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I just read the account of Jehu’s purging of Ahab’s dynasty and every last trace of Baal worship in 2 Kings. It’s interesting to me that Jehu touts his zeal for the Lord, and at one point God Himself commends Jehu for faithfully carrying out His instructions vis-a-vis Ahab’s descendents. And yet, in 2 Kings 10:31, we find the following words:

Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.

Apparently, Jehu chose not to destroy the golden calves that Jeroboam had originally erected for the purpose of securing his own kingship and keeping the people from making pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.

Jeroboam’s idolatry was a stumbling block to the northern kingdom of Israel from the moment he rebelled against the Davidic line and first rose to power. I wonder at Jehu’s failure to completely reverse idolatry in the land. Was it because he shared Jeroboam’s fear that the people would lose their allegiance to his crown in favor of Judah’s king? Or was it because (as Tolkien might put it) “lore waned” in Israel, and the very notion of what it truly meant to follow God’s Law had been lost? If the former, was Jehu aware of Jeroboam’s reasoning? If he was, it suggests to me that sufficient archival work had been done in Israel to (at minimum) ensure that a copy of the Law of God was available to the king, for heaven’s sake—making Jehu’s failure all the more damnable. Or, perhaps Jeroboam’s sin had set Israel on a trajectory that so diverged from God’s blueprint by Jehu’s time that it caused Israel to lose touch with the very oracles of God, royal archives notwithstanding.

In any case, it’s amazing how Jeroboam’s sin remains a bloodstain on the fabric of Israel’s existence from his time forward, and manages to survive even of the likes of Jehu. It seems that part of the insidious nature of idolatry, whatever its genesis, is a stubborn ability to self-propagate across generations.