The abuse of authority is a common theme in the Bible and something we can identify with today. Many leaders abuse their authority, but there is always a reckoning. It does not always appear this way and many leaders either do not believe in God or they think they will escape the consequences of their corrupt practices. Yet, one of the greatest attributes of God is justice. We rarely talk about it because it is linked to his judgments. But if God is not just, then he is not righteous. The consequences of corruption limit evil behavior and are always God’s way of bringing people back to himself.
My question is can innocent blood be silenced? Many leaders in our world think it can, but what does God say. One of the most corrupt and abuses of authority is found in I Kings 21. You will know the story well for it is when Ahab desires a vineyard that does not belong to him. The story explains in detail how Jezebel with the approval and authority of Ahab sets murderous plots in motion to steal the vineyard from Naboth. This story of Naboth’s vineyard is also an allegory of the whole history of Israel. You may remember that Israel is referred to as a vineyard in Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5. In the New Testament the parable of the tenants (Matthew 21) details a master who plants a vineyard. In this parable the master sends his servants to collect his fruit and the tenants beat, stone and murder the servants. When the master sends his son, he is treated in the same manner and murdered. The servants in the parable represent the prophets and the son, Jesus, all of whom are murdered by the religious and governmental leaders of Israel. Naboth’s story has a similar message. In the allegory Naboth and his sons represent the prophets. All of them are murdered (II Kings 9). Base and corrupt leaders like Ahab and Jezebel would have us believe that is the end of it, that is how worldly power works. The innocent are crushed! But God’s ways are different, his justice is not thwarted. Immediately after Ahab and Jezebel’s murderous acts, God sends Elijah to pronounce one of harshest judgments found in the Bible.
“Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.” I Kings 21:17-24
Now we may live in a time when leaders think they can do anything they want and get away with it, but that is not God’s way. He is the sovereign ruler over all and he will answer innocent blood! The fulfillment of this judgment is quite lengthy and it takes several years, but God’s word is fulfilled. Because Ahab repents, God delays his judgment, but he does not cancel it. The judgment occurs in 7 distinct stages satisfying the righteous anger of God for the innocent blood of his servants. Their blood will not be silenced!
The devastation of Yahweh’s righteous anger
- The death of Ahab – In a battle with Syria where Ahab joins forces with Judah, Ahab is killed. Listen to the details – “So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria.And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken.” It is important to understand that this is just the beginning of God’s wrath against Ahab. Elijah prophesied that Ahab’s entire house would be cut off. Ahab’s death was but the beginning.
In II Kings 9, Jehu is anointed for God’s judgment against Ahab’s house.
So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. And when he came, behold, the commanders of the army were in council. And he said, “I have a word for you, O commander.” And Jehu said, “To which of us all?” And he said, “To you, O commander.” So he arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” Then he opened the door and fled. II Kings 9:4-10
- Jehu assassinates the King of Israel, Jehoram, and the King of Judah, Ahaziah. Now, it is clear that Jehoram is Ahab’s heir. He was in fact one of Ahab’s sons who was now the king of Israel.
Joram said, “Make ready.” And they made ready his chariot. Then Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah set out, each in his chariot, and went to meet Jehu, and met him at the property of Naboth the Jezreelite. And when Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?” Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah, “Treachery, O Ahaziah!” And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart, and he sank in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar his aide, “Take him up and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. For remember, when you and I rode side by side behind Ahab his father, how the Lord made this pronouncement against him: ‘As surely as I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons—declares the Lord—I will repay you on this plot of ground.’ Now therefore take him up and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of the Lord.” II Kings 9:21-26
We can see that God is faithful to his word by Jehu meeting and slaying Joram on the property of Naboth. God is never slack in his justice.
If you are not familiar with Ahab’s lineage, the next few verse may be a puzzle. It almost appears that Jehu gets carried away by murdering King Ahaziah also. Although after the death of King Joram, Ahaziah flees, Jehu shoots him as well. To understand why Jehu kills both kings requires a little background. During the reign of Ahab, he made a political alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Through this, Jehoshaphat married his son to Ahab daughter, Athaliah. King Ahaziah (Judah) was the son of Athaliah, which means he was the grandson of Ahab. Because of the foolish alliance of Jehoshaphat, Ahab’s lineage infected both the royal lines of Judah and Israel. King Ahaziah’s death was the result of his lineage connection to Ahab.
