What was "the Blood of Jezreel"? (2008)

Farrell Till

Introduction
The Jehu Problem
Summary of the Solution
The Solution in Detail

"The Blood of Jezreel" in Context
"The Blood of Jezreel" Historically
2 Kings 10:30: A Postponed Judgment?
Other Biblical Examples of Deferred Punishment
2 Kings 10:29-31 Viewed in the Light of Exodus 20:3-5
"Jezreel" Elsewhere in Hosea
"The Blood of Jezreel" as a Massacre Reference
The Sins of Jeroboam

Conclusion


Introduction

In his 2006 "Solution to the Jehu Problem," Leonard Jayawardena published a "solution" to the inconsistency in 2 Kings 10:30, which praised Jehu for having massacred the royal family of Israel at Jezreel, and Hosea 1:4, which pronounced a judgment of condemnation on the house of Jehu for "the blood of Jezreel." Readers of The Skeptical Review know that in 2004, Jayawardena was singing the praises of an entirely different "solution" to this discrepancy which he believed he had discovered all by himself. This was the beginning of a debate between Jayawardena and myself on the Jehu "solution," in which Jayawardena was then hawking an unbridled confidence that he had figured out why there was no discrepancy in the views of Hosea and the author of 2 Kings on Jehu's massacre at Jezreel. To demonstrate that Jayawardena switched horses in midstream, I will begin my rebuttal of his latest "solution" by quoting from the first debate his summation of what he then considered the right explanation of the problem. His "solution" then was radically different from the one he is presently extolling:

The solution to this apparent contradiction consists mainly of a proper analysis and interpretation of two key verses involved: 2 Kings 9:6-10 and 2 Kings 10:30. These two verses should be examined to determine the following:

1. Is 2 Kings 9:6-10, as it might first appear in the English translations, a command to Jehu to destroy the house of Ahab so that God could avenge the innocent blood shed by Jezebel? If so, it is difficult (at least for me) to see how there cannot be a contradiction as alleged. For if Jehu was simply carrying out a divine command delivered through a prophet of God, how could then he be faulted later (Hosea 1:4) for carrying out that command?

It will be shown that the message delivered to Jehu by a prophet was most definitely not a command but simply a statement of the will of God concerning certain future events comparable to the prophecy given by the prophet Elisha to the Syrian king Hazael in the previous chapter (2 Kings 8:10-12).

2. What is the actual nature of the prophecy given to Jehu in 2 Kings 10:30? Is it, as it might first appear, a prophecy simply commending and rewarding Jehu for the destruction of the house of Ahab, or, as I understand it, actually a prophecy postponing the judgement to which Jehu was liable in "recognition" of the "redeeming feature" of his otherwise barbaric deeds in being the executor of the judgement of God upon the house of Ahab? It will be shown that Exodus 20:3-5 is the key that unlocks 2 Kings 10:30.

I hope to expand on the above in a series of exchanges with Farrell Till in the debate that starts today, beginning with the point numbered (1) above.

Those who read all of my first debate with Jayawardena will see that he vigorously tried to defend the position that Yahweh did not give Jehu a command in 2 Kings 9:6-10 to destroy the house of Ahab but had merely "prophesied" through the "son of the prophets" sent to anoint Jehu king that he would destroy the house of Ahab. In other words, Jayawardena was arguing that Yahweh didn't command Jehu to destroy the house of Ahab but was simply stating what he knew, by divine foresight, that Jehu would do, and so Yahweh can't be faulted for having known what was in Jehu's future. Those who go through all of the lengthy exchanges in that debate will see that Jayawardena, finding it impossible to defend his original "solution," dropped out of the debate. Now we will see that he is back again with another "solution," which he seems to be just as cocksure of as he was of the other one when our debate began. We have to wonder, then, if he is just playing a familiar game that we see over and over again in the forensic arenas of biblical errancy: If a "solution" proposed to "explain" a biblical discrepancy fails, the proponents of it will go back to the drawing board and then come back later with a different one.

At any rate, as I go through Mr. Jayawardena's "solution" à la 2006, I hope readers will take notice of just how very different his present position is from his former one. Since he was just as sure in 2004 that he had solved the Jehu discrepancy, how does he know that his latest "solution" isn't wrong too? I will be working to show readers that it is indeed just as flawed as his former one.

The Jehu Problem

I have no substantive disagreement with Jayawardena's summation of the problem:

It is alleged that that there is a contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 because the former commends Jehu for massacring the house of Ahab, whereas the latter pronounces judgment upon the house of Jehu for the "blood of Jezreel." Taking the latter as a reference to the members of the house of Ahab killed by Jehu in Jezreel (as recorded in 2 Kings 9-10) results in the alleged contradiction.

In the following discussion, however, Jayawardena was a bit deceptive, as the brief article that he refers to here is not even close to all that I have written on the Jehu issue:

In his short article entitled "A Perfect Work of Harmony?" Farrell Till, editor of The Skeptical Review magazine, asks the question, "Why would Yahweh want to punish the house of Jehu for what was done at Jezreel if all Jehu had done there was 'that which is right in mine [Yahweh's] eyes'?" and concludes his article thus: "Perhaps some enterprising inerrantist can explain this to us." Here I offer to the readers a solution to this problem which, I believe, should remove it from the lists of Bible contradictions for good.

He well knows about our debate on his 2004 "solution." There are 318K in that debate. I also debated Robert Turkel extensively on this issue, and my exchanges with him, which begin here, contain another 799K. To expose a falsity in Turkel's claim that his view of the Jehu problem was shared by "commentators of all stripes," I also published two follow-up articles to the debate with Turkel on this issue: "Commentators of all Stripes" and "The Zigzagging Stripes of Bobby Turkel." There are 412K in these two articles. In addition to all of these articles and debates on the Jehu issue, I published in The Skeptical Review, "The Jehu Solution" by Tim Simmons and "The Jehu Failure," which was my reply to Simmons. All of this material amounts to much more than the lone brief article that Jayawardena mentioned in the introduction of his latest "solution."

I am glad that Jayawardena has enough integrity to admit that the Bible is not inerrant:

This article, however, should not be taken as a defense of inerrancy, for I am not an inerrantist. The true biblical doctrine of divine inspiration of the Scriptures (as taught by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16-17) does not require, and the authority of the Bible does not depend on, inerrancy. Inerrancy is an invention of theologians. No intellectually honest reader of the Bible can deny the existence of numerous biblical discrepancies; but such discrepancies or errors demonstrably involve only inconsequential matters and do not undermine the basis of Christian salvation. A detailed explanation of these matters must await further articles.

But I have to wonder why, if he really believes this, he has spent so much time trying to prove that there is no error or discrepancy in the Jehu matter. Also, I fail to see anything in his proof text that would prove his claim that "[t]he true biblical doctrine of divine inspiration of the Scriptures (as taught by Paul...)" would not require inerrancy. The text he cited has Paul claiming that "[a]ll scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." The word translated inspired here was θεοπνευστος [theopneustos], which meant "God-breathed"; hence, Paul was claiming that what was in the "scriptures" had been breathed into them by "God." Perhaps, then, Jayawardena would like to explain to us how the "God-breathed" contents of so-called scriptures could contain mistakes. Did "God" breathe those mistakes into them? If so, why?

I don't intend to spend a lot of time on the inspiration issue, except to note that Jayawardena's view that the Bible is errant but still in some way the "inspired" word of God is nothing new to me. I have encountered it before, but I have yet to find any adherent of this belief who could logically explain how he/she is able to determine truth from falsity in an errant Bible. Perhaps Jayawardena will be able to break new ground for us and explain how he has been able to distinguish the biblical passages that are true from those that contain errors.

Jayawardena must surely have discovered some method by which biblical errantists who think that the errant Bible is nevertheless the "word of God" can determine truth from falsity in it, because he parroted a familiar refrain often sung by those of this persuasion when he said that "such discrepancies or errors [in the Bible] demonstrably involve only inconsequential matters and do not undermine the basis of Christian salvation." I would be interested to know (1) just how he has determined this and (2) how he is able to distinguish "inconsequential" errors in the Bible from the consequential matters, which he apparently believes are always inerrant. If what he is claiming here is true, then it must be that in the writing of the Bible, "God" must have protected its authors from making "consequential" errors but left them free to err when they were writing about "inconsequential matters." Perhaps he can explain to us why "God" would have done this. If he protected biblical writers when they were reporting "consequential matters" so that those parts of the Bible would be inerrant, why didn't he just go all the way and extend his divine protection when they were reporting "inconsequential matters"?

In a three-part series on the traditional doctrine of biblical inerrancy, which begins here, I showed that the claim that an omniscient, omnipotent deity "inspired" or "breathed into" the Bible the information it contains would logically require a belief that it is inerrant in its entirety. I invite Jayawardena to read those articles and then show us that the "God-breathed" information in the Bible could contain errors and still be the "God-breathed" word of an omniscient, omnipotent deity, and with that challenge, I will proceed now to show, point by point, that Jayawardena's latest "solution" to the Jehu problem is just as flawed as his former one.

Jayawardena's summary of his solution to the Jehu problem is "simply that there is no contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 because "the blood of Jezreel" is not a reference to those killed by Jehu in Jezreel." We will soon see that Jayawardena has made a claim here that he cannot prove, just as he was unable in our first debate to prove that Yahweh had not commanded Jehu to destroy the house of Ahab but had only "prophesied" that he would. As I go through Jayawardena's article, I hope readers will notice that he has filled it with unsubstantiated assertions, one of which is the one that he just made. I will let readers see his attempt to prove the assertion above before I show that it is indefensible.

According to Jayawardena, "the blood of Jezreel" does not refer to Jehu's victims in Jezreel because "such an interpretation does not fit the context of this phrase. Rather, Hosea 1:4-5 pronounces judgment against both the house of Jehu and the house of Israel for idolatry." It is time to look at Hosea 1:4 in its broader context so that readers will be familiar with what Hosea said in the passage that Jayawardena tries to explain away throughout his latest "solution" of the problem posed by verse 4:

Hosea 1:1-5: The word of Yahweh that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel. 2 When Yahweh first spoke through Hosea, Yahweh said to Hosea, "Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking Yahweh." 3 So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And Yahweh said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

I will be explicating this passage in more detail as I go through Jayawardena's "solution," so here I will focus only on noting that the face-value meaning of the language in this text indicates that Yahweh intended to punish the house of Jehu because of the blood that he had shed in Jezreel. A simple way to do this is by quoting various translations of verse 4, which all convey the idea of punishing the house of Jehu. As you read the different versions quoted below, keep in mind that Jayawardena claimed above that "the blood of Jezreel" is not a reference to those killed by Jehu in Jezreel:

KJV: And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

NKJV: Then the LORD said to him: "Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel."

ASV: And Jehovah said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

NASV: And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.

RSV: And the LORD said to him, "Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel."

NIV: Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.

REB: "The LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, for in a little while I am going to punish the dynasty of Jehu for the blood shed in the valley of Jezreel, and bring the kingdom of Israel to an end."

NAB: Then the LORD said to him: Give him the name Jezreel, for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed at Jezreel and bring to an end the kingdom of the house of Israel.

JB: "Name him Jezreel," Yahweh told him, "for it will not be long before I make the House of Jehu pay for the bloodshed at Jezreel and I put an end to the sovereignty of the House of Israel.

GNB: [T]he LORD said to Hosea, "Name him 'Jezreel,' because it will not be long before I punish the king of Israel for the murders that his ancestor Jehu committed at Jezreel. I am going to put an end to Jehu's dynasty."

NWT: And Jehovah went on to say to him: "Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I must hold an accounting for the acts of bloodshed of Jezreel against the house of Jehu, and I must cause the royal rule of the house of Israel to cease."

NCV: The LORD said to Hosea, "Name him Jezreel. This is because soon I will punish the family of Jehu for the people they killed at Jezreel. Then I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel."

CEV: Then the LORD said, "Hosea, name your son Jezreel, because I will soon punish the descendants of King Jehu of Israel for the murders he committed in Jezreel Valley."

LAMSA'S (Peshitta): And the LORD said to him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

MOFFATT'S: "Call him Jezreel," said the Eternal, "for it will not be long before I avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu and put an end to the kingdom of Israel."

REVISED BERKELEY: "Call his name Jezreel," the LORD told him, "for after a little time now, I will punish the house of Jehu because of the blood of Jezreel, and put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel."

WEB: Yahweh said to him, "Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

BBE: And the Lord said to him, Give him the name of Jezreel, for after a little time I will send punishment for the blood of Jezreel on the line of Jehu, and put an end to the kingdom of Israel.

DARBY: And Jehovah said unto him, Call his name Jizreel; for yet a little, and I will visit the blood of Jizreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

WBS: And the LORD said to him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY: And the LORD said unto him: 'Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

HENDRICKSON'S INTERLINEAR: And said Jehovah to him, Call his name Jezreel for yet a little [while] and I will visit the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu and will make cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

HENDRICKSON'S MARGINAL: And Jehovah said to him, Call his name God Will Sow, for yet in a little while I will visit the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

YOUNG'S LITERAL: and Jehovah saith unto him, 'Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little, and I have charged the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and have caused to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel;

All twenty-four of these translations--and others that I didn't quote--convey the idea of punishing the house of Jehu because of the bloodshed at Jezreel. We will see below that Jayawardena essentially claims that all of the scholars who worked on these translations were wrong, because Hosea was not referring to the massacre that Jehu committed at Jezreel. As I go through his attempts to manipulate biblical texts to make them not mean what they clearly say, I will explicate Hosea 1:4 in more detail to show that his spin on this verse is a purely arbitrary one that he has obviously devised in order to eliminate a biblical error.

Summary of the Solution

Jayawardena writes:

Gomer's first son is symbolically named Jezreel (meaning "God sows") to signify that God will end the kingdom of Israel by Assyria and scatter (or "sow") the Israelites among the heathen nations, as a token of which he will break Israel's military power in the valley of Jezreel.

(After I had completed a reply to this section of Jayawardena's article, he sent me a notice that he had again changed his position. Readers can go here to see how his revisions differ from what he said in the first version of his article.)

Gomer was the woman whom Hosea married when Yahweh told him to "take a wife of whoredom," so, as some scholars think, she was probably a cultic priestess or at least a prostitute. If so, she was likely dedicated to Baal, a Canaanite god associated with, among other things, fertility, because Hosea made two references to the Israelite worship of Baal (2:8; 13:1) and additional references to Baal worship in its plural form (2:13,17). It could be, then, that Yahweh's command to name Hosea's son Jezreel was intended as a gesture of recognition that God and not Baal "sows" the seeds of fertility that caused the birth of Hosea's son. In the first verse cited above, Yahweh had said that he had given the wine, grain, oil, silver, and gold that the symbolic mother of Israel had given to Baal (2:8). At any rate, the name Jezreel, given to Gomer's son, was clearly intended to recall "the blood of Jezreel" for which Yahweh intended to punish the house of Jehu, because the prophet said that the house of Jehu would be punished for the blood of Jezreel. It would stretch imagination beyond reasonable limits to think that Jehu committed a famous massacre at Jezreel but that Hosea's statement that the "house of Jehu" was going to be punished "for the blood of Jezreel" did not refer to the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel but rather to the "children of Israel" who had been killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, as Jayawardena will soon claim below. To see this more clearly, let's imagine that a person named James Smith has been indicted for multiple murders at a town called Clarkville. If Jayawardena should read a newspaper report that said that the trial of Smith had ended with his being condemned to death "for the murders in Clarkville," I doubt that Jayawardena would have any difficulty understanding that "the murders in Clarkville" referred to the murders that Smith had been accused of committing. I seriously doubt that Jayawardena would think it possible that Smith had been condemned to die for bank robbery or jaywalking or any other offense except the one called to mind by the phrase "murders in Clarkville." As I continue through Jayawardena's latest "solution" to the Jehu problem, I intend to show that the word blood was used idiomatically in Hebrew to mean murder or killing, so the name Jezreel in Hosea 1:4, used in reference to the "blood" of Jezreel, was clearly associated with the murders that Jehu had committed in the valley of Jezreel. No other interpretation makes any sense.

I said "valley of Jezreel" here, rather than just Jezreel, for reasons that will soon be explained. Jayawardena writes:

In this solution, "Jezreel" in "the blood of Jezreel" refers to the children of Israel as it clearly does in Hosea 1:4a, 1:11, and 2:22, and "blood" refers to the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies (in particular the Syrians) during the Jehu dynasty as a result of their idolatry.

If Jayawardena should read an article like my hypothetical newspaper report of "the murders in Clarkville," would he think that "Clarkville" referred to the people in the state where Clarkville was located and that murders referred to the murders of people in the state who had been killed by others beside James Smith? Like most biblicists trying to hawk "solutions" to biblical discrepancies, Jayawardena simply made an arbitrary assertion about the meaning of the passage in dispute and cited his "proof texts" without quoting them. I suspect that this is done so frequently by would-be apologists because they know that quoting the texts would show enough context to enable at least some readers to see that they don't support what is being claimed. As we will now see, that is the case with Jayawardena's "proof texts" cited above. As we look at them, keep in mind that his unsupported assertion is that "Jezreel" in "the blood of Jezreel" referred to the children of Israel, whose blood had been "shred by their enemies... during the Jehu dynasty." If this is the case, there should be some kind of contextual evidence in his "proof texts" that he could cite in support of this claim, but we see nothing in his article except the bald assertion restated above. As I discuss his "proof texts," I will quote their broader contexts. In the first scripture quotation, notice in particular the last verse, which I will emphasize in bold print:

Hosea 1:8-11: When she [Gomer, i.e., Hosea's wife] had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then Yahweh said, "Name him Lo-ammi [not my people], for you are not my people and I am not your God." 10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

After Solomon's death around 930 BC, the Israelite kingdom, which had been unified into one nation by David, broke into two divisions, the northern kingdom [Israel] and the southern kingdom [Judah], but as I will discuss more in detail later, the last verse quoted above predicted a reunification of Judah and Israel into one nation. Before I elaborate on this prophecy, which obviously failed, I want to establish first the dating of Hosea's prophecies, because this information will be relevant to issues coming up later in my reply to Jayawardena's "solution" of the Jehu problem. In the body of his article, Jayawardena made reference to some of the same historical information that I will mention, so when we get to that part of his solution, I refer readers back to this section of my article if such should be necessary to rebut any of his points that relate to this period of Israel's history.

Hosea claimed that his prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). In dating his prophecies, however, Hosea mentioned in this verse only Jeroboam, the son of Joash, as a king who reigned in the northern kingdom when "the word of Yahweh" came to him. This Jeroboam was the third-generation son of the four generations of Jehu's sons whom Yahweh had promised him would reign in Israel as a reward for Jehu's having destroyed the house of Ahab (2 Kings 10:30). Uzziah of Judah's reign ended around 742 BC and Hezekiah's ended in 687 BC, which latter date would have been after the northern kingdom's conquest by Assyria in 722 BC (2 Kings 17). Since Hosea made no reference to this conquest and mentioned here only Jeroboam II's reign in dating his ministry, with no reference at all to Jeroboam's son Zechariah, whom Shallum assassinated in 746 BC, ostensibly in fulfillment of the prophecy that Jehu's descendants would reign in Israel for four generations (2 Kings 15:8-12), we can reasonably conclude that Hosea's prophecies were written before the conquest of the northern kingdom and also before the assassination of Zechariah. This is a rather obvious conclusion in view of Hosea's prophecy in 1:4 that Yahweh would "in a little while... avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu." Had Zechariah already been assassinated, the prophet would surely have referred to the end of the house of Jehu as a fait accompli rather than an event still in the future at that time.

Because 2 Kings comes before Hosea in the arrangement of books in the Bible, some think that the Kings writer praised Jehu for massacring the royal family of Israel and then later the prophet Hosea condemned it, but actually Hosea condemned the massacre at least a century and a half before the Kings writer praised it. This is a logical conclusion reached from the closing content of 2 Kings, which recorded Nebuchadnezzar's second sacking of Jerusalem in 587 BC (2 Kings 25:8-12). Obviously, this book could not have been completed before the date of the final events that it recorded. As I will notice later, it should not be surprising to Jayawardena that two biblical writers, separated in time by 150± years, when there were no libraries or Internet files to consult for historical information, would have taken opposite positions on an event like the massacre at Jezreel. This, of course, doesn't mean that Jayawardena's latest position on the Jezreel massacre is automatically incorrect, but when I show through explication of the appropriate biblical passages that he probably is wrong again, his recognition of biblical errancy, admitted earlier, should ease his pain of having to abandon another "explanation" of biblical discrepancy. He can always find comfort in rationalizing that the inconsistency in the opinions of Hosea and the Kings writer in the matter of the massacre at Jezreel was just another one of those errors that biblical writers sometimes made in "inconsequential matters."

Now before I analyze his second passage in Hosea cited above as "proof" that the "blood of Jezreel," in Hosea 1:4 referred to "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies (in particular the Syrians) during the Jehu dynasty," readers should notice that in 1:11, Hosea predicted that Judah and Israel would be gathered together into one nation again under one head [ruler], a prediction that he ended by saying, "[F]or great shall be the day of Jezreel." Since Hosea said in 1:4-5 that Yahweh would (1) punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel" and (2) put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel by "break[ing] the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel," a more sensible interpretation of the word Jezreel, as the prophet used it in verse 11 where he spoke of the greatness of the "day of Jezreel," would be that he meant it to symbolize circumstances that would bring about the new unified nation that would arise after Yahweh had punished the house of Jehu and put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel "in the valley of Jezreel." To see those circumstances as the purging of both Israel's guilt for Jehu's massacres at Jezreel and the people's personal guilt for various "sins" that will be identified and discussed as we go along is perfectly sensible--far more sensible than the strained interpretation that Jayawardena is trying to sell. The other "proof texts" cited by Jayawardena seem to bear this out. To understand the one verse that he cited (2:22), we need to go all the way back to 2:1 in order to let the broader context shed light on how Jezreel was used in verse 22. As I go through the broader context of this passage, I will interrupt to comment on key parts of it:

Hosea 2:1-6: Say to your brother, Ammi, and to your sister, Ruhamah, 2 Plead with your mother, plead--for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband--that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts, 3 or I will strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and turn her into a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no pity, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, "I will go after my lovers; they give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink." 6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns; and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.

Ammi and Ruhamah were the second and third children born to Hosea's "wife of whoredom," after Jezreel, in chapter one. Ammi meant "you are not my people" and Ruhamah meant "has not obtained mercy." Gomer, their mother, was Hosea's "wife of whoredom," who symbolized Israel, which Hosea thought had become an unfaithful "wife" to Yahweh. Hosea, however, foresaw a reformation in which Israel would turn from its "unfaithfulness" to Yahweh and would become unified again with Judah, so in the verses that follow, he led his readers up to the time of this reformation. The passage continues:

Hosea 2:7-13: She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then she shall say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now." 8 She did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished upon her silver and gold that they used for Baal. 9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season; and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 I will put an end to all her mirth, her festivals, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed festivals. 12 I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, "These are my pay, which my lovers have given me." I will make them a forest, and the wild animals shall devour them. 13 I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals, when she offered incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says Yahweh.

Through the predicted punishment of the house of Jehu and putting an end to the house of Israel by breaking its bow in the valley of Jezreel, Yahweh would put an end to all of the mirth of his unfaithful wife Israel and thereby punish her for having participated in "the festival days of the Baals." At that time, the stage would be set for the reformation and formation of a unified nation of Israel and Judah, which the following verses predicted:

Hosea 2:14-23: Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 From there I will give her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 On that day, says Yahweh, you will call me, "My husband," and no longer will you call me, "My Baal." 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. 18 I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know Yahweh. 21 On that day I will answer, says Yahweh, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; 23 and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, "You are my people"; and he shall say, "You are my God."

After all of these reforms and the blessings that Yahweh would bring upon his reclaimed wife, "[T]hey shall answer Jezreel." Yahweh would then have pity on Lo-ruhamah and would say to Lo-ammi, "You are my people." When we look at the broader context of Jayawardena's last "proof text," we see that Hosea was using here the word Jezreel to symbolize conditions that would make possible the reunification of Judah and Israel, which Hosea obviously thought would then enjoy a permanent state of Utopia forever. To say, as Jayawardena did, that Hosea had used the word to mean the "blood of the children of Israel" who had been killed during the reign of the Jehu dynasty is an arbitrary interpretation that has no textual support. My explications of the texts cited above by Jayawardena show that Hosea's primary concern was the spiritual unfaithfulness of Yahweh's wife Israel, which had occurred through Baal worship. Those who take the time to read the entire book will see a repeated emphasis on Israel's devotion to Baal but nothing to indicate that Hosea was upset over "the blood of the children of Israel" who had been killed during the Jehu dynasty. If there is any textual evidence that this was Hosea's primary concern, Jayawardena should quote and explicate it.

In his summary of his solution, Jayawardena writes:

This "blood" is avenged upon the house of Jehu because they continued and promoted the cult of calf worship introduced by Jeroboam (and so "made Israel to sin"), which was the chief cause of divine judgment on the northern kingdom by enemy nations such as Syria.

The text in dispute contained two prophecies: (1) Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel." (2) Yahweh would put an end to the house of Israel. A quick look again at the text will confirm this double prophecy:

Hosea 1:4 And Yahweh said to him [Hosea], "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while [1] I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and [2] I will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

If Hosea meant what Jayawardena is claiming, then the prophet could have used a few lessons in how to write with clarity, because the adverbial phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" is positioned to give the impression that it modified punish and not both punish and cause. If Hosea had meant that Yahweh would both punish the house of Jehu and cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease, and that he would do both because of the blood of Jezreel, he should have positioned the disputed phrase where it would clearly indicate that it modified both predictions. The following rewording would communicate the meaning that Jayawardena is claiming for Hosea 1:4:

And Yahweh said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for because of the blood of Jezreel, in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu and cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end.

Now there is no doubt that "the blood of Jezreel" was the reason for both predictions of punishment in this rewritten version of the verse, but as the phrase was actually placed in the verse, it leaves the definite impression that the blood of Jezreel was the reason only for the predicted punishment of the house of Jehu. The rest of the book of Hosea focused primarily on Baal worship in Israel, which would be Hosea's reason for Yahweh's causing the house of Israel to cease so that Yahweh could replace it with a nation in which both Judah and Israel would be reunified and worship him.

Jayawardena writes:

Starting from Jeroboam, all the kings of Israel were, in addition to being culpable for their own idolatry, responsible for the blood of the people of Israel in leading them in idolatry--and paid for it by the assassinations and massacres accompanying the numerous coups in Israel's history (see 1 Kings 14:14-16).

The Bible was written in a time when people superstitiously believed that the gods controlled almost every event in human lives. In times of prosperity and good fortune, the people thought that their gods were pleased with them. In times of misfortune and calamity, they thought that they had displeased their gods. In the inscription on the Moabite Stone, for example, king Mesha of Moab said that Omri, the king of Israel, had "oppressed Moab many days, because Chemosh was angry with his land." This same belief was reflected many times in the Bible.

The author or authors of Judges repeatedly attributed adversity and oppression by other nations to the failure of the people to please their god Yahweh:

Judges 2:11-14: Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked Yahweh to anger. 13 They abandoned Yahweh, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.

Judges 3:7-8: The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, forgetting Yahweh their God, and worshiping the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 Therefore the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim; and the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.

Judges 3:12-14 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh; and Yahweh strengthened King Eglon of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. 13 In alliance with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, he went and defeated Israel; and they took possession of the city of palms. 14 So the Israelites served King Eglon of Moab eighteen years.

