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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 12

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



A full century had passed since the death of Solomon. Rehoboam reigned for 17 years (1 Kings 14:21); Abijah reigned for 3 years (1 Kings 15:2); Asa reigned for 41 years (1 Kings 15:10); Jehoshaphat reigned for 25 years (1 Kings 22:42); Jehoram reigned for 8 years (2 Kings 8:17); Ahaziah reigned for 1 year (2 Kings 8:25-26);p and the usurper, Athaliah, reigned for 6 years (2 Kings 11:1-3) - a total of 101 years. Furthermore, the repair of the breaches in the temple did not take place until the 23rd year of the reign of Joash (2 Kings 12:6). Thus, a total of 124 years had elapsed following the death of Solomon, which was plenty of time for extensive deterioration of the temple and related structures. Also, Athaliah had been using the materials from it to construct and embellish her temple of Baal. Solomon’s temple must therefore have been in serious need of reconstruction.

The length of the reign of Joash is given as 40 years (2 Kings 12:1), but nothing of any great significance occurred in his reign other than the efforts to repair Solomon’s temple. As long as Jehoiada lived to advise and instruct Joash, he did what was right in God’s sight, but following the death of Jehoiada, he lapsed into paganism and even approved the murder of the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).

It is amazing that James Montgomery in the International Critical Commentary wrote that, “A reminiscence of this crime is preserved in Matthew 23:35.”(F1) However, that passage in Matthew has no connection whatever with the murder of this particular Zechariah. Christ, in that passage, was rebuking the Pharisees and exposing them as the secret murderers of another Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, not the son of Jehoiada. (See our comment on this in Vol. 1 (Matthew), of my N.T. Commentaries, pp. 378-379.)

Verses 1-3


“Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign. In the seventh year of Jehu began Jehoash to reign; and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Jehoash did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Howbeit the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.”

“Jehoash did… right… all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” The author of this passage was evidently one who loved Jehoash, because he refrained from recording the shameful lapses of this king after the death of Jehoiada. 2 Chronicles 24 gives us the “rest of the tragic story.” The words “wherein Jehoiada… instructed him” are ample witness and confirmation of the fuller account in Chronicles.

“Howbeit the high places were not taken away” “These vestiges of the ancient paganism remained a constant snare. It was all too easy to slip into the nature and fertility rituals which the Canaanites had preserved for centuries at such shrines.”(F2) It finally came to pass that racial Israel turned away from God and embraced the gross sensuality of pagan worship almost (but not quite) totally. When it became evident that this was the determined will of practically the whole nation, God sent them into captivity in Babylon, where they were finally cured of their idolatry.

Verses 4-8


“And Jehoash said to the priests, All the money of the hallowed things that is brought into the house of Jehovah, in current money, the money of the persons for whom each man is rated, and all the money that cometh into any man’s heart to bring into the house of Jehovah, let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance; and they shall repair the breaches of the house, wheresoever any breach shall be found. But it was so that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house. Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and for the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore take no more money from your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house. And the priests consented that they should take no more money from the people, neither repair the breaches of the house.”

“In current money” “Three kinds of money are mentioned here: (1) the half-shekel required by the Law (Exodus 30:13); (2) the money paid by those who had devoted themselves or made vows, a variable sum depending on age, sex, and property (Leviticus 27:2-8); and (3) the money offered in the way of free-will offerings.”(F3)

The narrative in this paragraph indicates that the king ordered the priests to repair the breaches in the temple, but that for some indefinite time (not indicated in the text) they did not do so, continuing to use all the money they received for themselves. With ten of the twelve tribes now under a separate system of government and no longer giving anything whatever for the support of the temple and its priests and Levites, coupled with the unfavorable economic conditions, the priests might not have been receiving enough money to do what the king ordered. There also might have been some instances of dishonesty in their handling of the money, although the text does not say that.

“Every man from his acquaintance” It is not clear here just what this means; but in 2 Chronicles 24:5 we learn that “The collection was to be made throughout Judah, each of the priests and Levites collecting the temple tax in his own neighborhood.”(F4)

“The priests consented that they should take no more money from the people, neither repair the breaches in the temple” This indicates that the priests consented to take no more money “from the people,” that is, the revenue from certain classes of the three sources of money mentioned above, and that they were also to be freed of any further obligation to repair the temple. See under 2 Kings 12:16 for the portion of the money that was strictly allotted to the priests.

The net result of this new arrangement was to take the affairs of the temple out of the hands of the priests and concentrate them in the hands of the king, which, of course, proved to be an unhappy development.

The fact that the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign had been reached with nothing being done to repair the temple leaves an unfavorable impression regarding the priesthood of that period. The following paragraph shows that the king himself took charge of the temple finances. Thus, very early in Israel’s history, we have evidence of the corruption of the Jewish priesthood, a corruption that reached its climax in the days of Malachi. when God Himself actually cursed that priesthood (Malachi 2:1-2).