- Death of Jezebel –
When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, “Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?” And he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her. Then he went in and ate and drank. And he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel,and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.’” II Kings 9:30-37
- Death of Ahab’s 70 sons – Jehu arranges for the death of Ahab’s sons and his friends!
Then he wrote to them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side, and if you are ready to obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me at Jezreel tomorrow at this time.” Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were bringing them up. And as soon as the letter came to them, they took the king’s sons and slaughtered them, seventy persons, and put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel. When the messenger came and told him, “They have brought the heads of the king’s sons,” he said, “Lay them in two heaps at the entrance of the gate until the morning.” Then in the morning, when he went out, he stood and said to all the people, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who struck down all these? Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.” So Jehu struck down all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close friends and his priests, until he left him none remaining. II Kings 10:6-11
- Forty-two princes of King Ahaziah slain. Jehu met 42 kinsmen of Ahaziah on the road, he spared none of them.
- Jehu and Jehonadab go to Samaria and strike down all that remains of the house of Ahab. With this act Jehu completely wipes out all the male lineage of Ahab.
- Massacre of Baal Worshipers – through deception Jehu arranges a sacrifice to Baal and had his men strike down all the prophets, priests and worshipers of Baal.
So as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guard and to the officers, “Go in and strike them down; let not a man escape.” So when they put them to the sword, the guard and the officers cast them out and went into the inner room of the house of Baal, and they brought out the pillar that was in the house of Baal and burned it. And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. II Kings 10:25-27
So, I want to ask again, can innocent blood be silenced? NO, it can’t. God will answer the innocent blood of his people.
Now let’s think back to the allegory of I Kings 21. Naboth, the keeper of God’s vineyard, refuses to give Ahab his vineyard. This was based on Levitical law which actually prevented Naboth from selling his inherited land. This righteous act of holding to God’s law caused Jezebel to plot and murder Naboth. Jezebel had been murdering the prophets of God throughout her reign as queen, but this heinous act against Naboth moved God to act swiftly through the prophet Elijah. And although the judgment of God took time, it was a thorough and devastating defeat.
It is interesting that Jesus takes up this very topic, the murder of the prophets, with the scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the religious leaders for this same evil crime.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:29-36
As we look across the landscape of our world today, we see very real blood being spilled. Many of the faithful are persecuted and murdered. God will answer this injustice, and rightly so. But there is more application here than literal blood and murder.
Jesus spoke of the murder of the prophets directly and in parables. And as this time was so long ago, we often have the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees. For the God we serve is a sending God. He sent his prophets in antiquity, and they were ignored, beaten and murdered. When God sent his son, he too was ignored, beaten and murdered. Is it any different today? The fact is there is still evil and the institutional religion that killed the prophets and our beloved Jesus.
God and religion are polar opposites. God sends while man maintains his comfortable religion. Today, we find the same resistance to change that Jesus and the prophets faced. We think we would never resist God or someone he sends, but we do. We think we would never partake in rebellion or the “murder” of prophets. But much of the murder isn’t physical, it is spiritual. And it is just as bad and can be worse!
In the 7th chapter of Amos, the prophet is in a conflict with an apostate priest, the prophet says, “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not spout against the house of Isaac.’” Amaziah the priest was telling Amos not to prophesy, to leave the land of Judah, but God instructed him to prophesy to his people. Amaziah did not necessarily want to murder the prophet, but he did want him to leave the land and stop speaking. He wanted to murder the word of God, to stop its influence.
And that is our crime today against God. We may not be murdering the prophets, but we certainly are murdering the words of God. Yahweh sends. We ignore and murder his word. In Matthew 23 Jesus warned that all the bloodshed of the prophets would be on that generation. And he was right, 40 years later, in 70 A.D., the judgment of God fell on Jerusalem killing over 1 million Jews. History tells us of the mass murder that took place by the Romans and that they dug up the foundations of the temple. The Romans may have been the tool, but it was God who acted. If God still sends his servants today, which he does, then we can count on the fact that if we ignore him, murder his word, both through error and ignoring those he sends, he will again act.
Jesus is coming again, and as King he has all authority in heaven and earth. And as that time draws near, Christ will dispense both grace and justice on the nations. All things will be made right according to his judgments. God is just! He hears the cries of the innocent. Never take part in the blood of God’s innocent prophets. He will find you and execute his judgments and justice. Innocent blood is never silenced until the fulfillment of God’s devastating wrath. Just as Jeremiah declared, “the LORD is with me as a dread warrior”.