Category: Bible Characters


What is the meaning of the story of the woman with the issue of blood?

The story of the woman with the issue of blood can be found in Mark 5:24–34 and Luke 8:42–48. Though neither account is very long, Mark’s account provides a few more details than Luke’s.

The story of this woman takes place within a larger story. Jesus is on his way to a synagogue leader’s house to heal his dying daughter (see Mark 5:21–24) when an unnamed woman causes an interruption to His progress.

What we know about the woman is, first, she had a bleeding condition, and the issue had continued for twelve years. That’s a very long time. Second, she had spent all her money on treatments from many doctors, and nothing had helped; in fact, the blood issue had only grown worse (see Mark 5:25–26). We also know that Jewish Law declared her to be ceremonially unclean due to her bleeding issue (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that she would not have been permitted to enter the temple for Jewish religious ceremonies. According to the Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean as well. The fact that she was in the crowd pressing around Jesus means that each person who bumped into her would have become unclean, too—including Jesus. But, after twelve years of suffering, she was obviously desperate for a miracle. “When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:27–28).

As soon as the woman touches Jesus, her bleeding stops and she knows she’s been healed. In an instant, Jesus does what no doctor in twelve years had been able to. This proves the power of Christ, of course, but it also illustrates an important point about Jesus and the Law. In Leviticus 15:31 God says, “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” In the Old Testament, the temple was where God dwelt among the Israelites, but in the New Testament, God dwelt among men in the person of Jesus Christ (see John 1:14). Through Jesus the penalties of the Law are reversed, and the contamination of this world had no effect on Christ. The woman did not make Jesus (God’s dwelling) unclean—He made her clean!

Jesus immediately responds to the woman who touched His clothing and was healed. People were pushing and pressing into Him from all over, yet He stops, turns, and asks, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). The disciples were incredulous, but Jesus knew that healing power had gone out of Him. We can’t “steal” a miracle from God. After the woman comes forward and explains herself, Jesus clears up any misconceptions about her healing, saying, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). God is moved to action by our faith, even when He’s in the middle of doing something else!

Jesus could have healed the woman and kept on walking to His original destination. Only He and the woman would have known what had taken place. But He didn’t do that. Jesus stopped what He was doing and acknowledged the result of this woman’s faith: her complete and instantaneous healing.

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Who was Ehud?

Who was Ehud? Ehud served as the second judge of Israel following Othniel. After Othniel’s death, the people of Israel sinned and fell to the king of Moab, serving him for 18 years (Judges 3:13–14). When the Israelites cried out for help, God sent Ehud to serve as judge.

Facts about Ehud include that he was the son of Gera and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. He was also noted as a left-handed man (Judges 3:15). This detail would become important to the success of his mission.

Beginning in Judges 3:16, we read that Ehud made himself a small sword (about 16 inches long) and strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes—had Ehud been right-handed, he would have carried the sword on his left side. Next, he visited the Moabites’ King Eglon under pretense of paying a tribute. When Ehud was checked for weapons, his small sword was apparently missed as it was in an unexpected location.

Following the presentation of his tribute, Ehud said that he had a secret message for the king. Everyone left the room except Ehud and King Eglon. Ehud then pulled out his sword and stuck it into the king’s stomach. The king was obese, and the sword disappeared inside his belly. Ehud left the sword and escaped through a porch opening.

When Eglon’s servants later found the king dead, Ehud had already escaped and rallied the people of Israel. Going to the town of Seraiah, located in Ephraim, Ehud sounded a horn or shofar. The Israelites cut off the Moabites at the Jordan River. Judges 3:29 records that about 10,000 Moabites were killed in the battle. Once free from Eglon’s rule, the Israelites enjoyed 80 years of peace, the longest peaceful period recorded during the time of the judges (Judges 3:30).

While this account is one of the more graphic scenes in Scripture, it is also very insightful. The original readers would have seen the power of God in this story for a variety of reasons. First, a lone man walked into the king’s palace, assassinated the king, and walked out without being captured. This was a highly unexpected event that involved great risk. Second, one battle changed the next 80 years of Israel’s history. Ehud’s story involves more than removing a wicked leader; it includes a change in national history for an entire generation. Third, Ehud’s success is a story of freedom. Just as God had redeemed Israel from Pharaoh and the land of Egypt when they cried out for help, God redeemed Israel from their bondage under King Eglon when they turned to Him.

