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THE USURPATION OF ATHALIAH IN JUDAH
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 11:1. Athaliah destroyed all the seed royal—She herself usurped the throne; and, to ensure her hold, slew all rival claimants. Jehu had already destroyed “forty-two” brethren or relations of Ahaziah (2 Kings 10:13).
2 Kings 11:2. Jehosheba, &c.—Her father was king Jehoram, but her mother was not the queen Athaliah; she and her sister Ahaziah were daughters by another wife of Jehoram. Took Joash and hid him in the bedchamber—i.e., not the sleeping apartment, but the storeroom in which bedding was kept, for so בַּחֲדַר הַמִּטּוֹת means. No one would be supposed to occupy that storeroom.
2 Kings 11:3. Hid in the house of the Lord—After a temporary hiding in the storeroom, he was removed into one of the temple chambers, and thus placed in greatest security under Jehoiada, the high priest’s care.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 11:1-3
THE DESPERATION OF REVENGE
I. Is mingled with an ungovernable ambition.—As soon as Athaliah heard of the death of her son Ahaziah, and of the sanguinary policy pursued by Jehu, she determined to be revenged, and she set about the work with all the ferocity and unrelenting hardihood that characterised her mother Jezebel. Her imperious Zidonian nature and love of power were gratified, as well as her thirst for revenge. Through the path of vengeance she saw her way to a throne. A savage nature is always a suspicious one, and Athaliah saw that to make her power secure, her work of revenge must be thorough and complete. Revenge is a mean, paltry feeling, and cannot be cherished long, except in connection with selfish and ambitious schemes.
II. Hesitates not to adopt the cruellest measures to attain its object.—“She arose and destroyed all the seed-royal (2 Kings 11:1). This insatiable ogress, this she-vampire, was so utterly insensible to all natural affection, or had become so consummate a mistress in the art of dissembling and stifling emotion, that, without a tear or a sob, she massacred her own grandchildren. She revelled in bloodshed, and rejoiced to “wade through slaughter to a throne.” It was an evidence of her great capabilities and domineering influence, or of the utter moral degeneracy of Judah, that she, a foreigner and an idolater, should be allowed to reach supreme authority, and by such unnaturally cruel methods. Ambition, rendered desperate by revenge, is reckless as to the means used to achieve its purpose.
III. Is unconsciously frustrated when its plans seem most completely carried out (2 Kings 11:2). Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, was snatched from the general massacre, and hid in a room used for stowing away beds. Little did Athaliah dream that that helpless infant was to be the instrument of her fall. Revenge is ever a mistaken policy. The ancient poet tells us that Nemesis was transformed by Jupiter into a goose, to point out the folly of revenge. “Suppose a mad dog bites me,” argues Feltham in his Resolves, “shall I be mad, and bite that dog again? If I kill him, it is not so much to help myself, as to keep others from harm. My interest is to seek a present remedy, while, pursuing the cur, I may at once both lose my wit and my cure. If a wasp sting me, I pursue not the winged insect through the air, but straight apply to draw the venom forth.” The right of vengeance belongs to God alone. To take the matter into our own hands we usurp His authority and insult His righteous Majesty. In seeking to rectify a wrong, we inflict a greater, and bring ruin and confusion upon ourselves. “While we throw a petty vengeance on the head of our offending brother, we boldly pull the Almighty’s on our own.”
IV. Cannot give permanency to its triumphs. “He was hid six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land” (2 Kings 11:3). Only six years, and then—the swift-footed Nemesis—“the bitterest of the immortals”—overtook the imperial murderess. Six years of tyrannising power, of regal display, of cringing adulation on the part of her professed supporters, and then—a sudden and ignominious downfall. Six years of patient waiting, of vigilant watching, of careful preparation on the part of those who had to redress the wrong, and then—the blow fell with crushing and decisive effect. Was it worth while to commit such horrible crimes for such brief, illusive, and equivocal results? It does not pay to sin. The triumph snatched by the red hand of crime withered in the grasp. The sceptre is transformed into an avenging sword, the crown into a wreath of torture, and the throne into a tomb.
1. An ambitious spirit has great temptations to do wrong.
2. Revenge is blind to the consequences of its Acts 3:0. It is God-like to forgive rather than retaliate, to suffer wrong than resent it.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 11:1-3. Queen Athaliah.
1. Her wicked plans. Idolatrous and fond of power, like her mother Jezebel, she takesthe royal authority into her own hands, in self-will and contrary to right, and murders all the male seed, in order to put an end for ever to the house of David. We see here whither ambition and love of rule may lead men.
