II Kings – Chapter 9

What a Meshugga Wants

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Elisha called one of his students. (Rashi says this is Yonah – Jonah, who was later swallowed by a fish. We’ll officially meet Yonah later, in chapter 14.) Elisha instructed him to take a flask of oil and anoint Yehu as king of Israel. After doing so, Yonah was to run away, before Yehoram, the current king, could find out about it.

Yonah found Yehu, a commander in the army, sitting with the other officers. He took him aside privately to give him a message. When they were alone, Yonah anointed Yehu and informed him that G-d was making him king. Part of his job was to strike down the house of Ahab, as per G-d’s word. Yonah then ran away, as instructed.

Yehu’s colleagues thought Yonah was a lunatic. “What did that meshugga want?” they asked. (The Navi actually uses the word “meshugga,” by the way.) Yehu replied, “Nothing – just the ramblings of a crazy person.” They didn’t believe him and pressed for details. He told them what happened and they proclaimed him king. Yehu said, “Fine, if it’s what you want, then I’ll be king. But no one may leave the city so that Yehoram doesn’t find out yet.”

Yehu rode to Jezreel, where Yehoram was recuperating from his wounds and Achaziah, king of Judah, was visiting him. (This is where we left them at the end of the last chapter.) The city watchman reported to Yehoram that a group on horses was coming. Yehoram sent a rider to ask if they came in peace. When asked, Yehu said, “What’s it to you? Get in the back of my ranks!” The watchman reported that the messenger hadn’t returned, so Yehoram sent a second and the same thing happened again. (The soldiers were easily intimidated by a high-ranking officer leading a large force.) As the invading force drew closer, the watchman recognized the leader as Yehu. Hearing this, Yehoram got out of his sickbed and took his chariot to meet Yehu. They crossed paths by the vineyard that Yehoram’s parents, Ahab and Jezebel, had killed Naboth to acquire.

Yehoram asked Yehu if he came in peace. Yehu replied, “What does peace mean to your idolatrous witch of a mother?” From this antagonistic response, Yehoram knew it was a trap. He tried to flee, but Yehu killed him with an arrow. He then had the body thrown into Naboth’s field as a sort of retribution for the murder.

Achaziah, king of Judah, had accompanied Yehoram and had also fled. Yehu pursued him and had him killed, as well. He was brought back to Jerusalem and buried with the other kings of Judah.

Yehu entered the city. Jezebel knew he was coming, so she got dressed and put on make up. (She might have wanted to meet death with dignity, but Rashi and Radak both suggest that she hoped to seduce Yehu into sparing her.) Jezebel stood there looking out her window, nonchalantly. When he entered, she said, “Is that you, Zimri?” referring to the Zimri who assassinated King Elah and seized the throne for himself in I Kings chapter 16. Yehu instructed his men to push Jezebel out the window. Her blood ran down the wall and Yehu trampled her with his horse. After eating and drinking, Yehu ordered that Jezebel be given a proper burial, but it was too late. Dogs had eaten her, as prophesized. The only parts remaining were her skull, feet and hands. Chazal (the Rabbis) tell us that the reason these parts were spared is because, for all her evil, even Jezebel wasn’t completely bad. She used to dance at weddings in order to gladden the brides. This one mitzvah was rewarded, even as she had to pay for all the evil she had wrought (see Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 17).

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