish the right of the undoubted heirs of your sovereign. But as warm clothes to a dead man, so are the motions of valour to a fearful heart. “Behold two kings stood not before him, how then shall we stand ?”
Fear affrights itself rather than it will want bugs of terror. It is true, two kings fell before Jehu, but two kings unarmed, unguarded. Had not the surprisal of Jehu taken advantage of the unsuspicious nakedness of these two princes, his victory had not been thus successful, thus easy. Half one of those two kings, upon advertisement and preparation, had abated the fury of that hot leader. It is the fashion of fear to represent unto us always the worst, in every event, not looking at the inequality of the advantages, but the misery of the success : as, contrarily, it is the guise of faith and valour, by the good issue of one enterprise, to raise up the heart to an expectation and assurance of more.
These men's hearts are dead with their kings, neither dare entertain the hope of a safe and prosperous resistance, but basely return, “We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king ; do thou that which is good in thine eyes."
Well may Jehu think, These men, which are thus disloyal to their charge, cannot be faithful to me; it is their fear that draws them to this observation ; were they not cowards, they would not be traitors to their princes, subjects to me: I may use their hands, but I will not trust them. It is a thankless obedience that is grounded upon fear; there can be no true fidelity without love and reverence. Neither is other betwixt God and us: if out of a dread of hell we be officious, who shall thank us for these respects to ourselves ?
As one that had tasted already the sweetness of a resolute expedition, Jehu writes back instantly, “ If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take
ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel to-morrow this time.” Valiant Jehu was so well acquainted with the nature of fear, that he well knew this passion, once grown desperate, would be ready to swallow all conditions ; so far therefore doth his wisdom improve it, as to make these peers his executioners, who presently upon the receipt of his charge, turn cruel, and by a joint consent fetch off the seventy heads of those princes, whom they undertook to guard, whom they had flattered with the hopes of greater honour.
No doubt, but amongst so many sons of Ahab, some had so demeaned themselves, that they had won zealous professions of love from their guardians. Except, perhaps, death stole upon them in sleep, what tears, what entreaties, what conjurations must here needs have been !
What have we done, O ye peers of Israel, that might deserve this bloody measure? We are the sons of Ahab, therefore have ye hitherto professed to observe us; what change is this? why should that, which hath hitherto kept you loyal, now make you cruel? Is this the reward of the long peaceable government of our father? Are these the trophies of Ahab's victories against Benhadad, Jehoram's against Hazael ? If we may not reign, yet at least let us live: or, if we must die, why will your hands be imbrued in that blood which ye had wont to term royal and sacred ? Why will ye of tutors turn murderers ? All pleas are in vain to them that are deafened with their own fears. Perhaps these expostulations might have fetched some dews of pity from the eyes, and kisses from the lips of these unfaithful tutors, but cannot prevent the stroke of death. These crocodiles weep upon those whom they must kill; and if their own sons had been in the place of Ahab's, doubtless they had been sacrificed to the will of an usurper, to the parent's safety. It is ill relying upon timorous natures; upon every occasion those crazy reeds will break, and run into our hands. How worthy were Ahab and Jezebel of such friends! They had been ever false to God, how should men be true to them! They had sold themselves to work wickedness, and now they are requited with a mercenary fidelity; for a few lines have these men sold all the heads of Ahab's posterity. Could ever the policy of Jezebel have reached so far, as to suspect the possibility of the extirpation of so ample an issue, in one night, by the hands of her trustiest subjects?
Now she, that by her letter sent to the elders of Jezreel, shed the blood of Naboth and his sons, hath the blood of all her sons shed, by a letter sent from Jezreel to the elders of Samaria. At last God will be sure to come out of the debt of wicked sinners, and will pay them with that coin, which is both most proper, and least looked for.
Early in the morning, in that gate of Jezreel where Ahab had passed many an unjust sentence, is presented unto Jehu the fearful pledge of his sovereignty, seventy ghastly heads of the sons of Ahab.
Some carnal eye that had seen so many young and smooth faces besmeared with blood, would have melted into compassion, bemoaning their harmless