2 Kings 11:1-21.
Living for God's Purposes
American Journal of Biblical Theology July 11, 2004 Copyright © 2004, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
The books of Kings and Chronicles record the succession of the kings of Judah and Israel, kings that were appointed at the desire of the people against the counsel of the Lord through the prophet, Samuel. Samuel prophesied that If Israel were to have a king similar to the pagan nations around them, such a polity of kings would lead them away from the Lord, and would place them into bondage. Though King Saul was succeeded by King David, it was in David that the spiritual pinnacle was reached. David's son, Solomon conscripted the people into his projects to rebuild the cities, placing them into bondage as Samuel had prophesied. Solomon also failed to have David's love for the Lord and started the downward spiral as king after king gave little interest to God's purpose for the nation. The nation saw occasional revivals under more godly kings, but the spiral continued downward until both nations were taken into captivity and God's glory left the temple. 400 years of spiritual darkness followed until the birth of Christ.
What is God's purpose for your life? What are some of the consequences of living a life that is contrary to those purposes. As we observe our culture we see a people who are more fully committed to their own passions and desires than to anything concerning a God that they largely ignore. Folks search and search for meaning and abundance, unaware or uninterested in Jesus' promise that his coming would bring an abundant life to those who would follow Him (John 10:10.) God's purpose for Israel was the same as for His church today: to be His people and serving as His witness to the rest of the world so that all could be saved from the eternal separation from Him that a life of apostasy warrants.
By the time we get to the 11th chapter of 2 Kings, Israel (both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah) have ignored God for so long that they are well-embedded into the pagan world culture. The people of Israel follow after the sensual gods and the philosophies of the world. Today's sensual gods and pagan philosophies vary little from those in ancient times, and the draw of the sinful world is like a magnet that would pull all people to their doom were it not for the saving act of Jesus Christ on the Cross who took on Himself the penalty for our sin. However, simply acknowledging that Jesus is Lord does not save. Satan acknowledges that Jesus is Lord, just not his. Accepting Jesus as Lord involves submitting to Him as Lord, and in that submission we find God's purpose for our lives. To reject God is to live a life of apostasy, a life devoid of that purpose. We see many examples of those who rejected God in the downward spiral that characterized Israel.
2 Kings 11:1.
And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.
God had made a promise to King David, that the throne of Israel would not only be maintained in the line of his descendents, that that the line would last forever. We know that Jesus was in the line of David, and by Jesus' authority of as the King of Kings, God's promise has been fulfilled. However, God did not always accomplish his purposes through solely miraculous means, but more commonly, did so through the actions of godly people. Athaliah was not characterized as one of those people. She was the daughter of Ahab, one of the most wicked of Israel's kings. When Jehoshaphat was king over Judah, he made a treaty with Ahab through the marriage of his son Jehoram to Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Their son was Ahaziah who served as king of Judah following Jehoram. This makes Athaliah the queen mother of Judah, yet the daughter of Ahab the godless king of Israel.
When Jehoram died, it was Athaliah's intent to seize the throne of Judah. To succeed in this would have two consequences. First, this would place both Israel and Judah under the control of Israel's king. Second, it would end the Davidic line of kings, since Athaliah was not in that line, nor would be any of her successors. Ahaziah was the sixth king in the line of David. To assure her position on the throne, Athaliah set out to destroy the Davidic line by murdering all of those in that line. This would include her own grandchildren born to Ahaziah. One of those grandchildren, one who would continue the Davidic line was Joash, son of Jehoram. Her task would not be too difficult since precedent had been set: Jehoram killed all of his own brothers to assure his own position on the throne.
2 Kings 11:2-3.
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 which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. 3And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.
In a sense, Athaliah's plans appeared successful. Following her murderous seizure of the throne of Judah, she served as the nation's queen for six years. However, it is apparent that she was not too closely associated with her own family. She either did not know that Ahaziah had a newborn son named Joash, or she assumed that she murdered all her grandchildren when she took the throne. Those in the line of David were well aware of the promise that God made to David and when Athaliah made her move to destroy God's purpose in Israel, Jehosheba took action to preserve that purpose. Jehosheba was the sister (or half-sister) of Ahaziah, daughter of Jehoram. This would make her Joash's aunt, a princess of Judah. She was also the wife of the high priest Jehoaida, who would play an important part in the unfolding of this drama.