Verses 9-16


“But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side, as one cometh into the house of Jehovah: and the priests that kept the threshold put therein all the money that was brought into the house of Jehovah. And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they put in bags and counted the money that was found in the house of Jehovah. And they gave the money that was weighed out into the hands of them that did the work, that had the oversight of the house of Jehovah: and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders, that wrought upon the house of Jehovah, and to the masons and the hewers of stone, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the breaches of the house of Jehovah, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it. But there were not made for the house of Jehovah cups of silver, basins, snuffers, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of Jehovah; for they gave that to them that did the work, and repaired therewith the house of Jehovah. Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to give to them that did the work; for they dealt faithfully. The money for the trespass-offerings, and the money for the sin-offerings, was not brought into the house of the Jehovah: it was the priests’.”

“Jehoiada… took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it” Evidently, this was a new thing, the very first collection box that is mentioned in the Bible. There was something permanent about that innovation, because there was still in use such a collection box when the widow cast in her two mites in the days of Christ (Mark 12:42). So important was Jehoiada in preserving some semblance of authenticity in the worship of God in Judah that God extended his life far beyond the normal expectancy of that period. According to 2 Chronicles 24:14, he lived to be 130 years of age. “He was so highly esteemed that when he died he was given the signal honor of being buried in the royal tombs.”(F5)

“Buying timber and hewn stone to repair breaches the house of Jehovah” This indicates at Athaliah’s robbing of materials from Solomon’s temple was anything but trivial. Timbers and hewn stone had been take away. Additionally, as Smith stated it, “The sumptuous days of Solomon were long past; and the temple must have fallen into sad decay.”(F6)

“There were not made for the house of Jehovah cups of silver” Much as the priests might have desired to have such things, a very high priority was given to the cost of repairing the temple itself.

“The men into whose hands they delivered the money… dealt faithfully” This is a refreshing comment regarding the overseers of the reconstruction project, and it contrasts dramatically with what was not said regarding the way those priests handled the money until the 23rd year of the king’s reign. The large monies placed in the collection box shows the popular approval of Joash’s move to repair the dilapidated temple. The large amount of money may also be viewed as raising some question about what the priests had been doing with the money prior to the new system. Some scholars have actually suggested dishonesty, but the text does not support such an allegation.

Verses 17-18


“Then Hazael king of Syria went up and fought against Gath and took it; and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem. And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and of the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem.”

It is surprising that an idolater like Ahaziah the son of Athaliah had placed dedicated things in the house of Jehovah, but again we have evidence that the idolatry of those days was not monotheistic in any manner. Practically all of the peoples of that era accepted the conception that there were many gods, each one limited to the land where he was worshipped. That entire error, however, was vigorously opposed by believers in the one true and Almighty God, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, called Jehovah in our version.

Speaking of the name Jehovah, our long studies in the Holy Bible have convinced us that this is a corrupt name for God, having no validity whatever, and that the common name Lord, or God is far preferable. It is one of the glories of the Revised Standard Version that the word “Jehovah” does not appear anywhere in it. The use of it in our version (ASV) is just one of the serious mistakes in this version.

David Francis Roberts writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia speaks knowingly of “Contradictions in 2 Chronicles (24) of the account in 2 Kings,”(F7) but he cited nothing of any importance. The variations are merely those that should be expected from different reports of the same events. As we have stressed frequently, if we knew all of the facts, most of the alleged contradictions would disappear.

The penetration of Hazael as far as Gath showed that neither Israel nor Judah was able to stand against the inroads of the king of Syria. It is likely that God would have spared Judah this humiliation had it not been for the sins of Jehoash. After the death of Jehoiada, he turned to paganism and even ordered the execution of Jehoiada’s son, the prophet Zechariah. 2 Chronicles 24:24 makes it perfectly clear that God sent this disaster upon Joash and his kingdom in answer to the dying prayer of Zechariah. Furthermore, the subsequent assassination of Joash was said to have been done, “for the blood of the son of Jehoiada” (2 Chronicles 24:25, margin).

Verses 19-21


“Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy, and smote Joash at the house of Millo, on the way that goeth down to Silla. For Jozacar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son Shomer, his servants, smote him, and he died; and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David: and Amaziah his son reigned in his stead.”

We are not told why Joash was at Millo, which was evidently a fortress, but in all probability, the general disapproval of the people for his shameful murder of the son of the High Priest who had saved his life in infancy and guided him to the throne of Judah was strongly deplored by all the people.

That disapproval, of course, would have resulted in Joash’s having sought what he considered to be a safer place in the fortress of Millo.

What is said here of the conspiracy that led to his murder confirms the more detailed report in 2 Chronicles.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-kings-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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