This was a recurring theme in the book of Judges. The people would do evil in the sight of Yahweh, and then some kind of adversity would follow. Eventually, the adversity, usually some kind of foreign oppression, would end, and change of fortune would immediately be attributed to their having "cried out to Yahweh" (Judges 3:9,15). Such accounts merely reflected a belief of the times, because the people then thought that their gods were involved in every event in their lives. When disasters and calamities happened, such as defeats in battles or conquests by invading armies, they reasoned that they had done something that displeased their gods. This kind of thinking was an excellent example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc [after this, therefore because of this] fallacy, which has no doubt resulted in many silly superstitions, such as beliefs that breaking mirrors or walking under ladders will cause bad luck. After occasions of tragedy it was always easy to find something considered wrong by contemporary societal standards, so it was common in those days to blame famines, oppression, or conquests, or whatever on actions believed to have angered the gods.

That was no doubt the case in Jayawardena's "proof text" cited above. 1 Kings 14:14-16 does say that Yahweh would cut off the house of Jeroboam and "give up Israel" because of the sins of Jeroboam, but readers should keep in mind that the book in which this condemnation appears was, as I pointed out above, written well after the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722 BC. The question of why Yahweh would have allowed this to happen to his "chosen people" was a bothersome question that demanded an explanation, and the author of the books of Kings had one: It happened because of the sins of Jeroboam. It would never have occurred to the writer that it had happened because, as a modern English idiom says, "shit happens." No, if it happened, there had to have been a reason, so Jeroboam was made the scapegoat, even though he had reigned and died of apparently natural causes (1 Kings 14:19-20) in 901 BC, 179 years before the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722 BC. Yahweh certainly took his good sweet time getting around to "cutting off" the house of Israel for the sins of Jeroboam, didn't he?

I trust that I was not the only one to notice how Jayawardena was trying to play both sides of the street. Earlier, he had said that "the blood of Jezreel" was the deaths of the children of Israel who had died under the reigns of the Jehu dynasty and that it was because of those deaths that "God" was going to put an end to the house of Israel, but then he turned around and cited a "proof text" that says that Yahweh would "cut off" Israel because of the sins of Jeroboam. Let's look at a full quotation of what Jayawardena's "proof text" says:

1 Kings 14:14-16: Moreover Yahweh will raise up for himself a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam today, even right now! 15 "Yahweh will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; he will root up Israel out of this good land that he gave to their ancestors, and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their sacred poles, provoking Yahweh to anger. 16 He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and which he caused Israel to commit."

This passage is rather easy to understand. It put an after-the-fact blame on Jeroboam for the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom and the deportation of its people to regions beyond the Euphrates. Jayawardena, then, needs to make up his mind. Did Yahweh destroy the northern kingdom and send its population into captivity because of the sins of Jeroboam or did he do it because of the blood of the children of Israel who had been killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? He can't have it both ways.

Sensible readers, of course, will realize that the author of Kings was simply interpreting events in accordance with his religious beliefs. A national calamity had happened, and someone had to be responsible for it. He made Jeroboam the scapegoat. Later on, in 2 Kings, he made king Manasseh the scapegoat for the Babylonian conquest of Judah and the subsequent captivity of its population (2 Kings 23:26-27; 2 Kings 24:3-4). This was just the way that superstitious people living in superstitious times thought, but if the Kings writer was correct in saying that Yahweh would destroy the northern kingdom because of the sins of Jeroboam, then Jayawardena's claim that Hosea prophesied the destruction of the northern kingdom because of the sins of the Jehu dynasty can't also be right. Jayawardena contends:

Because he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, i.e., calf worship, Jehu had been warned of divine judgment against his house, the execution of which was postponed to the fourth generation in consideration of the fact that he served God in the matter of the destruction of the house of Ahab (2 Kings 10:29-31).

Well, here is a question for Jayawardena. If Jehu had departed from the sins of Jeroboam, would Yahweh have spared and protected the kingdom of Israel? If so, then the prophecy in 1 Kings 14:14-16, quoted above, would have failed, because this prophecy said that Yahweh would "cut off" Israel because of Jeroboam's sins. Which way, then, does Jayawardena want it? Did Yahweh cause the kingdom of Israel to end because of the sins of Jeroboam or because of the sins of the house of Jehu? He can't have it both ways.

The Solution in Detail

Jayawardena explains his solution as follows:

The solution to the problem lies in a correct interpretation of Hosea 1:4-5 and, in particular, the phrase "the blood of Jezreel." As mentioned above, the contradiction results from taking this phrase as a reference to those killed by Jehu in Jezreel. Unfortunately, most apologists have also tried to reconcile the two verses on that basis.

Of course they have. Why wouldn't readers of Hosea 1:4-5 think that the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" referred to people who had been killed in Jezreel? Could it be that those "most apologists" that Jayawardena referred to have tried to reconcile the two verses "on that basis" because they are intellectually honest enough to recognize that there is no other sensible interpretation of the "blood of Jezreel" than that it was a reference to Jehu's massacre of the royal family of Israel at Jezreel?

Next Jayawardena goes on to consider "a very simple and basic objection" to his interpretation:

But before I start discussing the meaning of the phrase "the blood of Jezreel," I would like to state what appears to be a very simple and basic objection to this phrase being a reference to the blood spilt by Jehu in Jezreel. A list of all those of the house of Ahab killed by Jehu according to 2 Kings 9-10 is given below:

  1. King Joram, son of Ahab, was killed near the property of Naboth in Jezreel (2 Kings 9:21-26).
  2. King Ahaziah of Judah was shot at the ascent of Gur and died in Megiddo (2 Kings 9:27). Ahaziah was a nephew of king Joram (2 Kings 8:24-26).
  3. Jezebel, wife of Ahab and mother of king Joram, was killed in Jezreel (2 Kings 9:30-37).
  4. The seventy sons of Ahab were killed in Samaria; their heads were brought to Jehu in Jezreel (2 Kings 10:1-8).
  5. "All that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel" were slain by Jehu following 4 above (2 Kings 10:11).
  6. Forty-two relatives of king Ahaziah of Judah, who came down to visit the royal family of Israel, were slaughtered in Beth-eked (2 Kings 10:12-14).
  7. "All that remained to Ahab in Samaria" were wiped out by Jehu "according to the word of the Lord which he spoke to Elijah" (2 Kings 10:17).

If Hosea is pronouncing judgment upon the house of Jehu for any killings carried out by him during his reign, then it is for destroying the house of Ahab, to which 1-7 above relate. The reader will note, however, that out of the seven, only 1, 3, and 5 involve blood-spilling in Jezreel. The number of Jehu's victims of the house of Ahab outside of Jezreel at least equals--in fact probably exceeds--that in Jezreel.

Even though he later indicated an awareness of it, Jayawardena has completely ignored here that there were three Jezreels: one was a city that became the royal capital of the kings of Israel, another one was a valley (Joshua 17:16; Judges 6:33) in which the royal city of the northern kings was later located, and the third one was a city located in the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:56), where David's wife Ahinoam was born (1 Samuel 25:43). Not only is it unlikely that Hosea 1:4 was referring to this third Jezreel, but it is certain that he was including the valley of Jezreel in his prophecy against the house of Jehu:

Hosea 1:4-5: And Yahweh said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

In other words, Hosea was predicting that when Yahweh put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel it would be done by events that could be called "break[ing] the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." When Jayawardena's list of seven is analyzed, one can see that all of those murders can be attributed either to Jezreel or the valley of Jezreel. Jayawardena excluded from "the blood of Jezreel" the murder of king Ahaziah of Judah, who was visiting his uncle Joram of Israel at the time, because Jehu's archers wounded him at the descent of Gur, and he later died at Megiddo, but the descent of Gur is located by Ibleam (2 Kings 9:27), which is on the western side of the valley of Jezreel. Megiddo itself, as biblical reference maps and books like Eerdmans Bible Dictionary will confirm, is located "on the edge of the slope of the Mt. Carmel ridge, on the edge of the Jezreel valley" (1987, p. 706). Hence, there is no reason to exclude Ahaziah from the blood that was shed at Jezreel.

Jayawardena also excluded the 42 relatives of Ahaziah who were massacred at Beth-eked, but the location of this place is uncertain. Since these kinsmen of Ahaziah were on their way to Jezreel to visit Ahaziah, there is no way that he can state with certitude that their murders did not happen in the valley of Jezreel. The fact that Jehu met them and ordered their death while he was on the way to Samaria (2 Kings 10:12) and that after he had resumed his journey to Samaria, he met Jehonadad and invited him to ride in the chariot on to Samaria would imply that Jehu was still some distance from Samaria when he encountered Ahaziah's kinsmen. The parallel account of Ahaziah's assassination indicates that these kinsmen were indeed somewhere in the valley of Jezreel:

2 Chronicles 22:8-9: When Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he met the officials of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah's brothers, who attended Ahaziah, and he killed them. 9 He searched for Ahaziah, who was captured while hiding in Samaria and was brought to Jehu, and put to death.

As previously noted, the account of the massacre in 2 Kings claims that Jehu's bowmen wounded Ahaziah when he fled the scene after Joram was killed when going out to meet Jehu:

2 Kings 11:23-27: Then Joram reined about and fled, saying to Ahaziah, "Treason, Ahaziah!" 24 Jehu drew his bow with all his strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart; and he sank in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to his aide Bidkar, "Lift him out, and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite; for remember, when you and I rode side by side behind his father Ahab how Yahweh uttered this oracle against him: 26 'For the blood of Naboth and for the blood of his children that I saw yesterday, says Yahweh, I swear I will repay you on this very plot of ground.' Now therefore lift him out and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of Yahweh." 27 When King Ahaziah of Judah saw this, he fled in the direction of Beth-haggan. Jehu pursued him, saying, "Shoot him also!" And they shot him in the chariot at the ascent to Gur, which is by Ibleam. Then he fled to Megiddo, and died there.

It would not have been possible for Ahaziah to have died both in Megiddo and Samaria, if Samaria in the chronicler's version meant the city of Samaria, but if Samaria here meant the geographical region known as Samaria, then Ahaziah by dying in the city of Megiddon would have also died in the region of Samaria. This would be somewhat like one newspaper account today saying that a person died in Chicago while another account says that he died in Illinois. We know that both would be right. Hence, if Jayawardena wants to reconcile the various biblical texts so that the accounts of the massacre at Jezreel will be inerrant--as he apparently wants to do--he must take the position that both Ahaziah and his kinsmen were killed somewhere in the valley of Jezreel. It would be proper, then, to include all of them in the term "blood of Jezreel" if that term was being used, as I believe it was, in Hosea's reference to "the blood of Jezreel."

Jayawardena claims that his numbers 4 [the beheading of Ahab's 70 sons] and 7 [the massacre of "all who remained of Ahab in Samaria"] could not be included in the term "the blood of Jezreel." These are actually the only two examples in his quibble that have any real merit to them, because they all appear to have been killed in Samaria, the city. However, Jehu issued in Jezreel the ultimatum to their guardians to kill the 70 sons of Ahab (2 Kings 10:1-7), and after the guardians of Ahabs sons had obeyed the ultimatum, the heads of Ahab's sons were sent to Jezreel and displayed in two piles at the entrance into the city, so it would be pretty much of a petty quibble to argue that these 70 sons of Ahab could not be included in the term "blood of Jezreel."

As for "all who remained of Ahab" that were killed in Samaria, they were part of a massacre that began at Jezreel and was overseen by Jehu in Jezreel, so there would be no reason to exclude them from the term "blood of Jezreel." There are ample precedents of massacres that took their names from the towns either close to or in the actual killing fields. The infamous My Lai massacre on March 16, 1968, in Vietnam would be a well known example. The massacre began outside the village of My Lai when soldiers from the 1st platoon of Charlie Company encountered peasant farmers outside the village. They were the first victims of the My Lai massacre even though they weren't actually killed in the village. Some of the villagers came out to meet the soldiers, and they were killed too, outside the actual village. From there, the massacre continued in the village, and culminated in the killing of villagers fleeing for their lives across rice paddies, again outside the actual village. Later, in mopping up operations, villagers who were seen coming out of hiding places were also killed. Many of the killings, then, took place outside of the actual village, but no one would consider it improper to refer to those killed in rice paddies and ditches outside of the village as victims of the My Lai massacre. I could cite other examples beside the My Lai massacre, but it is sufficient to show that Jayawardena is simply quibbling when he tries to exclude some of the victims of Jehu's massacre from the term "blood of Jezreel." This is really rather amusing. Jayawardena had no trouble finding "the children of Israel" who had been killed during the Jehu dynasty in the term "blood of Jezreel," but he doesn't think that some of the actual victims of Jehu's massacre that brought him to power should be included in the term:

Therefore, it would be very inaccurate to refer to the massacre of the house of Ahab by Jehu as "the blood of Jezreel."

I just showed that this would be no more inaccurate than referring to Vietnamese peasants who had been killed outside of the village as victims of the My Lai massacre. Jayawardena continues:

If Hosea was condemning the house of Jehu for the destruction of the house of Ahab by Jehu, he could have simply had God say "I will punish the house of Jehu for his destruction of the house of Ahab," which would have been far more accurate.

This would have left room for quibbling about who were members of the house of Ahab at that time. Would those who were not actually blood relatives of Ahab, such as Jehoram's "great men, his familiar friends, and his priests" (2 Kings 10:11), have been included in the term "house of Ahab"? As the tale was told, the victims of the massacre were first named, as in the example just cited, and then identified as a part of those "remaining" to Ahab. Anyway, this is just another part of Jayawardena's quibbling. When someone refers to Lt. William Calley, Jr.'s, conviction for the My Lai massacre, I doubt if anyone hearing this reference would wonder if the crime for which he was convicted included those who were killed near but not actually in My Lai proper. So it is with "the blood of Jezreel"; its meaning would leave little doubt except with someone trying to "explain" a biblical discrepancy.

I can illustrate this with "the blood of Naboth," an expression that was also used in the story of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel. Naboth, a contemporary of Ahab, had owned a vineyard that Ahab wanted, but Naboth refused to sell it to him (1 Kings 21:1-4), so Ahab's wife Jezebel conspired to have Naboth convicted and killed on a trumped up charge of having cursed Yahweh (vs:5-16). The scheme worked, and after Naboth had been stoned to death, Ahab took possession of his vineyard. For the crime against Naboth, however, Yahweh sent the prophet Elijah to tell him that on the very spot where dogs had licked "the blood of Naboth," dogs would also lick his own blood (vs:17-19). With this brief summation of the story in mind, one can easily understand what Jehu, after having killed Joram, meant in the passage below where he referred to "the blood of Naboth":

2 Kings 9:25-26: Jehu said to his aide Bidkar, "Lift him [Joram] out, and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite; for remember, when you and I rode side by side behind his father Ahab how Yahweh uttered this oracle against him: 26 'For the blood of Naboth and for the blood of his children that I saw yesterday, says Yahweh, I swear I will repay you on this very plot of ground.' Now therefore lift him out and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of Yahweh."

In reading this, anyone familiar with the murder of Naboth would never scratch his head and wonder what "the blood of Naboth" had meant in the orders that Jehu gave to his aide Bidkar. It obviously referred to the event in which the blood of Naboth was shed. In the same way, there is no sensible interpretation of "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 except to understand that it was referring to the blood that Jehu had shed in the massacre at Jezreel. If not, why not?

Jayawardena writes:

Indeed, "the house of X" is the usual expression used in the Bible when referring to the destruction of the family and relatives of the Hebrew kings (see, for example, 1 Kings 13:34; 15:29; 16:12; 2 Chronicles 21:7; 22:10).

Yes, it was, so what is Jayawardena's point? The issue is not what "the house of so-and-so" meant, but what "the blood of Jezreel" meant. I think that I have pretty well removed all doubt that it referred to the atrocities committed by Jehu at Jezreel. If, for example, the house of Jehu referred to those who were descendants of Jehu, why wouldn't the blood of Jezreel refer to those who were killed at the only massacre known to have been committed by Jehu at Jezreel? Jayawardena adds:

Alternatively, Hosea could have had God say "I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, the ascent of Gur, Samaria, and Beth-eked"!

Likewise, modern reporters could have said that Lt. Calley was convicted for the massacre at My Lai and its nearby rice paddies and ditches, but those familiar with the incident would understand that all of the massacres in that region on that day are covered by the umbrella term "My Lai Massacre." In defense of his interpretation, Jayawardena presents the following analogy:

By analogy, imagine that Al Qaeda had attacked four locations in the U.S., one after another, including the World Trade Center, and all with similar numbers of casualties. How inaccurate and incomprehensible it would have been if the President had appeared on television afterward and said, "The U.S. will punish Al Qaeda for the blood of the World Trade Center!" Why single out one location when American citizens died in all four?

Jayawardena probably couldn't have selected a worse example to try to shore up his quibble. On the same day, that the World Trade Center was attacked, another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and yet another one crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside, probably from efforts by passengers to thwart the plan to hit still a third target. Bush has devised a single term to refer to the terrorist activities of that day. Rather than appealing to the attack on the "World Trade Center," he will use the term "nine-eleven" as a catch-all umbrella term to stir emotional acceptance of whatever policies of his are being questioned. Whenever we hear him or his defenders use the term, we understand what they are referring to. No one hearing the term would think that it referred to, say, the devastation caused by the tsunami of December 26, 2004, in Southern Asia or the hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast, but to assign arbitrary meanings like these to the term "nine-eleven" would be just as ridiculous as Jayawardena's attempt to make "the blood of Jezreel" refer not to the people massacred at Jezreel but to "the children of Israel" who were killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty.

At this point, Jayawardena began an attempt to prove his spin on the meaning of the phrase "blood of Jezreel," which I will reply to in part two of my point-by-point response to his 2006 attempt to solve the Jehu problem.

"The Blood of Jezreel" in Context

After a lengthy introduction to his latest position on the "blood of Jezreel" matter, Jayawardena began an expansion of his general introductory comments:

It cannot be overemphasized that scriptures should be interpreted in their proper context. In biblical hermeneutics, the context of a verse is, in order of priority: first, its immediate context, i.e., the verses immediately preceding and following; second, the rest of the book in which the verse is found; and third, the whole Bible.

Jayawardena's comments about literary interpretation standards were sound until he got to his third one. To say that a verse in the Bible must be interpreted within the context of the whole Bible is an indefensible literary principle, because it assumes that everything that the Bible says is true. It is certainly sound to interpret a specific verse by considering what the author said elsewhere in the same book that contains that verse, because it is reasonable to think that the comparison of passages written by the same person would give possible insights into the meanings of the language used by this person; however, despite what is taught in hermeneutic courses, it is not literarily sound to think that what writer B may have said about subject Y would be a reliable way to interpret what writer A had said about subject Y. The principle that Jayawardena is proposing here is a familiar one with biblical inerrantists. It contends that scripture should be allowed to interpret scripture, but it is a fallacious premise based, as I just said, on an assumption that the Bible is inerrant in its entirety. In other words, this let-scripture-interpret-scripture "hermeneutic principle" attempts to prove inerrancy by assuming inerrancy. The "argument" works like this: scripture A says thus and so, but scripture B says something that apparently contradicts A; therefore, one of the scriptures must not mean what it seems to say. Otherwise, there will be a contradiction in the Bible. This whole "argument" is based on the assumption that the Bible is consistent in everything it says, and so writer B could not have contradicted writer A. This assumption is then used to justify the assignment of some figurative or allegorical meaning to one of the texts--as Jayawardena is obviously doing to Hosea 1:4--so that an inconsistency or contradiction will be eliminated.

This argument is a resort to the fallacy of special pleading, because it accords the Bible interpretative privileges that would not be accorded any other literary forms. If, for example, one should read a story by John Steinbeck in an anthology of American literature and encounter a statement that contradicts something that Ernest Hemingway said on the same subject in one of his stories in the same anthology, the reader would never feel an obligation to engage in verbal gymnastics that would assign some figurative meaning to one of the texts so that what Steinbeck said would agree with what Hemingway said. He would recognize instead that the two books were written by different authors and that different authors will often have conflicting opinions. Even Bible fundamentalists don't think that all of the books of the Bible were written by the same person. They think that some of the Bible was written by Moses, some of it by Joshua, some of it by David, some of it by Solomon, and so on. Whether these books were written by the people to whom authorship has been attributed, it is nevertheless obvious that biblical books were written by different people. Since that is recognizably true, there is every reason to suppose that the writers had different opinions even in theological matters, so it is literarily unsound to argue that one should let a text written by Solomon (presumably) interpret a text written by Moses (presumably) or to let a text written by David (presumably) interpret a text written by the apostle Paul, and so on.

To show just how illogical Jayawardena's position is on this hermeneutic principle, I will remind readers that he took the time in the introduction of his newest "solution" to the Jehu problem to point out that he is not a biblical inerrantist. He went on to say that inerrancy is "an invention of theologians," so I want him to tell us why he thinks that one should let possibly errant scriptures interpret possibly errant scriptures. What if one using this method appeals to an errant passage to let it interpret another passage whose meaning is in dispute? Would that not make his interpretation of the disputed passage questionable? Jayawardena owes us an explanation here. Just how can he be sure that in his appeals to other scriptures in order to interpret Hosea 1:4, he is not appealing to errant passages that contain mistakes that would invalidate his interpretation of Hosea 1:4? How does he even know that Hosea 1:4 itself is not errant? Why isn't it possible that the prophet Hosea and the author of 2 Kings simply had conflicting opinions about the massacre at Jezreel and that one of those opinions is right and the other one wrong? If the Bible is indeed errant, as Jayawardena admits, why would that not be a reasonable hypothesis to consider?

Next Jayawardena appeals to the "context" of "the blood of Jezreel":

In order for us to look at the context of the phrase in question, we need to first look at the background, theme, and message of the book of Hosea.

How can we be sure that when we look at "the background, theme, and message of the book of Hosea," we will not be looking at an erroneous background, an erroneous theme, and an erroneous message? In determining the background or theme or message of the book of Hosea, how can we know that we won't be looking at some passages that contain errors? If, as Jayawardena claims, the Bible does contain errors, how does he know that some of those errors are not in the book of Hosea? As I just asked, how does he even know that Hosea 1:4 itself is not an errant passage? When someone acting in the role of biblical apologist abandons the claim of inerrancy, he puts himself into a rather precarious position when he appeals to other scriptures to explicate the meaning of any given passage, because he has no way of knowing whether he is trying to interpret a possibly errant passage by appealing to another possibly errant part of the Bible.

Jayawardena continues:

Some 200 years before the prophet Hosea's time, the ten tribes had seceded from the united kingdom and set up an independent kingdom under Jeroboam I, with the Golden Calf as its official national god (1 Kings 12).

Although this is true, it does absolutely nothing to prove that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to Jehu's massacre of the royal family of Israel at Jezreel but to "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. What passages can Jayawardena appeal to that would let us know that his interpretation of "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 is correct? In the biblical account of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel, the writer used the term "blood of Naboth" in obvious reference to the murder of the man named Naboth:

2 Kings 9:24-26: Jehu drew his bow with all his strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart; and he sank in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to his aide Bidkar, "Lift him out, and throw him on the plot of ground belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite; for remember, when you and I rode side by side behind his father Ahab how Yahweh uttered this oracle against him: 26 'For the blood of Naboth and for the blood of his children that I saw yesterday, says Yahweh, I swear I will repay you on this very plot of ground.' Now therefore lift him out and throw him on the plot of ground, in accordance with the word of Yahweh."

The story of the conspiracy to kill Naboth so that Ahab could claim his vineyard is related in 1 Kings 21:1-16, so the only sensible interpretation of "the blood of Naboth" in the passage quoted above is that Jehu had used it idiomatically to mean the murder of Naboth. I will, in fact, be showing later that the Hebrew word dâm [blood] was often used to convey the sense of murder, but for now I will just point out the obvious and say that one would have to stretch imagination beyond reasonable limits to argue that Jehu's use of the term "blood of Naboth" meant anything but the murder of Naboth. In the same way, one must stretch imagination, as Jayawardena is now doing, to make "the blood of Jezreel" mean anything except the murders that were committed at Jezreel. The only substantial difference in the two expressions is that the one referred to the person who was murdered while the other referred to the place where the murders occurred. By directly associating those murders [blood] to the house of Jehu, the prophet Hosea conveyed very clearly that he was referring to the murders that Jehu had committed at Jezreel.

If not, why not? Jayawardena writes:

Though there are some references in his book to Judah, Hosea's message was principally for Israel, the northern kingdom.

This is true again, but just how has Jayawardena been able to determine that "Hosea's message" was inerrant? How can he know that at least some of the passages that he relied on to derive this interpretation of Hosea did not contain errors? Furthermore, if we assume the complete inerrancy of everything in the book of Hosea, how does Hosea's direction of his "message... principally for Israel, the northern kingdom" prove Jayawardena's claim that "the blood of Jezreel" in 1:4 referred not to Jehu's massacre of the royal family of Israel at Jezreel but to "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? That is what Jayawardena must literarily establish, and so far he has said nothing that accomplishes this.

Next Jayawardena defends his interpretation of "the blood of Jezreel" by appealing to a point of dubious relevance:

He lived in the tragic final days of the northern kingdom, during which no less than six kings (following Jeroboam II) reigned within 25 years.

Earlier I analyzed texts in Hosea that suggest the dates of Hosea's prophetic ministry. I pointed out that Hosea made no mention of either the assassination of Zechariah of Israel, which occurred in 746 BC or of the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in 722 BC. The assassination of Zechariah marked the end of the Jehu dynasty (2 Kings 15:10-12), and the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom marked its end as an independent country. Hosea's silence on these two significant events, which would have been exactly what the prophet had predicted in 1:4, indicates that the prophet wrote his book well before "the final days of the northern kingdom," so even though he may have lived at that time, he undoubtedly wrote his prophecies before then. At any rate, I fail to see how Jayawardena can prove anything about the meaning of the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" by pointing out that Hosea may have lived "in the final days of the northern kingdom." Just how would Hosea's having lived at that time prove that he used "the blood of Jezreel" to mean "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty?

Jayawardena continues:

Of these, four were murdered by their successors while in office (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah), and one was captured in battle (Hoshea).

And this does what to prove that the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" referred to the killing of "the children of Israel" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty and not to the people whom Jehu had killed at Jezreel? That is what Jayawardena must establish, but so far he has presented only textual summations that prove nothing at all about the meaning of the blood of Jezreel as Hosea used it.

Again, Jayawardena appeals to irrelevant details:

Only one (Menahem) was succeeded on the throne by his son. It was a time of Assyrian expansion westward, and Menahem accepted this world power as overlord and paid tribute (2 Kings 15:19-20).

I have to ask the same question: What does this do to prove Jayawardena's claim that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to the people whom Jehu had killed at Jezreel but to "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? If the term meant what Jayawardena is claiming, he must establish that meaning by contextual analyses and not through the summarizing of events that happened during the time of Hosea.

Jayawardena continues:

But shortly afterward, in 733 B.C., Israel was dismembered by Assyria because of the intrigue of Pekah, who had usurped Israel's throne by killing Pekahiah, son and successor of Menahem. Following the disloyalty of Hoshea (the last king of Israel) to Assyria, Samaria was captured and its people exiled in 722-721 B.C., thus bringing the northern kingdom to an end.