We see a lot of similarity in the backgrounds of Athaliah and Jehosheba. Both were daughters of Israel's kings, Athaliah of the northern kingdom, and Jehosheba of the southern. Both were raised as princesses, with all of the benefits of that status. We see, however, a marked difference in their personalities. Athaliah followed in the wicked line of her father, Ahab. However, Jehosheba remembered the promise made to David, and instead of sitting back and enjoying the status of her position, risked it all to be used of God to preserve the Davidic line. Athaliah was successful in murdering all of the sons of Athaliah except Joash, who Jehosheba took from among his siblings during Athaliah's murderous rage. Jehosheba took the boy and his nurse and hid in a bedchamber. Likely this was simply a storeroom for linens.
It is interesting that Jehosheba kept the knowledge of the surviving heir a secret by keeping him in the temple of the LORD for the six years while Athaliah reigned. Why was Joash safe here? Athaliah, obviously, did not give any notice to the temple, the temple sacrifices, or the Glory of God that was there. However, Jehosheba was close enough to the temple, its guards, and its daily routine, to be able to keep Joash there. Also, by keeping him there, the guards would serve as protection should Athaliah make another attempt at his life.
2 Kings 11:4.
And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard, and brought them to him into the house of the LORD, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the LORD, and showed them the king’s son.
The nature of Athaliah's reign and her absence from the temple would have made her apostasy clear to the entire nation, and her presence as reigning queen would be a dramatic disappointment to all who served in the temple. So, it is no surprise that they would be loyal to Jehoiada, the high priest. It is not clear why Jehoiada waited for the seventh year of Athaliah's reign to make his move. Perhaps it took this long for the political setting to be in his favor, or it could be simply that Joash was now old enough and educated enough in temple matters to take the throne. Athalia's attempt to destroy the Davidic line had one effect that she could never have planned. Had she not taken the throne, it would have gone to Joash, a man who would follow after his godless fathers. However, her actions resulted in Joash's six years in the temple where he learned of God and turned to Him.
Joash was ready.
2 Kings 11:5-8.
And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do; A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king’s house; 6And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur; and a third part at the gate behind the guard: so shall ye keep the watch of the house, that it be not broken down. 7And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath, even they shall keep the watch of the house of the LORD about the king. 8And ye shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand: and he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain: and be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in.
Jehoiada, the high priest, gave orders to the entire army of Judah which was now loyal to him. In order to assure the successful succession of Joash to the throne, he mobilized the army into a defensive posture with one third of the army forming a defense against the house of the queen and two-thirds forming a close defense in the temple that surrounded the king. At this point there is little that Athaliah can do to take any action against Joash.
2 Kings 11:9-12.
And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that should go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. 10And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David’s spears and shields, that were in the temple of the LORD. 11And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple. 12And he brought forth the king’s son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.
With his defenses set up, Jehoaida commenced with the anointing of Joash as the king of Judah. Unlike the previous ascensions to the throne that were characterized by intrigue and violence, Jehoiada returned to the model set by Samuel in the anointing of Saul and David. However, the setting was a little different. The writer of 2 Kings paints a vivid picture of the ordination. Surrounding the ceremony were the temple guard and the soldiers of the army with fully two-thirds of the army mobilized for this event. Surrounding this defense were the crowds of people who had come to witness the ordination. Recall the other third of the army is watching the house of the queen. In the center of this defense, Jehoiada presented the crown and testimony to Joash, made proclamations of his sovereignty, and anointed him with oil. A cheerful applause and words of praise were raised by the crowd that was assembled there.
2 Kings 11:13-14.
And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the LORD. 14And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason.
If anyone understood the concept of treason, it was the murderous Athaliah who witnessed treasonous acts in her own family, and ultimately took the throne of Judah in murderous treason. However, despite her best efforts to murder all who were in the line of David, here stood her grandson, standing in the posture of a king with the crown and testimony (most likely a scroll that contained the king's duties outlined in Deuteronomy,) surrounded by his court and an adulate crowd. Her attempt at overthrowing God's promise was fully and completely nullified, and she had absolutely no power to respond with. Joash, now part of the temple culture, supported by the high priest, the armies, and the people is the king.
