LOYALTY TO THE MESSIANIC LINE (AVOIDING EXTINCTION) ENTHRONES YOUNG JOASH WHILE EXECUTING TREACHEROUS ATHALIAH
It is difficult for us to imagine the level of tension in Judah over the apparent eradication of the Davidic Messianic line. It seems as if the covenant promises of God have been overturned by the usurping agenda of wicked Queen Athaliah. She functions as the Jezebel of Judah and continues to promote Baal worship while seeking to exterminate any legitimate heirs to the throne in Jerusalem. She reigns unchallenged for six years with the nation having little visible reason for continued hope in the promises of God. But God uses seemingly insignificant figures to step out in faith and bravery to preserve the life of Joash and install him as the rightful Davidic king.
House: Meanwhile, an extraordinary thing occurs in Judah. A usurper replaces David’s descendants on the throne in Jerusalem, which is the only time such an event happens. Even more unusual is the fact that it is a woman, Ahaziah’s mother, who seizes control. Of course, queen mothers are prominent in 1, 2 Kings, since each one in Judah is named with two exceptions, but no other woman formally rules the nation. This daughter of Ahab (2 Kgs 8:18, 27) certainly imitates Jezebel’s decisiveness, cruelty, and sheer pluck. She thinks she has all heirs to the throne killed and assumes power. For six years she rules, never discovering that one of her grandsons, Joash, has escaped the cold-blooded coup. Only a baby (cf. 2 Kgs 11:3, 21), Joash is hidden by a nurse. God’s promise of an eternal kingdom for David is kept alive, but just barely.
Peter Pett: The prophetic author’s derisory view of Athaliah is brought out by the fact that she has no opening or closing formula applied to her. She is seen as a blip in the succession rather than as an integral part of it. She was, of course, not of the house of David.
August Konkel: The restoration of the Davidic dynasty and the renewal of the covenant are the essence of being God’s people. The report of the restoration of the temple and the destruction of the Baal temple is concluded by summarizing statements of the coronation of the king and the death of Athaliah (11:19–20). The repetition joins the making of the covenant with the restoration of the dynasty. The summary provides more details on the crowning of the king. Joash is escorted from the temple to the palace, where he is placed on the throne. Guards provide security along a route through Guard’s Gate. The procession goes south from Temple Mount toward the “City of David.” The restoration of a true Davidide king and the death of Athaliah bring an end to the domination of the Baal cult in Judah.
Caleb Nelson: We see in this chapter that our God keeps His promises through the work of His people. We see that His coming Messiah cannot be blocked or stopped. And we also see how God’s people ought to respond when they come under the rule of one typologically like that Messiah.
Robert Rayburn: Athaliah had no loyalty to the house of David or to Yahweh’s promise to David’s line. Baal was her god as he had been the god of her parents. There was a Jezebel in Judah too! So Athaliah attempted to eradicate the Davidic line by killing every possible descendant of Ahaziah, whom Jehu had killed. It looked very much as if the Davidic line would come to an end and the promises of God regarding an eternal king to sit on David’s throne would come to nothing. But in a story full of high drama, the line is rescued in one little child thanks to a faithful woman, the wife of a faithful priest (2 Chron. 22:11). . .
No doubt it occurred to you that this is by no means the only time in the history of redemption that the prospects of the kingdom and people of God hung by the thread of an infant boy whose life was being sought by cruel rulers. Moses was allowed to live when he was supposed to be killed upon his birth; he was hidden after he was born because of the anti-Jewish pogrom then underway in Egypt, and then, the Egyptians all unsuspecting, allowed him to grow up in their midst unrecognized for who and what he was to become. And still more important, the Lord Jesus was spirited away from Bethlehem to Egypt for a time and then grew up unrecognized in Nazareth of Galilee, right under the noses of other so-called “kings” of the Jews. [Provan, 221] And, in those cases also those babies were saved from death by the bravery, the determination, and the hutzpah of some faithful people, just as Joash, all unknowing, was saved by Jehosheba and Jehoiada and a cast of minor characters.