What can we learn by asking the question, “Who was Ehud?” Ehud’s actions offer a valuable look at how God can change the course of a nation in a single day when He responds to the cries of His people. Further, we see God being faithful to His promise to help Israel when they repented of their sins and turned to Him—a lesson relevant still today.

The Moabites were a tribe descended from Moab, the son of Lot, born of an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). From Zoar, the cradle of this tribe, on the southeastern border of the Dead Sea, they gradually spread over the region on the east of Jordan. Shortly before the Exodus, the warlike Amorites crossed the Jordan under Sihon their king and drove the Moabites out of the region between the Arnon River Valley and the Jabbok River, and occupied it, making Heshbon their capital. The Moabites were then confined to the territory to the south of the Arnon Valley (Numbers 21:26–30).

During the Exodus the Israelites did not pass through Moab, but through the “wilderness” to the east, eventually reaching the country to the north of Arnon. The Moabites were alarmed, and their king, Balak, sought aid from the Midianites (Numbers 22:2–4). This was the occasion when the visit of Balaam to Balak took place (Numbers 22:2–6).

In the Plains of Moab, which was in the possession of the Amorites, the children of Israel had their last encampment before they entered the land of Canaan (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 13:32). If we had nothing else to interest us in the land of Moab, it was from the top of Pisgah that Moses, the mightiest of prophets, looked upon the Promised Land; it was here on Nebo that he died his solitary death; it was here in the valley over against Beth-peor where he was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5–6).

A basalt stone, bearing an inscription by King Mesha, was discovered at Dibon by Klein, a German missionary at Jerusalem, in 1868, consisting of thirty-four lines written in Hebrew-Phoenician characters. The stone was set up by Mesha about 900 BC as a record and memorial of his victories. It records Mesha’s wars with Omri, his public buildings, and his wars against Horonaim. This inscription supplements and corroborates the history of King Mesha recorded in 2 Kings 3:4–27. It is the oldest inscription written in alphabetic characters and, in addition to its value in the domain of Hebrew antiquities, is of great linguistic importance.

Perhaps the most significant Bible character to come from Moab was Ruth, who was “of the women of Moab” but was genetically linked to Israel through Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Ruth is an example of how God can change a life and take it in a direction He has foreordained, and we see God working out His perfect plan in Ruth’s life, just as He does with all His children (Romans 8:28). Although she came from a pagan background in Moab, once she met the God of Israel, Ruth became a living testimony to Him by faith. Ruth, the Moabitess, is one of only three women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Aram was the Hebrew designation for the nation of Syria, so the Arameans mentioned in the Bible are Syrians. In fact, some translations such as the ESV and KJV, when translating the Hebrew word for “Aramean,” substitute the word Syrian instead (see 2 Kings 7:6). The Arameans lived on an elevated tableland, and the topography is reflected in the fact that the word Aram comes from a root meaning “heights.” Aram Naharaim in Genesis 24:10 means “highland of the two rivers.”

The borders of Aram encompassed a broad region immediately to the northeast of Israel, extending to the Euphrates River and including Mesopotamia. Among the major cities inhabited by ancient Arameans were Damascus (Genesis 14:15) and Hamath (Numbers 13:21). Much later, Syrian Antioch was built and is mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 11:19; 13:1). The various kingdoms comprising ancient Aram gradually unified under Damascus, which grew to be the most dominant of the Aramean kingdoms.

When Abraham sought a wife for his son Isaac, he sent a servant to the land of Aram to find Rebekah (Genesis 24:10; 25:20). Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, is called an Aramean in Genesis 31:10. Jacob himself is called “a wandering Aramean” in Deuteronomy 26:5, since both his mother and his grandfather were from Mesopotamia and therefore considered Arameans by the Hebrews.

During the reign of King David, the Arameans of Damascus came to the help of another group of Syrians. David defeated them, and the Arameans were forced to pay tribute (2 Samuel 8:5–6). Later, the Arameans joined forces with the Ammonites in war against Israel (2 Samuel 10). The Israelites defeated Aram again and kept them in subjugation. This arrangement lasted through the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21).