2. The frustration of her plans. No one can tread down him whom God sustains. Thus, Pharaoh would have been glad to destroy Israel; Saul would have slain David; Herod the child Jesus. They could not accomplish it. They only injured themselves and perished, as Athaliah did.—Wurt. Summ.
—We have reached the eve of a great revolution and counter revolution, which alone of all the events in the history of the kingdom of Judah possesses the dramatic interest belonging to so many other parts of the sacred story, and which is told with a vividness of detail, implying its lasting significance, and contrasting remarkably with the scanty outlines of the earlier reigns. The friendly policy of the two royal houses had culminated in the marriage of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, with Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. In her, the fierce determined energy which ran through the Phœnician princes and princesses of that generation—Jezebel, Dido, Pygmalion—was fully developed. Already in her husband’s reign the worship of Baal was restored; and when the tidings reached Jerusalem of the overthrow of her father’s house, of the dreadful end of her mother, and of the fall of her ancestral religion in Samaria, instead of daunting her resolute spirit, it moved her to a still grander effort. It was a critical moment for the house of David. Once from a struggle within the royal household itself, a second time from an invasion of Arabs, a third time from the revolution in the massacres of Jehu’s accession, the dynasty had been thinned and thinned till all the outlying branches of those vast polygamous households had been reduced to the single family of Ahaziah. Ahaziah himself had perished with his uncle on the plain of Esdraelon, and now, when Athaliah saw that Ahaziah was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. The whole race of David seemed to be swept away. In the general massacre of the princes one boy, still a babe in arms, had been rescued by Jehosheba. He was known as “the king’s son.” The light of David was burnt down to its socket, but there it still flickered. The stem of Jesse was cut down to the very roots; one tender shoot was all that remained On him rested the whole hope of carrying on the lineage of David.—Stanley.
2 Kings 11:1. When the corpse of her son was brought to Jerusalem—when she heard how horribly her mother and how treacherously her brother had been slain—that her son’s kindred had been cut off at the pit of the shearing house, and that the worshippers of Baal had been immolated in Samaria—Athaliah caught the strong contagion of blood-thirstiness from the report of these doings. She saw herself a stranger in a strange land, an alien by birth and by religion, without common sympathies between herself and the people among whom she occupied so high a place, and without support from the remaining members of the family to which she had become allied. All the strong ones were gone. What hindered that she should herself seize the dropped reigns of government, and guide the fierce steeds of ruin which threatened to whirl her to destruction? What had she to expect from the spirit which had gone abroad, and from the ulterior designs of Jehu, unless she entered upon a bold course of reaction which might insure both her safety and her greatness! There have been those who deemed themselves compelled to leap into a throne to save themselves from utter ruin; and we would fain believe this was the case with Athaliah.—Kitto.
—Such another imperious woman was Semiramis, Queen of Assyria; Irene, empress of Constantinople and mother of Constantinus Copronymus, whose eyes she put out to make him incapable of the empire, that she might reign alone (vide “Gibbon’s Roman Empire,” ch. 47); and Brumchildis, queen of France, who is said to have been the death of ten princes of the blood, and was herself afterwards put to a cruel death. But the likest in cruelty to Athaliah was Laodice, the wife of Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, who, her husband being dead, seized upon the government, raged cruelly against both nobility and commons, whom she caused to be murdered; poisoned six of her own sons that she might keep the kingdom more securely; only one little one escaped her fury, whom the people at last advanced to the crown, and slew her.—Trapp.
—Jehoshaphat’s marriage of his son with a daughter of the house of Ahab, although he brought it about in a good intention, produced the result that Athaliah ruled over Judah, and brought the dynasty of David to the brink of ruin. So many a quiet, humble, God-fearing family has been brought into calamities, affecting both body and soul, by a thoughtless marriage. The hope that those who are brought up by godless parents will themselves reform and turn to the fear of God has very slight foundation.—Lange.
2 Kings 11:2-3. Stolen from death. Grandmothers are more lenient with their children’s children than they were with their own. At forty years of age, if discipline be necessary, chastisement is used; but at seventy, the grandmother, looking upon the misbehaviour of the grandchild, is apologetic, and disposed to substitute confectionary for whip. There is nothing more beautiful than this mellowing of old age toward childhood. But here, we have a contrast. It is old Athaliah, the queenly murderess. She ought to have been honourable. Her father was a king; her husband was a king; her son was a king. And yet we find her plotting for the extermination of the entire royal family, including her own grandchildren. But while the ivory floors of the palace run with carnage, and the whole land is under the shadow of a great horror, a fleet-footed woman, a clergyman’s wife, Jehosheba by name, stealthily approaches the imperial nursery, seizes upon the grandchild that had somehow as yet escaped massacre, wraps it up tenderly but in haste flies down the palace stairs, her heart in her throat lest she be discovered in this Christian abduction. With this youthful prize she presses into the room of the ancient temple, the church of olden time, unwraps the young king, and puts him down, sound asleep as he is, and unconscious of the peril that has been threatened; and there for six years he is secreted in that church apartment. Meanwhile old Athaliah smacks her lips with satisfaction, and thinks that all the royal family are dead.