True again, but how does it prove that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to the people whom Jehu had killed at Jezreel but to "the blood of the children of Israel shed by their enemies" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? As I pointed out earlier, Hosea made no mention of either the assassination of Zechariah of Israel, which occurred in 746 BC or of the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom in 722 BC, silences that indicate that Hosea's prophecies were written before the events that Jayawardena summarized above from the history of the northern kingdom as it was reported in 2 Kings. I fail to see, then, how events that happened in the northern kingdom after Hosea's prophecies were written could have any relevance to what he meant by the phrase blood of Jezreel in 1:4, especially since the records of those events in 2 Kings made no references at all to Jezreel. As I have often pointed out to biblical inerrantists who resort to all sorts of speculations to make the Bible not mean what it obviously says, the meanings of words must always be determined by the contexts in which they are used. Even though he disavows belief in biblical inerrancy, this same literary principle would apply also to Jayawardena's interpretative claims, so if this phrase meant what he is claiming, he must find contextual evidence that this was what Hosea meant. Summations of the history of Israel during and after Hosea's time cannot establish the meaning of his language unless those summations contain contextual analyses, and I have yet to find anything remotely resembling contextual analyses in Jayawardena's historical summations. Instead, Jayawardena offers the following:

During the period of Hosea's prophecy, the nation was in a mess. Rejection of the true God and wholesale adoption of idolatrous practices brought about a moral and political landslide.

Well, there is a bit of question begging here. In saying that there had been a "[r]ejection of the true God," Jayawardena has assumed that Yahweh was the "true God," but that is a question that he must prove; he can't just beg it. He also has a bit of the post hoc ergo propter hoc, i.e., after this therefore because of this, fallacy in the statement above. If we assume that the northern kingdom was caught in "a moral and political landslide" in Hosea's time, that would in no way prove that these conditions had been caused by a "rejection of the true god" and "wholesale adoption of idolatrous practices." Periods of social and political advancements and declines have run in cycles throughout history. Nations like Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Greece, etc. experienced throughout their histories periods of advancement and decline. They all, however, practiced what would have been "idolatrous" religions to Jayawardena, so if idolatry is what causes "moral and political landslides," how does Jayawardena explain the advancements that occurred in the countries just mentioned when they were worshiping idols and offering sacrifices to them. Otherwise, I basically agree with what Jayawardena said above. In Hosea's time, there had been extensive rejections of the god Yahweh, and those rejections had obviously disturbed the prophet. That, however, in no way proves that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to the people whom Jehu had massacred at Jezreel but to the killing of "the children of Israel" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. To establish this as the meaning of the phrase, Jayawardena must analyze the context in which the statement was made, but so far, he has said nothing by way of contextual analysis to support his interpretation. He has simply asserted it. I, on the other hand, showed above that the term "blood of Naboth" was used in obvious reference to a person named Naboth (1 Kings 21:1-16), so Jayawardena needs to show us contextual reasons why the term "blood of Jezreel" was not a reference to murders that had been committed at Jezreel. If there were any contextual support for the interpretation he is claiming, Jayawardena would have cited it long ago.

Jayawardena continues:

Internal strife racked the nation with bloody coups being commonplace. Into this mess stepped Hosea and called the nation to repent and return to the true God.

Before I continue analyzing his recap of Israelite history in Hosea's time, I must again point out that he is engaging in question begging by assuming that Yahweh was "the true God." As I pointed out above, even if we assume that Yahweh was the "true God," that would in no way prove that the term "blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 meant what Jayawardena is claiming. He must cite contextual evidence that Hosea used the expression to mean the shedding of the blood of "the children of Israel" during the time of the Jehu dynasty, and so far, he has not done that. He has only asserted that it meant this.

Jayawardena appeals to further irrelevant details:

His message was one of divine judgment for Israel's religious apostasy and moral bankruptcy, mixed with divine love for the nation and promises of its restoration.

Indeed, as I pointed out above. Like other ethnocentric Hebrew prophets, Hosea believed that the god Yahweh would bring about a reformation that would once again unite the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) into one nation over which "one head" would rule (1:10-11), but this does what to prove that Hosea used the term "blood of Jezreel" in the sense that Jayawardena is claiming? Furthermore, Jayawardena seems not all bothered by the failure of Hosea's prophecy that the northern and southern kingdoms would once again be unified under "one head." Perhaps he considers this prophecy failure one of the cases of errancy in the Bible.

Again Jayawardena provides a summation of Israelite history when contextual analysis is what is called for:

Eventually, Hosea predicted the fall of Israel to Assyria and said that "the thing itself [the golden calf] shall be carried to Assyria" (10:5-6).

Obviously, Hosea was opposed to the practice of worshiping the golden calves, which was apparently widespread in his time, but I fail to see how his opposition to the practice would prove that he had used the blood of Jezreel in 1:4 to mean the killing of "the children of Israel" during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty and not to the murders committed by Jehu in his usurpation of power by massacring the royal family of Israel. Jayawardena's continual summations of Israelite history do nothing to establish that the phrase "blood of Jezreel" meant what he claims. He must establish that through contextual analysis, and so far his article has shown no interest in contextual analysis.

Jayawardena returns to the text:

With the above in mind, let us now look at Hosea 1:4-5, quoted below:

And the Lord said unto him [Hosea], Call his name Jezre-el; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood [or bloodshed] of Jezre-el upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Isra-el. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Isra-el in the valley of Jezre-el. (KJV)

Keep in mind what I said earlier: Hosea 1:4 obviously prophesied two different events that Yahweh would bring about: (1) the destruction of the house of Jehu and (2) the destruction of the nation of Israel. For the convenience of readers, I will quote the most relevant part of my earlier discussion in the box below:


The text in dispute contained two prophecies: (1) Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel." (2) Yahweh would put an end to the house of Israel. A quick look again at the text will confirm this double prophecy.

Hosea 1:4 And Yahweh said to him [Hosea], "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while [1] I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and [2] I will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.

If Hosea meant what Jayawardena is claiming, then the prophet could have used a few lessons in how to write with clarity, because the adverbial phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" is positioned to give the impression that it modified punish and not both punish and cause. If Hosea had meant that Yahweh would both punish the house of Jehu and cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease, and that he would do both because of the blood of Jezreel, he should have positioned the disputed phrase where it would clearly indicate that it modified both predictions. The following rewording would communicate the meaning that Jayawardena is claiming for Hosea 1:4:

And Yahweh said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for because of the blood of Jezreel, in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu and cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end.

Now there is no doubt that "the blood of Jezreel" was the reason for both predictions of punishment in this rewritten version of the verse, but as the phrase was actually placed in the verse, it leaves the definite impression that the blood of Jezreel was the reason only for the predicted punishment of the house of Jehu. The rest of the book of Hosea focused primarily on Baal worship in Israel, which would be Hosea's reason for Yahweh's causing the house of Israel to cease so that Yahweh could replace it with a nation in which both Judah and Israel would be reunified and worship him.


A simple illustration will show that two punishments were obviously made in the disputed text. If modern candidates running for congressional offices later this year should promise that if they are elected they will (1) punish by impeachment the Bush administration for the blood shed in Iraq and (2) bring an end to the political party that favors the rich, who would think that the candidates were saying that they would impeach the Bush administration for having pursued a policy that favored the rich? The promise clearly contains two entirely separate pledges: (1) to punish the Bush administration by impeachment for the blood shed in Iraq, and (2) to bring to an end the political party that favors the rich. The phrase "for the blood shed in Iraq" would obviously apply only to number 1, i.e., the impeachment pledge. So it is in Hosea 1:4. It predicted two events: (1) punishment of the house of Jehu and (2) an end of the kingdom of Israel. The reason for the first event was the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel, and the reason for the second one, as even Jayawardena's own explication of the rest of the book of Hosea shows, was the abandonment of Yahwism for the worship of other gods.

Jayawardena writes:

Hosea's ministry began with God commanding him to take a "wife of whoredoms" and have "children of whoredoms" by her. This was to symbolically represent the fact that the northern kingdom, represented by Gomer, had departed from the true God and committed "whoredom" spiritually (Hosea 1:2).

Yes, that was clearly Hosea's view, and it was because of this symbolic "whoredom" that he thought that Yahweh was going to "cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end," but the first half of the prophecy was that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel." As I showed earlier, the phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" is placed within the sentence so that it can modify only the first prediction, i.e., punishment of the house of Jehu. If my explication is incorrect, Jayawardena must show where it went wrong, as I have shown where his erred.

Jayawardena writes:

Israel was God's wife (Ezekiel 16:8), and so to forsake God and go after idols was spiritual harlotry (Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 31:16).

Yes, Hosea obviously thought this, but as I have shown above, after Hosea had said that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, he predicted that Yahweh would also cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end, and from there, he went on to explain that Israel's abandonment of Yahwism for the worship of other gods, especially Baalism, was why Yahweh was going to cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end. Jayawardena is trying to make the "blood of Jezreel" apply to both parts of the prophecy, but as I showed earlier, this phrase was placed within the sentence where it would modify only the first part of the prophecy, which was that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel. Jayawardena is trying to put a broader application onto the phrase than what Hosea likely intended.

Jayawardena writes:

Hosea married Gomer, who bore a son who was given the symbolic name "Jezreel"--which means "God sows"--for God was going to judge Israel, put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel, and scatter ("sow") the Israelites among the heathens (cf. Hosea 1:11 and Zechariah 10:9).

As I previously showed, when Jayawardena first presented this interpretation of the meaning of Jezreel, a more likely interpretation is that the word was being used to convey the source of Gomer's fertility. As Jayawardena's own explications are showing, Hosea was upset over the widespread worship of Baal, who was seen by some of his worshipers as the source of fertility, so Gomer's "whoredom" was likely that she had been involved in cultic prostitution. Giving the name Jezreel to her first child would have been a way of acknowledging that the source of her fertility had actually been "God" or Yahweh rather than Baal. This is easily a correct interpretation of the use of Jezreel in Hosea 1:4, and as long as it is, Jayawardena must show us that it was being used to mean that "God was going to judge Israel" and "sow," in the sense of scattering the Israelites among other nations, rather than to mean that Gomer's conception was the result of God's sowing fertility.

Further evidence that the word Jezreel in Hosea 1:4 was intended to convey a sense of fertility that was "sown" or derived from God can be found in an analysis of the word. According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs, this word was derived from zâra' and 'êl. The latter, of course, meant god, and zâra' meant "to sow," but also, according to Brown, Driver, and Briggs, was sometimes used to convey the sense of "to conceive or become pregnant." This latter sense is found in Leviticus 12:2--"Speak to the people of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives [zâra'] and bears a male child, she shall be ceremonially unclean seven days...." The same word was used three times in the Genesis account of creation in reference to plants that "yield" seed or fruit (1:11-12,29). That Hosea was using Jezreel in the sense of God's sowing by causing or bringing about fertility is indicated in 2:21-23. Notice the emphasized references to Jezreel in the context of the Earth's producing fruit:

Hosea 2:21-23: On that day [when Yahweh takes Israel to be his wife again] I will answer, says Yahweh, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; 23 and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah [Gomer's second child, whose name meant "that has not obtained pity"], and I will say to Lo-ammi [Gomer's third child, whose name meant "not my people"], "You are my people"; and he shall say, "You are my God."

Notice how Jezreel was used in a context that associated it with God's sowing in the land and bringing about fruit. Hosea had said earlier that Yahweh would bring about a cessation of prosperity and, among other punishments, "lay waste" the vines and fig trees of Israel (2:10-13), but on the day when he took Israel again to be his wife, this would change, and he would bless the land again and restore its fertility. Jayawardena said above that the "theme" of the book of Hosea was important in understanding the "context" in which "the blood of Jezreel" had been used, and the theme of the passage just quoted above is clearly that Yahweh was the source of fertility.

I will continue to explicate the expression "blood of Jezreel" as I continue through Jayawardena's "solution" to the Jehu problem, but we have already seen plenty of evidence that the term, as it was applied to Gomer's first child, was being used in the sense of divine fertility and not as any kind of reference to the blood of the children of Israel who had been killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. Anyway, the meaning of Jezreel has now become irrelevant, because Jayawardena said here in the revised section that he asked me to post that he "[does] not now think--as some commentators do--that the meaning of the name Jezreel ("God sows") has any significance in Hosea 1:4-5 because (a) the text itself does not relate the meaning of the name to what it is supposed to symbolize...." What Jayawardena may think about the meaning of Hosea 1:4 is apparently subject to frequent change, but his "revision" is quite telling, because he seems to be admitting that the text doesn't relate the name to "what it is supposed to symbolize." What it is supposed to symbolize, of course, is the spin that Jayawardena has tried to put onto the name, i.e., the blood of the children of Israel killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, but I am glad to see him now admitting that the text does not relate the name (Jezreel) to this.

As Jayawardena correctly notes, the word bow was used at times to symbolize the military power of a nation, and so "breaking the bow" would mean that the military might of the nation had been broken:

As a token of this God would destroy "the bow of Israel" (military prowess--see Jeremiah 49:35; Genesis 49:24) in the Valley of Jezreel.

The issue, however, is not what breaking the bow of Israel meant but what the prophet thought was the reason why it was going to be broken. I hate to sound like a broken record, but again I have shown that Hosea 1:4 contained two predictions: (1) the house of Jehu would be punished, and (2) the kingdom of the house of Israel would be brought to an end. I went on to show that the adverbial phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" was placed within the sentence where it would modify just the punishment of the house of Jehu. No reason per se was given in the verse for the second prediction, i.e., bringing the kingdom of the house of Israel to an end, but, as even Jayawardena's own explications are showing, the rest of the book of Hosea gave the reason for the second one. Yahweh would cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to end because of the "sins" of the nation, chief of which was its toleration of idolatry.

Again, Jayawardena offers a historical summation without any contextual analysis:

The beginning of the end of the northern kingdom started with an invasion of Israel by Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria (called "Pul" in 2 Kings 15:19), to whom king Menahem paid tribute (2 Kings 15:19-20). From that time onward Israel became a vassal state until the kingdom was brought to an end by king Shalmaneser V (2 Kings 17:3-6).

This summation of historical events that happened in the northern kingdom after the time of Hosea does nothing to establish Jayawardena's claim that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 meant not the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel but the blood of the children of Israel, who had died during the reigns of the house of Jehu. Jayawardena has yet even to offer a plausible explanation for why Hosea would have put such a twist as this onto a phrase that had obvious connotations of a specific historical event. The fact that the northern kingdom eventually came to an end, as Hosea had predicted, would in no way prove that Yahweh had pulled the strings that caused this to happen. In the first place, Hosea could have easily seen events in his time that gave him reasonable cause to predict that the northern kingdom's days were numbered. Ezekiel, for example incorrectly prophesied the everlasting destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 26-28), but even if this prophecy had come about as predicted, there would have been nothing remarkable about it, because the prophet Ezekiel claimed that he was a captive in Babylonia during the time of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 1:1-3), so he could have easily seen or heard indications of an impending Babylonian invasion of Tyre and wrongly assumed that a small city state was doomed if the powerful kingdom of Babylon laid siege to it. Hosea, likewise, could have been party to information that would have enabled him to make an educated guess that the kingdom of Israel was going to be destroyed.

Jayawardena writes:

Though not recorded in the historical books of the Old Testament, the "bow of Israel" must have been broken by Assyria in some decisive battle in the Valley of Jezreel about 724 B.C., though Samaria held out under siege for some three years longer.

Jayawardena claimed that he isn't a biblical inerrantist, but he assumed here the inerrancy of the Bible by saying that "'the bow of Israel' must have been broken by Assyria in some decisive battle in the Valley of Jezreel." Why would Jayawardena think this? Well, Hosea prophesied that Yahweh would break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel, so if he predicted this Jayawardena assumes that it must have happened. If Jayawardena isn't actually an inerrantist, he apparently wants to be one.

Jayawardena returns to peppering his article with historical points that do nothing to support his case:

The "Valley of Jezreel" is a plain in northern Israel which has been a major battlefield of nations throughout history. It took its name from the town of Jezreel, which stood between Megiddo and Beth Shean, and between Mount Carmel and Mount Gilboa.

And this does what to prove that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to the massacre that Jehu had committed at Jezreel but to the "blood of the children of Israel" who had been killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? I suspect that Jayawardena is hiding his lack of contextual evidence behind his lengthy summations of Israelite history that made no references at all to Jezreel.

Again, Jayawardena writes:

It was a natural battlefield. The Midianites, Amalekites, and people of the east once crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel to fight with the Israelites (Judges 6:33; cf. 1 Samuel 29:1).

Yes, this is what the passages cited claim, but how do they in any way prove that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred not to the massacre that Jehu had committed at Jezreel but to the "blood of the children of Israel" who had been killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty? Jayawardena seems to think that everyone should just automatically accept as fact anything that he asserts.

Jayawardena finally makes a contextual effort to find his meaning of "the blood of Jezreel":

The name "Jezreel" alludes to "Israel" by a play of letters and sounds--even more so in sound in Hebrew than in English. In the Bible we read about other small changes in names: Sarai became Sarah; Abram became Abraham. These changes were for the better, but this time it is for the worse. Jacob became "Israel," meaning "he will rule as God," which now becomes "Jezreel," meaning "God scatters"--a demotion!

However, in order to defend his interpretation of the phrase, Jayawardena has taken the "pun" route, which inerrantists have used before when they couldn't find what they wanted explicitly stated in the Bible. An example of this ploy is the way that inerrantists have tried to find the Persian conquest of Babylon in Daniel 5, which says that the Babylonian kingdom was "received" by "Darius the Mede" (v:30-31). Since historical records clearly indicate that Babylon fell to the Persians rather than to the Medes, inerrantists have claimed that the writer of Daniel indicated through a pun two verses earlier that he knew that the Persians had actually conquered the city. In my exchanges with Everette Hatcher on the book of Daniel, he claimed that in a pun used to interpret the word peres in the message that the mysterious hand had written on the wall (5:28), Daniel showed his awareness that Babylon had fallen to the Persians. In Aramaic, the word perac [peres] meant "to split" or "divide," so because its spelling was similar to Pârac [Persia], inerrantists like Hatcher have claimed that Daniel was showing through a pun that he knew that Babylon had fallen to the Persians. In other words, when inerrantists couldn't find their position explicitly stated in the book of Daniel, they found it in a "pun," as if their god were incapable of directly stating that Babylon was conquered by the Persians.

This is what Jayawardena has done in his search for textual evidence to support his claim that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 meant not the massacres that Jehu committed at Jezreel but the killing of the children of Israel during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. Not finding any real contextual evidence to support this claim, Jayawardena has also taken the "pun" route. The transliterated spelling of Jezreel is Yizre'ê'l and the spelling of Israel is Yisrâ'êl. Although the spellings and pronunciations are similar, whether Yizre'ê'l was intended as a pun or not is really a matter of speculation. The story of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel was told in 2 Kings 9-10, where the words Yizre'ê'l and Yisrâ'êl were used 12 and 17 times respectively. Are we to assume that the author of 2 Kings was punning in these chapters whenever he used the word Jezreel in the same contexts with Israel?

As I have shown, Hosea 1:4 was a two-part prophecy: first, Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu; second, Yahweh would bring the house of Israel to an end. Earlier I showed linguistic evidence that the expression "the blood of Jezreel" was so placed in the verse that, unless the "inspired" prophet was a sloppy writer, it could modify only the first part of the prophecy. I went on to show that the rest of the book was devoted primarily to explaining why Yahweh was going to bring the kingdom of Israel to an end. I further showed how Hosea could easily have placed "for the blood of Jezreel" within the prophecy to make it clearly modify both parts. Linguistic evidence, therefore, just does not support the spin that Jayawardena wants to put onto this prophecy. The pun that he thinks he sees in the prophecy is just a straw he is grabbing to try to make "the blood of Jezreel" mean what he wants it to mean.

Despite his assertion that "[t]his definite allusion reinforces what is already obvious from other verses," I just showed that the "allusion" that Jayawardena thinks he sees in the prophecy is far from "definite." It is more of an illusion than an allusion. He goes on to write:

[W]hatever Hosea writes in the first chapter or elsewhere concerning "Jezreel" must refer to God's dealings with the nation Israel, and Israel alone.

In the beginning of this essay I explicated the prophecy within its full context of chapter one to show that Jezreel very likely was used to symbolize the fertility that comes from Yahweh rather than Baal, whose worship Hosea's wife Gomer had likely been involved in. Then further along in this part, I analyzed chapter two to show that Jezreel was being used to represent the fertility that Yahweh would send upon the land after he had taken Israel to be his "wife" again. The spin that Jayawardena is trying to put upon "the blood of Jezreel" is too strained to be believed.

Although Jayawardena claims that "[t]he house of Jehu is mentioned in Hosea 1:4-5 only insofar as they are included in the judgment of the nation for idolatry, this simply is not the case. As I showed above, the house of Jehu was the subject of the first punishment that Hosea prophesied, and his placement of "for the blood of Jezreel" within this prophecy clearly indicates his belief that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel." The second part of the prophecy pertained to ending the nation of Israel, and that prophecy was clearly separated from the phrase "the blood of Jezreel," which Jayawardena is trying to make a reference to only the nation of Israel, but in explicating the prophecy earlier, I showed how simple it would have been to word it so that readers would understand that "the blood of Jezreel" referred also to the part that predicted the end of "the kingdom of Israel." The fact that Hosea did not write it that way is sufficient reason to think that he didn't mean for it to refer to that part of his prophecy.

In the absence of other biblical passages in which "the blood of Jezreel" was mentioned, we have to use common sense to determine its probable meaning in Hosea 1:4. One way to apply common sense would be to compare "the blood of Jezreel" to similar expressions elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Although this would not be an infallible way to determine its meaning, it will at least give us insights into an idiomatic usage of the word dâm [blood] in ancient Hebrew. I have already cited one such example where "the blood of Naboth" was used in obvious reference to Jezebel's scheme to murder Naboth so that her husband Ahab could take possession of his vineyard. I pointed out then that basically the only difference in the two expressions--"the blood of Naboth" and "the blood of Jezreel"--is that the one referred to the person who was murdered, whereas the other referred to the place where murders or massacres were committed. Besides "the blood of Naboth," there are other biblical references where "blood of..." was used in reference to the killing of another person. The story of Abner's murder of Joab's brother Asael is related in 2 Samuel 2:12-23, but later, when the opportunity presented itself, Joab killed Abner to avenge his brother's death:

2 Kings 3:27 And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.

Obviously, the expression "for the blood of Asahel" in this passage stated the reason why Joab killed Abner. In fact, the 30th verse in this chapter says, "So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle." Obviously, then, the expression "for the blood of..." was used idiomatically in Hebrew to state the reason for one's taking vengeance on another person.

Another example of how "the blood of..." was used occurred in 2 Samuel 16, where David, while retreating from the initial successes of the revolt led by his son Absalom, was jeered by a man named Shimei as David was passing through his village:

2 Samuel 16:5-8: And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. 6 And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: 8 Yahweh hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and Yahweh hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.

Here the man named Shimei was expressing an obvious belief that the revolt against David was a punishment he was receiving for "the blood of the house of Saul." Saul and his sons had been killed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31), but in keeping with the superstition of the time, Shimei thought that Yahweh was punishing David for "the blood of the house of Saul" or, in other words, he thought that David, who had indirectly been involved in the opposition to Saul, was being punished for the shedding of the blood of the house of Saul. Once again, then, we see that "the blood of..." was an expression that was used in reference to the killing of the person or persons whose blood had been shed. In this case, it was the blood of the house of Saul. It would be absurd to claim that Shimei in this passage was symbolically using "the blood of the house of Saul" to represent the blood of all those in the nation of Israel who had been killed during Saul's reign.

One more example should convince all holdouts for Jayawardena's position that he is distorting the obvious meaning of "the blood of..." in order to make Hosea 1:4 mean what he wants it to mean. That example is in the book of Isaiah, where the prophet was predicting dire punishment of Israel for various offenses against Yahweh (Isaiah 3:16-17). This punishment would make survival so difficult in Israel that "[s]even women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, 'We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes; just let us be called by your name'" (4:1), after which there would be a period of restoration:

Isaiah 4:2-4: In that day shall the branch of Yahweh be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. 3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: 4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.

Here the purging of "the blood of Jerusalem" represented a removal of the bloodguilt of Jerusalem, so once again we see "the blood of..." being used in reference to the place where blood had been shed. This usage, then, is parallel to Hosea 1:4, where the prophet used the expression in reference to the place, i.e., Jezreel, where blood had been shed. To try to argue that "the blood of Jerusalem" in the text just quoted above represented the killing of people in the entire nation of Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah--the kings under whose reigns Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 1:1)--would strain the prophet's intended meaning of the expression.

The Old Testament is filled with examples that show how "the blood of..." was used in ancient Hebrew, but I know of none that would support the spin that Jayawardena is trying to put on its usage in Hosea 1:4.

Jayawardena writes:

God was going to cut off the house of Jehu first and then cut off the house of Israel after that.

Well, yes, that is what Hosea 1:4 was saying, but the order of retribution isn't really the issue. Jayawardena must show that the expression "for the blood of Jezreel" referred to the cutting off of the house of Israel. My earlier explication of the text (in two different places) clearly shows that the expression "for the blood of Jezreel" referred only to the punishing or cutting off of the house of Jehu. After stating this, Hosea went on to show that the house of Israel would be cut off or brought to an end because of its own "sins," one of which was idolatry.

Jayawardena continues:

This point is important because the construction of the expression "the blood of Jezreel" as a reference to Jehu's massacre of some members of royal family in Jezreel, which was a matter between the house of Jehu and the house of Ahab alone, is incongruous with the signification of the emblem.

Well, I have shown repeatedly that it isn't incongruous. My explications show that giving the expression reference to the cutting off of the house of Israel is an interpretation for which Jayawardena has no linguistic evidence. On the other hand, the very command that the "son of the prophets" delivered to Jehu shows again that the expression "for the blood of..." obviously referred to the person or the place that was mentioned in the same context. Let's notice how the "son of the prophet" used the expression during his encounter with Jehu. I will emphasize it in bold print:

2 Kings 9:5-10: He [the "son of the prophets"] arrived while the commanders of the army were in council, and he announced, "I have a message for you, commander." "For which one of us?" asked Jehu. "For you, commander." 6 So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, "Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of Yahweh, over Israel. 7 You shall strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of Yahweh. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel....

First of all, let's notice that this "son of the prophets" was delivering to Jehu a message from Yahweh, which instructed him to "strike down the house of [his] master Ahab." The prophet then switched to first person, as if Yahweh himself were commanding Jehu to "cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel," so if Yahweh was telling Jehu to do all of this, "'the blood of Jezreel' as a reference to Jehu's massacre of some members of [the] royal family in Jezreel" was hardly just "a matter between the house of Jehu and the house of Ahab alone." For one thing, the house of Ahab had been eradicated, so there was no way for Ahab's house to keep this "a matter" between it and Jehu's house, since an extinct lineage would be incapable of conducting a feud against the descendants of the one who had destroyed that lineage. The longer Jayawardena goes in his quest for some way to justify an obviously strained interpretation, the farther he shoves his foot into his mouth.

The obvious meaning of the "blood" expression in the message delivered to Jehu was that Yahweh was going to avenge the blood of his prophets on Jezebel, or, in other words, he was going to punish Jezebel for the shedding of the blood of the prophets. The "blood of the prophets" in this statement no doubt referred to 1 Kings 18, which recounted Jezebel's part in the murders of prophets of Yahweh:

1 Kings 18:3-4: Now Obadiah feared Yahweh greatly: 4 For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of Yahweh, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.

In a conversation with Elijah, Obadiah made reference to Jezebel's killing of the prophets:

1 Kings 18:13 Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of Yahweh, how I hid a hundred men of Yahweh's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?