After the time of Solomon, the Arameans were a perennial thorn in Israel’s side. They fought Israel during King Ahab’s time, and Israel won (1 Kings 20). In another battle, however, they killed Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:34). They raided Israel (2 Kings 6:8) and later laid siege to the capital, Samaria (verse 24). Elisha predicted the atrocities that the Arameans would commit (2 Kings 8:12). The Arameans fought King Joram of Israel and wounded him (2 Kings 8:28). And they fought King Joash of Judah and wounded him (2 Chronicles 24:23–25). The eventual fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon was aided by the Arameans (2 Kings 24:2).

In a wonderful demonstration of God’s grace and power, Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, was an enemy of Israel, but he humbled himself enough to seek the Lord’s help. Naaman discovered that God is merciful to all those who call upon Him—even Arameans—and that discovery drastically changed Naaman’s worldview: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).

Naaman in the Bible was the commander of the Syrian army who was healed of his leprosy by Elisha the prophet. Naaman was highly esteemed by the king of Syria (or Aram) because of the many victories won by the Syrian army. The Bible calls Naaman “a valiant soldier.” His story is recorded in 2 Kings 5:1–19.

It so happened that Naaman’s wife had a servant—a little Israelite girl who had been captured during a Syrian raid. One day the little girl told her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). Naaman relayed this information to the king of Syria, who sent Naaman to Samaria with a letter to the king of Israel regarding the matter and a gift of silver, gold, and clothing. In the letter, the Syrian king asked the king of Israel to cure Naaman’s leprosy.

Upon reading the letter, the king of Israel was frightened, believing the king of Syria was trying to pick a fight with him. He tore his clothes (a sign of grieving) and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy?” (2 Kings 5:7). The king of Israel obviously forgot there was a miracle-working prophet in his kingdom—the Syrians knew more about God’s work in Israel than did Israel’s own king.

Elisha heard about the letter, and he calmed the king’s fear, telling him to send Naaman to him (2 Kings 5:8). When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s home, Elisha sent a messenger to tell him to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and that his flesh would be restored to normal after the seventh wash (verse 10). Naaman’s response to Elisha’s word was not good. The Syrian commander was furious: Elisha had not come out to meet him personally; there had been no incantations, no ceremony, no spectacle at all (verse 11). Also, Naaman disliked the idea of bathing in the Jordan, which he considered inferior to the waters of his homeland (verse 12). He could have stayed home and washed in any one of the rivers near him, and it would have done him more good than the Jordan would ever do.

As the proud Naaman was storming off, his servants spoke to him: “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (2 Kings 5:13). Their logic was solid: Naaman had been prepared to do something monumental—something difficult or expensive or dangerous, even. But the prophet had asked for something simple. Shouldn’t Naaman at least give it a try? Bathing in the Jordan was easy. They persuaded their master that he should try the prescribed cure. So Naaman relented and washed seven times. To his amazement, Elisha’s cure worked—“His flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (verse 14). Naaman was cured of his leprosy.

After this, Naaman and his retinue returned to Elisha and offered a gift— ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, ten sets of clothing—Elisha could take whatever he wanted. But the prophet of God would take nothing, despite Naaman’s urging (2 Kings 5:16). Elisha made it clear that God’s healing was free and that miracles were not for sale (see Acts 8:20).

Before he left for home, Naaman gave evidence that his heart had changed, as well as his body. He said to Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). Naaman gave up his pagan idols then and there. He asked that he be allowed to take back two mule-loads of dirt from Israel on which he could offer sacrifices to Israel’s God, promising that he would “never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord” (verse 17).

One thing still bothered Naaman’s conscience. Part of his responsibility as commander of the Syrian army was to accompany the king to the temple of Rimmon, a pagan god of Syria. As the king worshiped, Naaman was to be at his side (2 Kings 5:18). Naaman asked the Lord for forgiveness in advance, since he now knew that Rimmon was a false god (who could not heal leprosy). Elisha assured Naaman that all would be well and that God saw his heart (verse 19). Naaman returned to Syria rejoicing in his newfound faith and in his restored physical health.

  Abimelech (also spelled Abimelek), one of Gideon’s sons, served as a judge of Israel following the judgeship of Gideon. He is first mentioned in Judges 8:30–31 where we read, “[Gideon] had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.” Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh and had led Israel to victory despite humanly impossible odds (Judges 7). After this victory, he became wealthy and had several wives, including a concubine in Shechem who became the mother of Abimelech.

Abimelech sought to rule over Shechem by eliminating all his opposition—namely, by killing all of the other sons of Gideon (Judges 9:1–2). All were killed except Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham (verse 5). Abimelech then became king of Shechem (verse 6).