I. The first thought is that the extermination of righteousness in an impossibility. When a woman is good, she is apt to be very good; and when she is bad, she is apt to be very bad, and this Athaliah was one of the latter sort. She would exterminate the last scion of the house of David, through whom Jesus was to come. She folds her hands, and says: The work is done—is completely done. Is it? In the swaddling-clothes of that church apartment are wrapped the cause of God and the cause of good government. That is the scion of the house of David; it is Joash, the religious reformer; it is Joash, the friend of God; it is Joash, the demolisher of Baalitish idolatry. Rock him tenderly; nurse him gently. Athaliah, you may kill all the other children, but you cannot kill him. Eternal defences are thrown all around him, and this clergyman’s wife, Jehosheba, will snatch him up, will hide him for six years, and at the end of that time he will come forth for your dethronement and obliteration. Just as poor a botch does the world always make of extinguishing righteousness. Just at the time when they thought they had slain all the royal family of Jesus, some Joash would spring up and take the throne of power. Infidelity says: “I’ll just exterminate the Bible,” and the Scriptures were thrown into the street for the mob to trample on, and they were piled up in the public squares and set on fire, and mountains of indignant contempt were hurled on them, and learned universities decreed the Bible out of existence. If there should come a time of persecution in which all the known Bibles of the earth should be destroyed—all these lamps of life that blaze in our pulpits and in our families extinguished—in the very day that infidelity and sin should be holding jubilee over the universal extinction, there shall be a secreted copy of the Bible; and this Joash of eternal literature would come out and come up and take the throne, and the Athaliah of infidelity and persecution would fly out of the back door of the palace, and drop her miserable carcase under the hoofs of the horses of the king’s stables. You cannot exterminate Christianity. You cannot kill Joash.
II. The second thought is: That there are opportunities in which we may save royal life. You know that profane history is replete with stories of strangled monarchs and of young princes who have been put out of the way. Here is the story of a young king saved. Jehosheba, you hold in your arms the cause of God and good government. Fail, and he is slain; succeed, and you turn the tide of the world’s history in the right direction. It seems as if between that young king and his assassins there is nothing but the frail arm of a woman. But why should we spend our time in praising this bravery of expedition, when God asks the same thing of you and me? All around us are the imperilled children of a great king. They are born of Almighty parentage, and will come to a throne or a crown if permitted. But sin, the old Athaliah, goes forth to the massacre. There are sleeping in your cradles by night, there are playing in your nurseries by day, imperial souls waiting for dominion, and whichever side the cradle they get out will decide the destiny of empires. For each one of those children sin and holiness contend—Athaliah on the one side, Jehosheba on the other. Jehosheba knew right well that unless that day the young king was rescued, he would never be rescued at all. The reason we don’t reclaim all our children from worldliness is because we begin too late. Parents wait until their children lie before they teach them the value of truth. They wait until their children swear before they teach them the importance of righteous conversation. They wait until their children are all wrapped up in this world before they tell them of a better world. May God arm us all for this work of snatching royal souls from death to coronation. Can you imagine any sublimer work than this soul saving?
III. The third thought is: That the church of God is a good hiding place. Would God that we were all as wise as Jehosheba, and knew that the church of God is the best hiding-place. Perhaps our parents took us there in early days; they snatched us away from the world and bid us behind the baptismal font, and amid the bibles and the psalm books. Oh, glorious enclosure! How few of us appreciate the fact that the church of God is a hiding-place! There are many people who put the church at so low a mark that they begrudge it everything, even the few dollars they give towards it. They make no sacrifice. If your children are to come up to lives of virtue and happiness, they will come up under the shadow of the church. If the church does not get them, the world will. Ah! when you pass away—and it will not be long before you do—it will be a satisfaction to see your children in Christian society. You want to have them sitting at the holy sacraments. You want them mingling in Christian associations. You would like to have them die in the sacred precincts! Oh! church of God, gate of heaven, let me go through it! All other institutions are going to fail. Jay Cooke’s banking institution went down, Duncan, Sherman, and Co. went down, and all earthly institutions will perish; but the church of God, its foundation is the “Rock of Ages,” its charter is for everlasting years, its keys are held by the universal proprietor, its dividend is heaven, its president is God. God grant that all this audience, the youngest, the eldest, the worst, the best, may find their safe and glorious hiding-place, where Joash found it, in the temple.—(Talmage in C. W. P.)
