By the Rivers

By the Rivers of Babylon

A couple of notes on what drove Jehu to act.

1. Assyria was knocking on the door.  By the time Jehu comes to power, Assyria has already taken over the Phoenician city-states.  So they’re on Jehu’s door step.  The old treaty with Sidon isn’t useful anymore.

2. Acquiescing to Assyria accomplishes two things at the same time.  A) It ensures the continuation of the kingdom as a vassal of Assyria.  This, as opposed to being wiped out and having your people dispersed to the far corners of the empire, seems like the more sensible choice.  Yes, the taxes are oppressive, but they beat the alternative.  B) He’s now free to focus entirely on defending the kingdom from Aram and has Assyria’s backing when the Damascene kings get feeling restless.

The Carrying Away

By the time he takes over, that’s already the choice staring them in the face.  Aram is a tough but beatable foe; a manageable neighbor.  You can take your chances with them. But Assyria?  It’s already a vast empire with a standing army that can muster thousands of troops as needed.  Even if you beat them once, you won’t beat them twice.  And the penalty when you lose is that you lose everything (which will be the NK’s fate a couple of generations further on down the road).  You watch your wives and children be slaughtered in front of you and then you are hauled off into captivity if your lucky. With your manhood intact depending on how much you’ve pissed off the Assyrian emperor who took you down.  And most of the elites of your kingdom are hauled off with you. Scattered to the four corners of the Assyrian empire.

So by paying tribute, even though you know you’re making life tougher for your people, you are at least preserving them intact to live their lives in their own homeland among the graves of their ancestors.  People who have resisted the Assyrians have been transplanted from their homes to the opposite side of the empire to do the bidding of the local satrap there who labors for the Assyrian emperor.
There is a very touching song about all this that actually comes from the time of the Babylonian captivity.  You’ve known it all your life as Psalm 137.  But it still captures the alienation and devastation someone in that situation would be bound to feel:

By the Rivers of Babylon
(Ezekiel 1:1–3)

1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.

2There on the willowsa

we hung our harps,

3for there our captors requested a song;

our tormentors demanded songs of joy:

“Sing us a song of Zion.”

4How can we sing a song of the LORD

in a foreign land?

5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

may my right hand cease to function.

6May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth

if I do not remember you,

if I do not exalt Jerusalem

as my greatest joy

Yes, he’s looking ahead that that will be the outcome if they resist Assyria.  But no, he’s trying to forestall that by acting in the best interests of his people, however onerous it may seem to them.  By paying tribute, he’s trying to prevent an even worse disaster.

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