After leading Shechem for three years, a conspiracy arose against Abimelech. Civil war broke out, leading to a battle at a town called Thebez (Judges 9:50). Abimelech cornered the leaders of the city in a tower and came near with the intention of burning the tower with fire.

The text then notes, “A woman [in the tower] dropped an upper millstone on [Abimelech’s] head and cracked his skull. Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, “A woman killed him.”’ So his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelek was dead, they went home” (Judges 9:53–55).

An “upper millstone” was a large rock approximately 18 inches in diameter, and this is what landed on Abimelech’s head. Though he survived the crushing blow, Abimelech knew he would not live long. He commanded his young armor-bearer to finish him off for the sake of his reputation (a practice seen in other places in the Old Testament). The young man did as commanded, and the battle ended in the defeat of Abimelech’s forces.

Abimelech offers a negative example of how a leader is to influence others. He led by force, murdered his opposition, and led in such a manner that even his subjects sought to overtake him. In contrast to the positive leadership of his father, Abimelech focused on his own personal gain, hurting many in the process.

Interestingly, a reference to Abimelech’s death would be made many years later during the reign of David. When Uriah was put on the front line of battle so he would die, Joab sent David a message that said, “Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez?” (2 Samuel 11:21). This reference held both a practical and spiritual message for David. Practically speaking, the reference noted that Abimelech served as an example of not getting too close to a wall during a battle. Spiritually, the reference pointed out the flaw of leading for one’s own gain rather than out of service to God.

There are actually several men named Abimelech in the Bible. Some translations, such as the NIV, spell the name Abimelek. Either way, the name means “father of the king.”

Some of the Philistines kings are called “Abimelech.” For example, the king of Gerar who took Sarah into his harem is called “Abimelech” in Genesis 20:2. The same name is applied to the king of Gerar during Isaac’s sojourn there (Genesis 26:1). The king of Gath before whom David played the madman is also called “Abimelech” in the title of Psalm 34; however, 1 Samuel 21:11 identifies the king of Gath as Achish. This has led many scholars to believe that, among the Philistines at least, Abimelech was a title given the king, rather than a personal name—much as the Egyptians always called their king “Pharaoh.”

Another possible Abimelech in the Bible was a son of the high priest Abiathar, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 18:16. The NAS, KJV, and NET Bibles put the name as Abimelech. But the NIV, ESV, and HCS Bibles have Ahimelech (or Ahimelek). This Abimelech/Ahimelech was a priest who served in the time of King David.

But probably the most well-known Abimelech in the Bible is the headstrong and murderous son of Gideon in the book of Judges. Please see our article on this particular Abimelech for more information.

There are two kings with the name Joash (or Jehoash) in the Bible: one a king of Judah (reigned 835–796 BC) and the other a king of Israel (reigned 798–782 BC).

The story of King Joash of Judah starts with that of King Jehu of Israel. Anointed king of Israel by Elisha, Jehu was tasked with destroying King Ahab’s descendants and wiping out Baal worship in the land (2 Kings 9). First Kings 21:25–26 gives the reason for the judgment: “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.” God had told Ahab, through Elijah, “I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free, . . . because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin” (1 Kings 21:21–22). Ahab responded to the prophecy with mourning and in humility, so God relented, saying that He would not bring the disaster in Ahab’s time but during his son’s reign. Jehu was God’s instrument to fulfill the prophecy.

After Jehu was anointed king over Israel, he set out against Joram, a son of Ahab and the current king of Israel. Ahaziah (different from the other son of Ahab who initially succeeded him) was king of Judah at the time and was with Joram. Judah’s Ahaziah, however, “followed the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab’s family” (2 Kings 8:27). Jehu killed both Ahaziah and Joram; executed Ahab’s wife, Jezebel; killed Ahab’s descendants; and “wiped out Baal from Israel” (2 Kings 10:28, ESV). Unfortunately, Jehu himself did not walk in the ways of God, but, since he had been faithful to God’s call to rid Israel of Baal worship, God promised that four generations of his line would be king of Israel (2 Kings 10:30).