—O God! how worthy of wonder are thy just and merciful dispensations, in that thou sufferest the seed of good Jehoshaphat to be destroyed by her hand in whose affinity he offended, and yet savest one branch of this stock of Jehoshaphat for the sake of so faithful a progenitor!—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 11:2. The great agents of the world’s reformation.
1. Are prepared in secret.
2. May depend upon a single life.
3. Cannot be destroyed by the hatred and cruelty of the wicked.
4. Will inevitably come to the front
—The perils of a good movement.
1. May appear to be extinct when its reviving force is but in hiding.
2. Its hopes may be suspended on a frail infant life.
3. It is opposed with unrelenting cruelty.
4. It is unexpectedly befriended in its greatest extremity.
—We have an instance in Jehosheba how, even in the midst of godlessness in a family, any one who will, can make an exception. Jehosheba stole him. That was not stealing the child, but saving him. What can a woman do better and nobler than to save an infant from danger of soul and body, and take him under her protection for the sake of God and his promises?—Lange.
2 Kings 11:3. As mother of the king she had great power, high influence, and many dependants, which rendered her, in default of a king and of a capable heir to the throne, the most powerful person in the land. She was thus enabled to accomplish all her objects; and Judah beheld the strange sight of a woman, and that woman a foreigner, seated upon the throne of David. Under such auspices, idolatry became rampant in Judah. It would seem that nothing had been gained by the expression of idolatry in Israel; the same thing existed still, the place only having been changed, just as the piece of wood which disappears for a moment under the water comes up again a little way off. No doubt, the cause of the Baal-worship was strengthened by large accessions of fugitives who stole away from Israel.—Kitto.
—When the godless appear to have succeeded in the attainment of their objects, and believe that they have conquered, the very moment of their victory is the unperceived commencement of their ruin. The cross of Christ was the victory of His enemies, but this very victory was what brought about their total defeat.—Krummacher.
—Mischief sometimes fails of those appointments wherein it thinks to have made the surest work. God laughs in Heaven at the plots of tyrants, and befools them in their deepest projects. He had said to David—“Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy seat.” In vain shall earth and hell conspire to frustrate it.—Bp. Hall.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 11:4. And the seventh year Jehoiada sent, &c.—There are numerous points of difference between this account and its parallel in the Chronicles; but probably both accounts are summarised records of a longer original account. Their divergences are not disagreements.
2 Kings 11:5. The watch of the king’s house—This בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ must be, not the royal palace, but part of the temple buildings occupied by Joash, the young king.
2 Kings 11:12. Gave him the testimony—Presented to him the הָעֵדוֹת, book of the law, as the rule of his personal conduct and royal government, for “The Testimony” (Exodus 25:21; Exodus 16:34) was the law for rulers as well as for those ruled (Deuteronomy 17:18, sq.).
2 Kings 11:14. Athaliah cried, Treason! Treason!—Josephus supplies the record that she went from her own palace attended by her troops (μετὰ τῆς ἰδίας στρατιᾶς), but that these troops were prevented going with her into the temple.
2 Kings 11:16. And they laid hands on her—Though the Sept., Vulg., Luther, and others take the words as the A. V. gives them; yet the Chald., Syr., Kimchi, Maurer, and others render יָשִׂימוּ לָהּ יָרַיִם. They made for her two sides—i.e., they opened in ranks on both sides for her to pass through.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 11:4-16
THE RESTORATION OF REGAL AND NATIONAL RIGHTS
The coronation of the youthful Joash was not a revolutionary act, but the just and legal restoration of a right that had been cruelly wrested from him. Athaliah was the revolutionary, and the wrong her usurpation had inflicted sank deep into the national conscience. The usurper was hated while she was feared, and the ease with which her overthrow was accomplished showed the slight hold she had on the popular affection. There was none who had the courage or the disposition to defend her. From this paragraph we learn That the restoration of regal and national rights—
I. Is often the work of one capable and resolute mind. Jehoiada, the high priest, was in every way a remarkable man for his time. He was evidently not influenced by selfish and ambitious motives, or he might have aimed to raise his own wife Jehosheba to the throne, who, as the sister of Ahaziah, had certainly a better and stronger claim than Athaliah. But as the servant of Jehovah, he was more concerned to carry out the Divine purpose; and he was no doubt strengthened in his resolve by the counsels and exhortations of the prophets of the time. He showed great shrewdness and capacity in the way in which he managed every detail in the restoration of the line of David to the throne of Judah.