The command given to Yahweh to avenge on Jezebel "the blood" of Yahweh's servants the prophets was obviously a reference to the killings mentioned in the passages just quoted, so the "son of the prophet" was telling Jehu that his mission to destroy the house of Ahab was to be a retribution on or punishment of Jezebel for having killed the prophets. Now, for ease of comparison, I will juxtapose the "blood" expression in the command given to Jehu with its counterpart in Hosea 1:4:

I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of Yahweh....

I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu....

The only substantial difference in the two statements is that the first put the object of Yahweh's vengeance [Jezebel] before "the blood of my servants," whereas the second put the object of Yahweh's punishment [the house of Jehu] after "the blood of Jezreel," but Jayawardena surely wouldn't try to argue that the meaning of the first statement would be changed if it had said, "I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets on Jezebel." If, then, avenging the blood of the prophets on Jezebel meant that she was going to be punished for having killed Yahweh's prophets, by what linguistic gymnastics does Jayawardena think that he can make the "blood" expression in Hosea 1:4 mean anything else but that Yahweh was going to avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. That this latter statement meant that Yahweh intended to punish the house of Jehu for the massacres that Jehu had committed at Jezreel is so obvious that I really should stop here and declare the case closed. However, Jayawardena had a lot more to say, so I will follow him where he takes us:

Since the first son of Gomer named "Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 represents the children of Israel, in the immediately following clause in the same sentence "Jezreel" is used in the sense of "the children of Israel" in pronouncing judgment against the house of Jehu.

But I have shown beyond reasonable doubt that the name of Gomer's first son did not represent "the children of Israel" but rather the source of Gomer's fertility, so there is no need for me to swat a mosquito with a sledgehammer by rehashing that rebuttal here again.

As I have now shown several times, the "blood" expression in Hosea 1:4 obviously referred only to the first part of the prophecy and not to the second. I will nevertheless quickly rehash my linguistic analysis of the prophecy now. The first part of the prophecy was that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel," and the second part was that he would bring the kingdom of the house of Israel to an end. By its placement within the sentence the expression "for the blood of Jezreel" could refer only to the first part of the prophecy.

Jayawardena concludes:

Consequently, the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" means "the blood of the children of Israel."

Jayawardena's "consequently" is seriously wrong. "The blood of Jezreel" made obvious reference to the massacres committed at Jezreel and did not refer to "the blood of the children of Israel" in the sense of the whole nation of Israel. It referred to the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel, and that bloodshed was the reason why Hosea thought that Yahweh would punish the house of Jehu. Then, after prophesying that Yahweh would bring the kingdom of the house of Israel to an end, Hosea went on in the rest of his book to explain that Israel's own "sins," especially idolatry, were the reason why Yahweh was going to do this.

Jayawardena adds that the house of Jehu had led the people of Israel into idolatry:

Since the house of Jehu led the people of Israel in idolatry, they are responsible for it and its consequences, which was divine judgment of the nation in the form of enemy attacks against it with much blood-spilling.

How did Jayawardena reach this conclusion? The story of the massacre at Jezreel claims that Jehu actually eradicated Baal worship in Israel by tricking those involved into this cult into one location so that they could be massacred:

2 Kings 10:18-28: Then Jehu assembled all the people and said to them, "Ahab offered Baal small service; but Jehu will offer much more. 19 Now therefore summon to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers, and all his priests; let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer to Baal; whoever is missing shall not live." But Jehu was acting with cunning in order to destroy the worshipers of Baal. 20 Jehu decreed, "Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal." So they proclaimed it. 21 Jehu sent word throughout all Israel; all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was no one left who did not come. They entered the temple of Baal, until the temple of Baal was filled from wall to wall. 22 He said to the keeper of the wardrobe, "Bring out the vestments for all the worshipers of Baal." So he brought out the vestments for them. 23 Then Jehu entered the temple of Baal with Jehonadab son of Rechab; he said to the worshipers of Baal, "Search and see that there is no worshiper of Yahweh here among you, but only worshipers of Baal." 24 Then they proceeded to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed eighty men outside, saying, "Whoever allows any of those to escape whom I deliver into your hands shall forfeit his life." 25 As soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, Jehu said to the guards and to the officers, "Come in and kill them; let no one escape." So they put them to the sword. The guards and the officers threw them out, and then went into the citadel of the temple of Baal. 26 They brought out the pillar that was in the temple of Baal, and burned it. 27 Then they demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. 28 Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.

So rather than leading Israel into Baal worship, Jehu had actually "wiped out Baal from Israel," for which Yahweh had presumably rewarded him by promising that his sons to the fourth generation would sit on the throne of Israel (2 Kings 10:30), but Jehu did not "depart from the sins of Jeroboam" in that he allowed the worship of the golden calves in Bethel and Dan to continue (v:29). Evidently, Yahweh didn't consider this a grievous sin at this time, because the very next verse, just cited above, went on to praise Jehu for having "done well in executing that which was right in [Yahweh's] eyes." As also just noticed, Yahweh was so pleased at Jehu's conduct in this matter that he rewarded him by promising to let his sons reign in Israel through the fourth generation. Jehu was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:35). The writer of 2 Kings said that Jehoahaz "did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" in that he too followed the sin of Jeroboam, i.e., allowing the worship of the golden calves, but this would not have been an act of "leading" Israel into idolatry, because Jeroboam was the one who had introduced this worship into the northern kingdom, and, as just noticed, Jehu had allowed this worship to continue (even though he had done well in executing that which was right in Yahweh's sight). The writer of 2 Kings said the same about Joash [Jehoash], who succeeded his father Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:9-13), and Jeroboam II, who succeeded his father Joash (2 Kings 14:23-29), and Zechariah, who succeeded his father Jeroboam II (2 Kings 15:8-12). Thus ended the Jehu dynasty, and in each case the writer claimed that these descendant kings of Jehu had done evil in the sight of Yahweh by not departing from Jeroboam's sin of introducing the worship of the golden calves, but since the first Jeroboam was the one who had set up these shrines at Bethel and Dan, it can hardly be said, as Jayawardena claimed above, that the house of Jehu had "led the people of Israel into idolatry." The worse that could be said about them is that they had allowed an idolatrous practice that had been introduced by the first Jeroboam, but if this was such a heinous sin, why was Jehu praised for having executed all that was right in the eyes of Yahweh when he too had allowed the practice to continue, and if in allowing this practice to go on during their reigns, Jehu's descendant kings had sinned so grievously that Yahweh determined to put an end to the house of Jehu, why did he wait so long? Why didn't he end the nation of Israel during Jehu's reign or at least during the reign of his son Jehoahaz? Why wait so long?

The answer to this is simple, but I doubt that Jayawardena will accept it. The people of that time thought that national misfortune was the result of their god's displeasure with the nation, so when calamities like droughts, famines, military setbacks, etc. happened, the prophets always looked for something to blame it on. Idolatrous practices was an easy target to blame, but that the prophets were simply interpreting contemporary events through the superstitious beliefs of their time when they affixed such blame is evident in statements like the writer's explanation for why Yahweh didn't destroy the northern kingdom during the reign of Jehoahaz of Israel, who didn't depart from the first Jeroboam's sin of worshiping the golden calves:

2 Kings 13:22-23: Now King Hazael of Aram oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But Yahweh was gracious to them and had compassion on them; he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them; nor has he banished them from his presence until now.

A similar statement was made about Jehoahaz's grandson Jeroboam II:

2 Kings 14:23-27: In the fifteenth year of King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel began to reign in Samaria; he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Yahweh, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For Yahweh saw that the distress of Israel was very bitter; there was no one left, bond or free, and no one to help Israel. 27 But Yahweh had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Joash.

So both Jehohaz and the second Jeroboam "did not depart from all the sins" of the first Jeroboam, but Yahweh wouldn't destroy Israel--so the writer of 2 Kings claimed. Instead, Yahweh kept the nation intact and used Jeroboam the son of Joash to save Israel from Syrian encroachments. Then later on, Yahweh decided to bring the northern kingdom to an end. That is what the author of 2 Kings claimed, but common sense will tell critical readers that this was just the spin that he put on the events of his day. If Israel survived during the reigns of kings that "did evil in the sight of Yahweh," there had to be a reason for it, and the writer of this book claimed that Yahweh didn't destroy Israel because of "his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," but later even though the rulers of the northern kingdom were doing nothing worse than what Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah had done, Yahweh suddenly decided to send Israel into captivity. What actually happened, of course, was that Israel managed to survive during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, and so the writer interpreted this to mean that Yahweh was preserving the nation because of the covenant that he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; however, the time came when Israel lacked the military power to survive, and so it fell to enemy invasion. Needing a reason to account for the fall in a time when people superstitiously believed that their gods protected or punished them according to national conduct, the Kings writer attributed the northern kingdom's fall to Yahweh's decision--after so many years--to punish Israel, despite his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and bring the kingdom to an end.

That people living in our more enlightened times would believe such nonsense is almost too incomprehensible to imagine, but Jayawardena's acceptance at face value of what Old Testament writers claimed had caused the fall of nations is evidence that some today actually believe such silliness. Jayawardena writes:

This blood, Hosea declares, is now going to be avenged on the house of Jehu. It was in the power of the kings of Israel to eradicate the cult of calf worship in Israel or perpetuate it, and, sadly, they chose the latter.

My analysis above of the reigns of Jehu's dynasty and the excuse-making of the author of 2 Kings shows just how silly Jayawardena's belief is. The nation of Israel ended because of changes in military power that no longer enabled it to resist invasions. If Yahweh ended it because of some supposed "sins" committed by its kings, why didn't Yahweh act long before he did? Now look for Jayawardena to say something like the longsuffering of Yahweh was why he waited so long to end the kingdom of Israel. He claims that he isn't a biblical inerrantist, but he seems willing to grab any straw in sight to keep from admitting that the Bible contains discrepancies and downright silliness.

Jayawardena asserts:

Hosea's prophecy of doom against the royal house and the nation on account of idolatry is paralleled by Amos 7:8-11:

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.... For thus Amos has said, 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'"

Amos couples the judgment of the house of Jeroboam (=Jehu) for idolatry with that of the nation as a whole, and that is what Hosea did too.

Jayawardena didn't explain why Amos's denunciation of "the house of Jeroboam" would be the same as if he had denounced the house of Jehu. He simply asserted it. If he claims that Jeroboam was a descendant of Jehu, and so denunciation of the house of Jeroboam would be the same as denouncing the house of Jehu, then he would have to say that condemnation of kings Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21-24) and Abijam (1 Kings 15:1-3) were condemnations of David, because they were the grandson and great-grandson respectively of David. Likewise, Jayawardena would have to say that the denunciation of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:17-19) and Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:26-27; 2 Chronicles 22:7) was a denunciation of David, because they were 6th- and 7th-generation descendants of David. I could cite many other examples, but these are sufficient to show that just because Amos denounced a king reigning in his time doesn't necessarily mean that he denounced also his dynastic ancestor Jehu.

Amos was just another doom-and-gloom prophet who ranted and raved against religious practices that were different from his Yahwistic beliefs. Jayawardena apparently didn't notice that the part of his quotation that predicted Israel's end was not what Amos himself said but what Amaziah in a message to Jeroboam said that Amos had said. As noted in the verses quoted, Amaziah was a priest of Bethel, one of the shrines where the golden calves of the first Jeroboam were worshiped. Was Amaziah's message to the second Jeroboam accurate? If so, then what he said that Amos had said proved to be false prophecy, because in addition to his prediction that Israel would go into exile, Amaziah had said that Amos was saying that Jeroboam would be killed by the sword. This turned out not to be true, because, as indicated in a passage already quoted above, the record of Jeroboam II's reign implied that he had died a natural death after a rather successful reign of 41 years:

2 Kings 14:23-29: In the fifteenth year of King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel began to reign in Samaria; he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Yahweh, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For Yahweh saw that the distress of Israel was very bitter; there was no one left, bond or free, and no one to help Israel. 27 But Yahweh had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Joash. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he recovered for Israel Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 29 Jeroboam slept with his ancestors, the kings of Israel; his son Zechariah succeeded him.

Except for the reference to Jeroboam's allowing the first Jeroboam's shines to continue, this is a description of a fairly successful reign compared to what the author of 2 Kings said about other kings. Saying in the final verse that Jeroboam "slept with his ancestors [fathers]" was an idiomatic way of saying that he had died a natural death (1 Kings 2:10; 11:21,43; 2 Kings 8:24; 10:35; et al.), and when a king was killed in battle or assassinated, the author explicitly stated the manner of his death (1 Kings 16:8-12; 1 Kings 22:29-37; 2 Kings 12:19-21; et al.). In the passage that Jayawardena quoted from Amos, then, we have not a direct statement from the prophet himself but only a secondhand account of what a pagan priest had claimed that Amos had said. The report of this priest was that Amos was prophesying that king Jeroboam II would be "killed by the sword," but this never happened unless the writer of 2 Kings incorrectly reported the circumstances of Jeroboam II's death, so Jayawardena is basing part of his interpretation of Hosea 1:4 on what had been claimed by a priest of the very religion that both Hosea and Amos railed against in their prophecies. He may consider that a sound hermeneutic method, but I don't.

Next Jayawardena bases his interpretation on a false presumption:

It is noteworthy that Hosea was a contemporary of Amos, and it is unlikely that two contemporaneous prophets of God held radically different views on such an important issue. Even if they did, would both of their writings, coming from the same period in Israel's history, have been accepted into the canon of Hebrew scriptures?

This is a false premise that Jayawardena has appealed to through a probable deficient knowledge of the Bible, because there are many examples of "radically different views" that biblical writers had. The conflict between 2 Kings 10:30 and Amos 1:4, which Jayawardena is desperately trying to interpret away--even though he says he isn't a biblical inerrantist--is just one example. Another is the conflicting opinions about king Abijam, mentioned above, that were held by the writer of 1 Kings and the Chronicler. As noted above, the former denounced Abijam for "walk[ing] in all the sins of his father" and for not having a heart that "was perfect with Yahweh his God" (1 Kings 15:3), whereas the Chronicler depicted him as a king who won decisive battles because he and Judah relied on "Yahweh the God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 13:1-22). There is no good reason at all to suppose, as Jayawardena prematurely did, that books written by authors who had conflicting views would not have found their way into the Hebrew canon.

Jayawardena turns to the text:

We find the same juxtaposition in the prophet Ajijah's original prophecy against Israel for idolatry: "The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam today. And henceforth the Lord will smite Israel.... And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and which he made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 14:14-16). This Jeroboam is, of course, Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel, who introduced the cult of calf worship to Israel. It stands to reason that if the prophets accused Jeroboam of causing the people of Israel to sin through idolatry and held him responsible for their doom, then the king was also held accountable for their blood.

I am glad that Jayawardena was honest enough to admit that the prophecy he just quoted was spoken against the first Jeroboam rather than the second one. The first one was a predecessor of Jehu and therefore neither an ancestor nor a descendant of Jehu. In saying that if Yahweh had held Jeroboam responsible for causing the people of Israel "to sin through idolatry," he would also have held him responsible for "their blood," Jayawardena again shows a deplorable ignorance of biblical content, because I quoted above examples of where Yahweh would not punish the people of Israel for their idolatry because of an obligation that he had felt to respect the covenant that was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The examples that I cited were by no means exhaustive. Although Jehoram of Judah "walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab," for example, Yahweh "would not destroy Judah for the sake of David," to whom Yahweh had promised to "give him a lamp for his children always" (2 Kings 8:18-19).

There are examples of kings whose acts were far worse than those in the Jehu dynasty. Manasseh, for example, "seduced [the people of Judah] to do that which [was] evil more than did the nations whom Yahweh destroyed before the children of Israel" (2 Kings 21:9). He "shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other" and "made Judah to sin in doing that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" (v:16), yet he died a natural death and "slept with his fathers" (v:18). A more realistic way to view biblical records like these is to assume, as I pointed out above, that the writers interpreted contemporary events according to a prevalent belief of the time that the hand of their god was in every piddling event. If a king lived contrary to the way that prophets thought that he should, if he suffered defeat or early death, the writers assumed that this was punishment from their god Yahweh. If a king lived in a way considered evil but nothing happened to him and he eventually died a natural death, the writers assumed that Yahweh had a reason for allowing him to continue his reign until he died. The most common rationalizations in the latter cases were that, despite the evil done by these kings, Yahweh allowed the nation to prosper because of the covenant that he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or that Yahweh didn't punish the king or nation because of promises that had been made to David.

Next Jayawardena explains vicarious punishment:

The idea that a person can be held responsible for the "blood" (i.e., death) of another, even though that person did not directly kill the other, is not strange to the Scriptures. Note Ezekiel 33:1-9:

I certainly won't dispute that vicarious punishment, i.e., holding people accountable for offenses that had been committed by others, was believed and practiced in biblical times, but the proof texts that Jayawardena quotes below are not really examples of this belief:

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman; and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.... But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes, and takes any one of them; that man is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.

"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel..." (RSV, emphasis added)

It is with this passage in mind that the apostle Paul told the unbelieving Jews in Corinth, "Your blood be upon your heads!" (Acts 18:6), i.e., "I have discharged my duty in preaching to you and so I am not responsible for the consequence of your unbelief, which is death." Also see Acts 20:26.

Deuteronomy 22:8: "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement [parapet] for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence."

As I noted above, people in biblical times did believe that responsibility for the "blood" or deaths of others could be imputed to those who didn't actually kill them. In fact, this belief wasn't limited to murder; they believed that they could be held responsible for just any "sin" committed by others. They further believed that an entire nation could be held responsible for the "sins" of only some of the people in the nation and especially so when the "sins" were committed by kings. The passage in Ezekiel, however, is not really a case of vicarious punishment, because the watchman was not going to be punished for the sins of others but for his own offense of not warning the others to turn from their "sins." If, for example, the watchman knew that someone had committed, say, adultery or murder but did not warn that person to turn from his "sin," the watchman would be punished for his failure to warn and not for the particular "sin" committed by the other person. Although the passage in Ezekiel did not specifically address the concept of vicarious punishment, we see this belief reflected many times in the Old Testament. The stoning and burning of Achan's entire family for Achan's crime of having kept for himself booty that he had found during the sacking of Jericho (Joshua 7) would be a true case of vicarious punishment. As far as the record revealed, only Achan himself had committed the offense, but the story opens with the claim that "the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted thing" (v:1), so the entire nation was held responsible for an offense that had been committed by just one person, and that person's family, including even the livestock belonging to him, were killed and his personal belongings burned (v:24-26). This ancient belief was also reflected in the reaction of other Israelite tribes to the news that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built a "great altar" by the Jordan River in violation of the command that sacrifices should be offered at the altar in front of the tabernacle (Joshua 22:10-11). The other tribes were so disturbed by this news that they made preparations "to go up against them in war" (v:12). Their fear was based on a belief that Yahweh would hold the entire nation accountable for an unauthorized altar having been built by just some of the tribes. Before actually going to war, emissaries were sent to try to persuade the offenders to destroy the altar, and in their appeal to the offenders, they expressed the fear that what Israel had suffered because of Achan's offense would be brought upon them again:

Joshua 22:16-20: "Thus says the whole congregation of Yahweh, 'What is this treachery that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away today from following Yahweh, by building yourselves an altar today in rebellion against Yahweh? 17 Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which a plague came upon the congregation of Yahweh, 18 that you must turn away today from following Yahweh! If you rebel against Yahweh today, he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow. 19 But now, if your land is unclean, cross over into the Lord's land where the Lord's tabernacle now stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us; only do not rebel against Yahweh, or rebel against us by building yourselves an altar other than the altar of Yahweh our God. 20 Did not Achan son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity!'"

The "sin of Peor" was the tale of Yahweh's sending a plague upon the entire nation of Israel in the wilderness because of a pagan orgy engaged in by just some of the people (Numbers 25), so that story would be another example of this ancient belief. At any rate, the appeal that the emissaries made to Achan's offense in the example above prevailed, and the offending tribes assured them that they had not built the altar to another god and that they would not turn away from following Yahweh by offering sacrifices on any altar but the "altar of Yahweh that is before the tabernacle" (vs:21-29).

Probably the most shocking example of how vicarious punishment was practiced in biblical times can be seen in Yahweh's command that Saul, the first king of Israel, go massacre the Amalekites, including even children and babies, for an offense that had been committed 400 years earlier by the ancestors of the Amalekites contemporary to Saul (1 Samuel 15:1-3), so to the barbaric mindset of the Israelites living at that time, even four centuries were not too long to exact punishment from the descendants of those who had committed offenses. There is no doubt, then, that vicarious punishment was a cultural belief in biblical times.

I could cite numerous other examples, but there is no need to, because I don't disagree with Jayawardena that this was a commonplace ancient belief. However, what he apparently doesn't recognize is that this belief conflicted with another belief that evolved later in Israel that Yahweh would not hold people responsible for "sins" that they didn't personally commit:

Deuteronomy 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

Jayawardena quoted Ezekiel 33:1-9 above, but if he had backed up a bit, he would have found another passage that might have helped him understand that by Ezekiel's time, the idea of vicarious punishment was becoming an obsolete custom:

Ezekiel 18:1-20: The word of Yahweh came to me: 2 "What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: 'The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? 3 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Yahweh, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son--both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. 5 Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. 6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor's wife or lie with a woman during her period. 7 He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. 8 He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. 9 He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Yahweh. 10 Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things 11 (though the father has done none of them): He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor's wife. 12 He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. 13 He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. 14 But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: 15 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor's wife. 16 He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. 17 He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father's sin; he will surely live. 18 But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. 19 Yet you ask, 'Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?' Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him."

The emergence of this concept later in the history of Israel is indicated by its repetition in Jeremiah, a work that was written around the exilic period, when Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1-2):

Jeremiah 31:27-30: "The days are coming," declares Yahweh, "when I will plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the offspring of men and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares Yahweh. 29 "In those days people will no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' 30 Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes--his own teeth will be set on edge."

Like other prophets, Jeremiah thought that Yahweh would restore both Israel and Judah, but the Israelites who had lived in the northern kingdom were never brought back from Assyrian captivity. Nevertheless, the passage just quoted from Jeremiah shows that he, like Hosea before him, thought that they would be returned. He also expressed his approval of the sour-grapes metaphor, which reflected the new idea that innocent people should not be punished for the "sins" of others. By this time, it had found its way into other biblical literature. When Amaziah succeeded his assassinated father as king of Israel, he first concentrated on "establishing" his kingdom, and then he killed those who had been involved in the plot against his father. However, he did not follow the old custom of killing also the family members of those who had been active participants in the crime:

2 Kings 14:5-6: After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he [Amaziah] executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. 6 Yet he did not put the sons of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where Yahweh commanded: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins."

That this law was recorded in "the Book of Law of Moses," i.e., Deuteronomy, does not mean that it wasn't a new law, because many biblical scholars date the authorship of this book well after the time of Moses. Some, in fact, see internal evidences that the prophet Jeremiah was its author. To discuss the authorship of Deuteronomy at this point would be off subject, as well as time consuming, so I will let Jayawardena decide if he wants to defend its early authorship. I have brought this new law first expressed in the Deuteronomic code and included later in probable Deuteronomic additions to the book of 2 Kings into the debate in order to show that Jayawardena was wrong when he said above that books with "radically different views" would not have been accepted into the Hebrew scriptures. Besides the "different views" that I mentioned earlier, the gradual rejection of vicarious punishment in Jeremiah's time is another example of how conflicting views held by biblical writers was not at all uncommon. If Jayawardena could just see that Hosea 1:4 and 2 Kings 10:30 are nothing more than another example of how biblical writers disagreed at times, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

For the sake of argument, however, let's just assume that vicarious punishment, i.e., the belief that a person can be held responsible for the "sins" of others, was the prevailing view all through biblical times and that the new Deuteronomic view expressed by Jeremiah had never evolved. If we assume this, that will only make Jayawardena's case harder to defend, for if it was the common practice in the time of Hosea to punish the innocent for the "sins" of the guilty, why should we not believe that when Hosea said that Yahweh would soon punish the house of Jehu "for the blood of Jezreel" he was simply stating that belief? Jehu had committed bloody massacres at Jezreel, and although his descendants living in the time of Hosea had not themselves participated in those massacres, they were nevertheless members of the house of Jehu. Just as the Israelites believed that all members of Achan's family should be stoned and burned because of Achan's sin, just as the Israelites believed that an altar built by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh would bring dire Yahwistic consequences upon them if the altar remained in place, just as the Israelites of Saul's time thought that the Amalekites, including even children and babies, should be massacred for something their ancestors had done 400 years earlier, and so on ad infinitum--so Hosea, who lived before the Deuteronomic code had made vicarious punishment obsolete, thought that the members of the house of Jehu should be punished for what their ancestor Jehu had done at Jezreel some 90 years earlier. If Jayawardena would just realize (1) that belief in vicarious punishment was deeply ingrained in Israelite culture in Hosea's time and (2) that conflicting views in biblical books wasn't anything unusual, maybe he wouldn't be straining so hard to find some way to explain that Hosea 1:4 and 2 Kings 10:30 didn't present opposing views on the Jezreel massacre. Since Jayawardena claims that he isn't a biblical inerrantist, he shouldn't find the probability of inconsistency in the Hebrew scriptures hard to accept.

"The Blood of Jezreel" Historically

At this point, Jayawardena's article turned to the discussion of a new topic, which he called "'The blood of Jezreel' historically." Jayawardena writes:

During the period of the Jehu dynasty, the Syrians in particular harassed Israel.

Notice how the very subtitle of this section of Jayawardena's article assumes that "the blood of Jezreel" referred not to the massacres that Jehu had committed at Jezreel but to the "blood" of the children of Israel killed by Syrian invasions that had presumably resulted from Yahweh's punishment of Israel for Jehu's toleration of the golden-calf shrines at Bethel and Dan. We know from having examined the first two sections of his article that Jayawardena thinks that this was the meaning of the expression "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea's prophecy, but isn't it rather odd that no biblical writer ever unequivocally used this expression in the sense that Jayawardena has assigned it? If Hosea 1:4 had really meant what Jayawardena has tried to make it mean, one would think that it would have been rather easy for Hosea to have said, "Thus says Yahweh, 'For having led the children of Israel into worshipping the golden calves, I will visit on the house of Jehu the blood of Jezreel.'" Since the Hebrew word pâqad did sometimes convey the idea of "visiting" in the sense of punishing with the same kind of tragedy that had befallen others, Hebrew readers would have understood that Hosea was saying that Yahweh intended to end the house of Jehu with a bloody massacre like the one that Jehu had inflicted on the royal family of Israel, and the wording would have left no doubt that Hosea was saying that Yahweh would do this to Jehu's descendants not because of the massacre committed at Jezreel but because the descendants of Jehu had been instrumental in maintaining worship of the golden calves in the northern kingdom. Unfortunately for Jayawardena, however, Hosea did not word his prophecy in this way. As I demonstrated earlier, Hosea's prophecy was structured in a way that will allow "the blood of Jezreel" to refer only to the first part of this double-faceted prophecy, and that first part was that Yahweh would, in a little while, avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. As I go through this part of Jayawardena's article, I will say more to show that Jayawardena's spin on the prophecy is dubious at best, but I have to say here that it has always seemed strange to me that an omniscient, omnipotent deity could not guide his chosen writers to express themselves clearly, and so "apologists" like Jayawardena are needed to explain what was really meant in passages that stir controversy. Invariably, to hear the "explanations" of these "apologists," the controversial passages never meant what they seem to be saying.

Jayawardena continues:

First, during the reign of Jehu, the Syrians under Hazael attacked Israel and annexed some territory in Transjordan (2 Kings 10:32-33).