Her symbol of mourning, the rending of her clothes, was certainly a cultural response, but in part she also knew her fate. Though crying, "treason," she could also be experiencing the shock of the knowledge that her life was now held in the hand of this new king who she attempted to murder and who's throne she personally usurped.
2 Kings 11:15-16.
But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host, and said unto them, Have her forth without the ranges: and him that followeth her kill with the sword. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of the LORD. 16And they laid hands on her; and she went by the way by the which the horses came into the king’s house: and there was she slain.
Athaliah's reign was similar in character to that of her father, Ahab. She promoted idolatry and led both her husband and her son in the worship of Baal. Jehoiada gave orders to the commanders of the army and temple guard to arrest her and remove her from the temple. It is interesting that she did not leave by the main gate for all to see. She certainly would have preferred the public display of her arrest and would receive some level of dignity in being treated as an important person. However, the guards took her out by the way of the horse path between the king's house and the temple, a private path where she would not be seen. It was there that she was executed and her godless, violent, and idolatrous reign was ended. In her place was Joash, her young grandson, one who is in the lineage of David.
2 Kings 11:17.
And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD’S people; between the king also and the people.
With the coming of this new king, there would be a revival of faith in God. With the pagan influence of Athaliah removed from royal power, Jehoiada clarified God's purpose for the king by establishing a covenant between the Lord, the king, and the people. Jehoiada simply repeated the covenant that God made with His people that they would be His, and He would be their God. The fact that Jehoiada made this covenant clearly indicates that it was agreed to by the king and by the people. Before Joash would reign as king, it would be made clear that the LORD is God, and that this king and these people would follow Him and Him alone. The succession of wicked and godless kings would be broken. Again, oddly enough, the breaking of this chain of ungodliness came at the hands of Athaliah herself as she precipitated the events that are currently taking place. David's line was now restored, and done so in a manner that brought the throne back to God.
2 Kings 11:18.
And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD.
The agreement of the people is quite evident. Realizing their covenant with God, they recognized the sinfulness of their pagan worship practices, and like an addict who destroys the source of his addiction, the people destroyed the pagan temples, their icons, and their altars. They also put to death the priest of Baal who led them away from God, Mattan, the priest of Baal, the priest of Athaliah. With his death, the power of Athaliah to lead the nation away from God was fully ended, and the people could start afresh. Jehoiada also brought order to the temple by restoring its temple administration. With the acts of this day, the throne was restored, the people were restored, and the temple was restored.
2 Kings 11:19-21.
And he took the rulers over hundreds, and the captains, and the guard, and all the people of the land; and they brought down the king from the house of the LORD, and came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings. 20And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet: and they slew Athaliah with the sword beside the king’s house. 21Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign.
What precipitated the restoration of the nation? Chapter 11 of 2 Kings records a very significant event, a chapter that starts with an apostate nation under the leadership of a sequence of godless and violent kings, yet with one simple series of events the nation is fully restored. This restoration was restored through the simple, yet courageous, actions of a single Jewish woman who was determined to be used of God in any way that would serve God's purposes. Her act of faith set in motion the events that would not only restore the line of David, but would also restore the faith of the nation, something she certainly dearly desired, but never considered to be the result of her actions.
We can never know the impact that simple acts of love and faith can have on the unfolding of daily events. A simple word of encouragement could restore a broken person, placing them on a new path in life. Encouraging a simple decision in a church body could change its direction forever. God is in the life-changing business and when His people seek to follow His purposes for them, they can be used by Him in dramatic ways. When we live a life that is self-centered and does not acknowledge God, we are encamped with the likes of Athaliah who was also self-centered and did not acknowledge God. It is only when we turn away from the sensual and selfish idols of this world and turn to God in faith that we will experience the blessings that come from that faith. It is then, as we listen to God's purpose in our lives and look for opportunities to share His love with others, and act on opportunities to give an account for our faith, we will find ourselves witnessing the mighty acts of God, and recognizing our small, but important, part in it.