1. He knew the right time to act. “The seventh year” (2 Kings 11:4). He had narrowly watched the course of events, he carefully estimated the influence of Athaliah and the true feeling of the nation, and had sufficient reasons why he should not act before or after the period he fixed upon. It may seem to us that, as the king was but a child, a few years either way could make but little difference. But Jehoiada was a man “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). In all great national movements much wisdom and insight are needed in order not unduly to precipitate or delay the right moment to act. Many a great battle has been lost by not knowing when to attack, or when to wait.
2. He wins over the leading representatives of the nation (2 Kings 11:4). He consults all classes—civil, military, and ecclesiastical—and when the day of trial comes, he is surrounded and sustained by an enthusiastic and united people. He succeeded in convincing the national conscience of the existence of a great wrong, and the people rallied round him to seek its redress. “Men’s hearts,” says Carlyle, “ought not be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against the evil thing only.”
3. He makes elaborate provision against possible defeat (2 Kings 11:5-11). He took advantage of a public and solemn festival, when a great number might assemble in the neighbourhood of the temple without suspicion; he secured two relays of Levites within the temple; he transformed the priests into soldiers, and furnished them with weapons that David had deposited in the temple years before, little dreaming that they would be used to defend his throne under such circumstances; and he surrounded the boy-king with a strong bodyguard.
“When any great designs thou dost intend,
Think on the means, the manner, and the end.”
The prudence and foresight of Jehoiada not only indicated his ability, but ensured success. A great man cannot be more nobly employed than when he is planning the best means to promote the prosperity and elevation of his own country.
II. Is accomplished with becoming ceremonies, and attended with demonstrations of public joy (2 Kings 11:12).
1. There was the coronation. “He put the crown upon him.” The kings of Judah generally succeeded each other with little, if any ceremony, the solemn inauguration of the founder of the dynasty being usually considered sufficient for his descendants. The only kings whose accession was attended with ceremonial observances were Saul, the first king; David, the first of his line; Solomon, who had an elder brother aspiring to the crown; and now Joash, in whose person the broken line was restored. By this it is seen that the coronation was rather an exceptional than a customary ceremony, resorted to only when peculiar circumstances seemed to require the solemn public recognition which it involved (Kitto).
2. There was the solemn anointing. “They made him king and anointed him.” There is nothing in the law respecting the anointing of kings. It speaks only of high priests; but as Samuel anointed the two first kings, and as it was an ancient custom to anoint them, this came to be regarded as an essential part of the ceremony. The king was anointed in the form of a diadem encircling his head, to show that he was the head of the people; but the high priest was anointed in the form of a cross, one line drawn in the oil running down his forehead, crossed by another line drawn between his eyebrows.
3. There was the recognition of the Divine law. “And gave him the testimony.” The book of the law was put into the royal hands, and while he held it, he entered into a covenant with God to observe and keep His commandments as set forth therein. The king does more honour to himself than to the Word of God when he openly accepts that Word as the guide and directory of his regal career.
4. There was the public rejoicing. “And they clapped their hands and said, God save the King.” The feeling of the people, so long suppressed, breaks out in joyous acclamation.
“One hour of joy dispels the cares
And sufferings of a thousand years.”
Little joys, says Richter, refresh us constantly like housebread, and never bring disgust: joys are our wings, and sorrows are our spurs. Well might the people be glad—they saw in the restoration of their king the restoration of the national rights of which they had been wickedly defrauded.
III. Is made the more secure by the ignominious overthrow of the usurper (2 Kings 11:13-16). The noise of the people reached the ears of Athaliah in her palace. What did it all mean? Had she a presentiment that it boded no good to her and her rule? Prompted by the undaunted spirit that animated her mother Jezebel to the last, she determined to ascertain for herself the cause of the tumult. Unguarded and alone she entered the temple, and the scene that met her gaze revealed the true state of affairs. She must have felt her fate was sealed. Her wild shrieks were unheeded: no one lifted a finger in her defence. She was seized, hurried beyond the precincts of the temple, which was not to be desecrated with her blood, and was instantly slain. Her overthrow was complete; and the throne of Joash was firmly established.
“Though usurpers sway the rule a while,
Yet heaven is just, and time suppresseth wrongs.”—Shakespeare.
1. No government is strong that is not based on the affections of the people.
2. Time and the providence of God are always on the side of right.
3. The purpose of God, though hidden and apparently defeated for a time, will inevitably come to the front.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 11:4-12. Joash’s elevation to the throne. I. How it was determined upon and prepared. Jehoiada took the initiative, for it was his right and duty. It was no rebellion and conspiracy against a just authority, but a fact by itself. Rebels violate law and right in order that they may rule: Jehoiada restored law and right, and did not wish to rule; he remained what he was. He conducted himself with courage, but also with wisdom and prudence.