I. (:1-3) CONCEALMENT OF JOASH SAVES THE DAVIDIC LINE FROM EXTINCTION –
LOYALTY TO THE MESSIANIC LINE DEMANDS BRAVE RISK TAKING
A. (:1) Threat of Extinction of the Davidic Line
“When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead,
she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring.”
Not a model grandmother!
MacArthur: A granddaughter of Omri (8:26) and daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. She was zealous to rule after the death of her son, Ahaziah (9:27) and was dedicated to seeing the worship of Baal officially sanctioned in Judah. She reigned for 6 years (v. 3) ca. 841-835 B.C. The previous deaths of Jehoram’s brothers (2Ch 21:4) and Ahaziah’s brothers and relatives (10:12-14; 2Ch 21:17) left only her grandchildren for Athaliah to put to death to destroy the Davidic line. Though the Lord had promised that the house of David would rule over Israel and Judah forever (2Sa 7:16), Athaliah’s purge brought the house of David to the brink of extinction.
Clarke: How dreadful is the lust of reigning! It destroys all the charities of life; and turns fathers, mothers, brothers, and children, into the most ferocious savages!
B. (:2) Tactics of Concealment of Joash
“But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, 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 they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death.”
MacArthur: Jehosheba – She was probably the daughter of Jehoram by a wife other than Athaliah, and so al half-sister of Ahaziah, who was married to the High-Priest, Jehoida (2Ch 22:11).
C. (:3) Tyranny of Usurping Queen for Six Years
“So he was hidden with her in the house of the LORD six years,
while Athaliah was reigning over the land.”
II. (:4-11) COMMANDING THE COUP TO RESTORE DAVIDIC RULERSHIP —
LOYALTY TO THE MESSIANIC LINE DEMANDS AGGRESSIVE ACTION
A. (:4-8) Explaining the Plan
1. (:4a) Assembling the Key Military Leaders
“Now in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of hundreds of the Carites and of the guard, and brought them to him in the house of the LORD.”
MacArthur: captains of hundreds – These were the commanders of each 100 soldier unit; 2Ch 23:1, 2 names 5 of these commanders. The bodyguards were “Carites” associated with the Pelethites (2Sa 20:23) who were mercenary soldiers serving as royal bodyguards. The escorts, lit. “runners,” were probably another unit of royal bodyguards who provided palace security (see 1Ki 14:27).
2. (:4b) Swearing Them to Secrecy
“Then he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and showed them the king’s son.”
3. (:5-8) Positioning Them to Protect the King
a. (:5-6) Guarding the King’s Palace
“And he commanded them, saying, ‘This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, who come in on the sabbath and keep watch over the king’s house 6 (one third also shall be at the gate Sur, and one third at the gate behind the guards), shall keep watch over the house for defense.’”
b. (:7) Guarding the Lord’s Temple
“And two parts of you, even all who go out on the sabbath,
shall also keep watch over the house of the LORD for the king.”
c. (:8) Guarding the King Himself
“Then you shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand; and whoever comes within the ranks shall be put to death.
And be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.”
Wiersbe: Jehoiada’s plan was simple but effective. The five officers each commanded one hundred men. Two companies would ordinarily be on duty daily and be replaced on the Sabbath Day, but on this particular Sabbath they would remain on duty and guard the king. A third company would guard the palace where Athaliah lived, and this would give her a false sense of security. A fourth company was assigned to the gat Sur which may have led from the nearby palace to the temple area. The fifth company assembled at the gate behind the guardhouse, a normal place for the temple guards to gather. Anybody watching at the temple would have no reason to suspect that anything dramatic was about to occur. They would see the guards march in and take their usual places, and they might notice that the crowd of worshipers in the temple was larger than usual.
B. (:9-11) Executing the Plan
1. (:9a) Summary of Faithful Execution
“So the captains of hundreds did according to all
that Jehoiada the priest commanded.”
2. (:9b) Strategic Coordination
“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,
and came to Jehoiada the priest.”
3. (:10) Superior Weapons
“And the priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the LORD.”
MacArthur: These were probably part of the plunder David captured from King Hadadezer of Zobah (2Sa 8:3-12). Dedicated to the Lord by David (2Sa 8:7, 11), these articles were stored in the temple. Since the soldiers were already armed, these additional ancient weapons symbolically reassured the soldiers that the temple authorities approved of their actions.
4. (:11) Secure Protection
“And the guards stood each with his weapons 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.”
Peter Pett: The result was that there were armed guards everywhere, assembled without the least suspicion, and all stood ready with their weapons in their hands, both to the right side of the Temple and to the left side of the Temple, and along by the altar and the sanctuary, and at the king’s side and around the king himself as he was brought out.
III. (:12-16) CORONATION OF JOASH AND EXECUTION OF ATHALIAH RESTORES DAVIDIC RULERSHIP –
LOYALTY TO THE MESSIANIC LINE DEMANDS CELEBRATING HIS REIGN AND OPPOSING HIS ENEMIES
A. (:12) Stages in the Coronation Process of Joash
1. Revealing the Legitimate Davidic King
“Then he brought the king’s son out”
2. Crowning the Legitimate Davidic King
“and put the crown on him,”
3. Investing the Legitimate Davidic King with the Law of God
“and gave him the testimony;”
MacArthur: the testimony – This was a copy of the whole law (Ps 119:88). According to Dt 17:18-20, a copy of the law was to be kept with the king always so that it became his guide for life.
4. Anointing the Legitimate Davidic King
“and they made him king and anointed him,”
5. Celebrating the Legitimate Davidic King
“and they clapped their hands and said, ‘Long live the king!’”
B. (:13-14) Surprising Reversal of Fortunes for Athaliah
1. (:13-14a) Revelation of the Newly Crowned King
“When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people,
she came to the people in the house of the LORD.
14 And she looked and behold, the king was standing by the pillar, according to the custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king;”
2. (:14b) Rejoicing of the People
”and all the people of the land rejoiced and blew trumpets.”
3. (:14c) Response of Athaliah
“Then Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, ‘Treason! Treason!’”
Wiersbe: How paradoxical that she should shout “Treason! Treason!” when she was the real traitor. Joash was a descendant of David and had every right to the throne, while Athaliah had seized the throne and had no claim to it.
C. (:15-16) Seizure and Execution of Athaliah
1. (:15) Execution Forbidden in the Holy Temple
“And Jehoiada the priest commanded 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. (:16) Execution Authorized in a Place of Humiliation
“So they seized her, and when she arrived at the horses’ entrance of the king’s house, she was put to death there.”
John Gates: Jehoiada’s faithfulness prevented the politically expedient policy of Jehoshaphat from resulting in the extinction of David’s line. However, the priest’s act only put off Judah’s final downfall.
R. D. Patterson: When the clamor of the people reached the ears of Athaliah, she made her way to the scene of jubilation (v. 13). The sight that greeted her eyes doubtless made her heart sink (v. 14). There, on the royal dias at the eastern gate of the inner court to the temple, stood a newly crowned king, surrounded by the high officials both in the religious order and in the military, amid great fanfare and the joyous shouts of the people. She shrieked out here condemnation: it was treason. But her cry was to have as little effect as that of Israel’s Jehoram to Athaliah’s son Ahaziah (9:23). At Jehoiada’s command she was seized and escorted to the gate used for the palace horses and put to death by the sword (vv. 15-16). Thus Athaliah, the most infamous queen of Judah, died at the hands of her executioners, much as did her mother, Jezebel, queen of Israel (9:27-37).
IV. (:17-20) COVENANT RENEWAL SPARKS RELIGIOUS REFORMS –
LOYALTY TO THE MESSIANIC LINE DEMANDS COVENANT FIDELITY
A. (:17) Significance of the Covenant Renewal
“Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD’s people, also between the king and the people.”
– Initiator of the Covenant Renewal = Jehoiada
– Players involved = the Lord, the king and the people
– Purpose of the Covenant Renewal = “that they should be the Lord’s people”
Peter Pett: Such a renewing of the covenant on important occasions can be paralleled in 2 Kings 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:1 ff; Joshua 8:30-35; Joshua 24:2-25; 2 Samuel 5:3 with 1 Chronicles 11:3; 2 Chronicles 29:3 ff). It was an essential part of returning to the true worship of YHWH. By it the people were acknowledging YHWH as their sole God and Overlord, and their responsibility to be His holy people and observe His laws and commandments.
