24. The Life and Times of Elisha the Prophet—Jezebel II (2 Kings 11:1-12:21)
Americans have enjoyed a luxury that many from other nations have never known—having a democratic government, where leadership changes hands in an orderly and peaceful manner. In my lifetime, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Richard Nixon resigned as the result of the Watergate scandal, George Bush was defeated in his attempt at a second term as President, and Bill Clinton had to go through the agonizing process of an impeachment trial. In every case, our government was stable, and if power changed hands, it did so in a very orderly manner.
In many parts of the world today, power changes hands with a great deal of turmoil. In the last few years, there have been a number of military coups worldwide. I am aware of at least one situation at this very moment that could result in a military coup. In such cases, power changes hands, but usually with considerable bloodshed. When the government changed hands in the northern kingdom of Israel, it was frequently violent. The usurper would often kill the existing king, all of his heirs, and those in the aristocracy who supported his administration. The southern kingdom of Judah was much more stable, because God had promised to preserve “a lamp” for Israel. This “lamp” was a descendant of David, who would maintain the David line from which the Messiah would come (1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7; Psalm 132:17; see Revelation 22:5).
There was one moment in Israel’s history when all hope for “a lamp” in Israel seemed lost. Jehu had killed Ahaziah, the king of Judah, along with Joram, the king of Israel. Jezebel, too, had been put to death. These things happened in fulfillment of God’s Word, as spoken through Elijah. Ahab and Jezebel had a daughter named Athaliah, who married Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, who was then king over Judah. When Athaliah learned that her son, Ahaziah, had been put to death, she sought to eliminate all of the heirs to his throne and to reign herself, as queen over Israel. This was the only “king” over Judah who was not of the Davidic line, and it looked for some time as though there were no heirs of David left. These were dark days for the people of Judah, and for Israel as well. This time was a kind of “tribulation” period, meant to prepare Judah for the day when the legitimate heir to the throne of David would be presented to the people and installed as their king. In some ways, I wish that I could say that after wicked Athaliah was executed and this Davidic king was enthroned, everyone “lived happily ever after,” but this is not the case. Let us listen carefully to the words of this text, for there are lessons here for all of us to learn.
Athaliah Takes Over
(2 Kings 11:1-3)
1 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she was determined to destroy the entire royal line. 2 So Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and snuck him away from the rest of the royal descendents who were to be executed. She hid him and his nurse in the room where the bed covers were stored. So he was hidden from Athaliah ruling over the land.
After the death of Solomon, the nation Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Initially, these two kingdoms were hostile toward each other. At times, this hostility erupted in war (1 Kings 15:16; 2 Kings 13:12). But things changed dramatically during the reign of Ahab, king of Israel. Ahab was able to negotiate an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, which was sealed by the marriage of Jehoram (Jehoshaphat’s son) and Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. When Jehoram died, he was replaced by his son, Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25-27). When Jehu killed Ahaziah, there were a number of heirs to the throne, although none of his heirs assumed the throne. The translation of 2 Chronicles 22:9 in the New King James Version seems to suggest that there was no heir to assume the throne:
Then he searched for Ahaziah; and they caught him (he was hiding in Samaria), and brought him to Jehu. When they had killed him, they buried him, “because,” they said, “he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” So the house of Ahaziah had no one to assume power over the kingdom (2 Chronicles 22:9, NKJV).
The NASB and some other translations are a bit more vague:
He also sought Ahaziah, and they caught him while he was hiding in Samaria; they brought him to Jehu, put him to death, and buried him. For they said, “He is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” So there was no one of the house of Ahaziah to retain the power of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 22:9, NAS).
A number of other translations imply that while there were a number of heirs to the throne, none of them seemed able to rise above the others so as to seize the throne. The last sentence of 2 Chronicles 22:9 is rendered differently:
So there was no one in the house of Ahaziah powerful enough to retain the kingdom (NIV).
None of the surviving members of Ahaziah's family was capable of ruling the kingdom (NLT).
As a result, there was no member of Ahaziah's family left who was strong enough to rule the kingdom (NJB).