II. How it was carried out and accomplished. With the participation and approval of the different classes of the entire people, without conspiracy, bloodshed, or violence; in the house of God whose servant the king was; the crown and the law were given into his hands; he was anointed—significant symbols of his calling as king of the people of God.
2 Kings 11:4. Jehoiada a faithful priest. It is not hard to proclaim the word of God when the mighty and great of this world hold to it; but the faithfulness which is needed in the stewards of God’s mysteries is that which will not be stayed or impaired when the great of this world despise and persecute the word, which will sail against the wind of courtly or popular favour, and will persevere in patience. The servants of the Church in the New Testament have not the same calling as the high priests in the Old, so that they have not to meddle with worldly affairs. Where spiritual and worldly authority go hand in hand, where both unite for the sake of God and for His cause, there the Lord gives blessing and prosperity.—Lange.
2 Kings 11:10. New uses for old trophies. After Solomon had built the temple, the trophies of David’s victories were hung up there. So they adorned the walls. So they illustrated the valour of noble sires. So they served to kindle emulation in the breasts of true-hearted sons. Thus it was while generations sprung up and passed away; till at length other days dawned, darker scenes transpired, and sadder things filled up the chronicles of the nation. I. It is well for us to hang all our trophies in the house of the Lord. We, too, are warriors. Every genuine Christian has to fight. Sometimes we have victories, a presage of that final victory we shall enjoy with our Great Captain for ever. We have been defeated when we have gone in our own strength; but when we have been victorious it has always been because the strength of the Lord was put forth for our deliverance. Hang up the shield, hang up the spear, let Jehovah’s name be exalted. Bring forth the forgotten memorials of loving-kindness, expose them to public view, put them before your mind’s eye, gratefully remember them, lovingly praise Him and magnify His name. If we have any victories, let all the trophies be dedicated to the Lord. II. These trophies may come in useful at such times as we cannot foresee, and under such circumstances as we wot not of. When in after years David hung up the swords and shields which he had taken from Philistine heroes, he did not surmise that one of his descendants, of the seed royal, would find the need to employ his own, his grandsire’s, or further back from himself—his forefather’s trophies—in order to establish himself on the throne. In all the battles we fight, the trophies we win should be stored, for they may come in for future use. There is no experience of a Christian that will not have some ultimate service to render him. You know not what may be the history of your life, it is unfinished yet; if you did know, you would see that in this present trial there is a preparation for some future emergency, which will enable you to come out of it in triumph. The shields and spears of David are hung up for future action. III. Ancient weapons are good for present use. Turn to the seventy-seventh Psalm, and you have a battle there. By looking through this psalm you will see David’s shields and spears, and will soon learn how to screen yourself with the one, and how to do exploits with the other. The first weapon he drew out of the scabbard was the weapon of all prayer—another, that of remembering God—another, the teaching of tradition (he “considered the days of old”)—another, his own experience—another an appeal to God’s mercy (Psalms 51:0). But the great master weapon was the blood—“Purge me with hyssop,” &c. Let sins come on, and let them be more than the hairs of my head, loftier than mountains, and deeper than the unfathomed ocean; let them come on. God’s flaming wrath behind them, hell itself coming to devour me; yet if I can but take the cross and hold it up before me, if I can plead the precious blood, I shall be safe, and prove a conqueror. See that in all your fights you use the old, old weapons of David himself—his shields and spears—by these same weapons shall you also win the day. IV. Did not David herein pre figure Him that was to come—David Son and David’s Lord? Jesus Christ our King, has hung up many shields and spears in the house of the Lord. Sin—Christ has borne it in himself, endured its penalty, and overcome it; he has hung up the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, as a trophy in the house of the Lord. Satan, our great foe—He met him foot to foot in the wilderness, and discomfited him—met him in the garden—overcame him on the cross. Now hell, too, is vanquished—Christ is Lord. Death, too, the last enemy—Christ hath taken spoils from him. And the enmity of the human heart. How many of these enmities has Christ hung up in the hall, for he has conquered that enmity, and made the hater into a lover. There are some great sinners at this day who are wonderful tokens of the power of His love. What will heaven be when all of us shall be trophies of His power to save!—C. H. Spurgeon.
