Imagine being Jehu.
King of Israel. Successor to Ahaziah’s nefarious reign. Charged and anointed by a prophet sent by Elisha. And prior to your commission, this messenger is given the most random: “Tuck your cloak into your belt” (v. 1).
Wait, what? Is Elisha tipsy here? Did somebody bump his head after doing the chicken dance too many times?
Probably not. What is certain is the Bible does not directly clarify the significance of this action; however, you can bank on this representing something important.
Quick rabbit trail: I would argue that God crafted the Word so that its readers would have to dig in to find certain answers pertaining to inherent questions. Another message for another day though…
Back to the cloak…
A concordance check reveals that this isn’t the first time this instruction is mentioned. We find it earlier in 2 Kings 4 and Exodus 12, when God bestows Passover guidelines to Moses.
In both situations, haste is specifically addressed. Why? Perhaps to remind us that often times, God’s master plans require timely compliance. The chosen vessel, whether a mere servant (Gehazi) or the greatest prophet of all time (Moses), was secondary to the Lord’s objective and its execution. Pressing in further, we find a God who desperately wanted to reveal a sovereign sign. And in accordance with his burn to demonstrate power and perfect directive, he needed recipients purely devoted to his agenda.
The trend continues in 2 Kings 9, where Elisha’s alacrity is evident by electric excitement. Why was he in such a hurry? Well, if we look at 2 Kings from a distance, we see the house of Ahab wreaking vice all over the place. No doubt, the next select king of Israel needed to act strategically aligned to God’s timeline in order to sufficiently wipe away the line’s immorality. And Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, had the advantage of inheriting the blueprints to overcoming idolatrous corruption (read about Jehoshaphat’s reign in 1 Kings 22). Elisha must have been ecstatic to launch the beginning of the end for the Ahab dynasty.
By the end of 2 Kings 10, Jehu had fulfilled the mandate of destroying the house of Ahab, featuring a bloody blitz on Joram, Ahaziah and Jezebel. However, before Jehu could serve as king and complete his assigned tasks, he had to be anointed by a prophet spurred by a specific order. What exactly can we take away by this?
First off, to “tuck a cloak into a belt” meant, in part, to encourage the receiver, having earned the confidence to carry out the delegated mission. If we examine alternate translations, we discover a Hebrew inference. To tuck a cloak into a belt or bind up loins suggested, “Get ready for travel.” When I hear this, three words come to mind: Brace for adventure!
In adjunct to rightful rapidity, the charge merits deference. Think about it. When a major event is on tap, we ready ourselves. We dress up, freshen up. We spray the Axe. We check our teeth. To adequately prepare is to revere the reason for doing so. The process not only keeps us in check, but unites each element of our entirety in believing something big is about to happen. So the prospect of pursuit had to be countered with honor.
So is it okay to give Jehu a victory clap for his slaughter-laden conquest? Absolutely. But let’s not forget the first two characters in the story, who rightly played their part in the transition between two God-fearing leaders.