Keep in mind that Jayawardena's take on Hosea's prophecy is that Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for having allowed the golden-calf worship, which had so angered Yahweh that he had sent the Syrians against Israel in attacks that had resulted in the killing of some of the children of Israel. In other words, Jayawardena has swallowed hook, line, and sinker the ancient belief that national calamities were brought upon nations when they did something that displeased their gods, and so he is arguing that even though Yahweh had sent the Syrians against the Israelites to punish them for idolatrous worship, the blame for the attacks was the fault of the Jehu kings for having allowed the golden-calf worship to continue.

Such reasoning as this is as fallacious as if a father displeased with the unfaithfulness of his wife should hire hooligans to beat up their children and then claim that the beatings were the fault of his wife, because he had sent the hooligans to attack them because his wife had been unfaithful. There are several flaws in the line of primitive reasoning that attributed tragedies and calamities to angry gods, and I will be pointing out some of them as we go on through this section of Jayawardena's article.

Next Jayawardena appeals to "a clear link":

Elisha had earlier predicted the slaughter and destruction that Hazael would carry out in Israel when he became king (2 Kings 8:12-13). Note that it is not a coincidence that the writer of 2 Kings inserts the account of the conquests of Hazael in Israel immediately after 2 Kings 10:29-31, which records Jehu's idolatry. The scripture writers always saw idolatry as the downfall of both Judah and Israel, and reports of attacks by enemy nations often follow reports of the idolatry of the two nations. A clear link is made between the two.

Well, if this link was so "clear," we would expect to find consistency in the "scripture writers'" reports of these attacks, wouldn't we? In other words, if the writers reported that idolatrous worship allowed by king X was then followed by enemy victories over Israel, then we would expect the writers to report that the permission of idolatrous worship by kings Y and Z were also followed by enemy victories, but we don't find this kind of consistency in the biblical records. In Jayawardena's example cited above, Jehu had allowed the golden-calf shrines at Bethel and Dan to remain in place, after which the size of Israel's territorial holdings were reduced though Syrian intrusions (2 Kings 10:32-33). Hence, to the primitive mind of the Kings writer, Yahweh had caused Syria's success in order to punish Israel for worshiping the golden calves, but the author of 2 Kings put an entirely different spin on the reign of Jehu's son Jehoahaz. Even though he too allowed the shrines at Bethel and Dan to remain in place, the author of 2 Kings claimed that Yahweh had caused Israel to prosper during his reign:

2 Kings 13:1-6: In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. 3 So Yahweh's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son. 4 Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord's favor, and Yahweh listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. 5 Yahweh provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. 6 But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.

Jayawardena's position is that Jehu allowed the golden-calf shrines to remain in place, and so Yahweh punished Israel for this through Syrian invasions. Then after Jehu had died, his son Jehoahaz, who succeeded to the throne, also allowed the shrines to remain open for which Yahweh punished Israel by Syrian raids for a while and then he "provided a deliverer for Israel," who enabled them to escape from Syrian domination and live in their own homes as they had before, even though "they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam." That is the kind of inconsistent silliness that Jayawardena is trying to defend. Perhaps he would like to explain to us why Yahweh punished Israel for Jehu's toleration of the golden-calf shrines but then sent a "deliverer" to Israel during the reign of Jehu's son, even though he too was allowing the shrines to remain in place.

Sensible people, of course, will understand what we have here. During the normal course of events, nations will prosper and nations will decline. The gods have nothing to do with this. Whether the nation prospers or whether it declines will depend on various social, economic, military, climatic, and geographic conditions, but primitive minds were unable to view geopolitics in this way. They assumed that if the nation declined, it had done something to displease its god, and if the nation prospered, it had done things to please its gods. If the 2 Kings account of the reigns of Jehu and his son Jehoahaz accurately reported what had happened during their reigns, then Israel had lost power and influence during Jehu's reign because of geopolitical factors that the author didn't understand, and if it regained some of its power and influence during the reign of Jehu's son, this too had happened because of geopolitical conditions that the author didn't understand. To his primitive mind, the prosperity and decline were both due to Yahweh's pulling strings in accordance with whether he was pleased or displeased with the nation.

Jayawardena referred above to the harassments of king Hazael of Syria throughout the reign of Jehu and attributed them to Jehu's toleration of the golden-calf shrines, but look at how the same writer interpreted Hazael's harassments during the reign of Jehu's son Jehoahaz:

2 Kings 13:22-24: Hazael king of Aram [Syria] oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. 23 But Yahweh was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence. 24 Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. 25 Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.

So even though Jehu's son Jehoahaz had also tolerated the golden-calf shrines, Yahweh had compassion on Israel, so it would seem that Yahweh is rather capricious. Sometimes he would bring calamity and military defeat upon Israel when its king allowed idolatry to be practiced, and sometimes he would bring success and military victory upon Israel even when its king was allowing pagan worship. In the text just quoted above, Jehoash recaptured the towns and territory that had previously been lost to Hazael. Jehoash was the son of Jehoahaz and therefore the grandson of Jehu. He too had allowed the golden-calf shrines to remain open during his reign:

2 Kings 13:9-13: Jehoahaz rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoash his son succeeded him as king. 10 In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. 11 He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them. 12 As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, all he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 13 Jehoash rested with his fathers, and Jeroboam succeeded him on the throne. Jehoash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.

The inconsistencies continued, because Jehoash's successor son, Jeroboam II, experienced political and military successes even though he too allowed the golden-calf shrines to remain open:

2 Kings 14:23-28: In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. 25 He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of Yahweh, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. 26 Yahweh had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. 27 And since Yahweh had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash. 28 As for the other events of Jeroboam's reign, all he did, and his military achievements, including how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, Hamath, which had belonged to Yaudi, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

The writer of 2 Kings claimed that Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and Jeroboam II had all tolerated pagan worship at the shrines of the golden calves, but Jehu was the only one of the four who had lost territory during his reign. The others had succeeded in recovering some of the territory that had been captured by king Hazael of Syria, and those successes were attributed to Yahweh's compassion and concern for Israel. Jayawardena's theory, then, that "the blood of Jezreel" was just a metaphorical expression that represented the blood of the children of Israel who had died during Syrian invasions because of the Jehu dynasty's toleration of pagan worship is too inconsistent to be taken seriously. It is just another desperate attempt by a would-be apologist to explain away inconsistency in the biblical text. Jayawardena immediately makes another such attempt:

After the death of Jehu, his son Jehoahaz reigned in his stead. According to 2 Kings 13:2-7, the Syrians had almost annihilated Israel's army during the reign of Jehoahaz:

[Jehoahaz] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael. Then Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened to him; for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed Israel. (Therefore the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians; and the people of Israel dwelt in their homes as formerly. Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them...) For there was not left to Jehoahaz an army of more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing. (RSV, emphasis added)

That, indeed, is the blood of Jezreel.

No, that is not "the blood of Jezreel"; it is simply a desperate attempt by a would-be apologist to explain away an obvious discrepancy in the Bible. Jayawardena said not one word about the 180-degree turn that the writer made in this passage, which first referred to the "anger of the Lord" that had caused him to give "them [the Israelites] continually into the hand of Syria" but then went on to tell of the compassion that Yahweh had had for the Israelites, which then led him to send a "savior" to deliver them from "the hand of the Syrians," even though they "did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam." Jayawardena said not one word about the inconsistency in the way that the author of 2 kings viewed military defeats and victories during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. If foreign oppression was a tool of punishment that Yahweh had indeed used against the Israelites during times of their toleration of idolatry, then why was this such an on-again, off-again Yahwistic policy? Wouldn't a deity who showed no favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11) have been a bit more consistent in punishing Israel for official toleration of idolatry?

To understand this inconsistency of the author of 2 Kings, one must be realistic and understand what I previously explained: People in biblical times superstitiously believed that their gods sent upon them fortunes and misfortunes according to whether they had pleased the gods. Hence, when territory and cities were lost to Syria during the reign of Jehu, the writer attributed this to Yahweh's displeasure at Jehu's having tolerated worship at the golden-calf shrines, but when his son and grandson regained some of those territories, these successes were attributed to compassion that Yahweh had had on Israel even though its kings were still allowing the pagan shrines to function. If Jayawardena understood how deeply engrained this superstition was in biblical times, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Next Jayawardena rewrites Hosea 1:4-5 to conform to his interpretation:

We can now understand Hosea 1:4-5 as follows:

And the Lord said unto him [Hosea], Call his [the firstborn of Gomer] name Jezre-el; for yet a little a [sic] while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezre-el [the children of Israel] upon the house of Jehu [because they, as the chief patrons in Israel of the cult of calf-worship, are principally responsible for the people of Israel sinning against me by following this cult, which caused me to punish Israel by their enemies resulting in their blood being shed], and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel [by Assyria as a judgment because they are hopelessly wedded to their idols]. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel [crush the military power] in the Valley of Jezreel.

I think that any person with reasonable critical-thinking skills will see immediately that most of the parenthetical comments in Jayawardena's rewording of Hosea 1:4-5 are what he has read into the text to make it mean what he wants it to say. As I asked once before, I will ask again: Why couldn't Yahweh have inspired his chosen writers to say exactly what they meant to say? If the uninspired Leonard Jayawardena could rewrite the passage as clearly as he did above, why couldn't the prophet Hosea have written it just as clearly? Well, the answer to this question is obvious: He could have if that was what he had meant to say. The fact that he didn't write it that way should tell readers with reasonable critical-thinking skills that he didn't mean it to say that. A huge problem for Jayawardena all through his article has been his inability to cite or quote a single passage of scripture where any biblical writer ever unequivocally used the expression "the blood of Jezreel" in the sense that Jayawardena has been trying to twist it into meaning. Jayawardena writes:

Hosea 12:14 supports the interpretation that the "blood" is indeed that of the children of Israel shed as a result of idolatry: "Ephra-im provoked Him [God] to anger most bitterly [with their idols]: therefore shall He [God] leave his [Ephraim's] blood upon him [Ephraim], and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him." God had repeatedly sent Ephraim (synonym for Israel) prophets to call the nation from their idols and the moral degeneracy that accompanies it to the true God (12:10), but they did not respond and provoked God to anger "most bitterly" by their idols; therefore the bloodguilt for their demise would rest upon themselves alone (cf. Ezekiel 33:1-9). Hosea is here talking about the future divine punishment of Israel for their religious apostasy by Assyria (see 9:7-8,15-17; 10:4-8).

English is a second language for Jayawardena, so we can certainly understand the reason for the misplaced modifier in his last sentence above. He was actually saying that Hosea was talking about the future divine punishment by Assyria for Israel's religious apostasy. With that understanding of what Jayawardena probably meant, we can now examine the flaws in his interpretation of some of the verses in Hosea 12. I have no disagreement with Jayawardena's interpretation of Ephraim as another name for Israel or the northern kingdom, because the name was so used in many places in the Old Testament, possibly because Jeroboam, the first of the northern kings, was an Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26), and over time the Ephramites had become the most dominant of the 10 northern tribes.

In other matters pertaining to this chapter in Hosea, Jayawardena and I part ways. For one thing, his claim that "moral degeneracy" accompanied the abandonment of Yahwistic worship is downright ludicrous in view of the many Old Testament references to massacres that were either commanded by or done by the Hebrew god Yahweh. He commanded the Israelites, for example, to destroy totally the seven nations residing in Canaan when the Israelites came out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:1-2), and the book of Joshua purports to be a record of Israel's obedience to this command when entire Canaanite tribes, including their children and babies, were massacred (Joshua 10:40; 11:10-15; 12, et al.). I have already referred to Yahweh's command for Saul, the first king of Israel, to destroy totally the Amalekites, including children and babies, for something that their ancestors had done 400 years earlier (1 Samuel 15:1-3). There are just too many Yahwistic atrocities in the Old Testament for me to cite them all, but if Jayawardena thinks that such tales as these presented a higher standard of morality than was practiced by those who worshiped gods other than Yahweh, his concept of morality is somewhat lower than mine.

As for Hosea's concern in the passage that Jayawardena quoted above, the broader context in chapters 11 through 13 do show that the prophet was deeply concerned about idolatrous practices in Israel, but chapter 11 addressed other problems besides idolatry. Hosea, for example, objected to Israelite trade and treaties with Assyria and Egypt (v:1) and was upset with merchants who had become rich by using false scales to cheat their customers (vs:7-8). For these and the offense of sacrificing "to bull-gods in Gilgal" (v:11), Hosea envisioned dire punishments for the Israelites [Ephramites], but Jayawardena grievously distorted the verse on which he based his claim that "the blood of Ephraim" meant the same thing as "the blood of Jezreel" in 1:4. That they didn't mean the same thing can be see by juxtaposing the two verses:

Hosea 1:4 Then Yahweh said to Hosea, "Call him [Gomer's first child] Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.

Hosea 12:14 Ephraim provoked him [Yahweh] to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.

In the first verse, Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for something that its eponymous ancestor [Jehu] had done; in the second, Yahweh would put upon Ephraim the guilt of its own bloodshed. In other words, the Ephraimites of Hosea's time would be punished for their own sins and not for the sins of their ancestors. This meaning of Hosea 12:14 is made clearer in modern translations:


NRSV: Ephraim has given bitter offense, so his Lord will bring his crimes down on him and pay him back for his insults.

NIV: But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger; his Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.

REB: Ephraim gave bitter provocation; he will be left to suffer for the blood he has shed; his Lord will punish him for all his blasphemy.

There is a clear difference in the way that Hosea used the two terms. The one claimed that the house of Jehu would receive vicarious punishment for Jehu's actions at Jezreel; the other claimed that Ephraim [Israel] would receive punishment for its own offenses. Jayawardena may counter that I am now assuming that "the blood of Jezreel" was making reference to Jehu's massacres at Jezreel, and I certainly do think that this is the most plausible interpretation of the expression, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that it meant what Jayawardena is claiming, i.e., that the descendants of Jehu living in Hosea's time would be exterminated because of all of the children of Israel whose blood was shed by the Syrians during the reigns of Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah. The first three of these kings were dead at the time that Hosea made the prophecy, so if it meant what Jayawardena is claiming, he would still be arguing that the descendants of Jehu living in Hosea's time were going to be punished because of "sins" committed by their ancestors. That interpretation would still be a case of vicarious punishment, which would be different from 12:14 that was saying that Ephraim [Israel] would suffer for the blood that he had [personally] shed.

As for Hosea 9:7-8,15-17 and 10:4-8, which Jayawardena urged us to "see," those who take the time to read them will find nothing but more prophetic rants against Ephraim [Israel] and predictions that Yahweh would bring dire punishments, including exile, to the Ephraimites [Israelites] of that time for various offenses that they themselves and not their ancestors had committed. Hence, these verses are entirely different from Hosea 1:4, where the prophet predicted vicarious punishment of the descendants of Jehu, living at that time, for the massacre that he committed at Jezreel.

Jayawardena makes a huge leap in claiming that "the blood of Ephraim" refers to the blood of Israelites "shed by its enemies":

We have "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 and "his blood" in 12:14. Since the latter expression clearly refers to the blood of Ephraim (=Israel) shed by its enemies, this makes it more likely that [the] former expression bears the same meaning.

What contextual evidence does he have for this spin on the expression? For several chapters, the prophet had been cataloging Israel's "sins." As noted above, for example, he complained about Israelite treaties and commerce with Assyria and Egypt and the way that some merchants had made themselves rich by cheating their customers with false scales, but these were just three of numerous "sins" that Hosea raved against. After complaining that there was no faithfulness or knowledge of God in the land, he had also condemned the Israelites for various immoralities, one of which was murder or the shedding of blood:

Hosea 3:2 There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

This was not the only reference that Hosea made to murders that were being committed in Israel at that time:

Hosea 6:8-9: Gilead is a city of wicked men, stained with footprints of blood. 9 As marauders lie in ambush for a man, so do bands of priests; they murder on the road to Shechem, committing shameful crimes.

If Jayawardena is going to claim that in 12:14 the prophet was referring to the blood of Israelites who had been killed by their enemies during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, he needs to do more than just assert it; he needs to present contextual evidence, which he certainly won't find in this passage. Throughout the book of Hosea, the prophet's theme was that Ephraim [Israel] was going to be punished for its own sins. In 8:13, for example, he said, "They offer sacrifices given to me [Yahweh] and they eat the meat, but Yahweh is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt." The Israelites were not punished by being sent back to Egypt, so this is just another example of failed prophecy that abounds in the rants of the Hebrew prophets. What I want readers to see in this verse, however, is that Hosea said rather clearly that Yahweh was going to remember the wickedness of the Israelites and punish them for their sins. He was not talking about vicarious punishment for things that had been done by their ancestors but for the "sins" that they had personally committed. This theme of personal punishment was stated several times by Hosea:

Hosea 4:6-9: [M]y people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. 7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. 8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. 9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.

In one of Hosea's many warnings that personal punishment was coming to the people, he included bloodshed as one of the "sins" for which they would be punished:

Hosea 4:1-5: Hear the word of Yahweh, you Israelites, because Yahweh has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. 2 There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. 3 Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying. 4 "But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. 5 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother....

Several times Hosea predicted dire punishment of the Israelites for their various "sins," some of which included murder and bloodshed, so I would dearly like to see Jayawardena show through contextual analysis that the "bloodguilt" of Ephraim referred to in 12:14 was a vicarious guilt for "children of Israel" whom the Syrians had killed during prior reigns of the Jehu dynasty rather than a guilt for blood that they had personally shed in their own time. This is what he must do in order to make his case.

2 Kings 10:30: A Postponed Judgment?

Jayawardena urges us to "allow Hosea himself to interpret his own language"; but when we do so, we see that he obviously didn't intend the expression "for the blood of Jezreel" to mean what Jayawardena has tried to make it mean:

Most readers of 2 Kings 10:30 see nothing more than God's commendation of Jehu for destroying the house of Ahab. But reading between the lines, one sees a hidden judgment mixed with the commendation.

I will interrupt momentarily to say that when would-be "apologists" can't find passages that say in plain language what they want them to say, they always want to "read between the lines," but to understand the meaning of biblical texts, why should we have to read between the lines in a book presumably inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity? Shouldn't we expect to find clarity in a book so inspired? Jayawardena rewrote Hosea 1:4 above to make it clearly say what he claims that the verse meant, but if this is really what Hosea intended his readers to understand, why couldn't the omniscient, omnipotent one have inspired the prophet to write it with that degree of clarity? It just doesn't seem very moral to me that a deity would reveal to mankind truths of eternal importance but inspire his chosen writers to use a sort of secret code that would require us to "read between the lines." A revelation written in such a way would be bound to be misunderstood by most readers. Indeed, Jayawardena even indicated at the very end of his article that Hosea 1:4 had been universally misunderstood until he finally came along to tell everyone what it really means. We are so fortunate that he finally arrived on the scene to set the world straight on the meaning of a text that had been misunderstood for almost three thousand years.

As we continue, I urge readers to notice that Jayawardena began at this point not just to "read between the lines" but to rewrite radically various texts to make them support his view of what Hosea 1:4 really meant. If his revisions of these texts accurately convey what they were intended to mean, I can't help wondering why Jayawardena's omnimax deity didn't just inspire his chosen ones to write them that way. I will be reminding readers of this question as we work our way though his revisions of the biblical texts.

Here Jayawardena appeals to the "context" of 2 Kings 10:29-31:

2 Kings 10:29-31 reads:

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan [vs.29]. And the Lord said unto Jehu [presumably through a prophet], Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel [vs.30]. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Nebat, which made Israel to sin [vs.31]. (KJV)

Look at the context of 2 Kings 10:30 carefully. In the immediately preceding verse (vs.29), the writer says that Jehu "departed not" from the sins of Jeroboam.

No one is saying that the writer of 2 Kings didn't disapprove of Jehu's toleration of the golden-calf shrines, but the writer's disapproval of this does not negate the fact that he told this story in a way that conveyed Yahweh's approval of Jehu's massacre of the house of Ahab. Hence, the writer approved of Jehu's extermination of the house of Ahab but disapproved of his toleration of the golden-calf worship. Jehu was not the only biblical character who was simultaneously praised and deprecated for his conduct. Yahweh was so pleased with David's righteousness that he promised to establish his kingdom forever (Psalms 89:3-4,20-29,35-37; 132:11-12). He was praised for doing that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh (1 Kings 15:4-5) but condemned for his conduct in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12). For the former, Yahweh promised to give David "a lamp in Jerusalem forever" (1 Kings 15:4; 1 Kings 11:34-39), but for the latter and other blood that he had shed, David was not allowed to build Yahweh a temple (1 Chronicles 22:7-8). Likewise, Solomon was rewarded for his righteousness (1 Chronicles 22:6-11) but punished for practicing idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-13) by having part of the kingdom taken from him. There was nothing unusual, then, in the biblical text that praised and rewarded Jehu for having done all that was in Yahweh's heart in the Jezreel massacres but simultaneously reproached him for having tolerated the golden-calf shrines at Bethel and Dan.

Jayawardena highlights verse 31:

Then, in vs.31, he again says: "But he took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam..."

As I have already pointed out many times, this same disapproval was expressed about the reigns of several kings of Israel: Nadab (1 Kings 15:26), Baasha (15:34), Omri (16:25-26), Ahab (16:30-31), Ahaziah (22:51-53), Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1-3), Jehoahaz (13:1-2), Jehoash (13:10-11), Jeroboam II (14:23-24), Zechariah (15:8-9), Menahem (15:17-18), Pekahiah (15:23-24), and Pekah (15:27-28). Furthermore, it wasn't at all uncommon for the Kings author to praise kings for "doing that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh" and then in the same breath to reproach them for allowing pagan worship to continue:

1 Kings 3:3 Solomon showed his love for Yahweh by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

1 Kings 15:11-14: Asa did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 14 Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to Yahweh all his life.

Notice that the writer said that Asa's heart "was fully committed to Yahweh all of his life" even though he did not remove the pagan shrines in the high places, so the fact that the Kings writer said that Jehu did not end the golden-shrine worship begun by Jeroboam would not within itself indicate that the author thought that this was a "sin" that warranted destroying his dynasty. If, for, example Asa was "fully committed to Yahweh all of his life" even though he tolerated pagan worship in the high places, why couldn't it be said that Jehu, who completely wiped out Baal worship, was also fully committed to Yahweh, even though he tolerated the golden-calf shrines? This is a legitimate question, since we see in other places that the Kings writer praised kings for doing what was right "in the eyes of Yahweh" while at the same time allowing pagan worship in the high places:

1 Kings 22:43 In everything he [Jehoshaphat] walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

2 Kings 12:1-3: In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother's name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. 2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

2 Kings 14:3-4: He [Amaziah of Judah] did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

2 Kings 15:3-4: He [Azariah] did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

2 Kings 15:33-35: He [Jotham] was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, just as his father Uzziah had done. 35 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

I have used a bit of overkill here, but I have taken the time to cite all of the above examples so that readers can see that Jayawardena assumed far too much when he revised 2 Kings 10:30 below to make it appear that the Kings author thought that Jehu's allowing pagan worship was such a serious offense that his lineage deserved to be wiped out. I have shown that the Kings writer obviously thought that a king who allowed pagan worship could otherwise be one who "did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh." As noted above, the author of Kings put praise for doing what was right in the eyes of Yahweh alongside reproach for allowing pagan worship to continue during the reigns of several Israelite and Judean kings, so there is no reason at all to "read between the lines" in 2 Kings 10:29-30 as Jayawardena has done to distort the author's intended meaning. If the kings just cited above could have done what was right in the eyes of Yahweh while simultaneously tolerating pagan worship, there is no reason to think that the author of Kings didn't have the same opinion of Jehu.

Jayawardena writes:

Now if vs.30 was purely meant to be a commendation of Jehu, and nothing else, then the setting of the promise that his dynasty would continue until the fourth generation would be most incongruous. The incongruity would be that a wholly positive statement expressing approval was sandwiched between two statements having a negative content expressing disapprobation.

Who has said that 2 Kings 10:30 was "purely meant to be a commendation of Jehu, and nothing else"? It was no more this than the passages quoted immediately above were intended to be only commendations of David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, etc. These were all obviously intended as commendations tempered with reproaches for the shortcomings noted within the same contexts. The commendation and reproach of Jehu within the same context, then, would have been no more unusual than the writer's commendation and reproach of various other kings within the same contexts. If Jayawardena thinks that there is incongruity in having commendation in a statement "sandwiched between two statements having a negative content," then consistency would require him to find incongruity in the various texts cited above where various kings, including even David and Solomon, were both praised and reproached in the same texts. There was nothing at all unusual in the way that the author of 2 Kings put commendation and reproach of Jehu within the same general context.

Jayawardena clearly moves from interpreting the text to revising it here:

But this incongruity disappears when vs.30 is expanded to read as follows: "And the Lord said to Jehu, 'Thou shouldest be punished for committing the sins of Jeroboam, but because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel, in which I will judge thine house."

If this is what the author of 2 Kings meant to say, then why couldn't the omnimax deity inspiring him have guided him to write it this way? Jayawardena's insistence upon revising Bible texts to make them read the way he would have written them makes his god Yahweh look like a nincompoop who was unable to guide his inspired ones to write with a clarity that would have required no "expansion" or "reading between the lines."

Jayawardena adds:

With the expanded form of vs.30, the entire passage would read as follows:

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan [vs.29]. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Thou shouldest be punished for committing the sins of Jeroboam, but because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in Mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel, in which I will judge thine house [vs.30]. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Nebat, which made Israel to sin [vs.31].

Doesn't the passage make more sense now?

Not at all, because those who have more than just Jayawardena's obviously superficial knowledge of the Bible will know, as I showed above, that the author or authors of the books of Kings often praised and reproached kings within the very narrow confines of passages that briefly summarized the reigns of Israelite and Judean kings. I could just as well rewrite the passages that praised and reproached other kings to read as follows:

1 Kings 3:3 Although Solomon should have been punished for offering sacrifices and burning incense on the high places, Yahweh kept the kingdom together for Solomon. because he showed his love for Yahweh by walking according to the statutes of his father David.

1 Kings 15:11-13: Although Asa should have been punished for not removing the high places, he was rewarded during his reign for otherwise doing what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

If I suggested such revisions to these texts, however, I am sure that Jayawardena would be among the first to accuse me of reading into them information not justified by the way they were originally written. Jayawardena continues:

In vs.29 the writer is setting out the basis for the judgment implied in vs.30, then in vs.31 saying, in effect: 'In spite of the prophecy of judgment pronounced against his house, Jehu took no preventive action to avert the future tragedy to befall the fourth generation of his descendants by departing from the sins of Jeroboam.' It is implied that if Jehu had given up calf worship and been wholly true to God, his house would have escaped judgment.

No, that is not at all implied. It is something that Jayawardena is reading into the text. He just can't seem to understand a simple fact that I have now pointed out several times in my replies to his article: Biblical writers, like their ancient contemporaries, superstitiously believed that the gods were involved in every aspect of life, and so they interpreted events--including even trivial ones--accordingly. Hence, biblical writers routinely assigned blame for personal or national calamities on the "sins" of either the people in general or particular individuals. I quoted above several biblical passages in which different kings of Judah and Israel were simultaneously praised and reproached. The reproach was almost always for the toleration of pagan worship, yet most of these kings "slept with their fathers," i.e., died natural deaths, and no subsequent "judgments" were rendered on their descendants, so the spin that Jayawardena is trying to put onto 1 Kings 10:29-31 would make his god Yahweh a capricious deity who did nothing to some kings for allowing idolatry but grievously punished others. Such a view would conflict with biblical claims that "God" is no respector of persons (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11). Reasonable people would understand anyway that when a biblical writer claimed that kings like Nadab (1 Kings 15:25-30), Elah (16:8-14), Jehoram (2 Kings 9), et al., were punished vicariously for "sins" of their ancestors, he was simply interpreting events of his time in accordance with a prevailing superstitious belief that the gods were involved in all human events. If, then, a king who had apparently done nothing grievously wrong himself was assassinated and his entire family massacred, as happened to Nadab, Elah, Jehoram, et al., this was seen as postponed punishment for "sins" that had been committed by an ancestor. In the cases of Nadab and Elah, they and their families were massacred as punishment for Jeroboam's sin of instituting pagan worship at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:25-32), and Jehoram and his family were massacred because of the "sins" of Ahab (2 Kings 9:7-10). To the superstitious minds of biblical writers, there was no such thing as calamities that just happened by purely natural reasons, such as human ambition or cruelty, so they invariably attributed tragedies like massacres or military defeats to the will of their god, who was pulling strings to avenge the "sins" of those who had escaped punishment during their lives.

Next Jayawardena turns to translating Hebrew to support his interpretation:

The Hebrew word translated as "took no heed" in 2 Kings 10:31 is shâmar (No. 8104 of Strong's Concordance), which is so translated in the KJV more than thirty times and has meanings which include "beware, be circumspect, take heed [to self]." When so translated, it means taking care to do or not do something to avoid some negative consequence. For example, see Genesis 31:24, where God says to Laban, "Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad [lest I punish thee if thou do so]"; and Deuteronomy 11:16: "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you..."

I don't know what Jayawardena thought he was accomplishing by his appeal to the meaning of the Hebrew word shâmar, because I certainly wouldn't dispute Jayawardena's analysis of how the word was used in the texts he cited. Likewise, I would never say that the writer or writers of 2 Kings didn't think that Jehu's toleration of the golden-calf shrines was a failure on his part to "take heed" to Yahweh's commands against worshiping other gods, but in the same way that Jehu failed to "take heed" to "walk in the way of Yahweh with all his heart" by eliminating not just Baal worship (2 Kings 10:18-28) but also the golden-calf shrines at Dan and Bethel, so the toleration and practice of pagan worship by kings like Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, et al. would have likewise been failures on their part to take heed to Yahweh's commands against worshiping other gods. By that standard, then, Jehu had done no worse than other kings in "heed[ing]" Yahweh's commands against worshiping other gods, so if Jehu's failure to heed Yahweh's command against idolatry caused--as Jayawardena is claiming--Yahweh to destroy his lineage [house], why didn't it cause him to destroy, say, Solomon's house? That's a question that needs a plausible answer, since Yahweh, despite Solomon's idolatry, had promised to establish his house forever on the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10). It seems that Jayawardena's god Yahweh was a bit inconsistent at times.

Jayawardena writes:

So there is both good news and bad news for Jehu in 2 Kings 10:30: the bad news, which is not specifically mentioned but implied, is that his house is to be judged for continuing in the sins of Jeroboam;

Implied is the key word here, because we have seen how easily Jayawardena sees implications, not specifically mentioned, when he wants to read into biblical texts what he would like them to say in order to "prove" his "solution" to the problem of inconsistency in 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4. Jayawardena has yet to answer questions that have now been asked several times: Why did writers inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity only "imply" that Jehu's house would be "judged" for Jehu's having continued "in the sins of Jeroboam"? Why couldn't they have unequivocally said so in a way that would have required no "reading between the lines"? The legitimacy of these questions can be seen in the times that the Kings writer or writers did specifically state that "judgment" was brought upon the lineages of several kings for their having either begun or continued Jeroboam's "sin" or committed similar offenses:

1 Kings 14:6-11: So when Ahijah [the prophet] heard the sound of her [Jeroboam's wife's] footsteps at the door, he said, "Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news. 7 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: 'I raised you up from among the people and made you a leader over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. 10 "'Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel--slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. 11 Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country. Yahweh has spoken!'"

No "reading between the lines" was necessary here to understand that Yahweh was emphatically stating that the house of Jeroboam would be wiped out for having begun the worship of golden calves in the northern kingdom. The same is true of the other times when Yahweh specifically said that the lineages of other kings would be destroyed for similar "sins":

1 Kings 15:25-30: Nadab son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 26 He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit. 27 Baasha son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar plotted against him, and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it. 28 Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king. 29 As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam's whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of Yahweh given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite-- 30 because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he provoked Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger.

1 Kings 15:33-34: In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of all Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did evil in the eyes of Yahweh, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.

1 Kings 16:1-4,11-13: Then the word of Yahweh came to Jehu [the prophet, not the king] son of Hanani against Baasha: 2 "I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins. 3 So I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4 Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country...." 11 As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. 12 So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of Yahweh spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu-- 13 because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

1 Kings 21:17-24: Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 "Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth's vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, 'This is what Yahweh says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Then say to him, 'This is what Yahweh says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood--yes, yours!'" 20 Ahab said to Elijah, "So you have found me, my enemy!" "I have found you," he answered, "because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of Yahweh. 21 'I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel--slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.' 23 "And also concerning Jezebel Yahweh says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' 24 "Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country."

2 Kings 9:6-10: Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu's head and declared, "This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: 'I anoint you king over the Lord's people Israel. 7 You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord's servants shed by Jezebel. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel--slave or free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.'"

We see no mincing of words in these passages, where the Kings writer or writers specifically and emphatically stated that the lineages of all these kings were being destroyed because of specific offenses, usually the "sin" of Jeroboam, yet Jayawardena expects us to believe that the same writer or writers, for reasons known only to Jayawardena and his omnimax deity, didn't state "specifically" that Jehu's house was to be "judged for continuing in the sins of Jeroboam." He just "implied" it.

Why? This is a question to which we expect Jayawardena to give us a plausible answer. Instead, Jayawardena maintains that "the good news is that the judgment is postponed to the fourth generation as a 'reward' for serving God in destroying the house of Ahab."

We just noted that a pronouncement of "judgment" on the house of Jehu for tolerating worship at the golden-calf shrines exists only in Jayawardena's imagination of "implications" that apparently only he is able to see. As noted, when the writer of Kings thought that Yahweh had pronounced or rendered judgment on kings because of their offenses, he specifically said so in no uncertain terms, so we have no reason to believe that he wouldn't have done the same in the matter of Jehu if he had really thought that such divine judgment against him had been decreed. This "judgment" against Jehu exists only in Jayawardena's imagination.

Jayawardena writes:

Contrast the promise given to Jehu that his house would continue until "the fourth generation" with the promise given to king David that his house would continue "forever" (2 Samuel 7:11-16). Why only until the fourth generation and not forever like the house of David? This difference makes sense only if we see the promise to Jehu that his dynasty would continue until the fourth generation as lenience shown in what is otherwise a judgment.

This is not at all a difficult question to answer, and Jayawardena wouldn't even have asked it had he understood something I have now pointed out several times: biblical writers interpreted events in accordance with the belief of their times that the gods rewarded and punished people according to whether they had pleased or displeased their gods. If good fortune came one's way, he had pleased the gods; if misfortune befell him, he had displeased them. Accordingly, when Ahaziah of Judah was killed in Jehu's massacre, after only a one-year reign (2 Chronicles 22:2), at the age of 23 (2 Kings 8:26) or 43, depending on whether you want to believe the author of Kings or the chronicler Chronicles 22:2), the latter, seeing the assassination of Ahaziah as a divinely destined event, said that "it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram" (2 Chronicles 22:7). To a mind conditioned by the superstitions of his time, the chronicler would never have thought that misfortune just happens and that Ahaziah had simply had the bad luck of going to visit his uncle at the wrong time. Likewise, when Zemri became king after a bloody coup (1 Kings 16:15), he died in a countercoup seven days later because of "his sins which he sinned in doing that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" (vs:18-19), as if, comparatively speaking, seven days would have been long enough for Zemri to have done any substantial amount of "evil" compared to what had been done by the likes of Jeroboam I, Ahab, Omri, etc. That Zemi couldn't have done very much "evil" in only seven days is rather evident, since his massacre of the house of Baasha had earlier been described as something that had been done "according to the word of Yahweh, which he had spoken against Baasha by Jehu the prophet" (1 Kings 16:12), so whatever "evil" Zemri may have done would have necessarily followed his execution of Yahweh's will by exterminating the house of Baasha. If Zemi became king by assassinating Baasha's son Elah and had afterwards, "as soon as he sat on his throne," proceeded to "kill all the household of Baasha" so as not to "leave [alive] a single male, neither of his relatives nor of his friends," all of which was presumably what Yahweh had wanted him to do, then Zemri couldn't have had too much time during the remainder of his short seven-day reign to have engaged in doing a lot of "evil." Readers can go here to see this point discussed and supported with additional examples of the ancient belief that misfortune (usually death) resulted from displeasing Yahweh and good fortune, such as military successes and long reigns, resulted from "doing that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh."

Biblical writers were by no means consistent in applying this belief to their interpretations of the events of their time, because they would sometimes confront apparent exceptions to this belief: some who did that which was supposedly good would suffer misfortune and those who did wrong would seemingly go unpunished. This had to be explained, and the author or authors of the books of Kings, who had the advantage of writing after the fact, used scapegoats to explain these exceptions. If a "good" king experienced good luck, this, of course, resulted from his having pleased Yahweh, but if bad luck happened during his reign, this was attributed to what Jayawardena would call "deferred punishment" for something that had been done by an ancestor. Hezekiah and Manasseh, respectively, are examples of how the writer or writers applied this principle to the interpretation of Israelite history. Hezekiah reigned as king of Judah for 29 years, during which time he "removed the high places" and destroyed the brazen serpent made by Moses, which had become an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4), and died a natural death (20:21), so he was described as a king more righteous than all of those who had come before or after him (18:5). His son Manasseh, however, was described as just the opposite. He restored the high places, offered his own son as a burnt offering, and "shed innocent blood" from one end of Jerusalem to the other (2 Kings 21:3,6,16), so he became a convenient scapegoat for Judah's eventual defeat by the Babylonians. Even though his grandson Josiah was a righteous king, who, like Hezekiah, was paradoxically described as the most righteous of all kings before or after him (2 Kings 23:25), Yahweh, so the writer or writers of 2 Kings thought, considered Manasseh's "sins" so grievous that, despite Josiah's exceptional righteousness, he would not allow Judah to continue as a nation:

2 Kings 23:25-27: Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to Yahweh as he did--with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 26 Nevertheless, Yahweh did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger. 27 So Yahweh said, "I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, 'There shall my Name be.'"

When Judah finally fell to the Babylonians, the author or authors of 2 Kings again reminded his readers that Manasseh was the cause of this defeat, even though at that time, he had been dead for over 50 years:

2 Kings 24:3-4: Surely these things happened to Judah according to Yahweh's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, 4 including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Yahweh was not willing to forgive.

This was the way that the author or authors of the books of Kings affixed blame when interpreting Israelite history, but the postexilic chronicler would often put entirely different spins on characters and events that had previously been blamed for misfortunes that had befallen the Israelites. As noted above, for example, Manasseh was the scapegoat whom the Kings writer or writers blamed for Judah's captivity in Babylon, but the chronicler viewed Manasseh much more sympathetically. Rather than a king who had conducted himself despicably all through his reign, as the author or authors of Kings had portrayed him, the chronicler depicted him as a king who got off to a bad start by promoting idolatry for which Yahweh caused him to be captured by the Assyrians and taken to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:1-11), where in his distress he humbled himself, entreated Yahweh's favor, and was restored to his kingdom in Jerusalem (vs:12-13). After this, so the chronicler claimed, Manasseh "knew that Yahweh was God" (vs:13). The chronicler went on to depict Manasseh as a reformer, who removed foreign gods, destroyed their altars, rebuilt Yahweh's altar, and commanded the people of Judah to serve Yahweh (vs:14-16).

Even though Manasseh was depicted so wickedly by the author or authors of 2 Kings, he reigned for 55 years and died a natural death, i.e., "rested with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his own house" (2 Kings 21:1,18), but his grandson Josiah, on the other hand, even though he was, as noted above, depicted as the most righteous of all kings before or after him, was killed in a battle with the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29). So the most righteous of all the kings was killed in battle, whereas the most evil king enjoyed a long life and a natural death. The inconsistency--or, to borrow a term from Jayawardena, "incongruity"--in the way that the author or authors appraised the lives of these people has to be viewed in the light of the ancient superstition that the gods controlled all events. Hence, if a wicked king died an early death, as did Manasseh's son Amon, who "walked in the ways of his father" and was assassinated in his own house after a reign of only two years (2 Kings 21:19-23), this was the hand of God, but if his evil father Manasseh had been allowed to reign for 55 years and die a natural death, this too was the hand of God. To a person living then, it was unimaginable that anything could happen without its having been the will of the gods, so Yahweh had had a reason for letting evil Manasseh reign for so long and then die a natural death while killing evil Amon after a reign of only two years. For some reason known only to Yahweh, he had, to borrow another term that Jayawardena will be using, deferred Manasseh's punishment so that the entire nation of Judah could be vicariously punished for his "sins."

The contrasting views of Manasseh presented in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are nothing short of startling, but this is just one example among many biblical inconsistencies that make one wonder why Jayawardena seems so bent on whitewashing the conflicting views that Hosea and the author or authors of 2 Kings had of the Jezreel massacre. That people in ancient times would have superstitiously believed that gods were involved in all human events should come as no surprise to Jayawardena, because many religious conservatives think the same way even in our relatively enlightened times. When a tsunami devastated Southeastern Asia, including Jayawardena's native country Sri Lanka, in December 2004, some Christian fundamentalists declared this to be God's judgment on a non-Christian area, even though many of those killed were tourists from Christian countries. The earthquake that killed thousands in Pakistan in October 2005 was seen the same way by some fundamentalist Christians, and they also declared the hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated the gulf-coast region of the United States to be judgment from God because of the decadent lifestyles of many residents of New Orleans. Such belief seems strange to critical thinkers, but it is sadly a fact of life even today, so we can imagine how deeply ingrained it was in biblical times.

Apparently not understanding the way that biblical writers applied this belief to the characters and events of their time has caused Jayawardena to argue in favor of his spin on 2 Kings 10:30 by asking why "God" had promised to extend the reign of David's descendants "forever" but had promised that Jehu's house would reign for only four generations. The answer to Jayawardena's question isn't at all difficult to those who recognize that biblical writers interpreted events according to their superstitious beliefs. Ethnocentrism was a deeply instilled belief in biblical times, so the Hebrews, like the Babylonians, thought that their kingdom would last forever; hence, an everlasting Davidic kingdom, as noted above, had become an integral part of Hebrew tradition, so the improbability of two everlasting Hebrew kingdoms could well be a plausible reason why the author or authors of the books of kings didn't think that Jehu's actions at Jezreel were rewarded with a divine promise of an everlasting kingdom that would have descendants of Jehu sitting on his throne forever. Furthermore, the book of 2 Kings was obviously written after the fact, so the writer would have known that Jehu's dynasty had ended with the assassination of Zechariah, a fourth-generation descendant of Jehu (2 Kings 15:8-12), so the writer's interpretation of these events was that this was simply the way that Yahweh had intended it. Since Jehu had done Yahweh's will in exterminating the house of Ahab, Yahweh had rewarded him with a promise to allow four generations of his descendants to reign in the northern kingdom (2 Kings 10:30). The writer claimed that Yahweh had decreed a four-generation promise to Jehu's dynasty, because he knew that the dynasty had ended with Jehu's fourth-generation descendant Zechariah.

Hindsight gave biblical writers a huge advantage in describing prophecy fulfillments. If Jehu's dynasty had ended with Zechariah's father Jeroboam II, the writer would have written 2 Kings 10:30 as a prophecy that Jehu's sons would reign over Israel for three generations; if the dynasty had lasted through another generation after Zechariah, he would have written it as a five-generation prophecy. There is no mystery at all to why Jehu had been promised that his sons would reign for four generations. The writer of 2 Kings knew that this was how many generations had reigned during the Jehu dynasty, so they interpreted the duration of this dynasty in accordance with their belief that whatever happened in human events happened that way because their god Yahweh had wanted it to be this way. Jayawardena might say that the same thing could be said about the Davidic kingdom. The author of 2 Kings would have known that the Davidic kingdom had ended with Judah's fall to Nebuchadnezzar. That is true, but ethnocentrism was so deeply ingrained in Hebrew society that biblical writers just couldn't have imagined that the conquest of Judah would be the end of the promised Davidic kingdom, so such writers as Hosea, Isaiah (Isaiah 11), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:14-26), et al. envisioned the restoration of a reunified kingdom like the one over which David and Solomon had reigned. We now know that no such restoration ever happened. The exiled Judeans, through the magnanimity of Cyrus of Persia, were allowed to return to Judah, but the northern tribes exiled by the Assyrians have been lost forever.

At this point, Jayawardena began a section to his article in which he assumed that he has correctly determined that Hosea 1:4 had prophesied a "deferred punishment" on the house of Jehu as retribution for all of the "children of Israel" killed by the Syrians during the reign of the Jehu dynasty. Having made that assumption, he then, as we will see, proceeded to prove it by citing other examples of "deferred punishment" in the Bible. The poor fellow can't seem to realize that if other examples of "deferred punishment" prove his interpretation of Hosea 1:4, those same examples would likewise prove the traditional scholarly view that Hosea did indeed prophesy that the house of Jehu was about to experience a deferred punishment but that the punishment was going to be for the massacres that Jehu had committed at Jezreel and not for the "blood of the children of Israel" killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. In other words, Jayawardena and I both see a prophecy of deferred punishment in Hosea 1:4, but we see a punishment that was deferred for different reasons. If Jayawardena claims that other examples of deferred punishment in the Bible prove that his interpretation is the right one, why can't I just as legitimately claim that those other examples of deferred punishment prove that my interpretation, which also involves deferred punishment, is the right one?

Jayawardena's argument is that other examples of "deferred punishment" in the Bible prove his claim that Hosea 1:4 prophesied that the house of Jehu was going to receive a deferred punishment not for the massacres that Jehu committed at Jezreel, but for the "blood of the children of Israel" whom the Syrians had killed during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. As we will now see, Jayawardena assumed far too much from an argument that could just as well support the interpretation of Hosea 1:4 that he has been trying to disprove. To see this, we have only to juxtapose the two interpretations:

Jayawardena's Interpretation: Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for the blood of the children of Israel killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty.

Interpretation Opposed by Jayawardena: Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for the blood of those who were killed during Jehu's massacre at Jezreel.

Both interpretations entail deferred punishment of the house of Jehu. The only difference in the two is the reason for the deferred punishment, so if citing other examples of deferred punishment, as Jayawardena does below, would prove the correctness of his interpretation, they would also prove the correctness of the interpretation that he opposes. If not, why not?

As I previously noted, Jayawardena doesn't seem to understand the logical axiom that says what proves too much proves nothing at all. The meaning of this axiom is simple: If an argument that proves the truth of X would also prove the truth of Y, which is a proposition that contradicts X, then the argument obviously has no forensic value, because... well, because what proves too much proves nothing at all.

Other Biblical Examples of Deferred Punishment

Again Jayawardena appeals to the notion of deferred punishment:

Other biblical examples of deferred punishment are found in 1 Kings 21:29 and 1 Kings 11:12: "And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the evil upon his house'" (1 Kings 21:29, RSV, emphasis added). This statement followed the repentance of Ahab upon hearing the divine judgment pronounced by Elijah on his house because of all the evil he had perpetrated.

This passage does indeed claim that because Ahab repented upon hearing Elijah's message, Yahweh deferred exterminating the house of Ahab, but as I pointed out above, examples of deferred punishment would no more prove the correctness of Jayawardena's interpretation than they would prove the correctness of the interpretation that he opposes, because both interpretations entail deferred punishment, and what proves too much proves nothing at all.

The only other comment that I need to make here is to point out that the passage that Jayawardena quoted above was no doubt written to make actual historical facts conform to the writer's belief that whatever happened to people was controlled by his god Yahweh. Since he knew that the house of Ahab was not destroyed during Ahab's lifetime, the writer needed a reason to explain why the destruction had not happened till after Ahab's death, so he theorized that Yahweh had delayed the punishment because of Ahab's repentance. Whether such a repentance actually happened is immaterial, because, as I pointed out above, deferring punishment of the house of Ahab wouldn't prove the correctness of Jayawardena's interpretation of Hosea 1:4 any more than it would prove the correctness of the interpretation that he opposes.

Jayawardena writes:

Compare the above with 2 Kings 10:30: "Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes..., thy children of the fourth generation shall sit upon the throne of Israel.")

Well, this would be more of an example of extended reward than deferred punishment, but even if one wants to see this as an example of punishment that Yahweh had postponed for four generations, it would be a case of Yahweh's having punished the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel by limiting accession to Jehu's throne to just four generations of his descendants, and that would support the interpretation that Jayawardena opposes rather than the one he is trying to sell. Regardless, Jayawardena cannot prove his case by citing other examples of "deferred punishment," because such examples, as I have shown above, would just as easily prove the interpretation he opposes. Jayawardena returns to the text:

1 Kings 11:11-13 says:

The Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant [Jeroboam]. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom...'

Again, this is merely an example of spin that a biblical writer put onto the story of the breaking apart of the unified kingdom following Solomon's death. If such a split was a historical fact, common sense would tell critical thinkers that its occurrence was more likely due to purely political reasons rather than divine intervention. Power struggles were fairly commonplace when kings died. As David lay dying, for example, Solomon and his half-brother Adonijah both vied for the throne in a political battle that was won by Solomon (1 Kings 1-2), and so there was nothing unusual in the power struggle that followed Solomon's death. Jeroboam won this time and succeeded in pulling ten tribes away to form a separate northern kingdom, but to the writer of 1 Kings, there was no such thing as happenstance and certainly not when political power shifts occurred. He would never have seen Jeroboam's success in assuming control over the northern part of previously unified Israel as something that had just happened in the normal course of events. Instead, he interpreted it as something that had been decreed by Yahweh as deferred punishment for Solomon's idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-13). Even after the power struggle between Solomon and Adonijah was over, the latter thought that Yahweh had given the kingdom to Solomon (1 Kings 2:15). Knowing the historical reality of 10 tribes having withdrawn from the unified kingdom, the Kings writer was giving an "explanation" for the split that would fit into the superstitious mindset of the times that considered national calamities such as defeats in battle or, in this case, a successful coup d'état as divine punishment. To him, his god Yahweh had to have had a reason for causing the division, so Solomon's idolatry became the "explanation." Knowing that the withdrawal of the northern tribes didn't happen during Solomon's lifetime, the writer used deferred punishment to explain the division. For the sake of David, so the writer thought, Yahweh had kept the kingdom intact during Solomon's lifetime and had preserved two tribes in the southern kingdom controlled by Rehoboam in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:31-39). This way, the writer was able to rationalize that Yahweh had both punished Solomon for his idolatry and rewarded David by keeping a "lamp" before him in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:36).

Readers should keep in mind, however, that Jayawardena's interpretation of Hosea 1:4 and the one that he opposes both see deferred punishment in Hosea's prophecy, so the fact that the Bible teaches that punishment of Solomon for his idolatry was postponed would no more prove Jayawardena's interpretation of the disputed verse than it would prove the truth of the interpretation that he opposes.

Next Jayawardena begs the question:

We can now see why Hosea condemned the house of Jehu for "the blood of Jezreel": The house was held responsible for the lives of the people of Israel killed by the nation's enemies, mainly Syria, during the Jehu dynasty.

Here Jayawardena simply assumes the truth of his interpretation of Hosea 1:4 without offering proof that this interpretation is correct. Let's suppose that I should say, "We can now see why Hosea condemned the house of Jehu for the 'blood of Jezreel': The house was held responsible for the lives of the people of Jezreel killed by Jehu during his military coup that brought him to power." Wouldn't Jayawardena demand that I prove that assertion? Of course, he would, but he seems to think that even though he has failed to give even halfway reasonable support of his interpretation of Hosea 1:4, he can just keep repeating his spin on the verse without any obligation to offer convincing proof that he has correctly interpreted it. I have already demonstrated the validity of my interpretation of the verse where I analyzed Hosea 1:4 to show that it was a double-faceted prophecy that was structured so that the phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" could refer only to the first part of the prophecy, which had predicted divine punishment on the house of Jehu. I then went on to show that most of the rest of the book of Hosea, in ranting at length about it, identified idolatry as the primary reason for the second part of the prophecy, i.e., eventual destruction of the northern kingdom.

Jayawardena writes:

Jehu and his dynasty continued and promoted "the sins of Jeroboam," i.e., worship of the golden calves, in Israel, and this was the chief cause of the divine judgment visited upon the northern kingdom, as repeatedly pointed out in the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Although what Jayawardena said here is basically what the writer or writers of Kings claimed, it in no way proves his interpretation of Hosea 1:4. There is no need for me to keep inventing the wheel, as I've already shown that various kings of both Judah and Israel were reproached for having continued in "the sins of Jeroboam" or tolerated other types of idolatry. Many of them were simultaneously praised for having done that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, and some of the worst of the lot, such as Manasseh, enjoyed long reigns and died natural deaths. Spin, therefore, is the only reasonable way to see why the Kings writer had claimed toleration of idolatry as having been particularly odious on the part of the kings who had reigned in the Jehu dynasty. He was looking for a way to explain the overthrow of Jehu's lineage. He knew that it had happened, and so he had attributed the overthrow to toleration of the golden-calf shrines, but since other kings who had allowed idolatry to continue unabated enjoyed long reigns, after which they had "slept with their fathers," the writer or writers saw this as an indication that they had somehow pleased Yahweh despite their toleration of pagan shrines in the high places. There is just nothing in the toleration of Jeroboam's "sin" by the Jehu dynasty to support the spin that Jayawardena is trying to put on Hosea 1:4.

Jayawardena next points out that "The book of Hosea itself has a number of references to this form of idolatry (Hosea 8:5,6; 10:5; 13:2)." But I have never denied that Hosea ranted against idolatry and especially against the worship of the golden calves, and none of the verses that Jayawardena cited above claimed that the house of Jehu was going to be destroyed for having tolerated the golden-calf shrines. They all spoke of a destruction that was going to come upon Israel [Ephraim], and two of the passages predicted that Assyria would be Yahweh's instrument of destruction (Hosea 8:8-9; 10:6). Everything said in the passages cited here by Jayawardena agrees with my interpretation of Hosea 1:4, which is that it contained a dual-faceted prophecy: (1) The house of Jehu would be destroyed as punishment "for the blood of Jezreel" and (2) the house of Israel would be brought to an end because of its idolatry and other sins. When Hosea predicted that Assyria would end the nation of Israel because of its idolatry, he was saying something entirely different from Jayawardena's claim that "the blood of Jezreel" was metaphorically the "blood of the children of Israel" who had been killed by Syria during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty. Jayawardena needs to find a text that explicitly says that Yahweh intended to end the nation of Israel because of the failure of the Jehu dynasty to end golden-calf worship, but no such text exists. If it did, he would have quoted it. On the other hand, there are numerous texts in Hosea, as previously noted, that predicted that Yahweh would grievously punish the Israelites [Ephraimites] for their own personal sins, the main ones of which were idolatry and bloodshed.

Jayawardena continues:

When pronouncing judgment on Ahab for his sins, Elijah told him, "And I will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked Me to anger [with thy idols], and made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 21:22). Clearly the Old Testament writers held the royal family responsible for Israel sinning against God through idolatry (and, of course, for its consequences for the nation in the form of death and destruction by enemies).

