Jehu (Hebrew: יֵהוּא, Modern Yehu Tiberian Yēhû ; "Yahweh is He") was a king of Israel. He was the son of Jehoshaphat, and grandson of Nimshi.
William F. Albright has dated his reign to 842-815 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 841-814 BC. The principal source for the events of his reign comes from 2 Kings 9-10.
Proclamation as king
The reign of Jehu's predecessor, Jehoram, was marked by the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead against the army of the Arameans; there Jehoram was wounded and afterwards returned to Jezreel to recover. He was attended by Ahaziah, the king of Judah, who was also his nephew. (2 Kings 8:28f) The author of Kings describes that, while the captains (commanders) of the Israelite army were assembled away from the king's eyes, the prophet Elisha sent one of his students to this meeting. This student led Jehu away from his peers and anointed him king in an inner chamber, then immediately departed (2 Kings 9:5-6). 2 Kings is silent about the exact identity of this student. Jehu's companions, inquiring after the object of this mysterious visit, were told; they immediately and enthusiastically blew their trumpets and proclaimed him king (2 Kings 9:11-14).
Jezreel and the deaths of Jehoram and Jezebel
With a chosen band, Jehu set forth with all speed to Jezreel, where Jehoram was recovering from his wound from the Battle of Ramoth-Gilead. There he slew Jehoram with his own hand, shooting him through the heart with an arrow. (9:24) Ahaziah, the king of Judah, tried to escape, but was fatally wounded by one of Jehu's soldiers at Beth-gan.
The author of Kings describes how Jehu entered the city without any resistance, and saw Jezebel, the mother of king Jehoram, presenting herself from a window in the palace and receiving him with insolence. Jehu commanded the eunuchs of the royal palace to cast her down into the street; the fall was fatal, and her mangled body was devoured by the dogs. (9:35-7)
Now master of Jezreel, Jehu wrote to the chief men in the capital Samaria, and commanded them to count the heads of all the royal princes of the kingdom. They did things beyond what they were told, bringing him seventy heads piled up in two heaps at his gate. Shortly afterwards, Jehu encountered the "brethren of Ahaziah" at "the shearing-house" (10:12-14), and slaughtered another forty-two people connected with the Omrides. (10:14)
Jehu's quest was rooted in more than his quest for power and the favour of the God of Israel. This account frequently invokes the slogan of "avenging the blood of Naboth" (9:21,25,26), whose vineyard Jehoram's father Ahab had taken by force (1 Kings 21:4); this fact suggests that perhaps the burden of making the northern kingdom a regional power had grown too heavy for its citizens, and Jehoram's defeat at Ramoth-Gilead gave them an opportunity to throw this burden off.
Following Jehu's slaughter of the Omrides, he met Jehonadab the Rechabite, whom he took into his chariot, and they entered the capital together. This adds support to the inference that, at least at the beginning of his reign, Jehu was supported by the pro-Yahweh faction. Once in control of Samaria, he summoned all of the worshipers of Baal to the capital, slew them (2 Kings 10:19-25), and destroyed the temple of that deity (10:27).
Beyond his bloody coup d'etat, and his tolerance for the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (which drew the disdain of the author of Kings), little is known of the events of Jehu's reign. He was hard pressed by the predations of Hazael, king of the Arameans, who is said to have defeated his army "throughout all of the territories of Israel" beyond the Jordan river, in the lands of Gilead, Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh (10:32f).
This could explain why Jehu is offering tribute to Shalmaneser III on his Black Obelisk; Jehu was encouraging the enemy of the Arameans to be his friend. Strong international alliances would also have helped validate his military coup that year over the Omride king, Joram. Bit-Khumri was used by Tiglath-pileser III for the non-Omride kings Pekah (733) & Hoshea (732), hence House/Land/Kingdom of Omri could apply to later Israelite kings not necessarily descended from Omri.
Jehu bows before Shalmaneser III.
Aside from the Hebrew Bible, Jehu appears in Assyrian documents, notably in the Black Obelisk where he is depicted as kissing the ground in front of Shalmaneser III. In the Assyrian documents he is simply referred to as "Jehu son of Omri" (The House of Omri being an Assyrian name for the Kingdom of Israel). This tribute is dated 841 BC.
According to the Obelisk, Jehu severed his alliances with Phoenicia and Judah, and became subject to Assyria.
Tel Dan Stele
The author of the Tel Dan Stele (found in 1993 and 1994) claimed to have slain both Ahaziah of Judah (who was visiting Jehoram) and Jehoram. The most likely author of this monument is Hazael of the Arameans. Although the inscription is a contemporary witness of this period, kings of this period were inclined to boast and make exaggerated claims; so it is not likely that Hazael actually did the killing.