2 Kings 12:3. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, where the holy patriarchs and prophets had worshipped the Lord. The people venerated those places, but the law it would seem, absolutely required all sacrifices, except sin-offerings, to be offered in the temple. Deuteronomy 16.
2 Kings 12:18. Sent it to Hazael: viz. all the hallowed treasures of the temple. Where then was Israel’s God? Alas, this king was good only while his uncle guarded his person, and influenced his council. He had a prodigal heart which spurned restraints.
2 Kings 12:20. His servants slew him. By his apostasy, and the murder of the priests, his cousins, he became so unpopular that nobody would defend him. Zachariah prayed the Lord to require his blood, and that of his brothers; and the Lord now did so. See the account of their martyrdom in 2 Chronicles 24:21.
Having seen Israel purged of bloody and wicked rulers, we now see a period of peace under the wise ministry of Jehoiada the highpriest, and uncle of the king. Poverty and affliction assailed the kingdom; otherwise the worship of the Lord was brought into a resemblance of the happier times of David and of Solomon. When men high in office are more distinguished by their goodness than their greatness, it is peculiarly happy for their country.—The only complaint brought against the age is, that the high places were not taken away; and worshipping the Lord on those hills was a long controverted subject. Every city, for ought we know, had a high place for peace-offerings, and even for burning incense. They could therefore boast of following the example of their fathers, and that God had met the patriarchs in many of those identical spots, for the communication of special blessings, and the renewal of the covenant. The high places were, notwithstanding, very often perverted to idolatry; and therefore it was the best and safest way for Israel to have but one altar; for we have but one Mediator between God and man.
Jehoiada, striving to repair the spiritual temple, neglected for a long time to repair the breach in the outward temple, and to fortify the wall, which during a former siege had been broken down. It was therefore resolved to call upon the people for a poll-tax of half a shekel, which Moses had enjoined to be paid towards the erection of the tabernacle. Exodus 30:13. To this were to be added voluntary gifts, which the worshippers dropped into the treasury chest, as was the case in our Saviour’s time. When the people see ministers faithful and diligent in the execution of the ministry, the difficulties arising from the want of money to build and repair places of worship are generally superseded in a course of years; and as the efforts of Joash in this work were the finest trait in his character, so christians should regard the supplying the cause of God with every necessary want as one of their best and first duties.
The loss of a wise and faithful guardian is often among the greatest calamities which can befal a weak prince. Joash served the Lord all the days of his pious uncle; but on his demise he indulged himself in all the sins of the age, became the dupe of his courtiers, worshipped idols, and slew Zachariah for testifying against his apostasy, and the corrupt propensities of his heart. And how many like Joash do we find in this age of commercial wealth? How many young men, the sons of pious and industrious tradesmen, who have lived decently while under the care of their parents, launch forth on their decease into all the follies and wickedness of the world, and become like Joash a proverb of impiety. How careful then should those be who enjoy the advantages of a religious education, to form in early life the habits of piety and temperance; otherwise, on breaking the bonds of religion, they are peculiarly in danger of becoming prodigals of the most distinguished class.
Young men, who so wantonly deviate from the habits and hopes of early life, often receive their punishment in this world, besides what awaits the impenitent in the world to come. A conspiracy was formed against Joash, and he was slain, having cast off the defence of the Almighty. Thus, though some of his children were spared, yet not a man in David’s line, living when Athaliah slew the seed-royal, ultimately escaped. They all fell by the sword; for God had said to him, The sword shall never depart from thy house. But this family had ceased to be faithful to God: and if four very numerous royal families all fell in this unexpected way, how presumptuous is it for men to sin in hopes of future repentance. Who among the multitude of these distinguished personages had any proper time for repentance? Oh that the foolish world would be wise unto salvation: oh that they would learn this well authenticated truth, that when a man is actually sliding into the abyss, it is then too late to start back and cry for help. He is in the rapids, which run with fearful impetuosity to the cataract.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany