IIkings 11–12 (II Chronicles 22–24). Another Palace Coup.
Joash, Jehoshaba, Jehoiada and Athaliah.
Key Notes: Survival of the line of David. Jehoiada's coup against Athaliah. Money for Temple repair. Spiritual mammals and amphibians.
The story of Joash is like a piece of English history, rather romantic on the face of it. An infant boy is protected by his nurse and becomes king at the age of seven. He reigns long and well with the help of a faithful priest. The story is rich in lessons for us.
IIK.11: 1–3 Ahaziah, king of Judah was dead, killed by Jehu, along with many others. His mother Athaliah decided to seize the throne. She killed all her grandchildren, anyone who could compete for her place as queen. She could not have done that by herself. The palace guard must have complied with her demand, suggesting that they were as corrupt and conscienceless as she.
However, she did not completely succeed. A nurse took one infant child from the line of David and hid him in a store-room of mattresses. Then his aunt, Jehosheba, wife of the high priest Jehoiada (IIChron.22:11–12), took him into the temple where he lived for seven years. He probably lived in one of the many cubicles built onto the outside of the sanctuary. The walls were thick and Athaliah probably did not go near the temple anyway. There was a temple to Baal nearby.
IIK.11:4–12 When Joash was seven, Johoiada the high priest arranged a coup. It was carried out on Sabbath. He had the temple guards who were going off duty on Sabbath morning, and the double guard coming on duty on Sabbath to remain together, surrounding the Temple and the palace. The guard would include Charites, soldiers and Levites. (IIChron. 23:4–8). The Charites are believed to be related to the Cherethites, immigrants from Crete, living with Philistines who had been a loyal part of David’s army. (IISam.15:18). After arming them, Jehoiada brought the boy out, crowned him and anointed him. There was clapping and shouts: “Long live the King”.
IIK.11:13–16 Athaliah was a Baal-worshipper, and we suppose that nothing about the Temple interested her, not even the noises of a small child. But shouts acclaiming a new king could not escape her notice, and she came out, apparently alone. Her cries of “treason” should have turned the guards back to her control. But they were now devoted to the legitimate leader. She was forcibly expelled and killed outside the horse entrance of the palace grounds. They would not allow her to be killed in the Temple. The Temple was a sanctuary, a place where almost anyone could be safe. (IK.2:28–31 is an exception.)
IIK.11:17–20 Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the people that they should be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant for the king and the people, that he would be their king and they would be his people. (IISam.5:1–2). Then the people destroyed the temple of Baal. presumably near by, and killed its priest.
The king was brought into the palace and seated on the throne. The city was quiet.
IIK.12:1–3 Joash was faithful all the days of the high priest. However, the high places where idol worship had traditionally been done, were left in place.
IIK.12:6 Joash proposed that the Temple be repaired. It was 124 years old. Athaliah’s sons had broken into the temple and used devoted objects for the worship of Baal. (IIChron. 24:7). Joash suggested four kinds of donations to be used for the repair work.
1. “All the money of the holy things” is money normally devoted to make sacred vessels.
2. “The money for which each man is assessed” is a half shekel tax paid by every male from 20 years and up at the time of a census. Ex.30:12–16
3. “The money from the assessment of persons” is money determined by a vow and the worth of the person making the vow. Lev.27:1–8
4. Money "which a man’s heart prompts him to give” is a free-will offering.
“Money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings” was the priests’ income.
Twenty-three years went by and nothing happened--no work on the Temple was done. We suppose that Jehoiada was acting as premier and was too busy with political affairs to attend to Temple business.
IIK.12:7–16 Joash came back to the Temple and asked why the priests had not done the job. Apparently they had continued using the Temple contributions for their own income. Jehoiada understood the problem. He made a collection box where Temple repair money would be deposited. Then the worshiper could plainly tell whether a gift went for the Temple or to the priest.
Coinage was not in use anywhere until around 500BC. The half-shekel for a thousand years before was a weighted amount of pure silver, part of a strip or an ingot. So the collected silver or gold was weighed out and given in exchange for timber, or stone, and for the labor of the craftsmen. The workers were honest and did not require an accounting.
IIChron.24:15–16. Jehoiada died at 130 years and was buried in honor among the kings of Judah. He had done good to Israel, toward God and the Temple.
IIChron.24:17–19 After he died , Joash was persuaded to go to Baal worship by the princes of Judah. They forsook the Temple. The soft and sexy worship of Ashterte was much more interesting than the hard, austere worship of JHWH.
IIChron.24:20–22. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, and he prophesied against their sin. “Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has forsaken you.”
The people stoned him to death on orders from Joash.
IIChron.24:23–27 Predictably, bad things happened.
Syria captured Gath on the Mediterranean plain (IIK.12:17) and then Hazael headed for Jerusalem. He defeated a much larger army of Judah and went away with much wealth. (IIK.12:18). The Syrians also wounded Joash. Then two servants assassinated him in his bed. IIChron.24:25
Sic transit gloria mundi.
The temple treasury episode reminds of us the need for clear communication and financial accountability in Christian ministry.
The killing of the prophets, of whom Zechariah is a prime example, was part of Jesus indictment of Israel (Matt.23:35). We do not know if Jesus referred to this Zechariah or sone other, perhaps the prophet who wrote the book of Zechariah. (Zech.1:7). This murder was especially foul because his father had been Joash’s savior, benefactor and mentor.
Why this “kill the messenger” theme in Scripture? Do the people think the prophet does not speak for God? Probably so. Remember what the American public thought when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said 9 / ll was God’s judgment on our sins? They were roundly criticized for rushing to judgment, being uncaring of those who suffered and died, and for bad taste. No one, not even the embarrassed evangelicals who tried to do damage control, seemed to consider the possibility that they were correct.
There are several boy-babies in Scripture who were rescued by their care-givers.
•Moses’s mother kept him for three months before she put him into the Nile in a basket,guarded by his sister and rescued by the princess of Egypt. Ex.2:2–3
•Mephibosheth, son of Ishbosheth, son of Saul, was rescued by his nurse from the civil war. His feet were injured in a fall but he survived to eat at David’s table. IISam.4:4
•Joash was saved from Athaliah by his nurse. IIK.11:1–3
•Jesus was carried off to Egypt by his parents to protect him from Herod. Matt.2:13–14
Jehoiada died at 130, about 800BC. He was born around 930BC, when the kingdom split between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. He had lived through the disasters of the Northern kingdom—Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab+Jezebel , Jehoram and the purges of Jehu. He had watched Asa and Jehoshaphat, two good kings of Judah at work. He had been faithful, but as yet unknown. His contribution came in old age. He was Joash’s mentor for at least 30 years, dying sometime before Joash died. He did not start his significant work until he was about 100 years old. He had been faithful in little. God made him ruler over much. Lk.16:10;’:17
Other servants of God have been notable for productivity at advanced ages.
•Abram was called of God at age 75 (Gen.12:4) to walk with Him in Canaan. He was given the promised child that would start his great family at the age of 100. Gen.21:5
•Moses was 80 years old when he was called to liberate Israel. He died at 120 years (Deut.34:7), and had guided Israel in the desert for forty years.
•Barzillai was an 80 year-old wealthy landowner who provisioned David and his people escaping from Absalom. (IISam.19:3`-37). He is otherwise unknown.
•Simeon and Anna were old saints who lived to see the birth of the Messiah and to prophesy on His behalf to the people of Jerusalem. Lk.2:25–38
The moral is that we should not presume on what God will have us to do based on our age and our other obligations. He used Joash to reestablish the monarchy at age 7; he used Jehoiada to mentor him at age 100.
Jehoiada was an outstanding man of God in the priesthood. The priests were not notable for their spiritual strength. They were supposed to be mediators between God and the people, but many of them are only mentioned in genealogies.
•Aaron made the golden calf at Sinai to placate Israel. Ex.32:4
He and his sister Miriam later opposed Moses’ leadership. Num.12:1
•Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson led a purge of Baal worshipers. Num.25:7.
•Eli was an indulgent priest who allowed his sons to corrupt the Israelites. (ISam.1–4). His family line was cut off from leadership.
•Abiathar, who had been protected by David (ISam.22:20) from Saul, later defected from David’s son Solomon and went over to Adonijah. (IK.1:7). He was banished from the priesthood. IK.2:26
After the Exile, the high priest became the leader of Israel, there being neither king nor prophet for 400 years until Christ. Like the kings, there were some good, some bad. Caiaphus cannot be well spoken of.
Joash appears quite weak.
He was rescued by his aunt in infancy.
The priest crowned him.
The priest made his marriages. IIChron.24:3
The priest kept him in line.
The princes seduced him to Baal worship.
The Syrians wounded him.
His servants killed him.
He was acted upon rather than acting. When he was with Jehoiada, he did what the priest advised. When the priest was gone and the princes lobbied for Baal, he went with them. Consequently we can think of him as an amphibian. His internal temperature was the same as that of the environment.
Mammals maintain internal energy and temperature constant over a wide range of external conditions. Amphibians depend on external heat sources to maintain their body temperature. It is a test of the believer to be able to maintain a near-constant spiritual life in spite of exposure to persecution (cold) or prosperity (heat), or lack of resources (isolation from church and community). It is the Holy Spirit who is our inner thermal regulator.
Can we explain Joash’s downfall? It may be the genes. His father was Ahaziah, son of Jehoram and married to Athaliah. It may have been his upbringing. He must have been pampered from birth, being the sole survivor of David’s lineage. He appears to have been dependent on Jehoiada all his life.
Perhaps Jehoiada was not wise enough to build into his protege the spiritual strength that would enable him to survive in crises and temptations.
Was he progressively exposed to larger challenges so that he could grow in wisdom and stature?
He should have been taught the fear of God.
He needed a copy of the Law for study.
He should have had his feet set on the Rock.
We must do all that and more for the children of our generation.