2 Kings 11:11. The true safe-guard of a king.
1. Not the weapons of the military.
2. But the legality and righteousness of his claims.
3. The respect and affection of his people.
4. The overshadowing presence and blessing of Jehovah.
2 Kings 11:12. How a bright morning became a dark night—a lesson for the young. The priest Jehoiada was a very wise man, and the young king had sense enough to be led by him; with his death began sins and misfortunes which ended the life and the glory of king Joash. LEARN:—
1. That a good start is not everything. It does not follow, because as boys and girls you live in a comfortable home and have all you want, that it will be always so. Joash was a king, and of course had many delightful things even when a child; but he came to know the want of them before his death. There is a wretched tramp on the roads to-day, who will sleep in the casual ward of some workhouse, who has had a better education than the master of the place. There are lads in the forecastle of merchant ships whose real names are not those entered on the ship’s books, but who might have been graduates at Oxford if they had chosen to do well. Have a care, boys and girls, lest the comforts you now have be exchanged for self-made misery, and the good start only land you in darker depths than you would otherwise have known. LEARN:—
2. That crowns do not make kings.The boy never was the ruler of the country. His uncle was master. Solomon says something about a jewel in a swine’s snout; that seems a strange place to put a jewel, but you might as well look for it there as expect a coarse nature to become gentle because it is wearing a fine coat. Perhaps you have yet to learn that power means much more than strength. Joash was crowned; but when the old man died his real self came to the front. He chose foolish companions, turned aside to sin, caused the son of his benefactor to be murdered (2 Chronicles 24:21), and finished his poor vain life in shame, and was buried away from his kingly ancestors, while the priest was laid among those who ruled the land (ib., 2 Chronicles 11:16 and 25). It will pay us to think, when we are tempted to do wrong—How will this appear when I am dead? What will people say as they carry me to my grave? Have you some gift which, like that crown on Joash’s head, lifts you up above your companions? Be it money, strength, beauty, or learning, it will only make you kingly and keep you crowned, as you use it in the service of God, and in unselfish efforts to make others good and happy.—T. Champness.
—The oil wherewith he was anointed signified his designation to that high service and those endowments from heaven that might enable him to so great a function. The crown wherewith he was adorned signified that glory and majesty which should both encourage and attend his princely cares. The book of the testimony signified the divine rules and directions whereto he must frame his heart and actions in the wielding of that crown. These three—the oil, the crown, the testimony—that is, inward powers, outward magnificence, true piety and justice—make up a perfect prince. None of these may be wanting. If there be not a due calling of God, and abilities meet for that greatness, the oil faileth: if there be not a majestic grace and royalty that may command reverence, the crown is missing: if there be not a careful respect to the law of God as the absolute guide of all counsels and determinations, the testimony is neglected: all of them concurring make both king and people happy.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 11:13-16. Athaliah’s fall. I. Her last appearance. She comes boldly and impudently into the midst of the people, blinded to their disposition towards her. Insolently relying on her imagined majesty, she commands resistance to the movement which is in progress—a faithful type of many tyrants. Pride goes before a fall. II. Her terrible end. Abandoned, despised, and hated by all the people, who rejoice over her fall, she goes to meet her doom, and receives the fate which her deeds deserve. She is punished by that by which she has sinned. Sedition! treason! is the cry of Joram, Jezebel, and Athaliah, and of all those who are themselves most to blame for it (Acts 16:5).—Lange.
2 Kings 11:14. O Athaliah! to whom dost thou complain? They are thy just executioners wherewith thou art encompassed. If it be treason to set up the true heir of Ahaziah, thou appealest to thy traitors—the treason was thine; theirs is justice. The time is now come of thy reckonings for all the royal blood of Judah which thy ambition shed. Wonder rather at the patience of this long forbearance than the rigour of this execution.
2 Kings 11:16. How like is Athaliah to her mother Jezebel! as in conditions and carriage, so even in death. Both killed violently, both killed under their own walls, both slain with treason in their mouths, both slain in the entrance of a changed government; one trode on by the horses, the other slain in the horsegate; both paid their own blood for the innocent blood of others.—Bp. Hall.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 11:20. And all the people rejoiced—Because, with Athaliah’s death, the accursed house of Ahab ceased, and in Jehoash’s person the royal house of David was again established on the throne of Judah.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 11:17-21
THE RESTORATION OF THE PUBLIC WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH
I. Was signalized by formal and impressive covenant.
1. This covenant recognized the supreme claims of Jehovah. “And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17). This was a renewal of the national covenant with Israel (Exodus 19-24; Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 27:9) to be unto the Lord “a people of inheritance,” by which they solemnly engaged themselves to renounce and root out all idolatry, and set up and maintain God’s true worship. When the national conscience has been demoralized by idolatrous practices, it is important to present the supreme claims of God to our homage by the most impressive methods.
2. This covenant guarded the rights of both ruler and ruled. “Between the king also and the people.” This was a civil covenant whereby the king engaged himself to rule them justly and in the fear of God, and the people obliged themselves to defend and obey him (comp.
2. Sam. 2 Kings 5:2). Government is impossible where the rights and privileges of both ruler and ruled are not duly respected and observed.