This latter way of understanding 2 Chronicles 22:9 makes sense to me, because it explains what happened, and why. Ahaziah was dead, but he (like his counterpart Jehoram) had a number of sons who would be considered heirs to the throne. In the case of Jehoram’s sons, they were put to death at the order of Jehu, but in Ahaziah’s case, they were executed at the order of Athaliah. I would assume that immediately after word reached Jerusalem that Ahaziah was dead, a number of futile efforts were made by various sons of Ahaziah to seize the throne. It became apparent to Athaliah that none of her grandsons was really capable of “taking charge.” (She probably looked on them as Jezebel did Ahab, when he pouted because he could not obtain the vineyard of Naboth.) If there was one thing “Jezebel II” (Athaliah) knew how to do, it was to “take charge.” She did so, by ordering the execution of all the heirs to the throne. In this way, she appeared to ended the dynasty of David, and thus established herself as the ruler over Judah.
Baasha had succeeded in ending the dynasty of Jeroboam by killing off all the descendants of Nadab, Jeroboam’s son (1 Kings 15:25-30). Likewise, Zimri was successful in ending the dynasty of Baasha (1 Kings 16:9-14), just as Jehu had put an end to the dynasty of Omri and Ahab (2 Kings 10:1-11). Now, Athaliah sought to put an end to the “house of David.” Athaliah was the only ruler of Judah who was a woman and who was not a descendant of David. Think of the implications if this wicked woman—Judah’s Jezebel—had succeeded in killing every heir to the throne of David. She would have nullified God’s covenant with David and put an end to Israel’s hope of a Messiah.
We know, of course, that this was impossible. God would not allow anyone to thwart His covenant promises. But for the godly saints of Judah, these must have been very troubling times. From all appearances, every descendant of David who was heir to the throne had been killed. And as if this were not enough, a wicked woman was now established on the throne (see 2 Chronicles 23:17; 24:7). She reigned for nearly seven years, and I cannot help but look at this period as a kind of a “tribulation period” for Judah. It certainly prepared them for the unexpected appearance of the legitimate king, who would sit on the throne of his father, David.
The appearance was that evil had won the day, that Athaliah had seized the throne and succeeded in terminating the dynasty of David. But appearances were not reality. The reality of the situation was that there was one heir to the throne who was spared from death at the hand of Athaliah. Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram (but apparently not a daughter of Athaliah) and sister of Ahaziah,171 was determined to spare Joash (also called Jehoash), a son of Ahaziah, from death. This child was only a year old or so when Athaliah set out to kill every heir to the throne. Jehosheba was able to hide the child and its nurse in a kind of storage room, where beds and bedding were stored.172
For six years, this child was hidden in the temple of the Lord. What safer place for this child to be hidden than in God’s house? This was one place Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada knew Athaliah would never visit. She would be found worshipping in the temple of Baal (11:18), just like her mother, Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:31; 18:19). From the mention of its state of disrepair, we know that the temple was not well maintained, and thus we may also assume that it was not well used, either. But it certainly served Jehosheba’s purpose of concealing the infant-king and keeping him out of Athaliah’s reach.
Athaliah’s First Time in Church
(and last time on the throne)
(2 Kings 11:4-16)
4 In the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the officers of the units of hundreds of the Carians and the royal bodyguard. He met with them in the LORD’s temple. He made an agreement with them and made them swear an oath of allegiance in the LORD’s temple. Then he showed them the king’s son. 5 He ordered them, “This is what you must do. One third of the unit that is on duty during the Sabbath will guard the royal palace. 6 Another third of you will be stationed at the Foundation Gate. Still another third of you will be stationed at the gate behind the royal guard. You will take turns guarding the palace. 7 The two units who are off duty on the Sabbath will guard the LORD’s temple and protect the king. 8 You must surround the king. Each of you must hold his weapon in his hand. Whoever approaches your ranks must be killed. You must accompany the king wherever he goes.” 9 The officers of the units of hundreds did just as Jehoiada the priest ordered. Each of them took his men, those who were on duty during the Sabbath as well as those who were off duty on the Sabbath, and reported to Jehoiada the priest. 10 The priest gave to the officers of the units of hundreds King David’s spears and the shields that were kept in the LORD’s temple. 11 The royal bodyguard took their stations, each holding his weapon in his hand. They lined up from the south side of the temple to the north side and stood near the altar and the temple, surrounding the king. 12 Jehoiada led out the king’s son and placed on him the crown and the royal insignia. They proclaimed him king and poured oil on his head. They clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” 13 When Athaliah heard the royal guard shout, she joined the crowd at the LORD’s temple. 14 Then she saw the king standing by the pillar, according to custom. The officers stood beside the king with their trumpets and all the people of the land were celebrating and blowing trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes and yelled, “Treason, treason!” 15 Jehoiada the priest ordered the officers of the units of hundreds, who were in charge of the army, “Bring her outside the temple to the guards. Put the sword to anyone who follows her.” The priest gave this order because he had decided she should not be executed in the LORD’s temple. 16 They grabbed her and took her into the precincts of the royal palace through the horses’ entrance. There she was executed.
Those must have been six very long and miserable years for the godly in Jerusalem. There appeared to be no heirs to the throne of David, and a wicked woman occupied the throne. Almost no one knew that baby Joash was alive and was being brought up in the temple. I don’t know what it was that prompted Jehoiada to act when he did. I would imagine that Athaliah grew more and more bold and blatant in her wickedness. Perhaps Athaliah finally announced some plan that caused Jehoiada to take action.
Once Jehoiada decided to act, he began to set a plan into motion. This plan was primarily concerned with protecting the young king. After all, there was no other heir to the throne of David. Jehoiada the priest did not wish him to be vulnerable to Athaliah’s schemes. In his role as priest, Jehoiada seems to have had authority over the temple guards, and thus he called in his most trusted officers, swore them to secrecy, made a covenant with them, and then showed them the king. Since the temple guards carried out their duty in shifts, this gave Jehoiada the occasion to use the off-duty guards to guard the king without drawing undue attention.
Jehoiada provided security so that the king could be brought out before the people, where he could lay claim to his throne. The degree of detail that is included is intended, I believe, to indicate how thorough Jehoiada was in providing protection for the king. At the proper moment, Jehoiada provided the guards with weapons like the ones that belonged to David, which were kept in the temple. When the guards were stationed so that they surrounded the king, he was brought out before the people. The royal crown was placed upon his head, and he was given a copy of the “testimony,”173 the law that the king was to read and to follow (see Deuteronomy 17:18-20). When the new king was anointed, it was official, and the soldiers and the crowd burst out with shouts of, “Long live the king!” (11:12). The uproar of the people reached the ears of Athaliah, who made her way into the temple, along with the crowd. (I am inclined to suspect that it was probably her first time to enter the temple.) The young king was standing by the pillar, where the king customarily stood. There was the blast of trumpets, and the people joyfully celebrated the coronation of their new (and legitimate) king. It did not take Athaliah long to see what was happening. She tore her garments and shouted, “Treason, treason!” How ironic that she would be the one speaking of treason.
Jehoiada the priest was not intimidated by Athaliah’s protest. No doubt he had been planning on it. The priest ordered the officials to bring this woman outside the temple and to kill anyone who sought to assist her. He did not want her blood to be shed inside the temple. Athaliah was seized and unceremoniously hauled out of the temple, through the horses’ entrance to the precincts of the royal palace, where she was executed. Her reign of terror was over.
Judah’s Revival: The Covenant Renewed
(2 Kings 11:17-20)
17 Jehoiada then drew up a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, stipulating that they should be loyal to the LORD. 18 All the people of the land went and demolished the temple of Baal. They smashed its altars and idols to bits. They killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altar. Jehoiada the priest then placed guards at the LORD’s temple. 19 He took the officers of the units of hundreds, the Carians, the royal body guard, and all the people of land, and together they led the king down from the LORD’s temple. They entered the royal palace through the Gate of the Royal Body Guard, and the king sat down on the royal throne. 20 All the people of the land celebrated, for the city had rest now that they had killed Athaliah with the sword in the royal palace.
Jehoiada drew up a covenant between the LORD, the new king, and the people. It would seem that the people of Judah—and especially Jerusalem—were ready for religious reform, and ready to return to worshipping the LORD in the temple. This was a popular movement, because we are told that all the people tore down the temple of Baal, smashing its altars and idols to bits. They also killed Mattan, the priest of Baal. The officers who made up the royal guard were positioned so that the king could walk from the temple to the royal palace. Joash then took his rightful place on the royal throne. The people celebrated, and the city finally had rest. I am reminded of these earlier words from 2 Kings 9:
When Jehoram saw Jehu, he asked, “Is everything okay, Jehu?” He replied, “How can everything be okay as long as your mother Jezebel promotes idolatry and pagan practices?” (2 Kings 9:22).
There could be no peace in Israel so long as Jezebel was free to carry out her wicked schemes and practices. The same was true of Athaliah in Judah, for she was Jezebel’s wicked daughter. But now Athaliah was gone, and there was peace.
Joash’s Job Review
(2 Kings 12:1-3)
1 Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign. 2 In Jehu’s seventh year Jehoash became king; he reigned for 40 years in Jerusalem. His mother was Zibiah, who was from Beer Sheba. 3 Throughout his lifetime Jehoash did what the LORD approved, just as Jehoiada the priest taught him. But the high places were not eliminated; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense on the high places.
How strange it must have seemed to have a king only seven years old. Yet his reign would last for 40 years. It almost goes without saying that during Joash’s early years as king, most of the decisions were made by Jehoiada, or strongly influenced by him. After all, Joash owed his life to Jehoiada and his wife. It was this priest who must have given Joash most of his training in the ways of the Lord. Jehoiada was like a father to the king. It seems that as long as Jehoiada was alive, and that was a long time (he died at 130; 2 Chronicles 24:15), Joash did what was right (2 Chronicles 24:2). Yet even at his best, Joash did not remove the high places where the people of Judah went to offer sacrifices and burnt incense, contrary to God’s Word. Religious reform, in Judah as well as in Israel, was neither complete nor long-lived. And the nation’s leadership was never without its flaws.
Restoring The Temple
(2 Kings 12:4-16)
4 Jehoash174 said to the priests, “I place at your disposal all the consecrated silver that has been brought to the LORD’s temple, including the silver collected from the census tax, the silver received from those who have made vows, and all the silver that people have voluntarily contributed to the LORD’s temple. 5 The priests should receive the silver they need from the treasurers and repair any damage to the temple they detect.” 6 By the twenty-third year of King Jehoash’s reign the priests had still not repaired the damage to the temple. 7 So King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest, as well as the other priests, and said to them, “Why have you not repaired the damage to the temple? Now, take no more silver from your treasurers unless you intend to use it to repair the damage.” 8 The priests agreed not to collect silver from the people and relieved themselves of personal responsibility for the temple repairs. 9 Jehoiada the priest took a chest and drilled a hole in its lid. He placed it on the right side of the altar near the entrance of the LORD’s temple. The priests who guarded the entrance would put into it all the silver brought to the LORD’s temple. 10 When they saw the chest was full of silver, the royal scribe and the high priest bagged it up and counted the silver that had been brought to the LORD’s temple. 11 Then they would hand over the silver that had been weighed to the construction foremen assigned to the LORD’s temple. They hired carpenters and builders to work on the LORD’s temple, 12 as well as masons and stone cutters. They bought wood and chiseled stone to repair the damage to the LORD’s temple and also paid for all the other expenses. 13 The silver brought to the LORD’s temple was not used for silver bowls, trimming shears, basins, trumpets or any kind of gold or silver implements. 14 It was handed over to the foremen who used it to repair the LORD’s temple. 15 They did not audit the treasurers who disbursed the funds to the foremen, for they were honest. 16 The silver collected in conjunction with reparation offerings and sin offerings was not brought to the LORD’s temple; it belonged to the priests.
The temple was in serious disrepair. Athaliah may have prohibited true worship during her reign. She certainly did not encourage it. She promoted Baal worship in the house of Baal. And this wicked woman’s sons probably acted under her orders when they ransacked the temple:
(Wicked Athaliah and her sons had broken into God’s temple and used all the holy items of the LORD’s temple in their worship of the Baals.) (2 Chronicles 24:7).
Joash wanted the temple to be restored. He instructed the priests to use some of the temple taxes to restore the temple. Some time passed and Joash saw that his instructions were not being carried out. He summoned Jehoiada and other priests and rebuked them for failing to carry out his instructions to restore the temple. I believe the author has chosen this incident because it deals with Joash in a way that puts him in the best possible light. Much of his life he was overshadowed by Jehoiada, the priest. After the passing of Jehoiada, Joash ceased to live as he once did. But at least this one incident depicts Joash in a favorable light. Apparently on his own initiative, he ordered that the temple be restored, and yet after some time had passed, nothing had been done. Joash called in Jehoiada and other priests and rebuked them for not following his orders. Clearly, it was not Jehoiada who was instructing Joash at this point. In this instance, Joash is putting the pressure on Jehoiada to restore the temple.
Joash instructed the priests to cease collecting funds for the restoration project if they were not also seeing to it that these funds were used for this purpose. Joash took charge personally by placing a chest near the entrance to the temple. He drilled a hole in the lid of the chest, so that the people who came to the temple to worship could donate funds for the temple restoration project. Whenever the chest was full, it was emptied, and the funds were disbursed to the construction workers and craftsmen who were doing the restoration work.
There are three interesting bits of information provided by our author in this text. The first is that Joash would not allow the craftsmen to fashion the silver implements used for worship until the temple itself was completed. How well Joash understood human nature. If he had allowed them to make the missing implements first, it is likely that they would never have gotten around to finishing the construction work. They would use the implements to worship and “make-do” with the temple building “as is.” Joash would not allow this. He would not allow the necessary implements to be made until the restoration project had been completed.
Second, we are told that there was no need to “micro manage” the project with various layers of supervision and accountability. Would you not agree with me that this was most unusual? It almost fits into the category of the miraculous! Some might think this to be foolish, almost tempting men to misuse the funds. But I think the point is being made that everyone was behind this project, and enthusiastic about it, including the workers. Since they were wholeheartedly serving God by their work, they did not need to be prodded, or to have anyone looking over their shoulders. What an incredible project this was!
Third, Joash made sure that while temple monies were used to restore the temple, the priests were still being provided for. The guilt offerings (here called the “reparation offerings”) and the sin offerings were still reserved for the priests. One must wonder if the reason why the priests were reluctant to promote the restoration of the temple is because they feared that doing so would consume the offerings by which they were supported. If there was any question about how the priests would be supported, Joash clarified this matter in a way that assured them of their livelihood.
Closing Comments on King Joash
(2 Kings 17-21)
17 At that time Hazael king of Syria attacked Gath and captured it. Hazael then decided to attack Jerusalem. 18 Jehoash king of Judah collected all the sacred items that his ancestors Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, kings of Judah, had consecrated, as well as his own sacred items and all the gold that could be found in the treasuries of the LORD’s temple and the royal palace. He then sent it all to Hazael king of Syria who withdrew from Jerusalem. 19 The rest of the events of Joash’s reign, including all his accomplishments, are recorded in the scroll called the Annals of the Kings of Judah. 20 His servants conspired against him and murdered Joash at Beth-Millo, which is in the direction of Silla. 21 His servants Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer murdered him. He was buried with his ancestors in the city of David. His son Amaziah replaced him as king.
The author of our text is most gracious in his description of Joash. He chooses to focus on the many “good years” of this king’s reign, years that Jehoiada was still alive, years when this godly priest encouraged the boy he had raised from infancy to be a godly king. In verses 17 and 18, we are told about the difficult times when Hazael, king of Syria, was successful in his campaign against Gath, and then turned his attention toward Jerusalem. We are told that in this time of national crisis Joash gathered the sacred items of the kingdom and used them to pay off Hazael so that he would not attack Jerusalem. These sacred items were not only those he had commissioned the artisans to create, but those that had been made during the days of his forefathers: Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah (verse 18). In short, in one moment of crisis Joash did away with much that he had accomplished over a number of years.
The response of Joash to the threat posed by Hazael of Syria can best be understood by comparing his actions with those of his predecessor—Jehoshaphat—as described in 2 Chronicles 20. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter several times, but allow me to summarize the chapter briefly. The armies of several nations had formed an alliance against Judah. A huge army was making its way toward Jerusalem, and when Jehoshaphat was informed of this, he was afraid. He turned his attention to seeking the Lord, proclaiming a fast and calling upon God for deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:3-13). The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel. Speaking for God, he told the people not to fear, because God was going to give them the victory over their enemies (20:15). He instructed the people to go down against their enemies the next day, informing them where their foes would be found (20:16). And then he indicated that they would not even need to fight, that God would win the battle for them. The people then stood up and praised the Lord loudly (20:17-19).
The next day Jehoshaphat spoke to the people as they went out to face their enemies. He told them to trust in the Lord and in the word of His prophets, assuring them that God would give them success (20:20). He then arranged for singers to praise the Lord. As their songs of praised reached the Lord, God created such turmoil among those who came up against Judah that they turned on each other, destroying themselves. The people of Judah did not have to lift a finger. When the people arrived at the designated spot, they found only the carcasses of their enemies. There was no one left to fight. The spoils that were left by these invaders were such that it took the people of Judah three days to gather them all (20:25). The people then returned to Jerusalem where they assembled to praise the Lord for this victory.
Does this earlier story not shed light upon the panic of Joash in our text? When he heard that the Syrians were on their way, he rushed to the temple, not to pray, but to gather all the precious items of worship to buy off Hazael. He did not call for a fast or pour out his heart to God in prayer. He simply paid Hazael off, with those items that belonged to the Lord.
Verses 19-21 tell us the very unpleasant story of how Joash died. He did not die in battle, as Ahab was privileged to do; Joash died at the hands of his own servants, who conspired against him, striking him down as he traveled toward Silla. It was not the way any king would wish to die.
The humiliating payoff of Hazael, and being assassinated by one’s own servants, was certainly not an ideal way to end one’s reign. There are reasons for these things, which our author has chosen to withhold but which are explained in 2 Chronicles. While we are informed (2 Kings 12:21) that Joash is buried in Jerusalem, he was not given a king’s burial, as we learn from 2 Chronicles:
When they withdrew, they left Joash badly wounded. His servants plotted against him because of what he had done to the son of Jehoiada the priest. They murdered him on his bed. Thus he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings (2 Chronicles 24:25, emphasis mine).
In 2 Chronicles, we are told why Joash was not buried in the tombs of the kings: Joash killed the son of his mentor, Jehoiada:
15 Jehoiada grew old and died at the age of one hundred thirty. 16 He was buried in the City of David with the kings, because he had accomplished good in Israel and for God and his temple. 17 After Jehoiada died, the officials of Judah visited the king and declared their loyalty to him. The king listened to their advice. 18 They abandoned the temple of the LORD God of their ancestors, and worshiped the Asherah poles and idols. Because of this sinful activity, God was angry with Judah and Jerusalem. 19 The LORD sent prophets among them to lead them back to him. They warned the people, but they would not pay attention. 20 God’s Spirit energized Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood up before the people and said to them, “This is what God says, ‘Why are you violating the commands of the LORD? You will not be prosperous. Because you have rejected the LORD, he has rejected you!’” 21 They plotted against him and by royal decree stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD’s temple. 22 King Joash disregarded the loyalty his father Jehoiada had shown him and killed Jehoiada’s son. As Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the LORD take notice and seek vengeance!” (2 Chronicles 24:15-22).
This is an almost unbelievable story. When Jehoiada the priest died at the ripe old age of 130, Joash was left without the counsel and support of his long-time mentor and advisor. The officials of Judah were more than happy to assert themselves as friends and advisors to the king. They presented themselves before Joash and declared their loyalty to him. Foolishly, he began to take their advice. Under their influence, Joash and the people of Judah began to turn from worshipping God to worshipping idols. The Lord sent prophets to warn Joash regarding this sin and its consequences, but they were all ignored. Then God sent Zechariah, who was the son of Jehoiada, Joash’s mentor. When Zechariah delivered God’s message to Joash, the king had him stoned in the courtyard of the temple. No wonder we read that Hazael began to harass Judah, and that Joash died at the hands of his own servants and was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the tombs of the kings.
The first thing we should observe about our text is that 2 Kings deals differently with Joash than does 2 Chronicles. If we judged Joash only according to the facts revealed in 2 Kings, we would think quite well of him. Most of his life he lived in a godly manner. In 2 Chronicles, however, we see some glaring problems in the life of Joash. He served God only as long as Jehoiada lived. At the end of his life, he surrounded himself with unwise counselors, and he forsook the way of the Lord. He even executed the son of the man who had saved his life and who had mentored him in his formative years.
Are these two reports contradictory? I don’t think so. Neither report denies or contradicts the other. Rather, much as we find with the four Gospel accounts, one account compliments the other. The author of 2 Kings seeks to deal with Joash in much the same fashion as the person giving a eulogy deals with the life of the deceased at a funeral. The eulogy is hardly the occasion for focusing on all the flaws and failures of the one who has died; rather, attention is given to the positive aspects of the deceased person’s character and conduct. This is exactly the way David dealt with the death of Saul. He spoke sincere words of praise, even though there was much that could be said of Saul’s failures and folly (see 2 Samuel 1).
Second Chronicles focuses more on the failings of Joash in his later years. All too many men in the Bible started well, but ended poorly. We have already mentioned Saul, but there was also Solomon, who lived much of his life in a godly manner, only to end his life poorly. Jehu also started well, but did not end well (2 Kings 10:29-31). It is sad to see those who start well end badly, but it happens with considerable frequency. There may be some who are reading this lesson who have followed God faithfully for a number of years. That is wonderful, but please do not make the mistake of assuming that because you have lived well for years, you are certain to end well. As Paul put it so well,
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Do not suppose that having done well in the past, you are guaranteed to do well in the future. We must always be watchful and diligent, and ever mindful of the sins to which we can fall prey.
In 2 Kings, the author alternates between events in Israel and events in Judah. In part, this is to show the reader that the sins of Israel become the sins of Judah. We may have wrongly assumed that while the kings and the people of the northern kingdom of Israel failed, the southern kingdom of Judah did much better. It is true, of course, that it was Jerusalem that God had chosen as the place to manifest His presence. And it is true that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, and from the descendants of David. It is also true that the southern kingdom of Judah had several godly kings, while Israel had few, if any. But with all of its privileges and special status, the southern kingdom followed in the footsteps of her “older sister,” Israel. Listen to these words from the prophet Ezekiel:
44 “‘Now everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who detested her husband and her sons; and you are the sister of your sisters who detested their husbands and their sons. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 Your older sister was Samaria, who lived north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, was Sodom with her daughters. 47 You not only copied their behavior and practiced their abominable deeds, but in a short time you were more depraved in all your conduct than they. 48 As I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never behaved as wickedly as you and your daughters have done. 49 “‘This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, abundance of food, and careless ease, but did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and committed abominable crimes before me. Therefore, when I saw it, I removed them. 51 Samaria has not committed half the sins you have; you have done more abominable deeds than they, and have made your sisters appear more righteous by all the abominable things you have done. 52 So now, bear your disgrace, because you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because the sins you have committed were more abominable than those of your sisters; they have become more righteous than you. So now, be ashamed and bear your disgrace in making your sisters appear more righteous” (Ezekiel 16:44-52).
Israel (called “Samaria” above) lived in disobedience and idolatry, which is described above as harlotry. God dealt severely with Samaria for her sins, as Judah looked on. But sadly Judah did not learn from the example Samaria had set. They plunged headlong into the very same sins, in spite of the warning that God’s dealings with Samaria had provided. And because of this, Judah was even more culpable than her older sister, Samaria. Do we not see this taking place in 2 Kings? It is one thing to read of the sins of Israel and of her kings. But then we find that Judah is following in her footsteps, and thus plunging herself headlong into judgment.
To put this matter differently, Judah did not learn the lessons that God had taught her through history. Judah looked on as Israel plunged into sin, and then suffered divine judgment. As we read the history of both Israel and Judah, and of the judgment of both for sin, should this not serve to warn us about sin and about future judgment as well? If men today persist in these same sins against God, how can they expect not to suffer divine judgment as well? History is something like the flashing red light on the instrument panel of our automobiles. When it flashes, it warns us that something is wrong. If we ignore its warnings, we will pay the price. Our culture has “solved” the problem of the “flashing red light” of history. Rather than accept the events of history as they happened and learn from them, our culture has re-written history, to justify the sins of our age. I cannot overestimate the seriousness of this. In the days to come, history will prove how willful and sinful our society has become. Let us listen and learn, before it is too late.
