2 Kings 9
An assistant prophet (young prophet / prophet's servant / son of the prophet) is sent by Elisha to anoint Jehu and say "Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel" (verse 3). When the time comes, the prophet goes into a much more detailed message about the ensuing violence and Ahab's/Jezebel's destruction (verses 6-10).

How are we to understand the additional details? Here are some scenarios:

  1. Elisha gave a more detailed message, understood to be recorded in a shortened form in verse 3. This seems like the most obvious answer, but the way the passage is arranged made me wonder. It seems to emphasize the difference, or perhaps there is an explicit/implied "and so forth" in the recording of Elisha's instructions.
  2. The assistant prophet embellished the message. If so, on what basis? Was it with the understanding that he was altering the message or was it just a natural elaboration given the circumstances? Was it with a measure of "prophetic common knowledge" that was circulating among the [sons of the] prophets at that time (like the knowledge that God would take Elijah in 2 Kings 2).
  3. God spoke through the assistant prophet in the moment, delivering a message beyond what Elisha had verbalized. This perhaps was typical of how the prophets operated. This explanation seems the most likely, since the prophesy came true. If so, is there significance to the fact that the full message was hidden until the actual anointing?

How is the reader intended to understand this passage? Does the original language/literary style give any clues?

3 Answers 3


It is hard to believe God hid His word from Elisha, so Scenario 1 is the obvious answer. However, when verse 3 skipped the main body, and jumped to Elisha's final instruction to the young prophet said, "Then open the door and run; don’t delay!". It meant this final instruction was significant.

So, what significant required the messenger ran away immediately without delay?

Let's answer the first question. Why would Elisha sent his student to anoint Jehu instead of himself.

We can see while Ahab was king, Ahab was actually under great influence from his wife Jezebel. Jezebel power would even stronger on her son Joram. An evident was given in 2 Kings 3 about the war of Israel, Judah and Edom against the rebelled Moab. They asked Elisha the word of the Lord. 2 Kings 3:13 (NIV) record;

13 Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.”

It indicated Jezebel still had influence in the Kingdom.

Elisha was a prominent figure since he took over Elijah position. If he visit Jehu himself, this should arouse great alertness to Jezebel. Then Jehu would likely be killed before he had any action.

This was the reason why Elisha sent his student.

Final question is, why the student had to run away immediately after sending the message?

Note the short dialogue between Jehu and his fellow officers in 2 Kings 9:11-12

11 When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this maniac come to you?”

“You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied.

12 “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.”

Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’”

Analysis of verse 11:

When one of his fellow officer called the student a maniac, it appeared that he recognized the student was one of Elisha's student. The question he asked was to find what secret had happened in Jehu's closed room. Jehu's reply was defensive, as he alerted that this fellow officer might be a spy from Jezebel on him.

Analysis of verse 12:

Note the change in the subject person. In verse 11, the question was asked by one officer. Jehu responded with a defensive question. In verse 12, it replied by all. So even one was a spy, amongst all there was no threat. So Jehu told the prophesy.

Then why the student run away immediately? Now the answer is made simple, for he would not be detained to ask further question, and he would not be harmed whatsoever happened afterwards.


I would argue that the young prophet embellished the message. For one thing we have the fact that Elisha told him to simply anoint Jehu as king of Israel and then immediately leave. Vs. 3 in its entirety reads:

From the flask you have, pour oil on his head, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee without delay.”

The text is clear that the young prophet said more than he was ordered to. But we also have a clear indication from a later prophet that God strongly disapproved of the slaughter that Jehu carried out at Jezreel in compliance with young prophet's direction:

Hosea 1:4-5

Then the Lord said: Give him [your son] 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; on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

It seem clear from this that the young prophet was not speaking as God (or Elisha) intended. The question then arises as to the basis for the embellishment. I would answer simply that he exceeded his authority, probably because of an excess of misguided zeal, similar to modern-day religious terrorists.

Conclusion: the young prophet embellished Elisha's instruction. Because Jehu then acted in accordance with his direction and conducted a mass murder at Jezreel, God brought about the end of Jehu's short dynasty in accordance with the prophecy of Hosea.

  • To the objection that no prophet of God would do such a thing, I would answer that there are many instances of prophets speaking in God's name falsely, even if sincerely. The most dramatic is probably Hananiah the prophet, son of Azzur, from Gibeon (Jer 28) but see also Jeremiah 27:15 - "they prophesy falsely in my name"" etc. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 14:15

The message to Jehu was regarding Jezebel and Ahab's household's destruction not directly Ahab's. Ahab died earlier in 1 Kings 22:34-38

The answer could be scenario 1, 2, or 3.

In answer to scenario 1, Elisha could have given more instructions. There is no way to tell unless the text says it somewhere.

In answer to scanario 2, the "added-on" words might have actually been common knowledge amongst the people. Jehu refers to messages from God about Ahab's household and Jezebel given through Elijah - not Elishah or the assistant prophet.

  • Elijah prophesied the destruction of Jezebel and Ahab's household in 1 Kings 21:16-24.
  • Jezebel's destruction is described by Jehu in 2 Kings 9:36. He says,

"This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his prophet Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dog's will devour Jezebel's flesh." (KJV)

Jehu makes no mention of the assistant prophet, so it seems that what the assistant prophet told him was not "new" knowledge, regarding Jezebel's death.

  • Jehu also speaks of God's message given through Elijah about Ahab's household in 2 Kings 10:10. He says

"Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done which he spake by his servant Elijah." (KJV)

Once again there is no mention of the message being through Elisha or the assistant Prophet.

In answer to scanario 3, as shown in the above verses the prophecies were given by Elijah before the assistant prophet spoke them. However this doesn't preclude the possibility that Spirit of God came upon him and gave him the words at the time.

I am not learned enough to speak on the literary style, however scenario 2 seems to have the strongest argument, and the assistant prophet did not add or take away from the prophecy given through Elijah.

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