John Schultz: The essence of the covenant that Jehoiada made between the Lord, the king and the people, was that the king would reign, not as absolute monarch, but as God’s representative.
B. (:18a) Smashing the Foundations of Baal Worship
“And all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down;
his altars and his images they broke in pieces thoroughly,
and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars.”
MacArthur: “house of Baal” – A temple that had been built in Jerusalem and used by Athaliah to promote the worship of Baal in Judah. As Jezebel had promoted Baalism in Israel, her daughter Athaliah had sought its sanction in Judah. During Athaliah’s reign as queen, Baalism gained its strongest foothold in Judah. This purge of Baalism in Judah paralleled the earlier purge of Baalism led by Jehu in the northern kingdom (10:18-29).
House: This religious reform parallels Jehu’s in some ways yet diverges in certain crucial areas. Baal’s temple is destroyed in both instances, but only the leader of Baalism is killed in Judah’s reform. Baalism is removed as the state religion in each case, yet the people dominate the reform in Judah, whereas the new king orchestrates the changes in Israel. Prophetic predictions fuel Jehu’s purge, while a priest drives the people forward in Judah. In the north separatist Yahwism seems to have no real voice after the coup, and Jeroboam’s cult appears to resume its earlier role as state religion. In Judah the high places are not removed (cf. 2 Kgs 12:3), but separatist Yahwism has been returned to the temple by its champion, Jehoiada. From this analysis it seems likely that the reform in the south has more popular support, more institutional backing, and more chance of long-term survival. Neither reform, though, goes as far as the narrator thinks is necessary.
Caleb Nelson: The second thing the Judeans got rid of was the idolatrous apparatus — the altar and the images. Again, we need to apply this personally, in our lives, our homes, and the businesses and other institutions we control. Does the machinery or apparatus of idolatry exist in your home? If you worship the God of entertainment, the apparatus you use is a big TV and a powerful sound system. If you worship the God of convenience, the apparatus with which you do it may be a big smartphone or an Amazon Echo. If you worship the god of human relationships, the apparatus with which you do it may be clothes, makeup, and other image and status artifacts. If you worship the god of prosperity, the apparatus may be your tools or your bank accounts. If you worship the God of the Bible, but reduced to a size and level you can control, you may have images of God and Jesus in your house. You may not be able to get rid of certain of these different apparatuses of idolatry, and some of them have legitimate uses. But brothers and sisters, if you are confirmed money-worshipper you may need to severely curtail your bank account. If you are a food-worshipper you may need to keep an empty fridge. If you are an images-of-Christ worshipper, you may need to get rid of your idolatrous pictures.
C. (:18b) Structuring the Renewal of Temple Worship
“And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD.”
D. (:19) Seating Joash on the Throne
“And he took the captains of hundreds and the Carites and the guards and all the people of the land; and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, and came by the way of the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings.”
E. (:20) Securing Peace for Judah
“So all the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet.
For they had put Athaliah to death with the sword at the king’s house.”
Wiersbe: What a joyful crowd it was that escorted the king from the temple to the palace, where they placed him on the throne! Satan’s attempt to end the Davidic line had failed, and the messianic promise was still in force. The people had done the will of God and obeyed His Word, and for the first time in many years, righteousness and peace reigned in the land.
John Schultz: Then the new young king is led to the throne room of the royal palace and put on the throne to the joy of all the people. There must have been the noise of celebration, but we read that the city was quiet, which may be read as that there was no opposition from the side of former Athaliah supporters, if there had been any.
“Jehoash was seven years old when he became king.”
R. D. Patterson: After the departure of the deposed Athaliah, Jehoiada led the king and the people in a twofold ceremony of covenant renewal: on the one hand, the king and the people swore their unswerving allegiance to God; on the other, the people affirmed their unfailing support of the reconstituted Davidic line (v. 17). In attestation to their vows, a thorough cleansing of the land followed (v. 18). Baal’s temple was torn down, his priest Mattan slain before the images, and the altar thoroughly pulverized (2Chron 23:17). Not only was the pagan worship of Baal put away, but a reorganization of the temple worship followed that was in accordance with the law of Moses and that followed the order instituted by David.