King Joash of Judah first comes on the scene when Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah, whom Jehu had killed, took charge of Judah. Athaliah killed all of the royal family she could find in Judah in order to secure the throne for herself. However, Ahaziah missed one of her grandsons—the infant Joash. The evil queen’s sister rescued young Joash and his nurse, and the child was hidden for six years in the temple while Athaliah reigned in Judah (2 Kings 11:1–3). In the seventh year, the priest Jehoiada revealed Joash to the captains of the guards. The priest made an agreement with them to provide protection to the temple and the rightful king, and Jehoiada brought Joash out into public and anointed him as king (2 Kings 11:4–12). The people of Judah rejoiced over Joash’s appointment. Upon hearing the noise of the ceremony, Queen Athaliah rushed to the temple, crying, “Treason! Treason!” By Jehoiada’s command, Athaliah was captured by the guards, removed from the temple, and put to death (2 Kings 11:13–16). “Jehoiada then made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17). The people tore down the temple of Baal, watchmen were set over the Lord’s temple, and, at the age of seven, Joash took the throne (2 Kings 11:18–21).

Second Kings 12:1–3 says that Joash “reigned in Jerusalem forty years. . . . Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” Second Kings 12 goes on to describe various financial dealings of Joash. King Joash’s main achievement was making repairs to the temple (2 Kings 12:4–16). He also used a monetary gift to dissuade King Hazael of Aram (Syria) from attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:17–18).

The tragedy of King Joash of Judah is that, after his mentor and guardian, Jehoiada, died, he began listening to wicked advisors. Joash revived Baal and Asherah worship in Judah (2 Chronicles 24:17–19). God sent prophets to warn Joash, but he did not listen to them. Finally, the prophet Zechariah, son of the priest Jehoiada, brought God’s word to Joash, but the king callously ordered the son of his old friend to be stoned to death (verses 19–22). Joash’s reign did not end peacefully: “His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla” (2 Kings 12:20). Joash’s son Amaziah took over the throne, and Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but, the Bible notes, he was more like his father Joash than his ancestor David (2 Kings 14:3–4). Interestingly, Amaziah interacted with the other King Joash in the Bible.

King Joash of Israel began his reign in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of King Joash of Judah, so there was some overlap. King Amaziah started ruling Judah in the second year of King Joash of Israel. Amaziah of Judah battled against the Edomites and then challenged Joash of Israel to battle (2 Kings 14:7–8). Joash refused, essentially telling Amaziah he was needlessly stirring up trouble (2 Kings 14:9–10). Amaziah did not heed the warning, and Joash of Israel defeated Judah in battle. Second Chronicles 25:20 says that Judah’s defeat was “because they sought the gods of Edom.”

Second Kings records another of Joash of Israel’s military victories. When Joash’s father, Jehoahaz, was reigning, King Hazael of Aram (the same king that Joash of Judah had kept from attacking Jerusalem) oppressed Israel (2 Kings 13:22). “But the Lord 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” (2 Kings 13:23). When the prophet Elisha was sick and near to death, King Joash of Israel visited the prophet, apparently disconcerted over the military situation in Israel (2 Kings 13:14). Elisha instructed Joash to shoot arrows out of the open window. The prophet then proclaimed, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram! . . . You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek” (2 Kings 13:17). Elisha next instructed Joash to strike the ground with the arrows. Joash did so but stopped after three strikes. “The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’” (2 Kings 13:19). When Hazael died and his son, Ben-hadad, took over, Joash did defeat him three times. Israel was able to recover cities that previously had been taken from them (2 Kings 13:24–25).

King Joash of Israel ruled for sixteen years and “did evil in the eyes of the Lord 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” (2 Kings 13:11). After he died, Joash of Israel was succeeded by his son Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:16).

Before his reign as king, Jehu functioned as a commander in the army of Ahab (2 Kings 9:5, 25) in the northern kingdom of Israel. Jehu was the son of Jehoshaphat, although he is more commonly mentioned as son of Nimshi, his grandfather, perhaps because Nimshi was more well-known. Jehu’s name, meaning “Yahweh is he,” portrays well his future, God-given task: to obliterate the house of Ahab along with the worship of Baal that pervaded Israel at the time.

Jehu was a reformer of sorts who was used by God to clean up the mess that Ahab had made. Of King Ahab it is recorded that he “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Marrying Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians, Ahab was seduced into her idolatrous worship of Baal and Ashtoreth. Although God was patient for a time with Ahab, his many sins eventually brought God’s judgment upon his family line (1 Kings 21:20–22). This judgment first lands upon Ahab’s own head, as he is shot and killed in a battle against the Arameans (1 Kings 22:34–38).