This is certainly true, but Jayawardena is apparently unable to separate fact from spin. As I have pointed out several times now, Old Testament writers interpreted history in terms of their superstitious belief that their god Yahweh controlled the destinies of nations and kings, down to even the most insignificant of events. When a king and his family were massacred, biblical writers interpreted this as punishment for "sins" that had displeased Yahweh or else deferred punishment on the descendants of someone who in an earlier generation had committed "sins" that had angered Yahweh. As noted earlier, the "sin of Jeroboam" was consistently the yardstick by which the writer or writers of Kings measured a monarch's achievements, yet Jeroboam himself suffered no apparent punishment for having begun the golden-calf worship that so irritated the author or authors of the books of Kings. He reigned for 22 years and then "slept with his fathers" (1 Kings 14:20), but his son Nadab reigned only two years before Baasha seized power by assassinating Nadab and then eliminating all competition to his occupancy of the throne by massacring Nadab's family to the point of leaving none in his household alive to breathe (1 Kings 15:25-30). As we noted earlier, the same happened throughout Israelite history. Kings would do "that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh" but live long lives and die natural deaths, whereas "evil" kings that followed them would be killed after only short reigns.

So what should we make of all this? Well, those who are shackled to a belief in ancient superstitions, as Jayawardena apparently is, will believe that such tales as these happened as the biblical writers claimed, but those whose critical thinking skills are a bit more honed will realize that the divine interventions claimed in the stories merely reflected the superstitions of the time. Hence, Jeroboam enjoyed a long reign and died a natural death because of purely natural circumstances. He had the political power to retain his throne and prevent its usurpation by those who may have had designs on it, whereas Nadab wasn't quite so lucky. Not having chance and circumstance on his side, a coup d'état brought both his reign and his life to early ends. As pointed out before, however, regardless of whether these tales happened as recorded or whether the divine element of "deferred punishment" was just the writers' superstitious spin, the fact that the Bible claims that the god Yahweh sometimes punished people vicariously for "sins" that had been committed in earlier generations would prove Jayawardena's interpretation on Hosea 1:4 no more than it would prove the interpretation he opposes, because both interpretations entail deferred vicarious punishment. Unfortunately for him, Jayawardena needs more to prove his spin on Hosea 1:4 than the mere fact that the Bible teaches in other places that Yahweh sometimes imposed deferred punishment on people for the "sins" of earlier generations.

Jayawardena writes:

In the Old Testament, anyone found enticing the people of Israel to serve other gods was to be put to death, for that was an attempt to draw the people away from the true God and entailed evil consequences (Deuteronomy 13). Israel was punished for its idolatry by enemy nations, and its kings were punished for the same reason by the assassinations and massacres accompanying the various coups.

Yes, this was the spin that biblical writers often put on the events of their time, but as I have shown repeatedly in my replies to Jayawardena, Hosea prophesied that the house of Jehu would be punished "for the blood of Jezreel," so there is no need for me to rehash the evidence that clearly indicated that the prophet considered the "blood of Jezreel" to be the blood that was shed in Jehu's massacres at Jezreel. If Jayawardena doesn't see that by now, he will never see it, just as he apparently doesn't see the repugnance in killing people who worshiped differently from those who were in political control of the country.

2 Kings 10:29-31 Viewed in the Light of Exodus 20:3-5

Again, Jayawardena reads his interpretation into the text:

I think Exodus 20:3-5, quoted below, can shed more light on 2 Kings 10:29-31:

Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting [Hebrew pâqad] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.

What this passage says is that those who "hate" God, i.e., those who go after other gods, such as Jehu, are liable to have their sins visited even up to the third and fourth generations of their descendants. Comparison of 2 Kings 10:29-31 with Exodus 20:3-5 will provide confirmation that 2 Kings 10:30 is indeed a case of postponed punishment.

That Old Testament writers, as well as their contemporaries, believed that their god Yahweh "visited" sins of the fathers upon succeeding generations is obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about the Bible, but, as I pointed out here, that would no more prove Jayawardena's claim that Hosea 1:4 meant that Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for the "blood of the children of Israel" whom the Syrians had killed during the Jehu dynasty any more than it would prove that this verse meant that Yahweh was going to punish the house of Jehu for the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel. As I have noted several times now, both Jayawardena's interpretation of Hosea 1:4 and the one he opposes entail delayed or deferred punishment, so, as I have also said several times now, an argument that would prove the truth of two contradictory premises actually proves nothing at all.

Jayawardena adds:

Interestingly, Hosea uses the same Hebrew word pâqad in 1:4: "I will avenge [pâqad] the blood of Jezre-el..."

Note that Exodus 20:5 is not teaching vicarious guilt on the part of children for the sins of their fathers. When God "visits" the sins of the fathers upon the children, he withholds his grace from the descendants of idolaters like Jehu and allows them to emulate their fathers' example, suffering the consequences for doing so.

This is the same kind of ancient superstition that thought that Yahweh "hardened the hearts" of Israel's enemies to have a reason to kill them. As anyone who isn't shackled by blind allegiance to biblical inerrancy can see in the claims of the passage below, it was a concept that was irreconcilably inconsistent with a later Deuteronomic principle that renounced the concept of vicarious punishment and taught that a person should be punished only for his own sins:

Joshua 11:19-20: There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. 20 For it was Yahweh's doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses.

As already noted, I don't disagree that the Bible prior to the evolution of the Deuteronomic code had taught vicarious punishment for the "sins" of others, even ancestors that had lived generations earlier, but, as I pointed out above, such a concept as this is morally repugnant to civilized people. That Jayawardena believes such nonsense hardly qualifies him to speak with any authority about a meaning in Hosea 1:4 that he thinks has eluded everyone but him. Besides this gaping hole in Jayawardena's appeal to Exodus 20:5 and related passages to confirm his "solution" to the Jehu problem, the fact that the Bible does contain various claims of "deferred punishment" for ancestral sins cannot be used to prove his interpretation of Hosea 1:4, because the interpretation that he opposes also entails the element of vicarious, deferred punishment, so what proves too much proves nothing at all.

In citing his examples of "deferred punishment" in the Bible, Jayawardena seemed to be arguing like this:

  • "The blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred to the blood of the children of Israel killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, whose deaths Yahweh was going to avenge with a deferred punishment of the house of Jehu.
  • The Bible contains several examples of deferred, vicarious punishment.
  • Therefore, "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 did mean the blood of the children of Israel killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty.

Jayawardena apparently can't recognize non sequiturs, because I could just as easily apply the same kind of "logic" to the interpretation that he opposes:

  • "The blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 referred to the blood of those whom Jehu had massacred at Jezreel, whose deaths Yahweh was going to avenge with a deferred punishment of the house of Jehu.
  • The Bible contains several examples of deferred, vicarious punishment.
  • Therefore, "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 did refer to the blood of those whom Jehu had massacred at Jezreel.

Neither the broader context of Hosea 1:4 nor Jayawardena's non-sequitur line of reasoning supports his claim that "the blood of Jezreel" referred to the children of Israel killed by the Syrians during the reigns of the Jehu dynasty.

"Jezreel" Elsewhere in Hosea

Jayawardena writes:

The fourth occurrence of the name "Jezreel" in the book of Hosea is in 1:11: "for great shall be the day of Jezreel," where "Jezreel" can only refer to the children of Israel, which clearly establishes the use of the name "Jezreel" in the sense of "children of Israel" in a genitive construction in this book (in the same chapter) and thus makes the above interpretation for the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" more plausible.

In the beginning of this paper I provided a verse-by-verse analysis of the broader context to show that Hosea was here using the word Jezreel to symbolize circumstances that would bring about a new reunified kingdom of Judah and Israel, which Yahweh would raise up after he had "broken the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." Like most would-be apologists do when trying to sell a dubious "explanation" of a controversial passage, Jayawardena quoted above only a fragmented part of Hosea 1:11, but here is what the broader context of "the day of Jezreel" was. Notice in particular all of verse 11, which I have emphasized in bold print:

Hosea 1:8-11: When she [Gomer, i.e., Hosea's wife] had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then Yahweh said, "Name him Lo-ammi [not my people], for you are not my people and I am not your God." 10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Obviously, then, when Hosea's reference to the greatness of "the day of Jezreel" is read in its broader context, one can easily see that he was not using it in the sense that Jayawardena claims but in the symbolic sense of conditions that would reunify the Israelite kingdom. Hosea's prophecy was that Yahweh would "break the bow of Israel" in the valley of Jezreel--another way of saying that the military might of Israel would be crushed--after which a unified nation of Judah and Israel would triumphantly reverse the conditions that had brought about its defeat. Yahweh would sow prosperity in the new nation, and the people who had previously been declared "not my people" (1:10) would then be declared "sons of the living God" (1:10). Jayawardena wants to make Jezreel refer to "the children of Israel" who had been killed during the Jehu dynasty, but consideration of the entire context in which it was used clearly shows that Hosea was using it in reference to a day when "sons of the living God" would arise from the ruins of the nation of Israel that would soon be brought to an end in the valley of Jezreel.

Here Jayawardena seems unable to notice even the obvious: "Compare with the language of Joel 2:11 ("for the day of the Lord is great"); 2:31; Zephaniah 1:14." All three of the texts that he asked us to compare Hosea 1:11 to speak of "the day of Yahweh" and not the "day of Jezreel." To analyze the broader contexts of all three verses to show that "the day of Yahweh" was an entirely different concept from Hosea's "day of Jezreel" would take more time than Jayawardena's already discredited interpretation of Hosea 1:4 deserves, so I will trash his references to the passages above by pointing out that on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 in his sermon and told his audience that what they were seeing was a fulfillment of "that which [had been] spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16-21), so I will let Jayawardena take his spin on Joel 2 up with the apostle Peter, who claimed that Joel's "day of the Lord" referred to events that would happen in the Christian era. If Jayawardena will do a bit of checking, he will find that there have been about as many interpretations of prophetic references to "the day of the Lord" as there are Christian sects.

Jayawardena continues:

The fifth and last occurrence of the name "Jezreel" in the book of Hosea is in 2:22, which concerns the restoration of Israel, and the name here, too, relates to the children of Israel. Here the name "Jezreel" is used in its positive meaning, i.e., "God sows" his people in their own land, so that they might bring forth fruit.

In my earlier verse-by-verse analysis of Hosea 2, I showed that Jayawardena was distorting the prophet's usage of Jezreel here to make it appear that the word was being used in the sense that Jayawardena claims. I have also pointed out that Jayawardena asked me to post a "revision" of his position in which he said that he does "not now think--as some commentators do--that the meaning of the name Jezreel ("God sows") has any significance in Hosea 1:4-5 because (a) the text itself does not relate the meaning of the name to what it is supposed to symbolize," so as Jayawardena continues to change his view of Hosea 1:4, there is no telling what he may believe about it tomorrow. At any rate, there is no need for me to spend time here discussing a point that Jayawardena no longer claims is a part of his take on Hosea's prophecy.

"The Blood of Jezreel" as a Massacre Reference

Jayawardena adds:

As shown above, interpreting "the blood of Jezreel" as a reference to the massacre of the house of Ahab does not fit the context of either the verse in question or the entire book of Hosea.

And as I showed above, the only sensible meaning that "the blood of Jezreel" could have in this context is that it referred to the blood that Jehu had shed at Jezreel for which his descendants were going to receive a postponed punishment. Jayawardena's article was long and tedious, and so my point-by-point reply to it has also been necessarily detailed. My earlier analysis of Hosea 1:4 showed that the placement of the adverbial phrase "for the blood of Jezreel" within the sentence would indicate either that it referred only to the punishment of the house of Jehu or that the inspired prophet Hosea could have used a little tutoring to help him write more clearly. In the third quarter of this paper readers can see Jayawardena's revision of Hosea 1:4, which he worded in a way that made it clearly mean what he has been claiming that it meant. In response to his revision, I asked this question: Why couldn't Yahweh have inspired his chosen writers to say exactly what they meant to say? In other words, I was asking Jayawardena to explain to us why Yahweh didn't inspire Hosea to write the verse the way that Jayawardena had reworded it if that rewording accurately conveyed what Hosea had meant to say. I think reasonable people will realize that Yahweh, if he indeed exists and was involved in writing the Bible, would have done so if that was what Hosea had really intended to say. As I said before, the fact that Hosea didn't write it that way should tell readers with reasonable critical-thinking skills that he didn't mean it to say that. As I also said, a big problem for Jayawardena all through his article has been his inability to cite or quote a single passage of scripture where any biblical writer ever unequivocally used the expression "the blood of Jezreel" in the sense that Jayawardena has been trying to twist it into meaning, so when a would-be apologist can find "proof" of his biblical interpretations only by rewriting passages to put into them what he wants them to say, that is a good indication that his interpretations are flawed.

Next Jayawardena writes:

The three children of unfaithful Gomer all represent the children of Israel, and their names--viz., Jezreel, Lo-ruha-mah, and Lo-ammi--were meant to signify some aspect of God's dealings with the nation on account of their idolatry.

I have shown that this is not so, because Jezreel had obvious reference to Jehu's infamous massacre at Jezreel. My textual evidence in support of this meaning has been so detailed that I don't need to rehash it here. I disagree also with Jayawardena's restrictive scope of Hosea's prophetic rants against Israel. Idolatry was certainly a major concern of the prophet, but as I showed earlier, Hosea railed again various "sins" in Israel, such as commerce with Assyria and Egypt, commercial profiteering through the use of false scales, bloodshed--and especially the latter. Although it was a major concern, he was upset over more than just the nation's idolatry.

Jayawardena continues:

We have seen that the name "Jezreel" in its first, third, fourth, and fifth occurrences in the book clearly relates to the nation and God's future dealings with it. Therefore, we have every reason to expect that the phrase "the blood of Jezreel"--the second occurrence of the name--would relate in some way to the nation as a whole.

Once again, Jayawardena is claiming more than he has actually proven, so rather than rehashing my rebuttal of his spin on how Hosea used the word Jezreel, I refer readers back to an earlier section of this paper where I showed that Jezreel was indeed used to symbolize an entire nation but much more than just the nation of Israel, i.e., the northern kingdom. Hosea used it to symbolize circumstances that would bring about a new unified nation of Judah and Israel that would arise after Yahweh had punished the house of Jehu. Before this unified nation could be restored, Israel had to be purged of its guilt of various "sins"--murder, ill-gotten commercial gain, adultery, etc., as well as idolatry--and Hosea apparently believed that Jehu's bloody massacre at Jezreel was one of the sins that had to be atoned for. To his primitive mind, vicarious punishment of Jehu's descendants would be the only acceptable way to remove the guilt of this sin.

Next Jayawardena takes a stab at interpreting biblical symbolism:

If by this phrase Hosea meant to refer to the massacre of the house of Ahab, then in addition to the symbolism explained above, the first son of Gomer--Jezreel--must stand as a living reminder of the future punishment of the house of Jehu for the massacre of the house of Ahab by Jehu in Jezreel.

It has apparently never occurred to Jayawardena that he has incorrectly interpreted the symbolism "above." I have shown good reasons to think that he has, so I don't need to rehash them here in replying to an article that has already received far more attention than it deserves. As for Jayawardena's complaint that the first son of Gomer would "stand as a living reminder of the future punishment of the house of Jehu for the massacre of the house of Jehu," what would be wrong with seeing the name as a reminder of this? Didn't Yahweh tell Hosea to name his first son Jezreel and then go on to give the reason for the command to name him this? "Call his name Jezreel, for [because] yet a little while, I [Yahweh] will avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu." So whether "the blood of Jezreel" referred to the massacre at Jezreel or whether it referred to the children of Israel killed by the Syrians, the name of Hosea's first son would "stand as a living reminder of the future punishment of the house of Jehu."

I don't think Jayawardena thought through his statement above before he offered it as a reason why "the blood of Jezreel" couldn't refer to Jehu's massacre. Next he writes:

If Hosea was condemning Jehu for that massacre in Hosea 1:4, he would be treating it only as a barbaric act of Jehu to usurp the throne of Israel, which is entirely a private matter between the house of Jehu and the house of Ahab.

Well, if, as I have shown good reason to believe, Hosea did think that Yahweh intended to punish Jehu's descendants for the massacre at Jezreel, he would have thought that it was a barbaric act that deserved punishment, so Jayawardena's comment here is a bit illogical. He seems to be arguing that the "blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 cannot be a reference to Jehu's massacre, because that would mean that Hosea considered this massacre a barbaric act. Does Jayawardena know what non sequitur means? As for his claim that such a view on Hosea's part would have made the massacre "entirely a private matter between the house of Jehu and the house of Ahab," this is a recycled quibble that he made earlier. I replied to it in detail earlier, so I don't need to rehash my rebuttal here.

Jayawardena writes:

What, then, has [sic] the punishment of the house of Jehu for that massacre have to do with naming the first son of Gomer "Jezreel" ("God scatters"), who represented the children of Israel, or with the book of Hosea as a whole, whose principal theme is Israel's religious apostasy and its subsequent restoration?

As I have repeatedly shown, Jezreel, as Hosea used it, did not represent the children of Israel but the circumstances that would bring about a new unified nation of Judah and Israel. One of those circumstances, as I just noted above was Hosea's apparent belief that Jehu's massacre at Jezreel was one of the "sins" from whose guilt the nation of Israel had to be purged before a new unified Judah/Israel could be restored. Moreover, Hosea railed against more than just Israel's "religious apostasy." He was deeply concerned with its treaties and commerce with Assyria and Egypt, its ill-gotten commercial gain through the use of "false scales," its adultery, its shedding of innocent blood, etc. Hosea obviously thought that Jehu's massacre at Jezreel was one of the "sins" that the house of Jehu would have to answer for before the nation could be purged of its guilt to make way for the reunification of Judah and Israel. That reunification, by the way, never happened, so I wonder why Jayawardena isn't concerned about the failure of that prophecy.

Oh, yes, I forgot; Jayawardena isn't an inerrantist, which makes the inordinate amount of time he has spent trying to harmonize the disparate views of the Jezreel massacre in 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 a bit hard to understand.

Jayawardena asks: "Where does the nation Israel come into the picture?" It comes into the picture in Hosea's denunciations of its various "sins" for which, as I showed earlier, it would have to redeem itself before "the day of Jezreel," i.e., the reunification of Judah and Israel, could occur. It was all prophetic nonsense, of course, but this was clearly what Hosea believed.

Next Jayawardena engages in a bit of speculation:

Furthermore, when God gave children to the nation as signs and named them, they always concerned the nation as a whole, not some clan or house. Consider the following:

1. The name of Isaiah's son Shearjashubsheh [sic] means "A remnant shall return," a sign assuring the preservation of a remnant of the nation in the midst of enemy oppression (Isaiah 7:3).

Just where did Jayawardena get the idea that Isaiah's son was a gift to the nation or that his name was a sign that a "remnant of the nation" would be preserved in the midst of enemy oppression? As the broader context of Isaiah 7:3 will show, Shear-jashub had been born long before Yahweh sent Isaiah to king Ahaz [of Judah] to assure him that the Syrian/Israelite alliance against Judah would fail. The situation was that king Rezin of Syria and king Pekah of Israel had moved against Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:1-2), so Yahweh sent Isaiah and his son to Ahaz to give him assurance that the alliance would fail:

Isaiah 7:3-7: Then Yahweh said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's Field, 4 and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Aram--with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah--has plotted evil against you, saying, 6 Let us go up against Judah and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son of Tabeel king in it; 7 therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.

At the time of this incident, then, Shear-jashub had already been born and was old enough to accompany his father Isaiah. Jayawardena's claim that Isaiah's son had been given to the nation as a sign is pure speculation for which there is no corroboration at all in the Bible. Jayawardena seems to think that the meaning of Shear-jashub's name, which meant "a remnant shall return," was a sign given to Judah that a remnant of Judeans would be saved from the siege, but since Isaiah had been sent to assure Ahaz that the siege would fail, a more sensible interpretation of the name is that it referred to the invading armies. In other words, the meaning of the name was intended to assure Ahaz that the siege against Jerusalem would fail and that only a remnant of the Syrian/Israelite armies would return home.

This was the interpretation of the name Shear-Jashub in Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (1987):

A son of the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 7:3), so named to symbolize the promise that only a remnant of the combined Syrian and Israelite armies would return to their homes from their siege of Jerusalem (vs:4-9) (p. 933).

The circumstances of Shear-Jashub's birth were not recorded in Isaiah or anywhere else in the Bible, and the name was never mentioned again, before or after Isaiah's mission to Ahaz, so Jayawardena is resorting entirely to speculation when he cites Shear-Jashub as an example of a child who was born to be a symbol to an entire nation.

Jayawardena adds:

2. "Mahershalalhashbaz" means "The spoil speeds, the prey hastes," a prophecy of Assyria despoiling Syria, thus saving Judah (Isaiah 8:1-4).

Basically, with an added notation that this prophecy also included the despoiling of Israel, I agree with Jayawardena's interpretation here, but it should be noted that this passage falls within the context of Isaiah's mission to assure king Ahaz that the Syrian/Israelite alliance against Judah would fail, in this case because the Assyrians would carry away the "riches of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria" (Isaiah 8:4). In this sense, then, the birth and naming of Mahershalalhashbaz was more of a sign to king Ahaz than to the nation of Judah. Let's assume, however, that the birth of Mahershalalhashbaz was intended to be a sign to the whole nation of Judah. Is Jayawardena arguing that because the birth of Isaiah's son was a sign to the nation of Judah, the birth of Hosea's son Jezreel was a sign to the nation of Israel? If so, I fail to see his line of logic in so arguing.

Jayawardena continues:

3. The child born to the virgin in Isaiah's time was to be called "Immanuel," meaning "God is with us," i.e., God is with the nation Israel against its enemies (Isaiah 7:10-16). In Isaiah 8:8,10, "Immanuel" clearly refers to the nation.

Well, actually, the text that Jayawardena cited above indicated that the child to be born of the "virgin," actually a young maiden in Hebrew, would be a sign to king Ahaz that the Syrian/Israelite alliance threatening Judah would fail:

Isaiah 7:10-14: Again Yahweh spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of Yahweh your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put Yahweh to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

So after telling Ahaz that the Syrian/Israelite alliance would fail, Ahaz was instructed to ask for a "sign" that Isaiah's prediction would prove true. When Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, Yahweh gave him a sign anyway, and that sign was that a young woman--not a virgin--would give birth to a son, who would be named Immanuel. Hence, Immanuel was intended as a sign to Ahaz and not the entire nation.

As for Jayawardena's citation of Isaiah 8:8,10, there is doubt that 'Immânûw'el, which in Hebrew literally meant "with us [is] God," was used in these verses in the sense of a person's name. That doubt is reflected in versions that translated it literally rather than as a name:

Isaiah 8:8 (Revised English Bible): In a raging torrent mounting neck high it [floodwaters of the Euphrates] will sweep through Judah. With his outspread wings the whole expanse of the land will be filled, for God is with us ['Immânûw'el].

Versions whose translators apparently wanted to see a connection here with Isaiah 7:14 transliterated 'Immânûw'el as Immanuel instead of translating it, but even most of those versions translated Immânûw'el in verse 10 rather than transliterating it:

Isaiah 8:9 [KJV] Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! 10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us ['Immânûw'el].

The broader context of the version of the Jewish Publication Society consistently translated 'Immânûw'el, rather than transliterating it, throughout the passage that Jayawardena cited above:

Isaiah 8:7-10: It [floodwaters] shall rise above all its channels, and flow over all its beds, 8 and swirl through Judah like a flash flood reaching up to the neck. But with us is God ['Immânûw'el], whose wings are spread as wide as your land is broad! 9 Band together, O peoples--you shall be broken! Listen to this, you remotest parts of the earth: Gird yourselves--you shall be broken! 10 Hatch a plot--it shall be foiled; agree on action--it shall not succeed. For God is with us ['Immânûw'el].

The likelihood that the REB and JPS versions more accurately conveyed Isaiah's meaning of the expression 'Immânûw'el can be seen in the way that Hebrew expressions were sometimes used as personal names and at other times used in their ordinary senses. As noted above, for example, she'âr Yâshûwb, which meant "a remnant shall return," was used as the personal name of Isaiah's son; however, later in the same book, Isaiah used this same expression [she'âr Yâshûwb] in a predictive promise that a remnant of the exiled Israelites would return:

Isaiah 10:20-22: On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.

So in one place, Isaiah used a Hebrew expression as the personal name of his son; in another he used it in its literal sense to predict that a remnant of the Israelites would return home from Assyrian captivity, a prediction, by the way, that was never fulfilled, for when the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom were taken into captivity, they became the "lost tribes of Israel."

Similar examples are in the very book now in dispute. Hosea was told to name his second child lo-ruhamah, which meant "no mercy," and he was told to name his third child lo-'ammi, which meant "not my people." Then later both names were used not as personal names but in the literal senses of the words:

Hosea 1:10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people [lo-'ammi]," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God."

Hosea 2:21-23: On that day I will answer, says Yahweh, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; 23 and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, "You are my people"; and he shall say, "You are my God."

Although Jayawardena claims that he isn't a biblical inerrantist, he, as inerrantists routinely do, has grabbed a straw to try to explain away an obvious discrepancy in the Bible. Next he maintains:

(Incidentally, the principal antitypical fulfillment of this prophecy was in the New Testament Church, the Israel of God, whose members were "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" [John 1:13].)

This comment doesn't really deserve a reply, because it is based purely on the New Testament claim that the birth of Jesus had fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that a "virgin" would give birth to a son (Matthew 1:23). The influence that this unverifiable claim has had on Christian interpretations of Isaiah 7:14 can be seen in a footnote to this verse in the NAB:

[14] The sign proposed by Isaiah was concerned with the preservation of Judah in the midst of distress (cf. Isaiah 7:15, 17), but more especially with the fulfillment of God's earlier promise to David (2 Sam 7:12-16) in the coming of Immanuel (meaning, "With us is God") as the ideal king (cf. Isaiah 9:5-6; 11:1-5). The Church has always followed St. Matthew in seeing the transcendent fulfillment of this verse in Christ and his Virgin Mother. The prophet need not have known the full force latent in his own words; and some Catholic writers have sought a preliminary and partial fulfillment in the conception and birth of the future King Hezekiah, whose mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been a young, unmarried woman (Hebrew, almah). The Holy Spirit was preparing, however, for another Nativity which alone could fulfill the divinely given terms of Immanuel's mission, and in which the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God was to fulfill also the words of this prophecy in the integral sense intended by the divine Wisdom.

In other words, the editors of this Bible frankly admitted that Isaiah 7:14 was concerned with circumstances in the nation of Judah at the time that this "prophecy" was made but that since Matthew said that it had a "transcendent fulfillment" in the birth of Jesus to "his virgin mother," the editors of the NAB felt constrained to accept that interpretation.

Jayawardena argues:

In the book of Hosea itself, Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter named "Lo-ruha-mah" ("Not Pitied"), so named because God would show no more mercy upon the house of Israel (vs.6). Gomer's third child, a son, was symbolically named "Lo-ammi" ("Not my people") (vs.8-9), signifying God's disowning of his people. The children, with the possible exception of Jezreel, were evidently not Hosea's (cf. Hosea 2:4 and 1:9 itself), and all represent the people of Israel. When Israel is restored, she is referred to as Ammi ("My People") and Ruhamah ("Pitied"), with the negatives dropped. Similarly, "Jezreel" is used in its positive sense at Israel's restoration (Hosea 2:22).