II. Ensured the downfall of idolatry (2 Kings 11:18). This was the logical and necessary consequence of the restoration of the true worship. Athaliah had transplanted idolatry into Judah. She was the first to erect a temple to Baal in the holy city, and plundered the temple of Jehovah to enrich the shrine of her favourite deity. The people looked on aghast at this wanton sacrilege to their sacred fane and daring insult to the God of their fathers; but they were powerless to prevent it; they were held in check by the threats and tyranny of the usurper. Many a pious soul wept in secret because of the prevalent iniquity, and many an anxious prayer was offered for a day of deliverance. And now that day had come. The people, animated by a spirit of righteous indignation, rose against the Baal worshippers, and demolished their idol temple. Jehovah can admit no rival. The idols he shall utterly abolish (Isaiah 2:18).
No more at Delos or at Delphi now,
Or e’en at mighty Ammon’s Libyan shrine,
The white-robed priests before the altar bow,
To slay the victim and to pour the wine,
While gifts of kingdoms round each pillar twine.
Scarce can the classic pilgrim, sweeping free
From fallen architrave the desert vine,
Trace the dim names of their divinity;
Gods of the ruin’d temples, where, oh where are ye!—Bethune.
III. Was the guarantee of stability to the throne (2 Kings 11:19). “It seems to me a great truth,” says Carlyle, “that human things cannot stand on selfishness, mechanical utilities, economics, and law courts; that if there be not a religious element in the relations of men, such relations are miserable, and doomed to ruin.”
Are justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude.
Where can such virtues be found, and where be better cultivated, than in the humble and reverent worship of Almighty God? No nation can be permanent or prosperous where king and people ignore the obvious claims of Divine worship.
Safety and equal government are things
Which subjects make as happy as their kings.—Waller.
IV. Was the occasion of national joy and tranquility. “And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (2 Kings 11:20). The good rejoiced that the character of Jehovah was at length vindicated: their sighs, their tears, their prayers for Zion had not been in vain. The aged rejoiced that before their eyes closed in death they beheld their country free from the oppressor, and their loved worship once more restored. The young rejoiced in the brightening prospect of noblest service for God and king and country. “And the city was in quiet.” As in many other countries, the condition of the metropolis ruled the provinces. If Jerusalem was in anguish, the nation was in sorrow; if Jerusalem was happy, the nation shared the joy. If the vast populations of our great cities were penetrated with a love and enthusiasm for the worship of Jehovah, how readily would the rest of the country be won over to share in a like experience! It is not without significance that the first preachers of the Gospel directed their earliest endeavours to gain a footing in the great populous centres of their day. Flood the cities with light and joy, and the nations will soon be won. Then will come the time of which Alford sung—
What throbbings of deep oy
Pulsate through all I see; from the full bud
Whose unctuous sheath is glittering in the moon,
Up through the system of created things,
Even to the flaming ranks of Seraphim!
1. The nation is a prey to anarchy when God is not publicly acknowledged.
2. The pure worship of God tends to develop all that is best in national character.
3. To worship God aright, we must get rid of every idolatrous rival.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 11:17-18. Covenanting with God. I. All the more necessary when conscious of unfaithfulness. II. Should be solemn and impressive. III. Shown to be sincere by the destruction of that which led the soul astray. IV. Has a tendency to foster and strengthen right relations between God and king and people.
2 Kings 11:17. The covenant which Jehoiada renewed. I. The covenant of the king and the people with God. The basis and fountain of all national prosperity. An irreligious state is a folly and an impossibility. It is nothing. II. The covenant between king and people. It is built upon the former. There is prosperity in a country only when the prince rules before and with God, and the people are obedient through obedience to God. Without this fundamental condition all constitutions, laws, and institutions, however good they may appear, are useless. No relation of subjects and ruler is sound if it has not the covenant of God as its basis on either side.—Lange.
2 Kings 11:18. It is a grand national event when a people destroys its idols. He who stands by God and his word tolerates neither gross nor refined idolatry. Where there is decided faith in the living God, the altars of the false gods fall of themselves.
2 Kings 11:20. National joy. I. May well be expressed when the throne is settled on a stable foundation. II. When religion triumphs over idolatry, oppression, and wrong. III. When peace and prosperty are guaranteed.
O beauteous peace,
Sweet union of a state! What else but thou
Gives safety, strength, and glory to a people.
Governments which are founded in blood always end disastrously.
2 Kings 11:21. The sceptre of Judah is changed from a woman to a child; but a child trained up and tutored by Jehoiada. This minority so guided was not inferior to the mature age of many predecessors. Happy is that land the nonage of whose prince falls into holy and just hands.—Bp. Hall.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany