THE THREAT ATHALIAH POSED TO THE DAVIDIC DYNASTY REQUIRED PROVIDENTIAL PROTECTION TO ELEVATE JOASH TO THE THRONE
Raymond Dillard: Athaliah represented the one break in the dynastic continuity of the descendants of David. Though the queen mother played an important role in the monarchies of the ancient Near East, Athaliah was the only queen of Judah ever to rule in her own name. The “prophetic revolution” that swept away her family in the North had its counterpart in the “priestly revolution” that swept her away in the South. Just as the promise of God to David (1 Chr 17:14, 23–27) would not falter before her, so also, the Chronicler was reminding his readers, it would not falter before other kingdoms, even in the post-exilic period. The Davidic lamp would not be snuffed out; it still glowed in the hopes of the restoration community.
J.A. Thompson: Neither the Chronicler nor the writer of Kings provides the usual regnal formulae giving the monarch’s age, length of reign, and so forth in Athaliah’s case (842-837 B.C.). She was not regarded as a legitimate ruler, so the usual introductory and concluding notices about her reign are omitted. She was, in fact, an illegitimate usurper of royal power. Only three verses are given to her six-year reign (22:10-12). The material is drawn from 2 Kgs 11:1-3. With chap. 23 we embark on the account of Joash’s reign.
Adam Clarke: Nothing but the miraculous intervention of the divine providence could have saved the line of David at this time, and preserved the prophecy relative to the Messiah. The whole truth of that prophecy, and the salvation of the world, appeared to be now suspended on the brittle thread of the life of an infant of a year old, (see 2 Chron 24:1) to destroy whom was the interest of the reigning power! But God can save by few as well as by many. He had purposed, and vain were the counter-exertions of earth and hell.
Martin Selman: The differences between Chronicles and the parallel in 1 Kings permit three themes submerged in that earlier text to become central in the later version.
(1) The temple is a sacred place. It is the visible projection of the character of God and must be kept holy and clean (2 Chron. 23:6, 19).
(2) God is faithful in fulfilling his promise made to maintain “a lamp” for the house of David (23:7; cf. 21:7).
(3) “All the people” play an important role in installing Joash as king and in renewing Yahweh’s covenant.
Andrew Hill: This section includes five reports:
– The asylum of Joash with Jehosheba’s help (22:10-12);
– The accession of Joash with Jehoaida’s help (23:1-11);
– The execution of Athaliah (23:12-15);
– Covenant renewal in Judah (23:16-19);
– The installation of King Joash (23:20-21).
I. (22:10-12) PROVIDENTIAL PROTECTION OF JOASH
A. (:10) Attempt to Exterminate the Davidic Dynasty (All Rivals to the Throne)
“Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead,
she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring of the house of Judah.”
Andrew Hill: Athaliah tyrannizes Judah for six years . . . She attempts to do what God himself will not do – completely destroy the house of David (22:10; cf. 21:7). The term “destroy” (Piel of dbr) has the sense “obliterate” or “exterminate” here. Whatever her motivation, Athaliah seeks to eliminate all rivals to the throne of David. According to Gray, much like Jehoram she seeks to quell any nationalist uprising under a prince from the royal family by massacring the Davidic line.
Frederick Mabie: Athaliah takes the killing of her son Ahaziah by Jehu (cf. 22:7-9) as an opportunity to expand her power beyond her position as Queen Mother. In the aftermath of the chaos and instability within the southern kingdom, she proceeds to eliminate all Davidic claimants to the Judean throne (with the unintentional exception of Joash; cf. vv. 11-12) and rules for about six years (ca. 841-36 BC). The six/seven-year reign of Athaliah is the only time ancient Judah or Israel is ruled by a queen.
Athaliah’s ability to engineer this anti-Davidic coup and reign for about six years in Judah implies a considerable amount of preexisting power, authority, and influence. This dark episode in Judah’s history provides the Judahites with a taste of exile without actually leaving the land.
McConville: The story of Athaliah, like that of Jehoram and Ahaziah, is a testimony to the ephemeral and ultimately illusory character of brute power exercised in a self-serving way.
B. (:11) Hiding of Infant Joash by Jehoshabeath
“But Jehoshabeath the king’s daughter took Joash the son of Ahaziah,
and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death,
and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom.
So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah so that she would not put him to death.”
Iain Duguid: The future of the Davidic kingdom being centered in a baby, rescued from a murderous ruler by a young woman, finds an echo in the young Son of David being rescued by his parents from the paranoid King Herod, a time at which several innocent children were killed (Matt. 2:13–18).
Raymond Dillard: The fact that royal infants may regularly have been put into the care of wet nurses or foster mothers becomes the key to Josheba’s frustrating Athaliah’s plans; the suckling child was overlooked and could have escaped detection as he grew by mingling with other priests’ children or perhaps as a temple devotee like the young Samuel (Gray, 570; 1 Sam 1:21–28; 3:1).
Andrew Hill: The name Jehosheba (Chronicles actually uses Jehoshabeath, a variant form of the name) means “Yahweh vows.” Fittingly, God uses this faithful woman to keep his oath to maintain the lamp of David (cf. 21:7). No matter how gloomy the prospects, the destiny of the nation is secure in God’s hands. The Chronicler’s audience needs that reminder too?
C. (:12) Preservation During Six Year Interregnum of Athaliah
“And he was hidden with them in the house of God six years
while Athaliah reigned over the land.”
II. (23:1-10) JEHOIDA’S COUP TO REPLACE ATHALIAH WITH JOASH
Andrew Hill: Jehoiada the priest is a clever strategist, planning his coup in three stages:
– first assembling a coalition of conspirators (23:1-3a),
– then strategically deploying armed guards to ensure the safety of the king (23:3b-7), and
– finally presenting Joash for public installation as king of Judah (23:8-11).
A. (:1-3) Preparation for the Coup
1. (:1) Enlisting Military Conspirators
“Now in the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and took captains of hundreds: Azariah the son of Jeroham, Ishmael the son of Johanan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri, and they entered into a covenant with him.”
2. (:2) Enlisting Levites and Heads of Families
“And they went throughout Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem.”
Raymond Dillard: Though in Kings the emphasis is on the role played by the military in the coup (2 Kgs 11:4, “the captains of hundreds, the Carites, and the guard”), the Chronicler has underscored instead the role of the priests and Levites. The Levites had a traditional quasi-military role; in the absence of a military establishment in the post-exilic period, it is not surprising that the Chronicler should emphasize the role of cultic personnel in the coup, not to mention his own concerns with the sacrosanctity of the temple precincts. One of the difficulties in the chapter, however, is determining who did participate in the coup according to the Chronicler’s account. Did he so emphasize the role of the priests and Levites as not to mention the participation of other elements in society?
The broadening circle of the conspiracy may have incorporated elements from all three sectors of society: the royal/military, cultic, and private. The leaders of the ancestral families play a role in numerous crucial moments (1 Chr 29:6; 2 Chr 1; 2; 5:2; 19:8; 35:10; cf. Ezr 8:29).
3. (:3) Entering into a Covenant with King Joash under Divine Authority
“Then all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And Jehoiada said to them, ‘Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the LORD has spoken concerning the sons of David.’”
Raymond Dillard: The initial agreement made among the original conspirators is broadened by concluding a covenant between the king and the entire assembly. This covenant probably included the arrangements under which Joash would rule; it likely included some concessions of royal prerogatives in relationship to the temple and would have specified the regency of Jehoiada for the young king. It was probably a copy of this arrangement that was placed in the king’s hands.
B. (:4b-9) Instructions for Executing the Coup
“This is the thing which you shall do:”
1. (:4b-7) Roles and Responsibilities Defined
a. (:4b-5) Stationing of Participants Defined
“one third of you, of the priests and Levites who come in on the sabbath, shall be gatekeepers, 5 and one third shall be at the king’s house, and a third at the Gate of the Foundation; and all the people shall be in the courts of the house of the LORD.”
J.A. Thompson: The arrangement for carrying out the crowning of Joash and the removal of Athaliah centered on the change in the shifts of temple personnel. There would be the maximum number of armed personnel for the coup as well as a large number of persons moving about in the temple so as not to arouse any suspicion in the mind of Athaliah, who would see these changes taking place daily. However, neither the details here nor in 2 Kgs 11:5-8 are clear, no doubt due to our ignorance about their procedures.
b. (:6) Sanctity of Temple Preserved
“But let no one enter the house of the LORD except the priests and the ministering Levites; they may enter, for they are holy. And let all the people keep the charge of the LORD.”
c. (:7) Safety of King Ensured
“And the Levites will surround the king, each man with his weapons in his hand; and whoever enters the house, let him be killed. Thus be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out.”
2. (:8) Execution of Roles and Responsibilities
“So the Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded. And each one of them took his men who were to come in on the sabbath, with those who were to go out on the sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss any of the divisions.”
C. (:9-10) Security Forces Equipped and Positioned to Protect the King
1. (:9) Significant Weaponry
“Then Jehoiada the priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and the large and small shields which had been King David’s, which were in the house of God.”
Raymond Dillard: It was appropriate that the weapons used to restore rule to a descendant of David had belonged to David.
2. (:10) Strategic Positioning
“And he stationed all the people, each man with his weapon in his hand, from the right side of the house to the left side of the house, by the altar and by the house, around the king.”
III. (23:1-10) CORONATION OF JOASH
A. Crowning the King
“Then they brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him,”
August Konkel: The coronation affirms the commitment of the king to lead the people according to the book of the covenant, which was to be kept at his side. This commitment obligates the people be loyal to the new king. . .
The covenant had three aspects: a vow between God and the king, God and the people, and the king with the people. The Chronicler expresses this as a vow between priest, king, and people, together they vow to be the people of the Lord. The first vow included the eradication of Baal worship. The institution of temple worship according to the arrangements made by David is a way of emphasizing the restoration of the Davidic rule.
B. Authenticating Him as King
“and gave him the testimony, and made him king.”
Raymond Dillard: The copy of the covenant given to Jehoiada was probably the arrangement agreed to in 23:3; alternatively it could be a copy of the law, received from the hands of a priest, as envisioned in Deut 17:18. If it represented a document somewhat curbing royal authority in favor of the temple, it may have set the stage for the disagreement between Joash and Jehoiada in 24:4–12.
Frederick Mabie: While it is unclear whether this is a copy of the law (cf. Dt 17:18-20) or another significant document or symbol of the (Davidic or Mosaic) covenant, the emphasis is that the enthronement of Joash is meant to be in accord with God’s Word and that his subsequent reign should likewise be faithful to covenantal stipulations.
C. Anointing Him King
“And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him”
D. Proclaiming Him King
“and said, ‘Long live the king!’”
Mark Boda: The rituals associated with the installation of a king appear to have included:
(1) gathering at a significant place;
(2) assembling leading royal, sacred, military, and secular officials as well as the populace;
(3) anointing the royal figure with oil;
(4) blowing the trumpet; and
(5) people declaring, “Long live the king.”
The liturgy used for such occasions is never provided, but many have suggested that Psalms 2 and 110 may preserve parts of this liturgy. According to 2 Kings 11:14, the Temple had become the customary place for the coronation of the king in Israel, and since this location was under Jehoiada’s control, he could easily manipulate the situation.
IV. (23:12-15) THE REACTION OF ATHALIAH AND HER EXECUTION
Iain Duguid: The coronation was met with two contrasting responses. “All the people of the land” and “the captains and the trumpeters and the singers” were exuberant. As elsewhere, the Chronicler adds details of “singers . . . leading in the celebration” (or “hymns”). Athaliah, however, shouted out, “Treason! Treason!” (The word is used later of other acts of “conspiring” that led to a killing; 24:21, 25–26; 25:27; 33:24–25.) She “tore her clothes,” an action linked elsewhere with mourning, submission and repentance, and despair; here it was possibly an expression of powerlessness. Her death followed, after Jehoiada made sure it did not violate the sacred temple precincts.
A. (:12-13) The Reaction of Athaliah
1. (:12) Investigation of the Tumult
“When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came into the house of the LORD to the people.”
2. (:13a) Images of Successful Insurrection
“And she looked, and behold,”
J.A. Thompson: Athaliah went to the temple to investigate. This was to her undoing (2 Chr 23:15). There she saw the legitimate boy-king standing by “his pillar,” the customary place for a king to stand when making a public proclamation. The place was “at the entrance,” that is, the entrance from the court of the city to the inner court.
a. Position and Activity of King Joash
“the king was standing by his pillar at the entrance,”
b. Position and Activity of the Captains and Trumpeters
“and the captains and the trumpeters were beside the king.”
c. Position and Activity of All the People
“And all the people of the land rejoiced and blew trumpets,”
d. Position and Activity of the Singers/Musicians
“the singers with their musical instruments leading the praise.”
3. (:13b) Ironic Invective
“Then Athaliah tore her clothes and said, ‘Treason! Treason!’”
J.A. Thompson: Athaliah could not help being taken aback and cried aloud, “Treason!” Such a cry from the mouth of Athaliah was full of irony. Athaliah’s very presence there was an act of treason in itself because she had usurped the legitimate authority of the boy-king Joash.
B. (:14-15) The Execution of Athaliah
1. (:14) Death Sentence Pronounced
“And Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains of hundreds who were appointed over the army, and said to them, ‘Bring her out between the ranks; and whoever follows her, put to death with the sword.’ For the priest said, ‘Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD.’”
2. (:15) Death Sentence Executed
“So they seized her, and when she arrived at the entrance of the Horse Gate of the king’s house, they put her to death there.”
Frederick Mabie: The Horse Gate was associated with death and judgment (cf. Jer 31:40).
G. Campbell Morgan: Her own treason against the true and abiding King of the nation was defeated. Thus, sooner or later, and in ways equally dramatic, the moment arrives when those who plot and plan against Heaven and righteousness, find themselves looking at the evidences of the triumph of God and of goodness over all their wickedness.
V. (23:16-21) THE REFORMATION AND PUBLIC ENTHRONEMENT
Andrew Hill: The coronation of Joash climaxes with a covenant-renewal ceremony led by Jehoiada the priest (23:16). Two distinct but related covenants are enacted in the aftermath of the coup against Athaliah. The first covenant is ratified by the king and the people of Jerusalem, reestablishing the authority of Davidic kingship in Judah (23:3, 11; cf. 2 Kings 11:17b). The second pact is a covenant-renewal ceremony binding king and people in obedience to the law of Moses (2 Chron. 23:16; cf. 2 Kings 11:17a).
The covenant renewal with Yahweh prompts the reform of religious practice in Judah. False worship is purged form the land by destroying the temple of Baal in Jerusalem and executing the priest of Baal, Mattan (23:17; cf. Deut. 13:5-10). Little is known about the temple of Baal in Jerusalem, but it may have been built as part of a marriage contract between Jehoram and Athaliah (cf. 2 Kings 11:1-8). The first covenant rids the land of Athaliah, the illegitimate usurper of the Davidic throne, and reinstates Davidic kingship in Judah. The second covenant renews Yahweh’s relationship with Judah as God’s people and reorganizes temple worship according to the law of Moses. The destruction of the Baal temple in Jerusalem and the purification of temple worship mirrors similar reforms taking place in the northern kingdom at the same time under the leadership of Jehu (cf. 2 Kings 9). For the Chronicler, the restoration of proper temple worship is no less important than the reestablishment of Davidic kingship in Judah.
A. (:16-19) Reformation
1. (:16) Commitment to the Lord
“Then Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people
and the king, that they should be the LORD’s people.”
Martin Selman: The covenant is different from that in verse 11, since this one is made between the people and God rather than the people and the king. The follow-up confirms this distinction, since verses 17-21 are concerned more with religious matters in general than with the specific issue in verses 4-15 of who should be the rightful king. The aim of this covenant was to put current wrongs right. As often in Chronicles, it resulted in a purge of pagan worship (v. 17; cf. 2 Ch. 15:12-16; 34:31-33) in obedience to the Deuteronomic law (cf. Dt. 4:23; 7:6). It also led to the reinstitution of the twin pillars of the Davidic covenant, reorganized temple worship according to God’s law (vv. 17-19) and setting the Davidic king on the rightful throne (v. 20-21).
2. (:17) Cleansing from Idolatry
“And all the people went to the house of Baal, and tore it down,
and they broke in pieces his altars and his images,
and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars.”
J. Barton Payne: They didn’t stop at destroying the building itself; they went on to destroy both the sacred objects dedicated to Baal and to kill Mattan the priest of Baal. The execution of “Mattan the priest of Baal” carried out the requirement of God’s Word directed against those who should lead others into false religion (Deuteronomy 13:5-10).
3. (:18-19) Careful Administration of Divinely Ordained System of Worship
a. (:18a) Worship under the Direction of Levitical Priests
“Moreover, Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the LORD under the authority of the Levitical priests,
whom David had assigned over the house of the LORD,”
b. (:18b) Worship Offered via Appropriate Sacrifices
“to offer the burnt offerings of the LORD,
as it is written in the law of Moses—“
c. (:18c) Worship Accompanied by Rejoicing and Singing
“with rejoicing and singing
according to the order of David.”
d. (:19) Worship Secured by Gatekeepers to Protect against Defilement
“And he stationed the gatekeepers of the house of the LORD,
so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean.”
B. (:20) Palatial Enthronement
1. Procession from the Temple to the Palace
“And he took the captains of hundreds, the nobles, the rulers of the people, and all the people of the land, and brought the king down from the house of the LORD, and came through the upper gate to the king’s house.”
Andrew Hill: The processional leading Joash from the temple to the palace is symbolic, because in one sense Yahweh is returning to the throne of Judah along with the Davidic descendant.
2. Placement on the Royal Throne
“And they placed the king upon the royal throne.”
Frederick Mabie: As the final step of the king’s investiture ceremony and celebration, the whole community participates in a procession to restore the new king on the throne of David in the royal palace. The full gamut of participants in this event (military, noblemen, governors, citizenry, priests) reflects the widespread support for the reforms enacted by the priest Jehoiada, culminating in the reign of Joash.
C. (:21) Rejoicing
1. Due to the Blessing of the Lord
“So all of the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet.”
Peter Wallace: Verse 21 brings to fulfillment the Sabbath-theme of the chapter. . . There is joy and rest and peace, now that Athaliah is gone. A sabbath-rest comes to the people of God, because the foul seed of Ahab is no more.
2. Due to the Judgment of the Lord
“For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword.”
J.A. Thompson: Athaliah’s interregnum was now over. In a sense there never was an interruption of Davidic kingship because Joash was living throughout that sad period even if formally another, a usurper, was on the throne.
Andrew Hill: Typically, the Chronicler employs the expression the people “rejoiced” (smh) to signify the fact that the will of God is now being observed (23:21; cf. 1 Chron. 29:9; 2 Chron. 15:15; 29:36). A second idiom using the word “quiet” (sqt) is often found in Chronicles to denote divine blessing on those who are obedient to God’s word (cf. 1 Chron. 4:40; 22:9; 2 Chron. 13:22; 14:4-5). The biblical adages hold true: The violence of the wicked returns to them (Ps. 7:15-16; Prov. 26:27; Eccl. 10:8), and the judgment of the Lord leads to “quietness” in the land (Ps. 76:8).