God chose Jehu as one of three men who would enact His judgment upon Ahab’s family. God told the prophet Elijah, “Anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu” (1 Kings 19:15–17). One way or another, Ahab’s dynasty would be destroyed.

God also chose Jehu to be the king of Israel. After he was anointed king, Jehu immediately took steps to secure the throne. Knowing that Joram, son of Ahab, had recently gone to Jezreel to recover from wounds in a battle against the Arameans, Jehu ordered his men to seal the city so that no one could alert Joram of Jehu’s anointing (2 Kings 9:1–16). Jehu made haste to Jezreel and killed two of Ahab’s sons—Joram, king of northern Israel, and Ahaziah, king of Judah (2 Kings 9:14–29). Jehu then proceeded to Jezebel’s palace in Jezreel, where the queen stood watching for him at her window. At Jehu’s command, eunuchs surrounding Jezebel threw her down from the window. Jezebel’s blood splattered over the pavement, and, just as had occurred to Ahab, her blood was licked up by the dogs and her body eaten (2 Kings 9:30–37; cf., 1 Kings 21:20–26; 22:37–38).

Jehu left no man standing who was in alliance with King Ahab, as God had commanded long before through Elijah. Entering the temple of Baal, Jehu slaughtered all the priests of Baal and destroyed the temple and its sacred stone, thus eradicating Baal worship in Israel (2 Kings 10:23–28).

The Lord blessed Jehu for his obedience, granting him a dynasty that would last to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). However, because Jehu continued to hold on to the idolatrous worship of King Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:29, 31; 12:26–30), God began to reduce the size of Israel, gradually giving them over to the power of even Hazael of Syria (2 Kings 10:32–33). Jehu reigned over Israel a total of twenty-eight years and was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:35–36).

Through Jehu we can learn that, although it is true that God blesses and grants success to those who seek to obey Him, God also can and will pull away His blessing from one who willfully chooses to live in sin. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” We cannot serve God while continuing to hold on to false gods. As Joshua said, we must “choose for [ourselves] this day whom [we] will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Where does your allegiance lie?

  Gamaliel was a first-century Jewish rabbi and a leader in the Jewish Sanhedrin. Gamaliel is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture as a famous and well-respected teacher. Indirectly, Gamaliel had a profound effect on the early church.

Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel. Like his grandfather, Gamaliel was known for taking a rather lenient view of the Old Testament law in contrast to his contemporary, Rabbi Shammai, who held to a more stringent understanding of Jewish traditions.

The first biblical reference to Rabbi Gamaliel is found in Acts 5. The scene is a meeting of the Sanhedrin, where John and Peter are standing trial. After having warned the apostles to cease preaching in the name of Jesus, the Jewish council becomes infuriated when Simon Peter defiantly replies, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Peter had no intention of ceasing to proclaim the gospel, regardless of the possible repercussions. Peter’s defiance enrages the council, who begin to seek the death of the apostles. Into the fray steps Gamaliel. The rabbi, “who was honored by all the people” (Acts 5:34), first orders the apostles to be removed from the room. Gamaliel then encourages the council to be cautious in dealing with Jesus’ followers: “In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38–39). The Sanhedrin is persuaded by Gamaliel’s words (verse 40). That the council acquiesced to his advice speaks to the influence that Gamaliel possessed.

Later rabbis lauded Gamaliel for his knowledge, but he may be better known for his most famous pupil—another Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3), who later became the apostle Paul. It was under the tutelage of Rabbi Gamaliel that Paul developed an expert knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul’s educational and professional credentials allowed him to preach in the synagogues wherever he traveled (see Acts 17:2), and his grasp of Old Testament history and law aided his presentation of Jesus Christ as the One who had fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Gamaliel is also mentioned by the historian Josephus, who wrote of the nobility of Gamaliel’s son, Simon (Vita, 38). Josephus’ description of Gamaliel’s family is consistent with the picture we see of him in the book of Acts. The Talmud also mentions Gamaliel, but there is still much that we do not know about him. As with many figures from ancient history, our knowledge of Gamaliel is limited. From the sources that we do possess, it is clear that Gamaliel and his family were revered as men of wisdom and prudential judgment. In God’s sovereign plan, this Jewish rabbi preserved the lives of the apostles in the early church and helped equip the greatest Christian missionary.