I used these same examples above to show that giving children names that had common Hebraic meanings wasn't at all unusual and, therefore, did not convey the significance that Jayawardena is trying to attach to Jezreel. In addition to Shear-Jashub, Immanuel, Mahershalalhashbaz, and Hosea's children, there are other examples of children who were thought to have been born by divine intervention, such as Isaac (Genesis 21:1-5), Samson (Judges 13:2-24), Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-19), et al. Children presumably born by divine intervention were, of course, always seen to have special significance to Hebrew society, so Jayawardena is seeing entirely too much in Hebrew mythology. For the sake of argument, however, let's just assume that Hosea's children were all born through the divine intervention that was claimed in the book of Hosea. How would that make Jezreel mean or symbolize what Jayawardena is claiming? Why could it not have been a name divinely given to Gomer's first child to represent nothing more than that the eponymous ancestor of the Jehu dynasty had committed a grievous "sin" for which the prophet Hosea thought that his god Yahweh was going to punishment the contemporary members of this dynasty? I have given mountains of evidence throughout my replies to Jayawardena to show that the obvious intention of Hosea's prophecy was double-faceted. By reviewing my analysis of the prophecy earlier in this paper, readers will see explications that show that the expression "for the blood of Jezreel," contrary to the spin that Jayawardena wants to put on it, clearly referred to only the first part of the prophecy, which said that Yahweh would avenge "the blood of Jezreel" on the house of Jehu.

Jayawardena writes:

Furthermore, when a child who is to serve as a sign is given a name, that name, as can be seen from the above, always signifies some one aspect of God's dealings with the nation.

As I just showed above, that wasn't always true. The name of Isaiah's son Shear-Jashub, for example, wasn't given to signify an aspect of God's dealings with the nation of Judah, because he had already been born before Isaiah was sent to Ahaz and was old enough to accompany his father on the mission. As I also showed earlier, the "remnant" that Isaiah referred to in his passage referred not to a remnant of Judah but to a remnant of the Assyrians that would be the only survivors to return to their homes after their unsuccessful military campaign against Jerusalem.

Jayawardena continues:

To signify a judgment of the house of Jehu for massacring the house of Ahab within the scope of the name "Jezreel" would make its symbolism complicated and incomprehensibly and irreconcilably unconnected.

This is reminiscent of where Jayawardena said above that if Hosea meant for Jezreel to refer to the massacre at Jezreel, "he would be treating it only as a barbaric act of Jehu to usurp the throne of Israel." In my reply to this, I said what I will say again: Hosea obviously did consider Jehu's massacre at Jezreel a barbaric act, which was one of the many "sins" for which Israel would have to atone before Yahweh would restore the unified nation of Israel. When Jayawardena says that associating Jezreel with the massacre of the house of Ahab "would make its symbolism complicated and incomprehensibly and irreconcilably unconnected," he is making an assertion that he needs to prove, but so far he has offered no such proof. I simply cannot see why associating the word Jezreel in Hosea 1:4 with Jehu's massacre at Jezreel would make its symbolism "complicated and incomprehensibly and irreconcilably unconnected." A claim that Jezreel did not refer to Jezreel is so unlikely that Jayawardena needs to do much more than just assert that it didn't. He is not going to accomplish anything by the fallacy of argumentation by assertion. Furthermore, I see in his comments above a kind of fallacy of wishful thinking. This fallacy occurs when theists say such things as, "If there is no God, then life has no purpose," or "If evolution is true, then we are just animals." In the same way, Jayawardena seems to be saying, "If Jezreel in Hosea 1:4 referred to Jehu's massacre at Jezreel, then there is a discrepancy in the way that Hosea and the author of 2 Kings viewed that incident," but wishing for inerrancy in the Bible does not make it inerrant. A very basic principle of hermeneutics and literary interpretation is that the language of a written text should be interpreted literally unless there are compelling reasons to assign figurative meanings, so Jayawardena needs to give us a compelling reason why "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 did not mean the blood of Jezreel.

Jayawardena asks:

How do those who allege a contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 (by presuming that the latter refers to Jehu's massacre of some members of the house of Ahab in Jezreel) explain this?

They explain it in the way that I have repeatedly explained it throughout this series of replies. To think that "the blood of Jezreel" referred to Jehu's massacre at Jezreel is not assuming anything; it is simply applying basic principles of literary interpretation to Hosea 1:4 to arrive at the conclusion that "the blood of Jezreel" in this text was a reference to the blood of Jezreel. That interpretation is fully as comprehensible and uncomplicated as thinking that the blood of Naboth in 2 Kings 9:25-26 referred to the murder of Naboth in 1 Kings 21, so let Jayawardena explain to us what is so "complicated and incomprehensibly and irreconcilably unconnected" about thinking that "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 was a reference to the blood of Jezreel.

Jayawardena argues:

Finally, if "the blood of Jezreel" refers to the massacre of the house of Ahab by Jehu, then the fact that Hosea never refers to it again--in a book where repetition of the same themes abounds--is very strange.

Is Jayawardena claiming here that Hosea repeated every condemnation that he made in this book? In 1:7, after having said that Yahweh would "break the bow" of Israel in the valley of Jezreel, Hosea said that Yahweh would have "pity on the house of Judah" and would save them not "by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen" but "by Yahweh their God." I know of no other place where Hosea repeated this promise. To the contrary, he said in 5:5 that Judah would fall with Israel, and in 5:10, he said that Yahweh would "pour out [his] wrath like water" on the princes of Judah. Hosea also predicted dire consequences on Judah in 5:12-14, chapter 6, and elsewhere, as in 8:14, where Hosea said that Yahweh would send upon the cities of Judah "a fire" that would "devour its strongholds," and in 12:2, where Hosea said that Yahweh "has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways, and repay him according to his deeds." To argue, as Jayawardena has done, that "the blood of Jezreel" couldn't have meant the blood of Jezreel, because Hosea didn't repeat the reference in his book is an argument from desperation rather than sound principles of literary interpretation. Does Jayawardena think that a statement that a biblical writer made in plain language doesn't mean what the language indicates unless the writer repeated the statement? That's too ridiculous to deserve serious comment.

The Sins of Jeroboam

Jayawardena adds:

In addition to the house of Jehu, there were three other dynasties which were similarly judged for practicing the idolatry of Jeroboam and leading the people of Israel to sin. In fact, all the kings of Israel followed the apostasy of Jeroboam.

I have already introduced all three of those other dynasties and discussed the inconsistencies in the way that the author or authors of Kings viewed them. First, I will remind readers that "the sins of Jeroboam" were the yardstick that was used to evaluate the reigns of Israelite kings but that "punishments" for those sins varied. Some kings who followed Jeroboam's sin of golden-calf worship enjoyed long reigns; others received immediate "punishment." As I previously explained, common sense should tell readers in an age of enlightenment that those deferred and immediate punishments were simply the interpretations of the author or authors, which he/they based on the ancient superstition that the gods controlled everything that happened, especially in the lives of important people like kings and prophets. To take them seriously, as Jayawardena apparently does, is to embrace a superstition that has outlived its time.

Jayawardena continues:

The origin of the sins of Jeroboam is reported in 1 Kings 12:26-33. Jeroboam introduced the cult of calf worship to Israel to keep the people of Israel from defecting to Judah. And he was judged for this. When the wife of Jeroboam went in disguise to meet the prophet Ahijah in Shiloh to inquire concerning her son, the prophet told her, among other things, that Jeroboam's house would be destroyed because of his idolatry and that Israel, too, would be punished for their idolatry (1 Kings 14:1-16). The prophet said, "And he [God] will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and which he made Israel to sin" (vs.16, RSV). Jeroboam is held responsible for Israel sinning against God by adopting the calf worship he introduced and for the final consequence of that apostasy.

Yes, this is the spin that the writer of 1 Kings put on the reign of Jeroboam, and as I explained above, even though Jeroboam was responsible for establishing the golden-calf shrines in the northern kingdom, he reigned for 22 years and then died a natural death, i.e., "slept with his fathers" (1 Kings 14:20), whereas some of his descendant kings received more immediate punishments for allowing Jeroboam's sin to continue in Israel. Common sense should tell readers in our enlightened times that the inconsistencies in the way that the god Yahweh presumably "punished" kings who permitted this "sin" were rooted in ancient superstitions. If a king followed Jeroboam's "sin" but lived a long life without experiencing any apparent consequences, the author or authors thought that Yahweh had for some reason "deferred punishment" until a later generation when a descendant king was assassinated after just a brief reign.

Jayawardena uncritically accepts events as they are portrayed in the text:

The prophecy of doom against the house of Jeroboam was fulfilled when Baasha killed Nadab (the son of Jeroboam and his successor) and all the rest of the house of Jeroboam, then reigned in Nadab's stead. Nadab, too, had "walked in the way of his father" (1 Kings 15:26).

Again, this was merely the way that a superstitious author interpreted events of that time. Jeroboam instituted golden-calf worship in the northern kingdom but enjoyed a long reign followed by a natural death, so when Jeroboam's son Nadab was assassinated and his family massacred in a coup after only a two-year reign, the author saw this as "fulfillment" of a prophecy that Jeroboam's house would be exterminated for having begun the golden-calf worship. This interpretation of the reigns of Jeroboam and his son, however, gives no rational explanation of why the instigator of this grievous sin lived a long life, whereas his successor son, who had simply allowed his father's "sin" to continue, was quickly "punished." The writer obviously never considered the possibility that these outcomes were nothing but events that had happened purely by chance and circumstance, and apparently Jayawardena hasn't either.

Again, Jayawardena simply accepts biblical events as they are portrayed:

Baasha in turn "walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 15:34). The prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, delivered a prophecy of judgment to Baaha [sic] in terms similar to that given to Jeroboam's wife, and said that God would make the house of Baasha like the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:1-4). His son Elah succeeded him on his throne, but his reign was short-lived; Zimri, a commander of Israel's army, assassinated Elah when he was at Tirzah and thereafter destroyed the rest of the house of Baasha. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jehu, "for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel sin, in provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities" (1 Kings 16:8-13). They made Israel sin with the sin of Jeroboam.

Jayawardena says that he is not a biblical inerrantist, but he seems to think that every scripture that he cites should be considered historically accurate. To believe, however, that everything happened as the author or authors of 1 Kings claimed is to accept naïve ly a superstitious view of history. Knowing what had already happened when the books of Kings were written, the author or authors interpreted the fates of Israelite kings according to their superstitious belief that Yahweh had controlled their destinies. Jeroboam had enjoyed a long reign and had died a natural death, so this was seen as Yahweh's will. Jeroboam's son Nadab, however, had been assassinated by Baasha after a reign of only two years, so the writer or writers interpreted this as Yahweh's doings. Then Baasha, in turn, was assassinated by Zemri after only two years, so the writer or writers also saw this as a judgment from Yahweh for Baasha's having allowed Jeroboam's golden-calf shrines to remain at Bethel and Dan. Hindsight made it rather easy for the author or authors to apply their ancient superstitions to the reigns of these kings, but it apparently hasn't occurred to Jayawardena that Yahweh was rather inconsistent in allowing the king who had instituted golden-calf worship to live a long life and die a natural death while later limiting his successor son to just a two-year reign before orchestrating his assassination and then allowing his assassin Baasha to reign for 24 years (1 Kings 15:33), die a natural death (16:6), orchestrate the assassination of Baasha's son Elah after just a two-year reign (16:8,10), and so on. Jayawardena believes all of this? If so, common sense must not exist in his world.

Jayawardena writes:

Zimri's reign, too, was short-lived, for his life ended in yet another conspiracy to usurp the throne of Israel (1 Kings 16:15-20). He died "because of his sins which he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin" (vs.19, RSV).

My comments above apply also to the seven-day reign of Zemi. Jayawardena's position forces him to think that Yahweh allowed the king who instituted golden-calf worship in the northern kingdom to enjoy a long reign and to die a natural death, as he allowed also for Baasha, who had encouraged the same "sin," whereas Yahweh eliminated the other three kings in short order for just allowing the shrines to remain in place. As I said above, common sense must not exist in Jayawardena's world.

Jayawardena continues:

Then there was a tussle for power between Tibni, the son of Ginath, and Omri. Omri eventually prevailed and ascended to the throne of Israel. He, too, "walked in all the way of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and in the sins which he made Israel to sin," thus provoking the Lord to anger (1 Kings 16:26).

Yes, Omri "walked in all the way of Jeroboam," or so the author said, yet Yahweh allowed him to enjoy a reign of 12 years (1 Kings 16:23) and, as Jayawardena points out immediately below, to die a natural death. There is no sensible way to explain why Jeroboam, Baasha, and Omri lived long lives and died natural deaths, whereas the reigns and lives of Elah, Baasha, and Zemri were short-lived except to understand that all of the events at this period in Israelite history were controlled purely by chance and circumstances. To the author or authors of the books of Kings, however, there was no such thing as events that happened by just chance and circumstance, so he/they attributed everything to the intervention of the god Yahweh.

Jayawardena adds:

After the death of Omri (a natural death!), his son Ahab reigned and, as usual, walked "in the sins of Jeroboam" and introduced Baal worship to Israel to boot through the influence of his wicked wife Jezebel (1 Kings 16:31-32). A prophecy of judgment was pronounced against Ahab by Elijah, in which he was told that his house would suffer the same fate as those of Jeroboam and Baasha (1 Kings 21:20-24). However, this was postponed on account of his contrition (vss.27-29). Jehu fulfilled the prophecy (2 Kings 9-10).

Like Jeroboam, Baasha, and Omri, Ahab enjoyed a long reign, so even though Ahab's "sins" had exceeded Jeroboam's in that he didn't just allow the golden-calf shrines to continue but also introduced Baal worship to the northern kingdom, he was allowed to live out his life relatively unpunished. One would think that if he had been so angered by Jeroboam's "sin" that he pronounced judgments on Jeroboam, Nadab, Elah, Baasha, Zemri, and Omri, Yahweh would have made short order of Ahab, but the author or authors of 1 Kings had to interpret Ahab's reign in terms of what he/they knew had happened. Since Ahab had not been killed immediately after becoming guilty of "the blood of Naboth," mentioned earlier, the writer or writers had to have an explanation of the delay. That explanation became the contrition of Ahab that Jayawardena pointed out above. Because of this contrition, so the writer or writers claimed, Yahweh delayed the punishment of Ahab until the time of his son (1 Kings 21:27-29). Ahab's contrition, then, became a convenient explanation for Yahweh's deferment of Ahab's punishment, but to take all this seriously, as Jayawardena apparently does, shows an incredible naïvety that is out of place in our enlightened times. Among other problems in Jayawardena's acceptance of the ancient superstition of vicarious punishment, he apparently can't see the appalling injustice in punishing a person for what an ancestor had done.

Again, Jayawardena reads his conclusions into the text:

Jehu, too, followed the sins of Jeroboam and, in the light of the foregoing, the reader will now be able to better appreciate the implied judgment in 2 Kings 10:30.

I have already rebutted Jayawardena's claim that punishment for the house of Jehu was implied in 2 Kings 10:30 for Jehu's having allowed the golden-calf shrines to remain in place. Sensible readers who return to that part of this paper will see that this implication is something that Jayawardena has read into the text so that he can make Hosea 1:4 fit into a preconceived mold that has its origin in his desire to find consistency in the Bible.

Jayawardena argues: "Just think about it. When all the kings of Israel were judged for the sins of Jeroboam, could the house of Jehu have escaped judgment?"

Here is something else to think about. When interpreting the reigns of Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zemri, Omri, and Ahab, the author or authors of 1 Kings had always specifically stipulated that the "sins of Jeroboam" were the reasons for any "punishments"--which were undoubtedly just naturally occurring misfortunes--experienced either by these kings or their "houses" (1 Kings 14:9-11; 15:29-30; 16:11-13; 16:18-19; 16:25-26; 16:30-31; 21:21-24; 2 Kings 9:7-10). In all of those examples, the "sins of Jeroboam" were unequivocally mentioned as Yahweh's reason for sending whatever "punishments" these kings or their descendants experienced, but no such predictions of punishment "for the sins of Jeroboam" were pronounced against Jehu and his descendant kings. The writer or writers stated only that Jehu's son Jehoahaz had not "departed from the sins of Jeroboam" (2 Kings 13:2-3) and had likewise said the same about Jehoahaz's son Joash (13:10-11), Joash's son Jeroboam II (14:23-24), and Jeroboam's son Zechariah (15:8-9), but in all of the summations of the reigns of the Jehu dynasty, the writer or writers had simply mentioned, as if in passing, they had not "departed from the sins of Jeroboam." There were no vituperative rants about their toleration of the golden calves or jubilant claims that punishment had been brought upon Jehu's dynasty for having allowed "Jeroboam's sin" to continue.

Compare the interpretations below of how the author or authors of the books of King had summarized the deaths of Nadab (Jeroboam's son) and Jehoahaz (Jehu's son):

1 Kings 15:29 As soon as he [Baasha] began to reign, he killed Jeroboam's whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of Yahweh given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite-- 30 because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he provoked Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger.

2 Kings 13:2-9: He [Jehoahaz] did evil in the eyes of Yahweh by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. 3 So Yahweh's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son. 4 Then Jehoahaz sought Yahweh's favor, and Yahweh listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. 5 Yahweh provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. 6 But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria. 7 Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time. 8 As for the other events of the reign of Jehoahaz, all he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 9 Jehoahaz rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoash his son succeeded him as king.

So despite Jehoahaz's toleration of the "sins of Jeroboam," he received a relatively light "punishment" in the form of temporary foreign oppression, and then he died a natural death, whereas Jeroboam's son and his family were brutally massacred. Now compare the contrast in the summations of the reigns of Baasha [a usurper] and Jehoash [Jehu's grandson]:

1 Kings 16:11-13: As soon as he [Zemri] began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. 12 So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of Yahweh spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu-- 13 because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked Yahweh, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

2 Kings 13:11-13: He [Jehoash]did evil in the eyes of Yahweh and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them. 12 As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, all he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 13 Jehoash rested with his fathers, and Jeroboam succeeded him on the throne. Jehoash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.

Jehu's grandson Jehoash was faulted for having allowed "Jeroboam's sin" to continue, but the author or authors didn't rant and rave about this "sin" or attribute to Jehoash any particular "punishment" or consequence as he/they did in the summation of Baasha's reign. The same contrast can be seen in the accounts of the reigns of Jehu's great-grandson Jeroboam II and his great-great-grandson Zechariah. The writer or writers simply stated that these last two kings in Jehu's dynasty had not "departed from the sins of Jeroboam," but had attributed to this "sin" no particular consequence. To the contrary, the author claimed that the northern kingdom had experienced political progress and territorial growth during Jeroboam II's reign, because Yahweh "had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering" and had "saved them by the hand of Jeroboam," since Yahweh "had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven" (2 Kings 14:25-27). That certainly doesn't sound as if Yahweh was as bitterly angry with the Jehu kings as he had been with the first Jeroboam and his immediate successors, but it does sound just like the kind of spin that we would expect a writer of that era to put on events that had already happened.

Likewise, the account of the last reign in the Jehu dynasty reported no dire consequences for Zechariah's having allowed "Jeroboam's sin" to continue in the land. It simply stated that after a six-month reign, Zechariah was assassinated by Shallum, an event that the writer claimed had fulfilled Yahweh's promise that Jehu's sons to the fourth generation would reign in Israel (2 Kings 15:12). Of course, the retroactive view of the author of 2 Kings conveniently allowed him to interpret the end of Jehu's dynasty as prophecy fulfillment. As I pointed out earlier, if Zechariah had escaped assassination and lived long enough for his son to succeed him, the writer would have no doubt seen this as fulfillment of a prophecy that Jehu's sons to the fifth generation would reign in Israel.

Jayawardena writes:

Indeed it was judged, for we read that Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against king Zechariah, a descendant of Jehu of the fourth generation, and killed him to usurp the throne of Israel (2 Kings 15:10). When the writer of the books of Kings saw all of the assassinations of the kings of Israel, or the massacres of their houses, as a judgment upon them mainly for following the sins of Jeroboam, why should the assassination of Zechariah have been seen differently? Indeed, in the immediately preceding verse, the writer says that king Zechariah, too, "did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam" (vs.9).

As I just pointed out, however, the writer did not rail against Zechariah's "sin" of having allowed "Jeroboam's sin" to continue, and neither did he say that Zechariah's assassination was "a judgment" for having "follow[ed] the sins of Jeroboam." He simply said that it was a fulfillment of "the word of Yahweh that he spoke to Jehu" (2 Kings 15:12) that his sons to the fourth generation would reign over Israel. As I said before, that promise was more of a reward than a punishment. Jayawardena asked why we should see the assassination of Zechariah any differently from the claims that kings like Nadab, Elah, Zemri, etc. had been massacred because of "Jeroboam's sins," but a better question would be to ask why the author of 2 Kings didn't specifically state that Zechariah had been massacred because of this sin. If the author or authors of 1 King had been so unequivocally clear in saying that this "sin" was why the houses of Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, etc. were destroyed, why wouldn't he have said the same about Zechariah if that was indeed what he had thought? As I just showed above, the Kings writer or writers, rather than thinking that Yahweh punished Jeroboam II for not "departing from the sins of Jeroboam [the first]," claimed instead that Yahweh had caused him to prosper by increasing Israel's territorial holdings during his reign. The Bible just doesn't support the view of the Jehu dynasty that Jayawardena is claiming in order to shore up his attempt to make Hosea 1:4 and 2 Kings 10:30 consistent.

Jayawardena again puts his spin on the text:

All of the rest of the kings of Israel followed the sins of Jeroboam and perpetuated this form of idolatry in Israel, until the apostate nation was finally militarily crushed, subjugated, and exiled to Assyria in 721 B.C., thus fulfilling Hosea's prophecy: "I [God] will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I [God] will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel."

There is no need to keep beating a dead horse. I have dismantled so many times the spin that Jayawardena has tried to put on Hosea 1:4 that I don't need to repeat my rebuttals here. Readers should know by now that Hosea prophesied that Israel would be punished for its own sins, such as illegal commerce, adultery, and murder, as well as its own idolatry, and for not the sins of the Jehu dynasty. Contemporary members of this dynasty were to be recipients of punishment for Jehu's massacre at Jezreel.

Conclusion

In his conclusion, Jayawardena asserts:

Jehu was warned by God that his house would be judged for following the idolatry of Jeroboam, but, in consideration of his services to God in destroying the house of Ahab, the judgment was postponed to the fourth generation, which, as it turned out, was the generation of king Zechariah, Jehu's great-great-grandson, who was assassinated by Shallum the son of Jabesh to usurp the throne.

Earlier I completely dismantled this same assertion when I replied to Jayawardena's claim that we can see, by reading between the lines in 2 Kings 10:30-31, a judgment that Yahweh had pronounced on the house of Jehu for his allowing "the sins of Jeroboam" to continue. This "judgment" is clearly only Jayawardena's wishful thinking rooted in his desire to find something that will make 2 Kings 10:30 consistent with Hosea 1:4.

Again, Jayawardena simply asserts:

Hosea's prophecy simply announced that the time had now arrived for the house of Jehu to be judged for the consequences of the divine judgment executed on the northern kingdom for its religious apostasy during their dynasty.

To the point of near tedium, I will remind readers again that Hosea 1:4 contains a double-faceted prophecy and that the reference to "the blood of Jezreel" is positioned so that it can refer only to the first part of the prophecy, which was that Yahweh intended to avenge on the house of Jehu the blood of Jezreel. Hence, Hosea actually thought that the time had finally come for Yahweh to exact punishment on the house of Jehu for the grievous acts of bloodshed committed by Jehu when he usurped the throne by murdering the royal family of Israel and all of their associates.

Jayawardena continues:

The massacre of the house of Ahab by Jehu was carried out at the instigation of the prophet Elisha, a respected prophet of Israel and Elijah's protégé, to execute judgment on that house for their idolatry and other sins, for which Jehu received commendation in 2 Kings 10:30, and this historical record was available to Hosea.

Jayawardena made a colossal mistake here, which indicates that his biblical knowledge is hardly sharp enough to give credence to his strained interpretation of "the blood of Jezreel." As I showed earlier, Hosea prophesied well before the defeat of the northern kingdom in 722 BC, whereas the book of 2 Kings, which recorded the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC, would have necessarily been completed over a century after Hosea's time. Hence, "this historical record" would not have been available to Hosea. As I've already pointed out, Jayawardena has made the mistake of thinking that because the books of Kings come before the book of Hosea in modern Bibles, Hosea lived after the author or authors of Kings and would therefore have had access to their "records." If Jayawardena tries to extricate himself from this chronological gaffe by claiming that Hosea would have had access to other records of the reigns of Ahab and Jehu, I will asked him (1) to prove this assumption and (2) to prove that if such records were available at the time, they were in agreement with what the books of Kings reported about Ahab and Jehu.

Jayawardena adds:

So why would Hosea blatantly contradict 2 Kings 10:30 by condemning the house of Jehu for the destruction of the house of Ahab? The sheer improbability of Hosea doing that--as he was in all other ways a typical Old Testament prophet of God--heavily militates against the interpretation that "the blood of Jezreel" refers to Jehu's killings in Jezreel.

As I just pointed out, Hosea could have neither blatantly contradicted 2 Kings 10:30 nor agreed with it, because 2 Kings 10:30 simply didn't exist in Hosea's time. I hope readers will take special note of this chronological gaffe that Jayawardena just made, because it clearly indicates that he doesn't have the biblical expertise to make the claim that we see immediately below:

I hope that the rather lengthy explanation above serves to resolve the Jehu problem, the solution to which seems to have eluded many a biblical apologist. It should now be appreciated that the real cause for the apparent contradiction between 2 Kings 10:30 and Hosea 1:4 is the unfortunate coincidence that Jehu happened to massacre some members of the house of Ahab in Jezreel. The apparent contradiction disappears when the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 is correctly interpreted in its proper context.

I referred to this claim earlier in replying to Jayawardena's reading-between-the-lines argument. The fact that he would make such a grievous error as claiming that the books of Kings existed in Hosea's time should clearly indicate to readers just how doubtful it is that he has discovered a meaning in Hosea 1:4 that had eluded all Bible believers until he finally came along to set everyone straight. "Apologists" who claim biblical insights that others before them have not had are becoming as common as dirt, so there is no reason to think that Leonard Jayawardena is any different from the others. They all have the goal of finding some way to "explain" discrepancies in the Bible, and no "explanations" seem too far-fetched for them to propose.

A comment must be made about Jayawardena's reference to an "apparent contradiction" that has resulted from "the unfortunate coincidence that Jehu happened to massacre some members of the house of Ahab in Jezreel," but this remark raises a question that Jayawardena needs to answer: Knowing that Jehu had committed the massacre at Jezreel, why would Hosea have used the expression "the blood of Jezreel" to mean something entirely different from the victims of Jehu's massacre at Jezreel? Shouldn't he have known that his readers would quite naturally associate the expression with this infamous massacre? If, then, Hosea was using the expression to mean something that had no association at all with Jehu's massacre, as Jayawardena is claiming, why wouldn't a writer inspired by an omniscient, omnipotent deity have clarified its meaning? Sensible readers will recognize that there really is no "unfortunate coincidence" here, because Hosea meant for "the blood of Jezreel" to connote exactly what Jayawardena has unsuccessfully argued that the prophet didn't mean.

I have taken the time to go through Jayawardena's lengthy article point-by-point to show just how unlikely it is that he has discovered the new meaning that he has boasted about in his article. When he saw that his original position in the Jehu controversy couldn't withstand scrutiny, he went back to the drawing board and returned with a new spin on the meaning of "the blood of Jezreel." I have noticed through the years that this is standard procedure for biblical inerrantists when they offer "explanations" of biblical discrepancies that can't be sustained. Although Jayawardena claims that he isn't a biblical inerrantist, he apparently plays the same game.


Copyright ©2008 by Farrell Till. This electronic version is copyright ©2008 by Internet Infidels, Inc. with the written permission of Farrell Till. All rights reserved.

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