As I read this account of the removal of Athaliah and the coronation of Joash, I am impressed with the suddenness of this event. I am also reminded of the certainty of it. God had promised to send the Messiah, Who would sit on the throne of His father, David, and Who would thus be of the Davidic line. God had made certain that the line of David was preserved, and that there would always be a “lamp” for Israel.
1 In the eighteenth of the reign of King Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king over Judah. 2 He ruled for three years in Jerusalem. His mother was Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom. 3 He followed all the sinful practices of his father before him. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God, as his ancestor David had been. 4 Nevertheless for David’s sake the LORD his God maintained his dynasty [literally, “gave him a lamp”] in Jerusalem by giving him a son to succeed him and by protecting Jerusalem. 5 He did this because David had done what he approved and had not disregarded any of his commandments his entire lifetime, except for the incident involving Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:1-5; cf. also 11:36; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7).
In order to secure the fulfillment of His covenant promises, God has always preserved a remnant. He always preserves the “seed” through whom His blessings will be poured out. Speaking biblically and theologically, it was impossible for there not to have been an heir to the throne of David. But for the people who trusted God in the days of Athaliah, her rise to power over Judah must have been a real test of faith. From all appearances, the Davidic dynasty was finished. There seemed to be no heir to his throne, and a wicked woman appeared to be in control.
How deceptive appearances can be. Though not seen by more than a handful of people, there was an heir to the throne. For those six years of Athaliah’s wicked reign, there was hope for the nation, and for God’s promises. They were certain, because they were God’s promises, and He—not some earthly ruler—is sovereign over all of His creation. Then, suddenly, the king appeared and was enthroned over his kingdom, and the wicked usurper was put to death. What a difference a day makes!
Is this not the way it will be in the end times? Wicked rulers will reign, and it will appear that they have the upper hand. True believers may suffer at their hands, but there is no doubt that “the King is coming!” His coming will be at a very dark time in history, and it will be sudden. He will overthrow the kingdoms of wicked rulers. He will bring about judgment on the wicked. And when He appears, He will restore the worship of the Living God. What a day that will be!
I must ask you this question, my friend. Are you ready for Jesus Christ to return to this earth and to establish His kingdom? When He comes, will you be His enemy, whom He will overcome and destroy? Or will you be eagerly looking for His coming, as the true King of all the earth? The wicked may comfort themselves with the thought that God has allowed them to prevail for a time, and with the hope that since judgment has not yet come, it will not come at all. But the coming of the King will be sudden, just as it is certain. Let us be ready and waiting for Him. The only way to be ready and waiting is to trust in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the cross of Calvary. It is He who qualifies us to enter into His kingdom. Guilty sinners cannot enter His kingdom, and so the King Himself came to the earth to be rejected by men, and crucified on a cruel cross. It was on that cross that God poured out His wrath upon sin. It is by faith in Jesus Christ, Who bore our punishment and Who was raised from the dead for our justification, that men are saved and qualified to enter heaven. Have you acknowledged your sin to God and trusted in the only provision He has made for guilty sinners? The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. I urge you to trust in Him this very hour.
“I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant whom you long for is coming,” says the sovereign LORD (Malachi 3:1).
35 So then, stay alert, because you do not know when the owner of the house will come—whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn— 36 and when he comes suddenly, he will not find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!” (Mark 13:35-37).
3 Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. 5 For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. 6 So then we must not sleep as the rest, but must stay alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep sleep at night and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation. 9 For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11).
172 Some translations render it “bedroom,” which is a possibility, but this would seem to be the most likely place to be searched. The same word can be understood as referring to a storeroom for bedding.
173 Some translations, including the NET Bible, render this “royal insignia,” but I am inclined to stay with the rendering, “testimony,” which appears to be the copy of the law that was to be given to a new king.
Related Topics: Character Study